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Staying On Paul Schrader’s Good Side, With Stephen Rodrick

Paul Schrader attends the "Oh, Canada" press conference ahead of the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2024 in Cannes, France.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

At some level, I imagine that a person would have to be a good hang to write a good magazine profile. I myself have never really done that, although I did talk to John Tesh for 45 minutes about "Roundball Rock" one time. But Drew has done it, many times, and talking to him for roughly one hour every week is one of the highlights of my working life. Obviously everyone involved is playing their parts, but the baseline level of grace and charm required to play that part is more or less the same thing that makes a person fun to talk to at a party, or on a podcast.

This week's episode provides additional anecdotal evidence to this effect: We welcomed ace profile writer Stephen Rodrick to discuss the various irascible and troubled people he has written about for various publications. Rodrick has been a favorite of Drew's and mine for a while, and the profiles he's written during his stint at Variety have increasingly felt targeted directly at my own personal interests and manias. When he published his profile of Paul Schrader earlier this month, in a sort of sequel to this all-timer from the set of Schrader's The Canyons, it felt like this had to happen. Longtime listeners know that it's a struggle for me not to bring up Schrader in some way on every episode; this week, that wasn't a problem.

But while we did talk about America's best-loved ultra-dyspeptic ex-Calvinist filmmaker somewhat, we spent more time talking about the strange and slippery form within which Rodrick makes his living. Profiles are strange things in a bunch of ways—not just in terms of the way they require writers like Stephen to hang out in Johnny Depp's Problem Drinking Chateau on vampire hours for a week, but existentially—and we discussed both his experiences writing about famous people in famous publications and the peculiar nature of that work more broadly. So: a little bit about Rudy Giuliani, and a little bit about the experience of writing about Rudy Giuliani back when he seemed like a viable presidential candidate, and, because I couldn't let it pass, also a little bit about Rudy Giuliani's iconic radio meltdown at a ferret enthusiast back when he was still sort of America's Mayor and not yet America's Careening Slapstick Crime Elder. Rodrick was a great sport throughout; his list of his worst takes/angles alone is worth the price of admission, which, again, is zero dollars. But I enjoyed it.

In the back third, we talked a bit about the NBA playoffs, our own whipsawing expectations and the hyper-fervent take economy that surrounded (especially) the Western Conference Semifinals, and, finally and inevitably, Bill Simmons. Rodrick, it turns out, is both something of a Simmons head—the Funbag question involves both Drew and Stephen describing the experience of encountering Simmons in their dreams—and an avid collector of his worst and most unaccountable takes. I won't reveal the veteran character actor that I flagged as having made multiple appearances in my own dreams, or the campy songstress who showed up in Drew's. I may not know how to write a celebrity profile, but I know enough not to give the best stuff away for free.

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