Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a bit taken aback to be speaking Friday, Jan. 16 at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods. "You go to Foxwoods and you normally see musicians and comedians," Tyson said while calling from his Manhattan office. "You don't normally see someone like me on that stage."
It's not that the celebrated astrophysicist is starstruck appearing at the hall.
"It's just different," Tyson said. "I feel like sending a note to the ticket buyers. 'Do you realize that I'm an astrophysicist and I'll be giving you a lecture?"
The odds are that the audience is well aware of what they'll receive when the sold-out show commences. It'll undoubtedly be an edifying and entertaining experience. Tyson has always been a fountain of information and a hoot on such programs as "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show."
"It's not about fun for me when I'm on the those shows," Tyson said. "I'm working. I'm trying to do my best."
But he's an obvious draw and has been tapped to host a first ever late-night talk show for the National Geographic Channel starting in April. It will be called "Star Talk'' like Tyson's podcast.
Tyson, 56, won't be sure until the day before the show what he'll wax about when he hits the stage.
"I could speak about any number of topics," Tyson said. "I should have it all down by Thursday. I can speak about past, present and future in space or about science and literacy in America. But what I'll do is sit down with myself and think about who the audience is and what's going on in the world at that point. I'll see what the political climate is and I'll craft a talk that best serves the moment."
What is perhaps most unusual is that Tyson's talk that evening will be one of a kind. The Bronx native, who lives in lower Manhattan, refuses to repeat himself on the lecture circuit.
"I want people to know that I'm not about doing cookie cutter talks," Tyson said. "You'll have a unique experience when you come to see me at Foxwoods."
Tyson is disappointed that America has fallen behind in science and the space race. "It's sad but I have to say that I would be deeply concerned if no other country was picking up the mantel," Tyson said. "But there are other countries that are intensely interested in scientific advancement. But I do wish it was like it was back when I was a child and it was the golden age for space exploration in this country."
It was evident what Tyson's vocation would be at an early age. "I just wondered what's up there? What's out there? How far does it go? Who knows what's out there?"
Tyson is often asked about the aliens. He would love it if an extra-terrestrial landed on Earth. "It would be so cool," Tyson said. "If that happened, that would mean they were smarter than we are and have more advanced technology. If something like that were to happen, think about what we could learn. Perhaps we could learn immediately what it would take 100 years to discover."
That's fascinating stuff considering how different life was back in 1915. Tyson doubts that aliens have landed since there is a lack of proof. "It's funny since testimony is held in the highest regard in the court of law," Tyson said. "But it's the opposite in the world of science. It's not enough for someone to bear witness to an event. We need some sort of tangible proof."
Tyson is an awfully excitable fellow for a man of science. The director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space is reminiscent of that electric teacher some were fortunate enough to have in college. Tyson is erudite, enthusiastic and hopeful.
"I would like to go back to the 1964 World's Fair and bottle all of the enthusiasm that Americans had back then for science," Tyson said. "It really is fascinating."
Particularly when Tyson is holding court. Anyone who witnessed Tyson host the PBS program "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" last year understands. What folks might not grasp is that Tyson, unlike those normally booked at Foxwoods, would rather hang with his family than in essense, perform in front of a large crowd.
"I get between 100 and 200 requests a month to go out and do talks," Tyson said. "But I would rather stay home and play with my kids. I do a handful of these talks every month. I can't do more than that because I want to enjoy my life. I want to go out to slightly overpriced restaurants and hope that I'll enjoy something that I'll remember for days. But I'm looking forward to the Foxwoods date. It'll be something different for the audience. Hopefully they'll take what I present and remember it for days like that really good meal I occasionally have."