Giving new voice to Studs Terkel radio recordings

Rediscovering audio from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive


Broadcaster and oral historian Studs Terkel was one of the best interviewers in the history of radio. As Ira Glass puts it: “when Studs did an interview, it was history, and it was character study, and it was dramatic storytelling, and it was entertainment all rolled up into one. We all stand in his shadow, all of us who pull out tape recorders and talk to people who aren’t famous or powerful or newsworthy in the normal sense.”

Pop Up Archive houses hundreds of Studs interviews, including conversations with cultural icons like Maya Angelou and everyday people like London cabbies. Last week, the Studs Terkel Radio Archive announced their goal to make 1,000 more Studs Terkel interviews available to the public over the next two years.

To do this, they need some help, which is why they’re raising $75,000 in a Kickstarter campaign.
Studs’ interviews are intermittently engaging, informative, and provocative — and many of them are as relevant today as when they first aired. The Studs Archive is a veritable treasure trove of audio to be rediscovered and reused.

See how people are repurposing Studs Terkel audio:


Studs comes to animated life through Blank on Blank


Blank on Blank — a video and podcast series from PBS Digital Studios — animates interviews with cultural icons. In addition to the Maya Angeloupiece linked above, Blank on Blank has animated Studs’ interviews with writer Hunter S. Thompson and architect R. Buckminster Fuller.


Young makers learn from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive

During the summer of 2015, youth from ChiArts, Convergence Academies at Tilden and YouMedia gathered for the “New Voices on the Studs Terkel Radio Archive” project, culminating in a multi-media exhibit and digital archive.


Studs sound bites get remixed in Popcast

In Pop Up Archive’s Popcast, we make mini-podcasts out of meaningful moments from our public audio archive, including, of course, the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.
Hear Maurice Sendak‘s call to pay attention to the taste of young readers, Zero Mostel‘s approach to absurdity in life, politics, and art, and the story of how “We Shall Overcome” became a civil rights anthem as told by members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.


Radiomakers put Studs’ interview techniques to the test

In 2015, the Third Coast Audio Festival put out a call for short audio documentaries inspired by Studs’ interviewing principles. The rules of the 2015 Studs Terkel ShortDocs Challenge were based on Terkel’s following words of wisdom:

  • “I’d say listen and wait are the two essentials, with watch and be aware a close third. A laugh can be a cry of pain, and a silence can be a shout.”
  • “I think the gentlest question is the best one. And the gentlest is ‘And what happened then?'”
  • “Curiosity never killed this cat – that’s what I’d like as my epitaph. It won’t kill me, no sir.”

The results were stunning, including the People’s Choice winner, Sara Brooke Curtis’s tear-jerker “Where Do I Find You Now?” which is framed as an intimate conversation with Studs about the edge of life and death.


A compilation of Studs cackles cut together in an audio montage

Anyone who’s listened to a Studs Terkel interview can conjure the sound of his distinctive, booming laugh — or rather, as Terkel says himself: “I have a tendency to cackle, rather than laugh.”
One of the surprising gems in The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a sound montage of Studs Terkel’s best mid-interview cackles. We dare you to listen to without cracking a cackle of your own.

Support the Studs Terkel Radio Archive on Kickstarter!