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NYC, Ep. 37

May 25, 2011 — In the most hotly contested (and closest) Literary Death Match finale ever, Jenny Slate (creator of the endlessly charming Marcel the Shell with Shoes On) narrowly toppled Anthropology of an American Girl author Hilary Hamann in a fantastically messy silly string-firing finale to snare the Literary Death Match crown. 

Michael Showalter, Dave Hill and Daniel Nayeri pass judgment (click for more photos from LDM NYC, Ep. 37 by Clinton Brandhagen)

But before the first string was sprayed, the night kicked off with co-host Elissa Bassist introducing an opening matchup that pitted Hamann against novelist/dancer/culture critic Barbara Browning (The Correspondence Artist). Hamann led off by reading an excerpt from late in her much-lauded novel, a heartbreaking and beautiful suicide note that had the audience on their seat's edge. Next up was Browning who read a libidinous excerpt from her sex-charged novel. 

The mic was then handed over to the night's judging trio: master-hilaritist Michael Showalter (author of Mr. Funny Pants; star/writer of Wet Hot American Summer), comedy/music funnyman Dave Hill (host of The Dave Hill Explosion), and Clarion Books editor and pastry chef Daniel Nayeri (author of Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow). While Hill loved Hamann's work, he felt like there was too little profanity — but was then flummoxed by Browning's repeat use of "cunt." Showalter deadpannedly said he liked Hamann's piece, but didn't find it very funny. About Browning, he said he didn't know Chaucer spelled cunt with a y (cynt), and went on to say he didn't know who Chaucer was, and liked the boldness and sexiness of her piece. 

After an excruciating decision — "We literally discussed it for hours," said Showalter — the judges opted to put Hamann through as the night's first finalist. 

After a boozy intermission, the red stage lights of Le Poisson Rouge were on again, for an epic second round that saw 2011 Best American Essays and Pushcart Prize-nomineed Mira Ptacin (the Freerange Nonfiction Series creator) going up against Bored to Death regular Jenny Slate. Ptacin led off with an uneasy tale about a woman selling her eggs. Up next was Slate, who charmed with an endearing and personal story about ghosts, childhood, and learning to like herself. 

The mic was then handed back to the judges, with Nayeri reading off pat rejection letters amidst humorous not-quite-critique, while Hill kept asking "how much time do I have left?" and Showalter talking about an "over the shoulder boulder holder," then openly wondering why he'd said that phrase in the first place. The judges then huddled, and after a lengthy deliberation, Showalter explained how difficult the decision was and that they'd "narrowed it down to two." The one finalist, in the end, was Slate. 

Then LDM creator and co-host Todd Zuniga brought Hamann and Slate together for the "biggest budget LDM finale in history," in which each contestant had to fire cans of "vegetarian" silly string into the mouths of two writers who have written expertly about devouring meat: Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation). After the first can, though — Hamann feeding Safran Foer, Slate feeding Schlosser — the finalists were blindfolded, with audience members directing their string stream. 

After the cans were empty, a scale was brought out to weigh the contents, with the heavier bag deciding the champ. After an initial weighing didn't decide the winner, a quick recount showed that Slate was victorious by a 3 gram margin, winning her the LDM championship and literary immortality. 


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References (4)

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  • Response
    Lovely Website, Continue the useful work. Many thanks.
  • Response
    NYC, Ep. 37 - Journal - Literary Death Match
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  • Response
    I believe there should be more encouragement for people involved in literature. Although the world is full of artists the quality is missing and one should concentrate on that. By having such competitions and by encouragins such people to perform to their best, most of the amateur stuff will be filtered ...

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