Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Big Conversation

(Interview Transcript: David Frost and Melvyn Bragg discuss the role of the television interviewer in society. There’s uncertainty as to who’s supposed to be interviewing whom however.)

Frost: Hello and good evening.

Bragg: (Coughs) David?

Frost: (Mildly irritated) Yes?

Bragg: That’s my line.

Frost: (Frowns then smiles) I think you'll find it's actually my line, Melvyn.

Bragg: No, no... it’s my line.

Frost: No, Melvyn. Interviewer does the intro, does he not?

Bragg: David, it’s my interview.

Frost: Not according to my contract, Melvyn.

Bragg: I’m supposed to be interviewing you.

Frost: Well then somebody is having a laugh at your, at our expense. That or they’ve screwed up the contracts.

(They carry on like this for a couple of hours consulting agents, lawyers etc etc., until they finally agree to take it in turns to ask questions.)

Frost: Well this is a television first, Melvyn, is it not?

Bragg: It certainly is, David. You never know, we might be able to turn this to our advantage.

Frost: We might, might we not? (Glances at his papers). So shall I kick off?

Bragg: Is that an interview question?

Frost: Very drole, Melvyn. Very drole.

Bragg: Ok, you kick off.

Frost: So, Melvyn. I sold my shares in LWT. You held on to yours. As a result, you’re much wealthier than I am. But, and this is a big but, with the money from my LWT shares I could afford to interview Richard Milhouse Nixon. So who do you think has achieved more as an interviewer? In all honesty?

Bragg: I think you’ll find I’ve also hob-nobbed with the rich and powerful, David. Money is no obstacle to that. In fact, it’s the other way round. It gets you a seat at all the best tables, as well you know.

Frost: But how many times have you actually asked your interviewees difficult or searching questions? If I may be so bold?

Bragg: Hold on a moment David. It’s my turn to ask a question.

Frost: (Hesitates. Glances at producer, then reluctantly) Ok, over to you, Melvyn.

Bragg: Is that all you wanted to talk about? LWT shares?

Frost: Is that an interview question... might I ask?

Bragg: (Hesitant) Er, yes. Yes that is an interview question.

Frost: Well then the answer is no. I didn’t just want to discuss LWT. I wanted to examine us, you Melvyn Bragg and myself David Frost and our interview techniques. I wanted to determine: Which of us has achieved most during our careers as interviewers?

Bragg: Is that second bit your question..? The bit about who achieved most?

Frost: No, that’s my answer to your question.

Bragg: This is ridiculous and it’s getting very confusing. Let’s just call this a discussion, a conversation for now shall we? Then we won’t have to keep on asking which question is an official question and which just a question question.

Frost: But if we do that, Melvyn, then we won’t be able to put eachother on the spot. Am I not right?

Bragg: I see. You just want it to be combative, then? That’s what this is all about –combative interview styles, right?

Frost: You were combative just now, were you not? You wanted it to be your interview and your introduction.

Bragg: I was told that I was interviewing you, that’s why. And no wonder I wanted to be the interviewer... after your questions about LWT shares. Blimey...That was years ago.

(They eye eachother quizically, searching for something to say, or to ask).

Frost: Oh well, we might as well just go down to the pub and finish this off down there. You’re right you know, this has just descended into a conversation.

Bragg: You can say that again, Melvyn. Damn conversations. I hate ‘em

Frost: (Laughs) Who needs them?

(They grab their jackets and head off. As they do so, Bragg turns to Frost.)

Bragg: Next week, they’re recording Andrew Neil and Jeremy Paxman, I hear. Don’t see them having much of a conversation, do you?

Frost: (Nods) I very much doubt it Melvyn. Very much doubt it.

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