Super Combo: Jamie Foxx and Maria Popova (#710)


Illustration generated by OpenAI’s DALL·E, an AI program specialized in creating images from textual descriptions.

Welcome to The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is my job to deconstruct world-class performers to tease out their routines, habits, et cetera that you can apply to your own life. 

This time around, we have a very special edition with two hit interviews from the podcast’s back catalog. It features two incredible guests: Jamie Foxx and Maria Popova. 

My goal is to introduce people to interviews they might have missed over the years and encourage them to enjoy household names but also sample lesser-known people I consider stars. You can think of this format as my personal, curated selection of the best of the last 10 years, or at least some of my favorites. 

Jamie Foxx (@iamjamiefoxx) is an Academy Award-winning actor, a Grammy Award-winning musician, and a standup and improv comedian. He is one of the most consummate performers and entertainers that I have ever met. This conversation was voted Podcast of the Year in 2015.

Maria Popova (@brainpicker) is the creator of The Marginalian (long ago named Brain Pickings), which is included in the Library of Congress’ permanent web archive of culturally valuable materials. The Marginalian is Maria’s one-woman labor of love—an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life. From Mark Twain to Oscar Wilde and everyone in between, Maria finds the hidden gems. She is prolific and consistent—The Marginalian was created on October 23, 2006, and it has been running strong for 17+ years. 

What do you think of this format? Please let me know on Twitter—or X, as the cool kids say—by tagging @tferriss.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastPodcast AddictPocket CastsCastboxGoogle PodcastsAmazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions marketing platform with 1B+ users; Cometeer delicious hyper-fresh, flash-frozen coffee; and Shopify global commerce platform, providing tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business.

#710: Super Combo: Jamie Foxx and Maria Popova

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Want to hear other episodes featuring Jamie Foxx and Maria Popova? Listen to my second conversation with Jamie, in which we discussed past lives, political correctness, orgasmic meditation, artistic death, how Jamie imagines heaven, and much more. And be sure to check out some of Maria’s favorite book recommendations as part of the “Books I’ve Loved” series.

#167: Jamie Foxx Part 2 – Bringing the Thunder

#436: Books I’ve Loved — Maria Popova and Tyler Cowen

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



Connect with Jamie Foxx:

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

SHOW NOTES (Timestamps apply to original episode)

  • Why does Jamie keep a grand piano in his home studio? [06:49]
  • What is automated dialogue replacement (ADR)? [08:13]
  • How did Jamie break into music? [09:32]
  • How did a then-unknown Jamie Foxx got into Puff Daddy’s parties? [09:57]
  • Jamie challenges Puff Daddy by throwing down the party gauntlet [10:55]
  • Before social media, Jamie had a unique way of staying connected with people, which involved comedy shows, cue cards, and text messages [11:59]
  • Why nobody leaves Jamie’s house without performing  [16:56]
  • What makes Jamie’s studio magical [19:34]
  • How Jamie learned the nuances of performing on both sides of the tracks (literally and metaphorically) when he was a kid [23:59]
  • How young Jamie dealt with racially insensitive grown-ups at a Christmas party [28:31]
  • What convinced Jamie to leave Texas and head to California [30:42]
  • Life lessons Jamie learned from his grandma [33:38]
  • Why Jamie is always willing to help his family, but he’s no sucker [39:45]
  • Jamie’s parenting style  [41:27]
  • How portraying Ray Charles in Ray gave Jamie the opportunity to bring all of his comedic, acting, and musical talents into play [42:00]
  • What Ray Charles told Jamie was possible if he could play the blues [43:15]
  • Lessons from Ray Charles [47:19]
  • What’s on the other side of fear? [50:42]
  • Jamie’s first impression? [54:07]
  • What Bill Cosby had to say to Jamie on the subject of booty calls [56:44]
  • How Jamie uses his musical background to help him do impressions [57:34]
  • How raising kids in Hollywood differs from Jamie’s own small-town Texas upbringing [59:52]
  • Jamie Foxx’s real name [01:03:06]
  • Could Prince or Michael Jackson find a career break in today’s “Age of Memes?” [01:08:11]
  • What happened when Jamie first bombed on stage [01:09:32]
  • Why do some standup comedians lose the ability to make people laugh? [01:17:15]
  • Where does Jamie get his best standup material? [01:20:34]
  • How did the In Living Color team assemble? [01:28:19]
  • Jamie talks about how social media has taken away the power to control our own narratives [01:34:51]
  • Is Quentin Tarantino a cop hater? [Short answer: No, and don’t believe the media spin]  [01:41:32]
  • Jamie’s advice to new parents raising a child of color in modern America [01:48:00]
  • Jamie’s plans for his next comedy tour [01:52:43]
  • The first person who comes to Jamie’s mind when he hears the word “successful.” [01:54:34]
  • What historical figure does Jamie most identify with? [01:57:13]
  • Jamie’s take on documentaries [02:01:37]
  • What would Jamie’s billboard say? [02:06:08]
  • What would Jamie teach a class of 9th graders? [02:07:22]
  • Jamie’s morning routine (it doesn’t involve coffee) [02:12:07]
  • Advice Jamie would give to his younger self. [02:15:04]
  • The time Jamie told Mike Tyson jokes but didn’t realize Mike was in the audience. [02:23:55]


Selected Links from the Maria Popova Episode

  • Connect with Maria Popova:

The Marginalian | Twitter | Instagram

Where to Start? The Marginalian Recommendations from Maria Popova

SHOW NOTES (Timestamps apply to original episode)

  • What percentage of New York Times best sellers are a result of Maria’s coverage? [4:55]
  • How to live a meaningful happy life. [10:00]
  • The importance of writing for an audience of one. [12:10]
  • Contending with the temptation to create Buzzfeed-like content. [15:45]
  • Maria Popova’s daily rituals, beliefs on sleep, distraction-avoidance habits, meditation, and exercise routines. [23:25]
  • Maria Popova’s note-taking system. [31:45]
  • Seneca and the time-tested challenge of presence vs. productivity. [37:36]
  • Start-up opportunity? Build a note-taking tool for heavy readers/highlighters. [41:58]
  • About the team behind BrainPickings. [48:45]
  • Maria Popova’s process for editing within her team. [51:12]
  • Self-reliance pathology and how to overcome it. [53:56]
  • How to find a professional personal assistant and delegate. [56:40]
  • What Maria Popova’s weight lifting regiment looks like, plus her favorite bodyweight-only exercise. [1:02:14]
  • Blogging strategies [1:05:22]
  • Social media strategies [1:15:00]
  • How cultivate a personal inner circle, how to pre-screen book review requests [1:20:30]
  • Why there are no dates on the posts on BrainPickings? [01:12:30]
  • Scheduling (and automating) social media [01:22:10]
  • How do you deal with friends who want you to read their books? [01:27:10]
  • What donation model works best for site revenue? [01:31:45]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.


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