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Hell & High Water with John Heilemann

The Recount

Living in America these past few years has been like living in a movie—a mashup of Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, and Idiocracy, that is. The never-ending pandemic, the routine mass shootings, the climate literally and figuratively on fire; the economy first battered by recession, then ravaged by inflation; an angry electorate, armed to the teeth and addled by conspiracy theories, as our democracy teeters on the brink, with Donald Trump still working overtime to push the whole thing off a cliff. On Hell and High Water, John Heilemann — host of Showtime's The Circus, co-author of Game Change, and national affairs analyst for MSNBC — explores this apocalyptic-seeming moment with seminal figures in politics, entertainment, business, tech, the media, and beyond. The conversations are deep, rich, and bracingly real, but also hopeful, as Heilemann and his guests grapple with the fact that, to quote Bob Dylan, “Everything is broken,” and try to figure out how to fix it … together.

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Our Editor's Take

The Hell & High Water with John Heilemann podcast talks about politics, of course. After all, John Heilemann is one of the country's top political writers and analysts. He cowrote the best-selling Game Change. That book, about the 2008 presidential campaign, got made into an HBO movie. Heilemann also talks politics on Showtime and MSNBC. He helped found The Recount, a political site.

But with the Hell & High Water with John Heilemann podcast, his topic is American culture as a whole. That means talking about much more than elections. Heilemann does talk to fellow DC insiders. New York Times writer Maggie Haberman has guested. Obama advisor David Axelrod has also appeared, as have many other Democratic politicians. So those who like to hear about politics will hear plenty on this show.

But Heilemann also interviews many other eclectic guests. This includes director/producer Allen Hughes, who discussed his Tupak Shakur documentary. Rapper/activist Killer Mike talked to Heilemann about music. So did Steven Van Zandt. Other past guests include actor/musician Jack Black and director Aaron Sorkin. Severance actor Adam Scott discussed switching from comedy to drama.

Heilemann is good at making his guests feel relaxed. He also comes up with compelling questions to make them think. Listeners get to learn more about guests they may already know. Or they may hear about artists they are not familiar with. New Hell & High Water episodes with John Heilemann come out every Tuesday. Sometimes, Heilemann and his guest have so much to talk about that their conversations extend to several episodes.

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