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You Are Not That Charming

Chances are if Comedy Central wants to interview you — it is not because of your good looks.

On CNN’s Reliable Sources today Howard Kurtz interviewed Mike Rubens, a former producer for “The Daily Show.”

Rubens recently wrote an article for Salon  in which he revealed that he was surprised to find that when facilitating interviews with people for the show to mock (mostly conservatives) he was surprised to find that while he “loathed” their politics and views, he liked them as people.

In a remarkedly candid interview, Rubens told Kurtz that he felt badly about “sandbagging” some of these people.  The folks skewered by The Daily Show with Rubens’ help might feel good to know that he doesn’t think they are as evil as he once did — or as stupid as he helped portray them to be — but the real lesson is they still got lampooned and made to look like dolts.

Too often people invited to be interviewed on TV shows are so thrilled to be given a platform for their views that they either fail to investigate what kind of program they are asked to be on — or they overestimate their powers to win over the interviewer with their charm and power of persuasion. 

In Salon Rubens writes of one woman he helped set up: “I felt awful when it dawned on her mid-shoot that we weren’t actually her pals (really – there was a moment in the middle of the sit-down interview when you could see her finally catch on and sort of crumble.”

It is not just conservatives making this mistake by blindly going on The Daily Show.  You see the same thing in reverse with liberals stumbling into Fox News studios thinking they can out-debate a right-leaning interviewer.

We are not suggesting that political opposites avoid appearing on the other side’s programs — but only that they do so with their eyes wide open.  You need to thoroughly research the program and interviewer’s style and past interviews.  If you are going on programs like The Daily Show — ask who else is being interviewed.  If you can’t easily figure out which one of them is the butt of the joke — pretty good chance it is you.

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