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Happy Birthday Bobby K

Thursday, August 07, 2014 - 04:58 PM

It’s Robert’s birthday! (Or it was, anyway, a couple days back.) So today we celebrate with some classic Krulwich radio and a backwards peek into the spirit and sensibility that, in many ways, drives our show.

For his birthday surprise we all listened to some old NPR pieces that Robert did in the 70s, 80s and early 90s — a news piece on the dawn of the ATM, a fake opera on interest rates, and the story of a family business splintered into relatives fighting to be first in the phone book. Along the way, we hear some incredible stories from Robert’s life … 

And, just to celebrate the man whose infectious curiosity draws so many people (including us) to his side … we share with you the kind of gonzo, full-throated Krulwich story we usually can’t include in the show … an epic of secret zoos, sewing machines, an alligator farm, a marching band, and a bus full of French tourists that save the day.


Robert Krulwich


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Comments [65]

Sean from San Diego, CA

A great story, I am just now catching up on all the Radiolab Podcast Episodes. Really liked this story and learning something new every week. I wish there was a video of the alligator story! All I can find online are imposters! Keep up the amazing work!

Dec. 28 2016 09:31 PM
Amy H from Orange County, CA

This was one of the best episodes you've ever done. You should do one every year on Robert's birthday!

Jan. 13 2016 04:48 PM
Linda Ann Mahony from Ithaca, New York

I honor your honoring. Thank you. The Bush anecdote is fantastic.

Echoing, in a sense, the theme of your translation episode, I want to say that we should be careful how we use language. Perhaps the use of 'floozie' is meant as a wry attack on the term. Yet whether this is the case remains nebulous. The casual use of phrases like these may have a reinforcing effect. There aren't any equivalents of gender-specific insults. If we really want gender equity, we can't use them. We can't 'take back' gender specific terms any more than racially specific or 'class' referencing terms can be taken back. As people in the media, you hold an amazingly influential position and you can affect or even create cultural trends. I realize that the media and people in the media inevitably reflect culture as well. However, at times, in order to be in good conscience, this reflection must be minimized.

Nov. 30 2015 03:14 PM
Ewaut Van Wassenhove from Ghent, Belgium

It may sound totally impossible but i find ''backfire'' pretty entertaining!
Could anyone help me finding more of this program?

Nov. 26 2015 01:37 PM
Raffy from Sunny Aruba

Happy Birthday Robert!

Your show has accompanied me through some of the most tedious tasks, such as washing dishes or making this detailed pattern for a design in photoshop. But most of all your wit and upbeat tune while questioning some of life's deeper mysteries is one I would like to learn and apply to my own work. Hopi anja mas di bida y salud!

Apr. 06 2015 01:23 AM
Lori from NYC

I adore Robert Krulwich. He is a genius storyteller.

Mar. 30 2015 03:08 PM
Corli from South Africa

This was so amazing. I loved it. Please do crazier stories just like this one ALL THE TIME!

Mar. 30 2015 08:09 AM
Alice Harvinshm from Oviedo

I don’t know anybody who hates their birthday but I am glad your coworkers did this for you on your birthday, Robert. This was the most superb podcast I have heard from RadioLab so far. I enjoyed it because of the submersion of his past work with the way he views it today. The stories mixed with explanation and comical commentary made this one so unique. The clips from prior podcasts seemed like a blast from the past and I could make out the excitement in his voice as he described some of the past stories such as the alligator one or the mock opera. The opera about interest rates was my favorite because it was such an interesting way to do an article. Robert proves to be a very curious reporter through his work and how far he traveled with the band for the results with the alligators and the types of things he explored. I loved this podcast very much and I hope you had a great birthday, Robert.

Jan. 12 2015 08:43 PM
Delphine from Portland, OR

I know I'm late for a comment but I discovered you station online since I moved to the US and I love it! I'm also French and it's the first person (if I don't count my husband who is American as well) who perform the French accent so perfectly! Congratulations, you got it!

Keep being as good as you are…

Nov. 21 2014 12:19 PM
Riley from Maine

I work in a factory. I was sitting at my sewing machine today, halfway through sewing a boot when I heard the gator story. I had to stop because I was laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes and could no longer see the stitches. I'm sure my coworkers thought I'd lost it. Is there a copy of that video anywhere? I'd love to watch it!

Nov. 11 2014 07:10 PM
The Gift Was Ours To Borrow.

Mr. Krulwich,
You are a sweet kiss the gods have given my life.
Your thoughtful joyful sojourn on this shore gives me hope and encourages my over-curious heart.
Your work always inspires and challenges me.
You make me smile and I deeply thank you.

I wish you all the healthy birthdays you want for as long as it is wise to want them.

Stay crazy.

Oct. 19 2014 04:41 AM

I really enjoyed this episode. It gave me a whole new appreciation for Robert's contributions. Thanks for sharing this retrospective with us!

Sep. 24 2014 01:34 PM
Spencer Lane from Michigan

Here's another vote for wanting Backfire! Great stuff!

Sep. 20 2014 01:37 PM
Julia Jones from Montreal, QC

I was introduced to Robert by my father, who to this day will not eat a lobster to show respect for these incredible creatures. Thank you, Robert.

Sep. 03 2014 11:35 AM
Patricia Pugsley from Mount Rainier, MD

I LOVE RadioLab. I wish there were more episodes. Thank you Robert and Jad. You are the best!!!

Sep. 02 2014 01:31 PM
Freyda Black from Chemung, NY

This is absolutely the most marvelous "look back" on the career of a uniquely creatively funny mind.
Thank you!

Aug. 31 2014 04:12 PM

Happy birthday, Robert! I'm so happy I live at a time when I can appreciate the great work you do.

Do you keep these digressions that you cut out in the studio? Because they would make a most excellent podcast all on their own - it would be a hit!

Aug. 25 2014 10:05 PM
Just Joe from Omaha

First of all Robert, happy birthday.
Secondly, when he talks really fast, esp. In some of the earlier pieces, he ALMOST sounds like and reaches the frantic announcer pitch of William Conrad of Bullwinkle fame.

Aug. 25 2014 10:02 PM
Adam Johnson from Anchorage, AK

Happy Belated Birthday Robert!!! Thank you for sharing the Alligator story.

Aug. 24 2014 03:39 PM
Aubrey Smith from Anchorage, AK

I was jogging when listening to this and was laughing so hard I had to stop and bend over at the side of the bike path. . . . fabulous gator story!

Aug. 21 2014 11:48 PM
crisdias from São Paulo, Brazil

This is art, plain and simple. Art in audio. Wow.

Aug. 21 2014 02:55 PM
Roq from Seattle, WA

Happy Birthday, Robert! Hee, I can't remember the last time I laughed this hard. I'm with Poppy. The pundit show was freaking hilarious. And Gators! LOL *wipes tears*

Aug. 21 2014 01:05 PM
Kayla from NYC

That was such a phenomenal story. I loved every piece - especially the early nasal days and the alligator bit. Crazy!

Aug. 21 2014 10:56 AM
Catherine Maddux from Washington DC

I listened to this (on my iPod) during my commute to work. By the time I got to the 'gators singing high school marching band french tourists, I was laughing so hard, I'm sure my fellow commuters thought I was insane.

This is the most marvelous of all Robert's storytelling.

Thank God there is someone on this Earth as curious as I am about nearly everything!

Aug. 21 2014 08:55 AM
Phil Porter from Florida

Happy Birthday sir! I remember getting out of school for the whole day to be your horn and tuba player. FYI...I am now a band teacher...still telling the story to my kids hoping they choose one of those 2 instruments. :-)

Aug. 20 2014 08:38 PM
Patrick from Monterey

Happy Birthday! Thanks for the unique stories and the many ones to come.

Aug. 18 2014 09:42 PM
Bill from Delft, The Netherlands

I have been a great fan of Robert Krulwich since his days as a business reporter for NPR in het 80s. I still remember the report he did that claimed to test an economic theory on mice, with little squeaky mouse voices to represent the managers of the mouse business responding to the test. I also remember hearing one of the backfire episodes that had me rolling on the floor with laughter.
WE NEED A REPOSITORY FOR ALL HIS PIECES ON NPR! Or maybe a CD (set of CDs?) of his greatest hits? *I* would send in a contribution to get one. Just now I tried searching for "Backfire" on NPR and there was nothing on the show. I knew he was the best business reporter ever, but I didn't realize he did other reports for NPR before Radiolab. Where can one find this stuff now?

Aug. 18 2014 10:55 AM
Chris from Cape Town

Belated happy birthday Robert. And congrats to you and the whole team. Best audio on the Internet imho.

Aug. 17 2014 01:16 AM
Andrew D from Canada

Can you guys post the video of Robert doing the crocodile thing? PLEASE

Aug. 16 2014 11:01 PM
faith from Los Angeles, CA

Loved this, particularly the absurdist science final piece (and Robert's killer French accent!)

Aug. 16 2014 02:13 AM
Lea from Ashland, OR

Oh my goodness, Robert Krulwich, you are a genius! Thank you so much for very frequently making my afternoons a little bit brighter! and Happy Birthday to you, sir!

Aug. 15 2014 05:19 PM
Brian T

Listened to this piece while running. Ended it with a wide smile on my face. Happy birthday, Robert. The work you and Jad do brightens people's lives. Thank you.

Aug. 15 2014 09:02 AM
Sofie from Sweden

That was fantastic! Thank you!

Aug. 15 2014 05:36 AM
Blake Meike from California

I was in college, studying Math and Computer Science, when the Morris Worm hit the, then, small and slightly-known, Internet. News outlets went wild saying silly and sometimes downright stupid things about what had happened.

Robert's short piece, for NPR, on the worm was nothing short of genius. It was completely accurate, from a technical perspective while still being enjoyable and easy to understand.

To this day, that piece remains an ideal for me. As a technical author, I strive for the insight, clarity and simplicity brought to it.

Aug. 14 2014 03:54 PM

Happy birthday to us!

Aug. 14 2014 02:54 PM
John from Montreal

Happy Birthday Robert! Gator story made me burst out laughing in my office!! Please post!!

Aug. 13 2014 11:20 AM
Dante from Tallahassee, FL

Happy Belated Birthday, Robert! Thank you so much for the great show and the wonderful stories!

Aug. 12 2014 09:57 PM
Renee Downing from Tucson, Arizona

Big fan here. LOVED the gator story - went and retold the whole thing to my husband. Roahhhhrrrr and Happy Birthday!

Aug. 12 2014 01:37 PM
Lindsayh from Elmwood Park, NJ

That was lovely and heartwarming and hysterical. I was giggling in my cubical.

Aug. 12 2014 09:17 AM
Robert Krulwich

I would love to share the ABC story. For a while it was on their server, but it's not there any more, and we don't own it, so I don't think we can just put it up. I will check around, though.

Aug. 11 2014 07:51 PM
Megan from Dallas, TX

Happy Birthday Robert? Any chance of us getting to see the footage of that ABC alligator story?

Aug. 11 2014 04:57 PM
Mark Oresh from Zagreb, Croatia

So, the golf retrieval story at the and (it's not a spoiler, just listen to it)... how can you not fall in love with this story? It's insanely brilliant...

Aug. 11 2014 02:28 PM
Sam Turner from London

Happy Birthday Robert.

You just went on my ideal dinner party guestlist, love your work don't stop doing what you do.

Aug. 11 2014 10:11 AM
Barbara R from Israel

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your show!!!!!

Aug. 11 2014 12:26 AM
Daniel Barkalow

In honor of Robert's birthday, I used an ATM while listening to Radiolab listening to Robert reporting about ATMs.

Aug. 10 2014 08:03 PM

Happy Birthday Mr. Krulwich - double pundit,

I would love to hear the full broadcast of Backfire from 1992 =)

Aug. 10 2014 04:04 PM
chris lee

Happy Belated Birthday Robert!!!

Aug. 10 2014 05:14 AM
Rachel from Seattle, WA

Aww, that was lovely!! :) One of my favorites of Radiolab, definitely.

Aug. 09 2014 11:00 PM
Tracey from San José, California

Happy, happy birthday, Robert! Thank you both for fueling my own insatiable curiosity - it's a double edge sword, but so lovely to have fellow "wonderers" driving radio content. I laughed out loud about the beginning of the story regarding the golf balls. We have our own family golf ball story which involved my brother, leeches, a trip to England, and an "impressive" case of epididymitis.

I teach 5th grade and my very favorite resource to use in the classroom is Robert's animated piece on the weight of a hurricane. It's impact is hard to relate, but suffice to say it is not only an informative piece, but "I don't know and I don't care" (with a big grin) is a favorite catch phrase at our team meetings. :)

Here's to many more birthdays and lots more Radiolab!

Aug. 09 2014 08:42 PM
polyglot from san francisco, ca

I was hoping to hear one of the earliest "never heard that on radio before" moments.
It illustrated an economics concept by featuring a chorus of mice chanting "we want mon-ey!".
Happy Birthday, and miss the early NPR before it lost it's whimsy.

Aug. 09 2014 04:28 PM

Happy Birthday! Wishing you as much joy as Radio Lab brings me!

I loved this episode, and throughout it I kept thinking about Mr. Peabody from the original cartoon. Robert is a dead wringer (voicewise) for Mr. Peabody and has the same intelligent sense of humor (I mean this all as a compliment, I swear!). The recent move was good, but it would have been great with Robert as Mr. Peabody! Just saying . . .

Aug. 09 2014 02:32 PM

Happy B-Day !!!!!!!!!!

Aug. 09 2014 11:41 AM
Travis from San Diego

That clip of 1992s Backfire was amazing. I nearly crashed my car laughing. Where can I find the archives?

Aug. 08 2014 09:10 PM
headhunter from Gaithersburg, MD

Happy Birthday Robert!!!

I had just recently realized how much of a fan I was your work. I've been reading your NPR articles for quite a while now and just realized it was you who wrote it! Thank you for existing, you've made my mundane life, our lives, brighter!!!

Aug. 08 2014 05:12 PM
Dan Porter from AC, NJ and Montreal,QC

Happy birthday Robert!

I had the worst day today, but by the time I finished hearing that aligator story I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.


Aug. 08 2014 04:21 PM
Katie from St. Paul, MN

LOVED this cast. Thank you for sharing. Listening to people who have found an outlet for their passion (and getting paid to do it!) are inspiring to me. P.S. Any chance you could post the Gator TV spot? would love to SEE it.

A Very Happy Birthday to you.

Aug. 08 2014 01:37 PM
Sean from Chambersburg, PA

A great idea and wonderful show. Thanks for sharing, and happy birthday Robert!

Aug. 08 2014 12:48 PM
Kevin A from Los Angeles, CA

Listening to the gator story, the unfolding of events, being close to failure but happening to get it at the last try by being curious and chasing after the rabbit down its hole wherever it may lead you, that's part of what makes Radiolab my favorite show. Happy birthday Robert!

Aug. 08 2014 11:46 AM
Greg from Denver, CO

I "discovered" Robert for myself back in the early 90's and was just mesmerized by his storytelling. I remember searching for any programs where he was involved because they were always so good. And with all due respect to Jad, I came across RL because I was doing another Krulwich Krawl. Happy Birthday!

Aug. 08 2014 10:20 AM
MattF from Washington, D.C.

You're a gem, Robert! I was laughing out loud while listening to this at work. Happy Birthday.

Aug. 08 2014 10:05 AM

You're the best, Robert! I also like your blog and drawings. It was so great to hear this podcast made especially for you. What a funny guy!

Aug. 08 2014 07:59 AM
nolamafia from New Orleans, baby.

Just awesome. Happy birthday, Robert!

Aug. 08 2014 03:21 AM
Patrick from Vancouver WA

Thank you for your work, and happy birthday. So much good!

Aug. 08 2014 12:59 AM


Aug. 07 2014 09:58 PM

Happy Birthday Robert!!!!!
Wishing many, many happy years doing what you love the most.

This episode is historically funny. Thank you for sharing it with us. French ascent and Robert’s laugh are hilarious.

Aug. 07 2014 07:58 PM

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