Tracy Morgan On Being 'The New Black'
October 24, 2009 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Terry Gross interviews Tracy Morgan (via)
posted by kliuless (134 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
That interview was awesome. So weird, so awkward.

However, a single link to a random episode of NPR does not a good front page post make. In order to make this post stand out from the interpretation that it is somehow different from a thread consisting of a single link to one edition of a known TV show, pop artist's work, or news radio broadcast, there really needs to be something additional that we can seek our teeth into. There's nothing particularly extraordinary about this Fresh Air interview, other than its spectacular cringeworthy quotient.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:27 PM on October 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have no idea who either of these people are. Context? Links?
posted by DarlingBri at 4:33 PM on October 24, 2009


I have no idea who either of these people are.

Wut.
posted by billysumday at 4:35 PM on October 24, 2009 [27 favorites]


seek our teeth into

Ha! Wordplay.
posted by hal9k at 4:36 PM on October 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


Everything Tracy Jordan Said Season One, Two, Three. (nod)
posted by starman at 4:37 PM on October 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


My friend Roberta is a producer for Fresh Air. That is all.
posted by fixedgear at 4:37 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have no idea who either of these people are. Context? Links?

First sentence of the article:

"You'd be forgiven for confusing Tracy Morgan with his character on 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan. Jordan stars in a sketch comedy show on NBC; Morgan starred on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons."

This internet doesn't click and read itself, you know.
posted by hermitosis at 4:44 PM on October 24, 2009 [37 favorites]


Perhaps a better question (and would have made a better FPP) is "why do we care who these people are?" What makes them (or this interview) significant? Otherwise, I could post any random interview of any two people as a FPP.
posted by milnak at 4:48 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Otherwise, I could post any random interview of any two people as a FPP.

Interesting theory. Try it!
posted by billysumday at 4:50 PM on October 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Robin Gibb and Terry Gross...separated at birth?

And flag it and move on or metatalk, people.

weak sauce tag, please?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:53 PM on October 24, 2009


I was going to come in here to say "Terry Gross interviews someone three to five times a week. What makes this one special?" Then I saw that Terry Gross inverviewed him, not interviewed him, so it totally makes sense that this should be an FPP.
posted by Caduceus at 4:55 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


A woman with man's name interviews a man with a woman's name. Huh.
posted by Eideteker at 4:56 PM on October 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


hal9k: "5seek our teeth into

Ha! Wordplay.
"

Ugh. I wasn't even trying. That's a sad indicator of my nerdcore.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:00 PM on October 24, 2009


It was a Blaffair to Rememblack.
posted by The Whelk at 5:01 PM on October 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


Perhaps a better question (and would have made a better FPP) is "why do we care who these people are?" What makes them (or this interview) significant?
The MeFi readership likes 30 Rock and NPR.
posted by deanc at 5:08 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never heard Terry so unable to handle an interview. Odd...
posted by xmutex at 5:09 PM on October 24, 2009


Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?
posted by hwestiii at 5:14 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't so much see it as her being unable to handle the interview, but completely uninterested in dealing with it. Like when Tracy says, "I love you Terry," and she just goes, "...uuh, alright."
posted by iamkimiam at 5:16 PM on October 24, 2009


i was hoping someone would post this to metafilter.

i thought it was one of the most difficult to interpret interviews i have ever heard. is Tracey Jordan really that eccentric? or is part of his art to appear to be that eccentric? (and, really, if most people think he's crazy, what difference if it's inadvertent or feigned? that's how they'll respond to him and he to them, in turn, etc.)

and has he put on that clown face to appeal to two very different audiences, as he describes them? (indeed, the part about black comedians and black audiences vs. black comedians and white audiences i felt was really provocative.)

likewise, his story about moving out of a ghetto in the middle of the night may strike some NPR listeners as hyperbole but i thought it was one of the most poignant moments in the interview.

gross didn't know what to make of him - i think she's pretty good at a certain kind of conversation with a certain kind of interlocutor and on both counts this was slightly beyond her reach.
posted by noway at 5:19 PM on October 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


This isn't a very good post, but I liked the interview a lot - Tracy Morgan's a genius. That said, I heard it broadcast on the air just yesterday, so this post is pretty pointless as well.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:20 PM on October 24, 2009


That said, I heard it broadcast on the air just yesterday, so this post is pretty pointless as well.

Not to anyone who doesn't listen to NPR and would otherwise have no idea this existed.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:23 PM on October 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


The MeFi readership likeshas never watched 30 Rock and dropped NPR when they started basing stories on torture.

While we speaking for everyone, I might as well FTFY.
posted by DU at 5:24 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?

One my all time favorite moments on public radio: Terry Gross told Gene Simmons that she had never met a more obnoxious and arrogant person and Simmons retorted that he had never met such a cold and lifeless woman.

That moment is why I contribute to my local NPR station.
posted by cinemafiend at 5:25 PM on October 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


That interview was just too awkward and painful for me to finish listening to. Maybe I'm being especially uncharitable, but Gross just sounds so patronizing. It's like her tone is dripping with faux concern.
posted by lunit at 5:25 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought Terry and Tracy were great. They were perfect foils. She's so cool - like she's following a flowchart when she interviews - and he's so emotionally wild.
posted by zippy at 5:27 PM on October 24, 2009


I listened to this interview and found it to be both compelling, enlightening and awkward to listen to. I love it when an interview kind of blasts any preconceptions I may have of an artist out of the water.
I was vaguely familiar with Morgan due to SNL, 30 Rock and some strange appearances on late night shows ("Doing karate and getting females pregnant" was his answer on Letterman when asked what he was doing to kill time during the Writers Strike).

For me, the interview adds a new layer, new knowledge to Morgan as a person and as an artist and how he became that person.
Loved it.
posted by willmize at 5:29 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?

Neither is as awkward as when Ice T told her she needed to get herself a black man.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:32 PM on October 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


I've only ever heard her interview two people: Morgan and Bill O'Reilly. She is truly terrible at her job.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 5:34 PM on October 24, 2009


Gorgeous interview, so awkward and strange. Terry Gross is a cold fish, and Tracy Morgan rocked. I was just talking about it with my husband this very evening, specifically how it really defied my expectations.
posted by Never teh Bride at 5:34 PM on October 24, 2009


That's one awkward white woman
posted by Mick at 5:41 PM on October 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


The reason this is FPP worthy (more background would have been pleasant for people unfamiliar with both of these folks) is because of the uncharacteristic nature of the interview. Terry, grasping, bewildered at his emotional forthrightness and Tracy being emotionally forthright. I enjoy her interviews, but this one definitely deserved to be highlighted.
posted by bigmusic at 5:42 PM on October 24, 2009


I cannot stand Terry Gross. Her whole approach is try to find some tragic personal detail to wallow in. If she had Stepehen Hawking on all the questions would be about the wheelchair with no mention of physics.
posted by LarryC at 5:43 PM on October 24, 2009


That's one awkward white woman

See this is what is so shocking about this interview - she's not usually awkward - not one bit. She's a great interviewer, she seems to get to humanity of the person (famous, infamous, or noteworthy) being interviewed that most interviewers can't do, I don't know of another one that can do the magic that she does.
posted by bigmusic at 5:45 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


This keeps coming up in my circles and I keep trying to listen to the whole thing. I'm not trying to be a Terry Gross hater but godamn she is just so... WHITE! There's no better way to say it, and I'm total vanilla white wonderbread from the north east. I'm usually nonplussed by her Fresh Air stuff, and maybe it's just that Tracy brings so much personality -- so much life -- into this interview, but it's like it makes her seem even more robotic if that was even possible.

on preview, what Mick said.

Also, it's pretty standard fodder about the whole entertainers getting into entertainment because of parent issues, but huh, that whole dealing thing casts his role in Kevin Smith's flic as a little.. well... more interesting...
posted by cavalier at 5:54 PM on October 24, 2009


This thread is like taking somebody to the orchestra and having them comment "oh what a pretty building" and nothing else. This post seems pretty weak, and reading comments that are 90% about the interviewer isn't really improving things in my view.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:02 PM on October 24, 2009


Terry Gross is completely unqualified for her job. I have never heard her conduct a comfortable interview that flowed and revealed the interviewee - it's always an awkward conversation where she makes paragraph-length statements without any discernible questions. Shelagh Rogers would have done a more passable interview. Give me George Stroumboulopoulos or Jian Gomeshi any day.
posted by GuyZero at 6:08 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't know of another one that can do the magic that she does.

CBC interns conduct better interviews. RALPH BENMURGUI CONDUCTS BETTER INTERVIEWS.
posted by GuyZero at 6:10 PM on October 24, 2009


I would have missed this otherwise...so great post. And posts with too many supplementary links are annoying at times. I know how how to search the internet if something strikes my fancy, and how to move on down the page when it doesn't.

Tracy as Spoonie Luv on Crank Yankers. Still the funniest most inappropriate thing I've heard in a long time.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2009


MetaFilter's Own YoungAmerican - Jesse Thorn - is, in my opinion, as good if not better than Terry Gross, and he would have TORE UP this interview with Morgan. God, I wish this had been Jesse. ~sigh~
posted by tristeza at 6:18 PM on October 24, 2009


I don't know what you people are talking about. This is the first time I've ever heard Tracy Morgan be serious and open in an interview. And that's thanks to Terry Gross' connection with him. In fact, it's clear to me that the moment the mics were turned off, they went off to reenact the sex scene from 9 1/2 weeks with flan. Piles and piles of flan.
posted by stavrogin at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


CBC interns conduct better interviews.

Too true, GuyZero - I generally like the guests on Fresh Air, but Gross is, since we're talking CanCon, like an Eleanor Wachtel's even more awkward sister. Wachtel is fairly stiff and often too pleased with herself, but she actually seems to pay attention. Listening to FA I lose count of the number of time Gross interrupts or talks over her guests, or asks redundant questions. And then there's David Edelstein, Maureen Corrigan, and John Powers... I must really hate myself on some level.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:27 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid I have to agree with Gene Simmons' evaluation; Terry Gross comes across as completely bloodless, like the reanimated corpse of an accountant.
posted by Justinian at 6:29 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Awkard? Try her interview with Gene Simmons.
posted by unmake at 6:30 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Awkard? Try her interview with Gene Simmons.

I'm glad someone finally brought this up.
posted by DU at 6:34 PM on October 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


That said, I heard it broadcast on the air just yesterday, so this post is pretty pointless as well.

Not to anyone who doesn't listen to NPR and would otherwise have no idea this existed.

Maybe I just expect more from MeFi than single-link posts about major media journalism that took place a single day earlier. There are plenty of sites which do a fair job of "digesting" recent activities - should this really be MeFi's function? It would have been one thing if this were a hard-to-find interview done in an unusual context (for instance, someone recently posted a single link to a nearly half-century old interview with Shel Silverstein, which was bizarre and illuminating and not something you'd have encountered by listening to the radio yesterday.) I like Tracy Morgan and I feel that Terry Gross (whatever her many faults as an interviewer) manages to get her subjects to open up convincingly quite often - but this interview was primarily a shill for a widely-hyped and prominently placed new book by a well-known celebrity and not much else.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:38 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


tristeza: MetaFilter's Own YoungAmerican - Jesse Thorn - is, in my opinion, as good if not better than Terry Gross, and he would have TORE UP this interview with Morgan. God, I wish this had been Jesse. ~sigh~

From my (admittedly, somewhat limited) exposure to youngamerican, he admires Terry Gross immensely. While his Twitter showed some jealousy over Terry Gross' get, he seems to be a fan generally.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 6:40 PM on October 24, 2009


You know what's really great? Playing the Gene Simmons interview and the Tracy Morgan at the same. Double the random outbursts and awkward pauses.
posted by hermitosis at 6:40 PM on October 24, 2009


Mick: "That's one awkward white woman"

You think?
posted by Joe Beese at 6:41 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I AM A STABBING ROBOT!
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:44 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


oh...and anyone who reads the comments before listening to the interview, don't get chased away by the haters. It's fascinating.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:48 PM on October 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Terry Gross gets more than she bargained for from KISS frontman.
posted by ColdChef at 6:51 PM on October 24, 2009


Oh wow, that Simmons interview, oh wow.
posted by cavalier at 6:53 PM on October 24, 2009


Wow.

After listening to her interview Gene Simmons, you know -- KNOW -- that at some point they hooked up after.
posted by hermitosis at 7:06 PM on October 24, 2009


The thing about Terry Gross is that she's not a consistent interviewer. She is at times quite good, and, too frequently, not that good at all. She is, I find, at her worst when she really likes the person she's interviewing, she fawns even more than James Lipton, and in a very syrupy way that I practically can't listen too.

I can't comment on this particular interview, because my only experience with Morgan is 30 Rock, and the only characters that appeal to me on that show are Fey and Baldwin. The others seem generic sitcom placeholders. Perhaps they've evolved since the first season, I don't know.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:08 PM on October 24, 2009


Hi, the post is fine, but this gets my vote as the worst mefi thread in recent memory. Thanks for the endless lecturing on what makes a great FPP and general grousing!

I'm especially fond of the idea that all mefi users listen to NPR, and therefore we had all heard this.
posted by maxwelton at 7:16 PM on October 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


can someone please take the Simmons and Morgan interviews, remove the interviewer, and stagger the outbursts so they're talking to each other? I have to spend the next couple of hours getting the kids ready for bed, otherwise this would be my evening's activity.
posted by davejay at 7:21 PM on October 24, 2009 [14 favorites]


That said, I heard it broadcast on the air just yesterday, so this post is pretty pointless as well.
It's pointless because you heard it broadcast just yesterday?
Or because you heard it broadcast just yesterday?
Or because it was yesterday?
I listened to it via podcast this morning, just now saw it posted here, and thought, hmmm, I wonder what this crowd has to say? Turns out it's the predictable buncha bitching about the quality of the post. Ugh.
It's a good post because, wow, what an amazing, bizarre, remarkable interview, well worth listening to and discussing. It definitely highlights Gross's faults as an interviewer - and I think she's an incredible interviewer. She's taken off guard because she clearly doesn't know how seriously to take him - he kind of sounds like he's kidding, doesn't he?
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:25 PM on October 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?
yes, but for entirely different reasons. it's actually good.

gross didn't know what to make of him
that was my takeway, too. she seemed embarrassed she couldn't click with him. it was at times painful to witness but also intriguing.

I heard it broadcast on the air just yesterday, so this post is pretty pointless as well.
oh, right. YOU heard it, so it is pointless. now I finally know who this planet revolves around.

I've only ever heard her interview two people: Morgan and Bill O'Reilly. She is truly terrible at her job.
I wouldn't blurt out such poppycock after that preface.
posted by krautland at 7:30 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


well, I think that Tracy Morgan was just so different than she expected (she said as much), she wasn't sure if he was putting her on or not. I'm kind of surprised nobody has mentioned how much of a nut Tracy Morgan has been on recent interviews. I mean, really, do we really need to know? tmi highlights from a Playboy interview.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:35 PM on October 24, 2009


I disagree that this is on Terry. I listened to the interview yesterday, and came away with the impression that, while it's awesome to hear Tracy being candid, he came across as still being in denial about a ton of things, like having anger about his childhood (which Terry called him on), about the relationship between himself and Tracy Jordan (which Terry called him on when he contradicted himself), and about alcohol. When it came to his drunk driving arrest, he talked about the way the ankle bracelet scarred his family, but (I don't think... I may have forgotten) not about the way alcoholism could have been scarring to his family.

He came across as unstable, and Terry seemed to be doing her best to handle him in his emotional state. To be fair to Terry, Tracy seemed very comfortable opening up to her, and both of them acknowledged that the interview was a lot more candid than most people were probably expecting. Even Tracy attributed this to her approach; he said that she was the first person to interview him retrospectively.
posted by alphanerd at 7:35 PM on October 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


If we're going to allow single link Fresh Air FPPs, then each of the following should be acceptable for MetaFilter:

---
Terry Gross Interviews Jill Bolte Taylor - After a Stroke, a Scientist Studies Herself
---
P. W. Singer explores the advances of robotics in warfare in his book Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and 21st Century Conflict. Hear the Fresh Air interview.
---
Terry Gross interviews John Doe about going country
---
Underneath the cow patties in the pasture and the monkey dung in the jungle lies a miniature world of sex and violence. Terry Gross gets up close and personal...about dung beetles.
---

I could go on, but you get the point. Each of these stories is interesting in its own right. Would be better for MetaFilter if there was something more.

As for the current post...it would have been great to see a short little narrative about Tracy Morgan with biographical links, contrasted with a short little narrative about Terry Gross with biographical links. Then the Fresh Air interview episode would make a great finale link to a solid backstory of buildup, demonstrating the interesting culture clash as these two very different people are brought together for an emotional, awkward ride.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:39 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, it's fine as is - inverviews and all.
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:45 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a great interview and a great FPP.
posted by geoff. at 7:47 PM on October 24, 2009


Nevermind. After listening to the interview, the awkward way that Terry Gross asks him questions that he's just finished answering is far funnier than anything created by combining the two interviews.
posted by davejay at 7:47 PM on October 24, 2009


My friend Roberta is a producer for Fresh Air. That is all.

Don't you mean Frrrrrrresh Air.... ?
posted by odinsdream at 7:54 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


If we're going to allow single link Fresh Air FPPs, then each of the following should be acceptable for MetaFilter

At the risk of sounding like a right dick, your comments are becoming more acceptable for MeTa.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:57 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


he kind of sounds like he's kidding, doesn't he?

Except for the parts where he's openly crying. I think what's fascinating about this particular interview is that he is bluffing and somewhat defensive at first. He starts out giving rote celebrity fluff interview answers "the character is just a character, it's not the real me" I've heard that answer countless times in countless celeb puff pieces. Somewhere along the line he switches gears and tells the uncomfortable truth. And you can't fault either one of them for the awkwardness, i don't think either of them expected the interview to end up going where it did.

In the middle where he tells Terry Gross he loves her. You can't tell me that's not a funny, weird, and unique moment.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:04 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


If we're going to allow single link Fresh Air FPPs, then each of the following should be acceptable for MetaFilter:
---
Terry Gross Interviews Jill Bolte Taylor - After a Stroke, a Scientist Studies Herself


Outstanding interview, I borrowed My Stroke of Insight from the library the same week, finished it over a weekend and then bought a copy. It would have been acceptable and a good post.

it would have been great to see a short little narrative about Tracy Morgan with biographical links, contrasted with a short little narrative about Terry Gross with biographical links. . .

I dunno, sometimes less is more? Why are you so bothered by the presentation? A single link is not the issue. It is the quality of the link that matters and this was a good post. We are a long way from Wikipedia/YouTube/Digg Filter here.
posted by mlis at 8:10 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is this? Horse-ville? Because I'm surrounded by NEIGH-sayers!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:13 PM on October 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand: "At the risk of sounding like a right dick, your comments are becoming more acceptable for MeTa."

While the sentiment smarts, your point is well taken. No need for MeTa. My apologies for belaboring a point. I didn't need to go there. It's scary enough to make FPPs without people tearing them apart. Sometimes I forget that.

Anyways, I do think it's interesting to look into some of the factors that make this interview so particularly weird. A lot of it seems to be culture-based, but then I also get the sense that both of them are cautious about how seriously to take each other. Which is interesting, since that really boils down to authenticity. And we hear Terry trying all these different tactics to get at that. She's asking direct questions, indirect questions, commiserating, hedging, all sorts of dance moves going on. And each tactic ends up with this sort of half-serious, half-unbelievable, pragmatically-off response. So she seems to waver between committing to the interview and not committing (and possibly spare herself being vulnerable, who knows). But it seems that Tracy is somewhat receptive to all of it. Which is further boggling. I don't know. I feel like I could listen to this thing again and again and get a different take each time.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:16 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


omigod. Gene Simmonds. Ick. Just ick.
posted by beccaj at 8:18 PM on October 24, 2009


A smooth interview is not necessarily a good one.
posted by ignignokt at 8:19 PM on October 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yea, I often start to suffer second-hand embarrassment when listening to Fresh Air and have to tune out. This seems to sum it up.
posted by Partario at 8:29 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't be the only one who wonders when Tracy Morgan lost his mind and why nobody else seems to have noticed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:37 PM on October 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I can't be the only one who wonders when Tracy Morgan lost his mind and why nobody else seems to have noticed.

Can you pinpoint a time when he wasn't mad, because even when he was on SNL he always seemed a little odder than others. He didn't show it often but his madness was confirmed when he started doing those Astronaut Jones bits.
posted by Partario at 8:41 PM on October 24, 2009


It's his way or the old space highway.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:42 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, I get much of the criticism directed at Terry Gross here, but still, I think the notion that Tracy Morgan went from selling crack to comedy in one step does deserve some scrutiny.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:56 PM on October 24, 2009


Tracy Morgan's a genius

You know there are real geniuses, right? (Like the kids who start college at 6 years old?)
posted by anniecat at 8:58 PM on October 24, 2009


Terry Gross has a "reverse Crimson Petal and the White moment" (Scroll down to Scene 2).
posted by mlis at 9:00 PM on October 24, 2009


I just finished listening to that interview and that was so awkward. She can't seem to handle herself in the presence of Tracy Morgan. I've listened to interviews she's done before, including one with that SNL anchor, and I can't tell if she's unable to be comfortable because he's black or because she doesn't want to connect with him. I never thought of her as a snob until now. You'd think she'd be more sensitive about his tears instead of totally confused.
posted by anniecat at 9:02 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?

I mentioned this interview to The GF (caught it when it aired) and her first comment was essentially that. The Gene Simmons interview is apparently the NPR 'off the rails' benchmark.

And for those criticizing Terry over this one, do you really think you would have done better? If so, how?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:04 PM on October 24, 2009


Hehe yeah, kids who start college at 6 are geniuses...right. I'll have your back on that when one of them changes the world, cures cancer, writes the great American novel, you know, the stuff GENIUSES DO.

A six-year-old gherkin with aggro parents does not a genius make.

MY KID IS A GNEIUS I TELL YOU A GNEIUS!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:06 PM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


And for those criticizing Terry over this one, do you really think you would have done better? If so, how?

Criticism is not reserved for those who are at the top of the field they're criticizing; if it were, things would be a whole lot shittier.

I think I could have done better, though, if only by being something other than a fucking South Park caricature of an uptight white woman who goes several days between bowel movements.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:08 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hehe I'm fiesty today.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2009


I wince at least once during every Terry Gross interview, usually several times, because I can't stand her fakey laugh and her multiple uses of "um."

Then there are always plenty of these gems, which seem somewhat innocuous in writing, but with the full power of Terry's awkward delivery behind them, well...

"Remembering Jazz Trumpeter Lester Bowie

GROSS: Did you do steps and wear jackets, and did you have synchronized horn movements?"
posted by HopperFan at 9:12 PM on October 24, 2009


Joseph Gurl, you didn't see SNL Weeked Update last week? There was a joke about the genius thing. Whathisname said something like, "You know those actors who describe other actors as geniuses? You know there are real geniuses right?"

Sorry, I can't remember it right. It's on Hulu. I had some wine.
posted by anniecat at 9:14 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


if you're looking for some more padding (or just can't get enough of the RTM ;) some interesting comments at TNC, who's still collecting his thoughts...

oh and CNN: 2 | 3

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 9:14 PM on October 24, 2009


Metafilter: a sad indicator of my nerdcore
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:15 PM on October 24, 2009


"reverse Crimson Petal and the White moment"

I'm just going to enjoy this phrase cause of course Terry Gross would misinterpret the book that way.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 PM on October 24, 2009


Howard Stern interviewed circles around her this week with TM.
posted by docpops at 9:38 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


yeah - FA has good content, but Terry Gross cannot roll with unconventional guests who deviate from her interview playbook -
even when she knows ahead of time that they are "typically unpredictable"

someone who is getting pretty good at that is CBC's Jian Ghomeshi of Billy Bob fame - but also notable are Super Dave Osborne, Oscar the Grouch and recently Bill Withers (at about 22 minutes) among others.

and also - for single links to well known sources, padding out the FPP with some relevant links seems to skip the otherwise mandatory discussion about weak posts etc.
posted by sloe at 10:00 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm only about 1/3 of the way through but I gotta side with the people saying Terry Gross just comes off as impatient and condescending. For those who feel otherwise - that he was giving rote answers and she was just trying to goad him into opening up more - I have two rebuttals: a) on numerous occasions you could hear Gross pulling in her breath as if waiting for the opportunity to interrupt him, which would seem to directly counter any honest attempt at drawing long, thought out moments out of him; and b) he's a 40-year old comedian hawking a 198-page book... there's a pretty good chance that what he's giving her is frankly just as deep as he's capable of going.

Plus her lengthy introduction before she even brought him on the air seemed completely devoid of any enthusiasm so I think you have to put the blame squarely on Gross' shoulders for any inadequacies here. All I can say is this interview definitely doesn't make me long to hear more Fresh Air material.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:02 PM on October 24, 2009


Ugh, halfway through now and I think that's it for me. It's definitely clear that Tracy is making a sincere attempt to open up here, and just because he doesn't have the insight or cutting edge articulation that Gross seems to rue the lack of doesn't mean he deserves to be treated like an asshole. The part where she suddenly sounds almost giddy before asking if he can sing one of his father's songs just screams out "hey, new monkey! Let's see if we can get him to do tricks!" Defending Gross' interviews on the basis that she's in the zone when you give her a whitebread stuffed shirt to shoot the shit with isn't a worthwhile commendation in my book.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:19 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter's Own YoungAmerican - Jesse Thorn - is, in my opinion, as good if not better than Terry Gross, and he would have TORE UP this interview with Morgan. God, I wish this had been Jesse. ~sigh~

Ok, so I don't know if this counts as a personal attack against a Metafilter member or not, but I have two huge problems with The Sound of Young America, not only make it a lot less interesting than Fresh Air, but make it nearly unlistenable. To be fair, he interviews artists who Terry Gross just wouldn't have time in the world to interview, people who are under the radar, and his affection for hip-hop is really awesome. However:

1.) All the interviews end at the half hour mark, and, as such, usually focus on one part of the subject's story and end just as they are getting interesting. Please see interviews with The State and Nathin Rabin for examples. (aside, he really didn't do his research when he asked The State about "You Wrote It, You Watch It.")

2.) Jesse tends to try and get jokey with his subjects, something that apparently seems incredibly precious to him, but is really just not very funny. See the recent Tony Millionaire interview where he keeps bringing up stipple portraiture for some reason. The joke was never funny, but he keeps harping on that one.

Terry Gross isn't perfect, to be sure. CheeseDigestsAll is write that she has fawning problems, and it can be painful to listen to her if she's pitching softball questions at someone she's in love with. I also agree that for celebrity interviews, Howard Stern has a way of getting incredibly interesting and candid conversations with them. However, as iamkimiam pointed out (as a criticism of this FPP), she interviews people that neither Thorn nor Stern would be interested in, and she takes the time in her interviews to let them have their say and tell their stories.

All of that said, I think this was a pretty poorly done interview. She went into it expecting to interview Tracy Jordan. Instead she was caught completely off guard by Tracy Morgan.

(Anyone who is interested in looking over my askme history about my desire to get a job in public radio is free to comment on my sour grapes.)
posted by orville sash at 10:29 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of that said, I think this was a pretty poorly done interview. She went into it expecting to interview Tracy Jordan. Instead she was caught completely off guard by Tracy Morgan.

Yeah, but this went beyond merely being ill prepared and crossed a line into mean spiritedness fairly early on.... which is a much more egregious defect in an interviewer, I think.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:33 PM on October 24, 2009


she interviews people that neither Thorn nor Stern would be interested in

On As It Happens They interview people who are complete unknowns, some of whom can barely speak English and they do a far, far, far better job.

NPR has a white guy in Washington tell you that some people in the Congo got shot. As It Happens phones someone in the Congo and has him (or her) describe what they saw.

Gross' extremely WASPy cross-section on interviewees may beat Howard Stern, but that's a pretty low bar.
posted by GuyZero at 10:38 PM on October 24, 2009


I listen to the whole thing, and I didn't detect the same mean spiritedness you're talking about. I think that she expected to interview Tracy Morgan as he has represented himself in myriad other interviews, and when she didn't come face to face with that person, she made a bad decision by trying to steer the conversation so that it elicited the responses she was looking for.

Piss poor interviewing? You betcha. Mean Spirited? I don't know.
posted by orville sash at 10:38 PM on October 24, 2009


Terry Gross in her interview with Woody Allen went full-on with her typical, "Let me take this movie you made. Do you think you wrote it that way in order to express something that was a reflection of your life, and isn't that just an insightful observation I made?" over and over again, to have Woody Allen repeatedly answer with, "No. Not at all. My co-writer and I just felt it worked better that way. This has nothing to do with my social life."

I can see how she'd be at a loss to deal with Tracy Morgan, if only because she can't use the interview as an opportunity to show off her insights about his oeuvre.
posted by deanc at 10:56 PM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I listen to the whole thing, and I didn't detect the same mean spiritedness you're talking about. I think that she expected to interview Tracy Morgan as he has represented himself in myriad other interviews, and when she didn't come face to face with that person, she made a bad decision by trying to steer the conversation so that it elicited the responses she was looking for.

Fine, but you're simply speculating on what expectations may have led her to be unprepared and thus give a bad interview, in whatever generic terms we might want to use. I'm talking about specific examples where she seems to be needlessly flustered and impatient, not to mention brazenly condescending, and appears to be taking it out on her subject, which is why I say mean spirited.

Besides, there's absolutely nothing about her stuffy personality which would tend to indicate that she would have been more at home dealing with the Tracy Morgan who shows up on the late night circuit. Actually if anything I think he was as well behaved and cooperative as a "by the book" interviewer like Terry Gross possibly could have hoped for. Which is why it's all the more puzzling when she almost immediately starts getting flustered and throwing out the "yeah buts..." and what not. I just don't buy the explanation that she's a humanistic, on point interviewer that just this once had a bad hair day.
posted by squeakyfromme at 11:02 PM on October 24, 2009


she seems to be needlessly flustered and impatient, not to mention brazenly condescending, and appears to be taking it out on her subject, which is why I say mean spirited.

her stuffy personality

Huh... wait, wait - I've heard this song before - Gene? Is that you?
posted by bigmusic at 11:19 PM on October 24, 2009


Huh... wait, wait - I've heard this song before - Gene? Is that you?

Ooh, I don't like Gross' attitude so I must be down in the muck with misguided souls like Gene Simmons, huh? Quality point you just made there, pal, somebody get this guy a kewpie doll.
posted by squeakyfromme at 11:29 PM on October 24, 2009


Don Rickles, is that you?!?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 PM on October 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Heard this interview when it first aired on OPB a couple days ago. As a near nightly listener of Fresh Air, I gotta say - this was an exceptionally weird and wonderful interview. Defo worth an FPP.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:54 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joseph Gurl, you didn't see SNL Weeked Update last week? There was a joke about the genius thing. Whathisname said something like, "You know those actors who describe other actors as geniuses? You know there are real geniuses right?"

Is this something I'd have to know what a TV is to understand? No time, have to finish my dissertation before Mommy comes to change my diaper.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:49 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


A woman with man's name interviews a man with a woman's name. Huh.

No, Terry is a unisex name. Like Pat.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 3:58 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


First time I read this I thought it said "Katie Morgan" for some reason and I thought "now that might be a great interview."
posted by Muddler at 4:02 AM on October 25, 2009


time digg
avclub funny people
comedy race(post-)
posted by kliuless at 4:56 AM on October 25, 2009


I occasionally listen to the podcasted version of Fresh Air when I'm working. Most episodes seem to begin "This is Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross". What I'm hoping is that one day Davies will be unexpectedly unavailable just as Gross is in the vicinity and available for some unrelated reason, so the episode begins "This is Terry Gross filling in for Dave Davies filling in for me" or preferably "This is Terry Gross filling in for myself".
posted by Grangousier at 6:25 AM on October 25, 2009


Guy Zero - NPR has a white guy in Washington tell you that some people in the Congo got shot. As It Happens phones someone in the Congo and has him (or her) describe what they saw.

To be fair, what NPR is is a filter, a filter we accept, knowing they do due diligence to get background on stories before something is broadcast as "news". A man on the street description is akin to accepting criticism of a performance, not knowing whether the "critic" slept thru the performance, is the performer's mother or has an axe to grind. It is fashionable to poo-poo NPR as waspy, but to be fair they excell at newsgathering (but yeah, the voice of Robert Siegel just irks me, too).

Terry Gross is what she is. In this case I think she's doing her best, while being afraid of the famous Tracy Morgan Volatility. Every question she hedges as if she isn't ready for the kind of response she's afraid she'll get.
It IS offputting. She prefers to interview at a distance, disembodied voice to disembodied voice, so I don't get the fear factor here, but whatever.

Tracy Morgan is someone I worry about, just as a person. He's one of those performers that is all heart, that puts it all on the line. Most performers that do this, do it as some kind of persona, as it is destructive to have every aspect of yourself available as part of your schtick that is judged. I hope for his sake, he makes his buck and finds a way to pull back, to ACT or perform in a non-ego destroying way. In the interview he describes being an economic engine of sorts for family and friends, hiring them to spread the wealth around a bit. This makes him putting his soul out there, daily for the sake of some laughs, keeping a lot of mouths fed and that may be just too much.
posted by readery at 6:50 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


It may not have been a great interview, but it sure was a fascinating interview. I was listening to this the other day as I was cruising down the freeway low on gas. I passed exit after exit, afraid that if I got out out of the car long enough to fuel up that I'd miss the actual train wreck.

That's what makes a good program.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:07 AM on October 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought it was an ok interview. Tracy Morgan is notoriously unpredictable, and I think Terry did her best (let's face it, she is a little cold). It's hard to prepare for that kind of interview. I thought at the end, they kind of clicked.

I do wish she had delved a little more into the whole black comedians performing for black audiences vs. black comedians performing for mainstream/mixed/white audiences thing he brought up. I thought it was really interesting that part of what he learned at SNL was how to do this code-switching. Also, how he let other people do some of the work with the writing, and for him to concentrate on the performing. He's definitely not the usual performer for SNL, at least lately, and I would have liked to hear more about that.
posted by bluefly at 8:10 AM on October 25, 2009


Terry Gross has a "reverse Crimson Petal and the White moment"

Someone please tell me this is a fake.
posted by winna at 8:31 AM on October 25, 2009


Sorry, winna, it's totally real. I was as shocked as you no doubt were to discover the Car Talk guys are actually English.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:56 AM on October 25, 2009


No, I was fairly certain it was fake, but the thought of Terry Gross in heat was so horrifying I needed external reassurance!
posted by winna at 10:11 AM on October 25, 2009


I've done quite a few interviews. And this interview, which I have only now just listened to, demonstrates how NOT to conduct an interview. If an author is crying in front of you, for the love of Christ, you DO NOT quote a passage from the book. You talk it out. You express genuine empathy. If someone is on a very visceral roll, you shut the hell up and let them continue to express their passion. You are not there to judge another person. You are there to reveal and challenge another person, and thereby provide something of value to an audience. If someone doesn't want to talk about what you want to talk about, then you improvise your questions around what they're interested in. I have conducted entire interviews when this happens, in which I've discarded my list of questions.

Sure, you can prepare. And Terry does prepare. Perhaps too much. But no amount of preparation can ever prepare you for the unexpected. To be a good interviewer, you have to adapt to the endlessly shifting dynamic between interviewer and interviewee. You have to recognize within the first five minutes the natural pauses and manner in which a person speaks. And you have to time your questions around that. You have to keep throwing meat at the interviewee so that both of you can get caught up in the conversation. To some degree, being a good interviewer is a bit like being a good actor who plays to the scene. It's not about you. It's about the scene. You're there to make the other person look good. But if you're a sycophant or you're phony, then the jig is up. And both the interviewee and the audience will know it.

Terry is good when she gets another subject to talk intelligently about craft. There are some conceptual approaches that work on Fresh Air. But she's terrible at improvisation. She's terrible at reading other people outside her desperate efforts to apply a personal motive to craft, which, as any artist knows, isn't the case. She has problems with a certain type of person (Gene Simmons, Ice-T, Bill O'Reilly and now Tracy Morgan), who enters her studio with a swagger that is innate to their being. What she should have done is celebrated that swagger. Let Tracy Morgan be Tracy Morgan. But Terry's questions here are so tied into her prepared deconstruction of certain sketches and moments from 30 Rock and she cannot throw away the list, as any good interviewer should. Her artificial laughter reveals how absolutely uncomfortable and unadaptive she is in such situations. And it's not just a train wreck. It's a prima facie example about why NPR's safe-and-sane approach to cultural interviews is so disastrous to cultural journalism as a whole.

Now I like Terry. She was once good enough to email me and clarify a matter. And I particularly like her early shows when she was more herself: some hippie chick working out of Philadelphia who was quite excited to talking with these people. It still comes out from time to time.

But when I listen to an interview like this, and I am reminded once again about how NPR tries to pigeonhole interesting people into their preternaturally preprogrammed talk format (e.g., the dreaded pre-interview), it makes me want to destroy a radio executive's expensive leather couch and paste the shreds to his needlessly expensive desk. These condescending cretins not only fear taking chances. They fear embracing the endless possibilities of human truth. It's all predicated on being curious about people, having fun, trying out a few idiosyncratic approaches, and staying committed to social spontaneity. Alas, those are all virtues that stand against the Almighty Dollar.
posted by ed at 11:24 AM on October 25, 2009 [16 favorites]


Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?

No, Richard Simmons was way more awkward.
posted by iamck at 11:57 AM on October 25, 2009


Is this weirder or more awkward than her Gene Simmons interview?

Neither is as awkward as when Ice T told her she needed to get herself a black man.


My favorite awkward Terry Gross interview moment is when she implies (most likely accurately) that Richard Pryor keeps a gun next to his bed because he is suicidal; then, instead of letting it pass as an ambiguous statement, goes "not that I'm suggesting you're suicidal". The tension in the air there was delicious.

The Tracy Morgan interview is how I like to imagine anemic NPR liberals interact with black people in general.
posted by dgaicun at 2:14 PM on October 25, 2009


OK. I listened to the interview. Was Morgan in the studio with Gross, or was this a telephone interview? If they were in the studio together, I reserve judgment because I can't see their facial expressions. It was awkward, yes, but I thought it was a pretty good interview: I had no idea who Tracy Morgan was, and now I think I have a fairly good idea, more than I would with the usual book junket interview.
posted by acrasis at 3:00 PM on October 25, 2009


The Tracy Morgan interview is how I like to imagine anemic NPR liberals interact with black people in general.

The Audacity of ‘Precious’
Is America ready for a movie about an obese Harlem girl raped and impregnated by her abusive father?
posted by kliuless at 3:11 PM on October 25, 2009


Jesse Thorn here. I was indeed disappointed that Fresh Air got Tracy Morgan and I didn't, but only because I've always loved Morgan (well, since he started on SNL), and I wish I had the resources and skills that the Fresh Air team has. Always frustrating to get "scooped," doubly so when it's on your territory (I think it's fair to say that 30 Rock is right in my wheelhouse). On the other hand, Fresh Air is a much, much bigger outlet than me, and I'm used to it. I was just goofing around on Twitter.

And I haven't heard the interview yet (though I'm really looking forward to it).

THAT SAID...

Terry Gross is a brilliant, brilliant interviewer. Whoever said that I admire her is, if anything, understating the case.

One of the things that I like about Gross (who I've never met - the closest to an interaction I've had with her was that I heard second hand that she thinks the name of my show is dumb :) ) is her willingness to be herself. Some people see her as an NPR stuffed shirt type, but I think it's quite the opposite. I think she is very adventurous, and her adventurousness and humility allows her to gracefully speak with people who are very different from her (like Morgan).

Yes, she often looks for the roots of people's art, and on rare occasion, someone (like Woody Allen) will resist that. I'd say that that's one of her greatest strengths. In a long-form interview, that's how you connect personal narrative with the work. Her skill in that area is unmatched.

Gross interviews dozens of people a month. I'm sure the Fresh Air staff are absolutely crackerjack and prepare her well, but it takes a special skill to move between those worlds as ably as she does.

(And I think Howard Stern is a similarly brilliant interviewer. I'm not a regular listener to his show, but Gross is. Also: I really love Dave Davies as well.)
posted by YoungAmerican at 3:57 PM on October 25, 2009 [9 favorites]


Also, thank you to the person who compared me to Gross. If, in 20 years, I'm as good as she is, I will be ecstatic.
posted by YoungAmerican at 3:59 PM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I listened to the interview a second time. It's still uncomfortable. I think I know what it is (thought I could be wrong). Is it that Terry Gross thinks good interview skills mean asking therapy-like questions and doing psychoanalysis? I mean, if Tracy Morgan says he's not angry, why does she take that tone where it makes it sound like he's not being honest?
posted by anniecat at 5:43 PM on October 25, 2009


I mean, if Tracy Morgan says he's not angry, why does she take that tone where it makes it sound like he's not being honest?

Because he just said a bunch of angry-sounding things in an angry-sounding tone.
posted by ignignokt at 9:01 PM on October 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tracy Morgan is almost as good at confusing people about the line between actor and character as Andy Kaufman was, although with Andy not even his close friends could easily tell the difference.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:01 PM on October 25, 2009


So what's the deal with Tracy Morgan? Is he always like that? Is there any media of him anywhere talking like a normal person?
posted by heathkit at 10:04 PM on October 25, 2009


MetaFilter: We're feisty today.
posted by shadytrees at 4:38 AM on October 26, 2009


No, Terry is a unisex name. Like Pat.

As is 'Tracy'. And 'Morgan'.
posted by grubi at 6:52 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was as shocked as you no doubt were to discover the Car Talk guys are actually English.

Yeah! I mean, they're from Cambridge.
posted by grubi at 6:55 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Terry Gross is a brilliant, brilliant interviewer... I think Howard Stern is a similarly brilliant interviewer... I really love Dave Davies as well.

Jess, totally serious question here. First, Since you're an actual profession in the area I totally respect your opinion on Gross even if we disagree. But do you ever listen to full-time radio interviewers from other countries? I could name half a dozen from CBC alone plus there's the Beeb and even ABC in Australia has to have at least one decent radio interviewer. I find it odd that you would only mention interviewers from the English-speaking country where radio is the least popular, relatively speaking.
posted by GuyZero at 9:42 AM on October 26, 2009


Yeah, I say he's not angry because he says he's not and maybe he is really just passionate and it's none of anybody's business. He's being interviewed, not cross-examined. Furthermore, his main purpose is to sell his book, which is why his publicist is booking him on different shows in the first place.

But obviously white people know everything there is to know about emotional displays, so who am I to say he should be taken at his word when some nice white people decide how he feels?
posted by anniecat at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, GuyZero... it is the country where I live. So... you could see how that's what I would be most exposed to and interested in.

I've listened to As It Happens and BBC Newshour pretty frequently. Neither does this kind of interview. I am a big fan of the former, though.
posted by YoungAmerican at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2009


Metafilter: everything there is to know about emotional displays
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:25 PM on October 26, 2009


> Yeah, I say he's not angry because he says he's not and maybe he is really just passionate and it's none of anybody's business. He's being interviewed...

Umm... That's actually the business of the interviewer. Who seems genuinely concerned for him. But whatever, she's white. Hopefully she's learned her lesson.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:26 AM on October 27, 2009


I mostly think that Terry Gross is neither here nor there as an interviewer. At this point in her career, she's every bit the off-beat celebrity that many of her subjects are. I think she does better with unknowns, but that's just, like, my opinion, man.

That said, I end up getting more out of the interviews that are awkward and uncomfortable than the ones where she's ends up sitting on the subject's lap. For an example of that, look up this past summer's interview with John Doe. Doe is one of my all time favorite people on the planet, but she gushed so ostentatiously, I was embarrassed for all three of us. It was borderline disgusting.

In the Gene Simmons interview, I think we all learned A LOT about Gene Simmons. Whatever reaction he did or didn't have to her, he came across as the contemptible pig that he is, and less like the rock star God he seems to think he is.

In this week's interview with Morgan, she started off being edgy and defensive, which seemed to magnify Tracy's weirdness. It wasn't comfortable to listen to, but it was certainly gripping radio. Again, I'd be hard pressed to call that Gross's talent, but as a mere instrument to prode and poke interview subjects, whatever she brought, or whoever she is did help us learn a bit more about Tracy Morgan.
posted by psmealey at 2:56 PM on October 29, 2009


« Older From Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe to Zombie N...  |  The number of refugees from Ir... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments