Recently, TheThings had the pleasure of speaking to comedian/actor/writer/podcast host and true blue bonafide Bruce Springsteen fan, John Murray of The Bosscast podcast. Murray was named “Comedy’s Next Almost Star” by Esquire and has appeared on several TV shows such as Difficult People, Broad City, 30 Rock, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Cooking Channel and many web series such as Funny Or Die.
Born and raised in New Jersey (the hub of Springsteen-ism), Murray created the podcast in order to discuss how The Boss's work has affected the lives of his guests, who range from fellow comedians to political figures, as well as general issues those who were "born in the USA" face today and assorted merriment.
Enjoy our exclusive interview with Murray below!
TheThings (TH): The lyrics to the intro song of your podcast say that you’re obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. For how long have you had this obsession? What is it about The Boss that first drew you in and continues to draw you in to this day?
John Murray (JM): Oh man, how much time to do you have? Well, I grew up in New Jersey. I’m from Colts Neck in Monmouth County and I ran into someone today who’s from Mercer County which is another part of New Jersey and when I said ‘Monmouth County’, he said, ‘Oh, you’re right in the middle of Springsteen country’ and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my town, Colts Neck.’ So that’s kind of one, it’s a given. My folks really liked Bruce Springsteen. They were big fans. My dad and my mom both really enjoyed his music. And I talk about this a lot on the show, how the fandom developed so it was already in my family’s kind of… lexicon. And then around the end of high school, going into college, my parents had their albums and I started to find some of his albums on my own. I remember The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, I found that out on my own and then I developed my own interest in him which was great. My parents went to the reunion tour in ‘99. I missed out on that but I can remember watching the HBO special in Madison Square Garden with my dad. That kind of hooked me. But what really locked it in is that my father died on September 11th. He was in Tower II. That December, Springsteen put on a Christmas showdown at Asbury Park Convention Hall and he invited the families of victims. My mom and I went to that show and seeing him live to begin with is amazing but to have it be on an invite basis especially after such a tragedy was really moving. So it was a thing that was forming on its own and the time of crisis really locked it in. And in a way, as I grew older… I don’t live in New Jersey anymore so his music is something that I hold on to, the good part about growing up. He was always kind of in the background and it’s what I love about my home state.
TH: Can you give us your top 3 favorite songs?
JM: Oh man, I should just have you come on the show. I could spend hours talking about this. There are songs that pull you in, songs that are important to you. They’re not even my favorites but more like benchmarks of my fandom. I can remember Born in the U.S.A. I love that song. It was the first album that I ever purchased. I can remember buying it with my dad. We went to get it and they didn’t have it so I ended up getting Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and I thought it didn’t sound like him at all, I was confused. I was like, six. But that was a big thing, that kind of introduced me to him. After that, it was Rosalita, when I first heard that I thought it was amazing. I’m all out of order here but I would say after that, it was One Step Up off of Tunnel of Love. I talk about that one a lot on the show. I can remember it coming out when I was a kid and everybody wanted more of these anthems, good time songs. It struck me as a kid back in ‘88, as being different and now as an adult, listening to the themes about relationships.
JM: Can I ask you a question? Are you a fan?
TH: I’m a fan, not a superfan but I definitely like his songs. I like Dancing in the Dark and Born in the U.S.A.
JM: Have you ever seen him live?
TH: I haven’t but I would like to. As I understand it, he has a very powerful stage presence?
JM: That would be kind of an understatement. He goes on for 3 hours, he’s very entertaining. He puts on a great show, he keeps you locked in.
TH: Wow, that’s pretty impressive for sure. Is it a requirement that all of your guests be as dedicated to The Boss as you are? Do you have tests of Springsteen-love that potential guests have to pass before being booked? Or do you enjoy educating non-fans on why Springsteen is worship-worthy?
JM: Well, I like to say that we don’t judge fandom on the show. Springsteen fandom can be very much like that. For me, I’ve seen him live 10 times compared to people who have been fans since ‘75. There’s people who have 125 shows under their belt and they could look at me as a neophyte like how could I share my opinion? So I try not do that. I seek out people by word of mouth. I look for guests who love Bruce Springsteen and can talk about him. I don’t look for much else. Generally, people who say that are those who have seen him live but that’s not to say it’s a requirement. We’ve had a couple of guests who haven’t but who just love the albums. And of course, at the end, they say, ‘I’ve got to see him live!’ Being a music fan in general is a subjective thing and you can have an opinion about it and if you’re passionate about it, that’s all I would like to talk to someone about.
TH: Right, I listened to the episode with Will Hines and he was really passionate about it.
JM: I agree. He went to a show during the Tunnel of Love tour and I’m just envious. What a great time to see him. And he’s seen him twice since then. And thank you for listening.
TH: Yeah, I’m a subscriber now. One thing that I noticed when listening to the podcast is that you and your guests know a lot about Springsteen’s personal life, small details that most people probably are not aware of.
JM: He draws you in and he's got the book now too which has opened so many doors. And that's the big thing with fandom, his autobiography. For me now it's a shorthand when you're sitting down with a guest, it's like,'Well, have you read the book?' and most guests say, 'Of course I read the book.' You're able to talk about the music and also his take on life. Everyone's able to jump on it. My producer, Laith, two weeks into it said, "The show, it's working. It gets personal so quickly. I haven’t seen this with another musician where it gets to people's’ families so quickly."
TH: Why is Springsteen + comedy is a successful combination?
JM: For one, he has a good sense of humor about himself. I don't know if you've seen him on Fallon. He sang on Fallon, he's done appearances on Colbert, on Stewart. He's friend with all of those guys. He has an appreciation for comedy as an artist. We joke about it too, on the show. We since he's kind of so sincere. talking about the most sincere individual and it makes us sincere. Maybe it's just the side to comedians that we all secretly take ourselves seriously or something like that and we're able to sit down and talk about these sad songs. He's also good to parody in comedy. The Ben Stiller Show did a series of sketches called “Legends of Springsteen” about him that were done very lovingly but were very funny.
TH: You mentioned kissing your family goodbye earlier. Is your wife also a fan? How does she feel about your love of Springsteen?
JM: My wife, she's not like me. She’s not obsessive. She's become more a fan during our marriage. She definitely appreciates him more now. Now she's listened to the lyrics, she's into it now. She has seen him live with me a few times. She's said that undoubtedly he's probably one of the best live performers. But when my back is turned, is she putting on a Springsteen album? No. That's not what’s gonna happen. She appreciates it but she's not like, ‘It's ticket drop day! We need to get those tickets!’ But that's good. I need someone to keep me in check.
TH: And your kids, are they fans?
JM: My kids like him. I think he’s my daughter’s favorite. She calls him “Bruce Stingseen.” My son likes Elvis. But I think The Boss would be fine with that.
TH: Do you know (via social media) if news of your podcast has reached The Boss yet? Pretend he’s reading this now. What would you want him to know about your podcast?
JM: No, I don’t know that. People have asked me if I want him on the show and that’s not really the goal for me. It’s about the world of the fandom. There are people that I would love to have on. There’s a journalist, Karen Rose, who has written about him at length. That’s someone that I want to talk to, I find her interesting as a music journalist/ I want to talk to people like that and find out their opinions about him and how their love of him influences their work. To talk to Bruce Springsteen about himself, he’s not going to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I love myself.’ That’s not going to lead anywhere.
TH: We heard that you haven’t had many chances to talk about your reasons for starting the podcast in depth, which are very personal and tied to your childhood. Can you tell us about them?
JM: Starting the podcast, I wanted to be an open book about my family and what’s happened. My mom is also deceased. She died in tragic circumstances as well. She was in an accident. She ended up freezing to death outside close to our house. I’ve had a lot of tragedy with my life, tied to New Jersey. Even though my dad died in New York, he commuted every day. Opening up the podcast, I knew that those things would be on the table. Springsteen for me is kind of like a piece of home, it’s almost portable now, something that I carry around with me because I don’t go back to where I grew up. There really isn’t anything there for me anymore.
TH: Every episode has a different guest, either a comedian, journalist, musician or friend of yours and the conversation is geared toward the guest and their projects but everything always gets tied back to Bruce in the end. Do you ever worry about running out of Bruce-related topics?
JM: Not really because I think that Springsteen’s music is so subjective that the topic replenishes itself. His work is so expansive too so everyone’s coming in with their own favorite album. He’s an artist that has had such a personal effect on people and it seems to bring out different stories in people.
TH: What can non-Springsteen fans or iffy Springsteen fans get out of The Bosscast and what do you say to people that you meet who are not Springsteen fans in regards to listening to the podcast?
JM: The hook of the podcast is that we’re going to end up talking about this major artist that we all know but I like to think that it’s really about the person. The first half of the show especially and what sprinkles through is their journey. I have people on the show whose careers I find interesting. A lot of times, I like to ask them about a big turning point in that career and how they handled that. As an individual, I find moments and decisions in change challenging and daunting. To hear people talk about how they handled it, I find it to be gratifying and educational. We’ll have a comedian as a guest or ask someone how they got into writing and there’s a benefit for the listeners because our guests talk about how to get into the arts. We also have an upcoming guest who is involved in politics. The tie-in is how Springsteen helped them out in their life. Once again, I never judge fandom.
TH: What’s next for The Bosscast? Can you share the names of guests that our readers might know of? Also, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
JM: I’m tentative to get out names because our roster changes all the time. I can give professions other than names, hopefully, someone from Rolling Stone again. We’re going to be having more music journalists, a democratic candidate, someone who works in the fashion industry… all walks of life. It also gets guests through word-of-mouth. People can reach out. A couple of people from Twitter have expressed interest in getting on so I’m trying to get on as many people as I can.
TH: Can you share some of the inner workings of The Bosscast? How do you prepare for guests?
JM: Like any interview, we definitely beef up on their backgrounds. We have a handful of questions that we stick to. Unlike other podcasts, I like to keep it very conversational, a familiar experience where the listener feels like they’re hearing two fans or two people getting to know each other talk without it being so interrupted. I don’t want to cut anyone off because I want to hear everything. I don’t put a limit on their answers because I want it to be natural. But we have four or five regular questions that I like to touch on or just keep in mind throughout the podcast.
TH: Pretend that Springsteen finds this interview. What would you want to say to him?
JM: I would just say thank you. That’s it. Thanks for putting the music out there. That’s all I need to say. There’s not much more. I actually did meet him once and what I told him is what I just said. Thank you. I didn’t need a photo, I didn’t need anything else. Just a handshake and a thank you. Because my podcast [is], in the end, for the lack of a better term, a love letter to his work.
TH: Finally, can you share your favorite book with our readers?
JM: That’s a loaded question. I’m a big reader. I’m going to go with Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. It’s a standard story. If you’ve ever heard of a story where a stranger comes into town and he plays two sides against each other. That's based off of Red Harvest. And it’s very well-written. It’s an amazing book.
TH: John, thank you so much for taking the time for this exclusive interview today.
JM: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.