Elizabeth Blair | KERA News

Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

Blair produces, edits, and reports arts and cultural segments for NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. In this position, she has reported on a range of topics from arts funding to the MeToo movement. She has profiled renowned artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Mikhail Baryshnikov, explored how old women are represented in fairy tales, and reported the origins of the children's classic Curious George. Among her all-time favorite interviews are actors Octavia Spencer and Andy Serkis, comedians Bill Burr and Hari Kondabolu, the rapper K'Naan, and Cookie Monster (in character).

Blair has overseen several, large-scale series including The NPR 100, which explored landmark musical works of the 20th Century, and In Character, which probed the origins of iconic American fictional characters. Along with her colleagues on the Arts Desk and at NPR Music, Blair curated American Anthem, a major series exploring the origins of songs that uplift, rouse, and unite people around a common theme.

Blair's work has received several honors, including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie. She previously lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

Before Bob Iger took over as CEO of The Walt Disney Co. in 2005, Disney's stock value was stagnant. Its studios, networks and theme parks had lost some of their magic.

"We were embattled and somewhat discouraged and not as optimistic as we needed to be," he says. "And we needed to find our way."

How Iger turned the company around is chronicled in his new business memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company. The book is being published as he looks toward his retirement in 2021.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In 2017, the "S****y Media Men" list began making the rounds on the Internet. Coming right on the heels of the downfall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, the list seemed poised to take down even more men in media. The editable, crowdsourced spreadsheet contained accusations — all made anonymously, that ranged from "creepy" direct messages to "rape" — against prominent figures in journalism and publishing.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A beloved sidekick has died. Valerie Harper who, of course, played Rhoda Morgenstern on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," has died in Los Angeles. She was 80 years old.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this remembrance.

Updated at 8:08 p.m. ET

One of TV's most beloved sidekicks has died. Valerie Harper, best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died Friday in Los Angeles. She was 80.

As the blunt, self-deprecating Rhoda, Harper created one of the most beloved sitcom characters of the 1970s. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a ratings powerhouse, centered on best friends Rhoda and Mary Richards, two single women making their way through life, love and career.

Montreal's annual Just For Laughs festival is best-known as a showcase for current and future stars of stand-up comedy. Not as well known to people who've never been here is that laughs of all kinds can be found outdoors, for free, throughout Montreal's cultural district, the Quartiere des Spectacles. Professional musicians, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers — the outdoor performers' punch lines don't need words. That helps, since Just For Laughs/Juste Pour Rire is a bilingual festival for both French and English speaking performers and fans.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


The earliest anthems were sacred hymns, religious songs of praise. For this installment of NPR's American Anthem series, we examine a rock and roll hymn — from Ireland.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Montreal is consumed with comedy this week in nightclubs, outdoor stages and the streets - including the eclectic 12-piece band that goes by the name Fanfarniente Della Strada.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Stand-up comedian Brian Regan has been on the road performing almost nonstop since the 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIAN REGAN: I'm trying to go to more parties. I'm not good at them. I'm not good at talking to people, which might sound weird in this setting.

(LAUGHTER)

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The global youth brand MTV has chosen Sheila Nevins to head a new documentary division. Nicknamed the "doyenne of documentaries," Nevins, 80, was the president of HBO Documentary Films. With some 1,500 credits to her name, Nevins has executive produced numerous Oscar, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning films, and received several lifetime achievement awards.

Comedian Dave Chappelle will be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced.

The stand-up comic, actor, producer and director joins a prestigious group of comedians to receive the award. Among them are Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart and Richard Pryor — who won the very first Twain Prize in 1998.

Gains have been made for women and people of color who work in movies and TV, but the numbers remain a long way from proportionately reflecting the U.S. population, according to a new study from UCLA.

The annual Hollywood Diversity Report looks at diversity both in front of and behind the camera. It also looks at box office and ratings.

Veteran comedians know all about the funny side of anger.

The late George Carlin wrote an entire bit called "Free-Floating Hostility." Jerry Seinfeld once declared in the Los Angeles Times that "All comedy starts with anger."

Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET Thursday

Jill Rorem, like many Americans, had made some special plans for the holidays. The Chicago native, whose legal work often brings her to Washington, D.C., was finally going to get to see the nation's capital with her arts-obsessed kids.

The vice president came to the Kennedy Center last night. That would be HBO's Veep: Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The 11-time Emmy Award-winner was in Washington, D.C. to accept the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Plenty of big names in comedy were there to present it to her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus grew up in Washington, D.C. She went to Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, the same private high school as Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago.

It was Tina Fey who first made the connection.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the reporting, in The New York Times and The New Yorker, that led to the fall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

From that point on, the hashtag #MeToo was catapulted into a national movement. The #MeToo conversation now seems to be everywhere.

Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards: "Take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'me too' again."

The bugle call of taps. The swell of voices spontaneously joining to sing "We Shall Overcome." The urgency of "Fight The Power." Anthems are songs that tap into the collective emotions that listeners and performers have around an issue, whether it's joyful pride in one's country or rage over injustice.

Our Take A Number series is looking at problems around the world — and people trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

In Huntington, W.Va., the number is 10. As in, the rate of babies born with a drug dependency there is 10 times the national average.

It's a number that shows the magnitude of the opioid crisis in this blue collar city. It's also one of the numbers that has prompted two very different people in this community to say, "Enough."

In a small conference room in Washington, D.C., a handful of lawyers and paralegals — most of them in their 20s — process applications coming in to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Edwin Hawkins' "Oh Happy Day" was an accidental hit. The song, a gospel-style rework of an 18th century hymn, starts with a jazzy drum beat and a kind of blues pop piano groove. Dorothy Morrison, who sings lead on the recording, remembers at first, the pop feel got a lukewarm reception from the church.

"At first the reaction was, 'Well, we're not sure,' " Morrison says.

Dozens of powerful men, including two at NPR, have lost their jobs and reputations in the cultural reckoning that is the #MeToo movement. Clearly, there's tremendous momentum behind it, but where does it go from here? Do those men have a shot at redemption?

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors were a chance to celebrate among others a dancer, a rapper and a TV-sitcom pioneer. Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 was supposed to be the next Hamilton. It was going to invigorate Broadway and attract younger and more diverse audiences — and it almost succeeded. Instead, it's closing on Sept. 3, in part because of a controversy over casting and race.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The third and final movie in the "Planet Of The Apes" trilogy opens today. In this retelling of the original movies, the apes are in an epic battle for their survival.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES")

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has had several confrontations with Chinese authorities. (He was once beaten so badly by police that he had to have brain surgery.) Through it all, Ai continued to make art, and his art continued to travel the world, sometimes without him.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is a good time for the spoken word. There's a whole lot out there - from radio to podcasts to audio books. Turns out there are lots of choices out there for young audiophiles too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOW IN THE WORLD")

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