Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently called writer Jon Ronson an investigative satirist. As Ronson himself puts it: "I go off and I have unfolding adventures with people in shadowy places. I guess I tell funny stories about serious things."
Ronson has collected many of these stories in his new book, Lost at Sea. He talks to Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about the characters and places he has encountered along the way.
On meeting the rap duo Insane Clown Posse
"It turns out that after 20 years of these incredibly violent songs, they announced that all this time they had secretly been Evangelical Christians embedding messages about their love of God deeply into the lyrics of their songs — I'd say very deeply."
"I think they hate the fact that their expression of their souls is something that is just mocked and ridiculed by so many people who come into contact with them. It's like they're trapped being them. And they thought [their song] 'Miracles' would bring them out of it. [They] said to me at one point, 'If Alanis Morissette had written this song, everyone would have said it was genius.'"
On shadowing a vigilante superhero and facing drug dealers
"He's kind of obsessed with fighting crimes, but quite often there's no crime to fight, so he gets more and more frustrated. I was with him, his name is Phoenix Jones, and I was with him on patrol for a few nights. And he was so frustrated that he couldn't find any crime to thwart that he decided to confront — with me not realizing what his plan was — to confront a gang of armed crack dealers. Just me and Phoenix. And Phoenix had a bullet-proof super-suit on, and a mask. I had nothing, I had, like, a T-shirt. And we approached these crack dealers and they were aghast. They were like, 'What are you doing? Coming to our block in your stupid costume?' They said, 'This is not fun and games to us, this is how we feed our family. How we feed our family is not how you feed your family. If you don't go, we'll kill you.' So I found myself nodding in agreement to everything the crack dealers were saying, in the hope that they would shoot around me, which was kind of my aim at the time.
"I've never been so frightened in my life. I've been in some dangerous scrapes, but this was the most frightening. And they got to us, and one of them said, 'We really should kill you. We should kill you, but if you're stupid enough to die for this, I guess we're just going to have to go home.' And they did, they dispersed, they all went home. So Phoenix won."