Randy Cohen, an Emmy-winning comedy writer and past author of “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times Magazine, starts a monthly public radio series today that invites famous people to talk about something other than themselves. Amazingly, people have been willing to come on the show anyway.
Person Place Thing — those are the other topics that Cohen will let guests discuss — debuts with a famed interviewer as guest, TV talker Dick Cavett, devoting his attention to a phenomenal thing called Bob Hope. The second guest in the hourlong show is novelist Jane Smiley. Ian Pickus of Northeast Public Radio (WAMC) in Albany produces the show, and the New York Council for the Humanities pays for production of the first season.
The program is syndicated without charge through Public Radio Exchange and public radio’s Content Depot as well as FTP downloads.
Cohen has done enough installments that he can happily assure people that the format works with guests including Roger Bannister, the original four-minute-mile runner of 1954. “Plus,” Cohen says in the news release, “I had the pleasure of uttering more than one sentence I never thought I’d have occasion to use in my lifetime, like, ‘So, Sir Roger, what is your thing?’”
After Cavett and Smiley, the pairs of guests are queued up this way: comedian Susie Essman and basketball coach Dave Cowens, journalists Michael Pollan and John Hockenberry, singer Rickie Lee Jones and all-time-classic political personality Ed Koch, Daily Show performer Samantha Bee and Goosebumps writer R.L. Stine, and sex columnist Dan Savage with Sir Roger. This week Cohen interviewed This American Life essayist David Rakoff in a live event at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca.
Cohen has written for David Letterman, Rosie O’Donnell and Michael Moore, winning four Emmys, plus a fifth Emmy that he got “as a result of a clerical error,” the news release discloses ethically, “and he kept it.”