Terry Gross

Anxious and Uncomfortable Has Really Been My Home Base

Anxious and Uncomfortable Has Really Been My Home Base

"I have a very hard time with things, you know, just being quiet. Like, if I sit alone, you know, for ten minutes with nothing happening, you know, which I guess some people would call meditating, I just lose my mind. I'm, like — how does anyone deal with this horrible silence and awareness that everything's almost over?"

~ Marc Maron

A Kind of Antenna for Other People

A Kind of Antenna for Other People

"I think one of my gifts is also one of my weaknesses. Which is, I have a kind of antenna for other people. My friends and my producers might disagree with me about this, but I think an antenna that picks up on what other people are feeling. But there's something good and bad about that."

~ Terry Gross

Through a Prism of Comedy

Jon Stewart, in conversation with Terry Gross, from “Jon Stewart: The Most Trusted Name In Fake News,” Fresh Air from WHYY, October 4, 2010:

Jon StewartThere was a congressional bill where they were going to get money for first responders for 9/11 for chronic health issues. And I mean, its a no-brainer. The people that went into the Towers—or were down there searching—to have their health bills taken care of and legislative maneuvering—the Democrats wouldn’t bring an up or down vote because if they did that the Republicans would be allowed to insert amendments. And one of the amendments that they could insert was that you could give any of the money to illegal aliens.

And so the Democrats were afraid that they would have a commercial that would be made that would say, you voted to give money to—so rather than standing up and being moral for the people that risked everything for us down there, they decided to try a legislative maneuver that made it so that two-thirds had to pass the bill, so that no amendments could be put in it. Well, the Republicans obviously, you know, shot it down—their own moral failing.

So we did a segment on the show called "I Give Up.”

And the ability to articulate our sense of just absolute sadness, but through a prism of comedy—like, we came in that morning just really despairing as we watched this go down. And we walked out that night feeling like we had yelled and felt, you know, we had put it through the prism and the synthesis and the digestive process that we put it through and we made ourselves feel better.

And we didn’t make ourselves feel better by ignoring it, by dismissing it, by not dealing with it. We made ourselves feel better by expressing our utter rage at the ineptness and lack of courage from our legislators and we walked out of there that night feeling like, you know, what, (bleep) good day's work. That was it.

Listen to the whole conversation here…

I Accepted Monsters In My Heart

Guillermo del Toro discussing his film, Pan's Labyrinth with Terry Gross (Fresh Air, 1/24/07):

When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time in my grandmother’s garden, and I would actually do insane stuff. Like I would spend hours watching an ant hill. And I would try and recognize the ants from one another every day. And of course the garden was full of insects and I would name them and I admired them. I think they’re present in most of my movies because I have such admiration and fear of them. And I always thought, listening to Bible tales, I don’t know why, I always thought that archangels should look like insects, because archangels were sort of the tough guys of God’s army and I always imagined them looking like this. Shelled, armored creatures.

And I believe that the girl’s reality in the movie, you should be able to read it as existing in her mind or as being a really raggedy, left-out-in-the-rain kind of magical world because she has been gone from it for so long. So the movie allows you to interpret it both ways. For me, funny enough, to me what she see is a fully blown reality--a spiritual reality. But I believe her tale not to be just a reflection of the world around her, but to me she really turns into the princess of the underworld.
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I think that there is a point in our life when we’re kids when literature and magic and fantasy has a strong presence in our soul as religion would have in later days. I think that it’s a spiritual reality as strong as when people say, “I accept Jesus in my heart.” Well, at a certain age, I accepted monsters in my heart. The girl is basically sort of autobiographical for me.
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I think that the entire world we live in is fabricated. So when I think about, you know Republican, Democrat, left, right, morning, night, geography borders, all these things are conceits. Borders are not visible from a satellite picture. The fact that you can have a civil war where two sides kill each other and essentially from afar they look exactly the same. They are both the same human beings. They share the same taste for food. They sing the same songs and so on and so forth. This imagined conceit can create such horrors. And I think when people talk about fantasy and they demean it, like “Oh, fantasy is such a low concern,” well, I think politics, religion, are equal inventions for me at least.
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The Pale Man is, in function, a prototypical ogre in the fairy tale—a devourer of children. But in appearance I wanted it to look like essentially a monster a child could imagine. A monster from the id.

What I noticed early on is I ordered first the make effects company to create sort of an old guy that had been very fat and had shrunken so the skin was loose and hanging, and at the same time, I asked them to remove the face. Because I remember manta rays upside down they have this thin mouth and the little nostril-like openings and they have a very disturbing neutrality to them.

And then one of the things I remember as a kid is one of the first things you do is you draw your own hand, you trace it, and you put an eye or a mouth or a face. And it is very often that child psychologists find that one of the first things a kid does in inventing a monster is displacing the mouth or displacing the eyes. And I came up with the idea since the character had stigmata, I said Let’s put the eyes in there. And what came out instinctively was an incredibly brutal incredibly Freudian or Jungian creature.