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.

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:

Comedian Marc Maron: We Need 'Groupthink Empathy' During COVID-19 Outbreak: "We [have] to do the right thing to protect those who are vulnerable," Maron says. His new Netflix stand-up special, End Times Fun, was named before the coronavirus pandemic.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today we have Part II of our tribute to Stephen Sondheim, who turned 90 last Sunday. We made it a two-parter because we're big fans and because listening to Sondheim and his music seems like a great way to take a break and boost our spirits. Sondheim fans like me always wonder, how did he write those brilliant lyrics? He provided a lot of answers in his book "Finishing The Hat," which collects his lyrics from 1954 to '81 and tells the stories behind the songs.

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Most of our team is working at home now, including me, so occasionally we're going to need a day to catch up, and today is one of those days.

Apocalyptic novelist Max Brooks is something of an expert on planning for pandemics and other disasters.

Marc Maron wants you to know that he named his Netflix stand-up special, End Times Fun, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The title really was just a way to frame the work I've been doing over the last couple of years," Maron says. "I'm full of dread and a certain amount of anxiety ... certainly around the environment [and] the world of politics."

Concert halls and music venues around the world have been shuttered due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but before closing its doors, the Philadelphia Orchestra gave one last performance on March 12 — to an empty concert hall.

The U.S. has had two recent presidential elections in which the winner of the popular vote — Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — ultimately lost to the challenger for the seat.

That's because the U.S. has an Electoral College — each state gets a number of votes (by representative electors) in the Electoral College that's proportional to its population. And 48 of the 50 states (Maine and Nebraska are the exceptions) have been awarding those electoral votes on a winner-takes-all basis.

Growing up, actor Octavia Spencer remembers being inspired by the story of Madam C.J. Walker, one of America's first black, female, self-made millionaires. Born on a plantation in 1867, Walker eked out a living washing clothes for white families before building an empire selling hair care and makeup products to women of color.

"She was a woman of purpose," Spencer says. "I've always known her story. But what's interesting is her legacy is known in African American culture, but not really by the masses."

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

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Fans of the VH1 reality show RuPaul's Drag Race know that every episode ends with a mantra. After finishing the weekly challenge, the drag queens competing for the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar" (and a hefty cash prize) gather on the runway before host RuPaul Charles, where the drag icon proclaims: "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?"

Growing up in a housing project in Red Hook, Brooklyn, writer James McBride felt a sense of community and freedom that was incomparable to anywhere else.

"It was the sense of being in a village, and a sense of us against the world," he says. "You know who everybody is, you know who not to mess with."

On the surface, McBride didn't quite fit in; his African American father died shortly before McBride was born, leaving him and his siblings to be raised by their white mother.

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