Fresh Air

Weekdays at noon and midnight

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Visit the Fresh Air website for more information.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

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3:32pm

Wed September 5, 2012
Economy

Journalist Evaluates Obama, Romney Economic Plans

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 5:39 pm

David Leonhardt, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, won a Pulitzer Prize last year for his columns about the economy.
Earl Wilson The New York Times

On Monday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan told a campaign rally audience in North Carolina that "the president can say a lot of things, but he can't tell you you are better off." Later that day in Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden responded "America is better off today than they left us."

New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt argues that both Ryan and Biden are right: It's partly semantics.

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2:10pm

Tue September 4, 2012
Author Interviews

Mickey Edwards On Democracy's 'Cancer'

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 2:48 pm

Mickey Edwards served as a Republican congressman for Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District from 1977 to 1993.
Gia Regan Yale University Press

In his 16 years in Congress, Republican Mickey Edwards came to a strong conclusion: Political parties are the "cancer at the heart of our democracy," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In his new book, The Parties Versus the People, the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma details how party leaders have too much control over who runs for office, what bills make it to the floor and how lawmakers vote.

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1:39pm

Tue September 4, 2012
Author Interviews

Conservation Biologist Explains Why 'Feathers' Matter

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 2:11 pm

Thor Hanson's own cast of Archaeopteryx lithographica presents what he calls the "ancient wing written in stone."
Thor Hanson Basic Books

It was the absence of feathers that got conservation biologist Thor Hanson thinking about the significance of them. Hanson was in Kenya studying the feeding habits of vultures, and he noticed the advantages that vultures had relative to other birds because of their bare, featherless heads.

"Having lost their feathers allows [vultures] to remain much cleaner and more free from bacteria and parasites and disease," Hanson tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.

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12:38pm

Tue September 4, 2012
Music Reviews

When Ian Hunter Is 'President'

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 3:54 pm

Ian Hunter once is at once crafty and mindful of craft, striving mightily to make his music seem tossed off.
Ross Halfin

Recently, I was listening to a new tribute album covering the songs of Fleetwood Mac, and thought once again how dreadful most tribute albums are: They don't add much to the legacy of the artists being saluted, while inadvertently freezing vital old music in an amber of sentimentality. Then I turned to When I'm President, an album of new songs by Ian Hunter.

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12:03pm

Mon September 3, 2012
Music Reviews

Miguel Zenon And Laurent Coq Play 'Hopscotch'

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 2:57 pm

Miguel Zenon.
Courtesy of the artist

The new quartet album by alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón and pianist Laurent Coq is called Rayuela, which means "hopscotch." It's named for Julio Cortázar's novel, the fragmented tale of a wandering bohemian and his social circles in Parisian exile, as well as back home in Buenos Aires.

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12:03pm

Mon September 3, 2012
Interviews

Joan Rivers Hates You, Herself And Everyone Else

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 2:57 pm

Joan Rivers says her material has only gotten stronger with age. "I always say, 'What are you going to do? Are you going to fire me? Been fired. Going to be bankrupt? Been bankrupt.'"
Courtesy of the author

This interview was originally broadcast on June 11, 2012.

Joan Rivers doesn't hold anything back.

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9:03am

Sat September 1, 2012
Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh Air Weekend: Regina Spektor, Victor LaValle

Originally published on Sat September 1, 2012 12:08 pm

"To me, the voice is an instrument, just like any other instrument," Regina Spektor says.
Shervin Lainez

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Regina Spektor: On Growing Up A 'Soviet Kid': The singer spent the first nine years of her life in the Soviet Union, where she and her family faced discrimination as Jews. She talks about Russia and her new album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats.

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11:30am

Fri August 31, 2012
Music Reviews

Shoes: After 18 Years, The Power-Pop Band Re-Ignites

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 4:16 pm

Shoes.
Courtesy of the artist

11:30am

Fri August 31, 2012
Movie Interviews

Jack Black: On Music, Mayhem And Murder

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 4:16 pm

In Bernie, Jack Black plays a local mortician who murders his live-in companion after she won't stop nagging him. The movie is based on a true story.
Deana Newcomb Wind Dancer Films

This interview was originally broadcast on April 23, 2012. Jack Black's Bernie is now out on DVD.

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12:14pm

Thu August 30, 2012
Performing Arts

David Alan Grier's 'Sporting Life' On Broadway

In Porgy and Bess, David Alan Grier plays the drug dealer Sporting Life, a role closely associated with Sammy Davis Jr. and Cab Calloway.
Courtesy of the American Repertory Theater

This interview was originally broadcast on May 22, 2012. David Alan Grier plays Sporting Life in the opera Porgy and Bess, which closes on Broadway next month. Porgy and Bess won two Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

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12:13pm

Thu August 30, 2012
Performing Arts

Audra McDonald: Shaping 'Bess' On Broadway

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 1:46 pm

Audra McDonald plays Bess in the current Broadway production of Porgy and Bess.
Michael J. Lutch Courtesy of the American Repertory Theater

This interview was originally broadcast on May 15, 2012. Audra McDonald plays Bess in the opera Porgy and Bess, which closes on Broadway next month. Porgy and Bess won two Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

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2:08pm

Wed August 29, 2012
Author Interviews

A Linguist's Serious Take On 'The A-Word'

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 2:04 pm

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg says he wants people to take his new book, Ascent of the A-Word, seriously.
Nicole Katano

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg wants people to take his new book, Ascent of the A-Word, seriously.

"I'd meet people when I was working on the book, and even academics — they'd say, 'What are you working on?' and they'd giggle. Or they'd say, 'You must have a lot of time on your hands,' " Nunberg tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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12:40pm

Wed August 29, 2012
Author Interviews

Victor LaValle On Mental Illness, Monsters And Survival

Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 1:58 pm

Victor LaValle is also the author of Slapboxing with Jesus, The Ecstatic and Big Machine.
E. Robateu Random House

In Victor LaValle's new novel, The Devil in Silver, a man is mistakenly committed to a mental hospital where a buffalo-headed monster stalks patients at night.

The plausibility of a monster roaming the hospital's halls made sense, says LaValle, who has a personal connection to the mentally ill.

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2:34pm

Tue August 28, 2012
Author Interviews

'Real Romney' Authors Dissect His Latest Campaign

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 12:17 pm

Michael Kranish (left) is the deputy chief of the Washington bureau of The Boston Globe. Scott Helman is a staff writer at The Globe. Both have covered politics, presidential campaigns and Congress.
courtesy of the authors

In The Real Romney, Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman examine Mitt Romney's political rise since 1994, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. They explain how Romney shifted from supporting abortion rights to heavily courting social conservatives in the 2008 Republican primary.

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12:28pm

Mon August 27, 2012
Book Reviews

In 'The Brontes,' New Details Of Family's 'Strange World'

Originally published on Mon August 27, 2012 3:13 pm

In the new, updated edition of her landmark biography The Brontes, Juliet Barker tells a sad story about Branwell, the infamous brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

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12:27pm

Mon August 27, 2012
The Fresh Air Interview

Regina Spektor: On Growing Up A 'Soviet Kid'

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 10:05 pm

"To me, the voice is an instrument, just like any other instrument," Regina Spektor says.
Shervin Lainez

Regina Spektor plays the piano so loudly, she has to convince piano tuners to adjust the instrument to her liking.

"It gets so loud that the strings reverberate in a certain way," Spektor says. "And I always want them to work on the voicing and to soften the hammers, and they get kind of argumentative with me — they're like, 'You're not supposed to play this loud.'"

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9:03am

Sat August 25, 2012
Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh Air Weekend: Mike Birbiglia, Bill Hader

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 6:10 pm

Scenes in the movie Sleepwalk With Me -- about Mike Birbiglia's sleep disorder — made him emotional while filming them.
Adam Beckman IFC Films

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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12:48pm

Fri August 24, 2012
Movie Reviews

How Brazil Lives Now, In 'Neighboring Sounds'

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 4:39 pm

Joao (Gustavo Jahn) and Sofia (Irma Brown) are among the inhabitants of the Recife, Brazil, street where Neighboring Sounds takes place.
Victor Juca Cinema Guild

Between mass tourism and the Internet, it's never been easier to learn about other cultures. Yet we often stay on the surface. Watching the Olympics opening ceremony a few weeks ago, I was struck by how much of what was presented as quintessential Britishness came from pop culture — James Bond and Mary Poppins and the chorus to "Hey Jude." Although Britain had a global empire not that long ago, the show's director, Danny Boyle, grasped that the world's image of his green and pleasant land now largely derives from movies and songs.

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11:29am

Fri August 24, 2012
Author Interviews

'Incognito': What's Hiding In The Unconscious Mind

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 12:48 pm

Dr. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and writer. He directs the Laboratory of Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine.
Sharon Steinmann Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas, Houston Medical School

This interview was originally broadcast on May 31, 2011. David Eagleman's Incognito is now out in paperback.

Your brain doesn't like to keep secrets. Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, have shown that writing down secrets in a journal or telling a doctor your secrets actually decreases the level of stress hormones in your body. Keeping a secret, meanwhile, does the opposite.

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2:07pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Politics

Jane Mayer: Obama In 'Impossible Bind' Over Donors

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 4:12 pm

President Obama is on record as opposing superPACs for normalizing gigantic donations, but his campaign has hesitantly decided to accept donations from such groups. He is shown above speaking during a campaign stop in Oskaloosa, Iowa, last week.
Scott Olson Getty Images

When the Supreme Court ruled on the landmark Citizen United case in 2010, the landscape of presidential elections shifted. SuperPACs — entities that can't make direct contributions but are allowed to engage in limitless spending and fundraising independently of the campaigns — have allowed for the some of the largest indirect gifts by wealthy Americans in the nation's history.

Obama is on record as opposing superPACs for normalizing gigantic donations, but his campaign has hesitantly decided to accept donations from these outside groups.

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12:57pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Author Interviews

Paul Auster Meditates On Life, Death And Near Misses

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 3:28 pm

Paul Auster is the author of fiction including The New York Trilogy and In the Country of Last Things.
Lotte Hansen Picador

Paul Auster doesn't take living for granted. At 65, the author has had several "near misses," from sliding face-first into a jutting nail as a child to a traumatic car accident that almost killed him, his wife and his daughter.

Auster's new memoir, Winter Journal, is a series of meditations on his life, aging and mortality — including his mother's death.

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1:17pm

Wed August 22, 2012
Interviews

Bill Hader On Sketch Comedy, His Love Of Old Films

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 4:12 pm

Bill Hader was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Stefon on Saturday Night Live.
Mike Coppola Getty Images

Comedian Bill Hader is adept onstage and doing live performances. But he's scared to death of standup.

He says he remembers watching Chris Rock's 1996 HBO special, Bring the Pain, and thinking, "I don't know how people do that."

"I need a character," Hader tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I need people out there with me."

So Hader has stuck with sketch comedy — where he has been wildly successful.

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2:10pm

Tue August 21, 2012
Author Interviews

Student 'Subversives' And The FBI's 'Dirty Tricks'

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 1:21 pm

Mario Savio, shown here at a victory rally in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza on Dec. 9, 1964, was the face of the free speech movement.
AP

In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley, formed a protest movement to repeal a campus rule banning students from engaging in political activities.

Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suspected the free speech movement to be evidence of a Communist plot to disrupt U.S. campuses. He "had long been concerned about alleged subversion within the education field," journalist Seth Rosenfeld tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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1:52pm

Tue August 21, 2012
Remembrances

Fresh Air Remembers Comedian Phyllis Diller

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 2:35 pm

Phyllis Diller plays peekaboo with the cameraman before the start of her television show Bonkers in 1979.
Central Press/Getty Images

Phyllis Diller, one of the first and one of the few female comic headliners of her generation, died Monday at the age of 95.

Diller performed in the persona of a crazed housewife. She usually dressed in outlandish, bad-fitting clothes with her hair teased into a disheveled mop. Then she'd fire off long strings of self-deprecating gags. She was so unattractive, she used to tell her audiences, that Peeping Toms asked her to pull her window shades down. Onstage, she called her husband Fang. Diller told Fang jokes like her male counterparts told wife jokes.

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1:58pm

Mon August 20, 2012
Movie Interviews

Mike Birbiglia, 'Sleepwalk'-ing On The Big Screen

Comedian Mike Birbiglia co-wrote the script for the new film about himself: Sleepwalk With Me.
Brian Friedman

When comedian Mike Birbiglia opened his one-man show Sleepwalk With Me in 2008 at the Bleecker Street Theatre in New York, he didn't anticipate that it would become material for a popular piece on This American Life and a New York Times best-seller. He especially didn't think it would turn into a feature film.

Birbigilia had never made a film before. And he was initially hesitant to make one about his dangerous sleepwalking condition, because he wanted to distance himself from the topic he had been immersed in for more than four years.

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9:03am

Sat August 18, 2012
Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh Air Weekend: Susie Arioli, Frank Langella

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 5:09 pm

Susie Arioli's new album, All the Way, was released in June.
Marianne Larochelle

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Jazz Vocalist Susie Arioli Goes 'All The Way': Listen to an in-studio concert and conversation with the Canadian singer and her longtime guitarist, Jordan Officer.

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1:12pm

Fri August 17, 2012
Author Interviews

Donald Ray Pollock On Finding Fiction Late In Life

This interview was originally broadcast on July 26, 2011. Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All the Time is now out in paperback.

Knockemstiff, Ohio, is a tiny hamlet in southern Ohio. In the 1950s, Knockemstiff had three stores, a bar and a population of about 450 people. Most of those people, says fiction writer Donald Ray Pollock, were "connected by blood through one godforsaken calamity or another."

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12:22pm

Fri August 17, 2012
Movie Interviews

Sacha Baron Cohen: The Fresh Air Interview

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 1:12 pm

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, the authoritarian, anti-Semitic and unexpectedly sympathetic protagonist of The Dictator.
Melinda Sue Gordon Paramount Pictures

This interview was originally broadcast on May 21, 2012. Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator is now out on DVD.

Actor and writer Sacha Baron Cohen is famous for taking his characters — Ali G., Borat, Bruno — into the real world, interacting with people who have no idea that they're dealing with a fictional character. But his new movie, The Dictator, is a scripted comedy about a tyrant on the loose in New York.

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1:59pm

Thu August 16, 2012
Movie Interviews

Frank Langella Embodies Wicked In 'Robot & Frank'

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 10:07 am

In Robot & Frank, a robot cares for an aging ex-burglar who has dementia. Frank Langella, who plays the burglar, says his character "becomes fond of the robot only because it is a tool for his wicked, wicked ways."
Samuel Goldwyn Films and Stage 6 Films

Frank Langella's career has not been an upward trajectory of success — and he likes it that way. He's had memorable roles on stage and screen, and times when he couldn't find work, or even an agent.

Now at 74, Langella is as busy as ever, and, as he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, he's never been hungrier to act.

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12:19pm

Thu August 16, 2012
Music Reviews

Autosalvage: The Psychedelic Band That Vanished

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 3:14 pm

Autosalvage, a New York quartet, made one album and then stopped playing.
Courtesy of the artist

A little over 10 years ago, a friend with a small record company in England called me and asked if I wanted to do liner notes for an album he was re-releasing. When he told me it was the Autosalvage album, I flipped. Of course I did!

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