Skip to content
August 24, 2017
The Tim Ferriss Show Ep. #259: Lessons from 50,000 Interviews: Larry King and Cal Fussman
- Special Edition – Cal Fussman interviewing Larry King
- Tim wants Cal to start a podcast
- Larry King has spent 60 years on the air, interviewing more than 60,000 poeple
- Larry always loved the radio and used to listen constantly as a kid
- He moved to Miami in his 20s after receiving some advice that they had a big radio market down there, lots of stations, and some older people who would be retiring. He thought it would be a good place to get his start.
- Larry went around to radio stations asking for jobs
- He recalls one station, WAHR, that let him shadow some announcers, and eventually gave him his own show (9am-12pm) in 1957
- Larry’s original name was “Larry Zeiger”. 12 minutes before going on the air for the first time, one of his bosses suggested he use the name “Larry King” after seeing an ad for “King’s Wholesale Liqours” in the Miami Herald, as “Zeiger” was too ethnic. His name is now legally changed.
- He recalls being very nervous during his first broadcast. He later learned that, no matter what, be yourself. When you do that, you bring the audience into your circumstance. You put the audience into your shoes.
- “If you’re going to do a public speech, and you’re scared, get up and tell them you’re scared. Bring them into your situation.”
Controlling Your Environment
- “The secret for my longevity, is the love of what I do. I may have an unhappy day at home, things may not go right, but when that light goes on, I control my environment.”
- One of Cal’s fears of doing a podcast is not being able to control a live interview
- Larry – You have to trust yourself, you can’t have any doubt. If you do this, and love communicating, you’ll control the interview.
Be in the Moment
- What Larry has tried to do his whole career, is be in the moment
- If he had interviewed Al Pacino yesterday, and had an interview with Barack Obama tomorrow, he’d be focused on the here and now, whoever is in front of him
- He never relistens to any of his interviews because he trusts that he’s in the moment
When Beauty Calls
- One night, Larry had to do the all night show at the station, from midnight to 6am
- During the night, the phone rang, Larry picked it up and a sexy woman voice said “I want you”
- She told Larry to come over to her house. The woman stated she had to work at 6am, so Larry would have to leave the station while still on the air.
- Larry put on a 23 minute Harry Belefonte record, and left the station
- He gets to her house, and notices she has the radio on, tuned to Larry’s station
- The Harry Belefonte record ends up getting stuck, and Larry has to drive as fast as he can back to the station
Don’t Fall Asleep on the Air
- At one point, Larry was working 3 jobs (radio host, TV show host, and Miami beach dog track announcer)
- One particular day, he was running on very little sleep during his radio show
- He ended up falling asleep on the air
- Someone listening to the radio heard him snoring, and called the fire department who ended up coming, and breaking down the doors
- The GM of the station was about to fire Larry because of it, but Larry came up with a brilliant “excuse”, saying he was attempting to check the reaction of the Miami Beach Fire and Rescue Department, which saved him his job
Curiosity, Listening, and Questions
- Larry has always been curious
- Listening is as important as what you’re asking, so don’t worry about your next question
- “Sometimes the simplest question is the best”
- Larry has a pet peeve about sports reporters asking horrible questions during interviews
- Larry teaches a course based off his book How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Cimmunication
- Larry aims for an intimate relationship with his guest. Frank Sinatra told him “You make the camera disappear.”
- “If the guest will trust you, you’re home”
- You can’t make judgments in your questions. All we want is information, don’t bring an agenda to the interview. The goal is just to learn. This is why Larry never argues in his interviews.
The Death of the Long Form Interview
- Interviews nowadays are much shorter, they don’t go nearly as in depth. We’re losing knowledge and intimacy. The podcast is all we have left.
- Larry describes the New York Times as his bible
- Technology brings improvements, but it brings bad things too.
- Questions are becoming more important, as answers are now abundant.
- Larry – “Ask more questions rather than say things. I never learned anything while I was talking”
- “Never do what doesn’t work for you,” You have to be in the moment, listening is as important as asking.
- Be sincere and zero in
- “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to talk about what they do”
- The tone in which you ask questions is very important
Rapid Fire Questions
- If you could have a gigantic billboard, what would it say? – Slow down, or ban all guns
- Book gifted most? – The Catcher in the Rye. Larry says he’s read it 4 times, and the meaning keeps changing.
- 3 Books that have most impacted his life – The Catcher in the Rye, Lou Gehrig: A Quiet Hero, Richard Nixon: The Life
- He’s currently reading Richard Nixon: The Life, Nevertheless: A Memoir, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign
- In the last 5 years, what new belief or behavior has influenced your life? – “The more I exist, the less I believe in.” He doesn’t believe in God or life after death. “This is it,” he’s in the moment. The thing he fears most is death, because he can’t imagine not existing.
- What purchase of $100 or less in last 6 months has most positively impacted your life? – As a child it was a yo-yo, because he couldn’t master it, so it drove him crazy. Also when he was younger, one of the biggest thrills of his life, was a ticket to Ebbet’s Field. Larry hates how nowadays, everything is digital (tickets etc.), he prefers hard copies.
- What advice would you give to a college senior, about to enter the real world? And what advice would you give to a smart, aggressive 30 year old? – To the college senior – “If you have a goal, don’t give up. If you think you can do it, you can do it. If you think you can’t do it, you can’t.” For the 30 year old, he would tell them something similar.
- Any failures that set him up for later success? – “We learn more from losing than from winning.” His love of broadcasting has hindered him in other areas. He was a better worker than a father. Larry describes himself as 83 physically, but 17 mentally. “You know what keeps me going, I wonder what I want to do when I grow up.”
- He loves a quote – “The only thing I know, is I don’t know”
- What are bad recommendations you hear in your expertise? – That you don’t need college
- What is an unusual habit or absurd thing you love? – He tries to total up words in a phrase or a sentence, and then divide it to get an even number. For example “True Love divided by 2, is 4”. Also, his prescription pills have to be laid out in order in the closet, and he always has to take them in the same order. Larry says he’s very organized, and dirorganized people annoy him.
- In the last 5 years, have you become better at saying no to distractions, invitations, etc. ? – No! He says he doesn’t like rejection, and doesn’t like to reject others.
- What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? – His career, all the jobs he’s taken. The discipline in his work.
- When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or lose your focus temporarily, what do you do? – He gets lost in sports. He feels sorry for people who aren’t sports fans. Larry finds joy in the wonder of who will win.
- One thing on his bucket list? – He wants to do a Larry King Broadway show, where he tells his stories on stage.