7 NPR Spoofs To Get You Through Pledge Drive Season

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For public radio listeners, it’s pledge drive season once again—that time of year when the good people at NPR interrupt your favorite programming and urge you to give, luring you in with the possibility of a tote bag or your very own coffee mug.

Since May 3, 1971, when "All Things Considered" became its first program to air, NPR has been the target of many jokes and spoofs—the "public radio" voice, the unusual host names, the shows’ formats, and especially the target demographic are just a few of the go-to punch lines. Character appearances on individual programs have even become TV show plot points. In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper appears on Science Friday to explain magnetic monopoles, and in Orange Is The New Black, Larry Bloom goes on Urban Tales, the fictional equivalent of This American Life, to speak about what it’s like to be in a relationship with a prison-bound woman. To celebrate the disembodied voices we let into our homes and cars each day, here are seven NPR spoofs.

1. The Second City takes on WBEZ Chicago

Before SNL30 RockMean Girls, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey was a member of The Second City improv troupe in Chicago. In their 1997 revue, Paradigm Lost, Fey, along with Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit, Kevin Dorff, Jenna Jolovitz, and Jim Zulevic, enact a banana themed episode of the fake NPR program Urban Wind.   

2. SNL's 'The Delicious Dish' Returns with Betty White's Muffin 

Even though Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer's NPR spoof, The Delicious Dish, was a recurring sketch, most know it for the innuendo-laden segment featuring Alec Baldwin's Schweddy Balls in 1998. When Betty White hosted SNL in 2010, Gasteyer and Shannon revived their roles as public radio hosts and interviewed White about her "Dusty Muffins" in honor of "National Dietary Fiber Day." 

3. Fred Armisen as Ira Glass during a SNL dress rehearsal 

Ira Glass has been hosting This American Life for 20 years, making him one of public radio's legends. During a 2011 SNL dress rehearsal, Fred Armisen impersonates Glass on Weekend Update with the help of an old-school microphone, dark rimmed glasses, and the classic This American Life introduction. 

4. and 5. Serial gets the comedy treatment

For months, people were obsessing over the true-crime podcast Serial. Like its parent program,This American Life, the weekly podcast had a number of repeated storytelling and framing mechanisms that provide spoofs with a formula to follow. In both the SNL sketch with Cecily Strong as host Sarah Koenig (2014) and the Funny or Die video with Michaela Watkins (2014), the theme music, the robotic phone call introductions announcing the speaker and his location, and the nod to the podcast's sponsor, Mail Chimp, set the sketches up to be a success. 

6. Leslie Knope appears on Pawnee Community Radio 

During a 2011 episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, stops by Thoughts for Your Thoughts, a show on Wamapoke County Public Radio to promote her book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. Host Derry Murbles is played by Dan Castellaneta, who is best known for voicing Homer Simpson, Krusty the Clown, and a number of other characters on The Simpsons. 

7. Terry Gross and Mike Birbiglia Can't Say Goodbye

To promote his movie, Sleepwalk with Me (2012), frequent public radio contributor Mike Birbiglia created Fresh Air 2: 2 Fresh 2 Furious for the film's YouTube channel. Featuring Fresh Air host Terry Gross, the sketch speculates on what happens once the microphones turn off and Gross and her guests leave the office. 

Here's What the Elaborate Maze From S-Town Looks Like

John B. McLemore created a world of wonders in the middle of nowhere. The protagonist of the popular S-Town podcast was famous in his hometown for his loud mouth and regular diatribes about tattoos and climate change. Elsewhere in the world, he was better known as a master craftsman and a genius.

Much of McLemore’s income derived from his extraordinary work as a horologist, or clockmaker, but his property in Woodstock, Alabama, is littered with other inventions and projects—including his legendary hedge maze.

Photo courtesy of Imgur

Photo courtesy of Imgur

Reddit users report that the maze has recently begun to fall into disrepair, news that upsets the S-Town listeners who have grown so fond of the clockmaker and his complicated, beautiful creations.

Photo courtesy of Imgur
Serial Productions/iTunes
Serial Creators Announce Release Date for S-Town, Their New Murder Mystery Podcast
Serial Productions/iTunes
Serial Productions/iTunes

It has been more than two years since the creators of Serial captured listeners’ attention with season one of their investigative podcast. Now USA Today reports that the team behind the true crime sensation is returning this March with a brand-new story.

Titled S-Town, the new podcast from Serial Productions will center around murder rumors that have been percolating in a small Alabama town. It starts when a Serial listener reaches out to S-Town host and This American Life producer Brian Reed about a wealthy resident who has reportedly been boasting about committing the crime. From there, news of more death, a feud, and treasure add further intrigue to the mystery.

Executive producer Julie Snyder promises that S-Town will be more than just another true crime story. “It’s a story that goes beyond any expectations,” she told USA Today. Following three years of reporting, all seven chapters of the podcast will be released at once on March 28. You can get a taste of what’s to come in the new preview, available now on iTunes.

[h/t USA Today]


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