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tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  July 9, 2009 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT

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[captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. first up tonight, a conversation with the first black mayor of philadelphia, of mississippi, james young. a general racial ago this small southern town became a racial flashpoint in 1964. that incident became the basis for the film "mississippi burning." and lisa kudrow stops by, the former "friends" star is the creator and star of a popular new web series called "web therapy." the show is in its second season. we've glad you've joined us. philadelphia mississippi mayor james young and lisa kudrow coming up right now. >> there are so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing. like helping people live better. but mostly we're looking forward to helping build stronger communities and relationships.
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because of 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 is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: last week james young was sworn in as the mayor of philadelphia, mississippi. he is the first african-american to lead the city. infamously known for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers, goodman, fronter and cheney and joins us from meridian. mayor young, congratulations, nice to have you on, sir. >> thank you, sir.
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thank you for having me. tavis: tell me about your race for mayor. tell me about the campaign. >> typical campaign for my standpoint. i've been involved in politics previous. we hit the streets door to door, probably about 90% of philadelphia, we covered red, yellow, black community. we went door to door, face to face. telling them our program. we did it for weeks. we started early and -- in 2008. i felt like i needed to start early. because i was surely the underdog. tavis: tell me about the city of philadelphia. you just now intimated that it is a diverse community. give me the breakdown. what's the city of philadelphia like in terms of ethnic mix? >> we're probably 55% of white. 41%, 42% black. 3% to 4% asian. and the other percentage of
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american indian. tavis: so how does then one become the first black mayor of this city with a still majority white populion? >> a lot of hard work. i've worked in the community now for about over 30 years. they knew me. they knew my reputation. and i believe i had a good platform. and they wanted change. and there was a lot of first-time voters. all of those pieces made this puzzle come together. tavis: there are so many key moments in your city's history. but there are two i want to talk about tonight. and get your sense of where you were when these events took place. and what your thoughts were about it then. the first and the obvious is the murders of these three civil rights workers, goodman, swarner and cheney. one cannot read american history or african-american history certainly, one cannot talk about how this country survived the era of segregation and jim crow without knowing
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about these three civil rights workers. again, goodman, swarnar and cheney who were brutally murdered in mississippi. how old were you when these murders took place? >> i was about 9 years old at that time. tavis: you were born and raised in philadelphia, yes? >> born and raised in philadelphia. tavis: so what do you recall -- or do you recall being 9 years old when these murders took place and what do you recall about the years shortly thereafter? >> my parents pretty much kept us aware of what was going on. the voter movement was taking place. they was talking about people coming to help register people to vote, the planned activity was fairly -- fairly open at that time. and i can remember one particular time during that season of laying on the floor with my father, with him having the gun, just because we were told that maybe the klan would
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be riding through the community. you know, that's such a contrast to where we are today in philadelphia, mississippi. i owe who i am and what i am and the accomplishments that we have accomplished from those guys who lost their lives to come to philadelphia. i will never another get, i cannot forget -- i will never forget, can i not forget their sacrifice and i'm humbly serving in this position because of them. and people like them. tavis: how much of that horrific incident, though, is still a stain on the city of philadelphia? and i say "stain," i mean how much of it is a burden that people still feel? when you go to memphis, i was just there not long ago. and every time i go there, i am still amazed at the number of people in that city and the mood of the city in certain communities. people still embarrassed and humiliated and still disappointed and hurt and angry about the fact this happened to
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be the city where dr. king was assassinated. you go to dallas, certain parts of dallas, if you talk to folk who have been around for a while, the city of dallas can demever move beyond the -- can never move beyond the fact that j.f.k. was shot in dallas. what kind of burden does the city still feel or bear, if any, given that these murders took place during the civil rights era? >> that hist will be forever -- history will be forever etched in our memory. deep wounds you never -- you heal, but you never forget the scars. and i think philadelphia is in that mode right now. we never forget the scars. history won't let us forget it. we won't let us forget it. but also we've healed. we are healing. my election is a signal that healing is -- has taken place in the south, in philadelphia, in the state of mississippi. the significance of it is that i received votes from all the
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communities, white, black, everybody. so the change of heart, the change of mind, the movement to move forward, no, can we forget the scars, no. every time we read about it, every time we think about civil rights movement, these three names come up. but are we going to stumble on the stain? no. we're going to move forward and make sure things of that nature don't happen again. our who will nation is basically under a stain of racism. but we're moving forward. the election of our president sent a message throughout the world that the united states is changing. philadelphia sent a message to the state of mississippi and to the nation that philadelphia is changing. so i am pleased to be a part of this new revolution of change
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that we are experiencing today. shall we forget the past? no. don't want to forget it. because if you forget it, sometimes you make the same mistakes again. tavis: i want to come back to that notion of change and what your platform was and what life is like in philadelphia. what you intend to do as mayor. i want to get to that in just a second. the other historical moment that i wanted to ask you about, the first, the murders of goodman, swarnar and cheney. the second, i wasn't around when goodman, swarnar and cheney was murdered but i was around when ronald reagan decided to come to mississippi, philadelphia, mississippi, to announce that he was running for president. i'm in california right now where ronald reagan was once governor. why he chose to leave california and go all the way to mississippi, to philadelphia, mississippi, where goodman, swarnar and cheney were murdered, to run for the white house, upset a lot of people. we knew what it was then and a
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tip of the hat to the notion of states' rights. some believe ronald reagan was all kind of wrong to have gone to philadelphia to make that announcement. again, tipping his hat to those southerners on this issue of states' rights. he went on to win. he won two terms and in the minds of many he's an iconic president. but when reagan came to announce he was running and whether or not you were involved in politics at that time. >> i was working as a paramedic. i was there on the fair grounds when mr. reagan and family came to philadelphia. i witnessed the crowds. i was checked by the c.i.a. and the secret service. so i was a paramedic, e.m.t. at that time, serving as safety and emergency coordinator of the county. i remember the crowds. i remember the atmosphere. and then -- and he -- that particular move paid off for him.
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again, the message was sent that woo -- we have a sympathizer in the southern theatrics of things and politics and evolving from that to where we are today as again, another testament of change that philadelphia and mississippi is evolving into. tavis: tell me about that change and what you will do as mayor and what the challenges are in philadelphia these days. >> the challenges in philadelphia, just like many other cities, economic development is a part that we're striving to accomplish. one of my campaign promises was to step outside the box and look to the solar, the energy conservation manufacturing areas. and also that arena is what the president and the congress are funding now, funding these projects. we want to be in the forefront
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of that. even in small town philadelphia, our mindset is to the future. also, community policing. where police and community work together, not against each other. our health care system, we need to fix it. we have an agent hospital that i have got my start in basically. i started off as a floor sweeper there at the hospital. and was given an opportunity to move forward and to become what i am today. so i got a lot of heart. i got a lot of roots into things that i pushed during my campaign. and i tried to be as sincere as possible. my heart is in philadelphia. i love philadelphia. that may be kind of strange coming from me, but i love it. i was born and raised there. my parents were born and raised there. and i just wanted to be a part of the change and to me, to even imagine me being mayor today was -- is just fantastic.
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i am -- i'm just totally humbled by this opportunity. i tell one of my classmates, who would have thought that a little country boy like me would now become the leader of our community and our city. and just be where i am. i had an opportunity to go to l.a. this past weekend. and it was just special. so i am enjoying this honeymoon. but as we say, all honey moons must end. and we get down to the business of leading our community. tavis: well, it's a great story and i am honored to have you on as one who was born in the state of mississippi, it is for me a special pride to have you on this program to celebrate your being the first african-american mayor of this historic city and the canon of this country. mayor young, congratulations and all the best to you. >> thank you, sir. you all have a blessed day. tavis: thank you, sir. up next, former "friends" star
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lisa kudrow. stay with us. please welcome lisa kudrow to this program. the emmy winning actress and former friends star is the creator and star of the popular web series "web therapy. the show in its second season and this year it features another familiar friend, a scene from "web therapy." >> i'm a psychic. i work with the police all the time. i have an internet business. i was going to do a show with hollywood and they were developing psychic friends. but i don't ever watch tv myself. i'm too busy having a real life. so i'm not a big believer in psychics. >> i'm not a big believer in therapists, either. but i'm desperate. i would like to prove you wrong about your disbelief and fortunately i've lost my gift. >> so you can't tell me what my love line says? >> you don't have a love line.
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it's not the end of the world. >> well -- [laughter] tavis: nice to see you. >> good to see you. thanks for having me. tavis: tell me about "web therapy." >> that was a bit of it. just thought it would be really funny to have an extremely dismissive person offer therapy. on the internet. not in person. and not for 50 minutes, but just for three minutes at a time. tavis: tell me more about where the concept comes from. then i want to get into how you have made this thing work on the internet specifically. >> well, so the concept came honestly, honestly, it was out of rejecting the notion of doing a web series. that's how it started. we were asked to come up with a web series. and just -- dismissed it out of hand. so -- and then my brain just kept working on it. like it does. the -- to torture me. and just thought it would be
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funny if there was this really bad idea. and something geared toward the internet. something small and small increments, middle and end and therapy seemed like the word idea in a short amount of time. tavis: and the internet piece of it, part of what makes it fascinating and work is that it is in fact on the internet for short spaces of time. conceptually, tell me why you thought this is working out and conceptually why you would -- why it would work on the internet. >> well, because it what's happening right now -- it's what's happening right now. it's part of everyone's experience right now. and there was also something fun in making fun of -- the idea that you can go on the internet and there are people on there, you can't -- there's no vetting process. you know? tavis: whatsoever. >> at all. anyone can hang out a shingle and say i'm an expert in this and paypal is easy.
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we haven't gotten into it but decided she charges $25 a session. which is a lot. and a busy day is she's booked. she has an hour's worth of solid sessions. really. so yeah. i think -- i don't know. i think that's why. tavis: and the character is based on -- is this an assemblage of people? >> always. not that i do characters that are so far away from me. but no, it is -- i did have -- picked someone intentionally that i think is actually a really intelligent poise, sexy woman and she's very articulate and a wordsmith. but then i filter it through me. and she's idiotic. so it's really not that person. but that was my jumping off point. tavis: tell me the kinds of
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people that you have to have as the person you're giving advice or therapy to. to make the statistic work. -- make it work. >> don ruth and dan bucatinzi who is on the show and a great writer. but that's where they really help. we write the outlines. and, you know, especially with don, for the first season, his guidance in which character do we need to reflect which aspect of fiona that we want to show or talk about? he was really good about that. about making sure that -- all right. what does she want out of this person? how is this person going to advance her career agenda? so that sort of how we went. >> could this work -- could it be funny with everyday people, people who are not courtney coxes? >> oh, you mean like just -- tavis: the people -- absolutely.
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>> i don't know. we've talked about it. because when we sort of syndicated it on the web, it's on hulu and youtube and itunes. so you think about what you can do for each site that's going to be different. and one idea thrown out was she does a live session with people. and i think somebody thought that it might be too risky legally. tavis: i can't imagine a lawyer thinking that in this town. >> or on the internet. tavis: i'm sure every lawyer you have said no, we're not going to do that. >> but i thought it could be really fun. because the show is improvised. we write the outlines and i thought it could be fun to just destroy someone. tavis: this improvisation is part of your background. but to the best of your ability to describe it, what's it like being on this high wire with these outlines and making it all come together and work?
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>> well, it doesn't feel like a high wire. it feels more like just sort of a fun roller coaster that's not too risk i. -- too risky. you don't go upside down. it's just nice and fast. we shoot it and there are a few takes. and there are two cameras. you know editing will help. and don also, the way we shoot it is we're looking at the camera. but we -- there's a monitor hooked up to it. a prompter. but the other person's image. so it's in real time. we're looking at each other and we've got these ear wigs i think they're called. and we can hear each other. and we can hear don or if dan's directing that episode, we can hear the director telling us, all right, that's good. now go back and let's get this piece. back here. yeah. tavis: so the everyday person wouldn't work, you have to be a pro to make this all work? >> to edit it together. tavis: poking your ear and telling you what to do. that's another issue.
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>> nobody is telling me what to say. sometimes. tavis: what have you learned -- what's been fascinating for you about this whole process on the internet? because what really got my attention about this first beyond obviously your talent was -- i'm an entrepreneur so i'm thinking what made lisa kudrow want to do this on the internet? tell me about the business side of this and how this is working on the internet and what you're learning from this whole progresses. >> well, i think financially, it's yet to be seen. what's going to -- how wonderful that's going to be. luckily that's not the reason we did it. mostly we did it because i don't know where else you can have an idea and just do it and no one is telling you that you have to make sure you're attracting a certain audience or you're appealing to someone's demographic. you know, it's the most freedom aside from getting your friends together and putting a show up on a stage somewhere, you know? so that's really it.
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and that's -- i have to say thanks to alexis. because they really made it possible. they underwrote it and then gave us absolute parameters. tavis: is there an end game here for you? i hear your point that it's not like being on "friends" where you got demos you have to play tond advertisers and numbers you have to hit. i hear the argument about freedom. but what's the end game? you aren't doing it for money. you aren't doing it for -- but what's the end game? >> we hear there's the potential for money. so you do what you can for the people who invested the money and also for yourself. it wouldn't be a bad thing. so you can keep doing it certainly. but if that doesn't happen, it's still ok. because we've -- we're proud of this. we think it's really funny. and we're happy to do it. so, you know, i guess -- yeah. i guess that's it. but we also, when people suggest also, like, you should
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twitter and now you have to have a facebook page. and that stuff honestly i'm not that comfortable with. because that's more self-promotion. i've always been comfortable promoting a film or a tv show or something. but that other stuff is the self-promotion. which i'm not sure -- tavis: you don't want to tweet and tell everybody what you're doing every freaking minute of the day? that doesn't turn you on? >> when you put it that way, now i'm interested. [laughter] no. but if there's something funny that can come out of it, then -- so now we are thinking of maybe a shameless self-promoter, she would do it. but it could be funny that this woman would tweet but only during office hours which is like 15 minutes from 1:00 to 1:15. so something like that and people are talking to us about doing an application, you know. for iphone apps or something
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like that. tavis: i think it's all going to happen. i can see it developing now. >> we have a funny idea for it. so we might. but we'll see. i don't know. i don't know. i don't know what's required. i know that when you do a tv show, it is required to promote it. and you go do that. but for the web, short of, you know, going out with paris hilton or something, i don't know. how to get everybody's attention. tavis: more power to you. >> not that she's not lovely and wouldn'ten joy myself. because -- and wouldn't enjoy myself. because i would. tavis: last question. the other thing that got my attention when i first saw it and i want to know why lisa is doing this internet thing and second is why is lisa doing this internet thing? huge international tv star, help me, inside baseball, situate this in your career, in your work, why this now given all that you have done and other things you could be doing? >> oh, well, there's a few
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reasons. and none of them are really noble. it's really easy. it takes two days. tavis: i like that. number one. ease. number two. >> it's very fun. tavis: it's fun. yeah. >> that's more for like the artist in us is we can do whatever we want. i mean, we came up with this and we're able to do it and we're not getting notes from anybody. tavis: is that number three? we don't get notes. >> we don't get notes. but we think it's funny and we think that there's a lot to make fun of within it about -- know. i'm not making fun of therapy. because i think it's a good thing. tavis: ok. it's called "web therapy" and stars lisa kudrow. it is really funny stuff. i'm honored to have you on and congrats. that's our show for tonight. catch me on the weekends on public radio until, p.r.i. and
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access us at and i'll see you next time on pbs. until then, good night from l.a., thanks nor watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with blackstone group co-founder and former commerce secretary pete peterson. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> there are so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing. like helping people live better. but mostly we're looking forward to helping build stronger communities and relationships. because of 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.
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>> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> we are pbs. tavis: i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with blackstone group co-founder and former commerce secretary, pete
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