If cable news has an It girl, it’s Rachel Maddow, who almost overnight went from Countdown guest host to star of her own show on MSNBC. The 35-year-old Rhodes scholar, who lives in New York with her girlfriend, artist Susan Mikula, recently topped Larry King Live in the ratings.
Wasn’t it a little crazy to launch your show right in the middle of the campaign?
Uh-huh [laughs]. As soon as I found out I was going to get a show. I was like, “Great. Put me on tonight. I’ve been ready for this my whole life.” On the other hand, we flew back from the Republican Convention and launched on Monday. But the staff are pros. I’m the amateur.
Is it true you don’t own a TV?
True, although I’m now being subjected to a lobbying campaign from my girlfriend. Susan says, “Well, now that you have your own television show, we should get TV.” We’ve been together for 10 years and we’ve never had a TV. I theoretically agreed to the idea.
Why haven’t you ever had one?
We’re both kind of obsessed with TV. If there’s a TV on, that’s it. Game over. No conversation. No eating, no work, no sleep. I am easily distracted.
Maybe that’s why people are responding to you show. You don’t know much about TV!
Maybe it’s ’cause I don’t know how you’re supposed to do it. In media and in broadcasting, you have to decide on what grounds you are going to compete, and I’m not going to compete on pretty. I’m not going to compete on polish. I’m going to compete on content, and hopefully on being humane. I’m not going to win if I try to out-Nancy Grace Nancy Grace. I’m going to try to be myself and win on different grounds.
How’s your hate mail these days?
It hasn’t really changed in tenor. The volume waxes and wanes, but it’s always been the exact same proportion of people informing me that I’m gay, which is funny. “Really?! I will get to work on that.” Or informing me that I am unpretty, like, “This is completely news to me!” Or, you know, occasionally threatening my life. But that’s always a very small proportion.
If you got Sarah Palin on your show, what would be your first question?
How many times did you meet John McCain before he asked you to be vice president? And who picked you? Because it wasn’t John McCain. Who’s telling John McCain what he can and cannot do — and can we vote on that person?
Who do you want to play you on Saturday Night Live?
Me! I wish Wally Cleaver was still around. I think of myself as sort of Wally Cleaver, so I’d go back in time and have to say Wally Cleaver.
If you have to take a taxi to the airport with Olbermann and Matthews. Where do you sit?
Oh, God. Well. I assume that Keith would drive.
I think I heard that Olbermann doesn’t drive.
Good point. I assume he’d want to be in control. I’d probably sit in the front so I could listen to them talk.