Interviews with your favorite (or soon-to-be favorite) authors, artists, astronauts and more. From WBEZ.
Tom Hanks is a little obsessed with typewriters. So when we put the Academy Award-winning actor in front of a pre-WWII Underwood Champion, he gave Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen an impromptu master class on the machines he calls “self-contained printing presses with which you can change the world.”
Want to support this show and get a sweet Nerdette mug and/or notebook as a thank you gift? Go to https://wbez.org/nerdalert
Jan 27 2017
Let’s be real: life can be hectic sometimes. You don’t need to tell that to Amy Schumer and Aidy Bryant, two of the nation’s top female comedians.
Who better to kick off our new project, Power Up? For the next few months, we're asking fascinating people how they set themselves up for success in an exhausting world.
Knitting? Bowling? Researching the presence of alternate dimensions? “I literally will say to myself out loud in the mirror, like, ‘You got this, bitch,’” Schumer tells Nerdette host Greta Johnsen.
Schumer and Bryant also talk about what drew them to their new film, I Feel Pretty, which is now in theaters.
We also want to know how YOU power up. Record yourself on your phone and email the audio file to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apr 27 2018
Caitlin Doughty is host of the popular YouTube series Ask a Mortician and author of the new memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons From the Crematory. We talk about the history and present of how cultures handle death. Plus a nerd confession that includes a Gollum impression.
Nov 11 2014
Roxane Gay is the author of the fantastic book of essays 'Bad Feminist' and many of our favorite tweets. We discuss what it takes to keep fighting the good fight on social media when there is so much turmoil 24/7.
Dec 10 2014
Good gravy! It's George R.R. Martin! If you're unfamiliar, he's the author of that little book series that became one of the most popular TV shows of all time, Game of Thrones.
These days, he’s in the midst of writing the final two novels in that series.
Before he sat down with Greta, his team told us that he couldn’t answer the question on everyone’s mind ("So, like, when’s the next book coming out?"). So we didn’t ask that one, but Martin did tell us plenty about how writing is going, how he’s managing fan expectations and what he expects for the future of fantasy TV.
Plus! We have a super-special announcement at the end of the interview!
Nov 01 2019
TV! We need it, you probably need it, and New York Times TV critic Margaret Lyons has it!
Lyons tells us about four great new TV shows — each of which fits into that “Just-feed-it-to-me-like grapes” model of show that we all so desperately crave right now. And of course, we field TV recommendations from listeners, too!
May 12 2020
Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains how pop culture fits into his plan to inundate us with a love of science. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, talks about his nerdy origin and what makes good sci fi believable. We remember the first professional female astronomer Maria Mitchell, and there's a nerd confession from BJ Leiderman.
May 29 2015
Jan 28 2016
Books! Books! Books! Greta read 72 books this year, and today she sits down and ranks her 10 favorites. (Plus, she speaks with the author of her favorite book of 2019, ‘Such A Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid.)
Here's her full list, and you can get more details on each title at this link:
10. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
9. The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
8. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
7. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
6. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
5. Wolfpack by Abby Wambach
4. Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
3. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
2. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
1. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Dec 27 2019
Jun 23 2016
Miranda July talks about her new book, what it was like to make the Somebody App, and the overarching theme of her work: coming together clumsily. Plus, remembering Great Lady Nerd of History Bessie Coleman and a Shakespearean nerd confession.
Jan 27 2015
Actress and comedian Jenny Slate has played many memorable characters on shows like Parks and Recreation, Kroll Show, Girls, and Brooklyn 99. She also wrote and voiced her web series Marcel The Shell. Her most recent role is alongside Edie Falco and John Turturro in the film Landline. But from all of her work on TV and film, few people know about Slate’s one true love: houseplants. Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talked with Slate about why she loves houseplants, what she names them and how they play into her future goals. Then, a plant expert answers all of Slate’s most pressing questions.
Jul 28 2017
Dan Savage is a relationship advice columnist, the creator of the “It Gets Better” project, and the host of the Savage Lovecast. We talk to Dan about the intersection between nerdiness and kink, the beauty of musical theater, and what it means to be “culturally Catholic.” Plus, a nerd confession from a merman.
May 13 2016
This brilliant British columnist is incisive, tenacious, inspiring, and hilariously fun. Caitlin Moran talks with us about her definition of feminism, why cynicism is the worst, and how the most effective tool against patriarchal nonsense is subversive laughter. Because everyone--even Britain's filthiest feminist--is a little nerdy about something.
Jul 23 2015
Jun 07 2013
... Well, technically it's Pysc 157.
This week Nerdette host Greta Johnsen speaks with the professor responsible for the most popular class in Yale University's 316-year history. Laurie Santos created a course called "Psychology and the Good Life” and about 1,200 students quickly enrolled in it.
Put simply, the course teaches students how they can be happier.
“The good news is that we can do it,” Santos tells Greta. “The bad news is that like all good things in life, it takes a lot of work.”
First, listen in as Santos gives us three main recommendations (1. Socialize; 2. Prioritize time over money; and 3. Remember you're too blessed to be stressed). Then, take the course yourself! It's free online via Coursera.
Aug 24 2018
Hey! Nerdette is about to go on a little summer break, but before we do we wanted to share this lovely conversation Greta had with WBEZ’s Jenn White and the owner of Volumes Bookscafe in Chicago, Rebecca George. They talk about what makes a good summer read before offering an INUNDATING LIST of killer summer books. You can check out the full list of those recommendations at this link.
Enjoy! Have a KAS and see you in a few weeks!
Jun 29 2018
Judy Blume's iconic books have defined the childhoods of multiple generations. And Newberry Award-winning writer Kwame Alexander crafts books for reluctant young readers. Both tell us why they write books for their inner tween.
Jun 09 2016
Sarah Mirk couldn't find a helpful relationship how-to, so she wrote her own. We highlight two women who helped make oral birth control a reality, and there's homework from Dan Savage.
Jun 18 2015
“I think it’s going to last more than a moment,” said the celebrated author on this week’s Nerdette. “But how much more than a moment, it remains to be seen."
Nerdette co-host Greta Johnsen talks with author Margaret Atwood about the recent TV adaptations of her novels Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale, how her take on feminism has changed in recent years, and what needs to happen to make sure the “Harvey Weinstein moment” isn’t just a moment. Plus, we explore one of Atwood's nerd obsessions: The 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner.
Nov 22 2017
Aug 07 2020
More women are running for political office this year than ever before, but men still disproportionally represent the American populace.
We talk with Erin Vilardi, the founder of VoteRunLead, an organization that encourages and trains women to run for office -- and win.
Are YOU considering a run for office? Vilardi explains why women are well-suited for leadership and why you should take the plunge.
Aug 04 2020
Welcome to the Nerdette Book Club! Each month, we read a book and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists. This month’s pick is Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho.
It tells the story of Andrea Tang, a thirtysomething Malaysian woman who lives and works in Singapore. Her love life is a mess and she’s vying for partner at her law firm, all while drinking a lot and somehow spending many hours playing Candy Crush.
Listen along as Nerdette host Greta Johnsen discusses the book with podcast expert and Servant of Pod host Nick Quah.
Jul 31 2020
As you'll soon find out, Emily Graslie has a contagious enthusiasm for science and discovery. She holds the very real title of “Chief Curiosity Correspondent” at the Field Museum here in Chicago. She hosts a YouTube series called The Brain Scoop. And she’s also the host of a series on PBS called Prehistoric Road Trip, where she travels across the western United States to examine the history of our planet.
We talk with Emily about exploration and discovery, how loving art and science does not have to be mutually exclusive, and then she drops more clam facts on us than we thought was possible.
Jul 28 2020
When you hit a rough spot with a good friend, what do you do about it? Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are longtime friends and business partners. Their fans also know them as the hosts and creators of 'Call Your Girlfriend,' a podcast “for long-distance besties everywhere.”
When they recently hit a rough patch, the pair took what might be considered an unusual step to save a friendship: they went to therapy together. Their new book is called Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close. They talked with Greta about writing it together, the scholarship of friendship, and where their relationship is today.
Jul 24 2020
This is a weird year for [insert almost anything] and also summer blockbusters. But even though the theaters remain (mostly) closed, there's still plenty of great new movies to stream from the comfort of your own home. We talk with Eliana Dockterman, staff writer at Time, about the uncertain future for new movies, a few great films you can watch right now, and a few more that you'll have to wait for.
Jul 21 2020
It’s the Nerdette Book Club! And today we're talking with Lauren Ho, the author of this month’s selection, Last Tang Standing.
It's a wonderful summer romance that follows the story of Andrea Tang, a 33-year-old Chinese-Malaysian lawyer, as she tries to make partner at her Singaporean law firm while fending off the unhealthy interest her relatives have in her love life.
Before she wrote this novel, Lauren herself was a Chinese-Malaysian lawyer living in Singapore. So ahead of our panel discussion later this month, we talked with Lauren about the reasons behind her huge career change, where the similarities between her and Andrea begin and end, and how Andrea was born “from the ashes of a comedy set where I bombed. Badly.”
Jul 17 2020
Kate Stayman-London loves reality TV. But even though shows like The Bachelorette and Love Island bring her joy, “we should also hold those things accountable to our values,” she said.
Stayman-London’s debut novel, One To Watch, puts a plus-size woman as the star of a Bachelorette-style reality TV show. It’s both a lovely summer read and also a critical assessment of reality TV tropes.
Greta talks with Kate about the impetus for the novel, what it means to see stories about large women, and whether or not any reality TV shows might take her lead.
Jul 14 2020
Sheyna Gifford spent a year living on a volcano in Hawaii with just five other people as part of a NASA project to simulate life on Mars. Living in a biodome the size of a two-bedroom apartment, the crew studied the psychological effects and group dynamics that could be at play when astronauts eventually make it to Mars.
This interview — about relationships, food and free time while in isolation — originally aired on Nerdette back in 2017, but it also has a few interesting parallels to our collective situation during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Plus, Sheyna assigns us some truly excellent homework, about why you should think very carefully about who and what you want on your spaceship.
Jul 10 2020
In this chock-full-of-bassoons episode, we talk about the history of the orchestra's largest woodwind with bassoonist and culture writer Eileen Reynolds, we jam with a principal bassoonist from the Chicago Philharmonic, and we even call up the self-proclaimed “Bassoon King,” The Office's Rainn Wilson.
Join Johnsen, Nerdette co-host emeritus Tricia Bobeda and this bevy of bassoon buffs for more bassoon than you knew you needed.
This episode originally aired on August 11, 2017.
Jul 07 2020
After she visited the very bottom of the Marianas Trench last month, Kathy Sullivan became the very first human to both fly to space and reach the deepest part of the ocean. We talk with her about about what drew her to the deepest part of the deep sea, what's so powerful about the power of discovery and why you, too, should follow your dreams.
Jul 03 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is not over, but stay-at-home orders are starting to loosen up across the country. In Illinois, people can now visit hair salons, museums, restaurants and even bars. Meanwhile, other states are seeing more cases of COVID-19 than ever before.
Which means all of this is really confusing.
Dr. Emily Landon, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago, has spent a lot of time thinking about global pandemics, and COVID-19 in particular. She talks with Greta about navigating the world, making personal risk assessments and whether or not you should hug your friends.
Jun 30 2020
It's Nerdette Book Club! Each month, we read a book and chat about it with a rotating group of panelists.This month’s pick is Brit Bennett’s sophomore novel, The Vanishing Half.
The story starts in rural Louisiana in the late 1950s, when two light-skinned Black girls run away from home to New Orleans. When one decides to pass as white, she leaves her past behind. The book unfolds to tell the stories of both sisters and their daughters as they live with the repercussions of the choices they’ve made.
Listen along as Nerdette host Greta Johnsen discusses the book with Abby West, an editor for Audible, and Kiley Reid, author of Such a Fun Age.
And then get ready for next month’s pick: Last Tang Standing, Lauren Ho’s debut novel. The publisher calls it a cross between Bridget Jones’ Diary and Crazy Rich Asians.
Jun 26 2020
We talk with Emily Pilloton, author of Girls Garage: How to Use Any Tool, Tackle Any Project, and Build the World You Want to See, about representation, being your own repair person and it's important to put power tools in the hands of young girls.
Jun 23 2020
For the last few weeks, our “Introvert’s Guide to the Good Life” series has been all about helping you find ways to enrich your perhaps-more-than-usual indoors-based life.
Today, we talk to Pooja Naik, founder of Chicago-based organizational consulting company Organizing With You. She tells us why you should make your bed and how decluttering your physical space can help with your head space.
Jun 19 2020
For the last few weeks, our “Introvert’s Guide to the Good Life” series has been all about helping you find ways to enrich your perhaps-more-than-usual indoors-based life.
Today, we talk to plant expert Tara Heibel, who owns a garden center called Sprout Home here in Chicago and also in Brooklyn, about why you might want to consider putting some of your anxious energy towards helping something simple grow.
Jun 16 2020
Greta talks with Brit Bennett, the author of this month’s Nerdette Book Club selection, The Vanishing Half, which just climbed to the top of The New York Times bestselling fiction list amid nationwide conversations around racial inequality.
The Vanishing Half tells the story of two light-skinned black sisters whose lives take very different directions: Desiree moves back home after escaping an abusive relationship with her dark-skinned husband while Stella chooses to pass as a white woman.
Hear from Brit and then come back later this month for our Nerdette Book Club panel discussion. And remember, we want to hear from you too! Send us a voice memo about your thoughts on the book before Wednesday, June 24
Jun 12 2020
It’s a question a lot of people are asking right now. So we
talk with author and activist
about how white people can have constructive conversations with each other about racism in America. Ever since Schatz’s friend, comedian W. Kamau Bell, made Schatz responsible for “Conan O’Brien’s whiteness,” she’s been answering white people’s questions on Instagram live.
Jun 09 2020
Widespread protests against police brutality have led many white people to ask how they can better understand the systems behind the disparities in our society.
There are dozens of great resources out there. Nerdette host Greta Johnsen and NPR books editor Barrie Hardymon offer a few recommendations of the books they’ve found helpful. Plus a handful of summer reads, too.
Jun 05 2020
We think you could use some joy and calm right now. So we’re taking a moment to take some deep breaths. Then, we’ll listen back to part of our delightful 2017 interview with Tom Hanks.
Jun 02 2020