Entertainment town square
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
And, above all, they watch -- something not ignored
by record labels, movie studios, and advertising
agencies. An appearance on "TRL" can make or break
"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
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
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
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
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
Daly: Yeah, sure. I get facts and figures
across my desk everyday.
CNN: Be honest: Do you put something in the
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.
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
... 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.