Better Know a Guest: April 30 – May 3, 2012

Hello, Hubsters!

The Colbert Report Guest Line UpWell, I am back after being ill, although still slightly on the mend. Last week had some wonderful moments, didn’t it—especially Jack White. Any set of shows that gives me White and a Word can only be considered successful, in my humble opinion.

Our next four shows are bookended by two actresses, one with over 40 years experience and the other only in her twenties, yet running an entire HBO show. In between, we meet two less-famous yet no less influential persons attempting to fix what they see as problems in our political and social system. They have very different perspectives, but should both be fascinating.

And, oh: I will not address that unjust loss. We all know who should have won.

Can you say PEABODY? Can you say TIME 100? Some people get it, some people don’t. But we know the score, right Nation? Right!

And good luck to our very own Remy, who is probably even now trying to figure out Stephen’s clue and win a college visit from Mr. Colbert.

Now, to the guests…


Monday, 4/30: Diane Keaton

Diane KeatonFor years, she was Woody Allen’s muse, the off-kilter beauty with her own particular and memorable style. And no film showed off Diane Keaton more brilliantly than the wonderful Annie Hall, with its lovingly biographical overtones. (Her real name is, in fact, Diane Hall.) Both she and the movie won Oscars®, and her vintage, male-inspired suits turned her into a fashion icon. The California native had moved to New York to study at The Neighborhood Playhouse; won her first role in the seminal hippie musical, Hair; and shortly thereafter became involved with Allen, whose work, along with a notable role in The Godfather, turned her into a household name. With her career now in its fourth decade, Keaton can look back at a roster of films that includes Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Manhattan, Reds, Baby Boom, Father of the Bride, The First Wives Club, and Something’s Gotta Give, to name just a few. In addition to appearing on screen, she has also gone behind the camera to direct music videos, TV episodes, and even a few feature films.

In 2011, Keaton published her first book, Then Again, a kind of mingled autobiography and biography of her mother. She drew material from her mother’s diaries and letters – including entries about Diane herself – and the book received excellent reviews from The New York Times (which made it an Editor’s Choice), USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, and Vogue.

Keaton’s newest film is Darling Companion, a comedy about a couple who hires a psychic to find their lost dog—all the more important to saving the relationship as the woman loves the pet more than her husband (Kevin Kline). It’s directed by Lawrence Kasdan (best known for The Big Chill), and it’s his first release in nine years.

Now, when asked what she finds sexy about a man, Keaton has said: “I find the same thing sexy in a man now as I always have — humor. I love it when they are funny. It’s to die for.” I think she and Stephen will get on just fine.

Read an excerpt from Then Again, reprinted in Vogue. Then read the New York Times review of  the book.

In addition to her acting, Keaton is very involved in design and interior decoration. She even has her own line in Bed, Bath & Beyond!

The New York Times has reviewed Darling Companion. Unfortunately, the review isn’t very favorable, which seems to be the general concensus.

Keaton was on The Daily Show just last year.

Last year, she signed a development deal with HBO.


Tuesday, 5/1: Carne Ross

Carne RossHappy May Day, everyone! It’s a good day to talk about revolutions, and Carne Ross has some ideas (non-violent) to expound. In the recent Occupy movement, try as they might, reporters could not pinpoint a single go-to person, one leader running the show. (Just remember Stephen’s own interview with the two OWS protestors, and his desperate attempts to get them to tell him who was in charge.) According to Ross, author of the book The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century, this is the wave of the future.

In 2004, Ross, then a British diplomat who had secretly testified that he did not believe American reports that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction,” resigned in protest over his government’s decision to enter the Iraq War. He then founded Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group, and uses his expertise to “advise marginalized countries and groups around the world.” (By the way, college students, as of now Independent Diplomat has internship opportunities for the coming summer in NYC. Just saying.) The New York Times has profiled Ross’s work and his emotions about his years in the British foreign service, which have left him riddled with guilt. He blogs on the Huffington Post, and here’s one post directly related to his views on leadership—and why he doesn’t like it.

Visit his website. You can also watch a video of him there being interviewed by Bill Moyers.

Follow him on Twitter.

The Guardian profiled him back in 2005, just after his resignation.  And here is an article he only recently wrote for the British newspaper on increased attacks in Afghanistan.

Listen to his TED talk.

Here’s his public page on Facebook for you to like.


 Wednesday, 5/2: Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan HaidtWith all the problems our society currently faces, we need nothing more than a government of people who can work together. However, we have exactly the opposite: polarized politicians, furiously denouncing each other, and stooping low in order to sling mud. How can we stop this? How can we get our senators, congresspeople, governors, mayors, and state legislators to forget the infighting and think about US for a change? And how can we function as a democracy if no one will listen to the other? Jonathan Haidt, Professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia and visiting professor at NYU’s Stern Business School this semester (where he teaches ethics), examines the question in his newest book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt, who wants to ”transcend the culture wars,” points the finger at our snap judgments and our tendency to assume that our intuition is correct while facts aren’t worth finding out. Ahhh—we are deep into “Stephen” territory here. After all, we know what Stephen thinks about “facts” vs. “the gut.” In fact, Haidt doesn’t totally disagree with Stephen; since it’s what we do, he’s wants to know how we can use this very human tendency to enhance, rather than stifle communications. Note: he does think liberals tend to have rather more mistaken views of conservatives than vice-versa.

The issue of morality has been Haidt’s area of study, in particular morality across cultures. While he began his research focusing on negative moral emotions, like shame, he now looks at the more affirmative feelings. He’s part of a movement called positive psychology which attempts to discover exactly what helps humans enjoy a happy life. For positive psychologists, it may not be worth trying to recover that memory of mom belittling you that left you with a lifetime lacking self-confidence; instead, they’ll focus on what you have to do moving forward to experience joy rather than dredging up the past. Haidt received his BA from Yale; earned his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and did post-doctoral work at the University of Chicago. He co-developed the research site YourMorals.Org. Go there if you want to take a survey and explore your own morality!

Visit his website.

Visit the book’s web page, which has all the links and information you need, from interviews with the author to reviews and videos. There are links to his blog posts, too.

Haidt spoke at TED on the moral roots of liberals vs. conservatives.

The New York Times reviewed The Righteous Mind.

Here’s another website Haidt is involved with,, where he offers suggestions on how to have, well…more civil politics!

Visit his UVA lab home page.


Thursday, 5/3: Lena Dunham

You must have heard about it, because even prior to its debut about three weeks ago, Lena Dunham’s Girls was the season’s most buzzed-about new show. Often called a response to Sex in The City, and airing on the same network (HBO), the Brooklyn-set Girls follows the after-college lives of four young 20-something women—in particular, Hannah Horvath, played by Dunham herself. Two years after graduation, Lena is still stuck in an unpaid internship. Now, her fed-up parents have finally cut her loose, with her mom in particular refusing to support her any longer. Whether or not you feel sympathy for Hannah will probably depend on your age and economic circumstances. Should mom and dad support this maybe, could-be “voice of her generation?” Or, does mom deserve, as she shouts in frustration, her “f*%$g house by the lake”?

What makes Dunham so amazing is that she is not just the star of the show: at only 26, she is its creator and writer, as well. (Judd Apatow is the executive producer.) It’s hard enough for any woman to become a show runner, but to do it at such a young age is almost unprecedented. Plus, as people never tire of mentioning, she is not conventionally beautiful; in particular, Dunham’s body is heavier than that of most contemporary starlets. Given that she has to take her clothes off in a number of scenes, she has definitely earned a reputation for being both brave and uncompromising.

Dunham comes by her artistic interests naturally: her mother, Laurie Simmons, is an artist and photographer and her father, Carroll Dunham, is a painter. (Many of the actresses she’s chosen as her co-stars have similarly stellar family backgrounds, including Allison Williams, daughter of Jon’s man-crush and NBC newscaster Brian.) In 2010, Lena Dunham made her first splash with a film called Tiny Furniture, which won Best Narrative Feature at the South by Southwest festival. She made it while still a student at Oberlin.

I’ve seen the show and often find it clever, though the all-whiteness of it is rather bothersome. I’d hate to think that women of Lena’s/Hannah’s age never venture beyond their own race for friendship.

Read an article on her in Marie Claire.

Baba Wawa (that’s Barbara Walters to you) interviewed her!

The LA Review of Books discussed the show’s alleged “realism.” And here’s one from Huffington Post, this time extremely critical of the show’s lack of racial diversity. The New York Times examined that, too.

What’s Dunham reading? The New York Times finds out—in one of many, many articles recently published on her and the show. (See above.) Now, here’s an interesting thing: in this article, she reveals she has a tattoo of Ferdinand the Bull. Remember that Stephen read Ferdinand out loud to a group of children? Has someone told Lena Dunham?

Slate published many articles on the show. Here’s one. But if you’re on the site, you also may want to catch the “Boys watch Girls” columns and the female response.


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

Just a very brief check-in for now. I will try to add more links later. But if you’re eager to find out more right now, visit Jon’s excellent guest page.


Monday, 4/30: Zach Wahls

This University of Iowa student touched  the Iowa state legislature–and all of America–with his  testimony about his two mothers. The video of him expressing his heartfelt support of their relationship, and urging lawmakers to allow his mothers to marry, went viral.  He now has a book out on the subject.

Buy his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family.

Listen to his wonderful speech.

Follow him on Twitter.


Tuesday 5/1: David Barton

On the other end of the spectrum is evangelical David Barton, who believes in America law and religion should be entwined. Barton has a book with a preface written by Glenn Beck. Need I say more? This is his second appearance on The Daily Show.

The organization he founded is called Wallbuilders and it promotes Christian values in America.

His book is The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. (Arch-conservatives hate Jefferson, because he wasn’t religious enough for them.)

Watch his previous two-part interview on The Daily Showpart one and part two.


Wednesday 5/2: Sen. Tom Coburn

Another conservative, this time the junior senator from Oklahoma. His interest is the national debt, and his book is called The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America.

Visit his senate website.

Follow him on Twitter.


Thursday 5/3: Peter Bergen

Journalist Peter Bergen is CNN’s national security analyst. He has written extensively on the Middle East, and was the first reporter to interview Osama bin Laden for American television.  He also has taught in both Harvard and Johns Hopkins. Bergen has appeared on The Daily Show twice before, and is new book is called Manhant: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden.

Visit his website.

Watch his most recent appearance on The Daily Show, a year ago.


Happy viewing everyone! Let me know which guest you’re most looking forward to.

  • Mr. Arkadin

    Glad you’re on the mend Karenatasha. I always look forward to your helping me to “better know” Stephen’s guests.

    It looks like a strong week. I think Stephen and Keaton should be fun together. And Ross was great on Moyers recently. So I’m interested in how he and “Stephen” interact.

    Sorry to let you down, Karen. But, I had never heard of “Girls” till yesterday. When I saw Howard Kurtz on CNN talking about the backlash to the show (A show I didn’t even know existed. So imagine my surprise to hear of the “backlash” to it!) with two female culture/TV critics. Kurtz brought up the critique of the show for its whiteness. (Or it’s Woody Allenness) The TV critic pushed back on this. She seemed to think a lot of it was undercover sexism from male critics. Saying how she wondered if these same critics have been attacking the other TV shows with their 75%-90% all white casts and behind the scenes creative staffs. I thought she had a good point. Why just single out this show?
    Too bad “Stephen” doesn’t see race. Or he could really sink his teeth into this issue.

    • karenatasha

      Thanks, Mr. Arkadin!

      Believe me, your unawareness of “Girls” did not make me feel let down at all. But it has gotten a fair amount of buzz. Your report on the CNN discussion interests me. The critic may have a point–but I will note a few things. First, I think the show’s location may have contributed to the backlash; Brooklyn has a very large black population, so the absence feels really, really conspicuous. Secondly, 75-90% all white is STILL a better percentage than this show, which is more like 99%. Not a single major black character at all. Third, I think the show’s emphasis on “realism” has subjected it to a more keen eye; something that already seems to be taking place in la-la land often gets a pass as being a fantasy, anyway. And finally, you DID mention Woody Allen’s cinematic whiteness, yes? Same thing. People go: why are you lily-white in multicultural New York? Location, location, location.

  • Caroline

    Glad you’re feeling better, Karen. The flu can definitely knock you out.

    Of this week’s guests, I’m most looking forward to the two ladies; Diane Keaton and Lena Dunham.

    • karenatasha

      Thanks much, Caroline! It wasn’t actually a flu, but it did lay me low.

      I’m definitely with you on Diane Keaton; I think the two will be wonderful together. And I’m sure she’ll be an it-getter. As for Dunham, I’ve actually never watched an interview with her, so I have no idea what she’ll be like. But I am definitely interested in seeing her.

  • karenatasha

    Updated: I have added links for all Jon’s guests now!

  • lockhart43

    Glad you’re feeling better, Karen!

    I’m looking forward to Thursday’s interview with Lena Dunham – I’m interested to see how she interacts with Stephen. I’ve watched all of the episodes of Girls that have aired (three), and while I do like the show, I do find some of the people on it irritating at times. I know I should be completely accepting of the show given the fact that I am the same age as the characters, but it’s exactly because I am the same age that I can’t feel sympathy for them. It’s not surprising, but I didn’t know there was that much backlash over the show (I know what I like in terms of tv, and normally don’t listen to critics since it doesn’t help). Anyway. The reason why I’m looking forward to Dunham is because I do completely admire the fact that she is uncompromisingly writing, directing, and starring in the show and it’ll be neat to see her in an interview.

    In TDS land, I was going to say that I was looking forward to the Zach Wahls interview, but it was just on and let me tell you, it was wonderful.

    • karenatasha

      Thanks, Lockhart! I definitely share your interest here. Dunham can write funny dialogue; how will she work with Stephen? And by the way, no–you do not have to to completely accept everything the characters do and say just because you’re of their age group. I certainly don’t endorse everything that’s aimed at me. You can like what you like, and dislike what you dislike.

      The Zach Wahls interview with Jon was great. Wonder how Jon is going to deal with the very opposite David Barton tomorrow? I know I’m not looking forward to it.

      • lockhart43

        Oh man, I didn’t even look over the info on David Barton. American law and religion should be intertwined? Seriously? No. No, no, no. No.

        As much as I absolutely do not want to watch that interview for fear of my head exploding with frustration, I think I might have to. It might be too crazy to miss.

        • Mr. Arkadin

          “As much as I absolutely do not want to watch that interview for fear of my head exploding with frustration, I think I might have to.”

          Oh no! I hope your lack of a post today doesn’t mean your head exploded!
          A head is a terrible thing to waste.

          If you are still alive. *Fingers crossed* Have a great time in NY next week. And good luck in your attempt to get into TCR. :)

          • karenatasha

            New York City? Lockhart, are you going to be in NYC?

            • lockhart43

              I absolutely am! :) I was waiting to confirm it until I got my TCR tickets, which totally just happened this evening. I’ll be at the taping on Tuesday, May 8th!

          • lockhart43

            I survived! I realized before TDS last night that they would most likely talk about Barton’s book, which made the interview significantly less frustrating. If anything, I was frustrated by the fact that it immediately turned into a discussion about religion today instead of focusing more on the book, which was really both of their fault. Not that the discussion was horrible; I just would have liked to have heard more about the other myths in the book.

            • Mr. Arkadin

              “I survived!”

              Thank God! I always spend large parts of my day worrying about my friend’s heads exploding.
              So I’m glad you made it through the interview.

              And congrats on getting to see TCR again. I’m already looking forward to your reporT!

  • Kris

    I also haven’t seen Girls and am now curious whether Sex and the City ever received such criticism for it’s whiteness (or Friends, Seinfeld, or many TV shows that take place in metro areas but are all white). Sadly, for my cultural awareness but happily for my brain fuse, I mostly watch CC, CN, G4 (Ninja Warrior) and various educational programming. I guess my point is, I don’t watch TV often and when I do, it’s usually silly stuff. I trust your judgement Karenatasha, if you say it seems odd, I believe you lady.

    • karenatasha

      Hey, Kris. Yes, in fact “Sex and the City” was roundly criticized for its whiteness, and starting about year three or four, there began to be a little more diversity in the cast. (Blair Underwood, in particular, joined as Amanda’s hunky neighbor, with whom she became seriously involved.) The same criticism was leveled at “Seinfeld”; not so much at “Friends,” which never felt New York, even though I believe it was supposed to be.

      And Woody Allen faces this type of criticism very regularly.

      Again, I think the show’s location — Brooklyn is just so African American as a whole, although there are some primarily white neighborhoods–as well as its claim to “realism” about our economic times has probably spurred even more reaction.

      • Mr. Arkadin

        Karenatasha, everything you say is true and accurate. What I think is unfair (again never having seen the show) is that all those shows you mention had a chance to grow and become hits before they took shots for their lack of diversity. An Allen was already ensconced as a legendary auteur before taking hits (Especially Spike Lee. Who got tired of having to answer why he didn’t have any white people in his films.) for the whiteness of his films and his NY. While “Girls” is getting it before it’s even had a chance to establish if it’s a good show, much less a hit.

        • karenatasha

          I guess where I’d disagree, Mr. Arkadin, is that those shows are all 10, 15 or more years old. The error they made in casting was common at the time. In 2012, a new series shouldn’t be starting from where those programs began, but should have learned from their mistakes. You shouldn’t have to “get” to the point where you have a multicultural cast anymore; it should be standard.

          At the point Woody Allen began filming, almost no one was being criticized for excessive whiteness in casting. It’s his failure to change with the times that has made the criticism grow louder and louder. (Maybe also because the films are less good.)

          As for Lee, who has since worked with multicultural casts (and in fact did so relatively early, if you think about both “Do The Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever”). I also find it hard to criticize a black director for using all-black casts when there’s a lot of time and prejudice that Hollywood has to make up for.

          • Mr. Arkadin

            I just want to clarify that I didn’t mean to sound like I was criticizing Spike Lee. Just that it was the first time I had heard Allen’s movies criticized for excessive whiteness was when Lee was defending himself from attacks that his movies didn’t have any white people in them. (He’d only made two at the time.)

            • Karenatasha

              @Mr. Arkadin: not to’t worry — you didn’t come across that way! I assumed you were simply mentioning other criticisms that had been made of racial diversity (or lack thereof) in films.

            • Karenatasha

              Whoops — not TO worry. My editing changes were only half done!

      • Kris

        Ah ha! Well, that is good to know and I’m so pleased my comment sparked such a lovely conversation between you two!! When so many were watching Sex In The City and even before that, the HBO series that I was watching was Oz (which had no issues with multicultural casting). It’s good to know that these hugely popular shows are called out for their lack of diversity.

        As you said Karenatasha, shows should especially consider their location when casting. There is no greater sin in writing then not being true to your story and the location is always a character in and of itself. At the same time, if the author is so young I wonder if it was a simple oversight rather than an intentional slight. Hopefully, now that it’s been brought to her attention she’ll work to correct it in a respectful way. On the other hand, if she doesn’t feel she can write the characters in a truthful and representational way, perhaps it’s best she avoid it… Complicated issue!

        • karenatasha

          Perhaps she felt she couldn’t write characters of different races and ethnicities, Kris–I don’t know. Sometimes the actors you choose can help you keep it honest; one such case was Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” where Danny Aiello helped shape his role.

          What I hope it isn’t is an “oversight.” I don’t feel any person today–particularly someone who came out of a strong liberal arts school like Oberlin–should be unaware of the issue. When I taught, I always paid attention to questions of representation.

          That said, I thought Lena Dunham was great on the show tonight, and very funny. She can clearly stay humorous even off the page and on the spot.