In this in-depth interview show, Black takes listeners into the minds of some of today’s most fascinating celebrities and newsmakers to discuss the process of how they became, well, amazing. Brought to you by PRX.
Here's the Latest Episode from How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black:
A short message from host Michael Ian Black.
Despite having endured a terrible year in the aftermath of her Trump photo controversy, the hilarious comedian kept everyone in the studio laughing. Kathy Griffin is without a doubt a survivor. She talks to Michael about her long road to success and hitting it big, how she became so driven (including her fears about being broke), and how her tough exterior masks her sensitive side.
Best known as the host of Emmy Award-winning show Bill Nye the Science Guy, and current host of the Netflix show *Bill Nye Saves the World, *he has been the public face of science and discovery for more than twenty years. In this nerdy and uproarious conversation, the author and CEO of the Planetary Society talks everything from his love of NASA to current science headlines including Crispr, life on Mars, climate change, and LightSales.
For our 100th episode, Michael turns the tables on "the greatest interviewer of our time," a guest who we've had at the top of our wish list since the beginning. Terry Gross is the iconic host of the public radio show* Fresh Air,* where for over 40 years she has interviewed over 13,000 guests. In this engrossing interview, she and Michael cover a huge range of topics about her life and the show, allowing us to get to know a bit about a voice we're used to hearing ask all the questions.
Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas, called “the most famous undocumented immigrant in America,” shares his story of discovering his status at age 16 and his journey in the decades that followed including his coming out to the world as undocumented in The New York Times Magazine. In this poignant interview, the immigration rights activist discusses misconceptions about immigrants, his definition of "American," and his memoir Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.
She’s one of this generation’s pre-eminent photojournalists, who covers wars and conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Darfur, among others; during which she’s been kidnapped twice. In this riveting conversation, the winner of a MacArthur Genius grant and a Pulitzer for her photos gives a behind-the-scenes her recent photography book simply titled, Love and War.
Michael sits down with friend and fellow member of The State for a nostalgic, hilarious, and honest conversation about their time together in the iconic sketch group. For more than a decade after the tv show ended, the comedian and storyteller struggled to find his voice trying his hand at numerous jobs (including a stint as a porn author). It wasn’t until he decided to be himself on stage that he discovered his true calling and the Risk! Podcast and live show were born.
The delightful and hilarious Irish-born comedian and writer sits down with Michael to discuss her passion for using her comedic voice to start conversations about immigration, environmental issues, and social justice. A star in her native Ireland, she left fame behind to come to the US to continue her comedy career but also began chronicling the lives of immigrants in her podcast and book of the same name Maeve in America.
In 2007, Hank Green along with his brother John, tried a Youtube experiment - for an entire year they made a video a day together - which they thought was a dumb idea. To their surprise, these videos quickly led to millions of fans. Eleven years later Green has harnessed his popularity to focus on what's important to him and now oversees a video company that produces popular Youtube educational content, has raised millions of dollars for charity, founded the world's largest conference celebrating online video, and now written his first novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. In this episode, Hank talks about his first novel, how his life parallels his main character’s, and why taking risks is the best way to learn.
As president of his college group "Uncomfortable Learning," Zachary R. Wood attempted to bridge the gap between dissenting views by inviting controversial speakers to campus and was shut down by student protests. Now a recent graduate, and a new author of the memoir, Uncensored, he opens up about his abusive childhood with a schizophrenic mother, and the pressure he felt to constantly strive for perfection as a son, student, and black man.
The former Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and leader of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund talks about her time at the White House and her childhood growing up in 1960s Ohio as the daughter of Chinese refugees. With a sense of humor and positively Tchen gives her take on the current administration, the importance of diversity of thought and representation in politics, as well as her lifetime commitment to tackling issues related to corporate compliance, ethics, and equality.
In a very funny, touching, and creatively inspiring interview, the filmmakers discuss their incredibly close brotherly bond, how they never doubted success would happen, even though it took almost two decades to achieve, and how they had to learn how to quit each other in order to find the space to have their own lives. Recorded live in New York City.
The author of 13 books about evolution, neuroscience, biology, and most recently heredity, as well as the weekly “Matter” science column in the New York Times, discusses his accessible style of science storytelling, answering Michael’s burning questions on his recent book She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, science in schools, genomes, and whether there is a gene to make you a successful podcaster.
The co-founder and president of ROC, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, Saru Jayaraman has devoted her career to improving the lives of restaurant workers. Her activism through legislation, initiatives, and conversation as well as her two books, have raised the awareness and made significant improvements, of some of the appalling conditions of the workers who make and serve the food in the places millions of Americans like to eat.
One of President Obama’s longest-serving staffers, first as Communications Director then as Senior Advisor, and present co-host of the wildly popular Pod Save America, Dan Pfeiffer discusses present-day politics through the unique lens of his experience, which he also details in his new book, “Yes, We (Still) Can.” From what motivates Mitch McConnell, to his work as a pundit on CNN, Pfeiffer is one of the few who might be able to answer Michael’s question, “What the fuck is happening right now?”
The Food Network star, bestselling cookbook author and now restaurateur tells Michael how her success all grew organically from her passion for cooking and not from a great ambition to be famous. But famous she is, and she now finds her life is a push and pull struggle when it comes to taking new risks, like deciding to open her first restaurant after years of being a television star, and what those risks cost her.
The multi-talented actor, comedian, writer, and director sits down with Michael to discuss his journey from his first stand up performance as a teenager in Atlanta to his many memorable roles on Arrested Development, Mr. Show with Bob and David, and more. The two colleagues dive into a heartfelt conversation about the unsteadiness of working in Hollywood, the ways in which men can support #MeToo and #TimesUp, and navigating the volatile world of Twitter.
This is probably a terrible idea.” So begins the new podcast, “Obscure,” where comedian, actor, and writer Michael Ian Back reads the Thomas Hardy classic,Jude the Obscure,out loud and comments on it as he goes. Why is he doing this? Because his wife’s old paperback copy of the book has been sitting on their bookshelf for years, mocking him, judging him for never having read it. Well, now he is. Join Michael, some of his famous (and non-famous) friends and experts as he discovers Jude’s world and a few things about his own. Is it a terrible idea? Probably. But it’s a terrible idea he wants to do with you.
Hear Episode 1 of Obscure in Apple Podcasts:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/obscure-with-michael-ian-black/id1388660385?mt=2
The author of many bestselling books about food including, among others, The Omnivore's Dilemma and* In Defense Of Food hasturned his attention to a new kind of consumption - psychedelic drugs. In this fun and informative interview, Pollan talks about how writing about these drugs was a natural progression from his earlier work, and what he discovered about himself when, in the service of research for his new book *How to Change Your Mind, he decided to test psychedelics for himself.
For more than thirty years, writer, producer, and director Nell Scovell worked behind the scenes of iconic TV shows such as Murphy Brown, The Simpsons, and Coach. In this lively and timely interview, she shares stories from her memoir Just the Funny Parts *about working in the male-dominated entertainment field, her time writing on *Late Night with David Letterman, and crafting jokes for everyone from Obama to Miss Piggy.
One of the greatest theater directors of all time, the gregarious and razor-sharp George C. Wolfe joins Michael in an in-depth and moving conversation about how his positive approach to life informs his work. For anyone who has struggled, been daunted by circumstances, or dared to dream big, Wolfe’s direction on saying yes in his own life will inspire and motivate.
The charming and hilarious illustrator, author, and designer Maira Kalman sits down for an inspiring conversation about how she follows her curiosity to create everything from books and *New Yorker *covers to illustrated blogs, purses, and set design. Her unique perspective on creativity, daydreaming and trusting your instincts is refreshing for passionate creators of all types.
The opera superstar, and “People’s Diva,” discusses how her constant need to learn and challenge herself has taken her from the biggest opera houses in the world, to her current role singing in Carousel on Broadway, and to working behind the scenes to share her passion for the arts with new audiences by helping to create groundbreaking and exciting new work.
One of the best Alaskan alpinists of his generation and most prolific American climbing authors with over 28 books to his name, David Roberts discusses the lure of adventure, the incredible risks that come with alpine climbing (including death), and how being grounded by stage 4 cancer has led him to new discoveries.
In this heartbreaking yet hopeful episode, the author of the stunning new memoir Educated, opens up about growing up in a family of radical Mormon survivalists whose parents were opposed to traditional medical care and formal schooling. She broke free by teaching herself enough to pass a high school equivalency test and going to college, eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University.
The pundit, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and author of several books, including the new bestseller Trumpocracy, discusses how he came to be a prominent voice for the conservative movement after growing up the son of a famous Canadian liberal. And while he is still firmly a conservative Republican, he explains why Trump is so dangerous, how his views have evolved over time and acknowledges mistakes made.
In 2012, comedian Tig Notaro’s stand-up set, in which she boldly began with the line “Hello. Good evening. I have Cancer,” catapulted her into the national spotlight and led to numerous late show appearances, book and film deals. In this hilarious and candid interview, she explains why her belief in her own voice has never wavered, her unusual family, and how she tackled tough subjects such as sexual assault, loss, and love on her semi-autobiographical television show *One Mississippi. *
Widely recognized as one of the greatest mandolinists of all-time (which he amply demonstrated when he offered to play in studio), Chris Thile joins Michael for a fascinating conversation about how he blurs musical genres to create his unique style of music. The Live From Here host also shares stories from his early days as a child prodigy, growing up in a conservative family and the challenges and controversy surrounding his takeover of the iconic radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.
What is God? What is faith? In this thought-provoking episode, Michael and one of today’s most renown religious thinkers and authors tackle some of the big questions and make us look hard at our own beliefs. Reza Aslan is the author of several best-selling books on faith and religion including his most recent, God: A Human History, and is considered to be an author in possession of that rare gift of distilling complex material into a compulsively readable narrative.
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Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, the two founding members of the band The Lumineers, talk about their years hustling to make it as a band and what happened after their song, “Ho Hey,” blew up making them international stars. They also discuss how much crafting goes into every song they write (it’s a lot) and how they deal with life on extended tour.
The outspoken comedian, activist, and actress sits down with Michael for an honest and thought-provoking episode, which dives into topics ranging from her history with addiction, sexual abuse and racism to lighter topics like working together in the New York alternative comedy scene early in their careers, tattoos and her upcoming television show, Highland. **
In a conversation Michael said he could have continued all day, he talks to the delightful American author and media commentator on terrorism, intelligence, insurgency and torture about his years in service, how he learned to speak multiple languages including Russian and Arabic, being a spy, and his fears about the current state of our country.
In her podcast debut, the Charmed actress, philanthropist and entrepreneur opens up about the up and downs of navigating Hollywood after growing up on the hit TV show, Who’s The Boss. The two Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later co-stars talk everything from using social media for to help educate her fans to baseball, parenting, and politics.
**The effortlessly cool author/poet and Michael have a candid, fascinating, emotionally raw discussion ranging from Eileen’s life growing up in a religious home in Cambridge, MA, Myles’ approach to gender (including eschewing the pronoun “she” for “they”), and, of course, their work including the new book, *Afterglow, *a real and fantastic account of Eileen’s beloved pit bull Rosie’s life and death. **
The former Saturday Night Live cast member talks family life, creating celebrity impressions, and the day he learned his contract wasn’t being renewed. Killamopens up about his life after leaving the iconic sketch show from his delightful turn as King George in the smash musical Hamilton to his challenging new role as writer and director of the feature film, Killing Gunther starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Michael talks social justice and activism with the former teacher and current civil rights activist and organizer who has become among the best-known faces and voices and vests of the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s one of the architects of Campaign Zero, a policy prescriptive designed to greatly reduce police violence and is also the host of the popular podcast “Pod Save the People." Recorded live at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Widely recognized as one of America’s best actresses, the Emmy Award-winning star of Rosanne delves into a fascinating conversation about her genuine passion for the stage, creating characters and bringing a script to life. In this engaging episode, the Steppenwolf alum talks about her celebrated career as a leading lady--from the first time she made an audience laugh to her mesmerizing performances in Horace and Pete and *A Doll’s House Part 2, *for which she recently won a Tony Award for best actress.
In 1978, Ina Garten took a huge risk and left her job as a budget analyst in the White House to pursue her dream working with food. She packed her bags, moved to the Hamptons, bought a specialty food store and "The Barefoot Contessa" was born. In this enlightening and charming episode, the down-to-earth Food Network star shares her story of “jumping into the pond” by teaching herself to cook and run a business with no experience, when she knew it was time to leave, and she dishes about the challenges she faced along the road to becoming a bestselling cookbook author and TV star.
Doug Stanhope is considered the comedian’s comedian for his precise writing and insightful, often cynical, and controversial social and political comedy. He’s also known for his use of drugs and alcohol. In this episode he talks to Michael about his work, fans, and they get into a fascinating conversation on how he uses booze and pills to help him through his crippling social anxiety – it’s so bad he can’t be around people or perform on stage without self medicating (and yes, he openly drank throughout this interview).
The president of Planned Parenthood talks to Michael about how she got started in activism and organizing and what it was like growing up in conservative Texas as the daughter of two outspoken liberals. She also delves into the important work Planned Parenthood is doing today for women’s health in spite of the opposition from those who oppose birth control and abortion, just two of the many services they offer, and how she deals with people who disagree.
In a must listen episode for any person who loves to read, the editor of The New York Times Book Review is talking with Michael about writing, criticism and most of all, reading. Her new book, the memoir My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues chronicles her life through all the books she’s read, tracing her life through high school and college, in her travels from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, through her failed first marriage and her current life as a mother, wife and the editor as arguably one of the most important book reviews in the world.
The political satirist traces his route from failed sitcom writer to creating and writing the popular New Yorker column, The Borowitz Report, where his made-up musings on politics often go viral, and sometimes, even get taken seriously, especially in China. In a special live episode in front of a packed, New York audience, Borowitz talks to guest host Dean Obeidallah about how he created his own success, making fun of Trump, and the difference between “fake news” and satire.
One of pop music’s biggest stars – over the last ten years, she’s had 9 #1 hits, sold millions of albums, racked up billions of video views, and is the most followed person on Twitter – sits down with Michael to discuss growing up the daughter of ultra conservative Christian ministers, navigating her relationship with fame, and the struggle to be taken seriously.
The man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, among many other incredible feats, Dean Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. In this inspiring conversation he tells Michael how he discovered his love for endurance running, what life on the run is like, and how he handles pain. They also discuss his new book, The Road To Sparta, where recounts his participation in the 153-mile race from Athens to Sparta while recounting the Ancient Greek story of the world’s first marathon.
The Senator from the great state of Minnesota discusses his new memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, which traces his unlikely path from a 30 year career as a comedian, writing and starring at Saturday Night Live, to diving into politics after being a passionate follower on the sidelines. In this emotionally honest conversation he shares with Michael why he cares so much, and even dishes a bit on his fellow senators.
The comedian, writer and host of the hit CNN docu-series United Shades of America has an often hilarious, frequently serious conversation with Michael about his years determined to break into comedy, what he needed to realize to finally achieve success, and they go deep into the topic of how to talk about racism.
Dr. Charles Limb has married his passion for music with his day job as a surgeon and neuroscientist and is studying the science of creativity. In his research Limb has started gathering some tantalizing clues about the mind’s activity during jazz and rap improvisation discovering that the creative brain is functioning very differently than the memorizing brain. He’s talking to Michael about what this all means and why it’s important, especially in this current political environment when funding for the arts is on the chopping block.
Michael sits down with one of the world’s best known poker players to discuss her big wins and losses both at the table and in life, as well as her struggles being a woman in a male dominated profession. Of equal importance, Duke’s shares how she successfully used the skills and strategies she gained at the card table to create a second career teaching, speaking and advocating.
Judd Apatow is one of the most important influencers of comedy today. In this jam-packed episode, the writer, director and producer of such blockbusters as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This Is 40 traces the roots of his love of comedy, from working with giants like Jim Carrey and Gary Shandling who helped him along the way to why he now pays it forward to help launch the careers of so many others like Lena Dunham and Pete Holmes, and how he recently returned to the stand-up stages where he started out.
At the age of 17 a shy young man walked onto a stage to sing with Celine Dion and a star was born. In the almost 20 years since that moment, Josh Groban has gone on to sell over 25 million records and tour giant arenas all over the world. But while that’s amazing enough, in this interview Michael learns how Groban has taken control of his career and is trying new things (including a run on Broadway), and how despite all his massive success at such a young age, he is a remarkably warm, funny and unpretentious person.
In one of our funniest interviews to date, Michael sits down with Daniel Handler, whose books have sold over 60 million books worldwide under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, for a humorous and insightful conversation about the power of books and music. Handler previews his anticipated adult novel and talks about his trajectory from being rejected over 37 times to becoming a bestselling author.
Michael sits down with Deborah Berke, the first female dean at the Yale School of Architecture and founder of one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 companies of 2016, for a fascinating conversation about the role of architecture in everyday life. Berke shares her view on urban planning and offers sound advice for anyone who wants to follow their passion.
Following a heartfelt conversation with Michael Showalter, Michael talks with the third member of his iconic group Stella for an equally memorable conversation about his career writing and directing films such as Wet Hot American Summer and They Came Together. The two friends open up about the early days in the improv group The State, and Wain talks about everything from his worst dry spell to now struggling with saying no.
The YouTube star and bestselling author discusses how she stumbled into her successful career making funny videos watched by millions of viewers every week. A natural introvert, Helbig had to figure out a way to put herself out into the world and learned the great lesson that if you can follow your fear, it can lead to great things.
In this illuminating interview, Michael speaks to the millennial founder of MuslimGirl.net, the number one online publication for Muslim women in the United States, and the author of the new memoir, Muslim Girl, about her experience being a feminist, American Muslim in post 9/11 America. Al-Khatahtbeh shares her passion for educating those of us who don’t fully understand the day to day bigotry and threats of being an American Muslim, as well as giving a voice to women who might otherwise feel ostracized by our society.
Michael sits down with the charming author, host of Watch What Happens: Live and executive producer of The Real Housewives for a lively discussion about how his passion for pop culture lead him to his dream job. Cohen dishes about his early days at CBS news, and gets candid about everything from coming out of the closet to handling life in the spotlight.
The bestselling author of The Blind Side, The Big Short, Moneyball and his newest, The Undoing Project, is known to be a master storyteller. He proves no different in this interview as he tells great stories about his years growing up in New Orleans and how that helped shape his world view and his approach to writing.
In this wide ranging conversation, the world famous astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, television host, author and all around badass talks to Michael about how his early years opened his mind to the universe and laid the path to his future success. In this candid interview the two discusses how he deals with fame, why he thinks NASA is so important, and how he approaches science deniers.
From NPR intern to the creator, host, and Executive Producer of This American Life, one of the most popular shows on public radio, Ira Glass talks about what goes into making his weekly program, his approach to being “the boss” and he shares memories about his work before This American Life. His legendary instincts about what makes great audio come into full play as he offers this show advice on how how to edit his interview.
Michael sits down with the investigative journalist and bestselling author of Grunt, Stiff and Bonk for a humorous and insightful conversation about her unique research and writing process.
While Roach does not possess a science degree, she has managed to establish herself as one of the country’s leading science writers tackling subjects that are taboo such as the history of research on copulation and the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.
The UK creator, writer and star of such BBC hits as Pulling and the current Catastrophe (also seen on Amazon) talks to Michael about realizing that she needed to create her own success and what her life is like now that she is working on two continents since her HBO show, Divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker, has premiered.
America’s favorite weatherman talks to Michael about how he stumbled upon what became the career that he loves and would never give up, along with a frank conversation about his Today Show family and what that really means. In addition, the two chat about the upcoming election, covering the news on September 11 and how you can never stop pitching the next idea.
When Michael spoke to Five Thirty Eight’s founder Nate Silver, he highly recommended Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking book Thinking Fast and Slow. Now, Michael talks to Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning author and founder of behavioral economics, in a rare interview, in which he not only discusses his best-selling book, but also shares personal stories about growing up Jewish in Nazi-occupied Paris, his early years in the Psychology branch of the Israel Defense Forces and his fascinating research on decision making and happiness.
On this episode, Michael talks with Sonia Manzano on the heels of her recent Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Manzano is best known as “Maria” on Sesame Street, a character she played for 44 years. In the humorous and heartfelt conversation, she opens up about her early days on the iconic children’s program, learning how to work alongside the muppets and how she escaped a difficult childhood in the South Bronx to become an actress, writer, educator, and memoirist.
Legendary magician and raconteur Penn Jillette has a keen eye for calling out the bullshit around him, but it took a dangerous health scare for him to realize his own eating habits were going to kill him if he didn’t make drastic changes to his diet. In this episode he and Michael discuss how his desire to never take the easy route has helped make him a great magician and showman, and pushed him to lose over 100 pounds without surgery.
Best-selling author Harlan Coben has sold over 60 million books in 43 different languages. In this episode he talks to Michael in a remarkably practical way about how he does it – his writing process, how he dreams up his wildly imaginative and fun murder mysteries, his approach to marketing his books and more. A not-to-miss episode for anyone who aspires to write or just wants to know how a big bestseller is put together.
The fashion therapist and Project Runway mentor chats with Michael about his journey from an art student to one of the most trusted names in the fashion world. In this deeply personal and heartfelt conversation Gunn opens up about his struggles with learning to be comfortable in his own skin and using his talent, creativity and passion for the arts to inspire others.
As a spy, Valerie Plame’s job was for nobody to know her identity. All that changed when members of George W. Bush’s administration outed her to a reporter in retaliation for her husband public criticism of the Bush administration’s use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War. Simply, her life as she knew it, was ruined. In the years since, she rebuilt her life and using what she learned in her years as a CIA operative, has become outspoken about issues concerning cyber security and nuclear threat, among others. Her experience from 2003 is eerily relevant to events happening today.
Michael sits down with his friend and fellow member of the comedy troupes The State and Stella for a lively, hilarious and moving conversation about finding your voice in the entertainment industry. The two reminisce about their early days on MTV, and Showalter talks candidly about the rejection and failed TV shows that lead him to his true passion behind the camera writing and directing films such as the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer and the indie darling Hello, My Name is Doris; starring Sally Field.
Wayne Pacelle took his childhood love of animals and made a career, you might even call it a crusade, helping them. As the President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Pacelle has learned to be a master strategizer to push change, sometimes in small steps, sometimes in big reforms. For anyone who cares about an issue, but thinks it’s too big or unwieldy to ever make a dent, Pacelle’s approach to animal welfare will be inspirational.
The lead singer, co-producer and co-writer of the Scottish pop band Chvrches talks to Michael about her journey from being a law school student and journalist in Glasgow to performing in front of thousands of people. Her openness about what it’s entailed is a fascinating glimpse into the life of ascending celebrity as she shares details of keeping it all together and her response to misogynistic attacks on social media and at shows that almost crushed her .
America’s leading sex advice columnist known for his popular Savage Love column and podcast talks to Michael about how growing up a closeted gay person in a religious Catholic family prepared him for the job of letting people know they are normal, no matter what their sexual interests may be.
Bryan Doerries is possibly the least likely defense contractor who has ever existed (background in the classics, and the kid of psychologists), but has become responsible for one of the biggest collaborations in history between the U.S. Military and the arts world.
He’s using greek tragedies written more than 2,000 years ago to start conversations and a process of healing in communities that are dealing with some of the darkest things that humans have to deal with— war trauma, imprisonment, and addiction.
On this episode, Michael goes deep with Krista Tippett. Tippett has devoted her professional life to asking the big questions on her show, On Being. Questions about faith and science and love and how we should live our lives are posed in such an engaging, thought-provoking way that it’s no wonder she has amassed a huge following on both public radio and through her popular podcast.
When you grow up the only child of two very famous parents, most people don’t expect much from you, but Max Brooks wanted to prove to himself that he was more than just “Mel Brook’s kid.” After trying his hand at various pursuits, he channeled his lifelong inclination toward the worst case scenario and wrote “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z,” which not only became huge hits among zombie fans, but in the world at large because if you drop the zombie part of the title, he has a great deal of good advice for anyone concerned with disaster survival.
Suzy Favor-Hamilton was propelled into the spotlight at a young age as a talented middle distance runner. She went on to become a three-time Olympian. But as her running career came to an end, she experienced extreme mania from bipolar disorder which fed a dangerous desire for adrenaline that led her to become a high-end, Las Vegas escort.
In his early years as a comedian, Jim Gaffigan struggled to find his own comedic point of view. It took him years to figure out that his best work meant being comfortable as his clean self and having faith that funny is funny, even without profanity. Along with his writing partner, and wife, Jeanie, Gaffigan has become one of the most popular comedians working today.
The record-breaking, six-time Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald went from a hyper-active kid performing in the local dinner theater to Broadway mega-star. In this episode, Michael chats with her about failed auditions, letting go of her idea of perfection, and how she learned to embraces new challenges, such as learning to tap dance for her upcoming role in Shuffle Along Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed.
Chuck Klosterman is best known for his wildly popular books on music and pop cultural including the mega hits “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto” and “Killing Yourself to Live,” in which he writes about subjects he is passionate about–from heavy metal to breakfast cereals and everything in between. In this episode Klosterman discusses his rise from small town boy to finding his place as one of America’s best loved cultural critics.
Actor and playwright John Leguizamo has become famous for being an open book, which is apparent in his critically acclaimed one-man shows that chronicle his life from troublemaker to film star. In his conversation with Michael, he talks seriously about how he became a performer, how money and fame were never important, and how a Latin boy from Queens was able to carve out his own career in what he calls “Hollywon’t.”
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international bestsellers, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, and her latest This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. Her ability to tackle and make understandable big subjects like global warming and unfettered capitalism have made her hugely popular and even offer us a ray of hope in the face of a seemingly dire future.
After years of covering wars oversee, it was reading the news on Good Morning America that nearly did in newsman Dan Harris after he suffered a major panic attack live on air. His nationally televised wake-up call forced him to stop self-medicating with recreational drugs and start a search for serenity. His incredible journey navigating the self-help world and ultimately finding his key to peace, is a refreshing and convincing story for anyone who has issues embracing the spiritual scene but wouldn’t mind exploring how to be happier.
Baratunde Thurston grew up in a poor, drug plagued neighborhood in D.C. then spent years in the elite private school Sidwell Friends before being accepted at Harvard. Having straddled these two worlds, Thurston was perfectly positioned to write THE book on race in America which became the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. His funny, charming, accessible personality makes him a highly sought-after public speaker and thought leader. He’s now head of digital content on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.
When Felicia Day moved to Hollywood after being a musical and math prodigy in college, she expected that being an actress would be as easy. She was not used to failing. But until she figured out that she had to carve her own career by writing and starring in the hit web series, “The Guild” which used her love of gaming as the basis, success eluded her. Now with the publication of her memoir, “You’re Never Weird On The Internet,” Day walks Michael through how she made her own success on her terms, and what happens when you get what you want.
In Part 2 of Michael’s interview with David Sedaris, they talk about growing up Sedaris and how his relationship with his father motivated him to be the writer he is today.
Beloved author David Sedaris became a household name in his mid-thirties when he performed his iconic holiday story “SantaLand Diaries” on public radio. 20 years later he is now a bestselling author who tours the world routinely selling out venues full of loyal fans, In Part 1 of his interview, Michael talks to David about how he crafts his stories and how his career as a writer and performer became so successful.
In his early 20’s Alexis Ohanian and his partner Steve Huffman started the popular social media site Reddit.com which made him a millionaire after they sold the site to Condé Nast in 2006. Ohanian has gone on to be a internet entrepreneur, activist and investor. He’s got a unique and engaging perspective on creativity and technology that is both accessible and fascinating.
In the late 80’s and 90’s Bobcat Goldthwait was one of the biggest comedians in the US. His trademark voice and sharp black comedy led him to financial success in Hollywood films and videos, but he was miserable. At the height of his so-called success, Goldthwait chucked it all and decide to focus on writing, directing, and most of all, being happy.
Ingrid Michaelson is the best-selling recording artist of such hits as “Girls Chase Boys” and “The Way I Am.” While her voice certainly qualifies her as amazing, it’s the path she chose to follow as a recording artist that is so interesting. Michaelson bypassed the established labels so that she could release her music on her own and found success as a recording artist on her own terms.
In this episode, Michael chats with A.D. Miles about his journey from prop stylist to his current job as head writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The Wet, Hot American Summer co-stars discuss everything from being booed off the stage, to meeting Lorne Michaels and the behind-the-scenes of working on one of the most successful television franchises in history.
Superstar chef Tom Colicchio went from flipping grilled cheese in his bare feet at a concession stand to overseeing a restaurant empire. When he’s not busy in his own kitchens he can be found judging the hit Bravos show, Top Chef, working to fund food banks and testifying before Congress on behalf of the 50 million Americans struggling with hunger.
King of the nerds, Chris Hardwick, sits down with Michael to discuss how he figured it all out. The talk show host and CEO of Nerdist Industries got his start on the MTV game show Singled Out. After several years of abusing alcohol and not being able to pay his rent, Chris quit booze, stopped acting and decided to make a world out of the things he’s passionate about which organically led to a build-it-and-they-will-come multi million-dollar business.
After barely paying her rent for years trying to make it as an actress, Megan Mullally hit the big time playing the wealthy, alcoholic socialite Karen Walker on the Emmy Award winning TV sitcom Will & Grace. Her funny, warm and thoughtful take on fame is nothing less than inspirational.
In this episode, Michael talks with Nate Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight.com, who is a statistical celebrity. His take on data is not only accessible and fascinating to those of us who flunked algebra, but it’s correct and has garnered him a huge following and a shout out from President Obama.
In this episode, Michael hears about the fascinating life of Frank Rich whose career includes stints as the Chief Theater Critic for The New York Times, then moving departments to become their Op-Ed columnist and now being the Executive Producer of one of the best shows on TV, Veep with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Award-winning filmmaker, writer and multimedia artist, Miranda July seems to have dreams of conquering the world. Unlike most of us, she has wicked follow-through that demands the world’s attention in the best way. Her unusual childhood has left her with a unique, and very funny, outlook on the world.
In this episode, Michael takes listeners into the world of the theoretical physicist and string theorist, Brian Greene, who has the unusual gift for not only understanding some of the world’s most difficult mathematical equations, but being able to explain them and make them fascinating to the rest of the population.
Operatic tenor, Carl Tanner, spent years hiding from his voice, first as a truck driver and then a bounty hunter until he finally decided to put the guns down and pursue his incredible talent. Today he sings on the biggest opera stages in the world. His fascinating story is not to be missed.
Michael sits down with his friend and fellow comedian, Amy Schumer to discuss her years trying to make it in stand-up, how she made her hit Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, and her upcoming film with Judd Apatow, Trainwreck.
Michael takes us into the world of the fascinating, profane, indie movie director, Kevin Smith, who helped change the world of movie-making with his first film, Clerks. For anyone who has had a dream and failed. And failed again. And again, this guy will make you want to get up and keep trying.
Actor, comedian and author Bob Odenkirk talks about his professional journey starting as a brash young writer for Saturday Night Live, to working as one half of the HBO cult comedy series, Mr. Show with Bob and David, to becoming a break out star in the hit series, Breaking Bad which spawned his own hit series, Better Call Saul. Along the way Odenkirk realized an important lesson that sometimes being a bull in a china shop isn’t always the best approach.
Michael meets Tavi Gevinson, who while still a teen, now oversees a staff of fifty people at her magazine Rookie which grew out of her popular fashion blog, Style Rookie (which she began at age 11). In this conversation, we learn how Tavi is successfully navigating a life people twice her age would struggle with.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the the Tony Award winning-lyricist who’s musical In the Heights catapulted him on the Broadway scene at a very young age and is now taking his new hit, Hamilton, the hip-hop, pop, rap musical about the Founding Fathers , to Broadway after a sold out run at The Public Theatre. The two discuss his passion for hip-hop music, building a hit Broadway show, working with Neil Patrick Harris and how he was able to combine his love of musical theater and hip hop to successfully make a career out of doing what he loves.
The best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love (among many other great works) Elizabeth Gilbert talks to Michael about creative process – her own and others who have inspired her in this interview that covers some big topics, peppered with lots of laughs and that unmistakable Gilbert charm.
Amazing people are all around us. In this new, in-depth interview show from PRX, Michael Ian Black takes us into the minds of some of the most fascinating celebrities, newsmakers and maybe even a few people you’ve never heard of (but should definitely know) to discuss how they became, well, amazing. (Note: no minds were harmed in the making of this show.)