Somehow, through my incredible powers of persuasion, I was able to land an exclusive blog interview with TODAY senior producer Noah Oppenheim, co-author of The Intellectual Devotional: American History. READ EXCERPT
Noah and co-author David Kidder sat down with Matt this morning to talk about the book, which is the second in the Intellectual Devotional series. WATCH HERE
Would you buy a book co-written by this man?
Apparently, a lot of people would (and have).
It was a special privilege to interview Noah, because I look up to him as a role model both at work and in life. Actually, hold on -- that's someone else. I got confused for a minute. But seriously, Noah's all right. And here's our conversation:
DF: The first book in the series got a lot of media attention and sold a lot of copies. You heard about some celebrity fans out there as well...anyone in particular stand out?
Noah Oppenheim: Pretty much the greatest thing that ever happened -- EVER -- in my life, was hearing that Steven Spielberg had actually bought many copies of it and gave it out as his holiday gift last year. My co-author was at a dinner with a well-known actress, who was surprised to meet him, because she had received our book as a gift from Spielberg. So now I can die happily.
DF: Did you get into contact with him to get him an advance copy of the next book?
NO: I did try to get in touch with him. I tried knocking on his door, and he didn't answer. I was then escorted away by the police. No, we tried to get him the books and are certainly very appreciative of his support, in so far as it exists.
DF: It could be a totally apocryphal story, I guess you have no idea.
NO: It could be a total fabrication, but until we're proven otherwise, we'll keep telling people.
DF: It's good marketing.
DF: Matt mentioned that with this book coming out, it's going towards the purchase of your new beach house. I happen to know that you're not buying a beach house. But is there any truth to the rumor that this book series has allowed you to build a house made entirely of solid gold?
NO: It's interesting because I don't own any house made of any material. I don't even own an IKEA house. I have no ownership of anything. I rent an apartment the size of most people's walk-in closets. I have no hope of home ownership anywhere in the near future.
DF: Where does your wife live?
NO: She lives in the walk-in closet with me, God bless her. No. There's no summer house, there's no winter house, there's no house, period.
DF: To you, "House" is just a show on television.
NO: It's a fine show, although not exactly revolutionary. Still, it's a solid hour of entertainment.
DF: We share some similar television viewing habits, enjoy some of the same shows. So I want to get into the new season with you. What do you think about the new season of "Friday Night Lights" so far?
NO: I'll take any season of "Friday Night Lights" over pretty much anything on TV, but there are some troubling signs in the first two episodes in terms of the direction the show is taking. It used to be up there with "The Wire" as one of the more natural storytelling vehicles on television. And now you've seen some of the signs of classic TV manipulation brewing.
DF: It only took one episode for you to be able to see some signs, and certainly the second episode showed where we might be headed, and it might not be a good direction.
NO: It's like watching the stock market. There may be a crash coming, so it might be time to sell. But I'll keep watching until they yank it off the air, because it has some of the greatest acting and writing and cinematography that I think has ever been put on TV.
DF: "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Has the new season lived up to your expectations so far?
NO: I'm going to say that this is a hall of fame season so far for "Curb." I don't know if you would agree, but I think this is as solid a series of episodes as we've seen from Mr. David in quite a long time.
DF: I agree, and I wonder if it has something to do with Larry David's angst factor being a lot higher lately because of the personal turmoil he's been going through.
NO: That's an interesting theory. He did do his best work when he was a miserable, cantankerous human being, so maybe the collapse of his marriage is resulting in solid Sunday night entertainment for the rest of us.
DF: You recently saw the film The Kingdom. What was your take on it?
NO: I've seen two movies that are interesting reflections of where Hollywood is today. I saw Michael Clayton, and I saw The Kingdom. Michael Clayton is universally revered by critics, and The Kingdom got much more mixed notices. Michael Clayton is almost a quiet, taut thriller in the old style of '70s Hollywood. It's all in the writing and editing and some really interesting, more subtle filmmaking techniques.
The Kingdom is not particularly subtle. Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, even Jeremy Piven -- not the most subtle of actors -- but I thought it was solidly entertaining. Not a movie I would teach in film school, but it kept my attention for the full two hours.
DF: The last movie I saw was Eastern Promises, which had some pretty graphic scenes of violence and brutality. Are you man enough to go see it?
NO: Well, I know your Web surfing habits tend towards sado-masochistic sites and really disturbing imagery that most people couldn't stomach. But I will not see Eastern Promises. I cannot stomach, generally speaking, watching brutality or torture on screen. I never saw the Saw movies, for example.
DF: Reservoir Dogs?
NO: For Reservoir Dogs,I almost had to leave the room. I definitely had to turn away and got extremely uncomfortable. I don't know why that is. At the end of Braveheart, I almost passed out. I can't deal with it.
DF: So the answer is, No, you're not man enough to see Eastern Promises.
NO: I'm not man enough for a lot of things, and seeing Eastern Promises is definitely one of them.
DF: For the record, Noah has no awareness of my Web searching tendencies or my proclivities in the sado-masochistic direction.
NO: Though they do exist.
DF: They do not exist.
DF: Finally, I want to ask you about baseball. Last year, you entered into a gentlemen's wager with two of our colleagues, Sean Reis and Tom Mazzarelli. Before the baseball season, you each selected a team. You had the Mets, Sean had the Red Sox, Mazz had the Yankees. And the terms of the bet stipulated that the person whose team went the deepest into the season would NOT have to grow a mustache, while the other two people would. The Mets had the best season of the three, so you didn't have to grow a mustache. This year, there was no bet, and the Mets did the worst of those three teams. So is this proof of your incredible powers of prognostication?
NO: The fact that I won the bet the first time was a reflection of nothing more than sheer, dumb luck. I know nothing about baseball. I know less about baseball than almost any subject on the planet. And I bet on the Mets' fortunes because I met Mookie Wilson when I was 8, and I liked him. So my refusal to do the bet again this year reflected a realization that there was no way lightning would strike twice, there was no way I would win again. And if I had to grow a mustache, then I would look uncannily like Borat, but without the comedy.