Fresh Air

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Fresh Air Weekend
8:03 am
Sat September 1, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Regina Spektor, Victor LaValle

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

Originally published on Sat September 1, 2012 11:08 am

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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Music Reviews
10:31 am
Fri August 31, 2012

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

Shoes.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 3:16 pm

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Movie Interviews
10:03 am
Fri August 31, 2012

Jack Black: On Music, Mayhem And Murder

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

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 3:16 pm

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

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Performing Arts
11:14 am
Thu August 30, 2012

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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Performing Arts
11:13 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Audra McDonald: Shaping 'Bess' On Broadway

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

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 12:46 pm

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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Author Interviews
1:08 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 1:04 pm

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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Author Interviews
11:40 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Victor LaValle On Mental Illness, Monsters And Survival

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

Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 12:58 pm

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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Author Interviews
1:34 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

'Real Romney' Authors Dissect His Latest Campaign

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

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 11:17 am

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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Book Reviews
11:30 am
Mon August 27, 2012

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

Originally published on Mon August 27, 2012 2:13 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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Music Interviews
11:30 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Regina Spektor: On Growing Up A 'Soviet Kid'

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

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 9:05 pm

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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Fresh Air Weekend
8:03 am
Sat August 25, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Mike Birbiglia, Bill Hader

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

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 5:10 pm

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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Movie Reviews
11:41 am
Fri August 24, 2012

How Brazil Lives Now, In 'Neighboring Sounds'

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

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 3:39 pm

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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Author Interviews
10:29 am
Fri August 24, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 11:48 am

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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Politics
1:07 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Jane Mayer: Obama In 'Impossible Bind' Over Donors

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

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 3:12 pm

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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Author Interviews
11:57 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Paul Auster Meditates On Life, Death And Near Misses

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

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 2:28 pm

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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Interviews
12:00 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

Bill Hader On Sketch Comedy, His Love Of Old Films

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

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 3:12 pm

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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Author Interviews
1:10 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 12:21 pm

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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Remembrances
1:10 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Fresh Air Remembers Comedian Phyllis Diller

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

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 1:35 pm

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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Movie Interviews
12:32 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

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

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 12:58 pm

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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Fresh Air Weekend
8:03 am
Sat August 18, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Susie Arioli, Frank Langella

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

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 4:09 pm

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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Author Interviews
12:11 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Donald Ray Pollock On Finding Fiction Late In Life

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

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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Movie Interviews
11:34 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Sacha Baron Cohen: The Fresh Air Interview

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

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

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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Movie Interviews
12:39 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Frank Langella Embodies Wicked In 'Robot & Frank'

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

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 9:07 am

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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Music Reviews
11:06 am
Thu August 16, 2012

Autosalvage: The Psychedelic Band That Vanished

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

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 2:14 pm

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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Music Reviews
2:23 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

How Jan Garbarek Came To Epitomize Nordic Jazz

A new box set of early albums captures Jan Garbarek's forming saxophone sound — austere and astringent.
Roberto Massoti ECM Records

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 2:22 pm

Saxophonist Jan Garbarek was a teenage protege of American composer George Russell in Norway in the 1960s and later played in Keith Jarrett's Scandinavian quartet. More recently, he has collaborated with the vocal quartet the Hilliard Ensemble, improvising as they sing medieval music.

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