I very much like and admire Ezra Klein and I listen to his podcast every week, The Ezra Klein Show, where he talks with brilliant people, people from a particular field of work who talk about that field of work (in other words: no pundits), and I learn something from just about every episode but I also find it incredibly boring, often as not, and sometimes have to steel myself to listen to it; because apart from the fact that each episode’s topic is sometimes too timely, addressing the exact hot-button issue of the week (in which I already feel saturated), but the grim reality of having guests who aren’t pundits, guests who are trained to advance their field rather than just talking about their filed, is that they generally…aren’t great talkers.
Klein himself seemed to address this in a Q&A episode a couple months ago. He was talking about an entertainer he’d had on the show and how he’s always grateful to have such guests because they’re professional talkers, they know how to give a conversation life, and legs.
I can imagine it makes his job easier.
Because his job at the moment, as the host of a program that aims to inform and entertain in hopefully equal measure, is not only to steer the conversation through preliminary groundwork, so that the listener has a sense of what’s going on, and to then lift that conversation, gradually, toward higher ideas…and this is where an expert might get lost in the higher strata of discourse—understandably!, beautifully!, because what you see here is their earnest passion for whatever it is they do. There’s no condescension, no simplification—they’re bringing you right up to the locks that they themselves are trying to crack.
It can be wonderful!
But also boring.
And it saddles Klein with a responsibility that I think he handles well, admirably so, and I aspire to that same kinda command with my own work: he pilots the conversation from the ocean floor of a layman’s silty understanding up toward the surface of, what?, epiphany, let’s say, or refined understanding; but he can’t let the conversation ascend too quickly, or we’ll get the bends, and blood will fly out of our ears.
And so he dispatches the occasional joke, usually pretty funny and quick, or tosses in a “fuck” or a reference to the reality show he’s bingeing.
It’s an interesting show even if all you’re listening to is how he hosts it.
What’s also interesting and lowkey menacing is when I glimpse how smart and accomplished he is and the fact that he isn’t even ten years older than me. I used to talk about this with my college roommate, David, who within a year of graduating college was working a lofty corporate job in New York City, brilliant and fun and down to earth, all his professional ducks in order: I really looked up to him.
And it feels like an induction to a new arena of life where I’m looking up toward people who are my own age.
Anyway: I’m used to seeing, noting, and admiring the intellectual whatsit of people who are way older than me, or dead, and so this experience of following and really being kinda dazzled by a performer, writer, etcetera, and reconciling the fact that we’re basically contemporaries, is somewhat new and, as I said, scary.
But I dig it.