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Friday, May 29, 2009

An Evening with Roy Blount Jr.

Wednesday evening my wife and I went to St. Edward's University in Austin for an evening with Roy Blount Jr. The event was sponsored by the Writer's League of Texas. It coincided with Blount's being in Austin for a taping of the NPR comedy show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."

I admit to being a "Wait, wait" addict. No work gets done at our house on Saturday mornings when "Wait, wait" is on, and Blount, with his deadpan humor is one of the funniest people on the show. His bit about singing "Wild Thing" with The Rock Bottom Remainders was hilarious, as was his discussion of E.J. Junior Senior Junior High School.

The event was held in a top floor room of the main building of St. Edward's in what was probably the original chapel. We were feasting away on duck and brie quesadillas and red wine under stained-glass windows when the man, himself, walked up to our table and began talking.

He looks better on radio.

Okay, that was a joke. How can you write about a humorist without joking? Actually, he looks like a white-haired Southerner, which is what he is.

In the formal part of the evening, well, maybe formal is the wrong word, because it got off to a light-hearted start. Blount put his wine glass on the podium and it started to slide. He caught it and said he hates slanted podiums. "They must think a man can't drink and lecture at the same time." After that, Blount, proved that he could. A former writer for Sports Illustrated, he gave a humorous account of working with Wilt Chamberlain. From there he went into a long story about his negotiations between Google and the Authors Guild, of which he's president, over Google's program to scan and make available digital copies of books. He first critiqued their spelling ("Google" is a misspelling of "googol" which means one times ten to the hundredth power) and then praised their food policy (no employee is more than 100 feet from free food.) After two and a half years of lunch negotiations, Blount hammered out an agreement with Google, authors and publishers over access to out of print books.

In response to a question about Kindle and some audience members' lament over the demise of print media, especially newspapers, Blount took the side of an imaginary Kindle lover. He said, "I never could figure out how you could deal with that huge, floppy thing of paper. It gets all tangled up and the pages keep blowing away at the beach."

My wife asked about the program and he talked about doing the show in his underwear when the program first began and the panelists participated by telephone.

Afterwards Blount signed copies of his books. His 21st and latest book is Alphabet Juice. I never pass up a chance to get a signed copy from an author. Now I've got a book and a face to go with the voice on the radio.


  1. Todd Mason said...

    I'll be doing one of his books for Patti's Friday's Forgotten Books Real Soon Now...even if Patti is so heretical as to be not too impressed with WAIT, WAIT (the lack of awe for Barack Obama in that Chicago-based show might have something to do with that).

  2. Helen Ginger said...

    Sounds like a great evening. Some friends of mine went, but I had family in from Florida and North Carolina. Yours is the first retelling of the night, though.

  3. Mark Troy said...

    I tried to find out id anyone there had tickets to the Wait, Wait taping. I'd have mugged them if they did.

    On the show, which aired on Saturday, Blount told one of the funniest stories I've ever heard about a guy who figured out that if he tied a string to a piece of pork, a duck would eat it and almost immediately poop it out where it would be eaten by another duck which would poop it, and so on until he had a string of ducks. The story was part of the bluff the listener game. When I heard it, I wondered if his inspiration came from the duck quesadillas the night before.