Arts & Life

When we asked listeners to write commercials for the little, not-for-sale joys that enhance our lives, we noticed something interesting. There were a few themes that came up often — but then, there were also a few contributions that genuinely took us by surprise.

They were commercials for things and experiences that literally none of our 2,000 other ad writers brought up. But they resonated just the same.

"You don't look like you're from around here," a young Adolphus Busch is told as he arrives in America from Germany to pursue his dream of making beer. So begins Budweiser's new Super Bowl ad, released earlier this week into an ongoing political maelstrom over immigration.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

The Complaint Department

Feb 3, 2017

We take a trip to the Complaint Department, for a game in which clues are inspired by actual complaints and corrections we've received from our listeners. Each message has one word removed, and contestants try to complete the complaint.

Heard on Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

The Wisdom Of The Crowd

Feb 3, 2017

They say two heads are better than one, but just how many heads does it take to be better than Jonathan Coulton's? We test the "wisdom of the crowd" theory when a contestant tries to guess whose numerical estimate is closest to the correct answer: Coulton's or the crowd's?

Heard on Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

Hear Here

Feb 3, 2017

You'll be in a daze for days in our next game about words that sound the same. Every answer in this game are two words or phrases that sound similar but are spelled differently. For example, If the clue was: it's the cereal that's "kid tested, mother approved," and the "pumped up" item Foster the People sang about, the answer would be: Kix and Kicks.

Heard on Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

The Final Countdown

Feb 3, 2017

The apocalypse is here and we feel fine! We parody songs about "the end" by replacing the lyrics to describe famous apocalyptic TV shows and movies. Contestants put on their tin foil hats and try to guess both items.

Heard on Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

Categories To The Letter

Feb 3, 2017

Who's the only U.S. President with the letter X in their last name? Richard Nixon, of course! In this final round, contestants are given a category and a letter, and must respond with the only item or person that fits the bill.

Heard on Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

Feb 3, 2017

Comedian and St. Louis native Kathleen Madigan credits growing up in the Midwest for her sense of humor. "We have an underdog attitude that makes us...observers rather than participants," She told host Ophira Eisenberg on stage at the Bell House in Brooklyn. "People that are in cool cities are actually participating in their lives...And we're just sitting there going, 'Why the f*** are we here?'"

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Feb 3, 2017

It's time for the Ask Me Another Museum Tour! In this gift that keeps giving, contestants guess the famous historical figure, based on a description of a souvenir from their museum's gift store.

Heard on Kathleen Madigan: Life On The Road

Oscar season is upon us, and very often, it's a time when a lot of energy goes into analyzing a few races and a few of the highest-profile films as they square off against each other. We'll be doing that too in a couple of weeks, in our annual Oscars roundup. But first, we wanted to celebrate the season in a different way: by looking at some of the categories that sometimes fly a little under the radar, ours included.

In the 1970s and '80s, the TV show One Day at a Time pushed boundaries with the story of a divorced mother raising two teenage daughters in Indianapolis. Now Netflix has rebooted the show, and their 21st-century take pushes boundaries in its own way: The family is now Cuban-American, they live in Los Angeles and its mom, Penelope, is a veteran who served in Afghanistan.

Earth girls are easy, at least when you're only boy ever born on Mars. From a small settlement on the red planet, a 16-year-old orphan strikes up a video-chat flirtation with an alienated Colorado high schooler, also parentless. She is, of course, The One — because nothing random could occur in the shipshape universe of The Space Between Us.

Frank Langella has all manner of elastic gifts, but he's never been the sort of actor to disappear into the many roles he's played over a distinguished career. There's an underlying stern implacability to just about every deplorable villain (and occasional hero) Langella has tackled: intractable obstinates all, who bend others' wills to their own and give no quarter.

James Baldwin is having a posthumous resurgence, but we are so in need of his words at this moment that it's hard to believe he hasn't still been writing every day since his death in 1987. In every genre Baldwin dabbled, from novels to political commentary to arts criticism, he found the core of our identity as a nation: a core that feeds off division and prejudice; that celebrates its own history while refusing to learn from it; and that was, and plainly remains, too painful for anyone other than him to talk about honestly.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We asked you to tell us the simple things that make life enjoyable.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And we asked you to write about them in the form of a radio ad.

CORNISH: More than 2000 of you did. Now we get to share.

Sure, we all know the adage: "The best things in life are free."

So why doesn't anyone advertise them? We've got ads for deodorant, luxury cars and snacks — why not ads for sunshine, balmy breezes and children's laughter?

That's the question we put to our listeners way back in 1972, challenging them to write some very noncommercial commercials and then producing a handful of our favorites. With a little help from our Research, Archives and Data Strategy team, we dug up that oldie-but-goodie, dusted it off and retooled the challenge for more modern times.

'Mr. Seabrook' Might Be A Little Too Abominable

Feb 2, 2017

In a 2015 interview with Comics Alternative, Joe Ollmann included among his clips "An examination of the oeuvre of the cartoonist Joe Ollmann by the artist's daughter." In a row of four tidy boxes that ape Ollman's favored nine-panel grid, a frowny stick figure announces: "I'm sad," "I'm jaded," "I have hate," and "Nothing is technically resolved."

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The centerpiece of the Black History Month programming on the cable channel BET is a miniseries called "Madiba." "Madiba" is a three-night special on the life of Nelson Mandela. It debuts tonight. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans has this review.

The Trump administration's executive order on immigration is heightening awareness of the challenges immigrants face getting into this country. Once here, children and teenagers can find themselves in circumstances completely out of their control, and those circumstances are now at the center of two recent young adult novels.

Remembering 'Elephant Man' Actor John Hurt

Feb 1, 2017

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It's an Indian dish you're unlikely to find in India.

Bunny chow is essentially a kind of bread bowl. You take a loaf of white bread, hollow out the middle and fill it with a curry, either vegetarian beans or some type of meat.

But not rabbit. The name "bunny" comes from the corruption of an Indian term referring to merchants. The dish has its origins in Durban, South Africa's third-largest city.

Toward the middle of Paul Auster's new novel, 4 3 2 1, young Archie Ferguson, recovering from a car accident that could have killed him, quotes the satire Candide to his optimistic girlfriend. "You're beginning to sound like Dr. Pangloss," he complains. "Everything always happens for the best — in this, the best of all possible worlds."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Need a distraction from the news?

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We have one.

CORNISH: It's a reminder of the good things in life that are free.

SHAPIRO: Another commercial for Nicer Living.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Imagine waking up on a malfunctioning spaceship: The artificial gravity is disabled. Blood floats through the air. And the corpse that blood is coming from is ... your own. Kind of. You're a clone — and your original self, along with most of your crewmates, are dead. As your ship plummets through interstellar space, off course and carrying thousands of hibernating colonists to the planet Artemis, you and your fellow clones take on a daunting task: solving the mystery of what happened to the six people from whom you were cloned. Was it mass murder? Mass suicide?

He was Russia's Mad Monk. A pale, bearded, wiry, horny, green-eyed debauch who was the preeminent power broker of the Romanov dynasty in its waning years. A party fiend, a drinker, a healer and a prophet who was poisoned, shot, drowned, and burned by his enemies.

But was he really?

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