Comments: 1052 • Responses: 94  • Date: 

ihnatko2746 karma

When you're interviewing, how much of your mental bandwidth is taken up with your own agenda as a broadcaster versus the simple pleasure of a conversation?

JesseThorn2204 karma

What an interesting question. I think in my case, I'm always about 20-30% on the logistics: what I've got to cover, how it's going, if I need to pivot somewhere else, what I'm going to ask next. The rest is just enjoying the company of my guest. Like yesterday I interviewed Louie Anderson, and it was easy as pie. I just asked him what I was curious about and listened to him be the hilarious genius talker he is.

The tricky bit for me I think is that I get migraine headaches pretty chronically, so often - say 1/3 of the time - I'm either in pain or on medication when I'm doing the interview. That makes it a lot tougher to double-track my brain. But I manage.

ndcanuck614 karma

You're already a great interviewer, but are there things you've learned from this that will change your own approach to interviewing?

JesseThorn920 karma

First of all, thank you for the compliment. I learned a ton from this. The main things were almost spiritual. There was a point where Katie Couric said, with absolute conviction, that she aspires to make the person she's speaking with the only person in the world in her mind, and vice-versa, for example. Or just being with Larry King, and feeling how electrically present he was. Same with Marc Maron, who's a friend, but every time we talk I am shocked at how kind of emotionally there he is, no matter what's going on.

For me personally, the challenge is more about that kind of thing - risk taking, emotional intimacy, deep engagement - than it is about a particular type of question or preparation.

lawjr3292 karma

Mr Thorn, I have been a fan of you since 2009 and I have a profound respect for you.

Once or twice a year, you spend a weekend with fans of your network at very fun conventions.

Is this an event you look forward to? Or do you dread it as a very stressful time?

JesseThorn284 karma

Both! It is completely exhausting and sometimes I go and hide in my room, thanks to my weird combo-extrovert-introvert personality, but every year it's totally amazing. It's harder if I have a show or something like that.

seabass0254 karma

Hey Jesse!

I've been loving the Turnaround this summer, but I have so many episodes that are still in my queue. Why the choice to release 2x per week rather than stretching them out over a longer stretch of time?

(Great job on these by the way...they're fantastic, and you've proven yourself to be among the ranks of every interviewer you've interviewed)

JesseThorn264 karma

We just wanted to make it feel like a cool event that was only happening this summer. I actually think that we achieved that feeling - the audience was much larger than we anticipated, and the feedback's been awesome. Also, ultimately this is a limited project, we're really trying to provide an archive more than a continuing show, so we wanted to get the stuff out there.

cayloe215 karma

Did you expect to find such a bright line between those who come prepared, looking to support a particular story and those that wing it and let the interview progress to where it will go naturally? I found the frankness with which some, Ira Glass for example, said they were there to get certain 'tape' to fit a particular narrative to be a bit shocking.

JesseThorn301 karma

I mean, I knew that about Ira, so I wasn't surprised there. Ira is absolutely one of my top five personal heroes in my work, and a really wonderful guy as well who has been very kind to me, but he does what he does. I mean, he is a narrative crafter first, everything else second. Not that he would lie or cheat, but simply that his priority is story.

One of my favorite things about Brooke Gladstone is how anti-narrative On the Media is. I think if you spend a lot of time looking at journalism very closely, you see that the biases aren't really ideological, they have more to do with the appetites of the audience, and particularly narrative.

That said, if I was better or more interested in storytelling, I'd be a lot more successful.

Detox1337214 karma

Would you do an interview for me? I'm interviewing interviewers who interview interviewers.

JesseThorn167 karma

I did this with Woody Battaglia, a nice comic from New York state, and he's publishing it later today on his podcast which is (believe it or not) a minute-by-minute breakdown of My Dinner With Andre. And my former colleague Thomas Matysik is a freelance journalist now and did a great interview with me, though you'd have to ask him where it'll end up.

ThisAccountIsAVirus117 karma

What is your opinion on Blue Aprons Cakes?

seabass0137 karma

Let me at them!

JesseThorn174 karma

This is a very inside reference.

theessentialforrest91 karma

Hi Jesse,

First I want to say how much I love what you do. From PTO to all the shows at MaxFun you are consistently the impetus for some of my favorite things.

Now for my question: Have you ever done an interview where you were physically uncomfortable or scared because of who you were interviewing?

P.S. If you do ever get a way to interview Nardwar please take it. I'd love to hear his perspectives on interviewing.

JesseThorn194 karma

We invited Nardwuar, and he declined, but he recently emailed me again, so maybe it will end up a bonus episode, along with Dick Cavett, who was under the weather.

The most physically uncomfortable is usually when I'm with someone REALLY good-looking and/or charismatic. Eva Mendes I interviewed once, for example. Ru-Paul. Terry Crews. Mark Duplass. I mean, it's fine, I just don't talk to anyone who's insanely beautiful in my regular life, and that's weird. I've never been afraid, really, but I pretty much only invite people I like on my show, and I'm not into scary people.

Oh, and sometimes when I'm interviewing people who are EVERYTHING to people I know but aren't exactly my thing (Elvis Costello comes to mind), I feel like I'm going to fuck it up and disappoint the people who love that person.

dc-phillips81 karma

Is there any chance for a season 2? I think Charlie Rose could be your finale.

JesseThorn103 karma

If we did season two, it'd be with all the people who said no to season one, so it'd be a ton more work, and I already spent too much money on this thing :).

FaustMN52 karma

How was the experience of The Turnaround different than you expected it to be?

JesseThorn74 karma

It took a lot longer and was a lot harder than I expected. But probably the biggest surprise of the whole thing was how positive the reaction was. I figured it'd just go out to a thousand Jesse Thorn fans and three thousand journalists, and it's found quite an audience and generated a ton of positive feedback and even some press.

IdealizedSalt51 karma

At some point in the show, you spoke about this being a course in interviewing for you in some way. At the conclusion, do you feel you've learned significant lessons about the craft?

I just wish I was as clear in my convictions and defending them as Audie Cornish.

JesseThorn94 karma

Hah, me too. I asked Audie about that stuff because I knew she'd thought about it and would have an answer, and boy did she.

It's funny, one of the things I've learned from The Turnaround is actually from the process of making the show rather than the content. Because this was a non-paying side project, and because I was talking to people I really admire, I decided to do very minimal preparation for the conversations. I mean, a lot of folks I talked to I know, and others I did do some prep for, but essentially I decided to let myself off the hook for these. Lower the stakes. Because I have seventeen other jobs and because when I stress myself out I give myself migraine headaches, and because it is really something that I've prepared for with my work all my adult life. The reaction to the show has been immensely positive, and it makes me think of my Bullseye work in a new light. That's not to say I've quit preparing, but more that it has spurred me to surrender more control over the conversation. Or more of the illusion of control. To listen more actively and respond more authentically, and not be afraid to sound like a person.

Of course there are some iTunes reviews about how unprepared and amateurish I am, and that stings a bit, but I think it was a worthwhile tradeoff.

dudeliketotally50 karma

One thing that struck me was how few of the people you interviewed had anything like the training or experience you'd need to even start on the ladder for a job like theirs today. Do you think talented, passionate people are still able to find a way into journalism if they didn't go to j school, work on their school paper, etc?

JesseThorn65 karma

I think more than ever you don't need any of that shit to get into journalism. I mean, maybe to get a JOB job right out of college, but the internet has completely changed the game. I've never taken a journalism class or worked at a journalism institution. I made stuff, put it up, promoted it, people liked it, they stuck around, repeat. For about 15 years.

Gggorilla32 karma

Did you (or any of the people you interviewed) study anthropology at all? I took an ethnographic interviewing course in college for my anthropology degree and sometimes I recognize those techniques when I listen to radio interviews.

JesseThorn30 karma

Not that I know of, but that's interesting. What techniques in particular?

nd-lonecart39 karma

Maximum Fun has QUICKLY become my favorite podcast network. There are so many tremendously good shows, and the production value is next to none. My question, and I hope it doesn't get you in trouble, what is your favorite podcast to listen to on the network?

JesseThorn48 karma

Right now, Stop Podcasting Yourself. But it changes.

_Buff_Drinklots_39 karma

Did you try to get Howard Stern? Why or why not?

Thank you.

JesseThorn64 karma

Yeah, for sure. We got a very polite no.

As far as I'm concerned there's no one better at conducting the emotional music of an interview. He bullies sometimes, he cajoles, he tempts people, he bares his own soul, whatever it takes. He's masterful.

_Buff_Drinklots_23 karma

I appreciate the reply and agree with your opinion of his style and talent. I kind of figured it would be a quick no, based off of his reluctance to continue to be a guest on talk shows and the like.

Have a great day.

JesseThorn30 karma

He has a lot of money and a lot of jobs.

Macatros31 karma

What do you think of the YouTube interviewer Nardwuar?

JesseThorn26 karma

I think he's great. We hoped to have him on the show, but it didn't work out.

lazorwulf30 karma

Hi, Jesse! I work at an imploding community newspaper. Is there any room in the podcast lifeboat for me? Seems like it's getting pretty crowded in there 😬

JesseThorn78 karma

We're already pretty close to cannibalism in here, please find your own means of flotation.

tomatysik24 karma

Was there anything your subjects said that made you go, "damn, I'm gonna have to start using that?" (I'm thinking about when you mentioned Scott Simon's question from the TAL comic book; that's one of my big go-to tricks too.)

JesseThorn43 karma

I wanted more of that than I got. What I got, really, was a lesson in kind of higher-order stuff. The kind of big feelings and big aspirations that sometimes as a pessimist I am afraid of engaging.

emileshahidi20 karma

LOVED the show. Was wondering if you'd consider releasing as a companion an unedited Bullseye interview with some commentary from you and your producers on how you prepared for it, why you asked follow-ups, editing decisions, etc?

JesseThorn35 karma

That's an interesting idea. Maybe we should do that for a donor drive sometime. I think you'll generally find that the unedited interview just includes some parts that are 20% less interesting than the parts that are in there. It's not like I'm getting in a fight with the guest and then we edit that out :). THough maybe I should, it worked for Marc.

yaginuma20 karma

Do you agree with Werner Herzog that truth and fact are not the same thing?

JesseThorn38 karma

Yeah, sure, but I also agree with Brooke Gladstone that that doesn't mean you shouldn't have both. Her co-host Bob Garfield has been doing a great podcast series within On the Media's podcast feed about documentary practices, and I think they often benefit from the audience's expectations, which are built on the stricter practices of print journalism, when the documentarians are sometimes playing fast and loose.

That said, I don't think anyone goes to a Herzog doc expecting to see anything other than Truth told by any means necessary.

sinobed19 karma

What guests did you try to book but weren't able to? Who was at the top of your wishlist?

JesseThorn48 karma

At the top was probably Howard Stern. But a lot of others would have been wonderful. Nardwuar. Oprah. Barbara Walters. Jake Tapper. Charlie Rose. Maybe Conan O'Brien? He's probably the funniest in an interviewer that I can think of. We got an email full-on offering Krista Tippett, who's brilliant, and we hadn't thought of the first time around, but we had to be like, "sorry, we're done." Hopefully we'll be able to round up Dick Cavett soon, he was nice enough to agree, but then had some minor health trouble and had to cancel.

Who do you all think we should have included? I'm interested to hear.

sinobed20 karma

I was thinking it would have been great to get a late night host on there. Conan would have been great. Letterman, Jon Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel. The long form interview is my favorite type of podcast and there are a lot of interesting people doing that. Marc is great and I think Joe Rogan would have been interesting too.

JesseThorn19 karma

Stewart is a pretty amazing TV interviewer. What he was able to pack into that little segment - jokes, insight, context - is pretty amazing.

Sub11661013 karma

I was scrolling to see someone ask if you tried to get Howard Stern. Can you go into any more detail on that? We all know he hates doing interviews but was it just a simple "no" from his people? Did they show any interest? As a Howard fan and especially of his interviews it was great to see him at the top of your list

JesseThorn14 karma

We asked his reps, got a no back. Pretty straightforward.

fwillia19 karma

You've always been an empathetic interviewer. To what extent does that come naturally to you, and to what extent did you have to cultivate empathy as a skill?

JesseThorn32 karma

It might be fake. I'm not sure.

fwillia12 karma

Sincerity aside, it's obviously served you well. Was there a time you can think of where you really had to work on connecting with a guest? Or a hypothetical future guest who would present a challenge?

JesseThorn19 karma

I find it harder on the phone, almost always. Trying to think of a time it was tough. I'll see if I can come up with a specific example.

lvl10vp15 karma

In a bunch of your Turnaround interviews, you ask about the context of the interview (live vs. taped, TV vs. radio, famous vs. ordinary people). In the end, how much of a difference does it make what we're using interviews for? Or, is the art of interviewing generally the same, and the same techniques work in all these different settings?

JesseThorn17 karma

It makes an IMMENSE difference. I mean the most-practiced form of journalistic interviewing is what a reporter does. Whether they're on a beat, or write longer features like Susan Orlean. That is really informational - the interview is the tool to learn the basic information on which the story is built. You may also need to pull quotes, but that's very different from what, say, I do - interview public people about their work, where 75% of what we say will end up in the consumer's ear.

I've never been a reporter (and it always seemed unpleasant and hard to me), so I was pretty rapt hearing about how that works from folks like Ray Suarez who've done it for realsies.

dudeliketotally11 karma

Being a reporter is great! You get to chat with interesting people and learn things first, and no one ever knows how dumb your questions were or if you said um a lot or blanked out halfway through.

JesseThorn18 karma

Yeah, sometimes someone interviews me for print and I feel like they've never spoken to another human being in their life :). Then I realize that's MY hangup/problem, not theirs.

hardtodestroy15 karma

One of the things I've loved the most about your guests on The Turnaround is how different every one's interviewing style is. Your personal style is one of the things that has made TSOYA and Bullseye so enjoyable to me over the years. Having said that, how do you think your style and approach have changed in the time you've been producing this kind of content? Is there anything you were doing in the early days that you wish you could do more of now?

JesseThorn17 karma

Maybe I used to goof around a little more with comedy people, but I was really generally trying to do a "public radio show." I figured the fact that I was talking to comedians and rappers and whatnot and was 25 or whatever and didn't actually work in public radio or have a job was enough for the audience to handle.

mikelarkey13 karma

Hi Jesse.

In one form or another, you consume media as a large part of your job. I find myself basically addicted to consuming media, in all its forms, almost from when I wake up until I go to bed (and also in bed). I know it can't be good for me. There's so much of everything, and I want to know it all, but that's obviously impossible. How do you know when you've had enough? How do you disengage and detox from media consumption? Can you, even?

P.S. Your interview with Terry Gross was great, you should feel good about it.


JesseThorn8 karma

I have three kids so I only consume media a couple hours a day at most :).

coryrenton13 karma

who is someone you want to interview but is of essentially no interest to your wider audience outside of maybe 10-20 people? which of your past interview subjects were basically people you wanted an excuse to interact with?

JesseThorn25 karma

All of my past interview subjects are people who I wanted an excuse to interact with. That's like the premise of my show :).

We do an occasional episode about baseball and a big swath of the public radio audience hates sports, so there's that. I mean, I did an hour with Swamp Dogg once. He was and is amazing, but nobody knows who the fuck Swamp Dogg is besides me (and, fun fact, Nick Hornby).

chrisbrl8812 karma

I believe you won the award for most meta thing ever done. What's Larry King like? He's always seemed good natured and funny when he's appeared on Conan for skits or interviews.

JesseThorn19 karma

He's extremely good-natured and funny, and he is extremely efficient. He sits down, he's there with you, 1000%. He thanks you when you're done, and leaves to get a sandwich. It's amazing. He just does the thing in front of him to the MAX.

Mickeypearson12 karma

I just browsed through iTunes reviews for Turnaround (and submitted my own, glowing endorsement.)

My question: Will you please ignore the haters and make more Turnaround eps? You are an excellent interviewer and bring a lot to the medium.

JesseThorn16 karma

The haters have nothing to do with whether I'll make more - I'm really happy with the show. The reality is that making more would be expensive, and significantly tougher to book than making the first set, since it'd automatically start with folks we couldn't get for the first one. My goal was for this show to be a fun, frivolous experience for me, and it worked. I don't wanna ruin it :).

afycrhs112 karma

What did you think making the podcast would be like, and how was the reality different?

JesseThorn15 karma


HunterJE11 karma

One striking thing in this series is how different everyone's interviewing technique/style/approach/process is. As an interviewer yourself, whose approach felt most similar to your own and whose felt most foreign and in what ways?

JesseThorn16 karma

Marc Maron probably does the show that's closest to my show, but he does it very differently than I. Probably Terry Gross is the closest to what I do technique-wise, though I'm maybe in between Terry and Marc.

woodybattaglia11 karma

Have you ever had your work transcribed before, and if this is the first time with the CJR transcribing and publishing The Turnaround interviews, did you find reading them to provide any further/different insight into what you or your subjects said?

JesseThorn12 karma

Yeah, absolutely. Reading is great for people who don't want to hear their own voice, which is everyone. And I'm a really fast reader, plus CJR sort of pulled highlights and edited them, so it's a great way to absorb the material, if not quite the drama.

Lovesmespinach10 karma


JesseThorn15 karma

They are 16 of the best, not the 16 best. I asked for ideas on twitter and Facebook, made a big list, sat down with my two producers, Made a priority list based on who's be interesting, who people wanted to hear from, who we could get and a mix of types of journalist and types of personalities and backgrounds, and sent out requests. Maybe 2/3 of those came back yes, so we actually did more than we expected to do.

matrixclown10 karma

Hi Jesse- thanks for creating the Turnaround, it's quickly become one of my favorite listens and I'm sad it's over- I was hoping for a Krista Tippett episode.

If the tables were turned, which of your guests would you like to be interviewed by?

You spoke about Sound Reporting on the show- are there any other books you'd recommend or that have had a particular influence on your life or career?

JesseThorn14 karma

Books that have had an influence on my life is a long list :). I'll just say everyone should read more George Saunders.

But career-wise, there isn't much. Jessica Abel has made a great comic about how This American Life is made, along with a onger book about their broader eco-system of narrative radio documentarians. They're great.

This David Foster-Wallace piece totally changed how I think about talk radio.

Uhm... Transom.org has a lot of great stuff. I'm hoping to find some time to write a piece for them about what I've learned from this show.

thesupermikey9 karma

  1. Others than Katie Curric going on a date with Larry King, what answer surprised you the most.

  2. How has the expresience interviewing interviews changes your approach to interviewing?

  3. What is something you hope normal people like me can take away from The Turn Around?

  4. Is there a thread, explicit or not, that ties all of these folks together?

JesseThorn13 karma

That's a lot of questions.

1) That Jerry Springer only knows the names of his guests and what it says in the prompter, and approaches his show like a weirdo detective. 2) See every other answer :) 3/4) All of them are sincerely curious about the experiences of others. And that is a good thing to be in any career or walk of life.

thesupermikey7 karma

I found Springer'ls distance from the show totally weird.

JesseThorn7 karma

A reasonable response! But it's a weird job.

The-Ath31ist9 karma

Where is Howard Stern on the list? He is widely viewed as the best interviewer out there.

JesseThorn13 karma

He is on the list of people who were invited on the show and declined.

Whizz-bang-pow9 karma

Who is the best dressed interviewer (excluding yourself)?

JesseThorn9 karma

Bob Costas always looks quite good, I think. Hmm, I like Charlie Rose's suits.

Oh, wait, duh... Gay Talese.

dragon32xing8 karma

How do you deal with interviewees who could go all Gene Simmons on you?

teenytinylittleant6 karma

And, what is your most "Gene Simmons on Fresh Air" moment in your career?

JesseThorn21 karma

I haven't had much like that. Once Screech from Saved By the Bell told a bunch of cruel and off-color street jokes. That sucked.

FaustMN8 karma

Are there ever questions you are--for any reason--afraid to ask an interview subject and, if so, did that happen in any Turnaround interviews?

JesseThorn10 karma

Yes, all the time. Mostly about intimate stuff, their emotional lives, stuff that I'm not sure it's my right to ask about, that feel like impositions. I'm usually wrong, by the way, they're almost always glad to.

sindex237 karma

I loved The Turnaround, and it was a great great treat this summer.

My question revolves around Werner Herzog. He seems like such a stern man, yet in the interview I found him perfectly lovely which was very refreshing. What interview were you the most surprised by between what you expected and what you got from the interviewee? In what way were you surprised?

Thank you for all your hard work bringing us MaxFun!

JesseThorn11 karma

I've interviewed him before. He's funny and brilliant and really cares about what he does, and is absolutely sincere, though I think he recognizes (and doesn't care much about) the absurdity of his work. He's really great to talk to.

I didn't expect Audie to beat me up like that :). But it's cool, we're cool. She's the best.

coryrenton7 karma

what are some interview questions of subjects you wished you had asked but didn't occur to you at the time?

JesseThorn6 karma

Oh man, it's hard to remember specifics. Sometimes I just completely space on something - I usually keep notes of anything I want to ask about that I wouldn't ask about as a matter of course, but it doesn't always work :).

jherte137 karma

I love #TheTurnaround for all the insight it provided from all the great guests who have decades of experience, but what advice would would you have for younger journalists who interview younger guests with obviously not as much of a career as a well established name? How do we make those interviews interesting for a larger audience?

JesseThorn6 karma

Well, this is sort of the story of my career. Everyone I interview, I'm trying to put over to an audience of people whose lives have been changed by their work - while at the same time putting over to people who've never heard of them and say, "why should I care?"

The main way to do this is essentially to narrativize it. To say: here's a story you're gonna want to hear. You can also connect it to things that are really important to people - their finances, or their communities. In our case on Bullseye, we really say, "these are the best people," and hope that the person who tunes in for Ani Defranco stays for Aidan Gillen and vice-versa.

coryrenton7 karma

which comedians have you seen come up do you feel never got their due or success, and have basically quit comedy?

JesseThorn12 karma

Both have done just fine for themselves, and continue to work and so forth, but over the years I've worked a lot with Brent Weinbach and Jasper Redd, and they're both genuine geniuses. They may yet explode, or they may just continue to be successful working comics, but their skills are top-tier.

yaginuma7 karma

Did you have any trouble getting any of the interviewers to agree to talk to you? Did it get easier to book people when you could say you had Larry King already, etc?

JesseThorn12 karma

I was SHOCKED at how many people said yes. We wanted to do eight or ten of these, the reason there were so many was because like 80% of the asks came back yes. My producers Nick and Kara did a great job, and I think people genuinely want to share their expertise.

chrisbrl886 karma

I also have to ask the obligatory: would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck? What about 100 duck-sized Katie Courics against 1 horse-sized Larry King?

JesseThorn24 karma

I would rather be the third wheel on Katie Couric and Larry King's REAL-LIFE ROMANCE DATE.

bozobozo6 karma

What is your favorite dinosaur?

JesseThorn8 karma


BigSadGiant6 karma

The people are dying to know: when are you going back on Doughboys?

JesseThorn8 karma

Whenever I'm invited. I had a blast.

scoodly6 karma

As an interviewer, what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

JesseThorn19 karma

I think I'm smart, and have more insight into people's work than most people in my position. I also think I do a good job of contextualizing people's work for audiences who aren't already familiar with it. I'm not very good at telling people why they should care if they don't already, and I'm very conflict-averse and relatively uncomfortable with emotional intimacy.

moleculewerks6 karma

Was the interview with Terry Gross already in the can when you interviewed Marc Maron? It sounded like you had some serious envy regarding his interview with her, but I didn't get a hint that she would be coming up in the queue for The Turnaround.

JesseThorn11 karma

I did TG first, I think, though I'd have to clook at my calendar. I listened to his interview with her, though it was hard to hear over the steady hum of professional jealousy ;).

ManDrillSgt6 karma

Does it take effort to control your hoarder tendencies? As a long time jjgo listener and pto reader I know/share your thriftstore and flea market hobby. I know you have the pto store and some rules for vhs tapes but is there some overflow that you or someone in your household occasionally regrets?
As an OTM fan I've only listend to the Brooke Gladstone episode, but the rest are lined up for walkies once I'm dogsitting next week, thanks for the entertainment.
p.s. share some of your neat finds you don't want to flip over at r/thriftstorehauls. I've seen you lurk.

JesseThorn5 karma

I try to make sure I don't collect anything for the sake of collecting it, and I always have an out door as well as a in door. I'm not really a hoarder, I let go of stuff regularly, and try to work my way up the quality ladder when I can. That said, I sure do love stuff.

kcrox265 karma

Were there any answers you were surprised by? Also which interview was the hardest?

JesseThorn12 karma

Hardest was Terry Gross, because I didn't know her and she was a hero, and I wanted her to like and respect me.

And there were too many surprising answers to count :)

MdJGutie5 karma

Which of your guests were you most surprised by, in terms of their changing your mind about what you thought you knew about them?

JesseThorn6 karma

Larry King for sure. I really didn't know much about him, and was absolutely charmed by him, and found him brilliant and insightful.

Whizz-bang-pow5 karma

As an interviewer, how do you handle it when the interviewee uses excessively fruity language?

JesseThorn6 karma

I usually try to cut in and restate more plainly. Sometimes as a question.

MatLedge78325 karma

How do you feel The Turnaround plays into this weird moment where people are decrying journalism and journalists? Feels like an especially important time to put a face/voice to the people doing this job.

JesseThorn8 karma

Yeah, I didn't really conceive of it in that context - sometimes I'm uncomfortable even thinking of myself as a journalist and not an entertainer - but it certainly has been a perilous time. I usually kind of roll my eyes at reporters talking about how important reporting is, but it really does feel important right now.

HiPhiNationBarry4 karma

Did you find any difference between what a big personality-interviewer can do in an interview versus a more introverted, smaller-personality interviewer can do? Do you ever feel that these interviewers adapt themselves to the person they're interviewing to get the best out of the interview?

JesseThorn9 karma

Yeah, I think sometimes guests try to match the interviewer's vibe, just as a natural social thing. So people on Fresh Air are kind of in their heads, people on WTF are agitated and emotional, etc. (Those are not intended as negative descriptions, incidentally). I think sometimes people tried to match say, Letterman, and looked like fools, because only he can do that.

T3hN1nj44 karma

Have you ever disagreed with the Judge's ruling?

JesseThorn5 karma

Absolutely, but I always see and understand his perspective.

felisfelis4 karma

Hey jesse, what do the mcelroy's smell like?

JesseThorn7 karma

Horse torso.

fakename3114 karma

To get to interview Stern the Director that made the George Takei documentary had to conduct the interview on HIS show to get it. If the offer back from his people had been "Yes, if you come on the Howard Stern Show and do it in studio live on the air." What do you think you would have said back?

JesseThorn7 karma

Of course I would have said yes. In an instant.

ombudsmen4 karma

Do you think any of the other guests "hammed" up their performances for the sake of producing a better interview? I felt like Audie Cornish was maybe more combative because she knew it would be a better, more exciting interview. Errol Morris was a little more off the wall. Larry King was shockingly intimate. After all, these folks know better than anyone else what makes a great interview!

JesseThorn11 karma

I think everyone was excited to talk about the thing they care about most in the world, basically. They were pumped for that. Some of them (Ira, Terry Gross) are naturally low-key. Some are absurdly specific and clear (Audie, Brooke). I think everyone brought their A-game. I'd say the TV people, who I didn't know at all for the most part, were a little TV-ish, very polished but less forthcoming, but I did a pretty good job breaking that, I think.

dc-phillips3 karma

Having listened to all the episodes, I now find myself listening to interviews and wondering what I would ask. Have you ever consumed an interview and really wished the interviewer went a completely different direction?

JesseThorn6 karma

Yeah, mostly because they didn't cater to my own nerdinesses. But usually only for personal reasons like that :).

alan_onthehill3 karma

With every interview I kept thinking of crossovers with other maxfun podcasts. Like, Terry Gross on Jordan Jesse Go, or Jerry Springer and Larry King guesting on the Adventure Zone, or Marc Maron guest Bailiff-ing on Judge John Hodgman next time you have a baby. But you should totally try to get Terry on JJGO! I wonder how she'd react. Bet she already owns an "it me, I'm that shirt" Any chance any of this would happen? Maybe for maxfundrive bonus episodes?

JesseThorn9 karma

I've been trying to get Ira on JJGo for years. He used to be a listener, actually, in the old days. He'll do it eventually, and he'll be great, he's really fun and funny.

dc-phillips5 karma

Maron on mbmbam would be sublime, I bet he'd love to give advice that should never be followed.

JesseThorn5 karma

the fans would eat him alive

teenytinylittleant2 karma

Yes get Terry on JJGO

JesseThorn2 karma

She's not in LA a lot :)

tabstis3 karma

Hi Jesse! Just finished listening to the podcast and you did a terrific job at making every interview entertaining and insightful. My personal favourite might have been the Audie Cornish interview. My question is - what was the most unexpected thing that you learned from doing this? Was this how you thought it would turn out? Thanks for the memories either way!

JesseThorn6 karma

I refuse to answer this question. I won't fall into your trap! You'll never succeed using my own magic against me!

Jjrose3623 karma

So this is an interview of an interviewer of interviewers?

JesseThorn3 karma

Yes, as well as an interview of interviewers.

FilmmakerIan3 karma

Hey Jesse! I've been a huge supporter of MaxFun for several years now, and my question is - what have been the core principles that you have tried to adhere to in the conception and development of both the Maximum Fun network as a whole, and in your own individual projects?

(as a side note, I applied for the MaxFun audio fellowship...put in a good word for me?? :D)

JesseThorn6 karma

Smart, fun, funny, inclusive, makes the world better, pretty much.

Jjrose3623 karma

On a serious note, who did you find the easiest to interview and who did you find the most intimidating?

JesseThorn7 karma

I was most intimidated by Terry Gross, though she is pretty easy to interview. I love talking to Ira Glass and Brooke Gladstone, I just think they're both wonderful and such geniuses. And on my team :).

Bardfinn3 karma

What question do you always wish that your interviewer would ask you, but no-one ever does?

JesseThorn10 karma

I usually just want to talk about the San Francisco Giants.

real_cool_club3 karma

Hi Jesse,

Love JJGO and really loving this series. Also thank you for creating the awesome Maximum Fun network. It's given me literally 1000s of hours of entertainment.

Question: Despite the revelation of him being a terrible human being, I always thought Jian Ghomeshi was a good interviewer. He got really famous for that incident with Billy Bob Thorton. As an interviewer, how did you feel about that incident, and has anything you've learned from the Turnaround made you change your mind about that (or any other things for that matter)?

JesseThorn6 karma

I was mad that that made Jian famous, frankly. I thought it was a good example of him doing a shitty job at his job. I think 85% of his success there was thanks to a great production team, who wrote his questions, wrote his commentaries... and he was a bit of a smug asshole. The world just found out.

Moose_Hole3 karma

If you were interviewing yourself, what is the best question you could possibly ask yourself?

JesseThorn5 karma

Honestly, I wear a lot of hats, so it's tough to narrativize or nutshell my career. Big problem for me :).

rogalporn2 karma

I always thought Jian Ghomeshi was a great interviewer, shame he choked near the end there. What do you think about him was so compelling. what were your thoughts on his interview style?

JesseThorn6 karma

I think he's a real asshole.

mjz3212 karma

On jjgo you constantly refer to the show as unpopular is this true or a goof? It's top tier to me.

JesseThorn4 karma

Thanks! It's popular compared to actual unpopular podcasts, but unpopular compared to popular podcasts. We like it!

StardustPrime2 karma

What could you say that would help a person who struggles with forming an emotional and meaningful connection to the people he speaks to?

JesseThorn2 karma

Start by taking an interest in them. Ask kindly about the things you're curious about, and pay attention to the answers.

HowlingMoose2 karma

Hi Jesse! I wanted to say how thankful I am to you for putting this together. I literally just finished the final episode (John Hodgman's 'listener-supported' just rang through my headphones) and it's been a joy to hear you talk to such a wealth of tremendously interesting people. As an occasional MaximumFun listener I was lured in by the Ira Glass interview, which got me hooked immediately and I listened obsessively to the rest.

I don't know why it's so great hearing great interviewers being interviewed—maybe they've just interviewed so many interesting people that it's rubbed off on them—but I feel like I've learned something sort of intangible even about the dynamics of normal conversation. Do you feel that interviewers are better conversationalists than many others?

JesseThorn3 karma

Yeah, for sure. That's why they do it - they like it!

blipsterrr2 karma

As an aspiring podcaster. I'm wondering. When you're prepairing for guests, are you researching based on a narrative you want to get out of the interviewee?

JesseThorn3 karma

Sort of. I think that's the usual approach, I'm a little less narratively oriented than most. I don't mind a discoursive structure, or a sort of persuasive, essay-ish structure. But certainly thinking about why the audience should care.

UseThisToStayAnon2 karma

Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn't do any research on someone you were going to interview? If not, how would you handle it?

JesseThorn3 karma

Yeah, it's scary. It went weirdly fine, though. I can't remember who, though, honestly. Just remember feeling sick at my stomach :).

FaustMN2 karma

You often reference or ask followup questions about things your guests have said in prior interviews. How do you avoid doing "too much" research where you end up repeating or closing off a natural dialogue/discovery process?

JesseThorn3 karma

Yeah, maybe. But more than that I like to read what guests have said elsewhere so I can do the second level of digging, if that makes sense.

[deleted]1 karma


JesseThorn2 karma

Start a blog or a podcast or a website or a YouTube series or whatever else and start interviewing people.

anghus1 karma

Is Howard Stern on this list of 16?

JesseThorn1 karma