Curiosity about everything makes you ready for anything.
“There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t think they’re interesting. My job is to make that ‘interesting’ come out.” -Larry King
The Cheat Sheet:
- What traits come naturally to a good broadcaster — and can these traits be taught?
- “Just be yourself” is more than the cop-out advice you probably think it is.
- How does someone decades past retirement age not only keep doing what they love, but keep loving what they do?
- What’s the deal with Larry King’s trademark mic and suspenders?
- What innovations would a man who’s lived through most of the 20th century like to see in the 21st?
- And so much more…
While pondering aloud the best strategy for approaching others, most of us have been given the vague but ultimately not very helpful advice to “just be yourself.” Yet Larry King, a broadcasting veteran of 58 years who has interviewed everyone from plumbers and bus drivers to heads of state and crime bosses, insists that being himself is all he ever does.
We sit down with Mr. King in episode 412 of The Art of Charm to find out how he’s made a lifelong career — over the span of a very long life — out of just being himself. Now in his 80s, he shows no signs of slowing down. Here, he shares his very simple secrets to remaining relevant and engaging in a media landscape that’s radically transformed since he got his start in radio back in 1957.
More About This Show
Curiosity may be a dangerous trait for cats, but it can turn an inquisitive kid from Brooklyn into a broadcasting legend able to transcend any medium of communication with timelessly earnest simplicity. Born Lawrence Zeiger in 1933, Larry King has written books, hosted radio and television shows, done standup comedy, spoken at conventions, and made his presence known on the Internet with numerous shows and podcasts.
At its core, though, he explains that what he does now is what he’s always done. The questions are still who, what, when, where, and why; it’s only the method of transmission that’s changed through the years. “Broadcasting is a broad term to me,” he says. “So whether it’s a podcast or radio broadcast or television broadcast — it’s just a broadcast.”
As adaptable — and adept — as Larry King has proven in juggling the needs of various mediums, his approach to interviewing today’s biggest names on the world stage is essentially the same as when he was a nine-year-old just learning about the people in his neighborhood. He’s always asked a lot of “why?” questions; while his classmates were seeking autographs from their favorite baseball players, he wasn’t afraid to grill these larger-than-life celebrities with questions about the game.
“That’s the number one thing about me,” says Larry. “I am intensely curious.”
Or, as his lifelong friend Herbie Cohen (author of You Can Negotiate Anything) playfully suggests: “the secret of Larry’s success is: he’s dumb.”
Larry has observed that a lot of broadcasters have the attitude that they already know more than the guest knows. He, on the other hand, approaches every interview as if he doesn’t know anything. “I’m not there to argue; I’m there to learn,” he says. And while it might be his name in the show title, he never makes the show about himself. It’s all about his subjects; he merely considers himself the conduit. Ideally, if you tune in, “95% of the time,” he says, “the guest should be talking.”
When asked how he learned to become a broadcaster, he laughs and admits that he never really did. His education came from just going out there and doing it. He believes that his natural curiosity and sense of pacing are what account for his affinity with the field, though he’s always been — first and foremost — a fan of communication. When he was five years old, he listened to the radio intensely: knew all the shows, what times they would air, he’d imitate the announcers, and put his hands over his ears.
“I never wanted to do anything else,” he says. And in spite of trying to retire at one point, he couldn’t stay away for long. Larry, it seems, still doesn’t want to do anything else. And for this, we’re grateful.
While it may not be possible to teach Larry’s enthusiasm, have a listen to episode 412 of The Art of Charm and maybe you’ll discover otherwise. Any would-be broadcaster could learn a few things from his very simple tips for interviewing:
- Ask short questions.
- All questions should have a question mark at the end.
- Don’t make statements.
- Don’t use the word “I.”
- Follow up.
THANKS, LARRY KING!
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