Last Thursday, deep in the heart of Brooklyn, comedienne and writer Julie Klausner invited about 300 people to join her in the famous snack nest. Klausner brought her hilarious weekly podcast “How Was Your Week” to the Bell House stage for a second time and as the Gowanus Grounddog predicted — something magical happened.
Klausner, whose “HWYW” podcast was chosen as Splitsider’s best of 2011 for her strong guest choices, did not disappoint with Thursday’s lineup. She was joined by the fabulous Sandra Bernhard, writer, producer and WMFU’s hilarious Tom Scharpling, comedian Joe Mande, musician Ted Leo and the very special surprise guest and snack nest correspondent This American Life host Ira Glass.
The audience was welcomed to the Bell House show with Ted Leo’s performance of one his Pharmacists tunes and then the infectious “How Was Your Week” theme. For those unfamiliar with the weekly podcasts, Julie begins each episode with some rants and monologue-style banter on recent topics as varied as Law & Order episodes, former Friends writers getting all the good gigs in Hollywood and her continued feud with Mario Lopez. Klausner did just that to open up her live show, touching on Lopez’s use of his adorable French Bulldog’s new Twitter account as a way to be racist, her Puppy Bowl predictions, the soon to be viral sensation, MathCats.com and a magnificent visual review of Glenn Close’s Oscar-nominated role in Albert Nobbs.
Her experience in musical theater and improv certainly helps Julie’s show to move beyond just her and a mic in her living room and translates well to the stage. Julie and Ted’s cover of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” set the tone and helped Ted become more of an integral part of the show instead of a leader of the back up band. Before this performance, Klausner ran a poetry contest to secure two tickets to the live show for her weekly listeners. She brought the winner Leigh Hendrix, who’s slam poem about her love of “HWYW” should win all the Def Jam awards in the world, onto the stage for a brief chat and then led her to the snack nest (which was full of goodies from show sponsors Pretzel Crisps & Peanut Chews). We then met the special guest, Ira Glass, who would be a snack nest correspondent for the remainder of the show. It’s easy to forget how funny Glass can be, which is why it was nice that he was able to just have fun with the gig. We also found out that Glass has apparently been living under a rock or has never had to room with punk rock vegan kids because he had never eaten Pretzel Crisps nor Peanut Chews.
Sandra Bernhard was the first official guest, and the interview was a great way to showcase Klausner’s unique ability to move from snack nest jokes to a discussion on radical feminism in one breath. Bernhard opened up about the recent shitshow between Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood, the need for more radical feminism, and her recent stint on Bravo TV’s late night talk show Watch What Happens Live. Bernhard jokingly dismissed the state of the network, but did hope her Sandrology gig alongside Bravo VP Andy Cohen could lead into a full-time gig there. Klausner knows that a good guest is one with opinions and who doesn’t mind to be vocal about them and she generally sits back and lets them shine, which she did for Bernhard. After moving the conversation from the ridiculousness of “hearting boobies” instead of hearting women’s health care to teens with cell phones, the two wrapped up their chat with a performance of the country folk song “Wichita Lineman.”
Best Show and Low Times podcast host Tom Scharpling was next and fucking hilarious as always. Klausner and Scharpling’s friendship was evident throughout the interview, and personally I appreciate when an interview feels like an open conversation between friends. The two discussed how long it might take for Bruce Villanch to choose which ironic T-shirt he will wear to the Oscars, the awful taste of gingerbread, why celebrities can’t win when it comes to introductions to us commoners, and they pondered when everyone in the world all decided to begin watching Downton Abbey and live-tweet it. Seriously, when did that happen? Do we have to blame Patton Oswalt for that as well? Scharpling hasn’t seen the British hit, but did want to discuss the bizarre 90’s kids show Steampipe Alley. The children’s show that introduced the world to salty comedian Mario Cantone is thought of as the greatest kid show ever by Tom, probably because of the sexual innuendos, crazy cult conversations and Cantone’s impression of Baby Jane confusing children for years.
Then the show’s sponsors joined in on the fun with quick interviews with sales representatives from each of the companies, with Klausner and Teo Leo pushing their favorite treat to the audience during a fake interview. As a follower of Ted Leo and a fan for years, it was awesome to see him with a much larger role within this live show that really let his humor shine.
Next up was comedian and recent LA transplant Joe Mande. If there is one thing to say about Mande it’s that he knows how to do Twitter. Mande might be currently writing for the Nick Kroll show, but his ability to make a bold political or intellectual statement with a simple retweet is impressive. Mande and Klausner chatted about the art of Twitter, especially when it elicits a public feud with NBA athletes or politicians. We were then treated to Mande’s top five moments of Andy Rooney segments from 60 Minutes for his Andy Rooney game, which you can watch here.
Over the course of the night, we were treated to Spoony’s review of the pilot of HBO’s Luck and the Gowanuses own February 2nd tradition of a Groundhog saying no to a taco. Yes folks, Klausner was able to find a way to have a Basset Hound and Glenn Close be a part of the show. Klausner’s second stab at bringing her podcast out from her living room and to the stage was much more successful than her first with more of a focus on guest interviews and her delightful monologue-style rants. And the goodie bag filled with treats and Spoony’s signed headshot did not hurt. Once again, this show was certainly more suited for many of us whom count down the minutes until a new "How Was Your Week" is posted on Fridays, but those who are merely familiar with Julie’s work would have certainly enjoyed themselves just as much.
Much like the weekly version I have fallen in love with, the live show highlighted one of the things that makes “HWYW” stand out from the vast land of comedy podcasts out there with topics ranging from women's health issues to the newly created debate over Pretzel Crisps or Peanut Chews being the better snack. Klausner happily and easily blurs the lines of comedic entertainment and can discuss social inequities with the same earnest and ease she gives to pondering how Bruce Villanch chooses from his vast ironic T-shirt collection.
Klausner’s podcast, be it on stage or on iTunes, is one that shouldn’t be missed and hopefully she’ll bring the live act back to Gowanus soon. Julie’s podcast reminds me of everything that was once right with radio and television and it was pretty amazing to be in a room for three hours surrounded by people laughing non-stop. Much like her October show, last week’s live show should be available via her podcast soon, and most likely will be chopped up into parts featuring each guest. This week’s podcast is a “Best Of” from guests past, so if you haven’t already become a fan of Julie Klausner I recommend you doing something about it immediately. You can also follow her and all of her fine guests, including her sponsors, on Twitter.
Danielle Johnsen Karr is a freelance writer and social media manager living in New York. Most of her time is spent watching TV and ranting on Twitter.