Prompted by an article I wrote for New York about dealing prescription drugs through Craigslist, Pivot TV contacted me mid-July about appearing on an episode of Meghan McCain’s new talk show, Raising McCain, which debuts this Saturday, September 14th, at 10pm EST. In spite of the fact that preparing for television interviews is a shitload of work — considering the amount of research required not to sound like an idiot, and the amount of primping required not to look your worst on camera — I never decline such opportunities.
So a week later, I found myself in the bathroom of an Italian restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, re-touching my JonBenét Ramsey style makeup, which had partially melted during the long subway ride uptown, alongside Meghan McCain. At the time, all I knew about Meghan was that she was a Republican, had written at least two books, and was the daughter of former presidential candidate John McCain. Truthfully, none of these characteristics inspired me to like her. But as soon as she turned the faucet on and sheepishly warned, “I don’t like it when people hear me pee,” before tucking into a stall, her sincerity endeared her to me. Maybe I was harboring a few too many preconceived notions, I realized.
Still, I wondered where the day — and our discussion about millennials as “the binge generation” — might lead. What I soon discovered is that Meghan McCain is an open-minded, modern lady committed to addressing important issues in a way that’s informative without being boring.
In honor of Raising McCain’s premier this week, I turned the table to ask Meghan a few questions of my own—about her show, being vocal even when her opinions diverge from her dad’s, the importance of failure, and, of course, twerking, among other things.
Thought Catalog: I was impressed to read that you came up with the concept for Raising McCain—an unconventional, on-the-road docu-talk show. I’m wondering what feedback—negative or positive—you received during the pitching process, and how it affected you.
Meghan McCain: Well, the idea really unfolded with my production company and with Pivot. I had the initial idea but they really helped it come to life, so I can’t take all the credit. But the pitching process is a horrible experience. It’s soul killing.
TC: How did you maintain the resolve to see the project through?
MM: I really believed in the idea. Everyone seemed to want me to do a reality show instead, but I wouldn’t do something like that—ever. Pivot happened to be my last meeting and I left feeling like I had to work with them. Finally, someone seemed to understand exactly what I wanted to accomplish.
TC: What lessons from your MSNBC experience did you take with you while filming Raising McCain?
MM: I once thought I wanted to be in politics and maybe work on campaigns again, but I wasn’t happy during that time. I realized that I wanted to be part of what we have in common—not part of the division between left and right. But I don’t want anyone to think I’m ungrateful for my MSNBC experience, since I learned so much about myself and about what I wanted, and didn’t want. I figured out that I don’t want to be a pundit. When I was growing up, MTV News had such a pivotal impact on me. It was the first time I heard discussions about AIDs and gay people. You know, when you’re having these conversations while watching entertainment that’s also informative, it changes your life.
TC: As someone who felt so deeply disillusioned at one point in early adulthood, what is your advice to 20-somethings when it comes to figuring their shit out?
MM: I think failure is important — it’s just part of life and part of the process. Everybody is going to go through hard times. We’re expected to have it all figured out—to leave college knowing exactly what we want to do — but I struggled a lot. So I suggest you try things. I have this square peg/round hole theory that you can’t force something that isn’t natural and there’s a reason things don’t work out. I always say: “Rejection is God’s protection.” I read that on the Internet. I think failure is just as important as success. I’ve certainly failed as much as I’ve succeeded.
TC: You’ve said that Raising McCain has allowed you to be the “most authentic version of yourself.” What would you say has been people’s greatest misconception about you to date?
MM: I think it’s depends who you ask. There are probably really conservative people who think I’m a “fake” Republican. I also think a lot of people assume I’ve been handed everything. I would never deny that I’ve been given more opportunities than the average person because of who my dad is, but it’s been seven years since my dad ran for president. And it was me and my production company who pitched my show and filmed for 15 hours a day. If your parents are famous and you become a drug addict and your life is a mess, it’s your parents’ fault. And if you’re a success, your parents get the credit. So there’s no way to win.
TC: What’s the best part about your current gig, aside from getting to wear Converse every day as you’ve noted?
MM: This is my dream job. I have a show in which every theme is directly related in one way or another to an issue in my own life and other people’s lives and we go out and explore it. I had so much fun with the camera crew. We became a little family. I had wonderful guest hosts. I feel like I’m getting paid to be crazy and ask crazy questions. It’s awesome.
TC: Of all the people you interviewed on the road, who stands out the most, and why?
MM: There were so many good people. Alexis Ohanian, the creator of Reddit, ended up being such an awesome interview. I also interviewed Inez Dickens, a Counselwoman in Harlem, for the feminism episode. I didn’t know what to expect, but Inez and I ended up having this real conversation about being a woman in politics and she was really open and candid. I took a lot away from it.
TC: Did you ever consider not working?
MM: [Laughs]. Noooooo. My parents would never buy that. I love working. I mean, it gives me great satisfaction and a sense of purpose. And I have to support myself.
TC: As a self-proclaimed “liberal Republican,” a lot of your views differ from your father’s. Why do you think some people are so shocked by that?
MM: I don’t know. Because people are morons? I think if your parents are in politics, people expect you to agree with them 100 percent. There’s this stereotype about politicians’ children never stepping out of line. But no matter what, where, or who you are, you shouldn’t be put in a box. I don’t know any person in the world who agrees with their parents’ thinking 100 percent.
TC: Do you think being female has anything to do with the criticism you get for speaking out?
MM: I think if my brother Jack had been the one who worked on my dad’s campaign and the one who had a career in media, he would have had a much less turbulent time and he would have been much more accepted in a lot of ways. I think the media—especially the political media—has such a problem with women. I mean, Hillary Clinton is stereotyped as being this cold bitch. Sarah Palin is this beautiful idiot. There’s no way to win. You’re either too beautiful, or not beautiful enough. You’re too dumb, or too smart. And everyone’s a bitch. And a whore!
TC: I can see why you don’t want to be in politics!
MM: It’s so dangerous and we are sending such a horrible message to young women. We have a huge problem for women running for office in this country and I think it’s correlated directly to how we treat women in media.
TC: You’ve said that you inherited your dad’s keen bullshit detector. Does it come in handy on dates? If so, how?
MM: Yes! Oh my gosh. [Laughs]. I’m such a bad dater, though. Dating feels like a series of job interviews over cocktails. The bullshit detector does work great, though. It lets me weed people out faster.
TC: Okay, no more Dad questions, I promise. What inspired you to dye a piece of your hair pink the other day? (I saw a photo on Instagram.)
MM: It’s actually just a little extension. I don’t know. I’m in a really fun place in my life right now. Why not put pink in your hair once in a while?
TC: You’ve cited Tabitha Simmons and MTV News as early inspirations. What did you think of Miley Cyrus’ twerking at the VMA’s?
MM: You know, I’m 28, and I feel old for MTV. It used to seem really rock-and-roll and cool when I was growing up. But I don’t care about One Direction and Taylor Swift that much, so I think I’ve aged out of the MTV award shows. Did you like them?
TC: I started watching 60 Minutes instead about 20 minutes in. I guess that makes me old, too. I wanted to watch Anderson Cooper dive with Nile crocodiles more than I wanted to watch ‘N Sync reunite. But I did catch Miley’s performance, and I don’t get the fuss. To quote a friend’s Facebook post: “She was supposed to sing her song about cocaine, ecstasy, and alcohol to an audience of tweens while dancing APPROPRIATELY. She did NOT.” I think people forget that it was a performance.
MM: I’m just like, whatever. I don’t get offended by stuff that easily. She’s a rebellious kid. She was just going wild and having fun.
TC: Where will you be watching the Raising McCain premier come Saturday, and with whom?
MM: I’ll probably have a few friends over to my apartment. Or I might go home to Arizona.
TC: Hypothetically, what, if anything, would you do differently in Season 2?
MM: I would probably tighten up the topics so they’re less broad. I’d also like to explore meth in America.
TC: Is that the I’m-from-Arizona-and-an-avid-Breaking Bad-viewer in you talking?
MM: I actually don’t watch Breaking Bad, but yes. I’ve been learning a lot about meth labs because of the attention surrounding that show.
TC: Terrifying stuff. Fingers crossed for a Season 2!