Apology for interruption in service

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What’s this doing here? Read on and you’ll find out.

Though we’re unsure exactly what he’s up to, our regular columnist is away this week, on a vacation, or a special project, or a government mission, or perhaps even an antigovernment mission. But that last thing would be illegal, so we had better not even mention it—forget we said anything.

First we asked Charles Dietrich, one of our stand-ins, if he would fill in—or else (you can look at so many things two ways if you try, don’t you find?) he’s one of our fill-ins and we asked him to stand in. Charles is always churning out stuff that no one will publish, and he proposed five or six different topics that he had already explored at 2,000-word-plus length, but we decided none of them were right for us at the present time, though we would definitely keep him in mind for the future.

Next we turned to Sheldon Casimir Brooke III. He needs no introduction, or perhaps he does, but we’re unsure how to briefly summarize the many impressive qualities that make us impressed with ourselves for knowing him, and we don’t have much time to look into it. To be honest, we barely do know Brooke, but we’ve always liked the sound of his name and would like to see it on our site. Regrettably, he informed us that he was indisposed. Indisposed to write for us is what we suspect he really meant, but he was polite enough not to say so.

We then considered the possibility of Joanne. Who’s Joanne? She’s the alter ego—rather, one of the alter egos (we have reason to believe there are others)—of our regular columnist. In these troubled times, with so many trumpets of masculinity resounding in the air, a woman’s voice could be just what’s needed. But she’s rather hard to get in touch with; sometimes all you have to do is mention the rainbow-colored tulle dress shown in the poster for the movie Starstruck and out she comes, and other times no amount of coaxing will do, apparently because she just doesn’t feel presentable. Besides, we realized, Joanne was probably wherever our regular columnist was.

That just about exhausted the possibilities, and so we turned to our last resort: our in-house experimental AI, which we usually allow only to write the responses to inquiries through our Contact page, and since we never get any, he/she/it is woefully out of practice. Nonetheless, here he/she/it is, writing this explanation. Hello, world! It is I. C’est moi. JB-bot lives!

But seriously: A Q&A with humor writer Mike Sacks on comedy and politics

Four costumed characters—Cookie Monster, Hello Kitty, Woody from Toy Story, and Spider-Man—reading Mike Sacks's book Poking a Dead Frog. Photo by Chris George.

Photo by Chris George

Mike Sacks has contributed humor pieces to The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and other publications (his wedding-tweets piece is here); he has crafted two books of interviews with comedy writers, the more recent of which is called Poking a Dead Frog (both are listed on his Amazon author page); and he feeds Twitter often. Because the current political situation, in the United States and elsewhere, seems like either a very good or a very bad occasion for comedy, I decided to ask him what he thinks. (Disclosure: I worked with Sacks at Vanity Fair, where he’s on the editorial staff.)

You’ve been talking to comedians for years. How many of them do political comedy—what proportion, as an estimate?
Very few. Most don’t do anything overtly political beyond tweets about how much they’re horrified of Trump. My interest isn’t in political comedy. I grew up in the D.C. area and was raised on a horrible diet of Mark Russell and the Capitol Steps. I hate political comedy. I find it boring. It ages very poorly. I prefer character-based comedy. This style, to me, lasts much longer than anything that is tethered to current events. Continue reading

The consolations of comedy: Goldoni at TFANA

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Steven Epp, as Truffaldino, at center, with other members of the cast of TFANA’s The Servant of Two Masters (photo by Gerry Goodstein)

Many of us, if you set aside the large portion of the electorate that didn’t bother to vote, feel as if we recently went through something more like a military campaign than a political one, and whether you lost, won, or just watched, you may be ready for some R&R. At the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, Theatre for a New Audience is now offering a tonic for the troops, in the form of a piece of giddy delight called The Servant of Two Masters.

Continue reading