“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.”
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.
It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2016’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2017! More than 30 responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Hanukkah and/or Christmas purchases, The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!
This year’s Guest List episode features selections from more than 30 of our recent guests (and one bonus guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
(painting of Scribners bookstore by Bob Eckstein from his new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers)
About our Guests
The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Glen Baxter, Ross Benjamin, Harold Bloom, MK Brown, Nina Bunjevac, Hayley Campbell, David M. Carr, Myke Cole, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Glynnis Fawkes, Rachel Hadas, Liz Hand, Glenn Head, Virginia Heffernan, Harry Katz, Ed Koren, David Leopold, Arthur Lubow, Michael Maslin, David Mikics, Ben Model, Christopher Nelson, Jim Ottaviani, Ann Patty, Burton Pike, Frank Sorce, Willard Spiegelman, Leslie Stein, Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins), Andrea Tsurumi, Carol Tyler, Jim Woodring, and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. Most of the episode was recorded on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Myke Cole’s segment was recorded at a friend’s apartment in NYC on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC.
“I’m trying to create music that’s pretty enough to listen to but not interesting enough to pay attention to.”
Ben Model has made a career for himself as a silent-film accompanist, playing for audiences throughout the US (and a city in Norway!). I was thrilled to have him on the show and ask him how he got his start and how he reached the top of his field. We talk about the not-exactly-secret society of his peers, the challenge of reading and adapting to audience and movie simultaneously, the importance of audience preservation, the differences between playing live and recording a score for a movie, the reasons young and old audiences get engaged by silent movies, why you need to city Chaplin’s City Lights with a live orchestra, and more! Give it a listen!
“No film collector is going to hold up a 4tb hard drive and say, ‘Look at all the movies I have!'”
Ben & I also discuss the difference between digital and “real” instruments, the way his style has evolved, the Kickstarter revolution and how it funds his DVD label, the Stan Laurel comedy that makes little kids lose their minds, his love for Ernie Kovacs, the awful and sometimes incomprehensible stereotypes of century-old comedy, his theory of Undercranking, where the next generation of accompanists is coming from, the multi-decade dearth of comedic filmmakers with distinct vision, the lost comic genius of Marcel Perez, and what it’s like to create “music of momentary significance” (as his mentor described it). Go listen!
“Bringing the silent movie experience to a place where it doesn’t usually get to happen is great fun for me.”
About our Guest
Ben Model is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and performs on both piano and theatre organ. Ben works full-time presenting and accompanying silent films in a wide variety of venues around the USA and internationally, carrying on a tradition he learned from silent film organist Lee Erwin (1919-2000). Over the past 30+ years Ben has created and performed live scores for several hundred silent films, films lasting anywhere from one minute to five hours. Ben is a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theatre. His recorded scores can be heard on numerous DVD/Blu-Ray releases, on TCM and on his YouTube channel. His indie DVD label Undercrank Productions has released several discs of rare/lost silent films, including films preserved by the Library of Congress. Ben is a regular accompanist at classic film festivals around the U.S.A. and in Norway, and performs at universities, museums, and historic theaters. Ben is the producer and co-founder of The Silent Clowns Film Series, now in its 19th season in NYC. Ben has composed film scores for both orchestra and concert band for accompaniment to films by Chaplin and Keaton. These scores are performed around the U.S. every year by both professional and school ensembles. In his work as a programmer, Ben has co-curated a film series for MoMA, and co-programs a monthly silent film series at the Cinema Arts Center. As archivist of the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams collection, he also curated two recent DVD box sets of Ernie Kovacs television shows for Shout! Factory. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University.
Credits: This episode’s music is Ben noodling on my friend’s Steinway. The conversation was recorded at my friend’s place in Manhattan on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. B/W photo of Mr. Model by me; no attribution for the color photo.