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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Incredibly Informative Interviews
I've long loved Jesse Thorn's unabashed fandom and enthusiasm for his interview subjects on Bullseye. Here, Jesse brings that air and professional curiousity for his craft to this podcast. It's equal parts a revelatory search for what makes the titans of the form good at their jobs, but also a warm and personalized look at how varied these people treat their subjects and end products. I'm never going to be a radio or podcast personality, but I loved every minute of this show.
[2022 Update: This show still rules. Ignore the haters.]
Insightful and tremendously entertaining for anyone, not just those who do interviewing.
Inspiration for Interviewers!
I just started a new podcast and have gotten TONS of value and encouragement out of these interviews. I often listen to episodes on my way to see a guest, or when I've had waves of feeling discouraged. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!