humor

Trevor / flickr creative commons

As we were preparing for our show on underdogs a few months ago, I kept saying that we shouldn't overlook the fact that, often, to be an underdog in the first place, you have to be really bad at the thing you're an underdog about.

The more we talked about it, the more I found myself making the case that losers and losing are fascinating.

Daniel X. O'Niel / Creative Commons

The Cat in the Hat — the iconic character of Ted Geisel, or Dr. Seuss — is running for president. The campaign parody kicks off Tuesday in Springfield.

Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Before Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, before Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, before "The Simpsons," before David Letterman, before "Saturday Night Live," before The National Lampoon… before all the great subversive American satirists that we’ve all grown… used to — before all that, there was MAD magazine.

Michael Kerswill / Flickr

History and literature are filled with their antics. From the Renaissance's Triboulet to Shakespeare's Feste from "Twelfth Night," jesters and fools have delighted us for centuries with their subversive humor and quick wit. But while comedy was their brand, there existed hardships for these characters as well.

Gage Skidmore / flickr creative commons

For a normal show, on a normal day, in a normal time, we'd usually put two or three experts in a room with Colin and ask them to hash out whatever it is we're interested in for that hour.

For this show, by the time it's over with, we'll have corresponded with dozens of people and recorded interviews with seven or eight experts from ten or eleven different disciplines: a philosopher, an ethicist, a futurist, a speechwriter, a comedy writer, an author of speculative fiction, a politician, an 'investigative humorist,' a Muslim, an expert in international affairs, and an expert in... manners.

When you edit a blog called "Goats and Soda," and you read a story about a goat locked in a car in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Oxford, Mass., and you learn that the goat turned on the hazard lights and wipers, pooped on the driver's seat and ... drank an old cup of soda, you have no choice.

You have to cover the story.

Phil Konstantin. / Wikimedia Commons

Paula Poundstone and I started out with a plan for a short chat about her upcoming appearance in Connecticut, and then the conversation sprawled all over the place: from the comedy records of our nerdy youths, to the time she lived in Timothy Leary's guest room.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Recently, a group of us gathered on stage at Watkinson School for a conversation about humor and comedy.

The conversation had two fields on inquiry. The first was the very strange business of trying to be funny as a way of putting food on the table. It's a weird job. It's not so much a matter of trying to be funny as it is of trying to figure out what's funny about the thing sitting in front of you. 

GM / Flickr

Bill Murray has been involved with some of our favorite movies of all time: Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Moonrise Kingdom. He doesn't like managers or agents and rumor has it, once agreed to play Garfield because he thought it was a Coen Brothers film.

Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Before Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, before Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, before "The Simpsons," before David Letterman, before "Saturday Night Live," before The National Lampoon… before all the great subversive American satirists that we’ve all grown… used to — before all that, there was MAD magazine.

エルエルLL flickr.com/photos/107244436@N07 / Creative Commons

WNPR has a radio project and we want to get you involved. The idea is simple: we provide a theme; you call our hotline with your story.

The theme: Tell us one thing you remember from last week and why it was memorable to you. It doesn't have to be a long story - between 5-20 words is plenty, unless you want to add a little more. The point is that we can all tell a story and it doesn't have to be a chore. 

Last week, the Internet exploded after an episode of the WTF! Podcast with Marc Maron went online. The guest was the comedian Wyatt Cenac, who talked about being a writer and correspondent on The Daily Show for several years. He recalled getting into a heated argument with Jon Stewart over the host's impression of Herman Cain, which Cenac had found troubling:

Phil Campbell/flickr creative commons

Cellphones, and now smartphones and mobile tablets, have changed our world in wonderful ways, connecting us anywhere and everywhere. And time has flown. Simple cell phones are disappearing as smartphones and tablets get smarter and cheaper. Meanwhile our own communication habits are changing. According to Pew Internet reports, over 70 percent of Americans now prefer texting over calling.

Sarah Parrott / Creative Commons

You get that Facebook invite. You think to yourself, "Yeah, that could be fun." You get reminders in the days leading up to the event. As the clock ticks down, you think yourself, "I like the person who invited me, but that dinner starts at 8pm on a Tuesday night. Do I really want to go?" No, you don't want to go but the RSVP says yes. You did what Henry Alford refers to as an "aspirational RSVP."

Mike Mozart/flckr creative commons

Slim Jims contain sodium nitrites, which protect us from botulism. They could be harmful to our health… if we ate about 1,400 of them. 

Musicians are always searching for inspiration, and sometimes they find it in some unlikely places.

Take Brian Friedland, a prolific Boston composer and jazz pianist who’s discovered a creative goldmine in his cupboards. He takes words on packaging for products such as granola, mouthwash and tea, then sets them to some pretty sophisticated music. Friedland calls the funny-but-serious project “Household Items” and he has a new CD.

[Youtube]

The Scramble Goes Clear

Mar 30, 2015
Aaron Stroot / Creative Commons

This weekend, HBO premiered a documentary about the Church of Scientology that has been generating headlines and controversy for months. What new information was learned from the film? This hour, we talk with someone who has written extensively about the church.

Also, a "religious freedoms" bill was signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Some businesses in the state are already receiving backlash from customers who won't do business in the state because of the law. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is expected to announce an executive order that will ban state-funded travel to Indiana. However, Connecticut is one of 19 other states with similar religious freedom laws on the books.

Alan Light / Creative Commons

I get to talk to a lot of remarkable people and still I tell you that you're about to hear a conversation with one of the most remarkable people I've encountered in five years. 

Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine that was the target of a deadly attack today, is part of a long tradition of French satire dating to the days before the French Revolution.

The left-wing magazine is known for its biting takedowns. Its past targets include the political right wing, capitalism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Chris Huggins/flickr creative commons

Humor, like pornography, is famously difficult to define. We know it when we see it, but is there a way to figure out what we really find funny—and why?

Richard Howard

Car Talk is the most important program in the history of public radio.

There, I said it.

John Cleese is a big, tall, stiff-upper-lipped international symbol of British wit. He's made us laugh in Fawlty Towers and movies including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, A Fish Called Wanda, and, recently, as the exasperated master of spycraft — Q — who gives James Bond some of his best toys to break.

David Goehring / Creative Commons

We're back today after a one-week hiatus. 

Ben Nadaff-Hafrey is also back, this time as our Scramble SuperGuest.

We start today with a conversation about the embrace of U2 by Apple, and end with a chat about embraces in general.

So, leading off earlier this month, Apple had one of its special events. When people stop what they're doing to watch a big company roll out a new product, in this case the iPhone 6, Don Draper would be drooling in envy, right?

For Inspiration Only/flickr creative commons

He wrote one of the greatest cartoon lines ever, a sentence that rocketed through the country like a speeding train: How about never—is never good for you?

We can't resist passing along the phenomenon that is Noah Ritter, a young man who's taking the Internet by storm. The 5-year-old's interview at Pennsylvania's Wayne County Fair is a wonder of stream-of-consciousness, sprinkled heavily with one word: "apparently."

Chris Huggins/flickr creative commons

Humor, like pornography, is famously difficult to define. We know it when we see it, but is there a way to figure out what we really find funny—and why?

A Listener's Guide to Podcasts

Jul 24, 2014
arinahabich/iStock / Thinkstock

If you're interested in podcasts, but aren't sure what to listen to, have no fear. We're here to help.  

The flailing about, the protests, the sheer agony — what if everyone behaved like international soccer stars who can evidently be slammed to the ground by a fingertip?

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