Crooked Insights: Pod Save America at the Michigan Theater
I am one of the people who couldn’t get enough of political podcasts during the 2016 presidential election. That is how I found my way to the podcast Keepin’ It 1600, hosted by Washington insiders Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, and Daniel Pfeiffer. In January 2017, the hosts of that show started Pod Save America, a show about current United States politics and it impacts on the American people as a part of Crooked Media, their network that now hosts five podcasts and written work from several contributors. Through their work, they hope to inform people from their progressive point of view about the current political landscape while entertaining their audience and inspiring them to become personally involved in the political process. Based on the crowd outside of the Michigan Theater on Friday, Oct. 6, the Pod Save America team inspired people to leave the comfort of their homes to see the foursome in action.
“We basically elected a less talented version of Kim Kardashian.” --Jon Favreau
Due to demand, there were two shows that evening, as the first one sold out quickly. I was surprised to see a line outside the theater that rivaled the lines outside of nearby bars. I was also surprised that audience members were asked to open their bags for inspection and we were scanned with a metal-detecting wand. I never go into the Michigan Theater expecting to see a crowd that might best be described as borderline raucous. This audience consisted of excited fans of the show, or as the podcasters might call them, “Friends of the Pod.” Enough murmurs and noises of agreement came from the crowd that it was, at times, difficult to catch the words coming from the stage. While there was some age diversity among the attendees, the audience overall was young enough that the auditorium smelled a little like walking past an Abercrombie & Fitch in the mall. I wondered who these people were as I looked around. These young people’s clothes looked as if their mothers had carefully ordered them from catalogs that sell well-made wardrobe staples. Political columnist and culture critic Ana Marie Cox joined the Pod Save America hosts on stage. Cox hosts her own podcast With Friends Like These, which is about uncomfortable conversations among people about divisive topics. Her rapport with the others onstage was so smooth that I briefly wondered if she was a regular on the podcast whom I had somehow forgotten. “The president’s a douchebag.” --Jon Lovett
The show opened with a discussion on the failure of its opponents to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the possible legislative reactions to come. The discussion then progressed to the recent news about the Trump administration’s decision to roll back the Obama-era rule that requires employer-sponsored insurance to cover contraception without co-pays. That the podcast is unabashedly progressive tells you everything you need to know about the hosts' takes on these events. But it’s their delivery and humor that made the live show a fun evening out. "There’s no such thing as an ironic Nazi.” --Jon Lovett The Pod Save America team often interviews a guest. This second show’s guest was Abdul El-Sayed, a young physician and internationally recognized public health expert who is mounting a campaign to become Michigan’s next governor. (The first show’s guest was Debbie Stabenow.) El-Sayed talked about his personal history as a child of Egyptian immigrants who came to the United States seeking opportunity. Then he spoke passionately about the public health issues that he sees as big problems for the state of Michigan, topics ranging from the opioid epidemic to the significant difference in life expectancy between the Ann Arbor area and the Detroit area. "Everyone is someone’s loved one." --Abdul El-Sayed Despite how late it was, the majority of the audience stayed in place through the Q&A. There were playful questions like, for example, one about who the group thought would be the next to exit the current administration (short answer: Rex Tillerson). Other questions were more serious including one about how to have difficult conversations with someone whose mind you’re trying to change about political issues (short answer: listening and compassion). The highlight of the Q&A period, however, was when a gentleman approached the microphone and introduced himself as the person who created Jon Lovett’s Wikipedia page. If nothing else, these podcasters have, indeed, moved their audience to action.
Sherlonya Turner is the manager of the Youth & Adult: Services & Collections Department at the Ann Arbor District Library. She can be found diving headfirst into all sorts of projects over at sherlonya.net.
The "Pod Save America" shows at Michigan Theater were recorded and will soon appear on all podcast platforms and crooked.com.
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