“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.
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.
“I’d always been really wowed by the idea of artistic freedom, but that was all just an idea and not a reality. Actually being on the street and talking about artistic integrity is a joke. It’s a joke that’s laughing at you.”
In his new comix memoir, Chicago (Fantagraphics), Glenn Head follows Orwell’s maxim, “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.” We talk about how he approached his first long-form comic after decades in the field, what prompted him to chronicle his mid-’70s self, the allure of underground comix, how his next work may mirror another bit of Orwelliana, why it’s always good to delate your heroes, what he’s working on next, and more! Give it a listen, and go buy Glenn’s new book!
“I think fools are always sympathetic, because they don’t know better.”
We also talk about our favorite comic stores, what he discovered about storytelling in the process of making Chicago, how he balanced the joys (and hassles) of editing comics anthologies, what he learned studying under Art Spiegelman at SVA, who his toughest (and best) critics are, how becoming a dad revised his understanding of his old man, and what it was like living in NYC through the AIDS years! Go listen!
“I learned that I’m not going to do my best work unless I risk vulnerability and putting myself out there.”
Also, if you want to find out who Glenn is reading nowadays and get a list of the books we talked about in this episode, join our Patreon and become a monthly contributor to The Virtual Memories Show! At the end of March, the new episode of our patron-only podcast, Fear of a Square Planet, will go up with a bonus segment about who he’s reading and why.
About our Guest
Glenn Head was born in 1958 in Morristown, NJ, and began drawing comics when he was fourteen. His work has appeared in many places—from The Wall Street Journal to Screw. Others include The New York Times, Playboy, New Republic, Sports Illustrated, Advertising Age, Interview and Entertainment Weekly. Glenn’s fine art has been exhibited in New York and across the country: Exit Art’s travelling cartoon art show, “Comic Power”; “Art and Provocation: Images from Rebels” at the Boulder Museum of Fine Art; and “The New York Press Illustrator Show” at CBGB’s Gallery. His editorial cartooning appeared in the Inx show at Hofstra University. In the early ‘90s Glenn co-created (with cartoonist Kaz) and edited Snake Eyes, the Harvey Award-nominated cutting-edge comix anthology series. His solo books include Avenue D and Guttersnipe – underground urban comix that capture the intense, gritty underbelly of streetlife. Head was a frequent contributor to the Fantagraphics’ comix anthology quarterly Zero Zero. The Simon & Schuster’s comic book anthology Mind Riot featured Glenn’s work – a collection of personal stories depicting teenage angst. His project, Head Shots, a sketchbook of cartoon art, followed. From 2005 to 2010 Glenn edited and contributed to the Harvey and Eisner-nominated anthology Hotwire (three issues). Over the past six years Glenn created his graphic epic, Chicago. This coming-of-age memoir centers around a starry eyed 19-year-old with dreams of underground comics glory as he encounters his heroes, faces homelessness, despair, insanity . . . and somehow survives.
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 Virtual Memories Headquarters 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 Mr. Head by me.
It’s the ONE-HUNDREDTH EPISODE of The Virtual Memories Show! And they said it would never last! To celebrate hitting the century mark, I asked past guests, upcoming guests and friends of the show to interview me this time around!
This special episode includes questions and recorded segments with Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, John Bertagnolli, Lori Carson, Sarah Deming, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Dirda, Robert Drake, Aaron K. Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Richard Gehr, Ben Katchor, Sara Lippmann, Brett Martin, Zach Martin, Seth, Jesse Sheidlower, Ron Slate, Tom Spurgeon, Levi Stahl, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Frank Wilson, and Claudia Young.
Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! Give it a listen!
About our Guest
Gil Roth is the host of The Virtual Memories Show and the president of the Pharma & Biopharma Outsourcing Association.
Credits: This episode’s music is Stupid Now by Bob Mould. Several of the conversations were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro and the self-interview segments on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me by Aaron K. Finkelstein.
Two years in a row? That makes The Guest List a Virtual Memories Show tradition! I reached out to 2014’s podcast guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year. More than 30 of them responded with a fantastic array of books. So, just in time for Hanukkah and Christmas, the Virtual Memories Show provides you with a huge list of of books that you’re going to want to read! Get ready to update your wish lists!
This episode features selections from nearly 3 dozen of our recent guests! So go give it a listen, and then visit the Guest List cheat sheet where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.
(And check out the 2013 edition of The Guest List, too!)
About our Guests
The guests who contributed their favorite book from the past year — and that’s “favorite book I read in 2014,” not “favorite book that came out in 2014” — are Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, David Baerwald, Nina Bunjevac, Roz Chast, Sarah Deming, Michael Dirda, Jules Feiffer, Mary Fleener, Nathan Fox, Josh Alan Friedman, Richard Gehr, Paul Gravett, Sam Gross, Rachel Hadas, Kaz, Daniel Levine, Sara Lippmann, Merrill Markoe, Brett Martin, Mimi Pond, George Prochnik, Emily Raboteau, Jonathan Rose, Ron Rosenbaum, Dmitry Samarov, Seth, Katie Skelly, Ron Slate, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, and Frank Wilson. Check out their episodes at our archives!
Credits: This episode’s music is The Book I Read by Talking Heads. Most of the episode was recorded at Virtual Memories Manor on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. A few segments were recorded by the guests and e-mailed in (which is to say: don’t blame me!). Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band.
“When I started Underworld, there were a lot of comics coming out that were autobiographical and depressing; anything but funny. I decided I was gonna be a little different. I was gonna be the Ernie Bushmiller of underground comics.”
From Rahway to Hollywood, by way of Underworld! Kaz joins the show to talk about his career(s) as a cartoonist, animator and artist. We talk about how he fell in love with the collaborative aspect of animation (and how the SpongeBob Squarepants sausage gets made), how the world caught up to the outrageous depravity of his Underworld comic strip, how Art Spiegelman taught him to be an artistic magpie, how he may have made Mark Beyer cry, how it felt to show his parents his work in an issue of Al Goldstein’s Screw, how he learned to make a story turn funny, and what it’s like to supply creativity on demand, and more! Give it a listen!
“I didn’t make any distinction between getting published in Swank and getting published in The New Yorker.”
About our Guest
Kaz was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and started drawing comics for Art Spiegelman’s Raw Magazine while still in art school. As an illustrator and cartoonist he’s contributed to many magazines over the years (from Entertainment Weekly to The New Yorker) and started his weekly comic strip, Underworld, in The New York Press. There have been 5 published Underworld collections and editions published around the world. In 2001 Kaz joined the crew of SpongeBob SquarePants as a writer and storyboard director. That lead to his work on Cartoon Network’s Camp Lazlo, where he won an Emmy for writing, and Disney’s Phineas and Ferb where he was nominated this year for an Emmy. Kaz is currently working in Disney TV development and in January will rejoin the crew of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob Squarepants as a staff writer. The end of 2015 will see Fantagraphics publish a hardcover collection of Underworld comics titled The Book Of Underworld.
Credits: This episode’s music is Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles by Captain Beefheart. The conversation was recorded in Kaz’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 Kaz by me.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had three separate careers: freelance illustrator, then set designer, puppetteer and animator, and now fine artist. I just bluffed my way into every one of ’em.'” –Wayne White
Artist Wayne White joins the show to talk about how his life and art have changed since he starred in the documentary Beauty is Embarrassing (which, if you haven’t seen it, go do so now now NOW!). We talk about the allure and absurdity of hubris, how much of the movie-Wayne maps onto the real version, how LA influenced his word-paintings, how he balances art and commerce, what happens to the giant puppets that he makes for installations, what he thinks of Jeff Koons, why he’s moving toward art-as-public-spectacle, what art form he’s dying to get back to, what his next big project is, when he’s gonna get rid of that beard, and more! Give it a listen!
“Cartooning is the hardest craft I ever did, because it’s no-shit-everything-has-to-work. With a painting, you can fudge things. Everything in a cartoon has to work, like a car, or it won’t run. I learned a lot about craft and discipline from cartooning, way more than painting.” –Wayne White
But first, we have an interview with Wayne’s wife, Mimi Pond! I interviewed Mimi last May (go listen to it!) at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, shortly after the release of her graphic memoir, Over Easy. This time around, we talk about the success of the book, the surprises of the book tour, how the sequel’s progressing, how it felt to win a PEN Center USA Literary Award, and more! (There are also some overlapping questions, and I thought you guys might dig hearing their different perspectives on topics like LA vs. NYC, and becoming empty-nesters.)
“In LA, it’s the law that you must be engaged in writing a screenplay with your hairdresser, pool boy, personal trainer, life coach, dog walker, or yoga instructor.” –Mimi Pond
About our Guests
Wayne White is an American artist, art director, illustrator, puppeteer, and much, much more. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Wayne has used his memories of the South to create inspired works for film, television, and the fine art world. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Wayne traveled to New York City where he worked as an illustrator for the East Village Eye, New York Times, Raw Magazine, and the Village Voice. In 1986, Wayne became a designer for the hit television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and his work was awarded with three Emmys. After traveling to Los Angeles with his wife, Mimi Pond, Wayne continued to work in television and designed sets and characters for shows such as Shining Time Station, Beakman’s World, Riders In The Sky, and Bill & Willis. He also worked in the music video industry, winning Billboard and MTV Music Video Awards as an art director for seminal music videos including The Smashing Pumpkins’ Tonight, Tonight and Peter Gabriel’s Big Time.
More recently, Wayne has had great success as a fine artist and has created paintings and public works that have been shown all over the world. His most successful works have been the world paintings featuring oversized, three-dimensional text painstakingly integrated into vintage landscape reproductions. The message of the paintings is often thought-provoking and almost always humorous, with Wayne pointing a finger at vanity, ego, and his memories of the South. Wayne has also received great praise for several public works he has created, including a successful show at Rice University where he built the world’s largest George Jones puppet head for a piece called ‘Big Lectric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep.’ He was the subject of Neil Berkeley’s 2012 documentary, Beauty is Embarrassing.
Mimi Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She’s created comics for the LA Times, Seventeen Magazine, National Lampoon, and many other publications. Her TV credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. She lives in LA with her husband, the artist Wayne White. She is currently working on the sequel to her 2014 graphic memoir, Over Easy.
Credits: This episode’s music is I’m Ragged but I’m Right by George Jones. The conversation was recorded in Wayne and Mimi’s dining nook 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. White and Ms. Pond by me.
“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.”
Photo of Drew Friedman and Jerry Lewis courtesy of Jay Ruttenberg
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.