METERolly Jong-Fast has known great success as a writer but for the last year The new abnormal, her podcast on politics in the time of Covid, has become both the middle of a roaring double act and an interviewer in the habit of making the news.
The double act was formed with Rick Wilson, a former Republican strategist and co-founder of Project Lincoln who is now taking a spell off the air. Producer Jesse Cannon has weighed in, but the interviews remain largely the purview of Jong-Fast.
Years ago, Molly and her mother, author Erica Jong, gave a joint interview. Molly, wrote The Guardian, was “loud, arched and wildly funny [with] the countenance of a runaway train, the words rush, rushed. “
It is still the case. Before the pandemic She hosted famous dinners which brought together unlikely people. Now a contributing editor for the daily beast, brings together politicians, scientists, political experts and comedians in a podcast, a very suitable form of broadcast for pandemic life. Down the phone, or up, from Wall Street to the Upper East Side, appropriately socially distanced, I appropriate one of its own ways to start any interview. Some introductory remarks, then …
“Tell me about that.”
And she does.
“As you know, as someone who lives in New York, our lockdown came fast and it went very deep, and they locked us up. Actually, it was around this time last year. I had just returned from [the Conservative Political Action Conference] in Washington DC. On my way home, I got an email saying, ‘If you were in CPAC, you may have been exposed to a super spreader and should self-quarantine.’ So I called the school nurses at all of my children’s schools and said, ‘Guys, what do I do?’
“Since no one knew anything about the virus, they said, ‘Look, you can do whatever you want, but we’d appreciate it if you would leave your children at home for two weeks.’ I was like, ‘Absolutely. We do not know anything ‘. As someone who is not a doctor but is completely obsessed with my own physical health in a totally deranged and neurotic way, I am proud to say that I worry about every pandemic that comes along. Before I was concerned about H1N1.
And you could see this coming. I have friends in Milan … You saw these stories about Milan and you knew we were behind a week or two weeks ago. She had a friend in London … her mother had a fancy private doctor and the fancy private doctor sent her these letters about who was going to get treatment in the hospital and who was going to stay home to die.
“So I had a feeling that all of this was going to happen, so I made sure that everyone locked themselves in my house very early. So I had nothing to do.
“So I said, ‘Let’s start a podcast.’ In a way, he had been the driver behind this because he wanted to do a podcast. Everybody has a podcast. It’s one thing. But I’m always interested in what other people have to say to me. So … I get a lot out of it.
“Another thing about me is that, in addition to being dyslexic and a horrible student, I have terrible, terrible ADHD, which has never been medicated. I don’t take medication because I am 23 years sober, so it would be too difficult for me. And I’m a person who was, at my peak, a terrible cocaine addict, so I wouldn’t trust myself for a minute with ADHD drugs. “
Jong-Fast recounted those wild years in two novels and a memory about being the daughter of a writer who wrote a lot about sex. In the 1970s, your mother invented “zipperless powder.” But I digress. As Jong-Fast likes to say to interviewees: “Keep going.”
“But I’m super ADHD, so I get bored very easily. So we have these people, and if they don’t say interesting things, I say, ‘Hey.’ I thought, ‘This is so boring. So I think that has made the pod good, because I do these interviews and I get really bored. So I said, ‘Come on. Go here, people. ‘
New abnormal interviews they are fascinating and often funny. That’s because of a mix of the ethics of podcasting, looser than talk radio, as Cannon says, “FCC guidelines could never handle what we do,” and the ethics of the Daily Beast, a New York tabloid. York in the form of a website. , boxer and intelligent, taking the fight to the man.
Another Jong-Fast interview technique, much in the vein of the podcast’s most beloved regular segment, Fuck That Guy, is to ask key questions in the most direct way possible. Take two recent examples. To White House Covid advisor Andy Slavitt: “Can you explain what’s going on with AstraZeneca, because it sounds like a lot of shit to me.” TO Ian Dunt from policy.co.uk, there to discuss Brexit: “What the hell is wrong with your country?”
What the hell is that all about?
“Well, as someone who was interviewed a lot when I was young and would sit through endless interviews with my mother, grandfather. [the novelist Howard Fast, who wrote Spartacus] Being interviewed, always watching, I always think that the worst questions are the questions where you tell the person what you want them to say.
Look, I get it. I write things all the time where I want people to say things, but you can’t make them say it anyway … In part, I always think you have to do it so that they feel comfortable enough to tell you what’s going on . And to let you in Also, I think they know that I have no malicious intentions. I just want people to see who they are. “
What they are, in many cases after a year of confinement, is suffering.
“Today I had Mary Trump back in the pod,” says Jong-Fast, referring to the former president’s niece. “She is a psychiatrist, so she and I always talk about mental health because I am a sober person, and when you are sober you are always in your head thinking about mental health. We were talking about how we really are in the middle of this terrible mental health crisis, and everyone just denies it. “
Donald Trump has left the White House. The Biden administration is flooding the area with vaccines. But we are still in the new abnormal.
“It always amazes me that no one sees that. So it’s like, ‘Well, I don’t understand why I have a terrible headache. That hypocrisy It is because hundreds of thousands of Americans have died. ‘ Hence is strange.”
‘I wish we could get more Republicans’
The New Annormal has featured Democrats (Senators, Representatives, Candidates) as well as bureaucrats and technocrats. But both in the very strange election year the pack was born and in Biden’s happy new world, few Republicans have followed him.
“I wish we could get more,” says Jong-Fast. “I think I have a Republican who ran for Congress, but it’s not that easy.”
That was john cowan, from Georgia, who stood up to Marjorie Taylor Greene and her racially charged conspiracy theories, and lost.
“Yes, and he will run again. He’s a neurosurgeon. I was excited to have it. But they’re not that interested in showing up, not even the moderates. “
She makes the reservation herself, so maybe Congressman Adam Kinzinger or Senator Mitt Romney can one day pick up the phone and find Jong-Fast at full blast.
“’You’re a fucking genius. Why are you so bright? I’m very good at encouraging people to do things for me. I am very capable of endlessly schnorr at people. I think that’s key to getting guests. “
I don’t know what schnorr means.
“It means you just put your arm over people to get them into the capsule. The guests are the most important because the people who want to come often are not the people you really want. “
Many listeners love Wilson to return. Jong-Fast, a former unpaid advisor to the Lincoln Project, calls him “a very good friend,” but is uncomfortable talking about his absence from the podcast, which was sparked by allegations of sexual harassment against another co-founder of the Lincoln Project and by report on fundraising and internal politics.
Cannon calls Wilson “one of the most politically astute people in America” and “a genius.” And he may well come back, one day, to reconstitute the double act, the Florida Republican and the Upper East Side liberal spewing profanity spiraling into the extreme, the madness and insanity of Trumpism and life under Covid-19.
But it’s not just about fighting back.
“I wish there was a little more bona fide desire for people to interact with the other side,” says Jong-Fast. “Look, there are people on the other side, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are not bona fide actors, and you can’t even try. But there are people like Mitt Romney who, although I disagree with him on many things, is an actor of very good faith. So I think there is a real possibility. “
If you’re reading, Mitt, if Molly calls … pick up the phone.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism