WBEZ | Funny Ha-Ha http://www.wbez.org/tags/funny-ha-ha Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago cubs are like a terrible girlfriend http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-05/chicago-cubs-are-terrible-girlfriend-106944 <p><p>The following three items are completely unrelated.</p><p>1.) I will be on the radio today on The Afternoon Shift to talk about my <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/king-me-my-inaugural-visit-korean-spa-106693">King Spa</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/moms-solo-staycation-106675">alone time</a> experiences at around 2 p.m., if you&#39;d like to hear me.</p><p>2.) The Cubs&#39; owners <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-suburbs-cubs-20130502,0,7367666.story">threatening to move the team</a> if they don&#39;t get their way is the kind of bratty empty gesture that I hope they follow through on, just because it would be the most interesting thing to happen to the team in 100 years. However, I have a feeling the Cubs are like the girlfriend and the city/fans are like the boyfriend in this sketch (NSFW):</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/eirBtt7wIDU" width="560"></iframe></p><p>3.) And finally, pease don&#39;t forget Funny Ha-Ha is Friday. It&#39;ll be a delightful show and a wonderful way for you to kick off your weekend.</p><p><em>Follow Claire Zulkey <a href="https://twitter.com/Zulkey">@Zulkey</a></em></p><p><img src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FunnyHaHaMay_0.jpg" /></p></p> Thu, 02 May 2013 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-05/chicago-cubs-are-terrible-girlfriend-106944 Speaking of Chicago lit, Funny Ha-Ha is coming http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/speaking-chicago-lit-funny-ha-ha-coming-106792 <p><p>I really didn&#39;t expect that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/where-are-chicagos-women-writers-right-here-106767">a list of my friends and colleagues</a> would make such a splash but I&#39;m happy it did. Continuing on the theme of Chicago literary flair, I&#39;d like to humbly bring it to your attention that the literary humor reading series I produce and host, Funny Ha-Ha, is right around the corner. Come check out Molly Backes, one of the ladies on yesterday&#39;s list. There are some men performing as well.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FunnyHaHaMay_0.jpg" style="height: 957px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 09:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/speaking-chicago-lit-funny-ha-ha-coming-106792 What are you giving up for Lent? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-02/what-are-you-giving-lent-105499 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/511389398_556c659ff3.jpg" style="float: right; height: 304px; width: 300px;" title="Flickr/exfordy" /><span id="internal-source-marker_0.26830687760580285">I didn&rsquo;t mean for this to be Catholicism week on my blog but it&rsquo;s going that way. I don&rsquo;t have an interview with a saint lined up for Friday or anything though, don&rsquo;t worry.</span></div><p><br />A few days ago my friend Erica asked me what I was giving up for Lent. <em>Ugh</em>. It&rsquo;s Lent again?<br /><br />My first instinct was to say &quot;Nintendo,&quot; which has been my joke answer since about 7th grade once I had passed the point of actually wanting to play Nintendo (unlike my brother, for whom giving up Nintendo would actually have been a sacrifice.) This is an example of your traditional sarcastic Catholic answer, which often takes the form of &quot;Catholicism&quot; when questioned &quot;What are you giving up for Lent?&quot; (This year the popular sarcastic answer is &quot;The Pope.&quot;)<br /><br />But Lent is a complicated time for Catholics who have one foot in and one foot out of the faith. Why do we get ashes, give things up, stop eating meat on Fridays? Many of us don&#39;t exactly remember but we do it anyway because it&#39;s ingrained, because it&#39;s strangely fun (&quot;What are you giving up for Lent?&quot; is a good conversation starter) and we have those old feelings of obligation.<br /><br />My first thought was &quot;Booze&quot; and then I felt like Dan Aykroyd did in <em>Ghostbusters</em> when the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man popped into his head. &quot;No wait! Sugar. Cheese. Facebook. Aargh!&quot; The second I thought it, I knew that&#39;s what I needed to give up based on the fact that I really, really didn&#39;t want to.<br /><br />After I had the baby, alcohol took on a new role in my life. I mean, I always enjoyed it. But a glass of wine at the end of the day after having a kid just takes on a different feeling and meaning than it did before, partially because to go out to a bar and get one is an expensive, inconvenient luxury that comes along a lot less often. Pre-baby, I rarely used to drink at home, except when people came over, but now people come over all the time, to see the baby, plus we&rsquo;re home all the time. Holding the baby in one hand while balancing a glass in another is something I&#39;m getting pretty good at. So maybe it&rsquo;s worth just working on cutting back.<br /><br />I&#39;m also trying to lose those last ten baby pounds. Nobody cares if I lose this weight but me. I can fit into my clothes. I look more or less the same as I did before I had the baby. But I know I&#39;d like to lose them and I&#39;m pretty sure that cutting out the booze for a while will help, not to mention that I signed up for the Soldier Field 10 Mile race in a few months and I know it&#39;d be a lot easier to run it without a ten pound barbell hanging from my neck. (I also decided to quit weighing this Lent, too, in a slightly more positive pledge.)<br /><br />I looked at my calendar to see if I had many events coming up that would be utterly worthless without me drinking and sure enough there are some that will be tough: Valentine&rsquo;s Day. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-12/rosie-schaap-interview-104518">Rosie Schaap</a>&#39;s alcohol-themed <a href="http://www.bookcellarinc.com/event/drinking-men-rosie-schaap">reading this Friday</a>. <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/funnyhaha.php">Funny Ha-Ha</a> next Friday. Various get-togethers with friends. What was I thinking?<br /><br />It&#39;s not that big a sacrifice, I know, but it&#39;s a challenge I knew I should take on by how much I didn&#39;t want to. &quot;You just had a baby!&quot; some friends offered to me as an excuse. &quot;You didn&#39;t drink for nine whole months!&quot; Well, that&#39;s not totally true and that argument doesn&#39;t really fly: this would be something I do for myself (and I guess maybe God? But I&#39;m not going to get into that). I also don&#39;t buy into that whole exceptions thing: cheating is cheating, even if it&#39;s on Sundays. If my first thought was &quot;You should go without drinking for a month and some change,&quot; it&#39;s probably worth trying.<br /><br />So here we go. If I&#39;m out and I&#39;m at a bar, take a look at my hand and if I&#39;m drinking something that looks suspiciously fun, feel free to say &quot;But you published a blog about this&quot; and shame me to death. Let&#39;s do this. Come Easter Sunday, it&rsquo;ll be all about the mimosas at brunch, hold the O.J.<br /><br />What are you giving up for Lent? (And if you&rsquo;ve got a sarcastic answer, it had better be a really hilarious, original one, and &ldquo;Giving up reading your blog&rdquo; does not count.)</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 09:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-02/what-are-you-giving-lent-105499 Zulkey bits and pieces http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/zulkey-bits-and-pieces-105082 <p><p>There are some little bits and pieces I would like to share with the Internet but none of them can really be turned into a whole post, so here you go: it&rsquo;s potpourri day.</p><p>1.) <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/funnyhaha.php" target="_blank">Funny Ha-Ha</a> is returning next month with a fabulous lineup! Check it all out in our gorgeous poster right here. <img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FunnyHaHaTriumphant-Large.jpg" style="float: right; height: 386px; width: 250px;" title="" /></p><p>2.) My husband Steve Delahoyde made a very nice short (as in three minutes long) piece about the origins of the poetry slam right here in Chicago (see below). You&rsquo;ll probably like it.</p><p>3.) I wrote this piece for the Hairpin called &ldquo;<a href="http://thehairpin.com/2013/01/that-baby-wants-to-break-you-up" target="_blank">That Baby Wants to Break You Up.</a>&rdquo; It should be noted that a.) Coincidentally, life seemed to get a lot easier right after I wrote it and b.) It&rsquo;s not meant as a cautionary tale against having children. I&rsquo;m just not likely to write a piece called &ldquo;Here Are All The Ways I Love My Adorable Baby.&rdquo;&nbsp; It&rsquo;s just meant as catharsis first, and maybe commiseration, second.</p><p>4.) Finally, Michelle Obama&rsquo;s bangs! I don&rsquo;t have much to say about them (they&rsquo;re fine? But she was also fine without them.) But my mother wanted me to mention that Mamie Eisenhower was also famous for her bangs. Duly noted. Eek!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Mamie.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/57704802" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Jan 2013 08:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-01/zulkey-bits-and-pieces-105082 Daily Rehearsal: More Shakespeare in the parks http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-more-shakespeare-parks-100302 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AYLI_Photo_1_Net.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Spectralia's 'As You Like It' (Photo courtesy of Spectralia Theatre)" /><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- &nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-chicago-shakespeare-park-100223">More Shakespeare</a></strong></span></span> in the parks:<a href="http://www.spectralia.org"> Spectralia Theatre</a> is working with Friends of the Parks and the&nbsp;Chicago Park District, to put on <em>As You Like It</em> from June 30 to August 5. The list of locations and times is as follows:&nbsp;</p><p>June 30 and July 1: Ravenswood Manor Park (4626 N. Manor)</p><p>July 7: Wrightwood Park (2534 N. Greenview)</p><div><div>July 8: Nichols Park (1355 E. 53rd St)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>July 14, 15: Touhy Park (7348 N. Paulina)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>July 21, 22: Skinner Park (1331 W. Adams)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>July 28, 29: Portage Park (4100 N. Long)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>August 4, 5: Chase Park (4701 N. Ashland)</div></div><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-06/tonight-last-funny-ha-ha-2012-100214">last Funny Ha-Ha of 2012 </a></strong></span></span>was on Tuesday night; apparently, one woman did not know that it was not suitable for children and was slightly peeved by the language.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- <em>The Paper Machete</em></strong></span></span> is changing venues for <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/432094046811581/">their July 4th show</a>; it&#39;ll be at the historic Green Mill.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Thu, 21 Jun 2012 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-more-shakespeare-parks-100302 In one week: Funny Ha-Ha: Live Forever http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-04/one-week-funny-ha-ha-live-forever-97866 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/hahasmall_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/hahasmall.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 958px; " title="Funny Ha-Ha: Live Forever April 10 2012"></p><p>The <em>Tribune</em>'s Steve Johnson had a nice piece today about <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-0403-focus-variety-shows-20120402,0,6979059.column">Chicago's live variety show scene</a> and mentioned the literary humor show I host and produce, Funny Ha-Ha. Our next show happens to be in a week, so I hope you come check us out!</p><p><b>Funny Ha-Ha: Live Forever</b></p><p><b>Date:</b> Tuesday, April 10, 2012<br><b>Time:</b> 7-8:30 PM<br><b>Place:</b> <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com/">The Hideout</a><br>1354 W Wabansia Ave<br>Chicago, IL 60622<br>(773) 227-4433</p><p>Featuring readings and performances from:</p><p>The AV Club's <a href="http://www.avclub.com/">Marcus Gilmer</a></p><p>Essay Fiesta host <a href="http://keithecker.com/">Keith Ecker</a></p><p>Beloved comedian <a href="http://therealcameronesposito.com/">Cameron Esposito</a></p><p>Chicago magazine's <a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/cassiewalker77">Cassie Walker</a></p><p>Kates host <a href="http://www.kelsiehuff.com/">Kelsie Huff</a></p><p>Filmmaker man <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/sdelahoyde/featured">Steve Delahoyde</a></p><p>$5 suggested donation. Proceeds benefit the <a href="http://www.jot.org/"><span class="il">Neighborhood</span> <span class="il">Writing</span> <span class="il">Alliance</span></a>.</p></p> Tue, 03 Apr 2012 10:11:10 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-04/one-week-funny-ha-ha-live-forever-97866 Upcoming ways to see Zulkey IRL! (That means 'in real life' in annoying internet-speak) http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-02-20/upcoming-ways-see-zulkey-irl-means-real-life-annoying-internet-speak-9 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-20/6385653105_553a9b4513.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-20/6385653105_553a9b4513.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 500px;" title="Alison Lyon and Kelsie Huff at Essay Fiesta. (Flickr/Erin Nekervis)"></p><p><strong><a href="http://essayfiesta.com/" id="internal-source-marker_0.05456414869261983">Essay Fiesta</a></strong><br> 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Monday Feb. 20<br> <a href="http://bookcellarinc.com/">The Book Cellar</a><br> Proceeds Benefit 826Chi<br> <br> Featuring readings from:<br> <br> Alyson Lyon<br> Michele Fitzsimmons<br> Brandon Will<br> Rachael Kossy<br> Keith Ecker<br> <strong>Claire Zulkey</strong><br> Jason Economus<br> <br> <strong><a href="http://www.thekates.org/">The Kates</a></strong><br> 8 p.m. March 9<br> <a href="http://bookcellarinc.com/">The Book Cellar</a><br> <br> Featuring readings and performances from:<br> <br> Jennifer Baird<br> <strong>Claire Zulkey</strong><br> Beth Humbert Schmidt<br> Candy Lawrence<br> Kyna Lenhof<br> Tamale<br> Nancy Fast<br> <br> <strong><a href="http://www.zulkey.com/funnyhaha.php">Funny Ha-Ha</a></strong><br> 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 10<br> <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com/">The Hideout</a><br> <br> Featuring a fabulous lineup to be announced! Hosted by me!</p></p> Mon, 20 Feb 2012 15:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-02-20/upcoming-ways-see-zulkey-irl-means-real-life-annoying-internet-speak-9 Chicago's new salon culture http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-23/chicagos-new-salon-culture-95746 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-23/3547401942_f54f39704f_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Regular WBEZ listeners may have heard about <em><a href="http://themoth.org/events" target="_blank">The Moth</a></em><em>: </em>It's not only on the air but has also become a live event where folks get together and share stories on stage, and is hosted by several WBEZ staff members, like Brian Babylon of Vocalo's <em>The Morning AMp</em> and Events Coordinator Don Hall.</p><p>But <em>The Moth</em>'s not the only game in town--there are other, similar events in Chicago that involve not only readings but theater, music and sometimes, the genres are juxtaposed, and have been been called the "<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-30/salonatopia-look-salon-renaissance-sweeping-chicago-91203">new salon culture</a>" here at WBEZ. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2011-10-24/abraham-levitan-funny-ha-ha-talkin-about-good-wet-dumpling-93391">WBEZ blogger and host of <em>Funny Ha-Ha</em> Claire Zulkey</a>&nbsp;joined host of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-20/dyan-flores-breaks-down-myth-behind-meat-filled-midwest-95678"><em>The Paper Machete</em></a> (which <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345">WBEZ also podcasts</a>) Christopher Piatt, as well as Brian Babylon and&nbsp;Robert Valadez, a Pilsen gallery owner, to talk about this resurgence. Below is are some highlights of their thoughts.</p><p><em>On the resurgence of salon culture in Chicago:</em></p><p><strong>Piatt:</strong> There is a history in Chicago of sort of, you know, pointy-headed intellectual types that are kind of mouthy, getting together in a bar, in an environment where there are readings….It was also very big in the 90s; you know, Laura Links, Milly’s Orchid Show,&nbsp; David Sedaris and writers like that, came out of a reading tradition that was sort of mixed up with some first person reporting, some essays, some stand-up, some slam poetry.</p><p><em>On the importance of humor in these salons:</em></p><p><strong>Zulkey:</strong> When I started <em>Funny Ha-Ha</em>, I wanted to showcase the funnier parts of Chicago literature. Whenever I would go to a reading, there’d be two funny readers and three serious ones, and I’d always think ‘I want more of the funny’, just because I didn’t want reading series' to be so serious.</p><p><strong>Zulkey:</strong> I prefer, if we’re having a stand-up comedian, I will ask them maybe to do something that’s more like a one-man show or a reading, as opposed to doing like five minutes of stand-up, just because I want them to stretch their definition of what they do a tiny bit. I still want them to do what they do, but it’s not a stand-up show. It’s not Zanies. It’s <em>Funny Ha-Ha</em>.</p><p><em>Who attends the salons, and whether it matters where they are:</em></p><p><strong>Piatt:</strong> They’re very populist.</p><p><strong>Zulkey:</strong> I think we always want to get more people in, but it’s also sort of a recurring cast of characters. I’ve borrowed readers from<em> Paper Machete</em>; I know Christopher has seen friends of mine at <em>Funny Ha-Ha</em>.</p><p><strong>Piatt:</strong> Yeah, we poach each other’s talent. There’s like a Greek mythological level of incest among the series around town…you see the same faces at a lot of these events.</p><p><em>Where are salons in Chicago? Are they just on the North Side, with a primarily White audience? Is there a difference depending on location?</em></p><p><strong>Babylon:</strong> How to get people out on the South Side is different than the North Side, proximity of the locations, the bars, the South Side is more spread out, so it’s harder to go out.</p><p><strong>Valadez:</strong> What we’re doing in my gallery and studio is we’re providing an open door and an opportunity for people to express themselves in various ways.</p><p><strong>Zulkey:</strong> I’m always open to changing venues if they’re available, but the Hideout is our home and we have a soft spot in our heart there.</p><p><strong>Babylon:</strong> When <em>The Moth</em> actually went outside of Martyrs', and they called me and they said ‘We want to do an event on the South Side’ I was like ‘Uhhh.’ I mean, at first. It was going to be kind of tough, I felt, to get people out. But they moved it to the sort of south loop side, west area, and it’s been a pretty good crowd…So if you build it, as they say in New York City, The Moth folk, that is, they will come.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-23/photo.JPG" style="width: 600px; height: 448px;" title="Through the looking glass -- Christopher Piatt and Claire Zulkey join Tony Sarabia to discuss salon culture."></p></p> Mon, 23 Jan 2012 15:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-23/chicagos-new-salon-culture-95746 Tonight! http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-01-23/tonight-95740 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-23/FunnyHaHa2012-lrg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Sure hope you check out Chicago's most favoritest and goodest literary reading series. Tune in around 9:30 AM to hear me chatting about it on <em>848 </em>on WBEZ!</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-23/FunnyHaHa2012-lrg.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 927px; " title=""></p></p> Mon, 23 Jan 2012 13:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-01-23/tonight-95740 The Ian Belknap Interview http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2011-12-02/ian-belknap-interview-94536 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-02/belknap - calm before storm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: left;"><em>Before we get to today&rsquo;s interview, I thought you might enjoy checking out <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/worst-christmas-music,65888/">this fun discussion at </a></em><a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/worst-christmas-music,65888/">the A.V. Club</a><em><a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/worst-christmas-music,65888/"> about the worst Christmas songs</a>. Also, soak in the football this weekend because your <a href="../../blog/claire-zulkey/2011-11-28/secret-life-cleatus-fox-sports-robot-94394">Cleatus the Football Robot Fan Fiction</a> entries are due Monday at noon. </em><br /><br />Today I chat with a colleague of mine from the wonderful world of live Chicago lit and wit. He&rsquo;s one of the most passionate, ferocious fans and producers of the genre, serving as the producer and host of the wonderful series <a href="http://writeclubrules.com/">Write Club</a>, wherein writers thrown down like it&rsquo;s a boxing match. I read once and lost in the first round and hope to return one day, if not to win, at least not to pout like a jerk. He&rsquo;s also contributed to fine reading series such as <em><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/">The&nbsp;Paper Machete</a></em>, the <em><a href="http://www.encyclopediashow.com/EncyclopediaShow/Home.html">Encyclopedia Show</a></em> and<em> <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/funnyhaha.php">Funny Ha-Ha</a></em>. Lately you can find him on the web blogging at the new advice site <a href="http://irbyandian.blogspot.com/">Irby + Ian.</a> You can find out more about him <a href="http://ianbelknap.com/">here</a>. He&rsquo;s an awesome kind of grouch, sort of like a younger, more handsome Louis Black, the kind of guy you don&rsquo;t want to cross but whose approval you do want to win.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-02/belknap - calm before storm.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 332px;" title="Belknap at a recent 'Machete' performance" /></p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong>What are you working on right now?</strong><br />I have a novel for middle readers that&#39;s moldering away nicely, as well as an idea for a play that, I sh*t you not, would win a Pulitzer if I ever wrote the thing. Mostly, I write stuff to read aloud - I whorishly do pretty much any show that&#39;ll have me. Chicago has an ass-kicking &quot;live lit&quot; scene and there&#39;s a ton of cool shows happening, so I&#39;m pleased to be included. Or maybe I&#39;m just afraid people will read my sh*t wrong unless I read it TO them.<br /><br /><strong>What&rsquo;s <a href="http://irbyandian.blogspot.com/">Irby + Ian</a>, and why was it begun?</strong><br />irby+ian is a thrice-weekly advice column that&#39;s a collaboration between myself and National Treasure <a href="http://www.zulkey.com/2011/05/ive_known_todays_interviewee_f.php">Samantha Irby</a> (who requires both that I describe her this way, and that I capitalize it - our agreement is quite airtight on this point) for those among us who rankle when confronted by the damp, dewy, limp, Oprah-fied avalanche of tips-n-tricks that clog newsstands and your inbox all the damn time. irby+ian is advice for jerks written by *ssholes. New post by me on Mon, Sam on Wed, and co-post on Fri. If you like your advice unsparing, foul-mouthed, sharp-tongued, and most of all hi-f*cking-larious, irby+ian is your go-to source. You can write in with your burning questions to what all and sundry concur is the best email address yet devised by the mind of man: blackgalafianakis@gmail.com - just please, for f*ck&#39;s sake, do NOT expect an earnest or well-intended answer. Misspelled jusssssssssst enough to dodge a lawsuit.<br /><br /><strong>At Write Club, how often do you have to deal with bad sports who were unhappy with the results of the competition? (Aside from myself.)</strong><br />Never, really. The charity angle short-circuits that a bit, I think. There&#39;ve definitely been people that have not been stoked about the outcome, but there&#39;s never been any John McEnroe-style vitriol. If anything, most are raring to go for another future round. This is what they tell me to my face. What they really feel I could not tell you.<br /><br /><strong>I&rsquo;m blatantly trying to start something here but how would you say Write Club is superior to somewhat-similarly-formatted <a href="http://www.literarydeathmatch.com/">Literary Death Match</a>? </strong><br />Space does not really permit me to fully enumerate the superiorities. But I can outline a few that I think are key:</p><ul><li>WRITE CLUB (all caps, please - WRITE CLUB is always yelling) is way more interested in cross-pollinating between forms (theater people share the stage with comedy people, and lit nerds throw down against improv and sketch people).</li><li>LDM is a series of essentially static readings, with &quot;wacky show stuff&quot; between/around them and the competition element feels tacked-on to me, since the stakes are unclear; whereas WRITE CLUB is leaner, more tonally consistent, more mindfully curated show - the competition is not a popularity contest, it&#39;s a battle of opposing ideas, of the skill of the opposing writers, and the stakes are a share of the show&#39;s proceeds to a charity of the winners&#39; choosing.</li><li>LDM is primarily concerned with perpetuating/advancing LDM - WRITE CLUB is, too, obviously, but it ALSO has an abiding interest in doing good in the world. WRITE CLUB&#39;s donated about $5K to charity in Chicago, more in <a href="http://writeclubatlanta.com/">Atlanta</a>, and its just launched in <a href="http://www.facebook.com/writeclubsf">San Francisco</a>. I have no idea what happens to the $ from LDM - I won it the last time it was here, and I didn&#39;t see a dime. I think <a href="http://gothamist.com/2006/02/21/todd_zuniga_opi_1.php">Todd Zuniga</a>, the impresario of LDM, pockets the money for capering around in his ironic jacket.</li><li>I don&#39;t talk smack about the artists who have volunteered their time and talent to do my show, which can&#39;t be said about LDM.</li><li>Zuniga seems in my view to substantially overestimate how funny he is.</li><li>Zuniga as host - my opinion - seems kind of above-it-all. I play around with the audience, for sure, and try to grant them license to interact with me between pieces, but I am also intent on showing each person kind enough to consent to do my show to their best advantage. I also have designed a show that attempts to maximize audience good times - never more than 80 min; sometimes there&#39;s free candy; always ace talents on the bill. Plus I am actually funny.</li></ul><p>There&#39;s plenty more, but that&#39;ll do for now. If he wants to throw down, I&#39;m his huckleberry.<br /><br /><strong>In general, what makes for a good reading, aside from quality performances?</strong><br />I&#39;ve talked with other pals in the scene, notably <a href="http://www.robbieqtelfer.com/">Robbie Q. Telfer</a> of <em><a href="http://www.encyclopediashow.com/EncyclopediaShow/Home.html">The Encyclopedia Show</a></em>, and <a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/">Christopher Piatt of <em>The Paper Machete</em></a> (names, dropped!) about the role of what I&#39;ve come to regard as &quot;curatorial intelligence&quot; applied to booking a show. You obviously want the smartest, talented-est, charismatic-est individual writer/performers you can get, but you ALSO must consider the interplay between them, and the balance of the entire bill. I think there are some shows (which shall remain nameless) that don&#39;t pay sufficient heed to the arch and shape of the overall show, to create a cogent and satisfying evening, rather than just a laundry list of performers.<br /><br />The stuff that I find most surprising and gripping involves novel ideas, and a degree of deftness - leapfrogging between ideas/tones/shades of emotion. I intentionally make no requirements of form - there&#39;ve been poems, stories, personal essays all in the same show. One of the exciting aspects of the show is the degree to which a smart, engaging person at a mic can surprise an audience - it&#39;s what I&#39;m after in watching any show. I want my ass kicked in a good way. I want a punch in the brain.<br /><br /><strong>There seems to be <a href="http://broadwayworld.com/people/Ian_Belknap/#">another Ian Belknap</a> around on the internet, one who also has dramatic experience. What do you know about him and have you made contact?</strong><br />I found that poor bastard shortly after I joined faceborg. He&#39;s a theater director - seems a nice enough kid. Prior to coming to my senses and pursuing the dying art of literature, I logged a couple decades in the dying art of theater (between these, I did standup for a couple years, which obviously I had to stop, since people actually like and care about comedy), so I know a ton of people. This year there was a big national theater conference in town, which my wife - ace director <a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/boxoffice/productions/bio.aspx?id=281&amp;crewId=202">Hallie Gordon</a> - attended. She met him and he said he&#39;d been getting &quot;YOU&#39;RE not Ian Belknap&quot; all week long.<br /><br /><strong>I tend not to read at <em><a href="http://www.zulkey.com/funnyhaha.php">Funny Ha-Ha</a></em> because I can&rsquo;t handle the possibility that a performance at my own reading series might not bring down the house. What drives you to read at Write Club?</strong><br />There is the mortifying possibility of tanking at one&#39;s own show, yes. But for WRITE CLUB to work properly, I feel it&#39;s important to have skin in the game. I lose WRITE CLUB bouts all the time. My record is atrocious. There&#39;s a couple reasons for this (assuming I don&#39;t totally suck, which I&#39;ll leave to others to assess for themselves):</p><ul><li>It&#39;s my show, so audiences are not as inclined to vote me victor.</li><li>I always pit myself against the writer who in my estimation is the biggest killer of the bunch. It makes me better. I may not win, but it makes me better over time. And it makes a better show.</li></ul><p style="text-align: left;"><strong>In recent memory, which of your own personal reading performances seemed to be most successful with the audience, and why do you think that was?</strong><br />I brought WRITE CLUB to the <a href="http://www.decaturbookfestival.com/Community/index.php">Decatur Book Festival</a> in Georgia, and there was a fair bit of excitement generated by my unsavory piece, which I think was inspired mostly by the fact that Georgia is a more polite place than Chicago, with sensibilities more prone to tweaking.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Last year, on my birthday, I was seized by the urge to write a manifesto, which I did. I posted it on my blog, then got invited to perform it at a benefit for The Neo-Futurists, where I used to work (administrative, not as an artist). I was really proud of that one, and it seemed to really land with the audience. <a href="http://ianbelknap.com/ian-blog/2010/6/28/mani-fucking-festo.html">Here</a>&#39;s that one. I wrote <a href="http://ianbelknap.com/ian-blog/2011/6/27/manifestwo.html">a new manifesto this year</a>, and held an invite-only reading at the Hopleaf, which was pretty awesome, too.</p><p style="text-align: left;">But the one of recent vintage that seemed to generate the hottest response was a piece I did <a href="http://ianbelknap.com/ian-blog/2011/9/17/two-birds-one-stone-where-one-of-the-birds-is-also-the-stone.html">at <em>Paper Machete</em></a> - - that really seemed to rally the crowd/tap into some barely submerged &quot;yeah, f*ck that guy [meaning Franco, not, me]&quot; energy that they may not have even known was there. This was borne out because it&#39;s probably the piece that&#39;s gotten shared/passed around by friends/others. I&#39;m maybe at my best when I&#39;m super pissed about something. And if James f*cking Franco doesn&#39;t piss you off, then you&#39;re not paying attention.<br /><br /><strong>What have been some of the more questionable charities Write Club winners have donated to?</strong><br />None. People take the charity obligation/angle of the show seriously. The only ethical question that&#39;s come up is sometimes combatants want to name a non-profit they work with. I say this is fine/admirable. I&#39;ve worked in non-profits for like 10 years, I know how f*cking tough it is. Each of them needs all the damn help it can get.<br /><br /><strong>What are your responsibilities at <em>The Paper Machete</em> and the Encyclopedia Show?</strong><br />I have had to recuse myself from Encyclopedia - I just don&#39;t have the kind of time the show deserves. But for about a year, I was a member of the cast, in the role of Fact Checker, which is a foil/heavy for the hosts. I basically just listened to everybody&#39;s piece and said douchey things. I was like a cranky academic figure intent on pointing out fallacies, etc.</p><p style="text-align: left;">For <em>Paper Machete</em>, I&#39;m an occasional contributor with the title <a href="../../blog/onstagebackstage/2011-09-16/5-machete-questions-ian-belknap-dean-mean-92088">Dean of Mean</a>. I&#39;ll take a topic or trend or public figure and try my damnedest to tear them a new *sshole.<br /><br /><strong>If money and family ties were no issue, do you think you&rsquo;d stay here in Chicago or you&rsquo;d explore your career elsewhere?</strong><br />Chicago is a little frustrating in that there is this abundance of mind-blowingly talented people, none of whom make a living by making art. I know you can do tangentially related activities that can generate some income - actors doing voiceover, etc. - but there is no money to be had from making the work itself. Or if there is, I suck ass at finding it. It&#39;s not exclusive to Chicago, obviously, but it&#39;s more pronounced here than on the coasts. Part of the problem with the kind of work I specialize in (live lit? solo performance? raconteur?) is that there&#39;s not the same level of clarity about it that there is for other branches of the arts. You tell people you&#39;re a singer and they get it. You tell them you do personal essays that you perform live that are sort of in the vein of <em>This American Life</em>, maybe, a little bit, and you&#39;ve lost them.</p><p style="text-align: left;">There&#39;s this selflessness on the part of Chicago artists - partly I think because improv is so ingrained here - that&#39;s both really inspiring, because people are always willing to make work without much consideration for money or exposure or any kind of &quot;careerist&quot; objectives. There&#39;s way less ego here than any other place I know about. Which makes it an amazing place to make work, but an abysmal place to try to earn any portion of a living. I moved here from New York City, and that place exerts a pretty potent draw on me still - the velocity and intensity of it I find pretty addictive. L.A. could crack off and drop into the Pacific tomorrow and I would lead the nation in a victory lap. When London fame comes a-knocking, I will answer the door, though.<br /><br />But: school-age kids, wife who has an awesome job doing what she loves (she&#39;s Artistic &amp; Education Director for Steppenwolf for Young Adults), etc. conspire to keep me here for the foreseeable.<br /><br /><strong>Thanks to your titles at<em> The Paper Machete</em> and <em>Encyclopedia Show</em>, you occasionally wield a persona that&rsquo;s a tad gruff. In contrast, what&rsquo;s something that you get unabashedly squealy and excited about?</strong><br />This will sound totally limp and cliche, but my kids blow my mind. My daughter, who&#39;s 8, collaborates with a classmate to write a weekly newspaper about events in their class. Not for an assignment. Just, I guess, to fan the embers of print journalism for the future. And she writes and illustrates books. That are awesome.<br /><br />And my son, who&#39;s 10, started playing saxophone this year, and while he&#39;s obviously not Coltrane as yet - I&#39;m hopelessly non-musical - but it kicks ass to hear him practice. And in the summers, I coach his baseball team, which is about the best goddamn way to spend a summer afternoon that I have found.<br /><br />If you and I are sitting across a conference table for a staff meeting, my face is carved of stone. If you are a baby I encounter at the airport, I can easily become a rubber-faced spaz for your amusement.<br /><br />And my wife does artistic work that is not merely beautiful - which it invariably is - but that has a huge impact.<br /><br />And Louis CK. I would take a f*cking bullet for that guy. Some friends got together and got me tix to see him last year. Front row at the Chicago theater. Total chowder pants for yours truly.<br /><br /><strong>What do you want for Christmas?</strong><br />Louis CK to consent to do WRITE CLUB. Can you make that happen? Can you get his people on the horn? Because I would sh*t a cinder block if that came together. A cinder block of joy. Corn-speckled joy, but still.<br /><br /><strong>Who would you have chosen for People&rsquo;s Sexiest Man Alive 2011? Serious answers only, please.</strong><br />Not that Cooper clown, I can tell you that. I know the Gosling kid&#39;s got a lotta heat around him, but he&#39;s not seasoned enough for me. If you even try to float those vacant-eyed children from the goddamn <em>Twilight </em>movies, I will push you to the ground and call you a halfwit. I gotta go Clooney. I know - this choice wins zero points for novelty. But LOOK at the guy, man. He makes Jon Hamm look like a burn victim whose facial reconstruction was badly botched. Clooney is a full-on buffet of delish.<br /><br /><strong>How does it feel to be the 297th person interviewed for Zulkey.com?</strong><br />Good news for you, Claire: bottom of barrel reached. You may discontinue scraping.</p></p> Fri, 02 Dec 2011 16:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2011-12-02/ian-belknap-interview-94536