‘Fresh Air’ staffers pick the 2023 interviews you shouldn’t miss

Clockwise from left: Brad Mehldau, Maryam Keshavarz, Samantha Irby, Lauren Fleshman, Ke Huy Quan and Christian Cooper.

We talk with nearly 200 guests on Fresh Air each year and many of those interviews stick with us, long after broadcast. We asked our staff to share their favorite 2023 conversations — you can find their recommendations below.

(For more staff picks, gems from the archive, and sneak peeks at upcoming shows, sign up for the weekly Fresh Air newsletter.)

Central Park birder Christian Cooper on being ‘a Black man in the natural world’

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“Cooper’s story is such a good reminder to think before reacting to strangers. I also love how he talks about growing up as a gay, Black, bird watching, comic book nerd. By embracing his weirdness, he now has a very cool life as a gay activist, one of Marvel Comics’ first openly gay writers, and the host of a National Geographic bird watching show.” — Therese Madden, producer

Samantha Irby shares her ‘Quietly Hostile’ survival guide (of sorts)

“A real highlight this year was how hard I laughed at my desk listening to humorist Samantha Irby record with Tonya. Irby has made a career out of talking and writing about taboo or darker topics (OCD, Crohns, dead parents, being fat, etc.). Her melodic Midwest cadence and goofy use of words always gets me good. For example, she referred to recording her own audiobook as ‘honked by me.’ ” — Molly Seavy-Nesper, digital producer

Runner Lauren Fleshman wants to make sports more welcoming to women

“Terry’s interview with former champion distance runner Lauren Fleshman was one of those conversations I found myself referring back to – and recommending – long after it aired. As a college athlete, Fleshman watched as a surprising number of her female teammates left the sport early. Many who stayed developed eating disorders or other physical or mental health problems. Fleshman says that’s because too many coaches assume — falsely — that what works for male bodies also benefits female bodies. She’s now an activist, working to promote equity in the sport.” — Bridget Bentz, NPR digital producer

Ke Huy Quan found the role he’d been missing in ‘Everything Everywhere’

“Is it wrong to highlight some of my own interviews? I started the year with a great talk with Ke Huy Quan. Remember when he was the hit of the Oscars? That was this year. Other favorite moments include when Brett Goldstein told me to “Shut up!” and when Greta Lee talked to me about her mom’s reaction to her film Past Lives.” — Ann Marie Baldonado, director of talent development/interview contributor

Pianist Jason Moran reaches for ‘the drama, the comedy and the tragedy’ of music

“I’m a sucker for musicians at the piano, so I loved editing the Jason Moran interview. Terry’s musical knowledge runs deep, and they both light up in this conversation. Moran’s latest album is a tribute to James Reese Europe, the composer and musician who led The Harlem Hellfighters regiment band during World War I. Moran took one of Europe’s songs, and did his own version at the piano for Terry. It’s called “All of No Man’s Land Is Ours.” It broke my heart. It’s spare, sad, and romantic – the best kind of love song.” — Thea Chaloner, producer

You can listen to Thea’s favorite clip from Jason Moran’s interview here.

Media critic Brian Stelter on what’s next for Fox News

“Terry’s interview with media critic Brian Stelter is worth a listen if you missed it. You may think you’ve heard as much as you need about Fox News and the Trump world, but Stelter has some amazing nuggets in his book Network of Lies, including the absolutely jaw-dropping story about how conspiracy theories involving Dominion Voting Systems first appeared on Fox News.” — Dave Davies, interview contributor

Filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz finds inspiration in her mother

“I want to recommend Terry’s interview with filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz. Her film The Persian Version is inspired by her mother, who grew up in Iran, entered into an arranged marriage at age 13, and went on to become a successful businesswoman. Keshavarz is lively, compelling and present. If you missed it, go back to listen now!” — Seth Kelley, producer

Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau shares his love of The Beatles

“Sam Briger interviewed Brad Mehldau at the piano, so you can hear his incredibly beautiful technique, and his arrangements of Beatles songs, like “Blackbird.” It’s wonderful to hear an accomplished artist reinterpret the work of another great artist, creating something new and unexpected.” — Audrey Bentham, technical director

Fresh Air‘s history of hip-hop series

“In the fall, we did a whole week of shows to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. We played back interviews with rappers, producers, DJs, and many other pioneers of the genre. When we do a series like that one, it really illustrates how expansive the archive is. It’s also fun when we have musical guests on the show, and you get to hear them discuss their craft and motivation while listening to their music (not simultaneously, but you get it).” — Susan Nyakundi, associate producer

The Fresh Air Archives and Fresh Air+

“Terry talked to Ann Marie Baldonado about the national debut of Fresh Air on Fresh Air+. I listened to the entire first week of shows in May 1987 to produce the episode, and there were some gems. It’s so fun to hear Terry reflect on how the show has changed in the last 37 years since it debuted on NPR stations nationwide. I know recommending a Fresh Air+ bonus episode means not everybody might have heard this conversation, but they definitely should.” — Nick Andersen, archives producer

Copyright 2024 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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