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tv   Amanpour Company  PBS  December 25, 2018 12:00am-1:01am PST

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♪ >> hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & co." during the christmas holidays, we're dipping into the archive and looking back at some of this year's highlights, so here's what's coming up. two comic geniuses who share a rare ability to mine hope in these troubled times. a thoughtful and surprising, funny conversation with jon stewart and dave chappelle. plus, our hari sreenivasan looks on the bright side with comedy great eric idle, the founding member of "monty python's flying circus." ♪ >> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those
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dreams were on the water -- a river, specifically, multiple rivers that would one day be home to uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt, and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit >> "amanpour & co." is made possible by... ...and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour. america seems more divided than at any time in our memory, coming apart at the seams some might say. and what better time to talk to jon stewart and dave chappelle,
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legends of american comedy and two of the most important voices in contemporary culture? >> both have redefined the boundaries of storytelling. with his sketches on "chappelle's show," dave skewers racial stereotypes, and he's an international sensation. and jon, ever since helming "the daily show," became almost more relevant than traditional news anchors, with his satire laser-focused on the truth and lies of current political discourse. away from the small screen, stand-up is a vital part of any comedian's dna, and the two have teamed up for rare performances in the united states and europe, tackling issues like gun violence, the twitter era, and what it's like to raise kids in 2018 amid mounting political uncertainty. i caught up with them at london's royal albert hall to see whether comedy can, indeed, at this time help bridge the political divide.
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jon stewart, dave chappelle, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> firstly, what is it like doing a comedy in here, in the albert hall? have you ever been in such a hall? >> i don't know that there is such a hall. >> no, i don't think there is. it was very royal. >> [ chuckles ] >> it was -- you felt wrapped in velvet. >> so, what brings you two together? i know you've done things together before, but why now? why here? >> well, it started when i was doing a residency at radio city. and part of the residency, i would have, you know, different comedians and musicians. we'd all come. it was kind of like a great collective or curation of talent. and this particular night, it was the day that the riot happened in charlottesville. >> ah. >> oh, yeah. >> and, i mean, you could feel it in the room. people -- there were palpable feelings around it. and jon stewart showed up that night. and when he went on -- really, like, either jon or
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obama are the only people that would have got -- literally, you're the only ones that would have got that reception. >> obama's got a tight five on charlottesville that would have crushed. >> no. you could feel the crowd. like, it was a sigh of relief. you were like a visual cue to be rational and like -- and the set you did that day was so powerful. >> well, that opens up a lot of questions. first and foremost, i was just reading about lenny bruce, the great comedian. i think it's 50 years since he died, but all of a sudden having a resurgence. off-broadway play about to happen. he features in an amazon prime series, but -- >> lenny bruce? >> lenny bruce. >> his career is going better now. >> yeah, his career is going better now. he's having a revival. >> he changed agents. >> [ laughs ] but people are saying that, you know, the same things that he was satirizing and making, you know, part of his comedy back then are -- exist right now, the assault on free speech, the, you know, partitioning of the country along race and religious lines... >> right. >> ...the protests on the streets and in congress. and i wonder whether -- whether
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that affects you, i mean, whether you internalize that, given what you just said about a rational voice. >> well, i don't know about a rational voice, but i think we always internalize what's around us. we're comedians, and i think we feed off of whatever the food is of the day that's coming around. i don't know that, you know, in terms of a resurgence of the country being divided along racial and class lines and gender lines and all that -- i feel like that's always with us. it's just, at times, it maybe bubbles up more explicitly. but even when you don't say it out loud, it still exists. and it's always, you know, foundational. and so i don't know that it ever goes away. >> do you think it is more acute right now? >> uh, the division? >> yeah. >> no, man. no. in fact, some of the things they say -- even when they say that russia influenced the election, it's kind of like, "is russia
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making us racist? is that who's doing it? oh, okay. oh, my god. thank goodness. i thought it was us." >> [ laughs ] putin's like... >> i hadn't thought of it that way. >> huh? >> i hadn't thought of it that way. >> yeah. if they kill the country that way, then we're the murder weapon. >> yeah. >> so -- >> we've always been. >> is the trump era a good era for comedians? is it just unbelievable fodder or not? >> i would not even name the era after him. >> yeah. >> he's getting too much credit. >> well, he's the president. >> he's not making the wave. he's surfing it. >> yeah. the energy's always been there. >> he just -- all he does is sing those people's greatest hits -- "build a wall," all these things we've heard before. he just sings all the songs. he's the only one that's been brash enough to do it. >> uh-huh. >> he's been a lot more aggressive toward journalists and reporters. i wonder what you think. i mean, obviously we're speaking in a moment when, you know, one of our colleagues has been butchered in cold blood... >> right. >> a consulate... >> a saudi.
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>> turkey. >> that is terrifying. >> and in that environment, president trump talks about a candidate running for office who has body-slammed a reporter. and i'm gonna play a little bit of what he said. >> any guy that can do a body slam -- he's my kind of -- [ cheers and applause ] >> what do you make of that? i ask you because you were sort of the gray beard of journalism almost. i know you hate that. >> what happened? >> but when anchors started to be less authoritative than they used to be maybe, you know, 20 years ago, you were, for better or for worse, considered somebody with authority every night. >> i think we were the protest vote to a large extent. we were none of the above. so, people would say, you know, "who's the most trusted news anchor?" and they would list the four network anchors, and then they would throw in, you know, my name, "none of the above." and everybody's like, "none of the above," and they would circle it and that would go there. you know, i think that he is a performer.
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when we do our shows, we do our shows. and no matter if we're sitting in royal albert hall or like -- when we were in copenhagen, we went to a little room called the zoo. there was, you know, 100 danish-speaking, somewhat surprised people to see us. and we sat there, and we did our show. and we did it -- donald trump is a salesman who changes his pitch depending on who he's in front of. what he doesn't realize is it's all being recorded, and so his pitch to that audience is the us-versus-them, "we're all the victims of this liberal media, of these soft journalists who come out here and lie about us. we're really great people." and that's what he pitches to them. and if you ask him about it and you say, "do you think that's okay to body-slam a reporter?" "no, no, no, of course not. that's -- you know, not do that. but i was joking. it was a little joke i was making in front of friends." >> before we go forward, let's
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go back to the day after the election. you were hosting "saturday night live" right after the election. >> i'm wishing donald trump luck. and i'm gonna give him a chance. and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too. thank you very much. [ cheers and applause ] >> did that dream, desire come true? has he given you a chance? or do you still want to give him a chance? >> i think i said the right thing at the right time. >> mm-hmm. >> you know what i mean? i think that we had to re-calibrate and kind of put things in perspective. you know, i'm a black american. so, we've -- these feelings that people felt right after the election -- we've felt that many elections -- [ both laugh ] many elections consecutively. and i think that, to some degree, people overreacted. like, the alternative to giving him a chance was storming the streets. and if something good's on television, we're not doing
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that. i just feel like -- >> hbo has a lot of offerings right now to keep you from storming. >> [ chuckles ] yeah. "'game of thrones' is on? i can't make the riot tonight." >> [ laughs ] >> but i don't know. is he doing a good job? am i happy with what he's doing? no. it's been very difficult to watch the last couple years. >> harder than i think i thought it would be in that there was a part of me that thought when you get in that room and it's nighttime and there's no one around and teddy roosevelt and abe lincoln and everybody's up on the walls and they're staring at you, that that brings a certain cognitive weight to what you're feeling. and i imagine he walked in that room and he's like, "take that down. take that down. put up dogs playing poker. can a fella get some french fries around here?" you know, i think that, oddly enough, he transformed the white house and the white house wasn't able to transform him. >> back in 2015, when he announced for president, you didn't take it entirely seriously. >> the man came down an escalator. >> can i just play what you
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said? >> oh, sure. like many of you, i heard some interesting, mm, let's call it news today about a certain, let's say, gift from heaven... [ laughter ] ...entering the presidential race because apparently huckabee/santorum wasn't far-fetched enough. i got to tell you, the world right now is going, "pff! whites are black. trump's running for president," like... >> should you have taken him more seriously? i mean, you were the oracle, jon. >> well, yeah, now. i mean, i didn't -- i didn't think -- i thought america was gonna go, "is that an escalator in a mall? i'm not gonna vote for that dude." like, i didn't think -- "a," i didn't think he meant it. and when he gave that speech, quite frankly, i really thought when he said, you know, "mexico sends us their worst, they're rapists and murderers," i really thought he had disqualified himself. >> not to mention what he said about women. >> about women, about everything that he said there. and i thought, "this is disqualifying."
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for me, though -- and clearly i don't speak for -- you know, he's been very effective at, like, what dave said, surfing the waves that have been there. i'm watching the midterms. man, you would think our country is "mad max thunderdome." this guy is like, "they're coming from guatemala. they're coming from mexico. there's a liberal mob that's coming, muslims." and you would think everybody in the country's just like, "to the bunker, to the ramparts." >> to that point, it's been written about you, dave, that -- >> it has been written about you. >> it has been said... >> uh-oh. >> ...that you have a singular gift for blurring left and right, red and blue states. what do you think that means, that somehow you're able to sort of surf, bring them together, not necessarily get stuck in the political divide? >> because most of political discussion is so binary, and i'm way more interesting than that. it's just the dude. >> you're way more interesting than that? >> yeah, most people are... >> most people are. >> ...if you talk to them.
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you know, i have people say, you know, families are not speaking to one another because of politics. that sounds insane to me. like, there's a ton of people that i love and respect that i completely disagree with. >> so, do you think -- because obviously we're all caught up in this sort of daily trump fest. i mean, every single newspaper, every radio station, every bit of social media -- >> you got to make money, too. >> well, it's dissecting -- >> you got bills to pay, man. you got electric bills. you got food. you know, this guy is -- he's giving you all cash. the cash flow in the trump era for these tv stations and for these -- >> but can i say, that might have been an issue, and maybe it still is an issue for the people who are the bean counters, but we, the journalists -- we, i think, believe that our job is to navigate the truth and to do the fact-checking and all the rest of it. so, i think that's motivates... >> but i think the journalists have taken it personally. >> okay. that's interesting. >> they're personally wounded and offended by this man.
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he baits them, and they dive in. and what he's done well, i thought, is appeal to their own narcissism, to their own ego, because what he says is, "these are the --" and the journalists stand up and say "we are noble. we are honorable. how dare you, sir?" and they take it personally. and now he's changed the conversation to not that his policies are silly or not working or any of those other things. it's all about the fight. he's able to tune out everything else and get people just focused on the fight, and he's gonna win that fight. >> you know, even bob woodward said in his book on the trump white house that a lot of journalists are too emotional about this. but it's hard for us to be dispassionate when words from the white house are aggressive against us and, you know, raise the specter of violence against. >> but you're not used to it. think of the communities of -- >> no, no, we're used to it. believe me. >> but think of the communities of color. >> we've been out there in the field. >> think of muslims. think of the black community, people -- you know, when journalists rise to this outrage of, "how dare you say this about us?" think of the lives that
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they've been leading under this and... >> all right. >> ...what they've been put under. >> so, you have said, "artists can transcend race like nobody can." >> true. >> so, tell me about that. tell me how you do that and why you do in it a way that others can't. >> even if you look, like, in the early days of bebop and jazz, like, the bandstand was integrated decades before the country was. >> mm-hmm. >> artists -- we're looking at -- art is such a beautiful thing to look at that one can forget certain lines that one should not transgress socially. in the pursuit of art, if someone's good at something, you want to be with that person, no matter what color, race, gender. if they got the gift, they got the gift. art is -- art transcends everything. >> hopefully it articulates something human, not something purely sectarian. >> and comedy -- steve martin said this and others have said it and you've said in a different way -- >> you got a good research department, man. she's just pulling stuff up,
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quotes, unrelated stuff. >> comedy... >> yeah. >> not always nice. it can be really mean, and it can push boundaries to a place where some people feel real -- really offended. is that -- is that because everybody's a snowflake? or does comedy -- should comedy have certain boundaries at all? >> well, i think they're somewhat separate questions. >> are they? >> comedy's boundaries should excellence. so, whatever it is that you're talking about in terms of subject matter, if you're just napalming, you know, indiscriminately to provoke, then to me, that's not really comedy. comedy should be something more human and truly believed and -- but i don't put any line on it. and i'm always fascinated when they say, you know, "where do comedians draw they line?" but nobody ever goes and says to donald trump, "where do presidents draw the line?" you know, we add insult sometimes to injury, but -- >> "horseface." i think you should draw the line
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at "horseface." >> right. but when you -- >> which, as we know, is what he called stormy daniels. >> that's right. >> yeah. >> but i'm more -- again, i'm less interested in his insults and more interested in his injuries, in the people that are being hurt, not the people that are being insulted, but are being hurt. >> i was gonna ask you about louis c.k... >> okay. >> ...because obviously everybody's talking about it, you know, and -- >> i don't know about everybody. >> well, a lot of people. all right -- 'cause my mom hasn't mentioned it. >> has she never? she's never said, "jon, would you ever have done that?" >> "is louis c.k. gonna go back onstage?" she really -- she's more -- she's thinking about other things. >> well, you've said that comedy is not particularly a very friendly place for women... >> it's not been, no. >> do you think that might change? >> well, hopefully it changes... >> okay, no, the better question is, "why is it not friendly for women?" >> boy, that's a good question. you know, the roots of it i don't know. i mean, i think it started out as a male-dominated field. it's not a particularly
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welcoming field. you sort of have to come out there and -- and cut your teeth on it. i think in general most things are not -- i'll tell you a story. so, we had on "the daily show" -- there was an article about us, said, you know, it was a sexist environment. we didn't have women writers. and i got very offended by that. you know, i was very mad. i was like, "are you saying i'm not a fem--" you know, i was raised by a single mother. she wore a t-shirt that said "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." and me and my brother were like, "i think we might be men. this is terrible." >> [ laughs ] >> so i was mad. "how can they say such a thing?" and i went back to the writers' room, and i was like, "do you believe this, steve? what do you think, greg? dave? tom? mike?" and then i was like, "ohh." and it was right. but the reason it was right was not necessarily one that we had seen before. our ignorance to it was such that -- so, we had put in a system of getting writers where there were no names on it. we thought, "that's colorblind, gender-blind, et cetera." but what you don't realize is
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the system itself, the tributaries that feed us those submissions, is polluted, as well. so all we're getting are white males who'd been to ivy league colleges and wrote for the lampoon or, you know, funny jewish guys from brown. and so what you had to say then is, "send me not that. send me your women. send me people of color." and then we would get the submissions and go, "i can't believe how funny women have gotten just recently." >> right. >> but do you see what i'm saying? >> i do see what you're saying. >> it's a systemic issue. and i think what -- what can mostly help change is when you open up new tributaries to bring in talent and then they grow and then they help grow their community... >> 100%. >> ...and tell their stories. and that's the most important part. >> 100%. can i just move from gender to race then? because obviously there have been very, very, very funny black comedians, african-american comedians. and i read also that, you know, obviously, bill cosby was a hero
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to many in the black and white community, frankly. and i think he was at one point a hero to you? >> oh, absolutely. >> yeah. if he was your hero, how difficult was it -- how hard was it for you to get to grips with the transgressions against women? >> it was -- it's a nightmare to see a hero fall that heinously. like, literally -- i talked about it on one of my specials, and somebody said i was defending him. and i was, like, "defending him? i was mourning, like, the loss of a hero." it was a terrible, terrible thing to watch. i got it tell you, seeing him get perp walked at 81 was devastating for every black comedian. it was like, "oh, my god, this is terrible." i joked about it before. what'd i say? "all my heroes was either murdered by the government or registered sex offenders." it's a sad state of affairs. >> so, then what is the right way for anybody to rehabilitate themselves?
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louis c.k., who i started to talk about, you know, did what he did, you know, without consent of the women who he did it in front of. and then he pops into the comedy cellar in the village and he does this act, again, without consent of the audience. they didn't know he was gonna be there. but be that as it may, what is the resp-- >> that's why i always get consent of the audience. i go around and i make sure that everybody signs. >> "you guys cool with me going on right now?" >> "it's cool, right? i'm gonna go on. i'm gonna do like 15." >> but here's the situation. >> yes. >> the guy who runs the comedy cellar... >> sure. >> into some flak for it -- so did louis c.k. -- for not even talking about it, not acknowledging it, not apologizing, or whatever. >> well, one, i don't know that he didn't acknowledge it. i read that -- >> well, apparently he didn't, according to the initial reporting in the initial appearance. >> i mean, i know what i read in the paper, but i also know what i heard on the streets. >> okay. >> and of course, we know a few eyewitnesses. >> mm-hmm. >> it's a slightly different version. >> mm-hmm. >> but either way, the point being -- >> either way, what should be the right way for society to
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deal with somebody like louis c.k.? should he be forever banned from his job? or should he be reprimanded? or should there be -- >> well, i think the question itself is somewhat unanswerable. you know, when you talk about the right way in society to rehabilitate, it's something we've struggled with in the criminal-justice system forever. >> and we know how rehabilitative that system is. >> right. >> no, but this is much different because there are -- there are shades of gray in this whole area. and there's been a lot of black-and-white activity since me too began. and now people are saying, especially men, "there needs to be some kind of parameter that we all know." >> it's nascent. it's in its embryonic stages. >> so, what should he do to come back onstage? or is he doing the right thing? >> well, that's -- you know, again, there is no recipe. there is no model that can be put together and say, "if he did one, two, and three, everybody will be cool." i don't think it works that way. this is something that we find
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together as a society but it's not -- i don't know that you can say there's a formula here that makes sense. i'm a believer in restorative justice, in the idea that, when transgressions occur, the parties must participate together to bring themselves to some conclusion. but the truth is you won't find 100%. you can't say, "what's the right way to do this so that everybody will be okay?" 'cause they won't. >> mm. >> yeah, where is the forum to build the consensus? >> right. >> you know? i don't see -- >> we're a society now of reactionary. you know, we've taken on -- news has taken on the on the circadian rhythm of twitter, as though that -- and it's our most emotional form of communication. >> now, jon. >> i'm sorry. >> i'm gonna push back on you there. >> please. >> we are doing our job here. we're trying to, you know, navigate a new normal that has been thrust on the world. >> but would you say that there
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is an over-emphasis within many in the mainstream media on twitter as a reliable arbiter of the emotional state of an issue? >> i think less. i think twitter is having less of an effect on us, but i think do think you're right in that every tweet is dissected. and i grapple with the idea of over-emotionally -- >> i would like to see you grapple. >> i'm grappling. believe me. every night, i grapple. [ laughter ] i grapple with the issues... >> i like that. >> ...versus the hysteria and the emotion, most definitely. >> and i think 140 or 280 characters is not a welcome forum for that type of grappling. but it's certainly a seductive forum. >> but our hour-long show is a very welcome form and a great forum. >> it's why i never miss it. what time is it on and what day? >> [ laughs ] now -- >> i'm not on twitter. >> yeah, see? me neither. >> well, that's interesting 'cause that's now gonna -- >> it's my new movement -- me neither. [ laughter ] >> no hashtag, though, 'cause we're not on twitter.
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>> you famously walked away from a very, very lucrative career on comedy central. people say there was like $50 million left on the table. and what was your issue with fame and fortune and publicity? >> i don't know if my issue was with fame and fortune, but i do know that after -- the other side of that was, after i left, i didn't think that i would ever work in this capacity again. and i redefined success for myself. i raised some kids. i had a happy life. you know what i mean? so... >> okay, that's really important. flesh that out. >> oh, having -- >> yes. >> having a happy life? >> yes. >> i get up in the morning. my days are fairly predictable. most of the things that i do, i do them because i want to, not because i have to. kids are healthy. no one's mad at me. no one's afraid of anything real, or there's nothing palpable to be afraid of. we laugh a lot.
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i see friends of mine on a fairly regular basis. and it's a happy life. >> so, i said, you know, you tend -- you're known for blurring lines between various sides of the coin. you, yourself, are african-american. you're muslim. you don't talk much about your religion. you're married to a filipino. you have three biracial children. it's a very -- it's a polyglot. i mean, it's a melting pot right there. >> yeah, i guess. but i don't -- you know, i -- >> you make it sound conscious. >> yeah. >> i think, you know, you're... >> i love who i love. >> he loves who he loves. but people are defining those lines as though they're not supposed to be blurred, but if you don't define those lines, then he's not blurring. he doesn't -- his family is not a blur. >> but the last 12 years were. [ laughter ] >> it's a beautiful unit. it's -- i don't -- those lines can be defined by others, but that's not -- >> but others are. >> the lines don't -- in a life well lived, i think these lines
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will mean less and less. you know, we're just gonna be a -- >> i mean, i hope so. >> it doesn't mean i'm not aware of the lines, but, you know, i'm fortunate enough i can transcend them on many occasions. >> i mean, i started by asking you why here and all -- what is it that you two want to say together to the world today? >> i'm glad you asked. >> [ laughs ] >> beyond just lucrative, you know, comedy and all the -- you know. what's your manifesto, jon? >> again, i think that there is a... >> i'm still on "i'm glad you asked." >> ...a slight misconception. so, we started out in comedy together. i've known dave since he was a 17-year-old young man who came into the comedy cellar and just blew us all away with -- you don't see people with that just ability and insight at that age, and it -- and i think from that moment, i've just always been so respectful and honored to be around him and to listen to him and to talk to him.
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he's just such a thoughtful and insightful individual. >> thanks, man. >> and comedy is about, for us, the hang. it's about the hang. it's about getting to a certain point where you go out -- when you're starting out, it can be very solitary. and you're on the road and you're in places you don't know and they're not necessarily tricked-out theaters where queen victoria has her own box. you know, you're in walnut creek, and you're staying on the side of a road somewhere. and for me, this has been a wonderful just reconnection to that life i had, but at a much better level and place. and i feel like part of what we do here is just have a really great time together and have a great time with the friends and family that are with us and communicate with the audiences our things and react with them and interact with them. and it's just a -- it's a wonderful way to spend a week. >> i think with -- one thing jon brings -- like, i've been touring forever.
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one of the things that's special about touring with him is, collectively, i think the crowd listens differently than the average comedy crowd. i think a lot of people see our names on the bill, and they come to get, like, the "political word," but it's not even that. it really is just a great comedy show. and i love traveling the world this way because... >> yes. >> know, a lot of people have been to copenhagen, but a lot of people don't know what the crowd in copenhagen feels like or london feels like. it's a great way to engage a city or a place. >> and how is it different? can you tell me what's different between the crowd in new york, copenhagen, and london? >> because of the internet, sadly, places aren't as diverse as they used to be. everyone does kind of eat from the same trough now. >> mm. >> however, european crowds listen more than they do in america. america -- it's not that they don't listen in the states, but, you know, we're a raucous bunch. >> mm-hmm. >> and here they have really good performance etiquette.
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if they go to see a show... >> wildly polite. >> and that's good. >> wildly. >> it's an adjustment, i think. we had to get used to it. >> yeah, i mean, do you get as much feedback? >> well, it's a different -- well, first of all, when we first were performing, it was copenhagen and it was... >> stockholm. >> and so they're -- we like to think that comedy is somewhat nuanced of language and somewhat precise of language and that those nuances mean something and they're taking it in as their second language. and so... >> a good crowd. >> ...i thought there would be a lag where the would all go on, like, google translate and just be like, "oh, yeah, that's nice," like it would have been performing at the u.n. where everybody just has in the headphones and then they hear it finally in swedish and go, "yeah, son of a bitch, that's funny." but it wasn't. they really took to it very naturally, but there is definitely a sense of, they really want to hear you. like, i don't know that in the states we've ever performed somewhere where people were just like, you know, "this is exciting for us, and we really
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want to hear what you're saying." >> yeah, american rules of engagement are different. >> their expectation of comedy is different. in america, there's more of a sense that, like, "we are also part of the show. i'm gonna throw my two cents in, and that's going to make it, you know, even better." i've had hecklers many times come up afterwards and go, like, "i helped you out there, didn't i?" and you're like, "actually, i had some things planned out." >> [ laughs ] >> "so you didn't, really." but i've enjoyed seeing -- i'd never really gotten to travel. seeing the lifestyle of, like, copenhagen, seeing -- and i will say this, too. it's really interesting -- and even in scandinavian countries -- they don't blur the lines. they don't have the same divisions in some respects that we have racially or religiously. it's very interesting to see. >> and that's why when i ask you these question, i come from a slightly different perspective than in the united states. >> yeah, absolutely. >> you just said, you know, you like the hang. i assume you mean hanging out. >> yes. >> is that the hang? >> yeah, yeah, yeah. >> right. and -- >> i like to throw that slang around. >> and i got to try to pick it up.
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>> it i like to hang when i'm gigging. >> [ laughs ] >> is it the same in journalism? do you like each other? >> yes, we like to hang. yes, especially on the road. especially on the road. that's really -- that's a little bit like what you do, but with bullets and bombs and things flying. >> right, and you talk about, you know, your perspective on working on a story about this or -- >> yeah, we really like it. it's the camaraderie. it's all being on the same space, same level, shoulder to shoulder. >> and being out of your comfort zone. >> and being out of your comfort zone. >> yeah, yeah. >> so, are you happy out of your comfort zone since "the daily show"? do you miss it? do you wish you were still there, given the trump era, which you refuse to allow me to say? >> can we call this the lil wayne era? that would make me feel... >> now that carter v is out, we have to call it the lil wayne era. um -- [ laughs ] it was time for me to leave the show. >> i know. well, you said that before. >> that was the right choice. >> yeah. that you said before. >> yeah. i'm slightly different than dave. i waited till i got paid, then i left. [ laughter ] but similar.
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i went, and i'm raising kids and trying to, you know -- but also trying to live a more, i think, richer, balanced life. i was really focused on that. i knew it was my last shot. it was something i believed passionately in. but i did it to the best of my ability as far as i could go. >> now i have a question. did you do stand-up when you were done? >> very little. like, i would do it on the weekends and stuff, you know, but not a ton, and i miss that. >> you mean, when you were doing "the daily show" you didn't do stand-up? is that what you asked? >> i felt -- yeah. is that what you mean? >> no, like, after you left the show, did you do more stand-up? >> i thought he meant afterwards. >> it took me a while. it really ignited the night that dave was at radio city, and he'd been curating these great shows, and he had chance the rapper and hannibal buress and john mayer -- they were on this one show, and i came out because i'd been watching charlottesville all day, and i came on and i said, "dave, can i just come on and do, like, 10?" great. and i just remembered how much i loved that forum and the
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immediacy of it and the hang of it and being surrounded by your peers. >> i got to say, one thing that's very impressive -- the fact that he hasn't been doing stand-up and would come back and perform at the level that he has been... >> muscle memory. >> it's beyond muscle memory. that's badass. >> we've had great shows. just great. and the way that the crowd reacts, it's just been an amazing experience. we've done stuff in atlanta and houston and el paso and europe and iceland. >> and you're gonna direct again, is that right? >> yeah, that's -- i wrote something that i'm gonna direct. >> yeah? do we know what it is? >> i don't. i haven't read it. i wrote it, but i haven't read it. >> so you haven't -- you don't want to tell us. >> don't tell me how it ends. you don't want to tell me what it's called? >> no, i don't want to... >> and you, i just watched "a star is born." you're in "a star is born." >> right? ridiculous. >> amazing. >> it was amazing. >> it made me cry. >> your performance, or the film? >> the film. the film itself. >> the film. yeah, me too. >> you're supposed to say "i also cried."
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[ laughter ] >> but i was absolutely staggered by the electricity between bradley cooper and lady gaga. you see, an actor trying out being a singer in public for the first time, as far as we know, and a singer trying out to be an actor for the first time, and two at the top of their game trying each other's thing -- i thought that was phenomenal. >> it was amazing to see up close, man. it was amazing. it's funny, i met bradley cooper here in london when he was doing a show on the west end, and i knew he was cooking up something. >> "elephant man." >> yeah, he was doing "elephant man," and he was working on "a star is born," unbeknownst to me. >> and how did you get the part? >> he asked me. i didn't know if it was gonna be good. i've never seen any of the other movies, but he just asked me. i've only done two movies in the last 18 years. one was with spike because he just asked me, and one was with bradley because he asked me. >> spike was here last night, too. >> really? >> i'm telling you, that's the other thing -- when you hang
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with dave, there is a carnival of talent that comes with it. there was spike lee and janet jackson and naomi campbell -- all these people that he has cultivated. he's a great curator of talent, and so i have been very happy to bask in the reflected light of that, although i also had a visitor -- i think it was in stockholm -- it was my kid's fifth grade teacher's sister. [ laughter ] she came. not as accomplished, but still... >> be careful, because she's gonna get offended. >> she is gonna get offended. >> yeah. i would say she's just as accomplished, but in a different way. >> i think she knows she's not at janet jackson's level. >> i think she feels that. but that's what's -- you know, he can -- and i don't know how it happens, but he draws in talents from these various areas, and they come together and it's like those old salons, kind of what you imagine the way it used to be, and it creates a really nice alchemy and really interesting vibe. >> you know, it's funny, i don't
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do press. i only did this so i could meet you. >> ah, see? now you're in the group. >> oh! am i in your group now? i'd love to be. jon stewart, dave chappelle, thank you so much. >> man, my pleasure. >> pleasure. >> sincerely a pleasure. >> nice to see you. thank you. >> pleasure. nice to see you. >> jon, you know everybody. >> yeah! >> that's the other thing. >> so, we're gonna switch tone a little bit. nonetheless, freedom of speech has long been a topic of debate, even within the world of comedy. for their time, few faced more controversy over this than british comedians monty python. eric idle was a founding python. he has been clapping his coconuts for five decades, reminding us to always look on the bright side of life. in his new "sortabiography," eric finds his voice in the '60s cultural revolution and recounts the famous faces and the knights of ni that he met along the way. eric idle took our hari sreenivasan on a laugh down memory lane. >> you've decided on a memoir.
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why? >> well, our 50th anniversary of monty python is coming up next year, and i thought, "we're going to have to answer questions, so let me see what i can remember and write it down before i forget." >> someone else is gonna write it if you don't. >> oh, that's the other thing, yes. and, i mean, that was -- winston churchill said, "history will be kind to me because i intend to write it." >> [ laughs ] why do you think monty python's lasted 50 years, or, at least, that it's still funny? >> that is, to me, a kind of wonderful mystery. and i think partly it's to do with the fact that it's not rooted in time. the comedy is generic. they're characters, but they're not like this particular president or like "saturday night live." when you look at old ones, you think, "oh, yeah, gerald ford fell over a lot." so, you have to remember all that to begin to laugh, whereas python's after satire and the characters are just sort of
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silly or generic people. >> your wife interested in, uh... [ camera shutter clicking ] photographs, eh? you know what i mean? photographs? [ clicking continues ] he asked him knowingly. >> photography? >> yes. nudge, nudge, snap, snap, grin, grin, wink, wink, say no more. >> you know, you're known for being a funny man, but as you start out in the book, you talk about kind of a difficult childhood, at least the boarding-school phase, and, even before that, losing your father at an early age, but that all of that helped you become the funny man that you are now. how is that? >> well, i think that people who are comedians are very weird people. they've been damaged early because they have -- it's a very strange thing to do, to stand on stage and ask people to laugh at you, you know? and then they become sort of addicted to that bark that humans make, the laugh. and that becomes the kind of thing you seek out as you -- if you pursue it professionally.
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i remember going to my daughter's school and going into pre-k and knowing exactly who were the funny kids. we'd -- they're right there. they're funny right from that time. >> well, how do you tell? how can you tell? >> there's just an attitude. [ laughs ] it's like -- and a lot of it is attitude. >> yeah. >> because comedy is sort of -- i think it's a way of thinking. so when you look at a news event, you immediately interpret it as funny... >> mm-hmm. >> ...and see, looking for what is interesting or wrong about it. and that's i think that's a way of thinking that that makes comedy or comedy writers -- that's how they do it. >> did this early boarding school period kind of teach you a healthy disrespect for authority? >> very much so. yes, because you could only have fun by disobeying the school rules. so it's like being in the military or in a prison.
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on the surface, you're behaving properly right, yes, but that, really, you're going over the wall to meet girls or get beer or, you know, get cigarettes and things like that. so i think that that was one of the things, and the other thing is you're seriously mocking some of the things they say to you, although, you don't ever tell them that you know because we were beaten with canes, and then they would say, "oh it's for your own good." and you go, "well, if it's for my own good, why don't i beat you and it'll be nice for you, too," you know. so, yes, there's an underlying text, subtext which is the truth. >> mm. >> and i think that was true, say, in communist societies where people weren't allowed to say anything, but underneath there was this underground humor going all the time. >> yeah, well, one of your first bits that you talk about that actually got attention was actually written by john cleese, but you were in college at the time. this is a biblical weather forecast? >> yes. it was started as a biblical newscast. it was called bbcbc.
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"good even, here beginneth the first chapter of the news," and they were very college kind of jokes, but then the weather forecaster came on, and he's talking about the plagues, locusts, followed by lice and flies, "...and on tuesday, frogs," you know what i mean? i did that in my college review, and it was written by john cleese. so, this is my second term, and after the show, he came up and i met him. so this was like february 1963. >> and you guys decided to be friends ever since. >> well, no, he asked me to join the footlights, which is a club in cambridge just for comedy, and i hadn't heard of it. and he said, "well, come along anyway." and you had to audition to get in. and i got in, and then my life changed because that sort of became my college. >> yeah. >> you know, they gave lunches. we had a bar that would open at 10:30 at night. it was fantastic. the pubs close in england at
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10:00, so it was really nice, and then i met all these really funny people and learned about comedy, which is the only way to can, by actually getting up on stage and doing it. >> you had an amazing opportunity at the bbc to run with this group of friends and write this material. >> ♪ oh [ shouting indistinctly ] >> did they understand what they were buying? >> no, because we didn't know what we were doing, and we didn't know what we were going to do. >> so you're in the pitch meeting, and you don't know what's going on. >> we had no idea, and we just said, "we don't know." we don't know. "yeah, are we a band?" no, we weren't a band. "a film? yeah, that's it! we'll have film." and the point was -- and they said, "oh, just go away and make 13." >> monty python's "flying circus." >> just extraordinary. but they knew us. we'd written for frost. we were all professionals. we'd done children's shows.
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john cleese was already a star because he'd been on "the frost report." so they trusted him. and they really didn't want to know because it was a new slot. they were opening up after 10:30 at night on a sunday when the queen came on on the horse and then television closed down. so they didn't really mind. they were just exploring that territory. "well, what happens if we put on a show on a sunday night after the pubs have closed?" >> mm. >> and they had no idea who would be watching. and they had a lot of complaints, but they were very good. they just ignored them and they let us do what we wanted, and they never even read the scripts. they just -- "oh, that's that thing that... yeah, just do that thing." >> when you guys are in the room writing monty python sketches, you weren't necessarily looking at this as actors. >> no. we're not actors, we're writers. so that that was one of the original things about it, that the whole show was written by the six of us. and we acted everything.
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and so, you know, even the women's roles, we would do them because we wanted more parts, you know? there's six roles, six people to go around, you know what i mean? and so we played everything, and that kind of also gave it a sort of madness quality to it, but the writers are in charge, always. >> the name of the book, "always look on the bright side of life" is named after the song that you wrote, and it is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of monty python. there you are on crucifixes and singing "always look on the bright side of life," and apparently, it is now still the number one song being played at funerals in the uk. >> this is true. it is. well, for starters, that's pretty heavily ironic when you're being crucified to say "look on the bright side," you know? not a long time to go. but what happened, it started to
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be sung in the falklands war. the hms sheffield was hit by an exocet, and the sailors sat on the deck for three hours singing that song whilst they were waiting to be rescued. and then when they were doing, what was it, the gulf war, the ref bombers who did those sort of low-level things, when they're shooting up to go, they would sing "always look on the bright side of life." so it became a sort of -- you know, when things are really bad and bleak, it became a way to sing and sort of cheer up. >> yeah. do you want this at your funeral? >> i don't know. i told my wife i want "sit on my face and tell me that you love me," but... [ laughter ] i've left a bribe for her to say something really awful. >> yeah. >> she's getting extra money -- not that, something else, if she'll say that i've left a little extra bonus money if she
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comes up with it at the memorial. >> when that movie came out, "life of brian," there were protests in the united states or protests in the uk. there were protests all over. you had rabbis, you had christians -- all kinds of people could not deal with what you were trying to do at the time. >> no, no. we were supposed to come here and do promotion, and they said "forget it. it's on the news." you know, people are protesting. they were picketing warner brothers in la and said "warner brothers are the agents of the devil!" so they were, you know -- they didn't need us because once you're on the news... >> you got free publicity. >> yeah, every night. you couldn't possibly beat that. >> yeah, and so it was a blockbuster success. >> in our terms, yes. >> yeah. yeah. and then you also have other major films that every 12-year-old boy remembers. "holy grail." i also wonder -- what is it about these movies that goes beyond the 12-year-old boy? >> well, i think it's very funny. i think "grail" has got a lot of
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really good laughs in, you know. it's not taking itself seriously in filmmaking terms, although it does look like a real film. >> yeah. >> and they're behaving in very childish ways and taunting, you know, and they're having pigs and cows thrown at them... >> yeah, what's not to like about that? >> [ laughs ] >> bring out your dead. >> you know. we were actually filming it in nasty mud and horrible situations. so it did, you know -- >> you were miserable when you were there. the misery was real. >> and that's always funny. if it's really unpleasant, you can be fairly sure it's funny. >> this is one function of your life, being part of monty python. since then, you've gone on to write music, write plays. a play that is familiar to a lot of people in the united states is "spamalot" that did critically end at the box office quite well. >> well, i was trying to write a musical. we'd written one about cricket, which is clearly not gonna work in america, okay?
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and then i suddenly thought, actually, the grail is perfect because it's a bit like a parody of wagner. you know, lohengrin... and also you could do it onstage because it didn't need horses. and it's really funny. and it seems to be always about to be a song. i mean, surely "i'm not dead yet" was always in the "holy grail," but it wasn't, and so we got to adapt it for the stage, and we had to change it a lot because there's 98 characters in the film. it has no shape whatsoever, and is stopped by the police just stopping it, you know? but, you know, i had mike nichols to work with, although i think i'd done it by then, but... so that was great fun, adapting it for the theater. it was just really great fun, and now 25 million people have watched that play, and we're about to do it as a movie. >> this has also afforded you a fairly fantastic life as you write in the book. you have gotten to sort of hobnob with royalty, whether
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it's rock-and-roll or the actual prince or some amazing people that you talk about in the book that that's not what the kid that was growing up in that town was destined to do or be. >> right. well, that's sort of, in a way, because we were part of this generation who were of the '60s who invented everything because there was nothing there, it was all bomb sites and rationing, and it was really awful. there wasn't a comedy show there three years before that we are now on. and that what happened was that all the rock-and-rollers loved what we were doing because they loved comedy, and so they sort of sought us out. we didn't get looking for them. >> you became really good friends with george harrison. what did he teach you over time? >> he was amazing. i mean, i always think of him now as the closest thing i ever had to a guru because he was very good. i was very depressed at the time. my marriage was breaking up, and he was just always so positive and always so generous to everybody.
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>> and it didn't have to do with the fact that he was so successful or rich. >> because they'd been the most successful things in the world, and he realized they were going to die. and very early on. you can't take it with you. i mean, it's one of the best examples, you know. so what you were there? you're still going to die. so he began preparing himself for his own death, which i was around for. and he really had no regrets or fear. >> yeah. >> and that was great. >> you also write a lot about robin williams. >> yes. >> you shared a long friendship. i mean, you guys would vacation with your families. >> yeah, and robin was a very good friend and just a wonderful man. a really generous, lovely genius. and that was just so heart-rending. it was the last thing i wrote for the book. i'd finished the book, and i thought -- [inhales sharply] you've avoided robin. and i thought, well i've got to write about him because people like to know what he was like.
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obviously they know his comedy, but what was he really like? and so i felt i had to write a chapter about him. and that was hard because i think i'd been pretending he actually wasn't really gone. >> there's a streak of kind of tragedies of some of your friends and colleagues as you go by, some to alcoholism or who take their own lives. do you feel -- i don't know if it's survivor's guilt or "what could i have done?" how is it possible that these people made these choices? i think, you know -- spoiler alert -- we all die. and when you get to my age, a lot of people -- i probably know more people who are dead than are alive, and some just -- i mean, in the last few years, i mean, you know, mike nichols and carrie fisher and, you know, a lot of really funny people whom i relied on in my life have just suddenly went
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and left. >> has your relationship with the monty python gang changed over time? >> yes. >> now that you see them with the benefit of hindsight and age and what's worked and what hasn't and how their lives are changed. >> sure, because you're all going -- you know, you're all going through the same process, and, you know, it's the raft of the medusa. we're all sliding off the life raft into the sharks who are waiting, so python is really good fun to be with. they're all really great fun, and when we're together, it's still just as funny. i mean, it's really funny. and i like that, so... we do get together now and again. now we have much more time for each other. >> yeah? >> yeah, much more because we don't have to do anything together. i mean we did o2, "say goodbye." that was 2014. and now, you know, it's beyond possibility of doing anything. >> have you all gotten funnier? >> i think a little bit, yeah. i think we're still very funny,
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certainly with each other. >> yeah. >> i think so, yes. but i think we always were, actually. it was a very strange group. it was self-selected and it was odd, and it worked so we just kept it going. >> you know, there's a section near the end of the book -- i'm just gonna quote it. it says, "laughter is still the best revenge. one day the sun will die. one day the galaxy will die. one day the entire universe will die. i'm not feeling too good myself. so what have i learned over my long and weird life? well, firstly, that there are two kinds of people, and i don't much care for either of them. secondly, when faced with a difficult choice, either way is often best. thirdly, always leave a party when people begin to play the bongos." [ laughter ] >> a good tip. any other advice that you had to leave out? >> [ laughs ] no, i think that pretty much covers lifetime advice. [ laughs ] >> eric idle, thanks so much. >> [ chuckling ] my pleasure. >> eric idle -- what a great life and legacy. and tune in to tomorrow's show, where we'll be looking back at my interviews with one of
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america's most powerful catholic leaders, timothy dolan of new york and with the superchef josé andrés, who made it his mission to save lives in puerto rico following last year's devastating hurricane, serving an astonishing 3 million meals in two months. >> i told my wife, "i'm gonna go for five, six days. i'll come back on the weekend." i very quickly saw that it was not true leadership, specifically in an area i know something -- feeding people. so, i called my wife, and i told her, "i don't know when i'm coming back." and i began with a group of chefs feeding people. >> but that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching this special edition of "amanpour & co." on pbs, and join us again tomorrow night. ♪ >> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those
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