Jonathan McNicol | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

Jonathan McNicol

Producer, The Colin McEnroe Show / Host, The Second First Season

Jonathan started at WNPR as an intern in 2010 and was hired later that year. In his work, Jonathan is always just trying to figure out a little bit of how the world works, while paying special attention to the absurd and the just plain goofy. He is as likely to produce a show on America’s jury system as he is a story on all the grossest parts of the human body. His work has been heard nationally on Here & Now and locally on WNPR’s talk shows, on Morning Edition, and on All Things Considered.

Jonathan comes to radio from a background in, of all things, graphic design. He lives in the greater New Haven area.

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Universal Pictures

The raft of renaming going on right now obviously hasn't spared popular culture. The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum are now The Chicks and Lady A, respectively. Björk's record label changed its name. Democrats want to rename John Wayne Airport. FedEx has formally asked the Washington Redskins to change their name, and Guilford's board of education voted to drop the town's "Indians" nickname. And, while Splash Mountain is going to keep being called Splash Mountain, it won't be based on Song of the South anymore.

And: The King of Staten Island is the sixth feature film directed by Judd Apatow. It stars Pete Davidson (who also co-wrote the movie with Apatow and Dave Sirus) as a 24-year-old high school dropout who lives with his mother on Staten Island. It's available for rental on digital platforms.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, John Belushi, John Candy, Rick Moranis.

Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Beverly Hills Cop, Caddyshack, The Jerk, Ghost Busters, ¡Three Amigos!, Funny Farm, Spaceballs, Stripes.

We maybe didn't properly appreciate it at the time, but the 1980s were one of the most fertile periods ever for screen comedies and screen comedians.

This hour, a look at the mavericks who shaped a whole comedy aesthetic and at some of the most popular movie comedies ever made.

Warner Bros.

The movie musical died a long, slow death a long time ago. Right?

Well, except that there's La La Land. And Moana. And The Greatest Showman and A Star Is Born and Mary Poppins Returns. Oh, and Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman. And Frozen II and The Lion King and Aladdin.

Those are just from the last five years. And I could keep going, but then I might forget to mention that Steven Spielberg's version of West Side Story is scheduled to come out this year or that the Hamilton movie comes out next week.

This hour, a long look at the long-dead movie musical. Long live the movie musical.

Hernán Piñera / flickr creative commons

We've done this show every year since 2013. We almost certainly didn't do it 2012. But we did in 2011. And there's good circumstantial evidence that we did it in 2010 too, but no actual record of that possibly inaugural episode survives.

Point is: Our song of the summer show is a bit of a tradition. It's a tradition that... makes some people angry, we realize. It's a tradition that we're not sure has ever made anyone happy.

And that all has to do with how we define the term. We use the Amanda Dobbins definition:

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

No one likes a cloudy sky. A cloud on the horizon is seen as a harbinger of doom. We feel like clouds need to have silver linings.

But here's our thesis: Clouds are unfairly maligned.

Consider this: From almost any vantage point (literally -- any vantage point in the universe), clouds are planet Earth's defining characteristic.

They're what changes, what moves. They're what's going on on our pale blue dot.

Miramax, LLC

No Country for Old Men. Fargo. The Big Lebowski. Raising Arizona. Barton Fink. Miller's Crossing. Blood Simple. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Over the past 36 years, Joel and Ethan Coen have reliably been among the most recognizable voices in moviemaking.

This hour: a Noseish look at the work of the Coen brothers.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

The leagues are working in earnest toward starting back up. The NBA has a plan. Major League Baseball can't seem to work one out. Major League Soccer might beat them both back onto the field.

How is this all going to work? What are sports going to look like when they start playing games again? Should they start playing games again?

Amazon.com, Inc.

We've all seen any number of emails and Tweets and Facebook posts this week from companies supporting protests and the like. Entertainment industry firms have jumped on that bandwagon too, but The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg has a different idea about how those particular players might be able to help: by shutting down all the police movies and TV shows.

And: Comedian Sarah Cooper has found an elegant, perhaps surprisingly effective way to lampoon the president. She just lip syncs to his own words.

And finally: The Vast of Night is the feature film debut of writer and director Andrew Patterson. He financed its $700,000 budget himself, and after its premiere at last year's Slamdance Film Festival, Amazon acquired it. The Twilight Zone-style sci-fi mystery debuted on Amazon Prime last weekend.

Travis Wise / flickr creative commons

In 2007, journalist Alan Weisman published The World Without Us. It was an international bestseller. The book tries to answer what is ultimately a simple question: What happens to the Earth if human beings disappear? Here's how Weisman puts it in the book: "Say a Homo sapiens-specific virus -- natural or diabolically nano-engineered -- picks us off but leaves everything else intact." Then what?

And over these last few months, we've gotten maybe a fraction of a percentage point there. Temporarily. Maybe not directly because of coronavirus, but indirectly because of our absence and scarceness due to stay-at-home orders and the like. And so... then what?

Netflix, Inc.

Hannah Gadsby has been a prominent comedian in Australia for going on 15 years. In America, though, she arrived seemingly from nowhere in 2018 with a Netflix special called Nanette, which won a Peabody and an Emmy. Douglas is Gadsby's follow-up Netflix special. It's, as she calls it, her "difficult second album that is also [her] tenth and some people's first."

And: I Know This Much Is True is a six-part HBO miniseries set in Connecticut and based on the Wally Lamb novel of the same name. Mark Ruffalo plays two twin brothers, one who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and one who doesn't. Three episodes have aired so far.

Chion Wolf (file photo) / Connecticut Public Radio

It's Friday, but our pop culture roundtable is off this week.

Today, in lieu of The Nose, an hour with America's Greatest Living Film Critic, David Edelstein.

Netflix, Inc.

Twitter announced on Tuesday that its employees who can work from home can continue to work from home -- for forever, if they want. One wonders how many companies will follow suit -- and how employees will feel about such an arrangement.

And: Ryan Murphy is the showrunner behind things like Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story, 9-1-1, and The Politician. In 2018, Murphy signed the largest development deal in the history of television with Netflix. His new miniseries, Hollywood, is the second project to come out of that deal.

hole
Mike Burns / flickr creative commons

In November, 2016, we did a show about all the problems presented by, well, a-holes. And so it seems only logical to expand our scope a bit and do a show about all the problems presented by, well, a hole.

For instance: How many holes are there in a straw? Did you say one? Okay, cool. Then how many holes are there in a sock? (A relatively new sock, I mean.) You said one again, right? But how can both of those things be true at the same time?

Or, put another way: What happens to the hole in the donut as you eat the donut around it? This gets into mereology, the theory of parthood relations -- for our purposes, the parts and wholes of holes and the wholes the holes are parts of.

Your head hurts a little, right?

Netflix, Inc.

23 Hours To Kill is Jerry Seinfeld's fourth-ever standup comedy special and his second for Netflix. It hit the streaming service on Tuesday, and The Nose thinks it's great. And also that it sucks.

And then: Waco is a six-part miniseries that tells exactly the story you'd guess it tells. Taylor Kitsch plays David Koresh. Waco was the big, original launch title for the Paramount Network when it rebranded from SpikeTV in January, 2018. So why is it relevant now? One wonders, but it was recently added to Netflix, and it's been trending there for weeks.

Quinn Dombrowski / flickr creative commons

"It is the rare person who doesn't own a pair of sweatpants." I am, it turns out, that rare person. Sweatpants are just too warm, is my take. But I do own a number of pairs of cotton pajama pants. They're my sweatpants proxy.

Back before the pandemic became the central preoccupation of our existence, back when we made our radio show in, ya know, a radio studio, I would always get a little dressed up on my show days. I'd wear a jacket. Or a tie. Or a jacket and a tie.

Now that we're all working from home all the time, I spend the great majority of my work hours in pajama pants and stocking feet and a bathrobe. But when it comes time for one of my shows -- like this one, for instance -- I change out of my PJ pants into jeans or chinos. That's what "a little dressed up" means these days: putting real pants on. (Or even "hard pants," as they're now known.)

Focus Features

There are plenty of questions about what the future of live performance looks like right now, and, in certain ways, no form seems more displaced by social distancing and everything else than does standup comedy. As such, people are just going to have to try new things, right? New York club comedian Ted Alexandro's YouTube comedy special is one of the first such experiments.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Three years ago, we did a show where we asked which fictional dystopian future we were actually already living in. Now that we've arrived at, ya know, this present moment, that show has been on our minds. But we've realized we've got a new set of questions now too.

Matthew Glover / flickr creative commons

Fiona Apple's new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, is currently the best-reviewed album, um, ever, according to Metacritic. Bon Iver has a new benefit single out that seems to have been written specifically for the present moment. Norah Jones has a new tune. Bob Dylan has kind of randomly put out two new songs, one of which charted in the U.K. despite being very nearly 17 minutes long.

And then, here's a trivia question: There are five artists who have charted singles in the Top 40 in each of the last four decades, Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2, Kenny G... and who's the fifth? Would you believe it's this guy?

RMI Records, a Division of Resonant Motion, Inc.

The Noah Baerman Resonance Ensemble's The Rock & the Redemption is a jazz concept album of sorts that recasts the Sisyphus myth around the heroism of perseverance and persistence.

Keyboardist and composer Noah Baerman joins us for the hour.

Netflix

That headline is just a direct quote from James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America. I was torn between that line from the book and this one:

Donald Trump is not a person.

Poniewozik's take is that "Donald Trump" is really a character that Donald Trump has been playing on television since at least the early 1980s.

National Theatre

Last weekend, Saturday Night Live aired a prerecorded special, "Saturday Night Live at Home." Tom Hanks hosted from his kitchen. Michael Che and Colin Jost did Weekend Update from their living rooms and by Zoom or something similar. Chris Martin covered a Bob Dylan song in front of handwritten "ENTRANCE TO TRAIN" signs.

All of the late night shows are operating in some similar way right now. Jimmy Kimmel hosts from his living room and has people like Jason Bateman on by Skype or whatever. John Oliver sits at his desk in front of a mysterious white wall. Samantha Bee hosts from the woods.

Travis Wise / flickr creative commons

I haven't been grocery shopping in 21 days. The last time I went, March 26, was a harrowing experience.

It was before this particular grocery store, at least, had started limiting the number of customers in the building at a time, before it had made aisles one-way, before it started wiping down carts after each use and providing sanitizing wipes for customers to use.

Staff and customers alike didn't seem to understand just how far six feet is, and the aisles were too narrow to afford that sort of distancing anyway. Fresh meats were in short supply, cleaning products were nowhere to be found, and canned and frozen foods were few and far between.

And so I haven't been back.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

My son, Simon, is a year old. His mother and his grandmother are both librarians. His father is, well, me. Simon is, predictably, obsessed with books.

Back before everything changed, we'd gotten into a pretty good reading routine. Every morning before Simon went to his grandparents', we'd read a big pile of books. Every evening when I got home from work, we'd read a big pile of books.

We'd read Goodnight Moon. We'd read The Little Blue Truck. We'd read Peek-a Who? and Peek-a Moo! and Peek-a Zoo! We'd read Who Hoots? and Who Hops? We'd read Dear Zoo and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Each Peach Pear Plum and Spooky, Spooky, Little Bat and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? And then we'd probably read them all again.

FX Productions, LLC

The novel coronavirus has started to take its toll on figures from our popular culture. Adam Schlesinger, who founded Fountains of Wayne and wrote songs for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend among other things, died on Wednesday. The great playwright Terrence McNally died last week. The list goes on: songwriter Alan Merrill, country music star Joe Diffie, fashion designer Jenny Polanco, college basketball star Dave Edwards, actor Mark Blum, soccer star Lorenzo Sanz. And it seems like the jazz community has been especially vulnerable: guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, pianists Ellis Marsalis and Mike Longo, and trumpeter Wallace Roney have all died.

And then: Dave is an FXX comedy series that tells a fictionalized version of the rise of rapper Lil Dicky, and John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch is a Netflix children's special that Mulaney made "on purpose."

Disney

Last Friday night, Disney released the #1 movie in the country -- Pixar's Onward -- for digital download on iTunes/Amazon/etc. It's safe to say, that's the first time that's ever happened.

When you say "the #1 movie in the country," you're talking about what was #1 last weekend or maybe last week. Onward was also the #1 movie in the country specifically on last Thursday... when it made $33,296. There are times when movies make that per screen.

There's a movie on that domestic chart that one person went to see. It made $6. That movie, though, wasn't at the bottom of that chart… because there are three movies on that chart that no one went to see. In the country.

Kathea Pinto / flickr creative commons

Humans have been using soap for literally millennia -- nearly five of them... at least.

And while there's a run on alcohol-based hand sanitizers, it turns out that good, old-fashioned soap is a simpler, more-reliable way to destroy all that coronavirus that might be all over your gross, dirty hands.

Hulu, LLC

As with all things, The Nose has never been a Nose quite like this week's Nose. First off, for almost every Nose ever, we've put four (sometimes more) people in a radio studio for an hour. This Nose is four people talking to each other from very separate places, and none of them is a radio studio.

Meanwhile, we've said goodbye to movie theaters. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson and Idris Elba have all tested positive. People have been using Tinder as a news service. I mean, it's hard to imagine that we'll ever go back to normal.

And so, we might as well watch some TV then, right? The Nose has tried out Hulu's new adaptation of High Fidelity with Zoë Kravitz in the lead role.

Jonathan McNicol / Connecticut Public Radio

The NBA, the NHL, and Major League Soccer have all suspended their seasons. Major League Baseball canceled spring training and postponed opening day until at least mid-May. The NCAA canceled March Madness (which would've started in earnest today) and, in fact, all of its winter and spring sports championships. Tennis's French Open is postponed until September, and soccer's Euro 2020 is postponed until 2021.

There have been cancellations and postponements in archery, badminton, canoe-kayak, cricket, curling, handball, judo, rowing, rugby, sailing, shooting, skating, snooker, sumo, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, water polo, weightlifting… The list goes on.

Put a bit more simply: Sports is canceled.

Princeton University Office of Communications

John McPhee is a writer's writer. He's thought of as one of the progenitors of the New Journalism, of creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction, along with people like Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. But his style is... quiter than those folks'. His writing is transparent. He tends to keep himself out of the narrative. He doesn't even, in fact, have an author photo.

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