A Masterclass in Interviewing

On Monday I spent seven hours with eleven people who had enrolled in a Masterclass in Interviewing that I gave as part of a series of Masterclasses organised by The Monthly magazine.

They were an extremely interesting group of people –  researchers, writers, a journalist, filmmakers, a retired public servant, a museum curator and several CEOs – with very different experiences of interviewing in a range of situations.

It was a marvelous day and I certainly learned a lot. And it was great to put into words some of the things that I had learned to do instinctively in more than twenty-five years of interviewing people. It reminded me though, of just how hard teaching can be, if you really want to make sure the whole group is getting what they came for.

We analysed lots of interviews including this one of Meg Ryan by Michael Parkinson. Often thought of as an example of a difficult interviewee, we agreed this train crash interview was the fault of Mr. P. Starting from the moment he shrilly claims his seat…what do you think?



  1. I remember this interview well. I agree, right from that first moment of “Don’t take my seat, for God’s sake”, it seemed he was out to contradict every view she held. He seemed to go out of his way to make her uncomfortable.

    From memory I stopped watching him shortly after this one aired.

    1. I agree Michelle. Did he think she would be the character she played in earlier films? It seems he wasn’t prepared for a real conversation, defensive and insulting at the same time.

      1. Yes, it was very uncomfortable to watch. She held herself together amazingly well, considering his approach /attack.

  2. I cant stand Michael Parkinson. I think he is an arrogant bullying vain fatuous and egotistic, and I suspect that some people like him because they identify with his aggression and self assurance and others find it somehow comforting in the same way that John Laws was so amazingly popular. He’s not a good interviewer and he cant give away interviewing because he loves the star attention. He usually interviews British media celebrities and he is never interested in getting the interviewee relaxed enough to actually reveal really interesting things about there lives and the interactions in their lives. Regarding television intereviews – I miss Andrew Denton’s interviews as he was expert at this

  3. Lynn luck · · Reply

    Having watched Parkinson’s for years I stopped after that interview. He deserved to be haunted by it his behaviour was disgraceful Sure Ryan reacted to him but who wouldn’t

    1. Yes I agree with you Lynn, it was a most bizarre performance.

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