Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he writes the advice column The Good Listener, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on the podcasts All Songs Considered and Pop Culture Happy Hour. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the weekly NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk.

In 1993, Thompson founded The Onion's entertainment section, The A.V. Club, which he edited until December 2004. In the years since, he has provided music-themed commentaries for the NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday, All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the first member of the NPR Music staff ever to sing on an NPR newsmagazine. (Later, the magic of AutoTune transformed him from a 12th-rate David Archuleta into a fourth-rate Cher.) Thompson's entertainment writing has also run in Paste magazine, The Washington Post and The London Guardian.

During his tenure at The Onion, Thompson edited the 2002 book The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Crown) and copy-edited six best-selling comedy books. While there, he also coached The Onion's softball team to a sizzling 21-42 record, and was once outscored 72-0 in a span of 10 innings. Later in life, Thompson redeemed himself by teaming up with the small gaggle of fleet-footed twentysomethings who won the 2008 NPR Relay Race, a triumph he documents in a hard-hitting essay for the book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years (Chronicle).

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Thompson now lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his two children and a room full of vintage arcade machines. His hobbies include watching reality television without shame, eating Pringles until his hand has involuntarily twisted itself into a gnarled claw, using the size of his Twitter following to assess his self-worth, touting the immutable moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

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Monkey See
8:03 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Pop Culture Happy Hour: For Our 200th Episode, Quizzes And A Q&A

NPR
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It seems like it's been about 200 weeks since we started hyping the 200th episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, and it's finally here. This is the second hour of our June 24 live show in NPR's Studio 1, and it's got a bit of everything — but first, a few announcements.

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Monkey See
8:03 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Bucket Lists And Summertime, Live In D.C.

NPR
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We haven't even gotten to Episode 200 of Pop Culture Happy Hour — that's running next week, when we present the second part of this June 24 live show — and we've already got a special announcement about our next live appearance. On July 24 at 2 p.m. PT, Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon and I will storm the San Diego Comic Con for a live panel discussion with a special guest: my dear mother, Maggie Thompson.

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Monkey See
11:03 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Recycling Franchises And Judging Books By Their Covers

NPR

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 11:08 am

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With Glen Weldon tweeting from the various paradises of Barcelona, this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour calls on the services of two familiar Code Switch pals — Kat Chow and Gene Demby — to discuss the eternal recycling of unlikely pop-culture franchises. We use the July return of Sailor Moon as an excuse to talk about everything from Girl Meets World to Hocus Pocus, George of the Jungle, Newsies, Transformers and more.

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Monkey See
8:44 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'House Of Cards' And Pop Culture Punching Bags

NPR

Originally published on Sat February 22, 2014 10:00 pm

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How intrepid is Pop Culture Happy Hour's intrepid Linda Holmes? So intrepid that, when she goes on vacation in February, she heads to even-colder climes, braving the snow-swept Alcatraz that is northern Minnesota. This, of course, left the rest of us to pick up the pieces — which we did, thanks to the arrival of our dear Code Switch pal Kat Chow.

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Monkey See
1:59 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Time Machines, Time Capsules And A Live Studio Audience

NPR

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 5:31 pm

This isn't our first live episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour: Almost exactly a year earlier, we recorded a show in an abandoned bank during an NPR merchandise sale. But this one, recorded Dec. 10 at NPR's Studio One, is the first live show we've recorded on an official studio soundstage, complete with a seated crowd, food and drink for sale, and tickets that had to be purchased in advance.

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Music
4:29 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Indie-Pop Albums That Make The Cut Are More Than Mere Collections

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:30 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

At NPR Music, they're wrapping up the year the best way they know how, with their hotly contested list of their 50 favorite albums of 2013. Now, all this week, we'll get a peak of that list from our in-house experts, including NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, whose beat is the ever amorphous indie pop, which - Stephen, what exactly is that these days?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: I have absolutely no idea. It used to mean accessible but unpopular.

CORNISH: OK. So...

(LAUGHTER)

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Monkey See
8:03 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Requested Reboots And 'Duck Dynasty'

NPR
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With intrepid host Linda Holmes trapped in the air-conditioned movie theaters of Toronto, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang was forced to reconstitute itself yet again for this week's episode — this time with our old pal Tanya Ballard Brown, who returns via the power of popular demand. You talk, we listen, people.

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Monkey See
8:03 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Blue Jasmine' And A Summer Movie Postmortem

NPR
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As summer was giving way to fall, preseason football was giving way to actual football, and Linda Holmes' week was giving way to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang managed to gather just long enough to look back on a divisive summer full of big, loud, robot-on-robot movies. Our own postmortem can't help but skim past other postmortems — was Man of Steel a hit or a flop?

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Monkey See
9:03 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: The Shambolic VMAs And Hollywood In The White House

NPR
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Just a few weeks ago, when Linda Holmes was out of town, we decided to extend the opportunity for a scrappy newcomer named Audie Cornish to get a bit of much-needed NPR airtime. Today? She's one of the hosts of All Things Considered. (Okay, she was one of the hosts of All Things Considered before we put her on Pop Culture Happy Hour, but stick around. I'm going somewhere with this.)

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Monkey See
10:20 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'The Bridge' And The Doctor's Many Faces

NPR

For one more week, our host and pal Linda Holmes has been roaming the desolate plains of Los Angeles at the Television Critics Association press tour, with only catered lunches and lavishly appointed meet-and-greets to provide sustenance.

So the rest of the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang must soldier on in her absence, with the aid of a scrappy young newcomer who'd been waiting for her big break in front of a microphone: All Things Considered co-host Audie Cornish. We predict big things for Audie at NPR!

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Monkey See
10:05 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Fruitvale Station' And Yelling At Clouds

NPR

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 12:20 pm

It's our 150th episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour — in case you want to visit the "Sesquicentennials" section of your local greeting-card store — and we've celebrated by scattering to the four winds. Host Linda Holmes is still in Los Angeles at the Television Critics Association press tour, while Trey Graham missed this week's taping for daring to visit out-of-town family.

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Monkey See
1:06 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Fan Gatherings And Fall Television

NPR
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We recorded this week's episode during the brief interregnum between the end of Glen Weldon's trip to the San Diego Comic Con and the beginning of Linda Holmes' two weeks at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. So it seemed a perfect time to mine the two events for inspiration.

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Monkey See
9:28 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'The New Black' And Secret Names

NPR
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With host Linda Holmes taking the week off to focus on suffering and nose-blowing, we needed only to ask our beloved producer Jess Gitner into the room with us to complete a full Pop Culture Happy Hour lineup. (In historic Studio 44, Jess is usually sealed in an adjacent room, where she watches us through glass the way one might observe a cage of unruly chimps at the zoo.)

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Music
9:52 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Jittery Jams: 10 Songs For Coffee Lovers

Frank Sinatra's "The Coffee Song" makes light of a perceived Brazilian coffee glut.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 2:46 am

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All Songs Considered
4:50 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Baby Bands, Pop Stars And Room-Filling Joy: What To Expect At SXSW 2013

Twin Horns Of Joy? Members of the band The Bottom Dollars play on the street in Austin, Texas, during the opening night of the South by Southwest music festival.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 9:55 am

Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.


The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.

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