Terry Gross

As a child in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mel Brooks assumed he would grow up to work in Manhattan's garment district. That's what most of the kids in his working-class Jewish neighborhood did.

But everything changed when he saw his first Broadway musical — Anything Goes, starring Ethel Merman.

"My hands stung from applauding so much after it was over," he says. "And I remember going back in Uncle Joe's cab and I remember saying as he was driving me back home to Williamsburg, 'Uncle Joe, Uncle Joe! I'm going to do that! ... I want to be in show business!' "

Succession co-star Kieran Culkin has grown up on screen. His first gig (when he was 6) was in a commercial, followed by a small part in the 1990 film Home Alone, which his brother, Macaulay, starred in. But it was only recently, nearly 30 years into his acting career, that something clicked.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, professor of television studies at Rowan University in New Jersey, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today, we're concluding our multi-day tribute to Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who died last week at the age of 91. On this show, we'll be spending time with some of the people who worked with him or performed in his musicals.

Sondheim, who died Nov. 26, was the lyricist and composer who gave us Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and other shows. In 2010 he spoke about his writing process, from rhyming to finding the right note.

Actor/filmmaker Rebecca Hall had what she describes as a "real gasp" moment when she first read Nella Larsen's 1929 novel Passing.

The book centers on two light-skinned African American women who run into each other after not having seen each other for many years. One of the women is an active member of Harlem's Black community. The other is married to a white man and is passing as white.

Reading the story of these fictional women, Hall realized that her maternal grandfather had also passed as white.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We thought it would be fun to spend Thanksgiving with Paul McCartney, so we're going to feature my recent interview with him. We talked about his life and music through two projects. He has a new two-volume set of books called "The Lyrics," collecting his lyrics and the stories behind them, starting with songs he wrote before the Beatles and ending with songs from his latest album, "McCartney III," which was released late last year.

Dave Grohl still remembers the first punk show he ever saw: Naked Raygun, in Chicago around 1982, at a little corner bar across from Wrigley Field called The Cubby Bear.

"They knew four chords and the singer was, like, on top of my head, and I was against the stage, and it was life-affirming, because I thought ... 'Oh my God! This is what I want to do,' " the Foo Fighters frontman says.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, professor of television studies at Rowan University in New Jersey, sitting in for Terry Gross. Today, our interview with Twyla Tharp, one of the most celebrated dancers and choreographers of our time. Earlier this year, she was the subject of a PBS "American Masters" documentary. And this weekend, three duet dances from her archives will be performed on stage in New York City.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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