Elizabeth Blair

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

Blair produces, edits, and reports arts and cultural segments for NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. In this position, she has reported on a range of topics from arts funding to the MeToo movement. She has profiled renowned artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Mikhail Baryshnikov, explored how old women are represented in fairy tales, and reported the origins of the children's classic Curious George. Among her all-time favorite interviews are actors Octavia Spencer and Andy Serkis, comedians Bill Burr and Hari Kondabolu, the rapper K'Naan, and Cookie Monster (in character).

Blair has overseen several, large-scale series including The NPR 100, which explored landmark musical works of the 20th Century, and In Character, which probed the origins of iconic American fictional characters. Along with her colleagues on the Arts Desk and at NPR Music, Blair curated American Anthem, a major series exploring the origins of songs that uplift, rouse, and unite people around a common theme.

Blair's work has received several honors, including two Peabody Awards and a Gracie. She previously lived in Paris, France, where she co-produced Le Jazz Club From Paris with Dee Dee Bridgewater, and the monthly magazine Postcard From Paris.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


The earliest anthems were sacred hymns, religious songs of praise. For this installment of NPR's American Anthem series, we examine a rock and roll hymn — from Ireland.

Montreal's annual Just For Laughs festival is best-known as a showcase for current and future stars of stand-up comedy. Not as well known to people who've never been here is that laughs of all kinds can be found outdoors, for free, throughout Montreal's cultural district, the Quartiere des Spectacles. Professional musicians, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers — the outdoor performers' punch lines don't need words. That helps, since Just For Laughs/Juste Pour Rire is a bilingual festival for both French and English speaking performers and fans.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Montreal is consumed with comedy this week in nightclubs, outdoor stages and the streets - including the eclectic 12-piece band that goes by the name Fanfarniente Della Strada.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A moment now to remember a woman with a truly remarkable voice, who died in a New York hospital on July 17, 1959.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOD BLESS THE CHILD")

BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) But God bless the child that's got his own, that's got his own.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Stand-up comedian Brian Regan has been on the road performing almost nonstop since the 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRIAN REGAN: I'm trying to go to more parties. I'm not good at them. I'm not good at talking to people, which might sound weird in this setting.

(LAUGHTER)

For the past year, NPR has been taking a deep look at American anthems and all the forms they can take. These are the songs that unite us, inspire us or say something about what it means to be an American — songs as traditional as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," or as defiant as Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The global youth brand MTV has chosen Sheila Nevins to head a new documentary division. Nicknamed the "doyenne of documentaries," Nevins, 80, was the president of HBO Documentary Films. With some 1,500 credits to her name, Nevins has executive produced numerous Oscar, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning films, and received several lifetime achievement awards.

Comedian Dave Chappelle will be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced.

The stand-up comic, actor, producer and director joins a prestigious group of comedians to receive the award. Among them are Carol Burnett, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart and Richard Pryor — who won the very first Twain Prize in 1998.

On Wednesday evening, nine high school students will compete for the title of national champion of Poetry Out Loud, a kind of annual spelling bee for poetry.

Tens of thousands of teens from across the country faced off in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands before they made it to Tuesday's semifinals at Lisner Auditorium on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Entertainment Weekly once called Brian Regan "your favorite comedian's favorite comedian." Chris Rock has been quoted saying: "No comedian in the world says, 'Yeah, I want to follow Brian Regan.'" Bill Burr said on his podcast: "Brian basically goes out and, for 90 straight minutes, it sounds like a jet is landing, how hard this guy kills."

Critics were aghast, but hobbyists couldn't get enough of it: In the mid-1950s, paint-by-numbers kits were all the rage. Dan Robbins, the artist who helped invent those kits, died at a hospice on Monday in Sylvania, Ohio, at age 93.

After World War II, Robbins was working as a package designer for Palmer Paint Company in Detroit. Company owner Max Klein was looking for a product that would appeal to adult hobbyists, and Robbins remembered something he learned in high school: Leonardo da Vinci's numbering system.

Imagine Georgia O'Keeffe needing "luck" to paint a flower. But there it is, in the artist's twirling calligraphy, in a letter to her friend, documentary filmmaker Henwar Rodakiewicz.

Maybe I've been absurd about wanting to do a big flower painting, but I've wanted to do it and that is that. I'm going to try. Wish me luck.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Gains have been made for women and people of color who work in movies and TV, but the numbers remain a long way from proportionately reflecting the U.S. population, according to a new study from UCLA.

The annual Hollywood Diversity Report looks at diversity both in front of and behind the camera. It also looks at box office and ratings.

Veteran comedians know all about the funny side of anger.

The late George Carlin wrote an entire bit called "Free-Floating Hostility." Jerry Seinfeld once declared in the Los Angeles Times that "All comedy starts with anger."

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


Two years ago this week on the National Mall, amid a sea of pink hats, a piece of music suddenly went from speaking for one to speaking for many.

Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET Thursday

Jill Rorem, like many Americans, had made some special plans for the holidays. The Chicago native, whose legal work often brings her to Washington, D.C., was finally going to get to see the nation's capital with her arts-obsessed kids.

Consider the cast of fierce female characters on screen in 2018.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Singer Nancy Wilson has died at her home in Pioneertown, Calif., after a long illness. The Grammy Award winner was 81. Public radio listeners may know Wilson as the host of the NPR series Jazz Profiles. Elizabeth Blair has this appreciation.

The vice president came to the Kennedy Center last night. That would be HBO's Veep: Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The 11-time Emmy Award-winner was in Washington, D.C. to accept the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Plenty of big names in comedy were there to present it to her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus grew up in Washington, D.C. She went to Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, the same private high school as Christine Blasey Ford — the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago.

It was Tina Fey who first made the connection.

As Amandla Stenberg prepared for her lead role in the film adaptation of The Hate U Give, she devoured Angie Thomas' 2017 young adult novel. "Reading the book became this strange, spiritual thing because it started to feel like I was reading my own diary," she says.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the reporting, in The New York Times and The New Yorker, that led to the fall of movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

From that point on, the hashtag #MeToo was catapulted into a national movement. The #MeToo conversation now seems to be everywhere.

Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards: "Take us to the time when nobody ever has to say 'me too' again."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Nothing like a comedy festival to make you think so hard your head hurts. Immigration, #MeToo, bullying. Pain has long been at the root of great comedic material, and it was no different at this year's annual Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, where hundreds of comedians perform, attend panels and schmooze with agents, TV network reps and each other. "We're an industry built on outsiders," Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby told a roomful of her peers at the annual Just For Laughs Awards Show on Friday. She also urged the crowd not to forget it.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter told reporters Tuesday that the spirit of President John F. Kennedy informs just about everything the Center does, including its new expansion called The REACH.

The REACH "came about from President Kennedy's aspirational, ever-hopeful vision for our nation," said Rutter, at a "first look" tour of the site. "He encouraged us to reach for dreams, for those moonshot moments that would move us forward."

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