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:

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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.

Episode 164 – Kliph Nesteroff (& Liz Hand)

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Virtual Memories Show #164:
Kliph Nesteroff (& Liz Hand)

“I was a Henry Morgan authority at the age of 24.”

26451704925_5cd9679b02_zKliph 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.”

9781250030382Plus, 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)

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

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.

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.”

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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.

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:

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

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 Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots

Drew Friedman & Brisket on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 21 –
The Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots

“I don’t like drawing young people, attractive people. I used to get assigned drawings of the cast of ‘Friends’ for Entertainment Weekly, and it was painful. I would finish a drawing of Jennifer Aniston, and to reward myself, I’d draw Shecky Greene.”

It’s the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt! Drew Friedman, the great painter, cartoonist, chronicler of modern fame (and infamy), and Howard Stern’s favorite artist, invited me out to 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC one Saturday morning to record a conversation about art, leaving New York, show biz, R. Crumb, Joe Franklin, Tor Johnson, the Friars Club, Howard Stern, Abe Vigoda, the gallery show commemorating his books on Old Jewish Comedians, and his upcoming book of portraits on comic-book legends (as in ‘artists, writers and publishers’). We also talk about how Harry Einstein died during a roast for Lucy and Desi, trade Gilbert Gottfried stories, discuss the state of the illustration market, explore why he used stippling effects and why he stopped, and more. This one’s a lot of fun. Go listen!

“There’s a theory about why there were so many Jewish comedians: the smile behind the pain, the haunted smile. I don’t buy into it. I think they’re all just a bunch of hams. They like to be up there, telling jokes, being funny, and meeting women.”

by Jay Ruttenberg Photo of Drew Friedman and Jerry Lewis courtesy of Jay Ruttenberg

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

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

About our Guest

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 Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals by Raymond Scott. The conversation was recorded at the 2nd Ave. Deli in Manhattan on a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by a waiter at 2nd Ave. Deli.