Rank #1: 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.
Rank #2: 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.
Rank #3: 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.
Rank #4: 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.
Rank #5: 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."
Rank #6: 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.
Rank #7: 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!
Rank #8: 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.
Rank #9: 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.
Rank #10: 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.