how i get it done

Life in the Fast Lane

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Philip Vukelich/Redux

Molly Jong-Fast, the daughter of novelist Erica Jong, has made a name for herself as a relatable political commentator, podcaster, writer, and prolific tweeter. Her mother wrote about her often while she was growing up, so she’s familiar with being in the public eye, but she’s “found her purpose” (as media critic Margaret Sullivan put it in a recent New York Times profile) as a political pundit. She’s written a couple of novels and a book of essays and is working on a new book. As a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, she writes a weekly newsletter, Jong-Faster Politics (“I think being able to write about our crazy politics you don’t feel as powerless,” she says, “because you are actually able to make sense of it.”) She also hosts a podcast called Fast Politics, distributed through iHeartMedia, where she puts out three episodes per week with three guests across the political spectrum appearing each episode. Guests so far have included Kamala Harris, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Bernie Sanders. She’s also been proudly sober since she was 19. Jong-Fast lives in Manhattan with three kids, three dogs, and her husband and is reportedly a fabulous party hostess. Here’s how she gets it done.

On her family’s morning routine: 
I have all these kids, so I get up at 6 or 6:30 and make a pot of coffee. Then I wake everybody up and there’s a lot of pre-going-to-school activity that takes a very long time and a lot of psychic energy. I whip up a gourmet breakfast every day for everyone … I’m just kidding. I can’t cook. At 6:30 in the morning, I’m barely conscious. I drink coffee, and the children and I make ourselves cereal. Sometimes I get Shredded Wheat, sometimes Lucky Charms, sometimes Raisin Bran. We have three dogs and one is extremely elderly and has all sorts of problems and diabetes and is wearing a diaper, so there’s almost always terrible dog drama in the morning. The kids are old enough to walk to school on their own, but they like me to walk them. It’s kind of a bonding thing. It’s also a sibling-rivalry thing, because if you walk one, you can’t walk the other. There are many days, like this morning, where I walk them both.

On a typical workday:
I do the podcast on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. But who’s counting? I write my Vanity Fair newsletter Monday and Tuesday. And then I work on my book on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I’m in that stage in my life where I want to work, but if I get really burned out, I will take some time. Sometimes with writing, you have time to do it and you just can’t. The magazine stuff and podcast are easier, but working on a book, sometimes you sit down and you’re like, Uhh … I need to go for a walk. So I do a lot of walking around, going outside. I need to just touch grass! I do a lot of that because I don’t want to get in my own head.

When podcasting, I work at my desk, which is amazing. I’m so grateful. It used to be me, my producer Jesse Cannon, and these small headphones. That was a really nonprofessional setup. Now, I have enormous headphones and an enormous microphone with a huge woofer on it because I cannot sit still and you can hear me moving around, which is so bad. As punishment, Jesse got me this humongous microphone that makes me look like an absolutely ridiculous person. So I use that and you can’t hear that I’m moving around. We have nine guests a week. Today’s episode was with Ruben Gallego, who’s running for Senate in Arizona. When I interviewed Kamala Harris, I had an anxiety attack, but I try to get the guests to feel really comfortable. People will say things to me if they’re comfortable, and they’re not gonna if I yell at them a question that they don’t want to be asked. So my game is, You’re my buddy, we are here together. My goal with electeds is always to get them off talking points. The worst interview you can have is where it just sounds like an episode of Veep. Even if they’re just talking about their lives, that’s pretty interesting stuff.

On her sobriety: 
I’ve been sober since I was 19, so every single thing in my life is shaped by the program and the experience of being sober. What I wanted more than anything in the world was to be able to say, “You can get sober at 19 and you can stay sober and the legacy of alcoholism can stop with you.” When I first got sober, I would always be like, “It’s so unfair. You’re drinking a martini, and I’m here in a church basement. I’m so screwed.” Now — and again, it’s a long time later —I feel like I’m so lucky to be in AA, to be sober. I feel like I have such an advantage because you think, “The goal of life may not be to get as much stuff as possible.” The goal may actually be to live a life where you have spirituality and you grow and learn. It’s fairly hard as a parent to see your kids struggle, but what’s so amazing about being sober is that in my mind, adversity helps growth.

On winding down at the end of the day:
I sometimes go out, mostly to dinner. Often somebody invites me to something and I’m like, “This sounds amazing!” and I forget to respond. Then I look on Instagram and I’m like, “Everyone is having so much fun without me!” I am able to have FOMO about almost anything. Even though I’ve been sober a long time, I’m still very happy to judge my insides on your outsides. The problem is because I get up at 6:30, by 10 p.m. I want to die. By ten o’clock, I can barely keep my eyes open, so I’m kind of a wimp. If I stay out until 10:30, I think of myself as having been to Studio 54.

I haven’t been hosting as much either anymore because I’ve been careful with COVID. And my kids have wanted to hang out with me and my husband. Especially last year, I felt like we all needed to sit on the couch and watch television with the dog. When they’re little it’s so hard, but now that my kids are people, it’s really fun. They are really fun to hang out with. They’re funny and interesting and interested in stuff, so that is very delightful. My son and I have been watching The Larry Sanders Show. We did Veep like 57 times. We’ve done The Office. My daughter and I are now watching Grace and Frankie, which she loves. I love it too, but for a teenage girl to love it … I don’t know why, but it just delights me. We’re a pretty sedentary bunch, but we do a lot of dog-walking. Also, I try to visit my mom once or twice a week depending on how guilty I feel.

On her media diet:
Jesse, my producer, and I talk like 50 times a day and I have to be mindful that he’s not my brain and not contact him because I’ll be like, “Did you see this? We have to do something on this!” I read the Washington Post and the Times and The New Yorker and, of course, I read Vanity Fair. I also read some right-wing stuff. I watch cable news, sometimes. I listen to all the NPR I can get. I’m weakest on foreign-policy stuff, and I would never write on it or talk on it, but I want to be abreast of it. Twitter Blue has a most-read articles link and then you can see what people are saying about the articles, which I find very, very useful because then you’re able to both read something and see what other people think. I find that super-interesting and slightly terrifying. I also read a lot of old, weird stuff. I really love Gore Vidal and his weird essays, and sometimes I’ll listen to them on Audible.

On the people who help her get it done:
I have a couple of people who I talk to cover my blind spots. My agent at UTA, Jennifer Rohrer, who I talk to 55 times a day. Jon Allen from NBC, and Hugo Lowell from The Guardian. My producer Jesse does everything. I book the guests, but once I’ve done that Jesse will send them our pitch, email them, set up a time, tape everything, and edit everything. My mother doesn’t necessarily help me get it done, but I feel very strongly that I owe her. She was a complicated mother, but she did really love me and she brought me into this world. And then my emotional-support dog Leonidas, my puppy Bu Bu, and my elderly dog Spartacus.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

How Political Commentator Molly Jong-Fast Gets It Done