Tuesday, March 25, 2003
WNYC archives id: 69929
About The Next Big Thing
The Next Big Thing is Public Radio International's weekly radio features magazine. Produced by WNYC, New York Public Radio, The Next Big Thing may actually resemble a city or town near you: listeners find it a fascinating place to visit, full of little-known street corners, compelling stories, lively music, and original comedy.
The Next Big Thing is full of unusual sounds and memorable voices. It's a show in which well-known artists like Stanley Tucci and Suzanne Vega casually rub shoulders with subway strap hangers, park bench philosophers, street-corner humorists, and kids on the local basketball court.
On The Next Big Thing, creator and host Dean Olsher collaborates with some of America's most talented writers, humorists, and musicians. Regular contributors include: Meg Wolitzer, Henry Alford, Miranda July, Jesse Green, Jonathan Ames and Matt Power. In addition to soliciting stories from these great writers and reporters, Olsher also commissions original plays, music and soundscapes for his beloved medium, radio, creating an aural environment unique to The Next Big Thing.
Olsher's team of producers is inspired to seek out unusual, offbeat and sometimes quietly affecting subjects: they may ride along with former prisoners who bring puppies to those still behind bars; risk life and limb on homemade roller coasters; listen in as a young man attempts to cure his stutter; and track down an illegal immigrant facing deportation after 9/11 despite the successful, middle-class life he's made for himself in the U.S.
The program's variety is designed to appeal to the broad interests of its public radio audience. Listeners on 90 public radio stations nationwide have heard actor Ethan Hawke in a play written for the show by novelist Rick Moody. Humorists Jonathan Katz, Mark O'Donnell, David Rakoff, and Janeane Garofalo have lent their talents to satire and improv comedy, but the show is also home to sonically-enhanced serious fiction from writers like Richard Ford and poetry from Poet Laureate Billy Collins, among others. The result is a sound-rich, intimate, frequently funny, and always engaging radio show.
Says Olsher, "In many ways, The Next Big Thing is a way of paying homage to radio itself. It's about tickling that part of the mind that only radio can reach, using all the forms at which the medium excels: literary journalism, one-on-one interviews, interpretive essays, comedy, drama, and music. It's about personality, ideas, companionship, and speaking to the heart and soul through the eyes and ears of interesting, unusual people."
Olsher began his career in broadcasting at the age of 14, as a freshman at Hunterdon Central High School in Flemington, NJ. After being awarded a Bachelor of Arts at Simon's Rock College, he studied and worked in Chapel Hill, NC, before joining NPR in 1987 as a cultural reporter. At NPR, he defined his beat broadly, from the grand ("Major American Poets Gather at the White House") to the grandly absurd ("Lorena Bobbitt Found Not Guilty"), landing at WNYC in 1999 to create something new - The Next Big Thing