By Randall Jobe
Senior producer and host of Houston Public Media’s InnerVIEWS, Ernie Manouse recently won two Emmy Awards, bringing the grand total to ten in his 22 years as a Houston journalist. Prior to his streak of wins, he was nominated and lost so many times that his colleagues jokingly referred to him as the “Susan Lucci” of public television.
Although he has trouble recounting what each of the prizes is for, he is most proud of the Best Documentary award for Murder in Montrose, which recounts the 1991 killing of Paul Broussard in a particularly gruesome event at the hands of youths from The Woodlands.
“We did not attempt to retry the case,” Manouse says. “Rather, we took the facts as they were presented at the time.”
Not all programs are as provocative or controversial. In fact, Manouse is best known for his easy going manner as he interviews some of entertainment’s top celebrities and as host in a four year stint of Manor of Speaking, a guest-filled discussion of the Downton Abbey series.
Despite being accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Manouse attended Loyola University Chicago, studying to be a music video director. While in college he guest-hosted Outlook, a Chicago-based radio show. He began doing “hard news” for NBC Radio. His move to Houston and beginnings as an interviewer in a half hour Weeknight Edition grew into WeekDAY, earning him multiple Emmys and Houston Press Club Awards.
Then in 2004 came the InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse series that, at its height, was syndicated on more than 100 stations. Its popularity remains today in a time when Manouse laments there are few chances for “long format in-depth interviews,” a casualty of what producers perceive as shorter attention spans from audiences. This discussion leads directly into the disturbing news of sexual harassment charges against Charlie Rose, one of the most respected of the individuals still engaging in the interview format. Reluctant to pass any judgment because he has not heard all the facts, Manouse simply states that “it would be a shame for interview programs to suffer because of a particular host’s personal issues.”
Although he does not shy away from the provocative and controversial subjects when asking questions, Manouse’s easy going manner and polite demeanor guide him as he makes guests he is interviewing comfortable enough to be willing to discuss tougher topics.
“It’s a matter of gaining their trust,” Manouse says. “Then they have a tendency to open up.”
He recalls his first aired interview with pop singer Frankie Avalon, although Patti LuPone was the show’s actual initiation to the rich and famous. When pressed for an example of a “difficult” interview, he cites actor Rip Torn, who answered questions separately from those being asked, creating utter confusion. Manouse credits a clever editor with making sense of it all for airing.
Even though he claims to be a difficult interview himself, he is forthright in all questions asked, even the more personal ones. He does not mind sharing that he has been dating a tall, handsome actor, Walt Zipprian, for about a year.
Manouse is also currently involved in Three-Part Harmony: The Rise and Fall of an American Cover Band, Music Box Theater’s production in which he plays himself in the interview format he executes so well.
He insists he is not a singer and had to be coerced by MST owners, Rebekah Dahl and Brad Scarborough.
“It really was a favor returned, after Music Box regular, Luke Wrobel, graciously agreed to play the butler in the Downton Abbey after-show,” Manouse explains.
Because he is used to ad-libbing in InnerVIEWS, he says the most difficult part of Three-Part Harmony is adhering to the written lines so that his fellow actors know how to respond.
His involvement with the theatre continues with Houston Public Media interviews from Theatre Under the Stars and touring Broadway shows, placing him on television, the radio and online.
Manouse is an active member of Houston’s LGBT Community, hosting fundraisers and events and serving as past vice president of the Gay and Lesbian film Festival. He has also hosted the United States Military Ball and the Cattle Baron’s Ball, and has served on advisory boards for both Stages Repertory Theatre and the Dominic Walsh Dance Company.
When asked where he keeps his ten Emmy Awards, Manouse admits that he used to split them up between home and office, but now prefers to keep them all together at home. If his work continues to garner the praise and prizes it deserves, he may need to consider additional space.