Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Are You on Drugs?"

That's what Jon Stewart asked Harry G. Frankfurt on "The Daily Show" last week. Frankfurt was there to flog his book, On Truth. Given that On Truth came out on Halloween and that Frankfurt had been on the show for his On Bullshit 2 years ago, you'd think that he'd have been hot off the blocks with a well-practiced spiel in response to Stewart's opening question. (Not to mention exceedingly grateful for getting primo air time for a nearly 3-month-old book.)

You would have thought wrong. Frankfurt sat there like a stuffed owl, and for a good 5 seconds--an eternity in broadcasting--didn't even move. Eventually he came out with a slow, barely polysyllabic reply. Stewart asked another question. Same thing. And again. You could see Stewart working hard to fill in both sides of the conversation.

Though he makes hash of public figures in the "news" portion of his show, Stewart is actually a kind and generous interviewer, and often lobs softball questions to his guests. But even the most nervous interviewee gives back something. Not so with Frankfurt, which is why Stewart finally blurted out the query that had to be on viewers' minds. (It sure was on mine.)

Anyone wanting to know why an author should have media training before going on air need look no further.


Katie said...

I assume it's not acceptable at that point to say, "Sorry, Jon, I don't speak well. That's why I'm a writer. Can I just email you my answer to your question?"

Bella Stander said...

Nope. If you can't do broadcast, stick to print.

Frankfurt was good the first time he was on "The Daily Show." This time maybe he was on drugs, or otherwise impaired. If so, he shouldn't have been on the show.

Christine Fletcher said...

Bella, when I saw this interview, I thought of you! I told my boyfriend, "Somewhere, some publicist is pulling her hair out and moaning, 'Why? WHY?'"

Man, that guy was a primo lesson in what NOT to do.