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Christian Living

Entertainment

Harry Connick Jr. on Faith, Family, and His Daytime Talk Show

Hannah Goodwyn - Senior Producer

Entertaining crowds is Harry Connick, Jr.'s forte. He's been on every kind of stage and screen for the better part of half a century (and he's only 49).

A jazz singer/musician from New Orleans, Connick made a quick name for himself in the music industry back in the '90s. From there, he got into movies and television, and onto Broadway.

Over the years, Connick's earned more No. 1 albums than any other artist in US jazz chart history, been nominated for a Tony Award, and won two Grammys and two Emmy Awards. After three seasons as a judge on American Idol (2014-2016), the consummate performer decided it was time to charm TV audiences on a daily basis. And so Harry was born. The daytime talk show first aired the day after Connick's birthday, on September 12, 2016.

The Origin of Harry

The heart of Connick's show – though fun with musical moments featuring the jazz great's incredible talent – finds it beat from his childhood.

"I just want my show to celebrate family and community, and be aspirational and inspirational," he says. "It all goes back to…I think what you learn at home. And I was real lucky to have the parents that I had."

Harry's Jewish mother and Catholic father, Anita and Joseph, raised him and his older sister, Suzanna, with the same values he aspires to display in his life – professionally and at home with his wife of 23 years, Jill, and their three daughters.

Connick fondly recalls his parents teaching him to be others-focused and helpful.

"If we went to the grocery store and we got in the car and we were pulling out of the parking lot, and there was some older woman pushing her cart to the car, my dad would stop the car and make me get out and help her with her bags," he remembers. "That's just what we did. We didn't think twice about it."

"It was treating people with dignity and respect, being colorblind, being accepting and loving to everyone," he says.

Family Is His Life

Just before Thanksgiving last year, Connick's TV producers surprised him with top-secret guests for a "This Is Your Life" episode.

"Some of them were people who really profoundly impacted me, like my wife and my children, and some of my old teachers," he recalls. "It was just unexpected. I didn't think I necessarily deserved that. But, it was overwhelming to see all of these incredible people come in and say such nice things. I was overwhelmed."

One of the sweetest moments from that episode sums up Harry Connick, Jr. perfectly. It's when Jill and his girls walked out onto the set.

"[Family] means everything. Something that was passed down from my mom and dad, they were such great parents. My father's still with me, he's 90 now and my mother died a long time ago [when I was 13]. I wanted to have what they had. When I got old enough to consider marriage, that was the standard by which I based my dreams."

"When I met Jill, fortunately we shared the same values. That's what she wanted, too. I don't know what kind of father or husband I am. I just know that I feel so lucky to have met Jill and to have my daughters that I just want to do a good job. I just want to try to be as understanding and patient, and informative, and loving as I can be."

Faith, Hope, and Love on Daytime TV

A practicing Catholic, Connick doesn't shy away from talking about faith. Back in December, former NFL quarterback and MLB hopeful Tim Tebow dropped by the show to share his "unbelievable" John 3.16 story.

"I don't preach on the show because I'm not a preacher. And I don't really get into politics and stuff because I'm an entertainer and I just want to have a really fun show," he says. "But here's the deal… For some reason, it's not OK or hasn't been OK to talk about your faith, you know. Like there's places where you can't say 'Merry Christmas' and all that stuff. That's just not who I am."

"So if Tim Tebow comes on and he wants to talk about John 3:16, I'm all over it. I love that. I think it's great. Is my show a religious show, per say? Of course not," Connick says. "It's a show that I'd like moms and dads, and their kids, and their parents, and everybody to be able to watch together and don't feel like they have to hit the mute button for fear of seeing something inappropriate. That's not what you're going to get with my show."

"Yes, if a guy like Tim Tebow comes on and wants to tell this amazing story and speak the values that make him the great guy that he is… man, I see no other thing to do but to celebrate that."

The grandson of Jewish immigrants, Connick feels like his talk show is timely given what's going on in our divided country.

"I'm so thankful. I feel like it's fortuitous that we came around with my show now," Connick says, "because we're in a tough place right now. And if I can just bring a little bit of joy to people during the day, I'll feel like I'll have done my job."

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