I Think You're Interesting-logo

I Think You're Interesting

Vox Media

The entertainment industry is brimming with interesting people who are responsible for your favorite movies, TV shows, and more. Join Vox’s critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff every Thursday as she speaks with the very well known, up-and-coming and need to know folks responsible for the most exciting projects in art, entertainment, and pop culture – diving deep into their influences, inspirations, and careers in a frank, uncensored fashion. The series finale aired in December 2018.


United States


Vox Media


The entertainment industry is brimming with interesting people who are responsible for your favorite movies, TV shows, and more. Join Vox’s critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff every Thursday as she speaks with the very well known, up-and-coming and need to know folks responsible for the most exciting projects in art, entertainment, and pop culture – diving deep into their influences, inspirations, and careers in a frank, uncensored fashion. The series finale aired in December 2018.




Mahershala Ali, from Moonlight to True Detective

Few actors have had as surprising a past few years as Mahershala Ali. Known for his parts on TV shows like The 4400 and House of Cards and in movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the Hunger Games films, Ali went from steadily working actor to legitimate star with his 2016 role in Moonlight. He’s only in the film’s first half-hour, playing Juan, a drug dealer who can tell that a sensitive young boy needs a space to just be himself, but he’s magnetic and warm, caring and thoughtful, in a role Hollywood rarely allows to have much care and thought. Ali won an Oscar for Supporting Actor, and from there, he’s charted an eclectic, fascinating past couple of years. He’s getting Oscar buzz again for his Golden Globe-nominated role in Green Book, and he voices a pivotal character in the highly acclaimed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Then in January, he’ll be playing the lead character in the long-awaited third season of True Detective. The role, originally written for a white actor, spoke to Ali, and he convinced showrunner Nic Pizzolatto to reconceive the part so he could play it. Ali joined Todd to chat about his remarkable rise to stardom, taking the role in True Detective, and what he thinks art can do to help heal society in the 2010s. And stick around after Todd and Ali’s conversation for some of our favorite I Think You’re Interesting moments from over the years! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


What do The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Parks and Rec have in common? Michael Schur.

Michael Schur is one of the most adept minds in TV comedy. From his early days producing the Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon-era Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, to his work as one of the key writers on The Office, he charted a career that touched some of the best TV comedy of the 2000s. But in the 2010s, he’s become perhaps the principal figure in network TV comedy, with his shows Parks and Recreation and The Good Place. (He’s also co-creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though his fellow co-creator Dan Goor is the showrunner on that series.) Parks was a tribute to the idea of a kinder, more loving America, just barely holding off a dark and horrifying one, while The Good Place is the only show in TV archives that balances advanced lessons in ethics and philosophy with elaborate jokes about shrimp. That’s what made Todd want to talk with Schur not just about his shows, but about his overall philosophy of comedy. They delve into questions of what makes a good comedic premise, what makes a good character relationship to build a comedy around, and what the best comedic actors have in common. And maybe they’ll even answer that age-old question: Why is it so much easier to set a successful sitcom in a bar than it is to set one in a restaurant? Notes from our sponsors: LEGO: In today's show you heard advertising content from The LEGO Store. With LEGO, every gift has a story. Start your story today at https://LEGO.build/Vox-Ship Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Christmas music you won't get sick of, with R&B star PJ Morton

If you've talked to Todd at all, you know how much he enjoys Christmas music. And, sure, he enjoys the stuff that gets overplayed year after year, but he gets why you're sick of it. Finding good music often means going a little off the beaten path. That's why Todd talked to PJ Morton, a musician who's recorded with Stevie Wonder and was a member of Maroon 5, and who has his own successful, Grammy-nominated solo career. He asked Morton both about his new Christmas album (Christmas with PJ Morton) and to pick his five favorite Christmas albums of all time. Morton's choices are great, not so hyper-obscure as to be impossible to find but also not overplayed to death (save for Mariah Carey, but you gotta have Mariah Carey on a list like this). And along the way, he and Todd chat about why these songs endure, what it means to put your own spins on them, and what it's like to sing songs about snowy white Christmases when you grew up in New Orleans. Notes from our sponsors:LEGO: In today's show you heard advertising content from The LEGO Store. With LEGO, every gift has a story. Start your story today at https://LEGO.build/Vox-Pop Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Losing is hard. But comedian Chris Gethard says it’s necessary.

The Chris Gethard Show might have been Todd’s favorite talk show of the decade, a weird, tossed-off calamity that emerged every week like an odd magic trick. It made the trip from New York public access TV to more traditional networks. And then earlier this year, it ended, as its network, TruTV, and comedian Gethard opted not to continue with it. It ended up being the most weirdly appropriate promotion for Gethard’s new book imaginable. Lose Well, published in October, is a self-help book with a twist, a tome that is meant to help people figure out not how to avoid losing but how to lean into it, how to learn from it, how to change thanks to it. It compiles the stories Gethard has collected over a long career peppered with high-profile failures (and, yes, some high-profile successes), mixed with his signature blend of earnest, sincere humor. And here’s the paragraph where we’d put some of the stuff Gethard and Todd talk about in this episode, but honestly, it’s one of Todd’s favorite interviews he’s ever done, and he couldn’t narrow it down. So just listen to it already. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


How to not screw up Thanksgiving dinner, with Salt Fat Acid Heat's Samin Nosrat

This episode originally ran in November of 2017. It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means home chefs all around the United States (Todd among them) are trying to find a way to hew to tradition without turning their plates into a giant pile of indistinguishable starches. In this Thanksgiving Spectacular, we’ve invited Samin Nosrat to join us and offer her hints and tips for a successful Thanksgiving meal. Samin’s book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, is one of the best cookbooks Todd’s ever read, and the information it provides about how the four elements in the title interact to make delicious food will help any chef — no matter how experienced — cook even better food. But it can also help brighten up that Thanksgiving plate, and Samin offered Todd advice on making tastier turkey, zingier mashed potatoes, and sharper Thanksgiving salads. She also stuck around to talk about writing a cookbook, devouring delicious food she didn’t cook, and enjoying the perfect vegan holiday season. Pull a chair up to the table and dig in. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Hollywood’s past can help us understand its present. Karina Longworth shows us how.

Karina Longworth’s Hollywood history podcast, You Must Remember This, is one of the most essential shows out there for movie fans. Each week, Longworth dives into a story from the film industry’s past, revealing the truth behind legends, the hidden stories that weren’t reported at the time, and the often corrupt systems Hollywood has always been built upon. Long a terrific film critic, Longworth turned what was initially an extreme DIY operation into one of the top film podcasts. Now Longworth has brought her fascination with old Hollywood to her brand new book, Seduction. It's simultaneously the story of producer, aviator, and tycoon Howard Hughes and the many women he slept with (and often ruined the careers of). The book subverts Hughes’s playboy image, questioning just what the effect of his cruelty could be on the women he strung along — and often kept imprisoned later in his life. Longworth joins Todd this week to talk about the legacy of Hughes in Hollywood, what draws her to the stories of old Hollywood, and why it’s important to talk about how the film industry has always treated women to understand how that can be changed today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Writer Diablo Cody, on Jennifer's Body, Juno, and Jagged Little Pill (the musical)

Diablo Cody's career took off into the stratosphere when her very first produced script — 2007's quirky comedy Juno — led to a massive box office hit that also won her the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Since Juno, she's written numerous movies, including the cult favorite horror flick Jennifer's Body, the moody comedy Young Adult (one of Todd's favorite movies of the decade), and this year's twisty comedy Tully, which stars Charlize Theron as a mother of three who hires a night nanny to just get some sleep already, only to find there's more to the picture. Cody is one of our most incisive writers when it comes to gender and class, and the ways those two things intersect and diverge, especially when you're a woman who can't quite seem to make ends meet. She's also prolific in the world of television (she created the Showtime series The United States of Tara). And her very first musical, an adaptation of the Alanis Morissette album Jagged Little Pill, debuted over the summer and will soon be making its way to Broadway. Cody joins Todd to talk about the inspiration for Tully, just how many hits were on Jagged Little Pill, and what reality shows she's watching on Netflix. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


How to build a civilization from scratch

Imagine you're a time traveler whose time machine has functioned somewhere in Earth's past — after humans have evolved but before they've, say, invented language or agriculture or any of the other pillars civilization was built upon. How might you try to kickstart that process with all these hominids you keep meeting? And how would you avoid rebuilding civilization with all of the flaws of our current world? That question is the basis of Ryan North's new book How to Invent Everything, a hugely enjoyable book that really does come close to achieving what's promised in the title. (You'll even learn how to invent a computer using a river!) North is probably best known to this point as the writer of comics like Adventure Time and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, as well as the creator and writer of Dinosaur Comics, a webcomic that has run since 2003 using the exact same clip art (of dinosaurs, of course) in all six panels for 15 years. Todd and North talk about the foundations of society, what you learn writing a comic whose art doesn't change from day to day, and why the best meals are sometimes those you can never have again. Then: Todd is joined by astronauts Mae Jemison and Leland Melvin to talk about leaving behind Earth's orbit — and how we just might find humanity's future on our next-door neighbor Mars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


What great horror looks and sounds like, with the makers of The Terror and A Quiet Place

With Halloween right around the corner, we felt it's as timely as ever to revisit this episode from earlier this year. Sometimes, the scariest thing is what you don’t see onscreen. It’s a lesson taken to heart by the folks behind two of the best horror projects of the first half of 2018 — the AMC miniseries The Terror and the gigantic hit movie A Quiet Place. In this special horror showcase episode, Todd talks to Soo Hugh and David Kajganich, the showrunners and head writers of The Terror; and then with Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn, the sound designers of A Quiet Place. All four talk about how to build horror unconventionally — The Terror by starting from a real, historical event that didn’t actually involve supernatural interference (though the TV show adds a fearsome creature to chow down on stranded sailors) and A Quiet Place by stripping out almost all spoken dialogue. It’s a great time for horror, and Soo, David, Erik, and Ethan bring unique perspectives to what’s made the genre boom so much and where it might be headed. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Why Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, launched a true crime podcast

Yeardley Smith is one of the most famous women on Earth — though you might not know it if you just bumped into her somewhere, at least until she said something. See, Smith is the voice of Lisa Simpson, the precocious 8-year-old middle child of the Simpson family and the center of some of the show’s very best episodes. (“Lisa’s Substitute”! Sob!) But Smith is more than the famous kid she’s played for more than 30 years now. She’s starred in numerous films and other TV shows, including the infamous Herman’s Head (sadly, she wasn't one of the people inside Herman’s head) and the Oscar-winning film As Good as It Gets. She’s even made shoes. But it’s her most recent project that might seem most outside her wheelhouse. It’s a true crime podcast that examines crimes from the point-of-view of the people who solved them, then sends Smith and her co-host Zibby Allen to cover around the country looking into these crimes. It’s an engaging and thoughtful look at how crimes can rock tiny little towns where everybody knows everybody. Smith joins Todd this week to talk about the national fascination with true crime, her wide-ranging slate of interests, and, yes, Lisa Simpson. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Better Call Saul's showrunner tells us everything about the show's amazing finale

Few TV shows are better than AMC's Better Call Saul. But if you told that to someone in 2015, when the show debuted, they might look at you askance. Yes, the show was a spinoff from Breaking Bad, one of the most acclaimed TV shows ever made, but it was still a spinoff, a format with an oft-indistinguished legacy. It was so easy to see how this series could have gone wrong. Instead, the show's writers, led by co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, have turned Better Call Saul into a sad funhouse mirror of Breaking Bad, a show about a man who desperately kept trying to do the right thing but couldn't escape all of the people who suspected he would just do the wrong thing instead — or, for that matter, his own weakness for ethical shortcuts. Now four seasons in, Better Call Saul has traced the descent of would-be do-gooder Jimmy McGill into the sleazy, skeezy Saul Goodman in painstaking detail, but in a way that still feels distinct from Breaking Bad. So this week, in the wake of the terrific fourth season finale, Gould, now the show's sole showrunner, joins Todd to talk about the early days of crafting the show, why comedic actors are so good at drama, and why Jimmy made the choices he did in the fourth season finale. If you're not caught up, the first two-thirds of this podcast are spoiler-free — and we'll be sure to let you know before the spoilers kick in. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


The history of the American circus, with the people who worked there

The circus! At one time, it was one of the country’s most reliable forms of mass entertainment, crisscrossing American backroads to perform for people all over the nation. Everything from the circus train to the people who put up the big tent made its way into American legend. But the American circus isn’t in great shape anymore. The treatment (or mistreatment) of animals tarnished the image of the once-venerable Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which closed down in 2017 after it became economically unsustainable. And yet you can’t quite keep the circus down. There are tons of smaller shows making their mark across the country, and the new PBS documentary, The Circus, details both the history of the American circus and where it might be headed in the future. Joining Todd today are circus historian Dominique Jando and former ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson to talk about the circus’s past, present — and possible future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


BoJack Horseman's sly, funny brilliance, explained by the people who make it

This episode is a rebroadcast of an episode from 2017, but with BoJack Horseman's fifth season recently debuting, we thought it was a great time to revisit it. Todd loves few TV shows more than BoJack Horseman, Netflix's weird animated comedy about a sad horse. Its recently completed fourth season, which delved into the histories of many of the characters and talked about the roots of trauma and depression, just might be the best the series has ever done. To understand why the season was so potent, creator and showrunner Raphael Bob-Waksberg, production designer and producer Lisa Hanawalt, and supervising director Mike Hollingsworth joined Todd to talk about not just season four but also the show's evolution and where it might be headed next. They talked about balancing different kinds of jokes, making sure the audience understands the subtext, and building dramatic stakes when so much of what's happening is about the characters' emotions. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Jon Batiste, Stephen Colbert’s bandleader, on making music in New Orleans, on the subway, and on late night TV

Jon Batiste makes some of TV’s best music, night in and night out. As bandleader of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the multi-instrumentalist comes up with perfect tunes to introduce guests, to complement Colbert’s jokes, and to keep the audience hyped up. (Many of the tunes fitting that last category are Batiste originals, performed by him and his band, Stay Human.) But Batiste’s career stretches beyond late-night TV. He started out making music at a very young age in his hometown of Kenner, Louisiana, and since then, he’s recorded a whole album in and around the New York subway system, performed all over the world, and appeared semi-regularly on HBO’s series Treme. His newest album, Hollywood Africans, is a combination of Batiste originals and terrific covers of iconic songs that he’s put his own spin on. (Wait until you hear what he does with “What a Wonderful World”!) Batiste joins Todd this week to talk about choosing which classic songs he wanted to put his spin on, his day-to-day life at the Late Show, and why he loves McDonald’s. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Janet from The Good Place and Kelli from Insecure on making TV's funniest shows even funnier

We're focusing on TV scene stealers this week, as we head into a new fall season. These two performers take some of the best shows on TV and make them even better, sidling into any given scene and swiping it right out from under everybody else with a perfect one-liner or pratfall. First, we're talking with D'Arcy Carden of NBC's The Good Place and HBO's Barry. Her work as Janet (and Janet's evil twin, Bad Janet) on The Good Place is some of the funniest stuff you'll see on TV. As what amounts to a computer program running off the raw power of the universe and living in the afterlife, Janet is someone who can make cacti materialize as if from nowhere, who can vomit pennies, who can evolve slowly but surely into something almost godlike, all without breaking a sweat. And Carden's work as the character is all sunny chipperness and goofy fun. She's so good Todd listed her as creating one of his favorite performances of 2017 in an earlier podcast. Next up is Natasha Rothwell of HBO's Insecure. The series, about a group of women in their early 30s, charts the tumultuous process of becoming an adult and having to figure things out. But Kelli, the character Rothwell plays, is exactly the sort of friend who's pretty sure she already has it figured out, and she's not ashamed to tell you just what she thinks of whatever decision you just made. Rothwell is also involved in the writing process on Insecure, figuring out what's going to happen with all of the characters on the show, which makes her role in the series even more intriguing. Both women join Todd in this week's episode to talk about why they love what they do, how they got their big breaks, and why working in sketch comedy helped prepare them for some of TV's best shows. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


TV ratings, explained

The Nielsen ratings might not have as much power as they once held, but they still can decide the fate of your favorite TV show. If nobody's watching, it could be canceled. That's always been true. But what's also always been true is that the Nielsen data-gathering procedure is a little opaque and hard to understand. Don't worry, though, because we've got your back. This week, Todd and guest Joe Adalian, of New York Magazine's Vulture, take you through how the Nielsens work, how they decide which viewers to count for their statistical sample, and just how much networks still pay attention to their ratings in an era when all viewership has plummeted. (The answer is less than they used to but still more than you'd probably want them to if your favorite show has poor ratings.) Joe will also take you through the world of streaming services and how their refusal to release viewership numbers is and isn't changing the TV game, and he'll pull out some of his favorite ratings tidbits. Joe is one of the sharpest analysts of the industry, so if you just want to understand how the TV business works, this interview is a great place to start. And if you think you already know, you almost certainly don't know as much as Joe. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


One of the best TV shows of the year is a documentary about racial inequities in education

Steve James is one of the best documentary filmmakers to ever have lived. His movies examine the fault lines that underlie American society, often (but not always) those of race and class, and how those who have power often attempt to maximize the amount they wield over those who do not. His seminal 1994 film Hoop Dreams, one of the greatest movies ever made, served as a kind of calling card for his interests going forward. He was going to tell stories about what it means to grow up and to live in a country that takes certain social strata for granted. But Hoop Dreams also marked James as a filmmaker of real ambition. The film took almost eight years to make, and it required shooting 250 hours of footage. That ambition has been further realized in the new 10-part documentary America to Me, now airing on the Starz network. James and his crew trace one year in the life of a racially diverse high school in the Chicago suburbs, and along the way, they reveal some of the underlying hypocrisies in white progressivism, as well as a story of how racial inequities in education can perpetuate themselves even in a school that lauds itself for its commitment to social justice. James joins the show this week to talk about making America to Me, about his many wonderful other films, and about making movies tackling issues of race as a white filmmaker. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


How to make a movie starring the internet, with Eighth Grade director Bo Burnham

The new coming-of-age comedy Eighth Grade is one of the surprise success stories of the summer, turning a tiny story of a 13-year-old girl’s last week in the titular grade into a much larger tale of the universally awkward and cringeworthy experience of being an adolescent just trying to figure shit out. Its hero, young Kayla (played by the remarkable Elsie Fisher), deals with trying to launch her YouTube channel, with a crush that goes nowhere, and with her feelings of inadequacy when compared to more popular girls or older teens. So here’s the part where we point out that it’s somewhat remarkable the film is the product of a man, writer-director Bo Burnham, who makes his feature film directorial debut with Eighth Grade. Burnham launched his career as a teenager making funny videos on YouTube, but he’s gone on to be a hugely successful standup comedian, a director of standup specials, and an actor in numerous great movies and TV shows. But Eighth Grade marks him as an unusually empathetic and humanist director — and as perhaps the first filmmaker to really grapple with the internet not as a blessing or a scourge but as a simple fact of life. So Todd had Burnham on the show to talk about how to put the internet onscreen, what other movies get wrong about technology, and why he chose to make his first movie about a teen girl. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


The incredible true story behind Spike Lee's new movie BlacKkKlansman

The new movie BlacKkKlansman is careful to let you know very early on that, yes, its story is a true one, with a few embellishments for film. And it likely does so because said story — a black man goes undercover and becomes a trusted confidant of people in the Ku Klux Klan, including David Duke himself — would be written off as preposterous if it occurred in a fictional context. But, no, that man really existed. His name was Ron Stallworth, and as an officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department, he really did talk on the phone with local Klansmen and with Duke. And with the help of his white partner, he was able to infiltrate the organization and work to bring some of its local members down. It’s a great story that is made all the better by virtue of being true, and in both Stallworth’s book about the experience and in Lee’s film, the story becomes a way to look at both the ridiculousness and the poisonousness of American racism. Stallworth joins Todd this week to talk about seeing his life become a film, being a black police officer, and what was most changed for the movie. Then: stick around for a chat with writer-director Desiree Akhavan on her new film The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a beautiful coming-of-age story set at a fundamentalist Christian-run gay conversion therapy retreat. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices


Why the binge model doesn’t always make the best TV

There’s a reason TV critics and reporters call FX Networks president and CEO John Landgraf the “mayor of television” — and it’s not just because that’s kind of a funny title to give to somebody. Of all the executives in the TV game right now, Landgraf has a reputation as the most thoughtful about the past, present, and future of television, and his semiannual addresses to TV journalists have coined the term “Peak TV” and first raised the issue of Netflix not measuring its viewership. In this week’s episode, Landgraf joins Todd to talk about where TV is now and where it’s headed, as part of our series of conversations with the most important and insightful executives in the TV industry. He’ll also discuss which show on another network he most enjoys and what he worries the medium is losing from switching over to the binge model. Then: Todd is joined by actor Jonathan Pryce (of Game of Thrones fame) to discuss his new movie The Wife and a long, storied career, filled with notable firsts. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices