Interview Podcasts. You have to choose.
There just isn’t enough time in the day to listen to all of them and of course you will find celebrities with something to promote, even if only in a subtle way, will do the rounds of a umber of podcasts.
So you find one and you stick with it. You like the format, you like the presenters, it feels fresh and they seem to get the best out of a guest in a relaxed atmosphere. It is so much better than a few minutes on a chat show, shoe-horning references to whatever it is they are trying to sell, whilst finding a tortuous way of retelling that story. Podcasts are one of the great innovations that the internet has brought us.
We get to hear genuine, often amusing and touching chats with the people we normally only read about in the media and almost exclusively in the context of their work. Celebrities often become human in podcast format.
But then… the host of the podcast becomes restless, begins to muscle in on celeb time, famous even… and ultimately irritating.
For a long time I enjoyed WTF but eventually I went off it because of the self-indulgent monologues with which Marc Maron began every show. He is good at what he does but I don’t want him to be the star of the show. I do not want to listen to his neuroses every single week.
I switched my focus to The Nerdist. Now, I remember an early episode with Jon Hamm, that opened up a new world to me. Hamm was not what I imagined. It turns out he is not Don Draper - he was gentle and amusing and sounded like a a great bloke - it all sounded like the kind of honesty that comes from the foolishness of relaxed company was a revelation.
I think that was Nerdist #5. Around Nerdist #150 I lost it. Every episode had become saturated with self-indulgent references from Chris Hardwick about how life is difficult for sensitive artistic types like himself… and his interviewees. Once or twice maybe, but to my ears it seemed every single episode (with the exception of Jeff Bridges who somehow brings out the best in Hardwick) was brought down by sycophantic pandering and nauseous references to the difficulty of coping with being creative. Vomit.
You see we, the humble audience, get to listen to the host every week. When we download a new episode of a podcast we are waiting to hear the guest, not the necessarily the presenter. Surely it was always thus, on radio, TV and now online; the interviewer should be the facilitator.
The Adam and Tim Shows
So, where does that leave me now? Well, Adam Buxton (he of Adam & Joe ‘fame’) has his own version of the interview show format. Perhaps lacking in professional confidence, perhaps content with ploughing his own unique furrow, I suspect Adam will never succumb to stardom in a way that will take over his show. I will follow this with interest as he is also, I believe, capable of getting people to relax through his own brand of quirkiness. Whether he will ever get the A list guests remains to be seen… indeed maybe its best if he doesn’t.
But the current star for me is the Tim Ferriss Show - thanks to my wife for hooking me up with this one. In common with millions of others, I know Tim Ferriss from his amazing book; The 4-Hour Work Week. I did not know he had a podcast. So in the last few days I have listened to the Alain de Botton, Rainn Wilson and Jamie Foxx episodes. The first was fantastic, the last was nothing short of sensational. When did you imagine you would listen to two and a half hours of interesting, amusing, poignant and altogether rounded and balanced discussion with one of Hollywood and Music’s biggest stars?
Undoubtedly Tim is a super smart guy (his book made a difference to my life and many others before and since) but the biggest thing I notice is that his contribution to the interview is minimal… which of course means it is not. He listens and guides, uses a few intelligent stock questions to discover more and then lets the guest do the talking. Maybe it helps that I had never heard Jamie Foxx talk about his life, but I sincerely hope that Tim Ferriss does not go the way of other pod hosts and retains the kind equilibrium that his writings have given to millions.