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August 2011 Archives

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A darling of the Chicago music scene since her debut album’s 2005 release, Martha Berner has gone on to win fans and critical accolades both nationally and abroad. Now ramping up for an aggressive push in support of her sophomore album, Fool’s Fantasy, Berner spoke with Our Town about her new band, her ideal audience member and what makes a performance great.

Our Town Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Martha Berner I didn’t write it on purpose. I was feeling sort of forlorn, a sort of typical teenage longing to know where I belonged, and I began to write a poem. This was out of character for me. I was very shy about my thoughts and never wrote them down. But I had written this poem, and pretty immediately I decided to try and put it to music. I don’t recall it taking that long to put it all together, maybe just a day or two.

OT Have any songs changed the way you write?
MB I don’t know if there’s one particular song or artist. Whether it’s a melody, lyrics, or a production approach, it’s hard to listen to music without constantly making mental notes, conjuring new ideas for songs or sounds. That’s why I listen to a lot of NPR. It’s my only real escape!

OT What’s your writing process like?
MB In the past, I’ve mostly put songs together all at once, so to speak. Find a chord progression I like, then put melody and lyrics together as I move through the song, making decisions about new chord progressions, melodies and lyrics as I go. However, that’s really begun to change for me. I’m now thinking mostly in rhythms and am doing a lot of lyric writing separately. Then I experiment with putting different ideas together and observe how they change each other.

OT How long does it generally take you to write a song?
MB You never know! Some take a day, some take a year. The rest fall anywhere in between.

OT In what ways is Fool’s Fantasy different than your first record?
MB It’s still very rooted in the singer/songwriter genre, but with the Significant Others I was able to bring to life the full band sound I had in mind when writing many of the songs on this album.

OT How did you go about assembling the Significant Others?
MB Part luck, part strategy. Scott Fritz (electric guitar/producer) and I waited tables together in the west loop when he moved here from New York City to develop his own studio and work as a music producer. Things took off for him at the studio and he was able to quit working in the restaurant. But a year or so later I needed a band for a gig I had booked and I dropped him a line. At the time, my ideal, long-term plan was for Scott to play with me live long enough to really get him inside the songs, not just technically, but energetically, emotionally. If that went well, my hope was to have him produce the new album. Lucky for me, Scott had been playing with Will Sprawls (keyboards) since they were teenagers and Will had moved to Chicago from New York City as well. They were up for doing some shows and we’ve been playing together since. Tyson Ellert (drums/percussion) and I were love at first rehearsal. It was a blind date, so to speak. We didn’t know each other, but a mutual friend set us up. It’s always kind of nerve wracking to do that. Like any blind date, if you discover you have little in common and there’s no chemistry, you’re sort of stuck there trying to figure out how to make an exit. But we rehearsed for a few hours and gelled immediately, both musically, and as friends.

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For some Chicagoans September first doesn’t just mean an endless line of SUVs blocking the streets surrounding every elementary school in the city. It also means the eagerly anticipated Fringe Festival, now in its second year. Part of a movement that began in Edinburgh, Scotland, a Fringe Festival offers nontraditional performers and pieces a chance to showcase their work. For Kansas native turned Chicago actor Kate Healy, last year’s Fringe Fest provided an unusual impetus to place her work in this year’s show. Healy’s play, Let Me Count, is an emotional story told with facts. It’s about taking your own inventory; all that you’ve done, lost, and loved in the span of your life. As if that weren’t plenty, there will also be remote-controlled cars and Diet Coke.

Our Town Is it just me or is it impossible to get Diet Coke at Chicago restaurants?
Kate Healey It is impossible! I feel like I’m always going to corner stores and getting a can. I don’t know why Diet Coke is better; I started drinking it and couldn’t go back.

OT Down to business. Was acting always a goal?
KH In high school being onstage was the most electrifying thing I could experience, but somehow I figured that wasn’t what I would do with my life, probably because it scared me. Halfway through college, I ushered a show, and I knew exactly what all the actors were doing back there, the feeling, the pacing, the preparation, and the simple but complicated waiting, I missed it so much. I started trying out, and from my first audition I was hooked. It was a beautiful dare.

OT Did you experience culture shock moving from Kansas to Chicago?
KH My bike was stolen the first day I got here, but I really love the city.

OT You wrote Let Me Count spurred by an imperfect Fringe Fest piece you saw last year. What is it about bad theatre that can be so motivating?
KH I saw some incredible pieces at the Fringe last year, but this particular piece was really…self-indulgent and patronizing at the same time. I figured, if she can do that, I can definitely do that, but better, and with some purpose.

OT Your show deals with taking inventory. What compels you to break life down into lists and numbers?
KH Lists are definitely part of my life, always writing to-do lists because I’m so afraid of forgetting. Numbers, not so much, but I wanted to look at a life objectively, we all have explanations for why we do what we do, but if you could actually remember how many times you walked silently by a homeless man, how would you feel? I think numbers can provide a lot of perspective in a short amount of time, it can be jarring or comforting, and I wanted my audience to take that ride with me, and ask their own questions, pick up where I left off.

OT
Artists sometimes romanticize numbers thinking they can relay concepts words can’t. Can numbers really carry a show?
KH I hope so, I think it’s a different, inescapable way of looking at things. I also think it’s what you invest in those numbers, how they strike you and if you choose to let them lead you or not. The numbers don’t care, but we do.

OT You say the Chicago theatre scene turned you into a feminist. Why?
KH I’ve had to look at myself and understand that I have the skills and the guts of a theatre artist, but that a lot of people see just a model, or a recent college grad still mooching off her parents, but that’s not what I am. I love being a girl, I love being a woman, I love being feminine, but I feel like I have to have more strategy, energy, and knowledge to make who I am work for me. I don’t resent it, but it’s certainly a change.

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Interested in witnessing live sex acts performed by incredibly attractive young singles within the romantic, dimly-lit confines of a dive bar in Logan Square? Then the Sunday Night Sex Show might not be for you, because we happen to be a bunch of nerdy literary hipsters telling drunk stories of ridiculous sexual exploits often gone hilariously wrong.

I full understand the appeal of a microwave dinner. TRUST ME, I totally do. Especially when eaten while snuggled in your pajamas, bathed in the glow of reality television. And Sunday nights are the perfect night for doing your deep-cleaning acne mask and changing the cat litter, but you really should get off the couch, comb the knots out of your hair, and put on a bra to come to the Burlington and hang out at our inbred hipster soiree. Here’s why.

1. It’s sexy.

Officially, The Sunday Night Sex Show is a reading series featuring true confessions about sex and sexuality! Sort of like Penthouse Forum, but intentionally funny Sometimes sad, often cringe-worthy, and always brutally honest. Robyn Pennacchia, the Sex Show founder, and I host this jam, and we answer anonymous love and sex questions from the crowd and give them the benefit of our sage advice between readers. And there’s trivia, and also sexy prizes.

2 It’s easier than trying to convince a hot person to go out with you.

You walk into the Burlington, which might be the least assuming place in the entirety of Chicago. You buy an inexpensive drink. (Seriously, a giant Jack and Coke is, like, four bucks or something.) There are crayons and paper lying around, and while at first that might seem awfully precious, once you use them to write your burning questions about potential lesbian threesomes and oversized testicles it becomes increasingly less so. Not a fan of human Barbie dolls being drooled over by your stepfather? Great, because everyone here looks exactly like you do. The last thing I ever want to do is stand in a room full of plastic surgery being ignored because there’s spaghetti sauce on my shirt, so I like to go to places where that kind of thing won’t happen to me. You’ll laugh at some readers, maybe find out the truth about digital stimulation, and if you’re a smartypants you could win a box of penis-shaped pasta or some edible underwear for properly answering some sexy trivia. And then you go home and resume your boring life, wondering how you ever got through the days before you met us. UNTIL NEXT MONTH.

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Photo by Anya Garrett (From left, Guilia Rozzi & Margot Leitman)

As a creative writing teacher, I’ve noticed some of my students self-censure their work into nonexistence, an approach I discourage. I tell them, only once you’ve unselfconsciously unloaded your thoughts onto the page should you call in your mental editor. I’m on the other end of the spectrum. A former teacher once advised me to “write everything. What else are you saving it for?” Insightful advice which I happily take, pajama-clad and typing in my dining room with only the dog as my witness. However, when my work finds a home online or in print I’m inevitably caught off guard. My uncensored words now public fodder, I’m suddenly accountable for something it seems like someone else wrote.

Back in college I wrote and directed a show called “Girl On Girl Action: An Evening of Theoretical Theory” which is the single stupidest name anything has ever had EVER. In fact, I just had to google it to make sure that was really what I called it. Theoretical Theory? How about Redundant Redundancy? What can I say; I was a women’s studies major…who apparently couldn’t speak English. So, I wrote this show, and performed it and later was recognized by a Big Lesbian On Campus who asked me to take part in this super sexual play she had created. And I sort of blushed and stammered and said I wasn’t sure I was comfortable. Her response? “Oh, c’mon. I saw your show. I know what you’re like.”

But she didn’t. She knew what I wrote, not who I am. I don’t think of my writing as particularly sexual, but then I don’t think of myself as bipedal or American either, still all that I am informs my writing, whether I notice or not. Writing about sexuality isn’t the only way to make oneself vulnerable, of course, however writer/performers willing to make public sexual musings seem brazen and brave.

This week Our Town is highlighting two different live readings: Stripped Stories, an East Coast phenomenon, and The Sunday Night Sex Show, conceived right here in Chicago. Stripped Stories, a hit NYC sex-themed monthly storytelling show has been playing to sold-out audiences since 2007. Guests have included award winning comedians as well as regular folks who have never set foot in front of an audience.

When I spoke with SS hosts Giulia Rozzi and Margot Leitman, I was curious to know how they handle the emotional ramifications of putting personal work onstage. For Rozzi there’s little conflict. “I'm an extremely open person,” she says. “On and off stage. If anything, I find it cathartic to spill my guts in front of people.” Leitman seemed slightly more cautious saying, “I will never perform something I am still broken up about or in the middle of; I don't use the stage as therapy. I would never subject an audience to some story I just "really need to get off my chest." I only work with material where there is humor in the pain because [of] distance.”

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I’m a taste-maker; at least that’s what my mailman tells me. When I opened the door to collect my mail this morning, he looked me up and down and said, “You got your own style, girl. Don’t let anyone tell you not to show it off.” So before Chicago’s elite rush to follow my lead, I want to be clear that although I’m intrigued by GenoVive, a new DNA based eating plan, I am not specifically endorsing it. However, I did speak with Beverly E Swango, a former NASA employee and current GenoVive Director of Product Development to see what this new diet might offer.

Our Town Do animals in the wild naturally follow a DNA-based diet?
Beverly Swango All living organisms essentially follow a DNA-based diet. Animals adapt to their environment or they don’t live to reproduce. Those animals whose genetic makeup best allows them to make use of available food have a health and survival advantage over animals who are [unable] to process the food that’s readily available.

OT What makes humans different?
BS Our diets are not driven by simple availability. They’re affected by flavor, customs, our social interactions, and lately the amount of time we have available to plan, purchase, prepare, and yes, even consume our foods. Each human has a unique body chemistry determined by our genes. In the last decade, scientists decoded the human genome and gave us the ability to study our individual DNA. Identifying an individual’s specific set of gene variants known to be associated with various aspects of weight management helps us choose the best source of fuel. As we explored the association between weight management and DNA we discovered the emerging science of nutrigenomics, the study of how genes and nutrients interact and how this affects our body’s ability to function. Research in this area is expanding daily and is providing us with the ability to make better food choices based on our specific genetic profiles.

OT Mediterranean and Japanese diets are known to be healthy. How does GenoVive compare to natural ethnic diets? Does one’s race/ethnicity tie into one’s DNA and perhaps naturally influence the way we eat?
BS A key point to remember is the Mediterranean diet is health-promoting for Mediterranean populations, the Japanese diet for the Japanese population. We know that aspects of the [both] are very healthy and that the use of monosaturated fats such as olive oil or Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in fish have a basis in their ability to interact with our DNA to reduce the effects of inflammation. In creating the GenoVive diet we studied recommendations by the major medical associations, the RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowances), as well as ethnic diets. Race and ethnicity play a role into one’s uniqueness, but [are only] part of the story. In working with the program, I invited my sisters to be tested to determine their dietary profiles. I was surprised to learn that of four immediate family members only two were similar in their resulting profile recommendations and that we also differed in our exercise recommendations. Finding that even family members, who share the same genes from the same parents, have different diet and exercise profiles really drives home the importance of one’s unique set of gene variants.

OT Can I expect to have a completely different meal plan than another person since I have completely different DNA?
BS Our current meal plans fall into four categories. Optimal Balance (OBL) - The basic guidelines of the US “Balanced” diet with an emphasis on calories from Carbohydrates, moderate Protein and moderate Fat. Fat Optimized (OFC) – Emphasis on the “Reduction of Fat,” moderate protein, and Carbohydrates as the balance of calories. Carbohydrate Optimized (OCC) – Emphasis on the “Reduction of Carbohydrates,” moderate protein, and the balance in fat. Fat & Carbohydrate Optimized (OFCC) – Emphasis on the “Reduction of Fat and Carbohydrates.” The protein is increased as a result of the reduction of the other 2 major macro-nutrient groups. [All] the meals are pre-assembled into daily menus to assist the customer in maintaining their recommended meal plan.

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The members of Chicago improv group, K.C. Redheart are masochists. There’s no other explanation for the press release I just received. Beginning August 26th at five p.m. they will improvise for thirty straight hours, and we’re all invited to watch. Throughout the marathon performance, the group will interact with tons of other Chicago improv groups and performers, creating kid-friendly shows during the day, and adult comedy at night. Our Town spoke with KC Redheart member Karissa Bruin about the impending event.

Our Town How did you come up with the idea for the Improv marathon?
Karissa Bruin Bill Stern, generally regarded as KC Redheart’s team captain, had done similar stunts with his improv groups back in Austin, TX and wanted to bring [the practice] to Chicago. We're a group of people that are game for anything, no matter how crazy. The marathon is a great and idiotic feat to pull off especially in the name of charity.

OT Right, proceeds benefit Namaste Charter School.
KB Namaste is a public charter school that has a focus on integrating wellness and health with academics. As a group, we're a pretty fit and athletic team. Margaret rows and cycles, Bill plays tennis, Nick plays soccer and George lifts and hits the gym regularly. We all have an athletic streak, so that's definitely the appealing thing about Namaste: it's not just brains, it's brains and brawn.

OT Which brings us neatly back to the marathon. How does one prepare for such a taxing event? Is there carb loading?
KB Mostly we just hoard energy drinks and protein bars. A lot of us will come to the marathon straight from work on Friday, so it ends up being quite the adventure. We also lean a lot on our loved ones and friends. Husbands, wives, girlfriends - those are the people that truly suffer. I sent many text messages last year to my fiancé "Um, could you pick up a ...." because when you're improvising and making up comedy for that many hours in a row, you get weird cravings. I guess it's like being pregnant. But with ideas and a desire to sleep.

OT How does one wind down?
KB Last year, we ended at midnight on a Saturday. I remember we were out in the parking lot and Dave was like, "Hey, we should go get a drink to celebrate," then immediately he said, "We can celebrate later." I think we all felt pretty zombified. I think I slept all day on Sunday.

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Dear Twelve Year Old Self:
You don’t know me but I know you. See, I am you. The future you. Nice hot pink shorts by the way. They go smashingly with your hot pick socks, white keds, hot pink scrunchie and that hot pink glossy sports bra you wear as a shirt. (Sports bras are much less exciting when you spend all of your time wearing one while shouting at people from a stationary bike in a darkened room. Why would you do that? Good question.) Oh, and don’t worry, I don’t use the word ‘smashingly’ all the time. Just for special breaching the time/space continuum occasions.

You see this occasion is special indeed. I have brought you here to read my interview with one of your very favorite people. Dare I say, your idol. No, not Lily Tomlin. Younger self, I was lucky enough to interview Tiffany. Yes, she’s still got great hair. Not quite as high in the front though. Well, fewer jean jackets, no shopping mall concerts, but she is on tour with your other favorite. No, not Bette Midler. My God, why didn’t anyone know you were queer? Debbie Gibson. No, I don’t still have the Electric Youth perfume poster you climbed into the dumpster behind Walgreen’s to swipe. Yes, she’s still cute as a piano-playing bug, but she goes by Deborah now.

Anyway, Tiffany was lovely and gracious and gabbed about everything from her country-tinged album, “Rose Tattoo,” to whether she regrets posing for Playboy. Crap. No, forget I said that. I don’t care how much you like Gypsy. I don’t care how well things worked out for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Look, by the time you’re me, you’ll have a lucrative blogging career. Yes, I know what lucrative means. I was using it in its original sense, from the Latin lucrātīvus, meaning gainful. Fine, once you get here, if my/your lifestyle does not meet your standards, you can pose for Playboy. My God, you’re stubborn. No wonder our mom sent you to all those therapists.

Our Town How is the music industry different from an adult perspective?
Tiffany You know more of the pitfalls; you know the industry is a business. It’s a balance to not get jaded by that. As a young artist, you just go out and play music because you love it. When I got off the road at nineteen, I thought, I’ll give it a couple years and just jump back in, but it’s a very fast paced industry and you have to keep up and continue to put product out and I think I’ve learned all that as an adult. Maybe people told me all that when I was younger but you don’t really get it.

OT We’ve watched artists like Britney Spears publicly falter. How did you avoid that period?
T For myself and Debbie Gibson, that was a big no-no, a career breaker, to be out doing scandalous things—at the time that was not acceptable. Not that it’s okay now, but bad behavior is a little more celebrated. Artists have always gotten into trouble, especially as young teens because you’re living in an adult world. Nobody’s telling you no, you’re making lots of money. But we didn’t have reality TV; paparazzi weren’t what they are now. Every second these kids are bombarded, so you’re gonna see some unflattering things. As a public, we gasp when we see that sort of thing yet we’re hooked to the TV.

OT How has social media changed life for an artist?
T It’s a great time to be an independent artist. Everyday I wake up to some new tool available to me to get the word out about my new record or to network within the industry or get in contact with my fans. I’m not always instantly in the know, but I have lots of friends with their fingers on the pulse and I look to them to educate me. Being an artist used to mean making a record, doing a video, doing some touring-- those were the tools of the trade. Now you can go on Twitter, be accessible through so many different avenues. That’s very exciting, but also kind of demanding. You really have to stay on top of things.

OT Was there ever any truth to the supposed rivalry between you and Debbie Gibson?
T We get a kick out of that. I can definitely say for myself, I never had harsh words with her, I didn’t even know her. We would walk red carpets together, take a few pictures and go our separate ways. We never became friends (and definitely weren’t enemies) until the movie “Mega python vs Gatoroid” brought us together and we developed a friendship for the first time. You’d think we would have collaborated through music, but that’s actually really a challenge. We are two completely different people and I think that’s what this tour is about: celebrating the 80’s through each of our perspectives. I’m much more of a rocker and country at heart, so I’m going to be into Stevie Nicks and Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses and Deborah is your pop girl through and through (with some Broadway thrown in) and she does it beautifully. We never understood the rivalry but it’s probably to be expected, it’s good gossip.


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Micki LeSueur

Searching for a fun night out? Look no further than Fictlicious, a hot new reading series founded by Chicago writer Micki LeSueur. While Chicago abounds with live readings, Fictlicious offers a unique take on the concept, featuring both stories and music created around a specific theme. I spoke with LeSueur about Fictlicious’s inspiration and forerunners without once mentioning I’d recently referred to her as a French mouse. Oops.

Our Town How did you come up with the idea for Fictlicious?
Micki LeSueur For the number of talented writers in Chicago, there are surprisingly few fiction reading events. The ones that exist are great, but we couldn’t find one that meshed with all the different styles of the writers in our group, so we thought, why not create our own? For now, Fictlicious is quarterly and on August 16, we will have our second event at the Hideout. Our first show was in May at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge in Old Irving. We had about 50 people and the writers, musicians, audience, even the bar staff had a blast. Hopefully, we’ll stay around for a long time!

OT Why do you think story telling events are becoming so popular?
ML Salons featuring fiction have ebbed and flowed in popularity, possibly because good writers aren’t always good storytellers and good writers aren’t always good live readers. NPR’s This American Life can probably take credit for putting non-fiction story telling in the spotlight and making it attractive to a large-scale audience through exceptional story telling. Now, The Moth, a non-fiction story slam, is the most successful on-going event I know of, I think because it lifted the idea of competition from poetry slams. The slam component ensures that the storyteller engages the audience as opposed to just providing a stage for the storytellers. I think fiction writers [are learning] how to put on readings from the Moth or we’re all just sick of cable and Facebook and for entertainment, storytelling is about as old school as it gets.

OT What makes your event unique?
ML Fictlicious mixes original flash fiction and music based upon a single theme, different for each event. The stories are created to read aloud and the writing styles are varied – some of our writers read stories that are intricately crafted with layers of imagery and metaphor, while others are just well written yarns that amuse and entertain. We also feature at least three different professional music acts per event, with songwriters ranging from indie pop to rap, each with great stories to tell. We’re the only event that I know of where the songwriters are part of the story telling with music created specifically for the show.

OT What goes into planning/producing a storytelling event?
ML A lot of naïve optimism! I’m fortunate to know incredibly talented writers and musicians who love the concept and are excited to participate. Then it’s finding the right venue, working with the booker for the venue, and next, it’s tending to a lot of details – posters, websites, listing the event, following-up with the venue and artists. Then it’s all about promoting and getting the word out so we can keep it going. I need to make certain the event is rewarding for the artists and a great show for the audience. To keep it viable, once I finish the details for a show, I’m figuring out what to do for the next one. And now that word is spreading, I field inquiries from writers and musicians who want to participate and I need to make sure they’re the right fit.

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This is my housewife dress.

I’m not a fan of summer. I know, blasphemy, especially in Chicago, where restaurant patios are like exhaust-scented seasonal churches, clusters of Zinfandel drinking caprese salad eaters the congregation. When the temperature can’t be bothered to come down out of the rafters, the last thing in the world I want to do is sit halfway into Randolph Street traffic and eat. Even with my tongue pressed to my apartment’s twenty-year-old air conditioner, the last thing I want to do is eat. I can’t be the only one. Well, I might be the only one in flagrante delicto with an appliance, but I’m sure other Chicagoans wonder what to eat to beat the heat.
Personally, I like a good gazpacho. Regrettably, the fanciest food preparation tool I own is a slotted spoon and even that confuses me. It’s stored inches from the stove so I’m always grabbing it to stir soup and then feeling shocked when I can’t use it to taste the soup. I don’t own a vegetable mill (which sounds like something James Taylor would write a song about). I do have a blender with no top, but I’ve been banned from using it as a result of a terrible margarita/ceiling fan mishap. But yesterday, I found myself craving gazpacho, so I improvised.

Spontaneous Gazpacho Recipe:
One cucumber, chopped as small as your dull knife will allow.
Two medium size tomatoes also chopped.
One can Campbell’s Tomato Juice
One tub Pico De Gallo from Edgewater Produce (No other will suffice so if you’re reading this from Toronto, you’ll have to make a road trip.)
Dump into Tupperware because you don’t own a bowl
Eat

As is often the case with my concoctions, I ate the improvised Gazpacho with gusto, while my significant other looked queasy. Which is totally ridiculous because when SO and I were in New York and the heat index was 115 degrees I had to watch her consume a Philly cheese steak and fries and also one of those pizza slices the size of an occasional table. All outside.

Inspired by my recipe’s success, I asked Our Town readers to contribute their favorite summer dishes.

Micki LeSueur (who sounds like a made up French mouse but is actually a local writer you’ll be hearing more about in my next blog) was super helpful, even supplying a role for my dog in the food making process. She wrote: “Get peaches from the farmer's market. Have the dog remove the pits and place the peaches flesh side down on the grill. Grill until the peaches soften and impressive-looking grill lines appear. Turn skin side down. Add a little butter, some brown sugar and cinnamon to the cavities from the pits. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Invite me for dinner.”

Reader Freddie Levin contributed the following: “Buy canned kidney and/or white beans. Drain the liquid from the can. Cut up celery and avocado into small pieces. Dress with olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Look smug because it's Vegan and that makes you better than everyone else.”

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Erin Nekervis

I’ve been hearing about Cameron Esposito for a while now. Who was this funny woman, I wondered. And is I’ve been hearing actually grammatically acceptable? I’ve been hearing: It sounds like something the old goat farmer up the way might say. Cameron seems to appeal to the hipster lesbian demographic (See also blue, plastic 1980’s glasses, which forward thinker that I am, I was already wearing in the 1980’s.) so I decided to get close to Cameron, I’d better blend. This is a lengthy way of explaining why she opened the curtains to find me drinking PBR in her tree last night. Because Cameron is more than just a whip-smart comedian with an easy, and as it turns out, demographic-defying style, she agreed to do a quick interview before she called the police.

Full name: Cameron Anne Young Anastasia Esposito (for real)
Hometown: Western Springs, IL
Profession: Standup comic/circus ringmaster
Hobbies: yelling instructions at the screen while watching action movies; making delicious meals from various useless household food scraps (think red pepper banana pancakes, Reese's peanut butter cups dipped in salsa)

Our Town What was your first joke?
Cameron Esposito Something about how I dated a very tall Asian man in high school. [It] relied on well-placed Yao Ming reference.

OT What’s the biggest difference between being a novice comedian and a veteran performer?
CE Understanding how much work you have ahead of you. Newer comics tend to think Letterman is a year away and a lucrative film career around the corner; the longer you perform the more you are humbled.

OT With your course Feminine Comique, you teach women how to write jokes but not how to be funny. What’s the difference?
CE Jokes come from truth, from the strength of our opinions about the world. Some folks will always be funnier than others; it's inborn. But you can teach the recognition and conveyance of truth.

OT
Teach me how to write a joke.
CE Had someone say something rude to ya on the train? Write it down immediately or text yourself the hurtful comment. Add context to explain that you were just riding the train, being cool. Make sure to hang onto that feeling of being wronged. Get up at an open mic and rage. Refine wording and destroy with joke at a booked show. That rude person may never hear your come back, but you just got paid to tell it, so you win!

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