When her one-woman show Whoopi opens this week on Broadway, Whoopi Goldberg will return to the same theater in which she launched her career in 1984. The comedian and actress spoke last week to TIME'S Jeffrey Ressner about her new show, her old friends and the joke that got her into trouble while she was campaigning for John Kerry this fall.
IS THERE A THEME TO YOUR SHOW?
I'm trying to put together who we are post-9/11 and how it affects our relationships to our children and our world. You talk to kids today, and something has been added to their thought process: mortality.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR CHRIS ROCK, WHO'S HOSTING THE OSCARS FOR THE FIRST TIME NEXT YEAR?
Have a good time, Chris. Just know that everybody's gunning for you to mess up. [Laughs.] He's a wonderfully funny cat, and it's a tough gig hosting that show because 99% of the people are tuning in to see if their favorite actor won. Attention wanders in that space, so you've got to keep the audience there and awake and move the show along.
ONE OF THE ISSUES VOTERS CITED AS IMPORTANT IN THIS ELECTION WAS "MORAL VALUES." WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS?
I'm not really sure. If you have a concern about gay marriage, don't marry a gay person. It appears we're becoming a country whose philosophy is being pushed into a religious column, which I find disheartening.
THE G.O.P. HAMMERED YOU, AND SLIM-FAST DROPPED YOU AS ITS SPOKESWOMAN FOR WHAT SOME TERMED VULGAR COMMENTS DURING A KERRY FUND RAISER. WHAT WAS THE BACKLASH LIKE?
People made decisions about it without even hearing what I really said. It was a double entendre. I did much worse stuff on my TV show. Slim-Fast knew who I was when it hired me and made its move without having the facts. Everyone else made the decision to back away, including Kerry and Edwards. It's indicative of what's wrong with our party. Like President Clinton said: You can't win unless you stand up for your convictions.
LAST WEEK YOU APPEARED AT A GALA HONORING YOUR FRIEND THE LATE MARLON BRANDO. HOW DID YOU TWO MEET?
He told my agent he wanted to talk to me, and I thought my agent was jiving. But I called back, and he said, "I love that you are you, and I want to know you." I told him to meet me at my house for lunch the next day. Two hours later, I came downstairs and found him singing "Be sure it's true when you say 'I love you'" while playing my piano.
BILL COSBY SAYS RAP AND FOUL LANGUAGE ARE HARMING TODAY'S BLACK YOUTH. DO YOU AGREE?
In a perfect world, he's probably right. But in this world, it's not as easy as that. I'm not a rap-music person, but my grandkids listen to it, and they seem to have turned out pretty good.
YOUR RECENT SITCOM FEATURED A MIDDLE-EASTERN CHARACTER--A FIRST FOR PRIME-TIME COMEDY. HOW DID THE ARAB-AMERICAN COMMUNITY REACT?
Viewers adored him. He put a face on an idea. I'm sure Arab Americans would have liked him to be less of a caricature, but he didn't exist on any other show. We felt we might have a longer time to develop his character, but the network yanked us off.
HOWARD STERN IS COMPLAINING THE FCC IS DRIVING HIM OFF TRADITIONAL RADIO ONTO SATELLITE. GOOD MOVE?