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What happened at SXSW 2021 on Day 2? Willie Nelson, Trump talk and more

American-Statesman staff
Willie Nelson discusses his new album "Ride Me Back Home" during a taping for SiriusXM’s Willie’s Roadhouse Channel at Luck Ranch on April 13, 2019, in Spicewood, Texas.

The second day of South by Southwest's virtual conference and festivals brought us Willie Nelson's first keynote ever. There are more movies and music tonight, but here's a recap of what you missed earlier today.

1. Keynote: Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson’s pre-taped 40-minute conversation with journalist Andy Langer was the top draw of Wednesday’s programming. Nelson spoke via Zoom from his ranch outside Austin about subjects ranging from family and friends to farmers and weed to poker and dominoes — and, of course, music.

Asked about how he knew when he'd written a good song, he replied: "I know what I like, and I have to trust what I like as being good. And so far, that’s the way it’s been. I trust my opinion.”

He also weighed in with his thoughts on spirituality, declaring: “What I believe is that God is Love, period. Love is God, period. You can't have one without the other." He added: “It’s all cosmic. I’m not responsible for anything I do.”

— Peter Blackstock, American-Statesman staff

A conversation with Willie Nelson:Austin icon talks about new album, book, SXSW and more

2. 'The Daily Show' on post-Trump world

In a lively panel, “The Daily Show” correspondents Jordan Klepper, Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Dulcé Sloan and Roy Wood Jr. talked about the end of the Trump presidency and how to navigate late-night TV in the pandemic era. Throughout the year, as the team and host Trevor Noah worked from home, Klepper continued to film segments from Trump rallies. On Jan. 6, he was on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol with a camera crew and four bodyguards when the insurrection broke out.

The comedians said they’ve been grateful for the space to pivot to other news stories as the former president has fallen out of the news, but Klepper doesn’t believe the Trump era is over.

“It’s not just one crazy guy in the Oval Office,” he said. He believes the ideology that Trump fueled will remain for some time.

— Deborah Sengupta Stith, American-Statesman staff

Desus Nice, from left, the Kid Mero and Scott Feinberg speak at the featured session “A Conversation with Desus Nice and The Kid Mero” during SXSW Online on March 17, 2021.

3. Desus and Mero call out Ted Cruz

Joel Martinez, aka Kid Mero of the wildly popular Desus & Mero comedy and commentary duo, tweeted Tuesday night that he had contracted the coronavirus. Fortunately for all of those attending the virtual SXSW, Mero had previously recorded the interview with his partner, Daniel Baker, aka Desus Nice, and the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg. 

Desus and Mero went off, which fans love from their popular Showtime show and weekly podcast. Among their targets: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Referencing the politician's brief jaunt to Cancun during the deadly winter storms that hit Texas, Desus called Cruz a “bum” and a “terrible person." Read the full recap here.

Matthew Odam, American-Statesman staff

More SXSW:In new docuseries, Demi Lovato reveals her overdose led to 3 strokes, heart attack

4. Spotlight on mental health

"We have to break this down, because our people are suffering," actress Taraji P. Henson said during SXSW, talking about mental health care for people of color. "The trauma is so deep with us. We take on these titles like 'strong Black woman' and 'Black girl magic,' but it can be detrimental to our health. Generationally, we have been pushing through trauma, but we have to stop. At some point we have to deal with this trauma, at some point we have to talk about it." 

— Addie Broyles, American-Statesman staff

Olympian/author/actress Alexi Pappas and her self-described mentor, comedian/actor Bill Hader, went deep on bravery and facing mental illness head on. As Hader described his early days trying to get a foothold in Hollywood, Pappas said, "You have to put yourself into a position to maybe fail. That muscle is one you grow and keep exercising." There's no place where you learn to do that better than "Saturday Night Live," Hader said of the show that made him famous. Hader opened up about his experience with therapy, where he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and how medication has helped him. Pappas spoke of her own struggles, including the suicide of her mother and post-Olympics depression. You need to be compassionate to your "yesterday self," she said: "If you had a sprained ankle, no one would be like 'fix this tomorrow.'” 

— Eric Webb, American-Statesman staff

5. TV at SXSW

Rapper, singer and actress Queen Latifah considers “The Equalizer” the “role of a lifetime”: “ It allows me to bring together under one roof so many skills that I’ve acquired,” she said during a SXSW conversation with longtime collaborator LL Cool J. Like her character on that CBS show, she’s an avid motorcyclist. She also likes the way family is centered in the newest incarnation of the show. Her character’s relationship with her 15-year-old daughter will become pivotal and the show features several generations of Black women under one roof. “Other equalizers are much more stoic characters,” she said.

— D.S.S.

Even though it was missing its star, Jason Sudeikis, a SXSW Online panel about Apple TV+ hit "Ted Lasso" was a good peek into how the heartfelt sports comedy is put together. Co-creator Bill Lawrence and editors for the show detailed the use of music, concurrent episode editing and even special effects for making the soccer matches in the show appear real. Lawrence said the show's upcoming second season of a planned three-season run is currently being edited. 

— Omar Gallaga, special to the American-Statesman