Novels

What We're Loving: Prepared Material, True-Crime, Fake Crime

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison can handle the truth, Jonda Robinson likes it real, and Rachel Hall assigns homework. 10270314_10152469666271935_5549480507233317716_nAs someone that performs comedy at the theater for which this Internet page exists, I have been known to use this weekly space to talk up shows that I’m doing. This week, I’m breaking all the rules, because what I’m loving is a show at the Dallas Comedy House THAT I AM NOT IN. I know, I didn’t think it was possible either. What I’m loving is !Cambio Cambio!, the latest sketch revue at DCH.

Sketch comedy is something that the Dallas Comedy House put a lot of effort into teaching in 2014. There is now a three-level program in place, from which you learn what it takes to put on a sketch show AND you get a four-week run for whatever revue your class created. In this case, the class put together a smart showcase that does a nice job of mixing funny moments in with truth. A favorite scene was where a pig must leave it’s owner to live life on its on terms.

Once this goes up, you’ll have two remaining opportunities to see the show (12/4 and 12/11 at 8pm). And once you check it out, sign up for the sketch program! You’ll learn a new craft and grow as an actor.

OH! And if you want to sign up for sketch or improv classes, then take advantage of the Black Friday sale coming up. You save $50 off of any class at the Dallas Comedy House if you buy them the day after Thanksgiving. Do it! - David Allison

serial-social-logoI have always been a fan of true crime stories. As a teenager I was fascinated by Ann Rule’s book, The Stranger Beside Me, in which she recounts her true story of working on a crisis hotline with serial killer Ted Bundy and slowly realizing that he was the murderer everyone was looking for. Later it was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood that drew me in with its beautiful prose and ghastly tale of murder in a Kansas farmhouse. Nowadays, If I run across Dateline telling the sordid details of some relationship gone wrong, I can’t pass it up.

Considering all of this, the currently popular podcast Serial is right up my alley. I started listening to it this week, and I’m so intrigued by all the details. The podcast features host Sarah Koenig (producer for This American Life) investigating the details of a true story over the course of a season. Currently she’s looking into the 1999 murder of high school senior Hae Min Lee in Baltimore. Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was 17 at the time, is currently serving a life sentence for the crime. As the story unfolds over each episode, new details are unraveled that call in to question what really happened. Is Adnan really the killer? Did the jury really get all the information? There are lots of twists and turns along the way that so far have provided more questions than answers. I’m really, really hoping we get answers by the end.

I highly recommend checking out Serial on your daily commute, or run, or lunch break, or whenever you preferred podcast time is. If you’re anything like me, you’ll move quickly through the episodes in search of answers, making your own assumptions and hoping that truth will be found. - Jonda Robinson

TheFollowingNetflix is awesome! Duh. Nothing new there, Rachel. Yes, we all know Netflix is awesome until it isn't. Who hasn't discovered the greatest show of all time, binge watched all seven seasons in one week, then the complained about how dumb Netflix was because there is nothing to watch! Well, I am here to fix your Netflix blues with the current greatest show of all time—The Following.

Not to long ago at work, I stumbled into a conversation that was not Game of Thrones, Scandal, or The Walking Dead related; these are all shows I started and am now hooked on due to peer pressure and a need to feel like I belong. The show they were discussing was called The Following starring Ren McCormick (a.k.a. Kevin Bacon). It centers around a extremely handsome and british serial killer named Joe Carroll and his cult of aspiring killers. Essentially the show goes like this (don’t worry there are absolutely no spoilers, so please continue reading). Years ago a detective, Ron McCormick, looking to make a name for himself in the FBI, devotes his a career to catching a serial killer who is terrorizing a college town. The killers’ victims are all women in their early 20s, the weapon used is a knife, and the signature of the killer is removing the victim's eyes. Did I mention this show is normally aired on FOX? Through some great TV detective work, Ren learns that the serial is in fact popular English professor and failed writer, Joe Carroll. Also through the discovery, Ren is almost killed and Joe Carroll is sent to prison. Super long story short, Carroll—with a lot of help—breaks out of prison, and serial killing terror begins to reign over the U.S.

Shonda Rhimes has nothing on the writers on this show. Never in my life have I actively been nervous and a little scared to watch a TV show. Not even that crazy clown on American Horror Story disturbs me like The Following does. Allow me to channel my inner Stefon and say this show has everything! Love, murder, action, mind tricks, Kevin Bacon, and excellent fitted jeans, hot British guys, adorable man ice. What’s adorable man ice? It's that thing where Shawn Ashmore, Iceman from X-Men:Days of Future Past, makes you feel all the feelings. This show will have you distrusting everyone and full of anxiety. In fact, I may have had an anxiety attack watching this! In all seriousness, The Following is the most suspenseful show on FOX and on TV.

Episode after episode, I watched Ren put clues together, and episode after episode, I was genuinely shocked at what I saw and what would come next. Unlike most shows where you learn its formula and eventually stop watching - I’M LOOKING AT YOU SCANDAL - this show will have you guessing and thinking well after you finish it. Just give it a chance, you guys. Go watch the first episode and then tell me what you think in a week. I say a week because you get hooked, call in from work, and binge watch this show. Kevin Bacon has never given us a real reason to distrust him; look how he convinced an entire town dancing was the answer. Oh, and at no point during the show does Kevin Bacon shout “LET’S DANCE” while chunks of glitter fly in a old building on the other side of the tracks in a red velvet tux. Sorry. - Rachel Hall

What We're Loving: Disfigured Narrators, Success Waffles, Interstellar Misleads

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ryan Callahan is superficial, Jonda Robinson believes in waffles, and David Allison aims for the stars.  imgresWolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a book I judged by its cover. Okay, it wasn't solely the cover; I read the inside flap of the dust jacket and the blurbs on the back. but the half-hypnotizing-half-headache-inducing cover sold me on the book more than anything else. The cover was like a Magic Eye painting. It pulled me in with the promise of worlds hidden in plain sight.

Wolf in White Van delivered on that promise. But. unlike a Magic Eye, which reveals a schooner or Micky Mouse, Wolf in White Van creates a world that, when squinted at, reveals an entire world hidden in plain sight: a desolated wasteland where everyone is alone and the only options are go forward or die, where the game never ends, and where our goals and dreams will forever be out of reach. The book takes place entirely inside the head of Sean Phillips, the creator of a mail-order role-playing game who lives primarily in seclusion due to an accident as a teenager, which left him horribly disfigured.

Wolf in White Van has no plot. Sean's narration jumps between the past and the present, between the game he created and the real world, all a series of overlapping memories. Through the memories, more information is revealed. We learn more about Sean, his game Trace Italian, the terrible accident that led to his creation of Trace Italian, and the terrible accident his game caused. The novel is dark and beautiful, full of evocative sentences and well-observed moments between a young man and his parents.

John Darnielle is apparently a well-known musician, the vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. I knew nothing of his work prior to picking up his book. But now I'll have to listen to all of it. Or buy all of it, listen to one song, tell myself I'll listen to the rest someday, and move on to another interest. - Ryan Callahan

imgresWhat do you believe in? Yeah, this just got deep. The reason I pose this question to you is because it’s a question I’ve recently asked my eighth grade students. We’ve spent the past week studying up on what others believe and figuring out how to pick and portray an idea that we really believe in. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time checking out what other people believe at www.thisibelieve.org.

The website belongs to This I Believe, Inc, a “not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” Based on a radio program that ran in the 1950s and was hosted by Edward R. Murrow, it’s a place where individuals can publish essays explaining their beliefs on a topic, with the end goal being to encourage people to have a respect for the beliefs of others. When I was browsing the site, I decided to check out the “humor & laughter” section, because hey, I like humor! I like laughter! I was not disappointed when I stumbled upon an essay entitled “Give Me a Waffle,” because waffles are delicious and a great way to celebrate successes, deal with whatever is going on in life, or distract your friends when needed.

The website features thousands of essays on a variety of topics, ranging from everyday people talking about courage to Albert Einstein explaining his belief that we should put service to others above our own gain. Check it out, and maybe you’ll feel inspired to let the world in on something that you believe. - Jonda Robinson

lsff-logoThis week, I’m loving the ol’ silver screen herself, MOVIES.

Most cinematic attention this weekend will be directed toward Interstellar, which seeks to answer the question, “Can Matthew McConaughey fly a spaceship as well as he can drive a Lincoln?” I am very excited for this flick, but I’m sure you can find detailed breakdowns of it from much more qualified people that have a PhD in gaffing or whatever. Because of that, I want to use this space (GET IT??????????????????????) to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum—The Lone Star Film Festival.

Each fall, Fort Worth hosts a showcase for independent filmmakers and movies with very little distribution, known as The Lone Star Film Festival. It’s a five-day event that not only includes full-length films and shorts, but also gives us local yokels a chance to interact with real-life famous people! For example, 2013 saw Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall participate in a Q&A (which is movie insider slang for Question and Answer) about their motion picture, Jayne Mansfield’s Car. I’m most excited for the short films, a medium that is a great opportunity for emerging artists on a tight budget to create something fantastic.

You can find out more about The Lone Star Film Festival by looking it up on the Internet. - David Allison

What We're Loving: Obligatory Horror, Celebrity Visits, Meta Batman, Silly Writing

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison fulfills a legal obligation, Jonda Robinson teases human trafficking, Molly Jakkamsetti goes deep Keaton, and Ryan Callahan asks that you hold him accountable. MV5BNTUxNzYyMjg2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTExNzExNw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_I believe that I'm legally required to write about something Halloween related in this space this week. Like if I don't then they, whoever they are, will check me into a facility where unwilling persons check in, but they don't check out. The hard part about that forced assignment is that I feel like so many of the cool horror films are just kinda gross. For me, gory films that are created just to sicken the viewer are kind of like that overly competitive asshole who starts throwing shit when he loses at bar trivia; you're doing something that's supposed to be fun, so just calm down. Not to say that there shouldn't be blood, guts, or gore in film, I think that stuff is great if it happens in the right context. I should still enjoy watching the movie right? Is that too much to ask?

The best example of the sort of fun horror movie that I love is Cabin In The Woods. If you haven't seen it, the 2012 film does an amazing job of telling two stories concurrently. The micro view follows a group of college kids that are travelling to a CABIN IN THE WOODS. The macro view focuses on the architects of the scenario. Meta is the dumbest word in the fucking world, but it's very apt in this example. This was unquestionably one of the most fun experiences I've ever had watching a movie in the theater, regardless of genre. It's got blood, but the blood is like fun blood.

And if you want to see a live horror movie, come out to DCH on Friday to check out the improvised horror movie! The Friday show at 10 p.m. includes actual fake blood! - David Allison

2On Tuesday afternoon I got home and was greeted by a most welcome face—my good friend, Amy Poehler. That’s right, she was waiting for me at apartment. I had known for weeks that she’d be arriving that day, so I was thoroughly excited about hanging out with her. So far, she hasn’t disappointed.

Ok, so you’ve probably guessed that it was not the REAL Amy, but her book, Yes Please, that showed up at my doorstep. While I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve taken in so far, and I have enough faith in Amy to say that I will love it. At the very start of her book, Amy declares that “writing is hard” and admits that “blood was shed” in the fight for her to get this thing written. She offers many stories from her life, her take on certain topics, and even sex tips (for girls AND guys!).

Amy is a source of inspiration for me and so many others, so instead of blubbering on any longer I’ll close with two quotes from her so I can get back to my reading:

  1. “So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
  2. “I have the Angelina Jolie of vaginas.”

Never change, Amy—never change. - Jonda Robinson

awesome-birdman-teaser-trailer-michael-keaton-is-a-superhero-again-michael-keaton-goes-meta-batman-in-birdman-trailerBirdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance:  Let me start by saying although people much more qualified than myself have already praised this movie, I’m throwing in my two cents of support. It’s about a former Hollywood superstar who is trying to restart his career with a serious play on Broadway. And Michael Keaton, who starred as Batman in the 1989 and 1992 blockbusters, plays Riggan, whose alter-ego is Birdman.

While much of the movie focuses on Riggan’s internal struggles with insecurity and fear surrounding his "comeback," it is also about the art of acting. It is about what is real and what is not on and off stage. Edward Norton is hilarious as the New York theater actor who comes in to "save" Keaton’s play, right before previews. Zach Galifianakis plays Riggan’s delightfully harried agent. The whole movie looks like one long, uninterrupted take. This amazed me and really drew me in. The soundtrack is jazzy, adding to the cool New York City vibe, where it was filmed. And if you’re still not interested, there’s Emma Stone as Riggan’s cynical daughter/personal assistant. Naomi Watts as the starry-eyed actress who is new to Broadway. Did I mention Edward Norton is in his underwear at one point? It’s meta and weird, and I want to see it again. Critics are praising Keaton as they should. I have enjoyed his work since Mr. Mom. That’s his 1983 comedy with Teri Garr where she works and he stays at home with the kids. Not unusual now, but back then WOAH!! - Molly Jakkamsetti

imgresIn the hopes of making up for my absence the past few weeks, I humbly offer TWO things that I am loving.

Loved Thing Number One: A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk. There has been no show that influenced my sense of comedy more than Mr. Show with Bob and David. As I have said before, my favorite ever comedy sketch: "The Story of the Story of the Story of Everest" comes from Mr. Show. Hooey is Odenkirk's first book, and I will say that it is all rather very silly. There are brief speeches, unabridged versions of famous quotations, and even a short play featuring Hitler, which will no doubt draw the ire of Nick Scott. The book reads like a comic's notebook, but one that has been polished. It's also the quickest book you'll ever read.

Loved Thing Number Two: National Novel Writing Month. Starts tomorrow. If you have always wanted to write a novel, but have always made excuses, here is your chance. Sure, you'll write a terrible, sloppy first draft, but you will have a draft, and that is so much better than just having an idea. It's 1,667 words a day. Many of them can be the word "and." You'll be done in no time.

I have attempted NaNoWriMo (that's really what people call it) twice in the past, failing once and winning once. Finishing a 50,000-word novel is considered a win. Sadly, there is no parade. Unless you have an abundance of action figures. I'm giving it another try this year. I am making this announcement publicly so people will give me a hard time if I don't do it, and badger me about my progress. Who's coming with me? - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Airplane Safety, Independent Women, Pratfalls in Prose, Pratfalls Repeated

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison fears for the sanity of flight attendants, Julia Cotton goes to the movies, and Ashley Bright & Ryan Callahan share a love for pratfalls. Earworm alert! This week, I just can’t get the latest hit single from Virgin America Airlines out of my head. You know Virgin from their past successes such as: flying airplanes, landing airplanes, and failed music stores. Now they’re back and better than ever with their hit “Safety Video.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtyfiPIHsIg&feature=kp

“Safety Video” is a five minute long song created to get you outta your seat and dance! Strike that, they made it to tell you how to buckle your safety belt. That’s right, every flight you take on Virgin America Airlines now begins with a big budget music video directed by Step Up 2: The Streets’ Jon Chu. I could spend the rest of my life talking about how ridiculous the entire production is, but instead I’ve simply boiled it down to the three most fascinating things:

  • The oxygen mask rap
    • This segment is delivered by a little girl who had never been on camera or rapped (Please see bullet point three if you don’t believe me). Also, if the cabin loses pressure, that’s a pretty dark scenario wherein you have two minutes, max, to figure out the oxygen masks or you will pass out. That’s a bleak reality for a rapping kid to spit at you.
  • They missed stuff
    • You can use your seat as a flotation device. An important fact that is inexplicably skipped over. Then again, they didn’t have time for it because they had to spend a full minute showcasing another singing child who reminds you that smoking on planes is still illegal. I know that no one under the age of forty remembers a world where smoking on a plane was allowed, but we better make sure everyone is aware by dedicating 20% of the run time to it.
  • The making of video
    • It’s 6:12 and fascinating. The work that went into this boggles the mind.

I appreciate what Virgin America is trying to do, it’s a nice idea. Instead of forcing the crew to begrudgingly deliver a safety presentation, again, they’re creating something more consistent and memorable. That’s cool. But, I genuinely worry about the mental stability of Virgin's employees. Yeah, something like this is really cute and refreshing the first time, but a year from now? They’re going to go searching for the air marshal to put them out of their misery before the plane leaves the gates. - David Allison

MV5BMjAwMzAzMzExOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwMDA5MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_My little girl is the girliest of girls. She loves to dress up. Loves her nails painted. She says “so cu-ute” much more than I’m comfortable with. And all of the pink! SO MUCH PINK!!! She loves the fellas, too, and understands that a batted eye and a bowed head or look of confusion will yield her whatever she wants (which so far has merely been more pink things). Lazy feminism would have me believe that my daughter was going down a horrible path that would result in a life submissive weakness. Then we went to go see Maleficent, and I realized that my daughter had never seen Sleeping Beauty.

In fact, my daughter knows very little about the plots to most princess themed movies made before she was born. Therefore, she is not so familiar with ideas that more recent movies have seemed to set out to dispel: a lady is utterly hopeless and helpless and Prince Charming is the only one who can save her as he is the bearer of true love. Oh, and true love is INSTANT. Cinderella literally just danced with dude, left a shoe, he sends out a massive search and then... marriage. That carriage ride at the end of the movie was really more like the last scene of The Graduate. Lately, movies have begun with that ‘true love’ scenario in the first few minutes and then almost immediately call out the absurdity of falling in love with the first handsome man that comes around (see Frozen and Enchanted). The movies also offer that romantic love is not always the truest. In Maleficent, young handsome Prince Phillip does not bare the kiss to wake Sleeping Beauty and actually, he is barely even a part of the story. There are more solid journey stories with female heroines learning lessons that have less to do with finding happiness with a boy and more to do with finding strength and purpose within yourself (also see Brave and Tangled).

My daughter may wear a lot of pink dresses, but her legs underneath are full of scrapes and scars from climbing trees and hanging from monkey bars that she was once afraid of. She is indeed the girliest of girls. - Julia Cotton

9780241951590I haven't read the book in at least three years, but for the past week or so, I have repeatedly thought of a scene from A Confederacy of Dunces. Overall, the book is pretty darn funny, but there is one scene in particular that I remember making me heartily laugh out loud. If you're unfamiliar with the novel, it centers around a portly ass of a man named Ignatius J. Reilly. He works with a senile, old woman who always calls him Gloria. Because she thinks he is a woman named Gloria. In the scene that I've been thinking about, Ignatius falls down. Being the ass that he is, he makes a big production about being hurt. He doesn't want anyone to touch him in case his back is broken. Finally, the senile gal sees him and runs to help "Gloria." She insists on helping, but ends up falling down on top of Ignatius/Gloria.

I'm not doing the scene justice, but the first time I read it, I know that I laughed out loud. I may have clapped. Not a roaring applause, but one solid, happy clap of my hands. I do that when I really enjoy something. Sometimes I say "weee!" in my head when I'm really enjoying something. But I rarely say it out loud. Anyways, this book is quite funny. Particularly, this pratfall-ridden scene. - Ashley Bright

The deadline for DCH internships came and went this week. As part of the application, potential interns must name their favorite television show of all time, and explain why. The application states that this section might be a deal breaker, should the an applicant chose poorly. Each term, I name the same show: Mr. Show with Bob and David. Each term, I give the same two reasons: 1) Mr. Show is the sharpest, craziest, most absurd, best structured, and most influential comedy show of my lifetime. 2) Mr. Show created the single greatest sketch in tv history, "The Story of the Story of the Story of Everest" AKA "The Thimble Sketch." I can remember watching this sketch for the first time in college, literally doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down my face. I remember watching this sketch when I bought the Mr. Show dvds, and laughing so hard that my roommate lost control laughing at me. This kind of infectious comedy, that can reduce two grown men to rocking, snorting, crying, quivering mounds is the apex of comedy. It is what we all hope to accomplish. If you haven't seen the sketch, I suggest you take a gander. You do like things that are the best, right?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyrM7GxyzGg&feature=kp

Someday I'm going to live blog this sketch and annotate it second by second. I could write 500 words alone on Bobe Odenkirk's line reading of "Three times!" But for now I'll leave you with this fun fact: The live crowd HATED that sketch. The crew needed about twenty minutes to reset the thimbles between takes and the crowd had to sit there and wait, only to see them knocked down again. And again. And again. And again. And again. - Ryan Callahan

What We're Loving: Returning Shows, Food in New Places, The Joys of Womanhood, The Dickens of Detroit

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison makes bold predictions, Ashley Bright admits her bias, Julia Cotton feels like a natural woman, and Ryan Callahan works on his greatest goal in life. vibe-new-orange-is-the-new-black-season-2-shots

Time is crazy y’all! I am writing this in a world where season two of Orange is the New Black has not been released. But, dear friend, you are currently reading this article in a world where season two of Orange is the New Black is available on Netflix. Like right now! Currently, I’m watching another episode of it as you take in our picks for the week, but I already know everything that’s going to happen this season. How? Past tv tropes. Shows tend to follow patterns, so it’s easy to hazard a few guesses. Maybe ten? Yeah, I’ll go with ten. Here are ten things that will happen this season on Orange is the New Black:

1) New friends will be introduced, probably with an inspirational speech, a loud argument or intimidating silence. 2) We will learn more about old friends. Don’t worry, their past transgression(s) will be justified. 3) A character that was once trusted will no longer be able to be trusted 4) Said characters breach of trust will be explained in an intimate conversation, probably at the edge of a bed, a stroll in the yard, or in an arbitrary church. 5) People will totally do it. Like, woah, doin’ it. 6) Someone will attempt to murder someone else, a move that will change EVERYTHING 7) The murderee will survive, thus negating the potential change and keeping things as they were. 8) The recovery of the murderee will be slow at first and then within a week, he/she will back to 100%. 9) I will participate in about fifteen conversations with people who watch the show, the thesis of each will be “Yeah, that security guard is played by Lauren Lapkus, she’s a really great improviser, they should use her more.” 10) Prison will continue to take some getting used to.

Orange is the New Black is a consistently fun show to watch, even if it is a bit formulaic. So hurry up and finish reading what the lovely ladies, and lovely Ryan, are recommending this week so we can talk about this show over the weekend. - David Allison

595e5a2f-c809-48bc-9441-bf1680134724_800I may be biased because I'm a Tony Bourdain fan, (See? I called him Tony instead of Anthony. Fanship confirmed.) but I've really been enjoying his CNN show Parts Unknown, which you can find on Netflix. If you've watched his No Reservations then you pretty much know what to expect because Parts Unknown is not much different. It's Tony hanging out with people, eating food, and exploring cool places. He's going to a bit more dangerous places like Libya, the Congo, or Jerusalem. In the Libya episode, he visits the ruins of Qaddafi's palace and the danger was palpable. The rebels running that area were not fans of Westerners scooting around with video cameras. But even among the danger, he is graciously welcomed to share a meal. In Myanmar, he talks with people who openly share their feelings on the state of their nation; people who had spent many years in prison for talking about their government. He goes to the Gaza Strip and eats with both Jewish folk and Palestinians. He eats at a restaurant run by a Jewish woman and her Palestinian husband. She is the only Jewish person in her community. Amid the tension and seemingly unsolvable issues, people are just people. They just want to be happy, let their kids be happy, and be free to travel to whatever territory they want.

One of my favorite scenes was while he was eating with a table of elderly ex-pats who had been living in Tangier since the 50s and 60s, when beatniks, writers, musicians, and artists flocked to the city. He asked them, "who at this table smokes hashish?" and most, if not all, of them raised their hands. You have to see it to really appreciate it, but it was a table of Judy Dench and Ian McKellan lookalikes. I just found it cute that they all raised their hand to that question. But to be fair, I bet both Judy Dench and Sir Ian McKellan probably throw down on some hashish themselves.

This show is great for learning about history, culture, and even current events. But the thing I most enjoy is just watching human beings be human beings. Most of us are prettydamn cool. - Ashley Bright

A lady never kisses and tells.  But, a real woman forsakes being a lady in the name of good comedic storytelling ...and sisterhood.

9780810989023_p0_v1_s260x420Growing up a “lady” in a fairly conservative household, conversations of dealing with the opposite sex were very limited.  Many of my friends grew up the same way, so we seldom even talked about boys amongst each other.  This left us to fend for ourselves, rather ill equipped, into the wild of men that inhabit the world outside of our shielded upbringings.  Needless to say, we each have had some horror stories dealing with the men types… stories that none of us would ever tell each other, until I listened to this one interview with Allison Brie.  I forget which one...maybe a Nerdist podcast??  They were going on about how Brie often plays characters that seem so wholesome and refined (see Community and Mad Men), but then they came across a rather graphic tale that she contributed to the book Worst Laid Plans about a very awkward sexual experience.

Worst Laid Plans began as a comedy show performed at UCB L.A.  Women would do stage readings of sexual-encounters-gone-wrong, all of which are hilarious and terrifyingly relatable.  Guests have included the great Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, Laraine Newman, and many other comedic writers/performers.  A few of these monologues have been published in book form.

Brie scoffed at the idea that she would a)not be capable of having a weird sexual experience and b)not be willing to tell about it.  After all, we tell stories so that we are able to relate to one another.  Why should stories of this nature be any different? Because we are ladies?

Listening to this audiobook made this lady feel more like a natural woman than I ever had before.  My friends and I have become much closer having shared delightfully awful casual hook-up stories of our own.  We bellow over in laughter not only at the tragic tales, but also understanding that many of them may have been avoided if we’d just been talking about it all along. - Julia Cotton 

Elmore LeonardElmore Leonard wrote over 40 novels in his lifetime and I’ve made it a goal in life to read every one. Each year I knock out two or three. Last week I finished Maximum Bob, his early 90’s novel about a human peacock in a judge’s robe and the oddballs, misfits, criminals and crime fighters he sends careening into each other like billiards balls with a few and arrogant and selfish decisions. Right now I’m reading LaBrava, his 1980 novel about a Secret Service agent turned photographer and the oddballs, misfits, and criminals who careen around him like billiards balls after one selfish and arrogant decision.

You might notice that Leonard’s novels have a certain formula to them. In addition to the plots, which are often so similar, you can count on a certain set of stock characters. There's the pair of mismatched lowlifes planning a crime, in over their heads and hating each other. The drugged out rich boy, usually confined to a house, who begins as a benefactor to the lowlifes and eventually becomes their target. There will be a young blonde who plays with men like G.I. Joes or an older brunette who’s struggling to earn respect in the male-dominated world of law enforcement. And there will be a charming, laconic, graying at the temples dud, sometimes a cop, sometimes a crook, who romances the heroine, knocks around the lowlifes and gets what he wants in the end. The ending will feel abrupt and end with a joke. And the whole thing will be so damn much fun that you’ll want to pick up another book right away.

Leonard wrote with a grace and clarity that you will not find anywhere else. He believed in leaving out the parts that readers tend to skip. His books are marvels of precision. He moved his stories along so fast, and moves in and out of all the different point of views so well, that it feels like you watched a movie in your head.

With so many books, knowing where to start can be overwhelming. My top two favorites are Swag, the story of a used car salesman and a car thief who team up to making a killing in the armed robbery business, or The Hot Kid, Leonard’s late-career masterpiece about a U.S. Marshall in the 1930’s. After that try something gritty, like Killshot, or witty, like Get Shorty. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Just start reading. And let me know what you think. - Ryan Callahan