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Shopping in L.A. with Jesse Thorn

8/14/13 1:51 PM

Thankfully, Thorn is forgiving. And above all else, oddly familiar, without a trace of insincerity. "It's not hard when you've been doing this for ten years," he says. A theater student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, performance art was his forte. After a start in college radio, a mixture of charisma and perseverance led to syndication at New York's WNYC, then Public Radio International came knocking. Thorn's voice on his "The Sound of Young America" is currently distributed across nineteen markets in thirteen states. That he's a big fan of This American Life isn't surprising. Authentic, "high-minded", and sometimes fragile, there's an earnest similarity with Thorn's shows—to create something "beautiful and inspirational, but also human and humorous." At first listen, his affability seems to mask a desire to please. However, one soon gets the sense that Thorn isn't being chummy or facile—just very respectful. A magnetic interest in his subjects places him in the mold of classic cultural interrogators, of a kind with a Studs Terkel, Terry Gross, or even David Letterman. Humbled by such a comparison, he'll also be the first person to make fun of you for it. Perhaps his most important talent, and the one that Thorn has counted upon as host of three different shows, is the ability to use humor as a very subtle means of control. Thorn can switch from ebullient to cordially wry with the intention of reminding you that you're in his house. Literally. Both podcasts, the interview program "The Sound of Young America" and the more irreverent "Jordan, Jesse Go!" are recorded inside of his home. Which caused some guests to feel suspicious, to which Thorn responded by dressing up for the occasion. Which then caused those same guests to feel even more suspicious. It can get a little confusing. On one hand, he espouses something called the "new sincerity movement", a documented response to a tide of perceived irony within pop culture. On the other hand, he's in on the joke. "I mean, I'm a guy wearing a bow tie hosting a podcast out of his house," Thorn says. "On paper, yeah—that sounds fucking weird." Our waitress approaches. "What would you guys like to drink?" "What kind of root beer do you have?" "We've got Barq's or A&W, um...." The waitress scans our table for signs of trouble. "I'll take an A&W." Thorn senses my amusement. "Caffeine is a migraine trigger for me, and Barq's is caffeinated." I almost considered him something of a root beer connoisseur. He assures me he is. The food arrives. In between mouthfuls of pastrami and coleslaw, Thorn mentions he might have moved to the Westlake area where Langer's is located, were it not for his wife's protestations. Despite being a guy who "hates L.A.," he has developed a fondness for certain places, especially the nearby Koreatown district. It's why, instead of the perhaps more upscale, trendy establishments, he opted to take us to visit one of the area's numerous Korean tailors. Our afternoon began on a faceless stretch of MidWilshire, at Richard Lim's High Society, where Thorn was being fitted for a sportcoat. "This is one of the few things I've bought at full price," he says as Mr. Lim and his associate make discreet adjustments to the jacket, scrutinizing his upper torso as their model paces about the room. Everything about the place recalls some very recent glory. Autographed headshots of Billy Crystal and Don Johnson line the columns adjacent to the backroom atelier. The fitting room tile is checkered, the light somewhat fluorescent. In L.A., a television is nearly always on, and High Society is no different. The man who calls himself "America's Radio Sweetheart" is looking purposefully into the mirror. To Mr. Lim and file:///Users/issuu/Desktop/Shopping%20in%20L.A.%20with%20Jesse%20Thorn.webarchive

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Shopping in L.A. With Jesse Thorn  
Shopping in L.A. With Jesse Thorn