By Kris Kitto - 10/19/09 11:32 PM EDT
What got you interested in politics/news/current events?
I was interested in politics when I was in college, and then the Vietnam War was raging, and my ex-husband was a sociology professor, and we were always marching on Washington. Then we were in Rhode Island for a couple of years; my husband was teaching at Rhode Island College. We had political meetings at my house constantly with the professors. They were mostly lefty professors, but there would always be one right-wing professor who would come and mix things up. Then I had a radio show in 1991, WABC radio, and we’d talk about politics. It’s been many, many years. It’s my thing.
It’s not as stressful as having a lot of opinions around me. It’s a slight adjustment … You have to remember, I’m an only child, and I made my career as a stand-up comedian, and you’re all alone on the stage as a stand-up comedian.
In a recent show, you went after Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) on account of his tax problems. You live in his district. How do you feel about him being your congressman?
I just think that, whenever there’s corruption in government, it affects the party. And you know, I wouldn’t call myself a complete Democrat but I am a registered Democrat because I like to vote in the primaries. I’ve always been a big fan of Charlie Rangel, but I think he has to go.
Would you vote for him in the next election?
What other members of Congress or other national political figures are grabbing your attention these days?
Well, I mean today, if I were on the air, I’d like to talk to President Obama because he won the Nobel Peace Prize. I’d like to talk to him, and I’d like to talk to a critic who is mad that he won the prize.
My position is he deserved it because he has changed the conversation in the world.
As you know, one of your fellow liberal comedians, Al Franken, is now a senator. How do you think he’s doing?
I really haven’t been paying attention to what he’s doing in Minnesota, so I can’t comment on that.
Have you had any interactions with Sen. Franken? Ever performed with him?
I know he’s a very smart man. I’ve done benefits with him.
Would you ever follow in his footsteps and run for office yourself?
No. Absolutely not. I have no interest in sitting in on those boring Senate committee meetings. I think as a talk-show person, I have more influence.
New York always seems to have interesting political stories, from Eliot Spitzer to the race to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat to Gov. David Paterson being discouraged by the president from running for another term. What’s your take on New York politics?
I think it’s a mess, frankly, at the state level. But I’m happy that [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg [I] is running again. He is doing a very good job. I think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and he’s done a great job.
Who have been some of your favorite political people to interview?
[Rep.] Barney Frank [D-Mass.] — the ones who are entertaining. I’m an entertainer, so I look for people who are smart and entertaining. He’s one of them. He’s one of those people who, he just says what’s on his mind. He doesn’t really couch it. A lot of politicians, when you interview them, they say the politically correct thing, because their whole goal in life is to get reelected. He shoots from the hip.
What do you think makes a good interview?
I try to get the truth out of people as much as I can, and try to have an entertaining and interesting conversation. I like to make people feel comfortable even if we disagree.
What do you make of the political sex scandals we see every few months?
As a comedian, I welcome them.As an American, it’s a little distracting. During the George W. Bush years, we were hoping for a sex scandal, but no one delivered one. I guess the Republicans were more circumspect about what they were doing. The Democrats seem to get caught.
What from your career as a stand-up comedian translates to what you do today?
I don’t have an audience, but I do have a crew, and they laugh. Stand-up comedy is trial by fire. I was on stage this past Saturday in the Hamptons, and, you know, everyone is clothed, and you’re on stage, naked. It’s one of the most difficult things you can do in the business, I think. You get used to carrying the ball, to saving your ass — and I think that serves me in this show.
Who are some of your ideal guests for your new show?
We have landed Gore Vidal [this week]. That, to me, is one of my goals in life — is to spend some time with Gore Vidal. And we’ve booked Ann Coulter. She hated “The View.” She was ticked off with us, I think, because we didn’t let her talk enough. She was on my show the first week … so we go back.
To recommend a political personality for 20 Questions, call Kris Kitto at (202)628-8539 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.