“Bein’ all Oprah.” This is a second hand quote from Tracy Morgan to Kathy Griffin at an awards show. Kathy was doing standup and set the stage to talk about presenters. She was sitting next to comedian Tracy Morgan and when Ms. Winfrey took the stage, he said to Kathy, “look at Oprah, bein’ all Oprah.” The joke was funny and the statement was rather profound…
Pop culture forces you to be in the here and now. Today, we see Oprah as a billionaire media mogul who seems to have cast a spell on her audience. The shows are often mocked, but at the same time, a fearful reverence is in tact. In other words, you can joke, but don’t mess with Oprah.
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The other week I watched the last show of her 25-year long program, the Oprah Winfrey Show. Full disclosure, I did have some beer before pressing play on my TiVo, but I can honestly say I didn’t expect to cry throughout most of the hour.
Ms. Winfrey took to her studio stage by herself with a chair…she never sat. She did most of the show like a preacher or motivational speaker and she had me with hello. From her recollections of her professional beginnings to mention of shows and topics that had an impact, she drew me in with constant reminders of how her connection with the TV audience is what kept her going. If you break this down, it’s amazing…what she says about this connection is so true…how else do you last for 25 years and become one of the most wealthy entertainers/women in the world? Say what you want, the core motives must have been real.
I was reminded why this woman became so powerful. She made a talk show bigger by discussing difficult topics and empowering viewers to think about more than their own day-to-day lives. There are folks who have had little parental guidance who learned from her shows and became better people. There are men who graduated from college only from her generosity. There are people who had terrible workdays, marriage struggles and family illnesses and attribute sole joy to the one hour each day delivered by this woman and her team.
Say what you will, but Ms. Winfrey is an important pop icon and she will have a place in 20th/21st Century history, as she should.