Larry King Never Prepared For Interviews. Here’s Why

There are those of us who are lucky enough to find something we love to do, and are able to make a living out of doing just that. Talk show host Larry King was one such person; CNN quotes him as saying: “I just love what I do. I love asking questions, I love doing the interviews.” 

Wendy Walker, the former executive producer for “Larry King Live,” says King had a way of drawing people to his show because “He treated every guest the same. It didn’t matter if it was a president or…somebody off the street.” Walker also admits the King was prone to doing something that might have made other news anchors and television show hosts do a double take, which is that King “never wanted to be prepared for interviews” (via Twitter). 

King explains it this way: “The less I know, the better. Now that sounds strange to people. Like, if you wrote a book, I wouldn’t read the book before I interviewed you, because I would then know too much about the book. And I’m in the same boat as the audience; they haven’t read the book” (via NPR).

King didn't want to make his guests uncomfortable

The method didn’t always work — there were times a lack of knowledge about his interviewee made him look out of touch. A lack of preparation also meant that King didn’t get to ask meatier, more relevant questions from time to time. But it also meant that his guests got away with not being under intense scrutiny. “His strategy was: ‘I’m never going to make the guests uncomfortable,'” CNN contributor Bill Carter tells NPR. “And that means not only will they come back, but they’ll tell their friends. He won’t ask you about that ugly divorce of yours. You know, he’ll ask you about your favorite movie. So, he didn’t challenge people, but he did get information. He was pretty good at that.”

But there was more to King than just letting his guests get away by avoiding tough questions. As King put it, “I’m always engrossed in the guest. I’m always listening to the answer. I’m always learning, so I guess I’m better every day at learning.” Simple though it might sound, that thought gave King unprecedented access to newsmakers like the Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who famously allowed himself to be interviewed by King: “First, because it’s Larry and second because it’s live. I know America watches him” (via Los Angeles Times).

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