Kanye West was on the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), which is likely the biggest interview podcast on the planet. Kanye didn’t do any interviews for a long time before coming on the JRE.
My expectations and those of many others were high. Unfortunately the interview doesn’t live up to my expectations. Here are some thoughts on why this is the case:
Did Rogan do a bad job as interviewer?
No, he did the best he could. He did the best that anybody could. It is often times annoying to listen to Kanye jumping from one topic to another all the while making these huge statements about life, society, humanity, the past and the future. Here is an example for the grandiosity of Kanye’s thought:
So, you hear Kanye rambling on and on for sometimes 10 to 15 minutes in a row. I would’ve liked to hear specific statements explained in more detail. And Rogan tries to do just that. He states exactly that several times. He tries to get into the specifics of what Kanye says but Kanye is very resistent in laying out detailed, logical arguments for his statements. Maybe that’s just the way he is: a more impulsive, emotional man and less of a rational thinker.
Would I or anybody else do a better job?
Probably not. If you interrupt somebody like Kanye and force a narrative and your set of questions on him, then you run the risk of upsetting him and him walking out on you or he stays but it just doesn’t work because he doesn’t function like that. You would want him to go from A to B to C. But maybe his mind can naturally only go from A to F to Ɣ to B to Ω and that’s it because proposition C is not even his book. You see that those two are not compatible.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy we got this 3 hour unedited “interview” with him. We see an original, creative mind at work for 3 hours straight. Though the interviews does show what a challenge it is to have a regular podcast interview with somebody like Kanye. The challenge lies in guiding the guest and the listener through the interview in a clear and understandable way. Here are 3 tips on how to do that:
3 tips for guiding guests through interviews
- Ask one clear question at a time.
Joe sometimes ask several different questions at a time. The guest then either wants to answer all questions at a time or one after the other. Both is too hard for a casual podcast interview.
- Guide the guest through the interview with a story in mind.
I always have a possible story for the interview thought out before I even begin the interview. As part of my research I lay out 20-40 questions that have an overarching theme to them. Simple example: From the past to the present to the future. More specific: Why did you start you company? What does your startup do and how is it going? How will the future of the startup look like?. But: Don’t force your story on the guest! If the guest opens up other routes, then prioritize the authenticity of your encounter with the guest over your prepared story.
- Interrupt the guest kindly to clarify things.
99% of what Kanye told Rogan needs to be clarified. His thoughts are not self-evident. Sometimes you need to insist on further clarification. You may feel stupid at first but it is for the best of the interviewer, the guest and the listener. When you insist on crystal clear explanations, then everybody involved silently agrees to what has been said. You don’t have to share the opinion of the guest but at least it needs to be clear what exactly is being discussed.
Here are suggestions for “nice interrupting”:
“Can I pause you for a second here?”
“Excuse me, could you please clarify X?”
“Not everybody listening is an expert in this like you are, so could you please explain what X means?”
“I would love to dig deeper into what you’re about to say but let’s spend a moment on talking about X first.”