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the funny issue

eddie izzard, Joan rivers, dylan moran, & bob saget

+ More stephen merchant, davi d cross , retta, bi l l burr, joe rogan, donald glover fall winter issue no. part of /

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2011 —

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M AYA CONTR ER AS Editor-in-Chief, Creative Director editor@dirtydurty.com EL L EN MOY NIH A N Associate Editor ellen@dirtydurty.com

EVA TUER BL Photography Editor eva@dirtydurty.com

TR ACY WAGNER Art Director tracy@tweetdesign.com

JUSTIN MIN Style Director justin@dirtydurty.com

LY NN FURGE Senior Fashion Editor lynn@dirtydurty.com

MIL ES K A HN Editor-at-Large

Tom H awking Copy Editor

JJ M A X W EL L Fashion Editor jj@dirtydurty.com

M aggie Benoit Production Coordinator maggie@dirtydurty.com

M AT T EVA NS Digital Media matt@phazr.de

ROBERT L . CR ACE Publisher Vic & Olivier Publishing

EMER A LD FITZGER A LD Sales Director emerald@vicandolivier.com

IL LUSTR ATIONS BY A NA BENA ROYA anabenaroya.com

Photography Contributors Jamie Isaia, Roderick Angle, Andrew Kuykendall, Luzena Adams, Jammi York, Eva Tuerbl, Andrew Boyle, Koury Angelo, Jason Kim, Alex Forsey, Robbie Powell, Don Brodie, Michael Crook, Tiffany Walling McGarity & John McGarity. Contributors Mary Talato, Ellen Moynihan, Beverly Hames, Courtney Dewitt, Jaclyn Marinese, Natalie Guevara, Rachelle Bergstein, Claire Landon, David Choi, Caissie St. Onge, Michael Gartland. Jessica Pilot, Nadxieli Nieto Hall , Chad Frade, Lynn Furge. For single issues and subscriptions go to vicandolivier.com

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

fall / winter

issue no. 3 { part 1 of 2 }

2011 —

chapter one

LITTLE.MORE! CONVERSATION WITH 014 Dylan Moran

Kathleen Madigan: 020 The Real Wonder Woman

Kathleen Madigan WHY ARE YOU YELLING? 026

Bill Burr

LIVE & SMOKIN’ 034

CROSSING THE LINE 040

ROGAN, AS REAL AS IT GETS 048

Deon Cole

David Cross Joe Rogan

chapter two

POLITICALLY CORRECT 054

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Eddie Izzard

A REAL PIECE OF WORK 066

Joan Rivers

YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP 070

Bob Saget

THE GOLDEN AGE OF 076

Steven Wright

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{“THOSE ARE MY PRINCIPLES. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEM, I HAVE OTHERS.” – GROUCHO MARX }

084  DISCUSSES ABSURDIT IN A SERIOUS WAY John Hodgman 094  Retta: Beyond Chemistry Retta 098  TOMFOOLERY Thomas Middleditch 102  RAPPING IN THE SHOWER, DUBAI, PORN, & OVERPRICED HOTEL INTERNET

Hannibal Buress & Donald Glover 108  A QUICKY WITH Stephen Merchant 110  THE DAILY SHOW Correspondents DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK

Aasif Mandvi, Jason Jones, John Oliver, Wyatt Cenac, & Samantha Bee


contributors: WRITERS

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caissie st. onge is an Emmy-nominated television writer and producer, who’s worked for The Late Show with David Letterman, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and Best Week Ever With Paul F. Tompkins and is currently on staff at Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live! with Andy Cohen. Her debut Young Adult novel, Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever. was published by Random House/Ember in May.

Chad Frade has worked with The Independent Alligator in Gainesville, Florida and Time Out New York where he covered the goingson of the city. His idyllic Hispanic childhood, where he was named Prom King of 1998, and the indoctrination into various religions has given him a twisted view of the world, which led him to currently teach English to the youths. He does not think he is funny, but he hopes that you do.

claire landon is a freelance journalist and writer, covering topics including finance, travel, family and art. An American in London, she lives with her husband and two young daughters.

Dave choi is a web culture documentarian living in Chicago. He enjoys French house music, Eastern philosophy and conspiracy theories. An IT professional by day, he spends his nights and weekends DJing, blogging and preparing for the technological singularity.

mary talato: Hungry. Constantly. In front of the computer making shapes and moving stuff. Writing sometimes. Finally married. Back from NY now living in Sydney. Too many shoes. Not enough room. Can't wait for Summer. Skim Latté please. She is Sydney based creative (Creative/Art Director and Designer), but thinks she can write too. Mary has worked for many well-known brands which you can look up yourself on Linked-in or Google. marytalato.com

Courtney DeWitt In honor of the Funny issue Courtney would like to share her favorite, albeit popculturally-expired, joke. Q: How do you get pikachu on a skewer? A: Pok-em-on writing/films/photos etc here: www.thisiscourtneyd.com lots of rapper gifs here: thisiscourtneyd.tumblr.com

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jaclyn marinese is a freelance writer who has contributed to the DDD since issue one. In her free time she likes to make people dance, so she occasionally DJs in and around the NYC area. For this issue she had the honor to interview the insightful Modern Family star, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the hilarious Conan show staff writer, Deon Cole.

NATALIE GUEVARA Born in Miami and raised in the Dominican Republic, Natalie has been evading tropical climates all her life, opting for the bitter temperatures of NYC. Relinquishing her lifelong dream to pen a Rolling Stone cover story as soon as she realized sleepless nights of transcribing Jack Johnson interviews awaited her, Natalie instead tried her hand at public relations, independent film production, and the au courant world of “new media.” Her biggest hope is learning how to cook; her biggest regret is turning down high school in Switzerland. She thinks the experience would have blessed her with an ambiguous foreign accent.

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issue three

rachelle bergstein’s Women

michael gartland is

From the Ankle Down: the Story of Shoes and How They Define Us will publish with HarperCollins in Spring/ Summer 2012. She writes about style, pop culture and food, and runs a cooking blog called Saucy Little Dish with her 7 cutest girlfriends. When not writing, cooking or playing dress-up, she works as the in-house editor at an NYC literary agency, and lives in Brooklyn with her fiance and their cat..

an award-winning journalist and filmmaker, who’s reported from the South Bronx, Indonesia and South Carolina. He now writes about government and politics for The Record in northern New Jersey and lives in Jersey City with his girlfriend, Hanna, and their pooch, Oscar.

beverly hames is a Brooklyn-

Nadxieli Nieto Hall

based writer, shop-owner, and amateur cat whisperer. She enjoys ancient ruins, baking, positivity, and Kraut rock. Her writing can be found on the Vice Style website and her blog, Reality No-Show.

(née Mannello) is a writer and visual artist. She is the former editorin-chief of Salt Hill Journal, and the founder and lead designer of NIETO Books. She is the co-author of Carteles Contra Una Guerra (Gustavo Gili, 2004). Her writing has been published in the NY Tyrant, Washington Square, and West Wind Review, among others. She may be reached at www.nietobooks.com.

ellen moynihan has written has for The Brooklyn Rail, Poets & Writers, and New York Magazine, among other publications. She is the former Managing Editor of the literary journal The New York Tyrant, and as co-founder of the guerilla art collective House of Malcontents, Ellen has had her work featured in the New York Post, New York Magazine, and exhibited at the Whitney Museum. She lives in Brooklyn with three cats and a skeleton.

on the cover

Lynn Furge has been a featured professional on the relevancy of the fashion business in the Wall Street Journal online. She is a contributor to CBS for fashion and trends and has covered over 250 runway shows in her career. Aside from being a verbal clothes horse she loves anything fast (except for fashion and literature) and keeps mum about her residencies, the names of her pets and the alias of her boyfriend.

On Eddie Izzard

Acne jacket. Technobohemiam scarf. R+Denim jeans,.

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contributors: Photographers

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andrew kuykendall Dividing his time between NY and LA, Andrew attributes much of his inspiration from his history of traveling. Having lived in such diverse places as Prague, Paris, Krakow, Rome, San Francisco, and Lima, among other locales, this wanderlust and multicultural adaptability has expanded his range among foreign clients and continues to inspire his imagery. He been published in countless international fashion, music and lifestyle magazines, adapted numerous clothing brands, and has been shown at galleries in Hamburg, Barcelona, London and Los Angeles. www.AndrewKuykendall.com. www.LVAplus.com

Ibra Ake Ibra Claude Ake is a commercial photographer based in NYC, specializing in portrait commissions, advertising and editorial assignments. Dot Com: www.ibraake.com Blog: ibraake.tumblr.com/

tiffany walling mcGarity & john mcgarity Tiffany and John have been working collaboratively for about 7 years now. The two first met in art school and quickly formed a bond, both personally and creatively. The partnership has evolved over the years and created a singular vision from the two creative minds. From editorial to advertising, their work always demonstrates that vision. In 2008, their work was recognized by PDN magazine as they were named one of the “PDN 30” photographers to watch. In 2009 they were honored as Surface magazine’s “Avant Guardian”. John and Tiffany continue to take on a variety of projects from their Brooklyn-based partnership. More work by Tiffany and John can be seen at: www.wallingmcgarity.com

Elizabeth De La Piedra Liz is a Peruvian girl that grew up in Australia and now lives in Chicago, USA. She likes to take pictures, Skype with her family back in Australia and watch planet earth with her husband. website: www.elizabethdelapiedra.com blog: elizabethsmart.tumblr.com

alex forsey is a Munich born, London based photographer. 40 years old. Most recently he’s spent his time between England and NY shooting portraits and fashion. He loves reportage and dedicates his time to this on personal projects whenever he can. www.alexforsey.com

phillip meech is an experienced

Jeremy Cowart is a professional

London based photographer, who also works frequently in Milan and Paris. With a background in press and photojournalism, he now undertakes commissions for a wide range of clients, including fashion houses Prada, Miu Miu and Yves Saint Laurent. An exhibition featuring photography he has taken for the Prada Fantasy Look Books will take place later this year at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London.

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photographer from Nashville. Beginning his photography career in 2005, Jeremy quickly became a respected artistic voice in the industry. Having shot numerous musicians, entertainers and celebrities, Jeremy is also the founder of HelpPortrait, a worldwide movement of photographers giving free portraits to those less fortunate. As his list of clients continues to grow, so does Jeremy’s desire to improve, share, teach, and give back to those around him.

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roderick angle “Happiness is the new black”, says photographer Roderick Angle, “That’s why I wanted to do a tribute to Gilda Radner. You always felt her humor was from a light place in her heart. I think every modern comedian has been inspired by her and she has really not been celebrated enough.” Roderick is all about honoring your heroes and cities, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Helmut Newton, and his mentor, David LaChapelle. He currently works as photographer and creative director for Ashley & Mary-Kate Olsen’s Elizabeth and James fashion line. He was born in Lawrence, KS and currently resides in New York City.

thank you Kirsten Ames

Greg Longstreet Erica Grey Collette Leonard

Andrew Boyle was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia on a diet of classic movies and jazz (thanks to his record shop-owning Grandfather.) Andrew made the move to New York in early 2007 after studying photography extensively. A position at Milk Studios in Manhattan paved the way to assisting his photography heroes such as Timothy White, Stephane Sedanoui and Annie Leibovitz. Inspired by Anton Corbijn’s iconic music portraits, Andrew has photographed a diverse range of artists from Devo to Iggy Pop and now divides his time between New York and Los Angeles.

Jennie Church-Cooper Sophie Goudard Gregory Kitchen Stan Brooks Paul G. Gleason Theatre Serge Becker Miss Lily’s The Brandman Agency Lindsay Crystal Chole Ellers

Jammi York is a self-taught photographer from Brooklyn. Deeply rooted in the New York hardcore and punk scene, he started taking pictures of his friends’ bands in the late 1980s. Photography took a back seat in the 90s as he fronted a handful of bands of his own. He’s returned to being behind the lens a few years ago without skipping a beat, adding fashion to his interests along with his love of bands, street and erotic imagery. He owns and operates Running Rebel Studios with three close friends in Bushwick.

Marc Hamou Sam Maydew Jennifer Flanz R. Kelly Crace Cindy Crace Milk Studios Snow Studios Ian King James Tadic

Koury Angelo is a Rock & Roll and Portrait photographer based in LA. He received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin, then seized an opportunity to move to Paris, France. He spent one year working as a photographer and studying his craft at the prestigious Speos Institute of Photography. His personal work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo shows in Paris, NYC, LA and Austin. Koury was recently selected as one of the Top 160 Photographers in 2010 by MOPLA, Month of Photography Los Angeles. www.KouryAngelo.com

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David Rosen Charlene Young Ina Treciokas Michael O’Brien Mark Pajewski Claire Nightingale

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EDITOR’S l e t t er

Curating a Comedy Issue was serious business. I know some people will ask me why I choose to highlight the talent I did, or why I don’t have people like Tina Fey or Zach Galifianakis in these pages. Well, first, I j’adore Tina Fey and I think I have officially listened to Bossypants two hundred times now, but Tina Fey and Zach Galifianakis have officially been in more magazines then Lady Gaga at this point. I’m not sure I could have added a fresh perspective to or dialogue with either of them (not that I don’t fantasize about the idea of having coffee with them both, saying, “You think Bloomberg should add more bike lanes and make New York a greener city? Me too!” as I laugh, shaking my head and high-fiving Tina, my new best friend, while Zach offers to play us a tune on his Steinway piano one sun-drenched Williamsburg afternoon.) I was, however, drawn to comedians whose stand-up I had seen again and again without it getting old (I think I have Dylan Moran’s act “Like, Totally” memorized, and could still watch it a few dozen more times). These comedians are influential and iconic, but are also honest about their insecurities, difficulties, and the process of continually putting their work out there into the world. Reading all of these interviews was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. There seems to be a bit of shared consciousness among them, and particular themes ran throughout (censorship, influences, and almost every comedian had a thought on the Tracy Morgan performance controversy) that made it an eye-opening page-turner for me. I was so endeared by everyone, from Bill Burr’s thoughtfulness and brute honesty to Joan Rivers, whose interview had me laughing out loud, proving yet again why she is a force of nature in comedy. Once again, I want to thank my wonderful Associate Editor, Ellen Moynihan, who not only made sure every single one of these pages looked fantastic, but also brought some really wonderful interviews into the folds of these pages (John Hodgman, artist Ron English, and actor/comedian David Cross). I couldn’t do this magazine without her. Lynn Furge, my Senior Fashion Editor, meticulously curated the wonderful photographers (Roderick Angle, Jamie Isaia, Philip Meech); the Fashion Section presented a fresh perspective on fusing fun with style. Roderick Angle’s fashion editorial ‘Gilda!’ blew me away—it is both a lovely homage to Gilda Radner as much as it is a radiant fashion spread. Style Director Justin Min and photographer Jason Kim once again successfully teamed up to style comedian Wyatt Cenac’s first fashion editorial (Wyatt, you look smashing by the way). I also want to thank Editor-at-Large Miles Kahn, who as one of the producers at The Daily Show brought in those very talented correspondents and comedians from TDS, as well as the wonderful author Caissie St. Onge, who did a splendid job interviewing Joan Rivers. A huge thank you is owed to Maggie Benoit, our Production Coordinator, whose continuous positive attitude, fastidious organizational skills, and refreshing, warm laughter made me wonder what mood enhancer she might be on (turns out she is not on any, apparently she is ‘high on life’ and yoga, and I’m a slightly cynical, but lovable bee-itch). Thanks also to stylist Markus Ketty, whose fresh approach to fashion brought out the za za zoo in both Jesse Tyler Furgeson and our devilishly dapper cover man (and epic comedian) Eddie Izzard. Lastly, I would like to thank Robert L. Crace, my partner in life as well as in business. To be able put the spotlight on this amount of talent is a privilege. Putting together an issue like this wasn’t easy, but as I learned from all of these comedians, nothing is. You just gotta keep your sense of humor about it.

Maya Contreras Editor-In-Chief

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(L-R) Jason Jones, Aasif Mandvi, John Oliver, Wyatt Cenac, Samantha Bee, Editor-in-Chief Maya Contreras.

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chapter one

dylan moran London Hammersmith Apollo

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Little. MORE!

conversation with dylan moran Interview by Claire Landon Photographed by ALEX FORSEY

Dylan Moran is nervous when he arrives, apologetic about being late (there was a traffic jam), and wants to keep the questions fast so he can get into the right headspace for the show, which starts in an hour and a half.

He’s had a quick cigarette and introduces me to his wife, Elaine, who does not want to stay for the interview. She has sat in on others, but shyly says something about it not really being her cup of tea before disappearing. I had heard that the Irish comedian didn’t like being interviewed and was warned not to ask whether there would be another series of his successful UK cult sitcom Black Books, about the antics of the grumpy, disheveled bookshop owner Bernard Black. The show ran for three series between 2000 and 2004, and is the first thing that comes to people’s minds when asked about Moran. He is, however, multitalented, having acted in offbeat comedy films such as Shaun of the Dead, Run Fat Boy Run, and A Film with Me in It. Not to mention his sell-out comedy tours: the day I meet him is an extra date added to the tail of his sevengig UK leg of the ‘Yeah, Yeah’ tour. It is to be the third night in a row that he has performed at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, which seats 3,000. After this, he has eight days to rest before flying to Australia and New Zealand, where the last of his 32 scheduled performances will finish on September 10. But he visibly eases when I kick off with questions about his childhood in Ireland and how this impacted his particular brand of comedy. He ends up giving me as much time as I need. I am quickly charmed by how genuine he

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is, and am struck that he eschews the glitzier side of showbiz. When I later watch the show, which is filled with witty observations on nationality, getting older, relationships, and science versus religion, I feel like it’s my friend up on the stage and laugh out loud—a lot. Dylan describes his hometown of Navan, which is about 30 miles from Dublin, as “not the most groove-tastic place in the 1970s.” He emphatically believes that his Irish upbringing has informed his take on comedy: “Ireland has an oral culture, with its traditions of folk music and storytelling. Plus, there is more sense of time and space, two things that are key to conversation”. Living in such a quiet place, “I didn’t have a concept of entertainment, which for me was a visit to the cinema to see Star Wars or a day trip to Dublin—that was the extent of it.” “[Navan] was very agricultural and under the thumb of the church—much more innocent than now, and money hadn’t happened. At that time, ninety-four percent of the population went to church every week—now it’s ten percent. Now, there’s a large Polish community, and people from different parts of Africa. It has transformed beyond recognition—I think it’s changed for the better”. I mention that Irish friends say that despite the current economic hardships, post-Celtic Tiger Ireland once again resembles the friendlier, gentler place they remembered from their youths. He agrees: the economic boom did not bring out the best in the population. “It all felt like one big Ponzi scheme, it was Thatcherism, Reaganomics.” The Irish sense of humor, he says, is “surreal. We don’t like linear thinking. We are more like Jamaicans than Germans.” When I mention that as an American, I feel so at home talking to the Irish, because they are very straight, he replies:

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chapter one

bonnie Metzgar the ddd : fall 2011

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chapter one “I suppose we do get to the point very quickly. And we feel comfortable speaking to anyone. An Irish person could fall from the sky and start a conversation anywhere they landed.” But he does not go around quantifying people’s funniness, since he believes “it’s more of a philosophical attitude”. So just how does one get into comedy? This is a question I’ve always wanted to ask of a stand-up comedian, mainly because I’m not a real fan of the genre. “In Dublin, there wasn’t a comedy club scene—there was just one club. At one point, there were two, but then it was just back to one. I happened to go to a comedy show one night and expected it to be awful. But the artists were great, I was floored really. The artists were really kind—I asked whether I could have five minutes the next week, and they said yes.” Did he feel confident moving to London, where the humor is so different and the scene so much larger? The Irish and the British both need humor, he responds, adding though that there were certainly differences. “When I moved to London, where there were one hundred comedy clubs; I kept thinking ‘Why is there a guy in the corner of this pub who’s the only one talking? Why is someone in charge rather than there just being a natural conversation?’ In Irish pubs, there are groups of people in conversation, all telling stories and being funny. It’s kind of competitive, but natural—stories about your mad uncle, that kind of thing”. In fact, Moran says he, too, dislikes most stand-up. He distills his own aim into this: “It should feel like a conversation, although of course the audience here doesn’t get to answer back. I don’t feel like I’m necessarily a standup comedian, at least in the [ba-da-bam] New York sense.” Do comedians need to have a dark side, or tragedy in their lives, in order to be successful? “Who hasn’t had it? Everyone’s had something, so I don’t think it’s prescriptive.” But he vehemently disagrees with those who say his own humor is misanthropic. “No, it’s not. People do say that, but it’s a lazy journalist thing, and they are wrong.” Another thing I’ve always wondered was whether comedians ever step out of character and stop cracking jokes, even at home. “Well, I can’t be like that all the time. Normally, I’m an absent minded thirty-nine-year-old man with a train of thought that’s normal, boring, mundane. In this business, you do have to tap into certain parts of yourself. I don’t want to sound all actor-y, but you can’t do that without being totally affected by it. But I’m not like that when I’m rolling up socks.” That said, he finds Elaine funny and encourages humor in his kids Beth (13) and Max (8). Family fights too are funny, but he says they make him emotional: “I’m a the ddd : fall 2011

giant baby. The Irish are like Mediterraneans or Arabs, so it can go from zero to one hundred, laughter to tears, in a minute.” Researching Moran’s gigs, interviews and even Black Books, I notice that he always seems to have a cigarette and a glass of wine in his hand. Are they just a prop? “I don’t smoke on stage anymore”. [There is a glass of wine resting on a tall table during the first and second halves of his performance that evening, but he never gets to the bottom of it]. “They are really like a prop. But I suppose they’re like a prop in real life as well.” Each performance on this tour lasts two hours, with a 20-minute intermission. Moran says it’s impossible to quantify his research and preparation, or to gauge an audience’s reaction. “With this one, people have said it’s good and that it’s my best one ever. But for me, it’s so hard

“In Dublin, there wasn’t a comedy club scene—there was just one club. At one point, there were two, but then it was just back to one. I happened to go to a comedy show one night and expected it to be awful. But the artists were great, I was floored really. The artists were really kind—I asked whether I could have five minutes the next week, and they said yes.” to tell.” What is certain is that he gives it his all each time. “No two shows are ever the same— it’s a balance between what I’ve planned and ad hoc material. It depends on all kinds of things, like what mood I’m in.” Decompressing must be a challenge after giving so much of himself night after night.“It is hard work. I am on and off planes, as many as twelve or thirteen in a huge place like Australia. It’s a weird way to live, where I can pick up the phone in the bathroom and call reception. But I try to stay healthy and eat my greens. Then, after a tour, I take a lot of time off, sometimes two or three years. After this tour, I am going to take a LONG time off.” Despite his successes in TV, film, and performances, Moran now expects to go in a new direction. “I think I’ll put a book out next. It will probably have pictures and drawings, like the ones I use in some of my shows” [which feature a running slide show of black and white caricatures, cartoons, and line drawings, some with words]. He was inspired by the cartoons in The New Yorker, to which his parents subscribed. “It will have flash fiction and short stories— things that kind of look like poems. I have a yard sale of things in my head that I can’t classify, all those kinds of things will go in the book”.

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chapter one

KATHLEEN MADIGAN: the real wonder woman

Interview by NADXIELI NIETO HALL Photographed by Luzena Adams Stylist Justin Min

“You have a retarded baby? I have twenty-four orphans in my house. Checkmate!” This is the first thing I hear as I enter the photography studio, Kathleen Madigan’s raspy laugh snaking its way down the corridor. It’s the day after the Republican primary debate in New Hampshire and she’s talking about Michele Bachmann. “I mean I’m not voting for any of these Republicans, but I really don’t like Sarah Palin and to see this woman just trump her…” she says, shaking her head with glee. Madigan is perched on a stool, one foot holding her balance while the stylists move about her. The daughter of a nurse and a pipefitter-turned-lawyer-turned-judge, Kathleen Madigan was reared in St. Louis as one of seven children (not, thankfully, 24). In her 23-year career, Madigan has produced concert albums (including 2011’s Gone Madigan) with track names such as Star Search, Hookers, Denver, Mexico, and Martha Stewart; frequented late shows, and won both the American Comedy and the Phyllis Diller Awards for Best Female Comedian. She had the rare privilege, if it can be called that, of being both a finalist on season two of Last Comic Standing and a judge on season five. Alongside her good friend Lewis Black, she has twice visited the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan—“It’s biblical,” she says. “It makes Tijuana look like Manhattan”—and politics remain close to her heart (whether she’d like to admit it or not). DDD: How is it performing in Afghanistan? Is the audience completely different in terms of what they like to hear, what they respond to? KM: They’re absolutely awesome. They don’t care. I mean, I have about twenty minutes in my act about Afghanistan and Iraq, and I did it in front of them and they loved it. They agree. And they’re allowed to. They know it’s a shithole. I don’t think…Lewis Black would go politically crazy, but actually, you know, I think we all just did our acts.

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They’re just men and women who wanted a job. They’re probably less political than a regular audience would be. And they’re so excited. There will never be, in our lives, crowds as good as them. Everybody forgets they’re on a base in say, Kandahar or Kabul, and eighty percent of the soldiers never leave that base. They’re not out fighting a war; they’re a mechanic or a chef. DDD: You mentioned your dad before, and have said in the past that you get some of your best material from him. Does he get a writer’s credit? KM: I told him that I want him to start blogging on my blog page [laughing]. DDD: But then you can’t steal his stuff for your act! KM: Oh yes, I can! Trust me, there’s enough stuff he’ll say in real life—somehow, he’s blaming the whole Anthony Weiner thing on the Bee Gees…I know, it’s a very, very long leap in logic. I didn’t really have enough time to get into it because I was in the air. It has something to do with the de-masculinization of guys and how it’s okay to, uh, cry. Phil Donahue is in a lot of trouble in my dad’s mind, forever. And how when guys don’t feel like they’re guys anymore, they have to do crazy things. I just like that the Bee Gees are responsible. DDD: Speaking of “guys” and the “crazy” things they do, I was recently asked if I was surprised by the Weiner scandal. Are you? KM: Well, you know, somebody was on CNN saying—I think it was regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger—‘Such and such percentage

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of men fuck around’. Let’s say that it’s sixty percent. And then she said fifty percent of women do. I don’t think that’s true. I mean, I have never heard of any woman in power [doing that]. I don’t think Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno are out blowing twenty-year-old guys. [Round of laughter from stylists] Are Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Ginsburg sexting? I just don’t think Claire McCaskill [Senator from Missouri] is going crazy on the weekend. I’m sorry. I mean, if the women are doing it, they’re much better at it, because they are totally not getting caught. DDD: It would be great if a slew of women got caught. I get uncomfortable with the moral authority women are supposed to have. KM: To even the score a little bit? [Laughing] I’m sexting you a picture of my boobs, wow. DDD: I mean, Hillary Clinton has to be having sex with somebody. KM: I think Hillary has sex with her Blackberry. That’s how much she likes work. Work, work, focus, work, work, work. My dad’s argument against the Clintons is that they were always about the end instead of the means. It was at any cost. But, at this point I don’t care what means you use. Do whatever the hell it takes. I just don’t want to know about it. I’m like a mob wife. I don’t want to know what’s in the trunk. Just bring home the money! DDD: What do you want to happen while you’re not looking in the trunk? Other than, you know, someone bringing you money. KM: I would like somebody in this country to deal with transportation…Well, first off, education. This is what I never understand. No one ever talks about education. Well, what good is it if we’re healthy if we’re all morons? We live to a hundred as morons? Yeah. Education, then healthcare, then transportation. L.A.’s traffic is such a mess, Atlanta’s is a mess, New York’s is a mess. But Disney World has figured it out! The monorail is the most awesome thing ever. They should be all over our cities. Nothing fabulous has happened in my lifetime regarding transportation. Nothing. It takes three hours


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fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one

“I told my dad, if I was Mitt Romney’s kid, I would have to do drugs just so I wouldn’t fall asleep while he was yelling at me for doing drugs. Booooring.” Newt Gingrich: “Do you know how big of a dick you have to be for everybody to quit? You have to be a colossal asshole.” to get from the city of St. Louis to my family’s lake house. It took three hours in the fifties and it still takes three hours. What the hell is going on? No advances. And everybody is just sitting on their asses. I don’t know what the smart people are doing. On CNN, they said they might have this invisible plane… DDD: Like Wonder Woman’s? KM: Haha, yeah. Everybody gets a lasso…I’m like, I don’t care if the plane is clear. Have you flown lately? DDD: I’m not sure I want to see what’s keeping me up. KM: On Southwest, the roofs are flying off! [laughing] We have some other issues to deal with! The other big thing is that we don’t make anything anymore. Except movies, records, all that stuff. At least Hollywood is still making a product. We’re still making an American product. If you go to a movie theater in Sydney, every movies is ours, all of it is ours. If you go the movies in London: boom, American, American, American. We sell culture. So somebody has to figure out how to get [manufacturing] jobs. I know the Chinese will do it for less, but that’s called slavery. They live in the factory. I mean, really, are we all okay with that? DDD: But as a country, as a culture, we’ve gotten a little hoity-toity about what we’ll do—not that I’m advocating living in factories. KM: That’s true, too. When every generation says ‘I want my child’s life to better than mine’, where does that end? You have a castle? My dad’s dad was a pipefitter, an immigrant, and had very little money. My dad went to college and law school and became a lawyer and a judge. Now I’m a comedian and I’m making really good money. My brothers, they’re engineers and they make really good money. But at some point it’s unrealistic to say that each generation will have it better than the last, because if you say we’re building, we’re building, we’re building…at the end you’re just a Vanderbilt. DDD: You often comment on politics in your act. Have you ever thought of doing a show like The Daily Show or the Colbert Report? KM: I do and I don’t. And it always comes back to being an idiot, which defuses all rhetoric. Even though I complain about politics, I’m so

the ddd : fall 2011

lazy. Like, whenever I see a protest, I can’t think of one thing I would get off my couch to go protest for. I’ll watch it on CNN. DDD: The protest? That must be really entertaining [laughing]. KM: I mean, if they said they were bringing Prohibition back, I’d be like WHAAT?! I would totally get off the couch to chant ‘Fuck you, nobody’s taking my Jameson away’ [slurring]. I’m so pathetically lazy when it comes to protesting. I don’t even believe in activism. I’m really good friends with Lewis Black, who’s of the hippie age and believes in sit-ins and protests, and I’m like, ‘Really, Lou?’ There’s a quarter of a million people walking around the White House. Do you think the President cares? I don’t. And if I was him, I wouldn’t. He doesn’t have to care! I respect the people who do it, and again this is probably why I shouldn’t have an opinion and be complaining…I mean I vote, but… DDD: Do you think Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have more of a right to their opinions? KM: I don’t know, I never thought about it. Well, they did rally [laughs]. I don’t know. I’m too defeatist. I just feel like everybody is bought and paid for; there’s no change in this system. DDD: Do you think that they’re more hopeful than you? KM: Yeah, because they still care enough to try to understand some of this stuff. Some stuff gets so hard I don’t even try anymore. Healthcare I really don’t understand…The jokes I write are about the fact that I don’t understand anything. That’s where the jokes go. And I’ve tried. I’ll read it, and then I’ll reread it, and reread it, and then I’ll go, I don’t even know what I just read. None. DDD: If you’re not interested, who would you nominate in your stead? KM: No, I would be interested in it. I just don’t know… aside from Comedy Central, I don’t know who would let you do it. I think CNN should do that. Fox is opinionated, but CNN is all over the map. CNN doesn’t make any sense, so as long as you’re a mess, why not do something funny? Bring in the clowns. The gig is over. Bring in the clowns! [laughing] It’s last call. I’ve been offered shows in the daytime, but they’re every day. I don’t want to do anything every day. I’ve been a comedian for twenty

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years. I love my freedom. I’ll come in two days a week, but I don’t want a real job. If they made it easy—like Lewis’s thing on The Daily Show, the Back in Black segment—perfect! He goes in once in a while, they write stuff, he gives his input, he does it, and he’s gone again. I think Jon’s and Stephen’s shows are like having a real job. I wouldn’t be interested in that. DDD: Do you think that’s ever going to change for you? KM: Never. Nooo. DDD: So you’re going to be on the circuit until they shut off the lights? KM: Touring, yes. Unless I get so old and crazy I can’t go anywhere. I’ll be the queen of the cat people. I think we get so used to it. Even Lou, he’s been offered great, great things but if it’s every day: Boooo. Booo. I can’t. DDD: I recently watched the Joan Rivers documentary and it was interesting to see her worried about booking jobs. Do you have that fear? KM: I didn’t watch the whole thing, but when she was like, ‘I look at my calendar and it’s blank’ I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s my dream!’ If I had ten million dollars, I wouldn’t be doing stand-up anymore. DDD: What would you do in your downtime? KM: I would go immediately to Hawaii for like three weeks. I would surf, I would golf, I would go hang out with my billion nieces and nephews that I don’t get to spend enough time with—they’re mostly in Missouri, some are in Australia. I still have poor comedian friends, but now I also have rich and older friends like Lewis Black so I would just go wherever they went and wait until they got off stage and then go drinking. I would totally get a jet. DDD: An invisible jet? KM: Yes! Totally invisible. I figure I’ve probably got until seventy-five of healthy running around. DDD: And retirement age is going to be eighty-four or ninety anyway. KM: [laughs] I’ve got at least thirty years! I’ve already worked for almost thirty years. That’s enough! Time to have fun! Goof off! DDD: Has being a comic on the road changed a lot since you started? You’ve talked about it being a real boys club. KM: It’s still mostly guys. But I also never had that big of any issue with it. I never thought


issue three

“To see the size of the military base over there…the infrastructure… you know, the Russians would just leave it and go BYE, here’s some free condos.”

Elie Tahari jacket. Rebecca Taylor top. Joe’s Jeans denim. Betsey Johnson boots. Photo Assistant: Katie Bell Moore. Styling Assistant: Jack Lee. Hair: Benjamin Thigpen. Makeup: Erin Green. Thank you Artsts by Timothy Priano, B. Thigpen Agent, Daniela Marin, Michael O'Brien, Gregory Kitchen, NY Shooting Studio, Xander Vinogradov, Tonya Abernathy, Teresa Lopes. 23

fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one

“I don’t understand. I don’t think of Tracy Morgan as a go-to guy for morals. If Obama came out and said that I’d be like "Hey buddy that’s crossing a line', but it’s Tracy Morgan, he’s on a sitcom… I mean I don’t think you should be saying these things, but I’m most offended that it’s not funny.”

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issue three

about that. My dad never said, “Oh, no, girls can’t do that”. Ever. And I was used to hanging out with guys. It’s still the same, though. There are hardly any women on the road. In terms of headlining at theaters, it’s me, Wanda [Sykes], Kathy Griffin sometimes…uh…I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody. DDD: Why do you think that is? KM: The million-dollar question [slapping her knees]. I think a lot of women don’t like life on the road because it’s not stable. It’s chaotic, especially if you want to get married and start a family. At one point there were all these funny women in Houston. They quit. Smart, funny…gone. The road is hard. You have to have a certain mentality. I don’t know, maybe men take to it better. And to get to the level where you’re playing theaters, you kind of have to stick it out for at least ten, fifteen, twenty years so, you know, it’s a hard life. DDD: So what about the Tracy Morgan debacle, since we’re on the subject of celebrity? KM: My complaint about anything that’s edgy or offensive as a comic is that it’s not even funny. I think he temporarily lost his mind on stage…I have yet to do that, but I don’t know, maybe some day I will—but if you’re going to say stuff that’s grotesquely offensive… as a comic we all go back to…we’re so jaded that we go, ‘Yeah but it wasn’t even funny’. There’s no joke in there. It’s just like…anger. What I don’t understand is that I don’t think of Tracy Morgan as a go-to guy for morals. DDD: [Laughing] Yeah, Tracy, how should I rear my children? KM: Ha, yeah, so if Obama came out and said that, I’d be like ‘Hey buddy, that’s crossing a line’, but it’s Tracy Morgan, he’s on a sitcom…I mean, I don’t think you should be saying these things, but I’m most offended that it’s not funny…It’s like if you’re going to do an abortion joke it better be really goddamn funny, because odds are you’re going to piss off… it’s just like such a…9/11 joke. And it’s like, ‘Okay Tracy, if you’re going to go on some gay bashing rant, it better be funny’ and it clearly wasn’t. DDD: Speaking of controversial things, what’s your take on Sarah Silverman and her rape and abortion jokes? KM: I think Sarah does a lot of those jokes for shock value. DDD: Do you find them funny? KM: Some of them are funny, yeah. I think

some of them are funny and then some of them, to me, just kind of sit there. But I think that’s her whole thing, so it makes sense to me. It’s like if Robert Schimmel was alive…he’s that comic, the guy that crosses the line with the sex and the craziness. Sarah does a lot of shocking things. I think if you go to see Sarah you expect to hear that, or you want to hear it…and if you don’t, you’ll be disappointed. Some of them are very funny. She tries to make them funny. It’s not like Tracy Morgan, who for real just lost his mind. What did he say…I’d stab my kid if he was gay? DDD: Specifically if he said he was gay in an effeminate voice… KM: Well, maybe if he said it in a big booming “guy” voice it would be okay? I’m Gay Roar. DDD: Do you think women, besides Sarah, tend to take less risks with their material? Be a little more careful? Do you think there’s more leeway for men? KM: No, no. I think you can say whatever the hell you want, male or female. But that’s just the way I think and other women might say, ‘Well, I don’t feel that way at all’. That’s just the way I came up in the club system. I never think of myself as a female comic. I think of myself as a comic. DDD: But you win prizes like Best Female Comic. Have you won The Best Irish-American comic yet? KM: I’m all about prizes, I don’t care how I get them or what they’re for. You could create a Best Comedian Under 5’4’…From Missouri… ‘Kathleen you won!’ ‘Yes, yes, I did, and I am showing up to collect the trophy!’ [laughing] Any way to get more people to pay attention or go to a club is fine with me. I don’t care. But on that note too, I’m lazy. I’m not a good feminist. If I had been alive in the nineteenhundreds I would never have been down at that rally screaming ‘We need to vote’. I’d be like “Not really, no we don’t. I’m having some wine. I’m gonna have a cigarette. Let me know what happens down there.” I’m not an activist at all when it comes to anything. DDD: Do you think, after the success of Bridesmaids, female comics may get more recognition? And more jobs? KM: Yeah, but how many networks are giving women the lead in sitcoms? NBC hasn’t ever. When Marcy Carsey was at ABC she gave shows to Brett Butler, Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne. But that was Marcy Carsey. The female funny actresses will still get shows, but the stand-up comedians…I mean, why Wanda doesn’t have a primetime sitcom is beyond me. Why one of them hasn’t approached me is beyond me. But

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I also don’t want to keep going into meetings where they’re not going to give it to me anyway. I’ve got better things to do. I could go golfing. I don’t need to sit in this meeting and try to trick you into hiring me, because it’s a lot of work. DDD: Strapping down your boobs… KM: Yeah. DDD: Wearing a false mustache… KM: Yeah, and everybody’s got to be super goodlooking now. When did that start? Roseanne was overweight, looked like your average American, and was funnier than hell. There are normal women out there—I could name ten off the top of my head: Andi Smith, Jackie Kashian, Tammy Pescatelli—that are just funny people. DDD: At one point you were going to do a documentary on female comics. What happened with that project? KM: I couldn’t find a buyer. One network, which will remain nameless, was like, ‘Oh it’s an interesting concept; can we vote people in and vote people out?’ I’m like, well, some of these people are DEAD. They’ve already been voted off the PLANET. This is a documentary of the history of women in comedy. I watched this documentary on the history of women in country music, and I don’t really care either which way about country music, but it was fascinating! And then they go, ‘Well, that was one of our lowest rated programs ever’. Maybe I should have checked that before I blurted it out in a meeting. [laughing] Yeah, maybe I should have done my homework. DDD: Who would you include? KM: We had a whole pitch reel. Everybody! Going all the way back past Phyllis Diller to [Jackie] “Moms” Mabley, who no one knows about, coming all the way up through the seventies and eighties all the way till now. My friend used to book the Bob Hope specials and she knows Linda Hope, so Linda let us use some of his old footage. There was this woman Beatrice Lillie, who was like royalty, who did this stand-up act. It would be like if all of a sudden Fergie [Duchess of York] became a stand-up comedian. But this lady was still IN. She hadn’t been kicked out into the back yard [laughing]. I was going to make Wendy Liebman watch a clip of Beatrice Lillie and then respond to it on camera. The patience of the audience! She’s [Lillie’s] been talking about the same premise for about five and a half minutes. No punch line yet! But everybody’s fine with it. Wow.

fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one

bill burr

the ddd : fall 2011

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why are you yelling?

issue three

Interview by M AYA CONTRER AS Photographed by KOURY ANGELO

There is an attack to the way Bill Burr delivers on stage that is all his own. To see him live reminded me what it was like to see Fugazi years ago. The audience is involved with Bill, because his stand-up is a conversation that you might have had with your girlfriend or boyfriend, or even more realistically, it’s a conversation you’ve had in your head with your boyfriend and girlfriend that you wouldn’t have dared to say out loud. His manic behavior is seemingly balanced out with a quiet thoughtfulness he displayed backstage at the New York comedy club staple Carolines where I first approached him about doing an interview with the DDD. I spoke to Bill Burr again over the phone while he was in Los Angeles getting ready for his upcoming worldwide tour, and taking it all in stride.

DDD: Hockey season is over, it’s the middle of baseball season, there’s an NFL lockout, and an NBA lockout. How are you coping with this dead period in sports? BB: Full-on panic right now, I’m not dealing too well with it. I’ve been actually trying to get into Tour de France, Wimbledon, anything but the dog days of summer baseball; I just can’t get into it…you have the height of the NHL playoffs— and my team the Bruins win it, they win the Stanley Cup, first one in thirty-nine years, we were all going absolutely nuts—then to go from that to (in an announcer’s voice) “Good day for a ballgame…strike one.” … Sports are basically men’s reality shows. DDD: Are you a die-hard Boston Fan- Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, Patriots? Or can you get behind other teams without too much guilt? BB: No, no, no, I am those first, but at this point, considering we have won all four major titles in

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the last seven years, I jokingly said on my podcast (Monday Morning Podcast) that I was going to retire as a fan, because it wasn’t going to get any better. You know when you are at the blackjack table you eventually need to walk away because you are going to start losing. I’ve always rooted for the Boston teams first but I also root for teams that haven’t had a championship for years, and I’m also a Pirates fan. I don’t wish sports misery on anyone other than New York. DDD: Ouch. That hurts! BB: I don’t even mean Buffalo or the Islanders. Just the city of New York. They think everything they do there is so goddamn important. Despite the fact that when the Yankees play the Mets in the World Series it is the lowest-rated series ever—nobody gives a shit. And all the dumb songs with lyrics like ‘If I can make it there I can make it anywhere’…if you just walk down the streets of New York, the amount of losers, these sad fucks walking into a sports bar… listen, just because you’re standing in front of the Empire State Building [while] eating a bunch of nachos, doesn’t make you better than anyone else. I hate the Yankees, they’re like these rich kids… that if they wrapped their Ferrari around a pole they still have enough money where they could just go out and buy a new one. Another thing I hate is that the Red Sox followed them right over the cliff doing the exact same thing. I think that baseball is terrible right now. The Yankees aren’t even the Yankees. They’re just a mercenary band of free agents. I look at Roger Clemens…it’s like he just joined a dynasty, like he just jumped into a limo, and I think that is just so different from a guy like Michael Jordan who joined the Bulls and had never won anything, but who stayed and they built around him and they won six championships, and I think that’s exactly why a lot of people were rooting against a team like the Miami Heat.

fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one DDD: You grew up in Boston in an Irish Catholic family, and I have a dearth of friends that grew up in strict Italian Catholic or Irish Catholic homes, so I must ask—what the hell is up with the Catholic Church? Specifically, why is it so difficult to divorce oneself from Catholic Guilt? BB: I think…it has do with what you learned at a little kid, it gets so implanted in your head because you don’t have any life experience and you become lost in your head, and it’s hard to overrule it. You know, it’s like if you had a traumatic experience, or …amazing experience as a kid, you are either drawn to or repelled by something most of the time in your life, unless you went though some therapy to try and get rid of it… Most people who grew up in Catholicism… I think no matter what religion you grew up in—[it] can be very rooted in your brain, because you inherited [it] before you could even understand English.

BB: I think comedians are like most people but…more intense people. We [comedians] are all pretty fucked up. I mean the whole reason I became a comedian beside from the fact that I love stand-up comedy…was because I thought: I am going to get up on stage, show people that I am a good guy, that I am funny, and everyone will stop fucking with me. I thought it was going to make my life easier, and I thought it was going to make all these things fall into place. I mean, it is definitely a thrill when people come up and say that they relate to what you are talking about, or you helped them out by something you said, I mean, that is always awesome to hear. But I think you stop being funny if that is your approach onstage because then you are really going to start preaching and it’s going to be like Tony Robbins meets standup. If that doesn’t make you projectile vomit, then you’re not a true fan of stand-up.

DDD: You speak frankly about your relationship with your girlfriend on stage—how does she handle that? Does it help alleviate problems to have them out in the open or does it add to the frustration on the home front? BB: She laughs about it, she gets that it is a joke; she knows I am exaggerating my version of the truth, which is what everyone does when they tell a story. There are two ways two listen to a story—one way is you listen to it at face value and the other way is to listen to what is underneath the story. So many times, when people are talking to you, what they are saying is—is not even what they are saying, they are just reacting. They are reacting to something they see you doing or to what you are saying and it just triggers something from a past experience, and it just has nothing to do with anything.

DDD: When did you know you were funny? BB: I don’t think that I ever knew that I was funny as much as I realized that if I made people laugh they liked me. I knew that if I made people laugh they won’t beat the shit out of me, or I could get out of whatever horrific thing I thought they were going to do.

All the stuff I say about women, or my girlfriend, is me just really saying: I need a hug. Sometimes I will listen to the stuff I say, and I will just shake my head and say ‘what the hell is wrong with me?’ DDD: You mention on stage that you would like to become a dad. What would you say if your kid came up to you and said, “Pop, I want to become a comedian someday.”? BB: I would never get in the way of something someone wanted to do. I would do what my parents did, which was to encourage and support. But I think when you are a parent and you are just being protective, I would probably wince and think ‘God, I wish they would have picked an easier business.’ DDD: I said to another comedian that comedy can be very cathartic for the audience, for example when a comedian brings in such self-revealing honesty about their own life—as you do—it makes people feel better about their own. This comedian replied, with a groan, “We don’t do it to make people feel better, we do it just for laughs.” What is your take on that?

the ddd : fall 2011

“There are two ways two listen to a story—one way is you listen to it at face value and the other way is to listen to what is underneath the story. So many times, when people are talking to you, what they are saying is—is not even what they are saying, they are just reacting. They are reacting to something they see you doing or to what you are saying and it just triggers something from a past experience, and it just has nothing to do with anything. All the stuff I say about women, or my girlfriend, is me just really saying: I need a hug. Sometimes I will listen to the stuff I say, and I will just shake my head and say ‘what the hell is wrong with me?’”

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issue three

Mens Grooming: Sydney Zibrak at The Wall Group. Thank you to Harry at House of Billiards. 29

fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one DDD: As a comedian who has developed a strong following in stand-up, do you ever feel typecast by your own material? In other words, do you feel pressure to stick to the same subject matter in your act that has gone over well when developing new material? BB: No, not at all. I think that is a kiss of death as a comedian, I think you will paint yourself in a corner creatively and you are going to end up hating your life at some point while probably making a ton of money. There are a lot of guys that I have heard that like to do catchphrases, or characters, and every once in a while they get sick of doing that character and they want to break out of it, but they don’t want to go back to making no money. And the same thing with the catchphrase, if you don’t say ‘Did I do that?’ or whatever the fuck… DDD: ‘Dyn-o-mite’? BB: Yeah! No one wants to see you. I don’t know, I learned a lot from guys like Dave Chappelle and George Carlin…what I would love about those guys’ acts is that they could say something profound or a fart joke at any moment. That gives you rein to talk about whatever the hell you want… I think when people come to see my act, they aren’t expecting to see anything other then an angry maniac, but as much as I do try to control my temper, the littlest damn things will set you off. But I am trying to be aware of living a full life because it will reflect in your act. DDD: As a Black-Latin woman, when I first saw your stand-up years ago, I loved that you were, for lack of a better word, so down with black culture. When approaching racially sensitive material, how conscious are you about walking the line between pushing the boundaries as opposed to offending? BB: As far as me being down, I’m not, I am as white as humanly possible, but the thing is, when I am performing in front a black crowd, I don’t try to be anything other than as white as I am and… it goes beyond race, if you are comfortable with who you are, you are going to get a certain level of respect in front of a crowd—there is always that danger of losing respect if your jokes stink, but generally speaking you’re going to be fine. But there really is no line to walk—it’s just what is in your heart. If there is hatred in your heart, then people are going to pick up on it. It’s not going to come off like a joke, it’s going to bomb, or you will have to write a letter of apology. But the Tracy Morgan thing was complete bullshit. He got tried and convicted by an audience member. Do have to say, Tracy’s act is amazing, it’s all over the place, every time he does it, it’s different. He is the only comedian that made my girlfriend blush, and she grew up around comedians, and Tracy made her blush and it was totally in the moment.

the ddd : fall 2011

So this audience member, who sat through thirty-forty minutes of his act, doesn’t get offended, but…then he goes home, God knows how many hours later, and then writes a quote of what Tracy said; what is he, a fucking stenographer? Then the world takes what Tracy said as fact. I thought: Okay, he got offended, Tracy apologized—should have apologized— but at that point, to make him do PSAs, sitting on a panel talking about it... I mean, this audience member is saying ‘This is a hateful guy’… Then why are you having him speak for your cause? I felt like they were parading him around like a trophy. I totally understand why someone would get offended, but the level that it went to… I hate when people go to comedy shows and they get

“I don’t think that I ever knew that I was funny as much as I realized that if I made people laugh they liked me. I knew that if I made people laugh they won’t beat the shit out of me, or I could get out of whatever horrific thing I thought they were going to do.” offended, because they stop talking about jokes, they say ‘He made inflammatory statements’. I am a comedian telling jokes, if you decided to take this seriously, that is on you. I am not saying that I haven’t seen a comic cross the line, I have definitely seen that moment, but I have known Tracy for ten years, and Tracy is not a hateful guy like that. He is a hilarious guy and his stuff is over-the-top. On the other side, no one was asking who this audience member was. Did his parents accept him being gay? Did he have a chip on his shoulder? I just thought it set a very dangerous precedent that someone in the audience could say ‘I’m offended’, go on the Internet, which he has a right to do, but for the media to take it as law... I don’t think you should go on stage and say straight-up mean, ignorant shit. I have seen him say the craziest shit, but I have never seen hate. DDD: You mentioned in another interview that you are “aiming for the middle” when it comes to your everburgeoning film and television career. Do you feel that is what you need to do to strike a balance in your life? Or would you relish the idea of carrying a film? BB: Look, who is kidding who—I would love to, but I gotta admit the parts where you get to interact with the lead are way more interesting. I feel like the lead, a lot of times…is the vessel that moves the film along, but I feel like the

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issue three

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chapter one

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issue three

“I think it is horrific and embarrassing that there are people out there that don’t let people live the lifestyle that they are naturally born with, and I think…chastising people for being gay is literally the modern version of trying to drown someone because you think they are a witch. I think it’s ridiculous, and I think it is something that people are going to look back on, shocked at the level of ignorance…” supporting characters are the ones that flesh it out, and I would much rather play…listen to me, I am acting like I am getting lead roles offered to me. I want to be a great stand-up comedian, and anything I get on top of that is gravy. Can I get back to that Tracy Morgan thing for a second? DDD: Of course. BB: One time I was in Seattle, my last special, I was doing an umbrella bit, where it’s raining and I’m saying ‘This guy has an umbrella—what are you, fag?’ And all I got through was the setup… these three people up in the balcony got up and yelled ‘Homophobe!’…and stormed out, and it’s like they didn’t even let me finish, and they didn’t even know that it was anti-homophobe. The didn’t wait, they heard the buzz word, ‘fag’ and so they immediately thought what I was homophobic and what I was basically saying was that that sort of process, ‘what are you, fag?’ was tapping into the feminine side of being a guy, which to me…is actually listening to what you are feeling, like ‘I am cold, I need a jacket’… the guy side [masculine side] is just to ignore that you’re cold while you are slowly getting hypothermia. Basically what I was saying, why guys die of a heart attack at age fifty-five, is because they ignore that side of them. But these guys just stood up in the middle of my act and judged what I was saying before I ever even got to the point, called me a homophobe and left me to deal with the awkwardness of the moment. DDD: You have a die-hard male following—perhaps it is because you are able to encapsulate and express male frustration and outrage so succinctly—what is some of the feedback from your female audience regarding the insights you’ve given them into the male brain? BB: I get both. My favorite is when a woman comes up to me after shows and they say, ‘You remind me of my brother,’ or ‘You remind me of my dad’ or ‘My husband is just like you, under all that I can see you are a teddy bear.’ When people come up to me, I like it, because they are a thinking human being, not taking the act at face value. If there is a girl, twenty-one or twenty-two, and she is like a writing major and she listens to my act and she just got done reading Edith Wharton, she is probably not

going to come up to me too thrilled by what I have just said. Which is, you know, all well and good. A long time ago, I let go of the audience reaction. I know what I mean, and I can’t control how people process what I say—if someone’s going to listen to what I say and take it as face value, and just be like ‘This guy hates women’ or ‘This guy trashed gay guys’—if you want to take it at that, so one-dimensionally, there is nothing I can do about it. I try not to engage with those people. If you want to come up to me and tell me how fucking offended you are, and I swear to God they are always only offended by things that pertain to their life. All of the other horseshit, all of the other ignorant over-the-top stupid things I say, that don’t have a problem with. I’ll tell you what was funny, I saw Chris Brown get into trouble one time, he had a ticket on his car, and all of this paparazzi standing around taking a picture of him getting the parking ticket, and he said ‘I bet you guys called them’ and he said ‘You n-words are gay’. The gay community has a problem that he said the word ‘gay’ in a pejorative way, but didn’t have a problem with him dropping the n-word. So I don’t know if they feel that is beyond their jurisdiction. Listen, I think that you have to have those organizations that look out, because there is an unbelievable amount of hatred. There is. But the people they choose to go after sometimes, like stand-up comedians…ridiculous. Having said all this stuff…I think it is horrific and embarrassing that there are people out there that don’t let people live the lifestyle that they are naturally born with, and I think…chastising people for being gay is literally the modern version of trying to drown someone because you think they are a witch. I think it’s ridiculous, and I think it is something that people are going to look back on, shocked at the level of ignorance…When I found out there are homes for gay and lesbian kids because their parents disowned them was one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t imagine the pain of your parents not wanting you, for how you were naturally born. DDD: You are a road warrior. You have back-to-back tours coming up in Europe and the U.S., appearances on “Breaking Bad”, your film Cheat that you co-produced, wrote, and starred in is making the festival circuit, and

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you produce a wonderful stream of consciousness podcast, but at the end of the day, where is your focus? What is most important to you? BB: Having fun. That has been my philosophy throughout this business. Writing for the ESPY awards, submitting jokes, I have never done it before. I was wondering what it would be like to write a joke for someone else that I am not delivering myself. You know, would that bother me, but I found out, it is an unbelievable rush. I mean, I don’t have any kids, but it’s kind of the joke version of watching your kid come up to the plate, ‘Come on kid, hit it outta the park, make daddy proud!’ That’s how I feel about the jokes that people are going to deliver, I just want them to feel that rush from the laughter, the way I get to every single night when I do standup. I just get a tremendous amount of fun, like doing that movie [Cheat] with Joe DeRosa and Robert Kelly, two of my best friends in the business, and we just got fed up one day, of always saying we were going to do something, so we said, ‘Why don’t we just do this, we are writing this, and we are making this’ no matter what even if it looks like a hunk of shit, and the next then you know… a year and a half later, we are sitting in the Tribeca Film Festival and they are showing our film and it killed. It was in a group of wonderful short films…there are so many talented people out there, so the fact that we were able to hold our own was awesome. I just finished working on a pilot script with Joe and Robert, and we are hoping they let us make the pilot out of it, and shoot it and make a series out of it. You know, the good stuff at getting things at my age is that you understand yourself and you also understand other people, and at this point how I irritate other people, I kinda know what kind of psycho I am, I’ve also given into the fact that everybody is crazy. You just gotta figure out what kinda crazy you are—to make sure that that crazy isn’t preventing you from moving forward in any aspect of your life. I got the crazy thing where I catastrophize everything and I invent shit in my head were I think people are talking about me, and think that I stink, but on one of those great days of my life, I realized that people have to deal with their own lives and they really don’t have time to give a shit about everything that comes out of your mouth.

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Live & Smokin'

chapter one

Interview by JAC LY N M A R I N E SE Photographed by KOURY ANGELO

When Deon Cole started out in comedy, he never dreamed he’d one day be writing for one of the biggest—and in some ways most controversial—late night television shows in history. But today he writes jokes from L.A., where he’s the first African-American staff writer ever to work on Conan O’Brien’s show. Cole’s stand-up appearance on The Tonight Show in 2009 turned into a full-time gig, and through the demise of the Conan-hosted era of the show in April 2009, Cole continued to write for him, creating some of the most memorable skits of that period, including one in which he likened Conan to a prostitute with NBC as his pimp. In 2010, he performed as a featured act on O’Brien’s “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour”, and is now working on the TBS show Conan. I sat down with the Chicago-born comedian to talk about the highs and lows of the comedy circuit, what it’s like working with Conan, and where “funny” comes from.

DDD: How did this comedy thing start for you? DC: I’ve been doing this nineteen years. In high school, a friend of mine told me I should do stand-up. We went to a club, I went on stage, and from day one I got a standing ovation. DDD: Where was your first gig? DC: My first stand-up show was at a place called All Jokes Aside on the South Side of Chicago. I thought all clubs were that way, because it was a black-owned comedy club that paid comics. It was unheard of for black comics to get paid on time. This was the only club in the country that cut checks, they paid well, they flew you in, they put you up, they treated you well. There were a lot of

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comics coming up in the game, like Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey, Chappelle, Mencia, Mo’Nique, and the list goes on. Being a Chicago comic coming up, I didn’t know that. I was thinking that this is just how it is, until later on. DDD: Sounds like that place established a culture that stayed with you. DC: Absolutely. My career took off so quick, it was like—I think I had only been on stage for six months when I broke into TV. Then two months after that, I was on Def Comedy Jam. I only had at this time fourteen minutes’ worth of material for stand-up, and seven had already been seen on TV. Then Russell [Simmons] booked me on the Def Jam tour and I only had seven minutes left, but I was supposed to be doing fifteen. So I was bombing all around the country. After a week on tour, they gave me my last check and told me that they weren’t gonna need my services no more. I remember sitting in the airport with my little Def Jam hat on [laughing]. I was like, ‘DAMMMM what the fuck.’ And I went home. My friend told me the only way that you can get out of this slump is that you gotta write. You gotta write uncontrollably. And that began a whole ‘nother era with me, where writing became my first love. DDD: How do you work? DC: I love being with interesting people. I love being with people like that, number one, because then we can have a conversation that is outside the normal conversation on any topic. I also like to place myself in certain situations I wouldn’t normally be in order to come up with material. Like I’ll go to a dog show and sit through the whole thing just to see what everybody loves about this thing. I’ll go to a speed dating thing just to… DDD: Did you do that? DC: Yeah, hell yeah I did. I’ve been to dog shows, speed dating. I went to this Medieval picnic out in Bolingbrook, Illinois. I drove out there, just to see what was up. DDD: Did you dress up in costumes and stuff? DC: Yeah, costumes. They got these phony


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chapter one

horses, and they run and lasso each other. It’s crazy, and it’s just like ‘wow’… and I left there and I think I had a whole new fifteen minutes when I got home [laughing]. DDD: So from Chicago, how did the Conan connection happen? DC: I did the Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and that’s where I met J.P. Buck [segment producer for the Conan O’Brien Show]. After that, he called me and he asked me to do the show. I went on…and did my five minutes and after I got off Conan was just like, ‘Yo, that was great’ and this and that. And I was thinking to myself, he must tell everybody that, you know. Then I started like really hitting the clubs, and was about to go on this eighty-college tour when my manager called me and told me that Conan wanted me to come back and write for him. I’m like, ‘Write what?...Do I got to submit something?’ And they was like, ‘No, he don’t want you to submit nothing. He wants

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you to be there in two weeks.’ DDD: That’s awesome. DC: I came and I showed up for work, and I remember the first day I got there I was just sitting there, quiet, scared to death. I came in with a briefcase with a hairbrush and a pencil; that’s all I had. And I was like, ‘If I don’t write nothing, I’m going to look good...If I don’t get nothing wrote, they going to be like ‘This is the sexiest man that ever walked in here.’ Either one of the two.’ [laughing] I just came to the first writers’ meeting. They were just going on with the regular meeting and said, ‘Oh, if you think of something funny, just throw it out if you want.’ DDD: Is it like all their writers in the room, sitting at a table? DC: Everybody! All these Emmy awardwinning writers and everybody’s all around, just everyone’s fantastic and great, and they shooting this fire-ass material that’s all

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structured and formed, and I’m sitting there brushing the shit out of my hair because I know I ain’t about to write nothing like what they’re doing. So I’m about to groom up and look sexy. But then they was like, ‘You got anything?’ And I was just like, ‘Well, the economy is bad and the porn industry is taking a hit, so how about we do something where we have low-budget porn.’ And they was like, ‘Great. Let’s do it.’ And that was like the first pitch, and we did it, and it blew up on the show. Still, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know, like, formatting a script and all of that. I just wrote things the way that I wrote it, and wrote it…in movie form. They gave me an office and I never had any of that. It was intimidating at the get-go because you’re not just writing for a late night talk show host, you’re writing for a writer; one of the greatest writers that ever did it. Conan is a beast. To write for this dude, you have to know what the fuck you doing. I used to take myself out the


issue three

game a lot because I used to be so nervous or whatever. And then one day I just realized I can’t write like them. I have to write real shit, and so when that whole thing happened at NBC, I just was writing real shit about how I felt and what my friends was saying. Like my friends was calling Conan a ho. So I went on the show and was like, ‘Yeah, man, you a ho.’ And I was just clowning. Like it was the thing where it was this black guy from the South Side of Chicago kickin’ it with this whiter-than-white guy who went to Harvard, and these two guys are kickin’ it but are from two different worlds, yet still understand each other in their own words and voices, and that became this thing. So when the show was over with, Conan was like, ‘I want you to come with me on tour.’ I went and did fifteen minutes a night, in forty-three cities. DDD: That’s awesome. DC: Traveled the country, private jets, and

all kinds of shit that I never witnessed in my fucking life. When we got back, Variety magazine made me one of the top ten comics to watch. Then we started the new show with Conan. I still haven’t even sat down yet. It’s just a never-ending thing that’s been happening. And yeah, like last year, when the show ended we had got an Emmy nod and that was something that I couldn’t believe… that I was going to the Emmys. DDD: Isn’t that happening with you guys again now? DC: Yeah, we got nominated yesterday. This is the second nomination. I was going fucking crazy…this is nuts…we got nominated yesterday. DDD: There aren’t a lot of women and minority writers in the late night world, and there were no black writers on Conan. What was it like? DC: Well, I didn’t know that, going into the situation. Like I had no idea that I was like maybe the third black writer to ever write in

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late night, period. And then this is the first for Conan. So when I got there, there were two other black people that worked there. There was one IT Tech—working on computers and shit— and then there was this other chick, she was the assistant for one of the people. I remember the computer guy came up to my office and he was like, ‘Hey, how you doing, man? I loved your set on the show about a month ago.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, man. Glad that you could join us.’ And I was like, ‘Man, I’m really happy to be here.’ And then he did that black thing—because he was standing in my doorway…which is you’ve got to look left and right to see if there’s any white people around. And then he leaned in and was like [whispering voice], ‘Boy, we was so happy that you came in here. Having a black man over here writing. You better make us proud. This ain’t about you; this is about us as black people. You go in there and you make us proud.’ And I was like, ‘Nooooooo, motherfucker. Don’t

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chapter one put all that on me.’ I was like, ‘Don’t do that to me, no!’ And he was like, ‘You better make sure you make us proud.’ Then he was like, [regular voice] ‘Alright. I’ll come back and fix your computer tomorrow.’ And then he left. And I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ And then the black chick came up and she was like, ‘Hi, my name is Ericka. I just wanted to give you a business card. Here you go.’ Then she did the left, right look and leaned in and was like [whisper voice], ‘Boy, we sure glad you in here. You better make us proud.’ And then I was like, ‘Stop it, quit whispering’. She goes, ‘I know I got to tell you that you’ve got to do this for us. They don’t let no black folk up in there. [regular voice] If you need any more business cards, just let me know. All right? See you later, bye.’ And I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ And then that’s when I started realizing. DDD: What’s your style like versus Conan’s? How do your styles fit together and what are the differences? DC: When you write something for Conan, it’s a trip out. I’ve never written like this in my life, but with Conan you have to write double funny, for one thing. So you have to write the bit itself. If I wrote a skit where a bat was in the studio, and he was flying by Conan’s desk, I’d have to write that and it has to be funny. Then I have to make sure that you see the string that the bat is on so he can go, ‘Wait a minute, bring that bat back in here. Is this the best we can do with this bullshit-ass string on this bat? That’s all the money that we got?’ It might seem freestyle, but it’s written as well. And that’s the genius with him. I never wrote like that. DDD: Any cool stories about being on the road or in the air, flying around the country? DC: Man, it was so nuts. I think that we were together so much for so long that Conan started going crazy and wearing, like, pirate hats and patches and pipes, and then he was dressing as a cowboy one time. He was doing it for…weeks. He would just be in this character forever. And I remember this one thing he used to do, he used to put this cowboy hat on. We called it the racist cowboy hat. He’ll put it on and look at me and be like, ‘Grrr.’ Then he took the hat off and he’d be like, ‘Hey, buddy. What’s going on?’ Then he’d put the hat on and be like, ‘Grrr. Ain’t no room around here for your kind.’ And then he put the hat off and be like, ‘If you don’t give me a kiss. Come on over here.’ It was this ongoing thing, so funny. DDD: Did you guys listen to music? What kind of stuff? DC:: Yeah, he’s a big, like, fifties rockabilly type…He loves it. And, you know, me, I’m bumping Jay-Z. DDD: Did he like hip-hop?

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DC: Yeah, yeah. Please. He’ll be like, ‘Hiphop? I know all about hip-hop.’ He’ll do the same rap. He’ll do “Rapper’s Delight”. [Singing] ‘I said a hip hop, the hippie the hippie to the hip hip hop, a you don’t stop.’ That’s the only song he knows. But you can’t tell him he don’t know shit about hip-hop. DDD: Well, it is a classic. [laughing] DC: [laughing] It is a classic, right. But yeah, I’m telling you, man. Like him and the head writer, Mike Sweeney, are two of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life. And I’m not just saying that. They get into your head and they teach you different little things. And tell you not to worry. Like with that NBC shit. I was like, ‘Man, we going to fuck up everybody at NBC. Come on, let’s go.’ They was like,

"I mean, I worry a lot when I perform. I don't care it it's two people or 2,000 or 20,000. I still get nervous before I go on stage and a lot of comics say they don't. But I do because I feel as though if your nervous, that means you care. And if you're never nervous, I feel as if you don't care."

‘Nah. We just going to chill and kill them with kindness.’ DDD:: Which he did. He handled it so well, you know? DC: Yeah. And that was another monumental thing to me…to just look at how he handled that whole situation, how hurt he was and how distraught he was and still smile and go get it. Like we just going to live our lives and whatever comes, comes. That’s why we’re going on tour. We’re not going to get mad, we’re just going to have a good time. You know, just doing that and looking out for everybody on the staff. He’s just a standup, great dude. DDD: Who are some of your biggest influences that have shaped you artistically? DC: Well, obviously Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, but Steven Wright, Ellen DeGeneres, George Carlin. Ellen DeGeneres

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was more monumental to me—she was just as monumental as Richard Pryor was for me. A lot of people would be like, ‘What?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Yeah.’ Because I love detail and subtlety…less is more to me when it comes to writing jokes, and Ellen is like the master at that shit. And I love her delivery and her timing and how she can take something so small and blow it all out of proportion and I can watch that shit over and over again by her. That really inspired me, coming up. DDD: Do you have any favorite standout performances that you’ve been a part of? DC: I loved The Tonight Show– when I was on there as a guest…incredible. I love the thing I did on Laffapalooza with Jamie Foxx... And this thing I did on Martin Lawrence 1st Amendment…I did this bit about “balls deep”. DDD: Yeah, I saw it. I sent that clip out a few times this week. Funny. DC: Yeah, that’s my name now to black people. They don’t even know my name. I was with my mother one day in the mall and somebody was like, ‘Balls deep!’ I was just like, ‘What?’…She was like ‘What is you doing? Why does this man keep hollering ‘balls deep’ to you?’ I’m like, ‘Just keep going’. My mother, she is a Christian, so she knows about my career but she just doesn’t know about all the nasty jokes. So when people holler that shit out, my mother be like, ‘Excuse me?’ A lot of people ask me what’s my favorite joke. To be honest with you, I haven’t wrote it yet. And I wait and I sit back and I go, ‘I can’t wait for like the one that I love the most’. I know the jokes that have gotten me—that helped my career, which is “balls deep” and stuff, and it’s a great joke, but as far as a joke that I love, I have not wrote it yet... DDD: That keeps you pushing though; that’s good. DC: Absolutely, it does. Like we was on tour, [and I was] telling Conan one night I didn’t have a real good show, and he told me you can’t have magical nights every night or they wouldn’t be magical. So don’t feel bad to not be magical all the time. I mean, I worry a lot when I perform. I don’t care if it’s two people or two thousand or twenty thousand. I still get nervous before I go on stage and a lot of comics say they don’t. But I do because I feel as though if you’re nervous, that means you care. And if you’re never nervous, I feel as though you just don’t care. Like I care about what people think, and if they get it and if it’s funny and if they get their money’s worth, and am I doing what I’m supposed to do. If I didn’t worry, I think I wouldn’t care.


issue issue three three

Stylist: Assistance from Stephanie . Thank you Stephanie Holsonback, Paul Gleason Theatre, Aaron Gleason. 39

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chapter one

david cross

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david cross

crossing the line with

issue three

Interview by ELLEN MOYNIHAN Photographed by Jammi York

Ever since I consumed marathon portions of Mr. Show re-runs that were broadcast on HBO sometime around 2003, I have been a fan of David Cross’s humor. Sometimes absurdist and oftentimes contentious, his particular blend of comedy has lent itself to not only stand-up and sketches, but to various films, comedy albums, a book (2009’s I Drink For a Reason), and most recently, the British-produced show The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Cross plays the title character, a bumbling American in London saddled with the task of peddling Thunder Muscle, a U.S.-produced energy drink, to an unreceptive nation as he simultaneously attempts to settle into his new surroundings, which confound him at every turn. Having just wrapped up the second and final season, Cross was back in New York—where, for the first time in two years, he plans to stay put for a while. We had been in contact for weeks regarding the interview, originally intending to talk via Skype while Cross was in London. However, just before making a short detour to Croatia, Cross let me know he would be back in his old neighborhood—the East Village—and available to meet in person after all. I was as impressed by his accommodation and willingness to fit the interview—which ended up being arranged about 90 minutes before we met—into what was clearly a packed schedule as I was somewhat disappointed by parts of the actual meeting. Of his own admission, Cross doesn’t “have much of a line to begin with” regarding what’s off-limits as a target for his humor. Being aware of this, I was still unprepared for his repeated use of a racist term—out of context, seemingly for shock value, and just not funny. More than anything, I wondered why he felt the need to resort to such an unsophisticated tactic when his work has proven that he’s more imaginative than that. I was also taken by surprise that I had to attempt one question in four separate parts,

because each time I began to formulate it, I was interrupted by Cross. On that topic, it turned out that we were, in fact, not disagreeing. It just took the long road to get there. As far as the other matter, well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. DDD: The movie roles you’ve worked on have been fairly broad characterizations… DC: Yeah, most of them, sure. DDD: …as with Arrested Development—Tobias was so over the top, in both his speech and frequently, his appearance. I’m struck by how much Todd is pretty much just a plain old schlub; there’s not much gimmickry to him aside from his buffoonery. Do you think in some ways this is a simpler, more pared-down role for you? DC: It definitely is, I remember when we gave the scripts to Will Arnett, because Will was the only character—literally of all of them—that we wrote with a person in mind…I remember giving him the scripts and saying ‘I’m kind of jealous because I’d love to play your character’; my character’s just…I mean, there’s fun stuff to do, for sure—there’s some physical shit I get to do, but Will’s, and so is Spike’s [Jonze], both of those are really fun characters to play. But you know what? It’s the story first, and

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I have a couple of different projects that I’m going to start developing and pitching—they’re in various stages of existence—and only one of them would have me in front of the camera. I’m kind of looking to get away from that… The Todd Margaret thing was just a matter of practicality. IFC was not interested—nor was Channel 4—in me doing the show and just writing it. They were like ‘Well, you’re going to have to be in it’. But that project’s done, and I’m happy to work in other stuff… And being in front of the camera for other peoples’ stuff, where you just go in, do it, you leave—I love that, but I remember saying to Amber [Tamblyn, costar and girlfriend] when we finished shooting— and I feel differently now, after we’ve edited everything, and you see it kind of together… ‘You know what? My prediction is that…me, David Cross’s Todd Margaret—is going to be the least interesting. I’m really going to want to watch Dave and Brent and Doug and Alice and Pam’ and all that…and I was wrong,…so that’s an extremely long-winded way to get to an answer to: Yes, I think he’s pared-down… that’s in the nature of the character, though, he’s just a goofy—he’s well-meaning but he’s not particularly bright…there’s no extreme to him, he’s…not devious or malicious. DDD: In that sense, given the most reviled qualities and stereotypes of people from the U.S., are you ‘playing’ American? DC: No, no—not at all. If anything, he’s dumber than I think most people would be. I mean, the idea of not knowing that cars drive on the opposite side or that cigarettes are called “fags”, those things are—at this point, pretty much everybody knows those things, so for certain jokes…we had to kind of make him a little dumber than most people are, but there was no attempt to exemplify or personify the typical American. Which doesn’t even exist. I mean, there are some traits that Americans have that Brits don’t have—they tend to be a little more open about their feelings in a situation; they will invite a stranger into their neuroses; they will talk to strangers on the tube…whereas

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chapter one Brits tend to be more reserved, and that’s an age-old observation, but it’s true. But there’s three hundred and fifty million Americans. We always get, like [inquistive voice]: ‘What’s the differences between British comedy and American comedy?’ and there really aren’t many at all… anymore. Maybe thirty years ago, but it’s all so overlapped, and we see their stuff, and they see our stuff, and they are influenced and/or rip off our stuff, and vice versa, so…it’s all the same. DDD: How did you come to be involved in the PETA campaign, where you were shot nude? DC: The short answer is my friend’s girlfriend… she worked with them for a couple of years, and you know, it was a favor. So...I said ‘Look…it has to be an anti-fur campaign because I eat meat…’ DDD: You have a pig [serving up its own rack of ribs] tattooed on your shoulder. DC: Right, I happily eat all kinds of animals… so it was a favor for a friend of mine. But then they did the picture and it ran in a couple of magazines, they just had one billboard—it was in Atlanta, oddly enough, where I’m from—and then putting up that one billboard allowed them to get all this press so it was like a cheap way of getting the word out. DDD: Did you have a hand in choosing the music at the shoot? DC: [Laughs] I don’t know, what was the music at the shoot? DDD: [Laughing] On PETA’s Website, there is footage from the shoot featuring “Get Down On It” by Kool & The Gang as well as The Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady?” as you cavort, naked, on set. DC: I will happily take credit for that. Demanding it…I want it pressed on a certain kind of vinyl, it has to be LP, it has to vinyl, there have to be gold-contacted cables that go into…it has to be a Sanyo three-sixty JL… DDD: So the answer’s yes. DC: Yeah. I’ll take it. Unless you didn’t like it and then I’ll say no, I had nothing to do with it. DDD: I’ve read that you began performing stand-up at age seventeen, and that some of your earliest comedy consisted of mocking the hypocrisy of authority figures… DC: Ehhh, I don’t know about that. I mean, the first part is right; it was literally the week before my eighteenth birthday. No, my initial comedy for at least a year, if not longer…was really overtly absurd and weird, and I would talk in a monotone—I was …basically doing a ripoff of Steven Wright meets Andy Kaufman with a little bit of Steve Martin sprinkled in. There was no real observation—it didn’t remotely resemble the comedy that became my stand-up comedy. DDD: But you were very questioning of authority, growing up.

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DC: Oh, definitely, yeah. Sure. DDD: But you didn’t work that into what you were doing? DC: Not initially, no. It was really more about…I was always, for the longest time, like a comic’s comic; I didn’t do that well on stage, but other comedians liked to watch me either bomb or watch the audience watch me or watch me deal with bombing…because I also didn’t care that much, certainly not in the very beginning… But that [observational comedy] didn’t really happen until I moved to Boston…I stopped doing stand-up for a while but when I started again I was doing all the open mics with Marc Maron, Louis C.K., Janeane Garafalo, Laura Kightlinger…that’s when I started to do…I guess a little but more of the anti-religion, whoever was in office, that kind of stuff. But that didn’t come for years…I was still trying to do jokes and up there with a beginning and then a set-up and then a punchline—it wasn’t necessarily traditional material or subject matter, but I was still trying to do jokes…I also went up and did fake characters, too…I did one guy, a gay guy, really nervous, effeminate open micer, first time, named Daniel James Napolean the Third…I’d pretend to get upset with the audience, and…then I’d figure out a way to do these jokes within them, and then I’d break out of character and do something else—stuff I can’t do anymore because you’ll know it’s fake as soon as I come onstage. DDD: So it really was that Andy Kaufman thing— trying to trick everybody. DC: Yeah…I did a severely retarded guy trying to do comedy, stuff like that. It worked because you didn’t know who I was… although I had one of these rope bracelets on, and hipster glasses, so you’d kinda have a hunch…the first couple of years were just super embarrassingly somebody else’s voice and it took me a little while to grow into my voice. DDD: So why the severe retardation and why the gay guy? Why were those the personas that you chose? DC: It was just fun. It wasn’t a persona, it was doing something so over the top and trying to get the audience as uncomfortable as possible. And there were other characters too…I hesitate to call them characters. It wasn’t like Whoopi Goldberg going [high-pitched voice] ‘Hey! I’m here as a valley girl!’ and [low-pitched voice] ‘Here’s an angry liberal’…It wasn’t that… these would be open mic nights…I’d say ‘Just introduce me as this’, and I’d do the retarded guy and I’d have trouble making it up to stage, and…everybody—the other comics—knew what I was going to do, and certainly after I did the first time they knew it was coming. I used to do a guy with throat cancer who had to, you know, [gasping, wheezing voice] had one of these things…the vocoder…So I was

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an impressionist with this thing, and I’d hold it up to my throat: [robot-like voice] ‘What if Jack Nicholson talked like this?’…So it was all insane. Shit like that. Which I wouldn’t call a character, and I’m kind of taking the piss out of that kind of thing, and I’m…stringing the audience along as much as possible. DDD: Do you consider yourself a sort of punk rock comic in the way you take on authority figures, or has anyone ever called you that? Are you into the music? DC: I was, yeah. Very much so. Not so much anymore—not that I dislike it, I just listen to other stuff…it’s probably been a couple of decades since I threw on a Crass CD and drove around… DDD: But you identified with that at some point? DC: Yeah. Definitely. And less punk rock than what was emerging as…like, the indie scene, I guess. I’d go see my friends’ bands in Atlanta, go to The Bistro, I’d go seedavid Pylon cross and Now Explosion, Bar-B-Q Killers, those kind of bands…Athens, Atlanta bands. And then when I went to Boston, that scene was exploding… then you’d have all those dirty, shitty, pissfilled, vomit… well, vomitoriums, I guess: The Rat and The Channel and Bunratty’s and T.T. the Bear’s…and my friends were in bands and you’d go on Thayer Street on the South End of Boston and you’d have all these house parties in the lofts there and shit like that…I actually look back on that as a—I had fun, but a slightly embarrassing phase where it was really, really important to me to be accepted into that scene, and I kind of felt—whether it was real or not— that I’m a poser, in a way. Even though these were my friends and I hung around, and I was doing this for years and years, I felt like I had to earn my cred, which is a—something that has followed me around for a long time, this feeling of being accepted as real, and not some poser: ‘What’s he doing here? He doesn’t do heroin.’ …I’d still secretly harbored jealousy…you know, the guys with one-word nicknames. But yeah, that was my preferred scene… especially if you had no money, too. I knew a lot of people, so I’d get to go to shows for free, drink—not necessarily drink for free, but half my drinks were…you know, either I’d steal them—or not steal them—just take them, or… DDD: ‘You done with that?’ DC:Yeah, exactly. It was a preferred way to spend my evenings, and then sleep in during the day, and then I was a messenger with some of my friends, and that’s how I spent…many many many many years. And then doing stand-up. DDD: So from what ages, roughly? DC: Aw, shit. When I moved to Boston til when I left, ten years…the later part of it I got successful enough at stand-up and there were enough gigs so that…I could quit my job…and then at night I’d go do a set in Rhode Island or


issue three

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fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one

Vermont or something with a bunch of other guys, pile in somebody’s car…get ninety-five dollars cash under the table, get back in the car, drive back to the city, drink all night, go see bands, whatever. Go to somebody’s apartment, get high, watch videotapes…it was irresponsible but combined with…I was fairly prolific with the comedy I was doing, and I had comedy groups, we’d do shows with sketches and things like that…stuff that became the precursor to things I eventually did when I moved to L.A. DDD: But I think that’s pretty common, if you’re talking about your twenties—to have that work ethic and ambition, but still be hanging out, up all night, doing your thing. DC: Oh, yeah, yeah…it was that beautiful symbiotic melding of ambition but drinking it down to where you could put it in your back pocket and deal with it later…but it was fun. I don’t remember the moment it took place, but I remember the memory of being in L.A., after I had been there for a few years writing on television, and I made more money in a couple of weeks than I had ever accrued in my lifetime, but I also remember thinking: ‘I haven’t laughed as hard and as much on a consistent basis than I used to when I had no money in Boston’. But you know, that’s part of your life, and then you move on, and I’m quite happy with the way things have been turning out. There are a number of things I wish I could have done…when I look back on it—it’s not a deep, panging feeling, like [woeful voice] ‘Oh, why did I ever do Alvin and the Chipmunks?’ I mean, I really don’t care that much now, but it would be great if I didn’t have that on my

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permanent record… But for the most part I’m pretty happy with the way things have been moving, and I’ve certainly gotten to do a lot of what I liked to do. DDD: What sort of comedy or comedians spoke to you as a kid? DC: When I was a little kid, it was…Abbott and Costello, I loved that. Then when I got older, teenage years, Monty Python was hugely important…I used to listen to the Doctor Demento radio show and then my mom turned me onto Lenny Bruce when I was a kid, and the comedy albums I had were anything and everything Python and…George Carlin, Steve Martin, Jonathan Winters…I had a Franklin Ajaye album, big Richard Pryor fan…then Andy Kaufman fuckin blew my mind and just reinvented what the idea of comedy could be. It never would have occurred to me, like ‘Oh, you can do that?’ And then he really influenced me too much, really, in the beginning… then it was [David] Letterman, which was another moment in culture, that hadn’t been established…because he completely reinvented…just taking the piss out of selfcongratulatory nature of people on a talk show there to promote something…and then after that, in the beginning phases of my stand-up, it was my peers… it was the people I was working with, hanging out with, coming up with—bit ideas, show ideas…after that there wasn’t a whole lot of influence until The Office. I would jump ahead to the British Office…going back to the Todd Margaret stuff, that was one of the things that I was so excited about, the prospect of doing a production in Britain with the British standard of how you do a show—you do six

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episodes, that’s it, you write them all, shoot it, you do six more episodes…because you could never do that in the States. I could never pitch someone ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea for a show— it will end after the twelfth episode, no more, just twelve episodes. I want you to promote the fuck out of it’…That’s not the way the market works in the States…if you do a certain amount of episodes they go into syndication, and you’re making…forty times the money you would have made in ad revenue…fifty times? That’s why…the magic number was always one hundred episodes…you’re going to go from being very wealthy to multi- multimulti-millionaire…that’s why when Friends and Seinfeld and I guess the latest was Big Bang Theory—when those people on series five or six, when they renegotiate…they were getting fifty thousand an episode and all of a sudden they’re going ‘Well, you know what? I want five hundred thousand an episode’, and the rest of America is like: ‘That’s outrageous! These guys are so greedy! This is disgusting!’ They fucking deserve every penny…I remember the outrage with Friends, they wanted a million an episode. Absolutely, they deserve it—they’ve made that company…at least a billion dollars. More. DDD: But do you think, though, that if everything were scaled down they would still deserve a million dollars per episode, for the work they do? I mean, a lot of people would look at that and say ‘Yeah, I’d love to do that, I’d love to hang out with my friends on set—‘ DC: Well, that’s a different argument, and what kind of argument is that? Now you’re saying…I’m arguing the pay be commensurate with what you’re earning the company that’s paying you. That argument is ‘Hey, you should


issue three be happy with what you got.’ DDD: Yeah, what I’m saying is more from an economic perspective, if things—and this is what people say about the pay of a schoolteacher and a fireman versus a pro athlete— DC: No, that’s different, because the teacher is not earning money for the pro athlete. These are two different arguments. You’re saying in a world where a pro athlete makes ten million dollars a year to play twelve games, four of them he’s hurt, and he plays ninety minutes once a week…whereas a teacher works their ass off and they make no money and they’ve got this important responsibility which is informing your kid and babysitting your kid, that’s a different argument than do the Friends actors who’ve made this thing successful, once this thing goes into their sixth series and they know that the people they are working for make hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, do they get a raise commensurate with the amount of money they’re about to make the network. Those are two different arguments. DDD: Yeah, those are. And I am distinguishing them, and I am saying that a lot of people would look at that the same way that the pro athletes are earning that much money for their team, and the people who own that team…and that’s what they get paid, based on that— DC: I’m not diminishing the fact the teachers work their asses off, have a very important job and don’t get paid that much…perhaps if we could figure that out in an enlightened society, say a country without the Tea party movement, and added in more taxes, we could give some of that money, our community money, to the community teachers who deserve it. Not all of them, but they certainly deserve a raise, and maybe their performance would raise, and they wouldn’t be so stressed out…but that’s just free-market capitalism. DDD: Yeah, that’s what I’m getting at. A question of capitalism, and pay scale for certain jobs, and privatization versus [public jobs]. DC: Well, it’s capitalism that allows the worker to unionize—and they are unionized, the actors…’We’ve banded together, and we don’t want to do any more series unless you give us a million dollars an episode’. DDD: So whose comedy do you enjoy now, or what do you think is funny? DC: I really like anything that PFFR does, the Vernon Chatman, John Lee stuff, anything they’ve done has been amazing. Most of the Adult Swim stuff is really funny; I still think South Park is one of the most underrated shows in history…the Perry Bible Fellowship comic strip is pretty amazing, consistently genius…there’s so much stuff on the Internet now that’s really great too—there’s stuff on Something Awful that’s really impressive…stuff David Rees does. Unfortunately I have not been in America… only a cumulative two weeks spread out over two years, so I haven’t seen any real stand-up

shows where I saw anyone new, but…I’m back here now…and very optimistic about some of the success of the guys who are coming up just a few years ago, you know, Zach [Galifianakis], and Aziz Ansari, and Nick Swardson…I’m trying to figure out if there’s stuff that’s made me laugh. Most of it is stupid talking pet things on YouTube [laughs]. DDD: I love those, too! DC: A lot of my American sources for humor I just haven’t had access to…and because of whatever the rules are, you can’t get The Daily Show or Stephen Colbert…stuff on the Internet in Britain. DDD: Please talk about the notion of “vague American values and anti-intellectual pride”. DC: Well, I think we’ve come out of that a little bit…you hear a lot less these days about family values…we certainly seem to have come out of that a little bit. It was a phase we went through. It’ll always be there, just under the surface, if you’re in New York. If you’re in Georgia, then it’s not just on the surface, but it’s created a dome which entraps you and hovers over you constantly…I mean the Tea Party represents a little bit about that, but they’re more about the economics. I don’t think they give two shits about gay marriage, really. But that’s also a sense of American pride that’s built on a notion that is based on a matchstick foundation; the idea that the Founding Fathers would have wanted this—they don’t know that, and their reasons are very suspect anyway…it’s not like it was five years ago…I don’t see it going back anytime soon. DDD: What do you think is funny in a… DC: I gotta say, I gotta interrupt you—for an interview that has comedy as a subject matter, this is probably the driest, most un-funny… [laughing]. I don’t mean it in a bad way—but it’s really not funny. DDD: Well, it’s the Funny Issue. It’s me talking to you as a person; you don’t have to be…putting on a show. DC: No, that’s cool, I appreciate it, but it just struck me...there’s nothing funny about it. DDD: Well, you can do a song and dance at the end and I’ll describe it…What do you think is funny in everyday life? What kind of things make you laugh when you’re walking down the street? DC: I always laugh—not out loud—but in the interior when I see an elderly person run for the bus and they just miss it, and it’s sad, and I’m not laughing at them but it always makes me not laugh in a: ‘Ah ha, you fucker’ but in a ‘Ohhh…no.’ My stupid dog makes me laugh a lot. It would be weird if it was intentional. I could make a lot of money. My girlfriend— or fiancée, now—really makes me laugh hard, a lot. Funniest person I ever met…most of my friends are really funny. I get to hang out with really funny people. But you were asking

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me more about day-to-day, walking down the street…I’ve been getting up seven-thirty, eight in the morning…and that’s when everybody is starting to rouse in Tompkins Square Park, all the bums and the crusties…They just say the craziest shit. You know that it’s nonstop, but just the snippets you get when you walk by: fucking awesome. And New York has that in abundance. Stereotypes make me laugh, when I see or overhear…a blatant stereotype, that always makes me laugh. Hasidim make me laugh in that kind of shake-my-head kind of way…This girl, yesterday—I was taking my dog out of my apartment building and she’s there with her dad, five-year-old girl, and she’s like ‘Doggie! Doooggie!’…and clutched her dad’s leg. He kind of chuckled and said, ‘You don’t have to be scared of dogs.’ And she said, ‘I’m not scared of dogs, I’m scared of people.’ That made me laugh. DDD: What would you not joke about? DC: I think if you are making fun of a defenseless person who has done nothing to deserve one’s scorn—in other words did not put themselves willingly out there in the public…I think that’s kind of where you draw the line. Somebody who is not affecting anybody else…I can’t think of an example, but somebody…who has unwillingly been thrust into the public for ridicule…Now, let me clarify: if you’re saying it on stage, and it’s just stand-up…in Providence, Rhode Island…and you make fun of this person who everybody else is making fun of, and your set’s not being broadcast anywhere, that’s not nearly as bad as pundits or people making fun of that person, or Gawker…but most of these people usually put themselves out there to be ridiculed. Like the Rebecca Black thing. You go ‘Oh, man.’ You feel a little bad because… overnight, it’s a national thing where everyone’s making fun of her. But she put it out there…I have less sympathy for that person than…I can’t even think of an example, but somebody who’s an innocent victim in something, or just by proximity… DDD: Like maybe Octomom’s kids… DC: Yeah yeah. Exactly. That, I think, is where I would draw the line. And I really don’t have much of a line to begin with. Also I think it’s taboo—number one, I would suggest, put it out there that it is morally and ethically wrong to make fun of me…I think that’s really where other people will draw the line. DDD: No doubt there will be a deluge of jokes following Amy Winehouse’s death. What is your reaction to her death? DC: Well, I was shocked…no, of course not… Amber texted me…’ Whoa, Amy Winehouse is dead.’ And I wrote back ‘What? That pure little angel?’ So…there’s no surprise. I didn’t know her; if I knew her and liked her I’d feel like ‘Oh, what a loss’, but I don’t care. It’s another junkie…get your shit together. She had numerous opportunities. I feel less immediate fall 2011 : the ddd


chapter one

the ddd : fall 2011

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issue three

"It was just fun. It wasn’t a persona, it was doing something so over the top and trying to get the audience as uncomfortable as possible. And there were other characters too…I hesitate to call them characters...I used to do a guy with throat cancer who had to, you know, [gasping, wheezing voice] had one of these things…the vocoder… So I was an impressionist with this thing, and I’d hold it up to my throat: [robot-like voice] “What if Jack Nicholson talked like this?”…So it was all insane. Shit like that. Which I wouldn’t call a character, and I’m kind of taking the piss out of that kind of thing, and I’m…stringing the audience along as much as possible." visceral empathy for her than I do different victims; the unknown people in Oslo…I hear Amy Winehouse died and I’m like ‘Yeah, of course she did’. I heard and saw pictures of those kids who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time because a deranged right-wing anti-Muslim lunatic shot them thinking that would help, and I can’t put a face to that person…I have more of a pang of sympathy for them than I do Amy Winehouse. She had a dozen opportunities, if not more. It’s a choice you make. I’m sorry she couldn’t get her shit together…figure your shit out. Unless it was a suicide, and then I’d feel bad. DDD: I guess a lot of people would call that whole thing “slow suicide”. DC: I wouldn’t. It’s just an abdication of responsibility based on immediate gratification. DDD: Alright, so we’re going to do this sort of bonus round here. DC: [whispering and rubbing his hands together] Bonus! DDD: I’m going to read to you a series of people, places, things, and institutions. Please reply with the first thing that comes to mind…like a word-association game. DC: Alright, I’ll be honest. DDD: Ready? DC: Nigger. DDD: What? DC: Nigger. DDD: No. DC: Oh, you haven’t started yet. DDD: Sophie’s Bar [located on 5th Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village] DC: Nigger. [laughing] Please print that, by the way. That whole run… Uh, Sophie’s Bar…neighborhood mainstay; been there many times, not as often as several other bars, but a good go-to backup plan b. Although not the bar Plan B. DDD: Atlanta, Georgia DC: Simultaneously tragic and wonderful, an oasis in a desert of crap, not nearly reaching its potential; sadly sold out to corporate interests

over the last ten years or so, but still some of the best people I’ve ever met live there. DDD: This is a YouTube video—“Kittens Inspired by Kittens”. Have you seen it? DC: I haven’t. Kittens Inspired by Kittens? DDD: You might have to watch it at the end. It’s very quick…Rupert Murdoch. DC: A craven, greedy, disingenuous…and totally a creation of our society and our ethos. We’ve only got ourselves to blame for Rupert Murdoch…not a good man…and—here we go—ready for this pun? Bad news…If only the Post wasn’t owned by Rupert Murdoch. DDD: Well, I don’t know if you’ll be familiar with this because you haven’t been here, but… The smoking ban in New York City’s parks. DC: Really? A smoking ban in the parks? DDD: Yeah. You cannot smoke in the parks anymore. It’s about six weeks old. DC: Get outta here!...That seems unnecessary. That’s a bit above and beyond…I’m shocked. How did that…? I think that’s a bit much, I really…but in the parks? That’s nuts! I’m surprised, I’m really surprised. DDD: Amy Sedaris. DC: Oh my God…both a minor and a major crush on her. She’s awesome. I’ve known her over the years—I haven’t spent a lot of time with her, but every time we do it’s a little bit of delightfulness wrapped up in strawberry meringue…she’s really funny, she’s really sweet, and I like her a lot. DDD: Hare Krishnas. DC: Harmlessly misguided. DDD: Harry Houdini. DC: A wily Jew. DDD: New York’s legalization of gay marriage. DC: Oh, awesome, about time, shockingly late, but happy that it will be at the forefront of leading the country to do the right thing and the logical, practical, humane thing. And it makes me a firm believer in states’ rights. DDD: Antoine Dodson—another YouTube video. Are you familiar with him?

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DC: Wait he was…oh yeah, from North Carolina or something…'We’re gonna find you…' Right…an example of celebrity in the last twenty years…fuckin milk that shit for all you can. Because it’ll go away soon, enjoy it while you can. DDD: Poetry. DC: Something I am growing more familiar with because of my girlfriend…I didn’t have any negative connotation about it but it just wasn’t any part of—outside of a handful of books like Denis Johnson poetry here and there, literally over my lifetime I have read very little…because my brain doesn’t…it can’t connect like that. Because poetry is about image and metaphor…I don’t respond to it as well as I do to stark realism. But I am coming to appreciate it—and poets as well—through my girlfriend, which is a good thing…I would urge anybody and everybody to check out the works of Derrick Brown and Write Bloody Press. DDD: Crusties. DC: I have no—and maybe this is just me getting older—but I have no patience, or I find no romance about it. I am visibly angered, maybe more than I should be, when they have the audacity to ask me for change more than once. If they go ‘Hey man, you got a dollar?’ and I say ‘No’ and walk by—if that exchange goes past that moment, I get furious. I’m not going to subsidize your fucking irresponsibility. We’d all love to spend every day drunk, getting high, but I can’t. I have shit to do. And don’t get mad at me because I won’t. You asked me a question, I answered you, we’re done…although I will say this: I know a lot of people get upset when they see crusties with dogs, you know, when they’re sleeping on a stoop somewhere, it’s five in the afternoon and the dog is chained to them…but I look at that and it makes me smile because I know that dog is teaching that crusty responsibility. “Kittens Inspired by Kittens” had repeated trouble loading on my Blackberry. Eventually only the first four of five seconds were available to view. “I like it already though,” Cross remarked. “It’s a little girl giving captions to a book about kittens…it’s adorable, and a reason to have a kid, but still not a reason to have a cat.” He called over his shoulder on the way out the door.

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rogan, As Real As it Gets

chapter one

Interview by David Choi Photographed by KOURY ANGELO

Joe Rogan is starting to hit his stride. Outspoken and fearless, he has amassed a wide following, both on the stand-up circuit and online. Armed with an insatiable appetite for answers to the big questions and a razor-sharp wit, Rogan is blazing a trail through uncharted territories that is too funny to be ignored. In the 23 years since his humble beginnings at an open mic night, Joe Rogan has experienced a multitude of successes in his career. In addition to having released multiple comedy albums as well as starring in stand-up specials on Showtime and Comedy Central, Joe is known for his role as Joe Garelli in the ‘90s cult-classic sitcom NewsRadio, having hosted the reality game show Fear Factor, as well as being a color commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In 2007, Joe’s presence on the Internet grew wildly when a YouTube video of him confronting Carlos Mencia about stealing other comedians’ jokes went viral. He has since established a lasting presence on the web, hosting his immensely successful Joe Rogan Experience podcast, which can regularly be found in iTunes’ top 10 list of most downloaded comedy podcasts. DDD: So how long have you been a stand-up comedian, and how did you get started? JR: I started August twenty-seventh, 1988, and I got started at an open mic night. I just went… and I signed up for the list like everybody else and that sort of got the ball rolling... DDD: What was it that made you decide to try that? JR: I actually had some friends that talked me into doing it. I used to make them laugh, and they thought that I could do it for a living. I

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thought that I was an asshole and I just made them laugh because they were my friends, and that other people would just think that the things that I would talk about were really fucked up, and my sense of humor was really fucked up… I was sort of reluctant. But…one of the things about open mic night, you sort of get to see all these people that are also just starting out, and they also don’t know what they’re doing, and they stumble on stage and it sort of gives you confidence. You’re like, ‘Well everybody else is fucking up, so I can go up there, too’. DDD: Did you grow up listening to stand-up comedy? Was it always a big part of your life? JR: I was a fan of stand-up comedy, but honestly, until I thought about doing it on stage, until I really considered what my friends were saying, I never considered it as a possible career. I had looked at comedians like they were different; I was just a regular person. I enjoyed them, I appreciated them, but I really never thought that I was going to be able to do it until I actually did. DDD: How would you say that your material has evolved from when you had first started compared to where you’re at now? JR: When you first start out, you’re basically doing anything you can to get a laugh. Your moments on stage are so insecure, and you feel

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unstable up there. And at least for me, I just tried to get laughs with things that I thought would work. You know, I thought of them like tools, like, ‘this joke is a tool, this will work’. And then as you get older and you get better at it, you start doing things that you actually think are funny. You start saying, ‘Well, if I was in the audience, I would think this is funny’. And then…I eventually found a way to make concepts and ideas, and my philosophies, and my points of view on life…that aren’t necessarily real obvious jokes, to push ideas through. I’ve always said that if somebody goes on stage, and just has an opinion and just tells you their opinion, you could be in the audience and you can disagree and say, ‘Wait, I don’t agree. I think your opinion’s wrong, and here’s my opinion’. And it seems like the best way to get an opinion through is to say that opinion and make someone laugh with it. Because even if the person doesn’t agree with you, they sort of have to consider the opinion if they’re laughing at it… DDD: What is your definition of good comedy? When you’re working on new bits, what is it that makes something funny to you? And how do you make sure it’s funny to the audience as well? JR: It’s got to be funny to me. If it’s funny to me, my job is then to sort of let people in on my thought process, and why it’s funny to me. To get that out with the best wording, with an economy of words, the least amount of words, and the most precise use of them. It has to be funny to me, that’s the most important thing. What stand-up comedy truly is, is your point of view, your way of looking at things.

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I mean, there’s some stand-up comedy that’s just jokes, like Steven Wright or…Mitch Hedberg, and I guess you could still argue that it’s their point of view...the jokes. But then there’s comedy like [George] Carlin’s point of view, or Louis C.K., or someone along those lines that is just talking about life, and their point of view is funny. So as long as the person who’s describing the comedy, if it’s funny to them, then it’s just a matter of trying to get people to tune into your thought process, to try to figure out how you’ve come to these conclusions, or how you’ve come to view it that way. DDD: Your stand-up material includes many polarizing subjects, such as religion, politics, and psychedelic drug use. What’s the thought process you go through when you’re writing jokes about these topics on which people have very different opinions? JR: Well, there’s certainly material that demands real clear and precise—I don’t want to say wording, but you have to approach it with a certain amount of consideration of the audience’s attention span and how other people are going to view it, and you have to make sure that it’s done well. You have to make sure that you have a good economy of words, that your points are very clear and that they make sense, that you’ve articulated them well…If you’re going to talk about something controversial, you’ve got to make sure it’s funny. That’s very, very important. You can’t just fly by the seat of your pants when you’re talking about really polarizing subjects. DDD: Predecessors such as George Carlin and Bill Hicks have had major success discussing similar types

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of topics. What is a comedian’s role in terms of raising awareness regarding serious issues? JR: I don’t think that they have a responsibility. That’s been argued before, but the only real responsibility that a comic has is to be funny. And occasionally comics, especially when they develop points of view that people applaud, or when people start to look at them as more of a philosopher than a stand-up comic, or they look at them as someone that has a valid viewpoint rather than someone that’s just trying to be a joker—I think that becomes a very tricky situation. You can lose sight of what you’re actually supposed to be doing, and that’s making people laugh. If you can make them laugh and make them think, that’s a bonus. But the most important thing is to make them laugh, in my opinion, at least. DDD: And that’s a very valid opinion. JR: Because some comics will get into this preacher mode, and they’ll rant on stage and say things, and, even some of the greats—like Hicks was guilty of that a few times, he would rant about something, and it wasn’t really funny. I think that’s short-sighted; I think that you’re doing a disservice to the point of view, and the venue, and the environment… DDD: I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a rant, but there have been YouTube videos of you floating around the web speaking out about a variety of topics. Have you seen the one video entitled ‘The American War Machine’? JR: Yes. DDD: In that video, you make a lot of very interesting


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points regarding the military-industrial complex. There are also other clips of you on the Internet speaking as a proponent for pot smoking and other psychedelic drug use. Do you feel like [these videos] help or hurt your standing as a stand-up comedian? JR: Well, do you know where those clips are from? DDD: Your podcast, right? JR: Yeah. So, someone has just taken those clips out of the podcast and put them to video. A bunch of different people have, actually. There are actually hundreds of them now, out on the Internet. So I don’t think that that hurts anything. I’m not trying to be a stand-up comedian in that, I’m just a human being, and we’re just sitting down talking. If I did those rants on stage–in the context of a comedy club–I would say that I’m kind of out of line. I’m not providing jokes; I’m not providing comedy.

much of it is entertainment, how much of it is education, how much of it is philosophy, how much of it is comedy. Some people will come to the comedy shows and maybe they wish we would just do a podcast. And some people do that: Adam Carolla does live podcasts. He does a comedy club and invites the audiences, and he sits on stage and does the podcast. …I think they’re two totally different things. I like my podcasts in my office, with privacy

The podcast is completely free and it’s just… uninhibited, uncensored... it’s pure thought, and I think that’s the best representation of me. I’ve been doing a bunch of different things for a long time, and I’m sure a lot of people have a lot of confusing opinions about me, based on a lot of things that I’ve done. I mean, the cage fighting commentary too, that’s a fucking weird one: A stand-up comedian/cage fighting commentator? ...That doesn’t even seem to make sense. But, you know, that’s just who I am. I’m into a lot of weird shit.

When people come to a stand-up comedy show, they come to be taken on a journey for an hour and a half. A journey of laughter and thoughts, and they want to laugh their ass off. They want to think about stuff and they want to have a bunch of things presented to them that they might not have ever considered if it wasn’t for the comic that was on stage performing it. That’s one of the beautiful things about the podcast. It provides me a venue where I don’t have to be funny…So there’s no constraint as far as what you’re trying to do, all you’re trying to do is to be entertaining, all you’re trying to do is be engaging, and be interesting, and be honest, and be up for it. You don’t necessarily have to put it into a stand-up comedy sort of context and form. DDD: On your podcast you’ve mentioned that the platform has helped you sell out more shows and gain new fans. Do you feel like the people that are coming out to see you perform stand-up after having heard your podcast are looking for the same things in your act that they’ve found on your podcast? What is it that makes the two platforms really work? JR: I guess that depends completely on each individual person. Some people enjoy the podcast for the philosophical debates. For example, I had a guy on recently that was sort of giving a lecture, and I kind of cut him off a few times because I was like ‘God, this is dry. You can’t just lecture’. And some people got upset! They were like ‘Well, we wanted to hear that’. It’s a tricky line that you cross. How

JR: Some of them have been confusing. The Fear Factor one…a lot of people would just be like ‘Wait a minute, he’s a fuckin’ comedian?’ Because a lot of what I did on Fear Factor wasn’t necessarily funny. I think the best thing that I’ve ever done for my stand-up…was the podcast, because the podcast is the only true representation of me. Completely uncensored, completely unproduced, there’s no one telling me what to do, there’s no one pulling my strings or telling me not to say this, or to edit that out…or we’re not gonna allow you to discuss this, here’s the subjects for today.

and hanging out with my friends, and I like my stand-up comedy done on a…stage. I think some people, the podcast introduces them to my way of thinking, and introduces them to my crazy friends, and the comedy is just another extension of that. And for other people, they just really enjoy the stand-up…and the podcast, they can take it or leave it. Everyone is different. DDD: You’ve had a wide variety of jobs in show business, such as playing Joe Garelli, co-hosting The Man Show, hosting Fear Factor, and commentating for the UFC. How did having such varying jobs affect your stand-up career?

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DDD: With everything that happened recently with Tracy Morgan and his ‘gay bashing’, and Michael Richards calling an audience member ‘nigger’ a few years back, and just recently you caught some heat for calling a female blogger ‘cunty’… JR: Yeah, I don’t think I really caught any heat for it. People complained but I told them all to pretty much go fuck themselves. The idea that you’re supposed to only use these sanctioned words when you’re describing certain things…I oppose that; I oppose this whole censorship of comics as well. The Tracy Morgan thing I found particularly offensive for a couple of reasons. It takes out of context Tracy Morgan’s act…Morgan’s whole act is saying ridiculous, completely offensive things that don’t make any sense. That is his act. It’s funny. And it is a style of comedy; it is a legitimate style of art. And I like that style of art, I think it’s hilarious. I have a friend, who—do you remember Susan Smith? The woman who drowned her kids? Well this guy, my friend Brian Holtzman, hilarious stand-up comic. He got on stage, I’m talking a couple of days after it broke in the news, and he goes ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I heard those were bad kids! I heard those kids

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Thank you House of Billiards & Harry.

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sat right in front of the TV, they didn’t put away their blocks, they spilled their fucking milk, no one’s gonna like those kids’. It was ridiculous, and of course he didn’t mean a fucking word of it, and it’s completely outrageous and offensive, but it was hilarious! It was really funny… because it’s a style of comedy. Much like when gangster rappers rap about shooting people and robbing people… are they really shooting people and robbing people? No, it’s entertainment. When you watch a movie, if you watch Silence of the Lambs, is Anthony Hopkins really eating people? No, he’s not, it’s goddamn entertainment. It’s not real. And you have to realize that about standup comedy. When a comic goes on stage and says [doing Tracy Morgan impression] ‘If I found out my son was gay I’d stab that little nigger!’ Do you really think he’d stab his son for being gay? It’s entertainment. You might not like it; you might think it’s offensive, just like you might think Silence of the Lambs is offensive; you might not like movies about serial killers. And that’s your prerogative, you don’t have to watch those movies, you don’t have to go and see those comics, and if you don’t like them, so be it. But you can’t hear a comic say something completely outrageous and offensive on stage and say, ‘Well this man has made a statement’, as if he has written this out and sent this out in a press release: ‘Hey, I believe that all gay people are fucked up and if my son was gay, I’d stab him. Thank you very much, my name is Tracy Morgan, and this is my opinion’. That’s not what he’s doing… And the Michael Richards thing is a different thing. Because with Michael Richards, what you had is a guy that was famous and loved from this television show, but as a stand-up comic, was really like an open mic-er, he was a novice, he didn’t know what he was doing. And also, he was under the influence of something. I don’t know what it was, but there was something going on. He had done a set earlier that night at The Comedy Store, and everybody said, and this is peoples’ opinion, they thought that he was coked up. Which makes sense that he was confident to yell that at these black guys. I think what he did there was just incompetence, I just think he sucked. He wanted to be controversial; he wanted to try to cut them, to hurt them. They were saying he sucked, and he did suck. Listen, when you suck, and I’ve sucked before, and I’ve had people tell me I sucked when I sucked… that’s the worst fucking feeling in the world. When you’re bombing on stage, and somebody goes ‘You suck’, and you’re like ‘Goddamn, they’re right, I do suck’, you want to fire back... Michael Richards should have been doing open mic nights. He should not have been at Friday

night at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on Sunset. There’s no fucking way he should have been performing at that high level of a venue. He should have just been putting in his time… trying to make things happen. Like everybody else does. It takes a long time to get good at stand-up comedy, and he clearly wasn’t good at it. He was just being retarded. He just fucked up. When he was yelling things out at those guys in the crowd, it was incompetence more than anything. Incompetence and just being a fool—that’s totally different than what Tracy Morgan was doing. What Tracy was doing was what he’s been doing his whole career... outrageous shit on stage, and it’s hilarious. And I don’t agree with any of it. I would never say what he said. I don’t have that style of comedy. I would never go on stage and say I would stab my son if he was gay, it would never come out of my mouth. But I support his right to say it and I support the right of other people who don’t believe that he means that to laugh at it. DDD: Just now you referred to stand-up comedy as an art form. Would you say that there is an objective element that distinguishes between good comedy and bad comedy, or what makes something funny or not funny, or is that completely subjective? JR: It's totally subjective because what you might love, I might not like at all. Some people love these certain alternative comics that I just

find incredibly boring, but some people love it. And there are some guys that are really animated and like to run around and yell, that some people find very distasteful… They prefer that alternative style of standing up there, microphone never leaves the mic stand, you know, just staying put up there and you don’t move and you put up as little effort as possible, and it’s dry. Everybody’s got their own likes and dislikes, whether it’s music, or whether it’s film, books—some people like Stephen King books, some people like to read classics. It’s really subjective, like any other art form. The weird thing about stand-up…comedy doesn’t have different separate classifications. You know, when you go to see live music you can go to see jazz, you can go to see rock and roll, you can go to see hip-hop. There are no classifications like that with stand-up… Alternative comedy and regular comedy are the only classifications. Alternative, quite honestly, came out of guys who were doing regular comedy and bombing. So they wanted to find some really supportive sort of venues that appreciate their obscure references. I think it’s completely subjective. You’re not going to like the same foods as I do, you might not like the same music. Everybody has different tastes.

"The idea that you’re supposed to only use these sanctioned words when you’re describing certain things…I oppose that; I oppose this whole censorship of comics as well. The Tracy Morgan thing I found particularly offensive for a couple of reasons. It takes out of context Tracy Morgan’s act…Morgan’s whole act is saying ridiculous, completely offensive things that don’t make any sense. That is his act. It’s funny. And it is a style of comedy; it is a legitimate style of art. And I like that style of art, I think it’s hilarious."

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EDDIE

IZZARD:

POLITICALLY CORRECT Interview by R AC H E L L E BE RG S T E I N Photographed by Jeremy Cowart at Weiss Artists, Inc

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eddie izzard Eddie’s own jeans. Miles McNeel ring, green diamonds set in labradorite. Diederik Comte black francis linen jacket. Versace white shirt. UNNUR tobacco fish scale belt. 55

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Versace metallic jacket. Technobohemiam scarf. R+Denim jeans. Miles McNeel dog tags in semi precious stones set in labradorite. Andy Paiko 3’ glass syringe with steel base.

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Eddie Izzard prefers not to do a stand-up routine the same way twice. And that dizzying sense of ambition might just be the perfect insight into this international comedy star: a man who performs full-length shows in his second language (French); who has conquered the worlds of stage, television, and film; who in 2009, ran 43 marathons in 51 days for charity; and who plans, in 2020, to give it all up for politics. Just a week after becoming the first ever solo comedy act to perform in Los Angeles’s Hollywood Bowl, Izzard chatted with the DDD about hecklers, the Bible, World War II, Al Franken, Wikipedia, and Harry Potter…and made it clear that one of his greatest pleasures in life is the inimitable rush of a new challenge.

DDD: I hear Stripped to the Bowl was wonderful. How did that enormous venue impact your performance? EI: Well, I’ve done sixty arena gigs before Hollywood Bowl, and I’ve been pushing— as has Dane Cook—for stand-ups to do them. Rock’n’roll has been playing arenas and stadiums since Shea Stadium with The Beatles, so why don’t we go and play in those kinds of places? Getting to the Bowl was great. My heroes Monty Python played there for three dates back in the eighties. And I think it was a very good gig, on my judgment—my judgment is not everyone else’s—but I gave it a nine out of ten in my book. DDD: Well, I read some reviews and they agree with you, so congratulations. EI: That’s very nice of them. Two years ago I started doing an outdoor comedy festival in the UK—again, musicians have been doing outdoor festivals for years, but comedians haven’t—and when people laugh in a field, the laughter just goes straight up to the gods. You don’t hear it so well. But in an amphitheatre it comes right back at you, and it just makes for a great atmosphere. It was kind of magical: Garry Shandling was out there, Roseanne Barr was out there, Bob Newhart was out there…I wanted to do it again the next night. DDD: Your approach to stand-up has often been described as improvisational. Is it true that you don’t pre-write your routines?

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EI: I ad-lib everything, but not in a gig. So, at the Hollywood Bowl, I didn’t ad-lib a huge amount: probably just two or three minutes’ worth. Everything else had been ad-libbed at one point, but I don’t craft it—it’s a bit like someone modeling in clay, continually sculpting and re-sculpting what they’re doing. I have certain bits that I come back to, but each time I do them it’s going to be a different. It’s a conversational style. Every time I go into it, I’m not sure where I’m going to land, what I’m going to say. DDD: Some audience members take your conversational style a little too literally, and feel comfortable heckling you—how do you handle an audience member who’s gone rogue? EI: That’s fine; you just talk back to them. You can get thrown on stage, but if you’ve done as many gigs as I’ve done, you don’t. Sometimes you can mishear: at the bowl, someone said ‘Fuck Yeah!’ and I thought they said ‘Fuck You’, so I sort of laid into him when I should have just said ‘Sorry, I didn’t hear you’. I tweeted an apology. But generally, once you’ve gotten to the point in your career where you’re playing arenas or Hollywood Bowls, people tend to be pretty positive towards you. DDD: One of the themes of Stripped is your “spiritual atheism.” EI: I believe in human beings, not mystical powers. I see no organized plan coming from any organized god, so that’s what I decided to talk about. And in Europe that kind of material makes no real noise at all, everyone’s sort of there, too, but in America it causes a bit of consternation. I think half of your country is there, and half of your country isn’t. The middle of America is still very religious, and the more progressive America—which tends to be at the outer edges, maybe because they have more contact with other people coming in from other shores—is more open-minded. But I am spiritual: I enjoy the connection between people. I just don’t see a connection between anyone living up in clouds. DDD: In your work, there’s an interesting mix of cynicism and idealism, which a lot of artists exhibit. Would you describe yourself as a cynic or an idealist? EI: I’m idealist. I’m cynical about things when I think they’ve lost their way. If you look at all organized religions, the wise people who come along—and they’re usually wise men, I think women didn’t get a lock-in because of the sexist nature of early civilizations—tend to be

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modernizers. I think Jesus was a wise man. I think Mohammed was a wise man. Abraham, a wise man. Noah, a wise man. These were wise people who probably did things—extraordinary things, positive things—but once they died, people started reinterpreting what they said, and then they…insisted it can never, ever change. DDD: Everyone needs something to believe in. What’s your lodestar? EI: Well, I believe in us. I believe in human beings. I believe in the innate goodwill of the vast majority. If you look at World War Two, it was the goodwill of people, with a few lucky breaks, or a few strange accidents that happened, that caused us to win in the end. I believe that the god and the devil are fighting in each person, and that we have to perhaps try to work towards “the better angels in our nature,” as I think a president of yours once said. DDD: Speaking of duality, you’re always Eddie Izzard in your comedy, but you seem to slip very easily into other roles for your film and television work. How does that compare to doing a live, improvisational stage performance? EI: If I’m doing theatre, like David Mamet’s Race last year off-Broadway, that has a similarity to the every night, live nature of stand-up. And I try to drive the drama down a logical corridor so I can actually move it night-to-night, and I can change how I might emotionally play a scene. It’s something—I haven’t heard about before, but I’ve developed it, ‘cause I’ve done two Mamet plays now, and he’s very particular about how he wants the dialogue delivered, but then you can choose your own emotional angle. So live performance, dramatic acting on stage, has quite a few similarities with stand-up. When you’re doing film, it gets quite different. But the essential thing about all of them is being in the moment. That is the key thing: being very much there, as opposed to reciting something, where there’s a distance between you and what you’re saying. Live what you’re saying—be it a dramatic truth, or a comedic twist. DDD: Do you feel there’s a vast difference between trying to make people laugh and playing something serious and dramatic, or do you think they’re pretty close together on the continuum? EI: I think there’s a similarity between dramatic storytelling and comedy, which I’ve only just realized recently. In comedy, we put ideas together, and then we hit a punchline, and an audience should be wrong-footed, so that they think ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were going there’, and then they’ll release a laugh, because you turned in a way that they find funny. In a dramatic story, you’ll be going along with the story and then turn, emotionally, in a way that the audience isn’t expecting. But the bottom

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line of drama is always to be truthful. If you’re being truthful to a character, he should only do what’s within that character’s emotional lines. In comedy, sometimes you can blend or break that—simply, to get a laugh by doing something that the character just would not do. DDD: Is there an essence in a character that you find you respond well to? Or do you just like the challenge of something new? EI: I do more and more like a challenge. But the essence of all the characters I play—they’ve got to be relentless bastards. ‘Cause that’s what I am. They do things that people don’t expect to turn out right. Having done gigs in French, having run forty-three marathons in fifty-one days, having played the Hollywood Bowl—I kind of like the fact that I can come up with things and say I’m going to do them and then

“Two years ago I started doing an outdoor comedy festival in the UK—again, musicians have been doing outdoor festivals for years, but comedians haven’t—and when people laugh in a field, the laughter just goes straight up to the gods. You don’t hear it so well. But in an amphitheatre it comes right back at you, and it just makes for a great atmosphere. It was kind of magical: Garry Shandling was out there, Roseanne Barr was out there, Bob Newhart was out there…I wanted to do it again the next night.”

people look at me oddly like, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen’, and then I go and do them anyway. It feels like a good use of my life. DDD: Have you always been the kind of person who continues to raise the bar for yourself? EI: I don’t think I could make a bar initially. I was always determined as a kid, but I couldn’t get anything going for so long. Now that I have things going, I’ve realized that raising the bar seems to be the only way forward. DDD: On your Twitter account, you describe yourself as thinking like an American. EI: It means thinking like an economic migrant, really. A big part of the historical engine of America has been people coming from other lands to look for something new and to work hard trying to create something different, better. And that’s what I like to do. I just like

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Diederik Comte white quilted cotton short coat. Jerell Scott silk jeweled tuxedo shirt with woven chain. Versace waxed leather jeans. Evan Chambers nickel plated space pistol. MOE grenade stool. Liana Reid orange silk & leather chair. Mandula black leather holster. Edwin Bethea black & white “poseidon lord of the sea� painting. 59

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Diederik Comte francis linen black tuxedo jacket. Versace white shirt. Versace black waxed leather trousers. Miles McNeel dog tags in semi preciouse stones set in labradorite. Rare multi-color peacock c.1940

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Diederik Comte white quilted cotton short coat. Jerell Scott silk jeweled tuxedo shirt with woven chain. Versace waxed leather jeans. Evan Chambers nickel plated space pistol. Edwin Bethea black & white “poseidon lord of the sea� painting.

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‘Let’s go do it, let’s go build it’. Which I think can end up in a lot of good, positive things, like America going to the moon. But then sometimes America goes too far, which is your Watergates, your Grenadas, the unnecessary wars. There is this beautiful side of America— let’s go build it, let’s go help—but then there’s another side which I don’t identify with. DDD: I know you’re very politically active in the UK. EI: I want to stand for election in nine years, and so that’s what I plan to do. In America, I’m active with the Democrats…I can raise money, I can donate money, as I have a green card, and so I’m very happy to help progressive people around the world. Because progressive people have changed the world and made it the better place that it is. It’s the conservatives that conserve, and hold back progress—they’re the ones that voted against the emancipation for all men, they voted against women, they voted against gay people—they try hold onto what came before, all the wrong rules. DDD: You have a real fascination with history—does that impact your political position and activism today? EI: It informs it, yes. Churchill was a big student of history—maybe he did a number of things wrong, but he also wanted to do right things like standing up against Hitler in nineteen-forty when the rest of cabinet would have probably just have made a deal. So I think if you study history, you can see where human beings and different civilizations and different countries through the centuries have made good decisions and bad decisions, and you can learn from it. We learn from our mistakes. You can’t go back and run countries in the past, but you can see what other people did: where they fucked up and where they got it right. DDD: I hear that idealism at work, and the world is in a difficult spot right now. Do you think it will get better? EI: Oh yes it will, we’ve always been in a difficult spot. You take a snapshot of any time. So there was an economic crisis caused by greedy capitalists, who tend to be right-wing thinkers. Who don’t care about others, and wanted to sell all those subprime loans. There seem to be people who are sociopaths, who go around all their lives only caring about themselves. We have to legislate against it; you just can’t trust some people. They could be the minority, but that minority has thrown the whole world into this mess. DDD: Do you think your stand-up experience will help you as you move further into politics? EI: Well you have to study Al Franken, because

what I was planning to do, he went and did. I know Senator Franken quite well, and people thought he would be a comedic senator when he came in, but he’s actually very serious, and Democrats that I’ve talked to are liking what he’s doing, and hopefully the Republicans have been hating what he’s doing, because that means that he’s doing good stuff. But comedy helps you talk, it helps you articulate; it helps if you can put some comedy into politics because it can get very dry.

“I think there’s a similarity between dramatic storytelling and comedy, which I’ve only just realized recently. In comedy, we put ideas together, and then we hit a punchline, and an audience should be wrong-footed, so that they think ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were going there’, and then they’ll release a laugh, because you turned in a way that they find funny. In a dramatic story, you’ll be going along with the story and then turn, emotionally, in a way that the audience isn’t expecting.”

DDD: What inspires you? EI: It would be between Wikipedia and DVDs. I just want to inhale all the knowledge that I can. Like in The Matrix, when they put that thing in his neck, and he goes ‘My god, I know Kung Fu’…it would be great for me to have that, but instead I have to work. To watch. I like to know quite some detail about all the major religions, the details of where they come from historically, and all the philosophies—so that then I can compare them. I’m looking for answers as to how we got here, how our thinking processes developed, and why extremists should be blocked out because they’re all about killing if you don’t obey whatever they say. I want my stand-up to be as accurate as possible, and not to be making up facts. There’s a lot of stuff out there that I’ve yet to inhale or take on. DDD: All of this talk of good and evil reminds me: have you seen the last Harry Potter movie? EI: I haven’t, but I’d like to. DDD: If you were a wizard, what would your specialty be? EI: Dunno, maybe I would fly, but then they can all fly, can’t they? DDD: Something to do with words, I think. EI: Maybe. But I think I’ve already got that.

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Versace jacket. Jerell Scott army green with pallet & stone button, wool & chain detail shirt. Creative Director: Lynn Furge. Location & Wardrobe Director: Markus Ketty. Men’s Grooming: Rachael Downing using Face Stockholm. Hair: Vito Trotta. Photography Assistants: Becky Trejo, Nick Wisda & Derek Wood. Special Thank you to The Church, West Hollywood for the incomparable location, as well as Charlene Young & Ina Treciokas from Slate PR.

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joan rivers, A Real Piece of Work

Interview by Caissie St. Onge Photographed by Tiffany Walling McGarity & John McGarity

I met Joan Rivers when I wrote for a pilot she hosted. I submitted to be considered in a blind hiring process. According to the producers, she said, ‘I want this guy’ about my sample, and expressed doubt when they said, ‘Okay, but she’s not a guy.’ When we finally did meet, she apologized. ‘I’m sorry I thought you were a man. But you write like you don’t know you’re a girl, either. Don’t ever become self-conscious and ladylike. It’ll ruin everything!’ In that minute, Joan became an even more important figure in my life than she’d been before. Spoiler alert: I’m no journalist. I can’t promise to be tough or even fair. I love this woman.

DDD: I’ve written for lots of people and you are so… respectful! JR: Because I get it. If a comedy writer gives you twelve lines and two are wonderful, you’re talking to an incredibly talented person. That deserves respect. DDD: You started as a writer. JR: I wrote for Phyllis Diller. The first joke she bought from me was, ‘If God wanted me to cook he would have given me aluminum hands’. Remember, this was the early ‘60s. DDD: Phyllis Diller! JR: She was so generous. I was in a club called the Bon Soir. She came in and I sucked. I was doing, like, a comedy monologue to music (laughs). It was awful, but she laughed louder than anybody. With that cackle! She led the laughter and that’s an extraordinarily kind thing to do. I’m still learning from her!

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DDD: You keep in touch? JR: She’s amazing. In her nineties. I go over and have lunch with her because she doesn’t get out much, but her mind is still there, boy. Snap, snap, snap! DDD: Who else did you write for? JR: Bob Newhart, in ’64, ’65. He was big. Then I wrote for Candid Camera, which wasn’t real writing, and when I made it on Carson and gave my notice, Alan Funt said, ‘You’ll be sorry, Jill!’ DDD: Johnny Carson. You sick of talking about him yet? Because I’m not. For twenty years you were his protégé. Then you got your own show on Fox and he never spoke to you again. JR: Even now, I don’t get it. He had everything. You forget that people in this business are killers. You have to be, to get where you get, and Johnny could be a killer too. I stepped into what he felt was his territory, and he wasn’t gonna forget it. DDD: What hurt the most? JR: He should have been proud! I look around and I’m so proud. I see Garry Shandling and Billy Crystal and I feel like they’re my graduates! I’m thrilled I knew them when! Even Lady Gaga, who was on the bill with me back when she was still whatever her stupid real name is. I thought she was great and I’m ecstatic for her now. DDD: According to Carson, he was angry because you never told him. According to you, you did. JR: He lied. Totally. I called. He hung up on me. I called again. He hung up again. Thank God other people were in the room. I guess he felt he had to say that because it made me mad. But what I really didn’t get is that after I lost the show, and (my husband) Edgar committed suicide…nothing. Johnny introduced me to


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Edgar. They were friends. I thought, ‘What more would have to happen?’ Then you realize what a miserable guy he could be. And I know people loved him, but I’m fine with saying this in print. He could be a miserable character. DDD: But in your voice, I hear what sounds like forgiveness… JR: He was hurt. He really thought I owed him something that was never made clear to me. I don’t know what. But I can’t hold grudges. I am so fucking lucky! My life is a wonderful life! I’m up! I’m down. Up again! I’m like a bouncing ball and I have nothing to be angry about. But I can’t regret decisions, either. Even after twenty years with Johnny, it’s not like they were going to give me The Tonight Show. I did what I had to do. If I’d stayed, I’d be like Doc Severinsen. He’s still alive, y’know! I know it sounds corny, but things really do work out for the best. DDD: Be corny. You’ve earned it. JR: After Edgar, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to survive, but I had no choice, because I had my daughter. If I’d been alone, it would have been a very different story. But knowing me, I’d have collected the wrong pills, tried to overdose on vitamin C and not only lived, but become really healthy in the process. I would’ve written a dramatic note, taken seventy-five vitamin C chewables and woken up bright yellow! DDD: That extremely low point must put everything else in your life in perspective… JR: (Laughs) You’d think so, but not necessarily! All this crap I’ve gone through taught me: move forward. They didn’t pick up your option? Fuck ‘em. They passed on your pitch? Fuck ‘em. I’m like a foul-mouthed second grader. My whole life is, ‘Well, I’ll show them!’ I try not to dwell on things. Like that crybaby Joan Didion. God, we get it. Can’t you look on the bright side? You’re thin! DDD: I want to talk about the 2010 documentary, A Piece of Work. JR: It’s making me very sad because the response is slowing down. It was so great when it first came out. Incredible! People were calling me up, telling me how wonderful it was! DDD: Like who? JR: Diane Keaton! DDD: Diane Keaton? I thought she hated you! JR: I thought so too! DDD: But you talked? JR: No, I missed the call. But she left a nice message. Other people, too. I didn’t just miss Diane Keaton’s call. I had voicemails from people. Too many to name. Okay, Dustin Hoffman…

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DDD: But despite the buzz, the documentary wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. Was that annoyingly poetic? JR: Yes, because it goes back to the point of the film. I’m the one under the radar. The one that’s not recognized in that way…that official way that says the industry appreciates me or approves of me. I’m used to it. It’s not even that it wasn’t nominated. It’s that there were fifteen nominees and it wasn’t nominated. Who knew fifteen documentaries even came out that year? I can say this because I didn’t make the film. The girls that did it, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, are brilliant. DDD: In the film, you talk about doing comedy to finance your acting career. When did you decide you were a more of a comedian than an actor? JR: There was never a decision. It was: go through any door that opens. So, if the comedy was coming, I moved with the comedy. But standup IS acting! How do you think a comedian says the same thing three hundred times and makes it look like he just thought of it? DDD: The film follows you as you perform a onewoman show you were hoping to bring to Broadway. In Edinburgh, you brought the house down. You got a rare standing ovation in London. Then the reviews came in… JR: Out of one hundred, maybe sixty-six were great, but thirty-three were tepid. I didn’t want to bring it to New York and have that happen here. The reviews aren’t important to me, but they’re what determine whether something lasts or not. I didn’t want to risk going through the heartbreak I had with Sally Marr. DDD: Sally Marr and Her Escorts is a show you cowrote and starred in on Broadway in 1994. You got a Tony nomination! What was the downside? JR: It was my favorite thing in the whole world, this play about Lenny Bruce’s mother. She was also a comedian. And we got great reviews, but people just didn’t come. And it broke my heart… DDD: Over the years, there’s been talk of a revival. JR: I would kill to do a revival. Kill. But I think Lenny Bruce might be totally forgotten. The show is about his mother and how she made him who he was. Sally Marr was the most amazing, emancipated, brilliant woman, and it’s devastating, but my instinct is that the timing is wrong, because you mention Lenny’s name and people just stare at you. It’s a shame, but time goes on. My mother would talk about Clara Bow and I’d roll my eyes. Now I talk about Lenny, and my grandson’s like, ‘Ach, here she goes about Lenny Bruce again!’ DDD: Joan…did you have a crush on Lenny Bruce? JR: Yes! He was so sexy! Men adored him

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because he was brilliant and funny and women adored him because he was brilliant and funny and so sexy. He was the whole package. I didn’t know him, but I was in a club called The Bitter End and he came to see me. Of course, I was bombing that night, but he sent me a note saying, ‘You’re right and they’re wrong. Love, Lenny Bruce.’ I carried it around in my brassiere for two years until it disintegrated. DDD: Natural follow-up: Why did you never get it on with Lenny Bruce?! JR: Because! You know what I looked like! Nobody ever made a pass at me. Those stories about women getting chased around the casting couch? Never happened to me. But I still think about him. Without Lenny, there wouldn’t have been a Woody or a George Carlin. My generation was totally influenced by him. The next generation was influenced by Richard Pryor, and I’m worried nobody gives a shit about him anymore either. DDD: Those guys were so subversive. What do you think of the trouble comedians have been getting into lately for controversial material? JR: Comedy is outrageousness. Comedy is political incorrectness. If that’s not your thing, avoid comedy. A comedian should say any damn thing and never apologize. Never! And it’s an audience member’s right to walk into a club, and it’s their right to turn back around and leave. But that’s where it ends. I’m not saying that joke Tracy Morgan got into trouble for was a good one. It wasn’t. I’m just defending his right to make a bad joke. The only thing he should apologize for is making people pay eighty bucks to see him. I get heat too, and I wonder, ‘What did you think you were gonna hear from me after fortysix years?’ For every person that’s offended, there’s at least one other laughing his ass off. My comedy is funny to me. So, I can’t apologize for the way someone has interpreted it. That’s on them. DDD: What about people who complain you’re a bully? JR: I pick on people making twenty-five million dollars a movie. Never picked on a person who couldn’t answer back. Never picked on a civilian in the audience. If I say, ‘Gee, Nicole Kidman might not be the brightest bulb,’ I don’t think she’s up all night sobbing about it, assuming she can sob. We’re all fair game. Whether you’re an actor or a comedian or a singer, you’ve asked people to look at you. Well, I’m looking. And I’m saying what I think. I’m fair game, too, and God knows I get it. I think people who focus on that part of my comedy are missing the point, and it’s usually people who’ve seen


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"Comedy is outrageousness. Comedy is political incorrectness. If that’s not your thing, avoid comedy." me on the red carpet but never my act on stage. DDD: On stage, you’re tougher on yourself than anyone… JR: I am always the idiot. I always was. It was never my husband who was an idiot. I do jokes about my daughter Melissa, and if you listen, they’re not critical of her. I’m the idiot. DDD: And in real life, you’re one of the most softhearted people I know… JR: I am! But when you’re with your friends, you sit around and say funny things about what so-and-so is wearing somewhere. Everybody does! ‘Look at how short that dress is! You can tell she has an IUD!’ Fashion Police came out of that. DDD: And you really do love fashion. JR: I love fashion, but don’t take it seriously. It’s fun, and you should try everything and fuck what Joan or anybody else says. Put on nineteen necklaces! Enjoy yourself! DDD: Nineteen necklaces? Where would I get nineteen necklaces? QVC? JR: (Laughs) I do QVC for love, but, God bless it, it’s also supported me. As a comedian, financially, I might have one great year, one bad. You just don’t know. And you can’t get more fun than designing jewelry. DDD: Maybe you should sell your paintings! Do people know you’re an artist? JR: Yeah, well…that’s embarrassing. Next! I’m not a good painter, but I enjoy it. Give me four primary colors, I’ll give you a bad painting. DDD: I’m still waiting for mine! JR: Okay. Trust me, you’ll be saying, ‘She’s coming to the house! We have to find that fucking painting and put it up!’ DDD: What else do you do for fun? JR: Hang out with Barbara Walters, or Baba, as I call her behind her back. We were competitive as younger women, not in the same field, but adjacent fields. And she won every time! I’m interviewing Jerry Lewis and she’s interviewing Sadat. My dad was a doctor, but Babs’ dad was loaded! But she also had a sister who was mentally disabled, and, you know, different things shape us. We’re friendly now. Sometimes, which is hilarious—Cindy Adams, Barbara Walters and I go to dinner, just the three of us. We make a pact; whatever we say never leaves

the table. People must wonder what we’re talking about. The answer is everybody! Of course, gossip at our age is, like, which of our friends is about to die. My other girlfriend is Judge Judy. I love Judge Judy! She’s funny and she gets how good life is. She wears her little robe to lunch and never spills soup on her lacy collar. DDD: Do you think people will ever get tired of ripping on your plastic surgery? JR: It’s gotten less, the more people get plastic surgery. I’m not the freak anymore. I wasn’t a pioneer, by the way. Look at a picture of Bea Arthur from Maude and a picture of Bea from The Golden Girls. Where’s her old face? Gone! I love when Raquel Welch would say, ‘I just get a lot of sleep.’ Yeah, under anesthesia. Everybody did it, I just admitted it. How could I not? Now, with reality shows, it’s clear people are having work done. Then producers are like, ‘Your facelift would make a great episode!’ Everybody’s owning up to it. DDD: Your reality show Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best was picked up for a second season on WeTV. But does it bother you that scripted entertainment is being overtaken by reality? JR: Does it bother me that bookstores are closing and you can get whatever you want to read zapped to your Kindle or iPad? Maybe, in some ways. But it is what it is. And I love my show and I’m happy for the opportunity to be on TV. Adapt or die! DDD: What a modern attitude! You’ve embraced Twitter too. JR: Someone’s gonna take your picture and tweet it, so you might as well get on the bandwagon and enjoy it. I do get sad that there isn’t any mystery left to any of us. Ain’t no great movie stars anymore! Think about it. The only great movie stars were the ones you didn’t know a damn thing about. Today, the closest we have is Angelina and Brad. They’re private. They’re not running around asking to be in magazines. They’re in those magazines against their will, which is how it was meant to be! That’s what makes a star. DDD: What makes an icon? Because that’s what people call you now. JR: Yeah, it happened about a year ago! (laughs) The word icon means nothing. When I went to England, people said, ‘You’re so brilliant!

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Brilliant!’ I started to believe it. Turns out, they call everything brilliant. They tell the cleaning lady, ‘The way you did the bathroom today was brilliant!’ Everyone’s brilliant there, an icon here. I don’t put a lot of stock in it, but I like it better than what they called me before, which was “old”. It’s been good for my career. It’s no longer ‘She’s too old, we can’t use her.’ It’s, ‘She’s kind of an icon. Can we get her?’ Great marketing tool! DDD: Same with “legend”, right? Does it bug you when they call you a legendary female comedian, instead of just a legendary comedian? JR: Not me so much, but I’m doing something for Lucille Ball’s one hundredth birthday [in August] and every reporter says, ‘She was one of the great comediennes.’ I say, ‘She’s up there with W.C. Fields. With Buster Keaton!’ Watch her. She was genius. As good as Chaplin ever was. And she was the brains. Desi was having a good time, and Lucy was the brains. Comedienne? No. Comedian. Period. DDD: You and I did a pilot, and at the wrap you said, ‘May we all work together for seven years until I die!’ It wasn’t picked up, but that was five years ago! Still planning to die in two years? JR: No. It starts fresh. When a new show starts, I get seven more years. DDD: Whew, so you’re here at least until you’re eightysix. Anything you want to do before then? JR: I’d KILL to do another talk show. Something late, late, late. Because you could do whatever you wanted! And if people can’t stay up, fine. We have TiVo, now! And I’m dying to write another movie. DDD: The last one you wrote was in ’78? JR: Rabbit Test, 1978. And thanks to the Internet, someone found out about it and watched it, so it recently got its first review! At the time it was outrageous—Billy Crystal pregnant! But now it’s gotten a review thirtythree years later, who knows? Maybe there’ll be a whisper campaign! DDD: I hope you never die, but if you do, any secret diaries you need me to find and have published? JR: No! I need to get all this stuff I can’t say while I’m alive written down before I start to lose my mind. Or do I wait until I lose my mind and then just make shit up? What’s anybody gonna do? I’ll be dead!

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bob saget Zegna suit. Calvin Klein shirt. Bally shoes. Hugo Boss tie.

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bob saget, You Can't Make This Shit Up Interview by CHAD FR ADE Photographed by ANDREW BOYLE Styled by Justin Min

Ascending the Gramercy Park Hotel’s elevator to its extravagant, breathtaking terrace, I was perplexed about the Bob Saget I was going to meet. Would it be Saget the family man that I grew up watching on TGIF for years? Or perhaps the inappropriate incest joke-teller from The Aristocrats that shocked countless throngs of Full House-rs? Or even the exaggerated one-note satire of celebrity that he portrayed on Entourage? Celebrity is a funny thing, and I had no idea what to expect, but against the backdrop of a spectacular view of lower Manhattan, I encountered a tall, sinewy man who was somehow all those characters and also just a cool guy. In person, Saget is humble, relaxed, funny, and most strikingly, sincere. This sincerity, which for some reason shocked me more than his filthy jokes and use of the f-word, pronounced itself more definitively as we continued our conversation.

Saget spoke appreciatively about the luxurious hotel, and another recent stroke of luck: the night before, he had been at the famed Japanese restaurant Morimoto, where he ran into its owner, Stephen Starr. Starr just so happened to have been the first person to hire Saget as a comic in Philadelphia, and ended up buying his dinner as payment for services rendered about 38 years earlier—a karmic moment if there was ever one. But there’s more to Saget’s success than luck—he has worked arduously to get to where he is now, and his trek from stand-up to

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revered sitcom dad to his reincarnation as the man to tell the dirtiest version of a dirty joke has been worth every bit of blood, sweat, and semen that he has excreted.

As a young boy growing up in Philadelphia, Saget had no intentions to seek out comedy. In fact, he applied to Temple University as a pre-med student, but as he tells it, he could not muster the energy to complete the prerequisites of math and science. His interests were drawn to film, and so he changed his major to documentary filmmaking, eventually winning the student Oscar for his work. All the while, he worked on his comedy gigs. One of his firsts was at an all girls’ school by the name of—we kid you not—Beaver College. He joked that it must be affiliated with Vagina Tech and Pussy University, and that “you can’t make this shit up.” From there, he worked any comedy venue that would take him. His stand-up eventually beckoned him away from Philly to New York City, where he took his guitar to The Improv’s Catch a Rising Star, a now defunct line-up that featured some of the best comedians of the past 25 years. He vividly remembers coming up with the likes of Richard Belzer, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, and Sam Kinison. Many of the early stand-ups that he worked with are now dead, and Saget remains grateful that he is simply still around. Stand-up for him was pulsating and unbelievably visceral. “You can go somewhere and remember every detail about the place,” he reminisces, “I remember some of those venues better than I do relationships that I have had.” Saget surely got his fill of those places as he

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chapter two traveled extensively, making the rounds of American college campuses before reaching the next stage of his career. Saget related the story behind one of his first breaks. “Harvey Weinstein and Brad Grey, two huge Hollywood giants today, lured me with chicken wings and beer, wanting to manage me. I was so young at the time that all I focused on was the wings and the beer. I didn’t know what they meant.” His early experiences with show business usually involved work with sporadic touches of the surreal. He was the warm-up comic and a bit player on the Tom Hanks-Peter Scolari 1980s comedy series Bosom Buddies, which got canceled with a rating share that Glee can only dream of today. He got fired after five months for being a hotheaded sidekick on CBS’ The Morning Show. He eventually fulfilled a fictional version of his pre-med goals by taking a role as a doctor with legendary provocateur Richard Pryor in the 1987 feature comedy Critical Condition. While one might envision this time as Bob paying his dues, he sees it as an apprenticeship, where he learned the trade and honed his craft. Saget is keen to point out that comedy is not brain surgery, but it is still very meaningful in this world. He is proud that his job is to make people laugh. In discussing the timeline of his career, we eventually reached the inevitable area that we had to address, Full House. Saget compares the mention of this show’s title to the awkwardness of saying one’s own name. He acknowledges that this series effectively changed his life by bringing him a much bigger audience. However, it is perhaps not widely known that Saget was the replacement for someone originally cast in the role. He feels sorry about this fact—regretful for the less fortunate actor, mentioning that he’d rather replace himself. This humility of his success counters what people may think about Saget’s trajectory to fame. He is not ungrateful for the benefits of his family–friendly tenure. The impact of Full House, and eventual gig as the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos opened doors for him to do more of his own brand of comedy. Of course what people find disconcerting is hearing D.J. and Stephanie’s dad say “fuck” on stage. In his 2007 HBO comedy special, That Ain’t Right (incidentally subtitled Good Guy Gone Wrong), he calls out an audience member who looks shocked because the former Mr. Tanner is cursing up a storm. In the end, Saget believes that doing those family shows have made his present persona seem dirtier by contrast, but he hasn’t really changed a single thing that he did before or after the show. The humor has remained the same; it is the perception of Saget that has morphed into something salacious.

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Saget affirms that his occasional reliance on “fuck” is a nervous tick, even if it may be abashing. As with any foul language, he knows that it adds an element that might bewilder the audience, but he points out that he doesn’t need to be phrasing his act as if it’s a State of the Union address, because he is not running for President and never will (he promises). What lies at the core of Saget’s humor is a selfdeprecating glimpse at what it means to be a man in today’s world. Saget does not take himself too seriously; as Rodney Dangerfield told him, “You disarm the audience by making fun of yourself. It’s what’s human, and

“This job is a tough one because when you put your foot in your mouth, you do it publicly,” he affirms, “but comedians need to learn the discipline of being undisciplined.” without it, you don’t have a connection,” Saget explains. He posits that the audience wants to get something out of the experience they have come to see, and he is there to give them a different approach at seeing the world. Most comedians, and Saget follows Chris Rock, Louis C.K., and Jim Gaffigan most enthusiastically, have something to say about the human condition—the way they see the world is both humorous and enlightening about how we live today. “The funniest people that I have heard are really philosophers,” he declares. Saget distinguishes a great comedian from a good one as a wordsmith that can manipulate something rude and coarse into a smart and witty assertion on the state of the world. These comedians, such as Seth Myers, who Saget admits to having a man-crush on, are what make comedy such a delicate craft. In today’s media, though, a lot of comics have been under fire for their twisted and unusually bigoted views of the world. We touched upon Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant, Michael Richards’ inappropriate racial slurs, and Gilbert Gottfried’s insensitive comments, and Saget acknowledges that “we have had a couple of bad weeks”, but he also points out that he feels bad for these folks that he admires. “This job is a tough one, because when you put your foot in your mouth, you do it publicly, but comedians need to learn the discipline of being

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undisciplined.” In other words, the intentions of the stand-up depend on the comic’s voice, and when things are right and the point they are making is powerful, then there shouldn’t be a limit. “Yes, they are getting paid, but they are in a sacred space.” Saget is open to any form of comedy, as long as it comes from a positive place. “You can spray pee through the shit and make a point,” he guffaws, “But if there’s comedy and it’s positive and it isn’t overtaken by negativity and bitterness, then it works for me.” He is not mesmerized by the 6 o’clock news, where humor has no place. “When things are bad, I tend to come up with more penis jokes. Besides, I pretty much get most of my news from any of the opening monologues [of the late-night talk shows].” And he is watching out for what is funny all the time. Over the course of our meeting at the Gramercy Terrace, Saget told me about everything he’s been tuned into, including an HBO documentary about comedy, and implored me to get cable. He keeps abreast of anything that can make his comedy better. Saget believes in the great things to come. Not only does he have a cameo on Louis C.K.’s FX series, Louie, which he praises as “probably one of the best shows on television now” but he has another upcoming HBO comedy hour. This performance includes new songs and material that he admits were really difficult to hone, but the show has also been one of the most gratifying performances of his career. In addition, he has reunited with John Stamos for a College Humor project; an instructional video on cuddling in which Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse will snuggle up without Joey. When asked about the lack of Dave Coulier, Saget simply stated, “In cuddling, there is no room for a third party.” Rightly so. He is excited about these projects and is constantly maneuvering his career towards the upswing. As for the family sitcom arena, Saget isn’t resistant to trying his hand at it again. In fact, he has attempted two shows in the past decade, Raising Dad with Kat Dennings and Surviving Suburbia, which didn’t make it past the first season. His voice pops up as the narrator on the CBS series How I Met Your Mother, which Saget plays down the credit for, instead lauding the adept talent on the show. Family shows still come across his desk all the time, and he believes that this genre will endure because people want something familiar. “Suburbia is both funny and full of tragedy,” Saget notes. He accepts where he has come from, and he has no qualms about where he is going. When asked about how his family feels about his inappropriate, blush-worthy humor, he says that they, including his three daughters and 86-yearold mother, are proud of him. His mom, just


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chapter two the other day, told him that she enjoyed Louis C.K., and Saget was impressed that she wasn’t put off by the lewdness of his fellow comedian. His mother sternly informs him that as long as he doesn’t make fun of her that she will be proud of him. His parents have been to his gigs, and as Saget recalls, “My mom and dad went to one of my shows early on and they got to eat prime rib as I performed. It was like going to Medieval Times.” His daughters are proud of their father and understand the complexity of some of his roles, including an offer to play a sleazy pornographer on a crime series. They get that dad isn’t hocking vacuums, but is doing something that he loves.

Saget feels lucky to be where he is. In fact, he recounted a performance when, as he was singing his songs and telling his jokes, he saw a spider emerge, glide across the stage, and land on his microphone. The first row of the audience became worried that he might swallow it, which led him to think inappropriate thoughts of Miss Muffett, but he held onto the microphone until the spider made its way to the floor. Not wanting to kill it, he allowed this benign creature to make an exit stage left. Later on, when he tweeted about the spider, he learned that it was a sign of good luck. He has been a very lucky man, indeed, these days, and it seems that Bob Saget will keep on working, keep on pushing, and keep on surprising us. As I descended back to the plebian world, I

bob saget Hugo Boss leather jacket. Dolce Gabbana shirt. J Brand denim. Louis Vuitton shoes.

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realized that I had just met Bob Saget, and that he was more than just a guy that I watched on TV as I grew up, but actually a pretty stand-up dude. Sorry about my poor attempt at humor. I will leave the comedy to the comics.

“You disarm the audience by making fun of yourself. It’s what’s human and without it, you don’t have a connection.”


NADA MIAMI BEACH DECEMBEr 1 – 4, 2 011 DEAuvIllE BEACH rEsort CollINs AvENuE & 67tH strEEt opENINg prEvIEw tHursDAy, DECEMBEr 1 10 AM – 2 pM DAIly ADMIssIoN Is frEE AND opEN to tHE puBlIC NEwArtDEAlErs.org

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issue three

the Golden Age of Steven Wright Interview by MICHAEL GARTLAND Photographed by Jammi York

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Steven Wright wasn’t the class clown. If you told his schoolmates in suburban Massachusetts that he’d win an Oscar and author some of the funniest jokes around, they probably would have stared blankly or laughed. He didn’t want the attention. And he didn’t want a big audience. “I was very introverted,” he said in a recent conversation with the Dirty Durty Diary. “But I was funny with my two buddies on the bus. I just didn’t want a class of thirty kids looking at me.” It’s a fear he’s clearly overcome—night after night after night for the past 32 years. His touring schedule may have slowed down over time, but Wright still draws crowds whenever he performs live. And he still gets nervous when he goes on stage. Enter his signature deadpan delivery. If you’ve read any interviews with Wright, it’s clear the subject becomes tedious for him to plow through anytime someone brings it up. Yes, Steven Wright really does talk like that. But it isn’t quite the same when he’s not performing. Wright is looser, more animated, and seems less serious in a casual conversation. His jokes are also followed by his own laughter, which typically doesn’t happen when he’s doing stand-up. “With my friends and my family, I’m more expressive,” he said. “[Onstage], I’m concentrating on saying the joke the right way. I’m concentrating on the next joke…Then add on a guy who’s scared to be onstage. Who the hell wants to do public speaking?” As Wright tells it, even suppressing a burp can disturb his timing. And there are so many other ways to make a mistake with stand-up comedy. “It can go wrong so easily,” he said. “There’s no show where you come off and everything worked. Every show has something that went wrong.” Wright began performing at Boston comedy clubs in the late ‘70s. He discovered some of his influences—such as Woody Allen—on a radio comedy show there. Others came to him at random. Like when he started reading Kurt Vonnegut. Or the time in high school when Wright went to check out a surrealist painting exhibit. “I was just shocked by it,” he said of Salvador Dali’s work. And yet he didn’t realize what an impact it would have on him until later. “I wasn’t running around like this abstract surreal kid until I started writing.” He said. And when that happened, he came up with stuff like this: “If I ever had twins, I’d use one for parts.” “When I was a little kid, we had a quicksand box. I was an only child…eventually.” “I went into a restaurant. The menu said ‘breakfast anytime.’ So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.”

“There are jokes that have come into my head that I would never say onstage…I’m basically a nice person. I’m not going to do a joke at someone’s expense. It’s not worth it,” he said. “I was raised Catholic in the suburbs of Massachusetts. Those rules are part of who I am. I would never call somebody a cunt. That’s just not in my makeup.”

Wright took pains to note that his family

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didn’t influence his style. He never performed in front of them in their house to hone his skills, and if they weren’t related, his mother would probably continue channel surfing if she saw him on television. “Lucille Ball. That’s her hero. That’s her world,” he said. “My sense of humor has nothing to do with my family.” The suburban backdrop and Catholic upbringing of his childhood do, though— at least in how he edits himself. Wright said it’s rare that he’ll think of a joke he won’t try out on a crowd, but there are several he’s only shared with friends. “There are jokes that have come into my head that I would never say onstage…I’m basically a nice person. I’m not going to do a joke at someone’s expense. It’s not worth it,” he said. “I was raised Catholic in the suburbs of Massachusetts. Those rules are part of who I am. I would never call somebody a cunt. That’s just not in my makeup.” If it’s part of another comedian’s, that doesn’t mean Wright won’t laugh, though. “Like [Andrew] Dice Clay…I loved him,” Wright said. “[But] I never had to think, ‘I would never say that.’ I never would say that.” His disposition may not allow him to tell over-the-top jokes, but it doesn’t mean he thinks certain areas should be off-limits to comics. That’s why the delivery, angle, and context are so important to understanding a joke, he said. Wright hadn’t heard the one about Tracy Morgan stabbing his gay son—a crack Morgan later apologized to gay rights groups for making—but he gave out a faint chuckle when I repeated it to him. “I’m not saying I would approve of what Tracy Morgan would say,” Wright began. “[But] it depends on what’s happening…It could be him making fun of himself because ‘That’s so crazy that I thought of that’…He might have been saying this because it’s such an insane thing to think. “You can’t really say, ‘This subject—no, no, no.’” But it doesn’t hurt to have clean material. For years, Wright didn’t use profanity during performances, and in more recent shows, it happens, but is rare. Wright’s restraint didn’t hurt him when he made his mainstream breakthrough on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the early ‘80s or in his performance in The Appointments of Dennis Jennings, which won an Academy Award for best short film in 1989. And, almost surprisingly, it didn’t pose a problem when he was cast as a disc jockey in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. It’s also something Wright doesn’t seem very concerned with, though. When he talked about how he comes up with jokes, he didn’t make mention of whether cursing or not is a consideration, or if he debates the merits of a dry delivery as

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opposed to bombast. He described his process as taking place on a mostly subconscious level. “Your mind is scanning. Your subconscious is scanning—like the sonar thing in the movies,” he said. “If I think it’s funny, I write it down.” Once he’s ready to try it out live, the joke has to work more than once to stay in his routine. “I have a three-time policy,” he said. “If they don’t laugh the second time, and they don’t laugh the third time, then the joke’s not going to work. If it works three times, then you have a new joke.” In that way, the audience makes the decision about what stays and what doesn’t, not the author. “When I say it, when they don’t laugh at it, I don’t think it’s not funny. I think they don’t agree with me,” he said. They’re the editors.” Wright comes into contact with those editors much less now than he once did. He recalled stretches in which he would perform nine times in ten nights and be traveling from city to city almost constantly. “I used to do it way more than I should have,” he said. “When you do it that much, it’s not that you’re going through the motions. You can’t even go through the motions. You’re past going through the motions. And that’s not fun for the audience.” Traveling less has not led Wright to try out his jokes on a smaller audience, even though some of them beg to be applied directly to everyday situations. Like this one: “When I go to the grocery store and I see a guy pushing thirty shopping carts across the parking lot, sometimes I say, ‘You know, somebody else might want to use one of those.’” Wright said he’s never been tempted to try it out at the supermarket. “I very rarely talk to strangers, never mind making jokes with them,” he said to me. “You might be planting a seed. If I’m in the hospital, it’s your fault.” The Wright Words of Praise In addition to being a fan of Bill Burr and Jim Jeffries, Steven Wright had admiring words for several other comics: Louis C.K. “He’s just an unbelievable comedian. He’s like a truth machine.” Jim Jarmusch “I really admire him.” Woody Allen “He’s the most amazing writer ever.” Larry David “He has the imagination of ten people.” Tom Waits “I would love to do a scene with [him].”

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john hodgman

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discusses absurdity in a serious way Interview by ELLEN MOYNIHAN Photographed by Eva Tuerbl Styled by Justin Min

John Hodgman had recently settled in when I arrived at the sun-filled Kitchen Studio on a clear, early summer day. As the stylists perused the racks of clothing for the shoot, Hodgman took a seat in the groomer’s chair, extolling the virtues of passivity. “The life of the actor is great; you get to be furniture. This morning, I’m on my hands and knees in a closet, looking for a hamster that got lost, and I know that…oh, this is my problem now. I am responsible for this. And if I don’t find this hamster by a certain time, I will have to leave and the hamster will die… Cookie is the class hamster that goes home with the kids...So I had a hamster life in my hands. Additionally, if that hamster died—even if I didn’t show up with the hamster—there was going to be a lot of explaining to do to a lot of children, and that’s too much responsibility…

So given that, every creative person I know is like ‘I’d like to do something of my own’. I don’t. Maybe if I had no other responsibilities in the world…there’s something very calming and zen-ish to surrendering to other peoples’ whims. Look at me now: this morning I had a life and death situation, and now I get to sit here surrounded by people I don’t know, who are doing my hair…it’s liberating to walk blindly into this, nice people steaming your clothes, nice people spraying things on you.” Speaking of nice people, John Hodgman is unfailingly polite. Throughout the day, he is accommodating to the stylists, the photographer, the owners of the studio, and to me. There is no discernable difference between his public image—exacting, respectful, and delighting in obscure topics—and the guy who was sporadically clowning on set for the camera. Widely known for his portrayal of the “Resident Expert” on The Daily Show as well as the Apple ads in which he portrays the nebbish personification of a PC to Justin Long’s

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youthful, breezy Mac, it can be easy to overlook the fact that Hodgman began his career as a writer. Or going back even further, a literary agent. Having just completed his latest book, That Is All, which is designed to look like The Satanic Bible, Hodgman was clearly enjoying the free time after handing in his manuscript and before the editing process was to begin. “Book writing is entirely up to you. You’re entirely in that zone, you’re in control of everything. That is liberating sometimes, and then just a pain in the ass...when I was in Los Angeles, I had some meetings with professional colleagues and they’re like ‘So! What do you want to make next?’ Eventually I will make a new thing, but not now…Understandably, everybody in that world comes up…being controlled by creative dictators…they all aspire to be the creator of a thing, for personal reasons and financial reasons, and that’s correct, but I did it backwards…I created a whole bunch of things and then accidentally got into film and entertainment, thanks to The Daily Show—so for me this is a wonderful break. I’m living backwards, like Merlin; I already did the creative tyrant thing, I created the book, and that’s kind of arguably my life’s work, and now that’s done and I want to collaborate with other people who I like, because that’s fun, that’s not lonely.” After the shoot, Hodgman remembered a Korean restaurant he’d frequented while working in the area as an agent at Writers House, so off we went along 32nd Street, peering at the building numbers. Once at the restaurant, newage pan flute music played in the background as we settled ourselves on cushions at the table’s edge. The soft pounding of the waitstaff ’s bare feet on the stone floor was barely audible as they made their rounds. Hodgman helpfully described some of the dishes on the menu before we went back to talking about books as art objects versus the Kindle. “A mass-market paperback…something you just read at the beach and just leave in a beach house…that’s the art of the book at


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issue three its best—that’s entertainment. And then with McSweeney’s, Dave Eggers figured out something very smart, which is if you make really beautiful books, people want to keep them…But I think it [the Kindle] puts… emphasis on accessibility or readability, and impulsive buying of books…I think it should be good for everybody. Publishers would sell more books, readers would buy more books sort of on a whim, and people who really believe in making beautiful art objects out of printed material wont be competing with garbage…perhaps I’m an idealist.” There are no e-book editions of Hodgman’s titles, however, owning to the numerous charts and tables included in his work. In More Information Than You Require, for example, there is a page-a-day calendar, which would end up being a “long scroll” on an e-reader, so it hasn’t yet been formatted. Hodgman is appreciative of books in all their forms, not only to just read but as a fountain of information to inform his own writing, the weirder the better.

“I think it has always been an American trait to want to spread out names around, brand it on our cattle, put it on our mailboxes, and hear it ring out on the corners. And now that it’s possible to be famous without doing anything or having any demonstrable skill, it feels like fame—pure, unearned, fame for its own sake—is increasingly the career goal of most teenagers. They're not wrong. It's done wonders for me, and frankly, there aren't that many jobs in the mines anymore.” “What amounts to my research for the books that I do tends to be ephemera or marginalia, and works of literature or prose that were not designed to be kept for a long time… whether that’s a 1970s book on Bigfoot, or The Book of Lists, and The People’s Almanac… The World Almanac Book of the Strange…I would go through cardboard boxes at junk stores and antique barns…buy up old science fiction books because I love all that lost literature, stuff people forget, and it contains a lot of ideas and sort of fake facts that work well, that I can poach from or get inspired from for [my] books…The Gutenberg project—to have access to all that public domain stuff, and some of them are quite weird—is perfect for the stuff I’m doing now…I love having all of my research on a thing.” Hodgman sold his first book, The Area of My Expertise, in 2003, wrote it in 2004, and it was published in 2005—an experience that was a steep uphill climb. DDD: So how did you sell it? Did you have any of it together or was it just a pitch? 89

JH: I had worked in book publishing, and then I started writing for magazines and for McSweeney’s…I did this advice column for McSweeneys’, [Ask a] Former Professional Literary Agent—and so I still knew a lot of people in that world, and every now and then someone would call and say ‘Do you want to write a book on…pop culture’ or something… You know Schott’s Miscellany?…carefully curated, interesting, weird trivia…the symbols on the tag of a garment to show you how to clean it or not clean it. And what markings on ship’s hulls mean, and a list of all the villains in all the James Bond movies, and what they were after… it was all curated with a real sense of humor, and it was all true, and it was a guy named Ben Schott…a huge bestseller in England. Jeff…who’s now my paperback editor, but at the time was at Simon & Schuster—said, ‘You should do a book like this Schott’s Miscellany’. And I was like ‘Yeah, I should, you’re exactly right, how did you…? Yes.’ And immediately I felt like that was just the right choice. But there was a problem, which was that there was [already] a Schott’s Miscellany. And while I would choose different things to include, it had been done before, and what’s more, it had been done well, and what’s even more more, it would eventually be published over here, to be sure. And then everyone would know me to be the fraud that I am. And then I had the idea that it should be made up. It would feel like a trivia book and sound like a trivia book, but it would describe a world that doesn’t exist, or doesn’t exist yet, until I have my way. And I really liked that idea… the group of concepts for me, that I used to describe to Jeff, was a list from the first book: Nine Presidents Who Had Hooks for Hands. Because that’s a classic trivia book construction: ‘The Seven U.S. Presidents that loved Fresca!’, or whatever—there was only one, by the way… DDD: Who? JH: Lyndon Baines Johnson. Loooved Fresca. But it’s a classic trivia book construction, and if you read enough of them you kind of get a sense of them…like Four European Leaders Who Died While Having Sex, or blah blah blah. It’s just sort of rhythmic. But the trivia thing being hooks for hands—it’s obviously not true, but there’s something weird and funny about presidents. DDD: Who are they? JH: Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, both of the Bushes, Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R…but no one knew he had a hook for a hand because his hook was shaped like a wheelchair. And then two others that I forget…the trick was always to find a fact that was outlandish, but played in that area— there are a lot of outlandish things that are true, but it would have to echo off of a kind

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chapter three of reality. So with F.D.R…this was a guy who had an incredibly impairing disability that people didn’t know about. And that’s interesting. And you could imagine that there was time in American history where the president might have a hook for a hand, and they would just only photograph him from the wrist up. And that struck the note I wanted to strike. So I called Jeff and I said ‘I don’t want to do a trivia book, but how about a fake trivia book?’…and he said: ‘I really think my idea is better’ [laughs]…I could tell by the sound of his voice that he was like: ‘You’re a very nice guy, I’ve known you for a long time, you’re a good writer, but clearly going crazy, or something’s gone wrong in your life’…I thought I would write a proposal and generate enough material so that people could get the idea, or realize that it wouldn’t be terrible to read… I wrote a longer piece that wasn’t just a list…the last piece in the first book—[Four] Famous Monsters and Their Hunters…the Loch Ness monster was one where I figured out there was a way to not just make jokes but to tell stories that were based on ridiculous things, but were close to actual short stories as I could get, which was something that I had always wanted to do, but…there wasn’t a huge market out there for short stories, and I didn’t know how I could make a living doing that, and I didn’t really have a driving urge—the idea of helping other writers write and sell their books and taking their money was much more appealing to me, because I didn’t have a compelling story to tell until I figured out the story between the Loch Ness monster and the dude who faked…the famous Loch Ness monster photo…that’s a fraud, a hoax, a confessed fraud in real life. And…it’s a fraud in the world of my book as well—the explanation is that what you can’t see is that it’s the Loch Ness monster taking the photo…he was faking the photograph of himself, he got the guy to go out into the lake and hold up a thing… so that became this little compact Borges-y short story that I really liked, you know, those pieces of writing where you feel like you have a gift, and nothing to do with it? And they’re the ones you work for…and that really became the key: not only is this a funny idea, but this is the kind of writing I like to do…and it’s fun. I wrote that up and I sent it to an agent …who is still my agent. DDD: So then onto the next one. JH: I had such a good experience writing the first book that I really wanted to do more, but I didn’t know if I could…if America would allow it, basically. The tour was not going really well before [my appearance on] The Daily Show. There were these mixed crowds: some people who didn’t get it, some people who got it but didn’t like it, but mainly just a lot of confusion, because people didn’t know how to take it…I had always anticipated that it was a possibility, if not a likelihood, that this book would

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resonate with me, some of my friends, and a certain percentage of the McSweeney’s reading audience in the world that is open to this twee buffoonery…but that’s not America, right? DDD: I know there’s that story of you found Jonathan Coulter [frequent collaborator] in the woods, and he wasn’t speaking a human language, but how did you meet him? JH: [Laughing] We went to college together… we became very close friends. He was always a brilliant songwriter, but like me, always not doing the thing that he felt he wanted to do

“Now that I have turned forty, and the whole world approaches 2012 and the clearly impending collapse of civilization and end of human history, I have grown ruminative. And so my third and final book of complete world knowledge deals with those areas of expertise that I previously denied myself, such as wine and sports, and also how to stock your survival brownstone for the end of the world—hint: canned ants…This is pretty much what all post-forty-year-old men are thinking about: wine and sports and the end of the world.” most because he couldn’t quite find—not that he didn’t have the talent to do it—he couldn’t quite find the reason to do it. And the reason to do something is really hard to figure out… there’s the reason for money…but not always why you want to undertake something…to have a compelling thing that you need to say, that you’re going to bother other people with… either you’re so convinced that other people need to hear it, or you can’t help but do it… for Jonathan, he didn’t want to be a musician because he had interned in the music industry and he hated it…He is a person who engages creatively when he’s writing songs but also in how he gets those songs out to people and how he interacts with people… And similarly, I came to New York wanting to write short stories, but there’s nothing worse than writing a short story just for the sake of writing a short story…There are a lot of people

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out there who are writers because they like the idea of being a writer, and in New York there were a lot of people at the time who just liked going to cocktail parties. I liked all of that, but I hated writing, because I didn’t have anything to write that I really loved. So I thought ‘I’m not going to be a fraud, and slave away at a career that would be really challenging to take on unless I really loved what I had to say.’ So we both had good reasons not to be doing what we should be doing with our lives, but to each other it didn’t seem that way…so I would browbeat him all the time: ‘You should go and do music’, and he would do the same. It was an interesting time to be living in Manhattan because a lot of things were changing, particularly for someone who’s interested in culture and media, and all of a sudden the Internet is completely rewriting the landscape…where we were, Twenty-sixth Street and Sixth Avenue, that was the office of the literary agency, Silicon Alley, we were seeing weird new wealth all over the place because it was flowing in financially in ways that you might not have noticed if you were in a different part of the country…for Jonathan, and me, to some degree, it made a creative life for us possible: not just because the Internet gave us access to a readership, which it did—it made it interesting…McSweeney’s came to me via an email that was not intended for me… Dave Eggers’ original call for submissions… someone forwarded it to me. I liked the pitch. Particularly because at that time McSweeney’s was designed to be made up of articles that had been killed by other magazines because they were too good…Dave Eggers has a lot of ideas. A lot of crazy ideas. So I sent something to him and he…said ‘Who are you and how did you get this address…Well, it’s good, but not quite what we’re looking for, is there something you might want to contribute to the letters page? Because we’re having people write facetious letters.’ And I remembered that—this was 1997, there were maybe five people I knew who had email addresses…one was [Josh], an old friend from high school that was living in Seattle—one night I had written him a deranged letter that was sort of a riff on this essay that Lewis Lapham had written for Harper’s where he was giving his nephew advice on becoming a writer, and it was really pompous…it was something that those of us who worked in the industry read…over the course of the letter it very naturally became clear that…the author of the letter was insane, because he was suggesting that Josh, the addressee, have a procedure done to have a small man put into his head who will tell him stories, and…while he was writing from this position of ‘I know publishing inside and out’, he was clearly a destitute, crazy person, he was still working in publishing—there are a lot of crazy, destitute people working in book publishing—but someone of no consequence


issue three or power whatsoever, which is who I was…so I gave the letter to Dave, and he published it, and it was just right. Sometimes it takes that one—the fact that you’re writing for a friend, that you’re not writing seriously, that you really find what it is you’re wanting to say, and how you want to say it. So that became this hugely liberating moment for me, like ‘Oh, maybe this is what I should be writing’, and I continued to write for McSweeney’s and was not afraid to be funny, and when you’re not afraid…to be the thing you think you’re not supposed to be, then you’re not afraid to do anything. And that’s when writing— or any kind of art—gets really interesting… So it was a way to interact and a way to publish my work that was fun to me, and dynamic, and interesting…and [I] discovered this voice that was really me, made a lot of sense to me—this phony authority. And it was a very productive way for me to write and explore all kinds of ideas that I’d been fascinated with but I’d forgotten that I even cared about. Like Bigfoot or the Church of Satan. All the shrapnel of stuff that I had absorbed as an asthma inhalersucking kid…reading trivia…hobo lore that I had picked up. So that’s how I got started doing this. So I’m very pro-Internet. DDD: Yeah, do you think you would have had the same sort of career trajectory—no, you’re shaking your head. JH: No…I’m shaking my head. No! No, for all sorts of reasons. I guess I’m a pretty good writer, but I would have had to really convince myself to take a big risk and leave my job at the agency. And in order to justify that big risk I would have had to discover what it is I wanted to say, and I learned what I wanted to say through the Internet. And similarly, if there were no Internet, there would still be book publishing, and I’d probably have a pretty successful career as a literary agent. But I would be unhappy inside, because…a whole alternate history would be unfolding…in a parallel dimension. DDD: How did you come to collaborate with They Might Be Giants as the Deranged Millionaire character? JH: Like most good things in my life, this happened through Dave Eggers. The Giants had recorded music for an issue of McSweeney's… John Flansburgh and John Linnell became part of a traveling McSweeney’s roadshow that I would occasionally emcee. They had always been one of my very favorites, because they are so smart and so uncompromisingly themselves. They were never afraid to be funny. So I was stunned to be able to work near them, never mind with them. But Flansburgh is just incredibly gracious and absurdly productive and pathologically enthusiastic and encouraging. For zero reason and less dollars, Flans and his wife Robin Goldwasser offered to record my radio attack ads from the first book. And later he asked me to narrate a series of songs they had written for the various venues they had played in.

I think it was me who came up with the character of the Deranged Millionaire/They Might Be Giants nemesis, but Flans and I collaborated on the script, and then we did the video. It was my first TV gig ever. Later, when The Daily Show and Apple turned my life inside out, I came out on the other end and realized that the character had accidentally come true. I was financially solvent for the first time, and I was also DERANGED. DDD: You’ve also worked with quite a few other bands—The New Pornographers, The Long Winters, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists…tell me about that. JH: That is entirely due to Tom Scharpling, the director of those videos, and the host of the most important terrestrial non-podcast radio show in the world The Best Show on WFMU. He is a comedy genius and perhaps the greatest broadcaster of our time, but he also stands at this weird intersection between the comedy and rock worlds—his comedy partner is the equally genius-brained Jon Wurster, who is also the drummer for Superchunk. I don't know from music, but I trust Tom, and now these bands are my favorites. DDD: What do you think is the best use for humor— its loftiest accomplishments? And its worst? JH: I think the sole purpose of humor is to make laughter. Laughing is born of shock, surprise—a story going off in a different way than you expect, or the shattering of a taboo. Occasionally, when the truth is taboo, just saying the obvious out loud becomes hilarious. That's how The Daily Show works. In that sense, humor can serve as social critique. But the show hopes to avoid that as much as possible, because once you try to do something important it tends to cease being funny, and that's our first job...The worst use of humor is to make fun of other people, but then, that's hardly humor, because that's not funny either. DDD: In your speech at the Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner in 2009, you jokingly referred to yourself as the “most dynamic public speaker of our generation”. Who do you think really are the most dynamic? JH: I was trying to apologize for having to follow the president, who not only is a great speaker, he is also a great writer, and he has real comedy chops. It is very annoying. DDD: In the same speech, you also equated the American Dream with appearing on television, which got a huge laugh from the crowd of the televised event. How serious or joking was that statement? JH: I think it has always been an American trait to want to spread out names around, brand it on our cattle, put it on our mailboxes, and hear it ring out on the corners. And now that it's possible to be famous without doing anything or having any demonstrable skill, it feels like fame—pure, unearned, fame for its own sake— is increasingly the career goal of most teenagers.

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They're not wrong. It's done wonders for me, and frankly, there aren't that many jobs in the mines anymore. DDD: You seem genuinely enthusiastic about the Obama presidency. Are you disappointed by any of his policies? Have there been other political figures that you have been glad to see in office? Political movements? JH: I think my political positions are pretty well summed up by what I said to the President himself: you are not exactly the person each of us pinned our own very specific little hopes on, but no one could be. I do not believe he is a foreigner or an alien. I believe he is an American whose intentions are good. I also believe he is a rational human. I can't ask for more than that. I hope he will live long and prosper. DDD: Tell me about your new book. JH: Now that I have turned forty, and the whole world approaches 2012 and the clearly impending collapse of civilization and end of human history, I have grown ruminative. And so my third and final book of complete world knowledge deals with those areas of expertise that I previously denied myself, such as wine and sports, and also how to stock your survival brownstone for the end of the world—hint: canned ants…This is pretty much what all postforty-year-old men are thinking about: wine and sports and the end of the world. DDD: Talk about the following quote: “Jokes are perhaps the shortest stories that there are in the canon of fiction”. JH: I will answer by quoting the famous sixword short story by Hemingway. For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Isn’t that hilarious? DDD: Do you think there is intrinsic humor to nerds? Does it have anything to do with the fact that people who have an intellectual proclivity and interests that are off the beaten track are somehow out of step with most of the world? JH: Yes, I guess the nerd enjoys jokes intrinsically, as they are a kind of puzzle. And I think there is something of being outside of the mainstream of culture that puts the nerd at an outside point of observation from which jokes may be flung. But I think mainly nerds cultivate humor to attract other humans and to convince a world of jocks and warriors that they deserve to live. DDD: Whose comedy do you enjoy? JH: Scharpling & Wurster, Paul F. Tompkins, [Patton] Oswalt, Morgan Murphy, Sarah Vowell, David Rees, Wyatt Cenac, John Oliver, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal—these are my favorites of the moment, and the ones your readers should know about. DDD: What do you think is NOT funny? JH: Puns and William Henry Harrison jokes. Let's move on with our lives.

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et cetera:

This and That With John Hodgman Interview by ELLEN MOYNIHAN

DDD: I’ve never had a Fresca. JH: It’s uh…it’s refreshing. DDD: How alike Sprite is it? JH: Not at all. DDD: No? It’s bitter? JH: It’s a little more grapefruit juice-y. But you know, it is a…it’s a bunch of chemicals in a glass. DDD: Remember Bob Dole and the pen? JH: Well…I mean...yeah… [laughing]. Yes. DDD: I don’t want to laugh at that, but it’s funny! They stuck a pen in his hand all the time. JH: Yeah, and like: who are you fooling? You know, who are you fooling? DDD: There’s something called Goth Cruise that I really want to see. JH: What’s that? DDD: It’s an independent film made a couple of years ago. Every year, a bunch of goths get together and… JH: Go on a cruise?!...Totally. That makes sense. I went on a cruise like that, except for nerds.

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JH: I lived on Twenty-second between Second and Third…it was a duplex apartment in the basement, which meant that half the apartment was underground and half was at street level, where people could look in and urinate. DDD: Oh! Wonderful…And what was the neighborhood like back then, besides people peeing in the window? JH: It was very—New York changes a lot, but people always urinate on the street. DDD: Yeah, that’s true. JH: That’s one constant. JH: George Saunders loves to hit people. You know that, don’t you? DDD: No, I didn’t know that. JH: Oh, he punches people like crazy. DDD: Wow. JH: Yeah. DDD: Unprovoked? JH: Yeah. He thinks it’s funny. He thinks it’s hilarious…No, I don’t know that that’s true. He’s a really sweet man, I’ve met him before—he has a tremendous beard.


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chapter three

retta

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Retta: Beyond Chemistry Interview by JESSICA PILOT Photographed by Koury Angelo

Retta Sirleaf (better known to her fans as just Retta) had been doing stand-up for well over a decade before making guest appearances on hit shows such as Moesha and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or films like Slackers and First Sunday. However, as the brash but lovable Donna Meagle on NBC’s comedy Parks and Recreation Retta certainly holds her own and has made The DDD a fan. We chatted with her to find out what else she has in the works.

DDD: Have you enjoyed your time off from shooting the new season? R: I am so tired of trying to find things to fill my day! I’ve written a couple of scripts and I’m hoping to put one up on stage. The first one I wrote that I am okay with people reading is about three male friends from high school and I workshopped that at a writing group called Tuesdays at Nine in L.A., and that went over well, so now I’m working on another one about four women in their mid-thirties who are friends and I don’t know where that’s going, but I like it...

DDD: Congratulations. Let’s go back to before you landed the role of Donna on Parks and Recreation. You began as a comic, how did you transition into acting? Was it very different for you? R: I was never deep into drama and acting. The only acting class I ever took was a cold read class. I’ve never taken scene study- I probably would be a little intimidated, and I didn’t want to go in a class where they’d need to break me down to build me back up. I’d cut somebody out and quit and say ‘Fuck you, This is stupid’. I’m not going to be naked in a fucking acting class.

DDD: Is the show a full commitment? R: We shoot six days a week. I’m back to work now, so I’m happy, We start right where we left off on the last episode. We get to meet Tammy One this season, and everyone is saying that she is going to be played by Patricia Clarkson. There are different dynamics now that Aziz’s character is now working for his own company…so he’s not in the office regularly, but of course he comes to the office because he is in the cast but he doesn’t work with us. But its still fun on set and we now have an Emmy Nomination, so that’s awesome.

DDD: Who were some of your inspirations, if any? R: Chris Rock’s HBO special from ’95 or ’96. I was obsessed with it and I used to watch it and pump myself up before I’d go on stage. But then realized that I started to take on his cadence, and that’s one thing a lot of comics do. They tend to take on a persona that they like before they even realize what persona they want to be on stage. I watched a lot of standup, even in college, before I thought about doing stand-up.

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DDD: So when did you know you wanted to do comedy?

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"I was never deep into drama and acting. The only acting class I ever took was a cold read class. I’ve never taken scene study- I probably would be a little intimidated, and I didn't want to go in a class where they'd need to break me down to build me back up. I'd cut somebody out and quit and say 'Fuck you, This is stupid'. I'm not going to be naked in a fucking acting class."

R: When I graduated from college, I did chemistry for a pharmaceutical company. I worked in research and development, and while I was working there, I started doing stand-up and decided that I wanted to move to LA and (sings) giiiive it my allllll. I moved to L.A. in 1997. DDD: How is it, living in L.A.? I know you are from the East Coast... R: The weather is retarded! New York is a walking city. I don’t walk. I have a bad knee, ankles, a bad back. I don’t look bad because I’m not walking in L.A. Valet, you park it. I only have a few acting friends, most of my friends started at the same level as me, struggling and whatnot. I don’t have a problem with it at all. DDD: Is there a role you are tired of auditioning for? R: Right now I don’t get very many auditions. But I always get nurse or parking meter maid, or a cop on the street type thing, It was always some woman with an attitude—and I have an attitude so I can play it. I always felt like, are there only nurses and meter maids in Hollywood for me. I hated that. DDD: If you had it your way, what would you be doing next? Would you be writing or starring? R: That’s the reason why I even started standup. I was in North Carolina and I had decided I really want to act, I want my own sitcom, and I was on the phone with a friend of mine from college and she said, ‘Why don’t you just do stand-up, don’t all stand-up comics get their own show?’ And we had no idea—living in North Carolina—that there were so many comics in L.A. trying to get their own show, so that’s why I started stand-up—I’ll tell jokes for a year, and then I’ll go to L.A. and do jokes there, and then get my own show—everybody does it. That’s what Roseanne did, That’s what Brett Butler did, Tim Allen...Seinfeld—so I thought, ‘I’ll have the Retta show’ and then I came here and thought, ‘Dear Christ! This is a fucking clusterfuck in here.’ I have to fight to even get on a show—and that’s when reality sets in. But at least I’ve been lucky enough to work, and my first legit series is funny and I love it and everybody on it; the writers, the executive producers could not be cooler. But it was not fast and easy!

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Stylist: Assistance from Stephanie. Hair & Makeup: Autumn Butler . Thank you to Stephanie Holsonback, Paul Gleason Theatre & Aaron Gleason 97

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TOMFOOLERY

Interview by NATALIE GUEVAR A Photographed by JOSH LEHRER

Thomas Middleditch’s biggest claim to fame used to be euphoric whiteboy raps about Chicken McNuggets, but that’s all about to change. Is comedy ready for one more weird Canadian?

When I call Thomas Middleditch to interview him for these pages, his enthusiasm is quite striking. “The DDD!” he exclaims, his exuberance betraying his 28 years. “At last, a real magazine!” It’s mid-July and he is on set in Cleveland, Ohio shooting one of his “first big things,” as he likes to call it (this magazine profile, if you can’t already guess, is another one). I can’t see him, but the wind flapping violently against his cell phone provides a beautiful complement to the excitement in his voice, and he sounds elated. The “big thing” in question is a studio feature film by Josh Schwartz called Fun Size. Middleditch has acted in films before, most notably in the 2009 indie Splinterheads, where he played the lead opposite Rachael Taylor from Transformers, but this is big-time. Schwartz, of course, is the wunderkind writer-producer behind cherished young adult serials Gossip Girl and The O.C., and Fun Size marks a first big thing for him, as well—sitting in that canvas director’s chair. The film reunites the two, who shot a CBS pilot together last year (the show never got picked up). “He kind of hates me,” Middleditch jokes about his director, playing up non-existent set drama for my amusement. He mentions his co-stars in the film, Johnny Knoxville, Chelsea Handler and Saturday Night Live veteran Ana Gasteyer. “This movie is a totally different environment [for me],” the actor continues, while heading back to his hotel room. Middleditch – or “Tom” as he’s called by friends, and even by journalists who have spoken with him for just under an hour—is still somewhat of an underground comedic sensation, and he is more than forthcoming

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about his upstart status in the business. Originally from sleepy Nelson, British Columbia—a town that, despite being home to the grand Capitol Theatre and boasting an artsy community, has no discernible comedy scene, but instead “lots of hemp sweaters, patchouli oil and vibes to expand your mind”—the performer earned his stripes in the improv and stand-up communities of Toronto, Chicago, and New York, making the rounds at venues such as the Upright Citizens Brigade, as well as virally, in an infamous online video in which he freestyles about adoring McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets (the clip was later used in a legit McDonald’s commercial as part of the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign). Like fellow northern funnymen Mike Myers and Jim Carrey, Middleditch is a true-blue Canadian whose interest in comedy was first sparked by watching episodes of the droll TV classic Kids in the Hall and the Monty Python movies; he took up improv on the advice of a beloved teacher, Ken Wilson, while still in middle school. “Improv is a big part of Canadian theater schooling, and it’s an easier thing to get to be successful at because you learn the rules—you know what the thing is about,” he explains. He was cast in an eighth grade play, surprised the audience with his timing, earned their love and attention, and has never looked back. One gets the sense that while Middleditch’s childhood was idyllic in that scrappy, knobbykneed way, it was also burdened by an addiction to crowd validation—a comic’s signature brand of pathos. “In school I led a double life—I was this confident class clown saying outlandish shit to get people to react, but I was also a melancholy, truly isolated little individual. I was quite shy.” Today, still very boyish-looking, with a gangly frame and wide saucer eyes, he styles himself with an evident appreciation of costuming. Proficient with and fond of video games and computers, he built and designed his labyrinthine official website, ThomasMiddleditch.com, entirely on his own, and maintains active Tumblr and Twitter accounts, which read not like fan forums, but rather confessionals dotted with frequent self-revelations.


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chapter three He draws a lot of inspiration from tragedy—“The topics that make people laugh are often quite tragic,” he states plainly—as well as “weird, surreal, crazy things.” Such as? “Fantasy movies— Labyrinth, Legend. Action stuff like JCVD, the movie where Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a loser version of himself— he’s great in it. Role-playing games.” We discuss if the spontaneity of role-playing games had any effect on his improv. “Well…whether your character succeeds or fails relies heavily on your level of imagination,” Middleditch says. “There’s no quick release like there is in some forms of improv, so you can be stuck playing the same role for hours.” He doesn’t seem vexed by this type of scenario. Despite Middleditch’s savvy sensitivity, his outlier’s grasp of what is popular and what works on a comedic level, he echoes most comics’ thoughts about the grind. “It’s crazy competitive to get your comedy out there,” he says, remarking on this generation’s wide and varied bag of nuts—the Kristen Wiigs, Jonah Hills and Louis C.K.s of the scene. “But one extremely positive aspect is the amount of ways to showcase your ideas—the Internet and

all its channels, independent movies, Twitter.” He pauses to reflect before noting, “They’re all great ways to go up against the comedy of mainstream films and TV, which is so stale. It’s all cookie-cutter formulas.” When I bring up the weirdness of Bridesmaids, a recent mainstream comedic triumph from Wiig notable for its unflinching resolve to portray gross-out female humor, Middleditch agrees that the film is an “exception to the rule” but still plays nice in the Hollywood sandbox. “You can guess the characters’ trajectories in Bridesmaids, but the comedic performances were great and unusual. [Wiig’s] scene in the airplane—it was a major moment, and it goes on for much longer than you expect it to, but it’s an interesting way to develop that protagonist.” He lists other oddball films such as Napoleon Dynamite and Your Highness, last spring’s fantasy-stoner quest hybrid starring Danny McBride and James Franco. “I’m a huge fan of that fantasy thing—you know, The Dark Crystal and so on—and that movie captures the awkwardly funny genre elements with modern jokes. It’s fantastic.” While his penchant for outlandishness is genuine, Middleditch also recognizes the

significance in mining comedy from real moments: the awkward, the nebulous, the bare. In another prominent role in Paul Weitz’s upcoming Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, starring Paul Dano and Robert De Niro—a film adaptation of the Nick Flynn memoir about interacting with his estranged alcoholic father—Middleditch tackles the portrayal of a homeless Boston youth. “My main goal with acting, if I had my perfect way, is honesty and truth,” he says. “If I was able to deliver such a performance, I can get down to what really interests me—that everyone has got tragedy inside of them and responds to it in ways more similar than not.” Next on the horizon for the actor is the title role in Road to Nardo, a debut feature by writer-director Scot Armstrong, a frequent collaborator of The Hangover auteur Todd Phillips. Distributed by Columbia Pictures, the comedy centers on two roommates on the hunt for their lost friend Nardo, who is stranded in Mexico, pants-less. “It was great news to hear, getting that part,” says Middleditch. “It’s a real opportunity to work with genuinely hilarious and talented people, and there’s a lot of physical comedy for my character, which is my favorite thing to do.” And what comes after getting lost and being found? Getting lost again, hopefully. Middleditch aspires to one day recreate Ewan McGregor’s motorcycling-with-my-mates documentary TV series Long Way Round—the budget version, that is, on a little trail bike, and perhaps just traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco as opposed to riding hogs all over the world. “It would be a show combining all the great elements—friendship, weird adventures, cheap transportation. You see, I never want to become one of those people who eat, sleep and breathe their career—there’s still also life.”

“My main goal with acting, if I had my perfect way, is honesty and truth,” he says. “If I was able to deliver such a performance, I can get down to what really interests me—that everyone has got tragedy inside of them and responds to it in ways more similar than not.”

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hannibal buress

donald glover

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Rapping in the Shower, Dubai, Porn, & Overpriced Hotel Internet: Virtual Repartee with

Hannibal Buress & donald glover HANNIBAL BURESS: Toronto: Tuesday: 13:00 DONALD GLOVER: Los Angeles: Tuesday: 10:00 Interview by COURTNEY DE WITT: Bangkok: Wednesday: 12:00

1983 was a really good year for American comedy. Chevy Chase took us on a cross-country drive with the Griswold family to Walley World. Woody Allen made perfectly peculiar use of black and white archive footage in the mockumentary Zelig, and Bill Cosby delivered two hours of transcendent stand-up (and sit-down) in his live comedy film Himself. Oh, and ’83 gave birth to two future comic stars, Hannibal Amir Buress and Donald McKinley Glover. 2011 has seen both Hannibal and Donald rise as leading men among the ‘new wave’ of American comedians. They’re part of a youthful pack that can’t quite be defined by one single skill, a generational product of sorts, in which multi-hyphenate occupations are standard issue. Case in point, Hannibal and Donald’s everexpanding skillset currently spans stand-up, writing for sketch, film, and television (Hannibal currently writes for 30 Rock and Donald is notable alumni), and acting (Donald is regularly onscreen in NBC’s Community and Hannibal has appeared on both Louie and 30 Rock). They’ve both released albums; Hannibal’s of the comedy variety (My Name is Hannibal, 2010) and Donald’s as a rapper/ musician (his prolific musical project, Childish Gambino, has an extensive back catalogue of self-produced albums, mix-tapes, EPs and remixes). The two are also good friends. 103

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chapter three We converged online in the midst of Hannibal’s international stand-up tour and as Donald was finishing the recording of a new album and beginning production on season three of Community. Welcome to the chatroom: HB: It has happened. DG: I’m in Dubai. Chat is illegal here, so we should hurry. DDD: You’re doing shows in Dubai? HB: Dubai? For real? DG: No. HB: Oh. I don’t know the world. DG: Your next album should be, “HANNIBAL BURESS: Not a Metropolitan.”…Naw’ I’ve been locked down in the studio. I don’t think I sound good without a kidnapped princess in the booth, so, Dubai. Only place that’s okay. DDD: How long have you known each other? DG: Um, I guess about four or five years? DDD: Through comedy? HB: Yeah….and the streets. DDD: Would you have been friends with each other in high school? HB: We would have been cool. DG: Yeah but neither of us would have been to each other’s houses. That kinda friend. DDD: What was your general demeanour as teens? Any periods of wildness? HB: In high school I wasn’t in a certain clique. I was on the football team and I also did debate. I sold weed at a certain point and drank and got into lots of trouble in school. I graduated with a horrible GPA but luckily I had a good ACT score so I was able to get into college. DG: I was an overachiever and tried not to stand out too much. And girl crazy! HB: I’m about to check into my room. Be back in about 5 mins. Hannibal has left the chat. Hannibal has joined the chat. DDD: Room with a view? HB: It’s a nice room…$15.00 for internet. It’s free in the lobby though, so I came back down. DG: To masturbate, then I went up and paid to talk to you guys. No. More. Bits. Sorry. HB: When I saw that it’s 15 bucks, that’s exactly what I thought. “Well, I guess I won’t be masturbating”. Unless I come to the lobby and load up the videos for free and then go back up to the room and play them. I’m a G. That’s what I’m gonna do if I need to. DG: I always think that. They’re literally saying “$15 dollars to jerk.” You’re a genius, then you can skip those commercials too. I refuse to pay for porn. It has to be the best porn… but we digress…Music is free now. I will still pay a ton for good music though. HB: I pay for music that you can pay for. For the most part…

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DG: Me too, but all the best stuff is free. DDD: What constitutes best? DG: Best isn’t a fair term entirely. I’d say “different”…music that’s taking chances and shit. HB: I have people that come up to me after shows saying “We downloaded your CD so we’re gonna buy it from you now”. DG: People go out of their way to give you money now, if they really like you. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing at this point. Definitely keeps a lot of things honest though... DDD: People generally like to spend where’s there’s a level of transparency, and it helps that after shows, everyone is on a high. DG: And drunk. People really do support you when your actual product is free… DDD: What are some of the most memorable and/or significant experiences you’ve had as comedians? HB: I’ve had a few. My first big thing was doing JFL (Just For Laughs) in 2006. From that I was invited to perform in Holland on this show called The Comedy Factory. It was on Dutch TV. They flew me out and paid me. I had only been doing comedy for 4 years so that was great. Then doing Jimmy Fallon and getting to write for SNL from that set really gave me a boost. Now, when I go to certain cities and sell tickets, it’s really gratifying. DG: Montreal Just for Laughs was dope. Getting to see so many styles really gets me hype. I got to see EVERYTHING. It was the best…I have to go soon, I have a table read for the first ep’ of Community. HB: Skype read? DG: HA! DDD: So no break post-touring? This touring business, how do you not go insane? HB: I don’t think I’ve gone crazy because of it. I need to work out more on the road. And eat more asparagus. I’ve been on the road for about 4 months with a couple small breaks. DG: Yeah, I did 6 weeks, then took a week off, then started filming a movie and working on the album. I think if you bum rush it, it’s fine, six weeks and then it’s over. DDD: Okay, craft question time (wherein the you applies to you both). Do you get joke block? HB: I honestly don’t get joke block. I could write all day or I could rewrite bits anytime I wanted to if I focused. The quality of these bits might be questionable, but I can create when I want if I hunker down. I get blocked by the internet. I get sucked in and start searching dumb shit. If there was no internet, I’d be prolific as fuck. DG: I’m usually not blocked as much as not focused.

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DDD: Do you write on the page or like Jay (Z)? DG: Hannibal is a G! HB: There are some bits that I’ve never put on paper. But I write both ways. DG: I write verses the way I write a story or a play, 1st and 2nd drafts, on the computer. It’s not romantic, but it works dope. HB: I get more writing done if I write in a pad. DG: I feel weird when I write out jokes. DDD: Self-conscious? DG: It just feels like you’re not talking to the audience. I get weird. DDD: With a single stand-up joke, how long would you say it takes to perfect it? DG: It’s not exact science, it’s more like how long it gets me to get comfortable with the joke. An AIDS joke usually gets really funny for me after I’m used to, “people will be upset, it’s fine”. HB: I’ve done some that work right away. Sometimes it takes a few times. But I’ve also found ways to make bits that I’ve done for years better. DDD: The change of a single word or delivery can be a ‘joke make-over’ of sorts? HB: Yeah small changes can make or break it. Also the bits that you do before it can influence it. DG: Hannibal always looks super confident in his jokes. I feel like you wouldn’t write any. I’m surprised. HB: Since I’ve been on the road I got a bunch of airport and driving jokes. Hotel jokes… DDD: Such a comedian. HB: Half of my set now begins like “I was in Minneapolis or I was in my lobby, or I was driving in Indiana.” DDD: What about joke envy, have you had a case where it’s more than a momentary pang? DG: Sometimes. ‘Cause I like something a comedian does, but only if I know I wouldn’t never do that joke. Competition is good. Makes everyone better. HB: Sometimes I get nervous when a comedian is doing incredibly well and I have to follow it. Usually I’m able to ride the wave of energy. Honestly, it’s better for a comedian to rock it before me instead of bombing because the crowd is into it. DG: I write better jokes if I bomb the night before. DDD: YouTube: has it ruined the ‘magic’ of comedy? DG: I have to say it hasn’t ruined comedy... but it definitely makes it harder. I wanna hear Hannibal’s take. HB: There is a couple things about YouTube. It’s tough because a bunch of my clips are up there, so when I come to a city, people have heard those bits but also, they’re coming because they heard those bits.


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“HB: I've had a few. My first big thing was doing JFL (Just For Laughs) in 2006. From that I was invited to perform in Holland on this show called The Comedy Factory. It was on Dutch TV. They flew me out and paid me. I had only been doing comedy for 4 years so that was great. Then doing Jimmy Fallon and getting to write for SNL from that set really gave me a boost. Now, when I go to certain cities and sell tickets, it's really gratifying. DG: Montreal Just for Laughs was dope. Getting to see so many styles really gets me hype. I got to see EVERYTHING. It was the best…I have to go soon, I have a table read for the first ep’ of Community. HB: Skype read? DG: HA!” 105

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issue three DG: Yup, it’s the fucking worst. On tour I’d do a joke and they’d already heard it in the next town. So you end up doing stuff that’s not ready and people are like “that wasn’t great...” HB: I wish people just watched one five minute set before they saw me…instead of all of them. And it’s weird when people film. It’s not a big problem for me but for Donald, I imagine it’s annoying. DG: I have an hour coming out on Comedy Central soon, most of it was online up until like a month ago. That sucks. DDD: Does it make you work harder though? This rapid rate of consumption? HB: I try to. I come up with a couple new things per week. I look at old notebooks and try to find new takes on stuff. I’m trying to think one special ahead. I have an idea of what material I’ll record for my hour but I’m also thinking of the cornerstones of my next set. DG: Yeah, but I also end up not doing as much stuff out there. Like...I’ll write a bunch at home, do it all one night, and work on it for another month. DDD: I’m curious about state of mind vs. creative output and the effect on your comedy material. Do you actively try to separate the two? Can you do that? DG: Naw. I don’t think of them as separate. I just do what feels right all the time. Separating them makes it lame. People want the same person and issues in all art forms. Mostly true stuff people are afraid to say or don’t notice. HB: I basically write when I think of something. My state of mind and whatever I’m going through will affect what I’m writing. I also only use a small percentage of the ideas I write. If I had to put a number on it, I would say about 10%. DDD: What about crowd interaction, some comics really go there. How do you feel about it? It’s almost an art in itself. DG: I don’t like it that much. I don’t know what to do with it. I like to have a whole piece. ‘IT’ messes up my flow. HB: I do it when I’m bored with my set. DG: Also, they drunk… HB: Sometimes I feel like a joke machine and I like to break out of it. DG: Doing improv makes you crave structure sometimes. DDD: Have you ever had individuals in the crowd yelling out jokes verbatim, like it’s a song? DG: I had a dude bring a fucking poster-sized drawing of a joke I was telling. It was a mind fuck. HB: That’s crazy. Which joke? DG: The Kanye playing a bear joke…it was actually a good drawing! DDD: There’s seemingly a more wholesome vibe to younger American comics right now. Not in a ‘Pollyanna’ way, but is there a certain collective feeling/ thinking that “hookers and blow will kill my career as

opposed to fuel it”? DG: I have vices. Alcohol and girls that are bad for me. But work is more fun. HB: Yeah. I try not to be a crazy person. I never really thought about the hookers and cocaine thing like that. I just want to have fun and do stand up. I have nights where I may drink too much but I’ve never fallen off the stage or really jeopardized a show. DDD: Would you say comedians are addictive by nature? DG: I’m addictive. I don’t think comedians are addictive, they’re usually just talented at seeing unfair stuff. HB: I’m addicted to performing comedy. I think everyone that performs comedy is addicted to it. It feels great to have people react to your thoughts.

money. That’s why they’re successful artists. DDD: Artists who inspire you are...? DG: Kanye, Jim Henson, The Coen Brothers, Jay-Z, Chris Rock. HB: Jay-Z, Kanye, Wale, Patrice O’Neal, Michael Jordan, Wiz Khalifa. DG: Now I really gotta jet. I’m sorry. I’ve got to shower… DDD: Wait, do you rap in the shower? DG: I do rap in the shower. Some of my best lines are from being in the shower… HB: Peace man. Donald has left the chat. DDD: He’s rapping in the shower! HB: Yeah!

“DG : I have vices. Alcohol and girls that are bad for me. But work is more fun. HB : Yeah. I try not to be a crazy person. I never really thought about the hookers and cocaine thing like that. I just want to have fun and do stand up. I have nights where I may drink too much but I've never fallen off the stage or really jeopardized a show.”

DDD: Do you forecast comedy being a part of your lives, professionally, forever? HB: Yeah it definitely will be. I’ll perform in a wheelchair if I have to. Or I’ll just sit in the old folks home and use whatever version of Skype there is in 2071 to perform via whatever the internet is at that time. I can’t see myself stopping. DG: I honestly don’t know. It depends. I’m growing a lot, I don’t know if comedy is my high school girlfriend or not. DDD: Maybe music will be your wife? Does Childish Gambino simply feel like ‘the right’ platform to address darker material, heartbreak, ego et al? DG: Music is more universal. That’s all. People can vibe with it more than comedy, worldwide. DDD: So, when are you going to collaborate on a track together?! HB: I have no idea. I can’t rap without going into goofy rap mode. I’ve been thinking about making beats. DG: I’ve been so busy, it’s my fault. When the album’s completely done, I’ll start all my collabs…although, as of late, I’m kinda sick of collabs. It’s not that interesting to me anymore. Everything is a, “Oh! Who would’ve though they’d do a song together?” Everyone. Everyone would’ve thought they’d do something together. They both want to make

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SIX QUICK: DDD: Hi I’m GQ, what is your signature drink & cologne/scent? DG: Macallan neat. I don’t wear scents. Fuck that. HB: Jameson & Ginger Ale and whatever bodywash I’m wearing. DDD: Top 3 Neptunes beats go… HB: That’s funny, I actually saw Pharrell at the airport yesterday. This is a tough one. I’m gonna say Jay-Z “I Know”, 702 “I Still Love You” and Nelly “If”. That’s just off the top of the head. DG: “I Know”, “What Happened to That Boy”, and “Drop it Like it’s Hot”. DDD: Vans or Nikes? (I’m listening to The Pack, hence limited options) HB: Nikes. DG: Nikes. DDD: Do you have any tattoos? DG: I have scars. Scars are more baller to me. HB: Nope and I don’t think I ever will. DDD: The names of your future son /daughter are? HB: Hannibalino and Hannibalina. DG: Hannibalino and Hannibalina. DDD: Jackie O or Marilyn Monroe? HB: I don’t love these hoes.

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a quicky with

Stephen MERCHANT Interview by M AYA CONTRER AS

When Stephen Merchant isn’t busy writing, directing, producing, and acting in multiple award winning television series (The Office, Extras), or writing and co-directing critically acclaimed films (Cemetery Junction), then he is teasing Karl Pilkington with Ricky Gervais on the HBO cartoon series The Ricky Gervais Show, or putting Karl Pilkington in awkward situations on An Idiot Abroad. Either way, we don’t know how Stephen has time to sleep let alone gear up for his upcoming stand-up tour, ‘Hello Ladies….’ where he wants to go out there and meet his fans and perhaps even make one of them his wife.

DDD: Giacomo Casanova, Ian Fleming, Pablo Picasso, Genghis Khan, and Wilt Chamberlain were all infamous womanizers. If you had to pick, which would be your preferred wingman? SM: A good wingman sacrifices himself to the guy he is winging. He does not pursue girls himself; he hypes you up, and then steps back so you can move in for the kill. Consequently Casanova and Chamberlain would be too selfish, Picasso too self-absorbed, and Fleming too imperious and misogynistic. I’d have to go with Khan, who would just storm into a village, hoist a couple of women over his shoulder, and burn the place down. Now that’s a wingman. DDD: As Darren Lamb, your splendidly befuddled character on Extras, what would be your opening line to a beautiful woman you saw at a bar? SM: Waitress! Where’s my damn drink? I’ve been waiting ten minutes for Christ’s sake. If you don’t hurry up, I’ll have you fired! Also, do you want to go out sometime? DDD: Friedrich Nietzsche said “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” What do you think your friend and unique philosopher Karl Pilkington would say in response to that? SM: There’d be a very long pause, his jaw would slacken, and we’d hear a faint, “What?”

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DDD: You’ve mentioned in interviews that Cemetery Junction [the 2010 film written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant] was loosely based on Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, with lyrics such as: ‘Hey that’s me and I want only you…’ Do you consider yourself a bit of a romantic, like The Boss? SM: Yes, definitely. For instance my favourite movies are all deeply romantic: In The Mood for Love. The Bridges of Madison County. Porky’s. DDD: When he wrote A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese said, ‘Who’s ever going to write a film in which I get the girl? Me!’ Would you ever pen a film in which you were the romantic lead? If so, what era would you set it in? SM: It’s already written. It’s set during the Middle Ages. Every other man in the village dies of plague. I’m the only eligible bachelor left, so all the women start fighting over me. Some say the topless mud-wrestling scene is gratuitous, but I think it’s what would have happened. DDD: You have a new show coming out this fall on BBC2 and HBO called Life’s Too Short (starring Warwick Davis), as well as An Idiot Abroad (starring Karl Pilkington), and your six-week tour ‘Hey Ladies…’ embarks around the same time. With your utterly productive schedule, how would you make time for a relationship? SM: I will seduce her via text message, Anthony Weiner-style. DDD: You work with Ricky Gervais, it seems, on almost a daily basis, but you have also worked with Simon Pegg a few times (Hot Fuzz and Run Fat Boy Run). Is your ‘bromance’ with Ricky ever threatened by people like Simon Pegg? SM: You’re so old-fashioned. This is the twentyfirst century, modern bromances are very open. I’m allowed to see other men and so is he. DDD: Your tour finishes up in New York ’s Town Hall (on December 20, 2011). As a British Gentleman, what impression do you hope to leave on American women? SM: I hope to finally quash the belief that Englishmen are well dressed, charming and sophisticated.


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Stephen merchant photo courtesy of emery pr

If you would like to be Stephen’s future wife (or you would just like a good laugh) here are his upcoming tour dates for ‘Hello Ladies…’ 06-Sept – Swindon Wyvern Theatre 07-Sept –Croydon Ashcroft Theatre 08-Sept – Dorking Halls 09-Sept – Dartford Orchard 10-Sept – Aylesbury Waterside 12-Sept – Hastings White Rock 13-Sept – Reading Hexagon 14-Sept – Southend Cliffs Pavilion 15-Sept – Southend Cliffs Pavilion 16-Sept – St Alban Arena 20-Sept – Margate Winter Gardens 21-Sept – Watford Colosseum

22-Sept – G-Live Guildford 23-Sept – Sheffield City Hall 24-Sept – Sheffield City Hall 25-Sept – Milton Keynes Theatre 28-Sept – Oxford New Theatre 29-Sept – Oxford New Theatre 4-Oct – Liverpool Empire 7-Oct – Glasgow Clyde 11-Oct – Newcastle City Hall 13-Oct – Edinburgh Playhouse 17-Oct – Birmingham Symphony Hall 18-Oct – Birmingham Symphony Hall 20-Oct –Bristol Colston Hall 21-Oct – Bristol Colston Hall 22-Oct – Bristol Colston Hall 27-Oct – Manchester Apollo 28-Oct – Manchester Apollo

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3-Nov – Plymouth Pavilion 5-Nov – Wolverhampton Civic Hall 7-Nov – Nottingham Royal Centre 8-Nov – Warwick Arts Centre 11-Nov – Cardiff St David’s 12-Nov – Cardiff St David’s 14-Nov – Leicester De Montfort Hall 17-Nov – Ipswich Regent 18-Nov – Ipswich Regent 19-Nov – Brighton Centre 25-Nov – Bournemouth BIC 28-Nov – Hammersmith Apollo 29-Nov – Hammersmith Apollo 30-Nov – Hammersmith Apollo 1-Dec – Hammersmith Apollo 20-Dec – New York Town Hall

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chapter three

Stylist Assistant: Jack Lee. Daily Show: Wyatt Cenac, Aasif Mandvi, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Jason Jones. Hair: Jemma Muradian. Make-up: Yuko Mizuno. Thank you to Miles Kahn, Miss Lily's/ Serge Becker & Christian Alexander

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TDS correspondents

Don't Care What You Think… Interview by M AYA CONTRER AS Photography by Eva Tuerbl Styled by Justin Min

I’ve been following The Daily Show since it's debut in 1996. Back then I was in college and my roommates and I were completely (I’m not ashamed to say) crushed out on then-host Craig Kilborn. We were dismayed when he announced his departure in 1998. We were bewildered that the little-known actor/comedian Jon Stewart, whom was best known for his catchphrase “You can put your weed in it” from Dave Chappelle’s stoner opus Half Baked was going to be taking over as the anchor.

conversation’s sake. Wyatt took a seat outside in the back patio as John Oliver, Aasif Mandvi, and Jason Jones pulled up chairs next to him. As we waited on Samantha Bee to get changed for the photo shoot, I pulled out my pad of paper, a pen, and my recorder to get ready for the interview. As I did this, John Oliver addressed the others sternly: “Watch what you all are saying, she has a recording device.” I assured them I would never record them without their permission, and they could safely continue with whatever conversation they were having. As the interview began, things didn’t fare much better.

Less then a year later, my girlfriends said “Kilborn who?” as we became starry-eyed for the new comic host (we were very fickle in our early 20s). My friends and I were also endeared by the endlessly talented correspondents who are an integral part of the show. The dashing Stephen Colbert, the fetching Samantha Bee, and the delightful Steve Carell were all intelligently enchanting. We held onto every witty sarcastic phrase; “Yeah! Bush is indeed an idiot!” we all seemed to yell in unison, clinking our glasses of Chardonnay or whatever drink liberal hipsters were drinking then. Now the hipster youth watches The Daily Show while downing shots of Fernet to ease mounting concerns like plummeting biodiversity, debt ceiling realities, staggering unemployment, ongoing wars, global warming, and dead fish inexplicably washing up on shores as dead birds fall from the sky while we whisper “Dammit! Obama, why haven’t you fixed everything yet?” We seem to be hoping and almost depending on The Daily Show’s humor to get us through these bleak times. Perhaps, as an audience, many of us have placed an odd expectation on The Daily Show and

its correspondents. At least that is the feeling I got when I met John Oliver, Aasif Mandvi, Wyatt Cenac, Jason Jones, and Samantha Bee. Before we started the interview I was warned, “Don’t mention Jon—they are all a little grouchy from a meeting they just had with him.” Great. Throw out questions 1-3. As they all began to arrive for my interview with them at Serge Becker’s newest restaurant (and triumph) Miss Lily’s, I felt an odd reception right away. I’m a hugger (not my fault, hippy mother) and right away this took them all aback, with the exception of Samantha Bee. It might not have helped matters that I was dressed in a flowing Bianca Jagger-like toga dress accompanied by my Pam Grier Afro—they must have thought Ravi Shankar was about to appear with his sitar while I asked them to all get into a lotus position for the interview. I liked Wyatt right away. He has a quiet confidence about him. I could tell he prefers observation and contemplation rather then jumping in haphazardly to say something just for

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“Who is also going to be in this issue?” Jason Jones asked. “Ah, let me see,” I said and began to list the talent at random, “Stephen Merchant, Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran.” I said. “Is this a U.K. issue?” John Oliver asked. “Or are you just listing comedians by their country?” Aasif said, laughing. “No….” I said, about to answer fully. “You know who Dylan Moran is?” John Oliver remarked, not unlike the way a cool kid in the late ‘70s would have asked their parents, “You know who Led Zeppelin is?” And along those same lines I answered, “Yes, everyone knows who Dylan Moran is.” I officially knew we are off to a bad start. “What is it like to be interviewed rather than being the interviewer?” I asked. Silence.

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chapter three “It’s awkward.” John Oliver said. Then more silence. “I find it strange and otherworldly,” explained Samantha Bee, “But I’m getting better at it.” “I love it! I love talking about myself.” Aasif Mandvi said, to which John replied, “Well, that speaks volumes about you, doesn’t it?” Wyatt quietly entered the conversation. “For me, I don’t come in with an agenda as opposed to the people that we interview, who do. So for me, it’s like, “You have fifteen minutes—what do you want to know about, and let’s get it over with.” “Actually, I asked to be media trained.” Samantha Bee said, much to her fellow correspondents’ visual and vocal surprise. “I needed it, because when I was asked to do interviews about my book (I Know I Am, But What Are You?) I couldn’t speak a word about it. I couldn’t properly describe what it was about or why I did it. I couldn’t talk about my book without bursting into tears. I thought ‘This will be bad if I burst into tears discussing a comedy book on a show.’” Bee’s husband and fellow correspondent, Jason Jones added, “We go into an interview knowing exactly what we need to get—‘We need you to say this’, so I think when the tables are reversed, we know exactly what is needed.” “What about press junkets?” I asked, “You must all be rather well-versed in those.” A hub of discussion collided, “No not really.” Jason Jones said. “I think Aasif has the most experience in those.” Wyatt offered up. “Yeah, sometimes I even hold them just for myself,” Aasif said, before being interrupted by Wyatt, “Or he will even show up to press junkets for movies he is not in, like Paul.” Humoring Wyatt, Aasif continued, “Or sometimes I will just put up the poster [for] Tron behind me and start a junket.” He claimed, to the laughter of the others. “You all are known for being Daily Show correspondents, but you all are extremely accomplished outside of the show, whether it be the author of a book, like Samantha, being in multiple films like Aasif, or a televised national solo comedy special like Wyatt. What projects do you feel most proud of outside of The Daily Show?” I asked. Again, all of them paused; perhaps they wanted an even more specific question. So I attempted one. “There seems to be a sense of family, and a synergistic work relationship between all of you—what is it like to work on projects outside of the Daily Show and that family aesthetic?” “Is there a family aesthetic?” Aasif asked in

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all seriousness, “There is not familiar love here at all.” A chorus of laughter followed, mixed in with protests of “What, Aasif!?” and “Screw you”. “Oh, okay, maybe I’m wrong about that.” I said. “If anyone thinks we have familial love,” Aasif said, and then hesitated before continuing, “Then they don’t know us at all.” “Ah, well, Jason and Samantha—you are indeed family, husband and wife. I heard that you two met each other doing theater, correct?” I asked. “No, well, it was Children’s Theater.” Samantha said, “That is about as far away from Broadway as you can get.” Jason nodded in agreement. “I will say, when you do what we do [on The Daily Show], that is, the sometimes terrible interviews that we do, it tends to be a common bond,” John Oliver interjected, “Especially when you meet up with ex-correspondents, you tend to want to talk about field pieces.” “Right,” Samantha Bee concurred, “When you share a very specific and very niche thing....” “There is something very weird about that, this job that we do”, Aasif noted. When I first started, Sam said to me, ‘No one teaches you how to this job, you just have to do it.’ Acting school doesn’t teach you this job.” “Well, of course she was telling you this, in hopes that you would get fired.” Wyatt said slyly.

“ ‘I don’t really have any projects to speak of,’ John Oliver said nonchalantly, ‘I’m just a standup comedian, that’s what I do.’ ‘What about that hit show you are on?’ Wyatt asks quizzically, referring to NBC’s hit comedy Community. ‘Oh, right, well, I am not really acting on that show.’ John said adding, “I just wear different coats.’”

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Samantha Bee Farah Khan dress. Christian Louboutin shoes.


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“‘Actually, I asked to be media trained.’ Samantha Bee said… ‘I needed it, because when I was asked to do interviews about my book (I Know I Am, But What Are You?) I couldn’t speak a word about it. I couldn’t properly describe what it was about or why I did it. I couldn't talk about my book with out bursting into tears. I thought ‘This will be bad if I burst into tears discussing a comedy book on a show.’”

Wyatt Cenac Bespoken suit. Billy Reid shirt. Duckie Brown for Florsheim shoes.

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Aasif Mandvi Billy Reid suit. Burberry shirt. Duckie Brown for Florsheim shoes.. 115

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John Oliver Bespoken suit. Bespoken shirt. Yigal Azrouel shoes.

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issue three “Well, of course.” Aasif agreed. “Well, obviously...” Sam interjected. “You know,” Jason Jones chimed in, “there is no experience that prepares you to be the president of the United States.” “Well, do you all think you have a healthy sense of competition then, like when Wyatt just did his stand-up Comedy Central Special?” I asked, looking around the room. “You know, I need to see his stand-up special.” Aasif said to laughter, “I mean I WANT to see it.” “Is there any project that any of you are working on that you would like to talk about?” I asked, now almost with desperation. Aasif picks up the tape recorder and speaks into it, “Shamless plug. I did a movie last year that will be out on DVD in September called Today’s Special. Out on DVD and Blu-ray, Today’s Special.” He put the recorder back down. “I don’t really have any projects to speak of,” John Oliver said nonchalantly, “I’m just a stand-up comedian, that’s what I do.” “What about that hit show you are on?” Wyatt asked quizzically, referring to NBC’s comedy Community. “Oh, right, well, I am not really acting on that show.” John said adding, “I just wear different coats.” “You are indeed a stand-up, and you host a show on Comedy Central, New York Stand Up. What is life like for you as a stand-up comedian?” I asked. “I think people give to much reverence to what we do. Being a stand-up is me, in a hotel, doing a show, and going back to the hotel room,” John answered, “It’s a lonely life.” Our food arrived from the downstairs kitchen at Miss Lily’s. While we ate, the conversation steered its way more into what I assume to be their daily repartee at TDS. There was teasing, “Oliver, tell Maya about your new film role!” “As the voice of Vanity Smurf.” Aasif added, laughing. “Why don’t you talk about your Taco Bell commercials, then?” John playfully jabbed back. At one point John Oliver looked over at me and said, “You know, if we did turn the tables and interviewed you, you wouldn’t be able to handle it. We could lacerate you, we could make you cry.” And with that, I grabbed a glass of wine and politely faded away from participation.

Jason Jones Yigal Azrouel sweater. Burberry shoes.

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issue three

the rock collection from left to right gelfing ear tip/14K vermeil rock ring/ 14K vermeil amefyst ring/ black gold vermeil rock ring/ silver madagascar stud earrings/ silver gelfing ear tip/ 14K vermeil fly clip/ 14K vermeil fools gold stud earrings/ silver

the ddd : fall 2011

118


issue three

119

fall 2011 : the ddd



The DDD: The Funny Issue Part 1