Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Saturdays from 3pm to 4pm
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.

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  • Thursday, January 22, 2015 12:00am

    Peter Carey’s latest novel, "Amnesia," is about government surveillance, cyber terrorism, and the legacy of America’s bullying intelligence agencies. He was inspired to write it after turning down an offer to ghostwrite Julian Assange’s autobiography. We hear how lifting the embargo will affect Cuba’s artists; and Havana gets its first Broadway transfer since the Revolution — the critique of capitalism known as "Rent."

  • Thursday, January 15, 2015 12:00am

    Insiders have known for years that studios pay female stars less than men, but the Sony hack put numbers on the problem. One expert thinks that leaked data may begin to balance the scales. Glenn Close comes back to the stage in an Edward Albee play. And the Hubble Space Telescope, which made the world fall in love with images of space all over again, turns 25.  

  • Tuesday, January 13, 2015 8:00am

    WARNING: This sideshow podcast covers stand-up comedy. As a result, it features sexual humor, racial humor, and a lot of four-letter words. Hope you will listen anyway!

    The roast is a sacred tradition for stand-up comedians – maybe a little too sacred. The form has essentially remained unchanged from the classic Friars Club roasts of the 1960s and 70s to the more recent Comedy Central installments featuring Pamela Anderson and James Franco. But a group of comedians is taking the roast to new, ever more insulting places at the venerable Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

    Roast Battle is part-wrestling, part-rap battle. In two to three rounds of head-to-head competition, two stand-ups (typically unknowns who know each other) trade insults for a raucous audience and celebrity judges who eventually choose a champion. “It’s a new take on the classic Friars Club roast,” says Jeremy Craven, a participating comedian. “This is what happens if the person you were roasting was allowed to roast you back.” 

    Brian Moses created the Roast Battle after trying to settle a dispute between two fellow comics. After recommending they slap each other to a resolution, he reconsidered. “How about you guys write some jokes about each other, and instead of slap boxing, we’ll do verbal boxing?” he asked. “They wrote some jokes and everybody in the room loved it.”

    What comics loved was a forum to test boundaries – sexual, political, or racial. While stand-up is traditionally an outlet for social criticism, mainstream comics have more to lose by tackling sensitive subject matter than those who perform at Roast Battle. 

    Each Roast Battle features a “Black Guys” corner where stereotypes run rampant, and a “White Racist” corner where America’s latent racism is brutally satirized. When a “Black lives matter!” chant breaks out after a racially themed joke, the White Racist yells out, “Not in Ferguson!” to boos and laughter. Moses and the other comedians are drawn to the anything-goes environment. “You can be as open and free as possible as long as it’s funny,” Moses says. “We’ve done a good job of being funny.”

    The Battles generally take place between unknowns, but the establishment is impressed. “There aren’t a lot of places you can say anything,” says Jeffrey Ross, who is known as the Roastmaster General for his appearances at every single Comedy Central roast. “Roast Battle is that. It’s a temple of free speech.” Ross is a regular judge at Roast Battle, and he brings friends like Sarah Silverman and Dave Chappelle along to guest judge. “This is an extension of our animalistic instincts.”

    Roast Battle has been compared to the brutal brawls of Fight Club and the rap cyphers of 8 Mile, but Ross has a different take: “It’s like the American Idol of insult comedy,” he says. Though he runs the judging, Ross declines the Simon Cowell part; “I like to think of myself as the Paula Abdul.”

  • Thursday, January 8, 2015 12:00am

    Adam Gopnik, former Paris correspondent for “The New Yorker,” provides some context for understanding the “Charlie Hebdo” attack. Also, director Mike Leigh, long known for his trenchant films about contemporary life, turns to one of the titans of 19th-century art, J.M.W. Turner. And the young composer Matthew Aucoin takes us inside his writing process. Aucoin has drawn comparisons with Leonard Bernstein and Mozart — but he’d rather be himself. 

  • Thursday, January 1, 2015 12:00am

    This week, a former CIA man brings his Cold War experiences to light on the TV spy show "The Americans." We take a serious look at "Mad Magazine," the goofy, bawdy, sarcastic kids’ magazine that made America snarky. And Brazilian cellist Dom La Nena performs live. 
    (Segments in this week's episode aired previously.)