Episode 177 – MK Brown

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Virtual Memories Show #177:
MK Brown

“I have a folder of work that I can never print, but you just have to get them out.”

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Legendary cartoonist MK Brown joins the show to talk about her lifetime in comics and art, her years with B. Kliban and how they worked out opposite work/sleep schedules, the ups and downs of The National Lampoon, the balancing act of motherhood and art, her trepidation at organizing a multi-decade collection of her work (and her idiosyncratic chapter headings for the book), her love of westerns, her favorite political comic, her secret stash of unprintable comics and gags, working in animation, the future of Aunt Mary’s Kitchen, and why she goes by “MK”. Give it a listen! And buy MK’s collection, Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013 (Fantagraphics)!

“If you look through a microscope, you can get lost.”

bystander_biggerThis episode is sponsored by The American Bystander, a new, quarterly, print-only humor magazine featuring a mind-blowing lineup of humor writers and artists. Visit their site, order the first two issues, and find out how to support this fantastic project (seriously: go check out that list of contributors). There was a great New York Times piece last week about The American Bystander‘s second issue on July 12 —

The American Bystander . . . does not just belong to the tradition of defunct magazines like The National Lampoon and Spy. Its nostalgic, lightly witty style evokes influences that have been dead even longer, like the raconteur Jean Shepherd and the sophisticated stylist Robert Benchley. In an era when so much comedy is boisterous and engaged with the world, The American Bystander’s humor is understated and escapist, steering clear of topicality and political jokes.

— so, yeah, I’m awfully glad to have them as a sponsor of The Virtual Memories Show!

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

M.K.Brown is an artist whose work has appeared in most national magazines and collections since the 70’s, and in many forms such as cartoons, animation and illustration. MK grew up in Darien, CT and New Brunswick, Canada, and attended art schools in New Canaan, CT, GTO, Mexico, and San Francisco, CA. After selling cartoons to small publications like The Realist, her work was published in Playboy Magazine, then in National Lampoon, where her cartoons were featured for several decades.

Aside from Playboy and National Lampoon, Brown’s cartoons and illustrations were published in Mother Jones Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Women’s Sports, Arcade Comics, The New Yorker and many other magazines both mainstream and underground. She collaborated with Brian McConnachie, Bill Murray, Peter Elbling and Brian Doyle Murray to write TV’s first scripted comedy hour for NBC, and later created an animated series for the first season of the Tracy Ullman Show. She also wrote and illustrated several children’s books which were featured on Reading Rainbow, and received a Junior Literary Guild award.

MK Brown’s cartoons have been reproduced in dozens of collections over the years from Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art, to The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection. Her own collection of cartoons, Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013, is available from Fantagraphics and better bookstores.

Recently, she’s been at work on cartoons for the third issue of The American Bystander. Another project was a short animation called “Aliens,” about distracted driving, for Ford Motor Co. produced by J.J.Sedelmaier. It tied for 1st place with Bill Plympton in the public service category at the ASIFA/SF Summer Screening. Her next project is to finish a new website with the help of Stan Jarin in Australia.

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 MK’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 Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of MK by me.

Episode 166 – Ben Model

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Virtual Memories Show #166:
Ben Model

“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!'”

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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.”

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

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.