I recently talked to Frank Rich as part of doing a story for Style. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some pretty interesting people as part of my Style gig, most of them very cool local folks, and some with a bit of national recognition like James Naughton, John Patrick Shanley, Israel Horovitz and Tamara Tunie. One of my first phone interviews ever was with Petula Clark and I made a bit of a botch of it. I talked to comedian/actor Stephen Wright once: worst interview ever. Dry monotonic wit: pretty fun. Take out the wit: not so fun.
While I have interviewed people I admired and people who I thought were wonderfully talented, I would have to say that Rich was the first “hero” of mine that I’ve talked to. And the interview was great, for one principle reason: it was an actual conversation. He really listened to my questions and gave well-considered answers. A couple of times, he asked me some questions and actually listened to my answers. His sometimes arch writing style does not translate into an overly wry or sarcastic interpersonal style. He is smart and engaged and tremendously human. He seems like the kind of guy who I would love to chat with over a beer or a glass of wine.
Interviewing Rich made me reflect on the past year. I can think of at least a couple interviews where it was hard for me to get a word in edgewise, where the subject of the interview seemed to view me simply as their mouthpiece, a vessel for getting the word about them (and everything they were doing) out to the wider world. I also had probably the most enjoyable interview I’ve ever had, chatting with the delightfully humorous and inquisitive Michael Clem from “Eddie from Ohio.” What’s clear is that the quality of the interview has nothing to do with whether the interviewee is a nationally known big name “star” or the proverbial big fish in a small pond.