I’ve been a fan of Pod Save America (and Crooked Media) since their first podcast with President Barack Obama when they did his last interview before he left office. The podcast is described as,
A political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane…a no-bullshit conversation about politics hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor that breaks down the week’s news and helps people figure out what matters and how to help.
That’s directly from the Crooked Media website, and I couldn’t have summed it up any better. These guys are smart, thoughtful, committed and funny as hell and they have kept me from sticking my head in the oven and helped me navigate the days since Trump took office. When I knew that the shit I was hearing from the White House didn’t make sense, or I didn’t understand how things in the West Wing* usually work, they explained. So when they announced a Miami stop on “Pod Tours America,” a live show of the podcast, I wanted to go.
*My only frame of reference for the West Wing is the TV show “The West Wing,” and my other favorite podcast, “The West Wing Weekly,” hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina.
Not only were they doing “Pod Save America,” there was a second show in Miami, “Lovett or Leave It.” Jon Lovett is smart and hilarious and does his podcast live every Friday night, usually in Los Angeles, and I often start my Saturday when the podcast becomes available. PSA is the more serious show, although it certainly has funny moments, especially when Lovett is on. Lovett’s show is my comic relief for the week. My husband and I bought tickets for both.
The shows were held in the Olympia Theater, a historic theater in Miami on April 6, 2018. On a side note, my husband works with a man who remembers going to that theater as a child. It was a movie theater back then, and he said they would pay a nickel to get in and spend most of the day there, watching cartoons, news, movies, etc.
First up was “Pod Save America” with the entire cast plus “Friend of the Pod,” contributor Akilah Hughes. There was a photo opp for a leadership group from a local Miami High school and Marco Rubio made an appearance (just kidding! But a giant Marco head did show up on stage.) Two seniors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Diego Pfeiffer and Delaney Tarr, were the guests.
The show was fantastic. A deep dive was taken into the news of the day (Trump, Scott Pruitt, Trump) and there was a great discussion about how Governor Rick Scott (boos were loud) has changed his politics as he readies for a run for the senate against long time Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who actually cares about his constituents and what happens to us. Marco Rubio was also discussed/made fun of.
Another segment was about news that was under the radar. Tommy Vietor’s passionate response to this question was a rant about Donald Trump and his recent attack on the caravan of immigrants moving towards the U.S. This was started by his getting erroneous information from the “entertainment show” Fox & Friends. Tommy said, “This is why I hate him (Donald Trump)…when he pounds on the people who have it the worst, he reveals his true character.” I love Tommy – he was President Obama’s National Security Spokesman and has his own terrific podcast on foreign affairs called “Pod Save the World.”
When the MSD students came on stage, they were given a well deserved standing ovation, and Tommy Vietor and Dan Pfeiffer did a fine job interviewing them. It was truly inspiring.
As regular listeners of the pod know, the live shows tend to borrow a bit from “Lovett or Leave It,” specifically some of the games. This show did that, playing “Okay Stop” where they roll a film clip and the panelists shout out “okay stop” and comment on what they just heard. This one was a clip from Fox News featuring Tucker Carlson talking about the YouTube shooting and how the left wing media didn’t focus on the gun because it was just a handgun and didn’t fit their narrative. He neglected to point out that it was most likely because it was a handgun that the only death was that of the shooter by suicide. They also played a game with a member of the audience, Emily, a student at Florida Southern College. Once she said, “Go, Mocs” Jon Lovett lost his shit and thought she was cheering for shoes, and that started a whole discussion about water moccasins, what they are, school mascots, etc. and was pretty funny.
The show ended with a short Q&A from the audience, which doesn’t generally air on the podcast. They allowed the first three people who could get to the microphone to ask questions. Someone asked how to replicate fantastic schools like MSD. Unfortunately, there was no good answer to that. One, dare I say it, older lady, ran down there. She introduced herself an another kind of “senior” and a Broward County teacher, and asked about FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007. His son was one of her students. Despite the fact that it was over ten years ago, Tommy Vietor took that question, had all the available facts at his fingertips, and spoke eloquently and compassionately about what happened, the little that they knew, and how he wished they could have handled it better. I was impressed by his candor and depth of knowledge about something that happened so long ago.
I am a baby boomer and all these guys are millenials, as is most of their audience. I could probably count on both hands the number of boomers in the audience. I couldn’t help but feel like I may not quite be the past yet, but these guys are definitely the present and along with the students from MSD, they are the future. Knowing there are such smart people invested in what is going on in this country today and are revving up for tomorrow leaves me feeling hopeful. Hope and change, I still believe.
“Lovett or Leave It” was the late show. To be honest, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been to the earlier show, there was too much repetition. That said, I adore Jon Lovett, despite his disparaging baby boomer comments over the past year and his one time negative comment about libraries. I have forgiven, but obviously not forgotten. Bottom line is he makes me laugh out loud and I think he’s brilliant. His show is always irreverent, and this was no exception.
The format of the show is different from PSA. Lovett is the host and he always has three guest panelists on. Lately, he has taken to announcing really unlikely, often bizarre people as guests, like Scott Pruitt, before introducing the actual guests and that is always good for some boos and some laughs before the panelists appear. The guests for this show were Natasha Del Toro, who made a documentary called “Wasteland,” an in depth look at Scott Pruitt, Alicia Menendez, a contributing editor at Bustle and Akilah Hughes made a return appearance after doing the first show. It was a good panel but I was hoping that maybe Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum would have made an appearance.
Lovett is much more laid back and casual than PSA. The format of the show always starts with “What a Week,” a recap of all the insanity of the news of the week. It is almost always overwhelming to go through seven days in Trump’s America.
The rest of the show is divided into different games. There are regulars, like “Okay Stop” which made an appearance on this show as well, featuring another Fox News film clip featuring Fox & Friends presidential fave, Steve Doocy (has anyone ever been more aptly named?) Doocy raved about white privilege, bringing on an African American man to discuss so they could have a completely racist discussion but it was okay because the guest was black? One of the panelists (Akilah?) pointed out that it was really a waste because the entire Fox & Friends audience probably turned it off once the “token” made his appearance. Most of the film clips for this game are from Fox News. It’s just easy pickings.
Other games included a new one called “Would More Paper Towels Help?” about Trump’s complete mishandling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and a special for Miami edition about climate change called “Welcome to Waterworld,” where the tide rises to flood Miami if the panel gets the wrong answers. The show always ends with “The Rant Wheel,” and where it lands, rants begin. Topics are on the wheel included the film, “Blockers,” Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Border Invasion, Driverless Car Deaths and more. The panel actually ranted about most of the topics but usually only 4 or so make it to the podcast – I’m curious to see which ones do. Judging by the Lovett rants on the movie and driverless cars, I’d bet on those two for sure.
If I may be permitted my own minor rant for Jon Lovett – in case your mother didn’t tell you (yes, his parents were in the audience,) sit up! Stop slouching and sit in your chair like a grown up. You’re on stage in front of hundreds of people, have a little respect. Rant over.
It was a really fun night and I’m so glad we got to go to both shows. It all sort of ran together for me a bit, so I apologize for any erroneous attributions or anything I got wrong. I borrowed some of these photos from the Crooked Media website and Twitter.
After seeing the live show, I’m even more excited for the upcoming HBO Pod Save America specials. There are more live shows coming up, check out the Tour page for more info and how to buy tickets.