Gailard Sartain is a funny man, not an answer man. So if you ask him to provide straight answers, expect to serve as a straight man for an impromptu routine.
What is the nature of creativity?
"A. I have no idea. B. If I knew, I wouldn't tell. C. I think it all pays the same," he says with a slight chuckle.
Sartain is the precocious, pesty child who refuses to grow up. The one who demands attention in the stuffy atmosphere of adult convention. He's liable to do anything for a laugh --and does.
But there's a serious side. To him, creativity is artistry. Besides his acting ability, his paintings have drawn critical acclaim. "Artistic ability? Who really knows where it comes from. My mother's mother was an unresolved artist. By that I mean she never did anything with it. She only did one painting in her life and that was at 14 years of age. I have it here in my house. I never knew her, she died before I was born, but I feel I know her through this painting. It's really remarkable.
"So is it genetics? I'd like to think it is a sort of mystical thing. Looking at that painting all my life...it just got into me. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an artist."
A native of Tulsa, Sartain graduated from Rogers High School and afterwards earned a degree in fine arts from the University of Tulsa in 1969.
"When you are dealing with creativity, there's a lot of stuff you just have to throw out the window. You come up with lots of ideas that won't work or that you can't find any use for. But the ideas still find their way to consciousness.
"Creativity is an innate ability. But some people have great minds and just don't know how to put their ideas to good use. They're not coordinated. But I've always been pretty coordinated, despite my girth. And I can throw long, hard, and far."
Admitting he was a "pretty bad student," he adds that he was determined to make the best use of his talents -- somehow. "Everybody has to find his niche. There are lots of talented people, but few are successful. They're always the ones who have worked their tails off. You've heard it before: It's 97 percent perspiration and 3 percent inspiration."
When things come easy, Sartain says, most people don't stick with it. "There is an awful lot of undeveloped talent out there. But it's tough to do. Every time I do a painting I break into a cold sweat. I have to shut off the TV and close the refrigerator.
"When I do a voice, a character, I have to work at it. I have to almost be schizophrenic. I hate to say that, but it's true."
Renowned for his comic adlibbing, Sartain is known for his ability to make a good script better and a poor script shine during a taping session. "If a script is funny, I'll laugh. My tastes are generally the same as anyone else's. But when I get a bad script, I like it even more because there's so much I can do with it. It's a challenge.
"There's an imp in me that just wants to change things. I want to rebel. Unfortunately, along the way I know there are lots of people who think I'm a prima donna, but whatever I do has to have my stamp on it. If it doesn't, then why give it to me to do in the first place?"
It's a fun way to make a living, he adds. "I enjoy it a whole lot more than picking cotton or digging a ditch. It sends the kids to school and pays the bills."