Why Mister Rogers Was Really Difficult To Interview

Mister Rogers: Pretty much the one dude in the history of everything who remained above reproach his entire life. He hosted Mister Rogers' Neighborhood all the way from 1968 to 2001, where he tried to create "an atmosphere that allows people to be comfortable enough to be who they are," as The New York Times recounts. Refusing to call Mister Rogers' Neighborhood a "show," he referred to it as a "program," where he was "tending soil" and ensuring that young minds had a safe place to simply be. As CNN states, Mister Rogers literally responded to every piece of fan mail that he ever received, getting up at 5 a.m. to do so (and to pray for a couple of hours). He was such an open, accepting person, in fact, that he aggravated hardcore conservative Christians for not renouncing gay people or non-Christians.

This is not to say that Mister Rogers didn't suffer from personal troubles, the same as anyone else. He was a relentless perfectionist who crafted every single facet of his program and personal life, to the point where he even kept the same body weight his entire life (143 pounds, to reflect the letter count for "I love you"). It's just difficult to imagine anyone taking issue with such a kindly, genuinely warm, utterly harmless, and unobjectionable person. There's simply no drama to be had, especially because he was so private. This, however, made it tough for some interviewers to talk to Fred Rogers.

Mister Rogers, the world's nicest person, has no drama to give

Is it really as simple as, "Mister Rogers was tough to interview because he was so goshdang kind?" Well, yeah. There was no controversy to be had, no polemics, no hostility, no juicy nuggets for networks to weave into ratings boosters. He would say things like, "I think the greatest gift you can ever give is an honest receiving of what a person has to offer," or "I would love to be able to be present in every moment I have," or "I think the greatest thing about things is they remind you of people." I mean... not a lot to argue with in any of those statements, right?

As seen in an interview on YouTube, Fred Rogers was, in fact, rather chatty in his methodical, pointed manner of speaking. Common sense would seem to dictate that you simply let the guy express his mind, and, while hearing the tone of his voice, enter into a trance-like state of enlightenment. After all, this is what he did best, which not only allowed his program to be successful but allowed him to single-handedly rescue PBS from obliteration by testifying in front of Congress, as this clip from Won't You Be My Neighbor? shows (also on YouTube). Mister Rogers was also responsible for allowing people to record TV programs from home (in order for families to better organize their time together).

Now doesn't this sound like a neighbor you'd like to have?