You've had a very interesting media career, ranging from Yale Drama School to influential TV talk show personality to radio and web host to appearing in the movie Bruno. How did you manage to have (and survive) such a unique career?
Sheer luck and a significant degree of determination. I was on the waiting list the first year I applied to Yale Drama School. I didn't get in that year so I applied again the next year and was successful. Television was never my ambition (except as an actor) but I had a girlfriend who had an audition for CBS. She asked me to audition with her. They hired me and didn't hire her and I began a career as a television host. After that job ended I replaced Maury Povich in Philadelphia on a live morning show called People Are Talking. I got the audition when a friend, Nancy Glass, recommended me to the program director. I was always auditioning against, replacing or being replaced by Matt Lauer through the late eighties and early nineties. Strangely he replaced me and then I replaced him at Channel 9 at one point. I'm sure, considering how things ended up he certainly doesn't mind.
Really a more relevant question might be 'Why have I not survived?" I think the answer is that I'm always driven to test the medium, push it in a new direction, try something different, mock it's pomposity and artificia lity.
The medium doesn't like that! LOL
Tell us about your new show on UBATV.com? What are its biggest challenges and what do you love about it?
I love that I have an hour of television (or Internet vision) to do anything I want! The people I work with are all young, totally supportive and work their butts off to help me make a good show. There is a real feeling of community working together as in the theater which is something you don't find often in broadcast TV (although we did have it for quite a long time on People Are Talking and The Richard Bey Show on channel 9). The biggest challenge is that I have to produce all the elements myself. At 7:30 AM I am scouring the Internet for clips, fotos and stories to use for that day's show. Since it is live I feel it must be current and spontaneous if it is to be compelling so there is a lot of pressure and never enough time to send the crew at UBA everything I want...but we do get enough together to create something interesting, intimate and fun. And Jessica Tallerico is wonderful to work with...I am lucky to have her their with me!
I remember watching the Richard Bey Show in high school and college and thought it was the most hilarious, offensive, strange, and brilliant thing on TV. It was really ahead of its time. You held contests like "Queen of the Trailer Park", interviewed strippers and drag queens and people cheating on each other. You really cast an unsentimental spotlight on fringe America. Nowadays there are variations of your show all over network and cable TV. How does it feel to have been a trailblazer?
Trailblazers don't get residuals!! Well, lets not make too much of it....its television not Mick Jagger or Picasso. What is frustrating is to see how much of TV is just Velveeta Cheeze... its non stop in daytime...everything is so derivative, unimaginative and generic. 'Regis and Kelly' is the most spontaneous show in daytime...that tells you something.
I listened to you on the radio in 2002-2003, and you were wisely against the Iraq war and President Bush at a time when those weren't exactly popular positions to hold. Both the war and that presidency proved to be total disasters -- again, you were ahead of your time. Do you feel vindicated?
I feel there is a price to pay for speaking an unpopular truth. I'm not bitter about it...its just a fact of the business. All the radio pundits who hollered about WMD, Saddam's nuclear program and Mohammed Atta's link with Iraq are still making millions coming up with more bullshit. Is that a vindication?
As someone who's worked in both pop culture and politically commentary, what are your thoughts on the state media today as well as the state of American politics?
Go to Blockbuster and rent IDIOCRACY. It will answer that question better than I can. And its funny too!
Are you trying to be trailblazer yet again in growing field of niche media -- or are you just doing what you do best?
I'm not the trailblazer in this endeavor. John Tobacco who created, owns and runs UBATV is the guy who put all this together and that's where the trailblazing occurred. I'm just trying to find a way to create a show on a daily basis that suits the medium and the viewers.
Have you lived in New York all your life? Does being a New Yorker affect what you do? Could you ever seeing yourself moving out to LA?
I grew up in Queens went to college in California and then Connecticut, came back to NYC, lived in Philly for four years then back to NY.
I consider myself a native New Yorker but I really loved Philly when I worked there. I have lots of friends in LA from my acting days and if I had a good, creative job there I could live there. I would prefer NY but if a job is good enough (challenging, creative) I could go anywhere. I've toured for months when I was in the theater and had a great time.
Tell us something about Richard Bey that we don't know.
Here's a bonus. How about 3 things:
I cry at movies. I miss my parents every day. I want Kyle, the 10 year old boy I look after as a son to have a good, productive and happy life so deeply that sometimes it hurts when I worry that he won't.
Wow, those were all sad things weren't they...
Any final thoughts?
Where do they find these people?
I wonder about that every day. Thanks Richard!