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Nice Things In 2018 With 'It's Been A Minute' Host Sam Sanders


We've been taking time over these holiday season weekends to talk about the things that brought us happiness in 2018, and we are turning to NPR podcast hosts to lead the way. So now, we're asking Sam Sanders, host of the It's Been A Minute podcast. And, Sam, just like your podcast title, it's been a minute.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: It has been. I missed you.

MARTIN: Oh, same - same here. So here we go. So you actually do a version of this question every week on your show when listeners call in, and they share some good news that happened to them during the week. What do you think is the value of hearing from total strangers about their joy?

SANDERS: It just reminds me, and I think our audience, that no matter how bad the news cycle looks and no matter how divided things may seem, there are small wins that we can all celebrate. And a lot of the small wins for a lot of us are the same things, you know - a vacation, a birthday, a graduation, seeing old friends or relatives. Like, we can all take joy in those things regardless of what the headlines say.

MARTIN: So now it's your turn. What is giving you joy? What gave you joy in 2018?

SANDERS: Yeah. You know, I'm going to pull a recent one that surprised me in how happy it made me. The newest Netflix comedy special from Ellen - I always say her name...

MARTIN: Ellen DeGeneres.

SANDERS: Ellen DeGeneres. I don't know why I slip on that - DeGeneres. There we go. Anyway, I had kind of been worried about watching it, Michel, because there had been some press leading up to it basically saying, this is a different kind of Ellen. It's Ellen with an edge, Ellen kind of angry, Ellen not so happy anymore. But then I watched it, and I loved it. I think because when you see Ellen show more than one side of herself and not just be happy and dancing, it reminds you that all of us get to be more than one thing.

And we're in this season in our politics and in the culture where everyone and everything seems very inflexible. And seeing Ellen be happy and angry and more than one emotion reminded me that, like, it's OK to be something different today than you were tomorrow or yesterday. And people change, and that's good, and that's fine. Also, she's still really funny.

MARTIN: Well, also, too, you know, this special reminds you that she's actually had some tough times in her life. I know it's true that, you know, she - on her show, she's been on the air for years, which if you think back to when she first came out, I don't think anybody would have predicted because she was actually blacklisted - or at least, it seems as though she was for years...

SANDERS: Oh, totally. The show was canceled when...

MARTIN: After she came out on her sitcom. And to know that, you know, she had that really low moment and not only survive, but thrive, you know, yeah.

SANDERS: You know, it is nice. And, like, there's something about seeing Ellen - having been in the spotlight so long, it's nice to see a celebrity that still makes me smile. Even Ellen with an edge, it was still a bright spot for me. Also, there's this really fun moment in the special where she dances to Juvenile, and it's just so fun.


ELLEN DEGENERES: We all have our song, right? We have this song like, oh, my God, that's my song. And if we're at a club, and that song comes on, you want to dance, but you will not dance until you hit the designated dance floor.


JUVENILE: (Rapping) Got birds, and I'm running, yeah, about a hundred, yeah. Girl you look good...

DEGENERES: I am 60 years old, and I'm dancing to Back That [Expletive] Up.

MARTIN: Do you think that there is some larger lesson here about finding and appreciating the joy even if you don't like Ellen, don't get Netflix, you know, aren't into TV, whatever, whatever, whatever. Is there some takeaway here?

SANDERS: Yeah. One, I think, she's gotten really good at making kind of like dad jokes in the Seinfeldian (ph) in a way. So, like, the jokes actually work for everyone if you like her or not. But I also love the close of the special in which she kind of riffs on this idea that we pretend that we're really different. We think we're really different. But in some ways, we're really all the same. And I know it sounds cliche and so basic and so simple, but it is really good to hear that because it seems as if the theme of this entire year has been division, and maybe it doesn't have to be next year.

MARTIN: That's Sam Sanders, host of its It's Been A Minute. Sam Sanders, always love talking to you. Happy New Year.

SANDERS: Likewise.

MARTIN: Happy holidays. Every good thing.

SANDERS: Yeah. Thank you. Same to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.