Photos by Warren Smith
Over the years we’ve had some pretty incredible guest editors—Mike D, Steph Gilmore, Stanley Donwood—and they’ve all been really cool, but I think I speak for everyone at Monster Children when I say working with Jonah Hill was the best.
Fun, funny, professional, chill, generous, beautiful eyes, good-natured, and generally rad. No complaints. Mike D? Complaints for sure, but not with Jonah. Steph Gilmore? Oh my god, talk about ed-zilla. Not Jonah, though—he ruled. Jason Lee? Christ, I’m still in therapy and that was seven years ago. Of course, I’m just being silly to fill space, but Jonah was awesome, and the proof of that is in the issue.
I had a chat with Jonah about this issue, and life, surfing, meditation, etc., but before we get into that, I want to quickly flag something with you, dear and very good-looking reader. I am loath (LOATH) to do those little (laughs) or (laughter) asides in parenthesis, but without them, you can’t tell if Jonah is having fun or not. For instance, when I ask, ‘Would you say you’re on a healing journey?’ and Jonah replies, ‘That is definitely not what I would say,’ you need to know he was laughing as he answered, otherwise it sounds like he’s having a bad time talking to an idiot, when in fact, he’s having a great time talking to an idiot. Now you know.
How are you and where are you?
Good. I’m on set. How are you?
Good, man. What are you doing? What set?
I’m directing a show for HBO, an episode of a show about the Lakers in the 80s.
What does that entail, interviewing players?
No, no, it’s like a scripted show with actors like John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke, Adrien Brody…
That sounds awesome.
Yeah, it’s really fun.
Okay, let’s fly into this interview for your issue. First thing I wanna talk about is you and surfing because that’s your thing now, right?
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah. It was something I always wanted to do, and something I was always scared to do. And I got into it. In August it’ll be two years. I surf three or four times a week and I love it. It’s definitely been my main form of joy.
That’s cool. I should mention now that I do not surf, so if I don’t seem to know what you’re talking about at any point, it’s because I don’t.
So, you skated as a kid and now, as a grown-up, you surf. How did turning up at the skate park for the first time differ from paddling out for the first time?
It differed a lot because I made sure that for the first six months, I was going surfing with a bunch of people who were really good, that were well-respected, so…
You got towed in by pros.
Yeah, and that helped a lot because it was like… I didn’t feel like I had to go by myself and feel like a scared 12-year-old—I was a 35-year-old man, so I was just like, I’m gonna try to set myself up for an enjoyable entryway into this.
That makes sense.
Yeah, and mostly people were pretty cool. I found that just being really respectful when learning the rules and, you know, sort of everything with the line-up, and don’t drop in on people, which I had to learn the hard way a couple of times. Like, accidentally dropping in on people at First Point in Topanga, y’know? I kinda picked it up quickly (laughs).
So, it’ll be two years ago in August you got started?
Was there a moment where you went from Jonah who doesn’t surf, to ‘Oh, shit, now I surf. I’m Jonah who surfs. The surfer.’
Well, it’s less of an identity thing and more… I’m someone that when I get into something, I’m very passionate. So, I wasn’t like, ‘I’m a surfer,’ because I think identity, in general, is pretty pointless. It was more that I knew I wanted to keep doing it because I enjoyed it and I wanted to get better, and I really liked the way it made me feel.
Right on. Has it changed your life? It sounds like it has.
Yeah! I live by the beach now so I can surf every day.
You moved to the beach to surf?
That’s great, man! Good for you!
Yeah! Like, when I’m not working, I want to be surfing.
That’s awesome. Okay, let’s talk about your guest ed issue: you’ve got surfing covered off, but then there’s yoga and meditation; but the approach has been semi-serious, but also semi-mocking the whole idea of ‘wellness culture’ with the Steve Rocco ads.
But it feels to me, like, more than anything you’re owning it and saying, ‘Hey, this is rad stuff—check it out.’
Right, well, I think my whole thing is that it’s both. Like, it is in earnest, these are things I do to make my head better, but it’s always done in such a corny way that you can’t not make fun of it.
So, it’s both: it’s earnest and it’s having a major sense of humour about this at the same time.
Who was your favourite person to interview for this thing?
I was really hyped to interview Elissa Steamer. I’d never met her, and I really wanted to hear her articulate her own essence in the way that I’ve always wanted to ask her about it.
I never met her either. Was she cool? She seems like she’d be rad.
She is so fuckin’ cool. And talking to her just confirmed all those years I’d speculated about how cool she was.
That’s a great interview. What about Bob Roth? Actually, can I just quickly say that Bob Roth, the head of Transcendental Meditation in the US, is the nicest, chillest dude ever. I got dropped into an email with him when we were setting this up and he was like, ‘Oh hey, Jason. Yeah, an interview with Monster Children would be great.’ He was so nice and normal on an email with a random jerk-off from a magazine he’d probably never heard of.
It’s that Transcendental Meditation!
It is! You’re a TM dude, obviously.
Yeah! When we hang up, I’m gonna get in my second session for the day.
I signed up for TM last year, did the course, scored the mantra, and then ended up back on Headspace. I struggled with it. But I got Bob’s email now, so maybe I’ll hit him up for some pointers.
That’s what’s cool about Bob, you can email him and he’ll email you right back; and not just me or a magazine or whatever—he’ll reply to any person who is interested. He dedicates his life to this, and it’s really dope. TM along with surfing, I’d say that those two things have changed my happiness level and my ability to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. Those two things in tandem have really helped.
This is gonna sound a bit corny, but I feel like you’re on a healing journey. Would you say you are on a healing journey?
No, I would not. That is definitely not what I would say (laughs). But I’m trying to… I’m willing to try anything to improve my level of consistent happiness.
I think every person’s different, their timeline is different, there’s no rules to this shit. It’s just if you wanna do it, if you’re interested in it, you do it. But some people don’t need extra tools to be happy, I guess. I think every person is individually different, you know? And that’s what makes us cool as a species.
We are a cool species. Hey, so, I interviewed Mike Gigliotti for this issue…
Which was cool. Love talking to Mike. But what I didn’t know is you guys went to high school together?
Yeah! I’ve known Mike since high school and he’s the best. He’s such a great dude and such an amazing artist. I’m excited because I just feel like Mike deserves to be, like, Raymond Pettibon or something, and I really want him to achieve that kind of success.
Yeah, Mike rules. And there’s a bunch of other people in the mag we could talk about, but the readers will get to that. Speaking of the readers, what do you hope they take away from the Jonah Hill Guest Ed Issue of Monster Children? What do you wish for them?
I have zero expectations.
Come on, man. Well, what about this: what’s next for you? What’s coming up for Jonah Hill?
Well… I’m directing this HBO show, then I directed this documentary that will come out later this year, and then I’m gonna direct my third movie either in the fall or in January.
Right on, and if and when this whole writing and directing thing doesn’t work out, what will you do?
Dude, I’ll surf.
Is that your retirement plan—surf?
Yeah! What’s beautiful about surfing is if all else fails, you know, pending your body is healthy enough, you can just surf. It’s amazing. Like, if I had nothing to do today, if I didn’t have a job, I’d go surf and be fulfilled and happy doing that.
You’re at work right now, directing a show starring Adrien Brody, Jason Clarke, John C. Reilley… And you’re thinking about surfing, aren’t you?
Of course! Well, not while we’re shooting scenes; when we’re shooting scenes, I’m very focused, but on my lunch break, yeah. Before I meditate after this interview, I’m definitely going to check Surfline just to torture myself.
I know. What am I doing? There’s gonna be great waves and I’m not gonna be able to surf them, but of course, I wanna know what’s going on.
Full surf dog. Okay, I better let you get back to it. Before you go, though, can you just say a few words to the person reading this.
Yeah. Um… Thanks for reading. I love this magazine and it’s an honour to have curated it and… I just want you all to smile.
Beautiful! Thanks, Jonah.
Thank you, dude. Lots of love. Thanks for having me.