Politics is crazy-making, and the discussion around politics—on cable news, on op-ed pages, on Twitter—is even worse. So it’s kind of unbelievable that the antidote to this ongoing madness is a group of podcasts about politics, in which conversations on the issues of today function as a countermeasure to the frustration, alienation, and anger that rational-thinking people experience every day in Trump’s America. Crooked Media—the online media company started by former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Dan Pfeiffer, and Jon Lovett—drops aural bundles of sanity several times a week, and their podcasts aren’t just required listening for more than a million people, but have become trusted sources of political opinions and a vital mouthpiece for the left.
This week, Lovett, who co-hosts the semiweekly Pod Save America podcast with his Crooked Media co-founders, is bringing his solo project to Portland. It’ll be the first time a Crooked Media podcast has taped here since the company formed as a response to Trump’s election in November 2016. Lovett or Leave It is a gabby and outspoken weekly podcast that plays loosely with the variety-show format. (After working as a speechwriter for Obama, Lovett wrote for television, including co-creating the sitcom 1600 Penn.) Lovett’s show is always recorded live, and more often than not, it’s flat-out hilarious, featuring a panel of guest comedians and games played with audience members for prizes.
In another era, this might sound like some hokey, Capitol Steps-style bullshit. It’s anything but. We’re living in perhaps the most absurd time in American history, and Lovett or Leave It’s humor does not depend on satire, thank god. (I think America might finally be beyond satirizing.) Instead, Lovett’s show often functions as a cathartic scream into the void, and he’s adopted a tongue-in-cheek, self-aggrandizing persona whose frankness and tendency to rant serve as a vicarious release valve for listeners.
Yuks aside, Lovett or Leave It and Crooked Media’s other shows take their politics refreshingly seriously. As a recent New York Times profile on the company pointed out, past political humor outlets such as Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show would often refuse to come down on one side or the other, instead retreating to the sidelines where they could smirk at the left or right with equal distance. Crooked Media has zero interest in appearing unaffiliated—these guys worked for a Democratic president and on Democratic campaigns, and their podcasts often explicitly detail what listeners can do to help Democratic causes (such as the recent election of Alabama senator Doug Jones over Trump-backed alleged child molester Roy Moore).
Lovett, Favreau, and Vietor just concluded a trip to Europe slyly dubbed the “American Apology Tour,” during which they tackled foreign policy issues. But as for what Lovett will be discussing in Portland on Lovett or Leave It, it’s impossible to predict—the news cycle moves far too quickly. There’s a good chance there will be some impressive guests on his panel—past guests include Norman Lear, Sarah Silverman, Kumail Nanjiani, Cameron Esposito, Jenny Slate, Hari Kondabolu, and Ronan Farrow. But whatever Lovett and his guests end up talking about, listeners across the globe will soon have it in their earbuds—and they’ll definitely be laughing along.