We've gone through our favorite albums, TV shows, subway moments, feature stories, brunch hate reads and more to close out 2016. But with a slow and shortened work week between Christmas and New Year's, it's the perfect time to catch up on some of the best long and shortform interviews we did this year. Below, check out our interviews with Jack Douglas, Gloria Steinem, Patton Oswalt, Robert Caro, Tommy Wiseau, Jonathan Safran Foer, and more luminaries from 2016.
Gloria Steinem: We caught up with Steinem before the annual 2016 Sackler Center First Awards to get her perspective on the perils of a Trump presidency, what young women should be fighting for, and why Beyoncé is a feminist icon.
Not only are women as a group rebelling but also, in very short order, the country is not going to be a majority white country anymore, which is of course tied up with women rebelling. They just feel there’s what they assume to be a natural hierarchy shifting under their feet. So it is a time of danger. But it’s not something that is so unexpected.
Scott Dikkers: We sat down with comedy writer Dikkers, one of the co-founders of The Onion and author of Trump's America: The Complete Loser's Guide, to discuss Trump's meteoric rise, his chances in the general election, and the state of satirical news today. (Note: this interview took place in May.)
I knew it all along. That's why I did the book. There was just never any question to me that [Trump] was at least going to get the nomination, and I frankly think he's going to beat Hillary Clinton if she's the nominee. I think he's going all the way.
Jack Douglas: We had a four-part series of interviews with Douglas, the record producer who helped guide the likes of John Lennon, Aerosmith, and countless other musicians and bands. In part one, he talked about his lifelong relationship with Lennon; in part two, he talked in detail about the the night Lennon was killed; in part three, he shared stories about his time with the Who, Miles Davis, the New York Dolls, the Isley Brothers, and more; and in part four, he told us about working with Aerosmith, a band in which he's considered the sixth member.
So I asked John [Lennon], “You know, of all these different people, you could have had..." and that look he would give me, the look if you’re getting insecure about something. And I said, “Look, why me? Why am I producing this record?” And he said, “Don’t you know? You should know why.” And I said, “No” and he went like this to me [Douglas puts his hands above his head]. And I said, “What’s that?” and he said, “Good antenna." He said, “I don’t have to say much. I know you’re ahead of me. You have an idea of what the flow is, what I’m looking for. You know I’m impatient, you know that if things get caught up I get angry, I can’t take it. It flows. It moves. If we get stuck on a song, you get off it and move on to another. Then you move on to the right one, the right order. That’s why.”
Jack Douglas with John Lennon and Yoko Ono (Jack Douglas)
Ethan Brown: Brown, author of the true-crime book Murder on the Bayou, told us about how being a club kid in New York led him to become an investigative journalist, how the news industry and the changing city drove him to move to New Orleans and become a private investigator, and about his new book on police corruption and a series of unsolved murders of sex workers in small-town southern Louisiana.
I for much of the '90s was a big club person, like the whole Gatien empire stuff: the Limelight, the Tunnel, all of that. I was really heavily going out to clubs, and one night I was robbed at a club in a very methodical fashion. I had all of my stuff taken, and I asked around to people in the club scene about who may have done it, and they said that there was an organized gang that went around robbing raves and nightclubs, called Brooklyn Terror Squad. I thought, "Wow, that's really interesting."
Tommy Wiseau: We spoke to the actor/director/producer/screenwriter/chicken impersonator about his disasterpiece, The Room, industry credibility, stand-up comedy, and being misunderstood by the public.
I personally think The Room is a unique movie, something different, and it’s sometimes difficult to digest it. You as a new audience for example. I’ve been in many events and I see some of the audience, some are not comfortable, but ironically speaking, we have new audiences all the time. So it’s something unique. If I’m outside it, I don’t know about The Room and see it for the first time, I also question too, "God, what’d this guy make," you know? At the same time maybe I'd think hey, maybe I should yell at the screen and throw a spoon or a football, and this is the thing: we forget about how we interact with the people, you know? And I think it’s very disrespectful that some of the critique like I say, not just the critique but some of the people trying to take advantage of The Room and they don’t understand, they actually don’t know what they talk about, basically.
Henry Rollins: We squeezed as much information as we could out of Rollins—the former Black Flag frontman-turned-spoken word artist, actor, podcaster, columnist—before the release of his latest movie, The Last Heist.
I think the political ends are being conduced presently to aid old moneymakers: Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Big Oil. And everyone else they just get caught up in a fracking nightmare, where you see someone field-strip a cigarette, you know, they rub it between your index finger and your thumb and basically disintegrate it. That’s what’s being done to American natural resources and the American middle class. And these people are just getting field-stripped, by not only their politicians, but the people who buy and pay for them: your Koch brothers, your Sheldon Adelsons, all these politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Robert Caro: The great reporter and author of The Power Broker took a break from working on his latest book to talk about how his time at the NYPL helped him during a dark period of his life, why the decisions Robert Moses made are still gridlocking New York, and what he misses most about being a newspaper reporter. (We also got to introduce him to the wonders of Chartbeat.)
You’re not saying in every story, power comes from being elected, but your whole work as a political reporter is based on the premise that power in a democracy comes from being elected. And here’s a guy who has never been elected to anything and he has more power than anyone who was elected, and he has more power than the mayor and any governor or any mayor or governor put together—look, he’s built the whole landscape of your life.
So I thought I was going to do that in a newspaper series. I was gonna need months to do this, how am I gonna get them to do months? It was just too big, I was gonna have to do a book, but I thought I’d be done with the book in nine months.
Chris Gethard: The veteran stand-up comedian and podcaster told us about his one-man show Career Suicide, in which he dives deeper into the mental struggles that have helped shape his comedy.
I know I’m painting this whole interview as though I’m a weird puppet democracy under the dictatorial rule of Mike Birbiglia. I promise not. [The show] obviously deals with some depression stuff and I talk about some experiences with suicidal thoughts and situations. Trying to build one of the bigger things you’ve ever done in your career around the idea of suicide is, in itself, career suicide. To put the rest of my creative pursuits on hold to get on stage and talk about depression for an hour, it’s not always the most appealing topic to people but I think it’s one that’s worth talking about and I’m happy to get in there and go for it.
Robert Downey Sr.: On the eve of a Film Forum retrospective, Downey Sr. discussed his influence on Paul Thomas Anderson and Louis CK, anti-Hollywood ethos, and the wisdom he gained from fifty years of filmmaking.
It was all about not trying to repeat myself, even if i do. One thing I’ve learned after sixty-something years of doing this shit is if you have a leading character—I usually don’t, but if you do - always make sure they are in a hurry. It helps the writing.
Oddisee: Oddisee, a Sudanese-American MC and beatmaker working in the lineage of jazzy, socially-engaged hip-hop, talked to us about his new music, neighborhood politics, and the hard work needed to know yourself.
I don't even think Trump's a racist. Trump's a Capitalist. And being from Washington D.C. and seeing the nature of Capitalism, that man will say anything he can to anyone to get in. Will he actually do any of those things? Odds are he won't. But he'll tell you whatever you want to hear to get what he wants.
I’ll give Bush credit—if he was going to carry out a Biblical apocalypse, he’d actually do it by the book. Trump’s Biblical apocalypse would be sloppy—and he only read the first couple paragraphs—and fall apart and reformulate and the demons would end up getting pissed off. Like, the whole thing would suck. It’s just mediocre! It’s mediocre shittiness. It makes me miss the competent shittiness of George W. Bush.
Hillary and Bill Clinton, 1992 (Courtesy Harry Benson)
Harry Benson: We talked to the legendary photographer, whose photos have helped tell the story of the last sixty years, from The Beatles touching down in America to Nixon's rise and fall, from the Watts riots to the dark hours following Martin Luther King's assassination.
New York is a great backdrop for everything I do, everything is here. Every neighborhood has got something to it. It's just a wonderful place, and a good place even if you're lonely. Meaning, if you look in the newspaper you will see somebody is having a lecture tonight. And I think it would be somebody very interesting. And you can go there. And you can go and have a little coffee or something with different people, and you can make friends. There's always a coffee shop across the road. And most important, there's always a plumber in your building
Butch Vig: Vig, a member of Garbage and producer of Nirvana's Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream as well as other '90s touchstones, talked about his long career, summers in Madison with David Lynch, and what Nirvana's In Utero might have sounded like if he produced it.
But I realized pretty quickly that sometimes the biggest part of the production is the psychological aspect. You need to get a band comfortable, and it's up to me to figure out what their vision is and help them get there. But I have to motivate them, and I have to get them to let their guard down. Sometimes I have to convince them to try things out of the box that they aren't necessarily comfortable with and let them discover if it's good or not. And a lot of times, even if it's an idea I come up with, I want them to think it's their idea. If it's something I want to hear in an arrangement or an idea in a song, I don't really care if I take a credit. At the end of the day, I just want the performance to be good and the song to have a certain thing. Most producers I think would say that a lot of it is psychological. You've got to figure out how to get inside the band's head a little bit.
Cristela Alonzo: We spoke to Alonzo, the first Mexican-American woman to have her own network show, about growing up Latina, her work with nonprofit Define American, and how comedy can trick people into becoming more tolerant.
From day one, you have Trump saying that Mexicans are rapists and for a lot of Latino or Mexican kids, this is the first time they've heard their nationality addressed on TV. And look at the way it's being addressed.
When people vilify immigrants, they don't even bother to find out why they came here. No one wants to leave their home. If things were great, do you think they'd leave their homes? People come here because there are civil wars, there's starvation, there's poverty.
Jena Friedman: Former Daily Show producer and Letterman writer Jena Friedman generated laughter and terror all at once while discussing her special, American Cunt.
There was a guy I talked to on an hour long flight, he had supported Bernie in the primaries and wasn't planning on voting in the election. He later emailed me to say that after our conversation he was going to vote for Hillary, so that was encouraging. I felt bad for ambushing a captive audience but he didn't seem to mind.
Jonathan Safran Foer: Safran Foer discussed his latest novel Here I Am, disasters both real and imagined, and whether or not he and his books are experiencing any growing pains.
I'm not in the river of feedback. I don’t use Twitter. I still read stuff, but I don't go online. So I mean, I know everyone seems to have an opinion about everything in the world right now, but I’m happily oblivious to them.
And a few more worth your time: Jason Sudeikis talked about meeting and playing Joe Biden; Against Me's Laura Jane Grace got into her new memoir; Chuck Klosterman discussed his latest book and grieving celebrities in public; Sandra Bernhard talked about why Brooklyn terrifies her almost as much as Citi Bikes do; former poet laureate Billy Collins on "blindsiding" people with poetry in everyday life; and Girls writer and executive producer Jenni Konner on the evolution of the show.