Ecology and Evolution: Episode I



As part of the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine’s quarterly issue, focusing on Ecology & Evolution, YJBM podcasters John Ventura & Huaqi Li interview Stephen Stearns, the Edward P. Bass Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale about his work.


Cinco Paul – Screenwriter (Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets)



One of the biggest names in animated movies, Cinco Paul has co-written the screenplays for Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and 3, Horton Hears A Who, Hop, The Lorax, and The Secret Life of Pets, among many others. Cinco and his writing partner, Ken Daurio, are giants in the field, who have now turned their eye on TV, while continuing to write blockbuster films. Join Aaron and Cinco for an in-depth convo about how to write with a partner, how to pitch comedy vs. drama, and where those damn minions come from.


Ep. 7 – “Eating Animals” film director Christopher Quinn on the hidden costs of factory farming



Award-winning film director, writer, and producer Christopher Quinn’s new film, “Eating Animals,” based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s acclaimed nonfiction book, traces the environmental, economic and personal consequences — on human and nonhuman animals — of the rise of industrialized animal agriculture and of our country’s departure from local, sustainable farming. With bracing intelligence, empathy and imagination, the film explores the practical and ethical costs of cheap meat and profiles farmers and whistleblowers who have refused to do so. Quinn takes us behind the scenes of the film, shares his approach to storytelling and discusses why he believes the story of animal agriculture in America is important to tell. 


Nell Scovell – TV Creator/Writer (The Simpsons, Late Night, Sabrina)



Nell Scovell has written on some of the most iconic TV comedies of the past few decades, including The Simpsons, Late Night with David Letterman, Murphy Brown, Coach, The Muppets, Monk, and she’s Creator and Executive Producer of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

In books, Nell collaborated with Sheryl Sandberg on Lean In, which resulted in a worldwide movement. And Nell’s memoir about her career, Just the Funny Parts, has recently come out in paperback.


Ep. 6 – Gale Ridge on bringing peace to humans’ befuddling relationships with bugs



A concert pianist-turned-entomologist and bedbug expert, Dr. Gale Ridge is an insect detective. She solves mysteries and helps thousands of perplexed, struggling people with all varieties of bug problems — from bedbugs to agricultural pests to imaginary bugs that infest our consciousness. Dr. Ridge speaks about her sleuthing and how she brokers peace between the humans that walk in her door at the Connecticut Insect Inquiry Office and the tiny segmented animals we’ve learned to fear. 


Gavin Edwards – Writer, Journalist, Biographer



Gavin is an incredibly talented non-fiction writer.  Prolific on music and movies, he’s written entire books on Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, and River Phoenix.  This last one brought Gavin’s well-researched and insightful work to Aaron’s attention. Gavin’s writing has been published in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Wired, among other outlets. Aaron is excited to talk to Gavin about his writing process, interacting with his famous subjects, and finally solving the mystery of how one gets in touch with Bill Murray.    


Paul Attanasio – Oscar-nominated Screenwriter, TV Creator



Live on campus, Paul Attanasio, one of the most respected and successful TV/screenwriters of our time. Paul has created four TV series that have gone to air…and counting. One of ’em is Homicide: Life on the Street, a forebear of our current golden age. Paul was also behind House MD, one the most popular shows in the world for a time. Paul was Oscar-nominated for Donnie Brasco, a favorite among screenwriters. But throw all those other projects out, and Paul would still be one of Aaron’s heroes thanks to Quiz Show, the brilliant, layered, morality tale about the rigged game show scandals of the 1950s, directed by Robert Redford.

Join Aaron and Paul in front of a live audience at Yale for a fascinating conversation about Paul’s movies, shows, and craft.


Ep. 5 – Lisa Margonelli on the big ideas termites raise about science, technology, and morality



Termites outweigh humans ten to one. If they went on strike, ecological chaos would ensue. We speak with science writer Lisa Margonelli, author of the new book Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology, about the questions these small creatures raise about technology, power, morality, and the nature of scientific progress.


Mark Harris — Film Journalist, Writer, Biographer



One of the most brilliant writers, reporters, and commentators on film, Mark Harris joins Aaron for the hour. Mark’s book, Pictures at a Revolution, about the Best Picture nominees of 1968 as a lens through which to view a cultural revolution and shift in filmmaking, is one of Aaron’s all-time favorites. Mark’s follow-up, Five Came Back, about the iconoclastic directors whose work and lives were forever changed by their experiences in World War 2, became a Netflix series, narrated by Meryl Streep, and starring 5 of their filmmaking descendants: Coppola, del Toro, Greengrass, Kasdan, and Spielberg.

Mark’s upcoming book, the definitive biography of Mike Nichols, has Aaron counting the days till its release.


Ep. 4 – Dr. Irene Pepperberg on revolutionizing what humans think of bird brains



In 2007, Dr. Irene Pepperberg said goodnight to her avian research subject, Alex, an African Grey Parrot. “You be good,” he replied. “I love you.” “I love you, too,” Dr. Pepperberg said, to which Alex asked, “You’ll be in tomorrow?” “Yes, I’ll be in tomorrow.” Alex died the next morning, prompting an international outpouring of grief that included an obituary in the Economist. We speak with Dr. Pepperberg, whose pioneering experiments with Alex revolutionized the field of avian cognition, about how she used communication as a window into his mind.