Terry Gross | KNKX

Terry Gross

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. But Gross sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering them. What often puts those guests at ease is Gross' understanding of their work. "Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private," Gross says. "But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, New York. There she hosted and produced several arts, women's and public affairs programs, including This Is Radio, a live, three-hour magazine program that aired daily. Two years later, she joined the staff of WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as producer and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music program. In 1985, WHYY-FM launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which was distributed nationally by NPR. Since 1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been produced by WHYY-FM. The program is broadcast on 566 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners each week in fall 2008, a presidential election season. In fall 2011, Fresh Air reached 4.4 million listeners a week.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight." America Women in Radio and Television presented Gross with a Gracie Award in 1999 in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, she received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Edward R. Murrow Award for her "outstanding contributions to public radio" and for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." In 2007, Gross received the Literarian Award. In 2011, she received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Gross is the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, published by Hyperion in 2004.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and Doctor of Humane Letters in 2007, both from SUNY–Buffalo. She also received a Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998 and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died yesterday at age 99. We're going to listen back to our interview with Stevens.

When TV critic Emily Nussbaum was growing up in the '70s, she says television wasn't something to be analyzed, criticized and picked apart.

"Even people who loved to watch TV would put it down," she recalls. "It was considered, at best, a kind of delicious-but-bad-for-you treat, and, at worst, more like chain-smoking, like something you did by yourself that messed up your brain."

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Supreme Court handed down two decisions at the end of their session last month that could have a big impact on the outcome of elections in the States. The court ruled it had no power to intervene when states use partisan gerrymandering to draw maps for electoral districts, saying it was an issue for state legislatures and state courts. And in a related case, the court ruled that the Trump administration could not add a citizenship question to the census.

Sarah Jessica Parker has spent much of her acting career exploring what it means to be in a relationship — and to be single. In the HBO series Sex and the City, which ran from 1998 until 2004, she played Carrie Bradshaw, a single writer chronicling her experiences with the Manhattan dating scene. Now, in the HBO comedy series, Divorce, she stars as Frances, a mother of two navigating the dissolution of her marriage.

Today, antiretroviral medicines allow people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to live long, productive lives. But at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the disease was considered a death sentence. No one was sure what caused it or how it was spread. Some doctors and nurses refused to treat patients with the disease; others protected themselves by wearing full body suits.

In the semi-autobiographical Hulu series Ramy, comic Ramy Youssef plays a first-generation Muslim American who follows some — but not all — of the rules of his religion. Youssef, whose parents immigrated from Egypt, also co-created the series. He says he can relate to his character's "picking and choosing" approach to his faith.

Dr. Louise Aronson says the U.S. doesn't have nearly enough geriatricians — physicians devoted to the health and care of older people: "There may be maybe six or seven thousand geriatricians," she says. "Compare that to the membership of the pediatric society, which is about 70,000."

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Lizzo was in fifth grade when it came time to choose instruments for band. The choice was made for her when the music teacher paired her with the flute.

It turned out to be a good match: The singer and rapper fell in love with the instrument and went on to pursue a degree in music performance and music theory with the hopes of becoming a professional flutist. "I saw a life of concert black and Boston Pops and traveling the world," Lizzo says. "When that didn't pan out for me, I was very depressed."

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Looking back on his early career, Howard Stern remembers being "petrified" that he wasn't going to be able to make a living. "All the sexual antics, the religious antics, the race antics — everything that I talked about, every outrageous thing that I did — was to entertain my audience and grow my audience," he says. "Whether you liked it or not, or the person down the street liked it or not — I didn't care as long as I kept growing that audience."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes female characters who are flawed, reckless and unpredictable. "As an audience, all we ever want really is to be surprised by things," she says. The actor and writer just finished an off-Broadway run of her one-woman show Fleabag, just as the second season of the TV show is dropping on Amazon.

Nearly 100 years ago, Congress passed a restrictive law that cut the overall number of immigrants coming to the United States and put severe limits on those who were let in.

Journalist Daniel Okrent says that the eugenics movement — a junk science that stemmed from the belief that certain races and ethnicities were morally and genetically superior to others — informed the Immigration Act of 1924, which restricted entrance to the U.S.

Many women have a hard time admitting — even to themselves — that they're being abused by their husband or partner. Suzanne Dubus' first husband hit her, but still, she didn't initially identify herself as a victim of abuse.

"I attributed it to alcohol," Dubus says. "I knew that his father abused his mother. And I thought, 'Well, this is just poor learning, and I can help him with this.' "

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Historian and Harvard professor Anne Harrington believes that pharmaceutical companies have played an oversized role in determining how mental illness is treated in the United States — leading to a rise in the use of antidepressant drugs.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Mueller investigation gave us insights into how Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, hid their ill-gotten money with the help of shell companies and real estate, protecting it from the reach of the law, until the investigation. Crooks, oligarchs, kleptocrats and some of the superrich from around the world use this transnational shadow system of shell companies and real estate to stash their money.

Shakespeare's King Lear is one of the most challenging and prestigious roles in theater — and one that's traditionally played by a man.

But now a new production of King Lear on Broadway stars Glenda Jackson in its title role. The British actor, who is 82, is fine with the gender bending casting.

"When we're born, we teach babies ... to be boys or girls," Jackson says. "As we get older, those absolute barriers that define gender begin to crack."

"I knew that I wanted to act since I was old enough to reason," says Henry Winkler. "I never had a Plan B. I never deviated. I never thought that there was anything else that I could possibly do in this world except to try and be a working actor."

After Winkler graduated with an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama in 1970, one of his earliest roles was as the cool, leather-jacket-wearing Fonz on the classic sitcom Happy Days, which ran from 1974 until 1984.

The U.S. prison population is booming. It is estimated nearly 2.2 million people were incarcerated in America in 2016, and as many people in the U.S. have criminal records as have graduated from four-year colleges.

Even therapists need someone to talk to sometimes. Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist who started seeing a therapist herself five years ago, when the man she thought she would marry unexpectedly broke up with her, shattering her sense of the present and the future.

"My reaction was the reaction of everybody that I told at the time, [which] was 'This guy's a jerk! You dodged a bullet!' " Gottlieb says. "But once I go to therapy, I start to see — or I'm forced to see — the situation, and my role in it too."

On March 15, a 28-year-old Australian man opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more. The shooter had previously declared allegiance to "white identity" — a fact that came as no surprise to J.M. Berger, an author who studies extremist movements.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

When Frans de Waal started studying nonhuman primates, in the Netherlands more than 40 years ago, he was told not to consider the emotions of the animals he was observing.

"Thoughts and feelings — the mental processes basically — were off limits," he says. "We were told not to talk about them, because they were considered by many scientists as 'inner states' and you only were allowed to talk about 'outer states.' "

Aidy Bryant mourns the time she lost in her teens and early 20s feeling self-conscious about her body. The Emmy-nominated comic and actor says she lived in fear of judgments about her weight.

"I felt like the worst possible thing that anyone could ever do would be to think that I was fat, to call me fat," she says.

Bryant began to direct her energy into her writing and comedy career. She moved to Chicago to pursue comedy at Second City, and in 2012, became a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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