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Catherine Deveney: Forget Musk v Zuckerberg – I’m backing Prince Harry

Prince Harry's plan to interview powerful people is far more entertaining than the Musk Zuckerberg pantomime.

Elon Musk (left) and Mark Zuckerberg say they are planning to take part in a cage fight
Elon Musk (left) and Mark Zuckerberg say they are planning to take part in a cage fight

One of the dilemmas facing tortured philosophers is how to prove we are actually alive, which only proves that philosophers are people who, if they ARE actually alive, don’t know what to do with their aliveness.

Nonetheless, a certain confusion is creeping in, even for lesser mortals.

How do you differentiate between our existence and a surreal nightmare, a weird dream in which the world’s billionaires – Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg – enter a cage and fight for… well, something or other. Probably to determine who has the biggest thingummy… You know – what’s the word again? Oh, yes: ego. The biggest ego.

But we are still struggling with existence here, so let’s leave meaning for now. We might wake up before explanation is necessary.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry has caused consternation because he suggested interviewing Zuckerberg, which means dressing normally and actually talking to him, as opposed to stripping down to his boxers and kicking hell out of him. Well! No wonder Spotify axed Harry and Meghan’s multimillion pound deal.

Harry also wanted to interview Trump and Putin about their childhood traumas. Ridiculous! Who wants to listen to two people talking when you can watch them strip themselves of every vestige of dignity to tussle in a cage, selling tickets in the process, so that lesser mortals can whoop at the big guy spectacle?

According to the Daily Mail (are we still in the nightmare or is this bit real?), executives at Spotify were left “scratching their heads” because Harry also wanted to interview the Pope about religion. Now, here we come to the crazy dream sequence where you can’t fathom why you are in a subway station, dressed as Minnie Mouse, in pursuit of the Mad Hatter.

Avoid clichéd questions to get interesting answers

Why is an anti-monarchist like me defending Prince Harry? Maybe because his ideas are actually good, despite him being royal?

I spent many years as a magazine interviewer and now teach interviewing skills. Here’s what I have learned. An interview should get beyond the public persona. It should capture the unexpected or unknown. And, if you ask dull questions, you will get a dull result.

When interviewing atheist scientist, Richard Dawkins, I asked if he’d ever had a moment of crisis when he was tempted to pray. Dawkins gave me dog’s abuse, which made the interview. Job done. But, when interviewing a bishop, I want to reverse that. Ask the atheist about belief and the believer about doubt.

A Spotify executive referred to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle as ‘grifters’ (Photo: AP)

Interviewing the Pope about religion would undoubtedly be uninspired if you ask clichéd questions. But there are plenty of interesting areas, not only about religious doubt. There’s how he has dealt with the Vatican mafia, including the bankers. What he would have been had he not entered priesthood. What he thinks about the control exerted through silence and secrecy within the Catholic church. How he thinks he will be judged by God.

What questions are Spotify’s executives imagining? Is the Pope a Catholic?

Yes, these subjects might be difficult to land. But the Pope is famous for eccentric interviews in planes – and even to an Italian journalist, notorious for not taking notes.

Prince Harry has serious potential as an interviewer

Interviewers need tenacity. Sometimes, a single interview can take – literally – years of requests. But Harry will always have an advantage. Putin and Trump are such megalomaniacs, they might be as influenced by his profile as he is by theirs, hoovering up his “importance” as an indication of their own.

Harry’s understanding of childhood trauma puts him one step ahead of Spotify. I always ask about an interviewee’s childhood, their upbringing, their relationships with parents and siblings, because of the enormous influence that all has on the trajectories of lives and careers.

It’s more subtle than saying: “What’s your childhood trauma?” Pop stars, politicians, royalty have all become tearful with the right questions. And the right question isn’t: “Do you fancy a cage fight?”

Harry himself has been interviewed by trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté, who recognises that inside dysfunctional adults there is often a traumatised child. Left unhealed, Maté says, trauma “has an impact on your life… about how you feel about yourself, how you see the world, how you get triggered, what you believe about yourself, the kind of relationships you get into.” Perfect territory for an interview.

Investigating trauma using Trump, Putin and Zuckerberg is ambitious but interesting. For Spotify execs to suggest the Sussexes are untalented and devoid of producer experience is a bit rich. What did they expect from an actress and a prince when they signed them?

It’s the execs’ jobs to help creative ideas come to fruition. Don’t criticise your left-field signing – guide them. Or were Spotify only interested in short-term celebrity status?

It’s easy to imagine the streaming giants’ excitement about events like the Musk Zuckerberg pantomime. But actual conversations? Duh, Harry! Why didn’t you suggest staging it on one of those medieval ducking stools where the interviewees gets submerged in gunk if they don’t answer? Now THAT’S entertainment.

Catherine Deveney is an award-winning investigative journalist, novelist and television presenter