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Five Minutes With . . . Rick Ungar

Five Minutes With . . . Rick Ungar

Monday, 03 April 2017 12:17 PM

Rick Ungar co-hosts "Steele and Ungar," weeknights 6 - 9p.m. ET on SiriusXM's POTUS channel, with former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. Ungar has been a Hollywood writer and producer, CEO of the Marvel Character Group, creator of the hit cartoon series "Biker Mice From Mars," a Newsmax commentator, and a Forbes columnist known (affectionately) as "The Token Lefty."

We quizzed him about Washington under President Donald Trump, the state of Hollywood and whether the United States is in a good place:

Newsmax: The country seems to be hopelessly divided these days with neither side willing to listen to the other's point of view. Is our democracy in peril?

Rick Ungar: We've survived worse, but the inability of people who see things differently to talk to one another is one of the greatest threats to our democracy. People of varying ideologies no longer see people who disagree as simply wrong, we now view one another as evil and out to either destroy the nation or engaged in an effort to purposefully harm others.

NM: You were born in the Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio. Do you understand why many people in communities like this rejected Hillary Clinton last November?

RU: I do now. However to my discredit, I did not see it happening during the election. The folks in Rust Belt towns feel the establishment has led them down a very dark rabbit hole as they blindly offered their support to one side or the other. So, when a candidate emerged who ran against the entire system, this was a complete expression of how they were feeling. The result is the Trump presidency.

NM: It's fashionable for the elites to ridicule the new administration. But are the callers to your show ready to give President Trump more time to carry out the agenda he was elected on?

RU: There are definitely callers who continue to support President Trump and feel he deserves more time to carry out his agenda. I don't think those who are distressed by his first 70 plus days are necessarily acting out of elitism, they are acting out of concern.

NM: In which policy area do you think Trump has the greatest chance of being successful?

RU: Infrastructure. I believe that he is likely to find considerable cooperation with the Democrats in Congress on this issue.

NM: "Steele and Ungar" strives to be a reasoned and thoughtful show, everything that Washington isn't these days. Isn't your "let's be reasonable" style a little jarring?

RU: I hope so. There is a large audience out there who are sick and tired of everyone going on radio to fight and demean those who hold a different opinion on the issues. This was the entire philosophy behind my wanting to do a show that we call "rational radio."

NM: Are you telling us you've never raised your voice to a caller?

RU: Very, very rarely. I've lost my temper with a few callers when that individual (and it has happened from both liberal and conservative callers) is trying to feed my audience fake news and other such garbage.

NM: President Trump is an avid consumer of cable news in the White House. How do you prepare for your show? What do you read, what do you watch?

RU: Major newspapers, including those that have a conservative and liberal editorial slant, and political sites ranging from Think Progress to Politico to The Hill to Breitbart and The National Review and, of course, Newsmax! Additionally, I flip between cable news channels so I'm getting a more well-rounded point of view of any stories that may be developing. I will also tune into radio programs ranging from Tom Hartmann to Sean Hannity.

NM: Is Fake News a big deal?

RU: You have to distinguish between purposefully fake news and poorly reported news. One is intentional and one is negligent.

NM: You've lived in New York and Los Angeles. What are your favorite restaurants in each city?

RU: In Los Angeles, it would have to be my favorite sushi bars. In New York, it is, hands down, Gray's Papaya on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Best hot dogs anywhere in the world!

NM: You've also lived in Mexico. Don't you think Trump is right to want a wall to secure our southern border?

RU: I think he is right to want to secure our southern border but I think the whole "big, beautiful wall" thing is a costly, unnecessary stunt. Anyone who takes the time knows that more undocumented aliens are leaving than arriving. Most of those who are arriving these days are citizens of Latin American countries (Mexico is a North American country) escaping actual threats to their lives. And they are as likely to come into our country at various ports of entry nowhere near the southern border.

NM: You've executive-produced such TV shows as "X-Men: Evolution," "The Incredible Hulk," "Spider-Man" and "The Fantastic Four." What is it with you and super heroes?

RU: Ha! I have never gotten over my infatuation as a kid with tying a bathrobe around my neck and jumping off the bed as I pretended to be Superman (no, I don't do it any longer but secretly wish I could). I now watch my grandsons playing the same superhero fantasies I acted out as a kid. And if you think that Michael Steele and I argue about politics, I assure you that our political disagreements don't hold a candle to the fight that erupts when he tries to claim that Superman is superior to Spiderman.

NM: Even comics are becoming P.C. We have gay superheroes and R-rated fare such as "Logan," the Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman? Aren't we robbing our youth of the simple escapism comic books gave us as kids.

RU: When a publisher puts out a comic book involving a gay superhero, they are doing it to fill a hole in the marketplace — gay men and women who are comic book fans but never before got to see their own reflection in the comic book characters they love. I can tell you that the Marvel movies were never made for little children. They are made for adults. That doesn't mean there are not superhero movies being made for younger children as there certainly are. So, no, I don't think we are robbing our youth of escapism.

NM: Okay, this may cause a stir in the Marvel universe, but which of the superhero characters is your favorite?

RU: That's easy. "Biker Mice From Mars." These characters, which I created so many years ago, changed my life and made a lot of things possible for me.

NM: When Hollywood ever makes a Rick Ungar biopic, who would you like to see play you?

RU: Hollywood can get desperate at times but I don't anticipate they will ever get that desperate.

NM: Have you ever considered running for political office, presumably as a Democrat?

RU: I have a wife that has been enormously supportive of my odd career choices. The only thing she has asked me not to do is run for public office. Additionally, I'm not a very good follower and there is way too much following in politics.

NM: If you could interview one president, from any time period, who would it be?

RU: Richard Nixon, just so I could ask: "What were you thinking?!?"

NM: You wrote an episode of a 1999 series called "Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths & Legends." So is there extraterrestrial life out there and has it visited our planet?

RU: I think the odds very much support the likelihood that we are not alone in the universe. If there was ever a time for them to appear, now would be it. It just might take an alien invasion to get Americans back in touch with one another.

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Rick Ungar co-hosts "Steele and Ungar," weeknights 6 - 9 p.m. ET on SiriusXM's POTUS channel, with former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. Ungar has been a Hollywood writer and producer, CEO of the Marvel Character Group...
Rick Ungar, Five Minutes
Monday, 03 April 2017 12:17 PM
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