Celebrating 2,000 Shows on PBS

We celebrate our landmark 2,000th show on PBS with highlights from some of our enlightening, encouraging and empowering conversations over the past 10 years.

Over the past decade, there’s been no other place on late-night television where such a diverse guest list of music artists to presidents, best-selling authors to award-winning actors, activists and advocates to innovators and entrepreneurs can actually sit down for a real conversation. Honored four times with the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Television News, Talk or Information Series, we take pride in challenging our viewers to re-examine the assumptions they hold and in introducing Americans to each other. 10 Years…2,000 Shows...And still the best conversation in late night!


Carol Burnett: [Tarzan call] That sucker whams!

Garry Shandling: I had no intention of talking about any of this, but you’re like hypnotic.

Harry Belafonte: Would you marry me?

Tavis: Oh, get out of here [laugh].

Tracy Ullman: I love it when you say things like, “I’m Tavis Smiley. Tonight the senator couldn’t make it. He’s on the campaign trail. But we have one of the original O.J.s.”

Tavis: [Laugh] Was I just impersonated by Tracy Ullman? Is that what just happened on my show?

Michael Phelps: Whatever I feel like eating. You know, when I’m…[laugh].

Tavis: Do you know who this is? That’s Dustin Hoffman.

Phelps: He looked familiar as soon as he took a breath [laugh].

Tavis: Did you watch the Olympics this summer?

Dustin Hoffman: No [laugh].

Betty White: He did say one thing I was surprised at. You’re Black?

Tavis: [Laugh] Ba-da-bump!

Tavis Smiley: Good evening from Los Angeles. I’m Tavis Smiley. It’s been a pleasure to say those opening words 2000 times over the course of the 10 years we’ve been on the air here at PBS. Tonight is in fact our 2000th episode, a landmark for all of us who work on this program.

From that opening montage, you get a sense of the range of people we’ve had on this program, politicians and actors, thought leaders and musicians, conversations that we hope over these 10 years have inspired and entertained you. When we started to think about what’s gone into this decade long journey, we knew we wanted to share some memorable moments with you tonight and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

We’re glad you’ve joined us. A look at our 10 years and counting on PBS coming up right now.

Tavis: One of the many pleasures of doing this program is getting the opportunity not only to present some great musical performances, but also to talk to some exceptional artists, many of whom rarely get the chance to actually talk about what they do, who they are, and how they do it.

Here are just some highlights from the many excellent musicians who shared their time and artistry on this stage with us. We begin with Carole King.


Tavis: How does one look like you look, have the energy that you have and have been in the business 50 years? It almost seems like it’s not really true that you’ve been around 50 years doing this.

Carole King: Rock and roll, babe [laugh].

Tavis: Yeah [laugh]. That’s the point. Most of them burn out long before 50 years in rock and roll.

King: Yeah. It was struggle. It’s more or less rock and roll [laugh].


Tom Petty: People would ask me should I go into the music business or should I go into, you know, say, law school. I’m kind of interested in both. I say, well, if you have a choice, you shouldn’t go for music [laugh].

James Ingram: Michael did this. He was like, “Where did you come from, baby, and, ooh, won’t you take me there right away, won’t you, baby…” I said, oh, my God! I don’t know. We be holding our breath trying to get everything on that microphone. I’m like this. “Yah Mo B There…” [Laugh]

Snoop Lion: In the back of a class hitting on the table, me rapping and him singing and the teacher like, “What are you guys back there doing?” And we’re rocking so hard, teacher’s like, “Don’t stop. Keep going.”

Randy Newman: “We Belong Together,” this last song for “Toy Story 3,” they wanted to say that everyone stuck together. Well, maybe belong, I said. That was it, you know. It doesn’t write itself, but if they give me enough adjectives, it almost does.

Steve Martin: It can be played, you know, beautiful.

Tavis: It ain’t too often I see Negroes play the ukulele.

Taj Mahal: And then you…and then you…and then I’ll…and then I’ll…and then you…and then we’ll…and then we’ll… [Laugh]

Tavis: How would you describe the relationship you had with this instrument all these years?

Merle Haggard: It’s like a woman. It demands attention and you got to love it to do it. There’s nothing in the world can make you work that hard.

James Taylor: Music, it bypasses the decision-making process and goes straight to your heart. And when you package that, when you combine that with a lyrical message, that either is supported by the music or contrasts with the music and therefore makes it even more so, I don’t know. It’s a powerful thing.

Yo-Yo Ma: When I play music, I would like to think that I’m the host and you’re all in my living room and basically we’re sharing something together.


Alicia Keys: We can do so much greatness when we’re not afraid. It’s when we become afraid of everything and worried about everything that you are never gonna reach your highest potential.

Prince: When people criticize my work and attack my personality, it doesn’t help me. I can’t do anything with it. I don’t know what they want.


Emmylou Harris: I think everybody starts out copying somebody.

Tavis: Somebody, yeah.

Harris: Yeah. You try to copy the best people. What happens along the way is, okay, I’ll try to sing a Dolly Parton song ’cause I love her, but I can’t do certain things with my voice that she can. But I want to sing that song ’cause I love that song. Someone said once, I read this somewhere, that style is a product of your limitations.

Harry Connick, Jr.: That type of work ethic, an almost paranoia to become a good musician, trumped any idea of being famous, making money or being successful in any way, and it stays with me to this day. So it wasn’t so much about am I gonna stick around. Whether I was famous or not, I was gonna continue to do what I was doing, which was playing and singing and writing and trying to be a better musician.

Stevie Wonder: [Performing].

Tavis: And that’s just Stevie warming up? That’s Stevie in warm-up mode [laugh]? That’s warm-up mode, man?

Wonder: Just working it out [laugh].

Al Green: “My girl…”

Tavis: “My girl…”

Green: There you go [laugh]!

Tavis: “My girl…woo.”

Smokey Robinson: Reading up on Beethoven, and there was a point in is life when they were trying to ban his music. You know why? Take a guess why they wanted to ban Beethoven’s music while he was living.

Tavis: You got me on this one.

Robinson: It was too sexy [laugh]. They said it would arouse [laugh].


Tavis: When we started here on PBS, one of our goals, as I’ve said many times before, was to introduce Americans to each other, providing a platform for diverse experiences and points of view. These conversations have all had their own trajectory and, as Carole King sang, where you lead, I will follow, that is exactly what I have done, followed some amazing guests down some surprising paths of discovery.


Ted Kennedy: You know, the Senate would be a great job if we didn’t have to vote.

Tavis: [Laugh].


Tavis: I been waiting to have you here so I could beat you up.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Don’t tell me Pluto is your favorite planet too.

Tavis: Man, you are the one. You started all this Pluto hate. You are the Pluto hater!


Barack Obama: The day I’m inaugurated, this country looks at itself differently and the world looks at America differently. And if you believe that we’ve got to heal America and we’ve got to repair our standing in the world, then I think my supporters believe that I am a messenger who can deliver that message around the world in a way that no other candidate can do.

Hillary Clinton: I’m well aware of the fact that I’m held to a different standard as most women still are. So how you navigate through this with the press is really complicated. I remember being in Finland years ago as First Lady visiting the country. And at that time, women were holding so many of the important positions and we had a big meeting in Helsinki at the Ambassador’s residence.

Here we were in a country where women have enormously achieved an equal rights that we hardly can even imagine. What did we talk about? How frustrated they were that every time they made a serious speech about monetary policy or defense policy, it was reported what they were wearing or what their husbands thought or what their children thought. So we’re moving into a future that nobody’s ever lived before.

Jimmy Carter: I think that, in many ways, I don’t have any apology to make about what I did or what I failed to do. That’s a highly subjective and biased response to you, but it’s not any different from what my wife would tell you [laugh].

Kevin Spacey: We need the arts for our common good, both as people and as nations, because, you know, countries may go to war, but it’s culture that unites us.

Tavis: Tell me what you will about your creative process where your writing is concerned.

Toni Morrison: Usually it begins with a question I have, some problem I don’t quite understand. What was it like then or how does it feel when everything is taken from you.

Tavis: Your smile, that one right there, yeah, that one right there. How important has that been to your overall success? I don’t mean just your smile, but I just mean peoples’ disposition, to have the right dispositions?

Magic Johnson: It makes people feel comfortable. And at a time that I was trying to get into business and going to urban America and convince these people who had turned off on urban America, they wanted our dollar. They just didn’t want to build in our community. The smile definitely helped.

Harrison Ford: It’s not just a value to African Americans to have this equality. It’s a value to our country as a whole to have everybody participating and feeling that they have an equal access and an equal input on the direction and the focus of our society going forward.

Tavis: In 10 years of doing this show, that is one of the most powerful and sublime and succinct reads of why America needs all of us that I think I’ve ever heard and I thank you for it.

Andre Agassi: Tennis is the loneliest sport that exists. You’re out there, you can’t talk to anybody, you can’t pass the ball, there are no time outs. You know, there’s no coaching. You know, you don’t have to be good. You have to be better than one person. That one person is on the other side of the net. It’s like you’re on an island. It’s not like boxing where you’re leaning on each other and you can feel each other.

I mean, if you look at a tennis player, you know, it’s like solitary confinement out there. And what happens in solitary confinement? It always leads to self-talk. You have these Lincoln-Douglass debates with yourself. You talk to yourself and you answer yourself. And you tell me if you’ve ever seen another sport where an athlete talks to themselves.

Quentin Tarantino: Did you get that [laugh]? Did you like that? She goes, yeah. I go, did you understand it? And she’s like, well, it’s like a Quentin Tarantino movie. You don’t know what the hell’s going on ’til you know what the hell’s going on [laugh].

Rita Moreno: I’m one of the most joyous people I’ve ever met, truly. And perhaps it comes out of having been through so much bad stuff, but I know a lot of people who’ve been through bad stuff who aren’t as joyous as I am. I wake up humming, honey. I’m 81 and I’m in the prime of my life.

Barbara Walters: When you open the book, all of these pages are all of the interviews, front and back, that I had done.

Tavis: I love that.

Walters: So I was joking and I said, “You see, everybody thinks that these are all the interviews that I’ve done, thousands of them, but they’re really all the men I had relationships with.” So it’s been a little bigger. And your name is not here, I don’t think!

Tavis: No. I was about to add that. Mine is not there. I’m not cheering that. I’m just saying it’s not there.

Walters: Well, I’m deploring that I have not interviewed you. My day will come.

Tavis: Singing is not for everybody, dancing is not for everybody, sports isn’t for everybody. Why should cooking be?

Anthony Bourdain: Oh, I’m not saying that you need to be great. You should be able to roast a chicken for yourself if you’re hungry. You should be able to make an omelet for somebody you just slept with [laugh]. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t the world be a better place?

Tavis: I ain’t got no follow-up to that one [laugh]. Wow. I could think of a bunch of follow-ups, but I’m gonna leave that alone [laugh].

Bourdain: I’m not asking for Eggs Benedict, you know [laugh].

Tavis: I wonder why and whether or not it was a conscious decision for you to not remarry after all these years because…

Coretta Scott King: Well, let me just say, why aren’t you married?

Tavis: That’s a good question.



Bill Maher: Bin Laden said one of his goals was to bankrupt America. Well, sorry, big guy [laugh]. A Jew named Bernie Madoff beat you to it [laugh].

Tavis: We thought we’d end tonight retrospective with a look at some of the actors and actresses who have shared their thoughts with us over the years, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. These artists have given us some wonderful moments to cherish, including an iconic introduction that just about made my entire decade.

Ed McMahon: And now, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Tavis!

Tavis: Oh, I love it [laugh]!


Will Smith: What everyone sound best near my shoes, man.

Tavis: Okay. What kind of fabric is that, by the way?

Smith: It used to be something.

Tavis: Yeah, that’s nice [laugh].


Jamie Foxx: These are just regular shades, but when you put them on…

Tavis: Yeah?

Foxx: You know, the thing is, man, working with Quincy, man, and music and all the different music’s going on now today, man, I just really…I know Jamie Foxx can really play it, man, as long as he knows how to play the blues. You know, and I think it’s really in the shades [laugh].

Carrie Fisher: I’m very proud of my mother ’cause she’s a wonderful tap dancer and she’s been married so many times and she’s still alive to talk about it. But she doesn’t have any money.

Judi Dench: I like the people I work with. I love being part of a company. My husband used to say it’s because I’m very nosy. I have to know about everybody’s twitching curtains [laugh].

Tavis: It keeps coming up [laugh].

Sean Penn: You know, your limitations are your nature. I think that it’s always a terrible mistake for anybody to deny their nature and there’s expansion in that and there’s limitations. Expansion is easy. You can always find your narcissism. Your limitations is what you have to pay attention to.

Sandra Bullock: I hope there’s a bunch of girls and ladies behind me that are wanting to do the same thing and better that I need to sort of blaze a path for. And so many women did it for me, and it’s our job, you know. So hopefully in a couple of years, we can stop saying a woman has opened a film. We just go, “It was a good film.”

Kevin Costner: I don’t know why my life has turned out the way it has been. It’s been good. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been great. You know, I’ve been bruised.

Sally Field: I have a tendency to think of myself as the mutt of the litter. I’m not purebred. There are some actors who are my contemporaries, who I think of as purebreds, and I’m not. I’m a street mutt.

Viola Davis: The Black artist can only tell the truth about humanity and humanity is messy. People are messy.

Michael Douglas: Dad was telling me the other day. He said, “You know, son, I was watching one of my old movies on television.” He said, “I couldn’t remember the movie.” “Aw, dad.” “I kept looking and looking and I couldn’t remember the movie.” Then he said, “Wait a minute. That’s not me. That’s Michael.” [Laugh]

Matt Damon: Ben and I had a joint bank account when we were 16 and 14 years old and the only thing you could take money out for were trips to New York to audition or if we both decided we’d convene a board meeting if we wanted to take out $10 and go play some videogames [laugh] at the arcade. That was okay too.

Tavis: You brought your hat with you?

Larry Hagman: Yeah, I did.

Tavis: Can I put this on?

Hagman: Absolutely!

Tavis: Which way is the front?

Hagman: That horseshoe’s in the front.

Tavis: This the front right here? All right, Jonathan, here we go.

Hagman: All right!

Tavis: How’s that look?

Hagman: You got a big head, that’s for sure [laugh].

Patrick Stewart: One of the nicest things that ever happened to me, one horrible, rainy, windy evening, working day ending in London, everybody’s hustling down the street to get in the subway and I walked past a guy and he’s got a hat on, a trilby, and he suddenly calls out my name. I turn around and he lifts his hat off and he’s bald and he says, “Thank you, thank you!” [Laugh]

Carol Burnett: The producer said, “Have you ever jumped out of a window before?” Oh, all the time. I’m a stunt person [laugh]. I can do that, yeah. ‘Cause we’d been just rehearsing it in the rehearsal hall all week and there was no set.

So now I’m on the set, right? I guess I’ll just go tumbling after, and I sailed out of that window and landed on a mattress and I sat up and I looked around and I said, “Oh, gosh, everybody, thanks so much for the mattress.” I guess I thought I was gonna go splat [laugh]. It didn’t occur to me to look outside at what I was gonna land on.

Tavis: What do you make of this career that you have been able to fashion when you look back on it with as much…in the rearview mirror as you have?

Dick Van Dyke: My jaw is still like that because I really expected nothing of myself. I thought maybe I could become a television announcer or something because I didn’t do anything, or think I could. What has happened is just I’m flabbergasted every morning. I say thank you. I just can’t believe what’s happened to me.

Elisabeth Moss: People complain about acting. Oh, my God, this is fantastic [laugh]. This is great! This is a wonderful life.

Jeremy Irons: I’m very glad I’m not a politician. I think it’s one step away from the gates of hell being a politician. I really do, a nightmare [laugh].

Pierce Brosnan: Loved movies, wanted to be in movies. When I started as a young actor, movies just fascinated me. They still do. They still captivate and I just feel gratitude.

Tavis: So you didn’t know that “Pretty Woman” was gonna be like the biggest thing ever?

Richard Gere: Not a clue, not a clue.

Tavis: Come on, dude.

Gere: No, I’m serious. No one knew. Now did we have a good time? Yes.

Tavis: Pleased to welcome Roseanne Barr back to this program. The groundbreaking comedienne and actress, of course, starred in and created one of TV’s most popular sitcoms, “Roseanne.”

Roseanne Barr: Hi.

Tavis: Thank you, Roseanne [laugh].

Barr: Oh, whatever. Sorry.

Tavis: That wasn’t your cue yet.

Barr: Sorry.

Tavis: Just sit tight. Can you sit tight for two seconds?

Barr: Yes, sir.

Tavis: Can I show some clips here?

Barr: Uh-huh.

Tavis: All right, thank you.


Denzel Washington: Now that Tavis is gone, this is the new…this is the Denzel Washington Show. I just want you to know that Tavis won’t be back for a few years [laugh]. I’ll be taking his place for a little while [laugh], and keep the faith [laugh]. Keep the faith, but send the money [laugh].

Tavis: Very funny, Denzel. Keep the faith, but send the money. You know, that could be a PBS slogan. In closing tonight, I just want to thank everyone who’s joined me here over these years.

My intention in doing this program was and still is to enlighten, to encourage and to empower, and I hope we’ve done and continue to do that in the years to come, and that you will continue to join us every night on this journey. That’s our show for this night. Thank you for joining us and, as always, keep the faith.

Guest: I just want to say one thing about Tavis.

Tavis: Yes?

Guest: Whoever’s running PBS, give this man an hour. A half hour isn’t enough. Larry King’s got an hour.

Tavis: Yes, he does.

Guest: Good luck, Robert.

Tavis: Good to see you, man [laugh].

Rita Moreno: Come here, you big drink of water.

Tavis: Give me some of that.

Guest: Well, I won’t hold you being a Hoosier against you.

Tavis: And I won’t hold you being a Buckeye against you either.

Taj Mahal: You a bad man!

Tavis: No, you a bad man.

Mahal: No, you are the bad man.

Tavis: No, I’m just a man hanging with the man [laugh]. On that note, you can get outta here [laugh]!

Announcer: For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.

Wade Hunt: There’s a saying that Dr. King had that he said there’s always the right time to do the right thing. I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger and we have a lot of work to do. Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we could stamp hunger out.

Announcer: And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: June 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm