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LA, Ep. 42

April 1, 2016 — For LDM's 10-year anniversary, we blew the doors off with our AWP Super-Spectacular at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, and set the LDM attendance record (801). Presented by 89.9 KCRW and co-presented by the Otherppl podcast and Painted Bride Quarterly, the talent-packed night ended with Kirstin Valdez Quade so-narrowly outdueling Danez Smith in overtime in a Literary Charades finale to win Quade the LDM LA, Ep. 42 crown.

But before the finale was even a consideration, the genius-rife night kicked off with a solo harp performance by Lucinda Belle, Oscar long-listed singer from the forthcoming Think Big : Like Me. Then, to keep the energy high, LDM three-time champ and unofficial "poet laureate" Abraham Smith, author of Hank and Whim Man Mammon, took center stage to deliver a poem that had the crowd in throes. Then, to keep with the Waiting for Gadot moment, Martin Starr’s band featuring Eric Kufs delivered a rousing song. 

Then the 10-Year Spectacular really began, led off by Chris Abani, award-winning poet and novelist (The Secret History of Las Vegas), TED Talks vet, recipient of PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award and the California Book Award and PEN Hemingway Book Prize, who read a wowing piece about his mother insisting he wasn't adopted. Then up stepped Quade, National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" award-winning author of Night at the Fiestas, who went the non-fiction route, telling a brilliant tale of finding kangaroo skulls and bringing them to her father for pay. 

Then the mic was passed to the quintet of all-star judge (five judges! for the first time in LDM history!): Elizabeth Day, award-winning British author of Paradise City and Home Fires; Lena Waithe, actor (Master of None), writer (Bones), producer (Dear White People); Zach Woods, actor/improviser in HBO's Silicon Valley, The Office and Spy; Michaela Watkins, star of Hulu's Golden Globe-nominated Casual, Trophy Wife & Transparent; and Martin Starr, actor from Silicon Valley, Party Down, Freaks & Geeks and Knocked Up. The fiercely brilliant and funny five-some delivered waves of praise for both authors, and shockingly hilariously quips en masse before huddling up, then making the night's first impossible decision, declaring Quade the night's first finalist.

Then, in another LDM first — 10-Year Anniversaries deserve some razzmatazz, on came Otherppl's Brad Listi as he interviewed So Sad Today's Melissa Broder for seven minutes exactly. At one point Broder went into child's pose, while Listi was his usual, brilliant steady. Then: another song by Lucinda Belle. Then: a song by Eric Kufs.

Then came Round 2, led off by the ever-amazing Susan Orlean, New Yorker staff writer and author of The Orchid Thief, Rin Tin Tin & Saturday Night, who blew minds with a subversive story about her crushes on members of the GOP. Finally, it was time for Danez Smith, award-winning poet, author of [insert] boy, featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, who absolutely crushed it to smithereens delivering a pair of razor sharp poems.

Once again the mic was handed to the night's quintet of judges, who once again had the audience doubled over with laughter, with Waithe delivering a LDM all-timer saying about Smith, "I feel like we would've dated in high school, then come out to one another." After another painful deliberation — while Eric Kufs and the band delivered another wonderful song — the judges emerged from a huddle and announced the night's second impossible decision, naming Smith the night's second finalist.

Then up stepped LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga, who announced the night's finale: Literary Charades, assisted by LDM executive producer Hannah Settle. Settle delivered titles of famous booksto the five judges, who then acted out the titles while Quade and Smith guessed the titles. After a neck-and-neck first few rounds, it was Quade who shouted out "Gravity's Rainbow?!" to win her the LDM LA, Ep. 42 crown and literary immortality to go with it.