Thursday, July 7, 2016

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Jonah Keri Podcast, 7/1/16

Gewirtz and Keri talk about how big a weirdo Vince McMahon is
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If you’re new, here’s the rundown. We listen to a handful of wrestling podcasts each week. Too many, probably, though certainly not all of them. In the interest of saving you time — in case you have the restraint to skip certain episodes — the plan is to give the bare bones of a given show and let you decide if it’s worth investing the time to hear the whole thing. There are many wrestling podcasts out there, of course, but this feature largely hews to the regular rotation we feel best fit the category of hit or miss. If we can save other folks some time, we’re happy to do so.

Show: The Jonah Keri Podcast
Episode: 7/1/16
Run Time: 1:56:01
Guest: Brian Gewirtz

Summary: Baseball writer Jonah Keri has written for Grantland and, exhibiting an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport and a surprisingly vast awareness of pop culture. His podcast on the Nerdist network brings in people from the world of sports, music and TV. His guest this week was Brian Gewirtz, former head writer of RAW and Smackdown, employed from 1999 to 2015. Keri's knowledge of WWE stops around 1991, so Gewirtz has to give him some exposition for the timeframe in which he was hired. Keri's questions focus on the nature of the WWE writer's job: what kind of hours they keep, how ideas get generated, what moments were most fun to write, etc. Gewirtz tells of his eventual departure from WWE so that he could work as a top producer at The Rock's production company, Seven Pounds.

Quote of the Week: "It's a business, obviously, and there are things to be done and there are real-life physical risks that happen in the ring. But it's not this dark, dank, shrouded-in-mystery, evil conglomerate type of place. There are good days and bad days. There were some days where I'd go to Smackdown on Tuesday after a lousy RAW, and I'd be eating breakfast and saying, 'This is gonna be the highlight of my day, because the rest of the day is gonna suck.' But for the most part, it's just this really crazy, fun endeavor with wacky characters and crazy storylines. I don't want to make it seem like a bed of roses every single day, but it's a fun place."

Why you should listen: It's always a good reversal of perspective when wrestling fans hear certain intricacies of the business explained to laymen. Gewirtz's many years of working intimately with Vince McMahon and his crew are somewhat on display here, with Gewirtz telling stories about McMahon's complete unawareness of pop culture and his unique way of getting people to stand up for what they believe in.

Why you should skip it: The episode is nearly two hours long, and it shouldn't be. A long section at the beginning is devoted to Gewirtz's extensive sports memorabilia collection, and a too-long section at the end sees Keri and Gewirtz talking about their three-sport fantasy sports league they compete in with people like Dave Dameshek and Cousin Sal. No one wants to hear about someone else's fantasy league. This is proven, scientific fact. Also, Keri and Gewirtz do the podcast while watching Gewirtz's favorite team, the Mets, play the Royals. This leads to a lot of baseball discussion, and as someone who knows nothing about baseball, I couldn't have cared less.

Final Thoughts: Even when someone leaves WWE and seems to be talking freely about what it was like to work there, it very often feels as if they are still holding something back. This might be due to fear of Vince, or perhaps it really does come from a place of deep respect for him. Either way, Gewirtz undoubtedly could say more than he does here. 16 years of working as a writer for WWE should supply you with enough stories to fill ten hours of fascinating podcasts. However, Gewirtz does give another useful piece of insight into working with Vince, in the form of the story of how he got on bad terms with the company and eventually left. This came about due to Gewirtz insisting on a very timely Dwyane Wade/LeBron James joke that was nixed by McMahon because, according to him, "No one knows who Dwyane Wade is." Gewirtz pushed back too hard against this, and it resulted in a falling out. Yet again, we learn that McMahon lives in a weird bubble where he doesn't know anything, and in his insistence on the infallibility of his weird bubble brings about anger and frustration from those around him.