Q&A: Carson Daly

Who exactly is Carson Daly? Why is he famous? How did he get the coziest job in show business? Why does he deserve the hordes of fans, the web sites, the raging cult of celebrity? We left these questoins to the man himself:

The Harvard Crimson: "When you were asked the Backstreet Boys or N' Sync question you replied, "Sometimes I'm in the mood for a hot dog, other times I'm in the mood for a hamburger. The real question is: Do you like beef?"

Carson Daly: Yeah, I'm down with beef . No problem. Everyone is always trying to pick out my personal opinion, because its rare that a show can really be successful in such a format. People always ask, do you like Korn, Britney Spears, or some other far off analogy. I'm such a music fan, and I appreciate good pop music, good rap, good rock music. I have a genuine interest in it all.


THC: Is TRL a Carson Daly show like Singled Out was a Jenny McCarthy show? When you leave does the show die?

CD: No, not at all. Defintiely not. I don't actually really do a whole lot, I don't bring all that much to it. I try to keep the show about the videos, and keep the show fresh every day. The stars of the show are the ten videos, the guests, the viewers really. I'm actually one of the viewers really. All the celebrity that I have is through osmosis.

THC: Harvard students tend to think its cool to hate mainstream stuff for the sake of not being mainstream. Is pop culture uncool nowadays?

No, I think people are the ones getting uncool. I think that we're over going against the grain only for the sake of going against the grain. We're at a time now when we have the courage to try different things. It's like the song Mmmm Bop by Hanson. Anyone who hears that song is going to think its catchy and they're going to bounce and bop if they hear it on the radio, no matter if they go to Harvard or Junior College. It takes real balls to admit a good song. If you've had a hard day, or if you had a tough exam, Britney Spears might put you in a better mood than before you heard her. It's a cop-out to go against something that's mainstream, and it's incredibly lame and cheesy to think otherwise.

Do you think that the people buying Mariah Carey records are buying Kid Rock and Eminem? Or is it fractured fan bases competing?

I do. I think there is a large group of people now who really are buying the other types of music. The music is also just getting a lot closer to the people. Mariah is a great example; we're not looking at a "someday" Mariah. She's in the studio dropping dance beats, rapping with Jay Z. Kid rock has a got a guitar and some great beats. All the types of music are really influencing each other now, hip-hop and pop, rap and rock. It's all a lot closer to the people. Pop is sounding really progressive now, intergrating new beats and tech. Lots of kids can own Backstreet Boys and a Limp Bizkit CD, and defintiely Blink because it's right in between. It's a lot different from when I was in high school in '91, when if you were into Soundgarden and Seattle grunge, you wouldn't be caught dead listening to pop like Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Color me Badd.

It's common nowadays for a celebrity to come out and proclaim how much of a geek they were in high school. Is it just a trend to soften celebrity, or massive karmic retribution for the popular kids?

I think that it's par for the course for the people who are running the world now. All the computer geeks in high school - Bill Gates is such a perfect example - are now running the world. Twenty-six year old guys who started their own web-sites are now millionaires, at the time when stuff like that in high school was left of the center. Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers is such a perfect example because in high school he was into the trumpet and jazz, and that translated into incredible success for him. In a lot of ways, it is overdone. Like every hot girl now was tall and skinny and dorky in high school. That's definitely overplayed. Like, I was a professional golfer in California when all the cool guys surfed and smoked pot. It's easy for me to say, I didn't go to my prom and look, now I'm hanging with the cool MTV crowd.

You recently judged a model's special on MTV and Colin - a "Real World " star- was a judge for Ms. Teen USA. Why do you think that youre a good judge for beauty?

I can't speak for Colin, but I don't really know why. I was a judge for Fashionably Loud in Miami, but there were actually 3 judges, and I was the personality judge. I had to listen to interviews with the girls, and try to get to know them to see if they had a personality that translated well in modeling. Which relates a lot into what I do on a daily basis. I definitely wasn't judging how hot the girls were.

The truth is that I am totally, totally against the whole celebrity thing. It has never brought me any happiness - in fact, it's hindered a lot of happiness for me. It is a constant struggle to convince people that, truthfully, I am exactly like you. Two years ago I was the bartender that would have given you your Budweiser - don't treat me any differently just because my day job has changed. I'm trying to give the more down-to-earth vibe. I'll go to the mall, and I'll have 20 minutes to do Christmas shopping, and I just won't have time to be a celebrity. But people will hoard around me, and think I'm a jerk because I simply don't have time to sign autographs. I want to be like, dude, I only have 20 minutes to shop.

You recently said in Teen People, "God put me here for a reason. This - meaning TRL is where I need to be." What reason do you think youre here for?

I never asked for celebrity - I never auditioned, I never really wanted to be famous. I wanted to have a normal job, pay rent, spend time with my family. I think my role here on the show is just bringing some sense of reality to the people. I kind of think of myself as the guy who yanks the curtain from the wizard of oz to reveal a midget with a microphone. I want to let everyone know that what seems important now - who is is cool and who isn't - isn't necessarily important in the long run. In that way, I'm really just something of a conduit.

Though there is clear ethnic diversity on the countdown, the white groups still dominate. Is it possible that TRL is entrenching this system by encouraging white versions of genres - like Limp Bizkit's or Eminem's emergence as white rappers?

TRL doesn't pass judgement. The trend is a media-based way to describe the music scene. Our loyalty is to the music: hip hop is hip hop whether its DMX, Jay Z, or Kid Rock. The Latin explosion is a great example. I was talking to Enrique Inglesias and asking him what he felt about his music being labeled and he made the tandamount statement. He plays pop music; the only thing Latin about Enrique Inglesias is Enrique Inglesias. Out of ignorance, people are quick to label his music based only on his last name. Eminem is another good example - he's always behind the scenes, writing music for other acts, and does promoting. It's not about the person, as it is about the song, the tracks, the hook, what the kids want to hear.

Ok, lets play a word game to end this thing. Just say the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear these words:

Groupies: Over- anxious

Ruthie: the drunk? I actually don't really watch much MTV.

The New York LA commute: Something I'm very used to. Cab in the air

Simon Rex: I don't even know. Former VJ?

Teen Magazines: Rumors made facts.

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