Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. For example: she recorded her last stand up special at home, in her living room. The seating? Her couch. The audience? Her parents. She performed her set with breaks "off-stage" to take cookies out of the oven and administer medicine to her pet pug. Her comedy takes on a number of difficult issues, ones that are personal to her -- mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or tough family dynamics (she describes her family's favorite pastime as "Joy Whack-a-Mole"). But she doesn't use humor as a shield. She uses it to confront an issue, point-blank.
Bamford talks to us about why she chose to perform a special in front of her parents, processing awful experiences or feelings into jokes, and why she describes herself as "the orchid of comedy".
The Special Special Special is available now and streaming on Netflix. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God is now available.
This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.
Dan Deacon is a Baltimore-based composer and electronics musician who has released over a dozen albums since 2003. He talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music.
This interview originally aired on 1/03/12.
George Saunders could have been a geophysicist. In fact, he was one. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and worked in the oil fields of Sumatra. He came to fiction writing a little later in life, attending Syracuse University's creative writing program (where he now teaches).
Saunders is now well-recognized as one of the greatest short story writers and satirists of our time. He's been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, along with piles of literary accolades for his collections, which include Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His stories often explore a world much like our own, just slightly more grotesque -- societies that are terrifying and recognizable. His writing is incisive, sad, and also really funny. His collection, Tenth of December, is available now in paperback.
Saunders talks to us about how people interpret luck and what they do with it, drawing inspiration from a disturbing dream, and unyielding financial pressure (the kind that doesn't even lift when you win a major award).
This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.
Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".
This segment originally aired on 2/12/13.
Rob Baedeker and James Reichmuth of Kasper Hauser will be teaching a class on writing and workshopping humor for the page (e.g. comic essays, genre parodies, humor-book concepts and short comic fiction). The six-week course will be held at the San Francisco Writers' Grotto and is open to all folks, including those who don't consider themselves comedy writers.
The class starts on September 19th and you can find out more information, including how to register, here.
Lynda Barry is a legendary comic strip author whose Ernie Pook's Comeek has run for many years in alternative newspapers around the country. Her two most recent books, What It Is and Picture This are about writing and creating art, respectively. The former won an Eisner Award, comics' most prestigious prize. The books take the form of a notebook, filled with text, collage and drawings. The content is based on a series of seminars Barry has taught on getting creative work done. In our interview, Barry talks with Jesse about activating the brain and the benefit of doing creative work that doesn't need to fall into the dichotomy of beautiful/not beautiful, good art/not good art, or being productive/being nonproductive.
JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest on the program is Lynda Barry. She’s one of the nation’s most accomplished comics artists, graphic novelists, comic strip writers, artists, etc. etc. Her comics have run in alternative newspapers across the country for many, many, many years and more recently she’s turned much of her time towards writing longer works. Her book of just a couple of years ago, What It Is, was about the process of writing, and her latest, Picture This, is about the process of making art. They’re beautiful multimedia comics collage works that, as I said, are about process.
Lynda Barry, welcome to The Sound of Young America.
LYNDA BARRY: I’m delighted to be here.