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Stanford psychologist partners with ‘30 Rock’ actor on the ‘The Lutz Experiment’

Comedian John Lutz, who plays a sketch writer on the popular TV series "30 Rock," is often the fall guy for others' mischief and the target of practical jokes on the show. So when I read in a recent Arts Beat blog entry about a new endeavor called "The Lutz Experiment," I naturally assumed he'd be the lead role in some sort of new reality TV show where he would eat strange and unusual foods, perform death-defying acts and, in general, test his emotional and physical limits.

But, as the article explains, there's more depth to the actor and his latest project, which he is working on with Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, PhD. Zaki's work focuses on the cognitive and neural bases of social behavior, and:

The men are now collaborators on a new book tentatively titled “The Lutz Experiment,” which was recently acquired by the Free Press imprint of Simon & Schuster. It’s a project they hope will make social psychology more accessible while it runs Mr. Lutz through a battery of experiments, teaches him a few lessons about himself and perhaps helps him conquer some long-held fears.


For their book, Dr. Zaki said it was still to be determined what experiments he would run on Mr. Lutz, and even then he could probably not tell his partner exactly what he would be getting into.

“So many of our studies depend on people not knowing the hypotheses ahead of time,” Dr. Zaki said. “I get to deploy him to these different, weird parts of the country. ‘Meet this person, and they’ll bring you into a basement testing room."

Photo by Jason Anfinsen

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