Billy Bob Thornton appeared on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show this week to promote the new CD by his band, The Boxmasters. But after CBC host Jian Ghomeshi mentioned Thornton's movie career in the introduction, Billy Bob got so surly that he refused to answer questions with anything more than "I don't know what you're talking about" or similar nonsense.
I've encountered this a few times with guests. Sometimes publicists have asked me not to make an entire interview about something other than the guest's current project, but often it's imperative to mention previous work to offer the audience some perspective while still discussing what they're there to promote. Sometimes guests are having a bad day, sometimes they've been forced to run the gauntlet of media interviews for several hours, sometimes they just have a bad attitude. In any of those cases, they should cancel the interview instead of dragging the host -- and the audience -- through this boring, condescending dreck.
Years ago, I had a comedian (I won't name her, but you probably don't know her anyway) show up to do my morning show in Washington, DC. During a commercial break, I went out to greet her and bring her into the studio. On the way down the hall, she uttered, "I really don't want to do this right now. I hate this crap."
I stopped her right there, before we even got to the studio door, and told her, "Well, then, don't do my show today. Believe me, we'll have enough to talk about to keep my audience entertained without you coming in and being a jerk. On the other hand, if you can suck it up for long enough to go in there and have fun and be funny and sell some tickets to your comedy club appearance, which is why you're here in the first place, then let's go. Otherwise, no thanks. There's the door out of the building."
She looked at me, could see that I wasn't kidding, turned on her heels, and left in a huff. I proceeded into the studio and shared the whole incident with my audience. Later that day, the club owner -- with whom I had a great working relationship because the vast majority of his acts came on my show, had a great time, and sold a lot more tickets -- called to apologize and say he'd never had a comedian act that way before. It turned out that she was a pain all weekend, and the club never booked her again.
I'm surprised that Ghomeshi didn't say something similar to Thornton. I don't care how big a star he is, or thinks he is. There's no reason to ruin what could have been an interesting, and potentially profitable, interview over something as trivial as this. Even if Thornton's publicists asked Ghomeshi (or his producer) not to talk about acting and writing, a skillful guest could still have turned the interview into good promotion for his music.
Billy Bob doesn't have to worry about his career on the whole. He's been terrific in more movies than I can count, but if he really thinks that people are going to listen to him (on the radio or in a nightclub) because of his music, with no regard for that "other" career, he's sorely mistaken.
As you watch this, note how the other two members of Thornton's trio react. I'm sure it's not the first time they've encountered this behavior, and perhaps they've learned to put up with it. They shouldn't have to, and Thornton is way out of line with the way he treats Ghomeshi.
[thanks to Alison Heavener for the link]