A listener named Gina weighs in on my origins:
Don’t be ashamed about being from Indiana. It’s a cultural disadvantage that can be overcome.
A listener named Ty, who sent word a while back re: the recent spate of ‘double features’ and episode length, wrote back in a guilty frame of mind, with second thoughts:
Looking back at [my previous] email I now realize I was an ass. It’s your show, you are giving it to the world for free, I just need to shut up.
(It’s okay, Ty. I wasn’t offended in the least.)
And then there’s ‘Max,’ who remains, by far and away, the podcast’s most intensive listener. He critiques every single episode, sending me lengthy, meticulous emails that he calls ‘Listi Watch.’
After listening to Episode 155 (Lenore Zion) he first offered his thoughts on the monologue (my ‘psycho-digital’ dinner party crisis) and revealed that he is, in fact, using a pseudonym:
…we, as your audience, don’t feel accountable for the things we say to you or how we say them. We can either poke you with a feather or brand you with a hot iron from behind the curtain of an email address. You, however, have a name, a career, and a reputation to uphold two times a week. We don’t have that burden. We can say whatever the hell we want to you. Listi Watch is a perfect example. My name is not Max. And I’m never as candid and abrasive with anyone as I am with you in these critiques.
He continues, urging me to grow a pair:
…you need to be a bit more ruthless as a host. Get a little more LA, and a little less Indiana. Acknowledge the fact that you are a media personality by your own volition, and assume that people who approach you are usually not who they say they are, or at least not totally….Remember, a little “fuck you” to your audience/readers goes a long way.
His thoughts on my conversation with Lenore (whom I befriended years ago, in graduate school):
…your friendship didn’t fit the interview model. It made the usual questions sound like borderline lazy insertions. It got to a point where you didn’t even bother framing questions and just tersely asked “Happy childhood?” or “Drugs? Alcohol?” Where we wanted to hear you guys talk more about queefing, you listlessly asked about her childhood.
Duly noted. My audience likes ‘queef talk.’
Max continues, dourly:
The bottom of the barrel was when you said quote, “And so what else… y’know…?” The Enlisted [Max refers to my listeners as ‘The Enlisted’] at this point were probably wondering if there was ever sexual attraction between you two. After all, you did have a cinematic introduction (drawings of cow, drawings of poop, happily ever after). Your audience then was probably wondering why all your friends are female. Or what else your “sex and poop” poems were about.
For the record, Lenore and I never had sex, though she’s quite lovely. We’ve always just been buddies.
On a brighter note, Max was far more bullish about Episode 156, my conversation with Tim Horvath:
This episode was vintage Listi. Just wonderful…Self-conscious and soft-spoken paranoia from a peripheral author during the monologue; a solidly structured interview; boom, boom, hook, line, and sinker.
He gives Episode 157 (Ayana Mathis), a decidedly mixed review:
This was a spotty episode…You knew what was interesting about this show and what wasn’t; ergo so did we. The monologue was standard fare with your reading of some mail, but the guest segment was a bit more unsteady. Ayana was lively and passionate about her work and her ideas, and this made her somewhat rambling in the interview. Just huge chunks of answers. Sometimes you dropped the leash, and it became clear you lost a little focus (and we lost interest). However, this is not to say that this was a lost episode. There were some shrewd moments that gives this show a rating of about 5/10.
He then comments on my monologue and the ‘mail’ segment in particular, taking issue with a negative letter from a listener named ‘Pie.’ Pie sent word to let me know that the show has, in his(?) opinion, lost its way, devolving into narcissistic self-obsession.
The notable piece of mail was from “Pie.” Aside from being competition to Listi Watch as the preeminent Listi Critic, we think “he’s” wrong on the issue he brought up. It shouldn’t be a self-focus vs. selflessness spectrum. How can you host a show without being self-obsessed? Howard Stern, our hero, made it clear more than anyone else, that self-obsession is a huge factor in hosting. What Pie was trying to hit on though was probably audience interest. Pie discovered that he wasn’t interested, and incorrectly thought “self-focus” was the problem. You’ve always been self-focused. The problem for him was that you were focused on the wrong things. Perhaps, to him, it was triviality in subject matter, or laziness of investigation, but it wasn’t self-focus. So ignore that.
Max elaborates some more on my conversation with Ayana Mathis:
At first glance, what we’re all thinking is, “Hmm, this could be interesting. Brad is a mild-mannered white, straight male who will be interviewing a garrulous black lesbian.” To your credit, you didn’t talk about blackness, lesbianism, Maya Angelou, or identity politics as it revolves around Oprah’s book selection process. However, problem is, we did want to hear about that. At least, we wanted to hear that you weren’t going to talk about that. We at Listi Watch also wondered why, for a black guest, you chose funky disco as the segue music from monologue to interview.
Jesus. I blushed a little when I read that. Did I really pick the ‘disco’ segue because Ayana is black? If I did, it was purely subconscious. I mean, if I’m being honest, I think I do try to match music to guest, and/or to the overall mood of the show. Is the disco number the ‘blackest’ segue music I have on hand? I guess so. But it also feels upbeat and happy, and Ayana was certainly both of those things.
Max with more on the Ayana interview (he had a lot to say about this one):
The opposition in temperament…between you and Mathis manifested almost right away. It became clear to you that your tongue-in-cheek sarcasm would have no effect on her. Your stating that you would weep if Oprah called you was met with nothing from Mathis, and your statement that Cheryl [Strayed] and Oprah would go hiking together also fell flat.
And still more:
You once again allowed yourself to have pedestrian musings on religion, as you’ve done with politics in prior episodes. I have no problem with half-stab conversations about politics and religion in general, but it does betray your show’s mission statement of interviewing authors about their lives, with the unspoken curiosity as to how those lives influenced their works. Plus it’s something that, in public, has to be done well to be sufferable.
And finally, a listener by the name of ‘peterbd’ sent an email titled ‘thoughts i had while listening to your podcast this week.’ His thoughts:
brad listi may or may not be responsible for tupac’s death
brad listi didn’t go to awp this year because he didn’t want to deal with the paparazzi
louis ck’s upcoming comedy special is called oh my god. brad listi says ‘oh my god’ at the beginning of all his podcasts. somebody’s gettin sued
brad listi has a great speaking voice. he probably wakes up each morning and says ‘i have a great fucking speaking voice’
i wonder if ric ross listens to other people before or after his midday snack
does brad listi realize that alt lit is illuminati propaganda created by tao lin that’s carried out by steve roggenbuck?
i like listening to brad listi’s podcast because it’s a podcast and i feel obligated to listen to it
jonathan franzen is probably a violent drunk. brad listi is probably the type of drunk that says ‘i love you bro’
other people is a beach house song. other people is the name of brad listi’s podcast. somebody’s gettin sued
brad listi is most likely a great dancer but likes to hide it because he’s humble
we all have a little brad listi inside of us all. we just have to be brave enough to show it
mira gonzalez is a bad influence on brad listi
You’re right, Peter: I’m an incredible dancer.
And: I think that’s it for this week. As always, if you have something you wanna say— thoughts on the show, random asides, a story to tell, etc.—you can email me here.