Rocker Henry Rollins dives into political waters 

Leno’s too light and Letterman’s the everyman. But when it comes to late-night talk show hosts in the modern era, Henry Rollins may be one of the most unabashed creatures to blast through television’s crowed universe.

Rollins kicks off the second season of "The Henry Rollins Show" at 8 and 10:30 p.m. on IFC on Friday. A provocative 90-minute special, "Henry Rollins: Uncut From Israel," follows the late-night season premiere, showing off the musician/spoken word enthusiast in terrific form, blending onstage rants with rare footage in politically charged locales around Jerusalem.

The special marks Rollins’ second time in Israel in 10 years and spotlights commentary on pop culture, world events and the strength of the Israeli people.

The most surprising difference Rollins noticed between America and Israel was machismo.

"No one has that macho thing in Israel that you find in America," Rollins says. "The only macho people here are the people who have never been to places like Iraq. Our Marines go out into combat and when they come back, they are really short about it; really polite about it. It’s not like, ‘Hell, we kick ass!’ They have gone in and watched as their friends got vaporized. They come back and go, ‘Whoa.’"

Not one to hold back his opinions — they helped launch his own celebrity, after all — Rollins learned that in Israel, "everyone besides Hasidic Jews must have compulsory military service. They have all been out in it. They’re very soft-spoken about what they’ve seen. American soldiers have go to Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan. In Israel, they just go down the road. It’s like you are fighting in Berkeley and your mom hears the explosion that wounded you."

Political issues are aplenty in the second season of Rollins’ show, a surprise hit after it debuted on cable’s IFC last year.

But the series also wins points for its frank, uninterrupted discussions about life, culture and other world affairs with one guest. A musical act is also featured, typically playing longer sets than usual for TV.

On the roster this year, Rollins adds Janeane Garofalo into the mix in a segment dubbed "The Disquisition." His first guest is Marilyn Manson.

"I heard him in interviews and I realized what an articulate, switched-on guy he is," Rollins says of choosing Manson for the premier episode.

Rollins is no stranger to interviews himself. He rose to fame as the lead singer of the band Black Flag more than 20 years ago. After forming The Henry Rollins Band afterward, he turned heads by launching the publishingcompany, 2-13-61 (the artist’s birthday). Eventually, he nabbed a Grammy for Best Spoken Word, something he is still revered for today.

"Being interviewed didn’t really teach me about interviewing — at all," Rollins says of his newfound love for asking questions. "Interviewing people taught me how to interview people. So, unfortunately, I learned on other people’s time."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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