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15 Weird and Awesome Werner Herzog Facts

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When it comes to badass stories, director Werner Herzog might be even more legendary than Chuck Norris—with one important difference: The tales about Herzog are true. In honor of the director's latest film, Queen of the Desert, which just premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, here are a few fun facts about the director of Grizzly Man, Fitzcarraldo, Into the Abyss, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, among many others.

1. TO BECOME A FILMMAKER, HE STOLE A CAMERA FROM A FILM SCHOOL.

Ask Herzog how he became a filmmaker, and he’ll tell you that he made himself one—by stealing a 35mm camera from the Munich Institute for Film Research (now the Munich Film School). "It was a very simple 35mm camera, one I used on many other films, so I do not consider it a theft," he said. "For me, it was truly a necessity. I wanted to make films and needed a camera. I had some sort of natural right to this tool. If you need air to breathe, and you are locked in a room, you have to take a chisel and hammer and break down a wall. It is your absolute right." He used the camera to make his first short film, as well as Aguirre, the Wrath of God and eight other movies.

2. HE WORKED AS A BALL BOY AT A TENNIS COURT SO THAT HE COULD BUY A BOOK.

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Long before he made a film about the Chauvet Cave in Southern France (2010’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Herzog—whose grandfather was an archeologist—was fascinated by cave drawings, thanks to a book he spotted in the window of a bookstore. “It was in a display out of reach,” he told the AV Club. “I didn’t dare to walk into the bookstore, and I didn’t have the money to buy it, so I worked as a ball boy at tennis courts for quite a while. I would sneak by every week ... and pray that nobody had bought the book. Apparently I thought it was the only one.” Herzog still has the book today, though he reports that it’s “really very mediocre. It’s a very stupid book. I mean, popular science and quite stupid.”

3. HE ONCE WALKED FROM MUNICH TO PARIS.

Herzog is a big fan of walking. “I’m not someone who jogs or hikes, nor someone who travels on foot all the time,” he told Offscreen. “I am lazy like everyone else. I walk only for very specific reasons.” So when his mentor, film critic Lotte H. Eisner, fell gravely ill, Herzog decided to walk from Munich to Paris to see her; he believed that the effort of walking in the harsh winter would save her life. With a some money, a map, a compass, and a duffel bag, Herzog made the trip in three months. He kept a diary of the experience, Of Walking in Ice, which was published in German in 1978 and in English in 1980.

He further elaborated on his love of walking in the book Herzog on Herzog. “Traveling on foot has nothing to do with exercise,” he said. “[W]hen I am walking I fall deep into dreams. I float through fantasies and find myself inside unbelievable stories. I literally walk through whole novels and films, and football matches. I do not even look at where I am stepping, but I never lose my direction.”

4. HE’S EATEN HIS OWN SHOE.

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When Herzog makes a bet, he accepts the consequences—at least that’s what we can deduce from the time he said he’d eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever finished his documentary Gates of Heaven. Morris did, indeed, finish the film, and Herzog, true to his word, ate his shoe at its premiere. Les Blank made the spectacle into a short documentary called Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, which you can watch here.

5. HE’S BEEN SHOT.

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Herzog was famously shot with an air rifle while doing an interview with the BBC in a Los Angeles park—and the whole thing was caught on film. (The filmmaker pulled up his shirt to reveal the bloody wound, telling the interviewer, “it’s not significant.”) But that’s not the only time he’s been shot at: In a video Q&A for his movie My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, the filmmaker revealed that “I was shot at more seriously in my life while filming crossing illegally a border from Honduras into Nicaragua … the moment itself is unpleasant, but there’s a great exhilaration to be shot at unsuccessfully. And I think Winston Churchill said the same thing as a young man, because he was shot at as well.”

6. HE RESCUED JOAQUIN PHOENIX AFTER A CAR CRASH.

In January 2006, Joaquin Phoenix was driving in Hollywood when he ran off the road and flipped the car. Still in the wreckage, he started to light a cigarette—but stopped when he heard tapping on the window and saw a man standing outside. That man was Werner Herzog, who urged Phoenix to relax. “I am relaxed,” Phoenix replied. “No, you’re not,” the man said. Gasoline was leaking into the car, so Herzog broke a window and helped Phoenix out of the wreck. It sounds like an urban legend, but it’s totally true: Herzog recounted the story during a Q&A promoting My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done. Someone turned his answer into a short film, which you can watch above.

7. HE CRASHED MEL BROOKS’ MEETINGS.

Herzog told Vulture that “a long time ago,” he and Brooks “connected in a way that nobody expected. We were really friends. At the end of the ’70s. I would walk into his offices unannounced. He would be with three or four attorneys having a discussion and I would just nod to him and sit down at the same table and disappear 10 minutes later.”

8. HE KNOWS HOW TO HYPNOTIZE CHICKENS.

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Herzog is no fan of these feathery fowl. “Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity,” he said in Herzog on Herzog. “It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”

But the birds do have one good quality, and that’s that they’re easily hypnotized. Herzog has done it himself for some his films, and he explained the process in a Reddit AMA: “Calm the chicken down. Put its beak on the floor, and then, with determination, draw a line of chalk away from it. Release the chicken, and you will see it will be hypnotized.”

9. HE ONCE ACCIDENTALLY ATE MARMALADE LACED WITH MARIJUANA.

“I don’t need any drug to step out of myself. I don’t want them and I do not need them,” the filmmaker told Vulture. Still, he did get high accidentally once, while eating pancakes at the home of composer Florian Fricke (of the band Popol Vuh). “[H]e had pancakes and marmalade,” Herzog recalled. “And I smeared the marmalade and he started chuckling and chuckling. And I ate it and it tasted very well and I wanted another one and took another good amount of the marmalade and the marmalade had weed in it. He didn’t even tell me. I was so stoned that it took me an hour to find my home in Munich. I circled the block for a full hour until finding my place. So I have had the experience. … [I]t wasn’t terrifying. It was just weird. Because I have a good sense of orientation.”

10. HE MADE A CAMEO IN AN EPISODE OF THE FINAL SEASON OF PARKS & REC.

He played Ken Jeggings, a homeowner trying to offload his “haunted and disgusting” house to move to Orlando “to be closer to Disney World.” “I’ve never seen the show,” he told the Guardian before it aired, “but I hope they kept some of it.” The director actually has a pretty long acting resume: He’s lent his voice to a Simpsons’ character and an episode of American Dad, and has appeared in a number of films, including The Grand, Mister Lonely, and Jack Reacher. “I am the only one who is really frightening in that film,” he told Vice. “I was paid handsomely and I was worth my money.”

11. HE ONLY OWNS ONE SUIT AND ONE PAIR OF SHOES.

“I do not have and I do not need material things,” he said. “My material world is extremely small and limited. I own one single suit that I’m wearing right now and in the last 25 years I’ve never had another suit. And the shoes that I’m wearing I’ve been wearing for 3 years and they are my only pair of shoes. I need to replace them because they are starting to come apart.”

12. AND HE DOESN’T HAVE A CELL PHONE.

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“I’m probably the last holdout,” he said in a Q&A. “It’s fine that my attorney has a cell phone and my assistant director has a cell phone, but I don’t want to be available all the time. It has been a blessing that I don’t have a cell phone.”

13. HE’S NOT A FAN OF TRUMAN CAPOTE.

While out promoting his film Into the Abyss, which featured inmates on death row, Vice asked the filmmaker about comparisons to Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. Some believed that Capote changed facts in the non-fiction book about two men who commit a gruesome crime to suit his story. “We have to be careful because Truman Capote, in a way, exploited his subjects,” Herzog said. “I have always been very suspicious about Truman Capote, because for years and years he did not publish the book, claiming that it wasn’t finished. He just waited until both of them were actually executed, witnessed their execution, and wrote a final chapter about it. That is kind of suspicious to me. The book is very well written, although, may I say something? My film is deeper, and my film is better.”

14. HE MADE ROGER EBERT WATCH THE ANNA NICOLE SHOW.

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Though Herzog doesn’t consume much pop culture, he did tell Vice that “I look with great interest at phenomena like WrestleMania. Or I used to watch the Anna Nicole Smith Show because there was a very strange cultural shift there.” He found the show so interesting that he even recommended it to film critic Roger Ebert. “I said to him, ‘Roger, you have to watch the Anna Nicole Smith show,’” he recounted in Interview magazine. “There's something big about it, a big shift in the wider public's concept of female beauty, in how vulgarity is invading everyday life more than ever before. And he said, ‘No, never in my life.’ But then he watched it.”

15. HE VISITS A DAM IN ITALY EVERY FEW YEARS.

Every four or five years, Herzog makes a pilgrimage to Vajont Dam, near Longarone in Italy. Fifty-two years ago, a landslide in the area caused a megatsunami that overtopped the dam and wiped out the town, killing 2000 people. “I have studied the place over and over,” Herzog told the AV Club. “I do my pilgrimages to the place. At its base, [the dam] is something like a hundred feet thick. ... The whole thing is about 180 meters at its highest, and it withstood the landslide coming into it. It’s still intact, and most of it will be intact hundreds of thousands of years from now. ... Whenever I’m not too far away, I love to go there. It was such a monumental folly, and it was foreseen by a geologist who warned and warned, but nobody would pay attention. Each time I return, I discover different aspects of it. It’s one of the great human-created catastrophes. It’s going to be a monument for hundreds of thousands of years.”

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12 EGOT Winners (and 25 Almost-EGOTS)
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Life should have been good for Miami Vice’s Philip Michael Thomas in 1985. He was the star of one of television’s biggest hits, had released his first album as part of a multimillion dollar deal with Atlantic Records, and was making a name for himself in the fashion world (or at least trying to) with his very own women’s clothing line. But Thomas still had loftier goals, both in mind and on the gold medallion he was so fond of wearing. That dream was an EGOT.

Though Thomas swore that the engraved letters E, G, O, and T on his prized necklace stood for energy, growth, opportunity, and talent, those around the then-36-year-old actor unanimously gave a different translation: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony—the four awards Thomas had intended to win over the next few years. It’s now more than 30 years later and Thomas has yet to even be nominated for any one of those accolades.

While an EGOT may seem an unlikely reality for Thomas, it’s not an impossibility for all artists. If John Legend can beat out Benedict Cumberbatch to win this year's Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, he'll become the 13th member of the EGOT winners' circle—and one of its youngest. Here are the 12 current members, a couple of SHEGOTS, plus several artists who are just one award away.

1. RICHARD RODGERS

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Before there was even a name for it, American composer Richard Rodgers became the first person to EGOT (yes, the acronym can also be used as a verb) when he won an Emmy for the television documentary Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years. His Oscar came in 1945, when his “It Might as Well Be Spring” from State Fair was named Best Song. He earned Grammys in both 1960 and 1962, for the original cast recordings of The Sound of Music and No Strings, respectively. Between 1950 and 1962, he won six Tony Awards, three of them in that first year for South Pacific. The same year, South Pacific also earned Rodgers a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which we guess makes him a PEGOT.

2. HELEN HAYES

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In 1977, 15 years after Rodgers inaugurated the honor, actress Helen Hayes joined him as the first female EGOT—an honor that took her 45 years to achieve, the longest of any of her EGOT peers. Her road began in 1932, when she won the Oscar for The Sin of Madelon Claudet (she won a second Oscar for 1970’s Airport). Her first Tony came in 1947, for Happy Birthday, followed by another in 1958 for Time Remembered. And she won a Best Actress Emmy in 1953 for an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. But it would take more than two decades for her to nab that elusive second letter, which she did for Best Spoken Word Recording for Great American Documents.

3. RITA MORENO

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Seven months after Hayes earned her EGOT, actress Rita Moreno did the same when she won her first of two consecutive Emmys for a guest spot on The Muppet Show in 1977 (the following year she won one for an appearance on The Rockford Files). But Moreno did it in about a third the time of Hayes, 16 years, which was an EGOT record until Lopez smashed it last night. Her Oscar came in 1961 as Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story, followed by a Best Recording for Children Grammy in 1972, for The Electric Company. In 1975, Moreno nabbed a Tony playing Googie Gomez in Terrence McNally’s The Ritz, a role she reprised in the 1976 big-screen version.

4. JOHN GIELGUD

John Gielgud
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Unlike his three predecessors, the Oscar wasn’t the first award John Gielgud won to earn his EGOT. Instead it was the Tony, which he first won in 1948 for The Importance of Being Earnest. He won a second Tony in 1961, as the director of Big Fish, Little Fish. Next came the Grammy, in 1979, for his dramatic recording of Ages of Man. In 1981, Gielgud took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his iconic role as Dudley Moore’s butler/sidekick in Arthur. And when he won the Emmy in 1991, for Outstanding Lead Actor in Summer’s Lease, he was 87 years old, making him the oldest EGOT-getter.

5. AUDREY HEPBURN

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Unfortunately, Audrey Hepburn didn’t live long enough to enjoy her EGOT. Two of her awards—her 1994 Grammy for the children’s album Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales and her 1993 Emmy for the informational Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn—were awarded after her passing on January 20, 1993, which made her the first posthumous EGOT recipient. She did, however, have the chance to bask in the glow of her 1953 Oscar for Roman Holiday, and a Tony for Ondine one year later.

6. MARVIN HAMLISCH

Marvin Hamlisch
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There’s a distinctively heavy emphasis on the “O” in composer Marvin Hamlisch’s EGOT, as he is the most Academy Award-winning of the bunch, with a total of three. All of them were awarded in 1973—two for The Way We Were and one for his score for The Sting. It was “The Way We Were” that earned him his first of four Grammys, too, in 1974. His collaboration with Barbra Streisand continued, and earned him two Emmys in 1995, for Barbra: The Concert. Hamlisch’s Tony came in 1976 for A Chorus Line, the musical that also got him a Pulitzer Prize, making him the only other PEGOT on this list.

7. JONATHAN TUNICK

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Composer/conductor Jonathan Tunick’s path to EGOT glory was a straight shot over the course of 20 years: In 1977 he won an Oscar for A Little Night Music, followed by an Emmy for Music Direction in 1982 for Night of 100 Stars, a 1988 Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for Cleo Laine’s “No One is Alone,” and, finally, a 1997 Tony for Best Orchestrations for Titanic.

8. MEL BROOKS

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Yes, Mel Brooks can do it all. In June of 2001 he became the world’s eighth EGOT winner, just a few weeks shy of his 75th birthday, when he earned three Tony Awards—for Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Book of a Musical—for The Producers. It was The Producers that brought Brooks his Oscar as well, for Best Original Screenplay (albeit 33 years earlier). Brooks’s first award came in 1967, when he won the Emmy for writing The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special. Beginning in 1997, he won three consecutive Emmys, this time as a guest actor on the sitcom Mad About You. It was during that same period that he also won his first of three Grammys, in 1998 for Best Spoken Comedy Album for The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000. In a 2013 NPR interview, Brooks mentioned this crowning achievement, saying, “I'm an EGOT, so I don't need any more [awards].”

9. MIKE NICHOLS

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Mike Nichols earned his EGOT in the same year as Mel Brooks, though it took him a full 40 years to get there (versus Brooks’s 34). The late comedian-turned-director’s path began with a 1961 Best Comedy Performance Grammy for An Evening With Mike Nichols And Elaine May. In 1964, he won his first of nine Tony Awards for Barefoot in the Park (his second came a year later for The Odd Couple). In 1967 he was named Best Director at the Oscars for The Graduate. And in 2001 he won his first two of four Emmys—for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Made for Television Movie—for Wit.

10. WHOOPI GOLDBERG

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If Philip Michael Thomas invented the idea of the EGOT, Tracy Morgan—as Tracy Jordan—brought the phrase back into popular use on 30 Rock, when he set the same goal and even wore the necklace. And they even got real-life EGOT winner Whoopi Goldberg to play along and poke fun at the debate over whether she should truly be included as her Emmy is a Daytime one. (“It still counts,” she told Tracy. “Girl’s gotta eat!”) Goldberg's first award was a 1985 Grammy for Best Comedy Recording of Whoopi Goldberg—Original Broadway Show Recording. Next came a 1990 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Ghost. In 2002 she got her E and T: an Emmy for hosting Beyond Tara: The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel and a Tony as co-producer of Thoroughly Modern Millie, which won Best Musical.

11. SCOTT RUDIN

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Scott Rudin is the first producer to EGOT. He earned his gold medallion in 2012 when The Book of Mormon: Original Broadway Cast Recording earned a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album (an award Rudin shares with fellow EGOT Robert Lopez). Rudin’s first award—an Emmy—came in 1984, for the kid’s show He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’. He earned his first of 15 Tony Awards in 1994 for Passion, and his most recent in 2017 for Hello, Dolly!. While Rudin is probably best known as a film producer, he’s only got one Oscar to his credit, a 2007 Best Picture statue for the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men.

12. ROBERT LOPEZ

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In 2014, songwriter Robert Lopez became the newest EGOT when he and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for Frozen’s “Let It Go.” (The pair won a second statuette earlier this year for the song "Remember Me" from Coco.) In addition to being the newest member of the EGOT winners' circle, he is also the youngest member of the club (he's 43 years old now, but had just turned 39 when he was "inducted.") Lopez is also the fastest artist to achieve the honor, taking just 10 years to earn all four awards, beginning with a 2004 Tony Award for Best Score for Avenue Q, followed by two Daytime Emmys in 2008 and 2010 for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for Wonder Pets. In 2012, Lopez and Rudin shared the Grammy for The Book of Mormon, making them the first pair of EGOTs to have a shared award get them into the circle.

(SH)EGOTS

Though the official number of EGOT winners is 12, it’s worth noting that there are a handful of other rather famous faces who have also earned all four awards ... but because at least one of them is a special or honorary award only—not a competitive one—their inclusion in the official club is questionable. Let’s call them SHEGOTs?

1. BARBRA STREISAND


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Amazingly, the only Tony Award that Barbra Steisand has on her mantel is a non-competitive one; in 1970, she was named Star of the Decade.

2. LIZA MINNELLI

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Liza Minnelli may have been handed a Grammy Legend Award in 1990—but this legend has no competitive Grammy to speak (or sing) of.

3. JAMES EARL JONES

James Earl Jones accepts the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre onstage during the 2017 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 11, 2017 in New York City
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Though he's been a Hollywood icon for decades, James Earl Jones's only Oscar win was an honorary one in 2012. He did receive a Best Actor nomination in 1971 for The Great White Hope, but lost out to George C. Scott for Patton. (It's worth noting that Scott had alerted the Academy ahead of time that he refused the nomination, so it was hardly surprising that he wasn't there to accept the actual award.)

4. ALAN MENKEN

Johnny Mercer Award Honoree Alan Menken performs onstage at the Songwriters Hall Of Fame 48th Annual Induction and Awards at New York Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 15, 2017 in New York City
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Composer/songwriter Alan Menken won the Tony for Best Original Score for the Broadway version of Newsies in 2012, but his 1990 Emmy for his contribution to "Wonderful Ways to Say No," an anti-drug cartoon special, was an honorary one—leaving him one official award short of an EGOT.

5. HARRY BELAFONTE

Harry Belafonte attends the 2016 Library Lions Gala at New York Public Library - Stephen A Schwartzman Building on November 7, 2016 in New York City
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In 2014, Harry Belafonte was awarded the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award—putting him in the elite class of a half-dozen (SH)EGOTs.

6. QUINCY JONES

Music producer Quincy Jones attends Spotify's Inaugural Secret Genius Awards hosted by Lizzo at Vibiana on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California
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Music producer Quincy Jones may be one of the world's most award-winning artists, but a competitive Oscar has so far eluded him. Like Belafonte, the only Academy Award he has won is the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (which he received in 1994). Beyond that, he is a seven-time Oscar nominee.

ALMOST EGOTS

While there are are a number of artists who came close to EGOT'ing during their lifetimes—including Robin Williams (who was short a Tony), Jessica Tandy (she was missing a Grammy), Henry Fonda (who was minus an Emmy), and Leonard Bernstein (who never won an Oscar)—the EGOT dream is still alive for dozens of artists.

1. JOHN LEGEND

If John Legend wins an Emmy this year, he'll become the 13th official member of the EGOT winners' circle.

2. JULIE ANDREWS

It's hard to believe that Julie Andrews has yet to win a Tony Award (though she's been nominated for three). If and when she does, she can add EGOT to her resume.

3. AND 4. ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER AND TIM RICE

Like Legend, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are just an Emmy short of an EGOT—which could change this year.

5. LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA

The Hamilton creator came so close to EGOT'ing last year. But something tells us it won't be long before he's inducted into this elite group of artists.

6. MARTIN SCORSESE

He may be one of the world's most acclaimed filmmakers, but it took him more than a quarter-century to earn his first (and so far only) Oscar. Hopefully a Tony will be next.

7. FRANCES MCDORMAND

Just below the EGOT, there's what is known as the Triple Crown of Acting: a performer who has won an Oscar, Emmy, and a Tony (but is missing a Grammy). Frances McDormand is among that group.

8. VIOLA DAVIS

Like McDormand, Viola Davis is part of the Triple Crown club.

9. RANDY NEWMAN

It took 20 years and 16 nominations, but Randy Newman finally became an Oscar winner in 2002 when he won the award for Best Original Song for "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc. He still needs a Tony though.

10. AL PACINO

He's one of the most celebrated actors alive, but Al Pacino is no Grammy winner.

11. JOHN WILLIAMS

The iconic composer may hold the record for the most Oscar nominations for a living person, but John Williams has yet to receive a single Tony Award nomination.

12. CHER

The iconic singer is one Tony Award short of an EGOT.

13. ELTON JOHN

The "Rocket Man" singer is one Emmy Award away from an EGOT.

14. MAGGIE SMITH

Dame Maggie Smith may not have a Grammy Award, but she's a Triple Crown-winning actor who has earned the right to be addressed as "Dame."

15. COMMON

Rapper/poet/singer/producer Common only needs a Tony Award to complete his EGOT.

16. AND 17. RON HOWARD AND BRIAN GRAZER

Longtime producing partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have seemingly conquered every medium, but neither one has yet to win a Tony (though Grazer has come closer; he was nominated in 2008).

18. AND 19. TREY PARKER AND MATT STONE

The South Park creators are just an Oscar short of the EGOT goalpost.

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8 Things You Might Not Know About Drew Carey
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For the past decade, actor and comedian Drew Carey has been emceeing the long-running daytime game show The Price is Right, proving himself an able replacement for tenured former host Bob Barker. (Carey even echoes his predecessor’s plea to spay and neuter pets at the end of every episode.) Prior to that, the 60-year-old had two hugely successful series, including a self-titled sitcom and the improvisational Whose Line Is It Anyway? Take a look at some things you might not have realized about the glasses-sporting comic. (Like the fact that he doesn’t really need to wear them.)

1. HE CREDITS SELF-HELP BOOKS WITH HIS SUCCESS.

Carey’s Cleveland upbringing was not particularly joy-filled. His father died when Carey was just 8, succumbing to a brain tumor. His mother worked two jobs to support her three sons and couldn’t afford to take Carey to see a psychiatrist to help deal with the trauma. Feeling isolated and depressed for much of his adolescence, things didn’t improve when he attended Kent State University: He was expelled twice for poor grades.

At rock bottom, Carey started reading self-help titles like University of Success and Your Erroneous Zones. The books changed Carey’s way of thinking, getting him out of his frustrated mindset. He later moved to California, joined the Marine Reserves, and began eyeing a career in stand-up comedy.

2. JOHNNY CARSON LAUNCHED HIS CAREER.

Drew Carey is photographed during a 'Tonight Show' appearance
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While writing jokes for a friend who worked in radio—Carey again turned to books, taking out a joke-writing title from a local library—he began honing a stand-up act. Attending an open-mic night at the Sahara in Las Vegas didn’t go well (he bombed), but after putting in years of practice, Carey got two breaks. The first was Star Search, a talent competition hosted by Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, and the second was the Tonight Show itself. In 1991, Carey was invited to perform and appeared to win over Johnny Carson, a move that caught the attention of television executives eager to find another stand-up to build a sitcom around. The Drew Carey Show debuted in 1995 and ran for nine seasons.

3. HE DOESN’T REALLY NEED THE GLASSES.

Wearing black horn-rimmed glasses for the first half of his career helped make Carey an identifiable presence on television. In 2001, when he got LASIK to correct his vision, he no longer needed them to see. But because his persona was so closely intertwined with spectacles, Carey continued wearing the frames—this time with clear lenses—for work. When he opts to go without them, he finds that fans can be oblivious to the fact they’re talking to him. Conversing with a small group in a Cleveland night club one year, Carey told them he was on television and host of The Price is Right. “I thought Drew Carey hosted The Price is Right,” one replied.

4. HE UPSET A&W OVER A FAST-FOOD INFRACTION.

A drive-thru sign is positioned at a fast food restaurant
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After signing a deal in 1998 to endorse the A&W burger chain, Carey found himself in trouble over his sitcom character’s preference for McDonald’s. In November of that year, an episode of The Drew Carey Show featured Carey lost in China and wandering into a Golden Arches location for a meal. A&W took offense and refused to pay the remainder of the comic’s endorsement fee. They also insisted he return the $450,000 already remitted to him. “I didn't eat at the McDonald's on the show,” Carey told Esquire in 2007. “I grabbed a fry off a kid's plate, but I didn't get any of the food. When I was in China, I ate at A&W almost every day. There was one around the corner from where we were staying. I like the company. I thought we had a good relationship.”

5. HE’S SHOT SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER AN ALIAS.

Carey is part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team, but his involvement is more than just financial. Carey has been field-side to shoot action photography of the team and has distributed them to wire services under the pseudonym Brooks Parkenridge. “If I wasn't a comic or TV star, my other dream job was to be a photojournalist,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2005. “I envy [photographer] Carolyn Cole from the L.A. Times, and when I see Christiane Amanpour on TV, I think, ‘Man, wouldn't it be great to be her cameraman and be at these cool places where history is changing.’ Plus, being a celebrity, you always get good seats to sporting events, but you never get seats as good as the photographers get.”

6. HE ENTERED THE ROYAL RUMBLE.

The annual WWE wrestling event Royal Rumble admits one wrestler in timed intervals until 30 grapplers have entered the squared circle. While this contest is normally a playing field for mammoth participants like the Undertaker or John Cena, Carey found himself involved in 2001. Staging a sketch in which he raised the ire of WWE owner Vince McMahon, Carey cheerfully agreed to enter as the sixth man in and the first celebrity in the show. Instead of being allowed to walk off, he was confronted by Kane and nearly choke-slammed before another wrestler intervened. The comic went on to occupy a spot in the promotion’s Hall of Fame.

7. HE FOUGHT A DANCING BAN IN ARIZONA.

In a bizarre Footloose scenario, Carey came to the defense of an Arizona steakhouse in 2008 after local officials were targeting the open-air restaurant San Tan Flat for allowing dancing outdoors, a possible violation of an outdated noise ordinance. Carey dispatched a film crew to interview the owners as part of his Reason.tv series examining individual rights. A judge subsequently ruled that the establishment was not an illegal dance hall.

8. HE LOST NEARLY 100 POUNDS.

Drew Carey is photographed while on stage
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Known for his generously-proportioned physique, Carey had struggled with type-2 diabetes and heart problems as a result of the excess weight. He underwent a coronary angioplasty in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he decided to get fit for his son, Connor, who was born in 2007. Carey cut out soft drinks and switched to healthier options, replacing steak and bread with chicken and vegetables. Coupled with running, he shed roughly 85 pounds. “I was at a wedding on Saturday, and I ate cake,” he told Success in 2015. “I’m not a maniac about it. But 95 percent of the time, I’m right on the money.”

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