City: Brooklyn, New York
What do you worry about these days more than anything else?
I’ve been in New York for a while now, and I’m feeling ready to move to the country soon. I’ve been here for a while and there’s this franticness in New York City that’s exhilarating but also kind of exhausting. Once you leave the city, you realize it’s not the center of the universe, and sometimes maybe what’s really, truly important gets away from you.
What book changed how you think about things?
The book that really blew by my mind was “Of Water and the Spirit”, and it’s [a true story] by this man from Burkina Faso. He was raised in a tribe and then he was abducted by a missionary when he was very small and was brought to a Jesuit school, and escaped when he was teenager and went back to his tribe. And he went through the initiation process that all the boys in the tribe go through. But because he had been Westernized, it was really difficult for him. And it was interesting to see the way he described the process, and the way there’s so much magic in it. They’re out in the forest and these magical things are happening and that’s just part of their culture and belief system. It’s such an amazing point of view.
Description: “Time Travel Lover,” a short comedic film about a first date interrupted by time travel, was written by Elisha Yaffe.
City: Los Angeles, California
If you could give advice to your 16 year old self, what would you say?
Chill the fuck out. Don’t pretend to know what you’re doing. I was a real fucking go-getter of a 16 year old. After high school, I took a year off before college and tried out stand-up in New York at 18, which was crazy and weird, and I eventually shacked up with my girlfriend’s sister. Not shacked up in a sexual way. But I had to live somewhere, and she helped me out.
What was a memorable experience from that year?
Performing avant-garde stand-up to people who hated it. I was very influenced by Andy Kaufman and Steve Martin, and I had this one bit that stemmed from this book that Fabio wrote, the model. In the “About the Author” section, it was all about how sexy he was. So then — and again, this is as confusing to me as it was to the audience, looking back — I think what I ended up saying was “It sucks that you can use sex to sell books, so I’ll just use sex to sell jokes” and then I put on some jazz music and stripped into tights and read knock knock jokes to the audience, sexy-like. It didn’t go well.
City: San Diego, CA
What is something that you regret?
I once was in this gospel choir in college– this is in San Diego. I had never been to New York before, and the gospel choir was able to go sing in Carnegie Hall for this really awesome, once-in-a-choir-lifetime thing. And I was dating someone at the time, and he really didn’t want me to go, and I didn’t go. And I don’t regret anything more.
City: Providence, Rhode Island
How did you begin doing spoken word and poetry?
(laughs) This is the origin story that I always tell, and I’m not even sure if it’s true anymore. I think what happened is that I read Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” And I was like, holy shit, this is poetry that is exciting and dirty and risky and angry and it’s clearly meant to be read aloud. And I knew that the controversy was that Ginsberg had read this poem out loud in public, and I was really fascinated and captivated by that idea. So I sought out open mics in Atlanta— where I went to high school— and sort of went searching for that same type of energy, and what that felt like today. And that’s kind of how I started– how I got on this winding path to poetry.