Audio

Book 13 of 52: You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn

I first saw Kal Penn as many elder millennials did: as a supporting character in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, and then as the co-lead in the much better and way funnier Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. I heard that he’d taught at Penn and did…something in the White House? But that was about it. So I went into his memoir, You Can’t Be Serious, skeptical about what I would learn. A lot, it turns out. This guy can be serious. The memoir is funny, of course, but it’s Penn (whose real name is Kalpen Modi but uses Kal Penn as his byline, so I’m going with that here) retelling his Hollywood story, from growing up in a mostly immigrant community that didn’t understand why he went into acting and not the sciences, to having a very real job with the Obama administration, to his baby, the series Sunnyside, making it…

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Book 10 of 52: Putting the Rabbit in the Hat by Brian Cox

When I first started listening to the audiobook of Brian Cox’s Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, I wasn’t sure why I was there. I’ve watched Succession, sure, where he plays the media titan Logan Roy. I enjoy it, but but I’m not obsessed with it (I watched most of the show while running on a treadmill). But I’d listened to Cox do Wait Wait…Don’t Tell me, an NPR news quiz, and tell a story about how almost everyone at his first wedding got very drunk except for him, which was a bit of a problem since most of the guests were also starring in Romeo and Juliet, and they had a performance that night. Plus he and Michael Gambon (one of the drunk wedding guests ) also had a matinee performance of Othello. This might be worth giving him a few hours of my time, I thought, and then, when I was…

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Book 4 of 52: This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

My audiobook consumption generally falls into three categories: Hefty historical books that I’d probably never sit down to read (like Book 2 of 52 in this series) Juvenile or YA fiction (the 2006 production of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet as read by Peter Coyote is the tensest audiobook experience I’ve ever had) Celebrities reading their memoirs Book four falls into that last category. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett isn’t a straight memoir – Burnet wrote that, One More Time: A Memoir, in 2003. Instead, it’s a anecdotes that she often told in the Q&A sessions before tapings of The Carol Burnett Show, and then on tour. I say performances for a reason: listening to this book is like listening to her on stage. These stories have the polish of well practiced storytelling. And there’s nothing wrong with that of course! Burnett is supremely talented performer – I…

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Book 2 of 52: Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, DC by J.D. Dickey

Whenever I went to Washington, D.C., I think about how orderly it is. Just about everything is on a grid, with Metro riding through it. Free museums, great buildings, great works of art, lots of fun things to do (in non-COVID times). Every visit is a treat. When I started freelancing and thought I needed to move for my career, I was must closer to moving here than New York City. I wound up staying in New Jersey (and I’m glad I did), but D.C. still has a special place in my heart. But wow, was it really a shit hole for most if its formal existence. I don’t mean that in a figurative way either. Sewage used to run right into the Washington City Canal (which still flows under Constitution Avenue), and when the canal backed up? That sewage backed up right into basements and streets.  It was a lawless,…

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