CUT AND UNCUT Henry Rollins

The outspoken punk
rocker’s IFC talk show may get cancelled, but not him.

 

By RANDY HARWARD

 

First, the bad news: The
Henry Rollins Show
ain’t comin’ back for a third season. As Rollins tells
it, “Last year The Independent Film Channel (IFC) said, ‘We don’t wanna do the
TV show anymore.'”

 

Say what? Are they
kidding? Rollins’ take on the trite but popular
monologue-sketch-guest-sketch-guest-musical guest format was the most original
and worthwhile to come along since… Well, can you think of one? The Jon Stewart Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tom Green Show, The Larry
Sanders Show
(satire though it was) and a few others have shown spots of
brilliance on the late-night talk show archetype. However, none was as comprehensively inspired and provocative as The Henry Rollins Show, in which Rollins
used his intellectual loudmouthery to not just to entertain but edify his
audiences, whether it was in his choice of musical guest (Slayer on a talk show
was heretofore unfathomable, much less in an uncensored context), #2 (no mere
McMahon, Janeane Garofalo’s “Disquisitions” quite stole the show) or the ideas
he put forth in his “Open Letters.”

 

“I thought we really had something going there,” says
Rollins. “I really liked it, and I got a lot of nice mail; a lot of people
really seemed to like it. I had cool bands, interesting guests…”

 

So if it ain’t broke…? Well, the IFC told Rollins that a
great guest translated to merely good ratings, and a good guest garnered okay
ratings. He admits it’s not his money and points out that the IFC has been “very, very good” to him. “The show you
saw was the one we sent them. They never sought to edit… they really let us do
what we wanted. Which, for TV, is really rare.

 

“[They said] ‘We like it, we like you, but we want you more
in an active capacity, like you on the street interviewing people,'” Rollins
explains. “‘So we wanna do three of those Live
and Uncut
specials. What do you say?'”

 

Rollins has already done two of these-successful-shows: Live In New York and Live In Israel. In each, he’s shown
onstage giving a spoken word performance with intermittent scenes of him out on
the street interviewing people. “I leave America… and I bring that story back
and perhaps it provides a different perspective for someone in the audience who
hasn’t been to these places, or maybe has and did not divine the same results from going. [I’m] just providing some
perspectives or to… keep everyone in their seats leaning forward.”

 

Being the reasonable sort, Rollins “jumped” at IFC’s offer.
“It’s good work, and I’ll take it.” He’s effusive about the new specials, which
started airing last Friday night with Uncut
from New Orleans
. On this Friday, November 14, IFC will premiere Uncut from South Africa, with Uncut from Northern Ireland airing
November 21. An encore presentation of Uncut
from Israel
will be shown November 28. All of them start at 10:30 p.m.
Eastern. (See below for more details from Rollins on New Orleans, South Africa and
Northern Ireland.)

 

As to whether this will be a semi-regular gig, Rollins is
unsure. “What they want of me, if anything, next year, I have no idea. But so
far, everyone at IFC seems to really like what we’ve brought them. So mission
accomplished on our end.”

 

***

 

Rollins on: Uncut from South Africa

 

“In South
Africa, I was very curious to see what, if
anything, had been done with apartheid [post-]emancipation. Also, South Africa
has a very awful problem with HIV and AIDS and I thought it would be
interesting to see if we could get interesting interviews and see if we could
bring back a story that Americans- Maybe get people out of themselves. I think
a lot of Americans, due to the fact that they don’t travel, they don’t
necessarily have an awareness of what’s going on in other places. Especially in
the last eight years, it’s just been all you learn about is Iraq or
Afghanistan, and you don’t even necessarily learn what you need to know about
those places. They’ve got kids and they’ve got lives and all of that.

 

“A lot was made when Nelson Mandela was freed, but what’s
the follow-up? That’s what I wanted to see if I could get to by going down
there with a film crew. And we met a lot of really amazing people. People in
townships, doctors who work with anti-retroviral drug treatment for AIDS and
HIV patients. Fascinating.”

 

 

Rollins on: Uncut from Northern Ireland

 

“The one in Northern
Ireland was basically to see what things
were like now, years after the troubles. Bloody Sunday, then the IRA clashing
with the Unionists, and the Protestants versus the Catholics and all that
unrest that Northern Ireland had been going through. And so we went there and
interviewed members of Sinn Féin, Unionists, Separatists, Catholics,
Protestants, ex-IRA members, people who have been victimized by the IRA, who’ve
had their family members assassinated. And again, Fascinating.

 

“And the landscapes in these places are very different.
Africa does not look like Northern Ireland. So hopefully, visually, the viewer
goes, you know, ‘Damn’. It’s
something. And the interviews were really good. We had some good people on the
ground in these places.”

 

 

Rollins on: Uncut from New Orleans

 

“The last one we did was in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The
idea there was to see what three years and $100 billion of aid gets you. In
some parts of the Ninth Ward, there doesn’t seem to be a whole hell of a lot. I
wanted to get word on a TV screen from people who’ve been living there, from
the real source. Basically ask the question, ‘How are you living?’

 

“A lot of people know New
Orleans two ways: Mardi Gras, the big yahoo, beads
being flung from balconies. And then they know Katrina. But there’s a lot of
culture there and all of that. We wanted to try and get a little bit of both,
get a little flavor of the city, yet look at what happened, where these people
are now, and also what’s being done to remedy.

 

“And there’s an interesting part in there where we got in an
airplane and flew with an engineer over Lake Pontchartrain, over the Gulf
inlet, and the Mississippi.
And he said, “You see all that water down there? It used to be trees. And since
the water is now salty, all this stuff is dying. And we’re losing our last line
of defense against another flood. The trees stop the flooding, stop the wind.”
And so, it’s kind of an interesting look at how that part of America has been
impacted on a human scale, on an ecological scale. And hopefully these are
interesting and they all tie into a show.”

 

 

[Photo Credit: Ben Swinnerton]

 

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