The Man Who Would Be Everything: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Listen now:
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson: mayor of London, raconteur, painter of old cheese boxes. You can call him Al.

What is Boris Johnson?

A better question might be: what isn’t Boris Johnson? He is, inter alia, the Mayor of London; a prolific author, journalist and, as of this month, a biographer of Winston Churchill; a once and possibly future Member of Parliament; a potential future Prime Minister himself despite being a “self-styled joke” who occasionally gets stuck on a zip-line; an American by birth (and U.S. passport holder).

He is also, as you’ll hear in our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, a painter of old cheese boxes, a collector of wooden tennis rackets, and a man who would inspire England’s national soccer team by copying how Saddam Hussein’s son Uday reportedly inspired the Iraqi national team: “When they come back next time, we should just, you know, threaten to do something in the changing rooms of those guys unless they sharpen up.”

The episode is called “The Man Who Would Be Everything.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

This is our first attempt at bringing a series of FREAK-quently Asked Questions to notable people from various fields. There were far more questions on my list than we had time for — the mayor is a busy fellow, on book tour no less — but we did get to quite a few. You’ll hear about his best investment (financial, educational, or otherwise); his biggest influence; his favorite books; and, though it took some effort, we also find out his favorite brand of shoe. Along the way, we talk politics, economics, Churchill, sport, food, some more Churchill, and what his family calls him (hint: not Boris).

Love him or hate him, Boris Johnson is a political-intellectual swashbuckler with few peers. (Pardon the impartiality, but I admit to quite loving him; I wish we had more U.S. politicians like him. And, given his U.S. passport, it’s not impossible for him to become one!)

Let us know what you think of this new podcast format, and who else you’d like to hear from in the future. Happy listening.




Great interview, or at least I thought it was until I read some of the legitimate criticism below.
I guess I do kind of wish it was more freakonomic-like and I do find that I rarely check into this blog anymore. (I used to be in every couple of days).

Having said that, I found it enjoyable to listen to the interview and I felt like you handled yourself well in such a wide variety of topics. You are not the average economist.



Can we hear one with the mayor of Reykjavik?! I think that would be fascinating.


Is it possible to identify the songs used in these podcasts? Thank you

Gavin Macfie

Counting billionaires must be one of the Mayor of London’s most important responsibilities. Why else would Boris Johnson have raised the topic only twenty seconds into his interview?

This was a revealing and entertaining interview that got my juices flowing to the extent that I wrote a blog post about it.

Unlike Boris, I do not believe that a country’s attractiveness to billionaires provides a good measure of the quality of its society, institutions or leaders. I lay out my reasoning in the link below.


Really enjoyed this podcast (great hosting & excellent subject)

I too have always liked Boris for being such a character in politics, even before he became Mayor, he regularly appeared as a panelist on 'Have I got News for You' (BBC TV) and always received criticisms and being the subject of others' jokes in fantastic spirit, without losing his cool or altering his firmly held political views

I look forward to more similar formats with equally as engaging subjects


This is awesome! It really gave a different look into the heart of Boris.


So, I like this new format a lot. But I have to say I hated how tame the questions were. This was a unique chance to question a power-greedy megalomane who likes to play nutbag, and very strategically so. He completely wrapped you around his little finger with his eccentricism. We play that down as "crazy Boris striking again" but really in combination with the contained questioning it prevented any substance in this interview. The public economics part seemed to be limited to praising billionaires as some kind of measure of success of London and referencing trickle-down effects.