Don Draper Says, "What?" I Say, "Is Jon Hamm a Good Actor?"

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 3 2010 5:49 PM

Don Draper Says, "What?" I Say, "Is Jon Hamm a Good Actor?"

In the weeks since the Mad Men finale , we Mad Men junkies have been jittery, passing around a few last fixes as we acclimate ourselves to a long period of withdrawal before Season 5. There was the charming interview with the actress who plays Megan (from which I inferred that the show’s writers know as little about her as we do). There was Jon Hamm’s turn this past weekend on SNL. ( His impression of Robin Williams auditioning for Back to the Future was mesmerizingly good.) And now there is " Don Draper Says 'What?’  "—a video that splices together scenes of Don Draper saying "What?" in tones incredulous, befuddled, angry, or otherwise.

Watching the video raised, for me, one of the central questions about Mad Men : Is Jon Hamm a great actor? Or is he just a magnetic person who has found the right role? I’ve always been a Hamm defender—I figure it takes great skill to create a Don that we love and root for and don’t simply hate—but I’ve heard people make the opposite case, that he’s a bit of a lump, a handsome, inert entity that the show must shoot around.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

Advertisement

So which is it? Hamm’s SNL  turns suggest that he has more comedic range than we see on Mad Men . But the "What?" video is strangely flat. Watch it closely: Hamm repeats tics and intonations, and seems to me to have just three or four "What?"s in his repertoire rather than the millions of infinitely shaded "What?"s I’d been expecting.

 

Perhaps any actor would suffer under such oddly narrow scrutiny. I may be crazy to question the greatness of Hamm. But I’m interested to hear what Slate readers think.

Click here for a defense of Hamm's whats.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.