Between his nationally-syndicated NPR show Bullseye, his popular podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go! and his job as acting bailiff on Judge John Hodgman (not to mention his role as the Maximum Fun podcast network’s paterfamilias), Jesse Thorn is one of the most recognizable radio voices of his generation. Now he’s tapping his peers and contemporaries to launch a new podcast about the art of the interview.
This new project, The Turnaround, is being launched in conjunction with the Columbia Journalism Review and will be releasing two episodes a week throughout the summer. Thorn has managed to talk to true masters of the art of the interview, including Katie Couric, Larry King, Marc Maron, and even Dick Cavett. Through the podcast, these titans will share their expertise and knowledge, and shed some light on why and how they excel at the thing they love.
I got to sit down with Thorn at the Maximum Fun HQ in Los Angeles, and got to observe some of his fastidious tracking of intros and interstitials for The Turnaround, which was mere days away from launching.
So, I’m supposed to interview a professional interviewer about his podcast about interviewing, why it’s a lost art, and no one knows how to do interviews anymore. So there’s no pressure on me, for sure. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the podcast coming out. Is it a limited run?
We’re basically doing two episodes a week for July and August, and that’s going to be it. I don’t have plans to make any money from the show, and I don’t have plans to make more of them. Although I guess if Nardwuar emailed and said he was down [to be on an episode] — he previously declined politely — I guess I would get back in the studio. It’s a total of 15 or 16 episodes, each one a conversation with one person who I admire as an interviewer.
Have you been working on this for a while now?
I kind of had the idea as a sort of ersatz journalism school for myself. And I thought it would make a great project for our production fellows here at the office. And so, I don’t know … months and months and months ago, maybe even a year ago almost, I talked to Kara, our production fellow, and said, “Does this sound like a cool project to you? Would be into producing this?” And she said yes.