‘The Choe Show’ Changes the Game for Interview Format

Tune in to any late night talk show, and you’re likely to find much the same thing. The house band plays, a guest recites a practiced, witty anecdote to the audience, the host laughs mechanically, and there might even be a game or two in the mix. It’s been done a thousand times, practically unchanged since the advent of network television. 

One new series is breaking this interview format mold. With its first episode premiering June 25, “The Choe Show” offers a radically different experience for those in search of innovative TV. From the walls of his childhood home, artist David Choe used his own money to create an interview series for FX which is quickly turning heads. It’s like the “Eric Andre Show” mixed with “Oprah.”

The show starts out by introducing David Choe through a series of short snippets from TV broadcasts. He is described as a world-renowned artist, a thief and a multi-millionaire investor–quite the resumé for an interview show host. The camera then cuts to Choe, who explains to New York Times bestselling author and friend Neil Strauss that the point of the show is to learn about himself while interviewing others.

The premise seems pretty straightforward: Choe talks to a guest celebrity while painting a portrait of them. But that’s a bit of an oversimplification; the reality is far more interesting. As the interview progresses, Choe takes each new piece of information that he learns about the subject and synthesizes it into a physical motion or color which he implements into the painting. Smears and splatters are commonplace, and by the end, Choe presents a stunning likeness which mirrors the content of the interview. It truly is a sight to behold.

FX

The guests vary wildly in background and personality, with the interview list including celebrities like adult film star Asa Akira, journalist Erica Garza, actor Rainn Wilson and “Jackass” alum Steve-O. Many of the guests are personal friends of Choe, while others he meets for the first time on camera. Whatever their level of familiarity, the questions get deep–and fast. Many of the conversations revolve around the guests’ relationships with their parents and how their childhoods affect them now as adults. It gets a little Freudian, but the atmosphere is extremely open and non-judgemental. It is clear that Choe is not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions; on the contrary, he probes each subject thoroughly, no matter how strange the queries appear.

However, the show doesn’t just focus on the interviewees. We hear just as much from Choe as we do the guests. He details his struggles with sex and drug addiction, as well as his relationship with oppressively-religious parents. Choe connects his own experiences to those of the guests, creating an overarching theme for each episode. In this sense, the show seems to be almost therapeutic for him, like a release of past trauma.

The conversations aren’t the only fascinating part of the show, though. Just as Choe’s art has no bounds or limitations, the episodes themselves possess a sense of freedom. The interviews are conducted with each guest individually, but some clips are interwoven into other episodes when thematically relevant. Additionally, each conversation is intercut with mind-bending performance art pieces which feature Choe, guests and…Val Kilmer? The skits are surreal to say the least, simultaneously dramatizing the subject matter while also bordering on the absurd. The editing is such that these segments flow with the conversation, culminating in a rhythm which emulates the stream of consciousness.

And with only four thirty-minute episodes, the first season is easily digestible. Despite dealing with some heavy subject matter, each episode ends in a sort of epiphany, providing a sense of hope and closure. While there’s no word on whether “The Choe Show” will be getting a second season, it seems that Choe has plenty more to say.

Season 1 of “The Choe Show” is now available to stream on Hulu.

By Mitchell Turner

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