Humor
Humor

Star Wars - It's a Map!

A San Francisco designer retold The Original Trilogy in the style of the London Tube Map.

Not many people sit down and watch George Lucas's classic trilogy and then think to themselves: What if this was a public transit map? What if we viewed every destination the various characters encounter on their journey as subway stubs? Luckily, Jacob Berman not only had that thought but spent several weeks acting on it. It should be mentioned that he has made numerous maps in the past, so he clearly sees the world and its culture in terms of cartography.

Fifthythreestudio, Jacob Berman

Now, of course there is no better way to incur the rage of internet geeks than by remastering anything Star Wars-related. So Mr. Berman attempted to reduce the rage by posting a drafted version in the place with the most concentrated rage: Reddit.

In his own words, he was "torn apart by people who were quite passionate about the subject." If you want to see a classic Reddit explosion, checkout the whole post here. It has some important facts about the original film, including the fact that "C3-PO was throwing dead Jawas into a fire." I, for one, didn't know that.

Fifthythreestudio, Jacob Berman

Also, the Reddit post led to some amazingly specific jokes about Star Wars and the New York City Subway system, including parodies of its delays such as, "THIS SAIL BARGE IS CURRENTLY RUNNING EXPRESS. EXPRESS EXPRESS EXPRESS EXPRESS. WE WILL NOT BE MAKING STOPS BETWEEN 59TH STREET-JABBA'S THRONE ROOM AND 125TH STREET-SHUTTLE TYDIRIUM."

Reddit

Reddi

Nonetheless, Berman used the exchange as constructive criticism and integrated the helpful feedback into his final products. Check them out and stay tuned to see if he is going to validate the prequels by incorporating them into his next designs! Or, god forbid, see if he draws inspiration from the new films.

Fiftythreestudio, Jacob Berman

Interviews

Nicky Paris Talks his Career, Artistry, and Opening for Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese

A Week Before He Opens for Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls Fame, We Talk About the Comedy Scene as a Gay Comic - and Also...The Cheesecake Factory.

It's always nice when you get a chance to sit down with someone who knows what they're talking about.

When I called Nicky Paris, I knew I was in for a treat. If not for the humorous and charming introduction about his muffin top, then definitely for the very important discussion of our favorite Taco Bell dishes (mine was the Taco Twelve Pack, don't judge). What proceeded was an amazing discussion about comedy, being queer, and his astounding upcoming projects.

Not only is he opening for Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls fame at the legendary Comedy Store in L.A. September 14th (you can get tickets here), but he also just got a residency at Flapper's Comedy Club in Burbank, and is the co-host of their new show every Thursday at 9:30 PM. Plus, he's got some pretty interesting developments that we just weren't able to talk about yet.

Phil Provencio


So, I decided that I had to pick is his brain - and figure out what makes Nicky Paris tick:

Congrats! Things are going really really well for you. You are opening for 'Damien' from Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese and you're going to be a nightly performer for Flappers (both of which I mispronounced) which is brilliant! So, tell me about that. What was it like hearing that news?

It been a really cool opportunity to get to perform with Danny because he's not just a great friend and a really good comic - but he's been one of my first famous friends. Everyone loves him. We went to the Cheesecake Factory, and there's a code that celebrities apparently get where they can cut the entire line! I'm on the Z List, so when I go to the Cheesecake Factory, it's like a four hour excursion. But he walks in and he gives them a code, I think was: "Mr. Cheesecake told me to ask-" I don't know, and we got a table right away. How many people can go into the Cheesecake Factory and be in and out in 45 minutes? Not many people, unless you camp out, which I've thought about doing a few times before. He gets recognized all the time. So, I'm not used to being videotaped or photographed. One of the first times we hung out together we were eating hamburger sliders at an event, and he's all elegant and I'm over here deep throating my burger with lettuce and chipotle aioli on my chin. I'm like a celebrity in training. Come see us at The Comedy Store this weekend!

That's really incredible. I'm a champion for gay and queer people and just going out there and killing it and you're really killing it.

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

So, I want to take it back and I want to talk about when you started doing comedy - like when did you start doing comedy for realsies?

Alright, so I was seventeen and, much like you, I'm sure, I wanted to be Britney Spears when I grew up. But unfortunately I have a muffin top and I can't sing. So I had to let that dream die. When I was seventeen, I started doing standup by accident. I was on a cruise ship with a bunch of friends and it was an open mic. Everyone was telling me that I should go up and perform and I kept saying "No." I had no interest. My whole life, everyone said that I should be a comedian and I was like, "Do people think I'm ugly? Is that what that means?" So I was always very hesitant, like wow, just tell me that I have a big nose. Anyway, I went up there I had nothing planned and I completely caught the bug, and the rest was history. It's been a tough but rewarding road to get to where I am in my career. I have a very long way to go. When I first started, I was seventeen and a kid and I'm twenty-five now and a little bit older and now I have wrinkles. A few people told me that I was knocking on doors that people weren't going to let me in, because I'm gay. I cried the whole train ride home. Now, people sort of sing a different tune. It's kind of cool when people tell you you can't do something and then you're just like, no, I'm going to do what I'm going to do and bring what I have to the table, and I'm gonna' fight for it. I love doing standup and I love to entertain people and make them laugh. The world is a rough, scary place and I think we all need to lighten up and laugh a lot more.

Oh, 100%. And it seems crazy that they were so worried about you being your authentic self, because that's what art is. It's crazy to me that someone in this industry would shit on you like that.

I'm a comedian who happens to be gay. I'm just as funny as a majority of my straight peers. Being gay doesn't make me, or anyone, a comic.

Okay, so tell me about your comedic influences. From the stuff I've seen, you are pretty fearless in the jokes that you make. You remind me of a Joan Rivers-esque kind of person.

I miss Joan so much, I had the pleasure to meet her a few times and we had some great conversations. Yeah, I can see the comparison because I definitely am a little edgy, but this is how I describe the intention behind comedic risks to people: I'm sure you have problems, I have problems, we all go through hardships, right? When you go and see me do stand up, I want it to feel like - you know, when you're going through something? And you call your best friend? And you're like, I don't care, fuck it, let's just go out and have a good time and laugh. That's what I want my comedy to be about. Life is so messed up and life is so cruel, let's just not take it seriously and let's have a laugh. I really want to encompass, when you see me perform, that you're on the edge of your seat because you don't know what is gonna' come out of my mouth next. I will say anything that I think is funny. Like, last night I was on stage - and I don't know why - but I turned to the lady sitting in the front and just said I said, "I can't wait to go home and flick my bean." I just thought of it and it shot out of my mouth. I have no fear.

Amazing!

I will perform anywhere, I just love performing. One of my favorite shows that I'm performing on right now is I've been hosting a show in L.A. with Adam Hunter at The Dime Bar every Tuesday at 8pm. He's from the Tonight Show and Chelsea Lately- and he's been one of my biggest mentors in comedy. He's one of the most fearless, unapologetic and sharpest comics that I know. He books the best comics every single week and he's fantastic. I admire people who take risks.

I'll make sure he's in, cause I love when I sit there and get taken places I never expected to go.

Exactly. Cherish the people who make you laugh! The world is a darker place without us.

You have been recognized by publications like HuffPost - there are numerous publications that have profiled you and talked to you - now you're opening for Daniel Franzese. How does it feel as a human being to get this recognition? What is your thought process?

Truthfully, I'm proud of it. But I don't get caught up in the press or "fame," because I'm definitely not famous. For me, it truly is about the artistry. So many people in this business wanna be famous. I discredit that with a lot of people, because for me, it's truly about the art form. I've performed in casinos, theaters, pizzerias. I performed at an Uzbekistanian restaurant in front of three people that didn't speak English, and I think I ruined their meal.

What a lot of people don't realize is that when I first started, I had to work at comedy clubs where I took tickets to get five minutes of stage time. I had a nine-to-five job, and I would literally go into the city in the freezing cold to work the box office for four hours to go on stage for five minutes. But I need that connection to go on stage, so it wasn't even a question. I didn't care that I wasn't getting paid, I would do whatever it took to get on a stage. A lot people don't realize the work you have to put into it, because there's so many comics - there's so many of us. I think a lot of it is paying your dues and I certainly have many more dues to pay, but it is so cool to be recognized and feel like people understand what I'm trying to do. Most people don't realize the work and drive that goes into it. The reality is that you can be the best comic in the world, unless you bring in money for a venue, they're not gonna book you. You have to pay your dues. The money will come later, focus on building and polishing your act.

I know you said you don't want to be known as just a gay comedian, but recently queer comedians and queer people in general have become a driving force in mainstream popular culture. Do you think this opens up doors for other queer and gay comedians like yourself?

Here's my take on the whole thing. There still hasn't been like a gay male comedian in mainstream culture. They're embraced by places like Logo and Bravo. I want to see gay male comics in places like NBC and CBS and the power players There are so many popular women comics like Ellen and Wanda Sykes. It amazes me that there still hasn't been a male breakout star. I think the industry is definitely embracing more queer people. But I'd like to see it more in general than specific avenues. I like to think of it as a tipping affect. We all have to work together to get it to overflow. I don't think comedy's first break out star will be someone who wears a fedora. I think it's going to be someone who wears a suit, works on Wall Street, and then goes to the bath house after hours. Someone passable and I hope the industry proves me wrong.

One last question! You've accomplished so much, and you're incredibly funny. It seems like the only way you can go is up. What is your biggest goal as a comedian? When you were seventeen, what was the one dream that moved you forward?

My goal has always been the same - it hasn't changed since I was seventeen. I want to be somebody who pushes the envelope. I would love to be a talk show host and at the core, I would love to have a show that just makes people happy. It shows you fun conversations - it shows you viewpoints to the world that you haven't seen before. I would like to be somebody who breaks down the walls for gay people. I want to see gay people in all the main stages and clubs instead of one or two here or there. My act, that I've been tweaking, polishing and growing for years, is for a straight audience. Sure, I perform for gay crowds too, but I want my act to be for everyone. I want to have a polished and tight heavy-hitting comedy club act. There's a rule in comedy that you have to have a laugh every twenty seconds, and I hold myself to that rule. It's kind of like being an assassin, comedically, of course.

I know I said that was the last question, but have you thought about what your talk show would be called?

Nick, just Nick. I'd want rapid fire topics, and do interviews, but not with just celebrities. I want to talk to real people. I want to help people. The core of who I am is that I want to make people feel good.

Keep Reading Show less
Humor

Inside the Barbershop | A Night of Comedy

Self-Hailed as "The Hottest Weekly Comedy Show in the East Village," "Greatest Show Ever" Goes on Every Friday at 8:00 and 10:15 PM at Original Barbershop, 174 East Second Street, Lower East Side

There's a crowd forming outside "Original Barbershop" every Friday night, and for good reason.

Although the first show hasn't let out yet, over a dozen young professionals gather outside the dimly-lit, vintage-style barber shop in anticipation for the second show. Given the prime time and location for going out – 10:00 PM on a Friday, smack in the middle of the East Village – the fact that this show is such a popular choice speaks volumes about its draw.

Before the last of the 8 PM crowd even trickles out, the impatient bystanders try to push their way in to grab a seat on a rickety chair, a sunken bench dragged in from the sidewalk, a counter-top, anything that works. A few lights, a solitary microphone, and rearranged chairs transform the barbershop into a intimate, cozy performance space. I can't help but feel out of place in an audience that looks like I walked into the cast party of every CW show ever made; this does not look like the comedy scene that I am accustomed to, and yet "Greatest Show Ever" has much to brag about.

NYC stand up comedy is legendary in general:

But Greatest Show Ever is building something truly special, with comedians like Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) and Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show).

RESERVE TICKETS FOR NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT! HERE

A crowd forms outside before the 10:15 showPhoto by Mike Lavin

The true gem of this show is producer and host Lev Fer's ability to pull together a stellar group of performers. I have rarely been to a show that highlighted so much diversity without having a specific "diversity" theme – diversity in background, content, and performance style. Molly Austin took us back to the embarrassment of childhood with a spur-of-the-moment tale about a distinctly embarrassing dental mishap, which she delivered perfectly with a blend of awkward-coy.

Jared Waters brought such warmth and reality to his stories about being the only black teacher at a Jewish Prep School; his fondness for his wife and his prank-prone students can't help but shine through. We got the Irish immigrant's perspective of America from Sean Finnerty, complete with a very strict lecture on the legal difference between loitering and prowling.

Jamar NeighborsPhoto by Mike Lavin

Ashley Hesseltine breathed new life to jokes about basic white womanhood; she could've easily given us ten minutes of "wine and bad boyfriends, amirite LADIES?", and instead she gave us vulnerability and raw honesty (who among us DOESN'T relate to stalking the ex that they dumped?). Jamar Neighbors ( Keanu, Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle) takes home the gold in terms of showmanship; his physicality (at one point an updated homage to Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks") made him a standout performer, challenging the reserved poise of the audience with his wild command of the stage.

Host and Co-Producer Lev FerPhoto by Mike Lavin

Fer, as host, has the necessary gift of improvisation; the middle of his opening set was interrupted when the barbershop phone rang loudly next to the stage – it was an audience member from the previous show, wondering if he could stop and look for her keys. A hilarious three minutes or so of riffing ensued before he hung up on her. To this day, who knows what became of her keys?

The show's co-producer, Ronnie Lordi, closed out the night with a solid set – if West Virginia was on my list of honeymoon destinations, I would've crossed it off immediately after hearing his wild bachelor party tale. Fer and Lordi clearly exhibit a knack for crowd work, and an even greater talent for producing.

Co-producer Ronnie LordiPhoto by Mike Lavin

If anything needs to change, it's this: if most of the shows are as successful as the one I saw, then it's time for "GSE" to expand. Admittedly, the atmosphere of a small vintage barber shop in the East Village offers a uniquely charming "comedy pop-up" experience that larger comedy clubs cannot offer. However, performers like these deserve a larger audience, and a larger audience deserves to see them, preferably seated in real chairs, ones that don't feel like they could give at any second. That being said, should Fer and Lordi opt to keep their current location, I will wholeheartedly testify that the jokes outweigh everything else.


Katie Skiff is a writer, comedian, and actor based out of Brooklyn, NY. You can check her out on Twitter for bad jokes and on Instagram for gratuitous photos of her cat, Spinach.


POP⚡DUST | Read More...

Crocs! The Musical is a Comfortable Fit

Nicky Paris Talks his Career, Artistry, and Opening for Mean Girls' Daniel Franzese

Tig Notaro's New Netflix Special Is AWESOME (& Jennifer Aniston Agrees)

Arts

Crocs! The Musical is a Comfortable Fit

It's Bringing the Laughs at the New York Theatre Festival

It's an off-hand premise, such as might be the title of a MAD TV sketch: a musical about Crocs...

And that is exactly what it is. Kelly Flatley and Maddie Powell's debut musical, part of the New York Theatre Festival, performed at the Hudson Guild, is a musical romantic comedy about two young people obsessed with a particularly unfashionable (yet fashionable) brand of breathable sandal. These shoes form the basis for their whole personality, and fill their lives with the only meaning they need or want. When the tyrannical business oligarch who owns the franchise decides to close the store where their beloved quarry is peddled, they assemble a ragtag team of misfits to fight the power. They experience tragedy, family, and love as they go through their misadventures in comfortable footwear.

Crocs!

This show is exactly what you expect it to be based on the flyer. It has cute songs, fun gags, broad silly characters, and it wraps up just before it outstays its welcome. Throw in a few fourth wall breaks and hints of meta-humor for flavor, and there you have it, ready to go and neatly packaged. There's no reinvention of the wheel, no breaking of new ground, but everything on display is fun and enjoyable. Though it's self-aware, it's not quite self-aware enough to be deconstructive. Though it's at times cynical, it's not cynical enough to be a commentary on anything. Whilst it's surprising to its audience, it never seeks to challenge them either. It simply is what it is, which is a fun, unpretentious show that makes you smile and then ends.

As a debut effort by a group of talented young people (the show was written as a high school class assignment and then developed further) it's a promising first showing. Flatley's music and lyrics are catchy and fun. Powell's book has a solid gags-per-minute rate. The cast are all game, and appropriately bombastic in the archetypal roles, and all of this comes together neatly into a cohesive show that, like a good stand-up comic, comes up to its spot, tells its jokes, and leaves the audience feeling good.

All of the people involved are going to continue upwards on to bigger things. Which is why the show can be forgiven for its technical shortcomings. Head-mics are inconsistently taped, the musical wiring varies between adequate and borderline negligent, and the set is, pretty literally, thin on the ground. The cast make up for it by being plucky, charismatic, and endlessly entertaining, but it does make you wonder how much more these people would be able to do with a stronger technical support system around them. One day, probably quite soon, they will have that, and that's a show you definitely won't want to miss.

Crocs!

Overall, Crocs! The Musical recommends itself as a simple, straightforward comedy, about simple, straightforward shoes, featuring simple, straightforward characters. You will not leave this show with your world rocked, but you will leave it with a smile on your face. Moreover, you will leave wanting to keep an eye on the names involved in this, because at the very least they're going to stick around and make theatre. At the very most… who knows?

Check out the New York Theatre Festival!

Thomas Burns Scully is a Popdust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

POP⚡DUST | Read More…

F*** Yeah It's Summer. The NSFW Anthem You Didn't Know You Needed

Eddie Izzard: transgender, hilarious, and heartbreaking

'Pop Punk High', a pop punk musical comedy? Um... yes please!

Humor

Alex Jones Crashed a Marco Rubio Interview

This is Just What America is Now. Get Over It.

If you don't spend 6-8 hours a day online, it's entirely possible that you, like Senator Marco Rubio, haven't heard of Alex Jones or Info Wars.

This is Alex Jones on his show InfoWars:

prostheticlivesinthememoryhole.files.wordpress.com

He's famous for taking his shirt off (a lot), yelling in a voice that's somewhere between Father Coughlin's and Dave Grohl's, and waxing poetic about the government "putting chemicals in the water that turn the freakin' frogs gay." If for some reason you want more information, here's Super Deluxe's indie folk remix of his most conspiratorial rantings:

Anyway, earlier today, the Internet's favorite maniac took time out of his busy schedule of hawking useless dietary supplements and getting kicked off of Facebook and YouTube for being too racist to hijack an interview session Marco Rubio was having with the press. Jones came in shouting about how he's being persecuted and silenced by "big tech companies" and that these companies are "purging conservatives" from their (the tech companies') websites.

Rubio tried to respond calmly, but Jones pressed on shouting over the other reporters and insisting that his freedoms were being assaulted. Unable to ignore the shouting, foaming blob-man any longer, Rubio turned and said, "Listen man, I just don't know who you are." This was a critical error. As any city-dweller knows, if an insane person is shouting at you on the street, you never engage. This is one of the few instances in which ignoring the problem makes it go away.

Alex Jones responded with more vitriol, claiming Rubio was just pretending not to know about InfoWars. The climax of the interaction occurred after Jones called Rubio a "little frat boy" and placed his hand on his shoulder, at which point a secret service agent told Jones to step back. Jones, acting stunned, asked if Rubio was going to "get [him] arrested." Rubio responded point blank, "You're not going to get arrested. I'll take care of it myself."

As an increasingly annoyed-looking newswoman tried to ask Rubio questions about online regulation, Jones continued to hound everyone who would listen, blabbering about how "the Democrats are raping the Republicans [and] raping InfoWars." No one thought to ask him what this means. Eventually, Rubio walked away from the press briefing, saying "we gotta go to the committee, you guys can talk to this clown."

In the end, we're left with more questions than answers. Here are a few of them:

-Is Alex Jones insane?

-Does Alex Jones have a parasite eating the inside of his brain?

-Is it contagious?

-Is it from space?

-When he touched Marco Rubio, did he infect him with said parasite?

-Is Congress in danger of being infected with space parasites?

-Is this the end of America as we know it?


Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

THE OPTION | The Last Giant

THE OPTION | The Stafford Effect

THE OPTION | Catalan Independence and What It Means for Barcelona Soccer

Interviews

Interview | Alexandra Silber Cuts Wit with Wisdom in New Memoir, 'White Hot Grief Parade'

The Broadway Actress Talks Death, This Extraordinary Life & Her 17-Year-Old Self

Silber digs into the death of her father in a just-published memoir.

Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods was the very first production I ever worked on during my acting studies at West Virginia University. I can remember it quite vividly. The potato sack-inspired garments stuck to my skin; the costume designer wanted even the crew to be as ingrained in the already-meta production as the cast. A thick heat blanketed the backstage like a tightly-knitted woolen sweater, and even the zigging and zagging of the cast between the trembling shadows and makeshift trees couldn't assuage the temperature.

It was a dazzling but humble production. If you've only ever listened to the soundtrack (the official Broadway cast version or the 2014 blockbuster Hollywood re-up), you'll know exactly how striking the score, the performances, the unbridled sense of whimsy feels in your gut. Within the nearly 15-minute prologue, the story's message clubs you over the head. "Into the woods, it's time to go / It may be all in vain, I know / Into the woods, but even so / I have to take the journey," Cinderella and the Baker vow, mustering up the courage to venture into the dark, twisty woods. Regardless of what may lie ahead, they dive into the unexpected adventure.

And so is life.

It's full of devastation, disappointment and death. Oh, there's lots of death. And you can never be ready for it.

Accomplished Broadway actress Alexandra Silber (Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Again, Master Class) opens up for the first time on her own brush with death — that of her charming, clever and passionate father, who succumbed to cancer in 2001— in her emotional new memoir, White Hot Grief Parade. She offers up sly, dry wit as only she can, decorating the sorrow of tragedy in a hopeful, painstaking journey from darkness to enlightenment. In an especially poignant chapter, titled "I Wish / I Know," an obvious reference to Into the Woods, she situates her misery amongst the gnarled tentacles of the woods.

"Little Red, my eighteen-year-old self, and Cinderella, the self of today. Would that I could look that eighteen-year-old girl straight in the eye, as Cinderella does for Little Red. I wish I could tell her that she is absolutely right — this is the bottom of the well of human pain," Silber writes, eloquently shading what would soon become ripened wisdom on the aftereffects of heartache, the kind of which no one should ever have to endure.

Pegasus Books

She continues, "That her innocence is shattered, her childhood at its end. Loss like this will never be 'OK,' darling girl, I would say. It will only grow familiar and thus less harrowing. There may never be anything deeper or more painful to wish away, ever again. But now? Now Little Red has earned her passage to the human race. She may now arrive upon humanity's shores as the inextinguishable woman she is destined to become — that this exact tragedy, in time, if she allows it, will make her soul the richer and escort her to her highest self."

Pouring her heart out one vignette at a time, Silber's words carry a message as timely as Sondheim's, drenched in the "things that make it worth the journeying," so to speak. "The greatest 'Into the Woods' ache is that I will likely never get to play Little Red — which is the character I have always felt the most aligned with," writes Silber to Popdust over a recent email. "She is the one who faces so much trauma and loss so early in her life. I suppose a part of me will always 'be' her."

"While I would certainly never turn down an opportunity to play Sondheim's Cinderella, I do feel I have worked through a great deal of her arc through my own life," she observes, weighing the significance of the fantastical characters to her own tangible reality. "As I also say in [the book], as an actor, I have never seen myself 'inside' 'Into the Woods' — uncertain which character is ideally right for me to embody and breathe life into. It's simply a piece I always feel I am seeing from the outside. Perhaps, that means I am the Narrator..."

Having lost my own father four years ago, White Hot Grief Parade reads as much as Silber's personal recount as words I wish I had the strength to say. And that's the stinger. Death rips through all of our lives sooner or later, and Silber just happened to have experienced the brutal cycle of life a bit earlier than some of us. "I think that has been the most overwhelming and rewarding part," she says of readers and others who have personally reached out to her. "Why write a book about grief and your own boring, excessively ordinary life if not to connect to others about theirs; and thus discover that nothing is boring, and no one is ordinary at all."

Life is an extraordinary thing if you really think about it. It's a one-take deal, and it certainly is thrilling. "You get what you give in this one glorious life. By leading with authenticity and vulnerability, by exposing your inner-most soft places — and merely exposing, not flooding or forcing your experience down someone's unwilling throat — we allow others to behold them, at their own capacity and tempo," says Silber. "Calm exposure invites one to ask the age old human question: 'You too?' And that exercise welcomes people to truly connect with one another. "I am so grateful to all who have been courageous enough to share their stories with me. It has been the greatest reward of this entire process."

Below, Silber spoke with Popdust about collecting up her memories, the book's dynamic narrative structure, questions she has for God and estranged family.

Alexandra Silber

Even knowing the background of your memoir, I could never have expected the journey you take the reader on. It's emotional, raw, earnest, and witty. Did finding and delivering that balance take time to craft?

The experience of chronicling memories, particularly traumatic ones, will always take time to craft, a deliberate energy, and a ton of discipline. But did the tone of the book require fine-tuning? Not really. I chronicled the memories much as I experienced them — at one moment poignant and devastating, the next flat out hilarious or even preposterous, followed by more honest devastation. That is, of course, much how true life ebbs and flows. We laugh through our tears; we cry in moments of joy. There is no one label that could ever fully capture the essence of an event, a period of time or even a single moment. I documented the memories as I recalled them — in all their genre-busting detail.

Why did you begin the book with the list of things you'd tell your 17-year-old self?

The beginning of each of the five "sections," as well as the Epilogue, begin with a return of the adult Alexandra voice, speaking directly to the reader about events from the present day that are in direct relation to the events of my/her father's death. They are "echoes," if you will, that resonate in the present, informed by the past. After those introductory section chapters, we continue with the narrative of 2001.

First, I chose to speak to my 17-year-old self, because that was the last time I was truly innocent to the events chronicled in the book — the age of my personal "BC." Some of the advice is witty and typical stuff we as adults all realize we were idiots about back then ("buy Frizz ease"), and some is very weighty ("go on all the walks with him and tell him all the things"). Second, it was important to me to create a structure that calmed the reader instantly by establishing that the narrator of this book was Alexandra Silber: contemporary adult who "turned out okay" and maybe a little bit more than "fine." While, in contrast, the protagonist of this tale is an 18-year-old "Al" who has not yet acquired the perspective and wisdom of the narrator. She is just experiencing the events in real time.

The "things you'd tell my 17-year-old self" was a clear way to establish that there was going to be an ongoing interchange between Al and Alexandra (if you will) throughout this book and creates for the reader a subconscious understanding that our protagonist is not yet fully processed, while our narrator is. Those two "characters" just happen to be the same person — 17 years apart.

Throughout writing this book, did you ever feel you were being torn apart emotionally all over again or was it more of a cathartic release?

I'll answer in the style of the book:

The structure of the book is so layered and complex. Each chapter works as a vignette of a time, place, and emotion. How did you make decisions when to write the chapter out as a stage play or a word puzzle, for instance?

If you examine the book intricately, you come to sneakily discover that not only does the overall narrative storytelling style switch genres chapter-by-chapter, but within the chapters themselves, the writing switches its genres like some sort of bizarre, out-of-control improv game. I suppose that is why I used this format.

To be honest, it wasn't entirely a conscious creative choice. At first, it was a very necessary personal exercise. The flipping of genres and formats was the result of me attempting to personally express the experience of grief as directly and emotionally accurately as possible, and I found I couldn't always do that in traditional prose. Some things cannot always be described — they must be intimated as like a photographic snapshot that is worth "a thousand words" (the use of mazes, cryptogram, and haiku). Some things are in fact too painful to look at directly or described in the first person (that was often when I used the scenes). Oddly, the overall effect is very much like grief itself — not just every day, but every minute is a new rush of experience, information and feeling rushing toward you like a freight train. One has no control over it; one must simply endure and surrender to the "parade."

In addition to grieving and overcoming pain, the book really seems to explore keeping up appearances in a lot of ways. What did this tragedy instill within you about that and how society so often avoids talking about death?

Death is the Great Unknown, and most human beings love nothing more than snuggling up and getting all cozy with certainty. The trouble is — certainty hardly ever truly exists in our lives. The greatest fears all living things hold within them is the loss of someone they love, and the loss of their own lives. Avoiding death and survival instinct are built in to the tiniest amoebas, and they don't even have an intricate death mythology or structure of beliefs about an afterlife. Humanity has been mythologizing death since we had cognizance, one to make peace with it for our own demise, but also to ease the profound suffering of being left behind in death by anyone we love.

Around Christmas my mom and I were going through some of her life treasures in the basement. "Oh I like those shoes," I said salivating slightly. "Patience, Al, you can borrow them now but you keep them when I'm dead." "Roger that, Mom." "Cheer up. You'll get it all when I'm dead! Who am I gonna leave it to — the cat?" This level of banter is pretty standard for us.

But the other day I experienced a very special career highlight, and my wonderful, witty mother was there to bear witness. We have an unspoken tradition where after every major life event of mine (such as an opening night, a book launch, a concert), she takes me aside, and we pause a few minutes to revel in what has just transpired. After we did that, I paused and said: "Mom. Just so you know, this tradition means everything to me." "Me too," she replied. "And," I continued after reflecting a moment, "I don't know about the details of the afterlife and all that, but I'm just letting you know now, that if you do get to come back and haunt or visit or say hi, this 'after the show' moment would be when I'd really like to know you're popping in." "Okay," she said, then smirking added "Good talk."

We laughed. Life and death and real-talk chat is no big deal to the Silber ladies anymore. As you can see, the ability to so blithely operate in that kind of dialogue does not put a damper on the joyous occasion. It made it even more memorable, without being a huge downer. Taking death and grief out and looking at them directly seems unpleasant, unnecessary and downright "grim," but it removes the stigma from a human experience every single one of us is going to have sooner or later, and avoiding the subject is not going to prevent it, and certainly not the solution for making any kind of peace with it.

My suggestion is to very simply: think and talk about it. Recognize that you might be avoiding the subject out of discomfort or fear. The more you accept the reality of death and grief, the more you can get on with the business of truly investing in and fully living your life.

Why did you make the choice to fictionalize Rabbi Syme?

What a wonderful question. Ah, beautiful beautiful Rabbi Daniel Syme. I went about fictionalizing the real Rabbi Syme (who is chronicled literally in WHGP) into the a fictional version that captured his spirit, in the Rabbi Syme. The real Rabbi Daniel Syme was a crucial advocate to and for not only me, but to and for my father's human legacy.

Fictional Rabbi Syme (in 'After Anatevka') is based very loosely upon the real-life Rabbi Syme — loosely because my description in the novel is not so much a literal, but more of an evocative, recollection and honoring of his influence. Real-life Rabbi Syme and I only spent a collection of minutes together in 2001, but they were crucial minutes. He gave me the gift of delivering the eulogy at my father's funeral service, as well as bearing witness to it when he led the funeral service, and above all, he gave me an hour of his time months later, reminding me of what was eternal, and chartering a map toward the beauty, strength and individuality of my faith. Irreplaceable gifts one can never forget. The fictional version of the character was my way of honoring the man who was my father's advocate, and thus, Perchik's (who is modeled in many ways after my father). He was also my first spiritual teacher of any kind.

The influence of Rabbi Syme proves another true-to-life maxim: that we never know the depth of the influence we have upon one another. A fleeting moment to one, might bear a lifetime of profundity to another, for better and for worse. So, it is in these tiny actions that we must recognize that our influence on Earth is vast, has meaning, and should never be taken for granted.

[Silber has also shared further thoughts in posts on her blog, which you can read here]

In the chapter called "Grandparental Gunfight," you receive a letter from the Silber Family, who vow to cut you and your mother out of their lives. Do you remain estranged from them? Have any of your father's family reached out about this memoir?

My grandparents have passed away, and I genuinely hope they are resting in peace despite their trash can behavior. My father's siblings, cousins, and all their children? They know where how to find me if they want to. They clearly do not, and that is absolutely okay.

I have heard from my brother (more on that in a moment) that my aunt comes to see me sometimes in Broadway plays but doesn't tell me about it. She buys a ticket, attends, and leaves without a word. There is something quite touching in that and yet also extremely odd. I feel especially sad about my aunt because as liberal, artistic Jewish women, I always thought we'd have so much in common. I'd entertain that dialogue as long as we never had to comb over the minutia of the past. Life is too short, and I have personally found my peace.

In the acknowledgements, I state that I decline to chronicle on my half brother Jordan's arc of this story, his relationships to both our father and his family. Jordan, his beautiful family and I enjoy a very close relationship that grows closer every day. I felt strongly that first, his story was not mine to tell, and second, in reality, we were so separated at the time that the book takes place that declining to mention him was somewhat accurate to my experience of the events. I adore them all and feel that our close relationship is the ultimate triumph of our family's dysfunctional history.

With the chapter "Where Memories," you state that you "have always clutched fiercely onto ordinary moments." As I was reading the book, I had a pad of sticky notes and immediately scrawled "Anton Chekhov," whose plays featured plots with very little actually happening (The Cherry Orchard is a favorite). Many people don't or aren't willing to find the poeticism in the mundane, the little moments that don't seem to mean anything on the surface. Is it human nature to only remember the big, life-changing moments?

It is interesting you mention Anton Chekov and 'The Cherry Orchard.' I don't state it directly, but the "mysterious man" Perchik meets in the Moscow bar in 1903 (about two-thirds of the way through 'After Anatevka') is indeed Anton Chekhov. I drop about a dozen or so clues, even going so far as to have Perchik inspire Chekhov with the phrase "All Russia is our orchard…" but I never state it explicitly. It was my little nod to the theatre.

I don't think it is human nature to only focus on big life moments — I think many people vividly recall the seemingly minute details of their lives. What I think most people do not practice is the meaning-making around and of these details. Making meaning of our lives is why many people participate in religion, why they read and go to the theatre, why they read horoscopes and attend spiritual gatherings. Not every human being finds meaning-making fruitful — some prefer to live utterly in the present, and that is okay if it works for them.

I happen to be a person who not only enjoys, but needs to make meaning of my and all human life. I do think I have a gift for creating a myth around an experience almost instantaneously, but as a few very wise friends have observed, sometimes my speedy ability to mythologize hijacks my experiencing of the moment itself. And noting that, I endeavor to stay fully aware in the present and make meaning later.

How would you urge the reader to learn to approach life as you do, in relishing the mundane and the ordinary?

By recognizing that absolutely nothing is mundane or ordinary.

But also: Pause. Breathe. Look in people's eyes. Ask thoughtful questions and really listen to the answers. Practice gratitude.

What questions do you still have for God?

Why so many Fast and the Furious movies, Big Guy?

and

BE HONEST ARE YOU JUDGE JUDY?

Concerning everyone who helped you through this tragedy, are you still in contact with them?

All of them. 'Grey' is a hugely successful theatrical designer. 'Kent' is changing the world working for a State Senator and just had a baby. Lilly is still my best friend and plays oboe all over the world. I saw her last month at the Metropolitan Opera playing Strauss at American Ballet Theater. They are, all, triumphs of human beings.

Follow Alexandra Silber on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Jason Scott is a freelance entertainment journalist with bylines in B-Sides & Badlands, Billboard, PopCrush, Ladygunn, Greatist, AXS, Uproxx, Paste and many others. Follow him on Twitter.


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

READY TO POP | Harrison Wheeler, Haley Vassar & More Pour Out Shots of Sugar

Popdust Presents | Shane Hendrix is Ready for His Close-Up

Interview | Emily Kinney Chronicles On-Again, Off-Again Romance on New Album, 'Oh, Jonathan'

© 2020 Popdust Inc. All Rights Reserved.