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 139 – Derf Backderf

Virtual Memories Show #139:
Derf Backderf

“My art has become good enough to tell the stories I want to tell. I’m a broken down punk rock geezer, but I’m still a relatively young cartoonist. I’ve only been doing long-form comics since 2010.”

derfcoverLive from CXC! Derf Backderf made a mid-career course correction, going from alt-weekly cartoons to full-length graphic novels like My Friend Dahmer and his new book Trashed (Abrams Comicarts). In this live podcast, we talk about that transition, how he became political years after being a political cartoonist, the impact of Ohio’s rustbelt disintegration on his worldview, and the surprise of his success in Europe. How do you go from garbageman to winner of the Angouleme prize? Find out from Derf Backderf in this week’s Virtual Memories ShowGive it a listen! (And go buy Trashed!)

“The most surprising and one of the most personally satisfying thing to me has been the success I’ve had in Europe, especially France. . . . I walked around Paris last week just laughing; I can’t believe my luck.”

derfpodWe also talk about the glory days of alt-weekly comics, the mental gymnastics necessary to write Jeffrey Dahmer as a human being, Derf’s observations and adventures in the French comics market, why he decided not to do a book about his cancer experience, how he made more cartoonist-friends after Joyce Brabner kicked him in the ass about being a recluse, and why it’s so much fun to develop good characters who can drive a story. Go listen! 

“I did an interview with a big national newspaper in France . . . and the opening question was, ‘We know the rust belt for three things: LeBron James, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and you.'”

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

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About our Guest

Derf Backderf was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, outside of Akron. He began his comix career as a political cartoonist, first at The Ohio State University, then at a dying daily paper in South Florida. He was fired for, as the editor put it, “general tastelessness.” Derf then gravitated to the free weekly press where his cranky, freeform comic strip, The City, appeared in over 140 papers during its 24-year run. As weekly papers began to wither, Derf moved to graphic novels, starting with Punk Rock and Trailer Parks (SLG Publishing, 2010). He followed that with the international bestseller, My Friend Dahmer (Abrams Comicarts, 2012) which was awarded an Angoulême Prize and named to the American Library Assocation’s list of The 100 Greatest Graphic Novels. His latest book is Trashed (Abrams Comicarts, 2015), a rollicking Rustbelt epic about garbagemen, a career Derf himself enjoyed when he dropped out of college for a spell. His books have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Korean. Derf also won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his political cartoons, and has been nominated for Eisner, Ignatz, Harvey and Rueben Awards. He lives in Cleveland, for reasons he can no longer recall.

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 Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, OH during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus in October 2015 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. Photo of me & Mr. Backderf by Amy Roth.

Podcast – Slow Learner

Virtual Memories Show:
Jules Feiffer –
Slow Learner

“There are certain things that come up when you age, the abandonment of some old things and the incredible opportunity to do new things. . . . I discovered at the age of 80 I could do what I couldn’t do at 16, 20 or 30.”

Jules & Lynda's selfie
Lynda Barry takes a selfie with Jules Feiffer at SPX 2014

Jules Feiffer’s professional cartooning career began in 1945 and he’s still going strong. He achieved Mt. Rushmore status as a cartoonist, satirist, playwright and screenwriter, and his new book, the 150-page graphic novel Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel (Liveright/WW Norton), signals both a new phase in his body of work and a return to the films noir (and comics and romans noir) that first inspired him. We talked about the new book, why he left political satire behind, how it felt to ‘learn to draw’ in his 80s, why we both hate the term “graphic novel”, how Waiting for Godot made him reconsider the possibilities of a 6-panel comic strip, what he learned about storytelling while working on a long-form comic, and more! Give it a listen!

“People like Lenny Bruce and William Steig gave me permission. And once they give you permission you walk through that door that they opened and then it’s up to you to go further. If I’ve played a role doing that, that’s great.”

Feiffer sings!
Jules Feiffer and a page from his next book

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

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About our Guest

Jules Feiffer‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip ran for 42 years in the Village Voice and 100 other papers. He is the author of a wide range of additional creative work, including the Obie award-winning play Little Murders, the screenplay for Carnal Knowledge, and the Oscar-winning short animation Munro. Other words include the plays Knock Knock (a Tony award nominee), and Grown Ups; the novels Harry, The Rat with Women and Ackroyd; the screenplays Popeye and I Want To Go Home (winner of the best screenplay award at the Venice Film Festival); the memoir Backing Into Forward; the children’s books The Man in the Ceiling, Bark, George, and Rupert Can Dance; and the illustrations for Which Puppy? by his daughter Kate and the children’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. His latest book is Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel (Liveright/WW Norton).

Credits: This episode’s music is Retrospective (Duke Ellington), Passionella Prelude, and I Yam What I Yam (Robin Williams). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Feiffer’s home 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 Mr. Feiffer (and Lynda Barry) by me.