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Pop Culture Happy Hour: Labor Pains And Inspirations

Katherine Heigl, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in <em>Knocked Up</em>.
Suzanne Hanover
Universal/The Kobal Collection
Katherine Heigl, Leslie Mann, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in Knocked Up.

Labor Day has come and gone, but before it vanishes from memory altogether — taking with it our dreams of barbecues and white pants — the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang gathers here for one last labor-themed discussion. Of course, we're linguistically sneaky in these parts, so Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, Barrie Hardymon and I kick off our discussion with thoughts on depictions of childbirth and pregnancy in pop culture.

Naturally, this brings us to a handful of tropes and inaccuracies in onscreen delivery-room behavior: endless shrieking, berating of expectant (usually bumbling) fathers, superhuman physical strength, body horror, instant birth, science-fiction pregnancies, babies that don't resemble newborns, lives in danger, pregnancy as trauma, an emblematic '50s cartoon, and so on. But we also discuss times the process has been covered effectively — in literature, mostly, but still. Along the way, we reference this lovely article Barrie wrote after her first C-section, as well as this heartbreaking piece in The New Yorker; both come highly recommended.

Then it's on to the subject of inspirations — namely, examples of small pop-culture moments that have shaped our long-term interests. Glen mentions a few old standbys like Batman on TV and Merrie Melodies cartoons before holding court about Abbott & Costello: After breaking out some differences between the duo and other comedy teams (The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges), Glen sings the praises of this 1946 film. From there, after dispensing with a quick cluster of early obsessions I've almost certainly talked about on the show before — Jack Benny's radio shows, Dave Barry's writing, "Duck Amuck," UHF — I focus on a big lie told by this long-ago TV dramedy. For Barrie, the topic leads her to a discussion of this Broadway musical and the ways it taught her about human behavior and weakness. Then, Linda describes a painful Beach Boys moment that elicits groans of sympathy from the panel, then discusses ways she's been inspired by good work in ways both positive and negative.

Finally, as always, we close with What's Making Us Happy this week. I'm excited about a DVD release fueled by hubristic insanity and this recent discussion on All Things Considered -- and make a special announcement about an upcoming appearances in Los Angeles for Linda and me. Glen's happy about this new incarnation of a comic-book character who'd never excited him before. Barrie loves this show, a Glen Weldon favorite. And Linda praises two excellent pieces on Stephen Colbert — this one in GQ and this one in The New York Times.

Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: the show, Linda, me, Glen, Barrie, producer Jessica, and pal and producer emeritus Mike.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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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