A Notable Night with the Rumpus and Tin House

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Tuesday night, November 17, the Rumpus and Tin House presented a night of variety acts such as David Rees on the art of choosing numbers, Todd Barry on what women want, Starlee Kine on Zen ping-pong and Care Bears on Fire who proved that you can rock out before you’ve lost your baby fat.

Our host, the Rumpus’s own Stephen Elliott, opened by announcing the event was a benefit for Isaac Fitzgerald our newly anointed and highly energetic Managing Editor, and to show how one can get paid for digital world labor: by throwing a fantastic party. Arguably not the most workable long-term solution, but potentially the most fun.

David Rees, tall and wearing a jacket, talked about his satirical political comic strip Get Your War On, (a clip of which is below). He quit, he told us, when Obama won because there was no longer any point. He pulled out a book he claimed was from a thrift store about the art of picking numbers. He pointed to a girl who got up on stage. He was going to give her a number, he said, and she would draw it on an outsize notepad. “Your pen’s going to be smokin’,” he said. He called out numbers at random. He talked at random about choosing numbers. “Before you master Pick-5,” he said, “you have to master Pick-4; Think about it, would you want to learn how to ride a five-legged horse before you’ve learned how to ride a four-legged horse?”

Jonathan Ames read a piece about being “bald, impotent and depressed.” He used to be a “breast-man,” he said. But now he’s an “ass-man.” He was paranoid about getting a nose-bleed while his Greek girlfriend sat on his face. She would only sit on his face, because she was paranoid about getting AIDS.

Todd Barry said, “Isaac,” and a screen lit up with an Esquire article entitled “What Women Want from Men.” He conducted an artful and satirical analysis of the piece. If I’m taking a shower at yours, he read, stack fresh towels. Thick and white and fluffy. More than I’ll need. He performed an imagined dialogue between two women where one complains to the other that her guy only had one towel, and the other woman responds, “What? He didn’t have more than you need?”

Rick Moody harmonized with John Wesley Harding and A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers to Julian Cope’s “All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers.”

Eugene Mirman was hilarious as always and told of a time during a stand-up routine that a young boy with Asperger Syndrome pointed to him and said “Accept me as your God.” Eugene Mirman said he would and said religion made a lot more sense knowing that God was a twelve-year-old boy with Asperger’s.

Starlee Kine, of This American Life, read a great piece about perfecting her ping-pong game with the aid of a Zen Buddhist while at an artist’s colony. Actress/poet/playwright Vanessa Hidary, who is Latino and Jewish, read a piece about learning Spanish from a television show with her boyfriend’s Mother. And Rachel Fershleiser, senior editor of SMITH Magazine, presented a selection of six-word memoirists who walked up to the mic one-by-one and read his or her memoir. Two notables: “I found my mother’s suicide note.” And, “Aspiring role model become cautionary tale.”

Kid Core phenomenon, Care Bears on Fire (literally kids), performed “Baby Animals,” a song about why they love baby animals, and other songs. I heard one Care Bear mother outside. She said she tours with her fourteen-year-old daughter Isadora “Izzy” Schappell-Spillman, drummer-singer, who along with her punk bandmates, started rocking out when she was ten. Father, Tin House editor Rob Spillman, shares touring duties.

To cap the event, there was a raffle for “Two Bags of Schwag,” which included books, t-shirts and other fun stuff that I’ll never know about because I didn’t win either of the schwag bags. Shine Global, an organization dedicated to ending child abuse, threw a cozy afterparty at Gaslight where David Rees said he liked hearing about Stephen Elliott’s life because he [Rees] had only ever been with one woman, the woman he married.

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Video: “Get Your War On: Day Traitors” by David Rees.

Photo of Care Bears on Fire


Rozalia Jovanovic is a founding editor of Gigantic, a magazine of short prose and art. She is the Deputy Editor of Flavorpill and has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Columbia University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming from Unsaid, The Believer, Everyday Genius, Guernica, elimae, and Esquire.com. She blogs at The Astonishing Egg and is The Rumpus New York Editor. More from this author →