As I am learning, interviews for a popular audience are difficult to do because personality has to be balanced with communicating complex facts in a setting that is not generally amenable to a college or university lecture. Some folks can do this effortlessly (like Professor West) and other amazingly accomplished scholars not so well (see Professor Nell Irvin Painter's painful interview on the Colbert Report as an example).
I always pay close attention to the great performers of the pundit and intellectual classes. Why? One, I admire anyone who is a master of the craft. And two, many of the skills exhibited by the most engaging and incisive intellectuals who ply their craft in public life are transferable to the classroom. While many of us who make our living in the library and in front of students are indifferent to the art of teaching as a performance, for those of us who ponder such things a great interview is a gold mine of professional riches.
Brother West and Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson put on a master clinic in the art of the interview. While the complexities of Black History Month in the post-racial Age of Obama cannot be reduced to 20 minutes, both gave as good as they got and offered us a good many gems to improvise around.