How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black

How To Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black

United States

In this in-depth interview show, Black takes listeners into the minds of some of today’s most fascinating celebrities and newsmakers to discuss the process of how they became, well, amazing. Brought to you by PRX.

Episodes

#67 Ina Garten  

In 1978, Ina Garten took a huge risk and left her job as a budget analyst in the White House to pursue her dream working with food. She packed her bags, moved to the Hamptons, bought a specialty food store and "The Barefoot Contessa" was born. In this enlightening and charming episode, the down-to-earth Food Network star shares her story of “jumping into the pond” by teaching herself to cook and run a business with no experience, when she knew it was time to leave, and she dishes about the challenges she faced along the road to becoming a bestselling cookbook author and TV star.

#66 Doug Stanhope  

Doug Stanhope is considered the comedian’s comedian for his precise writing and insightful, often cynical, and controversial social and political comedy.  He’s also known for his use of drugs and alcohol. In this episode he talks to Michael about his work, fans, and they get into a fascinating conversation on how he uses booze and pills to help him through his crippling social anxiety – it’s so bad he can’t be around people or perform on stage without self medicating (and yes, he openly drank throughout this interview).

#65 Cecile Richards  

The president of Planned Parenthood talks to Michael about how she got started in activism and organizing and what it was like growing up in conservative Texas as the daughter of two outspoken liberals. She also delves into the important work Planned Parenthood is doing today for women’s health in spite of the opposition from those who oppose birth control and abortion, just two of the many services they offer, and how she deals with people who disagree.

#64 Pamela Paul  

In a must listen episode for any person who loves to read, the editor of The New York Times Book Review is talking with Michael about writing, criticism and most of all, reading.  Her new book, the memoir My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues chronicles her life through all the books she’s read, tracing her life through high school and college, in her travels from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, through her failed first marriage and her current life as a mother, wife and the editor as arguably one of the most important book reviews in the world.  

#63 Andy Borowitz  

The political satirist traces his route from failed sitcom writer to creating and writing the popular New Yorker column, The Borowitz Report, where his made-up musings on politics often go viral, and sometimes, even get taken seriously, especially in China.  In a special live episode in front of a packed, New York audience, Borowitz talks to guest host Dean Obeidallah about how he created his own success, making fun of Trump, and the difference between “fake news” and satire.

#62 Katy Perry  

One of pop music’s biggest stars – over the last ten years, she’s had 9 #1 hits, sold millions of albums, racked up billions of video views, and is the most followed person on Twitter – sits down with Michael to discuss growing up the daughter of ultra conservative Christian ministers, navigating her relationship with fame, and the struggle to be taken seriously.

#61 Dean Karnazes  

The man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, among many other incredible feats, Dean Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. In this inspiring conversation he tells Michael how he discovered his love for endurance running, what life on the run is like, and how he handles pain.  They also discuss his new book, The Road To Sparta, where recounts his participation in the 153-mile race from Athens to Sparta while recounting the Ancient Greek story of the world’s first marathon.

#60 Al Franken  

The Senator from the great state of Minnesota discusses his new memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, which traces his unlikely path from a 30 year career as a comedian, writing and starring at Saturday Night Live, to diving into politics after being a passionate follower on the sidelines. In this emotionally honest conversation he shares with Michael why he cares so much, and even dishes a bit on his fellow senators.

#59 W. Kamau Bell  

The comedian, writer and host of the hit CNN docu-series United Shades of America has an often hilarious, frequently serious conversation with Michael about his years determined to break into comedy, what he needed to realize to finally achieve success, and they go deep into the topic of how to talk about racism.

#58 Charles Limb  

Dr. Charles Limb has married his passion for music with his day job as a surgeon and neuroscientist and is studying the science of creativity. In his research Limb has started gathering some tantalizing clues about the mind’s activity during jazz and rap improvisation discovering that the creative brain is functioning very differently than the memorizing brain. He’s talking to Michael about what this all means and why it’s important, especially in this current political environment when funding for the arts is on the chopping block.

#57 Annie Duke  

Michael sits down with one of the world’s best known poker players to discuss her big wins and losses both at the table and in life, as well as her struggles being a woman in a male dominated profession. Of equal importance, Duke’s shares how she successfully used the skills and strategies she gained at the card table to create a second career teaching, speaking and advocating.

#56 Judd Apatow  

Judd Apatow is one of the most important influencers of comedy today. In this jam-packed episode, the writer, director and producer of such blockbusters as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This Is 40 traces the roots of his love of comedy, from working with giants like Jim Carrey and Gary Shandling who helped him along the way to why he now pays it forward to help launch the careers of so many others like Lena Dunham and Pete Holmes, and how he recently returned to the stand-up stages where he started out.

#55 Josh Groban  

At the age of 17 a shy young man walked onto a stage to sing with Celine Dion and a star was born.  In the almost 20 years since that moment, Josh Groban has gone on to sell over 25 million records and tour giant arenas all over the world.  But while that’s amazing enough, in this interview Michael learns how Groban has taken control of his career and is trying new things (including a run on Broadway), and how despite all his massive success at such a young age, he is a remarkably warm, funny and unpretentious person.

#54 Daniel Handler  

In one of our funniest interviews to date, Michael sits down with Daniel Handler, whose books have sold over 60 million books worldwide under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, for a humorous and insightful conversation about the power of books and music.  Handler previews his anticipated adult novel and talks about his trajectory from being rejected over 37 times to becoming a bestselling author.

#53 Deborah Berke  

Michael sits down with Deborah Berke, the first female dean at the Yale School of Architecture and founder of one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 companies of 2016, for a fascinating conversation about the role of architecture in everyday life.  Berke shares her view on urban planning and offers sound advice for anyone who wants to follow their passion.     

#52 David Wain  

Following a heartfelt conversation with Michael Showalter, Michael talks with the third member of his iconic group Stella for an equally memorable conversation about his career writing and directing films such as Wet Hot American Summer and They Came Together. The two friends open up about the early days in the improv group The State, and Wain talks about everything from his worst dry spell to now struggling with saying no.

#51 Grace Helbig  

The YouTube star and bestselling author discusses how she stumbled into her successful career making funny videos watched by millions of viewers every week.  A natural introvert, Helbig had to figure out a way to put herself out into the world and learned the great lesson that if you can follow your fear, it can lead to great things.

#50 Amani Al-Khatahtbeh  

In this illuminating interview, Michael speaks to the millennial founder of MuslimGirl.net, the number one online publication for Muslim women in the United States, and the author of the new memoir, Muslim Girl, about her experience being a feminist, American Muslim in post 9/11 America. Al-Khatahtbeh shares her passion for educating those of us who don’t fully understand the day to day bigotry and threats of being an American Muslim, as well as giving a voice to women who might otherwise feel ostracized by our society.

#49 Andy Cohen  

Michael sits down with the charming author, host of Watch What Happens: Live and executive producer of The Real Housewives for a lively discussion about how his passion for pop culture lead him to his dream job. Cohen dishes about his early days at CBS news, and gets candid about everything from coming out of the closet to handling life in the spotlight.

#48 Michael Lewis  

The bestselling author of The Blind Side, The Big Short, Moneyball and his newest, The Undoing Project, is known to be a master storyteller. He proves no different in this interview as he tells great stories about his years growing up in New Orleans and how that helped shape his world view and his approach to writing.

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