One of my favourite people is Dr Jonathan Miller, a polymath who excels in media, arts and science. He is one of those thoughtful intellects that you can listen to all day, and he has an eloquent ability to express an argument, expose an idea or expound an enthusiasm. It is perhaps telling, then, that the shortcomings (and I use the word deliberately) of the modern interview format are revealed in all their over-simplicity in this clip on YouTube.
Miller is being interviewed by Matt Stadlen and the gimmick is that the interviewer tries to get as much as they can out of the interviewee in just five minutes. There’s an over-size alarm clock ticking away to illustrate this for those who need reminding. The format usually translates to quick-fire questions and even quicker-fire answers. The format is built on this and the irony of this interview is nicely illustrated at the end, when the inexplicably chuckly yet exasperated Matt (who I’m sure is inwardly enjoying the sight of his questions actually not being dealt with in an off-hand manner) says “I have to say that some of those answers were the longest we’ve ever had on Five Minutes, but I let you get away with it.”
His response? “It’s just that I like to take time to think something out… almost anything interesting takes time. It’s only the trivial and the idiotic that can be done immediately.”