This Banana Trick I Saw On The Gong Show

In The Golden Age of television, not every second of TV-viewing has to be a prestige moment. Sometimes you just want to flip through the channels and tune out a little. That’s why shows like Shark Tank and The Real Housewives of New York are such a relief for me: my brain transforms from a tightly-wound ball of rubberbands to something that resembles Jello. It’s nice to let your brain wobble now and again.

In such a state, I’ll sometimes just click through the channels, land on whatever, and watch for a few minutes. Such was the case, a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon ABC’s The Gong Show. Now as a former employee of ABC, I probably shouldn’t offer too critical an appraisal of this strange enterprise. Mike Meyers plays a character that’s like a deranged cousin of his Austin Powers. The world of the show is slightly unsettling: where are we? What year is this? What is happening?

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On Blogging in 2017

(I took this picture at a wedding this weekend and was about to say it has nothing to do with this post, but maybe it kind of does?)

Last night, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time: I read a post on my old food blog.

The context was this: I’d bought the Chanterelle cookbook and was doing an Instagram post about it (I’d say Instagram is the last remnant of my online life, though I still occasionally Tweet and write on Facebook) and remembered going to the restaurant with my mom. So I Googled “amateur gourmet chanterelle” and found this post about the meal we ate there in 2005.

The crazy thing? I loved reading it. It was so exuberant and pure and a great document of the night we spent there. It’s also a historical record of a restaurant that no longer exists, a useful artifact of a long-gone restaurant era. In other words: it was good that I wrote that blog post when I wrote that blog post.

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The Books That I Read in 2015

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If this year’s reading has a theme, it’s one delineated by Philip Roth quoting Kafka: “I believe that we should read only those books that bite and sting us. If a book we are reading does not rouse us with a blow to the head, then why read it?”

And so it was that I gave myself permission, this year, to put down books that just weren’t doing it for me. You’ll see them below. Life’s too short, I figured, to finish books just to finish them. If, a hundred pages in, I wasn’t in love, down it went with no regrets. The books that I did finish run the gambit, from cooly earnest (Marilynne Robinson, Emily St. John Mandel) to hilariously raw and Jewish (Roz Chast, Philip Roth). Let’s get to it.

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Becky Mann’s Thumb Pics

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One of the funniest people I have the pleasure of working with at my new job is Becky Mann who, along with her very funny writing partner Audra Sielaff, has written for such shows as Modern Family, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Raising Hope. Since most of our days as TV writers are spent using our brains, it’s often nice to find busy work for our hands. Some of us color, others doodle, but Becky–as you’re about to see–started taking portraits of her thumb in various guises. Her Instagram account, which you should all follow right away @pamsueinc, features thumb pics that have grown more and more epic. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where, for many of us, the highlight of our day is seeing Becky’s latest thumb masterpiece. Below you’ll find some of her best work, along with the captions she wrote for each picture.

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We’ve Got Magic To Do: Penn & Teller’s Fool Us

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There’s a certain kind of person–I’m one of them–who’s born eager to please. When you’re born a people-pleaser, the world can be a cruel place. Which is why people-pleasers tend to seek out communities of other people-pleasers. For me, that community has always been the world of musical theater. The first time I walked into Marie’s Crisis in New York, a piano bar filled with over-eager gay men and the women who love them, all singing show tunes in unison, I felt like I’d come home. That sense of belonging, of encountering other freaks who also knew every word to “Little Shop of Horrors,” was one of the great discoveries of my youth.

On Monday night, I found myself watching a show I hadn’t paid much attention to before: Penn & Teller’s Fool Us. The premise is simple: a bunch of Las Vegas magicians appear on stage before the real Penn & Teller and try to show them something they’ve never seen before. If Penn and Teller can’t figure out the trick, the magician “wins.” I put “wins” in quotes, because even though that seems like the point of the show, it’s not really the point of the show. The point of the show, I quickly discovered, is for fringe people-pleasers (aka: magicians) to engage in the ultimate form of people-pleasing—to try to impress their heroes in front of a live studio audience.

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I’ve Got A Name

The most frequent question I’d get, over my eleven years of being The Amateur Gourmet, was name-related. “How long can you keep being an amateur?” Or, variations on the theme: “Are you still an amateur after writing a cookbook?” “Are you still an amateur after making Bouillabaisse?” “Are you still an amateur if you’ve been doing porn for half a decade?” (Ignore that last one.)

At some point, I figured, I’d graduate to my name–like a David Lebovitz or a Michael Ruhlman–but then the blog felt so permanent, so fixed, that rebranding it and relabeling it felt like changing your 11 year-old child’s name from “Sarah” to “Bathsheba.” Meanwhile, my professional life began to shift a few months ago when I threw my hat into the TV-writing ring and got hired to write on a new ABC comedy called “The Real O’Neals.” Staying under the “food blog” umbrella felt too narrow for my new life; also, I was pretty bored by the pre-set expectations of a traditional food blog.

What I craved, more than anything, was a place to be myself. And lo and behold: here we are. A new blog, a new venture, with my name right there in the title. What does it mean? What will it be? That remains to be seen. But I’m feeling very excited about it, and that’s a good thing. So bid farewell to the amateur me, and say “hey” to the actual me. It’s nice to meet you, again.

Copyright Hey, Adam Roberts 2017
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