Drew Carey: The Tavis Smiley Interview

reason.tv's host on videojournalism, The Price Is Right, medical marijuana, Barack Obama, and much, much more.


On Monday, January 28, reason.tv host Drew Carey sat down with PBS's Tavis Smiley for a wide-ranging conversation about videojournalism, The Price Is Right, medical marijuana, Barack Obama, and much, much more.

Click on the image below to watch. And below that, read the transcript.

Discuss this story at reason's Hit & Run blog.

Tavis: (Laughter) I'm pleased to—I'm pleased to welcome Drew Carey back to this program. I'm laughing already. The popular and talented comedian and actor can now add game show host to his resume. Last fall he took over for Bob Barker on the long-running show "The Price is Right." He's also the host of the prime time CBS game show "The Power of 10."

And if all that were not enough, since I last saw Drew he's decided to get married. Drew, nice to see you.

Drew Carey: Nice to see you, man, thanks for (unintelligible).

Tavis: You all right, man?

Carey: I'm great, yeah.

Tavis: Congratulations on all this stuff.

Carey: Thank you.

Tavis: Are you at all political? Do you –

Carey: Very, but I don't—well, I do these things for Reason.tv, which is how I got "Power of 10." Because I was doing these—I was kind of retired and I had –
"Reason" magazine has a website and I thought hey, you guys should do video because everything was really wonky and a lot of numbers and big words and stuff. We should just do video.

So the first one we did was about medical marijuana. And the DEA has marijuana listed in the same category as heroin, and they raid these marijuana clinics because of it. I know; it's insane.

Tavis: Wow, that's weird.

Carey: I know, everybody has the same expression on their face when I tell them. They went what? Yeah, it's the highest level you can put it under. And so I'm political that way, but as far as any candidate or another, none of them are speaking out about hey, we've got to do something about these marijuana clinics. They're all good, everybody has good ideas and they're all nice, so.

Tavis: What do you make of the idea, though, that these everyday people who you see every day on "The Price is Right" seem to be charged by this contest, left or right, Republican or Democrat. A lot of energy around this campaign.

Carey: Great, yeah, because it really is. There's a change going on in the world right now and everybody can feel it. Can I tell you a great story?

Tavis: Sure, you can always tell a great story.

Carey: An actress I know was in a movie with a 13-year-old actress. And the 13-year-old sat down at the makeup table and went, just had a realization. She said, "What's that?" This friend of mine's in her thirties. "What's that?" She goes, "I realize that I like to take care of my friends and I like to do things for people, but I have to take care of myself first. And if I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of anybody else."

Tavis: And she's 13.

Carey: Yeah. And my friend said, "You just realized—you're 13 and you realized that? I just realized that last year." (Laughter) About 10 years of therapy brought me around to that. So, like, people today are changing. There's a change going on in the way we're treating people and the way we're treating the world.

In my own life, the last couple year has been a really big change. I've gone through a lot of changes and it's reflected in what people are looking for in a candidate. And I think Obama, without—he's such a great speaker. When he's talking about change and hope, forget policies. Because policies, like, they can get all dropped the minute somebody gets into the office, because you've got to deal with Congress and there's other people you've got to fight with.

But the fact that he always keeps it positive, you know what I mean? And never really bashes anybody, doesn't go into numbers land, which I hate in a speech.

Tavis: I love Obama. I've known him for years. The flip side of that argument, though, which he's now starting to get hit with, is that he's been too vague. That hope and a brighter tomorrow can only take you so far.

Carey: I'd love to see a few—I know it's not that kind of show, but I would love you to bring out a chart of everybody's specifics when they run for office compared to what they do. When you're campaigning, and in my first 100 days I'm going to do this and that, and remember Democrats' first 100 days, when Nancy Pelosi went—that stuff goes out the window once you're in office.

Tavis: No, it is that kind of show, and we're going to be talking about that. As a matter of fact, I've got a couple of books I'm working on; one of my next books is called "Accountability," and I'm doing just that. I'm laying out whoever the two finalists are, I've been tracking everybody.

Carey: Good for you.

Tavis: So the book will come out in February of '09, right after they take office, whoever it is, in January of '09. And the whole point of the book is here's what this candidate said when they were running. And now let's see if as a country we can hold them accountable to what they said. Nobody ever does that.

Carey: Right, and everybody—I've seen people that I think their hearts are in the right place when they're—you do have to make compromises when you're in a political office, because it's just one of those kind of things. I don't put hope in the government and I don't put faith in the government. I think that the most important thing, if you want to make a better world, it's not who you vote for it's how you treat people that you meet with every day.

It's every encounter you have on the street. Every time you meet somebody and encounter somebody, whether it's the guy at the gas station, if it's your family, it's how you treat them and how you interact with them. That's what makes the better world. And the government, I don't know, that's, like, if you're depending on the government for your happiness, well, good luck to you. (Laughter) God help you.

Tavis: God help us all. (Laughter) That's a perfect segue to "The Price is Right," because you're meeting everyday people.

Carey: I love it.

Tavis: Are you loving this already?

Carey: I love "Price is Right." That's the best part about it. The best part about "Price is Right," every other game show, like night time game shows, even "Power of 10," the only thing that kind of—everybody's cast on that show. People send in a tape, there's a casting director, there's a whole big process. "Price is Right," you just show up.

You just show up, and they talk to people on line and if you're halfway awake, if you're lively when you're in line, they put you on the show. And that's all you have to do. When people get in line—oh, there's me on the show.

Tavis: There you are, yeah, yeah. (Laughter) There's you on your show.

Carey: When I talk to people on "Price is Right," I go "What do you do for a living?" "I'm a barber," "I'm a service worker," "I work for a phone company." All regular jobs. Nobody's a lawyer, nobody's a CEO. And they're all just regular jobs.

Tavis: Do you find—I've been dying to ask you this—do you find that it's a perfect platform for Drew Carey's funny to come out, or do you find yourself pulling back on your funny on "The Price is Right?"

Carey: You know what it's perfect for? It's a perfect opportunity for Drew Carey's love to come out. Like, that's the key to the whole show.

Tavis: I like that.

Carey: That's the most—you can't believe how love-infested that—it sounds crazy coming from me, because I'm a comic. But it really is like a spiritual—I used to be a Pentecostal when I was in junior high.

Tavis: We discussed that, I grew up the same way, Pentecostal.

Carey: And I've never seen anything—that's the only kind of energy I've felt.

Tavis: Like a Pentecostal church, yeah.

Carey: Yeah, or a Baptist (unintelligible) fundamentalist church, if anybody knows anything about them, like, people are happy.

Tavis: So if I come down and watch you tape one day a week, I ain't got to go to church on Sunday?

Carey: You don't have to go to church anyway, you can pray—you're supposed to pray in private. (Laughter)

Tavis: I'm not going to church Sunday. Bishop, you ain't going to see me Sunday, I'm going to "The Price is Right" on Friday.

Carey: They got Jesus, he was praying in private. (Laughter) That's all I got to say. Read it yourself. It's amazing –

Tavis: Point well taken.

Carey:—I never forget any of that stuff.

Tavis: You haven't changed much on the show. You're still using the same microphone.

Carey: It's cordless now.

Tavis: The same games. Well it is cordless now, yeah.

Carey: Yeah, Bob didn't trust the cordless. So I got –

Tavis: (Laughs) That's the only change you've made, is the cordless microphone.

Carey: Yeah, and the skinny mic, everybody I thought, wow, why are we using the skinny mic? But then—because you're always poking at somebody's face, and when somebody's not used to being on TV, you get that big microphone in your face, it tightens you up. So this one I could just, like, throw over there and you hardly notice it because it's, like, the smallest mic we could find.

Tavis: I never thought about that, it makes perfect sense, though. You don't intimidate the guests.

Carey: Yeah, and I can hold it low instead of—I don't have to bring it right up to their face. And then this year is the first year "The Price is Right" theme song is in stereo. (Laughter) Can you believe it? Can you believe it? They edit the show in analogue. It's not even digital. Kids at home with an iMac are more technologically advanced –

Tavis: Than "The Price is Right."

Carey:—than "The Price is Right," yeah, right now. (Laughter) And honestly, I don't even know if it frustrates them. Like, that's how they did it when they got the job, that's how they're always going to do it. That's one of the things that's nice about the show. It's like going to Grandma's house. (Laughter) Still got a dial phone, like okay, whatever.

Tavis: Have you figured out which of the games—I have my favorite, but have you figured out which one of the games is your favorite yet?

Carey: I like spinning the wheel.

Tavis: You like spinning the wheel? You know what I like? I like that thing when you drop the thing down there.

Carey: Plinko.

Tavis: Plinko, I love that thing, man.

Carey: Plinko's great. It's based on a Japanese game called pachinko. It's like a Japanese slot machine, and you put in the money and it goes –

Tavis: I love that thing.

Carey: It's everybody's favorite. People wear plinko shirts. I've already a couple of times—so many people wear "I want to play plinko" shirts that have actually—they've got to play plinko. So they have their plinko shirt and I go "Hey, guess what you're doing right now?" "I don't know." "You get to play plinko." And then they just go bananas. (Laughter) They just lose everything and fall down.

Honestly, people do their "I found Jesus" dance when they get—they're so happy they go right into the happiest thing they could find. And everybody at the—I tell this to audiences all the time—find this in another Hollywood place, another TV audience. They're rooting for strangers to do well. They're, like, screaming for them to win the money, helping them out and screaming for, and that's almost like, I found, like, the secret to life right there is, like, wanting strangers to do well.

Tavis: To do well.

Carey: Yeah. And they don't even know them; they've got nothing to do with them, (unintelligible).

Tavis: Well if you're in the audience or if you're at home, like I am, watching, you're living and celebrating vicariously through the person on stage. I like that.

Carey: Glad you bring that up. This is a really smart show; that's why I like coming to this show, and a lot of smart people watch this show. It's really like Carl Jung. It's like all that Joseph Campbell myth stuff. It's the strangers plucked from obscurity and they have to go through trials to get to their reward, and it's any old average person, and that's why everybody watching zones on somebody they relate to for some reason. He reminds me of a buddy of mine, he reminds me of me, whatever it is. And that's who you root for all the way through to the showcase.

Tavis: So why doesn't this work with Hillary and Barack?

Carey: Well, they're a lawyer (laughter) (unintelligible) lawyer.

Tavis: Yeah, they're not rooting for each other.

Carey: Oh, well, they (unintelligible), but that's the thing. When you have—I'm having a real trouble with this now in my stand-up act because I have to do—I'm doing Vegas next weekend. I'm only doing 15 minutes, but so much of my act is, like, attack-oriented, like this guy's an idiot, and this guy's stupid, and she's—and it's from before.

And I don't think like that. I'm getting so far away from that now. But when you're in politics, it's like everybody's telling you you've got to attack that other person, get that other person. It's not a loving; it's not a place of love. It's coming from a place of fear all the time.

Tavis: I totally agree with that. You're telling me—I think I just heard you say that "The Price is Right" is actually forcing you to change your stand-up, even.

Carey: Yeah. It's not just "The Price is Right," it's all this—it happened before "The Price is Right," but "Price is Right" really sealed that. You could see it in action there. It's one thing to have a theory, and then you see it in action and everybody walks out so much happier. And I tell them, I go, "My proof of what I'm saying, that if you want the best for others and treat others with love that it blesses your life, my proof is how good you feel right now and how happy you are when you walk out of the (unintelligible).

Tavis: But is it really the love or the new car?

Carey: It's the love. (Laughter) People in the audience are feeling good. They didn't win a new car. And you don't get the car till the show airs. (Laughter)

Tavis: And the show, like, never airs, right?

Carey: Yeah, we'll just (unintelligible). (Laughter)

Tavis: Before I let you go right quick, so "The Power of 10," how's that?

Carey: They're pulling to off (unintelligible).

Tavis: They're pulling it for the moment but they said they're going to bring it back in the summer, though.

Carey: I think so, yeah, I hope so. That's another really smart show. We ask a lot of tough questions on that show, and get real answers from people.

Tavis: You are Mr. Game Show Guy, man.

Carey: Yeah, I don't mind it. I like giving away other people's money. (Laughter)

Tavis: I've got to come see you.

Carey: Yeah, you do.

Tavis: Drew, I'm proud of you, man.

Carey: Oh, I'm really (unintelligible).

Tavis: Good to see you. I always enjoy our conversation. And congrats on the engagement.

Carey: Thank you, I love being on your show, it's a great show.

Tavis: You come back any time, man.

Carey: Thanks, man.

Tavis: And I'll come on yours if I can play plinko. (Laughter)

Carey: If you just want to come visit –

Tavis: I just want to come—I don't even want to go on air. I want to just come and just play plinko.

Carey: That can be arranged.

Tavis: Could we work that out?

Carey: Absolutely. If you want to bring your family, if you have, like, family visiting and they want to come see the show, we'll let you play plinko backstage.

Tavis: You should not have said that.

Carey: (Unintelligible.)

Tavis: I've got nine brothers and sisters who are all trying to get tickets to L.A. right now.

Carey: No problem.

Tavis: Drew Carey, I love him. "The Price is Right," of course, weekdays on CBS.