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Michael Ian Black: NOTED EXPERT on Epix
It was a magical moment. That's how Barry put it, and who am I to disagree?

Barry Goldblatt is my friend and literary agent. He also happens to be literary agent to actor/​comedian/​author Michael Ian Black, with whom you may be familiar. This past November, Barry took a small group of us—me, Laura, and Colleen AF Venable—to see the taping of Michael's new standup comedy special at John Jay College in Manhattan.

Now, this happened to be the very next day after my book release party for The Accidental Terrorist, so 1) I was still on a pretty big high, and 2) the comedy outing felt almost like a continuation of the party from the night before.

Tricia Ready, Colleen AF Venable, and Barry Goldblatt at The Accidental Terrorist Release Party, 10 November 2015
As the line of showgoers entered the auditorium, a woman we called the Sorting Hat directed each little group to the exact row where she wanted them to sit. "Are you big fans of Michael Ian Black?" she would ask, before sending the young and attractive college students to the front of the house and the rest of us to the anonymous back middle. She needed the audience to look good and enthusiastic on TV.

Look, the show was hilarious. Josh Gondelman opened, and though I think we old people were prepared to hate him, he charmed us with a very funny set. When Michael Ian Black took the stage, however, there was no looking back. His set seemed to effortlessly ride a line between his signature ingratiating archness and smarm, surprising hints of vulnerability, and some of the most potentially offensive material imaginable. Laura and I were weeping with laughter.

Toward the end of the hour, Michael launched into a long story about getting arrested on an old warrant for a brief lapse interregnum in his auto insurance. Suddenly, at the point in the story where he's being hauled off to jail, he asked the audience, "Who's been to jail here before?"

Anticipation at the Noted Expert viewing party!

I don't want to spoil anything for you, but Laura, Colleen, and especially Barry all started hissing at me to sticking my goddamn hand in the air already. After taking stories from two other audience members, Michael called on me. My mouth was dry and it felt like I couldn't get enough breath, but somehow I managed to elicit from him the reaction you can see in the Instagram video below.

"...and said there was a bomb on it." --William Shunn in Noted Expert
After the show, a few people asked me if the story I'd told was really true or if I had been an audience plant. And Barry swore up and down that he'd had no idea the jail question was going to come up.

On Friday, May 13, I invited a bunch of friends over to watch Michael Ian Black: Noted Expert when it debuted on Epix. It turned out to be a lucky Friday the 13th for me because I didn't have to explain to my guests why I had dragged them over to my house to watch a show that I wasn't even in.

I hope you'll watch the special too. If you have Epix, it runs again this Wednesday night on Epix2, or you can watch it on-demand through the Epix app on many different streaming devices.

I encourage you to watch the full hour, because it's a very funny show, and because Michael Ian Black really needs this, guys. But if you're only interested in seeing my bit, start from the 48-minute mark. That should give you enough context for maximum enjoyment.

Oh, and buy my book, okay? The ebook editions are all on sale.

More fun: Michael Ian Black to debut stand-up special on Epix—exclusive

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

Six-word story

Rocket trip to Andromeda. Space constrains.

Inspired by an email from a director at my company, who said he would be working from home today instead of his construction-necessitated temporary office because "Space constrains."

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

Watching Tyler Glenn's video for his new solo single, "Trash," the anger is palpable and inescapable. But it also brims with pain and grief.

"Trash" exploded across the online Mormon world last week, causing the faithful to recoil and apostates to jump up and down in a fever. Glenn is the lead singer of Provo's Neon Trees. A lifelong member of the LDS Church, he made headlines two years ago by coming out as gay in the pages of Rolling Stone. He still believed, though—until six months ago, that is, when the church issued draconian new guidelines for the ecclesiastical treatment of children of same-sex couples.

Now comes "Trash," a video in which Tyler Glenn drinks liquor from the bottle, spits on a defaced portrait of Joseph Smith, enacts all four of the secret handshakes from the temple endowment ceremony, draws a red X on his face, and ultimately crumples amidst a blizzard of printed pages possibly meant to represent Mormon scripture.

It's hard to overstate how powerfully this video affects those of us who have also gone through the painful process of separating ourselves from the Mormon church. It's also hard to overstate how powerfully it must affect faithful Mormons. "Trash" renders one of the most familiar images in LDS iconography, the portrait of Joseph Smith, into a gothic nightmare. Even a viewer like myself, separated from the church by more than two decades, can't help feeling a stab of horror as Glenn viciously spits at the painting. This is the rankest blasphemy, a gut-punch to the deepest recesses of Mormon symbology. That gobbet of spit strikes the indoctrinated viewer like missile from hell.

What's so thrilling about "Trash" is how it seizes us and drags us through the first stages of the apostate journey. Mormons in good standing may quake at the treatment Joseph receives, but to the apostate an angry repudiation of the building blocks of his or her identity is necessary for overcoming the power the symbol still exerts over both the conscious and subconscious minds. Everyone who found it hard to leave the church but did anyway had to perform the metaphorical equivalent of spitting at that painting.

From there, Glenn seems to feel a flash of spiritual inspiration as he regards the angel Moroni in a robe painted pink. I can only imagine that this is his realization that he needs to forge an identity for himself separate from the environment in which he was raised. But that's more easily said than done. He enters an elevator, running through all the handshakes that are meant to gain the Mormon faithful entry to heaven.

But an elevator is an ambiguous space, especially viewed from the inside. Will it lift him up or drag him down? It's this doubt about his new course that swirls as a tempest of scripture rages around him. Paradoxically, the only way he can preserve his own identity in this maelstrom is to excommunicate himself, visibly and irreversibly, from the ideas and culture and even people that created him.

I can't tell you how much this video resonates with me. These are all the same arguments and emotions I was grappling with back in 1995, when I first started writing about—and often ridiculing—the Mormon church. That's what my journey was like—not a straight line out but a weaving, meandering stumble, never certain whether or when true escape had been achieved. I suspect, especially from the reactions I've seen to this video, that many apostates have had the same experience.

Now, at last, thanks to Tyler Glenn, we have something we can point to and say, "This. This is how it felt, and sometimes still feels."

Rolling Stone: Watch Neon Trees' Tyler Glenn slam Mormon church in new solo video

KUTV News: Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees explains anger towards LDS church in new video

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
GoFundMe: Surgery for Sarah Riccio
We interrupt your regularly scheduled websurfing to bring you an important request. If you've been to either of our Line Break readings, then you surely remember Sarah Riccio, who brought you terrific personal essays like "There's No Place Like Home" and "The Butterfly."

Well, Sarah needs surgery later this month, and really needs your help to fund it. If you've heard and enjoyed her work, or even if you don't know her, would you find it in your heart to toss a few dollars her way? Even a small donation would go a long way.

Thank you! We now return you to your regularly scheduled websurfing.

Crossposted from Line Break
A big thank you to everyone who turned out for our special Queens Literary Crawl episode of Line Break this past Thursday night at the lovely Aged Restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens. You made us bring our A game, and you helped support the very worthy Queens Book Festival!

A huge shout-out to all our readers also, too numerous to name, but who are pictured in flagrante below.

If you couldn't make it out on Thursday, please join us for Line Break #2 on Saturday, July 2, in our regular space at Q.E.D. in Astoria, Queens. Our guests will include Nancy Hightower, Gregory A. Wilson, Robert J. Howe, G.P.A., and more. And please sign up for our mailing list so you can keep abreast of all the latest developments in the Line Break world.

Finally, if you're interested in participating in a future Line Break, do send us a submission.

We look forward to seeing you in July, and until then please check out all the terrific shows and events at Q.E.D. There is something amazing happening there literally every day.

Barbara Krasnoff

Rajan Khanna

Alex DiFrancesco

Carey Bernstein

Ilana C. Myer

Robert J. Howe

Richard Taylor Pearson

Nancy Hightower

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Malcolm Chang

Jeremy Blutstein

Sarah Riccio

Jacob M. Appel

William Shunn

Crossposted from Line Break
Line Break is the eclectic live literary magazine where poetry meets prose, fact meets fiction, and high-brow meets low-brow. We are honored to be bringing our unique blend of writers and genres to the Queens Literary Crawl in Forest Hills tonight!

The Queens Literary Crawl (which benefits the Queens Book Festival) is an amazing assemblage of more than a hundred literary luminaries all reading on various stages throughout Forest Hills on one magical night. One ticket gets you access to it all, which includes the special Line Break stage at Aged Restaurant.

At every Line Break episode, live-lit veteran William Shunn brings together a wild assortment of talent on one stage, and tonight is no exception. Don't miss our incredible super-expanded lineup, featuring:

  • Jacob M. Appel

  • Marleen S. Barr

  • Carey Bernstein

  • Jeremy Blutstein

  • Malcolm Chang

  • Keith R.A. DeCandido

  • Alex DiFrancesco

  • Nancy Hightower

  • Robert J. Howe

  • Rajan Khanna

  • Barbara Krasnoff

  • Ilana C. Myer

  • Richard Taylor Pearson

  • Sarah Riccio

  • William Shunn

No rules, no themes—just the best writers in our fair city. Line Break—it's the start of a new thought. Don't miss it!

Line Break Reading Series
Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 p.m.

Aged Restaurant
107-02 70th Road
Forest Hills, NY 11375

Admission $9.99 in advance, $20 at the door. Ticketholders get access to all literary stages, not just the Line Break stage!

More info and tickets:


Aged Restaurant, like all the Queens Literary Crawl venues, is near the Forest Hills/71st Ave stop on the E/F/M/R subway lines. Ticketholders must check in first to pick up a wristband at Twist and Smash'd, 72-06 Austin Street, Forest HIlls, NY 11375.

Line Break Reading Series at the Queens Literary Crawl, Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 pm

Crossposted from Line Break

Meet our readers: Malcolm Chang

Malcolm Chang
Malcolm Chang reports: "I currently reside in Jackson Heights, but I have also lived in Johannesburg, Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles, amongst others. I was born during the apartheid era and as a third generation Chinese-South African, have been regarded at various times in my life as more Black than White, as well as more White than Black, on that odd spectrum of racial classification that existed in South Africa. I have written essays for Elle Magazine (South Africa), and a chapter of my memoirs appeared in Newtown Literary. You can also check out my blogs at Senile Delinquent and Mal and Di's Excellent Adventure. I am currently working on my memoirs and my first novel."

Please join Malcolm and all our accomplished readers for our special Queens Literary Crawl edition of Line Break, Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 pm at Aged Restaurant in Forest Hills!

Your $9.99 advance ticket gets you access to all the Queens Literary Crawl stages that night in Forest Hills, not just Line Break. Get yours now, because they'll be $20 each at the door! More info here.

Crossposted from Line Break

Meet our readers: Sarah Riccio

Sarah Riccio is a vile, loathsome being who refrains from spontaneous violent rampage by harboring the juvenile fantasy that her words are actually worth listening to from time to time. A squirming pile of malformed flesh since birth, Sarah used to get by on her "looks," enjoying life as a degenerate plaything in Seattle, keeping the company of strange men with Shirley Temple fetishes. After ceremoniously burning her West coast digs to the ground and with a mind sharpened by well-deserved pain, Sarah now bartends at Astoria Bier and Cheese—an escapist cocoon where her beloved regulars, for some perverse personal reasons, find her twisted self mildly amusing. She hopes you enjoy her efforts for Line Break.

Please join Sarah and all our accomplished readers for our special Queens Literary Crawl edition of Line Break, Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 pm at Aged Restaurant in Forest Hills!

Your $9.99 advance ticket gets you access to all the Queens Literary Crawl stages that night in Forest Hills, not just Line Break. Get yours now, because they'll be $20 each at the door! More info here.

Sarah Riccio

Crossposted from Line Break

Meet our readers: William Shunn

William Shunn is a writer and storyteller who was born in Los Angeles, raised in Utah, expelled from Canada, and now lives in Astoria, Queens. He is the author, most recently, of The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary.

His short fiction has appeared in Salon, Storyteller, Bloodstone Review, Newtown Literary, Asimov's Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Science Fiction Age, Realms of Fantasy, Electric Velocipede, and various anthologies, including year's-best collections. His work has been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Association for Mormon Letters Award. He served three years as a national juror for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and for another three years he hosted and produced the acclaimed Tuesday Funk literary reading series in Chicago. Visit him online at shunn.net.

Bill's storytelling was featured most recently at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA. Additionally, he will read tonight at the monk in Ridgewood, Queens, together with poet Emily Alta Hockaday.

Please join Bill and all our accomplished readers for our special Queens Literary Crawl edition of Line Break, Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 pm at Aged Restaurant in Forest Hills!

Your $9.99 advance ticket gets you access to all the Queens Literary Crawl stages that night in Forest Hills, not just Line Break. Get yours now, because they'll be $20 each at the door! More info here.

William Shunn

Crossposted from Line Break

Meet our readers: Carey Bernstein

Carey Bernstein
Carey "CJ" Bernstein has spent much of the past fifteen years working as a screenwriter in Los Angeles, but he's had a lifelong obsession with myth, magic, and mysterious goings-on. Now in New York City with six-year-old twins, he devotes his writing to telling the kinds of stories he loved as a kid and channeling the wit and wonder of classic fantasy literature through a modern lens, for kids and adults alike. His interactive mystery novel premieres online this summer, followed by the launch of his print novel, The Book of Briars, in 2017. Visit him online at www.cjbernstein.com.

Please join Carey and all our accomplished readers for our special Queens Literary Crawl edition of Line Break, Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 pm at Aged Restaurant in Forest Hills!

Your $9.99 advance ticket gets you access to all the Queens Literary Crawl stages that night in Forest Hills, not just Line Break. Get yours now, because they'll be $20 each at the door! More info here.

Crossposted from Line Break


William Shunn

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