Starry-eyed with Stars: The Emma Straub Variety Hour at Public Assembly


Starry-eyed with Stars: The Emma Straub Variety Hour at Public Assembly

1. Full house: Andrew McCarthy, Maris Kreizman, Ira Glass and Emma Straub. 2. All the beautiful people.

Emma Straub’s (Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures) pretend talk show got frealz on Saturday night with guests Dan Wilbur (How Not to Read), Andrew McCarthy (The Longest Way Home), Maris Kreizman, Stephin Merritt, and Ira Glass at Public Assembly on behalf of Word Brooklyn. Despite a general lack of politics, chest hair, and crazy cool medallions, Straub knows how to pack a house with stars and star gazers, especially since star number one was Straub herself.

Christine Onorati from Word set the tone for the evening when she extolled the power of love, “In a world where we hear that books are dying, that bookstores are dying, it’s so nice that we can come together to celebrate what we love most — books and Emma Straub!”

1. Writers Peter Straub and Susan Straub, Emma Straub’s parents. 2. Comedian Dan Wilbur, a self-identified Justin Bieber look-alike “after his first bout with alcoholism.”

As Emma Straub walked on stage, we heard a “Wow” from the crowd. “It’s nice when you can hear your mom admiring your dress,” Emma Straub said. But Mama Straub wasn’t the only admirer.

“You’re the first guy I had a crush on — from Mannequin,” Straub told Andrew McCarthy. “And you’re very pretty in pink,” McCarthy said.

1. Suzy Coaty works in a gallery and Elizabeth Ebright does public health research at Columbia. 2. Story time with Andrew McCarthy for ideal reader, Emma Straub.

When did he start traveling? “I was 19 years old. They wanted an 18-year-old, vulnerable and sensitive. I’d just been kicked out of NYU so I thought, that’s me!” McCarthy flew to LA and stayed in the Chateau Marmont, where John Belushi had just overdosed in the room next door.

1. Pre-flash shot of Abigail Kagle, legal counsel for Oxford University Press, and Caitlin Leffel, senior editor at Rizzoli International Publications. 2. Justin Feinstein and Julia Fierro.

“Where would you send people on their honeymoon?” Straub said. “Hawaii. After getting married, you need to lie down. You need a vacation, not an adventure.” Fittingly, McCarthy read a passage from his memoir about drinking rompe calzones in Ecuador. Direct translation: underwear breakers. Indirect translation: cheaper than Viagra.

1. Mashing up Laura Lamont and Brokeback Mountain via the genius of Maris Kreizman. 2. Writer Danielle Evans and international developers Brandon Dorman and Lenarda Eschucheva.

Maris Kreizman shared a special edition of her tumblr Slaughterhouse 90210, with a nod to Weekend at Bernie’s and quotes from Emma Straub’s new novel.

How did it all begin? “I was really bored at work, which is how most tumblrs start,” Kreizman said. What about turning it into a book? “The rights are kind of a bitch.”

As Ira Glass came on stage, he pointed to the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt, who was lurking in the corner. Merritt strummed his ukulele and sang, “When Bambi meets Godzilla, will they be friends? Will they exchange phone numbers or will it be the end?”

1. Ira Glass’ refrain to Emma Straub, “Stephin and I wrote a song about that.” 2. Stephin Merritt, singing his “song about that.”

“Did you get your start in public radio so you could go Hollywood some day?” Straub asked, referring to Sleepwalk With Me, which Glass co-wrote and produced. (Aside: is not the purpose of our every waking moment to one day ‘go Hollywood’?)

“When I went into public radio, I had never even heard of public radio,” Glass said. “I had no aspiration at all. But I have written a song about that with Stephen.”

Merritt’s song began, “I am a happy dancing pig.” Which explains everything.


— Erika Anderson teaches at Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, contributes to Hunger Mountain, and tweets for the Franklin Park Reading Series. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Brooklyn.

Special thanks to Vincent Onorati, co-owner of Word, for half of these photos.

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