I felt sorry for Stephen Colbert the other night when Diane Keaton appeared on his show to promote the paperback edition of her autobiography. It was clear from the start that she wasn’t going to play along. Despite Colbert prompting her to share stories from her book, she refused, opting to be argumentative with him over nothing. It was almost as if she thinks he really is a right-wing blowhard who offends her in multiple ways.
I’ve had guests on the air like this, who don’t understand that by sharing an anecdote or two from their book, they’ll arouse some interest from the audience that might then be inclined to purchase it. Instead they deflect repeated questions (which exist solely to set them up to tell a story) by answering, “oh, yes, that’s a good one, which you can read about in my book,” without offering a sample. I also hate it when authors keep mentioning the title of their book, as they’ve clearly been told to do by a publicist, because it’s the host’s job to do the plugging — Colbert, like me, is always generous about that, so there’s no need for the interviewee to do it. You’d think that someone like Keaton, who has done her share of TV talk shows in the last four decades, would know this by now.
Since I’ve read Keaton’s book (thank you, St. Louis Public Library!), I can tell you it contains plenty of provocative material that could have been mined in a six-minute TV interview. I also know that Colbert always greets his guests backstage before the show tapes to remind them that he’s doing a character and it’s his job to be funny, not theirs, so the straighter they play it, the better the resulting segment. Keaton either doesn’t understand that or was under the influence of something, to the point where Colbert finally said, after five exasperating minutes, “We put up a big picture of the book and I’m going to shill for it super-hard at the end of the interview, but before I encourage my viewers to buy the book, you have to say one fucking thing about it.”
I feel your pain, Stephen.