You know it’s going to be difficult/interesting to analyze the infamous John Mayer Playboy interview when you search Google using those four words. The first few pages don’t link to the actual interview. The first hits lead you to controversy behind the interview, and some of the more candid excerpts from the interview.
I first heard of the interview through twitter. My favorite writer, Chuck Klosterman, tweeted the link to the interview and that it contained “very candid conversation.” Reading the interview is like listening to someone’s unfiltered thoughts about sex and public perception. If you aren’t attached to any of the characters in the interview(Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, John Mayer, Rodney Peete’s wife, etc.) and read it with detachment, the interview can be very entertaining. Mayer’s comparison of Jessica Simpson to sexual napalm stand out in the interview as both vulnerable and cruel.
On March 5th, Klosterman and Bill Simmons compared the public relations dilemmas of Tiger Woods and John Mayer on the B.S. Report podcast (very long podcast and has a part two, but worth a listen for pop culture junkies). They talked about how Tiger Woods hurt his image by saying very little to the media and how John Mayer hurt his image by saying too much.
If you are an interviewer, Mayer gives you everything you want through the course of this question and answer session. Mayer is open, honest, candid and emotional. Rob Tannenbaum, the contributing editor for this Playboy interview, uses short questions that keep Mayer introspective and never gets in the way of Mayer’s answers.
As someone who hopes to interview people for a living, I enjoy this article very much. An idealist would like to think that anyone should be allowed to talk like this without harsh consequences, but talking about race in an off the cuff manner will almost always bring controversy. After the interview was released to the public, Tannenbaum wrote an article for The Daily Beast about the perception of this article. He says that Twitter reduced his 6,870 word article into 140 characters or less, that John Mayer is a racist. Comparing the ‘brain’ in your penis to David Duke, or using the word that white people shouldn’t/can’t use, helped fuel that idea. If you read those two lines without context, it’s easy to see how that idea gained traction. It’s easy to argue that John Mayer had expressed thoughts that were inappropriate. The question I’d like to pose to anyone reading the interview and all the articles surrounding the controversy is ‘what makes a person a racist?’.
It has been over six months since this article was released to the public. Given that amount of time and distance, I would be very interested to know how the key players of the article view the piece now. John Mayer probably still associates the article with pain. I’d like to know if Tannenbaum would change anything about the piece. I would like to know if this interview encouraged candid, honest discussion or discouraged it.