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Larry King: Interviewing Oprah

Larry King is the host of Larry King Live. He has been interviewing people for over 40 years, and has accumulated more than 40,000 interviews, including every president and first lady since the Nixon administration. Among other awards and accomplishments, King has an Emmy, a Peabody, ten CableACE awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and 11 best-selling books. He joined chat room from Los Angeles on September 4, 2001.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Larry King, and welcome

KING: Hello! Happy to be with you again. It's going to be quite a week here on Larry King Live, and we're looking forward to tonight with Oprah.

CNN: What is it like interviewing someone who is famous for interviewing?

KING: I look at every subject as an individual. I knew Oprah when she had her show in Baltimore. In fact, I guested on her show in Baltimore when I was doing my national radio show. But basically, I've always been interested in fascinating people, no matter what they do, and I like asking questions. So, I'm just as curious about Oprah as I am about Chad Condit or President Bush or the guy down the street who has an unusual occupation.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I will watch Oprah tonight. But about last night: Why didn't you ask Sylvia Browne, "Where's Chandra?" And will you have a show with the leading psychics on their Chandra thoughts?

KING: We have tended not to bring famous people up when psychics appear. It is an untested field. It would lead to speculation. I would gladly, however, provide the Levy's with Sylvia Brown's phone number. And I think things like that are better left to the parties involved, or to the police. It just seemed out of place.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you do any research for your show?

KING: My staff does quite a bit of research, and those blue cards that you see in front of me contain a lot of information. No questions, however, are ever prepared, and I never plan out an interview. I have facts at my disposal, but I don't have any agenda. I always let an interview flow.

CNN: Do you talk to the guest before the interview?

KING: Maybe for five minutes, and never about what we're going to talk about on the air. I never like to ask a question that I know the answer to. So I find that if I spend too much time with a guest it can affect the questioning.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What has been your highest rated show? What subject seems to draw the most viewers?

KING: The highest rated show ever was the debate between Ross Perot and Al Gore over NAFTA. That, in fact, was the highest rated regularly scheduled talk show in cable history. In fact, that show recorded a record number of phone calls coming in from overseas. We have had some very high rated shows, including the last one we did with Oprah, some years back. Presidential shows do very well, and a hot subject always does very well. The Chad Condit show ten days ago did extraordinarily well.

CNN: Will you be taking phone calls for this interview?

KING: Yes, we will, and I imagine we'll take quite a few, because Oprah is so popular, and so many people want to talk to her.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Loved you in "America's Sweethearts"! What's it like playing yourself in a movie?

KING: I've been in about 20 movies. I always play myself. It's a lot of fun, most of the time, especially when it goes quickly. I'm not good at sitting around and doing lots of takes over and over. "America's Sweethearts" was a blast, and I thought the finished product was hysterical. I would love, one day, to play someone else, but if I did that, it would have to be a recurring role throughout the movie. I couldn't do a cameo as a judge or a doctor or something, because people would have to begin to accept the fact that I am someone else, while they're watching the film.

Oprah and Stedman
Oprah and Stedman  

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I think Larry should ask Oprah why she hasn't married Stedman Graham yet!

KING: I will ask her that. Stedman was on our show recently. He's a very interesting, very bright guy. Normally, I'm not interested in the private lives of public people, but in this case, their relationship has gotten so much attention, I almost have to ask about it. So, I will.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Larry, will you continue to do Chandra shows? Hope so!

KING: We will. We have one coming this week, which will be announced tonight on the Oprah show. In fact, it's coming tomorrow night. It's always hard to tell when a story stops being a story. Naturally, some conclusion would eventually lead to its end, assuming she is not found, and no one is ever arrested connected with her disappearance, it will peter out with its own energy. That's sad, but true. Of course, if the Congressman runs again, that will continue it right through next year's elections. If he doesn't run, it will go away faster.

CNN: You have interviewed Oprah before. How do second interviews with guests usually differ?

KING: You try to look for newer things to ask about, and certainly things change, and you get an update on things current. For instance: Why hasn't she appeared in any movies after such a terrific start in film? Why a magazine? How long will she continue to do her daily show? Why does she like producing other shows? All that would be new. Of course, it's always more difficult to interview people you know and people you've interviewed before. If I had my way, I would only interview a new person that I've never interviewed before, every night. That would be nice, but not practical.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will Oprah be in LA?

KING: No, she will be in Chicago, I'll be in LA, but today, with satellites, that almost makes no difference. Ideally, you'd like to be together, but she has her show to do, and I have my show to do, so it couldn't work out any other way. However, we're both professionals. We both know how to look at a camera, both know how to ask and respond to questions. There should be almost no difference to the viewer, and if you closed your eyes and just listened, you wouldn't know where we were.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What determines whether or not someone is an interview guest on your show?

KING: The producers do that. Of course, we talk all the time, but basically, they come up with the guests, and then I host the show. It's a collaborative effort. I offer suggestions, they'll ask me what I think. I learned a long time ago to leave things that they do best in their hands. The reason for that is, for example, I am a major sports fan. It is my number one avocation. I would love to do more guests from the world of sports. However, since we're on at a time every night when sporting events are taking place on other channels, the likelihood of a large audience is not great, since the sports fan will be watching the baseball game. You can't always have everything you want.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: When will Oprah take her show on the road again?

KING: I will write that down. I'll have my trusted assistant write that down, and will definitely ask that.

CNN: What is Oprah like in an interview?

KING: She's very responsive, a lot of fun. Very informative. What an interviewer wants in a guest is passion, an ability to explain what they do very well, a sense of humor, and sometimes a little chip on the shoulder doesn't hurt. She has all of those things.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today.

KING: I just really appreciate the audience over the year, watching our show, and participating in it. We should have a good one tonight, and when you find out the guest tomorrow night, you'll find that interesting, too. And by the way, Thursday isn't too bad, either! We can't announce it until tonight, but I'm sure it will perk viewer interest. Thanks!

CNN: Thank you for joining us today.

Larry King joined chat room via telephone from Los Angeles. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Tuesday, September 04, 2001.

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