John Wilson, the genius behind the weirdest show on TV


The people it focuses on tend to be those who are generally overlooked by television. They are middle aged with abrupt local accents or rich but not in a mundane manner; they have some kind of crazy sales model or theory that you wouldn’t normally; they are cheesy or goony or oversharers. Sometimes they don’t try to meet the expectations of the television; sometimes they try too hard, and the effort is out of balance. Sometimes they’re absurdly televisual, like with Vivian Koenig, a no-frills older woman seen giving her husband a theatrical “can’t you see I’m busy” gesture that puts the best American comics to shame. If television works like pop music, seeing these humans on it is as exciting as seeing Harry Styles snatch a random dad from a crowd of arenas and hand him a microphone.

It must be exciting, I told Wilson, when in the midst of the countless conversations he’s recording, he realizes he’s stumbled upon a real one live.

“Don’t you feel that,” he asked, “when you talk to someone who slowly cascades a story to you, or they don’t always realize how interesting it is? “

Most of us, I said, are busy and careful, and when a stranger starts talking about, say, their anti-circumcision concept album, we politely disappear.

“I also do it sometimes,” Wilson said, “when I don’t have the time or the camera. But when he’s looking for that stuff, “you can immediately tell if someone wants to be registered or not.” And at that point, when they give you a thumbs up and you keep talking to them, and you lift the camera a little higher, a little higher, you start to realize that oh, my God, so many people have a story. Often, he told me, he would film someone for a whole day before he even asked what it was for; they just wanted to be registered.

Holding the camera himself, he says, “changes the energy of the room.” Part of Wilson’s charm is that he hardly ever lets this energy cause a recoil, except at his own expense. This reversal is the point of wonder in “How to Cover Furniture,” a rumination on how we try to keep things from harm. At its climax, an interior designer answers Wilson’s questions with a friendly evisceration of all his vibe: His camera, she says, is a protective mechanism, which he uses to connect with people behind a barrier. . She looks into her lens and offers advice that is both kind and hostile to the situation: “I wish you, sometimes in your life, in your head, would say, ‘I should put the camera down in this situation. I should just be John.

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