Lessons from 50,000 Interviews: Larry King and Cal Fussman (#259)

“Sometimes, the simplest question is the best.”

– Larry King

Cal Fussman (@calfussman) is a New York Times bestselling author and a writer-at-large for Esquire magazine, where he is best known for being a primary writer of the “What I’ve Learned” feature. He has transformed oral history into an art form, conducting probing interviews with a long list of icons who’ve shaped the last 50 years of world history.

I’ve been trying to get Cal to do his own podcast. Rather than overthinking it, I simply asked Cal to interview a friend who I would also love to have on the podcast: Larry King. This episode is the result of that request.

Larry King (@kingsthings) has been dubbed “The most remarkable talk show host on TV, ever” by TV Guide and “Master of the mic” by Time Magazine. Larry’s been described as the Muhammad Ali of the broadcast interview, and he’s been inducted into five of the nation’s leading broadcasting halls of fame. He’s the recipient of the Allen H. Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism, an Emmy, the George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting, ten CableACE awards — the list goes on.


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#259: Lessons from 50,000 Interviews: Larry King and Cal Fussman

Want to hear my first episode with Cal Fussman? — In this episode, we discuss Cal’s interviews with the most influential people in history, how he made himself a guinea pig (Cal boxed against world champion Julio Cesar Chavez), and his best life lessons (stream below or right-click here to download):

145: The Interview Master: Cal Fussman and the Power of Listening

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Cal Fussman:

Website | Twitter | Kevin “The Manager”

  • Connect with Larry King:

Larry King Now | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Two legendary interviewers enter. [04:37]
  • From Brooklyn to Miami: How Larry got involved in broadcasting. [06:18]
  • Why Larry’s last name was changed from Zeiger to King. [12:36]
  • Thanks to stage fright, Larry’s first time behind the mic was almost his last. [14:21]
  • The secret of Larry’s business. [15:18]
  • The real reason for Larry’s career longevity. [18:45]
  • What scared Cal the most about going from writing to podcasting. [20:20]
  • An Al Pacino story about confidence; a Marlon Brando story about ad-libbing (and wine). [21:51]
  • Larry on being in the moment. [25:43]
  • Cal’s favorite Larry King story. [27:10]
  • When Larry took emergency broadcasting to a whole new level. [31:55]
  • Even with relaxed standards, Larry still won’t curse on the air. [36:05]
  • Is curiosity ingrained, or is it something that can be taught? Larry’s rules for making curiosity work for him. [37:40]
  • Contrary to popular opinion, there are dumb questions. Here’s how Larry avoids asking them. [41:18]
  • Can Larry’s methods be used by people in other fields? [43:08]
  • What does communication lose when eye contact is no longer part of the equation? [43:58]
  • How would Larry have interviewed Hitler with curiosity rather than judgment? [44:51]
  • The power of control in questions. [48:49]
  • Is the podcast the modern inheritor of the traditional long-form interview? [51:48]
  • What does Larry consider his “bible?” [52:58]
  • Larry’s lifelong broadcasting motto. [55:30]
  • Does Larry have advice for young people who want to learn to ask better questions? How can someone become a better listener? [56:25]
  • What’s Larry’s secret for getting a sincere response from people? [59:24]
  • How you ask a question is often more important than what you’re asking. [1:00:37]
  • What would Larry’s billboard say? [1:02:20]
  • Books that have had an impact on Larry, what he’s reading now, and the book he’s gifted most. [1:02:52]
  • “The ‘why?’ person fears death.” [1:05:05]
  • Larry prefers paper tickets he can hold in his hand — whether they’re for ballparks or airplanes. [1:07:27]
  • What advice would Larry give to a college senior about to enter the real world? [1:09:04]
  • What has Larry learned from his failures? [1:10:25]
  • Bad advice Larry hears often? [1:14:07]
  • The most worthwhile investment in time, money, or energy that Larry has made. [1:18:03]
  • If Larry finds he’s lost focus, what does he do to regain it? [1:19:32]
  • How do Larry and Cal’s bucket lists differ? [1:21:13]
  • Cal has a bucket list request for Larry. [1:24:40]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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33 Replies to “Lessons from 50,000 Interviews: Larry King and Cal Fussman (#259)”

  1. Loved this episode! Thanks for pushing Cal to do a podcast Tim 🙂 These two men have so many great stories, and I enjoyed hearing about the way the pursuit of story has shaped their lives. I especially loved the opener about Larry King’s first time behind the mic, and the record skipping story. Hilarious! I admire Cal’s appreciation for the power of questions, and his ability to create a comfortable space for others’ stories to shine . I finished the episode feeling inspired to put my phone down, to listen more, to learn more. Thanks for making this happen!

  2. I was listening to this while shopping at the grocery store and oh boy did I laughed out loud at both of the stories of Larry! Omg, still smiling while writing this. What an extraordinary man, the best of the best at his trade and all because he simply loves what he does more than anything else.

    Cal – if you are reading this – it’s an encouragement from yet another listener. You got it in you, if you think you can do it, you can. Just go for it 🙂

  3. Tim,

    From one Long Islander to another, great episode. Thank you for helping me become better.

    My favorite take away from this was learning of Larry’s work ethic and his emphasis on being present and listening. To always ask questions. And keep listening.

  4. Greatly appreciate the selflessness to make this happen. So few would take themselves out of the equation to give their audience value. Thank you for helping us all improve through your network.

  5. Two quotes Larry said that stood out to me:

    “I still wonder what I want to be when I grow up.”

    “You can’t learn if you are talking.”

  6. Tim:

    Thanks for being an incredible steward of knowledge. I believe bilateral sharing is critical to bettering the world and wanted to return the favor. That said, ive come to realize that “prospective hindsight” is one of the most valuable decision making frameworks there is. See below for an excellent articulation by cognitive psychology Gary Klein from September 2007 (how ironic…).


  7. “I never learned anything while I was talking” Larry King

    This episode reinvents your podcast and exponentiates it to a whole new level!!! I loved Cal Fussman from your first podcast and became a huge fan of him, thank you for bringing him back along with another giant: Larry King

  8. Tim, the Cal interview was disappointing. He’s a master interviewer. Not sure why he was asking your questions. I get the research angle, but it went from very personal to stock questions that weren’t relevant to the Larry King conversation. Still love what you do.

    1. Cal was brilliant when he was himself, then something of a caricature when he asked Tim’s question. Just goes to reinforce the importance of “being yourself”!

  9. Hey Tim. Loved this episode. Great stories and lessons. Can you maybe do something With Prof Tim Noakes – banting diet and maybe golfing legend Gary Player – fitness fanatic at the age of 81.

  10. Tim-san, nice to meet you.

    My name is Nami.

    I watched your videos with TED. As a worker, I was exhausted by life, I saw you as a hero.

    I have not worked at all and I have no savings. There is no other thing to think about the fact that the father of alcoholism who was called to heaven and the grandmother responsible for it now live from childhood in the near future. It was idly like a jellyfish.

    I watched your video at such time. The title Smash fear,learn anything. I felt it was very beautiful and beautiful. Thank you for a wonderful lecture.

    It became very wonderful.

    Although it enters the main subject, I sold anime goods. I like animation (but I do not know much about dragon ball and one piece …).

    In case of In Japan, we sell lottery with popular content. One day a very favorite animation lottery is rare, I bought it because it was really unusual to sell.

    I also hit the goods of characters I do not like. However, because there are people who like that character, we sold them on Twitter and sold them.

    I was very excited. It was so much fun and there were only things to sell forever. I thought it would be great if the other person was happy, packed it and went to the post office.

    Although it was a way to go to work I was excited.

    At that time I came up with entrepreneurship.

    In Japan it felt nice if you could deliver goods to distant people, China, Korea, Taiwan, and other anime fans beyond that in urban areas.

    However, since I was living without treating people so far, I do not know who to consult about entrepreneurship.

    I do not know so I would like to consult with Tim-san who is my hero. I am glad if you give me some advice.

    Of course, other people’s advice is also very happy. Because I do not understand the business itself at all ….

    I do not understand English so I translated it with Google translation. I am sorry if there is a part that does not make sense.

    Thank you for reading.

  11. Hi Tim, love your stuff, I am looking for a recommendation you might have for a program that would help an executive grow in business. Have been a part of a few business groups and hired a coach but thought you might have a couple recommendations I could check out. Maybe even a school of some type. I am a CEO at mid size business and our primary goals are growing revenue through our sales teams. Thank you.

  12. So I gave email to get 5 things successful people do everyday. Not seeing it. Where is the list of 5 things?

  13. Larry King interview was fabulous.

    But interviewer unfortunately has a poor radio voice

    which was distracting.

  14. Amazing interview!!! I’ ve almost cried because I really have felt the connection. Congratulations Carl, you’re ve really listened Larry and you’ve ajusted the questions based on that. Finally, I would thanks Tim this great act sharing his podcast with you, and thanks Larry for this incredible lesson. I’am really felling better after hearing this interview.

  15. I haven’t been able to find an interview you’ve done with David Goggins.. is there a specific reason? Or just haven’t gotten their yet? Or am I just being daft and can’t find it. Would you consider this? I think an interview with Goggins would be a great one.

  16. Absolutely intriguing interview with Cal and Larry. I was excited to listen and thoroughly engaged. Cal is an interesting and funny dude. Slow down! on a billboard was my take away. Thanks Larry! Tim you are keeping this movement alive. Blessings brother.

  17. Greetings, Tim!

    I have never posted on here before, nor do not know if I am posting this in the correct place or not…

    Nonetheless, I have seen folks post recommendations on here and I have one for you to consider.

    His name is Gary John Bishop. I just listed to his book on Audible called (get ready) ‘Unf*ck Yourself’ ‘Get out of your head and into your life’. It was absolutely the most profound book I have personally ever read

    (listened to). The man is speaking directly to you and withholds nothing. It has already impacted me and my approach to life immensely. Nothing has ever hit this hard. Also, he touches on Stoicism throughout, as well.

    Anyways thanks for your consideration. I know you’re a busy man.

  18. Takeaways:

    – Trust yourself, be yourself

    – You wont learn anything if you are talking

    Great and entertaining podcast!

  19. Tim Ferriss Radio Hour – Tim, you’ve had several nuggets about longevity. As I’m now in my 40s, I’ve started forward thinking about lifestyle changes for longevity – what goals make sense, why, and how do we accomplish those goals.

  20. To be honest Larry King has always annoyed the hell out me previously,but after listening to the interview I came away with a radically different view of him. I really enjoyed it. Which was completely unexpected,& probably says an awful lot about Carl’s skills. He should keep them coming!

  21. Three lessons I learned from this podcast:

    1. Be yourself.

    2. Be in the moment.

    3. Be the observer; the conduit of information.

    Thanks, Tim, for encouraging Cal to run his first podcast with Larry. It was engaging; Larry is an incredible storyteller.

  22. Being a creator who makes magic on the internet, I found this interview to be so valuable and revealing. Two masters sharing a conversation. Beautiful! Thanks so much Tim, Cal and Larry!

  23. This was so much fun to listen too. As a podcaster myself, I learn a lot and took some notes.

    Larry King: “I feel sorry for people that aren’t sports fans”


    Here’s my notes for anyone that wants some quick takeaways but I implore you to listen to the full episode:

    Be yourself, present, love what you do (longevity), listen and don’t worry about your next Q, get to a point where you don’t need notes, sometimes the simplest Q is best, gain trust and create intimacy, Stay on category but open (no agenda, no judgement), I’m there to learn / you’re conduit for the listener,

    Great Qs:

    – In the last 5 years, what new belief or behaviour has most improved your life?

    – Which 3 books have massively impacted your life?

  24. Amazing, Amazing Podcast episode. Tim, you have surpassed yourself this time. This is the first time I have ever listened to a podcast episode twice. Two of the greatest interviewers that have ever lived having an intimate conversation that only great friends could have. Funny, incredibly insightful and a masterclass by Cal Fussman in how to deliver a great interview. If this doesn’t win an award for podcast of the year I will be very surprised.