BRITTANY: Hi and welcome to Sampler, the show where each week we play you handpicked moments from podcasts that you just have to hear. Usually I choose clips that I want to share with you guys but this week my very special guest brought a bunch of clips to play for me... I'm here with CEO of Gimlet, host of the podcast StartUp and my boss Alex Blumberg.
ALEX BLUMBERG: Hey, why thank you. It's an honor to be here on the show.
BRITTANY: It's an honor to have you.
ALEX: Very, very excited to be here. So um, I have a bunch of clips that I want to play for you that I've chosen because they all I think they're thematically related. The theme is podcasting's arrival and the theme has to do with the fact that in the last year a lot of really really really big names like astronomical names have appeared on podcasts and to me it signals the fact that this medium that was sort of like has always had like the little bit of a Wayne's World association to it you know what I mean? Sort of like a lot of you know just like I'm in my basement doing my podcast or whatever.
BRITTANY: Yes I’m familiar with that. I was recording my show in my partner’s apartment before we started recording in the Gimlet Studios.
ALEX: Right, and then all of a sudden you’re… these luxe appointments that surround you. Yeah, so it was this small casual world for so long, but today you have these huge guests showing up on podcasts. So today that’s what I’m bringing you, when these big names make appearances on podcasts.
So the first clip I want to play for you is an appearance I think a lot of people are familiar with….
MARC MARON: I'll be talking to the President of the United States in my garage. It's crazy it's crazy. Alright I'm about to cry. [music in]
BARACK OBAMA: Am I in the orange chair.
MARC: Orange chair for you Mr. President.
MARC: Who's staying in the room? We're doing pictures. Oh my gosh.
BARACK: This is pretty cool.
MARC: Oh my gosh this is the place. This is where it happens.
BARACK: I love this man.
MARC: You do?
BARACK: I do.
ALEX: The president of the United States was on a podcast! And I know everybody knows this, I know it made big news when it happened a while ago. But still, that is just so crazy. The podcast for those of you who haven’t heard that, was WTF, which is hosted by the comedian Marc Maron. And it’s a podcast where MM usually interviews comedians. It’s well known, gets really good ratings, but not the kind of place that was interviewing world leaders until the president stopped by. So what I love about this, well I love a couple of things about it 1 it is just this sort of weird moment where the podcasting’s past meets podcasting future. Marc Maron’s podcast he does still record it out of his garage, it’s very old school. He’s got some rig set up in his garage and the president showed up there. The other thing I loved about this, and it got a lot of press, are the moments where Maron cracks through to the president as a real person. And this his is something I think podcasts are uniquely good it, you get to have long conversations not just chopped up into 30 second news clips… and so you just get to hear people in a different way… and they come through as real people they often don’t in other forms of media. This interview got very dissected and there’s a lot of famous parts, I don’t wanna talk about those. I want to play you my favorite bit of that interview which starts with this question from Marc Maron.
MARC: What do you do to have fun? I mean I can't imagine what it's like to raise a family in the situation that you're in as President. You must feel sort of insulated.
BARACK: You know the biggest fun I've had is watching my girls grow up and they are magnificent - look, hopefully every parent feels the way I do about my daughters um,
BARACK: But I think they are spectacular. And when Michelle and I came into office the biggest worry we had was is this going to be something weird thing for them and are they going to grow up with an attitude or are they going to think that everybody eats off of china and
MARC: Are they?
BARACK: You know it turns out that they've just become uh they're kind, they're thoughtful. They treat everybody with respect. They don't have any kind of airs. They're confident but without being cocky. They've got great friends. They've been able to - they're not stuck in a bubble the same way I am. Uh you know they go to the mall they have sleepovers, they go to prom. Malia's starting to drive. Um, you know they're doing great. So, my biggest fun has been watching them grow up. Now unfortunately they're now hitting the age where they still love me but they think I'm completely boring and so they'll come in tape me on the head, talk to me for 10 minutes and then they're gone all weekend right and they break my heart so now I've got to start thinking, what's going to replace that fun.
MARC: Right. But the one thing you don't have to worry about is like I hope they don't get lost.
BARACK: That never happens.
BARACK: I mean what is true uh sometimes Malia for example when she got older was starting to chafe a little bit about secret service and I had to explain to her sweetie let me tell you something, if you think that you'd be over at your friends' house until 11:30 and then I'd be coming to pick you up, you're crazy so the only reason you're out is because you've got a detail. Otherwise you'd be home because I've I wouldn't be chauffeuring you around.
BRITTANY: Sounds so much like my dad.
ALEX: Well that's what it feel - like that was the thing like all of the sudden he's leader of the free world but just sounds like me talking about my kids or like anybody's dad talking about them like he's just like he really does like I don't know depending on how you feel about Obama you might hear that and just think oh I'm just like hitting my talking points and I love my family and this is just what I said but like I don't know like to me I took it like when I heard it it really I have two kids and all those things register with me like there's you know there are the you know I worry about them getting to the age where they're just going to pat me on the head and you know not want to hang out with me and um… and I just also really that really resonates with sort of the fun of parenting is simply watching your kids grow up and that is that does become fun.
BRITTANY: Why - I mean like I don't mean to sound like but I don't have kids so I don't and I'm also just like - it's like my best friend has a daughter now and it's crazy because she was like not there and then she was very tiny and now she's like bigger and I think she can almost recognize my - I like to believe she can recognize my face and she like smiles now when she sees - it's just crazy because those little crazy incremental things but like that's really like that's the fun part just watching them get older? Because my parents say that too and I'm like it has to be the tax breaks also.
ALEX: It doesn't make any sense. Like before I had kids I was like it looks like hell. It is hell from the outside and then when you're on the inside and all of a sudden you're just like - it's just like I don't know you know how when you're in love with somebody and everybody's like they're bad news and you're like but I love them. It's that. Like kids are definitely bad news. They are maniacal psychopathic monsters and they don't treat you well and they just take take take and they don't give you anything -
BRITTANY: I still do that now. I still do it now.
ALEX: Exactly like it's not a good relationship. It's not a two-way relationship with your kids. I think it's so hard to actually see yourself in somebody like the President of the United States like how can you possibly related to anything? It's just such a huge - you're sort of at like the top of the world and you've got secret service everywhere and you're driven everywhere.
BRITTANY: You're making these crazy decisions.
ALEX: You're making these crazy decisions. Like I think I am so stressed out about my job and I didn't have to kill Osama bin Laden you know what I mean? That's not my job. Yeah.
BRITTANY: No it wasn't.
ALEX: So it just seems impossible to even relate to someone who's job that is. And then just to hear him talking in such a very very relatable way to me as a father to just like I heard and I don't know if anybody - like I don't know if you're not a parent necessarily you heard that or maybe I'm just hearing some things that aren't there but it was just cool to feel that all of a sudden. To feel like oh I can relate to this person. Um, you ready for the next clip?
BRITTANY: Yeah. Of course of course.
ALEX: Alright so that was Barack Obama. That was the first huge name on a podcast. So then there was another sort of big-name appearance on a podcast. I believe you heard this one as well. I'll play you this.
BRITTANY: I hope I did, I’m nervous.
ALEX: I'm pretty sure you did.
TRACY: Well before we get started we saved you some bourbon. We don't know if you'll partake.
HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, I've got so much to still do. If this was the last event of my day I would take you up on it.
TRACY: Ok, well rain check then.
HEBEN: Next time.
HILLARY: OK, rain check.
TRACY: And since you won't drink it I guess I'll have to.
ALEX: So do you recognize those voices?
BRITTANY: Yes, that's Heben and Tracey and also um Hillary Clinton.
ALEX: Yes exactly. Heben and Tracey hosts of another round, the awesome show on Buzzfeed.
BRITTANY: Buzzfeed yeah.
ALEX: So the great thing in this interview is again the great mix of sort of like sort of a really much more context-filled conversation about policy and then mixed with like some really sort of amazing human moments that you don't see when they're making the talk show circuit or whatever. And that’s something that comes across really well in the next clip I’m going to play for you. So, here’s the set up: The hosts, Tracey and Heben, are talking to Hillary about the state of the prison system and. And, in particular, they want Hillary’s take on the role the Bill Clinton’s tough on crime initiatives played in producing high incarceration rates, particularly among African Americans.
TRACY: What a lot of black people are looking for is for you and or your husband to show some responsibility in the crisis that we're facing now. So my question to you is do you ever look at the state of black America today we can focus on the prison system for now and regardless of what the intents were like I know the 90s were like it was a different time. Times change. Legislation changes, needs change but regardless of your intent, do you ever look at the state of black American and say wow, we really fucked this up for black people?
HILLARY: Well I'll tell you what I think. And my husband has spoken to this. He spoke about this at the NAACP just last summer. You always have to learn from what you do. I was interviewed by Al Sharpton. He said…
ALEX: You know so you -
ALEX: Why are you laughing?
BRITTANY: Because that's the best question I've ever heard anybody ask Hillary Clinton. That's like the question a lot of people would want to ask but I feel like you can only ask if you're in a medium like this. Podcasting reaches a lot of people but like it doesn't have the same like establishment feel as like cable network news or something like that. So if Dianne Sawyer was like Hillary Clinton do you feel like you really fucked things up for black people like people would be like oh my God, like you know it would be seen as like a huge sign of like disrespect in a way and possibly something that could be scandalized. But like the way that Tracy asks the question and like it was really well-constructed and she provided a lot of context and then came with this real humdinger of a question like I never thought I would hear like a black woman my age ask Hillary Clinton a question in like a legitimate setting.
ALEX: I know.
BRITTANY: That was really, really, really amazing.
ALEX: When I heard it, my jaw like like hit the floor. I was like oh my God, you are so - like I would never have like been able to muster the courage to like ask that question in that way. Like if you listen to my raw tape anytime I'm asking anybody anything interesting it's like so what what do you what you seem like I don't wanna and then it takes me forever just to get to the point and maybe they got that question edited too, I don't know.
BRITTANY: I mean it sounds smooth.
ALEX: But the other thing that I think was amazing about it is that like yeah if Diane Sawyer asked or if it was on TV it would just like there's this element of sort of performance anytime you're doing anything on television so if that question were asked it would have been there would have been a sensational quality to it and it would have been like everybody knows this is the moment where she uses the f-word on television, or whatever. And with that because you can hear it it didn't feel sensational to me.
ALEX: It just felt like it came from a very sincere place of like hurt basically.
BRITTANY: Yeah yeah.
ALEX: You know like I feel this and this is like my experience and I'm really upset about it and I'm and this is how I'm going to express it to you and it didn't feel like sensational. It just felt like earned and sincere.
BRITTANY: It felt like a reasonable thing to ask at that moment in time which just if you laid all the piece of that whole interaction out without any context you're just like what the fuck is this but no but no that was great.
ALEX: Alright so here's the other thing that's amazing about podcasting. So then Hilary Clinton goes on to answer the question and she sort of like says like like it's essentially mistakes were made, like this is what we thought we needed to do in the nineties and now of course like things have gone too far and we need to put in policies to correct the excesses that have resulted and now in hindsight we now now - just sort of the basic reasonable like very technocratic Hilary-style answers so then they go on to continue the conversation and then the most amazing part of this interview is what happens sort of later at the end. So they do this thing called the Quickfire where they ask a bunch of - they don't call it quickfire they call it “pew pew pew.” Where they ask you know um a bunch of just sort of questions over and over again. One of them always has to do with squirrels.
ALEX: And uh so there was this so they get to this question and this was the one that blew me away, this thing right here.
HEBEN: In preparation for this interview I watched a lot of your interviews and I noticed you never sweat like physically.
TRACY: We are sweatiest humans on the planet.
HEBEN: So like I've done like a little bit of press and I get so hot.
TRACY: I'm sweating right now. I’m sitting still.
HEBEN: TV lights, stage lights, like what is your deodorant situation?
HILLARY: Well first of all you've only done a little bit. When you've done as much as I have…
HEBEN: Well like what is your secret.
HILLARY: Well my secret is you just do it so often. You didn't see me 40 years ago when I did my first ones.
HEBEN: I don't mean like sweat because you're nervous I just mean physically it's hot.
TRACY: Lights are hot. Lights are very very hot.
HEBEN: I'm genuinely curious what your deodorant is.
HILLARY: Well you know I just turned off the thermostat. I don't know.
HEBEN: Do you have a spray situation? Liquid? I am not joking. I'm sweating right now guys.
HILLARY: Solid solid block. Solid yes solid block is much better.
HEBEN: OK I got to work on the solids.
TRACY: OK this is an odd question that I lobbied for because it's one of my favorite question to ask people. If you don't have an answer that's find but I will be a little said.
HEBEN: OK Tracy Jesus.
TRACY: What's the weirdest thing about you?
HILLARY: The weirdest thing about me is that I don't sweat.
TRACY: Obviously obviously.
HEBEN: Evidence that Hilary's a robot. Zero sweat.
HILLARY: You guys are the first to realize I am really not even a human being. I was constructed in a garage in Palo Alto a very long time ago. People think that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs they created it..
HEBEN: They don't even know.
HILLARY: Oh no I mean a man whose name shall remain nameless created me in his garage.
TRACY: Are there more of you?
HILLARY: You know I thought he threw away the plans. At least that's what he told me when he programmed me that there would be no more. I've seen more people that kind of don't sweat and other things that make me think maybe they are part of the new race that he has created, the robot race…
ALEX: Have you ever heard Hilary sound like that, ever?
BRITTANY: No I've never heard her sound - and also not only that like the common critique of Hilary Clinton is that she seems robotic and to hear her sound like funny… like that was genuinely funny when she said what's the weirdest thing about you and she said like I don't sweat. I was like look at the Hils with the zingers. And like then after that like the whole extended joke about like actually being a robot I was like oh so you do know.
BRITTANY: Coming up after the break, we find out how to fall in love with America’s pastime from an unlikely source.
ALEX: Alright so here's the last clip that I wanted to play.
BRITTANY: There's only one more. I'm so sad.
ALEX: Well there's a couple more actually - I have one more that I haven't cued up yet but I can play. So alright this is from a podcast that I sometimes listen to called how to do everything. Um, and it's hosted by Ian Chillog and Mike Danforth and it's a podcast - it's an NPR podcast that I've listened to now for a while now. Mike and Ian are producers on the show wait wait don't tell me and they do this podcast How to Do Everything in their spare time and you know ostensibly it's an advice show where listeners write in with questions about you know how do I do this how do I do that and then they find an expert to help answer the listener's question. But I've been listening to it a long time and I've never heard a piece of advice that I actually wanted to know the answer to - I never heard a question that I actually was wondering about and the advice is always sort of like it's basically just an excuse to kind of have some fun do something funny. I mean I think the real questions - there are definitely real questions from real listeners but it's almost as if the listeners are trying to be as esoteric with their questions as possible. But then it's always really fun. Like they just do a really good job of like interviewing and it's always a fun time so I'm just going to play you this clip from one of their episodes.
John: Hi, this is John calling from Brooklyn New York and I want to know how to become a baseball fan. I've never been a baseball fan but I want to become a fan for the rest of my life. Thanks.
IAN: That's a great question John and I think maybe the best person to help you is a fan.
MIKE: Yeah Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, do you have any advice?
SONIA SOTOMAYOR: First watch it on television.
ALEX: Yeah so yes.
BRITTANY: Because she's on the speed dial right?
ALEX: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
BRITTANY: Oh gosh.
ALEX: And I love the way also all the other ones that like they're making a big deal like Mike Maron's like I'm sweaty I don't know what to do and they're just like oh we've got somebody for you. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Here she is
BRITTANY: It's also I think Sonia Sotomayor I think also being asked about baseball, do you know what I mean? Like she's not the first person I have in mind when I think of baseball but I am excited to know this about her.
ALEX: Well but she actually turns out to be the best.
SONIA: First watch it on television and the TV announcers are going to hate me but turn off the sound of the announcers and put on the radio announcers and the reason I say that is the radio announcers in words have to describe what's happening on the field and so because you're not seeing it the TV announcers are doing something else and if you're listening to them they will explain the strategy of the game. They'll tell you where the pitcher is pitching and why - outside corner, where what the strengths and weaknesses are of the batter. You know there's a whole analysis about every hitter- where does he hit to? Which field? Whats his weaknesses and what's his strength? And if you watch how they're setting themselves up on the field you'll begin to understand that strategy. In the end for me baseball is a moment to take a long long breath because it lets you slow yourself down a little bit especially if you come from a place like New York. You know I lived in Brooklyn - it's as face-paced as any of the other boroughs in New York and to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and watch a baseball game, you can actually smile.
MIKE: I think one argument that sometimes people make against baseball is that you look at a baseball team and it looks like a bunch of guys you saw in the bar last night. Like unlike a basketball team, they don't necessarily look like athletes.
SONIA: You know something I've been privileged to have gone on the field with the yankees a number of times. Think the world knows I'm a Yankee fan alright. I'm amazed you're right in their uniforms they look some of them look a little bit out of shape - every one of them is buff.
SONIA: Yeah. They're really very very athletic.
MIKE: And don't the Yankees. The Yankees also have something of an advantage in the way that they look. They wear pinstripes.
IAN: Yeah vertical stripes.
MIKE: Which are slimming.
SONIA: Yeah but I've seen them in t-shirts and they're still muscular.
BRITTANY: She really sold me and I don't like sports like at all and I really I'll go to a baseball game and sit in the park or whatever because that's fun and there's like alcohol there, hot dogs, it's a beautiful day but watching on television I'm always like why. So when she first said watch it and turn a game on on television I was like OK, I know that you are a legal expert but I don't know if you're an expert on hobbies. But then she said to turn on the radio. That like blew my mind. I have a hard time following rules in games like I don't it's too many how do you remember them all? I'm not going to play to learn them. But like watching it like also that was a very meta thing to say on a radio show if you really think about it but like watching the game and then having it described to you by an expert - but someone who's like trained at describing sports to people but trained at describing sports to people who can't see what's happening - it's even much much better than having like your friend do it or like your mom.
ALEX: It's like watching the foreign film and then reading the subtitles in English and sort of learning the language that way.
BRITTANY: Yes yeah no that's genius. And she has such a genuine love for the sport. What she said, watch it and fall in love. It tickled my heart.
ALEX: I know.
BRITTANY: It did it really did.
ALEX: Well that's what I'm trying to do is tickle your heart. Um, so uh I also just love that she called them buff.
BRITTANY: When she was talking about them in the t-shirts I was like she and I have a lot in common. We really do.
ALEX: There was this one How to Do Anything that was like so great that I remember. It was like this kid called up - as long as we're on the subject - one of the questions was I think from this 12 year old and she wrote in saying like how do I carry - I want to know how I can carry my trapper keeper in a cool way? And - I'm going to try to find it but I have no idea how I'm going to find this thing. Hold on one second. Oh here it is how to carry your trapper keeper. Okay this clip doesn't really fit with my theme here of A-listers on podcasts, but you know what, I just love the clip so let's listen…
IAN: In my experience a Trapper Keeper is something you just kind of sling under your arm. It's pretty easy to carry. But is that what you're doing and it just doesn't look cool.
JULIA: No it doesn't look cool. And sometimes I carry it like in front of me like with the arms crossed around it but that makes you look kind of weak, weak body language I think.
IAN: Oh yeah. OK yeah. Is there in your class in your school a kind of icon of cool and if so could you kind of describe how they carry themselves?
JULIA: Well actually I'm sitting in my band teacher's room and pretty much the coolest guy in my grade just walked in. His name is Zack.
IAN: Zack wow.
JULIA: And he just kind of - he's super cool. He always wears hoodies.
IAN: Can he hear you talking about him right now?
JULIA: No he just left.
JULIA: He has a trombone lesson.
IAN: Woah he's the coolest guy and he plays the trombone.
JULIA: Yeah. [laugh]
IAN: Ok so what's he do when he has to carry his books and stuff?
JULIA: The thing is like I don't know that - because you only notice when they look dorky what they're doing with their books.
IAN: Mmk. Wait so does he still - is he close enough by where you could run out and look at him and see what he's doing?
JULIA: One second he's probably in the trombone but I'll check. OK so he's watching like a band performance on the computer and he's kind of like standing there with his hands in his pockets and he's like a little slouched but backward not forward and he's like looking at it like yeah. That's cool and I totally get it and I could be that cool.
IAN: Yeah. I'm picturing it. The lean-back definitely looks cool. Would it be possible for you to go up to him and hand him a Trapper Keeper and see what he does with it?
JULIA: I don't know. I don't see one around here.
IAN: Any books, any notebooks.
JULIA: I don't know. I don't want to interrupt his lesson.
IAN: Yeah I know what you mean but the way I see it he's gonna have plenty of time to play the trombone and you want to make sure you look cool.
JULIA: OK, I'll see what I can do.
IAN: Alright we're going to hold here.
IAN: I'm nervous right now.
MIKE: I'm wondering do you think we're going to get her in detention?
IAN: They're not gonna -
MIKE: Risk reward here is high on the reward side.
JULIA: OK, so him and the teacher both think I'm crazy now but he did what he did was he put it under it under his arm and kind of walked. So I think that's probably the way to do it.
IAN: Did it look cool?
JULIA: It did look cool.
JULIA: He carried it in a way where you don't notice that he's carrying it.
MIKE: Ah. Was he still leaning back?
JULIA: Yeah, a little bit.
IAN: Well do you want to try that?
JULIA: I guess. OK. This feels pretty good. I’m going to lean back. I think that's an important component.
IAN: Yeah alright.
JULIA: Well thanks guys I think I've found a good position.
IAN: Great thanks Julia have a great day.
JULIA: Alright thank you so much.
BRITTANY: I can't believe they were actually helpful. That was so cute.
ALEX: Uh, I love that clip.
BRITTANY: That's like such a fun age because that's like kids kind of like lose their earnestness.
ALEX: I know, I know. But they also just made it happen right there.
BRITTANY: Oh my god.
ALEX: I love it.
BRITTANY: That was the cutest thing.
ALEX: I know and you're so rooting for her and she's just like she does this thing like she's afraid and then she does it and then she comes back and she's all excited. It's just so nice to hear somebody do something that they're afraid to do and then do it anyway.
BRITTANY: Yeah and also like they like weren't condescending. You know how sometimes when people talk to kids they can be kind of like whatever. They like took her concern really seriously and they like pushed her to get this like really awesome result like I thought it was really cute. And also like as an adult you never genuinely are like trying to be cool. It's very bad to try to do something in a cool way. It's best to just kind of pretend that it just like naturally happened or something like that so I just have to applaud her for like she has no airs about her, nothing about her says like I'm above trying to let people know that I'm trying not to look like a dork. And I think that's so cool.
ALEX: I know.
BRITTANY: That's like the coolest way to be.
ALEX: It is, I know. You come away and you're like your future's bright kid.
ALEX: You're a go-getter.
BRITTANY: She's got gumption. I like that.
ALEX: Things are going to happen for you.
ALEX: Alright so I guess that's everything I have.
BRITTANY: Parting is such sweet sorrow. I really enjoyed this. This was interesting. I feel like I'm in like the I feel like I've been in like a hot seat. I am sweating - unlike Hillary. Thank you so much for coming. This was great. This was great. You were great. I guess you were like a what do they call it a pinch-hitter? Yeah isn't that what it's called like when someone is not the regular hitter right? Baseball.
BRITTANY: I learned a lot.
ALEX: Thanks. It was really fun to be on the show.
BRITTANY: Oh, I'm glad we were able to find you.
ALEX: I was a tough booking. I'm five desks away.
BRITTANY: Okay, just to recap the shows you heard today on Alex’s playlist for me - in this order - were WTF with Marc Maron, Another Round, and How to do Everything. Links to these shows can be found at our website, gimletmedia dot com slash SAMPLER. Stay tuned after the credits for a clip from our next show.
This episode was produced by Chris Neary, Matthew Nelson, Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman and myself.
It was edited by Peter Clowney, Caitlin Kenney, and Annie-Rose Strasser.
Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian.
Our new ad music was made by Mark Phillips
Our old ad music— which you heard a bit of at the top— is by Build Buildings.
Other original music in the show was written and performed by Peter Coccoma.
This episode is mixed by David Herman and Rick Kwon.
Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.
Next week on Sampler, you heard them earlier on today’s show, and now they’re joining us at Gimlet HQ -- It’s Heben and Tracy from Another Round, and we will discuss the finer points of Southern pride.
TRACY: When she was like, yeah I’m Beyonce, I’m married to Jay-Z, I can buy and sell your entire generation… however, I’m still a ‘bama, I’m still country… And the accent was just like going off, every which a way, I was like it’s OK for me to be me right now, it’s OK.