Jay Ruttenberg

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To take a break from this Trump-soaked moment in America, I highly recommend the just-published Issue #10 of The Lowbrow Reader, an excellent zine about comedy and more edited by Jay Ruttenberg. It’s only four bucks and filled with all sorts of interesting writing and art.

Hollywood writer-director Amy Heckerling offers a funny faux diary supposedly written by Joseph Goebbels about his boss and secret crush, only identified as “A.H.” I liked life so much better before this piece would have been considered timely.

Ruttenberg’s personal essay “White Light” explores the way serious and trivial art both shape us and sometimes intersect. The Velvet Underground, Steve Urkel, Menudo and Al Franken all come into play. The writer describes the focal point of the 1980s sitcom Silver Spoons this way: “Ricky Schroeder, its pipsqueak star, was seemingly scouted from his previous work, modeling for Hitlerjugend propaganda posters.” Wait a minute, that line also feels a little too timely!

Engel Schmidl penned a piece about Bill “the Balloon Man” Morrison, a wry monologist and sort of proto-Steve Martin who began twisting latex and ideas in the 1960s, and Brian Abrams recalls his eight-year-old self enjoying a very glancing (yet meaningful) relationship with Mel Brooks.

Drew Friedman shares a brilliant caricature of Shemp Howard, an original stage Stooge who rejoined the popular comedy team on film after his younger brother, Curly, suffered a stroke. Friedman, who regularly applies his photorealistic talents to entertainment legends, has been deservedly called the “Vermeer of the Borscht Belt” by Penn Jillette, who is a juggler or something. There’s more wonderful artwork by Gilbert Gottfried, Jeffrey Lewis, John Mathias, etc.

Order before the world ends, which will happen very soon!

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Emily Nussbaum, the New Yorker TV critic, is as good as it gets, a dynamite writer and thinker. The latest example is “Last Girl in Larchmont,” a postmortem of Joan Rivers and her singular (and sometimes disquieting) brand of feminism. It’s a perfect bookend to Jay Ruttenberg’s 2007 late-life Heeb portrait of the comic as she was climbing to the top one last time, hoping for a final hurrah which indeed arrived. From Nussbaum’s piece:

Onstage and on TV, she had a girl-next-door cuteness, a daffiness and a vulnerability, that lent a sting to her observations: if this nice Barnard coed, in her black dress and pearls, saw herself as a hideous loser, clearly the game was rigged.

As the rare female New Comedian, Rivers’s persona also hit a nerve, playing as it did off a contemporary slur, the Jewish American Princess. In 1959, Norman Mailer had published a notorious short story, “The Time of Her Time,” in which a bullfighter gives a Jewish college girl her first orgasm by means of sodomy and the phrase “dirty little Jew”; the same year, Philip Roth published “Goodbye, Columbus,” with its iconic Princess, Brenda Patimkin. In 1971, Julie Baumgold wrote a cover story for New York, at once disdainful and sympathetic, called “The Persistence of the Jewish American Princess,” portraying the type as a spoiled girl who wouldn’t cook or clean. Obsessively groomed, the JAP has been crippled by her mother, who refuses to let her daughter call herself ugly. She’s “the soul of daytime drama,” waiting for a rich man to save her: “Clops and blows come from Above, but still she expects. It isn’t mere hope; it is her due.”

Rivers took that sexist bogeywoman and made it her own, raging at society from inside the stereotype: she was the Princess who did nothing but call herself ugly. She vomited that news out, mockingly, yearningly, with a shrug or with a finger pointed at the audience. “Arf, arf,” she’d bark, joking that a rapist had asked if they could just be friends. A woman I know used to sneak into the TV room, after her parents fell asleep, for the illicit thrill of seeing another woman call herself flat-chested. If Rivers’s act wasn’t explicitly feminist, it was radical in its own way: she was like a person trapped in a prison, shouting escape routes from her cell.•

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Here are 25 pieces of journalism from this year, alphabetized by author name, which made me consider something new or reconsider old beliefs or just delighted me.

  • Exodus” (Ross Andersen, Aeon) A brilliant longform piece that lifts off with Elon Musk’s mission to Mars and veers in deep and mysterious directions.
  • Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid” (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) Nobody speaks truth to race in America quite like Coates, and the outrage of Ferguson was the impetus for this spot-on piece about the deeply institutionalized prejudice of government, national and local, in the U.S.
  • The Golden Age of Journalism?” (Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch) The landscape has never been more brutal for news nor more promising. The author luxuriates in the richness destabilization has wrought.
  • Amazon Must Be Stopped” (Franklin Foer, The New Republic) Before things went completely haywire at the company, Foer returned some sanity to the publication in the post-Peretz period. This lucid article argues that Amazon isn’t becoming a monopoly but already qualifies as one.
  • America in Decay” (Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs) Strong argument that the U.S. public sector is so dysfunctional because of a betrayal of meritocracy in favor of special interests and lobbyists. The writer’s idea of what constitutes a merit-based system seems flawed, but he offers many powerful ideas.
  • What’s the Matter With Russia?” (Keith Gessen, Foreign Affairs) An insightful meditation about Putin’s people, who opt to to live in a fairy tale despite knowing such a thing can never have a happy ending.
  • The Dying Russians(Masha Gessen, New York Review of Books) Analysis of Russia’s high mortality rate suggests that the root cause is not alcohol, guns or politics, but simply hopelessness.  
  • Soak the Rich” (David Graeber, Thomas Piketty) Great in-depth exchange between two thinkers who believe capitalism has run amok, but only one of whom thinks it’s run its course.
  • The First Smile(Michael Graziano, Aeon) The Princeton psychology and neuroscience professor attempts to explain why facial expressions appear to be natural and universal.
  • The Creepy New Wave of the Internet” (Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books) The author meditates on the Internet of Things, which may make the world much better and much worse, quantifying us like never before.
  • Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming” (Stephen Hsu, Nautilus) A brisk walk through the process of genetic modification, which would lead to heretofore unknown brain power.
  • All Dressed Up For Mars and Nowhere to Go” (Elmo Keep, Matter) A sprawling look at the seeming futility of the MarsOne project ultimately gets at a more profound pointlessness–pursuing escape in a dying universe.
  • The Myth of AI” (Jaron Lanier, Edge) Among other things, this entry draws a neat comparison between the religionist’s End of Days and the technologist’s Singularity, the Four Horseman supposedly arriving in driverless cars.
  • The Disruption Machine” (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker) The “D” word, its chief promulgator, Clayton M. Christensen, and its circuitous narratives, receive some disruption of their own.
  • The Longevity Gap(Linda Marsa, Aeon) A severely dystopian thought experiment: Will the parallels of widening income disparity and innovations in medicine lead to two very different lifespans for the haves and have-nots?
  • The Genetics Epidemic” (Jamie F. Metzl, Foreign Affairs) Genetic modification studied from an uncommon angle, that of national-security concerns.
  • My Captivity(Theo Padnos, The New York Times Magazine) A harrowing autobiographical account of an American journalist’s hostage ordeal in the belly of the beast in Syria.
  • We Are a Camera” (Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker) In a time of cheap, ubiquitous cameras, the image, merely an imitation, is ascendant, and any event unrecorded seemingly has less currency. The writer examines the strangeness of life in the GoPro flow.
  • A Goddamn Death Dedication” (Alex Pappademas, Grantland) A knowing postmortem about Casey Kasem, America’s deejay when the world was hi-fi but before it became sci-fi.
  • In Conversation: Chris Rock” (Frank Rich, New York) The exchange about “black progress” is an example of what comedy does at its best: It points out an obvious truth that so many have missed.
  • The Mammoth Cometh” (Nathaniel Rich, The New York Times Magazine) A piece which points out that de-extinct animals won’t be exactly like their forebears, nor will augmented humans of the future be just like us. It’s progress, probably.
  • Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I’m Sorry(Hanna Rosin, The New Republic) Before the implosion of the publication, the writer wondered what it would mean to forgive her former coworker, an inveterate fabulist and liar, and what it would mean if she could not forgive.
  • Gilbert Gottfried: New York Punk” (Jay Ruttenberg, The Lowbrow Reader) Written by the only person on the list whom I know personally, but no cronyism is necessary for the inclusion of this excellent analysis of the polarizing comic, who’s likely more comfortable when at his most alienating.

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When I posted a piece from Jay Ruttenberg’s new Gilbert Gottfried article, it reminded me of his excellent 2007 profile of the recently deceased Joan Rivers for HEEB magazine. I would have linked to it earlier, but I had no idea it was online and ungated. If you were perplexed by the level of attention the comic’s protracted passing received, thinking she was just some mean and tacky lady, this piece will explain it to you. It’s one of the most insightful things I’ve ever read about her–or any comic. Rivers continued to do tiny shows in NYC spaces even after tremendous fame and wealth because she thought of comedy as a mission, as a palliative, even if the medicine was rough on the way down. She wasn’t playing small venues to hone material for more important gigs. These performances weren’t a means, they were an end. Every moment was important. An excerpt follows.

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Joan lives in the penthouse of an old limestone building in the lower regions of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, seconds from the park and, perhaps of greater importance, Bergdorf Goodman. The building was designed by Horace Trumbauer, architect of the gilded age; Ernest Hemingway once lived there. It has all the ostentation you would expect: an old-fashioned elevator with its own operator, ornate walls emblazoned with the type of gold trim traditionally favored by European monarchs, a book-filled library with a blazing fireplace and a stray piece of mink flopped across the sofa. Yet her duplex has a bright, loud vibe not in keeping with its grandeur. Phones ring incessantly, assistants converse in the background, her dogs race about and the help kibitz with their employer about their mutual affinity for The Sarah Silverman Program. On her sofa lies a needlepoint pillow reading, “I need a man to spoil me or I don’t need a man at all.”

Rivers has been busy. The previous evening, she flew into New York from a road gig and went straight from the airport to the Cutting Room. The comic was a fright from the plane, so her hairdresser met her at the club and fixed her up in the dingy hallway backstage. Hours later, she woke up and appeared on Martha Stewart Living, which she claims to love going on “because I take all her hors d’oeuvres home.” Without changing from the puffy red outfit she wore on Martha, Rivers retreated to her office and wrote real estate jokes in preparation for a corporate gig that evening for The Corcoran Group. When Joan says “Corcoran Group,” she employs the mocking tone one might use to send up the Prince of Wales. “They said to me, “We don’t want anything blue,’” Rivers rasps. “I love when they use the term ‘blue,’ because that tells you they’re over 35. I said, ‘Have you got the wrong chick.’”

She was disappointed with her previous night’s Cutting Room performance. “I had just come off a show that was so spectacular, and the audience wasn’t as good as the night before,” she says. “I mean, they didn’t know they weren’t good. They thought they had a terrific show. But I walked off and thought, ‘Achhh.’” Rivers starts cackling, as she does whenever she is about to say something inappropriate. “I started the night talking about 9/11,” she says, still laughing. “I hadn’t even warmed them up. That was my first subject. It was like, ‘Hello, good evening—so, who do you wish had died?’ There was a lot of gasping.”

The bit Rivers is referring to is among her most vicious. It finds her lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and asking her crowd, “If you knew what was going to happen on September 11th, who would you invite to breakfast at the World Trade Center? ‘Eggs benedict…Windows on the World… It’ll be our make-up brunch!’” Week in and week out, the funniest part of the joke isn’t the punch line so much as Rivers’ indignation when the audience falls silent. “Oh look at this room!” she’ll yell. “What are you, a bunch of Christians? You’re telling me there aren’t people you want to see dead? I could give you a list a mile long!”

On a good night, somebody might boo; on a great night, a person will walk out. “Somebody should be upset,” Rivers contends. “If you’re a comedian and people think, ‘Oh, she’s so nice,’ then what are you doing? You’re not contributing anything. Comedians are there to shake people up and make them face the truth. Because if you face the truth, you can get through anything.”

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What I love most about Gilbert Gottfried is that the persona he created is timeless and would seem appropriate in a Marx Brothers movie in the 1930s, animated into a Heckle and Jeckle cartoon in the 1940s, as a next-door neighbor on the Abbott & Costello TV show in the 1950s or on any comedy stage anywhere in America in 2014. Yet he really belongs to none of those things–or anything else. He immediately processes the context he’s in and gleefully deviates from everything, alienating everyone. He’s forever in search of the next punch bowl to piss in.

In the latest Lowbrow Reader comedy zine, Jay Ruttenberg has a tremendous essay about Gottfried. (The same edition also features two pages of the stand-up comic’s unusual drawings, which are reminiscent of the Early Serial Murderer school, and an excellent account of life somewhere alphabetically east of the D-List by the very funny Taylor Negron.) From the Gottfried piece:

“Gottfried is a club comic in an old-fashioned mold. He avoids the trendy comedy spots of downtown and Brooklyn, in all likelihood because they tend not to pay their performers. To see him in New York, one must brave Carolines on Broadway, a Times Square club that somehow even smells like 1992. Onstage, Gottfried stands at a hunch, nerdily engulfed in a size-too-large shirt. He squints his eyes as if to ward off a fart, a visual trademark as recognizable as Pryor’s gait or Rodney’s tie fidgets, and speaks in a matchless holler that could unnerve the dead. He devotes a surprising amount of his stage time to disparaging midgets. Blacks and Asians he can almost accept as human beings, the comedian reasons, but he must draw a line at midgets. He says that he would like nothing more than to approach a midget and punch him in his midget face. At this, Gottfried draws back his arm and punches the air in a manner suggesting that he has neither punched somebody himself nor witnessed a person getting punched, even in a movie or on television. With a grace reflecting his decades onstage, the comic makes a strangely endearing child molestation joke: He envies those fathers who manage to lure their wards into incestuous relations, as he cannot even convince his daughter to hold his hand while crossing the street. Gottfried concludes his set with material from his Dirty Jokes DVD and wraps up the evening by repeatedly yelling, ‘a little boy with cum in his mouth!’ The bulk of his set, however, is hardly blue. The comedian is a skilled impressionist, albeit mostly of long-deceased celebrities. Though not a prop comic, he ingeniously aids his impressions by placing strips of masking tape on his face—an elementary school cut-up gone pro. He does an extended bit about the sun and the moon that could kill in a third-grade classroom, as it did at Carolines.

Today’s younger comics, much like their indie-rock brethren, are mirrors of their audience: relatable figures in everyday clothes. They are slightly tweaked and often funny, but rarely dangerous. In contrast, nobody leaves a Gilbert Gottfried performance pleased that the comic thinks as they do. They leave believing that he is a deviant. He draws upon earlier eras of entertainment. He points to the ’80s, when he arose amidst walking cartoons like Pee-wee Herman and Andrew Dice Clay—both ultimately swallowed by their own creations—and loudmouths in colored leather. He is informed by the late ’70s, when he came of age surrounded by East Village punks—fellow Jewish geeks traumatized at home by Costanza parents and in the streets by a crumbling and forbidding city. Most of all, he evokes the fallen luminaries who ruled the Borscht Belt long before his time. It is their anarchic sensibility that Gottfried covets, reveres, and upholds. Of the fabled funny old men, he is the youngest.”

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I was recently gifted with a copy of the latest issue of the excellent Fashion Projects, which is edited by the beautiful (and pregnant) Francesca Granata. The presumed father of the child, Jay Ruttenberg, editor of the Lowbrow Reader Reader and a favorite of hoboes everywhere, is a contributor.

This issue focuses exclusively on fashion criticism and has interviews with Guy Trebay, Suzy Menkes, Judith Thurman and others. You can sample and purchase it hereAn excerpt from Granata’s conversation with New Yorker writer Thurman:

Fashion Projects: 

I was wondering how you came to your current post writing about fashion at the New Yorker?

Judith Thurman: 

It was sort of happenstance. I followed fashion, but not professionally. I had worked at The New Yorker before I left to write the biography of Colette. David Remnick, who had just taken up the editorship of the magazine in 1999 said, ‘Why don’t you come back and work for us? I know you can write about books and art, but what else can you do? Is there something else you really want to do?’ To which I replied ‘Actually I would love to write about fashion. I think I would always be an outsider; I am not going to write about it as an insider, like my great friend Holly Brubach a wonderful fashion critic who covered the collections. I said I don’t want to do that and you don’t want me to do it.’  He said, ‘You are right.’ So that’s how I started.

Fashion Projects:

So you started writing about fashion, somewhat recently, in the last decade or so. What drew you to the subject?

Judith Thurman:

I see it as an important element of culture and itself a culture. That really interests me. It is a form of expression, a kind of language dealing with identities. And the aesthetic of it also drew me to it. I love clothes and couture and its history is very interesting to me. For instance, I have always gone to museums and studied the clothing in the paintings. However, I don’t particularly like the fashion world and I try not to write about the business side of it.

Fashion Projects:

So you see yourself more as a cultural critic writing about fashion as opposed to a more traditional fashion critic covering the collections?

Judith Thurman:

Yes, although I have written about the collections. I used to go once a year to do one collection, whether it was menswear or couture or Paris or New York. I kind of stopped doing that. They were very hard pieces to write, since I wasn’t actually critiquing the clothes, I was trying to find some sort of zeitgeist that was coming out of the collections.”•

Jay Ruttenberg: Stole wardrobe from scarecrow.

Jay Ruttenberg: Dresses like a scarecrow.

I find that insulting.

I resent that.

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This post is the final reminder about tonight’s publication party for Jay Ruttenberg’s excellent humor compilation, The Lowbrow Reader Reader, at 7pm at the Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan. (See details and directions.) There will be great entertainment by Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, singer-songwriter Adam Green of Moldy Peaches fame, wonderful teen music group Supercute!, and, God willling, a special appearance by the legendary 97-year-old comedian Professor Irwin Corey.

If you could show up, it would really help lift Jay’s sagging spirits. A lot of you don’t know about this, but Jay has been very depressed since late March, when he was punched in the vagina by a hobo. I don’t mean a homeless person who deserves our concern and help, but the kind of archetypal hobo who travels by boxcar and carries his belongings in a bindle and punches men in their vaginas. Let Jay know that you care about his aching ladyparts.

Thanks!

Jay Ruttenberg: Bruised labia.

Fresno Slim: Bruised fist.

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I told you recently about the publication of The Lowbrow Reader Reader, a new book form of Jay Ruttenberg’s great zine about comedy. (You can buy it from Amazon or the publisher.) Now comes news that there will be a publication party and music and comedy showcase at 7pm on May 29 at Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan. And you are invited! It’s a free event, though the organizers ask that you contribute a couple of bucks or buy some refreshments while you’re there to help AIDS charities. Featured performers at the event: 

  • Wyatt Cenac: Hilarious Senior Correspondent of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, one of my all-time favorite TV shows and a program that I would never criticize.
  • Professor Irwin Corey: The 97-year-old comedian used to hang out with the Rolling Stones but now is stuck with Jay Ruttenberg.
  • Supercute!: A great band made up of teenage girls. Sadly, they are amazingly talented and have their whole lives ahead of them. On the bright side: We’ve already ruined the planet and every time they try to text, the sun melts their little thumbs. Too bad, sweethearts.
  • Adam Green: The more doelike half of the Moldy Peaches, and one of the best songwriters on Earth.

Find out all the information you’ll need here.

••••••••••

The Official Announcement:

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to announce the imminent arrival of our Pulitzer-worthy book, The Lowbrow Reader Reader, which will be published by Drag City in just a couple of weeks. To celebrate, we’re having an extra special Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour concert on Tuesday, May 29, at the lovely Housing Works Bookstore in Soho (126 Crosby Street, just below Houston). It will start promptly at 7pm and end around 8:30pm. Admission is free, but I would encourage everybody to give some money to Housing Works, whether by throwing some dollars in the pot or simply buying food and drinks while at the store. It’s a really wonderful charity that fights AIDS and homelessness.

Now check out this all-star line-up of performers! The night will include short sets from:

Adam Green (one of the greatest songwriters in New York City and hence the known universe; a veteran of the Moldy Peaches and several outstanding solo albums including my favorite, 2010’s Minor Love)

Wyatt Cenac (ludicrously, unjustly sharp stand-up comedian and senior correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

Supercute! (your new favorite band, Supercute! stars three teenage girls: Julia Cumming, Olivia Ferrer, and Rachel Trachtenburg, of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players)

–plus a special appearance by….Professor Irwin Corey (comedy LEGEND)

More information about the concert can be found here: http://www.housingworks.org/events/detail/the-lowbrow-reader-variety-hour-featuring-adam-green-supercute-and-more

More information about the book (including ordering information and whatnot) can be found here: http://www.dragcity.com/products/the-lowbrow-reader-reader

It goes without saying, but I would love to see all of you at the show: Tuesday, May 29, 7pm, Housing Works Bookstore. Of course, please let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you!

Jay

Jay Ruttenberg: Hideous tee shirts, awkward pauses.

Professor Irwin Corey: Give me a call, Mick. Please.

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If the New Yorker and Mad magazine had really bad and degrading sex, the resulting offspring might look a lot like the Lowbrow Reader. Edited by Jay Ruttenberg, who’s apparently unaware of the existence of computers, the Lowbrow Reader is a witty, wise and wonderful zine about comedy. (Yes, a printed zine in 2012!) The publication’s best writing and art from the past decade have been collected in The Lowbrow Reader Reader, a handsome bound edition. (Yes, a physical book in 2012!) Amazon.com normally doesn’t sell books, but this is such a special volume that Jeff Bezos made an exception. You can order it here beginning May 22(Or you can pre-order it now directly from the publisher.) You’ll laugh your ass off while reading this book, and within days it will make a really crappy Frisbee.

An example of what you can expect from the Lowbrow Reader Reader is a piece by complete wiseass Margeaux Watson in which she recalls her visit to the Brooklyn home of the late, great rap star Ol’ Dirty Bastard. An excerpt:

"It was the smell of Newport cigarettes, feet, ass, food and unbrushed teeth. Just all-around funk. A bouquet of stink.”

Lowbrow Reader: You’re probably one of the few women who has been inside Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s house and hasn’t returned with a venereal disease.

Margeaux Watson: Or a child.

Lowbrow Reader: Where does he live?

Margeaux Watson: He lives in Brooklyn. It’s an odd location–it’s not ghetto-ish, but it’s also not where you’d expect a star to live. In Brooklyn, most stars live in Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg or Fort Greene. But he’s in more of a working-class, family neighborhood. A lot of brownstones and row houses; it’s not near a subway or an urban center.

Lowbrow Reader: What’s his house like?

Margeaux Watson: He lives in a brownstone. It’s been renovated, so it’s modern on the inside. It’s a narrow apartment, with white walls and hardwood floors. It’s surprisingly well-kept and pretty neat–except for its smell. It smelled bad.

Lowbrow Reader: Can you describe the odor?

Margeaux Watson: It was the smell of Newport cigarettes, feet, ass, food and unbrushed teeth. Just all-around funk. A bouquet of stink.”

Margeaux Watson: He lives in a brownstone. It’s been renovated, so it’s modern on the inside. It’s a narrow apartment, with white walls and hardwood floors. It’s surprisingly well-kept and pretty neat–except for its smell. It smelled bad.

Lowbrow Reader: Can you describe the odor?

Margeaux Watson: It was the smell of Newport cigarettes, feet, ass, food and unbrushed teeth. Just all-around funk. A bouquet of stink.”•

Jay Ruttenberg: Waiting for Irwin Corey to pass so that they'll be an opening for him.

Professor Irwin Corey (1914- )

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Stuck zipper. (Image by John Mathias.)

I used to work with the really witty journalist Jay Ruttenberg. In addition to his many other enterprises, he publishes a wry, wonderful zine called The Lowbrow Reader, which focuses on the world of comedy, gleefully mocking everything along the way. For anyone raised on Mad magazine, it’s so up your alley. (You can order back issues here.) And it’s fun knowing that someone is walking around in 2010, completely obsessed with Harpo Marx and the like.

Each cover has a play on the same disgusting theme: someone attempting to relieve himself or herself in a bathroom. But complications often ensue. In the cover on the right, a man dressed as a bear is stuck in his costume when he really needs to use the toilet. When I had my apartment painted a few years back, I walked in on one of the workers, who spoke no English, laughing heartily at this image. A guy in a bear costume trying desperately to take a dump is a universal language.

Inside this issue, you can read an essay from a woman who dated Jackie Mason and a critical consideration of the TV show Wings. (No, seriously.) There’s also a filthy, funny piece about the inner sanctum of Brooklyn rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard (who passed away after this issue was published). The person describing ODB’s home is a talented writer named Margeaux Watson, also a former colleague, who visited the rapper’s lair to interview him in all his dirty, bastardly glory. An excerpt:

"It was the smell of Newport cigarettes, feet, ass, food and unbrushed teeth."

Lowbrow Reader: You’re probably one of the few women who has been inside Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s house and hasn’t returned with a venereal disease.

Margeaux Watson: Or a child.

Lowbrow Reader: Where does he live?

Margeaux Watson: He lives in Brooklyn. It’s an odd location–it’s not ghetto-ish, but it’s also not where you’d expect a star to live. In Brooklyn, most stars live in Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg or Fort Greene. But he’s in more of a working-class, family neighborhood. A lot of brownstones and row houses; it’s not near a subway or an urban center.

Lowbrow Reader: What’s his house like?

Margeaux Watson: He lives in a brownstone. It’s been renovated, so it’s modern on the inside. It’s a narrow apartment, with white walls and hardwood floors. It’s surprisingly well-kept and pretty neat–except for its smell. It smelled bad.

Lowbrow Reader: Can you describe the odor?

Margeaux Watson: It was the smell of Newport cigarettes, feet, ass, food and unbrushed teeth. Just all-around funk. A bouquet of stink.”

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