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Pop Culture Happy Hour: Live On Halloween, With Fred Armisen

Left to right: <em>Pop Culture Happy Hour</em>'s Glen Weldon, Stephen Thompson, Linda Holmes and Audie Cornish, plus special guest Fred Armisen.
Larry French
AP Images for NPR
Left to right: Pop Culture Happy Hour's Glen Weldon, Stephen Thompson, Linda Holmes and Audie Cornish, plus special guest Fred Armisen.

Months had passed between live Pop Culture Happy Hour tapings, so when the time finally came to record in front of a crowd, we made sure to supersize the festivities in every possible way. That meant recording on a weekend, on a holiday — on Halloween, no less! — in the biggest venue we've ever played, Washington, D.C's Howard Theatre. And it meant inviting not one, but two special guests: All Things Considered host Audie Cornish and Fred Armisen, whom you might know from Portlandia, Documentary Now!, Saturday Night Live and guest spots on virtually every TV comedy series of the last decade.

What you'll hear here isn't everything we recorded — Fred joined Linda Holmes for a fun one-on-one discussion that'll be released on a later podcast — but it's still a packed episode, complete with a raucous quiz and a Paul Lynde impersonation by someone other than Glen Weldon.

But first, before Fred joined us, Linda, Glen, Audie and I took turns describing the pop culture we find scarier than any other. I chose a movie and a book that evoke small-town Wisconsin's murderous side. Audie chose a grim 1987 movie she'd seen on an ill-considered date. Linda chose, and described in vivid detail, an Alfred Hitchcock tale remade for television. And Glen... well, Glen told a story, and it includes a reference to what he describes as "narcissistic empathy."

Then, after the aforementioned quiz — which flew as extravagantly off the rails as you might expect/hope — we closed with What's Making Us Happy this week. Glen had kind words for this TV show on the Pivot Network. I recommended this goofy parody of sports press conferences, in part because it led me to revisit actual footage of Dennis Green, Jim Mora and Mike Gundy. Linda found that the recent World Series allowed her to crack the code of watching sports. Audie praised this film, not least of which because it doesn't violate our much-discussed Cornish Rule. And Fred ruminated on Tesla cars and the technology of the future.

Oh, and we include one quick reminder: Next week's discussion features a book, namely Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep, in case you feel like reading along with us.

Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: Linda, me, Glen, Audie, the show, our producer Jessica, and producer emeritus and music director Mike. As for Fred, he's not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram here.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

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