Bazer (right) comes under attack by guests.
Humor columnist Mark Bazer works in the same building as me (the Tribune Tower), but our paths never cross. Then I heard he was starting a talk show the first Friday of every month at my favorite bar, The Hideout (starts tomorrow night, the 8th, from 6 to 8 p.m.; cover is $5. The next show will be Friday, March 7th).
Since we’re both serious journalists who work serious journalism jobs, I thought I’d throw the whole professional interview thing out the window and bug him a little over Instant Messenger:
Coda: Hey, Mark, do you see this?
Mark: Yes! Did you see my yes?
Coda: Yes! I see your yes! This is fun!
Mark: We are technologically ahead of the curve, I think.
Coda: No one has ever said I was technologically ahead of the curve. OK, so the show. How did it come about?
Mark: It came about in a few ways. 1) I’ve done a few of the “Funny Ha-Ha” [shows that Claire Zulkey and Steve Delahoyde host at the Hideout], and while I was not bitten by any kind of be-on-stage bug, I didn’t mind it. 2) Then I saw a Charlie Rose-style interview show they do at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater in New York and thought about all the interesting people in Chicago who people love to see perform, or read about, but who don’t get a forum to discuss their work or their lives. And then 3) I rented Dick Cavett DVDs and thought, wow, interviews can be really interesting and fun and 4) The Hideout got a new floor, which I wanted to see.
Coda: Funny you mention Dick Cavett. I was going to ask if you were thinking of your role more like a Jon Stewart type or a Dick Cavett type. Then I deleted Dick Cavett and typed Phil Donahue. Thoughts?
Mark: I can’t separate Phil Donahue from the Phil Donahue impression that, who, Phil Hartman did on SNL.
Coda: I like Cavett. I just thought that Donahue and Stewart are more ridiculous polar opposites and that I might thus elicit a more ridiculous response. Again, this is serious journalism
Mark: If it’s so serious, then why no period at the end of that sentence? I’m just saying.
Coda: You caught me. I’m a poser in Tribune Land.
Mark: Tribune Land, I believe is the new name of the company.
Coda: Ha. OK. Tell me about the first show.
Mark: OK. Four guests—[Comedian] Hannibal Burress. He will perform for maybe five minutes, then I’ll welcome him over to the couch, which sounds dirty but isn’t, although the actual couch is kind of dirty. Then I’ll interview him! Then I may do a comedic bit. And then bring out John Green for an interview. He writes YA (young adult) novels; and then Julie Smolyanksy, who is the CEO of a company called Lifeway Foods, which makes a probiotic yogurt drink called kefir that saved my GI system; and, finally, Justin Kaufmann, who is in the sketch comedy group Schadenfreude. Oh, plus, a film by a former RedEye columnist named Maegan Carberry, which she did from the campaign trail.
Coda: Hannibal and Justin make sense; what’s up with the yogurt lady?
Mark: I want to bring together people from different walks of life. And I think she’s got a fascinating story. Plus, I’m telling you, the healing properties of it are astounding. Forget doctors. Oh, and, you called her “yogurt lady,” not me.
Coda: I accept full responsibility. Who’s on your list of future interviewees?
Mark: Well, I can tell you who I’ve got coming up: Marcus Sakey, thriller writer; the Changes, a band I love; Rhymefest, I think, in April. Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Claire Zulkey. Steve Delahoyde. The magician Tomas Media. Oh, and I really want to interview Steve Stone.
Coda: Do you take requests?
Mark: Yes, definitely.
Coda: How about Sam Zell? Seriously. He’s funny.
Mark: I would love to interview Sam Zell. And he wouldn’t have to be funny. I mean, I want the show to be entertaining, but it doesn’t have to be funny.
Photograph: LUKE ADAMS