That Odd Acne Ad In Kevin O’Leary’s Podcast Is Reason Enough to Listen

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a Kevin O’Leary fan. At one time or another, I’ll call him my favourite shark (although that title tends to rotate equally between five of the core six). I’ll put up with his blowhardedness, because I think much of it is a rouse, and his attention-seeking, because as long as he seeks attention, I’ve got content I enjoy consuming — whether that’s a new episode of Shark Tank or, very recently, the Mr. Wonderful podcast

But that doesn’t excuse the quite strange, and giggle-inducing, product placement in Episode 2, “I love to go to bed richer than when I woke up (with Barbara Corcoran).” There’s the obvious and properly identified ad at the beginning for the podcast’s sponsor, a clothing company, and then there’s this odd segment where, seemingly out of nowhere, Kevin and Barbara are talking about acne. 

(Part of O’Leary’s apparent podcast schtick is talking about a variety of issues. In Episode 1, he and his former CBC co-host Amanda Lang were debating whether kids should have nannies, and whether a liberal arts degree had any worth. Note to Mr. Wonderful: yes, it does).

But O’Leary telling a “caller” that there was medication to fight acne that takes about a year to do the job and that he should talk to his doctor about it — and Corcoran jumping in to say that a specific acne medication would help — was just, well, weird.

It was a weird spot in an otherwise enjoyable podcast. Corcoran tells a great story about suing Donald Trump — after some prodding from O’Leary, to whom she said more than once she didn’t want to talk about her dealings with Trump, lest the conversation drift into politics — saying yes, he owed her money, but he was going through a tough period and that happens in business. She was lucky to be having a good year, and therefore could afford the lawyer’s fees to actually sue. Then she tells this nice little tidbit about sending him flowers after she received each monthly payment, flowers that Trump promptly and consistently sent back.

(Barbara Corcoran’s own podcast, by the way, has useful tips like not overusing exclamation points in emails, but that’s the only episode I’ve listened to so far.)

I only ended up listening to that episode of Mr. Wonderful’s podcast because I went to iTunes, looking for a different podcast: Ram Dass. That, of course, has 137 episodes because — as far as I can tell, starting from the beginning — it’s not a podcast in the modern sense. Its first few chapters are lectures, more than 50 years old now, but still with a deep resonance for those of us “inclined that way,” — whatever way that is — which makes it a podcast with purpose. A podcast with a message, compared to just a new way to monetize content. I had the experience more than once of streaming the old lectures through Ram Dass’ Love, Serve, Remember Foundation and falling into peaceful sleep, with pleasant Ram Dass-infused dreams, and wanted to download the library. Call me crazy, but I hope I don’t have O’Leary and Corcoran-infused dreams, where the two are talking about acne medication. 

Of course, the Ram Dass podcast has a sponsor too, a place in California called 1440. But Ram Dass doesn’t stop mid-lecture in 1967 to say, “India: when psychedelics fail to give you enlightenment, head east to find a guru.” Or, “Let’s take a coffee break. You know who makes the best coffee to help you achieve enlightenment? Sanka.”

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Once you have drunk from the water of unconditional love, no other well can satisfy your thirst. The pangs of separation may become so intense that seeking the affection of the Beloved becomes an obsession. When we were with Maharaji, we were intoxicated with his form, the colors of his blanket, the buttery softness of his skin, his tapering, almost simian fingers, the long eyelashes that so often hid his eyes, the red toenail on his big toe. As with any lover we, too, became fascinated and enamored of every detail, although these cues triggered spiritual bliss instead of physical desire. 🌊 In their way intoxication and addiction are analogies for devotion. Once you experience unconditional love, you really get hooked. The attraction is to that intimacy between the lover and the Beloved. 🌊 You are so drawn into the songs, stories, images and constant remembrance of the Beloved that you may hold on to the form and not want to go on to the next stage. You are always thinking about it and tuning your being to stay in that intimate loving relationship with this person you love. 🌊 But the Beloved is not a person in the usual sense, and the form is just a costume for the play, the lila. Ultimately, this form is the one that takes you beyond form. What the Beloved, your guru, reveals to you is your own soul. Even so you may choose like Hanuman, to remain in a kind of duality to serve and remain immersed in the ocean of devotion. 🌊 The devotional path isn’t necessarily a straight line to enlightenment. There’s a lot of back and forth, negotiations if you will, between the ego and the soul. You look around at all the aspects of suffering, and you watch your heart close in judgment. Then you practice opening it again and loving this too, as a manifestation of the Beloved, another way the Beloved is taking form. Again your love grows vast. In Bhakti, as you contemplate, emulate, and take on the qualities of the Beloved, your heart keeps expanding until you see the whole universe as the Beloved, even the suffering. 🌊 continued in comments 🌊 📸:: Love Serve Remember vinyl boxset insert circa 1970

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Yes, I know. Product placement started way, way, back in the early days of television where the stars would smoke as part of the plot to plug the cigarettes. My favourite current sitcom, Superstorehad an entire episode that revolved around Target. But those made sense, unlike a property developer and venture capitalist giving out advice on acne medication.

But you know, if you want something weird in your business podcast, check it out. It is fun. More ideas, and ads, to fill our conscious space. 

Oat Meals on ‘Shark Tank’: Two Investors Trying to Replicate Past Success

I personally love when Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner are on Shark Tank together, because the women are so different. As if it didn’t need to be said, but sometimes it helps if it’s shown, that simply putting a female face on a panel isn’t enough to ensure diversity.

Episode 7 of Season 10 put this on display (spoiler alert!) brilliantly when the woman behind Oat Meals, Sam Stephens, pitched her business to the sharks. But what was she pitching, exactly? She ran a small brick-and-mortar eatery in New York City that sold various sweet and savoury dishes, all with oats as a base ingredient. She was profitable, but not wildly so.

At one point, she said she wanted to expand into more locations. When asked, she said she was also interested in selling a line of branded oat products in grocery stores — as she said, bringing oats to the rice and pasta section instead of letting it languish in the breakfast section. 

Those of us who watch Shark Tank regularly already have the roll call of past entrepreneurs who have made highly-touted deals with each of the investors, and can therefore predict who’s most likely to jump on a pitch. With Oat Meals, I kept thinking of “Bagel Stuffins,” aka Bantam Bagels, who also had a small NYC shop, and whose deal with Lori Greiner also allowed them to segue into the prepackaged food market. 

(Fans of Beyond the Tank might recall the proprietors’ reluctance to give up the name “Bantam Bagels,” and how hard Greiner seemed to push to get them to adopt a brand that she felt better expressed what the product was, hence “Bagel Stuffins.”)

As if on queue, Lori said she would get a new line of Oat Meals goods into Starbucks, as she had with Bantam Bagels. Barbara, however, made the incredibly strong pitch back to the entrepreneur that Stephens needed to focus on having food carts — getting out of that 380 sq. ft. of space. 

Again, the roll call: Corcoran mentioned her beloved Cousins Maine Lobster, but could also have discussed Tom+Chee (although some research indicates maybe that one doesn’t have a happy ending, so maybe the choice to leave it out of the discussion was deliberate). 

Corcoran asked for 50 percent, Greiner 33 1/3 percent. A couple of the “out” sharks indicated Barbara’s deal was more sound (in their opinion), but Stephens went for Greiner, leading to a bit of a heated discussion after the entrepreneur had walked off the set. 

(Those moments, by the way, are always the best. In this one, Cuban’s already checking his phone, indicating they assumed the segment was over). 

Corcoran cleverly said oatmeal doesn’t freeze well. Kevin O’Leary said Lori made a dumb deal. Daymond John noted that Barbara wanted half the company, while Lori wanted less.

But apart from the disparate views of how to grow the company, the pitch was notable because of the revelation, so starkly demonstrated, of what the sharks often do: offer to do again what they have already done for someone else. In one sense, it’s like showing off your resume in order to convince the entrepreneur to choose you. In another sense, it’s nothing more than saying, “I have this template. At first glance, it looks like you might fit that template. So let me invest and we’ll give it a shot.”

Really, if you are a wealthy investor faced with a novice entrepreneur — like many of the pitches on Shark Tank — it’s irresponsible for the investor to offer to do anything else other than what they know how to do. Cuban has said he doesn’t like to be “dumb money,” and all the sharks seem to have some version of that philosophy. It’s up to the entrepreneur as to whether they want to use that particular template, or not. 

‘Shark Tank’ Season 10: Stray Observations

So it’s (almost) December already, and somehow, we’re only up to Episode 7 (as of Sunday) of Shark Tank. But in that time I’ve come up with some observations about Season 10, and why it’s different from the rest.

(I was trying to figure out how to write about this, and have decided to just spit out a list of observations.)

It’s a good season.

My first one is personal — I like this season, a lot. So far. I could do without the “Decade of Dreams” tagline, but I feel like the pitches have been more substantial than in previous years. By that I mean it’s less about emotion, more about numbers. Not that emotion doesn’t have a place, but it feels like the entrepreneurial backstory is no longer the core of the pitch. 

(On that note, I’m not sure exactly when — it must have been years ago — that they got rid of the video preambles that introduced the entrepreneurs. I’m glad they no longer waste time on that segment.)

Scheduling must have been a bitch.

Is it me, or are there a lot of guest sharks? And they seem to keep coming. Just this week ABC announced that Alli Webb, founder of Drybar, would join the panel. She’s in addition to the seven — count ’em, seven — guest sharks already announced. So there’s got to be a reason behind that. Say, one of the core six doesn’t plan to come back for Season 11 and these are “unofficial” auditions. Or, “life happened” with the filming schedule this year and some last-minute replacements were needed. Or something. 

Who seems a little too absent so far this season? There have always been sharks we see more of — Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban are in every episode, the rest rotate (from my casual observation). Do any of the other four seem to be slipping off the radar? It’s hard to say. And trying to predict which one of the regulars might be quitting seems like a mean game, so I won’t engage in that line of discussion.

All I know is — tonight there was a promo for an upcoming Shark Tank episode that has TWO guest sharks on the panel. That feels a bit like sacrilege, as if the rowdy teenagers are trashing the parents’ home when they are away on vacation. Rohan Oza and Bethenny Frankel on the same episode seems wrong, but who knows — maybe it will be an excellent pairing. 

But for the people who set up the filming days, I’ll echo the subtitle: scheduling must have been a bitch. 

Sharks have executive producer credit. 

I feel this is significant, but I don’t know exactly what it means. Maybe they own part of the show now, or have creative control over the editing. It only applies to the regular sharks, and seems to be only on the episodes in which they appear. So, who knows. But if I was a shark, and knew that I’d invested in a company whose pitch was about to air, I’d like to have at least a heads up — if not the final say — about how that pitch was edited. 

So, here’s to Season 10 — and let’s hope it follows previous seasons and ends up with a good 25 or 26 episodes. That would mean we’ve got plenty more new Shark Tank to come. 

Maybe, Finally, Disruption Of Power at the BC Legislature

I remember my last day of work at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Like Craig James, I, too, was escorted out of the building after a brief and unexpected meeting where I was told I no longer had a job. Unlike Craig James, my last day was not a matter of the public interest. It was not required that a motion be passed through the House; there were no cameras manned by bored reporters whose ears perked up at the unexpected announcedment that two men — James and Gary Lenz — were put on immediate administrative leave (with pay and benefits, sorry, not fired) as the result of an ongoing criminal investigation. 

(Side note: This is likely to be a long post, and unlike much else that’s written on this site, will have nothing to do with Shark Tank.)

No, my last day was on the whole quite benign, except for those who were left behind (“You were just gone,” a then-former co-worker said to me later). No one knew why I was removed, so, of course, that means my departure was rife for speculation — even though I’d only been in the job for a mere six months (seemingly creating few ripples in the basement offices where we toiled on behalf of — well, whom? In retrospect, it’s hard to say).

That was nine years ago now, but the memories came flooding back as the James and Lenz news broke. As usual, legislative media had to translate the drama for civilians who just Don’t Get How Big a Deal It Is. This is always an extraordinary sight: the entrenched, greying, and partisan press corp at the BC Legislature trying to tell people with normal jobs and real lives why this matters. But, perhaps falling into the easy excuse of “we don’t know what the investigation is about, or if it will even result in charges,” they didn’t try too hard. Perhaps they assumed that, like with most things that shake things up at the BC Legislature, the whole incident will become gossip and war stories for the closed door club of staffers and politicians of all parties. 

But this time, it’s different. It feels different. Maybe it’s Darryl Plecas and Alan Mullen, the aide Plecas brought in 10 months ago to look into… well, we don’t know. But I will choose to characterize it as “how things run in the Legislature.” Maybe it’s because Plecas isn’t part of the old guard. He has years on this earth, but he’s new to the legislature, only elected in 2013. When the tenuous balance of power held by the incoming Green-NDP coalition was in doubt, Plecas, elected as a Liberal, volunteered to be speaker and gave up his party affiliation as a result.

If you think that didn’t upset some people, you need only to look at that article written today by Rob Shaw in the Vancouver Sun. If you’re cynical, as I became after six months in the bowels of the BC Legislature, you’ll read these paragraphs as the beginning of a smear campaign against the Speaker, and a defence of the men escorted off the premises. Guess who’s a member of the old guard, the entrenched power network, and who’s the new kid on the block trying to break through those damaging, undemocratic walls.

“James has worked in the building for almost 30 years. Lenz is a former RCMP officer and Canadian security official, who had a high security clearance level. James has said neither man has been told what they are accused of doing.
“The investigation by Plecas is the latest controversy surrounding his role as speaker. He was ejected from the B.C. Liberal party last summer after accepting an offer from the Greens and NDP to become speaker under their new power-sharing agreement.
“The Liberals accused Plecas of lying to them repeatedly about his intentions to take the job, no-showing meetings and hiding out in the chamber alone until the last minute to avoid the repercussions of turning on his party. Plecas now sits as an independent.
“Plecas is also expected to be targeted for a recall campaign by unhappy Liberals in his riding.”

I might have written these paragraphs differently. For example:

“In 2013, James ran afoul of the BC Auditor General by refusing to immediately follow the Auditor’s request to disclose details of thousands of Legislative Assembly financial transactions after the Auditor’s scathing report on the body’s finances. James later admitted he was the recipient of a mysterious payout of funds only discovered after the Auditor’s report in 2012-2013.”
“Plecas holds degrees criminology and a Ph.D. in higher education from UBC. He was a faculty member at the University of the Fraser Valley.”

There are more details I could put there. But I think it makes the point. The BC Legislature press corp is a little like our very own Fox News. Making stuff up with hefty spin to suit their purposes. And given that penetrating the wall between the Legislature and the rest of the world is so hard to do — i.e., convincing your neighbour that This Actually Matters — they get away with it, and have for decades. Decades. 

But maybe not this time. Because we’re different, all of us as British Columbians. We’re stretched to our financial limits. The corruption that has pumped up housing prices and led us all feeling exhausted, on edge, is no longer distant, because our home lives are no longer as comfortable as they once were. Maybe, finally, the power structure is starting to crack, because maybe those that have held it in place are starting to get tired, too. 

As for me, and my tales from the Legislature — maybe that’s a story for another time. The James and Lenz inquiry could go on for years. We’ve all got time. 

Wisp Was One of The Best ‘Shark Tank’ Segments In a Long Time. It Was Proof There Is Real Risk In Entrepreneurship.

There was something a little odd about the timing of tonight’s new episode of Shark Tank. If you, like me, were trying to balance a series of Sunday night errands between pitches and were expecting the usual four segments to be spread evenly over the hour, you might have been surprised to see that by 20 past the hour two pitches were already over. At first I thought there might be five this time, but once Eben Dobson, the proprietor of Wisp, came out, it became obvious his story was getting a bit more time.

As so it should. Because it gave a rare glimpse into something you rarely see on Shark Tank: that you can have a great product, go viral, convince people to invest in your company, and still end up teetering on the edge of closure.

On the surface, that doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary. There have been lots of businesses that have come on to the show looking for a bailout, althought they rarely say that until there’s been some serious prodding. In the case of Wisp, he also didn’t say he wanted a bailout, and indeed, at no point seemed to think he needed one.

But the numbers got increasingly alarming as the pitch went on. He had investors he had yet to pay back. A hefty amount of debt, substantial inventory, and a modest amount of cash in the bank. He was looking for investment, but he already had 22 other investors. Twenty-two.

Here’s what made the pitch really stand out: at some point, he responded to the panel’s disbelief by saying something along the lines of: “how do you recommend I get out of this?” It was a sincere question, a polite question, from a business owner looking for advice. At that moment, it became clear he’d fallen into a situation he just didn’t know how to get out of. That’s not something you see very often on Shark Tank or even on its sister programs around the world.

If you are in a lousy situation, how do you get out of it? Really, it’s a life question, placed squarely in the entrepreneurial context. And the sharks seemed to want to help. Barbara Corcoran had already given a clever assessment — I’m paraphrasing from memory here — “You get an A for effort and an F for execution, and I think you know that.” At the end, Kevin O’Leary would offer to pony up the money — a not-unsubstantial $500,000 — and Lori Greiner offered to help sell the product (an efficient and easy-to-use broom), although she declined to put up any money.

At the end, that was the death knell of Wisp on Shark Tank. Dobson said yes to O’Leary, but asked him to make sure he “kept Lori’s number,” at which, O’Leary was eventually out — after Lori’s participation was not guaranteed and Dobson asked what else O’Leary would bring to the table (his offer was $500,000 for 50 percent, while Dobson was asking for 10 percent). You have to suspect O’Leary was lukewarm on the deal to begin with — it was a lot of money, and the information they knew about the company was unsettling, let alone what might come up during due diligence. He was maybe looking for a reason to be out. O’Leary didn’t fight too hard to salvage the deal — but then Greiner was pretty adamant she was not willing to risk any of her money, just lend her name. (In exchange for what, exactly?)

The whole segment was a reminder that entrepreneurship comes with real risks. It’s not just devoting your time and passion to an idea. A few crises and you can be financially ruined, and it may be harder than it seems to get your life back on track.

It could be summed up, I assume — I say, “I assume” because I have never started a company but have learned A LOT from being self-employed — by what another entrepreneur on tonight’s episode, Kate Field from The Kombucha Shop, said: “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Not knowing what you don’t know, but still being responsible for whatever comes even if you didn’t see it coming, is both (again) a risk in life — and a risk in entrepreneurship.

Let’s use this first-person account from Inc. as an example. Back in 2013, Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans Wool published a cautionary tale about how you can be in the middle of a business boom and still get into trouble. What happened? When things were going well, Zander and her husband/co-owner reinvested most of their profits back into inventory, which was quickly sold. What they didn’t realize is that the inventory, even though it was only held for a short period of time, was considered taxable income. The tax bill was larger than their available cash, and she and her husband had to use personal savings to pay it off.

A new entrepreneur might not anticipate such a situation. Such an entrepreneur could end up with a messy balance sheet, even though customers are lining up out the door.

That’s why the usual tagline of the Shark Tank updates, how much a company is currently doing in sales, only tells part of the story. The show would be wise to flesh out these tales a bit more, not only because they are instructive, but because the “Decade of Dreams” narrative is a bit stale. The core audience knows it’s more complicated, and it might be worth it for the show to dive a bit more deeply into those complications.

If It’s True That Robert Herjavec Was a Last-Minute Replacement for Mark Cuban on ‘Shark Tank,’ That Makes a Lot of Sense

I like Robert Herjavec. I really do. But I always thought it was odd that the folks at Shark Tank had tapped not one, but two, stars of Canada’s Dragons’ Den to sit on the panel of the new program when it started 10 years ago.

If a new article in Vulture is to be believed — that is, if you want to assume Clay Newbill wasn’t kidding in this group interview (with all of the regular sharks except Herjavec) — Robert only got the gig because ABC wouldn’t cast Mark Cuban for season one.

If your memory goes back as far as mine, you’ll recall Kevin Harrington was at the table for Seasons 1 and 2. Mark wouldn’t show up until he was a guest in Season 2, Lori Greiner not until Season 3. In the Vulture piece, the producer said that Herjavec was given the slot in Season 1 after ABC wouldn’t budge on Cuban.

Mark, why were you rejected the first time you auditioned?
Mark Cuban: We won’t go there. [Laughs.]

Clay Newbill: I will say that me and Mark Burnett definitely wanted Mark.

Mark Cuban: Yeah, it wasn’t Mark and Clay. It was ABC.

Clay Newbill: When we found out that we couldn’t get Mark, that is when Robert was plugged in instead in the eleventh hour.

Mark Cuban: What?!

As for O’Leary, he said Mark Burnett called him and asked him to join the US version of the show, because they needed, “an asshole.” Why Herjavec was also considered, it’s tough to say — surveying the Canadian cast at the time, one could say Brett Wilson was just too Canadian, Jim Treliving too “Jim.”

And Arlene Dickinson? Probably my choice if I’d been asked, but as Barbara Corcoran said once, Shark Tank only had room for one woman in Season 1. She revealed in an interview last year (and perhaps before) that she was offered a slot in 2008, only to have the offer taken away because the “lone female seat” had been given to someone else. Corcoran fought for her spot and won.

In a way, the casting folks are to be forgiven, because it’s not easy finding the right mix of people on a show such as this, where it’s really all about the investors, and only tangentially about the entrepreneurs. Of course, it is a bit ridiculous to say there can only be one woman in a cast of five (the rotating group of six didn’t come together until Season 4). One might assume the powers at be looked at it this way: we need a group of potential investors, and we need repesentation. So one woman should suffice. Ten years is not that long ago, but back then plugging in one female was probably considered gender diverse.

On the other hand, casting the Shark Tank panel can’t be that easy — because it’s a big ask. The panelists have to agree not only to a couple of weeks of intense episode filming twice a year, but they basically have to agree to participate in business development off-screen. They have to spend their own money. They trust the show to cast interesting entrepreneurs, and they have to bet on at least a few businesses. There’s an expectation that the sharks won’t be entirely silent partners in those businesses, adding to the burden (or opportunity).

It’s the ultimate “reality” gig, in that way. The sharks even said as much in the interview, with O’Leary noting that they are footing the bill for those investments.

What do you think Shark Tank gets right about the reality-TV experience that other shows can’t always crack?
Barbara Corcoran: A lot of associations with reality television revolve around it not being so real. But not us. Nothing is prompted, nothing is scripted.

Lori Greiner: Genuine. That’s the biggest word.

Kevin O’Leary: And it is our real money. I think this is the only show on TV where the people on the show are actually putting out their own money.

Barbara Corcoran: You can lose more money than you may get paid.

Hopefully, all the sharks have ended up ahead in this deal. Although I wouldn’t feel too badly for them. Ten years in, they have much bigger profiles, even become famous — although at least Cuban was famous already. And as for Herjavec, well, he got a gig on Dancing With the Stars.

In Light Of Cave Shake On ‘Shark Tank,’ Let’s Discuss Incubators

I know nothing about incubators, except the Investopedia definition, and the fact that the word’s been bandied about a lot the past few years since startup culture has become trendy. But the Shark Tank grilling of the proprietors of Cave Shake tonight got me curious as to what, exactly, are the normal parameters of such an arrangement. Judging from the sharks’ questions, one could assume that, just like there’s the possibility of getting a bad deal on an early investment, there’s the chance an incubator may offer less-than-ideal terms on the partnership as well.

According to Bloomberg, Cave Shake has operated as a subsidiary of L.A. Libations LLC since August 31, 2018. That would have likely been after the Shark Tank segment was taped, and therefore after the company got a handshake deal with Charles Barkley. (Who, by the way, warmed my heart with his sincerity when he said he invests in people, and “I like you guys.”) So, did the deal with Barkley go through? Can we have a Beyond the Tank update, please?

On the website of L.A. Libations LLC, Cave Shake is prominently displayed. Not surprising given the name, Libations is a beverage brand incubator. It turns out Coca-Cola owns a minority stake in that entity, at least according to this article from Daily Coffee News — my source for all answers to random investment queries — so, if Cave Shake was actually getting the development assistance and marketing push that is the promise of an incubator, maybe they weren’t in such bad shape after all. But then again, the Cave Shake proprietors mentioned the L.A. Libations/Coca-Cola link on the show and the sharks weren’t particularly impressed; more “what did you give up?”

On this point, I wish I understood more about how it works. Any deal where you have deferred royalty payments means you’re in debt to a previous investor, which, although it might not make you toxic to a new investor, it might indeed cause them to think twice.

To me, it is not what I envision of an incubator, although it may meet the definition. It feels more like a marketing strategy, but then, maybe it’s all the same at the end of the day.

As for Shark Tank, let’s give further props to Charles Barkley for that casual statement that he’s struggled with his weight since he stopped playing. What a nice guy. Even if he didn’t invest in Cave Shake, I’ll give him props for being a good addition to the Shark Tank panel.

Why Lisa Bonet Should Be David Letterman’s Next Guest

When Lisa Bonet was on David Letterman’s show in 1986, she seemed to really hate Bill Cosby. Of course, she didn’t say so outright; there was just that undercurrent of tension and lack of deferential treatment when it came to her then-boss. If you are old enough to remember when The Cosby Show was at its height, you also probably remember how consistently deferential those kids were. They would call him “Mr. Cosby” in interviews, from what I would recall, with not exactly the respect given to a trusted mentor, but that given to an authoritarian or — as Bonet seems to imply in this interview — a king.

If you’re old enough to remember Cosby, you also remember how incredibly cool Lisa Bonet was. More than 30 years later, she’s still cool and — those of us who have an inherent mistrust of authority figures (or kings) are glad to report — she won. She won the Cosby fight, in the sense that a generation and a half later (maybe two), she’s the one with her integrity intact.

Sure, he kicked her off his show, and apparently condemned her for taking on non-Cosby projects that he didn’t approve. But more than 30 years later, it’s Lisa Bonet who’s the model of sticking to your own truth — even if you have to give up what seems, in the moment, to be a dream opportunity. In Lisa Bonet’s case, it was not falling for the glitter that was the Cosby fame by calling him “Mr. Cosby” and nodding at him sweetly off-set like she was forced to do on.

And 30 years later, Bill Cosby’s reruns were cancelled, denying not only Bonet but her other castmates — Geoffrey Owens among them — the financial benefit of residuals which, as working actors, they were owed. You might say that, given Cosby’s egregious behavior, they were especially owed. What he did is not their fault.

You can watch this 1986 interview with Lisa Bonet and David Letterman and think, “it’s okay, Lisa Bonet. In 32 years, Bill Cosby will be in prison.”

In prison. In prison. Bill Cosby will be in prison.

Of course, that’s not news to me, but the remarkable nature of that statement really hit me tonight when I watched this interview on YouTube. I’d read a summary, knew the details about the Angel Heart controversy from way back then. But watching it reminded me what it was like to be a 12-year-old in 1986, when Bill Cosby was an icon. He was indeed, untouchable. There was no hint anything nefarious lurked under the surface, at least not to us, viewers at home, who dutifully tuned in for The Cosby Show and Family Ties on Thursday nights.

But in this interview, Letterman is being Letterman, asking quite good questions that got to the heart of life as a young, female actor on a popular show where she was (allegedly) at odds with the namesake king. Dave asks if she shouldn’t stay put where she is on “the gravy train” of Cosby instead of being spun off into a (then unnamed) new show (which was later called A Different World). Bonet said she’d basically been told to do the spinoff. Does she get a cut? Letterman asks. No, Bonet — then, one week away from her 19th birthday — said, but she was allowed to come back to The Cosby Show if the new show didn’t work.

And Dave, in his usual bluntness disguised as comedy, asked whether she didn’t think Bill was getting a cut of the show, and shouldn’t she be making the same demands.

David Letterman, for this part, expressed no particular love for Bill Cosby in this interview, but you could write that off as just Letterman being Letterman. Dave was rarely deferential to anyone, except his select mentors or comedians he really admired. In 2017, he told GQ that comedy was now about storytelling instead of jokes, and the best at that had been Bill Cosby. It was Letterman, not the interviewer, who brought up the then-shunned actor.

How are we supposed to think of that material now?”

“Jeez, I don’t know. I’ve known Bill Cosby since before I had my own show. He’s a part of American culture. And yet I hesitated before telling that story about Louis C.K. So there’s a taint there. If he’s guilty of everything he’s accused of, that’s a ruined, broken individual.”

A ruined, broken individual. While his once television daughter is cooler than she ever was, at age 50. And victorious, a prime example of living your truth.

David Letterman has this show now, of course, on Netflix: My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. My vote is for his next guest to be Lisa Bonet. They could reflect on this old interview — or others they did over the years — and how the world is very different three decades later. As for her introduction, although she needs none, Dave could say this: “She was always true to herself, and trusted the universe to do its work.” And to the delight of those of us who like to believe in things like karmic justice (even though some of us need karmic forgiveness, no doubt), it has.