Pod Save America's Jon Lovett on serving truth with humor ahead of Atlanta show

"Pod Save America: (A)live and On Tour" is performing at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Aug. 13, with special guest Stacey Abrams. (Courtesy of Jessica Pons)

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, “Pod Save America” emerged to educate, engage and entertain the progressive-minded community. The flagship podcast of Crooked Media has an enormous following, thanks to its smart combination of political insight and witty hosts — former Obama staffers Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor.

Pod Save America: (A)live and On Tour” arrives in Atlanta for an evening at Cobb Energy Arts Centre on Saturday, Aug. 13, with special guest Stacey Abrams and co-host Josie Duffy Rice. Jon Lovett joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom ahead of the event to share stories from his experiences in political life.

Interview highlights follow below.

The origins and objectives of “Pod Save America”:

“Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Dan Pfeiffer and I, we all worked together in the Obama White House, and we all went our separate ways when we left politics, trying different phases of our careers,” Lovett recounted. “Yet, all of us, like Michael Corleone says in ‘Godfather: Part III,’ ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in .’ We all felt this draw to stay involved, especially in 2016 when the stakes were total. And so we talked about, ‘Should we do a TV show? What should we do? Should we do a podcast?'”

“We were pretty frustrated as news consumers and as people that had been involved in campaigns, with just the way politics is covered in this country. It treats everything like a game. It treats people like cynical observers like they’re watching a nature documentary instead of treating us all like what we are, which is frustrated participants,” said Lovett. “When the television and when social media are just drowning us in stories that never talk about the stakes, that never cover the actual policy differences, but are focused on who’s winning and who’s losing … and putting the camera on Trump’s empty podium for 20 minutes before he shows up, we decided we wanted it to have a different kind of show.”

A flashback to the 2016 election:

“Jon and Tommy and I were going to record an episode in the aftermath of the loss. We thought it was going to be an episode about Hillary Clinton becoming president. Instead, we ended up driving toward the studio. I, in my panic and distraction, forgot to get gas. The car runs out of gas, and Jon, Tommy, and I pushed my car to the side of the road in front of the CNN building, where people had gathered around watching these videos of Trump, himself surprised, discovering that he is about to be president,” Lovett recalled.

“We ended up walking to the studio and … talked about what we wanted to do next. And what we said throughout 2016 is something we really believed, which was Donald Trump was an emergency. The fact that he got within five miles of the White House was an emergency. It represented an incredible failure of our political system, of the Republican party, of the media, of our society, of our economy. It was a collective failure. We all had a duty to step up and fight back, especially when we knew people would be really despondent and upset and not sure what to do.”

On Jon Lovett’s tenure as Obama’s joke-writer:

“We were very fortunate to be writing jokes for President Obama, who has incredible comic timing. He just has that natural, charismatic, laid back way of delivering a joke. I think one of the reasons he became president is because he could see the absurdities in politics in ways that people who were in Washington or involved in politics for a long time may have lost sight of,” said Lovett.

“One of the reasons a joke in a campaign speech or in a debate can be so powerful is [that] it’s this incredible shorthand for a subtext between you and your audience. It’s a way of saying, ‘Hey, we find the same things stupid. We find the same things ridiculous. We find the same things absurd. We’re on the same team.’ That’s why a joke hurts so much when it doesn’t work, right? … So we felt very lucky getting to write jokes for President Obama, who had a great sense of the absurdity of his job, of the world, of Washington, of the press, of Democrats and Republicans. But I always found that I have a pretty, I think, a harsher tone. My ideal joke is President Obama throwing the podium over and cursing these people out and walking off.”

“Pod Save America: (A)live and On Tour” takes the stage at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Aug. 13, with special guest Stacey Abrams. Tickets and more information are available at www.cobbenergycentre.com/events/detail/pod-save-america-2022