Humor is both a creative and a cognitive process, says Bob Mankoff, who has contributed cartoons to The New Yorker since 1977. His memoir is called How About Never — Is Never Good For You?
"Any successful lyricist has to be part playwright and has to be able to put himself into the minds and the hearts and the souls of the characters," Sheldon Harnick tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
David Edelstein finds some greats in a "depressing" year for films; Maureen Corrigan picks 12 books of the year; Ken Tucker names his top nine albums; David Bianculli says 2014 was a good year.
In 1986, a bomb planted by the Peruvian terrorist group Shining Path exploded in the luggage rack above Sam Baker. Somehow, during his long recovery, songs focused on empathy started coming to him.
"I think if I had been an accomplished songwriter I wouldn't have written 'You Really Got Me,' " Davies tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. Originally broadcast Nov. 26.
TV critic David Bianculli says that he's encouraged by how far TV has come. He picks The Good Wife as the best show of 2014, which has "the deepest roster of really strong regulars and guest stars."
Film critic David Edelstein says in 2014 none of the great material came from Hollywood studios. But, he says, it was a "wonderful year" for indie films. He names Boyhood as the best of the year.
The podcast is a reinvestigation of the 1999 murder of Maryland high school student Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed is serving a life sentence but has always maintained his innocence.
"We think it's all a bit vulgar, you know, cashing in on Christmas," Lowe says of the British. He says he took it as a challenge: Quality Street tackles old classics and adds originals to the mix.
Spall plays J.M.W. Turner in the new film Mr. Turner; Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for; Cleese'smemoir, So, Anyway..., covers his boyhood and early career.
Simmons was a regular on the HBO drama, which depicts the brutality of life in a maximum security prison. He spoke to Terry Gross in 1998.
The biopic of landscape painter J. M. W. Turner depicts a man whose mind is barely engaged by anything other than his work. He's a mystery, and his art is magically indefinite — just like the movie.
Meryl Streep won a Golden Globe for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She talks about preparing for that role and how her perceptions of herself have changed over the years.
Ahead of The Colbert Report's last episode, Fresh Air listens back to interviews with Colbert. "I didn't realize quite how liberal I was until I was asked to make passionate comedic choices," he said.
In Gay Berlin, Robert Beachy describes the rise of a gay subculture in the 1920s and '30s, how it contributed to our understanding of gay identity and how it was eradicated by the Nazis.
Fresh Air rock critic Ken Tucker says Black Messiah is as adventurous as any fan could hope for.
The co-founder of the Monty Python troupe admits he wasn't "naturally gifted" at physical comedy, and learned a lot by imitation. His new memoir, So, Anyway..., covers his boyhood and early career.
Making new sounds while staying mindful of the past is a common theme in the Fresh Air music critic's year-end list.
The 19th century painter wasn't always "very pleasant" and he was a "man of massive contradictions," Spall says. So Spall says he had to "dig deep" to play the title role in Mr. Turner.
This year, Fresh Air's book critic rejects the tyranny of the decimal system and picks 12 titles published in 2014 — all with characters, scenes and voices that linger long past the last page.