The red-haired, California-based singer-songwriter Brett Dennen has come a long way since 2005, when he gave shy, barefoot solo performances around the release of his first album. Now on his fifth, Smoke and Mirrors, he has not only written more outward-looking songs, but he also presents them with a band in a more commercially viable way.
We'll discuss all that and Brett's life-long love of the Sierra Nevada mountains in our session in front of a World Cafe Live audience.
This interview was originally broadcast on June 25, 2013.
One of Amy Schumer's comedy routines begins with the declaration, "I'm a little sluttier than the average bear. I really am."
Degrees of sluttiness may be hard to define, but Schumer does talk frankly about many subjects — including sex — that can be uncomfortable for people, both in her stand-up act and on her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, which is now in its second season.
The show, a mix of stand-up, sketch comedy and interviews, has tackled everything from the oblivious racism of the elderly to the hang-ups women sometimes have about giving and receiving compliments from each other.
And then, yes, there's the sex stuff. (Not for nothing was Schumer's hit 2012 Comedy Central special titled, simply, Mostly Sex Stuff.)
Sex as a subject for Schumer wasn't a conscious decision. She says she was always a sexual girl, but that as she grew older and came into her own, sex was simply the thing she was thinking about and talking about with her girlfriends. She questions how attractive she is and "how slutty" she is — and it's something she goes back and forth on. These thoughts, questions and conversations spilled naturally into her comedy.
"I didn't grow up hearing any women really delving into that side of themselves," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "So I thought, 'OK, maybe I can be this person for women and for men just to hear the women's perspective in a less apologetic, honest way.' "
In joking so boldly about sex, Schumer is something of a risk taker in comedy, where the subject is still considered man territory.
"I'll get offstage, and the club owner will be like, 'That was a lot about sex,' " she says. "And they would never say that to a male comic."
On her mother
"I have a joke where I say, 'Oh, I'm going to bring [my mom] to a soccer game because I want to show her what boundaries look like.' I just grew up in a house where things weren't that taboo to talk about. And my mom, when she was teaching us to say our different body parts, taught me how to say 'vagina' the same that she taught me how to say 'ear.' I think she wanted us to be able to tell her if we were ever molested without being embarrassed — and so there wasn't this sense of shame."
On uncomfortable sexual experiences
"Most women I know that I'm close to have had a sexual experience that they were really uncomfortable [with]. If it wasn't completely rape, it was something very similar to rape. And so I say it's not all black and white. There's a gray area of rape, and I call it 'grape.' It's the guy you went home with in college, and you said, 'No,' and then he still did it, or maybe you woke up and it was someone you were dating. ...
"There's just so many different things that can happen, so it's not always this, 'Well, you're going to jail and that's it.' There's other stuff where it's like, 'Wow, it would be so much work, and it would be such a life-changer for me to ... press charges or take any action against this person.' But every girl I know has had some experience that is kind of like 'grape.' "
On the oblivious racism of older relatives
"My great-grandma, who was a bootlegger in old New York, Estelle Schumer, she passed away a couple years ago, but her liquor store is still up on 54th Street. ... She was 94 when she died, or 95, and she would ... just say a word. ... She would call black people 'colored,' and it would just make all the blood rush to my head like, 'No, that's not OK.'
"But then you think, 'Well, she's so old,' and then, you know, I would mention that to my friends and then ... I realized ... most people I know have older relatives that will just say something that's just so unacceptable. And then I just thought, 'Well, what's the age? What's the cutoff?' Because if one of my parents said something inappropriate I would stop them."
On how comedy doesn't work everywhere
"People just think that comedy can work anywhere. A lot of times we'll be asked to do a fundraiser or something like that. Or, 'Oh, will you do stand-up at my friend's birthday?' And it just takes so much for a show to be produced well and for stand-up to be successful, or a roast to be successful, but people just don't realize that. They're just like, 'Oh, tell me a joke.' Whenever someone says, 'Oh, just tell me a joke,' like a cab driver or anybody, you learn the lesson over time to never do it. It never works."
Japan says it will kill fewer whales when its seasonal Pacific hunt begins next week and will only observe whales in the Antarctic, after a U.N. court ordered it to stop taking the marine mammals from the Southern Ocean.
Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the Pacific catch target would be lowered to about 210 from the current 380. Hayashi said that while the Southern Ocean hunt is suspended this year, Japan would invite "famous scientists from home and abroad" to help devise a new research program that would satisfy the court's demands," according to The New York Times.
Japan, one of only a few countries that continues whaling, has exploited a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's moratorium that allows a limited number of animals to be taken for scientific research. Tokyo, however, has acknowledged that the slaughtered whales - which are caught under the aegis of its Institute of Cetacean Research, in fact end up on Japanese dinner tables.
The Times says that last month's ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Japan last month "questioned whether the program was really for research, pointing out that it had yielded few scientific results. Japan says its 26-year-old research program is needed to monitor recovering whale populations in the Southern Ocean."
One of the biggest fields ever will assemble in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, for the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday morning, which is Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. It’s the first Boston Marathon since the bombings near the finish line last April.
This year, 36,000 people will be running, including elite athletes from all around the world. African runners have dominated the Boston Marathon for more than two decades and they are the favorites again this year.
Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock joins host Robin Young with details.
- Alex Ashlock, producer and director for Here & Now who also reports on the Boston Marathon for Here & Now and WBUR. He tweets @aashlock.
The chicken clearly rules the roost of American egg production. Our hens laid 95.2 billion eggs in 2013, according to government figures. And we'll be awash in them Easter weekend: beating them into yolk-laden desserts, hiding them in backyards for small hunters and gobbling candy made in their image.
But many other birds lay tasty eggs, among them the ostrich, quail, duck and goose. Other cultures have long recognized their virtue. The Chinese salt and preserve duck eggs to make "1,000-year eggs"; the Italians, Spaniards and Japanese all have their own take on the quail egg.
I recently had the chance to eat a dozen duck eggs over the course of a few days (while visiting a friend who raises ducks), and I was immediately won over by their rich flavor and texture. Since then, I've cooked them every which way and am thoroughly smitten.
I wondered how they would stand up in a blind taste test against the chicken egg. To push the test even further, I got my hands on some goose eggs (shipped courtesy of one of the country's few producers, Metzer Farms, in Gonzales, Calif.) and quail eggs.
Sixteen colleagues joined me. Would the duck emerge as the clear victor? I felt pretty certain it would.
To run as scientific a trial as possible, I hard-boiled all four sets of eggs, staggering the time based on the size. We peeled the eggs, marveling at the pastel blue inside the quail eggs and the heaviness of the goose shell. Then we cut the alabaster ovals into half-inch wedges.
I blindfolded the tasters one by one and fed them a sample from each egg. Their task? To identify the bird species and choose their favorite.
The results of this study — in which I participated, blindly, as well — are revealing:
- The duck egg was described as: "gooey," "creamy," "really good," "like a chicken egg on steroids."
- The goose egg: "weird," "dense yolk," "bland," "funky," "sticky yolk."
- The quail egg: "tangy," "earthy," "briny," "dense," "sandy," "delicate and grassy."
- And good old chicken: "ordinary," "like my mom makes," "earthy."
- On average, my colleagues and I guessed correctly 48 percent of the time. Guess it's not that easy to tell the difference between all these birds.
- The egg with the highest number of correct guesses? Not so surprisingly, chicken, with 58 percent.
The point of the exercise, of course, was to find out which egg people liked best.
The winner was ... drumroll ... chicken by a hair!
Final results: chicken with 6 points, duck with 5 points, quail with 4 points and goose with just 1. (One colleague refused to play along.)
Since our sample size wasn't that big, I can't draw any major conclusions except that people prefer familiar flavors. Still, I was pretty happy to see I'd won over four people with duck. I was one of the duck endorsers, and I must confess that I recognized the taste as soon as the yolk hit my tongue.
I wondered, if people like duck eggs, why are they so little known in the U.S. — and so hard to come by? (They're expensive, too, at $6 or more a dozen.)
To find out, I contacted John Metzer of Metzer Farms, the largest egg-laying duck hatchery in the U.S. and supplier of my friend's flock (and the goose eggs).
"Chickens are more efficient — they can make more eggs per pound of feed than ducks, and feed is a major cost in producing eggs," says Metzer. "And ducks don't do well in wire cages that chickens are in. Their feet can't handle it."
So until we can breed a more efficient duck with chicken-like claws, there's little hope the duck egg will overtake the chicken.
In the meantime, anyone know where I can get an ostrich egg?