« WTF with Marc Maron Podcast

Episode 1040 - Kurt Andersen

2019-07-29 | 🔗

At some point in the past decade, Kurt Andersen felt like he had to figure out America. Coming from a professional career rooted in satire and troublemaking, Kurt had a pretty good vantage point to examine the tug of war between reason and magical thinking that has become a chronic American condition. Kurt talks with Marc about putting this all into his book, Fantasyland, and recalls the founding of Spy Magazine, where he and Graydon Carter took pleasure messing with public institutions like the New York Times, Hollywood, and Donald Trump. They also talk about Kurt's time at the Harvard Lampoon and how he came to host Studio 360. This episode is sponsored by Lights Out with David Spade, Stamps.com, and ZipRecruiter.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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to use any smart phone? You already have switching is as is downloading the app learn from five google dot com. That's fi, dot, google dot com, to Google FI a phone plan by Google. Let's go So, with this show now, all right, how are you what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fucking ears, what's happening, Mark Meron. This is my podcast wtf welcome to it Anderson is here today Kurt Anderson no Kurt Andersen. Kurt Andersen's got young gay over there and NPR? It's? He hosts studio, three Sixty for years and he's written this book fan
you and how America went haywire a five hundred year history and you can get that wherever you get books, but I I told all you guys that were listening about it, because I was excited about reading it. It just covers it. Man, it just contextualize is everything just the american Unconscious and it just kind of bubbled over from the beginning, all the way through till now just the sort of strange erratic, fantastical religiosity and hucksterism and self involvement, and the ongoing struggle between reason an bulshit, it's really agree book a very dense and readable book, and I was so thrilled about it. I was like fuck it man. Let's talk to this curve interesting guy, what compelled him? Because I'm grateful for it. You know when you can, now you're reading an obsessive screed? You know that was just just you know.
Written in fury to understand to try to get some perspective on, It's happening. He was able to really track it that even before this country was settled, it was yeah. But just weirdos landed here, and then you just watch Christianity, mutate and then you watched it. You watch the pt bar hucksterism Kate, and then you watched this sort of the ongoing battle between your ridiculous beliefs and I actually facts in it. It's just a it's an interesting ebb and flow through five hundred years and, as I said before, dense, but he's got a wry wit and he's kind of cutting. So it's. Makes it readable and compelling, and I'm going to talk to him in a few minutes all right, How are you guys doing everything? Alright, you, alright, how's. It going exciting times right watching are racist ship
mega president gain confidence and, conversely, watching once reasonable people laps and buckle. Intolerance and garbage mindedness just in ongoing shitshow, a horror, horror, the horror, the horror Well, I hope you're all holding up and holding on to something inside yourselves. That is righteous and provides a sliver of hope. At the very least, people have a fun breath. Missed. Maybe a nice piece of melon listen to some music enjoy the company of the people. You love and like kind of the end. You know what maybe help someone out throw someone a bone, help him out and also please don't kill yourselves they'll, be no killing of the selves. Sort of trust is opening a more cities. This Friday, it's up over one hundred, go to sort of try
that com to see where it's playing near you. I believe we got the number three comma We have the year so far on rotten tomatoes it might be making that I might have. Losing hated that, but it seems kind of specific, also, wtfpod dot com. Slash tour to see my tour dates, I'll be in Raleigh NC, at good nights, starting this Thursday, and then it Revolution Hall in Portland Oregon following week. Okay, all so that's good! I promoted myself there you go Mark, so I gotta, I gotta tell you something. Thanks. You know that I'm in this ongoing jazz hole and I'm trying to wrap my brain around the new music, the new music's yeah. I I gotta be honest with you. I was earlier today. I was just sitting around listening to Wynton. Marsalis is first out. Wynton Marsalis. Obviously we all know the name Wynton Marsalis but
but I really know the man's work. No, I did not. I really had no fucking idea, but I'm As I said, I'm trying to write my brain around the whole jazz thing. So I'm reading this book by China and he sent me the book give you my reading list my summer reading list. I have it right here in front of me: would you like that? Is it too late in the summer for summer reading list but I'm reading I'm reading the Nate shine in book. The book is called play Bing changes jazz for the new century right. So I'm reading that a bit I got through about a chapter and a half, but at the end of each chapter, makes a list of the albums that he discussed. But now I'm like I'm like I'm listening to Wenton Marcellus is first album. After he talks about the when went and appeared on the scene, I guess in the 80s Anne I fucking head no idea. I had no idea, I mean it's so ridiculous but I don't know if you know this, but that wind Marsalis is a fucking
genius, and I don't know what I was thinking but like what am I really that much of an issue, Algist really that guy the guy that I see that it's kind of like me at the record- store about my age flipping through the bins looking for their past, looking to connect with some Bing, tangible that makes sense mi that guy I don't know, but anyway, talking about Jack. Right at a nowhere. Folks, at a nowhere. I'm the emails and the for those. You will listen, who listen to this part of the show the you'll know this is hilarious. Ok, I get an email high mark I knew you'd eventually come around. I've been a fan for years, podcaster, terrific, even the commercials, Yours Donald Fagen,
Megan. I knew you'd eventually come around zero fucking hilarious, Donald Fagen versus Illidan knew I'd eventually come around. That was big laugh, big laugh, I wrote one of the great emails to receive hilarious. We should talk sometime, still getting the hang of what you did in my subject line is I'm going to believe this? Is you and then Donald Fagen wrote back yep its main pleased to meet you dear F. I knew you'd eventually come around anyway folks, the reading list and some explanation, about some things here in the show today is a forthcoming.
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about a whole generation of people that were brought up gaming and sharing. Anime information and how that became just a wave of totaly toxic garbage that, used itself into the mainstream, and we didn't understand where this stuff was coming from, and it just seemed like news to us, but this is a fucking fascinating book. The two of these books. Together there are dark portal fantasy land, and it came from something awful, but they are well written and there's enough humor, not humor, but it's readable an it's very informative about what sort of the history of what's happening and how it's going to continue happening. And then, when you get yeah a little tired of the darkness. In the truth, you could some lighter truth and but there's only for music person. You can read birth of loud
fender les Paul in the guitar pioneering rivalry that shaped rock and roll by Ian Esport, Great read specially if you're into guitars in rock music. And then you know and then, like me, I haven't she yet buy down, but there's a reason not to get started with. China's book, Yeah playing changes jazz for the new century. These are the things I'm reading enjoy, but now I explained to you what fantasyland is basically about up front there, it's really about the history of magical thinking in America. The idea, of America being a place where you could reinvent yourself or anything was possible, were utopias were were possible and then this sort of evolution of that you know through you know: christian huckster, ism, huckster, huckster ism, you on all the way through this sort of conspiracies and things of
left and the right the way the 60s morphed into a new type of magical thinking, and I don't know it's really all there and very specific and beautifully executed. Now I talked to Kurt about the book And I guess I drop some names that You should probably know about Adam Curtis, start talking about Adam Curtis, CAS. You know he's Adam Curtis is a documentary filmmaker and I've watched a couple of his documentaries, which I found to be mind blowing years ago, two thousand and four the power of nightmares made a big impact. I actually didn't see that. The two that I watched- sort of back to Back- were high normalization and the century of self
and now that I'm looking at is his filmography he's done a lot of stuff, but I found Hyper normalization and the century of self to be brain changers. All of these things. I'm mentioning to you today changed my fucking brain, including the book about guitars and just including a chapter and a half of Nate China's book about jazz, the other stuff darker stuff, a information, but they gave me some relief. You know alongside that error. You know it's like if you have free floating terror, because your brain is just taking in information, and it's terrifying. You know that just But if you have sure that's coming in and then you contextualize it there's relief in that. Oh there's, a context historical context, still terrified, but not cause.
This much anxiety because there's even knowing that there's a context as opposed to just just fucking bullshit. It's just a shotgun full of bullshit clickbait, An memes go blasting into your brain as soon as you wake up and turn on your phone, you just it just sort of like it's on it's just it's on scatter, it's like a sawed off. It's not even a tight grouping, just a fucking blast of garbage that just blows in through your eyeballs and tries to hook onto your synapses and find it just goes in if we can find an emotion or a desire or a need that it can latch onto, and then it kind of ride your synapses for a little while and- You go tell somebody else and that my friends is how publicity works word of mouth publicity an also fascism, ok,
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is fantasyland how America went haywire five hundred year history, wherever you get books, he hosts studio three hundred and sixty on NPR affiliate stations nationwide, and it's also available as a podcast. This is me and Kurt Andersen talking in a New York City Hotel Room I decided to sort of start it and then I like. Oh my god, all the all the answers are here. All the answers I need are here for the whole thing, and there is I'm part about it. You know knowing where you know you sort of came from in terms of intellectually comedically and and politically that it feels like there.
Well, there was an obsessive need for you to make sense of this stuff. You know, I don't know if it was fear or some need to contextualize it, but what was it that compelled you to get to the bottom of this particular part, the fabric of american culture and politics? Well, then, what you're right about the fact that there was this need that had been simmering along for a while in office. I mean people make fun of me for harking back to an harping on the fact that well, I grew up in Nebraska back in the day when it was like this right and one of the things about that that is relevant to this. Is that yeah sure it was religious places, Nebraska Bob, but it wasn't it just in the religious sense. Yeah wasn't all ninety right like it got right it. You know Bryce, seventies and eighties and nineties, so that was part of it. But then I I guess I just so it was a thing I've been.
Taking about in that like when I asked professors like. Why is America this way right or that way? Yeah, they didn't really have an answer that satisfied me in so so, yeah. I felt I had to like figure it out. You know- and then you know earlier in this century and in the 2000s when it just kept getting look at that there's another example of rampant craziness and everybody getting to think you know their own facts, sure opinions. Are there facts yeah? I really like something's happened here and what it is ain't, exactly clear, and so I had to figure it out and but you have to figure out. I think you tried to find some comfort. Back. Then it was a lot of research in that they they didn't. Not only had it happened before that. This ongoing struggle between reason and magical thinking, it's pre America and it's always been a struggle, but the I think, the thing that that stops the logical mind
and it's like how is that still an issue now right and when I didn't really know, I mean when I, when I hadn't written a bit I'd, never written a big book like this I'd written Little nonfiction books, I'd written novels, but never in a big book. It isn't. So whenever I write anything though, it's always you know, I don't totally know what I'm going to do or say or whatever, the writing is the figuring out right. You know- and so I didn't know like at first, I thought like. Why was this happening this this start in the sixties? They said no! No! No! No, as I did, research and Tylenol look look at all these these these bits of dna that have been there from the get go so you know, I didn't know what I was gonna say until you know I was in the middle of saying it really in terms of oh reassuring that we've always had this. But yes, I didn't really, and I had a hunch that, like wow, why is America got in this way, as opposed to you know
England or Japan or Australia or whatever, and then I had to figure that out and I had to really like try to figure out like. Are we really different than those countries? And how are we like what we used to call third world countries in this way and stuff? So so, but yeah it was it was. It was kind of like wow this this bugs me an interests me an. I guess. I have to write a big nonfiction book to figure it out for myself and it's like the weird thing about the book. Is that it's dense but because you have sort of a kind of sardonic humor, you know kind of propels it, but it's like it's a lot.
Information. I mean you really had to do some homework, and then I guess the intellectual heavy lifting was really positing. The reality that the nature of this country was was the promise of a type of freedom for reinvention, an at type of freedom to practice any kind of life you want and then the core receipt of the book that kind of gets it going is that the first settlements here were based on magical thing. They were religious utopias right and then then, after that, you get people that are like well, I can be whatever I want, so that kind of two through lines of religious magical thinking and just you know, classic american huh, ism it's really the the ground out on, which is country built bad and massacring indigenous people, yes, which which, which is I try to give some time to and yeah but but but yeah. I think the
I mean because you know people always said when I was reading novels. Or would you ever write a novel? That's completely not funny! I said I don't know. I don't think so. That's part of how I think about things and similarly with this, even though it's about this this thing and maybe this tragic fall of America and and all that, like it's still there's funny aspects. I I find these. I thought I I find Joseph Smith funny. I find all this yeah. I mean yeah, but it's hilarious in that horrible way, where you like how the fuck do people buy, but again I don't want to make it all about. Oh it's, a bunch of suckers in these hucksters it is yeah, but it's only part of it and it's people who do self select to come here like
all they say: there's gold, you know, or or or what the Indians are Satan's agents whom I got it here. People I mean it we in sixteen hundred when when when we start when the European started coming here I mean it's, it's not it. I mean the middle ages. The the primitive Christianity was ending, except for these bricks yeah, you know yeah, so they brought that old version here and and so and and there's another kind of believed to wasn't just religious. I mean engine is part of it, but it's also just this. Like man build it, they will come. I can do anything yeah I can build. You know that the in white it was part of the enlightenment. To I can I can it's a it's not to it to an expert to tell me what to believe it's up to me to decide what's true right, so it it it was. It was a perfect storm of of lucky and slightly unlucky timing. Now in terms of the humor 'cause. Now we can sort of like go back a little bit because I know you know that was really
You know where you define yourself with satire for awhile yeah. So what's what's your journey there? She grew up in Omaha, I did in the 50s, but I think is but yes sure but born in the 50s and grew up there in the 60s left in the 70s, and so how does What was going on in Omaha, you know like when I'm growing up I've been through there a couple of times, but what was the nature of that city? I remember the insurance company, but where was your family know? You talked a little bit about in the book. They. Farmers know know. I started dying off that idea like yeah, I'm sure it was a ranch, my dad is a lawyer and we lived in a house and it was suburban, nice, suburban, leave it to Beaver operation. It was very father, knows best labor and you have older brother. I have three older, siblings and they're older. Brothers are important in the education. All of my older, my three siblings in their respective ways were all crucial,
right and when you were in like high school, was the plan to be like a journalist, yeah. Well, more probably at that point an academic, my sister, my oldest sister, was becoming a professor. I thought I was pretty good and in what political science at Syracuse ultimately but various places before, but that that was good and you know reading thing right sure you know not in three months a year yeah I mean but the so. No. I don't know why I wrote for the school paper and wrote funny things. For the school paper like what, like a Joseph Heller, parody about my high school about
or an then an outraged things. They weren't there, any black people in this giant, high school white, high school of arts and stuff, like that, I was trying to make trouble in sure if you succeed, late, 60s well, yeah well in Watt, integrating the school know, except that we've been making trouble an, but not so much trouble that you know they didn't give me good grades and let me in college and stuff yeah, and so will you so. You grew up. Fortunately, in a family that put a premium on education, it was it was what you guys did, an kind of, as I once said to my mother when she was missing all of her children not living. There said you know you kind of raised us all to leave yeah right, right, and she and she took a big science city. I know so when did you start a when did you like? So you wrote it Joseph Heller in high school, so that was happening. So you right. When did you graduate high school? Seventy, two, so
world of blowing up yeah- and I assume that you're in that wow so you're in high school, when the bulk of the Vietnam WAR is happening, correct and and and- and I got a draft number- and I was you- I I love my people, my age, no we actually got drafted, I as in so many ways in my younger just too young yeah. You know I was at middle, younger boomer and just too young to get literally just long enough to get a number, but not young, not old enough to get drafted and your brother went no, no one went nobody when he had a heart thing overnight. Bone spurs, theater, actually real hard physical things like when you like the more I read about the 60s 'cause, I sort of missed it, I'm about a decade younger than you there was did you feel that the country was coming unglued as a child in Omaha? Now? Would I mean I was definitely paying attention to
The 60s idea as a know as a ten year old, twelve year old fourteen year old, fifteen, oh for sure and and you know, went from being- you know, having literally picture Richard Nixon on my wall at the beginning of nineteen sixty eight when I was thirteen to like say hi and revolution man, but when I was one thousand four hundred and forty yeah. Well, that's good yeah. You getting high in Omaha fourteen huh, that's good! So made it up that far the drugs sure the dead were playing in Omaha that I'm in sixty seven really sure no and there was, this little light Soho like part of town where there was a head shop and it Yes, we are happening, those fight, the tee shirts in the pipes in the bong from the posters black like post, all that he saw the dead sixty seven and I didn't actually but every all of my siblings and the slightly older kids did so the brother down the hall in the house that had the posters in the records and was in no, he was in a rock band. He was in first as a child, the fabulous
and then he started his own band naked afternoon and how they do they did and then he had a band called cracking. They made albums and he has records out here. Without any heat he wrote a song for the temptations, he wrote a song for Foghat. He was cool which pockets. I don't know one of the big blue, spruce woman, it so yeah yeah. You are right on that. We did alright, and now he has a wonderful life rebuilding and creating and restoring old grand piano. Wow he's like am at world class. Piano technician. Yeah really dizzy, hear noise in LOS Angeles. Oh that's interesting, nice job! It's a great nice job, yeah! Apparently one of the wizards. Yes indeed, and you have two I do and they're both academics? No one of them is an academic, and one of them is a. Is an executive, whisperer, executive coach consultant
yeah, like all of your former comedy central and other, have hired sort of reconfigure there. Trajectory, then their personality, how they deal with their employees like that, it's a weird magical sort of profession that when the consultant 'cause, when you ask them what they do, it's sort of like. Oh, it seems a little vague, but I understand it's priestly, yeah yeah. So and then you just there is no other. You want to go to Harvard they get out of Omaha the Harvard's big. I mean that's like oh and I applied to a bunch of applied to colleges back. When, literally, I don't think my parents knew where I was applying to college and I just did and I got in and I got into Harvard so I went there. Did you know what you're getting into I mean? I guess I visited once but know what I was getting into kind of I mean I knew I
I was going to the east. I was going to a city in yeah. I was at this was it this was a portal into the some version of the life I want yeah and what a so you're at Harvard in one thousand nine hundred and seventy two now like when you guys come fast however, because there was no way I was going to go there, because I just obviously didn't have the grades, and I didn't have the understanding. And now, when I look at Harvard, you realize there's sort of a guarantee that comes with Harvard that you will be placed in society to a certain degree. You will be your anointed. Somehow, there's there's some privilege as definitely agree that it annoys me question about that and when you got there were going to study- and you know what I did more or less you know sociology social,
these economics history that stuff there was no, then creative, writing righty, and so it was like which, which version of like academic study. Do you want to do? And I and I thought the overall arts yeah, but this but specifically kind of the history social science stuff yeah, so you're interested in people uh. Well, that's a good question. I don't know. I can't that's I'm not uninterested in people when I was interested in was interested in. I was interested in like being interested. I also took a lot of art history courses. I like that a lot as well yeah. So is there a broad spectrum, intellectual foundation? It was kind of a little bored thing, yeah, that's fair enough, yeah, but like sociology and art, you know you are not in any way. A science guy who know know know know, know, know, know, know, know I had done a fine in math. Science is a child, and then there was this point when I was fourteen or
and I just reached the amount, the limit of math that I could understand and I suddenly was getting bad grades. I hadn't gotten bad grades of ours and I gotta get out of this effective, Gaddam Anan back then, at this perfect late 60s time. They kind of allowed me to know sure whatever you want young man and- and so I didn't have to do- math anymore or science after after a sophomore in high school, it was. Was there like a lot of trouble on campus in early 70s, because, like in junior high school or in college Non College, I mean I guess the war was coming up. There was over in fact my feeling driving there just having turned one thousand eight hundred and ninety was like man. I missed this. I thought missed the whole student. He thing I've done right. That was my sense, but the clothes were still around. I mean after the clothes were on, the drugs were still around but like with different like like. Basically, you know,
Vietnam was winding down in the draft was over so like yeah. I mean that would for my me personally. That was the sensation that, like wow the high stakes, how's it going and is it revolution going to happen that was over? The revolution was over. That was, my sense. Is eighteen year old from Nebraska yeah were the head writer at the lampoon, it didn't have a head writer, but I got you, try out you write things and then they are elect your don't to the Harvard Lampoon Ann and I did right away my first falling college and got elected, and that was my life I mean you know. I also did this. I went to class, did you say theology in your history, but the lampoon instantly became the entire center of my universe.
And how does like his I've talked to people who were there much later and they may be an honorary whatever over there. I got a little medallion of some kind of really yeah. They had me. So let's do our secret yeah. I think I don't remember this equal thing, but there is sort of it doesn't seem 'cause. I guess I romanticized it because I know there's a lot of people of your generation that made tremendous headway comedically in satirically in the world, but these when I got there. It was like this is a bunch of kids, not like you're in charge, but I guess you guys were kids too. As soon as I arrive, I happened to meet Sandy Fraser, who became a writer at the new Yorker instills Rd New Yorker, an incredibly funny guy in a brilliant writer and his friend, county who these two guys who were in the Harvard lampoon? I didn't know anything about the Harvard, but I didn't, but I met them right away. I thought man, these are my people, join this, and so were they deeper
or better- or I don't know they were fantastic, an and the other point for future cultural history of the next forty five years. That. There was not yet this. This pathway from the Harvard Lampoon to writing for tv show business showbusiness I mean I mean it happened here and there, but that wasn't a thing and Jim Downey really was the you know. I don't know patient zero of that operation, graduated from Harvard and went just as Saturday Night LIVE was beginning and became a writer. An acoustic I'd stayed there for, like forty years right, correct and out of that you know other lampoon people did in the Simpsons started and he's the guy. He is the God AN when you get to the lamp
like what was the well, I guess maybe the reason I think that the the the younger people were deeper was they were pushing against something more consolidated as as a bad guy, but you just seems like that: everything's very fragmented and people are more self more at the it's, it's it's more so self centered, whereas I think Van. You're like we know, a man was still the man of exactly right. The man was still in there. No it's true, and you know because like you know. Until later it was like. Oh I'm going to go ahead and then I go to Hollywood, and then I have a big house in Brentwood. You know I mean that's really the case now I mean it really that people going into it once they get in there. They know that you know that this is really a career training institute. It was not place to get that broader education. It was not yet a preprofessional thing. It was still like. I don't know, what's going to happen to me now you wanted to get like a good education. If you want it, I mean you could get
correct! Oh and obviously you still can you get that a lot of colleges, but there was something about, The intellectuals that are attracted to Harvard to teach were the guys yeah and what was the? What was the lampoon? Exactly I mean what was the idea of it well mark. It was talk to other people about it but like it does have a sort of place in comedic history and it still sort of exists, but it seems like yeah. I'm not sure, I'm completely clear on what the original intention is in what it evolves through in the 60s one thousand nine hundred and seventy six. It was. You know, college humor magazine It was a time when all these college magazines and newspapers and things like that, we're all starting in America all over the place looked into what year some seventy six eighteen, seventy then, in the twentieth century you know, and then William Randolph Hearst was high on it and and help pay for this in saying wonderful parity,
Castle building yet still there yeah, which is, which is a huge part of why the Harvard Lampoon beyond Harvard sustained, because it had this funny building yeah well that was part of it. Then you know Robert. You know the great comic community, comic writer and comic actor. Robert Benchley and other writers came along and then the 60s happened, Doug Kenney and Henry Beer were there, and then they started the national lampoon, and so they were there for you know, yeah yeah yeah, but were they when you got there with a mythic where they were but Kenny showed up and was like. Can we what God what can we do to you, god he was only you know whatever it was eight years older, seven years older than we were, you know, but yeah, and that sort of where you kind of like honed, the writing, chops, I have a whole home. The comic chops such as they were, I mean writing but it's mostly just
hanging around trying to make other people who thought they were funny laugh about stuff? I mean it was affected, clubhouse yeah, exactly that's! Why is it like this skull and bones or fraternal organization within affiliated with the hasty pudding? it was different. It was not, and so it was that it was where you know in this immediate post, 60s time when The revolution was over, but like the anti establishment, countercultural Lee feeling is still happening and that's and that was a golden moment to be there. I think, and what kind of stuff are you writing? I don't know. You're in a power parity, a parody of the new Yorker. I remember us for a man who well I you later when
DR. The new worker and you've recently appeared in the new Yorker. So that's why I say that yeah yeah with that, for instance, I don't know just whatever yeah what what a nineteen year olds right. Who cares yet, but when you got down with Harvard was there is sort of? Did you want to? Did you think about trying to write for the real rent? Lampoon I mean was that sort of I I I don't know. I don't remember that that was again by the time I
well, no, it was still happening then. Actually it was minimal. House was just it was pretty good, so I don't know I don't know. I was just trying to get a job like doing what I got a job. I gotta job through a friend of my girlfriends father, being a copy board, the New York Daily NEWS and realize that I'm happy to pay dues, but this isn't the place. I'm going to be that kind of newspaper guy, kinda yeah and whenever I tell my children like oh, don't be entitled you millennials yeah and then I have to say, but I did quit my first job after one day, so I guess, with the original entitled kid. Maybe just knew better, maybe new yourself, a little better, but so you decided to New York was where you had to write New York like like a lemming, ish yeah. This is just where I had to be why they had what position did it hold in your head? Well, it's seen it on television
movies. I mean that's growing up in Omaha, I mean watching New York in all of its incarnations, from the 1940s movies toward Allen, movies to Patty, Duke showed or whatever was out loud God. York gotta go New York for everything I mean. I came here to just where else you're going to go yeah. That was the goal but New York was like still really kind of New York. Well, New York, when I arrive was look, you know all edits. Nedir I mean it was a man. You know seventy seven cross. Seventy six crime had crazily increase for the last ten years. You know the city had gone bankrupt five months earlier I mean it was, but that but you're you're twenty one. Who cares right? That's great, and what were you doing like it like? What was the scene? What was yours?
you know strike music punk rock guy. I went to CBGB's yeah. I did I didn't play, but I went, and so I got a job quit this to copy boy job and got a job writing for gene shallot. Call t shirt. The movie reviewer on the today show viewer and interviewed all the directors and this actors and authors all that he was the cultural guy yeah, it's a big mustache and they have correct and most my main For him, however, was he also had a daily radio essay on and the NBC radio network right was funny stuff about the news or whatever, and we are not movies and no not so much and about whatever yeah culture anyway, so I wrote those- and I was doing that- and it was a great job- he's a great boss and living on the lower east side and want to Cbgb'S- and you know doing the New York thing.
New York, and so would you say that that that experience working for Xiao it started to you're connected to the cultural fabric fabric of New York and get you sort of like on the job with the funny writing? No, I mean it was. It was a creative job right in with paid seventeen thousand dollars. It was a good time for it sure an button then I fell in with the guy Tony Hendra, who probably know Tony his lampoon guy he was a national lampoon, Gaia And- and I was type in spinal right character in spinal tap. Anyway. He was putting. He was one of these people who was doing parodies and not somebody else, I'm doing here. So we did New York Post parody with somebody else, and I did, Wall Street Journal, like one offs,
how's the magazines as as as physical, right, right, exactly and and and so so that that's how I kind of fell into that world a little bit if you've been like there's some weird. It's no coincidence. I mean the lampoon sort of shape you for that for sure for sure, and we and and and I worked on national parodies as prepared as sports, illustrated at the lampoon and so no I I saw that this is the thing that you can do and and and and you do yeah- you hone your skills and all that. But it's interesting because there's there was a time where I mean those are kind of refined. Like that's one thing, Lampoon did, and I remember vaguely those things were talking about that. You know these were very sort of specific refined very detailed parodies,
in the face of really the subject matter of fantasyland. You know what power does satire really have in the culture we live in. You know, because it seems to me that you know leading up to creating spy magazine and being sort of New York Centric around those satirical attacks that it did have some cultural impact, cultural impact sure did it make the world better man. Now I can't say that, but definitely a cultural impact, so it was was it. That was that these parities that led how long before you started to put spy together uh, I don't know six, seven years. Alright, I met my guy Graydon Carter, who was also a young writer, not quite as young writer at Time magazine, and we just became friends and started talking about what what what's our next thing, we're going to do and came up with this idea for a funny, but journalistic magazine, not the not the lampoon Harvard or National, which was just
rumor, but that wedded to journalism- and that was the idea we came up with respond and nothing. There was nothing like that going on at that time, it really wasn't and there wasn't an r that was you know, we've been here a few years we thought like wow. So we're learning all this stuff about this and that about the New York Times about these rich people about this business guy and kind of like the kind of reporting we were trying to do. As well as being funny about it. I mean you know. Our motto was: smart Fun, funny fearless right so you guys would sit down and you hired writers, hired yeah, but we all sit down. You had sort of a manifest. Go to how we did. We had a mission, a mission, that's for yeah. It was a monthly magazine ten times the original in an First, it was going to be all New York focused and then it was successful. So this is what
so this is a decade after you got here in New York. It's in just turned thirty. Two years old is ripe old age of thirty two, but New York had risen like a Phoenix satellites, bankruptcy, correct and now we're talking about the error of that Thomas Wolfe wrote about that. You Wall Street was going crazy. Your fear Richie's was popular dance, it's area was happening studio. Fifty four Rowan, yes new way Van it was coming back and uptown was going downtown in downtown, going uptown and wow. Yes exactly but but I imagine in the mission of spy you realize like well in this excess lies. The truth of the human condition, which is just monsters, were surrounded by monsters. That could have been the larger mission of smartphone funny fearless and then that exactly and he set out to takedown the monsters now take him down, but certainly caused them.
Come into the light comfort and yes get them into the light. Exactly you know, we did not provide comfort to the afflicted so much, but we did want to afflict the comfortable now that now that sounds like a mission and when did you know, you were doing that When are you going to meet when you poke the minute you gotta bear growl yeah yeah right, pretty quick right away right away, not really because you know whether it was the New York Times or Donald Trump right, all the other subjects of our who are some of your other favorite whipping people. Well, those were definitely two. I mean we got a whole different kind of up reaction. When we started talking about Holly, would we had people out in LOS Angeles and talking about CA? just just just
customer young and not young- to be danger. Little dangerous, well, yeah, because, like young. These you honestly specially the the show business industrial complex, is really the the that's where the that's where the cultural mirrors generate right. So you know if you with them, if you with the illusion right then it's true. You know it's going to look at that man behind the curtain, yeah yeah! Well, that's why I will see that I think that then spy must have provided some sort of template for what it. If anything, you did change the nature of journalism. Alittle bit in terms of how magazine publishing was done and also how you know that line of humor an actual reporting like I mean you know, Hunter S. Thompson did his thing, and this seems like the next turn, no, that's well said an you mad magazine national. Hunter S Thompson.
Male or birds, kinds of bits and pieces that had been done? Journalistically yeah, you know for sure we're our influences and then as The boomers were coming of age in taking over the world Was this audience for like yeah? Let's look at the world that way. Let's, let's get. Let's get a strand of this into real journalism. For sure, so So yes, we were influenced by and then yeah. We influenced for sure yeah and it seems to me that in order like is it now that we talk about it like this, like fantasy land? This could have been written by an academic right I mean I don't. I wouldn't continue neck that make, but I'm saying if in in no in a certain in someone else's hands this approach to history, you know this is sort of like you know: Howard's end the people's history, United States. This is
like the this, is some other strand of how to look at history. But if you weren't able to approach with humor the way it would be not only difficult to read, but it would be completely horrified, but it would be. Would be just too depressing, I'm right, pressing as it is, I guess to many people, but yes that and also I think, a conventional academic wouldn't quite have been permitted by or his lane academic laying rises to go all over the place, as I do in that book this book now. Well, let's talk about New York for a minute. What what's happened well Mark and me, if I may? thanks, because you, you actually were there to experience it and and dot like you know, when I see movies, have you watch as Adam Curtis documentary at all? Yes, hello, yeah, they're, missing, aren't they yes, yes, I know, Adam Curtis is if uh
so glad you met at Matt Mention here, because I regard this. Neighborhood right? It's sort of it might have been like some sort of reaction to hyper normalization, that weird sort of doing trajectories of Syria and Trump and in New York in the 70s, like the intellectual juxtaposition without really saying you know having a an argument he the way he makes his movies it's it's, really devastating and and and and and lightning in a way, but I guess the point being that you were sort of you weren't here in the early 70s when it was rubble, but you were here for the rebuilding. I was here well. I was here in like when the Bronx was yeah. I was here. You know, son of Salmon, right well, my god. Where is this going for sure really hard to imagine that this city was in that sort of dire straits, yeah. No, it wasn't cheap. I mean all the good aspects of that. You can try it
in one thousand, nine hundred and seventy eight didn't, but I could have a really nice apartment for four hundred dollars. That would now be over four thousand dollars right. You know so in charting. Like the you know, the people that you were kind of like reporting on during the eighties you know like when it like you know you were. You were gonna nemesis of Trump, your an early nemesis of try yeah, but he knew who you were yeah and I didn't know who, when we I mean, we didn't know who he was my my partner great in this literally kind of discuss. I mean I didn't I'd, never heard of Donald Trump, but you probably will help build him in some way well in some way and a and and great and have been assigned to for to brother, freelance peace. I think for GQ magazine about Trump and came back, and I just met this guy. You won't believe curb at one of the log in what it is
bombastic fulenwider. All that he is. This is in nineteen. Eighty five and point you know and like tell me more so yeah It became a he's well on his way to like he had mass most that he mastered most of his father's real estate yeah, so he was just starting now and he was just building trump tower and had just converted this crappy old hotel in 42Nd, St One nice. And what we learned from like Adam Curtis and wherever he learned it, was that he got a sweet deal from the state that they They gave him money on the promise of redeveloping this broken city, exactly yeah. Well, you know, I wonder if he's actually that analogy to an now, I'm it's broken. I can. I will yes it, but that yeah know exactly he made out like a bandit in,
the 70s and then the early 80s by like yeah, ok, well, we'll fix it up yeah, he got these sweet deals from the correct when they give it away and like whatever tax abatements. You need right, and so, when grading comes back to you with this information, then you it's just sort of targeted him basically well. He also this was actually maybe even before we were starting spire when we were just thinking about it because by the time spy started, there was a trump tower and another thing he said was was like any guy he's a big guy said he's just because we are, and he said, but he's got the shortest fingers you, but we select and so that became a thing yeah and like just and that kind of re surfaced during the election. Well, indeed, source was a short fingered fell, short fingered bulgarian. We call them so he became a subject. He would, and he was this big, you know, bullying. You know
text Lori, Jerk and so like we thought this is a funny. This is a guy to make fun of and report on. Yeah, so we did and who else I mean he was I mean it's he now looms so large. In retrospect, it's almost hard to imagine the others, but all kinds of you know and all this right? Hollywood in and various people in television news and business people- and you know some of whom are well known- some of them aren't millionaires of various kinds. Yeah. You know Henry Kravis who subsequently hired. And and and effectively fired me. Have you know yeah was that it was that when did that start so that would that was not afters by New York magazine. I don't know you know what that was like. It fell to Jenner it. What to do innovation, although it started in sixty eight. But I remember like when I was a kid that there was. It did turn twords what's by was doing at some point a little more, a little more humour, comma, but I took it over
yeah right yeah. We we wanted. We use that. Ninety four! Ok, I wasn't a kid right! You're, a young man yeah! I was a young man as a thirty years old, thirty, one years old, yeah but yeah? But there was a change yet and that made it more popular right about that, but there was but it but but yeah. I think we made it better and and- and you know of a generational change. So one of the things I'm experiencing as somebody who lived here in the late 80s for a few years and on and off for many years well I don't know who lives here anymore, an I don't. I don't quite have a full understanding of what's happening today Like I see a lot of people do live in then I lived on second, between AB eight thousand nine hundred and ninety two. Oh really, I lived on night, ST between first and second yeah, I loved it. It was a lot of heroin a lot of stuff and then you know eventually Giuliani kind of pushed them into the water or wherever they went there. I remember the military occupation of the Nypd after a certain
I in I lived on thirteen sixteenth for a few years and then eventually I got an apartment in Astoria that I held onto for ago, almost a decade and but like I come back down, it seems like there's, there's a lot of empty buildings that that look like they're not lived in, and it seems like a lot of the people it will in I'm speculating, but it feels like there was once a time where people who work in the city of all economic strata, at least you have a place to live here, and it seems like that. They're all gone, I would say get out of Manhattan right, which is which is I mean you went to Astoria a certain point and you did get out of Manhattan. That's in so I would say- and no I mean I did not leave Manhattan because it was becoming too photo of rich people yeah or anything like that, but it has. You know certainly when I moved into the name,
where we moved to in Brooklyn my wife and I are little babies thirty years ago- yeah it was, it was italian, it was it was it was. It was economically integrated and diverse right, not so much racially right but it seems like what kind of got lost, and it's weird, because I remember when they, when Giuliani under his reign, when they rebuilt time square and they you know they kind of pushed a lot of people out down here for real estate speculation in time square thing actually began a little before July to be fair, yes, but there was this sort of part of like this quite CD, NIST Alja that like ruining it when you go up there, it's sort of like your eyes like. I think this was the original intention of what this was supposed the thousand percent that did this is returning it to its core. Yes, in a modern way, I mean I, you know I I'm with you on that. I mean it's, it's a it's a yes! I I think that's exactly right. That's that was the vision of all those big lights, everything right it wasn't,
meant to be like porn shop, get killed. You know I mean it was meant to be like oh yeah, it's a little. Saucy yeah yeah. There you go there now and it took quite a spectacle. Even even it doesn't matter what the lights are representing. Where you go there now like wow, well, like a losing a tory experience and and the the thing about New York change the the number. Ok, it's all your pizza, it's all rich people, yeah all that stuff. Ok sure sure sure sure sure we can talk about it now it doesn't seem like yuppies. Well, all I will if the miracle that this is a hobby horse of mine- and I will never stop saying it, but there are today eighty seven percent fewer murders in New York City than there were in one thousand nine hundred and ninety. When I was a kid here, eight thousand seven hundred and eighty seven percent, I mean that that is, as I say, it's as close to a miracle, as I will ever experience in my life and what are you a whole other three
Our conversation, I don't know- I mean There- are all kinds of theories about. Why that's true I mean it's true I mean. Obviously, crime has gone down in America generally, always realize that it was. Is rife of a killing ground and they moved out. I mean all kinds of its police, leasing is part of it, but it is it. Is it there's a legitimate, legitimate set of scholarship about the fact that getting free of getting lead. Free gas made people less criminal, really that increase of abortions reduced the number of murders, there's all kinds of controversial pieces to a theory, but there is no one hundred and thirty and therefore because it's kind of mysterious, you know from two thousand two hundred murders to three hundred meters and twenty five year war. You know it's it's a miracle and you know if the price,
that is too many Starbucks, ok I'll make that trade yeah sure sure. But if the price of that is like you know too many police and really sort of pushing the marginalized further out onto the yeah. I mean right correct, so it's a faustian, well or maybe just like you know. Ok, we solve that crime problem fifteen years ago. Let's now, let's now go to the other thing, I mean that was the theory behind the blasio becoming mayor, for instance, yeah, ok, good, New York, back, let's work on inequality in misery right, you know what we can do with it criminal law enforcement but yeah, but the feeling I get is that it seems like a lot of the real estate is owned by you know. I guess you know carpetbaggers from from You know the China, in Russia and your any other money coming in there is that an all of the empty, the empty retail storefronts that does bug me.
That's going to happen everywhere. I mean who the hell goes to stores anymore, but I mean you know: well, there's no, but it's not because they're going out of business it's because the landlords are demanding too much money right. The invisible and those are not yet right grasping so the cuter apps that we're more into mom and pop at least someone's big idea right, but again, that's what I say is one of the one of the pleasures of living in places other than Manhattan is There are still more of those quirky, odd, mom and pop oh yeah, places sure but you know another thing: that's left, though, with went way as you, you know the rent control apartments, one away and and locks you have got cleaned up with that. It seems like there was a whole sort of world of of a certain type of performance, art and and- and I think some visual art that
kind of like had to recenter itself somewhere else, which is allowed in Bushwick essentially, is that where it is yeah 'cause, when I was still here, there was kind of the crashing wave of whatever the New York's performance. Art scene was right, yeah, exactly and it was in your neighborhood in my old neighborhood, exactly weird little fears, almost Eric Bagozzi, what yeah right yeah! I watched him work, something out for me for six times. Yes yeah, but that's all gone they've all moved to Connecticut. Well that happens. Or they have, their kids or their whatever or because I mean you can stay here. I mean you know I mean show me what a million dollars buys you, a New York City versus Connecticut, ion I'm in the the money that there's more money here yeah, but I mean it. You know because I will, for this is not no surprise. Yeah,
so you go from spy, then you edit New York, and then we do some other things, but you do end up with this radio show forever. This is like too long an institution should take over. No, no, we need. We need you out there. But I mean how did that start that started and I am actually in nineteen, ninety nine. I was doing various things and right and I just or that yeah I just bought my first novel. Actually and- and in fact this is not how it happened, but in fact I was off I was I was doing a a public radio show to promote the novel, and I and I was Wnyc here in new york- and I saw one interesting they're, starting this new show, and so I knew about this idea for sure they wanted to do and then out of the blue. A month later, when somebody called me and said hey, would you be interested in talking to us about being the This show, I said: oh you mean this show and they were astounded that I knew what they were talking about and blah blah blah. So there's a bit of serendipity, synchronous,
going on, and then they said well, we think you'd, be you know. We think you could do this. I said I've never done any radio, except when I'm appeared on other people shows yeah. Why? So? We just think. So you know it's your back. You may have done it so anyway. One thing I do another and try it out, and I said yeah sure: let's do this an yeah crazily started. We started two thousand, and here it is still It's it's so much longer than any other of my multiple gigs in life. Crazy, but isn't it go in the sense that you know like going back to what we are, what your interests were in colleges that you know when you have a radio, even more so than than writing, because there's something visceral about talking about something is that you know, through your show, the I think the main thing that makes it unique is you can kind of we've all of your intellectual interests yeah into it, and put them to There are, however, you want a bit yes, no indeed an an because unlike
I don't know when you started like performing and talking out I had my little bits and pieces of meaning part here part there, but like public performing was not a thing I did so while wow I'm in here. I am forty years old over forty years old, like you really want me to start figuring out how to do this, to get into radio, but it was it was. I loved it, and so yes, you can, you know you're just talking, so can be reminded of xy or z from your life or from a book. You read it from whatever it's fantastic. Yes, exactly the way you say, and at least the way we do it with producers who do all the hard work right so much easier than anything else. I do pretty good producers of bass. I mean really I mean writing anything- is hard writing
a magazine, article or a book is really hard and really yeah they're. Ok, yes, there are people who help you in that version copiers. But it's weird it's your thing! Whereas this I don't know about you, I mean just go in and get to talk to somebody I'm interested in is there an hour, and then they turn it into radio yeah yeah. I also sometimes they're like you know. I don't know if you thought about this, but he put something in your ear and you're. Like oh yeah, I see yeah no, and then you sound super smart like the best yeah. That's w suddenly name the role that it just gold bloom one thousand nine hundred and seventy nine yeah yeah 'cause. Yet so what do the research and put it in your hands that's the best part of radio, but ok. So now let's get back get current, so I can get some answers. Ok, so what was the direct like? We brought up Adam Curtis, who I find fascinating. I the two movies that you know the there was the one that hyper normalization want
I was the one about Trump and Assad and Kissinger- and you know, and then there's another one at the century- is the century of self censor itself with that was route. That was the one that was my epiphany pr industry. So your appiphany was, you, know the when this sort of the trend of therapy yeah an in the way he blends wine. I forget his name for it: If you, the the guy who invented the p, I Bernays for days, yeah yeah, I the thing that fascinated me about that, and also the thing that you do you don't that you're you're very diligent and thorough about in your book is that a lot of this magical thinking it became prevalent on the left, an in culture with the baby boomers, post acid, who were into self realization which, which was sort of perfect amalgamation of the feet of the thesis where you can invent yourself, but You can also invent whatever kind of fucking magical thinking, structure,
for a paradigm that you want commit to it, and it's going to have some sort of ripple right now. So I slip in and again I didn't know I wasn't raised religiously. So I didn't know anything really very much at all about Protestantism. So I had to do a lot of research and and and and to learn about that, because that's so deep in this the different scores of Christianity and how they grow correct, yeah, an in the basic idea of protestantism that you know the priesthood of all believers, that every believer is a priest not like these catholic, an I'd never thought about foreign in the reading. I've done hadn't really seen it the lines drawn, the dots connected between that. Like wait, you know the Protestant said in one thousand five hundred and fifty or sixty four. I don't need a priest. I can just read the Bible and figure out what it means and what I should live and how I should do because of that wow, I'm, the priest, I get it well. That carried to all kinds of extremes is what we got here:
and so I'd. Never. That was like one of the I don't know ten revelations I had or twenty whatever in researching this book, that I thought uh huh, that's interesting! 'cause. We talk about all protestant work ethic Owasp. Well all this crazy, evangelicals yeah sure, although stuff, is yeah but there's more fundamental piece of what it means to be protestant in your understanding of your relationship to God. Truth. Alright, this. Other thing that I had just I didn't know anything about. Are you talking about being untethered from the church to go ahead and start your own church, well that too combined with Ariel like right to make a buck. Yeah American is here yes, but also just the way. I don't need a priest to tell me what's what right I it's really up to me yeah and in,
and the way the in which that really does relate to the simultaneous enlightenment which is now you don't need, I mean the enlightenment, we all think of it. So you don't need religion, but it was just you don't you can figure it out whatever it is on your own right, studying, well that plus plus this you know application who will protestant religion thing application will together. I I really felt like wow. You know, I'm not saying nobody's ever said this or put these together, for me it was. It was the one of the little things I mixed. As I was doing research that I got I'm on to something here. If, like the whole sort of like dealing with the Kind of you know now that people talk about themselves as brands, whether there brander off brand and this sort of evolution from the sort of sixties in white. To the ME generation, because I think that just as damaging that
your religion, organized religion or or people into these religious movements in here profiteer, profiteering offer them, but also mobile, using them to nefarious deeds or or to sort of fascistic needs. You, on the other side of that you were careful to sort of explore the kind of a the other movement, which was to empower people to be themselves and whatever version that is in attain some sort of nebulous spirituality through. Diet or yogurt or whatever. Crystals are right, but like it seems like the more powerful side of that politically? Are the roof, is that that are angry and feel like they're doing something for God, where that the other side of the sixties thing is like you get your kind of per recipes by name many of them successful who are really about out, you know just sort of self realization which is in and of itself somewhat ineffectual politically well. Other than like. How do I ultimately alleviate
my guilt by paying putting my money into something but still do whatever the fuck. I want yeah sure I'm. There are different as I try to describe this book. Different flavors of If you know your rationality and some are more benign or less maligned than others for sure the the the and the thing where you know you know I I I I thought I was gonna get more for for this one little dot, Techconnect Rice say like well, of course, as the Republican Party has gotten more christian or the last thirty years in a way it wasn't before my parents, Republicans my mother left. The republican Party around nineteen five or eight, because it had gotten so Christian, but that was on purpose correct. But what I'm saying when I made the point that, like wow this, your party gets more and more christian, naturally you're going to fall for things like there's. No climate change and black people are less Are white people are more discriminate against black people. All these other untrue,
Two things you know your religion is to main nutty an insupportable so naturally you're going to it's an easy step over these other things. I thought people and I don't know, maybe the people who would have hated that didn't read it, but but I think I think that's what happens is when I mean nutty. Beliefs are fine, more or less nutty. Beliefs are fine when they don't become politicized when they don't spill into the public sphere. If you know, and that's the way America That's the way. It's way everywhere. Mostly is you know, people are believed their nutty things, whatever they are, or they are untrue things or their superstitious things or their whatever. I don't care yeah, that's that that Thomas Jefferson Quote unquote over and over again, I don't care if my neighbor believes in no gods or twenty gods as long as he doesn't pick my pocket or break my leg exactly, but now they started,
kind of like in your pocket and so and yes, and because there's this organized set of churches that really he became politicized in the seventies and eighties. That's that's a big part of problems at the whole problem with a big part of him yeah. I guess, like you know a in in in a broader like the with the way that it impacts me just on the individual level that once you get once you're a well to suspend your disbelief. You really will you can and will believe anything on that and and that year, the application of of logic or or or even sort of the you know, very shallow research or or some sort of your in arguable belief in the scientific method. Right which would guide most people here to to to have some site is sort of a barometer of of basic truth, but but it just doesn't seem to matter your own. What causes that is, you know, ignorance and stupidity on some level right and
and this encouragement. This again, as I argue this thing, that's been part of the american character and way Oh, I don't need to trust an expert. All you will. This. I don't need to try to book book, learnin isn't for Maine, then shift that through the 1960s Inigo man, whatever you want to believe it's your it's your truth right with markets. You are true, yeah yeah and that's enough and that's like an even if you hated think you hated the 60s, I'm like no I'm against A6 year. I'm a conservative! Well, you know! Well, then it allowed you to believe these crazy fucking things you believe, because suddenly it was a much easier, an free ran more legit and I couldn't challenge it if you believe, whatever right and then in the 60s, there were actually some proven conspiracy theories which fed the fire and then somehow the right
appropriated the tool of the conspiracy theory and used it as a you know, a political tactic right yeah. It's really like to focus you put on Pt Barnum, I mean like like he goes all the way through the book. I think that's. The weird thing is that once you have this world, where everyone can invent themselves and seek freedom and religious utopias and have the freedom to do with they want that. The deeper thing is: is that there's always going to be a bunch of people that are con? Men and hucksters are gonna, take advantage of all the suckers, and that seems to be that combination of, like you know, freethinking and and either of religious utopia, that the more important leg of the good of the country are the convent. Well, and that's capitalism, it's not! But but of course, if the, if you have a so,
gunmen in a social speedy, not it right, but but yes, the the the Pt Barnum to W W E and Donald Trump is, is one whole threat, and then it always interests me, I mean Pt Barnum, wonder is reasons Pt Barnum was great is even though at his he was like all of you know it's a mermaid in summer right on your or whatever he winked and he would write like he was on to himself. He was on themselves. You know Joseph Smith, you know about some of these people. I wonder if they're onto themselves or not, but anyway, I think good question he Barnum was WWE, obviously is and so but for all these as Donald Trump? That's the question and there are a lot of Americans and it is part of being american that, like yeah, I know these, you know whole Cogan isn't really beaten up, but like maybe isn't that kind of hate each other and look in in private life. This so that blurring of of of character and reality in
well. Maybe who knows it's entertaining is is what America is the hybrid that America started making in the Barnum age, before so this is like this is really the storm, because now that media is entirely fragmented, there is no sort of mainstay. There is no kind of communal effect of like three networks. Even though some of the ship was we were getting where lies, Miss Representation's it which we were all on the same. There were only you know, white straight men doing and all that stuff, yeah yeah for sure, but wasn't perfect, but but there was a sense of At least community weather was wrong. Minded in here is the fax. We all agree on the basic facts right, so that's gone yeah. So now it's like you it's just it, and now you have people within the administration, the president himself contradicting himself in the course of of three minutes so There's no real, like none of that. None of that seems to me or saying in his case. No. No,
said that wait, no, here's the tape of you saying exactly that you know four days ago and then well days enough for it to disappear. So I guess you know, after all, is said and done- all this research, I know the conclusion you know was was you have not particularly helpful, but but at least you're able to prove yourself in the reader that this is not an uncommon, the of a tug of war in Iraq country between your reason and magical, it's a chronic condition and we have dealt with and we have been we're. We have been exceptional. All along? I mean exceptionalism is not has been taken lately. As this conservative know, american exceptionalism means were great were great were great. We are great, I don't hate America, yeah, but but we are also exceptional Indiana. That way in, like you know not having having a different
on the other exceptional at bulshit. Yes, we are exceptionally bulshit, exceptional entertainment. We there's a reason we invented, you know, show business yeah. You know I mean again, like a religious cult, comes over here, an invents entrepreneurial business, an show business, I mean that's going to get to unfettered. That gets us to where we are after getting through this this book in this research, the two seats, your own curiosity, and try to put your fear in perspective. What is your biggest fear about? What's happening now in politically and culturally uh? Well, is it? Is it something that looks like a some sort of like friendly kind of acceptable fascism or? Well? I don't know about friendly or acceptable, but yeah some, you know Idiocracy slash, fascism, yeah yeah, it is. It is, and
and this thing you know again. I didn't start with this idea, though this is going to destroy America's right now. Let's figure this out, this is change. Since I was a kid let me figure it out, but now with the coming of Donald Trump, who, by the way, wasn't even nominated for president until I'd finished the manuscript of this book, so it wasn't like reverse engineering. How do we get to Trump but now that he has a residency in a movement based on you know denying the reality and the truth of various kinds as when I quote, Hannah Arendt, the great writer about- yeah, Nazis and Communists and Stalin and Hitler saying that's one of the things they always did. They is like no
we're gonna line, you're gonna, like that we line all that stuff. So yes, the the this this this American, the tendency, not uniquely american but kinda, unique in the developed world. This american tendency to like and not my truth, is my truth. Your truth is your true yeah and all that stuff. That would come to an end and let's get ready establishment. Let's get rid of the experts to tell us what we're not we're wrong. All that has led us to this place that yeah it could be. That could be. The end of things could could be the end of the republic. The end of the moxi could be could really get this into a terrable existential horrible place. I've never been a person who screams about that stuff, or it says you know where it's like the end of Rome or, oh, my god. You know Nixon's that have not see. I never have been that person but
seeing where we are now with Trump and Trumpism as the so far apotheosis of this long, historical american tendency, yeah works to shoot on yeah yeah. So what are you doing about it? Uh tweeting yeah, he wrote the book and but no I mean I know I mean I do mean that is in nine dieting. It's just like you. There is a hell of powerlessness that one feels well. I I think I I do feel you know certain mission driven us to to to keep talking about this part of it, which I think underlies so much of it and letting people who have a better standing to talk about. You know racism or misogyny or other things yeah, but I feel like I don't want this part of the nightmare.
Here to go unremarked upon because its own part of nightmare an underlies so much of the rest once once people can say this is these are the facts? Are these aren't the facts, and then you got no society and you can't no conversation, and you have no debate about well, you know so so it's important it doesn't seem as grotesque and horrible and threatening as look at this racist thing, he said or look at what he's doing these children in the border, or whatever picking. But to me it is important, so yeah. So so you know almost two years after this book came out, I'm still ranting about it. You know and doing my best to give money to politicians and or she was in well. I think I, like a, I think, it's an important book in a and I didn't know when he came out and I didn't know you know how long you been sitting around, but when I locked
into it, I'm like well. This should be required reading to a certain degree and because it enables me 'cause, there's so much anxiety around what we think we need and how much we do know in you know is this who is it not new and there's plenty of people that are like? Well, it was bad during Nixon and but not unlike either like I didn't, even live there then, but, like things seem to be worse and there seems to be a type of kind of accepted chaos around the information we take in how it's being used. So for me, it really helped me contextualize a lot of stuff and and I'll keep preaching it. Thanks for talking and making a movie about it. Are they making a movie your movie, haha? Well, yeah sort of trust is it touches into that in in it's weird, because I years ago, when I was a younger person and you know kind of angry, but not that educated in full form, intellectual understanding, history, anything I kind of got some.
Justin this, the specific kind of one world government Trilateral Commission, Freemason, Illuminati conspiracy, in the reading about the house. So I held the program you really a little bit, but more so my friend Jim, like I remember, he worked for Clinton and Obama, he's been a political guy for every worked in Washington in the in work yeah. I was there during this time. You know I was visiting him and we're on the great mall, and we just you know, gone into that the the capital
rotunda and I actually said to him. I said we're going to walk around office buildings all day and he was like this is the capital and but I had no context, I didn't have the appreciation of american history, but I did see the oh burlesque and the Pentagon is some sort of ritual evidence of an almost magical conspiracy, Nick Cage Movie yeah exactly exactly, but I had all the information. I just remember ranting about it, standing there on the great mall about what washed Washington really was and You know after I take a breath at Jim. Just looks Amigos mark people here. Just aren't that organized well, but that to me is one of the things about conspiracies. Like people aren't that organized people can't keep secrets, it would be really tough to pull off a good conspiracy, but they make they make ignorant or stupid. People seem intelligent because they have closure. There's. No you it's very easy to
connect a lot of dots in retrospect. So when you make sense of that- and it has the punchline you're looking for that satisfies your particular or emotions you're like that, feels good. That's going to settle in his truth, correct an it's. You know you're right fiction. You write a story, you tell jokes whatever it has that pleasure of. Oh it's a tidy it. It to call back right for this and people want reality to be that way, Anet. Ninety nine percent of the time is not, and also there's this problem with. However, there's no nothing has the authority. Things will look like news, like there's a lot of fiction that goes out there, that within a couple of weeks, somehow another it becomes true to a lot of people because they don't know where it came from or what the sources and my dad watch is Fox news. Not because he's a Republican. It just looks like news to him: there's a guy sitting there. I don't know why he chooses that one because he's an angry guy, but he was never a political guy, but he can't quite understand how it's not news well
and again, that's part of the problem of somebody like your father, who went from the pre digital age, yeah digitally were like. Well, no look. I saw it on the internet right right, an we just, it's like we were given one's or sabres are something that we don't know how to use properly. Yeah yeah digital stuff. Well, I I, I hope that yeah, it seems like there's a fight to be fought, and I hope you know we get back to at least some some respectable form of fighting. That's all I know exactly right is is get back to it like it like fighting in the old, and you know I mean things to I- I go back and forth. Some is a work of the known, we're we're we're fine! Yes, is it in some days. I think no, I mean look, you know it was Nazi Germany, another normal Germany. I mean it can happen. You know, there's a lot of people have to die
but I'll be very uncomfortable? My fear is so like you know. I talk about. Onstage. Is that I think that people that were the switch is thrown in their brains, where they can no longer really have any ability to decipher truth from fiction or or or what is making them excited against. What is the reality check? I don't think they can now. One of them can come back, hi yeah it. I think that that I don't hear that enough. That, like you know, we have people in your family like my uncles, one of these guys, it's like, I don't know that they can come back. I don't know that. There's a way back well and unfortunately, now is, as there wasn't sixty years ago or the there? Wasn't all the all the means and venues for keeping them there right now. You know if you're, just you know your uncle your this is a crackpot. May I ask it like? Okay do maybe, but now you got your
on tv channel and also you know well sign, and you know you got friends going like yeah we're still here. That is a new condition. An you know. You don't want to be too, like technologically deterministic in both people were used to say that print would be terribly or or tv. You would ruin everything yeah yeah yeah. I get that but like this keeps the nuts in the Crockpot San the believers in whatever more believing an encouraged and and and supporting a community than ever has been possible before yeah, yeah and also yes, but in answer to your question, they're going to make a movie out of it, but there's going to be a tv three hour tv thing, but really yeah. Are you going to write it? I am that's great well, well, congratulations and thank you for writing the book and thank you for talking to me my pleasure.
There you go? The book is fantasyland how America went haywire a five hundred year, history that was Anderson, the other books, I'm recommending for your second half of summer reading it came from something awful by Dale. And the birth of loud by Ian S, port and the jazz book playing changes jazz for the new century by Nate, China, I'm is a new thing. I'm doing a book club book Club with marriage go to W T, F, five dot com, slash tour for all of my tour dates, going a lot of places, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Detroit San Francisco, Portland, Oregon Dc Philly. Now
bill. Atlanta, Toronto, Minneapolis right right, just go over there or I can find it, and if you want to watch sort of trust, you can go to sort of trust com to search movie, theaters and also streaming options, and now I will play.
Car for you
Transcript generated on 2019-11-07.