Better Know a Guest: April 9 – 12, 2012

The Colbert Report Guest Line Up Hello, Hubsters!

I hope everyone had a happy Passover, a happy Easter, or just a happy weekend. Great to be back and better knowing Stephen’s and Jon’s guests–although I assure you, I am still in the midst of freelance madness, editing and writing and then editing and writing some more. A little crazy, but basically wonderful.

This weekend has been relatively quiet, considering how super-heated the news has been recently. I myself cannot even guess what our favorite faux pundits will cover on Monday. Well, being surprised is a good thing, and there’s never any shortage of political madness to play with. And this week, as we all know, Stephen has a big guest: Michelle Obama! I’m really excited to see how she’ll do in the hot seat; my suspicion  is that she’ll handle it all very coolly and well, with her customary flair. As for The Daily Show, a favorite returns: Ricky Gervais is back yet again. I’m expecting the usual hilarity.

So onward to our guests!

Monday, 4/9: Bob Lutz

Robert A. LutzWhen Obama was putting his economic recovery act into effect, one of the industries that generated the most controversy was car manufacturing—and especially one-time powerhouse General Motors, now only a shadow of its former self. (Ask Michael Moore.) Should the auto makers get bailed out? Were they more or less deserving than the bankers who got their cash relatively easily, despite having done far worse things to the economy? And how did the General Motors and the other manufacturers get into this mess, anyway? Last year, Bob Lutz– once the head of Chrysler’s Global Product Development, executive vice president of sales at BMW, executive vice president at Ford, and vice chairman of GM—attempted to answer that question in the bestselling Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. In his view, the money men, more concerned with counting pennies than building a good product, overtook the innovators who once designed automobiles that could capture America’s imagination. Lutz has been in and out and in again at GM, working for them from 1963-71; rejoining them in 2001 and retiring at the end of 2009 from his job as Vice Chairman, Marketing and Communications. In September 2011 he came back yet again.

He certainly has played an important role in the company: In 2008, just as the auto bailout was being angrily debated in DC, the then-76-year-old Lutz testified before Congress to help stem GM’s public relations damage. He ultimately resigned from the corporation because he felt the constraints of government regulation stopped him from giving the customers what they wanted. But during the time he held the post, he succeeded in getting GM and the other Detroit automakers the money they required to stave off bankruptcy. Curiously, though he does agree that cars should be fuel efficient and that electric vehicles are the wave of the future, he does not accept global warming as a reality.  Here he is debating our own dear Neil deGrasse Tyson on the topic, with Bill Maher on Real Time. Really, who are you going to believe on climate change: an astrophysicist or an auto executive?

Lutz now runs his own company, Lutz Communications. Visit his website.

Watch him on Charlie Rose.

In 2010, he helped British carmaker Lotus promote its vehicles.

Lutz discusses his legacy in Forbes.


Tuesday, 4/10: Richard Hersh

Richard HershThough it has been a while now since I’ve done it, I used to teach as an adjunct professor in New York area colleges. Some classes were better than others, but all too often I was left dispirited by two things: the students’ lack of cultural knowledge, and their inability to write well.  Tonight’s guest, Richard Hersh, seems to share some of my opinions about the problems with our educational system, for he has co-written a book with Richard P. Keeling on the topic cleverly titled: We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education. Hersh believes that if we don’t do something to remedy the problem, and encourage students to think critically and problem-solve effectively, we will have an economic, social, and political crisis.

Hersh has extensive experience as a high school teacher, college professor, and dean. His many posts included: President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges; President of Trinity College; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of New Hampshire (and the same at Drake University); Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Oregon; and Director of the Center for Moral Education at Harvard. These are top schools, so he has generally dealt with the crème de la crème of students.
Hersh is a senior consultant at Keeling Associates, a higher-education consulting firm.

He appeared in the PBS documentary Declining by Degrees, a accompaniment to his book of the same name. Here are some academic responses to that program.

Here’s an article he wrote in The Atlantic.


Wednesday, 4/11: Michelle Obama

Michelle ObamaMichelle Obama is definitely the biggest “get” of the week, the buzz-worthy guest I can’t wait to see. Good going, Stephen! America’s First Lady certainly doesn’t need much introduction. The Chicago-born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama attended both Princeton (major in sociology; minor in African studies) and Harvard Law, where she worked for the university’s Legal Aid Bureau. Post-graduation, she joined the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met her husband-to-be, and later worked for both Mayor Richard M. Daley and was Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago. She ended up becoming a great asset during the presidential campaign and proved to have a pitch-perfect sense of how to present herself to voters. (Everyone remember her affordable, on-sale Gap dress—which cost a whopping $29.99? It sold out within hours of her wearing it.)

As First Lady, Michelle Obama has advocated for childhood heath, particularly to eradicate obesity. She established the “Let’s Move!” program to encourage young people to exercise, and has had an organic garden planted on the White House grounds, along with bee hives. Hmmm—inspiration for a “Thought for Food” segment, perhaps? Of course, she’s also mom to daughters Sasha and Malia.

Here is her official “Elect Obama/Biden” website.

Visit her government page.

Follow the First Lady’s much-admired style.

Like her on Facebook.

Follow her on Twitter.

She is known for her strong support for military families, particularly injured vets. She recently visited some former soldiers at the Fisher House in Bethesda, bringing along dog Bo.

Listen to a speech she gave to a girls’ school urging them to get a good education.

She was in the TIME magazine 100 in 2011.


Thursday, 4/12: Ben Rattray

Ben RattrayBen Rattray founded, a website dedicated to making a difference. Basically, allows people to create and distribute petitions for various political and social causes. The petitions have focuses on a range of topics, from getting justice for Trayvon Martin to eliminating pink slime from school lunches to forcing Bank of America to drop unexpected fees. The site has nearly ten million members (of which I am one), but until now has not made very much money. It has, however, done exactly what it was supposed to do: create change and call attention to unfairness and inequality.

A graduate of both Stanford University and the London School of Economics, Rattray has been a government affairs consultant and he just won a “40 Under 40” award for progressive political entrepreneurship.

What is Rattray accomplishing? This article explains.

Read a Q&A with him in the Wall Street Journal.

Subscribe to him on Facebook.

Follow him on Twitter.

Along with Stephen, he’s a nominee for the 2012 TIME 100.

Watch a video of him discussing social change.

Here’s his blog.

And now, let’s check in with our good friend, Jon Stewart!


Monday, 4/9: Tim Weiner

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Tim Weiner reports for The New York Times, where he has primarily worked as a foreign correspondent in such hot-button countries as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, and Mexico. He previously has covered such topics as “black budget” spending at the CIA and the Pentagon. (A black budget is undisclosed money given to an agency in order to carry out work that it does not wish to be public—eg. for weapons research or secret operations.) His newest book is Enemies: A History of the FBI, about the more hidden, often illegal, side of the agency.

Read the New York Times review of Weiner’s book, which they call: “an outstanding piece of work, even-handed, exhaustively researched, smoothly written and thematically timely.”

Here’s the link to some of his articles he’s written for the Times.

Hear him discuss the book on NPR.

Read his article in Slate.

60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace just died, and Tim Weiner wrote his obituary.


Tuesday, 4/10: Elon Musk

If you’ve ever bought anything with PayPal, you’ve can thank Elon Musk, because he’s the founder of that company. But that’s not all, because this combination businessman/physicist has also created Space.X , which aims to make space travel less costly and more reliable than ever, and Tesla Motors, which produced one of the first all-electric cars.  He’s won the Heinlein Prize Trust award for “accomplishments in commercial space activities.”

Musk has also established the Musk Foundation, a charitable organization that funds science education, clean energy, and child healthcare.

Like him on Facebook.

Follow him on Twitter.

Read his TechCrunch interview.

Space.X may go public.

Watch Elon Musk over at Space.X!


Wednesday, 4/11: Ricky Gervais

Well, I don’t have to tell you who Ricky Gervais is, do I? You all know The Office, Extras, and perhaps now Life’s Too Short–which is just ending its first season on HBO. Maybe you listen to his podcast. You’ve probably seen the Emmy and BAFTA winner cause controversy when he hosts The Golden Globes. He’s becoming one of the most frequent guests on The Daily Show, and one of the funniest.

This was his most recent appearance on TDS, just this past Valentine’s day. If you visit the show’s guest page, and click on Ricky’s image, you can see them all.

Visit his website.

He’s got a new show debuting on Britain’s Channel 4 this week, and guess what? Mr. Gervais has somehow caused another uproar, as he’s accused of mocking the disabled. A defense against the allegations has been launched. The Daily Mail likes the series and has posted some teasers.


Thursday, 4/12: Esperanza Spalding

Just two years ago, Esperanza Spalding shocked the world and distressed Beliebers everywhere when she won the Grammy for Best New Artist over the Biebster. No one knew who she was, and now she’s famous, which may–although it so rarely happens–be exactly  the result the Grammy voters should want. A graduate of the renowned Berklee School of Music, Spalding is best known for playing bass and she sings as well.

Visit her website, which also has a store to buy her music and other fun things, like t-shirts. You can also find out about her tour schedule, which is happening right now.

You can watch her latest video here.

Follow her on Twitter.

Like her on Facebook.

Hear her on NPR.

That’s it for this week, folks! Let me know which guest you’re most looking forward to!

  • CN Helper

    I am so so excited for Michelle Obama this week- I just can’t wait for it! But also, I am sure the other guests will be equally illuminating, but OMG Mrs. Obama!

    • karenatasha

      I agree, CN Helper! Wednesday is definitely the big day this week.

  • Katt

    Always look forward to Ricky Gervais, though I do wish he would break his habbits and do TCR and Kimmel instead of TDS, Letterman and Conan. He’s like an old friend who always pops in when he’s in the neighbourhood.

    • Karenatasha

      I’d love to see him and Stephen. It would be fabulous.

      Even better: him and Stephen and Steve (Carell).

    • anais0509

      Whatever happened to the “Talking Talk” that Ricky said he’d do with Jon, Conan and other funny people (preferably the ones that Karenatasha mentioned above and maybe possibly Jimmy) when he was on TDS last April, exactly a year ago? I’d give anything to see that become reality.

      • Karenatasha

        No idea–interesting question. Maybe Jon will bring it up! Although Ricky’s last visit was actually this past February, Valentine’s Day, and it didn’t come up then.

        • anais0509

          I know that. It was in April of last year when Ricky brought the idea of this possible project, unless it was only said in jest and will not be followed on, which is too bad because that’d definitely be something I’d like to see happen.

          • karenatasha

            I realize you do, Anais! I only meant to say that I wish it had been discussed on that last visit, and then I’d be more hopeful.

            But you never know: maybe it’s all about scheduling. It can take a while to get these guys together. Just think how long we’re waiting for Stephen and Jimmy to become BFFs–or SOMETHING–again.

  • anais0509

    I can’t WAIT for Michelle Obama on Wednesday! Stephen and his staff must feel so thrilled and honoured to have a reigning first lady on the show (and a worthy one at that)! Now if we could get her husband on the show, Stephen’d be tied with Jon (since both have been on TDS)! I’m also interested in Ben Rattray, as someone who’s signed many petitions. I think that it’s great how he’s created a platform for people to make a difference in the world and spread awareness.

    For TDS, Ricky Gervais never disappoints as usual. But I’m also keen on Esperanza Spalding. I’ve heard some of her music and she. Has. Talent. I remember the whole Beliebers uproar; I was completely disgusted with these so-called “fans” attacking Spalding’s Wikipedia page with horrendous insults and death wishes just because she won over Bieber. Even Bieber himself had the class to congratulate Spalding. These teenagers are out of control in the head. *shakes head*

    • Karenatasha

      I guess since the President did order the General to shave Stephen’s head, technically, he’s almost been on the show….

      I too have signed many petitions, and it will be great to see the man behind them. Especially as he really hasn’t made money on this–and given his background, he probably could be earning a lot more if he didn’t care.

  • Liz

    I am soooo disappointed that Ben Rattray was not on Thursday’s show as promised. What happened? Will he be on soon? Please say YES!!!

    • karenatasha

      Hi, Liz–I’m not sure what happened, although my bet is that with the Titanic anniversary this weekend, they wanted to have Cameron on right now. Usually, when type of cancellation occurs on TCR, the guest IS rescheduled at some point; I too am hoping that will be the case as I was looking forward to seeing Ben Rattray. It’s not happening this coming week (guests were probably booked for these dates already), but if we’re lucky Rattray will appear soon. I wish I could give you more info, but I don’t have it.

  • somuch2kno

    At the moment there’s no “appropriate” place to put this, so I’m just going to blurt it out here – I am so excited about Bonnie Raitt being on TCR tonight that I’m VIBRATING!!!! The possibility of Stephen singing with Bonnie just has me squirming around like a 5 year old waiting to meet Elmo! If I weren’t working tonight I’d be at the studio, waiting patiently to get in on stand-by. I can’t wait to see 2 of the people I admire most, both as performers and human beings, getting to play together!

    • somuch2kno

      Oh, and John Cusack’s not bad, either. (That’s for my friend, Melissa. But I wholeheartedly agree.)

    • karenatasha

      Just put it up, SoMuch! I am so excited for Bonnie Raitt, too. I don’t know if he’ll sing, but even if not she’s fab.

  • Mr. Arkadin

    @somuch2kno “I am so excited about Bonnie Raitt being on TCR tonight that I’m VIBRATING!!!!”

    Hopefully you regained your composure after you posted this (Which I’m betting was BC, aka Before Coffee) and just did some hot yoga instead.