Does John Mayer Really Need His Own Talk Show?

Mayer is reportedly in talks to host a show on Paramount+. Should past controversies preclude him from doing so?

John Mayer performs onstage during the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California and broadcast on March 14, 2021.
John Mayer performs onstage during the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California and broadcast on March 14, 2021.
Getty Images for The Recording A

Late-night TV has long been dominated by straight white men, and it looks like another could soon be joining the ranks: Variety reports that John Mayer is close to signing a deal with Paramount Plus to host a “talk and performance series” modeled on the BBC’s Later With Jools Holland.

Nothing has been finalized or formally announced yet, but the publication notes that “Later With John Mayer has been pitched to prospective broadcast partners as a series featuring performance segments as well as interviews with musicians, artists and other cultural figures in a setting designed to look like an after-hours club for musicians.” It would run weekly on the Paramount+ streaming service, and specials comprised of performances from the show would air periodically on CBS.

But does Mayer — whose checkered past includes a notorious Playboy interview in which he used the n-word and compared his penis to a white supremacist, as well as a slew of misguided comments aimed at his many celebrity girlfriends — deserve a platform like this?

The guitarist has, of course, apologized for the 2010 Playboy interview several times in the 11 years since it happened, and he seems to have matured enough to at least recognize the double standard female pop stars face and speak out about the privilege he has enjoyed as a white, male performer. People are capable of change, and Mayer doesn’t necessarily deserve to be “canceled” for his decade-old transgressions, but does that mean he should be the face of CBS’s next weekly talk show?

Even though he’s maybe not the blatant asshole he was years ago, Mayer clearly has a long history of putting his foot in his mouth — so long that it can be compiled into a timeline — and to put him on a show every week where he’s expected to talk and interview guests seems like a PR nightmare waiting to happen. As recently as 2018, Mayer found himself in hot water after hesitating to identify himself as a feminist (“That’s because a single phrase is being co-opted [rather] than the actual ideal it attempts to present”) and demonstrating that perhaps he still doesn’t have the healthiest relationship with women (“I won’t name names but not so long ago I gave a girl my number and she said, ‘I probably won’t use it.’ I actually think it’s awesome too because I would have ruined her.”). Can we trust him to ask his female guests smart, respectful questions?

But even if Mayer is completely reformed, there’s still the issue of representation and whether we really need to give yet another late-night show to a white guy who’s managed to fall upward. An American version of Later With Jools Holland would be a cross-section of two worlds — late-night talk shows and the music industry — that have historically been boys’ clubs, and there are countless talented female musicians who would excel at hosting a show like this if given the opportunity. How cool would it be to not only diversify late-night a bit and give a member of an under-represented community a big platform, but also hold up a female musician as an arbiter of taste? Would we really rather take our chances and see if the “sexual napalm” guy is going to say something problematic again?

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