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Caught in the Act

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ben Stiller kicks off today’s show! We’ll talk about his career in comedy and his role in John Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves.” John Pollack talks about why he thinks the humble pun has changed language and history for the better. Meg Wolitzer discusses her latest novel, The Uncoupling, about a high school production of Lysistrata that changes a whole community. Plus, our resident word maven Patricia T. O’Conner takes your calls on our confounding English language...and explains the evolution and usage of the phrase “people of color.”

Ben Stiller in "The House of Blue Leaves"

Ben Stiller talks about his film career and his role in John Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves,” directed by David Cromer. He plays Artie Shaughnessy, a zookeeper and wannabe songwriter, who is trying to cope with a schizophrenic wife (played by Edie Falco), an impatient girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and a visit from the Pope. Ben Stiller’s mother Anne Meara played Bunny in the original off-Broadway production of the play in 1971, then Ben made his Broadway and professional debut in the role of Ronnie in 1986, and he is now on Broadway for the first time, but in the exact same play. “The House of Blue Leaves” opens April 25 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

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Fun with Puns

John Pollack, former World Pun Champion and presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton, explores puns, the people who make them, why puns are so derided, and how they’ve changed influenced history. The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics explains why such wordplay is significant, how it influences language, and looks at history, brain science, pop culture, literature, anthropology, and humor.

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Meg Wolitzer's Novel: The Uncoupling

Meg Wolitzer talks about her latest novel, The Uncoupling. After Stellar Plains High School chooses to put on the play Lysistrata—the comedy by Aristophanes about women who stop having sex with men in order to end a war—a strange spell seems to be cast over the women throughout the school community. One by one healthy, normal women and teenage girls turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don't really understand.

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Word Maven Patricia T. O'Conner

Our word maven Patricia T. O'Conner talks about the origins of the expression “people of color.” She also answers questions about our confounding and complex English language. An updated and expanded third edition of her book, Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, has recently been published in paperback, and a paperback version of Origins of the Specious, written with Stewart Kellerman, was recently issued.

Do you have a question about language and grammar, or about the origins and meanings of certain cat expressions? Call us at 646-829-3985 or leave a comment below!

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Photojournalist Tim Hetherington Killed in Libya

On Wednesday, photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed in a mortar attack in Misurata, Libya. Photojournalist Chris Hondros was also killed in the attack and two other photojournalists were wounded.  

Leonard spoke to Tim Hetherington and co-director Sebastian Junger in 2010 about their film, Restrepo, which chronicled the deployment of a platoon of American soldiers sent to one of the most dangerous outposts in Afghanistan.  He also spoke to them in 2007 while they were covering that conflict for Vanity Fair: 

Hetherington had also covered conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

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