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The New Yorker Radio Hour
Sundays from 9 to 10 a.m.

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.

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  • Ty Cobb represented the Trump White House during the height of the Mueller-Russia probe, so he has a unique insight into the former President’s admiration for all things Putin, and his refusal to condemn the dissident Alexey Navalny’s death in prison. Trump’s response, bizarrely, was to compare his own legal troubles to Navalny’s political persecution and likely murder. Yet Cobb still feels certain that Russia has nothing concrete on Trump, which was the question of the Mueller investigation. Rather, Putin “has what Trump wants,” he tells David Remnick, “total control and adulation and riding the horse with his shirt off.” His quest to secure that power, seemingly by any means necessary, has made Trump “the greatest threat to democracy we’ve ever seen.” Cobb has been following Trump’s myriad of criminal cases closely, and he has concluded that only the January 6th case concerning Trump’s attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power has the potential to derail his political career. If a trial decision is not reached before the November election, and Trump were to win again, he can order the Justice Department to dismiss the case, and “it will be as though it never existed.”
  • Brontez Purnell is a Renaissance man. He’s a musician, a dancer, a filmmaker, and the author of a number of books. His latest is “Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt,” a departure from the traditional memoir form. It's written in verse and playfully embellishes the truth throughout. “Memoir is fiction—I don’t care what anyone says,” Purnell tells The New Yorker Radio Hour’s Jeffrey Masters. “You [or] I could both write down our lives as true as we know it. But the second our mom reads it, or one of our siblings reads it, or anybody else peripherally in the book, they can easily say, ‘What are you talking about? That never happened like that.’ ” Purnell, who came of age in the underground punk scene in Oakland, California, during the early two-thousands, is no stranger to hard knocks, but that doesn’t mean he needs to divulge everything. “If you write about your life, you have to protect the wicked; namely, yourself,” he says. “So there is this game of pulling and punching.”
  • Jon Lovett had been deep inside politics, as a speechwriter in the Obama Administration, before he joined his colleagues Tommy Vietor and Jon Favreau to launch Crooked Media, a liberal answer to the burgeoning ecosystem of right-wing news platforms. “There was too much media that treated people like cynical observers,” Lovett tells David Remnick, “and not enough that treated them like frustrated participants.” Crooked Media has gathered millions of politically engaged listeners—“nerds,” Lovett calls them—to “Pod Save America,” “Lovett or Leave It,” and other podcasts. But Lovett is more worried about voters who no longer get a steady stream of reliable political coverage at all, as local news outlets wither and platforms like Facebook downplay the sharing of news. “The vast majority of people do not know about Joe Biden’s accomplishments,” he says. “When they say to a pollster that this is not someone they view as being up to the job, they’re not . . . understanding how he performed in the job so far.” Lovett shares the widespread concerns about Biden’s apparent aging, but notes that his performance remains effective, whereas, “in Trump, the reverse: he is more energetic—I think the threat of federal jail time sharpens the mind!—but by all accounts is emotionally, psychologically, and mentally not up to the job.”
  • The comedian Jacqueline Novak wasn’t well known before her Netflix début “Get on Your Knees.” The show was a big swing in her career, an ambitious attempt to establish her singular voice, and it worked. A fast-paced and raucous examination of her personal journey with oral sex, Novak tosses out so many tangents—philosophical, psychological, anatomical, linguistic—that you’re liable to miss many of her allusions. Novak knows that her hectic delivery is an acquired taste. “We’ve got to get through this, because I’ve got a lot to say,” she tells David Remnick. Although she relentlessly probes the power dynamics between men and women, she doesn’t “want to come out here and say ‘male fragility.’ I’m really not trying to do that. But it happens, sort of.” The show could make a lot of people uncomfortable, but she’s not worried about cancellation, as many male comedians have been. “Choosing to make art of any kind is sort of this self-appointment. No one’s asking you to do it. So it’s sort of weird for me to get into a mind-set as though you're owed any comfort.”
  • In a Presidential race with two leading candidates who are broadly unpopular, any small perceived edge can make a tremendous difference. According to Clare Malone, more and more people will have their judgments formed by memes—visual jokes about the candidates floating on social media. Republican memes capitalize on widespread discomfort with President Biden’s age, by highlighting his stumbles, verbal or otherwise. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is a master of turning bad press to his advantage: he propagated his own mug shot on social media, feeding his outlaw image. Malone says that conservatives also have a leg up here because their beliefs suit the medium. “The right wing can ‘go there’—they can say the thing everyone thinks, but doesn’t actually say out loud.” Now the partisan fight on social media has roped in a relatively innocent bystander, Taylor Swift. The pop star, who has endorsed Biden in the past, and her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, have been labeled a “psy op” by right-wingers online. “My theory about American politics, especially in the past decade, is basically none of it’s really policy,” Malone argues. “It’s all political pheromones.” Plus, Michelle Zauner, the front woman for the indie band Japanese Breakfast, talks about her memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” with The New Yorker’s Hua Hsu, author of “Stay True.”
  • The writer Sheila Heti is known for unusual approaches, but her latest work is decidedly experimental. Heti “is one of the most interesting novelists working today,” according to The New Yorker critic Parul Sehgal. “She is ruthlessly contemporary. By which I mean, she’s not interested in writing a novel as a nostalgic exercise. She’s constantly trying to figure out new places fiction can go. New ways that we’re using language, new ways that our minds are evolving.” To write her new book, “Alphabetical Diaries,” Heti combed through a decade’s worth of her own diaries, then alphabetized the sentences; in the first chapter, every sentence in the narrative begins with the letter “A,” and so on. “It’s fun to find writing that shouldn’t be in a novel, and to figure out, can it do the same things that we want writing in novels to do,” she shares, “which is [to] move us, and tell us something new about the world and about ourselves.” In other words, she’s not interested in experimentalism for its own sake. “I always want to write a straight realist novel,” she says. “Something proper, like the books that I love most. . . . It doesn’t happen, because I think I don’t notice the same things that those writers I love notice. I’m impatient with certain things that they were patient with.”
  • In the shadow of another election year, Democrats and Republicans are at a bitter crossroads over immigration, as the system becomes increasingly unmanageable. With as many as twelve thousand migrants arriving at the border per day, and resistance to asylum seekers growing—even among Democrats—the Biden Administration is in a political bind. “You have a global moment of mass migration converging on the border at a time when resources are down. Congress is refusing to give the president the money that he needs for basic operations—it’s a perfect storm,” The New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer tells David Remnick. Blitzer has covered immigration for years, and his new book, “Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here,” takes a long and deep look at U.S. policy and the forces that drive migrants to undertake enormous risks. According to Blitzer, both sides are obscuring the actual problem. “There’s always been an assumption that the case for immigration makes itself—that the moral high ground makes sense to everyone, that we should be welcoming, that people showing up in need obviously should seek protection,” Blitzer says. “I don’t think defenders of immigration have squared the high ideals with some of the practical realities. And sadly the border, which is a tiny sliver of what the immigration system is as a whole, ends up dominating the conversation.”Plus, the pop singer and songwriter Olivia Rodrigo’s rise to fame has been meteoric. She talks with David Remnick about her models for songwriting, dealing with social media as a young celebrity, and how it feels to be branded the voice of Generation Z.
  • The wives and daughters of Dubai’s ruler live in unbelievable luxury. So why do the women in Sheikh Mohammed’s family keep trying to run away? The New Yorker staff writer Heidi Blake joins In the Dark’s Madeleine Baran to tell the story of the royal women who risked everything to flee the brutality of one of the world’s most powerful men. In four episodes, drawing on thousands of pages of secret correspondence and never-before-heard audio recordings, “The Runaway Princesses” takes listeners behind palace walls, revealing a story of astonishing courage and cruelty. "The Runaway Princesses" is a four-part narrative series from In the Dark and The New Yorker. Listen here: https://link.chtbl.com/itd_f
  • Journalism has often been a dangerous business, and many reporters have lost their lives reporting the news from conflict zones. But the rules that have, at least to a degree, protected the safety and freedom of journalists are being violated around the world, nowhere more so than in Gaza. “Gaza is unprecedented,” Jodie Ginsberg, the president of the Committee to Protect Journalists, says. “It is unprecedented for the intensity of the killings, the number of journalists killed in such a short space of time. Part of that is to do with the size of Gaza, the density. The fact that there is nowhere to go that’s safe.” Eighty-three journalists, most of them Palestinian, have been killed in the recent fighting, and the Israel Defense Forces has been accused of targeting journalists deliberately. “Since October 7th, we’ve seen a number of cases in which journalists are killed when clearly wearing press insignia,” Ginsberg notes, “for example the Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah.” Ginsberg also discusses with David Remnick the decline in press freedom and safety around the world, including Donald Trump’s insults and threats to journalists, whom he has labelled “enemies of the state.”
  • The writer and director Cord Jefferson has struck gold with his first feature film, “American Fiction.” Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jefferson, the film is winning praise for portraying a broader spectrum of the Black experience than most Hollywood movies. It’s based on the 2001 novel “Erasure,” by Percival Everett, a satire of the literary world. And Jefferson, who began his career as a journalist before branching out into entertainment, has long seen up close how rigid attitudes about what constitutes “Blackness” can be. “Three months before I found ‘Erasure,’ I got a note back on a script from an executive” on another script, Jefferson tells his friend Jelani Cobb, “that said, ‘We want you to make this character blacker.’ ” (He demanded that the note be explained in person, and it was quickly dropped.) Jefferson hopes that his film sheds some light on what he calls the “absurdity” of race as a construct. He finds race “a fertile target for laughter. … On the one hand, race is not real and insignificant and [on the other hand] very real and incredibly important. Sometimes life or death depends on race. And to me that inherent tension and absurdity is perfect for comedy.”