There’s few people I’d pay to hear speak, but Fran Lebowitz is one. I caught her the other evening at the Brooklyn Academy of Music where she joined fellow writer Frank Rich for some hardy conversation on the current political scene. Perhaps they weren’t as synergistic a duo as the Lebowitz-Martin Scorsese pairing was a few years ago here,
but what they lacked in visceral hilarity, they really delivered in erudite quips. Take these exchanges, for example:
Frank Rich [FR]: Is Donald Trump Hitler?
Fran Lebowitz [FL]: There are six million answers to that question.
FR: What do you think of Senate Republicans refusing to hold hearings on [President Barack] Obama’s Supreme Court nomination?
FL: The Founding Fathers could have more easily imagined the iPhone than [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell. (1)
FR: Does [Vermont Senator] Bernie Sanders have a chance to be President?
FL: Well, the U.S. isn’t the only country he could be president of. He could be President of Vermont! But if he said “New York City apartments should be free,” I’d vote for him. New York City apartments should be free!
FR: What do you think of this year’s Oscars controversy?
FL: First of all, who cares? There’s no other business [other than the movie business] that gives out as many prizes to themselves. (2)
Then came the most enjoyable part of the night: Q & A with the audience. The house lights went up and scores of hands suddenly jolted up and down around the auditorium.
Squinting and shielding her eyes from the glare of the spotlights, Lebowitz grew more free-wheeling than before. She looked into the crowd and chose questions with delight:
Audience Member #1: What do you think of the comparison between you and Dorothy Parker?
Fran Lebowitz [FL]: Well, Dorothy Parker and I are producing about the same amount of work right now.
Audience Member #2: What do you think of Caitlyn Jenner?
FL: Bruce Jenner is the only person in the history of the world who wanted to be a 65-year-old woman. (3)
Audience Member #3: How’d you break your writer’s block?
FL: What gave you the idea I broke it? (4)
Audience Member #4: [Completely inaudible]
FL: We didn’t understand the question! We’ll call you!
Audience Member #5: What would you say to young writers today other than “Don’t try”?
FL: You’re either creative or you’re not. But I can’t see you from here, so I don’t know.
Audience Member #6: Do you have any stories about David Bowie?
FL: Well, Bowie borrowed a book from me once and never returned it. Look what happened to him! (5)
And with that, Ms. Lebowitz and Mr. Rich walked off stage.
Photo by Rick Stachura. March 18, 2016.
Mr. Rich, left, and Ms. Lebowitz on stage at the Howard Gilman Opera House, Brooklyn Academy of Music.
(This story was originally posted to my old Tumblr site on March 29, 2016.)
(1) Obama’s nominee was Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
(2) For the second year in a row, all Academy Award nominees for Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress were white.
(3) Bruce Jenner, former Olympian turned “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” reality TV star, came out as a trans woman in April 2015.
(4) Ms. Lebowitz has been working on at least two books. Her last published effort was a 1994 children’s book.
(5) David Bowie passed away two months earlier on January 10th.