Virtual Memories Show 404:
Michael Shaw

“The Elements of Stress is the perfect gift for the person who HAD everything.”

Got the election / pandemic / climate change / midlife / inexplicable rash blues? Then listen to me and cartoonist & humorist Michael Shaw talk about his new book, The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm (co-authored by the great Bob Eckstein, from Weekly Humorist Press)! We get into how Michael and Bob managed to mash up Strunk & White with Thurber & White to create a prose & cartoons handbook to dealing with This Whole Situation, then explore Michael’s history in cartooning and humor, how he balances that with a day job in writing and editing, his discovery that if he drew cartoons any better he’d be terrible, and why he took a hiatus from submitting gags to The New Yorker (and whether they know he’s taken said hiatus). We also get into his literary loves, the perils of listening to William S. Burroughs audiobooks on late-night commutes, how his florid-rococo style balances with Eckstein’s Hemingway-on-valium approach, the lesson he learned from Milton Glaser about One Element of Dissonance, and more! Give it a listen! And go read The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Michael Shaw’s cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker since 1999 and have a habit of going viral—appearing on an ABC news special following the World Trade Tower attack and on 60 Minutes as one of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff’s “top five favorites.” Shaw’s cartoon on Charlie Hebdo led to his appearance on Ronan Farrow Daily on MSNBC. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, The Rejection Collection I and II, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, The Ultimate Cartoon Book series, and in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Harvard Business Review, Weekly Humorist, and Prospect magazine. His new book, with co-author Bob Eckstein, is The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm.

Follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram and visit the Chinese sports gambling site that took over his website after he let the domain name lapse.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Michael by . . . someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 403:
Merrill Markoe (+ Emily Flake)

“What you find when you look at your old writings is that you’re a completely different person until you’re about 13 or 14.”

Comedy legend Merrill Markoe returns to the show to celebrate her new graphic memoir, We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)! We talk about how it felt to spend time with her childhood self over the course of the book, the decision to illustrate it and what that process taught her about cartooning, what contemporary Merrill has to say to her younger self, and how she owns up to having a crush on a junior high boy who made Heil Hitler salutes at her. We also get into the influence of Lynda Barry on her work, why she’s considering leaving Malibu for the Pacific Northwest, her decision to auction off her Late Night with David Letterman gear to contribute to charities (like this one!), her love for Pen15, the joy of the Undo button, and how the world has changed for funny women. And speaking of, Emily Flake also joins the show to talk about the Kickstarter for St. Nell’s Humor Writing Residency for Ladies (expiring Oct. 30, so go check it out)! Give it a listen! And go read We Saw Scenery!

(& check out Merrill’s first Virtual Memories Show appearance in 2014)

“Everybody I know who’s compulsively funny for a living, it comes to them young.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

Merrill Markoe was the head writer for the original The David Letterman Show (the live NBC morning show that was recognized with a Daytime Emmy Award) and the co-creator and first head writer of NBC’s groundbreaking Late Night with David Letterman, for which she won three additional Emmy Awards. She engineered the majority of the show’s original concepts and created the segments “Stupid Pet Tricks,” “Stupid Human Tricks,” and “Viewer Mail.” Merrill also won a Writer’s Guild award for her writing/performing work on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News. She has written for television shows such as Sex and the City, Newhart, and Moonlighting and has written for many periodicals, including Rolling Stone, Time, US Weekly, People, Esquire, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, and her cartoon work has appeared in The New Yorker. She was recently awarded the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement.

Follow Merrill on Twitter, and Instagram.

Emily Flake‘s cartoons and humorous essays run regularly in The New Yorker, The Nib, and many other publications. Her weekly strip, Lulu Eightball, ran in alt-weeklies for many years. She’s written and illustrated two books: These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves and Mama Tried. Her illustrations and cartoons appear in publications all over the world, including the New York Times, Newsweek, the Globe and Mail, The Onion, The New Statesman, and Forbes. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, daughter, and a new cat. Her new book is That Was Awkward: The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug (Viking Books).

Follow Emily on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Merrill by . . . someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 398:
R. Sikoryak

“I really wanted to make a book where anyone could pick it up and say, ‘That’s something I know!’, whether it’s something from a bumper sticker or a comic that they avidly read.”

Cartoonist R. Sikoryak rejoins the show to talk about his new book, Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly), and how his mode of parodying other comics made a perfect complement to the founding document of the United States. We get into what surprised him about the Constitution as he read it for this project, the challenge of representing the Three-Fifths Compromise, as well as the other artistic and compositional challenges of the book (all those dense word balloons!). We also talk about his family’s immigrant history, how he’s coping with the pandemic after finishing this book, why we both miss SPX, the artists he had the most trouble parodying, the secondary reading that went into Constitution Illustrated, why he was glad to do a book without Trump in it, his devotion to the scratchy old newspaper style of comics, and why he had to use Peanuts to represent the First Amendment. Give it a listen! And go read Constitution Illustrated! (& check out our 2012 podcast)

“One thing that’s so great about Constitution is that it was written in the 18th century, but Amendments were continually added. Stuff happens. Things are decided in the beginning that are terrible ideas, but later on they’re replaced, eliminated, reconsidered.”

“I would love this book if I hadn’t made it. I can enjoy it abstractly, but maybe 20 years from now I’ll look back and it’ll surprise me.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Cartoonist R. Sikoryak is the author of Masterpiece Comics, Terms and Conditions, and The Unquotable Trump (Drawn & Quarterly). He’s adapted the classics for various comics anthologies, including RAW, Drawn & Quarterly, The Graphic Canon, and more. His comics and illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Onion, MAD, and SpongeBob Comics, as well as on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He’s done storyboards and character designs for Augenblick Studios on various animated projects. Bob teaches in the illustration department at Parsons The New School for Design and at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Since 1997, he’s presented his live cartoon slide show series, Carousel, around the United States and Canada. He lives in New York City with his spouse, Kriota Willberg. His new book is Constitution Illustrated.

Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Bob by Kriota Willberg. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 397:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Each of my four books is secretly exploring a genre: lyric, epic, novel, and I’m not even sure what this one is, but I wrote it entirely to please myself.”

With Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (UVA Press), Daniel Mendelsohn has written one of my favorite books of 2020. We get into Homer’s use of Ring Composition and how it shapes Three Rings, how this book grew out of his experience writing An Odyssey, why he chose François Fénelon, Eric Auerbach, and WG Sebald as the three exiled subjects of his book, and how we understand the relationship between “what happened” and “the story of what happened” (that is, how narration changes the nature of facts). We also get into how he managed to compress and capture just about all of his major themes in his briefest book, why Auerbach disliked ring composition, and what it says about Homeric vs. Hebrew — or optimistic vs. pessimistic — styles of story, how every story has more stories embedded in it, and why Istanbul may serve as the fusion of Athens & Jerusalem. We also get into Daniel’s pandemic experience and coping mechanisms for anxiety and dread, his mom’s involvement in Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the Holocaust in America, why translation is like a crossword puzzle for him, the negatives of focusing on STEM to the detriment of the liberal arts, and how we can both relate to Auerbach’s comment, “If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might have never reached the point of writing.” Give it a listen! And go read Three Rings! (& check out our previous conversation!)

“I was very attracted to the idea of the way in which their own wandering lives ended up being analogs for the narratives they ended up being interested in.”

“For the writer, anything is a subject. Even nothing is a subject, so to speak.”

“Colleges are going to abandon the humanities and go for more STEM stuff than ever, because it’s ’employable’. The irony is that NEVER have we needed the humanities more, because that’s the stuff that tells you how to deal with these crises.”

TUNEIN LINK TK

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, and Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. His new book is Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate

There’s a longer version at his website.

Follow Daniel on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Daniel by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 396:
Keith Knight

“There have been plenty of woke moments throughout my life, but the police incident in San Francisco made me double and triple down the work I did about it.”

To celebrate the launch of WOKE, his fantastic new comedy series on Hulu, Keith Knight rejoins the show! A lot has gone on since our 2015 conversation, so we get into how the country has changed, how his slideshows about police brutality and racial illiteracy are more in demand than ever (pandemic notwithstanding), and the reasons behind the surge in approval for BLM. We talk about how WOKE came together, the choice of Lamorne Morris to play Keef, why he wanted to be involved in producing WOKE, rather than selling the idea & walking off, what it was like to work in a collaborative environment after years as a solo artist, how different TV writing is than comics, the fun in casting the voices of the objects that come to life in the show, and how closely the lead character’s woke experience parallels his own. We also discuss his drive to keep making comics, the good fortune of finishing shooting the series right before the pandemic shut everything down, and why he sure wishes he & his family could have gotten out of NC for a few weeks this summer for their annual Schwarzwald trip to see the in-laws. Give it a listen! And go watch WOKE on Hulu!

“We figured out a fine line of talking about serious issues but using humor and magical realism.”

“TV is a big learning curve, but it’s not rocket science. I had to remind myself when I got too stressed, ‘We’re just making television.'”

“As horrible this pandemic is, it’s revealed how untenable capitalism-over-everything society is. If you don’t ensure that everybody is doing okay, then that’s when you have problems.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Keith Knight is an award-winning cartoonist whose “Knight Life Chronicles,” and “(th)ink” strips ran for more than a decade in such newspapers as the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Herald. His funny yet hard-hitting cartoons fuel a comic strip slideshow he tours on America’s racial illiteracy called Red, White, Black and Blue. Combining cartoons, storytelling, historical facts, and humor, the slideshow scored him a Belle Foundation grant and a NAACP History Maker award. Knight is also the illustrator of the critically acclaimed tween book, Jake the Fake Keeps It Real. He will beat you at pinball.

Follow Keith on Twitter and Instagram, and show him some support on Patreon

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Keith by someone else. It’s on my instagram.