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MTV's Carson Daly, by 'Request'

Carson Daly says fans treat him like "America's big brother"  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Carson Daly says that nobody expected his show, MTV's "Total Request Live" ("TRL" to its fans), to become the blockbuster success that it has.

"It's like a giant musical youth hostel that's out of control, and I'm like the gatekeeper and the warden all in one," Daly observes in amazement.

Since its debut just three years ago, "TRL" has become entertainment's town square to its fans. They stand on the street outside its midtown Manhattan studios for hours, cheering on Daly and his guests. They make phone calls and send e-mail and instant messages, voting for their favorite hits.

And, above all, they watch -- something not ignored by record labels, movie studios, and advertising agencies. An appearance on "TRL" can make or break a name.

"Showbiz Today Reports" correspondent Michael Okwu talked with Daly about his job, his impact, and those screaming fans in a recent interview.

CNN: It's a trite question, but can you walk on the street now without having some kids just screaming?

Daly: There is a lot of recognition. It's cool, it's crazy, it's like having 10 million friends. It's not really fanatic. It's not like Britney or *NSYNC, it's just like they obviously now me being America's big brother.

"TRL" fans stand on outside the show's studios for hours, cheering on Daly and his guests  

CNN: Are you aware of the power and influence of "TRL"?

Daly: Yes, without question. ... There are times where I'll read about the show in huge publications, or The New York Times Magazine or something, and I'll just be like, "Wow, that show's huge!" Then three seconds later I'll be like, "Wait, that's my show, and that's the show I host." So I'm aware of it, but I don't like to think about it, because the minute you start reflecting that attitude you're a big bad bully and you start to become an egomaniac and it goes to your head.

CNN: But there's no avoiding it.

Daly: Well it's fun, you know. ... When I got here, I didn't have my own show. ... I knew I wanted to be on live ... and I wanted to play music. I wanted to interview musicians, and also other people of interest. So that's where "TRL" really started, and it felt like mine.

... You know, not a lot of shows last here with a brand, with an impact that transcends music that's pop-culture generated. These things kind of come and go around here, (so) that was my main focus: How can we create this show that's going to stick around? And it has, and that's the best feeling.

CNN: When did you realize that it had become something more than just a show that a lot of people liked?

Daly: Probably in the bookings. There was a time when we used to just like beg, borrow, or steal any form of a celebrity to come on. Just off the top of my head, I remember one day Mike Myers was booked and this was like the day the Austin Powers sequel was coming out. ... And I was standing there and I'm like, "This is huge for us."

... And the next time it was Adam Sandler for his movie, and the next time it was Mel Gibson, the next time it was Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then next time it was Tom Cruise, you know --everybody. And at that point, that, coupled with some of the press, (made me) realize wow, we really have something here.

Daly says Bono from U2 uses "TRL" to introduce the band to a younger audience  

CNN: You've got an excellent rapport with a lot of artists who come on the show. What do they tell you in terms of what the show means for their potential success?

Daly: I think the artists know. ... (They) know that the show's important, but their own talent is everything.

CNN: Have you ever heard anything about how your show impacts on record sales of some of these artists?

Daly: Yeah, sure. I get facts and figures across my desk everyday.

CNN: Be honest: Do you put something in the fans' water?

Daly: No, but the energy on the show is out of control. It is so loud! I mean you have no idea until you've been on the set. ... There's times I'll just go home and it will be ringing, ringing in my head.

  • Carson Daly on ...

    CNN: You know, you just touched on something that is really fascinating. If you look at the demographics, and the diversity that you guys reach, it's extraordinary.

    Daly: This show never came on to be the flagship show at MTV. ... It came on from a very pure sense and a very organic background which was simple: Here's a phone number, call us, here's the top ten videos, ... and it just became like this little cult and it grew and there were 10 people outside and then a hundred people. One kid drove from Long Island. Two weeks later a kid flew in from Peru. Now there's people from all over the world outside and now the celebrities on the show are A-list.

    ... It's nuts. It's like a giant musical youth hostel that's out of control, and I'm like the gatekeeper and the warden all in one.

    CNN: If somebody said to you, "Daly is a pop-culture icon," how would you respond to that?

    Daly: If I ever find myself talking to somebody that's big, like a Madonna or a Jim Carrey, I'm just as giddy as anybody might be on the street. So I try so hard I don't even look at it like that. I have no perception of myself or my own status or what it is or what it isn't.

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