Talk shows have been around since the advent of television broadcasting, but there's never been one quite like The Henry Rollins Show. Provocative, confrontational and seemingly unable to pull his punches, Henry Rollins returns to the IFC this Friday, April 13 (at 11 pm/ET), to begin his second season, accompanied by guest Marilyn Manson. To mark the occasion, IFC is preceding the premiere at 9:30 with Henry Rollins: Uncut from Israel, a documentary chronicling the former rocker's trip to Tel Aviv for a spoken-word gig. Rollins recently gave TVGuide.com a piece of his mind.
TVGuide.com: In Uncut from Israel, you say that Israel is "up against the real." Is that part of the reason you wanted to capture the Tel Aviv show for IFC?
Henry Rollins: Yeah. I was going to do shows there anyway, and the IFC folks wanted another special, so I said, "Well, what about Israel? It's a beautiful country, and it'll be an intense show no matter what. The people are very lively and very switched on." It's an extraordinary place, so I figured it would be hard for the show not to go down well.
TVGuide.com: There's more music-related material in your show than there are political bits. Was that a conscious decision?
Rollins: Sure. As far as politics go, I don't know what it means to Israel to talk about George W. Bush all evening. I'm happy to do that, but I don't know what it would mean to them. I mean, there was some political stuff, but not as much as I would lay on an audience in Chicago or somewhere in the States.
TVGuide.com: It seems like it would be more daunting to try to connect with a foreign audience.
Rollins: Well, I've been performing internationally over half my life, so I'm not easily daunted on any stage anywhere. If I think something is appropriate to talk about, I don't care what anyone thinks about it. I get hate mail like, "Get out of our country, you Communist!" Come and get me out. That would be funny. We'll try to sew your ears back on. But I also get letters from people who love the shows, and I got a lot of those [after] Israel.
TVGuide.com: You definitely seemed comfortable performing there.
Rollins: In Israel, there's a lot to learn from anyone, because to live there you've got to deal with the truth. Things happen real fast. Your day goes from cool to catastrophic in one second. Israelis know that the café you're in could blow up, or the shopping mall, and they rock that. The way they do it is, they celebrate hard. They love hard. They're a very vigorous and passionate people. I can't say enough about the people I've met there.
TVGuide.com: What's the status of the new season of The Henry Rollins Show?
Rollins: We're about halfway done. So far, the guests and all the interviews have been really cool. I don't think we've had a stiff show yet.
TVGuide.com: What did you know you wanted to change about the show from the first season to the second?
Rollins: I wanted less "stuff." I wanted to make the interviews a little longer. I wanted to get great guests and when we did other segments, I wanted it to be really good writing. Last season was cool, but I didn't want to have all these things because it didn't make it seem confident. What's great is a good guest, a good band and a good topic for "Teeing Off," and that's the show. Heidi, one of our producers, always says, "Keep it simple, stupid."
TVGuide.com: In the second episode you have Ben Stiller as a guest, and he talks about having to come up with canned anecdotes for most talk shows. Are you trying to create an environment that's the antithesis of that?
Rollins: Absolutely. I tell all these guys and girls who come in, "Look, we're trying to avoid the Leno thing, so I'm not going to ask about who you're going out with or your funny car story." I've been on Jay Leno and everyone likes Jay, but being on that show is a really boring afternoon. I sincerely like Jay, but I wouldn't want his job, because I'd have to interview Kathy Ireland, and there's nothing there I'd want to know. The reason Jay gets $50 million a year is because he has to talk to her about her new aerobics tape. I know my audience, and they have a low threshold for boredom. If it sucks, they're gone.
TVGuide.com: The Smothers Brothers, Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas had guests in the late '60s and early '70s that were actively protesting Vietnam. Do you see people like yourself, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart as the new generation of talk-show hosts carrying that anti-war torch?
Rollins: Sure. But I don't see it as anti-war, I see it as pro-truth. The truth is an anti-war statement in itself. It's just saying, "Look, your fake war in Iraq is not working. Don't say Sunni and Shia are going to have their civil war in Indiana. No one is following us home. You've screwed up enough and allowed enough kids to die." So yeah, I think it's time for truth to be spoken to power. Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert use humor; I use confrontation. All I want is the truth, and I'll live with whatever that may be.
TVGuide.com: In the Israel documentary, you tell the audience to "extract that jewel of rage and use it for civic good." As you've gotten older, how has the rage that is fueling you changed?
Rollins: Well, when you're 22 and you're mad because a girl broke up with you, you write an angry album or 20 pages in your journal saying, "I'm going to die tomorrow. She's gone. She's gone." When you get to be my age, you pull your head out and start looking around and see there's a lot more important stuff that's not good. In my wonderful America, I should try to be a vehicle of change. You get outside yourself. It's called maturing. It's called growing up. Some do it, some don't.
TVGuide.com: But aren't you afraid of losing that rage as you get older?
Rollins: Absolutely. They asked the Great One, Iggy Pop, how he stays so angry, and he said, "I work at it, man." I work at mine, too. To lose my rage would be to lose the truth. It would be to become unconcerned and to be OK with everything that's going on in this country. That's just not working for me.
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