Hard Knocks
The following is an excerpt from Bob Odenkirk's SuicideGirls interview.

Daniel Robert Epstein: Why are you so hard on yourself?

Bob Odenkirk: At the core of what we do as comics is that we're honest about life. The core of comedy is honesty, puncturing hypocrisies and stating things in a blunt honest way. This is what's really going on here. I think the honesty which I apply to the world and try to make comedy out of, I apply to myself and my friends. I'm critical of my friends and they fucking hate it. They get so upset and I think it really hurts their feelings. But I say, That's what we're doing. I can make fun of George Bush but I can't make fun of you. I can point out the ways in which society, people and pop culture is hypocritical, stupid and ludicrous but I can't point out the ways I am cheating in my reasoning. I should apply that harsh critical eye to myself and everybody. But the thing that is strange is how many comic minds can see ridiculousness in the world, point it out and be irate about it but can't see it in themselves. That I don't get. I would say there is work of mine that is just good enough for what the joke is, or the joy it brings or the fun it delivers but there is a lot of stuff that's weak. You should be able to point out the weak stuff.

DRE: I spoke to Harry Shearer a couple of years ago. He said that every person involved with Saturday Night Live will secretly tell you they hate it. What was your experience?

BO: It wasn't a good experience overall but I got a lot of good things out of it. I shouldn't have done it but hindsight is 20/20.

DRE: You shouldn't have done it?

BO: No I think I would have developed more interesting and in a healthier way in my life if I hadn't done it. But what are you going to do? You aren't going to say no to that job. I just wasn't prepared for it in a lot of ways and it fucked with me.

DRE: How was it hard on you?

BO: Both personally and professionally. New York is very overwhelming and I was not in a healthy mindset. I wasn't very sure of myself and the show really fucks with you. If you don't have your feet on the ground when you go there you're fucked.

DRE: Do you have good memories from working on Get a Life?

BO: Sort of, the second season wasn't as good as the first season, and the second season is the one I wrote for. I liked that show but I felt bad about it. I could tell something was wrong and I found out later that Chris [Elliott] and [co-creator] Adam Resnick were disappointed in where the show had gone. How they had been frozen out in the second season. They didn't get executive producer credits which they were promised. They were upset and they kind of distanced themselves from the show. I didn't know why at the time. It wasn't as good as it should have been but I had fun doing it.

The most fun I've had so far was directing Melvin Goes to Dinner and Mr. Show. Mr. Show was very rewarding but very stressful at times because I was executive producing it. I was very anxious about it but it was also really great because it was funny as shit.

Acting Lessons
Friday's Fresh Air featured insightful interviews with Diane Keaton and Bill Murray.

T & A & Q & A
There's more to the SuicideGirls website than just the pierced and tattooed nudity of pale young ladies. The site also has interviews with such notables as Jonathan Ames, David Cross, Fountains of Wayne, Bobcat Goldthwait, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Natasha Lyonne, Bob Odenkirk, Liz Phair, Roman Polanski, Sarah Polley, Parker Posey, Jonathan Schwartzman, Harry Shearer, They Might Be Giants, and many others.

Here's an excerpt from the Terry Jones interview:

Daniel Robert Epstein: I read you're doing things to honor Peter Cook?

Terry Jones: Yeah, of course, I've been doing a few things with Peter Cook Foundation. Unfortunately, I was close to doing something last Tuesday I think it was, and I was ill, I got a virus so I was just totally laid out. I wasn't able to make it.

DRE: How aware does that make [you] of your own immortality?

TJ: I guess not many days go by that I don't think about that in some way. I started to think about my mortality about a week ago when I had that virus. It's a bit like being slightly dead, you know? You finally come back into the world, you sort of feel like life has been given back to you. I feel very grateful to be alive again.

DRE: Is it pleasing that you and your work will be remembered?

TJ: Well, not really. It's more like you're constantly thinking about well, will this next thing work? Or how will I make this work? How to get this going? That's kind of what interests me. I always have liked making things. It's that attraction when you've actually done something. It goes pretty quickly, when you're at work.

DRE: I read they're making [a] biopic of Graham Chapman.

TJ: Oh, really?

DRE: Who would you want to play you?

TJ: Oh, I think, oh my dear. What's the name of the woman who plays in "The Mask"? And she does a singing routine in "The Mask".

DRE: Cameron Diaz.

TJ: Yeah I'd like Cameron Diaz to play me.

DRE: You've written a bit about George Bush in the last year.

TJ: And Tony Blair, let me say.

DRE: What's your opinion in the New Year?

TJ: Well, I think it's a bit of a disaster. I really think you have [a] pretty evil lot of people in power in the States at the moment. A lot of the freedoms that we boast of in the West are being curtailed and a lot of the freedom of speech is disappearing too. It's not a very attractive period that the US is going through, or that the UK is going through. I mean, at least I can understand George Bush; I can see where he comes from. He's not George Bush, he's Cheney Rumsfeld and Bechtel. You can see where they come from and what their motives are. Which are no different from many people who wanted to pursue war in the Middle Ages. The Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Warrick were both against Richard II pursuing peace with France. The reason they were against it is because they made money out of war. So I don't think people change very much. However what's so pathetic about Blair is that he supinely supports this extremely right wing, redneck, ghastly government that are the lot of people that you've got running your country. And why Blair should be doing that, and giving them a sort of fig leaf of respectability, I have no idea whatsoever.

DRE: Is your opinion the majority attitude in the UK?

TJ: It's difficult to say, actually. I think an informed opinion, yeah. I really wouldn't want to say whether my attitude is typical over here. It's probably a minority attitude. Because again the press is so supine and doesn't really report what's going on. I keep banging on about the Project for the New American Century; I don't know whether you ever looked at their website. It's really a think tank set up by Cheney, Rumsfeld and all that lot. It was set up in I think 1997. It's all there, about what they intend to do. Attacking Saddam Hussein was there, not as an option, but as an objective, long before September 11th and long before Bush got into power. You can actually read up on the Project for a New American Century website, there's one bit where they say that the whole motive really is to increase the American spending on defense from 3.4 percent of the Gross National Product to 3.8. They were saying that the regime of Saddam Hussein may provide the justification but we should never lose sight of the fact that the main objective is to establish a military force presence in the Gulf. That's the reason for deposing him. They put it there in black and white. It is a whole attitude; America is now the most powerful, unchallenged country in the world, so America can actually impose a Pax Americana by force. They say it, without any blushing there. It's not a secret. They say, well this is going to be difficult to sell to the American people unless there is some cataclysmic event like a new Pearl Harbor. Not to say that, you know, they invented September 11th, but the whole thing about why they didn't react quicker to it. It could just be that they said, "Hey, this is the cataclysmic event we actually wanted!"

DRE: If Monty Python's Flying Circus had a point of view, what was it?

TJ: I hope when you're doing stuff that some sort of attitude does come through. But if you write with a point of view, from the beginning, then it sort of tends to be a bit preachy. But I would hope that when you do a body of work that actually some attitude comes through, whatever that attitude is, I don't think it's a sort of single attitude, but maybe it's just a questioning attitude, maybe think for yourself.


Forget-Me Knots
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman -- of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation -- wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which will be in theaters March 19.

Here's the official synopsis:

Joel (Jim Carrey) is stunned to discover that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their tumultuous relationship erased. Out of desperation, he contacts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to have Clementine removed from his own memory. But as Joel's memories progressively disappear, he begins to rediscover their earlier passion. From deep within the recesses of his brain, Joel attempts to escape the procedure. As Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew (Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) chase him through the maze of his memories, it's clear that Joel just can't get her out of his head. -- © Focus Features

You can watch the trailer here.


Death Sentences
The following is an excerpt from Genome by Matt Ridley.

To define genes by the diseases they cause is about as absurd as defining organs of the body by the diseases they get: livers are there to cause cirrhosis, hearts to cause heart attacks and brains to cause strokes. It is a measure, not of our knowledge but of our ignorance that this is the way the genome catalogues read. It is literally true that the only thing we know about some genes is that their malfunction causes a particular disease. This is a pitifully small thing to know about a gene, and a terribly misleading one. It leads to the dangerous shorthand that runs as follows: 'X has got the Wolf-Hirschhorn gene.' Wrong. We all have the Wolf-Hirschhorn gene, except, ironically, people who have Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. Their sickness is caused by the fact that the gene is missing altogether. In the rest of us, the gene is a positive, not a negative force. The sufferers have the mutation, not the gene.

Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome is so rare and so serious -- its gene is so vital -- that its victims die young. Yet the gene, which lies on chromosome 4, is actually the most famous of all the 'disease' genes because of a very different disease associated with it: Huntington's chorea. A mutated version of the gene causes Huntington's chorea; a complete lack of the gene causes Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. We know very little about what the gene is there to do in everyday life, but we now know in excruciating detail how and why and where it can go wrong and what the consequence for the body is. The gene contains a single 'word', repeated over and over again: CAG, CAG, CAG, CAG ... The repetition continues sometimes just six times, sometimes thirty, sometimes more than a hundred times. Your destiny, your sanity and your life hang by the thread of this repetition. If the 'word' is repeated thirty-five times or fewer, you will be fine. Most of us have about ten to fifteen repeats. If the 'word' is repeated thirty-nine times or more, you will in mid-life slowly start to lose your balance, grow steadily more incapable of looking after yourself and die prematurely. The decline begins with a slight deterioration of the intellectual faculties, is followed by jerking limbs and descends into deep depression, occasional hallucination and delusions. There is no appeal: the disease is incurable. But it takes between fifteen and twenty-five horrifying years to run its course. There are few worse fates. Indeed, many of the early psychological symptoms of the disease are just as bad in those who live in an affected family but do not get the disease: the strain and stress of waiting for it to strike are devastating.

The cause is in the genes and nowhere else. Either you have the Huntington's mutation and will get the disease or not. This is determinism, predestination and fate on a scale of which Calvin never dreamed. It seems at first sight to be the ultimate proof that the genes are in charge and that there is nothing we can do about it. It does not matter if you smoke, or take vitamin pills, if you work out or become a couch potato. The age at which the madness will appear depends strictly and implacably on the number of repetitions of the 'word' CAG in one place in one gene. If you have thirty-nine, you have a ninety per cent probability of dementia by the age of seventy-five and will on average get the first symptoms at sixty-six; if forty, on average you will succumb at fifty-nine; if forty-one, at fifty-four; if forty-two, at thirty-seven; and so on until those who have fifty repetitions of the 'word' will lose their minds at roughly twenty-seven years of age. The scale is this: if your chromosomes were long enough to stretch around the equator, the difference between health and insanity would be less than one extra inch.

No horoscope matches this accuracy. No theory of human causality, Freudian, Marxist, Christian or animist, has ever been so precise. No prophet in the Old Testament, no entrail-gazing oracle in ancient Greece, no crystal-ball gipsy clairvoyant on the pier at Bognor Regis ever pretended to tell people exactly when their lives would fall apart, let alone got it right. We are dealing here with a prophecy of terrifying, cruel and inflexible truth. There are a billion three-letter 'words' in your genome. Yet the length of just this one little motif is all that stands between each of us and mental illness.

Huntington's disease, which became notorious when it killed the folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1967, was first diagnosed by a doctor, George Huntington, in 1872 on the eastern tip of Long Island. He noticed that it seemed to run in families. Later work revealed that the Long Island cases were part of a much larger family tree originating in New England. In twelve generations of this pedigree more than a thousand cases of the disease could be found. All were descended from two brothers who emigrated from Suffolk in 1630. Several of their descendants were burnt as witches in Salem in 1693, possibly because of the alarming nature of the disease. But because the mutation only makes itself manifest in middle age, when people have already had children, there is little selective pressure on it to die out naturally. Indeed, in several studies, those with mutations appear to breed more prolifically than their unaffected siblings.

Huntington's was the first completely dominant human genetic disease to come to light. That means it is not like alkaptonuria in which you must have two copies of the mutant gene, one from each parent, to suffer the symptoms. Just one copy of the mutation will do.


The Joker's Wild
It's been ten years since comedian Bill Hicks died. Today, at Flak magazine, Dennis Perrin -- author of Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'Donoghue -- recalls Hicks's work.

An excerpt:

When Bill Hicks took a nightclub stage, it became occupied territory. He'd stalk across it, stop, flash a sharp glance at the audience, light a cigarette, run a hand through his hair, stalk a bit more, all the while telling the crowd how worthless they were, how weary he was ("Excuse me while I plaster on a fake smile and plow through this shit one more time," he was fond of saying), that he didn't know or care what town he was in, that he was quitting comedy altogether. Then, without warning, Hicks would launch into the first of countless observations, bam bam bam, and if you didn't keep pace, your fucking loss.

Bill Hicks, who died 10 years ago today, was the finest comedian of his generation, easily in the same league as Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. Like them, he demolished the standard "Didya ever notice... ?" approach so beloved by stand-ups groveling for sitcoms, talk shows and bit parts in films. Hicks had no time for that. He hated the use of comedy for commercial enhancement, savaging such shills as Jay Leno for urging "bovine America" to cram more Doritos down its fat throat. He regularly pleaded with ad and marketing people to kill themselves for the good of the species.


Lane Brain
Click here to listen to an interview with New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane on Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning. The interview was originally broadcast on September 20, 2002.


The Man in the Mirror
Here's an article about genius comedy god Stephen Fry, which was published on February 19 in the British tabloid the Daily Mirror.

An excerpt:

One of Fry's heroes is acting legend James Cagney.

"When he was in his late 80s he was learning a seventh language, he was reading Russian and French literature, sailing his yacht, building things. It was this amazing list.

"Cagney was asked how he could retain such an interest in life. His answer was, 'I guess it's because I never give a second's thought to myself.'

"That's a wonderful lesson and really so un-American. Most Americans think the key to happiness is thinking about yourself.

"It completely misses the point, because it's only when you engage yourself fully in something outside yourself that you feel fulfilled.

"And that's what it's all about - we all want to be fulfilled. And someone who is an accountant with a large firm can feel fulfilled and someone who is a best-selling novelist may not. It's not a question of what it is that you do but how you do it."

Tang-y Onion
Louis C.K. is interviewed in the current issue of The Onion A.V. Club.


The Onion: You were on Star Search.

Louis C.K.: I loved doing Star Search. It was really an old-fashioned show-business experience, and those are rare now. I had never been out here in Hollywood for anything real, so it was fun. I got to know the supermodel on my show, and see that weirdness. I shouldn't really say I got to know her, but it was weird, because she seemed like a real confident, smart girl, but she was with a big, fat, gross-looking boyfriend who was really mean to her. Then, when the other model was walking down the runway, she started to cry. I said, "What's wrong?" and she said, "Do you think she's prettier than me?" I think just the idea of that made her cry. I had a great moment. I got on Star Search with a kid's dancing group. There were these little 6- or 7-year-old girls in sequined outfits, dancing. They lost the round, but as it was explained to them on the show, "You've already won three times, which means that you go on to the Tournament Of Champions, even though you lost today. So all you've done is let these other little girls have a chance, and you don't lose anything." So everybody's cheerful. Then backstage, 20 minutes later, the den mother who is running them is sobbing in disappointment, and the girls are all standing around her confused, not understanding why she's upset. One of them softly goes, "But Mommy, it's okay, because we're already in the championship." And she goes "Just shut up!" As far as my experience, I got zero laughs. I went up there, and from "Hello" to the crowd, I was in the wrong room. It was horrible. I was even shaking a little. I've never seen it. I'd like to see it someday. That's the only television appearance I ever did that I haven't watched.


O: What can you say about your sitcom pilot?

LCK: It's a show called Saint Louie, and it's based on material I do in my act about the kid you're hearing in the background, and about marriage, and about having a baby. And it's really just what I'm going through. I started talking about it on stage a lot, just to blow off steam. I never thought I'd do material about kids, but I started getting really stressed out and not sleeping a lot. It's a very difficult thing, way harder than anything I've described to you so far. And the stakes are so much higher and more exhilarating and wonderful and all that. I started talking about it onstage and being very dark in the way I talk about my kid, saying things like, "I can understand these babies-in-the-garbage-can stories now. I wouldn't do it, but I understand it." I figured I'd just get booed, but that it'd be worth it, because I needed the release. I found that parents were coming up to me and saying, "Oh, we love this stuff."

O: So it's going to be pretty dark?

LCK: It's just very honest. I'm not striving to do a crazy show about how everybody's a lesbian and an alcoholic. It's really just a regular family story about a young couple trying to raise a kid the best they can. The actual fact of that and the world of parenthood that I've discovered since having a kid is that parents live on a precipice of horrible failure of raising the wrong person. Let alone the fatigue. It's a really fucked-up experience for a lot of people, and the way they talk about it themselves is not the way it's talked about on TV. No TV families show how hard it is, and what dark places it takes you as a person, to great reward and for good reason. So I started pitching it to networks as a show, thinking that people were going to think, "You can't do that when you talk about kids." But I had these high-level executives nodding and going, "I know what you're talking about. My kids are fucking crazy." I found that every pitch meeting turned into story trading. And then Bruce Helford, who is a hit machine for sitcoms, said "I'd love to do a show for you," and we found that we were thinking along the same lines. And this other guy, Bruce Rasmussen, the three of us wrote it together, and found that we had common experiences and common senses of humor. The great thing is that these guys put shows on TV all the time, and it's not me against a new network or studio. I'm heavily protected by these guys, who have a great track record, and it's just sailing through. We wrote it, we gave it to CBS, they greenlit it, and now we're going to shoot it in April. We're casting it, looking for a wife for me. The first line I have on the show is, "Honey, this baby sucks." From my experience, I've had to protect a line like that. I've explained to studios, "Don't be afraid of it, it's okay." Nobody talks about stuff like that in families. John Prine has a line in a song where he says, "Grandpa's in the backyard staring at a rake, wondering if his marriage was a terrible mistake." I loved that line, because it's so grim. It's a suburban domestic moment, but it's fucking grim. But it's great. It's funny. It makes me laugh.

L.C.K. of the G.O.P.
In his latest blog entry -- which I've posted below -- Louis C.K. makes an exciting announcement.


I'm running for president

I know this is going to suprise some of you, but I have decided to declare my candidacy for president of the United States of America. I am running because I love my country (Mexico) and because I think it's about time America had a president who knows how to fix everything. And I mean everything. I will fix... everything. Just, don't worry about it. I'll do whatever and it'll be great. Vote for me and you'll see.

I am running as a Republican, for many reasons. Mostly because it rhymes with "jepublican" which is an excellent word and I think it is a goddamn shame that it doesn't mean anything. When I think of all the wonderful advances in today's society, so many things are invented every day, and NONE of them have been named "Jepublican". Thus, a perfectly good word goes on with no meaning. It makes me cry.

What's so good about the word Jepublican? Well, that should be obvious. First of all, it begins with the letter J (except for on my computer screen, where there is a smudge of some old food right before the J, which could technically be considered part of the word, unless I scroll down a bit... there, now the smudge is over the "d" of "wonderful" up there.) Second of all, the word Jepublican is great because I decided that it is. Therefore, as my first act as president, I'm going to sign an executive order that says the word jepublican means "a word that closely resembles republican"

My second act as president, will be to order the invasion of South Carolina. Why? Because I think there should be another Civil war. This time, the war will also be about slavery, but it will be different. The first civil war was America's way of telling the south "hey, stop having slaves" and the second civil war will be our way of saying "seriously, that slavery you did was totally bad." So it will be sort of an emphasizing civil war, to make sure the point was made clearly. Also, I think we need another civil war so that lots of folks can play a fiddle and wear gloves that go up to the elbow.

I know a lot of you are thinking "But Louie, How will you beat George Bush, and who will be your running mate?"

Well, get a load of this, motherfuckers! I'm going to kill two birds with one stone. I am choosing George Bush as my running mate! Now any vote that he gets, goes to me. Let's see him get out of that one. Just to make sure he doesn't try to pull anything, I'm urging you all to contact president Bush and to tell him that he should make it clear to the American people that he is running in 2004 for the office of Vice President, in my first administration. Seriously, call the whitehouse today at 202-456-1111 or reach them here, and demand that he drop his run for re-election, because for him to run for both president and my vice president is complete and utter bullshit.

I hope that you will all choose to support my candidacy and that, when I'm president, you will all fuck off and leave me alone.

That's all for now, my friends...

Thanks for reading,


(If you would like to respond to this blog, please go to my guestbook.)

C.K. Q and A

Louis C.K. posted the following (and a bunch of other stuff) on this message board.

"Here are some questions:"


"When (at what age) did you start doing stand-up and when did you start getting good at it?"

I first did standup when i was 17, in Boston. I tried doing it twice at open mic nights but I found it to be horribly intimidating. The club I did it at, stitches, was really just part of the Boston Bar scene which is hostile and not fun, especially when you're only 17. I could only do about 2 minutes at a time so after twice I quit. Then a year later I went to a tiny alternative movie house in Central Square called Off the Wall (it's long gone) that did comedy midnights on saturday. The show was booked and hosted by Ron Lynch. It was an a wonderful show and the instant I saw it I wanted nothing more than to be part of it and devote the rest of my life to comedy. Ron was kind enough to let me go one one saturday and I became a regular. I don't know when I got good at standup. I think it probably took me about 4 or 5 years till I could say I was very reliable and could get laughs in most situations.

"You've worked on a lot of TV shows and stuff. What has been your best experience as a writer/producer/director in show biz and what made it great? What was the worst and why?"

Conan was great because we were given very free reign to do what ever we wanted and the writers had an obscene ammount of control over production and how things were shot. It was an exhausting experience but I was young enough to eat it up at the time.

Chris Rock show was really great because the show was a hit and there's a lot to be said for working on something that is actually popular. Chris' audiences were great too and when you did something really nuts they would go fucking bannanas laughing at it. That was very gratifying. Conan's audience never ever laughed that hard in the time I was there. Chris is also a great guy to work with and the work load was low because we had a huge writing staff for a half hour a week.

Letterman sucked. It was just stale and boring and opressive. Period.

Dana Carvey was probably the worst experience I ever had because of the pressure, the pain, the... oh god it was awful...

As I director, I loved making all the short films. I really have to get back to that. I just bought an 8mm camera and I'm going to try to start shooting again. My first feature, Tomorrow Night was a sublime experience for me. I got to make exactly the movie I wanted to make, I was very satisfied with the result and everyone I worked with was great. I only wish it ever got released. But there you go.

"What stand-up comics do you enjoy the most? Any up-and-comers?"

AS far as new guys, at least new to me, BJ Novac has truly great jokes. Then there's another guy who I loved and I wish I remembered his name. I only remember that he announced on stage thatt he was selling tshirts after the show and held one up. The tshirt had printed on it one of the more inapporpriate lines from his act. Does anyone know who that is? I also like Morgan Murphy. Zach G. usually makes me laugh. As far as guys who are definitely not new, in fact they are old now, who i think are funny, Todd Glass makes me laugh so so so hard. And Doug Benson is a guy I never miss if I can help it. Andy Kindler is great. Then there's guys like JB Smoove who is probably the best Standup ever, Jimmy Pardo I love. I think Chris Rock is a great comedian, a real master. I love Dave Attell, of course. Gee, lots of guys. Nick Dipaolo is like a poet sometimes with the choices he makes. "my girlfriend bought a vibrator which didn't bother me, but she got this huge black one. It looked like she stole a pepper mill from Morton's steak house."


"The comedian's name you can't remember is Dan Mintz"

Thanks. Yes. that's him. he's funny.

"I remember reading on your guestbook a while ago about a movie you wrote with david cross about hitler. is this correct, or was it just some comedy nerd wet dream i had?"

I started writing a movie that involves Hitler which I thought would be great for David to star in. He liked the idea too and we started to collaborate on it but then we both got very busy. I look at it now and again and think I should just sit down and finish it, but I never have because I'm a lazy asshole. Someday. We'll see.


"I'm wondering what are your favourite bits that you do? Also, any that you're not particulalry fond of but keep doing because they get a good response?"

My favorite bits are always whatever are the newest bits in my act that are working. There's nothing so exciting as a new piece of material that is killing. Actually, it's the hope that those will keep popping up now and again that keeps me doing standup. It's the fear that they're gone never to return that makes my penis shrivel every single time I try to have sex.

As far as the latter, my act is full of bits that I hate but keep doing because they work. Actually, in the last few years I've tried to be tougher on myself as far as weening off of worn out killer material. Having that heavy artillery, that is stuff that is completely unable to not kill, is really a curse because as long as you have that to draw from, you don't have an actual need to write new material. There is no drive to make you write like the first one you get as a comic, the one that tells you that if you don't write some jokes, you won't have any jokes. I have jokes. Lots of them. I could actually do every show from now on without ever writing another one. But then I would empty my skull into a bathtub at some point, so I have manufacture a need for new material by depriving myself of the A material. This can be diffiicult because it means deciding that it's okay to bomb in front of that crowd if the new stuff doesn't work. I don't find that easy to do because I don't like making any audience pay for my development. I want to give them all a good show. That's why places like Mbar can be good, because there is a feeling there that folks are working on new things. But even that audience wants to laugh and wants you to try, and so they should.

"And finally, what's the one joke you've heard a stand-up do and think, "Fuck! I really wish I had thought of that.""

When Todd Glass says "I once squeezed a kittten so hard, he shit his pants. That's right. he shit right in his slacks!" I just want to fucking kill myself.


"2) What were some of your favorite bits that you wrote for conan?"

I loved writing the Staring Contest and Actual Items the best. Early on we did somethign called Bad Fruit Theater and I loved that though it never killed. My favorite bit on the show while I was there was "Desk Drive" which I never wrote on. I think that was always Dino.



Carson Daily
The following is an excerpt from Johnny Carson's Playboy interview, which was published in the December 1967 issue.

PLAYBOY: How did the break come from Who Do You Trust? to The Tonight Show?

CARSON: In my first four years on Who Do You Trust? I'd been offered all kinds of situation-comedy shows, but I had turned them down for one or another reason. And I had been doing guest spots, and I had filled in for Paar on Tonight, and I had done pretty well as his replacement. It was NBC that came up with the offer for me to replace Paar permanently. I turned it down, cold; not many people know that. I just wasn't sure I could cut it. I just didn't feel I could make that jump from a half-hour daily quiz show to doing an hour and forty-five minutes every night. I was doing fine in daytime TV; I was solid and secure. And I felt I'd be stupid to try to replace Jack Paar. But I kept sitting in for him. And then, some months later, NBC made their offer again; Jack was nearer to leaving the show. Somebody had to replace him. My manager got on me, insisting that I owed myself the opportunity of reaching the big night audience. And NBC said they would wait until I finished my contract on Who Do You Trust? While all this was going on, I was gradually building more confidence in myself -- the more I thought about it. Nobody could tell me; I had to tell myself I could do it. And finally I did; I accepted the offer. Everyone I knew had some advice after that. One group told me I was nuts to try replacing Paar, but that made me all the more determined. Others became instant producers and told me, "Here's how to handle that show...." That bugged me; I'd been through that in California and lost a good show because of it. I had cabdrivers, waiters, everybody giving me advice.

Two things were in the back of my head: One was that I wasn't going to be any imitation of Jack Paar; I was going to be Johnny Carson. The other thing was that I wanted the show to make the most of being the last area in television that the medium originally was supposed to be -- live, immediate entertainment. I knew it wasn't going to be any sauntering in and sitting at a desk and that's all. The main thing in my mind that I had going for me was that I'd done nearly everything you could in the industry -- but at the same time I knew that thinking that way was a danger. If I went out there with every critic waiting, and if I did everything I knew how to do, it would look like deliberate showing off, like trying to say, "Hey, look at me -- I'm so versatile!" I had to fight that natural temptation to go out there and make some big impression. Finally, I decided that the best thing I could do was forget trying to do a lot of preplanning. I didn't want to come out with something that smacked of a month's preparation, because I wasn't going to be able to keep that up every night. It all boiled down to just going out there and being my natural self and seeing what would happen.

PLAYBOY: What happened, of course, was one of the most remarkable successes in television history. But you mentioned going out there and being your natural self. Do you, really?

CARSON: Are we back to that -- my reputation for being cold and aloof, for being a loner and living in a shell and all that crap? Look, I'm an entertainer; I try to give the public what it wants while I'm on the screen, and I'm completely sincere about it. If I don't happen to be a laughing boy off the screen, that doesn't make me a hypocrite or a phony. In any case, what I am and what I do on my own, it seems to me, is nobody's business but mine. As long as I don't commit any crimes, you have no right to judge me except by my performance as a professional. On that level, you're welcome to think whatever you want about me. But there's only one critic whose opinion I really value, in the final analysis: Johnny Carson. I have never needed any entourage standing around bolstering my ego. I'm secure. I know exactly who and what I am. I don't need to be told. I make no apologies for being the way I am. I'm not going to run around crying that I'm misunderstood. I play my life straight -- the way I see it. I'm grateful to audiences for watching me and for enjoying what I do -- but I'm not one of those who believe that a successful entertainer is made by the public, as is so often said. You become successful, the way I see it, only if you're good enough to deliver what the public enjoys. If you're not, you won't have any audience; so the performer really has more to do with his success than the public does.

As for myself, I've worked ever since I was a kid with a two-bit kit of magic tricks trying to improve my skills at entertaining whatever public I had -- and to make myself ready, whenever the breaks came, to entertain a wider and more demanding public. Entertainment is like any other major industry; it's cold, big business. The business end wants to know one thing: Can you do the job? If you can, you're in, you're made; if you can't, you're out.

I knock myself out for the public -- five shows a week, ninety minutes a show; and most of every day goes to working on that ninety minutes. It takes more out of me than manual labor would, and I simply won't give any more of myself than that. I demand my right to a private life, just as I respect that right for everybody else. The Tonight staff knocks themselves out with me; then they go their way, I go mine, and we get along fine. I make the major decisions. That's my responsibility.

I'm doing the best I know how. I've put my whole life into whatever you see on that screen. But whenever the day comes that I think it's my time to go, I'll be the first to tell the network to get somebody else in that chair. And when I do, they'll be saying, "Who could follow Carson?" -- just like they said, "Who could follow Paar?" Well, believe me, somebody can -- and will. The public is fickle, and you can be replaced, no matter how good you are. Until that happens, I'm going to go on doing my best. I like my work and I hope you do, too -- but if you don't, I really couldn't care less. Take me or leave me -- but don't bug me. That's the way I am. That's me. That's it.

Fields of Dream

Last year James Curtis published a biography of W.C. Fields in which he set straight many myths. Click here to listen to him discussing the book on The Leonard Lopate Show.


Ha and Mighty
President Clinton's joke writer Mark Katz was on Fresh Air today.


Reserve Judgment
The following piece, from here, was published yesterday in the International Herald Tribune. (Thanks to Lance Whitaker for the link.)

Bush and Me, Guarding the Homeland
by Larry David

I couldn't be happier that President George W. Bush has stood up for having served in the National Guard, because I can finally put an end to all those who questioned my motives for enlisting in the Army Reserve at the height of the Vietnam War. I can't tell you how many people thought I had signed up just to avoid going to Vietnam. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I was itching to go over there. I was just out of college and, let's face it, you can't buy that kind of adventure. More important, I wanted to do my part in saving that tiny country from the scourge of communism.

But I also knew that our country was being torn asunder by opposition to the war. Who would be here to defend the homeland against civil unrest? Or what if some national emergency should arise? It began to dawn on me that perhaps my country needed me more at home than overseas. Sure, being a reservist wasn't as glamorous, but I was the one who had to look at myself in the mirror.

Even though the National Guard and Army Reserve see combat today, it rankles me that people assume it was some kind of waltz in the park back then. If only. Once a month, for an entire weekend - I'm talking eight hours Saturday and Sunday - we would meet in a dank, cold airplane hangar. The temperature in that hangar would sometimes get down to 40 degrees, and very often I had to put on long underwear, which was so restrictive I suffered from an acute vascular disorder for days afterward. Our captain was a strict disciplinarian who wouldn't think twice about not letting us wear sneakers or breaking up a poker game if he was in ill humor. Once, they took us into the woods and dropped us off with nothing but compasses and our wits. One wrong move and I could have wound up on a highway. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to find my way out of there and back to the hangar. Some of my buddies did not fare as well and had to call their parents to come and get them.

Then in the summer we would go away to camp for two weeks. It felt more like three. I wondered if I'd ever see my parakeet again. We slept on cots and ate in the International House of Pancakes. I learned the first night that IHOP's not the place to order fish. When the two weeks were up, I came home a changed man. I would often burst into tears for no apparent reason and suffered recurring nightmares about drowning in blueberry syrup. In those days, reserve duty lasted for six years, which, I might add, was three times as long as service in the regular army, although to be perfectly honest, I was unable to fulfill my entire obligation because I was taking acting classes and they said I could skip my last year. I'll be eternally grateful to the Pentagon for allowing me to pursue my dreams.

Still, after all this time, whenever I've mentioned my service in the Reserve during Vietnam, it's been met with sneers and derision. But now, thanks to President Bush, I can stand up proudly alongside him and all the other guys who guarded the home front. Finally, we no longer have to be embarrassed.

The writer, who served in the Army Reserve in the 1970s, appears in the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Comedy of Eras
The following is from Larissa MacFarquhar's New Yorker Profile of Michael Moore, which appears in the current issue (February 16 & 23, 2004).

During the Vietnam War, comedy had been on the side of the left, because the left was taking the materialist position: while the right espoused lofty goals like saving the world from Communism and establishing freedom, the left wanted to prevent people from dying. But after the war the left became preoccupied with abstract issues: it stopped worrying about death and started worrying about dignity. A large part of what came to be called political correctness in the eighties consisted literally of prohibiting jokes. Meanwhile, much explicitly political comedy migrated to the right -- not the religious right but the party-of-prosperity right, the right of money and Martinis and Wall Street. One of the emblematic right-wing humorists of the time, P.J. O'Rourke, appears on one of his book jackets dressed like an investment banker from 1985 -- suspenders, striped shirt, loud tie, cigar.

It wasn't that after Carter comedians suddenly started voting Republican -- comedians then as now were a liberal bunch. But for a decade their comedy for the most part ceased to be political. (The TV show "Rosanne," of course, was a notable exception.) "Everything had been about politics for so long that we got bored with big issues and started talking about weird hair," Merrill Markoe, who worked on "Letterman" in the eighties and was a "TV Nation" correspondent, says. Randy Cohen, who in the ninties contributed to the political humor at "TV Nation," was famous in the eighties for inventing "monkey cam" -- a stunt on "Letterman" in which a small camera was tied to a monkey who ran around the studio. In the past few years, Al Franken has been writing political books that, like Moore's, have become best-sellers; but during the five years in the eighties when he worked at "Saturday Night Live" there was a tacit agreement at the show, he says, not to take a particular political position. The most popular comedy show that the decade produced, "Seinfeld," advertised itself as the show about nothing. The Seinfeld, weird-hair style of humor was about as far from political rhetoric as it was possible to get: while Seinfeld and other standup comics talked about things that were such intimate, familiar parts of daily life that they didn't even have names -- the annoying little silver tape in CD packages; the creepy warm feeling of a seat that someone has recently sat on -- politicians talked about things that were so abstract that they were only names: terror, freedom, truth....

Recently, comedy has switched sides again. The right has once more become the party of abstractions -- the party of terror, freedom, and truth -- while humorists on the left like Moore (and Molly Ivins, Jon Stewart, David Cross, and Janeane Garofalo) have reoccupied the low ground of material need.

Hicks' Shticks
New Yorker critic John Lahr wrote this Guardian article about comedian Bill Hicks. (Thanks to Greg Connors for the link.)

An excerpt:

My New Yorker profile of Bill Hicks, The Goat Boy Rises, sat unpublished at the magazine for nearly four months. Hicks's ban from the David Letterman show and his subsequent 31-page letter to me explaining what had happened provided the impetus to get the profile into print straight away. It appeared on November 1, 1993.

"The phones are ringing off the hook, the offers are pouring in, and all because of you," Hicks wrote to me the following week, signing himself "Willy Hicks"."It's almost as though I've been lifted out of a 10-year rut and placed in a position where the offers finally match my long-held and deeply cherished creative aspirations... Somehow, people are listening in a new light. Somehow the possibilities (creatively) seem limitless."

Rereading Hicks's letter now, 10 years later, the parenthesis in the last sentence hit me like a punch to the heart. Hicks was suddenly, to his amazement, no longer perceived as "a joke blower", the kind of pandering stand-up he hated.

In the two months after publication of the New Yorker piece, seven publishers approached him about writing a book; the Nation asked him to write a column; Robert De Niro met him to discuss the possibility of recording his comedy on his Tribeca label; and Channel 4, with Tiger Aspect, green-lighted Hicks's Counts Of The Netherworld ("Channel 4 wants our first show to somehow tie in with their celebration of the birth of democracy 2,000 years ago," Hicks wrote to me. "Democracy may have been born then, I just can't wait till it starts speaking and walking"). The creative possibilities may have seemed limitless to Hicks but, even as he was writing me letters about "the hoopla" and his newfound calm ("I'm very grateful for it"), he knew that he was dying.

The following is an excerpt from the Hicks bio that appears at billhicks.com.

October 1st 1993 saw Hicks' 12th and final Letterman show, from which his routine was axed as it was felt the material might not go down well with the show's sponsors. His act had attacked pro-lifers: "If you're so pro-life, do me a favour: don't lock arms and block medical clinics. If you're so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries." He became the first comedy act to be censored at CBS's Ed Sullivan Theatre. Hick was so incensed he wrote a 39 page letter to The New Yorker's John Lahr. It all became clear that the corporation was behind the censorship when a pro-life commercial appeared during the Letterman Show.


Fey Accompli
This interview with Tina Fey was published in the November 2003 issue of The Believer.

An excerpt:

BLVR: A lot of people—myself included—have romanticized ideas about what it's like to work on the Saturday Night Live writing staff. I have this mental image of a nearly decimated office filled with Emmy statues and smashed beer bottles and thick clouds of marijuana smoke. The writers, fueled by a lack of sleep and an endless supply of narcotics, are furiously working on their skits for the week. Maybe Michael O'Donoghue (having faked his death, as we all knew he would) is snorting coke off of some terrified intern's ass. Is that a fairly accurate description?

TF: I'm sure it used to be accurate. It's not that wild anymore, though it's certainly not a normal workplace. It's usually crowded at night, and there's lots of noise and commotion and comedy bits being thrown around. It's not at all surprising to hear screaming at three o'clock in the morning, or to walk out of your office and nearly get plowed over by a writer pushing [Chris] Kattan down the hall in a cardboard box. And there are always lots of people fake-raping each other. After another long night of trying to come up with sketch ideas, there's nothing like a little fake-rape to relieve the tension.

BLVR: Do you remember what it was like to be a young, fresh-faced writer on the show and scared out of your wits? Are there certain rites of passage that you have to go through before you can officially call yourself an SNL veteran?

TF: Well, the first hurdle you go through is the Wednesday read-through. You're in a room with all the writers, all the performers, all the producers, all the designers, and NBC legal. It's a tough room, and they've heard a lot of comedy over the years. The first time you get a laugh in that room is really exciting. But you also spend a lot of time in that room eating shit. It's an incredibly nerve-racking, intimidating experience. You sweat from your spine out, you're woozy, and you can feel your heartbeat in your mouth. I've talked with other writers about what it's like when you have a sketch that tanks. Like when you set up a joke on page three and it doesn't get a laugh, and you're sitting there thinking, "Oh my god, I call that joke back four times. There's going to be six more pages of this joke that nobody thinks is funny." It's the worst feeling in the world. But once you get callous to it, you're a much stronger person.

Light Calisthenics
The following is from Richard Dawkins' book Unweaving the Rainbow.

Raindrops have a more complicated effect than Newton's prism. Being roughly spherical, their back surface acts as a concave mirror. So they reflect the sunlight after refracting it, which is why we see the rainbow in the part of the sky opposite the sun, rather than when looking towards the sun through rain. Imagine that you are standing with your back to the sun, looking towards a shower of rain, preferably with a leaden background. We shan't see a rainbow if the sun is higher in the sky than 42 degrees above the horizon. The lower the sun, the higher the rainbow. As the sun rises in the morning, the rainbow, if one is visible, sets. As the sun sets in the evening, the rainbow rises. So let's assume that it is early morning or late afternoon. Think about a particular raindrop as a sphere. The sun in behind and slightly above you, and light from it enters the raindrop. At the boundary of air with water it is refracted and the different wavelengths that make up the sun's light are bent through different angles, as in Newton's prism. The fanned-out colours go through the interior of the raindrop until they hit its concave far wall, where there they are reflected, back and down. They leave the raindrop again and some of them end up at your eye. As they pass from water back into air they are refracted for a second time, the different colours again being bent through different angles.

So, a complete spectrum -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet -- leaves our single raindrop, and a similar one leaves the other raindrops in the vicinity. But from any one raindrop, only a small part of the spectrum hits your eye. If your eye gets a beam of green light from one particular raindrop, the blue light from that raindrop goes above your eye, and the red light from that particular raindrop goes below. So, why do you see a complete rainbow? Because there are lots of different raindrops. A band of thousands of raindrops is giving you green light (and simultaneously giving blue light to anybody who might be suitably placed above you, and simultaneously giving red light to somebody else below you). Another band of thousands of raindrops is giving you red light (and giving somebody else blue light...), another band of thousands of raindrops is giving you blue light, and so on. The raindrops delivering red light to you are all at a fixed distance from you -- which is why the red band is curved (you are the centre of the circle). The raindrops delivering green light to you are also at a fixed distance from you, but it is a shorter one. So the circle on which they sit has a smaller radius and the green curve sits inside the red curve. Then the blue curve sits inside that, and the whole rainbow is built up as a series of circles with you at the centre. Other observers will see different rainbows centred on themselves.


Black 'n' Lemony
Here's an interview with Jack Black. The interviewer is Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket.

An excerpt:

JB: I can't remember whom I share my birthday with. No one of note. I'm coming up on my thirty-fourth.

DH: I'm also thirty-three.

JB: Oh really?

DH: Yes.

JB: See, I say thirty-three is the landmark.

DH: Of what?

JB: It's the landmark year. I'm a Jew. Thirty-three is when Christ died. So though I'm a Jew, in the back of my mind I still think that I gotta get it done before I'm thirty-four because well, I don't know why. He got it done before He was thirty-four.

DH: It seems like he had plans to do a few other things.

JB: Oh really? [laughs] Is there evidence of that?

DH: He just seems like the kind of guy bent on remaking the world.

JB: He had superpowers and that's the main reason I like Him. Anyone who can float, has power of levitation, or can shoot lasers out of his eyes...

DH: I don't remember hearing about the laser thing with Jesus.

JB: Well, how do you think he turned the water into wine? With His eye-lasers.


Middle Ages Funny Pages

Text balloons are employed in this 1493 Dutch manuscript. Found on this site, which is about the history of Dutch comics. (Via Coudal Partners.)

My Phair Lady
In 1994, Liz Phair was interviewed by Simpsons writer George Meyer. The interview was published in the May/June 1994 issue of Big Brother magazine. You can read it here.

An excerpt:

Here's a question I always ask everyone I meet. What's the weirdest thing you ever found in your food?
Oh my god. United Airlines. I ordered lasagna. This was back in my meat-eating days about three years ago. I was chomping away thinking "this is pretty good", when wham-o! I hit this obviously man-made material. It was like some rubber valve or something.

So I tried to bite a little harder, thinking it's some strange vegetable or something. Then I realized there weren't any vegetables in this. So I'm like what the hell is this thing? And I sort of mulled it around in my tongue, and I reached up... and pulled it out, AND... It was like a CENTRAL ARTERY! It was one of those pivitol points in a cow's jugular or something.

Yarggh! What did you do? Did you throw it?
I was so freaked out. I didn't even tell them about it. I just sat there. I was so shocked and so grossed out that I'd been, like, playing with this thing in my mouth...

One of the best stories that I've heard is of a friend who found a grease pencil, the kind you take down orders with...
No way!

Half of a grease pencil in a fish sandwich. The guy was just taking orders and dropped it in, I guess. Isn't that sick?
That's really funny.

From Gear to Eternity
Today is the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the U.S. Fresh Air marked the occasion yesterday with an all-Beatles show, which included archival interviews with Paul McCartney and Pete Best.


Andy Hardy Har Har
My pal Claire Zulkey recently interviewed New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz.

An excerpt:

I'm curious to know what it's like to be published in the New Yorker. The first time you had a piece in there, did you submit to them, or did they contact you and ask you to write?
They actually contacted me in August of 1998. They asked me if I had anything funny to say about Monica Lewinsky (it was the week leading up to Clinton's deposition). I wrote up a list of "talking points" for the President's deposition and they used it that week. Coincidentally, it was David Remnick's first week editing the magazine.

It seems like you've touched just about every medium, and been published in just about every venue that writers hope to see their names in. What are your goals for the future? Which publications have felt like the biggest accomplishments?
I suppose The New Yorker is the place where everyone wants to be published. I guess part of that has to do with the roster of humorists they've published over the years. And the magazine is still tremendously influential. The one magazine I have yet to crack is a medical journal called Minimally Invasive Surgical Nursing. Someday.


Kill, Bill
In this Washington Monthly article, presidential jokesmith Mark Katz describes working with funnyman Bill Clinton. (Thanks to Greg Connors for the link.)

An excerpt:

My first assignment for the newly inaugurated President Clinton was to draft a page of jokes for his upcoming appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 1993. Most of my suggested jokes were on the topic of his bumpy first hundred days in office. He leafed through my draft, his face unlit with enthusiasm. "Enough jokes on me," he said. "We need to do more jokes on all of them," meaning the media. "I thought this was a press dinner where I get to make fun of the press."

I realized then that we had arrived at a fundamental dividing line. I took for granted that the endgame of these ritual humor dinners was to ingratiate oneself to the audience--in this case, the press--and that the speaker should be his own primary target. From what I could tell, this did not come naturally to Bill Clinton. I had the feeling that he couldn't understand why we had handed him pages of self-deprecating jokes to tell to the people who deprecate him for a living. To him, it must have seemed like appeasing Torquemada by placing yourself on the rack until you confess.

This was also the symptom of the political culture shock of going from Little Rock to Washington. Clinton was raised in a political culture where gentle, self-effacing humor was all but unheard of, and political humor dinners featured a much meaner brand of funny. In Arkansas, I was told by people who'd know, humor is a stick that you beat other people up with. Clinton kept in his head a running list of the personal hypocrisies, professional double standards, specific unfair shots, and falsehoods uttered against him. He wanted to recite them all, and if they were expressed in the form of a joke, well, that was fine, too. But left to his own devices, the defining tone of his speech to the Washington press corps would be, "Katy, bar the door!"

A year later, when I helped prepare speeches for Clinton's upcoming appearances at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner and the White House Correspondents Dinner, the Whitewater scandal had dominated the newspapers for two weeks. Within the White House, I had by then become something of a humor evangelist, espousing to anyone who would listen a variant of the Twelve Step philosophy: things are only as bad as the stuff you can't joke about. I was eager to play high-stakes humor, and all of my instincts told me that humor's biggest payoff can come at the hour of maximum danger. Maybe on the long list of reasons why Whitewater was not Watergate was that this guy, the president, could stand up in front of three thousand rabid reporters and show the courage to laugh at the very idea.

The night before the speech, we sent a draft to the president; the night after that, a tuxedo-clad Bill Clinton took the podium to address the same Washington journalists who had recently made "Whitewater" a household word and opened with a geographic version of a time-honored line: "I am delighted to be here tonight. And if you believe that, I have some land in northwest Arkansas I'd like to sell you."


Pot-y Mouth
In 1969, Carl Sagan wrote this essay about his experiences with marijuana.

An excerpt:

There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we're down the next day....

If I find in the morning a message from myself the night before informing me that there is a world around us which we barely sense, or that we can become one with the universe, or even that certain politicians are desperately frightened men, I may tend to disbelieve; but when I'm high I know about this disbelief. And so I have a tape in which I exhort myself to take such remarks seriously. I say 'Listen closely, you sonofabitch of the morning! This stuff is real!'


Tour of Babble
Next week, I'm going on something called the Perpetual Motion Roadshow. It's a reading tour of the West Coast. I and a couple other people -- Frayn Masters, of Portland, and Matt Blackett, of Toronto -- will be reading in Seattle, Ashland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Portland, and Vancouver, B.C. (in that order). I'm a last-minute replacement for Greg Hischak.

Here's the schedule:

Seattle: Mon., Feb. 9, 7 p.m. FREE. Confounded Books (315 E Pine St.). With Ellen Forney.

Ashland: Tues., Feb. 10, 7 p.m. FREE. Evo's Café (376 East Main).

San Francisco: Wed., Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. FREE. Modern Times Bookstore (888 Valencia St.). With Annalee Newitz.

Los Angeles: Thurs., Feb. 12, 7 p.m. FREE. Flor y Canto (3706 N. Figueroa Ave.). With Shahab Zargari.

San Jose: Fri., Feb. 13, 8 p.m. FREE. Anno Domini (150 S. Montgomery St., Unit B).

Portland: Sun., Feb. 15, 7 p.m. FREE. Reading Frenzy (921 Southwest Oak St.). With Mykle Hansen.

Vancouver: Mon., Feb. 16, 8 p.m. $5. The Butchershop Floor (195 East 26th Ave.). With Bus Graveyard.

You'll find further details about the tour here.