Some of our favorite recent stories about books and the people who make them. Kurt talks with Claudia Rankine about capturing what racism really feels like in "Citizen: An American Lyric," and to Helen Oyeyemi about her very un-Disney re-imagining of Snow White. The writer Sadie Stein defends the word "moist" against all those who get the heebie-jeebies saying it. And the novelists Richard Russo and Jenny Boylan talk about the big plot turns in their books – and in their friendship.
Some of our favorite recent stories about music.What drove Carrie Brownstein to actually punch herself in the face when she was on tour with Sleater-Kinney, the haunting beauty and artistry of the "Twin Peaks" score, and Shamir plays insanely catchy music live in our studio.
Herman Melville's white whale survived his battle with Captain Ahab only to surface in the works of contemporary filmmakers, painters, playwrights and musicians. Kurt Andersen explores the influence of this American Icon with the help of Ray Bradbury, Tony Kushner, Laurie Anderson and Frank Stella. Actor Edward Herrmann is our voice of Ishmael and Mark Price narrates David Ives's short play Moby-Dude.
How many f-bombs and gun shots determine a movie's rating? Howard Fridkin reveals the process of rating movies. Plus, how Native Americans shaped rock and roll history, and a live performance by NPR Tiny Desk Contest winners Tank and the Bangas.
This is the novel about racism that America couldn't ignore. The story of a young man in the ghetto who turns to murder was an overnight sensation. Richard Wright set out to confront white readers with the most brutal consequences of racism, and finally lay to rest the stereotype of the passive Uncle Tom — "he literally wanted to create a bigger Thomas," one scholar argues. But some think Native Son exploited the worst stereotypes of black youth. "Is this giving me permission to go kill white women?" wondered a young Carl Hancock Rux. "Is that what we're supposed to be doing now?" We trace the line from Bigger Thomas to Notorious B.I.G., and visit a high school drama class acting out Native Son, and struggling to grasp the racism their grandparents experienced. With Nathan McCall, Carl Hancock Rux, and Richard Wright's daughter, Julia Wright. (Originally aired September 6, 2013) Thank you to the following for their time and research: Frankie Bailey, Timuel Black, James Campbell, The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, Thomas Cripps, Dolores Fish, Rebecca Hall, Margot McMahon, Gabriel Mendes, Bayo Ojikutu, Howard Pitsch and the Fort Greene Association, Tim Samuelson, and Malcolm Wright. Bonus Track: Nathan McCall on how Native Son changed his life Hear producer Amanda Aronczyk's full interview with Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler. Video: Richard Wright's screen test for the original film of Native Son Photos: The Stivers High School for the Arts' production of Native Son Eric McCalister as Bigger Thomas in the Stivers High School for the Arts' production of Native Son (Tom Patterson) Bigger (Eric McCalister) writes a ransom note while Clara (Ashley Brooks) begs him to stop. (Tom Patterson) Clara (Ashley Brooks) cries in fear when she learns that Bigger (Eric McCalister) has killed young, white Mary Dalton. In the dramatic adaption of Native Son, the character of Clara fills the role of Bessie in the novel. (Tom Patterson)
This week, Kurt goes through the looking glass into the world of conspiracy thrillers. Plus, Matt Walsh breaks down how he improvises comedy on the set of "Veep." And Jimmy Iovine explains how he sold music in the ever-shifting music industry.
Episodes of false identity, living large, and murder in the suburbs add up to the great American novel. Studio 360 explores F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and finds out how this compact novel became the great American story of our age. Novelist Jonathan Franzen tells Kurt Andersen why he still reads it every year or two, and writer Patricia Hampl explains why its lightness is deceptive. We'll drive around the tony Long Island suburbs where Gatsby was set, and we'll hear from Andrew Lauren about his film "G," which sets Gatsby among the hip-hop moguls. And Azar Nafisi describes the power of teaching the book to university students in Tehran. Readings come courtesy of Scott Shepherd, an actor who sometimes performs the entire book from memory. (Originally aired November 25, 2010)
Should arts organizations accept money from the Koch brothers? Art critic Philip Kennicott weighs in. Plus, Oscar-winning director Errol Morris talks about interviewing Elsa Dorfman and Donald Trump. And Blondie's Debbie Harry and Chris Stein share music that inspired their new album.
This week, an episode about groundbreaking pop music: The music that preceded and followed Radiohead's landmark album, "OK Computer." Plus, an exploration of how the life of Tupac Shakur was mythologized — even by Tupac himself. And gospel punk band Algiers plays live in the studio.
Universe not big enough for you? There's always the multiverse — many universes, scattered through time and space. In one world, you might drive a bus; in another, you might be a Formula One racer. If the idea sounds familiar, that could be because it has obsessed science-fiction and comic-book writers for decades. But artists and writers aren't the only ones fascinated by multiples — some physicists think the multiverse could be very real. (Originally aired December 10, 2015)
This week, Kurt talks with "Daily Show" Correspondent Hasan Minhaj about surviving the Trump Administration. Plus, the story behind one of the great literary hoaxes of the century: "Naked Came the Stranger." And statistician Ben Blatt uses data analysis on classic novels and discovers some surprising patterns.
This is where television invented itself. It set the model for the hit family sitcom. Lucy was a bad girl trapped in the life of a '50s housewife; her slapstick quest for fame and fortune ended in abject failure weekly. Both the antics and the humiliation entered the DNA of TV comedy, from "Desperate Housewives" to "30 Rock," writers can't live without Lucy. Rapper Mellow Man Ace celebrates the breaking of an ethnic taboo; a drag performer celebrates Lucy as a freak. With novelist Oscar Hijuelos, producer Chuck Lorre, "The Mindy Project's" Mindy Kaling, and a marriage counselor who has some advice for the bickering couple. American Icons: I Love Lucy was produced by Jenny Lawton, with production assistance from Chloe Plaunt and Claes Andreasson. David Krasnow edited the show. (Originally aired October 8, 2010) Bonus Track: Mindy Hearts Ricky Mindy Kaling ("The Office") grew up thinking "I Love Lucy" was "one of the many black and white things that people keep telling you is so great... and you're just sort of bored and annoyed by it." Then her "Office" boss Greg Daniels ordered her to watch it. She came away with a pretty serious crush on Ricky Ricardo. And she says she's not bothered by jokes about his accent. Bonus Track: Deconstructing Lucy Although Lucy's on-screen antics may have looked improvised, every gesture, glance, and step was written into the script. Gregg Oppenheimer — son of creator, producer, and head writer Jess Oppenheimer — reads a bit of telling stage direction from "Lucy is Enceinte." Jess and Gregg Oppenheimer are the authors of Laughs, Luck... and Lucy. → Read an excerpt from the "Lucy is Enciente" episode script Bonus Track: Notes on a Scandal In 1955 "Confidential Magazine," a Hollywood scandal rag, reported on Desi Arnaz's supposed philandering. Dartmouth film and television professor Mary Desjardins explores the less desirable side effect of being a celebrity couple. → Read about Lucy and Desi in Confidential Magazine (1955) The I Love Lucy show was the first comedy to be filmed in front of a live studio audience, a practice that is now standard in many of today's TV sitcoms. Lucille Ball's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, wrote that her mother's "clowning and comedy talent thrived on the sound of real people laughing uproariously at her antics." (Courtesy of Gregg Oppenheimer) The original I Love Lucy soundstage. Karl Freund, the Oscar-winning cinematographer, convinced Desi Arnaz that I Love Lucy needed to be filmed on a soundstage, not on a theatre stage, as was the convention at that time. A soundstage allowed Freund to set up the necessary infrastructure — including a hanging light grid and crab dollies — to successfully accomplish the innovative technique of three cameras shooting simultaneously. The techniques "Papa" Freund invented for I Love Lucy are still used to make sitcoms today. (Claes Andreasson) A seat to watch a live filming of I Love Lucy was one of the hottest tickets in town — brought to you by Phillip Morris, I Love Lucy's official sponsor. (Claes Andreasson / Hollywood Center Studios) Filming I Love Lucy with three cameras was just one of the show's many monumental innovations. Television historian Thomas Schatz explains, "I Love Lucy shaped the style, the technique, the veritable 'grammar' of the sitcom. And beyond the series' impact on the genre, there was Desilu itself, which affected the institutional, economic, and even the technological practices of the TV industry." (Claes Andreasson / Hollywood Center Studios)
This week, a conversation with music journalist Eve Barlow about the terror attack in Manchester and the city's rich musical history. Plus, "Master of None" co-creator Alan Yang reveals behind-the-scenes stories from the Netflix series, and an expert on con artists dissects America's fascination with flim-flam men.
This week, we head back to "Twin Peaks." "Fargo" showrunner Noah Hawley talks about the impact of David Lynch's cult TV show. Plus, what it was like growing up where the show was filmed, and the composers behind "X-Files" and "Breaking Bad" discuss the brilliance — and influence — of the show's soundtrack.
This was the American spectacle that colonized our dreams. He was the most famous American in the world — a showman and spin artist who parlayed a buffalo-hunting gig into an entertainment empire. William F. Cody's stage show presented a new creation myth for America, bringing cowboys, Indians, settlers, and sharpshooters to audiences who had only read about the West in dime novels. He offered Indians a life off the reservation — reenacting their own defeats. "Deadwood" producer David Milch explains why the myth of the West still resonates; a Sioux actor at a Paris theme park loves playing Sitting Bull; and a financial executive impersonates Buffalo Bill, with his wife as Annie Oakley. (Originally aired November 5, 2010) Bonus Track: Indian or Native American? Artist and scholar Arthur Amiotte offers his opinion on the names given to — and chosen by — his people. Video: "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" There's not much video of Buffalo Bill; William Cody couldn't quite figure out how to adapt his "Wild West" show to the new technology of film. But Thomas Edison used the developing medium to capture some amazing footage of the show. Video: "La Légende de Buffalo Bill" The "Wild West" show has history in Europe. The original stage show spent perhaps a third of its run across the Atlantic, touring as far east as the Ukraine. As shown in the promotional video below, a current French incarnation — "with Mickey and friends" — draws heavily on the mythology created by Buffalo Bill.
This week, why Margaret Atwood dedicated "The Handmaid's Tale" to a woman known as Half-Hanged Mary. Plus, the Kinks' Ray Davies shares his playlist of his favorite American songs, and the story behind that album with George Carlin's classic bit, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."
This week, Studio 360 gets obsessed about fandom: a look inside the world of black cosplayers at ComicCon, Kurt visits a Japanese pop culture paradise, and an atheist proselytizes "Jesus Christ Superstar."
How a church hymn became an American anthem: the surprising and complicated story behind "Amazing Grace." Plus, a conversation with novelist Yewande Omotoso about her book, "The Woman Next Door." And Aimee Mann reveals her biggest influences and performs live in the studio.
Disguised as a mild-mannered reporter, Kurt Andersen explores the history of Superman with cartoonists Jules Feiffer and Art Spiegelman, director Bryan Singer, novelists Michael Chabon and Howard Jacobson, and the 1978 Lois Lane, Margot Kidder. Is this strange visitor from the planet Krypton derivative of Jewish mythology? Can one superhero wield ultimate power for a moral good? And what's up with the blue tights? (Originally aired July 11, 2008)
This week, the story of "Shaft." Plus, learn the lingo in a TV writers' room with "Veep" showrunner David Mandel. And Kurt talks to author Osama Alomar about his collection of very short fiction, "The Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories."
This week, Kurt heads to a dog park and learns how to take the perfect pet portrait. Plus, the story behind "Share A Smile Becky," Mattel's attempt at creating a Barbie doll that used a wheelchair. And Carter Burwell, who scored the music for films by directors including Sidney Lumet and the Coen Brothers, defines the lexicon of film composers.
This week, Kurt talks to comedians Kate Berlant and John Early about their absurdist new series, "555." Plus, how filmmaker Garry Fraser went from being a heroin addict in Scotland to working on "T2: Trainspotting" — a movie about heroin addicts in Scotland. And Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields plays live in our studio.
The home of America's aspirations and deepest contradictions. Monticello is home renovation run amok. Thomas Jefferson was as passionate about building his house as he was about founding the United States; he designed Monticello to the fraction of an inch and never stopped changing it. Yet Monticello was also a plantation worked by slaves, some of them Jefferson's own children. Today his white and black descendants still battle over who can be buried at Monticello. It was trashed by college students, saved by a Jewish family, and celebrated by FDR. With Stephen Colbert, filmmaker James Ivory, and artist Maira Kalman. (Originally aired October 22, 2010) Monticello Update: Monticello plans to re-create or restore spaces where Thomas Jefferson's slaves worked and lived. This $35 million project includes the room where Sally Hemings likely lived, which was turned into a restroom in a 1940s renovation. American Icons: Monticello was produced by Amanda Aronczyk. The Jefferson family graveyard story was produced by Ann Heppermann. The actor David Strathairn was the voice of Thomas Jefferson. David Krasnow edited the show. Music was provided by David Prior, with John Matthias for Small Design Firm, and can also be heard at Monticello's interactive exhibition, Boisterous Sea of Liberty.