On Thursday night, MSNBC President Phil Griffin held an event celebrating the release of Up with Chris Hayes host Chris Hayes‘ new book, Twilight Of The Elites: America After Meritocracy (available at all fine book retailers June 12). Griffin served up an open bar, some mighty fine treats, and a warm toast for Hayes, and a good time was had by all. Toward the end of the evening, I corralled the man of the hour to talk about the book, his show, and the newly-controversial Star-Spangled Banner.
Phil Griffin is a guy who apparently knows how to drop some coin. While not the blowout that MSNBC’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner afterparty was, the Hayes fete took place at the penthouse atop the Kimberly Suites Hotel, complete with the requisite open bar (a journalist’s best friend), and finger foods that included tiny crab cakes, roasted artichoke hearts with asiago cheese (I’m guessing at the cheese), and Kobe sliders (which aren’t really Kobe, apparently). As daylight waned in the open-air penthouse, the setting suddenly made sense: Twilight Of The Elites. Well played, Mr. Griffin.
Spotted at the event were, of course, Chris Hayes and Phil Griffin, but also New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter, The Huffington Post‘s MikeCalderone, a large number of MSNBC producers and staff, and about a hundred other young and hip friends and family.
Griffin congratulated Hayes for the upcoming book, which he’s only read the first 30 pages of so far (“I’m looking forward to the end, so I can find out how we get out of this mess!”), and offered praise for his weekend show, and the depth with which they handle issues. “I love the guy,” he concluded, “he’s a basketball fan, he’s gonna be with us a long time, and he’s really helped make the new MSNBC.”
Hayes said that “the two favorite things that I’ve ever done, professionally in my life, are writing this book and hosting the show,” credited Griffin with helping to establish the show’s let-it-breathe vibe early on, and thanked him for giving the show so much latitude.
He also praised the integrity of his staff, and singled out his “amazing EP (Executive Producer) Jonathan Larsen.”
I caught up with Larsen later, and tried to pry loose some tales of diva tantrums or the like, with no success. Even Mr. Spock got fed up that one time and threw Vulcan Plomique soup at Nurse Chapel, but apparently, with Hayes, what you see is what you get.
That’s also true of the show, and Larsen explained that “when we were thinking about the physical environment for the show, to try and bring out the kind of intellectually honest discussion we were looking for, the three words were clean, warm, and invisible.”
He said those principles guided the show’s graphics and clip intros, which eschew the swoopy bells and whistles you often see in cable news. I observed
that there’s very little tech hustle and bustle during Up commercial breaks, and he added that the producers make an effort not to talk to guests through their earpieces during the breaks, which keeps the conversation flowing, and the feel natural.
Toward the end of the night, I took Hayes aside for a brief interview about his book, the show, and the recent controversies surrounding The Star-Spangled Banner and the word “heroes.” Film buffs may note that my use of candlelight for this interview is an obvious homage to Stanley Kubrick:
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