Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Saturdays from 3pm to 4pm
  • Hosted by Kurt Andersen

The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy, so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.

Imaginary friends forever

Dec 15, 2017
Courtesy of Maxine

Lots of kids have imaginary friends — a young Kurt Andersen had a gaggle including Robbie Dobbie, Crackerpin, Jimmy the Cat, a poodle called Genevieve.

Marjorie Taylor, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, has been looking at imaginary friends and the children who have them. “They tend to be more social, less shy, and do better on tasks which require you to take the perspective of another person in real life. We have found that they are more creative on some kinds of tasks. Other people have found that their narratives are richer.”

Gary Marcus: Enhancing creativity

Dec 15, 2017
Bernhard Lelle / Shutterstock

Gary Marcus, who directs New York University’s Center for Language and Music, talks with Kurt Andersen about scientific efforts to find and describe creativity. They discuss experiments that produce images of musicians’ brains doing different kinds of musical tasks.

“This is pioneering research,” Marcus says, “but by no means the last word.” Studies of individuals using fMRI tend to be variable, he says, and difficult to replicate.

The neuroscience of jazz

Dec 15, 2017
Aaron Henkin

Charles Limb is a professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Medicine who has a sideline in brain research; he’s also on the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He wants to know what happens in our brains when we play piano. Simple: stick a musician in an fMRI machine, and see what happens.

Gary Marcus: Defining creativity

Dec 15, 2017
Athena Vouloumanos

Kurt Andersen talks with Gary Marcus about what science knows, and doesn’t know, about creativity. Marcus is the director of New York University’s Center for Language and Music, and the author of "Guitar Zero," a book about how the brain learns.

How creative are you?

Dec 15, 2017
Posted with permission from Scholastic Testing Service, Inc., Bensenville, IL 60106.

The man nicknamed “the father of creativity” was psychologist E. Paul Torrance. In the 1940s he began researching creativity to help improve American education. In order to encourage creativity, we needed to define it—to measure and analyze it. We measured intelligence with an IQ score; why not measure creativity?

'Fun Home:' Breaking boundaries on Broadway

Dec 8, 2017
Lucas Jackson

Openly gay characters have become more mainstream in theater since the 1960s, but there’s still be a noticeable gender lag: while successful shows like “Angels in America” and “The Normal Heart” have focused on gay men’s issues, there really haven’t been as many shows about lesbians. That changed dramatically in 2015 with the hit show “Fun Home,” the musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir. 

Gay theater: Past, present and future

Dec 8, 2017

During the 1970s, '80s and '90s, there was a rise in plays about gay life that addressed issues of identity, homophobia and the decimating AIDS epidemic. Plays like “Boys in the Band,” “The Normal Heart” and “Angels in America” shattered taboos and brought gay characters into the mainstream. Many of these groundbreaking plays are now returning to Broadway, but will they hold up a generation later?

Matthew Troy

Over the past three decades, artist Barry Blitt has paired his signature ink and watercolors with his dry wit to create memorable covers for The New Yorker magazine.

Now, Blitt is out with a new book that contains some of his most memorable work, including the controversial 2008 cover “The Politics of Fear,” and 2016’s Trump-inspired “Donald’s Rainy Days” and “The Big Short.”

American Icons: Untitled Film Stills

Nov 22, 2017

Cindy Sherman grew up in the era when old movies filled our late nights. She wrote about going to a dinner party with her parents when she was a child, and ending up in the basement watching “Rear Window” alone.

American Icons: Anything Goes

Nov 22, 2017
Gary Hershorn/REUTERS

Before Broadway musicals got serious about West Side gangs or Fleet Street barbers, Cole Porter entertained audiences with frothy tales of socialites, gangsters, and nightclub singers. “Anything Goes” was his biggest hit, and while it's something of a period piece, the title song took on a life of its own, thanks to Frank Sinatra.

American Icons: The Scarlet Letter

Nov 22, 2017
<a href="">Kristine/Flickr</a>

One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors was a judge in the Salem witch trials. In his novel of early America, Hawthorne explores the tension between our deeply ingrained Puritanism and our celebration of personal freedom.

Jasin Boland / Marvel Studios

The New Zealand film director Taika Waititi is best known for his low-budget, oddball comedies like “Eagle vs. Shark,” “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” So when he was picked by Marvel Studios to direct their latest superhero blockbuster, “Thor: Ragnarok,” The Hollywood Reporter called the move a “head-scratcher.”

Eve Ewing, creative queen of Chicago

Nov 16, 2017
Daniel Barlow / Courtesy of Eve Ewing

Eve Ewing defies simple categorization: she’s a writer, an artist, an educator, a Twitter celebrity and a Harvard-trained sociologist. Her new book, “Electric Arches,” showcases all of the above.

It’s a collection of poems and illustrations that explore black girlhood and womanhood, firmly rooted in Ewing’s beloved Chicago but universally relatable.

Alec Baldwin, connoisseur of jerks

Nov 16, 2017

Actor Alec Baldwin has been channeling Donald Trump on TV’s "Saturday Night Live" for over a year. Now he’s doing it in print, too.

Baldwin has written a book, in collaboration with Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen, called "You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody)."

Taylor Mac’s history of American pop music in 24 hours

Nov 9, 2017

Inventive drag performer Taylor Mac created “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music,” a decade-by-decade review of American pop music.

Each of the country’s 24 decades gets its own hour, and Taylor put all those decades together into one vast 24-hour musical extravaganza.

Taylor performs live in Studio 360 accompanied by Matt Ray on piano and backing vocals.

Jesmyn Ward reflects on Katrina

Nov 9, 2017
John D. &amp; Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Jesmyn Ward was at the tail end of her summer break when Hurricane Katrina struck her hometown of Delisle, Mississippi, on the Gulf Coast.

In the days leading up to the storm, she was supposed to return to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to start teaching.

Annie Baker’s agonies of small talk

Nov 9, 2017
John D. &amp; Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The plays of Annie Baker aren’t like other plays. It feels like half of them pass in awkward silence.

When characters do talk, they don’t often put their feelings into neat sentences.

The result feels remarkably lifelike. But every “um,” “ah,” and pause is meticulously calibrated, like notes in a musical score. Those who love her plays really love them — she won the Pulitzer in 2014 for “The Flick” — but they’re not for everyone.

She spoke with Studio 360's Kurt Andersen.

John Green talks turtles and teens

Nov 2, 2017
Phil McCarten / Reuters

John Green is a best-selling author, and YouTube celebrity — not to mention a philanthropist, educator and sponsor of a professional British football team.

Searching for Hillary Clinton’s unused confetti

Nov 2, 2017

When Hillary Clinton was poised to become the first woman elected president of the United States last year, her campaign chose the Jacob Javits Center in New York City as its election night headquarters because of its symbolic glass ceiling.

Clinton famously used the well-known metaphor in her 2008 concession speech, a reference that continued to be a battle cry throughout her 2016 run. 

Tracey Ullman gets in character

Nov 2, 2017
Claude Galette

British-born Tracey Ullman has been shaping the sketch comedy world in the US for the past three decades.

In the late 80s, she appeared in her own variety show, The Tracey Ullman Show, where she played dozens of characters, many of them based on real everyday people she’s met. Today Ullman continues to build her list of impersonations on the HBO series, "Tracey Ullman’s Show," taking on Dame Judi Dench, Angela Merkel, Jerry Hall and Dame Maggie Smith.

'An American in Paris' dances its way to the stage

Oct 26, 2017
Angela Sterling /&nbsp;Courtesy of Christoper Wheeldon

When MGM released “An American in Paris,” starring Gene Kelly and with a score by George Gershwin, the studio touted it as  “the greatest dance entertainment ever projected on the screen.” A new stage adaptation arrived on Broadway in 2015, and was nominated for a whopping 12 Tony awards — winning Best Choreographer for Christopher Wheeldon, leading his first musical.

Tendues and torque

Oct 26, 2017
Toby Melville / Reuters

Ken Laws was in his early 40s when he decided he wanted to study ballet.

Laws taught college physics, and when he had to shift his center of gravity to perform a simple pose at the barre, he immediately connected the dots between physical principles and dance movements.

(Originally aired October 19, 2007)

From Studio 360 ©2017 PRI 

My parents' extreme tango makeover

Oct 26, 2017
Marcos Brindicci / Reuters

When Yowei Shaw was in college, her parents' relationship started to change.

Maybe it was empty nest syndrome, maybe it was a midlife crisis — she's not quite sure. But after taking dance lessons on a cruise ship, her parents turned their lives upside down for the tango. They went from a couple who stayed home watching the History Channel to dancers going out five nights a week, perfecting their technique.

Aha moment: Bono and belly dancing

Oct 26, 2017
Henry Romero

Yillah Natalie grew up studying ballet. But when her family couldn’t afford classes anymore, she had to quit. Puberty compounded her identity crisis. “I went from being a stick pole with a flat chest and perfect ballet body to a D-cup overnight,” she remembers. “I slowly learned not to like the way I looked or feel comfortable with myself.”

Fly her to the moon

Oct 26, 2017
Felix Ausin Ordonez / Reuters

Twyla Tharp is the most celebrated American choreographer working today.

Arden Reed on ‘slow art’

Oct 19, 2017

When we look at a painting, or a photograph, or an art installation in a museum, we spend just seconds looking at it. Is that enough time to really get it?

Professor Arden Reed doesn’t think so. He has taken a long, slow look at visual art and how we experience it in his new book, “Slow Art.”

Reed explains his approach, drawing examples from painting, music and installation art. It turns out “slow art” can even be found in unexpected places — like pop songs by Justin Bieber!

Guilty pleasure: Hari Kondabolu loves ‘Untamed Heart’

Oct 19, 2017

In the mid 90s, when all of his buddies were watching action movies, 14-year-old Hari Kondabolu was secretly obsessing over a romantic drama, "Untamed Heart."

The movie stars Marisa Tomei as a waitress at a diner in Minneapolis. She falls in love with a mysterious busboy played by Christian Slater, but there's a catch — Slater's character claims to have a baboon heart, which ultimately leads to a tragic ending.

Are jump scares a hack cliché?

Oct 19, 2017

This is my first h2

This is my first Paragraph

This is my second Div

From Studio 360 ©2017 PRI 

Agnès Varda and JR are strange bedfellows

Oct 19, 2017

The new movie, “Faces Places,” documents the loving — albeit unexpected — friendship of Agnès Varda, 89, and JR, 34: She's a filmmaker and a founding member of the French New Wave, while he is a French artist known for plastering huge black-and-white photographs on the sides of buildings around the world.

Not long ago, they hit the road for a tour of the French countryside, creating a series of public art projects everywhere they stopped.

Rediscovering your favorite kids’ books as an adult

Oct 5, 2017
Courtesy of Bruce Handy

In his new book, “Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult,” Bruce Handy makes a case for books aimed at kids not just being a narcotic to put them to sleep, but rather literature in its purest form.

From “Where the Wild Things Are” to “Charlotte’s Web,” Handy revisits childhood classics that still hold up — and a few that don’t. He joins Kurt Andersen to discuss some of their favorite books and offer insight about their creators.