Deconstructing Howard and Bill

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(By Randy Lane) When JoAnn and I realized that Howard Stern was going to be a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, we jumped to try and get last minute tickets, but sadly, it didn’t happen.

After the monologue, Bill always begins the show with a one-on-one interview before he joins the panel. We were excited to see that Howard was the first guest, in LA to talk about his new book, Howard Stern Comes Again.

What followed was seventeen minutes of a riveting, dynamic exchange between two of the best in the business. As soon as the interview ended, we watched it again.

As a talent coach, it was satisfying to realize that the interview was also a seventeen-minute clinic of our best coaching principles in action.

Let’s deconstruct the video:

Bill’s first question presents an opportunity for Howard to show vulnerability by sharing his anxiety about traveling. Later in the interview he talks about being shy and having a “savior complex.” We always stress the fact that vulnerability creates an instant connection with the audience.

When Bill calls BS on Howard for being in therapy for 25 years, Howard is a strong advocate for therapy and mental health. In fact, when Bill calls years of therapy a scam, Howard responds, “Don’t even put that out there.” A strong point of view reveals confidence, experience, passion, and credibility. Sharing your point of view is the first step in developing your character.

Don’t underestimate the power of the pause. Fast forward to 9:20 and watch Howard deliver a perfectly timed pause after asking Bill about his dating life. The audience reaction is proof that sometimes saying nothing is better than any vocal response.

The interview included storytelling. Stories get people’s attention. They engage us, define us, and entertain us. Howard tells a humorous story about asking Arnold Schwarzenegger, “What happens to you when you die?” The bonus is his impersonation of Arnold.

Bill and Howard demonstrate conflict when they discuss reconnecting after being estranged for several years. Howard admits to being an asshole to Bill in the past. There was also friendly conflict between them over the merits of a committed relationship. Conflict is engaging as it creates drama, anticipation, and commands attention.

Howard is great at self-deprecating humor. In the interview he jokes, “Imagine me crawling on top of you.” He also admits to being in his hotel room all day obsessing about being on the show and deciding not to go to the pool because his hair won’t dry in time. Self-deprecating highlights a flaw or a quirk that is relatable to your audience.

Bill asks Howard why fans stayed with him when he divorced, since he was always considered the loving husband. Howard chose to be authentic by being honest with listeners on his show about his marriage and his imperfections.

In therapy, Howard says he feels listened to. He applies the art of active listening to his interviews. The payoff for active listening is that people feel heard and are more apt to open up. Bill shares that his 90 minutes on Howard’s show felt “confessorial.” Howard credits his listening skills to being genuinely interested and inquisitive.

From a coaching perspective, I find the interview entertaining and engaging, but the most fascinating aspect is what is not said. Notice the artful use of body language. Just try not to laugh when Howard leans into Bill’s space and touches him while Bill is pushing him away. Notice the unspoken cues that signal a joke, a break, or a time to listen closely.

The interview was an authentic conversation in front of a live audience and a tutorial for interview success. Enjoy!

Randy Lane launched his media talent coaching and personal brand development company in 1996. He can be contacted by phone at 805-497-7177 or email at info@randylane.net.

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