Photo Credit: Courtesy Nate Berkus
Oprah Winfrey is many things. Intelligent? Yes. Relatable? Yep. Generous? You bet. But hilarious? According to her longtime friend Nate Berkus, the daytime talk-show doyenne knows how to deliver a punchline.
"That’s one of the little-known things about Oprah," the design guru tells iVillage. "She’s always the funniest person in the room, no matter who else is at the table."
Berkus, 39, got his TV start as a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show more than ten years ago. And as the Winfrey's 25-year reign comes to end (with her final episode airing May 25), the interior designer -- who now hosts The Nate Berkus Show -- reflects back on the woman who helped make his own dreams come true.
How do you feel about The Oprah Winfrey Show coming to an end?
I think it's the right time, but it's very bittersweet for me. I feel like Harpo has been a family to me.
What was your first impression of Oprah?
Hilarious. I truly thought she was hilarious. That’s one of the little-known things about Oprah. She’s always the funniest person in the room, no matter who else is at the table.
What's the funniest thing she's ever said to you?
It’s not even like that. It’s pretty constant.
Why do you think she's so relatable?
She’s never hidden anything from anyone. She's the exact same person on the screen as she is off the screen. I think it’s her authenticity that really resonated. Because people are smart, and they know when people are telling them the truth. And Oprah has always told the truth. Telling the truth makes you very powerful.
Is there anything about her that's different off camera?
I’m happy that people are watching (her reality show) Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes this year. You see Oprah not on set, not on the show. And I think that’s also a very accurate side to Oprah.
You get to see her as a tough businesswoman, right?
Yeah, and it’s funny and there’s swear words. Like all of us, she’s got many sides.
Do you ever think she's intimidating?
No, I don’t find Oprah to be intimidating, but I think there's a respect that's there because of her life experience and her knowledge and willingness and openness to new things. She deserves a lot of respect.
What memories from the show stick out in your mind?
When I came back from the tsunami (in the Indian Ocean in 2004, during which he lost his partner), I came on the show to help raise money to rebuild the town where I was. Oprah was just staring at me without saying anything when I was speaking. And I could just feel her empathy in that moment.
What's the best advice she's ever given you?
Always listen to my inner guide. No matter what the stakes, no matter who’s telling me different, no matter what anyone’s saying will be the backlash. Always trust my inner voice.
Has she given you advice about hosting your own show?
Of course, yeah. But the mistake that a lot of people make with Oprah is that they think she has the answers for them. A lot of people think, "Well, it’s Oprah, so she’ll know exactly what I should do." But she’s taught me that you need to figure out what feels right for you. No one else can tell you what the right choices for you are. And that’s also been a big part of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The way she’s presented information for the past 25 years has not been "do this" or "eat that." It's been, "This is something that I’ve found that I'd like to share with you, and you can make your mind up how you see fit."
How has she changed your life?
Well, one, she’s a dear friend. And two, I think that she allowed me to be one of the very, very lucky people who get to do what they love to do. I take my passion and share it with millions of people. And I don’t know what’s better than that.
Do you have a favorite episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show?
Wow, there really were so many for me that resonated. I love the one where they had men who had been abused. I thought that was incredible. And I really loved all the opportunities that I had to be that guy who rings the doorbell and somebody knows as soon as they see me that things are changing -- and they’re changing for the better.
What does that feel like?
It’s amazing. It's making a difference in people’s lives, and that’s what I hope to do with my own show.
Oprah recently gave you a tour of her home on your show. Did anything surprise you about her house?
One of my philosophies for a long time has been that people really deserve to love the way they live. Our homes should really be a space, at any price, that we feel a sense of peace and a sense of connection with. The depth to which Oprah feels that about her home is something that made me really happy.
Do you have any inside info on what viewers can expect from Oprah's final show?
Nope! Unfortunately, I cannot tell you that. It’ll be spectacular, though!
Ali Gray is iVillage's Associate Entertainment Editor. Follow her on Twitter: @thealigray