The show is Catie Lazarus interviewing people about their jobs. She does her research. It looks like she’s a comedy writer – she talks like a stand-up comedian, she’s quick on her feet. She sometimes asks really blunt questions and calls them out. The difference between she and someone like Marc Maron might be she’s comfortable putting the spotlight squarely on the guest and Finding the Truth, where Marc Maron injects himself into conversations so thoroughly sometimes it obscures the guest. The truth comes out with Maron sometimes but it’s often relational. He also heads where the energy is – if an interview shifts gears, he goes where the energy is. Catie seems to push very specifically at points until she’s satisfied or the guest changes the subject.
This deep analysis based on two I listened to by her – I’ve listened to a bunch of WTF. I picked out a couple related to music: Ryan Schreiber, creator of Pitchfork, the music website that manages to put the fear of God into indie bands everywhere, and Henry Rollins, who puts the fear of God into those indie bands as well as all other people who have listened to punk in the last 20 years.
The most interesting thing about Schreiber’s interview was Lazarus pushing him on still being an indie publication and forcing him to describe how after Pitchfork is now easier to find (for me, yes – they didn’t used to be the first hit on Google, it took a little searching to remember the URL, back in the day) and more mainstream, how are they different than Rolling Stone or other magazines. He basically says, our reviewers have better opinions and cover more obscure stuff (the latter definitely true, for good or ill). When she asks him to name music he’s finding that’s interesting now he blanks. This is truly odd. He’s a music critic. This is the point where his inner monologue should sort through the various albums from the past 10 weeks and settles on the three that stick out the most, gibbering about sharing the wrong one he loved the second most. I think he names one. So maybe he’s out of the reviewing game, and maybe pushing him when he’s the corporate head isn’t kind, except he says he isn’t the corporate head. Also, he leans back and forth from the mic so we can’t hear him sometimes. Come on, man! This can’t be your first interview.
She clearly came to the Rollins interview with child-like wonder. She mentions she grew up in DC, and went to ska shows in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In that scene, in DC, Rollins was a god. I grew up in Utah going to ska and punk shows in the early 90’s and Rollins was a god. In Utah.
But he’s an impressive guy. Over the interview I was tempted to draw circles – ‘scared of Mom and Dad’ and draw a line over to ‘works hard all his life to win approval from others instead’. Either way I admire the crud out of him. In high school I read a piece he wrote in Details magazine called “Iron and the Soul” where he talks about how weightlifting helped give him self-respect and identity. In the interview it comes out he was in a military prep high school, so the story about Mr. P pinning a kid against the wall makes more sense. Anyway. The essay meant a lot to me at the time. I may still have it upstairs in my Binder of Crap I Stare at Nostalgically along with my seventh grade class picture and emails with deep thoughts.
The thing about a piece like the Details article is, it’s obviously written for kids who have self-esteem issues. There’s no other reason someone who likes to work out would write it the way he did. This is a thing I really admire about Rollins. Besides his work ethic, he accepts that he’s a leader. He uses his power for good. He spends a lot of the Lazarus interview being self-deprecating about his success, but after a while it seems like he genuinely only lives to work. The work is the thing. When Lazarus presses him about joy, if it’s worth it, he hits on the best part of interview describing talking to fans after the show.
So that’s a job well done for Lazarus – I don’t come away from the interview with Rollins thinking, gee, Lazarus is a great lady, I come away thinking, Rollins, what a cool guy. So I admire Lazarus for that. I want to keep listening.
(PS If you haven’t, listen to her interview with Jon Stewart. She sets herself apart by being armed to the teeth with research but also some insight into some of his staff).
Can’t not share this great bit from Rollins – another inspirational bit that hit home for me a while back. He’s really plain spoken, something I’ve grown to appreciate.