Bieber, Bono, “Billie Jean”: Podcast Reveals John Kasich’s Surprising Enthusiasms

Music, food, name-dropping and more from the Ohio-governor-turned-podcast host, via his venture with The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (right) has mused about (from left) Bono, Justin Biebr, Lionel Richie and Al Pacino on the Kasich & Klepper podcast.

The most surprising moment of John Kasich’s gubernatorial tenure wasn’t his support for Medicaid expansion. Or his attacks on public sector unions. Or his fierce criticisms of Donald Trump. Those all pale in comparison to the shocking developments of May 20, 2016, when the then-governor of Ohio decided to attend the Rock on the Range festival at the Historic Crew Stadium, taking in an eardrum-splitting performance by the metalcore band Memphis May Fire from the front of the stage.

That appearance revealed Kasich’s unpredictable pop cultural enthusiasms, which also have been on display in recent months on the podcast he launched in January with The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper. Here are a few tidbits from Kasich’s unfiltered mind.

Bono and Friends: “I used to be friends with Bono,” the former governor said in Kasich & Klepper’s first episode, sharing a story about the U2 singer’s efforts on behalf of debt relief for African nations. “Al Pacino told me, ‘Don’t be a name-dropper,’” Kasich declared in another episode, before choosing to disregard that advice. “I was talking to Lionel Richie about this,” Kasich continued.

He’s a Belieber: Kasich urged the comedian Michael Ian Black to listen to “Lonely,” Justin Bieber’s 2020 autobiographical song. “He just opened his heart and soul, and I was so struck by it. I happen to be a Bieber fan, and that song just knocked me out.”

The Trouble with Trombones: Kasich is not a fan of large brass instruments, especially those with 2-foot-plus-long slides. “If I have a trombone, you better get out of my way, because when I go to play some of those notes, I got to slide that thing way out there, and I could whack somebody. … If you’re a trombonist, I guess you’d have to be a loner.”

Cone Bites: For Kasich, nothing beats the final bite of an ice cream cone. “You put it in your mouth, and you chomp it, and it’s like an explosion of delight.” It also might be an entrepreneurial opportunity. “We could put out these things called ‘cone bites’—just the end of the cone,” Kasich told Klepper. “Don’t you think that might really take off?”

Learning to Dance: A friend of Kasich’s twin daughters, Emma and Reese, taught their father how to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” “I wanted to make sure in weddings that I could perform,” Kasich said. He offered to share with Klepper a video of his “Billie Jean” performance, then changed his mind. “Just trust me. It was really good,” Kasich said. 

This story is from the July 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.