Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
Summary: From WNYC Studios, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin takes listeners into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by going inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people we want to understand better: Ira Glass, Lena Dunham, David Brooks, Roz Chast, Chris Rock and others. Hear what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and many others. © WNYC Studios
David Brooks is known as a Conservative voice—he was a senior editor at The Weekly Standard—but former Obama advisor David Axelrod described him as a “true public thinker.” Brooks has been a New York Times op-ed columnist since 2003 and speaks to Alec about writing a humor column in college, about his evolution of opinion toward the Iraq war, and he gives his two cents about the possibility of Hillary Clinton in 2016. He also tells Alec his basic feeling about college education: "Every course you take in college should be about who to marry." Alec spoke with David Brooks on stage at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in Manhattan as part of the Public Forum series. READ | Interview transcript
George Will is a political conservative, but he’s not afraid to direct criticism to the right. Will offers some historical perspective on the current animosity in political life. “We've been through really violent times,” he tells Alec, “and we're in one of those periods now. And it will burn over.” With over 40 years in political journalism, George Will is a voice worth listening to. READ | Interview transcript
Fred Armisen’s career has followed an unpredictable trajectory. Armisen spent nearly a decade drumming with Trenchmouth, a punk rock band remembered for its spirited cacophony. When he got tired of carrying his own equipment, Armisen picked up a video camera and began creating improvised characters. Fred relates stories from his years in the Los Angeles comedy club scene, drumming for the Blue Man Group, and working on SNL, where he met his idol, Steve Martin. And it’s true: Armisen really does love Portland. READ | Interview transcript
Former president and executive director of the New York Philharmonic, Zarin Mehta, grew up in 1940’s Bombay before it became the booming city of Mumbai. In Mehta’s memory, Bombay was more like a colonial fishing village. Mehta talks with Alec about his father, who founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra, his brother Zubin, and the realities of running a major arts organization in New York, saying that, “in the United States one does not look to the state for support of the arts.” Alec also speaks with Mehta's wife, Carmen, and she offers her own insights into his success. READ | Interview Transcript Music excerpts included in Here’s the Thing’s conversation with Zarin Mehta: Mozart: Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter" (Lorin Maazel/NYP from 2006 DG Download #1) Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe, Part 3 - 3eme tableau - Teil 3, Orchestre symphonique du Montreal / Choeur de l'Orchestre symphonique de Montreal; Charles Dutoit, (Decca Record Company, Ltd / London (Polygram Classics) Beethoven: Overture to Egmont from Alan Gilbert: The Inaugural Season iTunes Pass, release 5 (Alan Gilbert/NYP) Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Prelude & Fugue #1 In C, BWV 846.R; Andras Schiff, Piano; Decca Record Company, Ltd / London (Polygram Classics) Schubert: Songs for Mezzo-Soprano & Orchestra (Anne-Sophie von Otter, mezzo/NYP/Alan Gilbert from 2011-12 iTunes Pass, release 4 Messiaen: Coleurs de la cite celeste (Colors of the celestial city) (Emmanuel Ax, piano/NYP/Alan Gilbert from 2010-12 iTunes Pass, release Brahms: A German Requiem (Masur/NYP as recorded following the events of 9/11, Heidi Grant Murphy, soloist) (from NYP broadcast archives, 2001 "special" and NYP 11-50) Strauss: Tod und Verklarung (Death and Transfiguration) from 2005; Lorin Maazel, conductor (from NYP broadcast archives, 06-03) Thanks to the New York Philharmonic for generous use of archival material.
Documentary filmmakers Anthony Baxter and Dylan Avery are no strangers to controversy—each of whom have made provocative political films. Both have attracted significant attention despite being made on meager budgets. Baxter’s You've Been Trumped is about a golf course in Scotland and it has given voice to people around the world who are fighting encroaching developments. Avery’s film, Loose Change, became an internet sensation and spawned a “Truther Movement” composed of people that believe that 9/11 was a government cover-up.
Billy Joel has sold more records than The Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna—though the “rock star thing” is something he can “take off.” Joel started playing piano when he was about four or five years old. He admits that he doesn't remember how to read sheet music anymore saying it’d be like reading Chinese. That doesn't stop the third best-selling solo artist of all time in the U.S. from plunking out a few tunes with Alec. READ | Interview Transcript
Grammy-winning guitarist Peter Frampton says, “Sound is very inspirational to me." And it always has been—Frampton started playing guitar before he was 8 years old. He talks about his musical roots in England, playing in bands like The Preachers and The Herd. At age 14 he was playing at a recording session produced by Bill Wyman, who he says is “sort of like my mentor, my older brother.” Just eleven years later, Frampton was on stage in San Francisco, recording Frampton Comes Alive—one of the biggest-selling live albums of all times. Frampton also talks about the challenges of his extraordinary achievement: “I don’t think anybody can be ready for that kind of success.” READ | Interview Transcript
Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco, studied brain tumors in children and began to see a connection between sugar and childhood medical problems, addiction, and lethargy. According to Lustig, sugar is as addictive as cocaine, heroin and crack, and is producing the fattest, least-healthy Americans yet. Lustig tells Alec about the demise of the sugar cane industry and the subsequent explosion of a cheaper alternative: high fructose corn syrup. Even though Robert Lustig has dessert only twice per year, he confesses he still has love handles, but his mission is to educate families about how to live a healthier life. READ | Interview Transcript
David Letterman began his Late Night gig as a self-described “gap-toothed, unknown smart ass.” But thirty highly successful years later, Letterman’s comedy formula has evolved: he no longer attends all the meetings or makes all the decisions and stupid pet tricks are a thing of the past. Letterman began his television career as a weatherman, but moved rapidly up to anchorman and talk show host. He left for L.A. and, after only three years on the comedy scene there, he found himself guest-hosting the Tonight Show. He talks to Alec about how a quintuple by-pass and the birth of a child have dramatically shifted Letterman’s priorities. READ | Interview Transcript
Jon Robin Baitz is a playwright who admits that writing plays is tricky. He’s a snob for Broadway, where the cachet and laughs are bigger. But deep down, this award-winning playwright considers it a privilege to be working in American theater at all. Alec speaks to Baitz about his Broadway debut play, Other Desert Cities, that came from a place of despair and loss—and his own personal experience writing for television in Hollywood.
Renée Fleming's singing voice has been described as "double cream." She remembers being "jelly" at the end of her first rehearsal for her professional debut. In this episode, she talks about performing and the challenges of being heard, without amplification, over an orchestra, but also about the pleasure of being in the audience “where I have literally been sobbing at the end” of an opera. Music excerpts included in Here’s the Thing’s conversation with Renée Fleming (in order of appearance): “Glück, das mir verblieb (Marietta’s Lied)” from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt (Live performance from the Met’s 125th Anniversary Gala, March 15, 2009; Conductor: James Levine) “I’ll Be Seeing You” (Renée Fleming with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble/”Arranger’s Holiday” recorded Fall 1981 (archive tape courtesy Renée Fleming; special thanks to Ed Fleming) "Contessa, perdono!" from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Houston Grand Opera. Conductor; Christoph Eschenbach. 1991 “Glück, das mir verblieb (Marietta’s Lied)” from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt (Live performance from the Met’s 125th Anniversary Gala, March 15, 2009; Conductor: James Levine) “Dis-moi que je suis belle” from Massenet’s Thaïs (Live Met performance, December 20th, 2008; Conductor: Jesús López-Cobos) “Hab’ mir’s gelobt” from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (Live Met performance, January 9, 2010, with Susan Graham as Octavian and Christine Schäfer as Sophie; Conductor: Edo de Waart) “Mio caro bene” from Handel’s Rodelinda (Live Met performance, January 1, 2005; Conductor: Harry Bicket) Finale from Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades (Live Met performance, March 26, 2011; Conductor: Andris Nelsons) Finale from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (Live Met performance, February 12, 1994, with Dwayne Croft (Count Almaviva), Marie McLaughlin (Susanna), James Morris (Figaro), Jane Bunnell (Cherubino), François Loup (Dr. Bartolo), Judith Christin (Marcellina), Michel Sénéchal (Don Basilio), James Courtney (Antonio), and Korliss Uecker (Barbarina); Conductor: Julius Rudel) Special thanks this week to The Metropolitan Opera and the Houston Grand Opera for providing archival musical excerpts. In particular, thanks to Peter Clark, Mary Jo Heath, Brent Ness, Sam Neuman, Elena Park, and Claire Vince. And thanks to Paul Batsel at the Office of Renée Fleming.
Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, shows no restraint when unleashing criticism of presidential policies—on both sides. Of President Barack Obama’s financial-industry rescue plan, Stiglitz gives scathing remarks, saying that whomever designed it was "either in the pocket of the banks or … incompetent." Considered one of the most influential people in the world by TIME 100, Stiglitz grew up in Gary, Indiana and he talked to Alec about how that impacted his decision to become an economist.
As host of Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne plays the role of ambassador to a bygone era. We hear the journey he took to get there—which could have been a classic movie itself. It all started when, as kid in a small town, he frequented the cinema and “fell in love with the movie business.” Osborne also speaks about some of challenges he faced while at The Hollywood Reporter, when he found himself writing what was really supposed to be a gossip column: “I never felt comfortable intruding upon people that wanted to keep a secret. Because I think secrets are important to have.” READ | Interview Transcript
Kristen was in college when an Acting 101 class prompted a move to L.A. She had little experience, but a tremendous gift for improv, and she soon found herself in a room auditioning for SNL. Hundreds of personas later, Wiig is regarded by SNL creator Lorne Michaels as one of the three or four greatest SNL talents ever. Kristen’s expertise translated well to film, and she eventually won an Oscar nomination for her Bridesmaids screenplay. She joins Alec to talk about the arc of her career and the steps she hopes to take next. READ | Interview Transcript
When Herb Alpert started playing trumpet with his band Tijuana Brass, Woody Allen and George Carlin were the opening acts. In 1966, The Brass outsold The Beatles. Alpert went on to co-found A&M Records, where he identified and signed some of the industries greatest talent: The Carpenters, The Police, and Cat Stevens. He and his partner sold A&M in 1989 for half a billion dollars. He says he’s looking for the same thing as everybody else—a life of purpose and meaning. READ | Interview Transcript Herb Alpert with some of his Black Totem sculptures. (Photo by Graham Howe)