“If you write something and you think it’s not that good, you should throw it away. If you write something and you think it’s really good, you should throw half of it away.”
Poet/muse/amanuensis Kathy Bidus joins the show to talk about her contribution to the new collection SisterWriterEaters (Griffith Moon). Along the way, we get into her “quit college and move to New York” decision in the late ’70s, the formation of an art salon in the early 80s, her Jean Valjean moment, meeting her husband (artist and past pod-guest Drew Friedman), Mad cartoonist Al Jaffee’s impact on her sense of humor, the Old Jewish Comedian she’s had a crush on all these years, what she learned from raising champion beagles, and the worst “please read my poetry” moment she ever had. Plus: I talk a LOT about dogs. Give it a listen! And go buy SisterWriterEaters!
About our Guest
Kathy Bidus was born and raised in Philadelphia and attended Kutztown university before moving to New York City, where she met her husband, artist Drew Friedman. Bids is a published poet, and in collaboration with Friedman, has written illustrated humor pieces for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Observer, among many others. For the last twenty years, she has raised champion show beagles. She currently resides in rural Pennsylvania with Drew.
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 Ms. Bidus’ home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro 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. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC.
“My plan is to make this a research destination for comics studies, especially as they relate to comics in New York City.”
Karen Green, Curator of the Comics and Cartoons collection at Columbia University, joins the show to talk about her secret origin! How did she go from bartender to medieval scholar to comics librarian? We get into the evolution of the library and comics scholarship, her proudest acquisitions, her love of NYC and being a bartender there in the ’80s, reading Playboy for the cartoons, the experience of having a portrait done by Drew Friedman, her Venn diagram with Mimi Pond, and the one cartoonist she’s still speechless around. Give it a listen! And go buy Drew Friedman’s More Heroes Of The Comics: Portraits Of The Legends Of Comic Books; Karen wrote the intro!
“Things that were throwaway materials for the medieval or early modern period are now priceless artifacts in museums and libraries around the world. Who’s to say that the things we see as disposable culture today are not going to be given the same valence?”
About our Guest
Karen Green serves as Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia University. She founded the graphic novels collection in the Columbia University Libraries, while working as the Ancient and Medieval History librarian. She has acquired the papers of Chris Claremont, Wendy and Richard Pini, Al Jaffee, and the Kitchen Sink Press for Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, as well as items from the estate of Jerry Robinson and research materials from Larry Tye’s history of Superman. A former bartender, Green holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers University. For four-and-a-half years, she wrote the “Comic Adventures in Academia” column for Comixology. She served as a Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards judge in 2011, a member of the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning in 2014, serves as vice-president of the board of directors of the Society of Illustrators–and former trustee of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, before its transfer to the Society–has taught and lectured on comics in academia, and curated the Fall 2014 exhibition, “Comics at Columbia: Past, Present, Future,” in Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
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 in a meeting room in Columbia University’s Butler Library on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro 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. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Karen Green by me. It’s on my instagram.
Fantagraphics is celebrating its 40th anniversary and holy crap have I interviewed a ton of their cartoonists and writers:
- Peter Bagge • mp3
- MK Brown • mp3
- Ivan Brunetti • mp3
- Jules Feiffer • mp3
- Mary Fleener • mp3
- Drew Friedman 2013 • mp3
- Drew Friedman 2014 • mp3
- Josh Alan Friedman • mp3
- Kipp Friedman • mp3
- Bill Griffith • mp3
- Glenn Head • mp3
- Dylan Horrocks • mp3
- Kaz • mp3
- Jonah Kinigstein • mp3
- Peter Kuper • mp3
- Michael Kupperman • mp3
- Roger Langridge 2014 • mp3
- Roger Langridge 2015 • mp3 (brief)
- Roger Langridge 2016 • mp3 (brief)
- Lorenzo Mattotti • mp3
- Paul Mavrides • mp3
- Tom Spurgeon • mp3
- Leslie Stein • mp3
- Carol Tyler • mp3
- Jim Woodring (2015) • mp3
- Jim Woodring (2016) • mp3
That last one with Woodring has the most Fanta-40th-related conversation, so check it out.
“This book has three things I love: bookstores, painting and name-dropping.”
Artist, writer, humorist and cartoonist Bob Eckstein joins the show to talk about his wonderful new book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers. We get into the origins of the project, how he survived the sheer volume of bookstore-cat stories, how he once got dirty in the back of the Strand Bookstore, getting introduced to art by Sports Illustrated, a great lesson in comic timing, getting a late start in cartooning but making up for lost time, marrying his biggest enemy from art school (and eloping to Iceland), becoming a champion of bookstore culture, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores!
“I got paid the same amount of money doing pieces for the New York Times in 1982 and 1983 as I get paid now.”
We also talk about the collapsing economics of illustration, cartooning, and pretty much every other field Bob pursues, doing seven years of research on The History of the Snowman (in which he discovered some amazing stuff) and accidentally shooting down a TV project based on it, how Footnotes taught him that people’s real story isn’t always the one they think they’re telling you, his exultation at selling his very first submission to The New Yorker and his puzzlement when he didn’t sell another one there for a year, what makes for a good bookstore, the benefits of eavesdropping, and more! Now go listen to the show!
“Every bookstore is thousands of peoples’ dreams, either fulfilled or unfulfilled. Everyone’s life project is on the shelf. And it’s where people’s dreams are going to get triggered.”
About our Guest
Bob Eckstein is an illustrator, writer and cartoonist. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. He is also known as the world’s leading snowman expert and is the author of the holiday classic, The History of the Snowman. He lives in New York City.
There’s a much more extensive (and funny) bio of him at bobeckstein.com.
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 stately Virtual Memories Manor on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro 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. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Eckstein & Rufus T. Firefly Roth by me.
“I have something to live for in the goal of producing this long, fascinating, convoluted, loop-de-loop, metaphysical story arc. And that’s the kind of thing that occupies me and makes my days the joyous things they are: living in this screwed-up dream-world that isolates me from the rest of the world and humanity in general.”
Jim Woodring rejoins the show to talk art, comics and the Unifactor! During a break at SPX 2016, we sat down to discuss the importance of Fantagraphics on its 40th anniversary, Jim’s move to Seattle in 1974 and his move away from there last year, camaraderie with the cartoonists of his generation, what he’d do if he was just starting out as a cartoonist today, the experience of seeing Frank in 3-D, the joys of drawing with a six-foot pen, just what Art is there for, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his newest book, Frank In The 3rd Dimension!
“Some people say religious experiences are just in the person’s mind, but where else would they be?”
We also talk about how Jack Kirby drew like a haunted machine, why computers have led to a generation of prosthetic geniuses, why he sticks with analog drawing tools (like that six-foot-long pen, known as Nibbus Maximus), the remarkable experience of going on a tour of the South China Seas with “a billionaire friend of mine”, his relationship with the Unifactor (and the perils of trying to circumvent its storytelling imperatives), the role of perseverance in becoming a better artist, and the feeling that he’s done the right thing in his life. Now go listen to the show!
“I feel like a pretender next to guys like Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. With my limited abilities and my ‘that’s good enough’ philosophy of art, I feel like I’ve just sneaked into the party.”
About our Guest
Jim Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and enjoyed a childhood made lively by an assortment of mental an psychological quirks including paroniria, paranoia, paracusia, apparitions, hallucinations and other species of psychological and neurological malfunction among the snakes and tarantulas of the San Gabriel mountains.
He eventually grew up to be an inquisitive bearlike man who has enjoyed three exciting careers: garbage collector, merry-go-round-operator and cartoonist. A self-taught artist, his first published works documented the disorienting hell of his salad days in an “illustrated autojournal” called JIM. This work was published by Fantagraphics Books and collected in The Book of Jim in 1992. A newer collection of these comics was published as Jim.
He is best known for his wordless comics series depicting the follies of his character Frank, a generic cartoon anthropomorph whose adventures careen wildly from sweet to appalling. A decade’s worth of these stories was collected in The Frank Book in 2004. The 2010 Frank story Weathercraft won The Stranger’s Genius Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for that year. Woodring has published two more FRANK books, The Congress of the Animals, and Fran. His newest book is Frank In The 3rd Dimension, with Charles Barnard.
Woodring is also known for his anecdotal charcoal drawings (a selection which was gathered in Seeing Things in 2005), and the sculptures, vinyl figures, fabrics and gallery installations that have been made from his designs. His multimedia collaborations with the musician Bill Frisell won them a United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. He lives on Vashon Island with his family and residual phenomena.
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 Bethesda North Marriott on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Photos of Jim by me.
“Arno is as close to the founder of The New Yorker cartoon as you can get.”
Michael Maslin joins the show to talk about his new book, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist (Regan Arts). We talk about his own career at The New Yorker, marrying a fellow cartoonist, becoming a cartoon detective, the allure of Arno and the days when cartoonists were cited in gossip mags, why it took him 15 years to write this biography, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his book on Peter Arno!
“There have been all kinds of changes, but it’s still The New Yorker.”
We also get into Michael’s cartooning influences & anxieties, the website he built to chronicle the doings of New Yorker cartoonists, the time Robert Gottlieb had to shield William Shawn from paparazzi outside the Algonquin Club, the recent Sam Gross gag that made him bust a gut, the incredible apartment building he lived in in on West 11th St. (and why so many New Yorker cartoonists wind up leaving New York). BONUS: I have a two-minute catch-up with one of my favorite cartoonists, Roger Langridge, at last weekend’s Small Press Expo! (pictured below) Now go listen to the show!
“It took 15 years because I’d never done it before. I think I wrote a paper in high school that was a page and a half, so I had to learn how to do all this.”
About our Guest
Born in New Jersey, Michael Maslin was raised in Bloomfield, a bedroom community a half hour due west of Manhattan. In high school, he drew a short-lived comic strip “Our Table” which followed the imaginary exploits of fellow students. Readership was limited to those sitting around him in the lunchroom. About this time, he first submitted work to The New Yorker, and soon received his first rejection.
In August of 1977 the magazine purchased one of his ideas. It was given to and executed by veteran cartoonist Whitney Darrow Jr. (the drawing, of a fortune teller saying to a customer, “Nothing will ever happen to you” appeared in the issue of December 26, 1977). He began contributing regularly to The New Yorker in 1978 – his first drawing appeared in the April 17th issue. In 1988 he married fellow New Yorker cartoonist, Liza Donnelly. They have two children. Simon & Schuster published four collections of his work, including The More the Merrier, and The Crowd Goes Wild. With Ms. Donnelly he co-authored Cartoon Marriage: Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker’s Cartooning Couple, Husbands and Wives and Call Me When You Reach Nirvana. They also co-edited several cartoon anthologies. Maslin’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and cartoon anthologies.
In August of 2007 he began Ink Spill, a website dedicated to news of New Yorker Cartoonists, past and present. Ink Spill is comprised of six sections: News & Events, The New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z (a listing of bare bone bios of all cartoonists who have contributed to the magazine), Links, Posted Notes (essays on New Yorker cartoonists), From the Attic (artifacts related to New Yorker cartoons/cartoonists) and The New Yorker Cartoonists Library. Maslin’s biography of Peter Arno, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist was published by Regan Arts in April of 2016
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 Mr. Maslin’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. The segment with Mr. Langridge was recorded on a Zoom H2n digital recorder. Photos of Mr. Maslin and Mr. Langridge by me. Live-drawing of me and Mr. Maslin by Liza Donnelly.
“I was a Henry Morgan authority at the age of 24.”
Kliph Nesteroff joins the show to talk about his new book, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy (Grove Press). We discuss the evolution of comedy over the century (from vaudeville to comedy podcasters) and how he got started chronicling it, American comedy’s twin themes of struggle and influence, the connect-the-dots game of comedic lineage, the stories that didn’t make it into the book, comedy’s role in the civil rights struggle, Kliph’s autodidactic background and how it shapes his pursuit of history, the story of how he got kicked out of high school, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy Kliph’s book, The Comedians! (NOTE: Kliph’s section starts at 17:15, if you wanna skip right to that)
“I’m just as deeply immersed in the history of film, the history of music, of TV, of pop culture. . . . But Leonard Maltin already exists; he’s got it cornered. Jerry Beck is the world’s foremost animation historian; he’s got that market covered. There’s a million people who write about music; I don’t need to be one of those guys. But there’s no other comedy historian. I’m happy to pick up that mantle.”
Plus, I give Liz Hand a call on the occasion of the publication of her new book, Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel! We explore how her nihilistic, burned-out, drug-addicted post-punk-scene photographer-protagonist has grown over the course of three books of increasing mayhem and murder. (Hint: she doesn’t decide to become a nurturing mom and validate herself with a rich husband.) Go listen! And buy Hard Light! (NOTE: Liz’s section starts around 3:30)
About our Guest
Kliph Nesteroff is a former stand-up comic turned writer. A longtime contributor to WFMU, writing about the history of comedy, Nesteroff’s latest project is hosting the Classic Showbiz Talk Show, a live series in Los Angeles that has welcomed comedy luminaries like Mel Brooks, Fred Willard and Laugh-In creator George Schlatter.
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 an undisclosed location in Manhattan 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. The conversation with Liz Hand was recorded using Call Recorder on Face Time Audio; I was using a Blue Yeti USB mic. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Kliph by me.
“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.”
David 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.”
About our Guest
David 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.
“I wanted to be a writer since I knew that I couldn’t be a detective.”
We close out the summer of 2015 with a great summer novel, Orient (Harper) by Christopher Bollen! We talk about his new book, the difference between a “smart murder mystery” and a “literary thriller,” the perils of Male First Novel Syndrome (as evinced in Lightning People: A Novel), the challenges of writing about Long Island, how his years at Interview magazine honed his ear for dialogue, his fascination with rootlessness, why it’s too easy to parody the contemporary art scene, and more! Give it a listen!
“Remember how you could totally judge a stranger by what they were reading? Now we’ve totally lost that cue, thanks to e-books.”
We also talk about Christopher’s impending 40th birthday, his reverse mid-life crisis, “kids today,” the people he now realizes he should’ve been nervous about interviewing when he was young, the allure of detective stories, why childhood bookish shut-ins have great skin when they get older, how I once nearly blew up a shopping mall back in my high school years, and whether the actual inhabitants of Orient were peeved about his new novel.
“You don’t interview Fran Lebowitz; it’s more like you’re her audience.”
We talk about some books and movies in this episode. Here’s a list of ’em (Note: if I ever go to a Patreon crowdfunding model for the show, this is the first thing that goes subscriber-only):
- Orient: A Novel – Christopher Bollen
- Lightning People: A Novel – Christopher Bollen
- The Flamethrowers – Rachel Kushner
- The Secret Parts of Fortune: Three Decades of Intense Investigations and Edgy Enthusiasms – Ron Rosenbaum
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Tender Is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Plum Island – Nelson DeMille
- Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellls
- Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books – Michael Dirda
- The Beach – Alex Garland
- Women in Love – DH Lawrence
About our Guest
Christopher Bollen is a writer who lives in New York City. He regularly writes about art, literature, and culture. His first novel, Lightning People, was published in 2011. His second novel, Orient, was published by Harper in May 2015. He is currently the Editor at Large at Interview Magazine.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, which seems to have become our unofficial theme song (I’ll ask DB if it’s okay to make it official). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Bollen’s apartment 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. Bio photo of Mr. Bollen by Danko Steiner; not-as-good photo by me.