Arts + Life

Arts + Life

A lone figure on stage, making people laugh: That solitude is what makes stand-up tougher and riskier than other kinds of comedy.

Every year around this time we like to take a break from our usual musical discoveries and get together with old friends for what we call the All Songs Considered Holiday Spectacular, a seasonal special done in the tradition of old-time radio.

Just in time for the holiday travel season, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has an exhibit about one aspect of flying that most of us ignore: airport control towers. Those beacons of the landscape — where landings and takeoffs are orchestrated — are now the stars of some dramatic photographs.

Oops: Wrong Name Announced As Winner Of Miss Universe Pageant

Dec 21, 2015

For a brief moment in Las Vegas Sunday night, Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was crowned Miss Universe.

Then host Steve Harvey apologized, saying he had read the card wrong.

NPR's Weekend Edition has been chatting with TV critics about shows that they believe flew a little too far under the radar in 2015 — Maureen Ryan talked about The 100 last weekend, and Alan Sepinwall talked about Review.

When NBC announced The Wiz -- the African-American version of The Wizard of Oz, presented as a hit Broadway musical and a movie — would be produced as a live television production, some TV watchers may have groaned.

Previous live telecasts of other musicals have gotten attention mainly as a target for hate-watching. But The Wiz Live! seems to have broken that spell: When it aired earlier this month, it earned 11.5 million viewers — and more if you count DVR replays.

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Transcript

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It isn't necessarily easy to make funny people laugh, but comedian Amy Poehler says Paula Pell can do it: "She just has this very specific way of telling a joke and being in on the joke," says Poehler.

When Henry Jimenez got to the airport, shortly before flying from his home in Mexico to the U.S., he says, the goodbyes got difficult.

"My little brother was crying and I tried to act tough on him, but I gave him a hug," Jimenez recalls. "I've never gave him a hug like that before, and I started crying, too."

Victoria Borja started doing illegal graffiti in middle school.

"It's all on the risk. You know you might get in trouble and just the thought of that makes it even more fun," Borja says.

She loved the thrill of putting her work in front of an audience.

"It's not just for yourself, but for other people to know how you're expressing yourself, it's like your own art gallery but everyone can see it and it's for free," she says.

She was never caught vandalizing property, but she did end up at a correctional school.

Note: This post discusses the events of Thursday night's episode. Be warned!

Comic Bill Burr's new animated Netflix series is set in the 1970s and definitely for mature audiences — think of it as an R-rated cross between All in the Family and The Simpsons.

Before the new Star Wars movie had its splashy Hollywood premiere, producer Kathleen Kennedy joined the cast onstage. "It's a real privilege to make movies," she said. "Everyone involved on The Force Awakens knows how lucky we've been to carry on this incredible legacy that George began over 40 years ago."

Kennedy is president of Lucasfilm, handpicked by George Lucas to take over his company and the franchise.

Like many fans, Kennedy remembers waiting to see the first Star Wars movie, back in 1977.

By the time standup comedian John Mulaney was 30, he'd had a successful comedy special called New In Town, an Emmy nominated turn writing for Saturday Night Live and was on his way to the comedy promised land — his own sitcom.

But in 2013 Mulaney hit a bit of a wall. His self-titled Fox sitcom -- a classic live studio audience show about a young comedy writer living in New York — was panned and canceled.

Street performers weren't always welcome in Malaysia, but now the government is part of an effort that's literally providing them a stage on which to perform.

Most days, buskers perform in the main train station under Kuala Lumpur's famous Petronas Twin Towers, the pair of skyscrapers that define the city's skyline.

"We're all traveling around. And if we find a spot anywhere, in any country, then we do busking," says Ali Hakim. He's part of a pair of singers we found at the station. They play his native Malay music and covers of more familiar tunes.

This story is part of an occasional series about individuals who don't have much money or power but do have a big impact on their communities.

Saginaw, Mich., is one of those places where economic recovery has been slow to arrive. The city has been hit hard over the years by factory shutdowns. Unemployment is high. And people have left, by the thousands.

Now, residents John and Katrina Vowell are trying to help turn things around — with music.

Have you ever watched a Tiny Desk Concert and thought, "Hey, I want to do that!?" Well, now's your chance to play behind my desk here at NPR. That's right: We're bringing NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest back for a second year.

Here's what you do.

In the "I Got Divorced" episode of What I Wore When ... , Glamour editor Sophia Chabbott describes what she wore to her Orthodox Jewish divorce ceremony. Wailin Wong, host of The Distance podcast, says, "To me it's really beautiful because she talks about how she wasn't allowed to speak during that ceremony, but the clothes spoke for her; the clothes gave her a language, a vocabulary to work with when she felt very vulnerable."

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