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The Art of the Interview: Plumbing Depths--or Else

April 17, 1999

What a great rant about celebrity interviewing ("Please, Don't Try This in Public," by Randy Lewis, Riffs, April 15). I truly appreciate this delicate art, and I struggle with it every week.

I host a show in L.A. that's a "Tonight Show"-style talk show, but not broadcast--it's performed exclusively for a live theater audience. In addition to celebrities (French Stewart, Adam Carolla, Jon Cryer, etc.), I interview comedians, musicians and other people in the community.

I'm always trying to find ways not only to get the guest to open up and not say the same thing he or she has said a zillion times, but also to make it entertaining. Sometimes it goes great. Sometimes you hear crickets.

By the way, my two favorite cringe moments from Museum of Television & Radio seminars:

* "The Simpsons," where one audience member asked if series creator Matt Groening would sign his book. Then, five minutes later, someone asked Mr. Groening if he would sign his Bart doll. (All the while, it was clear there wouldn't be nearly enough time for all the questions.)

* The Rob Reiner tribute, where someone in the upstairs room watching on closed-circuit TV used his time at the mike to tell a person in the downstairs auditorium where to meet them after the seminar.

* Tied for third is every seminar, where at least two people ask how they can get their scripts to the guests.

J. KEITH VAN STRAATEN

Los Angeles

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