Jesse Thorn (@JesseThorn) is the owner of the podcast network, Maximum Fun and host of the podcasts, Bullseye, Jordan, Jesse, Go! and The Turnaround.
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ZAK: It's The Best Advice Show where every weekday, someone I like offers one morsel of advice. Ideally, something you can start practicing today. On this episode, I'm gonna talk interviewing with one of my favorite interviewers.
JESSE: I'm Jesse Thorn and I'm owner of the podcast network, Maximum Fun and also among other things the host of the NPR show, Bullseye.
ZAK: Jesse' gonna talk about interviewing an iconic interviewer on his podcast about interviewing. And for those of you keeping tracking at home, this is my second interview with an interviewer about interviewing. The first one was with Longform podcast host, Aaron Lammer. There's a link to that in the show notes. Ok, here's Jesse talking about an essential piece of interview advice you can try at home, even if you don't have a talk show.
JESSE: Like, the thing that I think about all the time that I learned from...I did a show called The Turnaround where I interviewed famous interviewers and I just did it because I never went to journalism school or had a mentor or anything. I just was like, doing my college radio show until I was 40. And, we sort of were surprised that Larry King said yes to coming on the show. Like, basically, we just made a list of every famous we could think of, sent out one email to each of them and saw who said yes. Cause it was a low-budget show.
ZAK: But you had for people that haven't heard it, you had Ira Glass, Brook Gladstone, Larry King, did you get Terry Gross?
JESSE:Yeah, that was the first time I talked to Terry Gross and I was very gratified. I'm a huge fan. But Larry King I was not a huge fan of, may his rest in peace. I wasn't against him or anything, I just never had cable tv as a kid so I never saw him, you know? And I never listened to overnight talk radio. But, I went into his house and he had this big house in Beverly Hills.
ZAK: Did someone answer the door or was it him?
JESSE: Yes, his assistant just a really sweet, obviously, intensely competent man. His assistant offered me a bottle of water and I was like, what is this gonna be like? And he sat us down in Larry King's trophy room which was like, the trophies were like structural to the room. There were so many trophies and prizes and pictures of him with Hank Aaron or whatever and he came in and he just Larry King right away. The moment he walked in the room, I understood why he was Larry King. Cause you're like, oh, this guy is the most engaged person ever. He locked eyes on me. He was completely present with me and the question that he said he was really proud of when I asked him about this, he said, one time a pilot came on my show...
LARRY: And I said when you're going down the runway do you know it's gonna take off? And he said I never think about it. Yes, it will take off but it may not stay up. An engine could go. Birds can fly into the plane. But if I'm going 160 MPH down that runway, it has to take off. Now it may take off for five feet and crash but it will lift off the ground. But he never thinks about it.
JESSE: And to me, that's like the perfect question because Larry King doesn't care that it makes him look dumb or makes him look like he doesn't know about pilots.
ZAK: Yeah, there's narrative in that question.
JESSE: Yeah, and it's like go so much emotional content, you know?
ZAK: I spend my entire life not trying to sound dumb. Trying not to sound dumb. Not trying to sound dumb. See? And so, to know that one of the keys to really engaging and asking good questions is to not worry about sounding dumb. This is the work.