I’m torn about the actor Matthew Perry’s appearance on BBC Newsnight, where he engages in what I imagine is a very personal debate about drug addition and drug courts. Perry argues the concept of addiction is real while his nemesis, journalist and anti-drug campaigner Peter Hitchens, insists people actually have more willpower to make proper choices.
Perry’s approach makes what might be a dry but serious conversation quite entertaining and he accomplishes this without yelling or waving hands erratically. His rumor and sarcasm are reminiscent of Chandler, the character he made famous. While arguing addiction is real, Perry calls his opponent’s argument “ludicrous” and sarcastically calls him a genius. Perry also calls him “Santa” and compares the journalist’s point of view to believing in Peter Pan. Perry views this opponent as Chandler might view Joey’s insights on Friends. Hitchens mocks Perry for being “clever” and complains the actor cannot argue seriously.
It is certainly not farfetched that business leaders might find themselves on a news show, local or national, debating issues related to their industry. So it is worth watching how the characters on this BBC program interact. The conversation is testy at times, but Matthew Perry’s humor and personality make him likeable and personable while the journalist seems somewhat dry and stodgy. Why does that matter? Because half the time, the audience hasn’t asked a staff to research a topic and their opinions are often shaped by whichever objective or subjective news outlet informs them of such things. The guy we like wins the debate, for good or bad.
I’m torn because Perry is an actor and I’m skeptical most business leaders could cleverly insult either an opponent or tough reporter without looking like the jerk. Perry can get away with calling the journalist “Santa” because it’s just funny coming from Chandler. But the same zinger from a stiff CEO in a suit without the cool actor facial hair might lead to a bunch of puzzled faces.
Reality shows often show us disclaimers about not trying something at home without consulting a professional. Matthew Perry is a professional. If you show up on the local channel or cable news, be careful before ridiculing the other guest as Santa or a Peter Pan believer. An approach that might make Chandler likeable might make you engage in some crisis communications once the interview is done.