2011 in Review: Sting, Martin Scorsese, Bill Maher and Dozens More Look Back – Rolling Stone
Home Politics Politics Lists

2011 in Review: Sting, Martin Scorsese, Bill Maher and Dozens More Look Back

America’s smartest, funniest people tackle Occupy Wall Street, Lady Gaga and a bunch more things you wish you could forget

zooey deschanel

Andy Friedman

'BRIDESMAIDS' A huge door opened this year – Bridesmaids kind of set it off. I remember when it came out, every girl was tweeting, "Go see Bridesmaids!" It felt like people were getting over their petty rivalries to support the movie – there used to be this misconception that if another woman succeeds, then I won't. Suddenly, everyone realized that this was a battle we could all win as women who do comedy.

GETTING TO BE FUNNY I get to do so much comedy on New Girl. I hadn't really had that opportunity before. I can't say what I was – someone who played people's girlfriends in comedies? I was sort of in that zone of "she's funny but not that funny." Now I'm treated more like a comedian, which is much better.

chris rock

David Cowles

Chris Rock

BEST CONCERT Jay-Z and Kanye at Madison Square Garden. I've seen Run-DMC at Madison Square Garden, I've seen Prince at Madison Square Garden, I've seen Michael Jackson, U2, Eddie Murphy – and this might be the greatest show I ever saw. It's the equivalent of the Billy Joel-Elton John tour, but if they did it in 1979, when the songs were hot! I did text Kanye, like, "Dude, you're wearing waaaay too much clothes." He had that leather kilt and leather pants. Jay's 10 years older, and you're the one sweating!

WORST MOMENT I saw Heavy D two, three weeks before he died, at Eddie Murphy's house. I was the opening act on the first Heavy D tour when I was, like, 18, probably making 150 bucks a night. It was the best summer of my childhood. When the big man danced, people lost their fucking minds.

BEST DIRECTOR I just saw The Descendants. Alexander Payne is my favorite guy not named Woody Allen. Alexander Payne is the fucking truth. We are lucky to be living in the time of Alexander Payne.

david crosby

David Cowles

David Crosby

MONEY RULES WASHINGTON Nobody feels as if they have any representation in Washington, and they feel like Washington is owned by the corporations. For once, they've actually figured something out correctly. I think that a lot of us had hope that Obama, being as bright as he is, would be a force for change. But the way the system works is that in order to get any office, you have to spend serious amounts of money, which means you have to make deals with the guys who have the money. That's where we lost control of our country. I don't think that's what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.

PERFORMING AT OCCUPY I was very nervous, struggling through this crowd and I'm standing on this stone in Zuccotti Park. I've got no amp and I'm singing at the top of my lungs, and all of a sudden, they're all singing along with me and Graham [Nash]. That's when it felt good. It made us get excited, like we were doing our job. I felt like Woody Guthrie was listening over my shoulder.

sting

David Cowles

Sting

WHY 'OCCUPY' MATTERS We’re losing faith in our institutions – whether it's government, church or the banking system. Everything is up for grabs, and the music industry is imploding. And you could get despondent about that – but my feeling is that we are at the precipice of a crisis, and that’s the only way we evolve as a species. By arriving at crisis and figuring how to get out of it. It's exciting.

BANK REFORM Even though I'm intrigued by the Occupy movement, I don't think we can abolish money. I think money is actually useful for commerce and transactions. I have a problem with interest, though. I think we should look at an idea like negative interest – when people sit on money and it makes money, that money is not getting used.

'OCCUPY' FROM A DISTANCE I don’t think celebrities should necessarily go to ­Occupy events. They're usually there to aggrandize themselves, anyway. I will support it from a distance. We have to get back to civic responsibility at some point – otherwise we don’t have a society.

al sharpton

Andy Friedman

Al Sharpton

BEST BOOK I've been critical of Bill Clinton, but I thought Back to Work was excellent. He lays out how he raised taxes and the economy improved. Here's a guy that did it! I don't think you could have a more powerful witness than that.

BEST CONCERT Wynton Marsalis did "Duke Ellington's Cotton Club Parade." I go to everything from gospel to Jay-Z, but that's my highlight.

ke$ha

Andy Friedman

Ke$ha

ON PHOTOGRAPHY Touring with LMFAO and Spank Rock, my bus was an out-of-control party train. We'd have epic dance parties and jam sessions and end up in each other's clothing. And I have a wall of dicks on my bus. Every guy that came onto it had to drop trou and take a Polaroid of their dick – even the bus drivers.

MALE GROUPIES I was put here in this musical world for many reasons, but one of them is to level the playing field. So if guys can have groupies and be celebrated for it, I plan on doing the exact same thing. My most proud groupie moment was picking up a guy from Harvard. We hung out all night and then I dropped him off at a truck stop and he took a $300 cab ride back to Harvard.

THE YEAR'S WORST SMELL I just found a dead rat in the back of my fucking Trans-Am. I don't know how long he's been there because I hadn't been home in such a long time. I took a picture of it and sent it to all the guys I'm boning because I thought it would be an intimate gesture.

FEAR OF DEATH Conquered! I read a book called Many Lives, Many Masters, which is about past lives and your soul's progression through them. It gave me a whole new outlook on death, where I'm not scared of dying anymore. I also read Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins, which is about immortality and the power of scents. He's my favorite author.

EQUAL RIGHTS The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was totally relevant. All of my dancers are gay, and the night it was repealed we had a celebration on the bus. It's important for every human being to have the same rights.

george r r martin

Thomas Fuchs

George R.R. Martin

ON ACTIVISM I'm a child of the Sixties – I was in college at Northwestern during the anti-war movement. I wasn't a leader of the Weathermen or anything, but I was a journalism major and I covered a number of demonstrations. I was a witness to some of it. There's been a lot of apathy since the Sixties, so it's nice to see that kind of mobilization again. People care enough to put themselves on the line, to try and get this country back on course.

BOOK I LOVED I've been a big fan of Stephen King for years. Whenever he comes out with a new book, I drop whatever I'm doing and read it. This new one, 11/22/63, is the best King book in a decade or more. It's a time-travel novel and there's almost no horror of the sort that King normally specializes in. So he's really stepping out of his comfort zone. And it's a novel about the Sixties and the late Fifties. He really brings that epoch alive, very vividly, and it took me back to that period.

arianna huffington

Thomas Fuchs

Arianna Huffington

WHY I HAVE HOPE The nearly worldwide push for more democracy. From the Middle East to the United States, people are responding to failed institutions and dysfunctional political systems with optimism and faith in their power to shape the future.

WHY I WORRY The destructive and bizarre mania for austerity that has swept Europe and the United States. Dealing with multiple long-term debt crises is imperative, but the worst way to do it is to cripple the most effective deficit-killing weapon available: a growing economy.

GABBY GIFFORDS' RESILIENCE Congresswoman Giffords' shooting, with the tragic deaths of six people, was a stark reminder of the worst possible way to take political action. But her recovery, while not erasing the tragedy, has been a welcome high point.

FAVORITE TV SHOW Oprah's Lifeclass. It's inspiring to watch people arrive at realizations about their lives that are ­transformational.

bill maher

Thomas Fuchs

Bill Maher

The GOP Race Back in 2009, when Bush was leaving, the media was all asking, "Is comedy over?" I remember saying at the time, "You don’t realize that the douchebag bench of the Republican party is so deep." Michele Bachmann emerges, and you’re thinking it can’t get any stupider than that, and then there’s Rick Perry and Mr. Herman Cain. And Newt Gingrich – when I hear them call him "the foremost intellectual in the Republican Party," I think, "Yeah, probably." How sad is that?

The Debt-Ceiling Debacle That was a good example of what happens when you elect a Tea Bagger to Congress. Knowledge-challenged, brain-dead people elected their like to Congress, and that is how we got into an argument over whether we should pay our bills.

Obama’s Epiphany Obama got his mojo back a little bit at the end of the year. He finally got it in his head that he’s never going to get credit for anything he does. Maybe when he got Osama bin Laden, and the Republicans gave him 12 hours of applause, and then Fox News was right back to "George Bush is not really getting the credit he deserves." Yeah, 'cause he didn’t get Osama. He got Wesley Snipes.

tom morello

Thomas Fuchs

Tom Morello

WHY ACTIVISM MATTERS The Vietnam War peace movement was so huge in part because young people were directly affected by the draft. Now young people are directly affected by this teetering economy. They're not looking at a bright future. The "hope" that was the cornerstone of the Obama campaign hasn't panned out the way that all of those young people who went door to door getting 10 people to the polls apiece figured. I've been able to become the person I was meant to be. Most people, due to crushing poverty, are not. There are Mozarts and curers of cancer in the slums of Calcutta. That's truer now than ever.

ON MATERIALISM In this terrible economy, the glitz and the glamour of the red-carpet arrivals and these plastic acts bragging about how much cash they have looks so foolish. I saw some rec­ord producer was saying, "You've got to have a Maybach and a Bentley if you're going to be a big dog." I was like, "You know what? Malcolm X was a big dog and he didn't have either one of those. Dr. King was a big dog and he didn't have any of that. Those are some big dogs."

RAGE AT 20 Rage Against the Machine's 20th-anniversary show was pretty emotional. For a band with a very humble beginning to stand in the 70,000-person L.A. Coliseum and rock the place to the ground was staggering. It was like pirates had taken over the place. Before we played, the stadium went black, and then we lit the Olympic torch at the top. We opened with "Testify" and the PA went out twice. Not ideal, but it added to the element of uncertainty and danger.

michael stipe

Thomas Fuchs

Michael Stipe

ON 'OCCUPY WALL STREET' I'm not diminishing organized marches on Washington. But that's something that people join onto. It's not an individual going, "I've had it. I have something to say. I'm upset. I want to voice that." Obama needs us outside the gates. Now he can say to his advisers, "I say this, and our constituency supports it. Let's move on it. Let's act." Maybe it will give him the courage he needs to implement some unpopular decisions that might bring this country back from the brink of disaster.

LIFE AFTER R.E.M. People in London were asking me, "Is a career in politics next?" I'm like, "Are you out of your fucking mind? Do you realize the degree to which I am unable to compromise?" That's part of what's driven this thing called R.E.M. – us being so stubborn and bullheaded toward one another.

THE GREATNESS OF ADELE She's just 23 and so together, funny and self-aware. She has an amazing voice, writes her own material and has this potty mouth when she isn't singing. We have another strong woman who is absolutely unafraid to be herself.

martin scorsese

Thomas Fuchs

Martin Scorsese

WHAT 'OCCUPY' MEANS TO ME It's where I live. It's almost a new spin on Gangs of New York, with all the turbulence among the urban poor during the 1860s. The Five Points and Zuccotti Park, practically the same neighborhood. Lower Manhattan. Now it's spreading all over the country. Take away their livelihood, take away their money, and people have to get up and protest.

POLITICAL AWAKENING I came from a very conservative background. Films opened me up first, then literature. But what ultimately changed me was being a student at Washington Square College at NYU in 1960. The Vietnam War protests. They took me into the world. Made me aware. These Wall Street protesters see an unfair system. I agree. We have to rethink that system. Rework it. Get something done.

3D MOVIES I've wanted to direct a 3D movie since I saw House of Wax in 1953. Orson Welles said that making Citizen Kane was fun, like "the best electric train set a boy ever had." Working in 3D was like that for me. In addition to the mechanics of it, 3D brings you closer to the actors. I wouldn't mind making all my movies in 3D, especially when the technology gets better and eliminates the glasses. If I could go back in time, I'd shoot Taxi Driver in 3D. Bob De Niro in the mirror as Travis Bickle. Imagine how intimidating. "You talking to me? You talking to me?" Amazing possibilities.

DREAM CAST My wish for next year is to get my friends Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio together. Not for pasta – in a movie directed by me. I've done eight films with Bob, four with Leo. They are my friends and collaborators. Now I want to join them up. It's my dream. And I'm going to make it happen.

donald trump

Thomas Fuchs

Donald Trump

THE PROBLEM WITH D.C. I've been watching the political scene for many years, and I have never seen it like this. There's a great incompetence in Washington, and people are taking to the streets – I'm talking about both Tea Party and the Occupy folks. In a lot of ways, they're in the same ballpark. They're talking about incompetence, they're talking about things not getting done.

FAVORITE SONG [Rapper] Mac Miller's "Donald Trump" is up to 37 million YouTube hits, right? Mac Miller is tearing up the charts. I hope he's going to pay me 25 percent.

ENDING HIS CANDIDACY You know I was leading in the polls when I left. I left because of "equal time." I'm on two hours of prime time every Sunday night. That would mean every candidate would have to be given two hours on prime time every Sunday night – give me a break. It's a ridiculous law.

THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE Whether or not it's Obama's real certificate, who knows? It certainly took him four years to give it. We have the Manchurian Candidate as our president. I was able to get him to produce his birth certificate, or whatever it is, and I'm very happy with the decision. Now the question is whether or not that's in fact a birth certificate. A lot of people say it's not. I would leave that up to them.

conan o'brien

David Cowles

Conan O’Brien

WORST PLOT DEVICE The line in Hangover 2 when Bradley Cooper says, "It's happening again." It was this really incredibly cynical thing of "We've got to make another one. How are we going to get away with this? Oh, screw it. Just turn to the camera and say, 'It's happening again,' and have the same stuff happen."

BEST MOMENT I spoke at Dartmouth this year, and they gave me a degree. I'm actually an eye surgeon now. I'm qualified to remove people's corneas.

deadmau5

David Cowles

Deadmau5

MY FAVORITE ALBUM Radiohead, The King of Limbs, definitely. I can't believe they got so much flak over it. The chord progressions, the way the melodies on songs like "Codex" and "Bloom" are resolved or not resolved, are so cool. I'm tired of people critiquing their music – it's fucking art, dude.

aubrey plaza

Thomas Fuchs

Aubrey Plaza

CHARLIE SHEEN I just made a movie with him, so I got some first-hand Charlie Sheen hangout time. He's a really talented actor, and I learned a lot from watching him act. But otherwise, I was just trying to absorb his crazy wizard energy. I wanted it to transfer into my own body.

ON THEFT Sometimes when I have a break, I sneak onto the set of The Talk and steal things. Like right now I'm looking at a poster that I stole that just says yay and has a smiley face on it. I think they used it to get the audience to say, "Yay!" But now they won't say it because I have that poster.

FAVORITE REALITY SHOW I'm super-into Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. There should be a reality show about that reality show. I had a dream that I went to some political event with Kyle and Mauricio the other day. And then last night my boyfriend had a dream that I had to move to Australia with Kyle and Mauricio. I don't know what is happening, but I definitely have a weird connection with Kyle and Mauricio.

tracy morgan

Andy Friedman

Tracy Morgan

SEAL TEAM MORGAN The best moment of the year was the night that I offed bin Laden. I killed him. Obama called me and said I need an account cashed in. I said, "Who?" He said bin Laden, and I went and clipped the guy with my .38. After I shot him the theme from The Love Boat came on. I wasn’t surprised to find tons of porno in there. I knew the guy was a widdy-­biddy-bing-bong freak like me.

BEST RIVALRY Nobody knows about this, but the Republicans and the Democrats had a basketball game in the backyard of the White House and Joe Biden set a vicious moving pick on Dick Cheney. An old Detroit pick, he dislocated Cheney’s shoulder. So that might start the next revolution.

IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT If we can’t blame Obama, who are we going to blame? He’s the president! That’s what being the president is about. Do you see those gray hairs in his head? He had an Afro that was pure black when he got into office – now that shit is gray. He’s starting to look like a black Frank Sinatra. He tried to get that government cheese program back up and running – that would have brought down crime! People who wanted to go out and rob folks would be too constipated and just sit on the bowl.

ON 2012 This country needs an enema! We need an enema

barney frank

Andy Friedman

Barney Frank

THE DEATH OF BIN LADEN It was important in itself – he was a terrible man, and I think it helped deflate the terrorists. But it was important for the country to get beyond where we've been. We were spending to combat terrorism on the scale that we were spending to get ready for a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. This lays the groundwork for a more rational level of military spending.

POLITICAL HIGH POINT [The right] has not launched a frontal assault on the financial-reform bill, because they understand it's popular. So even though they've been able to snipe at it, they have not undone what we've done.

POLITICAL LOW POINT The Republicans refused to adopt policies to stimulate the economy in the short term. It's very frustrating – they interfere with things that would keep the economy moving and then benefit from it.

THINGS THAT MAKE ME OPTIMISTIC The willingness of the Federal Reserve, under Ben Bernanke, a Bush appointee, to take some stimulative steps. The economy is not as bad as it would have been had he not acted. And his willingness to take on members of his own party has been a very positive thing.

PERSONAL HIGH POINT The Democrats aren't in the majority, so I have much less impact. On the other hand, being in the minority has increased the quality of my personal life. I'm less able to improve other people's lives, but far better at enjoying my own.

steven spielberg

friedman

Steven Spielberg

ON LINCOLN You’re asking me about 2011? I’ve been living in the 19th century. There are no comparisons between Lincoln and Obama. No president has ever had to endure and resolve a civil war and abolish slavery within a four-year period.

CALL OF DUTY I’ve been too busy to play video games, but nothing was going to stop me from playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

roger waters

Andy Friedman

Roger Waters

OBAMA'S MISTAKES The president's foreign policy goes against everything that I believe. But the alternative to re-electing Obama would be a disaster – the Republican candidates are the lackeys of the grossest machine. So I hope he will develop bigger cajones and start governing. This idea of ruling by consensus and keeping the Republicans happy was an enormous mistake. The surge in Afghanistan was a horrible mistake. I am hopeful that in the next 50 years, particularly if you don't elect Republicans, America will discover that there are new ways to relate to all the other people in the world than the "us and them" mentality.

DRONE WARFARE I made an album in 1992 called Amused to Death that talks about drone planes in a prescient way – except that I was using them as a symbol. I sing, "Uncle Sam feeds 10 trillion in change/ Into the total entertainment combat video game." These kids are sitting in Idaho or wherever and directing these drone attacks – it's like a video game gone crazy. They killed almost 20 Pakistani troops about two weeks ago, and nobody seems even faintly concerned about that. It's weirdly callous, and it can do nothing but enormous harm to America.

WHAT 2011 WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR The Arab Spring. Also, the forces that are trying to get genuine information to us are strengthening, and the forces getting us negative information are weakening. So, you might take issue with the personality of someone like Julian Assange, but we have to thank all of the whistle-blowers everywhere who take the risk to bring us information we should have. WikiLeaks is a fundamentally important thing, and we should not allow it to go away.

rachel maddow

Andy Friedman

Rachel Maddow

THE RUSURGENCE OF THE LEFT The huge protests in Wisconsin, Ohio's pro-union-rights recall campaign, the thousand arrests at the White House to stop the Keystone pipeline, Detroit turning out in the streets to save its high school for pregnant girls, the homegrown Mississippi movement that saved birth control and abortion rights there, and of course the Occupy movement: These aren't just transactional campaigns with partisan aims. These are paradigm-shifters that change the questions that get asked, not just the answers. The left is awake and on the move!

THE MAINSTREAMING OF FAR-RIGHT LUNACY We went in a time machine to the 1800s where it was normal politics to try to get rid of child labor laws and birth control.

BEST TV SHOW I'll admit to being partial to The Rachel Maddow Show, but honestly, Up with Chris Hayes is better.

 

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.