The American Bystander

It’s a lonely world out there for print humor publications—just trust us on this one, okay? Hence, The Lowbrow Reader is thrilled to say hello to The American Bystander, a lovely newcomer spearheaded by some very sharp comedy lifers. The debut issue, still fresh and available for purchase at, weighs in at 146 pages, replete with snazzy color illustrations and contributions from such genre colossi as Roz Chast, Jack Handey, George Meyer, and Michael O’Donoghue. Elsewhere in the issue, Mike Sacks (of the new podcast Doin’ It with Mike Sacks) interviews Josh Alan Friedman about his years working for Al Goldstein, while John Wilcock shares memories of Lenny Bruce in an illustrated biography excerpt by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall. The whole package can rest fashionably atop your favorite credenza for a mere $20—check it out today!

The Presidential Candidates, in Yiddish

Jeb Bush: schlemiel
Ben Carson: meshuggener
Chris Christie: khazer
Ted Cruz: ganef
Carly Fiorina: farbissiner
Mike Huckabee: goy
John Kasich: nudnik
Rand Paul: schmendrik
Marco Rubio: pisher
Rick Santorum: schnook
Donald Trump: schmuck

Hillary Clinton: yenta
Martin O’Malley: kibitzer
Bernie Sanders: Bernie Sanders



Musicians You Should Know

The most recent two Lowbrow Reader issues included a recurring feature, “Musicians You Should Know.” Through illustrations (by Mike Reddy) and biographies (by Jay Ruttenberg), “Musicians” introduced such artists as portly opera tenor Serafino Paina and the Reapers Grim, a bloodcurdling doom-metal band. This year, the Musicians will be unveiled with more regularity. Every week of 2016, a new portrait and biography will be posted to The series begins with distinguished panpipe master Paco Huamán, above. But where will it end? Check out the Tumblr blog today—and look for new entries every Thursday through 2016, the year of the monkey.

Chilling Economic Facts

As Bernie Sanders has indelicately pointed out, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans have nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of the country. According to an Oxfam study, the wealthiest 85 people in the world have approximately as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion. And by next year, more than half of all global wealth will belong to the richest one percent of the world’s population.

But did you know that 24 percent of wealth within that one percent—a sum so gargantuan that it is best not to disclose, lest the sensitive break out in hives—lies in the hands of just two men? Mr. W– made his fortune trading residual bond derivative sub-funds, an exotic banking practice that involves moving masses of money around until it all ends up in his checking account. Mr. S–, until recently, worked as Mr. W–’s personal money manager. At present, he resides in a subterranean lair protected by a shiver of sharks.

But what of those individuals even richer than Mr. W– and Mr. S–, the ones so wealthy that their net worths cannot be measured in anything as pedestrian as numbers and percentages? A rumored 72 percent of these men are exempt from paying any taxes whatsoever, their funding of political attack ads—which, in turn, subsidize the television programs so enjoyed by “the lower 99.999999”—being deemed more than sufficient.

When learning of this statistic, 84 percent of Americans wince, stammer, wheeze, sigh, and raise their eyebrows in a manner indicating the hopelessness of it all. The remaining 16 percent intend to join the elite’s ranks as soon as their Instagram feeds and/or D.J. careers catch steam and, thus, approve of any perceived equality gap.

But have you heard this humdinger? In 1965, the average chief executive of a major U.S. company earned roughly 24 times the salary of a typical worker at his company. By 2005, a CEO made more in a single day of work—even a really unproductive one involving whatever rich people did on the Internet back then—than an average worker earned in a calendar year. Currently, a chief executive earns the same amount in the time it takes to brusquely demand coffee from an assistant as the average American worker earns in three days, provided that the average American worker happens to host a network talk show. (more…)

Jeffrey Lewis’s Manhattan

For years, one of New York’s mighty artistically restless souls has been Jeffrey Lewis, a musician and comic-book creator whose mediums often clash together in fiery ways. A few years back, Lewis headlined a Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour show at the Housing Works Bookstore—if memory serves, his set included an a cappella rap about murdering a mosquito plus an excerpt from his “History of Communism” series, in which he accompanies his singing with drawings. He is highly prolific, publishing the comic book Fuff, cutting records with the great NYC folkie (and fellow Lowbrow Reader Variety Hour veteran) Peter Stampfel, and self-releasing minor-key CDs in those years without officially sanctioned Jeff Lewis albums.

This month sees the release of one of the more proper Lewis albums, Manhattan, which Rough Trade will unveil at the end of this week. Credited to Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts, the album is, not surprisingly, very smart, very fun, and very New York. Songs explore an East Village hoodlum who bullied the singer in his youth and continues to haunt the neighborhood, a noisy neighbor, a girlfriend on vacation. The funniest? Why that would be “The Pigeon,” a Borscht Belt take on Poe’s “The Raven”—Lou Reed’s version apparently being deemed insufficiently Jewish. Quoth the pigeon “Bubkes”!

Those in New York can celebrate Manhattan’s release tonight, October 27, at Le Poisson Rouge, where Lewis & Los Bolts star in a show that also features Hamell on Trial and Crazy & the Brains. In the club’s gallery space, roughly 1,500 sketchbook pages of Lewis’s art will be on display. Now, will some art book publisher please put together a collection of Lewis’s sketchbooks, flyers and whatnot?


New Noonday!

What was the most undervalued band of the ’00s? Ah, who the hell knows! But here’s one strong candidate: The Noonday Underground, an enigmatic British act that took its first breaths in 2000 with the album Self-Assembly. Noonday was at once years ahead of its time—predating likeminded work by Mark Ronson and the Go! Team—and also decades behind, its every note playing like some wondrous scene from cinematic swinging London. Starring the producer Simon Dine and singer Daisy Martey, Noonday Underground has been a nearly invisible live presence and, for the past five years, has been absent on record, as well.

No more! A few weeks back, the band unveiled Body Parts for Modern Art, a 27-song album available through the Tokyo label Stubbie Records. Technically, this is a collection of odds-and-ends, with material “recorded in London, England during the late nineties & early noughties.” Bless our ears, but little here sounds short of A-game. The album comes divided into three parts: The first features tracks with Martey, a singer blessed with Bassey pipes and London cool; the second includes short instrumentals, cut-and-pasted from the bargain bin records that are this band’s bread and butter; and the third presents work Dine completed for his pre-Noonday gig, Adventures in Stereo. “Let’s go out and get arrested,” Martey sings in “Faster Than the Fastest Thing.” Indeed! Check out the album today. In fact, those in New York can head straight to the Lowbrow Reader’s favored retailer, Other Music…and maybe even pick up a copy of Lowbrow #9 while there!

Talkingstick at the Rubin Museum

For the past decade, one of the most reliably odd, enriching New York nights has been Talkingstick, a monthly series at Chelsea’s Rubin Museum of Art. The event, presented for free on the second Friday of each month, features a rotating crew of enlightened miscreants orating on various topics, loosely inspired by the museum’s Tibetan and Himalayan art. The shows occur in the Rubin’s galleries with audience members sitting cross-legged on the floor, amidst the museum’s ferocious masks and lurid paintings. As prescribed by Talkingstick founders Mr. Patrick and Master Lee plus producer Jesse Paris Smith, there is occasional music (say, Lowbrow Reader Variety Show alum Larkin Grimm), poetry (Anne Waldman), curators, and, especially, the mysterious spots in between. Month after month, a special treat comes from performances by the two hosts: Master Lee, a former street comic and juggler who delivers a stream-of-consciousness blend of standup and mysticism; and Mr. Patrick, who tells precisely detailed, fantastic yet factual tales while accompanying himself on a Chinese harp known as a guzheng.

Alas, after ten strong years, Talkingstick will be leaving its spot at the Rubin Museum, at least as a regular series. We suspect it will land at a new home soon. Regardless, it’s not too late to check out the show at the museum: On Friday, September 11th, the Rubin Museum hosts one final Talkingstick, beginning at 8:30pm. The night will feature appearances by Mr. Patrick and Master Lee plus the musician Michael Campbell, Lowbrow editor Jay Ruttenberg, and other yet-to-be-announced guests. Check it out—it’s free. That means if it got any cheaper, you would be paid to attend!

[Update: A final final Talkingstick at the Rubin Museum has been scheduled for December 18.]

Lost Lost Joy

When The Lowbrow Reader was in its infancy at the dawn of the ’00s, we turned to a slew of heroes that, in the years to come, the Lowbrow would praise, pester, and mimic: Adam Sandler, Howard Stern, Mad magazine, etc…. But there were tacit muses, as well, including Camden Joy—a dynamite writer (and longtime friend) who maintained a sphinxlike presence within ’90s rock criticism. Where others were filing capsule reviews in the pages of weekly newspapers, Joy was scribbling wild rants on city walls and weaving novels around real-life indie-rock figures. In a series of postering projects, he surreptitiously wheat-pasted ravishing fliers throughout the streets of Manhattan, targeting music festivals (CMJ) and dormant bands (Souled American) through manic essays, short stories and bursts of poetry. His novels, beginning with 1998’s The Last Rock Star Book, or Liz Phair: A Rant blended fiction and Bangsian music criticism.

Joy’s work was prescient, anticipating a literary landscape populated by grumpy indie-rock stars, not to mention highbrow graffiti art that employs the streets of New York as museum walls. Yet over the past decade, much of the writer’s work slipped out of print. Never fear: This historic wrong is being righted! This month, Verse Chorus Press—a lovely Portland, Oregon, publishing house whose very first title was Joy’s Liz Phair novel—begins an ambitious series of reissues. It kicks off with the freshly republished Lost Joy, an anthology of the author’s shorter pieces that was originally issued in 2002 by TNI Books. Presented with a new introduction by Jonathan Lethem, Lost Joy collects many of the street poster manifestoes as well as work that appeared in more conventional publications, including Puncture, The Village Voice, and Chicago Reader. “How can Joy be Lost?” Lethem concludes in his introduction. “Joy is right here.” Indeed! Pick up the book today!

High There

What is that mist clouding television sets and computer monitors nationwide? We’re not quite sure, but we suspect it has something to do with the recent DVD release of High There, a wild nonfiction film comedy produced by Lowbrow friend Burt Kearns. The movie was directed by its costars Henry Goren and Wayne Darwen—the latter a tabloid TV forefather who was an inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s Natural Born Killers character. A few years ago, the pair traveled to Hawaii intending to shoot a television travel show about smoking marijuana in America’s coolest state. They soon ended up entangled in a Pynchon-noirish plot involving the government, the drug trade, and the jailing of a local marijuana advocate. Darwen and Goren went deep into the story, even adopting the greenish alter egos Dave High and Roland Jointz. Check out High There on your movie-viewing device of choice today—and dig the groovy preview, below.


Carry Her Pigeons

Temperate weather in New York brings a litany of pleasures: engaging clipboard-wielding charity solicitors in long conversations about how you do not have any money to give them; shadowing tourists through Central Park at a creepy yet legal distance; tossing water balloons at sharp-tailored businessmen en route to their important meetings and trysts. The fun keeps coming.

In recent years, a major amusement has come in the form of the “Flashflock” installations presented around town by longtime artist, New Yorker, and Lowbrow friend Tina Pina Trachtenburg. If you pass through Washington Square Park or Union Square on sunny days, you have likely stumbled upon Trachtenburg’s awing displays, which feature dozens of her beautiful soft sculptures of pigeons and, occasionally, other birds. At times, actual pigeons join the flock, delighting children and confounding dogs. Trachtenburg hand-crafts her sculptures from acrylic felt, using recycled clothing for stuffing. The pigeons are available for purchase both at the installations and through the artist’s website, Dare we say a home is not a home until it features a Tina Trachtenburg pigeon? Yes we do!