Whoopi Goldberg is a woman for all media. In her long career she has managed to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony. As of July, she has had a radio show on Clear Channel (no awards yet). And, oh, yes, Goldberg, 51, writes children's books in her spare time. Her latest, Whoopi's Big Book of Manners (Hyperion), takes on a particular pet peeve of hers: rude kids. Not her grandkids, of course. TIME's Andrea Sachs spoke with the comedian.
Why a children's book?
I've done one before [Alice, in 1992]. Whenever you want to give information to parents, the best way to do it is through a kids' book.
And why a book about manners?
Because it's the most glaring thing I see. I figure that if we go back to the basics of please and thank you and remind people that it's not O.K. to leave your telephone on in the theater, certain aspects of our life might actually be a little bit saner.
Are there particular things that annoy you about children's behavior?
I can't really hold kids responsible because people my age are really kind of responsible for a lot of it. If you grew up during the '60s, everything was about not being who your parents were. So we raised our children to do all of the things we thought we should be able to do--call our parents by their first names, talk back. Now those kids have had kids who don't know that they're supposed to say please or thank you.
It's sort of ironic, don't you think, that you're doing a manners book since you've got into trouble for things you've said?
Not for bad manners! I'm a comic, and my job is to be funny. I'm political--I am that. I made a misstep once about Bob Dole and then wrote him a letter and apologized.
Were you political this season?
No, no one asked for my help. I'm sure everybody is afraid to have me as part of their cheerleading crew. They still believe that something untoward went on at that Kerry event. [Goldberg got into hot water for her risqué jokes at a 2004 John Kerry fund raiser.]
Would you have listened to your book's advice when you were a kid?
I did listen to this advice when I was a kid. We were clear in my house about how it was supposed to be. When the mommy says no, that's what she means. And you don't answer back like she's a peer. But I taught my daughter that we were equals. Fortunately, she ignored me and ended up being the kind of kid that my mom would have raised in terms of manners.
Did your grandkids advise you on the book?
No, because oddly enough, my grandkids [ages 17, 10 and 8] are very well-mannered. They know not to bring a cell phone into a theater. If they see an adult screaming at a coach, they know it's not the way it's supposed to be.
What kind of grandmother are you?
Weird. I have very strange ideas about things. They've seen me have to figure out the best way to be part of their lives without trying to take over. Because it's just instinctual. You figure, Oh, here are the grandkids--I'll do better with them [than I did with their parents]. No, actually, you won't. [Laughs.]
What's it like to wake up in time to do a 5:00 a.m. radio show?