Larry King, 1933-2021
January 23, 2021 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Larry King died this morning at age 87. The host of Larry King Live on CNN for over 25 years, and before that The Larry King Show on nationwide talk radio. Cause of death has not been published but he had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in mid-December. King had previously expressed his intentions to be cryonically preserved.
posted by ardgedee (66 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I will never forget the week of (I think) 2006 where Larry King made such a mess of interviewing trans people (well, specifically, he could not get his head around the idea that transmasculine people might exist, which is... about par for the course, to be honest) that a) cis people got it and b) he was mocked on Saturday Night Live.
posted by hoyland at 9:07 AM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Or when he referred to Ringo Star as George Harrison while interviewing Ringo and Paul.
posted by Beholder at 9:11 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


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posted by EatTheWeak at 9:25 AM on January 23


I just looked him up yesterday wondering if he was still in the hospital from COVID (it said he'd been released from the ICU, but I didn't read far enough to see if he was home).
posted by dirigibleman at 9:27 AM on January 23


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Hard to believe this was just a month ago.
posted by automatronic at 9:43 AM on January 23 [13 favorites]


I will never get Norm MacDonald's impression of Larry King out of my head.
posted by parmanparman at 9:44 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


If only this guy had gotten half as much flak as Assange did for having a TV show on Russia Today.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:46 AM on January 23 [9 favorites]


I loved the interview he did with Jerry Seinfeld, where he asked whether Seinfeld was canceled or if it had ended voluntarily. The look of disbelief in Seinfeld's smug eyes ("You didn't know I had the #1 show?") was *chef's kiss*. I always found it fascinating that someone who obviously did very very very minimal research (if at all -- half the time it seems he had no clue who he was interviewing) was able to produce so many compelling/strange/interesting conversations. King was weird and one of a kind.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:50 AM on January 23 [27 favorites]


Looks like Kimmel memoryholed that Katie Couric interview where she tells a story about him being a creep
posted by fluttering hellfire at 9:50 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


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posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 9:58 AM on January 23


You know that thing where a good lawyer never asks a question if they don't already know the answer? Larry King was like the opposite of that. And maybe he even cultivated that, by not really researching his subjects. It's like he was curious, but also lazy (or maybe entitled).

Mostly he was blandly inoffensive and he's been old forever. I'm sorry his final days had to be spent fighting covid because that seems to be an especially unpleasant way to go.

In the spirit of his curious nature, I shall mark his passing, not with a period, but with a question mark.

?
posted by wabbittwax at 10:00 AM on January 23 [30 favorites]


^^ I like that idea

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posted by JoeXIII007 at 10:20 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]


I always found it fascinating that someone who obviously did very very very minimal research (if at all -- half the time it seems he had no clue who he was interviewing) was able to produce so many compelling/strange/interesting conversations.
He had a policy of not doing any research, because he thought he did better interviews that way. Jesse Thorn did a really enlightening interview with him for The Turnaround, Jesse's podcast where he interviewed great interviewers. He's said that he had very low expectations for that interview and that it turned out that it totally changed how how he thought about his craft.

I dunno. I listened to a ton of Larry King on the radio when I was a kid, and for years I thought he was totally schlocky and kind of embarrassing. (I was an insomniac as a kid, and listening to the radio helped me fall asleep. I fell asleep to Larry King for years.) But he was a really good interviewer, in part because he wasn't embarrassed to ask dumb questions, and he really cared about the answers.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:20 AM on January 23 [17 favorites]


RIP Larry King, murdered by the malfeasant presidency of his recurring guest host, Donald Trump.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:21 AM on January 23 [16 favorites]


He had a policy of not doing any research, because he thought he did better interviews that way. Jesse Thorn did a really enlightening interview with him for The Turnaround, Jesse's podcast where he interviewed great interviewers. He's said that he had very low expectations for that interview and that it turned out that it totally changed how how he thought about his craft.

Metafilter's own YoungAmerican.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 10:30 AM on January 23 [10 favorites]


What came to my mind was listening to his all night radio show back in the day when one long time fan called up to comment about what I forget but which ended like this:
"....and oh, man, Larry, as a favor, could you please cu...

-- SCHENECTADY, NEW YORK!
I rarely lol but did I ever then upon hearing that.
posted by y2karl at 10:36 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]




He had a policy of not doing any research, because he thought he did better interviews that way.

"White male" truly is the lowest fucking difficulty of this society.

I have this fantasy of doing celebrity interviews that I find an esoteric role and introduce them for it like it's their greatest accomplishment. You know stuff like "known for his highly visible, breakout role in Deadpool 2, Brad Pitt" or "known for providing the voice of the truly slappable Boo Boo, Max Greenfield".

How can you do truly great interviews with no research at all? Like the first time I listened to The Spark by Marit Larsen the one thing I desperately wanted to do is pick her brain about her the album because it was written like a relationship that started with a spark into a flame but ended because it didn't have what would have made it last. How can someone have access to just about anyone on the planet and not want to be able to make connections with their work, to be able to probe those theories, to allow the artists space to explain and truly connect instead of vapidity?
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:41 AM on January 23 [11 favorites]


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posted by limeonaire at 10:43 AM on January 23


How can you do truly great interviews with no research at all?

The opposite end of the spectrum would be James Lipton. It's not like all his interviews, after meticulously researching his subjects, were great. A lot of them were actually pretty mediocre.

So long, Larry.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:51 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


How can you do truly great interviews with no research at all?

When I'm meeting a stranger, I rarely do research. Sometimes those conversations are fantastic. So, I guess, having confidence in the art of conversation?

I kind of only know examples of his interviews that were notable enough to be passed around. His interview with Trixie Mattel, for example, was enjoyable.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:57 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


When Larry King was still on CNN -- when I was a kid, before they decided to replace him with Piers Morgan -- he had Ann Coulter on for an interview to promote a book she wrote glorifying Joseph McCarthy. I can't find the clip, but I remember being thrilled by how hard he went after her for the premise. It was the last thing anyone expected and absolutely awesome.

More recently, I appreciated the viral clip from this Danny Pudi interview.
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:57 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


How can you do truly great interviews with no research at all?
He considered himself a stand-in for the audience, and the audience probably hadn't read the person's book or whatever. And he thought that if you asked the right questions, really listened to the answers, and then followed up, then people would tell you why they were interesting. He also wasn't afraid to look stupid. He thought that the point of the thing was to allow the guest to speak, not to show off what he knew. And he did, often, ask spectacularly stupid questions, but they often elicited interesting responses.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:58 AM on January 23 [36 favorites]


I think the opposite end of that spectrum also contains Terry Gross. In fact, I'd say she is about the highest in her field for inquisitivity, research, empathic sense while still striving toward ethical truth. It's a tragedy that Covid has taken another life. I don't understand why 8 women married him.
posted by amanda at 10:59 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


Seven women. He was married eight times, but twice to the same woman. He was obviously a complicated guy.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:01 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I correct myself. 7 women married him. One married (and divorced) him twice.
--
ETA: We typed over each other but thanks for the correction!
posted by amanda at 11:01 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


The opposite end of the spectrum would be James Lipton.

I thought it was Nardwuar.
posted by atoxyl at 11:02 AM on January 23 [20 favorites]


How can someone have access to just about anyone on the planet and not want to be able to make connections with their work, to be able to probe those theories, to allow the artists space to explain and truly connect instead of vapidity?

His explanation, according to NPR Weekend Edition was that he never read recent books written by on-air guests because his listeners most likely had not read them either and he wanted his guests to explain what they had written in English that cats and dogs could understand so that the audience could better get it.
posted by y2karl at 11:03 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


[...well, that in English that cats and dogs could understand part is a quote from Randall Jarrell not said by Larry King, to be sure.]
posted by y2karl at 11:07 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I’m not sure which I find more surprising...That King was still alive, or that CNN was still airing his show. I’m sure there was possibly a time, long, long, ago, where he was actually good/okay/passable at his job, but I never could stomach him and his “style.”

Anyway...
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I guess.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:07 AM on January 23


His technique is sort of fascinating as ongoing performance art, like a Kaufman-esque lifelong embodiment of a weird old dude you meet at a bus stop, or a kooky, out-of-touch uncle you've never heard of who shows up out of nowhere.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:15 AM on January 23 [7 favorites]


From the Guardian: he often said he preferred entering an interview knowing no more than his audience, so he could ask the questions they would
posted by hototogisu at 11:37 AM on January 23


That approach seems pretty problematic for political guests though, or any guest with a reason to lie, distort, or omit. I never watched Larry King - did he generally know enough to be able to push back on disinformation in cases where you'd need some background knowledge to do that?
posted by trig at 11:55 AM on January 23 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I think that's right. He almost never challenged a guest: his whole thing was that he asked questions that let the guest articulate his or her point of view, and he kept his point of view out of it. And that could be fine when he was dealing with an entertainer or the author of a book on nursery rhymes or something, but it failed miserably when he was interviewing political figures and other people who deserved to be challenged. And part of the reason that he landed so many of those interviews was that politicians and other powerful people knew that he would only ever ask them softball questions.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:39 PM on January 23 [7 favorites]


He leaves seven ex-wives.
posted by adept256 at 12:55 PM on January 23


When I was a sophmore in college, first time living on my own, in a tiny detached studio apartment with a leaky roof, no girlfriend, no Internet (cuz 1986), no computer (just a word processor that booted from a floppy), no TV, I'd alternate spending my evenings reading, doing homework, and listening to Larry King's radio show. I liked the interviews, and his style.

I recognize now all the various problematic things that he was and represented, and have no interest in revisiting him.

But man, as a bored college student in Tucson, he kept me entertained for a few hours each night.
posted by Gorgik at 1:10 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


Michael Brooks (RIP) had a great segment on the time King took a four-minute personal phone call while being interviewed by low-rent right winger Dave Rubin. It’s a thing of beauty.
posted by holborne at 1:34 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I'll always remember him for the quick little joke on The Simpsons. Homer listens to the Bible on tape, ready by Larry King. "Hi, I'm Larry King. In the beginning, God created..."
posted by zardoz at 1:34 PM on January 23 [9 favorites]


I just looked him up yesterday wondering if he was still in the hospital from COVID (it said he'd been released from the ICU, but I didn't read far enough to see if he was home).

My dad, who had COVID back in March, recently called to tell me that 30% of the people released from the hospital after getting COVID still have long-term complications and 13% have died...

Anyway, RIP.
posted by subdee at 1:44 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


If only this guy had gotten half as much flak as Assange did for having a TV show on Russia Today.

So much this. He's enough of a household name to provide some cover for a propaganda network that has sucked in people who should know better.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:08 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


"SCHAUMBERG, ILLINOIS, HELLO"

?
posted by Windopaene at 4:48 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Another copy of the Seinfeld interview clip, with contemporary The Young Turks commentary. (“Do you think, fifteen years from now, anyone will remember who he is?”)

That's one of the few Larry King episodes I ever caught. Didn't come out of it with very positive impressions of either King or Seinfeld. But dot, anyways.
posted by XMLicious at 4:53 PM on January 23


I think that it's more likely that people will remember Larry King than that they'll remember the Young Turks, tbh.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:57 PM on January 23 [8 favorites]


Hard to believe this was just a month ago

Ever since they announced his diagnosis I have felt incredibly guilty.

I hope he’s somewhere now where he can keep asking questions.

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posted by Mchelly at 5:00 PM on January 23


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posted by k8bot at 6:02 PM on January 23


Haven't heard him in decades, but like others, I hundreds of hours as a teen falling asleep to his radio show. As I mentioned in the earlier thread, I called in to the show a few times in the mid 80s. As a teenager in that preWeb era, the idea that your voice was being heard, if only for a few seconds, by who-knows-how-many thousands of people across the country was almost unbearably thrilling.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:33 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Why is this talking head paid so much? late 20th century journalism.
Seinfeld interview is kinda like the "don't you know that I'm famous?" Noe
posted by ovvl at 8:21 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Guys you will never believe how many ex-wives this guy had
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:52 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


I think that it's more likely that people will remember Larry King than that they'll remember the Young Turks, tbh.

They were asking whether Seinfeld would be remembered at a quarter-century after the finale of his show. As 2007 Youtubers, I don't think TYT was expecting to be remembered... but of course it was actually their copy of the clip, with their commentary, that I found when I went looking for it, rather than anything directly from King's staff; his stuff is probably paywalled somewhere and not for the hoi polloi.
posted by XMLicious at 9:00 PM on January 23


My fave thing is the time he nonchalantly takes a phone call in the middle of an interview... and keeps going for a while. It's incredible to watch.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:07 PM on January 23 [2 favorites]


Guys you will never believe how many ex-wives this guy had

Divorced eight times from seven women. That takes dedication.

(I guess technically one was annulled, which is not as good for the joke.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:38 PM on January 23


Trust what the women say.
posted by valkane at 10:02 PM on January 23


My fave thing is the time he nonchalantly takes a phone call in the middle of an interview... and keeps going for a while. It's incredible to watch.

It was a Dave Rubin interview, as in Rubin was interviewing Larry King. Or trying to.

Say what you will about Larry King, but anyone who makes Dave Rubin flopsweat uncomfortably is a mensch in my book.
posted by zardoz at 10:10 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


In the early 90s King was being interviewed and he told this anecdote about a book tour for his autobiography. During the book tour he was on a local TV news show (Houston?) and the anchorwoman was reading questions off of cards and clearly not listening to the answers. So, in response to one question he said he had been a Soviet agent, the punchline being (in the anecdote) that she just went on to the next question.
In light of what came later, I've wondered.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:24 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


Will Larry King passing away have any impact on how often he will appear on late night promotional TV?
posted by Metacircular at 12:28 AM on January 24 [6 favorites]


He will always have Gravity Falls (YouTube link).
posted by jadepearl at 2:17 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


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posted by filtergik at 5:02 AM on January 24


You do still have this Larry King, although the radio shows are quite a bit different.

[As an aside, I see that I only need 5 more husbands and I too can have an obit that AH-MAZES people.]
posted by JanetLand at 5:37 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


He considered himself a stand-in for the audience, and the audience probably hadn't read the person's book or whatever.

I wish people would understand this as a conscious interview style. A lot of interviewers do this and it's annoying to read comments that say "omfg this interviewer is so stupid. Why is he/she asking such dumb, basic questions?"

I get that superfans want more in-depth, in-the-know questions but the majority of most audiences is not made up of superfans.

The Larry King interview with Norm Macdonald for the amazing Norm Macdonald Live podcast was pretty great. Worth a watch.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 9:05 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


At least we still have NASA's Larry King Simulator (YouTube, Onion)
posted by tigrrrlily at 1:59 PM on January 24


I haven’t had a ton of celebrity encounters despite having lived in Southern California for nearly 25 years. Easily the most memorable (or at least unique) one I did have was using a urinal shoulder to shoulder next to Larry King at a restaurant shortly after I moved here. Big star or not, he still had to wait for me to finish using the paper towel dispenser before he could have his turn.
posted by The Gooch at 2:23 PM on January 24


King had previously expressed his intentions to be cryonically preserved.

Not a single other mention of this in the whole thread. This was apparently something he was serious about and supposedly put in his will. So maybe one day he will rise again! I hope I'm around to see him give weird interviews to the aliens.

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posted by LizBoBiz at 3:03 AM on January 25


I dislike Seinfeld's comedy, but that thing where he needles Larry about the question is clearly a bit (one that actually amuses me) and Larry's reaction seems more exasperated that he's the butt of the joke than embarrassed that his question was dumb.
posted by straight at 10:22 AM on January 25


"Now, Mr. Jordan, you weren't cut from the Bulls roster, is that correct?" is a hilarious question even if it's completely justifiable for orienting the audience.
posted by straight at 10:29 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I didn't get why he was on CNN. Morning shows, AM radio, those are places I could easily see him fitting in. I liked his voice, and he was able to get everybody who was anybody to appear. But why is he on CNN in primetime when Terry Gross is doing actual researched interviews on NPR to a tiny fraction of the audience?
posted by wnissen at 2:44 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I dislike Seinfeld's comedy, but that thing where he needles Larry about the question is clearly a bit (one that actually amuses me) and Larry's reaction seems more exasperated that he's the butt of the joke than embarrassed that his question was dumb.

I watched the clip the other day and I agree with this. Seinfeld has that look on his face like Kramer just said something absurd to him.
posted by Fukiyama at 5:31 PM on January 25


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