In the introduction to All I Did Was Ask, Terry Gross mentions interviewing Gene Simmons of KISS for Fresh Air. It was an interview she expected to be fun, but instead it was, Gross says, “confrontational.” I just finished listening to the interview and confrontational is indeed how I would describe it, along with offensive.
But it got me thinking about the reading we did this week about the need to establish rapport in interviews. I would argue that, given what she had to work with, Gross did a mostly excellent job.
One minute in, Simmons uses sexual innuendo at Gross’ expense, but she continues with her questions about his stage makeup. When it’s clear this is leading nowhere, she moves on, and eventually gets him to speak without being quite so horrible about his childhood in Israel and then in a yeshiva in the U.S. She even manages to get a poignant moment when he describes seeing exciting aspects of American culture on TV and wishing he was part of that world instead of the very religious world he felt stuck in.
Gross does call Simmons out on his “obnoxious” attitude — repeatedly. It’s a reminder that an interview is a two-way street and that both parties ought to feel respected. Either party could have quit at a number of different moments, but neither did. This begs the question: how much disrespect is too much? At what point is the potential poignant moment no longer worth it?