"My favorite part of any movie is the 20 minutes before anything bad happens,” Vox co-founder and editor-in-chief Ezra Klein says. “I do not like the conflict. I'm not here for the plot. What I enjoy living in is the 20 or 30 minutes where people are just witty, and they're hanging out together."
That admission comes early in my discussion with Klein about his pop culture tastes for the latest episode of my interview podcast, I Think You’re Interesting. Though you might know Klein as one of our leading political thinkers, I also know him as my boss, and as a fan of lots and lots of pop culture — some of it great, and some of it, as he puts it: "My taste in everything is terrible. It's bad. It makes people make fun of me."
In particular, we discussed his love for those conflict-free times when people are just hanging out and cracking wise, which might remind you of a certain TV show.
"The show Entourage has many, many, many flaws, but one thing it really got right is the 30-minute happy ending. You turn on an episode of Entourage, and you may not end up anxious at all, but if you do, it's not for very long,” he says.
There’s a method to this. When you cover American politics, that sort of escapism is often completely necessary.
"The things I tend to think about are tough. They're emotionally wrenching. Politics is very conflict-oriented, particularly right now, so I tend to look for things that make me feel a bit better,” he says.
In that spirit, here are a few more of the Ezra Klein pop culture recommendations he and I discussed.
1) The movies Wimbledon and About a Boy
Klein says Romantic Comedies with Witty British Protagonists would be his “perfect Netflix category.” (And, contrary to what he said above, I would not describe About a Boy as “terrible.” It’s one of the better movies of its type!)
2) The Dragonriders of Pern series
When he was a teenager, Klein says, he used to devour giant, world-building fantasy, and he cites this beloved Anne McCaffrey series as a favorite.
3) Marvel Unlimited
Comics make up a lot of Klein’s pop culture consumption in 2017, and he credits their endlessly renewable nature for why he loves them so much.
“Comics have this fascinating myth-like capability to start and restart and be retold in ways that are more congruent to what's going on then,” he says.
Klein says Marvel’s Marvel Unlimited app — which lets subscribers read almost every comic the publishing giant has put out, with a six-month delay on new releases — got him back into superhero comics in a big way during the early days of Vox.
More specifically, as someone who used to primarily read big crossover events, he says he’s enjoyed how some of the comics that built into those big events were so much weirder and exciting than the crossovers themselves.
Klein’s current favorite titles include Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel, and before you accuse him of favoring Marvel over DC, he says he’d be happy to subscribe to a DC version of Marvel Unlimited — it just doesn’t exist.
4) Vote Loki
Klein says this comic series “is the single best thing published on the dynamics of the 2016 election. I believe that firmly.” You can also read his full argument about Vote Loki and the election here at Vox.
5) X-Factor by Peter David
Klein calls this 2005 to 2009 run on a detective-focused X-Men spinoff his “favorite run of comics,” with special praise for a storyline featuring a character named Layla Miller. He describes the tale as an intriguing predecessor to the 2016 film Arrival. (I’ll let you all figure out what that means — I’ve never read it!)
You can listen to I Think You’re Interesting on Apple Podcasts, on Android, or at its official page. To hear more interviews with interesting people from all branches of the entertainment industry — from powerful showrunners to web series creators to documentary filmmakers — check out the I Think You’re Interesting archives.