Ex-Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau Wants to Put Anxious Hillary "Bedwetters" at Ease
With ex-Obama staffers Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor, Favreau hosts the popular 'Keepin' It 1600' podcast and says liberals shouldn't worry: "The race, to us, has been remarkably stable when you look at the fundamentals, which most of the horse-race coverage doesn't do."
Hillary can't lose this thing, can she? Not a chance, insists Jon Favreau. No, not that Jon Favreau. This one's the wunderkind President Obama speechwriter who since May has reinvented himself with the season's hottest political podcast, Keepin' It 1600, which he tapes twice a week with fellow ex-Obama staffers Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. "If Election Day were today, there's no way [Donald Trump] wins," says Favreau over lunch Oct. 25 at South Beverly Grill in Beverly Hills. Of course, that was before the FBI revisited Clinton's emails, but he follows up a few days later to say he firmly stands by his prediction: "Trump is not going to win."
In many ways, Favreau and his podcast pals have become Nate Silvers of this wild campaign, calmly (and often hilariously) picking apart polls, media spin and Trump's missteps, giving what they call liberal "bedwetters" a chance to calm down. "The race, to us, has been remarkably stable when you look at the fundamentals, which most of the horse-race coverage doesn't do," says Favreau, who escaped D.C. for L.A. in 2013 to write for film and TV while helping tech companies and nonprofits hone public speeches via his and Vietor's Fenway Strategies (both are from Boston). "People's opinions of Trump have been pretty set. Hillary's favorable [ratings] have moved more than anything else. They've gone down, they've gone up, and I think the debates did more for her favorability ratings than anything else in the campaign because she came off as presidential."
Favreau, 35, lives in West Hollywood with fiancee Emily Black, a Sunshine Sachs publicist, on the same street as his brother Andy, an actor (NBC's Aquarius), and Lovett, who created NBC's short-lived 1600 Penn. Favreau and friends were pitching a young-skewing political TV show when fellow Holy Cross alum Bill Simmons suggested a podcast on Simmons' The Ringer digital hub. Amid the election frenzy, it's now generating at least 300,000 listens an episode, appears in the iTunes top 50 podcast list and lures top guests in political media like NBC's Savannah Guthrie and Katy Tur (who jumped off the phone as the Billy Bush scandal was breaking) and GOP strategist Mike Murphy. Favreau hasn't asked Obama to appear — yet.
An Oct. 27 live taping of the show at LA's Silent Movie Theater sold out in 35 minutes at $30 a seat. Of course, interest in politics is about to wane considerable after Nov. 8: "That's the big question: figuring out what's next," Favreau says. "But I'd like to keep doing it for as long as people want to listen." A TV version could be possible — but probably not on Fox News. "I don't know what's going to happen at Fox," he says. "With [Roger] Ailes gone, you've got Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier and Chris Wallace trying to be legitimate news people, and they're going to be sick of [Trump] pretty fast. But the Hannitys and Fox and Friends and those morons, that's their bread and butter."
And if — or, in Favreau's view, when — Trump loses Nov. 8, will he concede to Clinton? "That's a good question," he says. "I don't think he gives a concession [speech] that night. He probably waits until the next day — depending on the margin, I think there are a couple people around him that will tell him various conspiracies."
Favreau says he has no plans to go back to D.C. and, at least for now, prefers his new life in L.A. He even met that other Jon Favreau, the director, who invited him to a pop-up dinner last year at the restaurant Animal. "We go up to the front, and I'm like Jon Favreau, party for four.' And they're like, 'What?', '"
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.