“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.
“The reason we enjoy these finely-tooled story-worlds is because we love dollhouses. We love miniatures. We love to see a universe that is created in such a way that they convince us somehow, even for a moment, that they’re real.”
Transmedia producer Jeff Gomez joins the show to talk about the evolution of storytelling. We get into how the internet is driving communal narrative, the role of fandom in our culture, the way every new media is touted as the Destroyer of Worlds, the outgrowth of “canonical” storytelling and his one-time role as Keeper of the Canon at a comic company, the parallels between sports-nerds and fantasy-nerds, the old entertainment properties he really wishes he could work on, and just what it was in his childhood that led him into this role! Give it a listen!
“Story existed in one form from the dawn of human history until just a couple of hundred years ago, when it was disrupted. The disruption is ending.”
We also get into the impact of fan fiction, the economics of the IP feeder system, playing D&D as a way to connect with people, why the Fantastic Four movies didn’t work, the transition from The Hero’s Journey to The Collective Journey, and how it feels to get criticized today for comics he made in 1996. Plus, I ask the nerdiest closing question in the history of the show. Now go listen to the show!
“I saw a lot of violence growing up, but everyone got along when they were in the movie theater.”
About our Guest
Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, has the greatest job in the universe: he designs, expands, and defends the integrity of some of the biggest blockbuster worlds in all of pop culture! Jeff served as a creator for the story worlds of Magic: The Gathering, Turok Dinosaur Hunter N64, Hot Wheels World Race, and Coca-Cola Happiness Factory.
As the most renowned Transmedia Producer in the entertainment industry, Jeff takes blockbuster movies, hit videogames, and major toy brands, and develops and extends their fictional worlds across multiple media platforms. He also serves as an advisor and consultant on global trends in technology, youth culture, and social media to studio heads, publishers, licensing agencies, C-suite executives, and government leaders.
Jeff has worked on such exciting franchises as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, James Cameron’s Avatar, Hasbro’s Transformers, Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man, 343 Studios’ Halo, and Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also teaches transmedia storytelling for social good to non-profits, educational institutions and non-government organizations across the globe, including Mexico, Colombia, Australia, and the Middle East and North Africa region.
Growing up on the rough streets of New York City, Jeff has always championed the causes of young people. His Never Surrender! seminars teach kids how to deal with bullies, and he regularly provides career counseling to imaginative teens and young adults who are facing challenges in life.
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. Gomez’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. Photo of Mr. Gomez by me.
“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.