“What if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest?”

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Zero Mostel and the truth of the absurd: Listen on SoundCloudiTunes, Stitcher, and Pop Up Archive.

When actor Zero Mostel was under trial by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1955, the committee asked what he was doing at an anti-HUAC meeting. Mostel replied: “What if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest? There is no crime in making anybody laugh.”


In this Popcast, hear about Mostel’s dedication to the absurd. He exposed real life absurd situations of the McCarthy era by talking back, and brought out the human truth to absurd characters like Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” on stage.

This episode was produced by Samara Breger with archival audio from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive from the WFMT Radio Network in Chicago. (Visit them at www.studsterkel.org.) You can find the original recording, and hundreds of other Terkel interviews at popuparchive.com/explore. Music from the Free Music Archive.