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For public radio listeners, it’s pledge drive season once again—that time of year when the good people at NPR interrupt your favorite programming and urge you to give, luring you in with the possibility of a tote bag or your very own coffee mug.
Since May 3, 1971, when "All Things Considered" became its first program to air, NPR has been the target of many jokes and spoofs—the "public radio" voice, the unusual host names, the shows’ formats, and especially the target demographic are just a few of the go-to punch lines. Character appearances on individual programs have even become TV show plot points. In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper appears on Science Friday to explain magnetic monopoles, and in Orange Is The New Black, Larry Bloom goes on Urban Tales, the fictional equivalent of This American Life, to speak about what it’s like to be in a relationship with a prison-bound woman. To celebrate the disembodied voices we let into our homes and cars each day, here are seven NPR spoofs.
1. The Second City takes on WBEZ Chicago
Before SNL, 30 Rock, Mean Girls, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey was a member of The Second City improv troupe in Chicago. In their 1997 revue, Paradigm Lost, Fey, along with Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit, Kevin Dorff, Jenna Jolovitz, and Jim Zulevic, enact a banana themed episode of the fake NPR program Urban Wind.
2. SNL's 'The Delicious Dish' Returns with Betty White's Muffin
Even though Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer's NPR spoof, The Delicious Dish, was a recurring sketch, most know it for the innuendo-laden segment featuring Alec Baldwin's Schweddy Balls in 1998. When Betty White hosted SNL in 2010, Gasteyer and Shannon revived their roles as public radio hosts and interviewed White about her "Dusty Muffins" in honor of "National Dietary Fiber Day."
3. Fred Armisen as Ira Glass during a SNL dress rehearsal
Ira Glass has been hosting This American Life for 20 years, making him one of public radio's legends. During a 2011 SNL dress rehearsal, Fred Armisen impersonates Glass on Weekend Update with the help of an old-school microphone, dark rimmed glasses, and the classic This American Life introduction.
4. and 5. Serial gets the comedy treatment
For months, people were obsessing over the true-crime podcast Serial. Like its parent program,This American Life, the weekly podcast had a number of repeated storytelling and framing mechanisms that provide spoofs with a formula to follow. In both the SNL sketch with Cecily Strong as host Sarah Koenig (2014) and the Funny or Die video with Michaela Watkins (2014), the theme music, the robotic phone call introductions announcing the speaker and his location, and the nod to the podcast's sponsor, Mail Chimp, set the sketches up to be a success.
6. Leslie Knope appears on Pawnee Community Radio
During a 2011 episode of NBC's Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, stops by Thoughts for Your Thoughts, a show on Wamapoke County Public Radio to promote her book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America. Host Derry Murbles is played by Dan Castellaneta, who is best known for voicing Homer Simpson, Krusty the Clown, and a number of other characters on The Simpsons.
7. Terry Gross and Mike Birbiglia Can't Say Goodbye
To promote his movie, Sleepwalk with Me (2012), frequent public radio contributor Mike Birbiglia created Fresh Air 2: 2 Fresh 2 Furious for the film's YouTube channel. Featuring Fresh Air host Terry Gross, the sketch speculates on what happens once the microphones turn off and Gross and her guests leave the office.