Episode 227 – Ben Schwartz

Virtual Memories Show 227: Ben Schwartz

“Twitter is the best source of political humor now. It’s better than any show on TV. It’s hard to compete with a million writers.”

Comedy writer, journalist and screenwriter Ben Schwartz joins the show to talk serious laughs. We discuss his work on American humor between the wars, writing for Billy Crystal on the Oscars and his contributions to David Letterman’s monologues, the profundity of Jack Benny and the importance of Bob Hope, his amazing (but unproduced) screenplay about Bob Hope and Larry Gelbart in Korea, how Jaime Hernandez’ comics prepared him to move to LA, his take on Charlie Hebdo, and what it’s like having the same name as the actor who played Jean-Ralphio on Parks & Rec! Give it a listen!

“Part of being able to sell stories is having an idea that other people don’t have, having a point of view or knowledge that other people don’t have.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Ben Schwartz is a comedy writer and journalist whose work began appearing at Suck.com (as Bertolt Blecht) and has appeared since in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Letterman monologues, the 84th Oscars, The Baffler, The New York Times, on the radio show Wits, and with comics collaborators like Ivan Brunetti, Peter Bagge, and Drew Friedman. To what degree the work is considered journalism or satire depends on the legal circumstances of the moment and how serious your libel suit looks. He is currently on assignment for Vanity Fair and working on a history of American humor set between the two world wars, set to come out from Fantagraphics. He’s on Twitter as @benschwartzy.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Schwartz’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same equipment in a hotel room in Quincy, MA. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Schwartz by me. It’s on my instagram.

Episode 163 – David Leopold

Virtual Memories Show #163:
David Leopold

“Hirschfeld is an artist who discovered what he wanted to do early on, and works at it his whole life and gets better and better at it.”

218_Leop_9781101874974_art_r1David Leopold, author of The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age (Knopf), joins the show to talk about the thirteen years he spent working with the great artist Al Hirschfeld, how he wound up running the Ben Solowey Studio, his career curating museum exhibitions, what he learned from following The Grateful Dead, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy The Hirschfeld Century!

“I don’t collect art; I collect artists.”

We also talk the trip that led Hirschfeld from painting to line art, the way MGM’s costume department started making the Marx Brothers look more like Hirschfeld’s drawings of them, one of David’s biggest regrets (not bringing Al Hirschfeld and Jerry Garcia together), Billy Rose’s plan to buy Ellis Island and make it a retirement home for millionaires, the fleetingness of artistic reputation, the goals of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, and the wonderful history of the Ben Solowey Studio. BONUS: You get to hear me discuss how I almost quit doing the podcast last week! Go listen!

“Every day, he was faced with a white board that couldn’t care less about what he’d accomplished.”

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About our Guest

dleopoldDavid Leopold is an author and curator who has organized exhibitions for institutions around the country including the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, and the Field Museum in Chicago. Internationally, he has curated shows for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Filmmuseum in Frankfurt and Berlin. He organized the archive of Al Hirschfeld’s work for the artist, visiting Hirschfeld in his studio at least once a week for thirteen years until the artist’s death in 2003. He is now the Creative Director for the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. His latest book, The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age, published by Alfred A. Knopf to coincide with a major retrospective that Leopold curated for the New York Historical Society has won universal acclaim. The Washington Post called it an “instant classic,” and Amazon selected it for its “Top Books of 2015.” His other books include David Levine’s American Presidents (Fantagraphics, 2008); Irving Berlin’s Show Business: Broadway – Hollywood – AmericaHirschfeld’s Hollywood (Abrams, 2001). He also authored a number of monographs on underappreciated artists for various museums.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Studio of Ben Solowey in Bedminster, PA on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on the same setup. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of David by me. Hirschfeld drawing of Carol Channing via Knopf’s publicity page for The Hirschfeld Century: Portrait of an Artist and His Age.

Podcast 105 – Sincere Observation

Virtual Memories Show:
Mimi Gross – Sincere Observation

“My weakness is that I don’t have a set of parameters. My work always looks like a group show. But the connections are real. Anyone who looks can see the connections.”

Robert+Venable+Park

Artist Mimi Gross joins the show to talk about her art, her life, and the joys of collaboration. Mimi’s been part of the New York art scene for more than half a century, and her paintings, sculptures, sets and designs have been seen around the world. We talk about how she stood out as Mimi Gross when she was “daughter of sculptor/artist Chaim Gross” and “wife of artist Red Grooms”. We also get into the difficulties of having a family while being a working artist, making art in response to 9/11, designing sets and costumes for dance and how that fed back into her other art-forms, the multi-year process of building Ruckus Manhattan, the problems and perks of not fitting into a particular tradition, the experience of building the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, and the loose definition of success. I also ask my half-assed “Jeff Koons: Fraud or Prank?” question again, but I really get shown up for my lack of knowledge of contemporary art. Give it a listen!

“It wasn’t until I was well over 40 that I realized that not everyone has imagination.”

Mimi Gross on the Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Mimi Gross is a painter, set-and-costume designer for dance, and maker of interior and exterior installations. She has had several international exhibitions, including work at the Salander O’ Reilly Galleries, and the Ruth Siegel Gallery, New York City, the Inax Gallery, in Ginza, Tokyo, and Galerie Lara Vincey, in Paris. She has also shown work at the Municipal Art Society and at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. Her anatomically-themed artwork is on permanent display, courtesy the New York City Parks Department, at the Robert Venable Park in East New York.

Her work is included in numerous public collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum, le Musee des Art Decoratifs in Paris, the Nagoya Museum of Art, the Onasch Collection in Berlin and the Lannon Foundation, as well as the Fukuoko Bank in Japan and New York’s Bellevue Hospital.

Gross has been the recipient of countless awards and grants including from the New York State Council on the Arts, twice from the National Endowment for Visual Arts, the American Academy & Institute of Arts and Letters, and a “Bessie” for sets and costumes. She held the McMillan/Stewart Endowed Chair in Painting at the Maryland College of Art in 2010-2011, and has taught at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Penland School of Crafts, Syracuse University, SUNY Purchase, as well as other universities and educational institutions, giving workshops and advising students, as a visiting artist.

From 1960-1976, Gross collaborated with Red Grooms on many large, multidimensional installations, including the fabled Ruckus Manhattan. Since 1979, she has collaborated in a fruitful (and on-going) partnership with the dancer, Douglas Dunn and his company, designing sets and costumes for his performances. She also collaborated with the poet Charles Bernstein. Her on-site drawings of the World Trade Center from 9/11 and after are included in the volume, Some of These Daze, published by Granary Books.

Credits: This episode’s music is Shoulda Been a Painter by Karl Hyde. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Lower photo of Ms. Gross by me, no credit given for upper photo (studio shot).

Podcast – Jewish Gothic and the Restless Artist

Virtual Memories Show: Sara Lippmann and Drew Friedman –
Jewish Gothic and the Restless Artist

“My father, to this day, will still call and say, ‘It’s not too late for medical school!'” –Sara Lippmann

Sara Lippmann on The Virtual Memories Show

Drew Friedman returns to the Virtual Memories Show

Come for the Friedman, stay for the Lippmann! Or vice versa! This week’s podcast features two great conversations: first I talk with Drew Friedman at Small Press Expo ’14 about his great new book of portraits, Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Pioneering Legends Of Comic Books (Fantagraphics), then Sara Lippmann and I solve the gender imbalance issue in literature, and the MFA vs. NYC issue, to boot! We talk about her debut short story collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press), getting over the fear of writing, how she lost the Rolex account for GQ, and more!

“I drew them older so you could see the weight of their careers on their faces.” –Drew Friedman

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Sara Lippmann is the author of the story collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press). Her stories have been published in The Good Men Project, Wigleaf, Slice magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Connotation Press, Joyland and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2012 fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and co-hosts the Sunday Salon, a longstanding reading series in the East Village.

Drew Friedman is an award-winning illustrator, cartoonist and painter. His work has appeared in Raw, Weirdo, SPY, National Lampoon, Snarf, The New York Times, MAD, The New Yorker, BLAB!, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, HONK!, Rolling Stone, Field & Stream, TIME, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and more. His comics and illustrations have been collected in several volumes, the latest, Too Soon?, published by Fantagraphics in 2010. His collection of portraits, Drew Friedman’s Sideshow Freaks, was published by Blast books in 2011. He has published three collections of paintings of Old Jewish Comedians (1, 2 and 3), but none of Old Episcopal Comedians. He also raises champion beagles with his wife, K. Bidus. You can find his full bio and buy his art at his fine art prints site and you really should read his blog.

Credits: This episode’s music is Sure Shot by the Beastie Boys. The conversation with Drew Friedman was recorded at the Bethesda North Marriott and the conversation with Sara Lippmann was recorded at an undisclosed location on the Upper West Side on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photos of Ms. Lippmann and Mr. Friedman by me.

Podcast: The Slippery Animal

Bruce Jay Friedman on The Virtual Memories Show (2)

Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 8 – The Slippery Animal

“I’m always in the middle of a struggle with a short story. You’d think I’d have the hang of it by now. It’s a slippery animal.”

Literary legend Bruce Jay Friedman joins the Virtual Memories Show for a fun conversation about his literary career, which encompasses six decades of short stories, novels, plays and Oscar®-nominated screenwriting. We talk about his newest projects, how both the writing and the sale of short stories have changed over the course of his career, and why he’s happier in that form than the novel. Why was he successful in Hollywood when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Anthony Powell crapped out there? Listen in to find out!

“Hollywood to me was fun. Like a boy being let loose in a candy store. I was offended when I’d get called in off the tennis court to write a few scenes. I can tell you: there is no one who had more fun than I did in Hollywood.”

We also talk about how stories begin, where he sees himself in the continuum of Jewish American writers, why Dustin Hoffman hates him, how he found his home at Elaine’s, whether he’s ever been tempted to write The Big Novel, why he’s getting more Jewish as he gets older, why he prefers the Franco-Prussian war over other wars, and how to find the right kind of pistachio nuts.

“I always feel guilty about being entertained. I feel like I should be reading Suetonius.”

Bonus: I rant about leaving my job and ask you for money!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Novelist, playwright, short story writer and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman was born in New York City. Friedman published his first novel Stern in 1962 and established himself as a writer and playwright, most famously known for his off-Broadway hit Steambath (1973) (TV) and his 1978 novel The Lonely Guy’s Book of Life. In addition to short stories and plays, Mr. Friedman has also published seven other novels, and has written numerous screenplays, including the Oscar-nominated Splash (1984). His memoir, Lucky Bruce, came out in 2011. He resides in New York City with his second wife, educator Patricia J. O’Donohue. Check out his Amazon page for info on his books and plays.

Credits: This episode’s music is Frenesi by Artie Shaw. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Friedman’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Friedman by me.

Podcast: Crackers and Bagels

Crackers & Bagels: Josh Alan Friedman on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 4 – Crackers and Bagels

“Among the many things that writing does, it gives you the chance for revenge, clarification; there are a lot of basic human emotions that you can address by being able to write about them.”

Josh Alan Friedman, author of Black Cracker, is the third Friedman brother I’ve interviewed, as part of my “Capturing the (Other) Friedmans” series of podcasts. (I really gotta rename that.) Josh is an accomplished author and guitarist, and has plenty of stories of New York at its most sordid. We met up at a cafe in Times Square to talk about his old days writing for Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine, why it took him more than 30 years to write Black Cracker, his “Lewis & Martin” theory about his estrangement from his brother Drew, his parents’ successful divorce, and more!

“I want my list of works to be lean and mean and everything was urgent and had to be done. Nothing to play the market. My family’s had to suffer for that, that I haven’t done commercial jobs just to bring home the bacon.”

Along the way, we also develop an idea for a high-concept movie, talk lewdly in front of some tourists, pay homage to his literary idols, and figure out that therapy just gets in the way of making good art. If you’ve got a problem with any of that (especially the coarse language) then you should skip this episode.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

In 1987, writer-guitarist Josh Alan Friedman sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads (the Crossroads of the World: Broadway & 42nd Street) and moved to Texas. He’d just written Tales of Times Square, a cult classic. Josh’s latest book is Black Cracker, the story of his tumultuous childhood as the only white boy at Long Island’s last segregated school. In 2008, he wrote Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. He has also written When Sex Was Dirty, and I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life (with Al Goldstein), and co-edited Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 1950-1995. Josh also set off satirical fires and lawsuits as writer-half of the Friedman Bros, the most feared cartooning duo of the late ’70s and ’80s. Two anthologies remain in print, featuring the art of Josh’s brother, Drew Friedman: Warts and All, and Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental (Two). On the music front, as “Josh Alan,” he barnstormed the state of Texas for 20 years, rocking whole arenas with his Guild D-40. Copping three Dallas Observer Music Awards for Best Acoustic Act, he released four albums: Famous & Poor, The Worst!, Blacks ‘N’ Jews (the title of which became a documentary on Josh’s life) and Josh Alan Band.

Credits: This episode’s music is Jeff’s Boogie by Josh Alan (Friedman). The conversation was recorded at the Cafe Edison on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in a hotel room in London on the same gear. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Josh Alan Friedman by me.

2013 Podcast Countdown: #10-8

Sheesh! Only a week left in 2013? How’d that happen?

I went into 2013 with the goal of putting out a new podcast every other week. I managed to exceed that goal and even bumped up to a weekly schedule for the last quarter of the year. I’m pretty optimistic that I can sustain that in 2014, with an occasional week off.

I’ve got an extra-special (by my standards) episode of The Virtual Memories Show on tap for New Year’s Eve, but I thought we’d revisit the show’s most prolific year with a countdown of the top 10 most downloaded episodes.

I only had this countdown idea with 7 days left in the year, so let’s go with #s 8-10 in today’s post! I’ll post another top 10 episode each day until we reach Dec. 31:

#10 – The Importance of Being Out – It was our first double-episode of the year! First, Craig Gidney discussed his new YA/bullying novel, Bereft, which went on to be nominated for an NAACP Image Award, the Moonbeam Children’s Award and the Lambada Literary Award in YA. Then Ed Hermance talked about the history of Giovanni’s Room, his queer bookstore that’s celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013. Later in the year, Ed looked to sell the store, but it looks like there are no takers, so this interview chronicles the end of an era. Lots of great conversation about writing, publishing and bookselling in this episode. (4/2/13) – mp3

#9 – Episode 21: The Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots Drew Friedman, the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt, the great painter, cartoonist,  and chronicler of modern fame (and infamy), invited me out to 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC one morning to record a conversation about art, show biz, R. Crumb, Joe Franklin, the Friars Club, Howard Stern, Abe Vigoda, the gallery show commemorating his books on Old Jewish Comedians, and more! It’s a fun conversation with someone who watched even more TV and read even more comic books as a kid than I did! (10/8/13) – mp3

#8 – Episode 9 – Putting the “Pro” in Profanity – Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large for the Oxford English Dictionary and author/editor of The F-Word, talks about the shifting idea of “offensive” language, how one becomes a lexicographer, the OED’s digital challenge, the history of Jesse’s Word, and more! (4/30/13) – mp3

Check back tomorrow for lucky #7! Thank you to all my guests for the great conversation, and thank you, dear listeners, for each and every download! And have a great Christmas, if that’s your thing!

You can find all our episodes at the podcast archive or by visiting iTunes!

Podcast: The Whimsical Barracuda

Kipp Friedman on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 31 -The Whimsical Barracuda

“With my brothers, it was like ‘Resistance is futile! You will enjoy horror movies! You will go to comic book conventions! You will learn to love B-movies and worship Tor Johnson and Plan 9 from Outer Space! Shemp Howard must be worshipped!’”

Kipp Friedman is the latest member of a comedic dynasty (so says the subtitle of his new memoir, Barracuda in the Attic). The son of novelist, journalist, playwright and screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman and brother of cartoonist Drew Friedman and writer/musician Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp has tossed his hat into the ring with a book filled with tales of New York City in the 1960’s and ‘70s, of pop culture education, of living with his divorced dad during his days writing “The Lonely Guy” columns, and more!

“My father was so prolific for so many years as a writer, people would wonder why he never seemed to be working. And yet his stuff kept on being published. I think making it seem effortless rubbed off on his kids. We agonize over everything.”

While in NYC for a series of book readings, Kipp sat down to talk with me about Barracuda in the Attic (Fantagraphics Books), the joys of “growing up Friedman,” hunting for comics and Mad magazines with his brothers, what he misses about New York, what he’ll never forgive the Knicks for, how he ended up with a “real job,” and what it felt like to add a volume to the bookshelf of works by his family. It’s a wonderful perspective on the most creative family any of us will likely ever see!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

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About our Guest

Kipp Friedman is a native New Yorker who holds B.A.s in history and journalism from the Universit of Wisconsin-Madison. He began his career as a reporter for several newspapers in south Florida before moving to Wisconsin, where he worked in PR for GE Medical Systems, as marketing and PR director at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, and as a PR consultant for Jewish Family Services of Milwaukee. He is also a professional photographer and has shot more than 300 bar and bat mitzvahs (despite not having been bar mitzvah’d himself). He currently resides in Milwaukee with his wife, Anne. They have a grown son, Max, who is studying to be an architect. Barracuda in the Attic is his first book.

Credits: This episode’s music is When I Write a Book by Rockpile. The conversation was recorded at a hotel in SoHo on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded at home on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Kipp Friedman by me.