End of an Interview and Era

Their suit is suitably understated; no sheen or gloss. The solid, matte, navy-blue blazer is bespoke nonetheless. There’s a sense that the Manhattan-based tailor wove a magical strand in that is eternally connected with all the highest offices on that island. This man’s face betrays little of anything other than a curious glint in calm dark eyes -like pearls set against ancient grey stone- and of course the hint of a smile.

Across from them sits someone who sincerely trusts their instincts. Their demeanor radiates earnestness. This is someone who reaches and wonders without mistaking eternal questions for answers. They are white, black, woman, man, blonde, brunette, corduroy jacket, and custom Atelier Versace.

Many great artists and entertainers made their way through hell. Now on the other side, in their own self-styled Eldorado, they find themselves sitting across from someone with an uncanny resemblance to the patriarch of that other place.

The artist who’s emerged from ruin and wreckage is an anecdote, a stereotype, and a phenomenon backed by rigorous empirical evidence. From Hans Eysenck to Nancy Andreasen to Malcolm Gladwell, researchers have put decades of work into the characterization of a particular nexus. That nexus involves a certain mental chemistry that runs in families and produces mental health issues and strife on the one hand and unfettered creative genius on the other hand.

Beloved celebrities who have struggled with mood disorders and experienced family tragedies are the children of this nexus.

Such artists often try to convey reality in the most honest way possible; through story, prose, verse, and song about what happens. They seek to portray, and this is undeniably synonymous with seeking to reflect.

There are, however, mechanisms for containing such perpetual explosions of truth and keeping them in check.

Enter the toxic interview.

The interviewer need not be someone who has been accused of repulsive behaviour in their personal life. Someone as sweet as James Lipton can perfect this interview style, with perhaps even greater mastery than Rose or Ghomeshi. Nonetheless this particular interview style harkens up images of a concise, articulate backstage primer: “today I’m going to sit down with you, and I’ll ask you invasive questions in a very calm, steady, assured manner, so that digestible information may be relayed back to the privileged segment of American society.”

Commentary, discussion, interrogation, and the presentation of guidelines about how to think about what happens; you can call it discourse, you can call it propaganda. Whatever it is, it ensures the light doesn’t become too blindingly bright and start to disturb anyone.

This is perhaps synonymous with seeking to discern, perhaps to distort.

The artist in all their bravado, vulnerability, bravery, and insanity bares all the blinding light inside of them. The interviewer with a steady unfazed demeanor, and steady pace of questions and insinuations, acts as a dark shade of glass-prism for that outpouring of light.

Katniss Everdeen of “The Hunger Games” comes to mind, speaking to the glib interviewers from the capitol, before and after triumphing over certain death.

Unbelievable, to think that this de-facto world order of the entertainment industry would come crashing down in such a dramatic way.

Jian Ghomeshi regularly sat down with the likes of Russel Peters, Joni Mitchell, and of course Billy “Bob” Thornton. In a turn of events liable to make one’s head spin, every trace of him and his intellectual property was erased from the CBC as serious and disturbing allegations surfaced about his personal life. A few years later, the arch practitioner of the craft –Charlie Rose- was met with similar credible accusations, and CBS and PBS cut all ties with him.

As the castles of the Ancient Regime come crumbling down, a modest fort stands tall. It could be a bare-bones recording studio, or perhaps a living room. The victorious rebel could be a regular Joe: Joe Rogan.

From humble 2009 beginnings in Rogan’s home -with a business partner (Brian Redban) who had bootstrapped his way to becoming a proficient self-taught video editor, audio engineer, and content producer- “the Joe Rogan Experience” has amassed over 5,000,000 subscribers on YouTube, is consistently ranked as one of the most popular podcast in America, and is downloaded tens of millions of times each month.

Since the beginning, Rogan has presented himself as a devout skeptic, but he doesn’t appear as a grand inquisitor putting his guests on trial. He giggles, chuckles, admits to any and all befuddlement and confusion, and displays warmth as readily as disbelief.

George Stroumboulopoulos has exemplified an honest, genuine, down to earth style throughout his career. He meets his guests with sincere vulnerability, as an equal and a friend, from small-time radio to CNN. Nowadays Stroumboulopoulos puts all his time into “The Strombo Show” on CBC; a quiet, contemplative, freeform talk show. Ghomeshi’s detached, remote, carefully orchestrated questions are gone from the CBC. What remains is Strombo’s trademark balancing act between tender, kind, sweetness, and rapid-fire delivery of comedy and uncompromised ideals.

Russell Brand has eschewed multi-million dollar contracts with the mass media titans, and has started producing his own podcast “Under the Skin with Russell Brand,” where he is more inclined to lambast those titans. In this new venture, Brand is playful, whimsical, true to his impulses and deeply held beliefs, while allowing his guests to be their authentic selves. Brand could get any number of big-name celebrities on his show, but so far it has mostly been an eclectic cast of characters with impeccable credentials from top universities and the school of hard knocks.

While the toxic interview comes crashing down along with the empires of “bad men,” in this world so loath to offer up perfect, happy, Hollywood endings, by all accounts this is one story where the “good guys” are winning.

The start of a new era perhaps.


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William Tomos Edwards

William Tomos Edwards


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