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LA, Ep. 35

January 22, 2014 — Literary Death Match's 2015 debut was a romp for the generations (and the longest show in LDM history!), jam-packed with brilliant readings, comedic absurdity to the infinite degree, and all of it ended with Peter Mehlman outdueling Mary Anna King in overtime in a Original or Adapted finale that won Mehlman the LDM LA, Ep. 35 crown. 

But before the Oscars were even a thought, the night kicked off with Steph Cha (author of Follow Her Home and a regular contributor to the LA Times), who read a passage from Beware Beware in which a young boy first realizes his dad is a celebrity at Disneyland when Goofy asks for his dad's autograph. Next up was Mehlman (Emmy-nominated writer for Seinfeld, and author of It Won't Always Be This Great), who read a hilarious story from Mandela Was Late about Eugene, who's dark secret was not having any opinions...on anything. 

The mic was then handed to the quartet of all-star judges: Wayne Federmancomedian, writer, actor (Curb Your Enthusiasm), author of MaravichTimothy C. Simons, actor from HBO's VeepInherent Vice and The InterviewIliza Shlesinger, comedian of 1-hour Netflix special Freezing Hot & champ of NBC's Last Comic Standing; and T.J. Miller, comedian, co-star of HBO's Silicon Valley and voice of Fred in Big Hero 6.

Federman led the "instant classic" panel of LDM judges, flying out of the gate at Steph Cha and Peter Mehlman, telling them that, "I don't think you're allowed to talk while I'm talking," and set the tone right away for communicating his thoughts about the readers' literary merit: "I don't wanna vote for either one of you." Simons brought a great attention to detail in judging performance. Among his contributions were his appreciation for Cha's "power move" of standing before the coin-flip to decide who would read first, and his adoration for Mehlman's shoe choice of Nike pumps. Shlesinger's thoughts on intangibles went deep. She explored how Mehlman's story could be an analogy for "the intrinsic nature of Hollywood (and its many people in "the business") doing nothing," and quipped that "Venice (CA) is where rich people go to live in filth." Miller lauded Mehlman t-shirt choice (a short sleeve over a long sleeve shirt), and went on a hilarious diatribe on how he had "no opinions on not having opinions." After a moving huddle, the judges emerged to make the night's first impossible decision, declaring Mehlman the night's first finalist. 

Then it was time for Round 2, led off by King, who read from her debut memoir Bastards, as she recounted the descriptive, emotional story of her sister's birth through the eyes of her child self. Then it was Lucas Neff, writer and star of Fox's Raising Hope, who treated the audience to a sneak peek of his work in progress: "Autobiography of the Small Bird," a brilliant, heartaching, confounding, and entertaining excerpt with the thoughts and unintelligible language of his protagonist pigeon all wrapped in.  

Again the mic was handed to the judges, with Simons first stating that he knew King, but saying that wouldn't sway his opinion before declaring her story perfect and her performance perfect, as well (he went on to poke holes in Neff's piece — which brought the house down). Shlesinger explored the subtle racism of our culture's judgement of pigeons — and their dark feathers — as "dirty, greasy," animals while we hold white doves up as a beautiful creature and a metaphor for love and freedom. And Miller admitted frustration that King's ankles were covered, preventing him from judging them and making them the epitome of "super intangible," before he waxed poetic on Neff's "outdated" TV connections reference: "Coaxial outdated. HDMI, oh my, oh my." With another impossible decision before them, the judges decided it would be King who would advance as the night's second finalist. 

Then up stepped LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga, who announced the night's Oscar-themed finale: Original or Adapted? Zuniga held up movie posters of Oscar-winning films while Mehlman and King (paired with volunteers from the audience) guessed if they were original or adapted, and then guessed who wrote them. With everything to play for, and the final question posed, it was Mehlman who first shouted the more correct answer, winning him the LDM LA, Ep. 35 crown, and literary immortality to go with it.