Concerned Interview: John Wenzel, Author of Mock StarsNina Barry
As concerned citizens, Donnybrook turns our sharpened critical eyes on emerging artists – to make sure they’re up to our standards, see? In this interview, Angora Holly Polo fires tough questions at John Wenzel, author of Mock Stars, a book that examines indie rock and indie comedy and their dirty, indie-style commingling. His book release Nov. 16th at the Larimer Lounge will be a comedy and music party, with performances from comedians Ben Kronberg, Adam Cayton-Holland and the whole Wrist Deep Productions crew, as well as indie rock bands Everything Absent or Distorted, Rabbit is a Sphere, and We Are! We Are!.
Question the First:
Do you think writing a book on comedy has made you funnier? What, you think you’re an expert on funny now? Why are you such an asshole?
Writing and researching the book exposed me to a broader swath of comedy than I’d normally consume, but mostly I tried to sit back and let the comedians and their material be funny. As a lifelong asshole, I’ve at least learned my place.
List all of the indie comedians you made out with for this book. Or at least talk about the one you got closest to making out with. Or just talk about the indie comedians you had any contact with at all. Or just talk about the comedian you would be most like to make out with.
Making out with David Cross was really cool (though he was unshaven and his beard was scratchy). I was later disappointed to wake up and find out it was something called “a dream.”
Pretend I’m from the future and I lived in a cave without internet access and explain the movement of indie comedy to me.
First, I would want to know what kind of stuff you do on the weekends in that future cave. Second, I’d tell you that back in the 1990s and early 2000s, a group of comedians broke from the traditional comedy club format familiar to most of us through endless “Seinfeld” reruns and began taking cues from the indie music world and conducting their shows DIY-style. Which is to say, playing indie music venues, releasing their albums on labels like Sub Pop, Matador and Drag City, and performing alongside indie bands at music festivals. The upside is that a new audience was brought into the live stand-up and sketch comedy world. The downside is that the great Showalter-Galifianakis war of 2012 means you now live in a fucking cave.
Imagine you’re competing for a reality show called “Mock Stars” in which ten other contestants wrote a book on indie comedy called “Mock Stars.” Explain to the judges why you shouldn’t be eliminated.
My sparkling personality and Italian chicken recipe should be reason enough. But I’d probably also argue that my “Mock Stars” gets to the heart of the scene by including lots of research and personal, in-depth interviews with major players such as David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Neil Hamburger, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford, Jon Wurster, Eugene Mirman, Aziz Ansari and your mom.
Question the Fifth:
You know that reading is hard, right? What will you give people (prize money, getaways) to actually read an entire book?
If you read “Mock Stars” cover to cover, I’ll personally mow your lawn. With my face.
If you could choose one really punk rock indie musician and one really punk rock DIY comedian to have babies together, who would they be? Describe the setting of conception.
I think Jon Wurster (drummer for Superchunk, Mountain Goats, etc.) and Morgan Murphy (the Comedians of Comedy) would have awesome children. Their senses of humor would be as dry as the bed of South American forest twigs on which they were conceived. I’d also like to see Aimee Mann and Todd Barry have a kid. Just because.
Question the G.1: Besides cheaper drink specials, why is it better for comedians to perform in concert venues and stuff?
Audiences at traditional comedy clubs are often just there to see whatever’s on that night, as if they were going bowling or seeing a romantic comedy at the cineplex. In indie music venues and theaters, people are often there to see a specific comedian. The vibe is better when you’re as amped to see your favorite comedian as you are your favorite band. Also, it’s cheaper to get in the door at indie music venues (no two-drink minimums), and the performers can usually experiment more. Most importantly, the painful, soul-destroying presence of bachelorette and birthday parties is almost non-existent.
It’s unanimous: Donnybrook officially endorses any piece of literature on such decidedly underground movements; that, and the Manor is in sore need of a face-lawn-mowing. Go to the release party November 16th!