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Friendsgiving 2K16

3:30 pm: “Hey guys, I just want to remind you that in exactly 2 months it will be November 23rd, day 1 of my lit Thanksgiving break. If you’re no longer planning on coming to Friendsgiving2k16, tell me now, because I will need the whole 2 months to mourn the loss of you as my friend before my true friends get here.”

Pictured above: basically me the whole time.

Pictured above: basically me the whole time.

“Friendsgiving: College Edition” is a huge deal. While it is technically the third Friendsgiving I have had with my lovely squad, “Friendsgiving: College Edition” stands apart in that we decided to band together and have Thanksgiving at Haverford, my best friend’s college, rather than go home to Chicago. The best thing about Haverford College is that you can slap a “Haver-” onto the beginning of pretty much every word while you’re there.

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Three Peas in a Pod(cast)

The Art of Manliness

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Originally a blog, “The Art of Manliness” decided to expand into the realm of podcasts with the release of its first episode, “We Who Are Alive and Remain,” Sept.  21, 2009. Now having just published their 246th episode Oct. 25, 2016, this weekly podcast is still alive and remains with its intriguing name. But what exactly is it about?

Brett McKay, co-founder of “The Art of Manliness,” has been investigating this very issue and “helping men become better men” for seven years now, as he writes on his and his wife’s website. From videos like “The Workout the World Forgot” to “The Making of Winston Churchill,” this podcast manages to cover a broad range of topics under the umbrella of manliness. McKay always supplies some sort of written component to supplement the audio as well, which usually features an overview of the episode, highlights from the show and the resources, studies and people mentioned in the podcast. Thus, I realized that you really can’t judge a podcast by its title because this goofily named podcast seems to have some serious content backed up by legitimate sources and research for listeners to take away.

My Dad Wrote a Porno

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As the title suggests, Jamie Morton’s father wrote a pornographic novel. And what does he decide to do? Team up with his friends Jamie Cooper and BBC Radio 1’s Alice Levine to read one chapter aloud every week on his new podcast, of course!

The absurdity of the content and witty comments from the hosts make the episodes wildly entertaining. The full title of the porno is “Belinda Blinked 1: A Modern Story of Sex, Erotica and Passion — How the Sexiest Salesgirl in Business Earned Her Huge Bonus by Being the Best at Removing Her High Heels.” When Morton’s parents first became interested in self-publishing, they started out with travel guides. After hearing about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Morton’s father, a 60-year-old man, under the pen name Rocky Flintstone, decided to try writing a pornographic novel, too. And thus, “Belinda Blinked 1″ was born. You can get the Kindle Edition for only $3.99!

In between each weekly chapter reading, the team releases a “Footnotes” episode commenting on the various aspects of the novel and voicing their other extraneous thoughts. You would think that after they finished reading “Belinda Blinked 1,” the podcast would be over. But you would be wrong. “Belinda Blinked 1″ was aptly named so because July 4, 2016, Rocky Flintstone published “Belinda Blinked 2!” This made a second season of “My Dad Wrote a Porno” possible. Who knows what the future holds for Belinda?

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People

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Once a week, renowned comedian Chris Gethard (from “Broad City,” “This American Life” and “The Chris Gethard Show”) shares an hour-long conversation he’s had with an anonymous person. He has two rules: He cannot hang up first, and no names are given.

With this liberating anonymity, the caller can reveal their deepest darkest secrets, their saddest stories, their most shocking confessions. And we listen to these people’s truths. Sometimes silly, sometimes scandalous, this show offers, in Chris’s own words, “one conversation at a time, just a genuine interaction” with a real person.

While Chris does sometimes have some plugs for his various sponsors at the beginnings of some episodes, he always provides a good preview of the hour-long conversation to follow that is just interesting and vague enough to pique your curiosity, drive you to listen on and let you know what you’re getting into. It’s the perfect podcast for when you’re feeling bored with your own life and want to see what else is going on out there.

From manliness to pornography to anonymous stories, it’s clear that the podcast world has something for everyone. So if you’re ever bored or lonely, you have no excuse. There are plenty of voices out there for you to listen to!


Q&A with Rory Albanese

The ticket line was out the door at the Comedy Connection Club in East Providence Saturday night, everyone eager to see the headlining performer: nine-time-Emmy-Award-Winning writer and comedian Rory Albanese. Formerly the executive writer and producer of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, Albanese quit the television industry altogether in August to pursue his childhood dream of being a professional stand up comic. Among other appearances, he has starred in his own “Comedy Central Presents” half-hour special, been featured on John Oliver’s “New York Comedy Show” and hopes to be coming to Netflix soon.

The venue was textbook comedy club. Crowded, dimly lit, a stage with a single, spotlit microphone standing front and center. People filed in and took their seats, the bravest among them daring to sit front row (surely knowing their haircuts would be subject to scrutiny). Margaritas were sipped, nachos ordered. Murmurs of, “This guy is supposed to be funny, right?” echoed through the audience.

“Apparently he wrote for ‘The Daily Show.’

“With Jon Stewart?”

“Yeah. With Jon Stewart.”

“God I miss Jon Stewart.”

“Trevor Noah is okay.”

“Trevor Noah is AN IMBECILE.”

It quickly became apparent within minutes of eavesdropping that the audience was split into three distinct camps.

  1. People who thought Trevor Noah was okay.
  2. People who thought Trevor Noah was human garbage.
  3. Older couples who had never watched “The Daily Show,” but it’d been awhile since they’d gone out, and comedy clubs were supposed to be fun, right?

Despite their differences, the crowd still largely agreed that having masterminded Comedy Central’s longest running late-night program, Albanese had to at least be “kind of funny.”

The lights dimmed. Cell phones were silenced, heckling strictly prohibited. The host, a balding thirtysomething in a faded grey hoodie (the unofficial uniform of stand up hosts everywhere), warmed up the crowd with jokes about (you guessed it!) living with his parents.

Regardless, he was funny. Tragically self-deprecating, maybe, but still funny. By the time Rory Albanese took the stage, I’d laughed enough to excuse forgoing sit-ups for a week. 

Alas, 20 minutes (and a dozen cheesy tortilla chips) in, the man we’d all been waiting for grabbed the mic. Only pausing to take sips of what looked like iced tea, Albanese launched into an hour-long, full-throttle comedic rampage. Hampsters were analyzed, Jesus’s motives questioned and trips to the urologist recounted in gratuitous detail. Gleaning material from the absurdity within his own life, Albanese unabashedly called BS on the countless hypocrisies that exist within the strange, backwards world that is modern-day America.

My friends and I left with sore abdomens, an appreciation for solo artistry and an iron resolve to return to the Comedy Connection Club. The Uber was reasonable. The snacks? Fantastic.

After the show, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rory to talk about his long career in comedy and what it means to tell jokes in an increasingly serious world.

Q: You started out at “The Daily Show” right out of college as a production assistant. How did you go about climbing the creative ranks?

A: Well I started as a PA, then I became the tape librarian because video tape was still alive then — it wasn’t all digital. All that footage on “The Daily Show?” It was on tapes. So I had to organize all those tapes and label them. Nobody wanted to do that. It wasn’t a sexy, cool Hollywood job, but I did it, and I did it well. And then I started working on some other little projects. I started producing Lewis Black’s segment, finding silly footage for Lewis Black to yell at. … And I was doing stand up. And Lewis Black is one of the best stand ups of all time. And he started thinking I was funny, so he started taking me on the road. So all of the sudden I was doing stand up with Lewis Black because I was finding footage for the guy. … Climbing the ladder isn’t necessarily everyone’s goal or path. But if you want to do it, you gotta be patient, and you gotta go home a lot at night and punch a wall, you know? It’s hard.

Q: “The Daily Show” was praised for pioneering political satire as a means for media critique and social commentary. There’s currently an article trending from “TVLine” speculating that if Jon Stewart hadn’t stepped down from “The Daily Show,” the election might have turned out differently. What do you think made Jon Stewart so influential in shaping public opinion, and how do you think Trevor Noah and his predecessor differ?

A: You know, I don’t think Jon would have changed the outcome of the election because it’s a TV show, and you know, people liked it, but, err, probably not. A lot of it is timing. Like, Trevor’s timing on hosting “The Daily Show” is a different timing than Jon had. Now there are a lot of shows trafficking in political commentary. … (Trevor Noah) is up against a very different challenge then Jon was at the time. He’s just been given a very different landscape to try to succeed in. And he also has the challenge of everyone loving the guy who did the job before him, so like, just because humans are assholes, they’re going to pre-not-like him because he’s not like the other guy. So, I think you gotta just give him a chance, he’s gotta find the way he wants to manage the show. It’s just a different time.

Q: You said in your set that your first love is stand up. Even when you were a big deal on “The Daily Show,” you always did stand up. What makes stand up so special for you?

A: To me, what’s so great about stand up is it’s like pure-form comedy. You write something, and you don’t have to wait for the returns on the Neilson ratings — you get it instantly. I say it out loud, and people either laugh or they don’t. The beauty of stand up is you don’t have to answer to anybody. It’s between you and the audience.

Q: What advice would you give to young people who want to break into television or other creative industries?

A: Here’s the trick I would give to anybody trying to do anything in television or in any field. Whatever job they give you, master it. If you have to be a PA or assistant, be the best PA or be the best assistant. … The Internet was still in it’s infancy when (“The Daily Show”) started. Playing video online wasn’t like, a thing. So the show grew with that technology, and that technology has changed the way that television operates now, and it’s also given the industry a completely new entry point. You gotta take the stuff you want to make, you gotta create it and show it to people. People always tell me, you know, ‘Oh I want to shoot stuff. Oh I want to direct stuff.’ Well, shoot stuff and direct stuff. You’ve got a phone.

Q: A lot of comedians have stopped performing at college campuses because of the heightened sensitivity that has arisen with the prevalence of PC culture. Do you think the country has, to some degree, lost it’s sense of humor? Would you perform at a school like Brown University?

A: No. I wouldn’t. And I think it’s a big problem that your generation is that sensitive. And I think the bigger problem is, to groan and boo at people who are telling you ideas and then call yourself liberal is silly. If you can’t laugh at your own self, and you can’t see the absurdity in the things you believe in, then we’re lost here. And I think it’s a bigger problem comedians like Chris Rock not wanting to go to college campuses. Because that’s a brilliant mind. That’s a philosopher of our time. And now you don’t get to hear what he has to say because you’re gonna groan at him? That’s sad.

Q: Donald Trump was elected last Tuesday. Like him or dislike him, he’s a showman, and the next four years are going to be a circus of fodder for comedy. With all of the drastic polarization in the country right now, do you think laughter will help bridge the gap?

A: I hope so. The goal for stand up for me is I say, my goal is to come here, some guy had a shitty day at work, and he’s tired and he’s in a fight with his wife or whatever, and I just want to make him laugh. That’s it. For an hour of your night, you forgot about all your stuff, and I made you laugh. That’s my goal. I’m not trying to bridge gaps or anything like that. But I think it’s important to have voices out there mocking this stuff. I think it’s important that people don’t go into a spiral because this guy won. I think that it’s important that comedians on both sides make jokes about him. And they will. They would have made jokes about Hillary, too. You just make fun of the people in charge. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge, your job as a comedian is to sit in the back, not really take a side and hit everybody with some spit balls.


The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

It was a dark and stormy night when The Mystery of Edwin Drood first premiered at Brown. Perhaps not stormy, but it was certainly a windy evening as the audience poured into Alumnae Hall for the premiere of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a play put on by Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan. BUGS was first created in 2004, and has, in recent years, been focusing on producing modernized works by Gilbert and Sullivan.

The play was inspired by Charles Dickens’ final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens passed away before writing the ending, leaving the manuscript woefully unfinished. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave any notes about his intended conclusion, leaving critics to debate for years about what the outcome was supposed to be.

BUGS decided to take a much more immersive look at the novel and actively involved the audience from the moment people walked in. Various members of the cast, all dressed in costume with surprisingly smart English accents told people that audience members would be required to vote on the outcome of the play. By speaking to passing crew members, I learned that the actors had practiced every single potential outcome of the play, which was impressive, given the innumerable endings possible.

The play included the audience members at each step. The narrator continuously made jokes that broke the fourth wall, using his humor and wit to further engage viewers with the story.

The plethora of characters could have been difficult to keep track of, but thankfully each one was introduced as they came onstage. We soon were immersed in the story of Edwin, the nephew of music teacher John Jasper, and Edwin’s fiance, Rosa Bud. The play follows the lives of Edwin and Rosa as they attempt to come to terms with their betrothal. Their confusion and lack of genuine passion spilled outside their relationship, sparking contention with secondary characters, particularly the multitude of suitors trying to win Rosa’s affections.

A broad range of characters were involved throughout the play, from jealous lovers of Rosa’s, such as Neville Landless, to the elegant leader of an opium den, Princess Puffer. BUGS did an excellent job of casting actors with a complimentary strengths, excellent singing voices, and distinct personalities.

The crew also did an impressive job with the show’s production. The lighting played to the increasing drama and tension as the murder we were told to expect from the very beginning drew near. The suspense was particularly heightened by the beautiful and suspenseful music of the orchestra.

The highlight of the play occurred after the intermission, when the narrator explained that they had run out of the official novel and the audience was to decide what would occur next. The audience chose the identity of the detective by cheering for their pick. Choosing the murderer was more involved- cast members came to each group of people and took down a tally of people’s votes on paper.

Because of the involved nature of the story, it was easy to fall into the play and feel included. We were told from the beginning that we would be required to cast votes guessing at the identities of the murderer and the detective, forcing the audience to critically examine each character’s suspicious actions.

The narrator shared with the audience the many theories scholars have thrown around as potential endings to Dickens’ novels, but they still allowed the audience’s imagination to rule the outcome of the show- an exciting departure from the norm.

Overall, BUGS production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood was a uniquely engaging show. By the end of it, we were all thoroughly invested in its outcome, thanks largely to the cast, who did an excellent job of taking the audience along on the characters’ journeys. Even if the final outcome may never be known, Charles Dickens surely left the theater world with an interesting story that requires collaboration to complete.


Brown professors run NYC marathon

Nov. 6 Michael Vorenberg, associate professor of history, and Dietrich Neumann, director of urban studies and professor of urban studies, of Italian studies and of history of art and architecture, ran the New York City Marathon.

Though they had not coordinated their efforts, each professor saw that the other was running via their involvement with the local Ronald McDonald Running Club. They planned to find each other after the race and were able to meet up near the finish line at the American Museum of Natural History.

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“It was a fantastic experience,” Vorenberg said. “The whole thing was an amazing spectacle. The weather was perfect, so the crowds were out in full force, and their cheering along with the music of the live bands along the way made the experience pretty special.”

Vorenberg finished with a time of 4:02:25, while Neumann finished in 4:09:59. “ My plan all along (was) to enjoy the experience rather than worrying about setting some sort of personal record,” Vorenberg added. “Mainly, I was glad to finish.”

The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 runners annually. The race weaves through all five of New York’s boroughs, beginning in Staten Island and ending in Manhattan. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie won the 2016 men’s division, while Mary Keitany ran the fastest in the women’s division. Geoffrey Mutai holds the record time for the NYC Marathon — an astonishing time of 2:05:06.

All in all, though neither set records, running for a cause was an immensely satisfying experience for the two Brown professors.


Deluise Bakery

This is part of a “Mini-Donut” series, brought to you by Brown Donut Club (pending approval).

Even after dressing up as a donut three times over Halloween weekend, I still wasn’t sick of them. In fact, I was due to eat one because it had been over a week since I’ve had a delectable donut, so I visited Providence’s DeLuise Bakery.

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