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.

What's behind the humor of Hasan Minhaj on Netflix

Jun 24, 2017

Three weeks. That’s how long comedian Hasan Minhaj had to prep for his now-legendary presidential roast at April’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“It was one of those things no one wanted to touch but I thought that 'hey, this is it,'” he says.

In fact, he wove that into his address: “I would say it is an honor to do this, but that would be an 'alternative fact,'” he said, warming up the crowd of journalists. “No one wanted to do this, so of course it falls in the hands of an immigrant.”

The second season of Netflix’s comedy “Master of None” debuted some weeks ago to admiring reviews — not unlike the first season, which won an Emmy for its writing.

Decades after its cancellation, the cult show “Twin Peaks” is making a brief prime-time comeback: “Twin Peaks: The Return” premieres Sunday on Showtime, and its 18 episodes promise to feature many of the original cast and characters.

The new Broadway musical, "War Paint," is about the rivalry between two of the 20th century's biggest cosmetics moguls, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. It posed a special challenge for the show’s makeup designer.

The woman who signed on to the daunting task of designing the theatrical makeup for two makeup legends is Angelina Avallone. She has designed makeup for the Broadway productions of "Cabaret," "The Little Mermaid," "The Color Purple," "Julius Caesar" and about a hundred other shows.

The hashtag that acts as a 'bat signal' for black cosplayers

May 14, 2017
Brian Snyder/Reuters 

Cosplay — dressing up as a favorite fantasy character, then heading out to public gatherings like comic-cons — used to be considered so nerdy that even comic geeks teased others who did it. But thanks in part to social media, perceptions are changing: As cosplayers post videos and photos of themselves in fantastical, meticulously designed costumes, cosplay has become more accepted, even cool.

<a href="">William A. Crafts/CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)</a>

When Margaret Atwood wrote "The Handmaid's Tale," published in 1985, she took inspiration from the rise of the Christian right in America during the 1970s and early '80s and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

<a href="">Official White House photo by Pete Souza</a>

“Amazing Grace” is a hymn that’s recognizable to almost every American, regardless of religious background.

“It seems kind of like an all-purpose, hopeful song,” says Steve Turner, author of “Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song.” But while the song has a universal message, its origins are much more complex.

The new season of HBO’s political comedy “Veep” just got underway this past weekend, which means we’re in for a fresh dose of spicy insults (“Put that world’s tallest pile of garbage on the phone right now!”) and punchy one-liners from Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and her staff (or ex-staff), as they navigate life in Washington and beyond. 

But behind the scenes, the writers of TV comedies like “Veep” banter with each other using lingo that may be less familiar. Can you use “zhuzhing” in a sentence?

Last year, Mattel announced that it was giving Barbie a makeover — introducing new body shapes, skin tones and even flat feet to make the iconic doll look more realistic. “Barbie reflects the world girls see around them,” Mattel president and COO Richard Dickson said.

Elias Weiss Friedman via Twitter (image cropped)

On a chilly recent morning, photographer Elias Weiss Friedman was camped out at the dog run in New York City’s Washington Square Park, preparing to shoot the compelling, eye-level portraits he’s best-known for.

Like any working photographer, he was dressed for his beat. “I'm wearing … cargo pants that I've destroyed about 15 pairs of,” he says. “But underneath, I have kneepads, and I wear them underneath because I don't like to give away that I'm — just a little bit more under the radar.”

T2 Trainspotting” is the long-awaited sequel to Danny Boyle’s classic film about young heroin addicts in Edinburgh, and it opened in US theaters a few weeks ago. Set two decades after “Trainspotting,” “T2” has all the drugs and crime of the original movie — even the same train-car wallpaper in one character’s childhood bedroom.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters&nbsp;

In the horror-comedy film "Get Out," a 26-year-old black photographer meets his white girlfriend’s nice, doctor parents for the first time. When he arrives at their house for the weekend, things get a little weird — and then, well, much weirder.

"Get Out" is the first directing effort from Jordan Peele, of the comedy duo Key and Peele. He says using a horror movie to depict aspects of race relations has never been done before.

Jon McNaughton/McNaughton Fine Art, LLC

In 2008, artist Jon McNaughton got an idea for a painting called "One Nation Under God." To his surprise, the painting went viral and McNaughton became something of an icon for the political right.

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, “La La Land” features Emma Stone in the role of an actress, and Ryan Gosling as a jazz musician, both struggling to make it. But at its heart, the film is also an homage to old Hollywood musicals.

Wikimedia Commons

In 1972, the Beaux Arts Trio, one of the most celebrated chamber music groups in America, recorded pianist and composer Clara Schumann's only piano trio along with three piano trios by her husband, Robert Schumann. Now, that recording showcasing both of the Schumanns has been inducted into the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.

It’s rare for “creating art” and “paying the bills” to mean the same thing, so lots of artists lead double lives. The writer Kurt Vonnegut owned a car dealership (until it folded). Composer Philip Glass drove a taxi in New York City.

Comedian Courtney Maginnis has a day job, too — and it’s as unusual as her stand-up routine. She designs lingerie.

<a href="">ProfReader (own work)</a>/<a href="">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

Just before President Donald Trump took office in January, the Washington, DC publication The Hill reported that the new administration was drawing up sweeping plans to cut government spending. One target? The National Endowment for the Arts, which the article says would be “eliminated entirely” under the proposed changes, along with its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A fascist America, as revealed by an Amazon series

Feb 14, 2017
<a href="">m01229</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

Last December, Amazon installed an enormous billboard in Times Square depicting the Statue of Liberty giving a Nazi salute.

It was an advertisement for the second season of Amazon’s show “The Man in the High Castle.” Based on a Philip K. Dick novel, the drama imagines what the United States would look like in the 1960s if the Nazis had won World War II.

<a href="">DoodleMatt</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)&nbsp;</a>

The world’s enduring image of Marilyn Monroe — standing over a New York City subway grate, white halter dress billowing suggestively around her legs — comes from a scene in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.”

Billy Wilder, who directed the movie, actually filmed the famous scene twice: Once on a street in midtown Manhattan, and later again, on a Hollywood sound stage. The movie used the sound stage take, and Wilder’s on-location footage was lost long ago. But as it turns out, there’s another recording of the famous Manhattan take, and it has a story of its own.

Bundeswehr-Fotos Wir.Dienen.Deutschland/<a href=",_Daniel_Libeskind.jpg">CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)</a>

The Kurds are one of the world’s largest stateless ethnic groups, living at the intersection of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Eight years ago, as Barack Obama was about to be inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, Studio 360’s Kurt Andersen asked the writer and cultural critic, Cintra Wilson, to leave a voicemail for the incoming president, saying what she wanted to see from his time in office. So, she took the opportunity to not only call in a few favors but, also, to compliment his threads. 

White House photo <a href="">by Samantha Appleton</a>

For eight years, President Barack Obama was commander in chief. But was he also "tastemaker in chief"?

With Obama, "you always wanted to know what the book was next to his bed and what was on his iPod, right?” says Geoff Edgers, national arts reporter for The Washington Post. “I don’t think we had that before."

Last year alone, Obama brought musical acts like Common, The Lumineers, Usher, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, The Dap-Kings, Blake Shelton, Esperanza Spalding and more to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mike Hutchings/Reuters/File Photo

If you remember Darth Vader’s famous line in "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," as “Luke, I am your father,” you’re not alone — but you’re not right, either. His actual words are “No, I am your father.”

<a href="">Chip Griffin</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

What’s a nine-letter phrase for "colorful swallow?"

Before you hit the Audubon books, here’s another hint: “The English language is incredibly fluid,” says Brendan Emmett Quigley.

Quigley has been making crosswords for The New York Times for two decades, ever since he was a senior in college. That makes him a "cruciverbalist" — and as he explains it, his job is to twist the mind of the crossword puzzle’s "solver." 

How Pittsburgh remembers a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

Jan 7, 2017
phillq23/<a href=",_Pennsylvania.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>

The first film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences” hit theaters around the country on Christmas Day. “Fences” is one of 10 plays in what the late playwright called his "Century Cycle," about African American life. There’s a play for each decade of the 20th century, and all but one is set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up.

There is no curtain-raising in “The Encounter.” The show simply begins — with the actor Simon McBurney telling a story, and each member of the audience listening through a set of headphones.

Why the moons of Uranus are named after characters in Shakespeare

Jan 1, 2017

"What’s in a name?" Shakespeare’s star-crossed Juliet famously wanted to know. And for those of us peering skyward, it’s a question for the ages: Where do celestial bodies get their names from?

There are constellations and planets christened after Greek and Roman gods. The craters on Mercury are artists and musicians, like Bach, John Lennon and Disney. And the moons of the planet Uranus — there are, impressively, 27 altogether — have literary ties — 25 of them relate to characters in Shakespeare’s plays. 

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The writer John Wray learned a thing or two about Albert Einstein while researching his new novel, "The Lost Time Accidents." For one, he says that despite Einstein’s fame and charming persona, the physicist always had a surprising quality — a lack of interest in popularity.

“He really truly had no interest in the trappings of fame or fortune,” Wray says. “He truly was an outsider, even in Princeton. You know, he spent most of his time alone, and he truly had a remarkable sense of humor — about himself, as well as the society he was in.”

Courtesy of Abou Farman

When artist Leonor Caraballo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she naturally turned to art to expose and make sense of the illness working within her. Using a 3D printer and MRI images, Caraballo and Abou Farman, her husband and collaborator, created sculptures and jewelry in the knotted shape of her tumor. They called the project, “Object Breast Cancer.”

Emma Trim&nbsp;

Growing up, author Brit Bennett attended a black protestant church with her father and separately, a mostly white, Catholic church with her mother, who is also black.

"I had these very different cultural experiences," she said. "So, I think I’ve always been interested in church as a space that can be so culturally different, even when people are professing to believe the same thing."