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Jack Handey Is the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America

Meet the man who created "Deep Thoughts" and "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer"—and who is about to release his first novel, The Stench of Honolulu:

“'A lot of comedy is going the extra step,' Handey continued. 'An unfrozen caveman was funny — but that’s not enough.' Later, he e-mailed me a sheet of sketch ideas he typed up in 1991. The sketch seemed to be a combination of two ideas: 'Too Many Frozen Cavemen,' in which a surplus of frozen Neanderthals drive scientists crazy, and 'Swamp Bastard,' about a Swamp Thing-like creature who keeps stealing everyone’s girlfriends. 'I guess my brain put these things in a blender,' he wrote, 'and out came Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.'"
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
PUBLISHED: July 15, 2013

How Good Does Karaoke Have to Be to Qualify as Art?

A writer goes to Portland, Ore. where the karaoke scene is vibrant and taken seriously:

"'Karaoke in Portland is just different from other places,' said his friend Bruce Morrison. 'There’s a lot of showmanship.'

"Mulkern swept his long hair over his shoulders and put his top hat back on. 'People in Portland,' he declared, 'are sillier than in other places.'

"In the corner of the booth, a woman with dark-rimmed eyes and black lipstick leaned forward suddenly and took my pen from my hand. She wrote a phone number in my notepad. 'Do you know,' she asked, staring intently into my eyes, 'about puppet karaoke?'"
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
PUBLISHED: Jan. 17, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3839 words)

You Are Very Cold, and This Feels Like an Adventure

A writer adopts the Choose Your Own Adventure book format to write a story about a disastrous love affair:

"The answer, of course, is that you should dump Anne before it’s too late. But the absurd options the book gives 'you'— later 'choices' include dueling with an Ant-Warrior, or attacking the Evil Power Master—simply highlight the completely screwed-up perspective of the co-dependent. When I was stuck in one of those terrible relationships, and friends told me it was time to break it off, I looked at them as if they were crazy—as if the options they were offering had so little to do with my actual situation they were functionally useless."
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
SOURCE:Slate
PUBLISHED: May 5, 2012
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1579 words)

Peter Dinklage Was Smart to Say No

The Game of Thrones star's long path to stardom—and the choices he made to reject stereotypical roles for dwarves:

"'I read about him online the day before the Globes. It really made me sad. I don’t know why.' He corrected himself: 'I mean, I know why: it’s terrible.' In October, Henderson, who is 37 and is 4-foot-2, was picked up and thrown by an unknown assailant in Somerset, England. He suffered partial paralysis and now requires a walker. The night of the Globes, after Dinklage’s mention, Henderson’s name was a trending topic on Twitter. Dinklage later turned down offers to discuss the case with Anderson Cooper and other news hosts.

"'People are all, like, I dedicated it to him,' he said. 'They’ve made it more romantic than it actually was. I just wanted to go, "This is screwed up." Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice. Not just by people who’ve had too much to drink in England and want to throw a person. But by media, everything.' He sipped his coffee and pointed out that media portrayal is, in part, the fault of actors who are dwarves. 'You can say no. You can not be the object of ridicule.'"
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
PUBLISHED: April 1, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3812 words)

Lynda Barry Will Make You Believe In Yourself

Here are some details about Lynda Barry that didn’t appear in her autobiographical song. She’s a cartoonist whose weekly strip, “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” was a staple of alternative newsweeklies for almost 30 years. (Next month, the publisher Drawn & Quarterly will release “Blabber Blabber Blabber,” the first in a 10-volume retrospective series of her work.) She dips Copenhagen tobacco and fights against wind farms. She e-mails stupid YouTube links to her old buddy Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons.”

Barry reinvented herself as a creativity guru as the market for her comic strip dried up, publishing two boundary-blurring books on inspiration and teaching writing workshops for nonwriters. Barry’s advertising copy is clear: “THIS CLASS WORKS ESPECIALLY WELL FOR ‘NONWRITERS’ like bartenders, janitors, office workers, hairdressers, musicians and ANYONE who has given up on ‘being a writer’ but still wonders what it might be like to write.”
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
PUBLISHED: Oct. 27, 2011
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3102 words)

I Watched Every Steven Soderbergh Movie

Twenty-three movies in 23 years suggests an already amazing, Woody Allen-like productivity. But Soderbergh has been even more prolific than that number indicates. During the first part of his career, development struggles and the learning curve of a new filmmaker put him on a two-year cycle. His debut, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, was released in 1989; Kafka, in 1991; King of the Hill, in 1993. But following the movie that blew up his old career and created a new one, Schizopolis—more on that later—Soderbergh's been on a tear unmatched by any filmmaker I can think of. In the 13 years since 1998, he has directed 18 feature films. Oh, and one of them was a two-part, four-hour epic. Oh, and he directed every episode of a five-hour HBO series. Oh, and he also read like 20 books a month.
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
SOURCE:Slate
PUBLISHED: Sept. 14, 2011
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2612 words)

53.1% of You Already Know What This Story's About. Or Do You? Need a Hint?

It's about Professor Daryl Bem and his cheerful case for ESP. "Over seven years, Bem measured what he considers statistically significant results in eight of his nine studies. In the experiment I tried, the average hit rate among 100 Cornell undergraduates for erotic photos was 53.1 percent. (Neutral photos showed no effect.) That doesn’t seem like much, but as Bem points out, it’s about the same as the house’s advantage in roulette."
AUTHOR:Dan Kois
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2011
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2577 words)