Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Some bad Interviews

Interviewing is the currency of journalism. Calling a local politician and asking for a comment is interviewing as well as sitting down with a celebrity for a half-hour. I've done both.

The rule to remember is that in most interviewing situations the subjects want the exposure because in most cases they are selling something. So, most of the time, you'll find a fairly receptive person at the other end of your questions.

Of course, it helps not to be stupid. When I interviewed Leonard Nimoy about his photos on display at a Northampton, Ma. gallery I didn't talk "Star Trek." That would have undoubtedly been a deal breaker.

I pride myself on doing my homework, but I didn't the first of three times I spoke to comic Jim Brewer. I thought he was still on SNL and he delighted in telling me off. He's a good guy and greeted me with "Hey, faggot!" the next time we spoke.

I think that was a term of endearment.

Sometimes though there isn't either much of a connection or interest. For instance,

bad interview number one

Back in the 1980s when I was on talk radio I had the chance to speak with Cassandra Peterson – Elvira Mistress of the dark. I was/am a fan and looked forward to talking about her career in comedy, how her show was written, etc. Her flack informed me I was interviewing Elvira, her character and not Peterson and I shouldn't ask about her age.


The result was an awful bit of radio with me trying to vamp with her shtick.

bad interview number two

Don McLean: consented to an interview and then put me and a couple of other writers off for an hour. Finally he admitted he didn't liked being interviewed, but knew he had to do it. I didn't play his records – yes, I was a fan as well – for years afterwards. Putz!

bad interview number three

The Valley Advocate sent me to the old Riverside Amusement Park to ride the new Loop Coaster on its opening day. It broke. It wouldn't, couldn't complete the loop. So I thought I'd talk to the guy in the Spiderman suit who was hired to help promote the coaster that day.

I asked his name. "Spiderman" was his reply. I asked again and then I got a reluctant "Peter Parker." I was then told that contractually when he was in the suit he was Spiderman. I left and wrote the lamest piece of crap ever in my career.

bad interview number four

I love interviewing comics, but this one was painful. Tommy Davidson is very funny, very talented and he seemed very agreeable on the phone. His answers, though, were almost all "yes" and "no." I remained convinced that he is a decent guy. Perhaps it was an off day for him, but it was like pulling teeth.

next up: the best interviews

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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