tv Tavis Smiley WHUT December 10, 2009 8:30am-9:00am EST
[captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. first up tonight a conversation with new york governor david paterson. despite of being only one of two african-american governors in the country, his bid for re-election is not being supported by the leader of his own party, president barack obama. we'll also get his thoughts on a new round of stimulus funds coming to the impoverished state, money the governor hopes will revive the state's struggling economy. also tonight a veteran comedian and actor, fred willard stops by and in chicago he's taking part in an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famed second city comedy troupe. he's one of many alumni which includes the likes of guilda
radner and martin short. david paterson and fred willard, coming up right now. >> there are so many things wal-mart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better but mostly we're looking forward to help build stronger communities and relationships because with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance. working to improve financial empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org--
tavis: since march of 2008, david paterson has been serving as governor of the empire state and next we're will be seeking election to his first full term as chief executive and joins us from where else, new york city. governor paterson, always an honor to have you on the program, sir. >> it's an honor to be on the program, tavis, thank you. sean: let me start with the -- tavis: let me start with the obvious to make sure nothing has changed since i spokeith you, david paterson is still intent on running for election next year. >> nothing has changed, i don't have to say anything. 6 tavis: i appreciate that. tell me as the time goes on whether or not you get more determined in your conviction to serve your state as chief executive, you get more determined as time goes on? >> i get more determined because i think more and more new yorkers and other americans are realizing that we are in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis this country has seen since the great depression. when i pointed that out in
2008, it was an unpopular thing to say and i didn't exactly get a pat on the back from many people. but now that 48-50 states are in deficit, 34 of the 48 states that are in deficit have had to make drastic changes, like 26 states abolishing all their early childhood education and kindergarten programs and 28 states laying off or furloughing workers and others conducting early release programs to let people out of jail because they can't meet their budget obligations, that the objections i've -- actions i've tried to take in new york to this point have been unpopular are now starting to get the public to see that we don't want to wind up in the situations that those other states are in. the state of michigan has a 16% unemployment rate, the state of illinois has closed 90% of its libraries, i believe. the state of california is passing out i.o.u.'s, and the worst one, the state of hawaii has shortened its school week from five days to four.
but so far in new york, the tough decisions that we've had to make have kept us out of this problem. we're gog to have some more difficult decisions up ahead, and i'm not sure how that's going to work out. but i think that this way of managing in times of a crisis is now starting to filter through to the public as the right management. we're in a normal period it would be a little bit obtuse. tavis: i hear the point you're making and every time i hear you make the case you just made for how new york under your leadership has been spared the worst at so many other states have had to endure, it always begs the obvious question for me which is why at least heretofore that message does not seem with regard to the polling at least to resonate with new yorkers because it makes sense to me as i hear it, why is it not resonating with new yorkers? >> at this point the polling makes sense. people don't like when you have to cut health care, education, aid to housing, assistance to the disabled. i've had to veto legislation
that i actually introduced when i was in the legislature. because right now we don't have money to kearp out the progms. you know -- to carry out the programs. >> you know, during the holidays it comes down to tough decisions for parents. and so many times kids -- parents are finding out, toys for christmas or paying the rent? even though the poll in the household will be native, the responsible parent pays the rent so there may not be much of a christmas in december but there's a place to live in january. those are the tough decisions that governments are now having to make and many of them have the opportunity to stay out of financial peril and are in the positions i've described so many states are in right now. so when we start to come through this period, i think people are starting to recognize mor that cutting now is less damaging than cutting later. other states aren't cutting health care, they are closing down hospitals.
some states are even shutting down schools. so i think as people recognize that we are in the depths of the worst recession since the great depression, they are more and more starting to recognize why i had to make the choices that i did. tavis: you know theld adage all politics are local, there are a lot of people who believe why some of these states you have mentioned, indeed your own state of new york, is hurting is because the stimulus package originally passed by the obama administration wasn't enough and they really negotiate against themselves, didn't ask for a package that was big enough in the first place. your thoughts about that? >> i think president obama and the administration and the congress wrote up the best package they possibly could. now, the only way to get it through the house and senate was to defer $328 million in tax cuts. but we're in a deflationary spiral. if you lower taxes, people save the money. if you give back rebates,
people keep the money because people are saving 9% of their salaries in this end of the decade where they were saving one half of 1% prior. so i think that unfortunately lowering taxes alone is not going to reignite the engine of our economy. what would reignite the engine of our economy is actually if we could have more of a stimulus package. the problems that the states have had is that the stimulus money was half of the downturn in revenues that these states have experienced during an equal period of time. recirculating the dollar is the way to make the economy grow and i think the stimulus package was excellent. in new york we used it for $11.1 billion for health care and $4.8 billion for education but unfortunately, most of it was to defer the deficit that we already had in our state. so i think that the stimulus money prevented the situation from being far worse than it actually was. tavis: your point
notwithstanding, there are still those who think it wasn't enough, number one. number who two -- number two, there are folk who have been pushing the white house for some sometime to do more and say more about jobs. the president and the white house seem to be getting that message. the job summit they had last week, of course. yesterday the president gave a major speech at the brookings institution about jobs. is the president -- let me put it this way, is it too little too late talking about jobs or is it just about right on time? >> no, i think that the president's ornl idea for a stimulus package was right on target. you have to remember he had to negotiate to gethis through the house and senate. it wasn't his original plan. if it's too little and it's too late, you can blame the congress for that. and i think that what -- that we will need more. we will have 48-50 states in deficit to the tune of somewhere between $325 billion and $375 billion at the end of
2010 when the stimulus package runs out and we'll need that infusion from our federal government in order to try to survive. tavis: you're confusing me now. ifou're admitting now we're definitely going to need more because a lot of the states will be in deficit spending, doesn't that mean the original stimulus wasn't enough? >> no, what i'm saying, tavis, is the stimulus package was an idea that was hatched during the transition, especially through the national governor's association, and many of us who got together made recommendations to the white house. what i'm saying is they went back to the congress and they got the best they could get but they did have to compromise and that compromise that they had to make probably caused the inevitable loss and stimulus money to be less than what we would need over a long period of time but they did cover us the last nine quarters of the economic downturn, and i think that that is spectacular.
i do think we will need more and that the entire country will see that in 2010 and the white house will be far more successful influencing the congress because everybody there will realize that this was not just a recession, this was a formidable economic shock to our system, the likes of which we haven't seen in 80 years. tavis: this was not -- i'm sure there are those critics who would like to lay this at your feet, this is not something that can be laid at the feet of governor david paterson but how does it feel to be governor of the state that houses new york city where they're about to give away millions of dollars in bonuses in this industry that we everyday taxpayers had to bail out, does that seem right and fair to you? >> well, i think that the wailout -- the is one that may have been more properly assessed with respect to the financial institutions, but for those of us who live in new york state, wall street
comprises 22% of our entire tax base. in addition, wall street's failure contributed to high unemployment rate in new york state, 9% to 10% with the bureau of labor statistics. but probably 18 of every able-bodied 100 men and women in new york are not working, unemployment average since the unemployment has risen is faced the african-american community. so we need the engine of our economic recovery, wall street, to survive. and you don't hear people in michigan putting down the auto industry just because they went into a wreck. and you don't hear anybody in maryland being against the crab industry or anybody in new england being against the! industry, and you don't hear anybody -- and my whole point -- tavis: but the difference, governor, is they're not passing out bonuses.
in the case of wall street, they're passing out million dollar bonuses. we're not talking about just saving the industry, they're passing out christmas bonuses, governor. >> tavis, bonuses have always been an incremental part of the industry. and the tax dollars from those bonuses flow to new york state. that's how the industry has always been run. now, now there have been feesance of duty those people should be investigated and where there have been reckless schemes that frittered away a lot of money, those people should be hopefully excalpated from working on wall street. but since 1890 bonuses have been a part of capital gains for a number of years which will send new york state's economy into a place where we will be delinquent and probably on the verge of economic
despair for decades simply because we are now going to take out on a whole industry what some reckless people and perhaps even some criminal people performed. and the worst people are going to get hit, when new york's unemployment rate continues to rise or when jobs aren't created or when a construction industry can't be funded or schools can't be built, we'll be the minority communities of those states. and that's why i am surprised that more legislators from new york have not stood up for our industry as much as other states have stood up for theirs. and don't think there weren't a lot of perks in the auto industry in michigan either, tavis. tavis: i hear you. we're old friends and will debate this more off camera when we see each other again. let me offer this as the exit question, given how bad things are right now as you head towards next year and your re-election campaign, are you confident that the stars are going to be able to align for you to turn this thing around
in time to be successfully re-elected in new york? >> well, tavis, you would have to go to an astrologer to get the answer to that question. i'm just working hard to try to maintain- i'm just trying to maintain stability in our financial economy. i've balanced two budgets on time in the middle of a recession, haven't missed a payment to an obligator, he never failed to be late to a payment to a school or local government or our service providers or our work force and have a credit rating as strong as any other state in the country and i think i should be re-elected on that alone. tavis: he's going to run no matter what the white house says. he is the governor of the great state of new york, our friend david paterson. always an honor to have you on the program, sir. >> thank you, tavis, thank you very much. tavis: up next on this program, comedian and actor fred willard. stay with us. tavis: this weekend in chicago
there will be a number of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famed comedy troupe second city, among the alumni, fred willard. >> that's flattering to say. are popular comedian and actor whose film credits threw three emmy nominations for his work on "everybody loves raymond." glad you could be on the program. >> thank you for having me. when i hear nominations, i'm like what? tavis: three times. >> for everybody who loves raymond. that was a good show. tavis: i saw the other day commercials for a new tv show. >> man of a certain age or something. he's always funny and always doing something. tavis: how much did you enjoy your work on "everybody loves raymond?" >> it was wonderful. it was a wonderful set. the good thing as an actor when you go on a series already running you feel like the new kid in school and everybody has inside jokes, it wasn't that way at all. every time we come back, ah,
it's good to have you. brad garrett greeted me like i was his favorite. fred, what an honor to have you here. and the producer treated us all wonderfully. what's very important to phil is food. they had the best kraft services, the best catering. anybody have krummkake today? it was really wonderful. tavis: take me back -- when you talk about second city and the 50th anniversary of it, the easiest thing is talk about the names, the people who came through it and there are a lot of big names who came through second city, no doubt about it. for a time it seemed "saturday night live" was pick everybody out of second city to get on the show. >> yes. tavis: that said, tell me about your experience and what makes this anniversary so special for you? >> well, it -- 50 years -- and i was in one of the earlier years, it wasn't 50 years ago but i remember seeing the original when they came to new york, and it was alan arkin and
severn dardin and these guys with beards. i remember people with beards and talking about intellectual things and i knew then that was what i wanted to get into, sketch comedy, i love sketch comedy. and i started working in clubs. i had a partner and we did comedy sketches, we were a comedy team. i almost forgotten the term. i guess they'd seen us and we played at a club called mr. kelly's in chicago and the gate of horn. and my agent called one day and said they'd love you to come in an audition for second city. i can't do that stuff, i've never improvised. but i did and it's a long story and i finally went there and did it. in those days, you just were cast and went into the main stage. today you go and you take classes and go into a touring company and they've always done such bright stuff. and i was always very pleased to be part of that and feel they never played down to the audience and i was just thinking before i came on that they do very topical stuff but they'll come
at it from a different way. they won't do theheap jokes, the easy jokes. they'll come in from a very interesting angle. and when i was there, the tv shows didn't go to chicago to cast. i think it was when they got john belushi and he was such a big hit, now they started going to second city, and they wouldn't go to second city but the theater around back called e.t.c. and then they got like julia louis dreyfus and people like that. there's always good people and you feel like your part of a fraternity, some of my best friends are second city people. over the years, every time i go back i'll go to second city to see the show and you become friendly with the people. and i'm distracted, i'm seeing myself on television. i can't believe that was me. and who the heck -- and how was i so thin and what sketch was that? and that was from the original, what you're seeing now is on the original stage, robert klein, and the other -- i don't know where all those people came from, there's bob klein.
we didn't have that many people in our cast so it must have been a special show. tavis: what is it about second -- there's all kinds of comedy troupe's around the country. what is it about second city that made it so unique in terms of the great talent that i spun off? >> ihink because it came from a theater outside of the university of chicago. it was very intellectual. they were very -- they didn't advertise. i remember when i would go to chicago, you didn't know when second city was on. you had to know -- you knew where it was andou found it and they had their own crowd. it was a smaller theater. and i think that was kind of what it built on, is it wasn't a place where standups went to do the quick batter. i think it attracted people who were more interested in sketches, some of the early sketches were just evolved, they could go 10, 12, 15 minutes. they come out and grab that audience. and i think they kind of bring the audience up to a little
better level. and another interesting news out of local chicago, political stuff, even though i don't get it, i still know something funny is going on. tavis: how much of the success over these 50 years, especially during your time there, had to do with the times, the times in which you were living and the issues that were ripe for the picking? >> oh, yes. it's like any good comedian. today, what's the hottest topic? and even if you think a topic has been worn out and you mention the people will laugh, but that was the success. i think in the earlier days people would come to second city knowing they would discuss in depth and make it funny. now they're a little broader, they hit out a ltle more -- the theater is three times as big as the theater i was in. when i first saw it, i said they'll never fill this. but they do. and it's always tough when i go back, they give me v.i.p.
treatment, come in. two seats. the place is packed and i'm glad to get in. another interesting thing, it's not improvisation, it comes from improvisation but if you @ see a second city show you can relax. you're not going to sweat with a bunch of actors stumbling around repeating each other's lines. the scenes come from improvisation but the show is pretty much set. and one or two points they'll ask the audience for an idea and then they have the improvisation later. it's a free show. you can come in and watch for 45 minutes or an hour improvise. and even though i did it at the time, i still go back and say i can't believe that some of these brig sketches come from improvisation. tavis: to your point you made earlier, when your agent called you years ago and said they want to see you, let's go to second city for an audition, you said, i can't do this, it's not my thing, you went, obviously it worked out, they loved you, you stayed for a while and it was a wonderful career boost. as you look back on that now professionally, not as an
artist, but what did you learn from that, what did you leave there doing better than you had come there? >> i think i -- first of all, getting in front of an audience every night, can't help but improve you. people ask me, fred, what's the best thing to do to get started? i always say get into a theater group, get something -- no one can teach you how to act. you can learn little things but to get in front of an audience, you can tell right away, you can get on the wavelength with the audience. plus, i've got confidence in myself i can talk and come up with ideas, even though it still frightens me and i prefer to have a good script but a lot of movies today, you'll film a scene as written and then the director will say ok, now, if you feel like throwing something new in, you work with will fairly, you're going into a box -- will ferrell, you're going into a boxing match. so i have the confidence i can do that but you've got to do it every day. when i go back they'll always come out aintermission, you're going to play with us,
oh, jeez, it's scary because again, you're the new kid up there. but you do it and you get back into the sequence of it. but i think it's the confidence and the fact that y can also -- what i loved was you can come in at 7:30 at night with an idea. i would say i was working with robert klein and davidsteinberg. i've got an idea, this happened to me today, let's do a scene about this or that. bob, you be a policeman, david, you be a guy selling popco. so it was -- then you do it on the stage that night and it's instant gratification and it either worked or didn't. and if it worked, you'd say let's work on that later. tavis: and if it didn't? >> and if it didn't you didn't want to hear it again. bob klein wrote, every night he'd say fred, you doing any casting tonight? and i still am friends with robert klein and david steinburg. tavis: what's on your agenda, what are you doing this weekend when you go back for theig celebration?
>> i'm actually -- i'm doing a improv thing with jeff guard and robert klein. -- jeff garland and robert klein. and then they said would you be on a panel about alan arkin about second city in the 1960's. i said what the heck do i know about the 1960's? wait a minute. i was there when it was done in black and white and sound it had just come in. no, but i'll have a lot to talk about there, the good old days. before you could say any four-letter word on the stage and now it's very much accepted. but again they do it if they use certain words, it's done in a smart style, they're making fun or a comment on it, it's not just used gratuitously just to get an easy laugh. tavis: you know comedy, you know sond city, they've put out a list of comedic icons, fred willard, one of them, going back this weekend for the 50th anniversary celebration. have fun in chicago. >> it's a pleasure being on the
show. tavis: have a good time in chicago. >> let's get a subject and improvise here. we're on a raft and -- tavis: yeah. >> there's a pregnant lady swimming towards us, what do u do? you're the first one. oh, no, i don't want to be on the raft. tavis: that's our show for tonight. i'm going to stop before it turns on me. i can feel that coming. catch me on the weekends on p.r.i., public radio international and access our radio podcast at pbs.org and i'll s you next time on pbs. good night from l.a. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit firstname.lastname@example.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with morgan freeman on his portrayal of nelson mandela on "invictus." that's next time. see you then. >> there's so many things that wal-mart is lookg forward to doing, like helping people live better, but mostly we're looking forward to helping
build stronger communities and relationships because with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance. working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide isn your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs statiofrom viewers like u. thk u. >> we are pbs.