Thursday, February 7, 2008

Local writer Mark Bazer attempts to revive the lost art of discussion with “The Interview Show”

by Ben Madeska

Much like letter writing and online civility, interviewing is rapidly becoming a lost art. While Letterman and Leno gamely soldier on, it’s clear that most of their guests are only there to plug their latest project rather than to engage in actual conversations that may be (gasp!) unscripted. With this in mind, Chicago-based humor writer and Red Eye staple Mark Bazer bravely begins “The Interview Show” at the Hideout this Friday. Mixing interviews with performances, Bazer hopes to recapture some of the magic of the classic talk shows. "I've watched a few videos of the ‘Dick Cavett Show’ and was impressed with the way he balanced the funny and the serious in conversations that were spontaneous, real and a lot of fun," Bazer says.

The concept of “The Interview Show” developed gradually for Bazer, growing out of CUT HERE FOR MORE his years of professional experience, "[it] seemed a nice mix of the things I have been doing -- writing and occasionally performing humor and then also freelancing serious pieces." He notes the appeal of the think-on-your-feet atmosphere, which he calls "the opposite of writing," in that you only have a few seconds to come up with something funny and interesting.

“The Interview Show” will not simply be a showcase for comedians and performers; it will also feature people from all walks of life. "I’d love for every show to be an interesting mix of people,” Bazer says. And that is certainly the case for the inaugural show. Bazer will interview popular Chicago comedian Hannibal Buress, Justin Kaufmann of the sketch comedy group Schadenfreude, novelist John Green, and CEO and president of Lifeway Foods Julie Smolyansky. Also airing will be Maegan Carberry’s “Videos from the Campaign Trail.”

Expect the show to be pretty free-form, as Bazer hopes to keep a light touch on the proceedings. There will be the usual couch and desk, with guests having 20 to 30 minutes to discuss whatever topics come up. These segments will be interspersed with performances, readings, magic, videos and other spontaneous goings on. With many of the guests hailing from the city, the show will typically have a Chicago bent, but there will be no set agenda and Bazer plans to engage his guests on a wide variety of topics.

Explaining his goals for the show, Bazer recounts his experiences as an interviewee on John Williams’ WGN radio show. "I've also really admired the way [he] can make a guest feel comfortable to say what's on his mind, to be himself, to open up,” Bazer says. “That kind of skill is something I'd love to learn someday -- in the meantime, I hope I can get my guests to open up through being really, really awkward."

Check out Mark Bazer and “The Interview Show” on Friday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hideout, (1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433);