The Turnaround with Jesse Thorn

The Turnaround with Jesse Thorn

By Maximum Fun and Columbia Journalism Review

The Turnaround is a new series about our greatest living interviewers, hosted by Jesse Thorn and produced by Maximum Fun and The Columbia Journalism Review. Featuring conversations with prominent interviewers about their careers and their craft, the show is a perfect resource for a new generation of storytellers and journalists. You'll hear Jesse speak with Larry King, Terry Gross, Werner Herzog, Audie Cornish, and so many more!


The Turnaround with Dick Cavett

In this special, bonus episode of The Turnaround, Jesse speaks to the legendary Dick Cavett, whose eponymous The Dick Cavett Show debuted nearly fifty years ago. Throughout his storied career, Cavett distinguished himself as the consummate interviewer, and has played host to the most interesting and compelling figures of his era--Salvador Dali, Jimi Hendrix, Betty Davis, Groucho Marx, Angela Davis, Katharine Hepburn and more. Cavett shares what it was like to interview a murderer, how he responded to an expletive-laden piece of hate mail he received and the difficult challenge of maintaining a conversation on camera while dealing with myriad distractions off camera. Before Cavett launched his show, he received a call from Jack Paar, who gave him this piece of advice: “Don’t do interviews...make it a conversation.” On Friday, January 12th, The San Francisco Sketchfest will pay tribute to Dick Cavett at the Marine’s Memorial Theater. John Hodgman, Lance Bangs and Dave Hill will join Cavett on stage to commemorate his show’s 50th anniversary. Tickets are still available. Be sure to visit CBS Decades to watch The Dick Cavett Show. The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes. Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao Jennifer Marmor produced the Dick Cavett episode Senior Producer: Laura Swisher Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw. Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.
09/01/181h 3m

Terry Gross

On the last episode of The Turnaround, Jesse talks to his all-time interviewing hero Terry Gross! For more than 30 years Terry's hosted Fresh Air from WHYY Philadelphia, conducting some of the most insightful, fascinating conversations you'll likely ever hear. Being a radio interviewer came somewhat naturally to Terry. She tells Jesse she prefers the medium to television, where you're expected to look or dress a certain kind of way, and where you can't just disappear behind a microphone. She also talks about the nuts and bolts of how Fresh Air gets made, and why doing a recorded show allows her take risks that often make for wonderful, unexpected moments. They also talk about a not-so-wonderful moment: that infamous 2002 interview with Gene Simmons. 
10/08/171h 20m

Werner Herzog

Today Jesse talks to the legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog, responsible for films like Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Lo and Behold. Werner has had a career spanning more than five decades and dozens of awards, working both in documentaries and narrative films. He chooses his interview subjects carefully, often times based on whether or not he thinks that they can handle his line of inquiry. Werner talks to Jesse about his 1996 film Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and why he thinks his dramatizations in the film weren't manipulations of the facts, but actually a way of getting at larger truths. He also shares about the time he got shot while being interviewed! 
08/08/1740m 12s

Ray Suarez

Today's guest is Ray Suarez, a broadcast journalist and anchor who's had pretty much every job in the newsroom. He was a senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour, hosted NPR's Talk of the Nation for almost seven years, and most recently he had a show on Al Jazeera America called Inside Story. Somehow he also found the time to write a few well-received books, and he's now a visiting professor at Amherst College. Ray talks to Jesse about his time reporting local news, and what he learned about talking to private versus public people. They also discuss the moral choices that come with interviewing non-professionals, and how to get the better, less rehearsed interview.  
03/08/171h 11m

Katie Couric

America's Sweetheart meets America's Radio Sweetheart! Katie Couric visits Jesse Thorn on today's episode of The Turnaround. Name a famous person, and she's probably talked with them at some point in her illustrious career as a host and reporter: everyone from prime ministers, to superstar athletes, to actresses. But her skill as an interviewer also extends to her conversations with everyday people, as seen in documentaries like Gender Revolution. Katie talks to Jesse about what it was like being a morning talk show host for years, including dealing with the insanely early call times. She also opens up about some tense interview experiences, like the time in 2008 when she interviewed then VP candidate Sarah Palin about her foreign policy credentials. Plus: she has a great tip on how to exit conversations at parties. 
31/07/1752m 46s

Louis Theroux

Today Jesse is visited by Louis Theroux, a British documentarian and BBC presenter. Much of Louis' career has been spent covering various subcultures. These groups have been as innocuous as UFO hunters or as extreme as Neo-Nazi groups and anti-gay religious sects like the Westboro Baptist Church. Louis talks to Jesse about how his interviews often bring him into very intimate contact with people with beliefs diametrically opposed to his own. He also shares some hard-won interviewing wisdom, including why a non-response to a question can almost be as interesting as an actual response. 
28/07/1755m 54s

Reggie Ossé (Combat Jack)

Today's guest is Reggie Ossé, also known as Combat Jack. He's the host of The Combat Jack Show, one of the best hip-hop podcasts around. On the show, Reggie chops it up with a who's who of the rap world, not only about music, but about race, politics, and a whole lot more. Reggie says he kind of fell into interviewing for a living. He's actually a lawyer by training and used to represent some of the biggest hip-hop stars, even Jay-Z. Because he's been immersed in the culture for decades, he brings to each conversation a deep knowledge and respect for his subject that few interviewers can match. 
24/07/171h 8m

Anna Sale

Joining us this week is Anna Sale, host of WNYC Studio's, Death, Sex & Money. As she puts it, her show is about "the things we think about a lot, and need to talk about more." Anna sits down with celebrities like Kevin Bacon or Mahershala Ali, but more often than not she's talking to someone that you've never heard of. It's an intimate show if there ever was one, and Anna doesn't shy away from asking questions that others might blush just thinking about. Anna and Jesse talk about her past career covering politics and elections, and how her decade doing that work aids her in the kind of interviewing that she does now. They get into how to ask really sensitive questions without it feeling exploitative, and why it is important to talk about the hard or shameful parts of a person's life.  
20/07/171h 20m

Jerry Springer

The one and only Jerry Springer visits The Turnaround this week! Whatever you think you know about his long-running daytime talk show Jerry Springer is probably correct, and Jerry would likely agree with you. But as he explains to Jesse, he believes his show has a valuable role to play in the lives of his guests -- especially by giving them a voice. Now in his 26th season as the show's host, Jerry wouldn't trade his job for anything, mostly because he gets some really great stories out of it. Also, he talks to Jesse about his unlikely path to a career in broadcasting, including serving a term as the mayor of Cincinnati in the 1970s.
18/07/171h 3m

Errol Morris

This week, Jesse sits down with critically acclaimed and Academy Award winning documentarian Errol Morris. Errol and Jesse talk about how he got into interviewing, and in particular his time spent interviewing mass murderers, before he was a documentary filmmaker. Errol tells Jesse about the profound impact that Truman Capote had upon his career. They also discuss Errol's other career as a director of television commercials and where he learned his greatest interviewing tip: to shut the fuck up.  
14/07/171h 2m

Brooke Gladstone

This week on The Turnaround Jesse sits down with Brooke Gladstone of WNYC Studio's On The Media. Her interview style is direct and respectful, though you never feel like she hasn't asked the question that you want to hear the answer to. In her interview with Jesse, Brooke shares how such a tightly edited weekly show gets made, and about how she and her team choose to edit their show when cutting down for time and content. She also talks about journalistic objectivity, an ideal that she believes has no business dictating any part of the relationship between the media consumer and producer.
11/07/1754m 49s

Larry King

Does Larry King really need an introduction? After all, the former host of  Larry King Live has interviewed pretty much everyone over his six decades in broadcasting: world leaders, actors, UFO experts, even Eleanor Roosevelt. For this episode, Jesse visited Larry at his home in Beverly Hills for a sprawling conversation about the early years of Larry's career, what it was like talking to Richard Nixon and Frank Sinatra, and his biggest fear: death. Larry tells Jesse that he considers being "dumb" his greatest asset as an interviewer. Very much a creature of the moment, he loves nothing more than going into an interview cold and seeing what happens next. Also: Larry doesn't hold back his thoughts about the state of interviewing today. 

Audie Cornish

The great Audie Cornish joins Jesse on The Turnaround this week! You know her as the co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, one of the most listened-to radio shows in the entire country. You've likely heard Audie's steady voice in the aftermath of some really intense situations -- anchoring, covering breaking stories, and interviewing reporters live on air. She does it all by being super prepared, and she doesn't have much patience for people who aren't. She also consider herself a bit of a throwback journalist, but don't try telling her that NPR hosts are "dispassionate."
03/07/171h 10m

Marc Maron

Today's Turnaround guest is Marc Maron, standup comic, actor, and host of one of the biggest podcasts ever: WTF with Marc Maron. Maron has a big personality, and it shows in his interviews. He's not rattling off a list of questions, but instead he's trying to have a conversation that's intimate and real. It doesn't always go smoothly, but it usually reveals a lot about the guest, even if they aren't into it. Marc talks with Jesse about what it's like recording his very popular show in his garage, his strategy for getting people to loosen up, and the difference between his standup and podcast personas. They also discuss two very different people who loom large in their consciousness: Terry Gross and Chris Hardwick. 
29/06/171h 14m

Susan Orlean

This week Jesse is joined by Susan Orlean, who has been a staff writer with The New Yorker since 1992. Before that, she wrote for publications like Rolling Stone, Vogue, and Esquire. She has also written eight books, including The Orchid Thief, which was adapted into the 2002 film Adaptation. Susan talks to Jesse about what she's learned from her more than 30 years of interviewing people as a print journalist, whether it's been talking to locals in Clackamas, Oregon about Tonya Harding or writing profiles of celebrities like Tom Hanks. 
26/06/171h 14m

Ira Glass

On the premiere episode of The Turnaround, Jesse Thorn talks to Ira Glass, the host and creator of This American Life from WBEZ. For more than twenty years, Ira and his colleagues have pioneered a distinctive brand of journalistic non-fiction that has inspired an entire generation of radio producers and storytellers. In his conversation with Jesse, Ira explains how he interviews people in such a way to draw out a narrative. But he also says he's chasing authenticity: those really beautiful, intimate moments typically reserved for close friends and relatives.
21/06/171h 10m

Introducing The Turnaround, starting June 22nd

Subscribe now to The Turnaround, a new series that features interviewers, interviewed. Releasing twice a week all summer, starting Thursday, June 22nd.
14/06/171m 54s
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