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.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Emmy Awards are coming up soon - Sunday, September 22. This week we're featuring interviews with some of the nominees. Our first interview today is with Natasha Lyonne, who's nominated in two categories - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. Both are for her work on the Netflix series "Russian Doll," which she co-created.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. It's Emmy week on FRESH AIR featuring interviews with some of this year's Emmy nominees. Christina Applegate is nominated as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance in the Netflix series "Dead To Me." She was 16 when she became famous for her role as Kelly Bundy, the daughter in the hit sitcom "Married... With Children." She went on to star in other TV shows and to star with Will Ferrell in the movie comedy "Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy."


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. It's Emmy week on FRESH AIR. The next nominee we're going to hear from is Michael K. Williams. He's nominated for his performance in the Netflix limited series "When They See Us" as Bobby McCray, the father of Antron McCray, one of the five black and brown boys who became known as the Central Park Five. They were wrongfully convicted of assaulting and raping a woman who was jogging in Central Park in 1989. The series has 16 Emmy nominations.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Emmy Awards ceremony is Sunday, September 22. This week, we're featuring interviews with some of the nominees. The four-part Netflix series "When They See Us" has 16 nominations. We're going to hear from Ava DuVernay, who's nominated for directing the series and for co-writing the final episode. She's also one of the series producers.

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Our next guest on our Emmy week series is Patricia Arquette. She's nominated for two Emmys for her performances in two limited series, Showtime's "Escape At Dannemora" and Hulu's "The Act." She won an Oscar for her performance in the 2014 film "Boyhood." Arquette already won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in "Escape At Dannemora," which is based on the true story of a prison escape. She plays Joyce Tilly Mitchell, who helped two murderers escape from prison.

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our next guest, Ben Stiller, is nominated for an Emmy for directing the Showtime series "Escape At Dannemora." The series is nominated for 12 Emmys. Stiller is best known for his work acting in and directing film comedies and recently for playing Michael Cohen on "Saturday Night Live." "Escape From Dannemora" (ph) is a change in direction. The seven-part series is based on the true story of two inmates who escaped from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York in 2015. The series isn't just about planning and executing the escape.

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. It's Emmy week on FRESH AIR, featuring interviews with some of this year's nominees. We'll start today's show with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the creator and star of the BBC-Amazon comedy series "Fleabag." The series has 11 nominations, two of which are for Waller-Bridge as best lead actress in a comedy series and best writing in a comedy series. She also created and wrote the first season of the hit series "Killing Eve," which leads to her second nomination this year for her role as an executive producer of "Killing Eve."

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. It's Emmy week on FRESH AIR, featuring interviews with some of this year's nominees. Let's get back to my interview with former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and writer Bill Hader. He's nominated for five Emmys for his work on "Barry," which he co-created and stars in, and for being an executive producer of "Documentary Now!"

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. It's Emmy week on FRESH AIR, featuring our interviews with some of this year's nominees. We'll start with Bill Hader, who became famous as a cast member of "Saturday Night Live." He's nominated for four Emmys related to HBO's dark comedy series "Barry," which he co-created and stars in, and won for IFC's "Documentary Now!" Last year, after Season 1 of "Barry," Hader won the Emmy for best lead actor in a comedy series.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. Actor Peter Fonda died last Friday in Los Angeles. He was 79. Fonda was part of an intergenerational Hollywood family - the son of Henry Fonda, the sister of Jane Fonda and father of Bridget Fonda.

In addition to personally taking care of newborn kittens, Hannah Shaw, known as the Kitten Lady on social media, consults with shelters and cities on homeless cat management.

The saxophonist and clarinetist, a student of Sidney Bechet and a specialist in early styles of the music, died Aug. 4 at the age of 91. He spoke with Terry Gross in 1988, excerpted here. (Hear the full interview through the Fresh Air archive.)

Janet Mock remembers when she saw the documentary Paris is Burning for the first time. She was in 10th grade, living in Hawaii, and had already socially transitioned her gender identity. She was about to embark on her medical transition.

"My friend had a VHS that she got from another friend," Mock says. "It was kind of like this little magic ticket that was passed down to a bunch of us."


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are famous for the wealth they've amassed through Koch Industries - together they're worth more than $100 billion - and for creating a powerful political influence network. The network is designed to amplify messages pushed by Koch Industries, support legislation that favors Koch's needs and goals and defeat legislation that stands in the way of Koch profits. Koch has used this network to prevent or try to dismantle regulations that affect the businesses.

Sister Helen Prejean is best known for her 1993 memoir, Dead Man Walking, about her role as a spiritual adviser to a convicted killer on death row. The story was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Prejean has accompanied six prisoners to their executions and has been at the forefront of activism against the death penalty.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today's show is devoted to Toni Morrison, one of the most celebrated writers of our time, who died Monday. She was 88 years old.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Jia Tolentino's strict Christian upbringing backfired.

"I am sure that you don't send your kid to Christian school for 12 years and hope that they'll do what I did: Which is have The New Yorker publish 7,000 words about how the church led me to love doing MDMA and love rap music," she says.


This is FRESH AIR. We're going to listen back to an interview with one of America's foremost documentary filmmakers, D.A. Pennebaker. He died last Thursday at age 94. When presenting Pennebaker with an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2012, Michael Moore called him one of the filmmakers who, quote, "invented nothing less than the modern documentary," unquote. Pennebaker was a pioneer in creating the documentary form known as cinema verite, which did away with scripting, narration and staged scenes.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.



This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, June was the planet's hottest month on record. Today we're going to listen to Terry's interview with self-described conservation photographer Paul Nicklen whose beautiful photos document some of the most dramatic consequences of climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Before Wanda Sykes became a comic, she worked as a procurement officer for the National Security Agency and had top security clearance. But she always loved telling jokes, and when a local radio station sponsored a talent show that included a comedy category, she decided to audition.

"They put me on the show ... [and] I fell in love with it," she says. "I love doing stand-up. ... That's where I feel like I can be free."

Count Laura Lippman among those who take issue with President Trump's recent tweets characterizing Baltimore as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess." The crime novelist, who lives in Baltimore, says the president's comments represent a "basic disrespect" for city residents.

There are quadrillions of insects on earth. Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, a professor of conservation biology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, estimates they outnumber human beings by a factor of 200 million to one.

But as awe-inspiring as that figure seems, the world's insect population is actually falling, Sverdrup-Thygeson notes.


From WHYY in Philadelphia, this is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross.


RANKY TANKY: (Singing) Who is the greatest? We are the greatest. Are you sure? Yeah. Positive? Yeah. Definitive? Yeah. All right. All right.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. In a new article in The New Yorker, titled "The Case Of Al Franken," my guest Jane Mayer investigates the accusations of sexual misconduct that led Franken to resign under pressure from the Senate. She's found that the story told by Franken's chief accuser, Leeann Tweeden, is full of holes. Mayer also looked into the accusations against Franken made by seven other women who came forward after Tweeden.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're going to listen back to an interview with Paul Krassner, who was a prominent figure of the 60s counterculture. He died Sunday at the age of 87.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Breakthroughs in heart medicine, including surgical procedures, devices and medications, have changed how various forms of heart disease are treated and enabled many people to live longer lives. We're going to hear about some of those new developments from Haider Warraich, author of the new book "State Of The Heart: Exploring The History, Science, And Future Of Cardiac Disease." We're also going to talk about cholesterol and blood pressure.