Charlamagne Tha God, the outspoken host behind Power 105.1’s nationally syndicated radio show “The Breakfast Club,” returns Friday to his MTV2 talk show “Uncommon Sense.” The show, which presents frank decisions about politics, social issues and pop culture, will go live in its third season. Not surprisingly, Charlamagne says it’s the format in which he’s most comfortable. “I like the energy of live better,” he told The Washington Post in an interview.
We talked to the shock jock about what to expect from the new season of “Uncommon Sense,” his friendship with Tomi Lahren and the late-night TV hosts he admires. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Are there any major changes that viewers can expect from “Uncommon Sense” now that it’s live? Considering how relentless the news cycle has been, do you plan to focus more on politics?
A lot of the things we’ve discussed in past seasons, we’ll still be discussing. I just feel like politics is pop culture — when it comes to everything that our administration is doing, they’re really providing the best content. I say it all the time — the best stand-up specials right now are press conferences that come from the Trump administration, whether it’s [press secretary Sean] Spicer, Trump, Kellyanne Conway making an appearance on somebody’s show. Nobody is providing funnier content than those guys. It’s just sad that they are the people that are the leaders of the free world.
I guess you could say it will have more of a political slant now — only because politics is feeding into everything. It’s affecting sports, it’s affecting music, it’s just everywhere.
How much are you going to talk about Trump? In an interview with Vulture last year, you said you were tired of talking about him and naming him Donkey of the Day [a “Breakfast Club” honor awarded to people or organizations who do or say disappointing things] before the election even started. It must be exhausting now.
It’s so exhausting that I had to give him Donkey of the Day [last week]. It’s only the second time [this year]. I had to do it because of the press conference. It was just too much material. I couldn’t avoid it. I could literally give him donkey every other day, or every day, if I wanted to. I just haven’t been because it has been so exhausting.
Now his administration has given us other great stuff. Whether it’s Vice President Pence, Conway, Spicer, Stephen Miller, it never ends. Now it’s at the point where it’s not even about telling people how bad this could be. It’s showing people [who voted for Trump] how wrong they were. It is as bad, if not even worse, than we expected.
How do you balance talking about Trump and politics with less weighty stuff on “Uncommon Sense” or even “The Breakfast Club.”
It’s very difficult. It’s new territory for me. Even with guests that come on the show, guests want to talk about [the Trump administration]. You can’t escape it.
You get pockets of escape nowadays but it usually all comes back to this. And rightfully so. People are concerned. People are worried. We don’t know if it’s an irrational fear or not. This is something we’ve never seen before.
People do have genuine concerns, and I don’t think there’s a problem with them expressing that. When it comes to radio or even a show like “Uncommon Sense,” we’re there to reflect what’s going on in our culture, we’re there to reflect the feelings of our listeners. That’s something that they’ve always given us love and respect for, especially me. [Fans say] “Charlamagne is the voice of the culture — he speaks for us.” I can’t act like I don’t have those same concerns that my listeners have.
You met with Tomi Lahren a couple months ago, and you got some criticism for that. But you said you felt it was important to talk to and listen to people even if you don’t agree with them. Do you draw the line at anyone?
I do draw the line — somebody like Richard Spencer, I think it’s pointless to have a conversation with him because straight up: He’s a white supremacist. That’s his view. Sometimes when I listen to Tomi I don’t necessarily believe that she’s a quote-unquote white supremacist. I feel like she has a POV and is not that educated or informed.
[Note: Charlamagne appeared on Lahren’s show, for conservative network TheBlaze, back in February of 2016 after her comments about Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance earned her the “Donkey of the Day” title. She was slated to appear on “The Breakfast Club” in December but backed out. The two made headlines when they went to dinner together a couple days later, and “The Breakfast Club” had a spirited debate about their friendship.]
Being that I had a previous relationship with her, I was open to having that conversation. I listen to a lot of rhetoric now, and I really don’t know where she’s going with it. I don’t know if having a conversation even matters at this point. But at the time, it was like — yeah, let’s get down and have a dialogue, especially when somebody’s saying that they want to learn.
Late-night TV is really adding to the political conversation right now. Is there anyone you really like or follow?
I’ve been on [Stephen] Colbert’s show a few times. Colbert is somebody who I’ve always liked. He’s from South Carolina like me. When you’re from a place like that, you’re always looking for people that can inspire you and influence you and make you feel like you can do it as well. He’s definitely one of those people for me.
Trevor Noah — I love what that brother is doing. He had some big shoes to fill with Jon Stewart, but he’s making a great lane for himself. And I just think Bill Maher is dope. I watch Bill Maher every Friday. I think he’s really good at what he does.
I definitely look up to those guys in that space. And you know, I’m gonna be an even bigger player in that space one day. “Uncommon Sense” is just the start — the beginning of what I plan to do as far as late-night television is concerned. When I get to that bigger platform, I’ll know what to do with it.
And what would that look like for you?
It would be a space where we [would focus on] education and entertainment — it would definitely be hip-hop driven because hip-hop is most certainly pop culture right now. I’d definitely want it to be educational, too. I’d want it to be just as diverse as “The Breakfast Club.” “The Breakfast Club” goes from interviewing people like [Nation of Islam leader] Louis Farrakhan to Justin Timberlake. I don’t feel like there’s been somebody representing my culture in [late-night] since Arsenio Hall.
“Uncommon Sense” (now known as “Uncommon Sense Live”) returns Friday at 11:30 p.m. Eastern on MTV2.