Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Lawrence


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As Jon Stewart prepares to leave The Daily Show, actor Mark Ruffalo tonight performed a three minute roast of Stewart’s notoriously poor attention to the movies and books of his guests.  From Patrick Stewart to Maggie Gyllenhaal, the segment showed how Stewart not only showed he rarely if ever read the books or watched the movies of his guests, but how he often didn’t even know the roles they played or the major characters they created.  I blogged about this in what I thought was a excellent flaying of him by for this kind of neglect by Jennifer Lawrence.

Interviewers should spend a lot of time preparing to talk to the people who agree to talk to them because they don’t want to look or sound like idiots.  But only one thing seems to be more important in the eyes of the audience than preparation, and that is personality.

A lot of interviewers think and have been trained to believe that seriousness equals credibility.  We think any emotions we show makes people not take us seriously.  We think, like in the fields of politics, science and the law, a dispassionate demeanor is much more believable than a passionate one.

But Jon Stewart found the balls to the wall balance between New Jersey punk and New York attorney.  Since 1999, he’s gotten away with saying shit that is literally peppered with the word “shit” and the audience loves him for it.  So if he doesn’t know all of the scenes in a movie or all of the plotlines in a book, so the hell what?  He has charmed his way through so many blank spots with so many “A listers” that they’ve probably come to not expect anything different.  It’s who he is.

But he also made up for those flubs when Donald Rumsfeld, Bill O’Reilly, Pervez Musharraf and Tony Blair among other sacrifices came onto his show.  Stewart showed he understood the complex policy issues well enough to eviserate many of them for their unpopular or untenable positions.

It was fun to watch clip after clip of him mush mouthing his way through his artistic cluelessness.  At the end, in a turnabout, Ruffalo pretended to not know anything about Stewart’s 2014 cinematic effort, “Rosewater” and spoke about it in platitudes.  It was cutting, fitting and funny.

But Jon Stewart can be like the old Peter Falk character, “Columbo”; you think he’s bumbling until he suddenly rips your throat out.  All of us behind the mic should be so bumbling.

Boy, am I going to miss him.

Why is my foot Bleeding?

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So, tonight I’m watching Jon Stewart interview Amy Adams.  She has a new movie called “American Hustle” with an ensemble cast, including Jennifer Lawrence.  And Ms. Adams commented on how she watched Ms. Lawrence go off on Jon Stewart so effectively about three weeks ago.  Mr. Stewart, by contrast, said essentially that nobody should be that good at everything, such as kicking his ass on his own show –

But then, Mr. Stewart revealed why he deserved to have his ass kicked.  See, he told Amy Adams that his producers give him movies to watch and he seemed to imply he never does.  But, with American Hustle, he made an exception.  He said he was up very late watching the whole movie.  So, what he was saying was he in fact, did not watch any of Ms. Lawrence’s “Catching Fire” because he apparently didn’t think it was very good or compelling.  So, of course, he didn’t know any thing about it, which is what Ms. Lawrence sucker punched him about.

He did it to himself.  The next time he has Ms. Lawrence on his show (if he ever does again), he should, a) Bone up on her most recent film, or b) Not be on record in any preceding interview that he watched a movie of a some other guest to the end.

Written by Interviewer

December 12, 2013 at 11:06

Is There a Sign on My Back?

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jennifer lawrence2

It’s not often that somebody can make Jon Stewart speechless. He and his “Daily Show” have a reputation of enrapturing guests and audiences with Sam Kennison like screams, Alvin the Chipmunk like squeals, Vincent Price like whispers and Buckwheat like wide-eyed stares. He uses them in series and parallel, like rotating shield frequencies of the Enterprise-D fending off the Borg. He is, for all practical purposes, invincible …

… except on November 21, 2013. That was when he had Jennifer Lawrence as a guest. Jennifer Lawrence of “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” fame. And she apparently brought some of her own A-game as a fem gladiator to Comedy Central that day.

She warned him. At the outset, she said she was tired and was glad that her interview with him was the last one before 10 days of peace and quiet. And he put his own foot in his f*cking mouth by calling her media tour a “crapfest” which was apparently all she needed to start taking his interviewing style apart like a medical examiner at an autopsy. She called him out vis-a-vie his staff, remarking that she was warned that, “He’s not really going to know a lot about a movie or about you.” In fact, she seemed astounded that they seemed particularly proud of that.

She asked about a pre-interview and could not believe that nobody prepared bullet points for him about her film. The pre-interview is what gives the interviewer the questions to ask in the main interview. David Letterman had a pre-interview with Lindsey Lohan but that didn’t stop him from essentially ignoring it –

And, Ms. Lawrence noted that several of his staff offered her tequila and other hard liquour that they apparently had stashed under their desks, which along with everything else, led her to ask, “What kind of-what’s going on here?”

This wisp of a woman at barely 23, slammed Mr. Stewart in front of God and everybody. After a few years of watching, I have never seen him unintentionally speechless. But it was an interview that clearly didn’t get him what his face-in-face, yell to establish rapport, rapid fire witticisms usually produce, which is the rapt attention of the interviewee and roaring call and response with the audience.

When it was over, he did his usual lean in, as if to let the wide-shot say to the guest and the audience, “We’re cool, right?” But Ms. Lawrence so efficiently kicked his ass, I could imagine he was whispering and squeaking in bug-eyed freeze face, “Forgive me, please. Please?”

Every interviewer has his or her own style. And for 99% of people they talk with, it probably works just fine. But there is always somebody for whom a conversation with them is like fingernails on a blackboard. There is always somebody who sees the master as a dolt.

Nobody is better than Jon Stewart. We want him to chop down those twisted f*cking trees that seem to be everywhere. We want him to eviscerate the snorters, the ego problems, the sociopaths. But every now and then, after so many wins, even Superman has to get punked. And after, OK, … we love him again.

Written by Interviewer

November 25, 2013 at 11:52