The New Yorker Radio Hour
The New Yorker Radio Hour is a weekly program presented by the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, and produced by WNYC Studios and The New Yorker. Each episode features a diverse mix of interviews, profiles, storytelling, and an occasional burst of humor inspired by the magazine, and shaped by its writers, artists, and editors. This isn’t a radio version of a magazine, but something all its own, reflecting the rich possibilities of audio storytelling and conversation. Theme music for the show was composed and performed by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-YArDs.
At an undisclosed location in Western Europe, a group called Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) is gathering evidence of war crimes perpetrated by the Syrian government. It’s unclear when or how Assad might ever stand trial, and securing the evidence is extremely dangerous. But CIJA is hoping to build the strongest war-crimes case since Nazi officials were tried at Nuremberg. Ben Taub, who wrote about CIJA for The New Yorker, interviewed members of the group and a witness who described being tortured by the regime. And David Remnick talks with Kevin Jon Heller, a professor of criminal law who served on the defense team for Radovan Karadžić and worked for Human Rights Watch during the trial of Saddam Hussein. Heller explains why it is unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be brought to the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed against the Syrian people, and why an unfair trial in Syrian court could do more harm than good.
Originally aired April 15, 2016
Removing plants from Central Park is illegal. But when Manhattan salad bars are charging up to $8.99 a pound, what’s a thrifty New Yorker to do? After receiving a lesson in edible plants, Patricia Marx picks a salad of things growing in the park, avoiding the hemlock and the crocuses. And The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz shares her love of country music. In anticipation of a new album from Miranda Lambert, Schulz recommends a song from Lambert’s band the Pistol Annies. She also recommends a collection of not-quite-perfect Elizabeth Bishop poems, and the Christopher Nolan film “The Prestige,” about a rivalry between two magicians. “As someone who watches movies for the pleasure of solving them,” she says, “the inability to solve it was thrilling.”
Originally aired April 15, 2016
When Al Franken ran for Senate, his years as a founding writer on Saturday Night Light and as the author of books like “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” were held against him. So once in Washington, he buttoned up his sense of humor. Until now. His new book is “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate,” and the cover is a portrait of Franken sitting in front of a roaring fireplace with his hand on a globe, a spoof classic senatorial imagery. Yet Senator Franken really has become senatorial over the course of his career. It was Franken’s question to Jeff Sessions in confirmation hearings, for example, that ultimately led to Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation. David Remnick asked Franken about the the failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Russia investigation. Franken, the only elected official in Washington who has worked in show business longer than the Donald Trump, says he is not impressed by Trump’s skills with an audience. “I’ve never seen him laugh,” he says. The President “is like some fairytale, where if someone can get the king to laugh they’ll get half the fortune and the daughter.”
Ryan Lizza and David Remnick listen to excerpts from the infamous late-night call that ended Anthony Scaramucci’s brief term as White House communications director. While Scaramucci’s behavior and language on that call were shocking even by Trump standards—he called Reince Priebus “a paranoid schizophrenic” and accused him of leaking his finances and–Lizza believes that his appointment followed a familiar pattern. “So many politicians believe when they’re failing, they believe that the real problem is just a communications strategy: that if only the American public heard and saw what the most loyal supporters saw in the President, everything would be solved,” Lizza says. “‘Let Trump be Trump’ is the cliche, right? That was Scaramucci’s communications strategy, and I think that’s how he helped convince the President that he should take over the communications shop, even though he had no experience doing this.” Plus, Jake Halpern goes underground—literally—in Poland to look for the legendary train filled with gold and other treasures, and abandoned by the Nazis under a mountain at the end of the Second World War.
The Irish writer Sally Rooney, who is twenty-six, wrote the first draft of her début novel, “Conversations with Friends,” in a several-month-long torrent of creativity, when she was just twenty-three. Rooney’s editor calls her a “Salinger for the Snapchat generation,” and The New Yorker’s Alexandra Schwartz speaks with Rooney about how fictional adultery works in the age of social media. And Taran Killam, formerly of “Saturday Night Live,” performs the Daily Shouts piece “Honest Museum Audio Guide,” by River Clegg, in which a museum audio guide isn’t afraid to say that the art is overrated, boring, or just bad.
George Strait is a superstar of country music. He rarely gives interviews, but he agreed to speak with Kelefa Sanneh, who marked the occasion by ironing his shirt. Lawrence Wright talks with David Remnick about the politics of Texas, which he sees as a harbinger of what will happen in the United States: the state is redder than ever, even as the demographics trend blue. And cartoonist Liana Finck finds focus and solitude on the Long Island Railroad.