[NOTE: 5 April 2038. This imaginary interview with Fresh Air’s host Terry Gross took place in the cafeteria at the National Public Radio (NPR) Senior Care Facility in Washington, D.C., about five blocks from the NPR headquarters.]
Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, 1987
Interview with Terry Gross: Part I
Me: This is a special guest-host edition of Fresh Air. My guest today is Terry Gross. She has been on radio for 65 years. For over six decades she has been the host of this weekday interview show produced by WHYY in Philadelphia and aired across the nation through National Public Radio stations. She has a degree in English, and a Masters degree in Communication. Among her many honors are a Peabody Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, a Columbia Journalism Award, a 2015 National Humanities Award, and in 2012 she was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. Terry, thank you for allowing me the honor of guest hosting your show, and the honor of interviewing you.
Terry: You’re welcome.
Me: You have had a front row seat to the some of the most influential and creative people for over sixty years. Does it ever become boring?
Terry: Not usually. There is a routine we follow, but each interview is a potential Pandora’s box. We never know what we’ll find until we start talking to the guest. It keeps things edgy.
Me: You could have retired decades ago. What has kept you going?
Terry: A lack of a retirement program. It’s public radio, not “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”
Me: So you keep working for a paycheck?
Terry: Not a paycheck. I get to stay here. Woo-hoo.
Me: I should tell our listeners, that by ‘here’ you mean the NPR Senior Care Facility.
Terry: Again, woo-hoo. Look over there. That’s Steve Inskeep eating his oatmeal. They still wheel him over to NPR six days a week.
Me: To record NPR’s Morning Edition.
Terry: And to clean the bathrooms…and he’s talking to Cokie Roberts. She’s probably explaining to Steve once again why he can’t have prunes in his oatmeal and prune juice. Here, you get one or the other, not both. That man at that table is Kai Ryssdal. He’s so hot. Oh, and over by the coffee machine is Don Gonyea….oh, wait, he’s trying to snort the artificial sweetener again. Excuse me.
Interview with Terry Gross: Part II
Me: We’re back talking to the host of Fresh Air, Terry Gross. Is Don okay?
Terry: He’ll be fine. We’ve told them that they can’t keep the artificial sweetener by the coffee. He finds them every time. Now, where were we?
Me: I think we were talking about your amazing history on the radio. You have connections to generations of well-known people. How do you keep finding the next ‘Tom Hanks.’
Terry: It’s not that difficult. After so many years, people come to you. You can usually tell they want to be on the show when they start inviting you to their parties.
Me: But isn’t it exhausting to come up with high-quality interviews every weekday?
Terry: Not really. We get at least two shows after each interview.
Me: You mean re-airing the interview with the person releases a new book or movie?
Terry: Yes, that, and when they die. We discovered long ago that the interview has a bigger audience just after they die.
Me: Does that make an original interview less meaningful knowing that it will have a smaller audience, than after the person dies?
Terry: Of course. But it means my show is easy the day after they’ve died. A little intro. A few edits. Bingo, new show. We call the first interview premorties and the final broadcast postmorties. Premorties is the salad, Postmorties is the entree and dessert.
Me: Uhm…I see. Lately, it seems that most of your shows are postmorties.
Terry: Yes. We’ve changed our strategy in the last few years. Now we do the interview just for the postmorties. We interview, he or she dies, we broadcast.
Me: But what about days when no one significant has died?
Terry: We have a guy.
Me: What do you mean?
Terry: Have you ever noticed that a celebrity dies almost every day except Fridays and Saturdays?
[Me: Choking a little.]
Me: You don’t…
Terry: Yes, we do.
Me: So this interview…
Terry: You’re a postmortie. You didn’t really think you were important enough for me to have on my show.
Me: I’m going to …die?
Terry: Spectacularly. It will be a self-driving car hit by California’s high-speed train. We’re trying to get a Tesla, but they’re really hard to find. Jay Leno used to have one, but it caught on fire. I was hoping we could have you also hit by that Tesla Roadster SpaceX launched twenty years ago, but they said the orbit was all wrong.
Me: oh…that would have been nice…I guess. I think I should head home now.
Terry: Sure, but be careful. Don’t do anything dangerous before Tuesday.