For the last three years, comedian John Oliver has been telling some serious jokes as “Senior British Correspondent” on The Daily Show With John Stewart. He won an Emmy for his work on the show in 2009, but his comedic career is not confined to the fake newsroom. Also last year, Oliver wrote and starred in his own stand-up special, John Oliver: Terrifying Times and appeared in the Mike Myer comedy flop The Love Guru. When he’s not on the screen, you can hear Oliver on the airwaves as the host of the TimesOnline weekly satirical news podcast called The Bugle, based in the U.K. Oliver shares the mic with co-host Andy Zaltzman, a long-time friend and collaborator in his work for the BBC. On January 8, 2009, Oliver debuts his newest act: John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show. The title, as he explains to Fresh Air host Terry Gross, pretty much says it all.
Stanley Tucci may be a star, but he’s still got the protean gifts of a great character actor: He can transform himself for each new role he brings to the screen. You’ve seen him as a flamboyant art director in The Devil Wears Prada, a stereotypical Italian gangster in The Road To Perdition, a conniving politico in Swing Vote, the impish Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a neurotic lover in Deconstructing Harry. On television, Tucci has appeared in more than a dozen different shows, including ER, Monk, and Frasier. And he’s taken his turn behind the camera, directing and co-screenwriting the 1996 comic drama Big Night, about a family-run restaurant. And if a career like that suggests a certain versatility, Tucci’s most recent films particularly highlight his ability to inhabit a range of personalities. Within only a few months, Tucci has turned in a hugely ingratiating performance as the loving husband of chef Julia Child in Julie and Julia and a decidedly disturbing turn as a child molester and murderer in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. The actor joins Fresh Air guest host to talk about his life, his work and the creative contrasts he’s explored in his career.
1. First in the news, Jim and Greg discuss a story emerging out of the next decade. They talk to Wired writer Eliot Van Buskirk about his recent piece on the “Copyright Time Bomb.” As Eliot explains to Jim and Greg, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 poses a new threat to the major label system. Songs copyrighted after 1978 can be terminated by the author in 2013 (1979 in 2014, etc.) That means that if a musician sold his or her work to a label after 1978, they can choose to take it back and manage it independently in the next decade. Many labels rely on back catalogue revenue, so this will be a big hit to them. In addition, it may be another reason an artist chooses to go it independently and without a label.
2. Jim and Greg couldn’t welcome 2010 without looking at the decade past. The 2000s brought us N’Sync and the boy band explosion, but they also ushered in great change in terms of business and technology. As Jim and Greg discuss, advances in digital music were at the heart of all the decade’s major news—from lawsuits (Metallica vs. Napster, RIAA vs. consumers) to innovation in sound, marketing and distribution (Wilco, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails). And while the Aughts were a time of industry revolution, there wasn’t necessarily a revolutionary sound. Jim thinks people may have been too shocked by technology to create something comparable to a punk, disco or grunge movement. But he and Greg are hopeful that something great is just waiting to come out of a basement near you.
3. Jim and Greg like to end every year with a good old-fashioned mixtape (presented as a new-fashioned mp3 stream). But this year they decided to go even further and compile their favorite songs of the entire decade. They pick highlights to play during this episode, and their entire playlists are below.
Novelist, poet, film-maker and National Book Award-winning writer, our guest Sherman Alexie grew up on an Indian Reservation fifty miles north of Spokane Washington. “War Dances” is Alexie’s latest book, a collection of short stories filled with characters dealing with complex issues as wide reaching as a failed marriage, alcoholic death, hate crime, obituary writing and courtship. Alexie has received many awards including the O Henry Award, the PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2007 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature for “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Despite the buzz surrounding its album Movie Monster, the band Sound Team was short-lived, breaking up not long after the release of its major-label debut. But out of the ashes, Bill Baird and a few other former Sound Team members started the Austin-based group Sunset, which mixes nostalgic ’60s and ’70s music with refreshingly modern sounds. Combining subtle folk with electronics, keyboards and Brian Wilson-esque harmonies, Sunset has created a deeply compelling sound. The band recorded “Fishtown” with Philadelphia’s Weathervane Project for Sunset’s latest album, Gold Dissolves to Gray, which practically bursts with beautiful instrumentation and charming lyrics. Even during its quiet and intimate moments, the album never feels bland.