Fresh Air

Weekdays at Noon

Fresh Air opens the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics. Terry Gross hosts this multi-award-winning daily interview and features program. The veteran public radio interviewer is known for her extraordinary ability to engage guests of all dispositions. Every weekday she delights intelligent and curious listeners with revelations on contemporary societal concerns.

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:

Louis C.K. On Life And Stand-Up: 'I Live In Service For My Kids': The star of the FX series Louie talks about the pain of his first-ever open mic experience and the "massive gift" of taking care of others before himself.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: California going back to the drawing board to deal with their drought.

In honor of Billie Holiday's 100th birthday this month, several artists are releasing out Holiday tribute albums. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead looks at a couple of these by other singers. One he rather likes; the other, not so much.

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On the day before her 17th birthday, in 2003, Amanda Berry disappeared as she made her way home from her job at a Burger King in Cleveland. A year later, another Cleveland teen, 14-year-old Gina DeJesus, vanished while returning from middle school. Searches for both girls came up empty, and as the years passed it seemed less and less likely that either girl would ever be seen again.

In fact, the girls were still in Cleveland. They had been abducted by a man named Ariel Castro, who had kidnapped another young woman, Michelle Knight, in 2002.

Some 30 years ago, the Kronos Quartet created a sensation by releasing an album of chamber music that included an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." Now Brooklyn Rider, another gifted string quartet, is again blurring the boundaries between classical and more popular kinds of chamber music. Fresh Air classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says he admires that blur.

It seems like there's always some writer you're supposed to be reading. These days, it's Karl Ove Knausgaard, the 46-year-old Norwegian whose six-volume, 3,600-page autobiographical novel, My Struggle, has become a literary sensation. Over the past couple of years, I haven't been able to go to a social gathering without someone asking what I thought of his work. When I've said that I hadn't read a word, they would look genuinely startled and tell me, "You have to."

After years working the stand-up circuit, Louis C.K. is well established as a comic powerhouse; his FX series Louie is in its fifth season, and C.K. also has a new comedy special that's available as a digital download on his website. But the laughs didn't always come easily. C.K. was a teenager when he first ventured onstage at a local comedy club's open mic night.

HBO's Silicon Valley is back, with its pitch-perfect renderings of the culture and language of the tech world — like at the opening of the "Disrupt" startup competition run by the Tech Crunch website at the end of last season. "We're making the world a better place through scalable fault-tolerant distributed databases" — the show's writers didn't have to exercise their imagination much to come up with those little arias of geeky self-puffery, or with the name Disrupt, which, as it happens, is what the Tech Crunch conferences are actually called.

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Over the course of Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes messes with what had already, after its first album, become its signature sound. Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.

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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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Reporter Gregory Johnsen talks with Fresh Air's Dave Davies about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and how the chaos is impacting the U.S. fight against al-Qaida. Johnsen describes a country torn apart. "I don't even think it's accurate to speak of Yemen as one country anymore," he says. "I think the country has been definitively and decisively broken in the way that no one will ever be able to put it back together again."

Dwight Yoakam has been making music that mixes country with rock 'n' roll since the 1970s. Working out of Los Angeles rather than Nashville, he's built a career that has also included a solid acting career, appearing in movies like 1996's Sling Blade and the recent TV series Under the Dome. Yoakam's new album is called Second Hand Heart, and Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says it's one of Yoakam's most stylistically diverse.

Metropolitan Opera Chorus Master Donald Palumbo knows voices, and how to instruct singers to protect them.

Palumbo says that all singers have to monitor their voices while rehearsing during the day. The goal, he says, is to insure singers are at their "freshest" and "most solid" for the evening performance.

In Fox's television show The Last Man on Earth, Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte plays a man who survives a deadly virus that has decimated the human population. In the show, Forte's character, Phil, despairs when he thinks he is the last human on earth. He drives around a lonely landscape, creating billboards that announce "Alive in Tucson" on the off-chance that someone will see them.

In his 20 years as a New York City police officer, Steve Osborne made thousands of arrests. He says that when he was in uniform, it wasn't unusual to handle 20 jobs a night. And in plainclothes, in the anti-crime unit, his teams would make several felony collars a week, mostly robberies, assaults and gun arrests.

Ross Macdonald had a smart answer to the tedious question of why he devoted his considerable talents to writing "mere" detective stories: Macdonald said that the detective story was "a kind of welder's mask enabling writers to handle dangerously hot material." Like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler (the great hard-boiled masters whom he revered), Macdonald set out to excavate the dark depths of American life, but to find his own "dangerously hot material" Macdonald descended into uncharted territory.

Now that she's in her mid-80s, celebrated author Toni Morrison feels aches, pains and regret.

She tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "When I'm not creating or focusing on something I can imagine or invent, I think I go back over my life — I don't recommend this, by the way — and you pick up, 'Oh, what did you do that for? Why didn't you understand this?' Not just with children, as a parent, but with other people, with friends. ... It's not profound regret; it's just a wiping up of tiny little messes that you didn't recognize as mess when they were going on."

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:

The Story Behind Mark Ronson's Hit Song 'Uptown Funk': The producer says there was a moment when his co-writers thought, "Maybe this song wasn't meant to be." He also describes working with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli sitting in for Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "COMMUNITY")

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When singer Bruno Mars and producer Mark Ronson first landed on the instrumental track and a few lines of what would become the hit song "Uptown Funk," Ronson says the room was filled with electricity.

"There's nothing more exciting than that period of the song, because the potential is unlimited," Ronson tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In the new FX series The Comedians, Billy Crystal and Josh Gad star as satirical versions of themselves. The show is about how the two comedians are hesitant to work together and share the spotlight, but they do, and they begin a strained relationship, in which they're separated from each other by a generational comedy gap.

But in real life, when Crystal and Gad met, they hit it off.

"Even though there's 30-something years between us, there's a lot of commonalities and a lot of interesting parallels in our careers," Crystal tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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This is FRESH AIR. The TV series "Justified" ended its run on the FX cable network last night. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, couldn't wait to talk about it, so here he is.

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