Eric Nuzum: The FishbowlDC Interview

eric_nuzum_photo_credit_gary_harwood.jpgSay hello to Eric Nuzum, a programming executive for NPR whose new book is “The Dead Travel Fast.”

What word do you routinely misspell? Nappanee. It is the name of my wife’s hometown in Indiana. Two Ns, two As, two Ps, and two Es. It should be simple, but I constantly screw it up. In all fairness (to me), while there are some very nice people, it isn’t the most memorable place in America. Nappanee is so small that the one (single screen) movie theater in town closes down for Thanksgiving weekend.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? Vibrate, though I used to be a big fan of “Ring Number Three.” Sometimes I would call myself just so I could hum along.

What time did you get up this morning? I wake up every morning at exactly 5:45 a.m. when my geriatric cat starts to paw my nose and lips until I get out of bed. Shortly after he starts pawing me, I remember that he usually visits his litter box right before coming to wake me up. That tends to get me moving pretty quickly.

When did you last cry and why? To be honest, the last time I got choked up was six weeks ago when I walked into a Barnes and Noble and saw my book, The Dead Travel Fast, sitting on the front “New Arrival” table. You see this little thing sitting there on the table and it is so impossibly small compared to everything you’ve put into it. The weirdest part of all is that you’ve slaved over this thing for years, yet sitting there in a bookstore, you could be arrested for picking it up and walking out the door. It doesn’t belong to you any more.

How many emails do you receive a day, roughly? Four more than I have time to answer.

What’s your favorite letter? I think I’ll go with Paul’s Letter to the Collossians. You know, the one that advises we set our minds on things above, not Earthly matters, etc… It isn’t my choice because I’m particularly religious or anything. I just remember that when I was a kid and heard this book in the Bible mentioned, I always thought of “colossal.” I imagined Paul was preaching to a group of giants or something. The concept of 40-foot Christians (especially considering that Jesus is rumored to be 900-feet tall himself) seemed pretty cool when I was eleven.

What single person played the biggest role / had the biggest influence on your journalism career? My eighth grade English teacher once told me I had no talent or skill as a writer and would never end up being anything other than a smart-ass. I’ve made it a point of my writing career to prove he was only half right.

Read the rest when you click below…(and see previous FishbowlDC interviews: Julie Mason, David Shuster, Joe Curl, Alex Pareene, Peter Beinart, Jonah Goldberg, Megyn Kendall, Ana Marie Cox, Jim Brady, Howard Mortman, Amy Argetsinger, Jose Antonio Vargas, Chuck Todd, Tom Gottlieb, Kelly Ann Collins, David von Drehle, David Lat, Mark Leibovich, Zain Verjee, David Plotz, Paul Kane, Karen Travers, Mark Halperin, Hugo Gurdon, Greg Kelly,Ken Rudin, John Dickerson, Anne Schroeder, Spencer Ackerman, Bret Baier, Bob Sellers, Greta van Susteren, Danielle Jones, Jonathan Salant, John McCalla, Pam Hess, Ryan Grim, Marc Ambinder, Marty Kady, Jack Shafer, Annie Lou Bayly, Jerry Zremski, Charlie Cook, Dave Hughes, Howard Fineman, Katie Tarbox, Mark Segraves, Chris Cillizza, Tom Sietsema, Bill Triplett, Robin Givhan, David Brody, Norah O’Donnell, Carl Cannon, Jordan Lieberman, David Folkenflik, Molly Henneberg, Ernesto Londono, Brody Mullins, Aaron Blake, Martha Raddatz, Andrew Sullivan, Christina Bellantoni, Shane Harris, Nora McAlvanah, Adam Nagourney, Erin McPike, Mike Memoli, Ju-Don Marshall Roberts, Arthur Delaney, Chris Mincher, Rachel Sklar, Laura Sullivan, Jeff Kosseff, Matthew Cooper, Scott McCrary, Dan Reilly, Jennifer Griffin, Ari Shapiro, Jonathan Kaplan, Rick Klein, Mike Allen, Olivier Knox, Erik Wemple, Nathan Burchfiel, Andrea Mitchell, Mike DeBonis, Anne Kornblut, April Ryan, Amy Morris, Keith Koffler, <strongMark Silva, Ann Compton, Mark Knoller, Betsy Fischer, Katherine O’Hearn, Pamela Brown, Beverly Kirk, Wendell Goler, Glenn Kessler, Susan Page, Michael Crowley, Claudia Milne, Kelly Dinardo, Bruce Becker, Michael Rogers, Paul Schur, Diana West)

Also, drop us a line to let us know who else you’d like FishbowlDC to interview. They must work in the Washington area and you must include their email address.

When’s the last time you volunteered? Where? Obviously you are unfamiliar with the economics of book authorship, or you wouldn’t ask me this question. I heard once that the average author clears five grand a year. To me , that sounds like an overstatement.

Who is your favorite active journalist? It is a tie between all my colleagues in NPR News, who are all superheroes in my mind.

What did you have for breakfast? Bob Evans cinnamon pancakes. The one benefit of waking up in Ohio this morning was that I could go to Bob Evans (which are curiously, and unfortunately, absent from the D.C. area). Once Bob Evans took cinnamon pancakes off their menu and I wrote a letter to complain. A few weeks later I got a letter from them that said they were putting them back on the menu. It was the one time in my life that I honestly felt like I had changed the world.

What one toiletry item could you not live without? Balla Powder. Look it up.

If you could have one superpower, which one would it be? Invisibility–so that I can look over the shoulder of people reading this interview.

Red or white wine? Red. White wine is for those who can’t handle the truth. Or for those who are eating fish. (Not mutually exclusive categories.)

PG-13 or R? Once you reach the point where you don’t need to sneak in, does it really matter anymore?

Lincoln, Jefferson or Washington Memorial? My wife thinks the Thomas Jefferson statue in his memorial looks hot, which makes me oddly jealous. And for some reason the size of the Lincoln statue’s feet frightened me when I was a child. So, I guess my answer is “Washington.”

Leg or breast (chicken, of course) Hmmm. Let me demonstrate how far I’ll stretch to tie this answer to my book, The Dead Travel Fast. Every chapter in The Dead Travel Fast has two things in common: they all (a) describe the significance of vampire lore and (b) contain references to chickens. This is not accidental. I kept searching for things that were as omnipresent as vampires–and my mind kept drifting towards chickens. Everybody loves chicken, thus you find chickens everywhere around the world–just like vampires.
To answer your specific question: whatever part they put into a chicken nugget–that’s my favorite part (I say that knowing the answer is probably chicken beaks, eyes, and buttholes).

Friday night or Saturday night? My friends are constantly trying to get me to go out to Friday night “happy hour” gatherings that somehow manage to morph into “happy nine-hour” gatherings. On Friday I’m tired from the week. I agree with John Travolta, Elton John, and the Bay City Rollers, who all prefer Saturday night for fighting, dancin’, and other fever-inducing activities.

“Wedding Crashers” or “Old School” Is this really a choice? It’s kinda like asking “Purple or Magenta” or “Acid-washed or stone washed.” I mean, you’ve presented a choice between a movie where some guys drink a lot and act like idiots, compared to a movie where some guys drink a lot and act like imbeciles.

The Palm or Cafe Milano? I’ve never been to either before–but “Cafe Milano” anagrams into “facial omen” and “mafia clone,” while the best anagram for “The Palm” is “ham lept.” So, I think I’ll go with Cafe Milano.

Yankees or Red Sox? Indians.

Jenna or Barbara? Definitely Barbara. I love older women.

McSteamy or McDreamy? I had to Google these to figure out what you were talking about (obviously, I’m not a big Grey’s Anatomy fan). At first I thought these were some kind of naughty terms to describe some kind of unspeakable acts.

Leno or Letterman? Yes, please. But hold the salt.

Stewart or Colbert? We Tivo both, but almost always delete Colbert unseen.

Boxers or briefs? While Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard were giants when I was growing up (not in the Christian sense, in the heroes sense–and not in the NBC-on-Monday-night “Heroes” sense either), once you’ve read the arguments laid out in Mahoney v. Orange County, you’ll never look at legal documents the same way again.