Al Sharpton's New Job
by Rochell D. Thomas
He became a man of God by age 8, was an activist by 16 and hit the road as a tour manager for the "Godfather of Soul" by 18. Next stop for Rev. Al Sharpton... reality TV? Yes, the streetwise politico is the host/life coach of Spike TV's I Hate My Job, a series that offers winners $25,000 and a chance at the career of their dreams. What makes the man once pilloried for his velour sweat suits qualified to tell people how to change their lives? "Because I've done it myself," Sharpton says. "I walked away from a lucrative show-business career to start my civil-rights organization. [Thirty] years later, I was able to run for president."
TV Guide Online: In this week's premiere of I Hate My Job, you're kind of hard on the candidates.
Al Sharpton: I'm rough on them because life is rough. You should not assume that just because you have a dream, the whole world is going to fold to your dream.
TVGO: Ah, so you're just kicking them into gear. Tell us about the last time someone kicked you into gear.
Sharpton: Well, I turned 50 a [month] ago. And I flew from Chicago to Miami with Jesse Jackson. He spent two hours redirecting my life, interpreting where he felt I ought to be going and what I ought to be doing. You know, I met Reverend Jackson when I was 12, and sometimes I think he thinks I'm still 12 or, at most, 15.
TVGO: Are you acting on what he told you?
Sharpton: For the large part, yes. As much as I hate to admit it, he's usually right.
TVGO: You've done many talk shows. Who was the best host?
Sharpton: If I have to say... Sharpton on Saturday Night Live.
TVGO: That's humble.
Sharpton: Well, I have to have a little bravado left.
TVGO: Speaking of bravado, when you ran for president, did you honestly think you had a chance of winning?
Sharpton: I knew I had an outside-to-none chance. I also knew that I'd be able to get a lot of issues out there that, if someone like me were not in the race, would not have been brought up.
TVGO: You've been jailed for protesting. Do you have any advice for Martha Stewart?
Sharpton: I'd tell her to read a lot. And use the time to exercise so that she comes out better than she went in. I was always in the mind that if I had to do 90 days in jail, then I was going to let the time serve me rather than me serve the time.
TVGO: You played yourself on Girlfriends and Boston Legal. Any other shows you'd like to do?
Sharpton: I like Will Smith's show [All of Us]. And I'd love to do The West Wing — as long as I'm president [on it]. (Laughs) I'm getting in the Oval Office one way or another.