Piers Morgan is known for asking the blunt questions and was famously punched in the face by Jeremy Clarkson, but he tells Radio Times in this week’s magazine, “My ability has always been to look people straight in the eye and ask a pretty blunt question in a way that doesn’t cause them to punch me, and I think that’s quite an art.
“The key to a good interview is patience. You’ve got to have charm, you’ve got to make somebody relaxed. I’ve always been quite fearless about the questioning because I don’t see any reason not to be. The worst that can happen is they don’t answer the question – which they have every right not to do,” he adds.
On the range of interviews he’s conducted (from Morgan Freeman to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) he says, “I’ve always had the ability to be as confident in the presence of the Queen as I would be in the presence of a dustman outside the door. I’m equally happy in both’s company. I don’t see one as being above me, I don’t see the other as being beneath me and I think that’s a great thing to have if you’re in the business of news and interviewing and journalism.”
Indeed, Morgan says he learned the power of silence from the late Sir David Frost. “He said there’s two types of silence. The one where you stop for a dramatic moment and someone fills the gap and gives you a great line. And the one where they’ve forgotten what they’re going to say. On TV, you’ve got to make sure it’s not the second one.”
Morgan says he’s never dried up but that he is occasionally lost for words. “Most notably when Eva Longoria spoon-fed me guacamole, and Charlize Theron asked if she could have a hug.”
Was Frost the best he’s seen? “Yes – if you look at the early stuff. He took lots of people apart. Frost on the rampage was an incredible spectacle on television – he was a firecracker interviewer. And the Nixon thing was an incredible tour de force because it showed all his qualities.”
When it comes to other interviewers Morgan says, “I can’t compete with Graham Norton for the comedy he brings and I think he’s got a terrific show. Or Jonathan Ross. Or Alan Carr. They’re all entertainers and comedians, really. They’re not any of them particularly great interviewers. I don’t think they profess to be. Parky could do both.”
Would he like to be the next Parky? “No. He might like to be the next Piers Morgan. I like Parky but he doesn’t think anyone else could ever come anywhere close to being as good as him.”
Is Piers Morgan as good? “Yeah!” Better? “I’d never be that presumptuous, but…”
Read the full interview in this week’s Radio Times magazine, on sale Tuesday.