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Comedian April Richardson's five favorite works of art, including Billy Bragg, Siouxsie Sioux's FACE, zines, haunting photography, and the movie Hairspray! Use Hover to get 10% off a custom domain and email address by going to https://www.hover.com/ArtAssignment.

Thanks to our Grandmaster of the Arts Indianapolis Homes Realty, and all of our patrons, especially Lynn Gordon, Patrick Hanna, and Constance Urist.

This week, comedian and writer April Richardson shares with us five of her favorite works of art, which are:
1) Billy Bragg's 1988 album “Workers Playtime”
2) Any zine made by Molly Kalkstein
3) Robert C. Wiles' 1947 photograph The Most Beautiful Suicide
4) One particular scene from the 1988 John Waters' movie Hairspray
5) Siouxsie Sioux's face!

Follow April on Twitter (@Apey) and Instagram (@aprilrich).

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 (00:00) to (02:00)


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(PBS Digital Studios logo)

Sarah: This is April Richardson.  

April: Hi.

Sarah: And this is her apartment, which doesn't reveal anything at all about her areas of interest.

April: I live alone.  I'm a very lonely person, so you're basically looking at all of my friends.

Sarah: If you couldn't tell, April is a stand-up comedian, but she's also a writer who created the much-loved Saved the by Bell podcast, Go Bayside! and makes frequent appearances on @midnight with Chris Hardwick, but back to why we're here.

April: I'm April Richardson, and these are five of my favorite works of art.  Billy Bragg's 1988 album "Workers Playtime".  I first heard this album when I was 17 years old because a guy that I liked put the song "The Only One" on a mix tape for me.  

Sarah: English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg released "Workers Playtime" as his third full-length album with the subtitle "Capitalism is Killing Music".  This is how she described his voice.

April: Imagine if Bob Dylan and The Clash were one person who sounded like Michael (?~1:04).

Sarah: She even has a Billy Bragg tattoo, so yeah, she's kind of a big fan.

April: This album has like, fiercely political songs right next to the most beautiful love songs I've ever heard.  This was the first political music I heard that came from a place of love, where it was like a marriage of the two things where it was like, yes, I'm angry.  Yes, things need to change, but the impetus for my activism is love for my fellow man.  It was like a perfect mix of those two things, where it wasn't just phrased as sort of us against them or we gotta take them down, which again, totally valid and I'm totally here for, but it was the first time I heard songs that were like, let's fix the system because everybody matters and I love everybody.

Sarah: So what happened to the mix tape guy?

April: He's married to another person who isn't me.  We're totally still friends.  Any zine made by Molly Kalkstein.

 (02:00) to (04:00)


Sarah: Tell us, April, what is a zine?

April: A zine is a photocopied magazine, basically, usually made by one person. 

Sarah: April has a collection of zines she started in high school which she keeps in these file cabinets.  She made and traded zines with friends from all over the world.

April: All I did was make zines.  I never did homework.  Never.  To where my mom would be like, this is, you have to stop doing this and do real schoolwork and I was like, I'm gonna be fine.  I think this will help me at some point, and then when I moved to LA, I got a job as a copyeditor at MTV News and I brought my zines to the job interview, and I was like, I've already been writing about this stuff for free my whole teenage life, and they were like, you're hired, so suck it, Mom.

Sarah: So who is this Molly Kalkstein?

April: Well, Molly was a pen pal of mine all throughout high school.  She made many zines but the main one was called Tiger Voyage and the effort that she put into making her zines, it's breathtaking really, because first of all, all of this is hand cut.  Like, this, she cut these.  They're individual sheets of paper that she cut and stapled.  The first, the cover has photo corners in which she's inserted like, a transparency print that she made.  All of this is typed with like, a handmade border.  There are inserts, photo corner inserts, where she's inserted individual pages that she's also hand cut into it. 

Sarah: How did these compare to your zines?

April: Yeah, I just remember trading with her as a teenager and feeling guilty because I was like, I didn't do as good of a job as you.  This is very much not an equal trade, but thank you.  I mean, that's how sweet she is as well.  I mean, it's the sort of thing where you get something like this and you're like, I have to step up my game.  I mean, this is what somebody made in their bedroom and it's, you know, to me, this is like a finer work of art than things hanging in museum and it cost $2 and some stamps.

"The Most Beautiful Suicide" by Robert C. Wiles.

Sarah: This photo appeared in the May, 1947 issue of Life magazine and it depicts 23 year old Evelyn McHale.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)


She had jumped to her death just moments before from the observation platform of the Empire State Building, landing on a parked limousine.  It's powerful, it's haunting, and it's hard to believe it's real.

April: I thought it looked like the cover of a Smiths record.

Sarah: The Smiths are April's all-time favorite bands and have album covers that look like this, so she's right.

April: Like, I thought it was fake.  I thought it was gorgeous and I was like, this is a beautiful photograph, but I'm like, yeah, this is a staged, posed thing.  Her death was so violent and so tragic, but when you look at the end result, it's like she's sleeping peacefully, so there's that sort of odd comfort of like, no matter what happens, at the end we're all just gonna fall asleep.

Sarah: But it's really complicated, right? 

April: I was a bit nervous picking this because I absolutely don't want it to sound like I'm glorifying suicide in any way, and that's another, another set of emotions I feel about the picture when I look at it is, is it exploitative, because the man who took it was a photography student who heard what happened, like, heard the woman fall into this car, and grabbed his camera and took a picture, which is very gross.  Morally, what area do you get into if your first instinct is to pick up a camera?  Is it like, oh, well, I'm honoring her by capturing her last moment, or is this, yeah, are you exploiting her, like, yeah, right?  There's no answer.

One particular scene from the movie Hairspray by John Waters.  My favorite movie of all time is Hairspray, the 1988 original, by John Waters.  

Sarah: She's not kidding.  She has a Hairspray poster in her kitchen.

April: And there is one particular scene in it that breaks my heart every time.  It's the scene where Tracy and her boyfriend go to a segregated, it's like the black peoples' dance party.  The movie is about segregation in Baltimore in the 60s and they go and there's a performer, the real guy, Toussaint McCall, a singer who makes an appearance as himself, and Motor Mouth Maybelle, a character in the movie, introduces him to the dance hall.

 (06:00) to (08:00)


When he's introduced, Motor Mouth Maybelle makes no effort to hide the fact that she's putting a needle on a record.  Like, they don't--it's not Millie Vanilli style where it's like, let's play the tape backstage.  She fully openly puts a needle on the record, he comes out, starts lip-syncing, everyone still freaks out.  No one is angry about that or sad or is like, why isn't he singing live, they're just so happy to see him in the flesh.  It's just such a heartwarming and heartbreaking scene all at the same time, and because the soundtrack of the whole scene, again, is that song that's so sad.  Yeah.  It's just great.  

Siouxsie Sioux's "Face!"

Sarah: Siouxsie Sioux, born Susan Ballion, is a punk rock innovator and icon who was the lead singer of Siouxsie and the Banshees, which formed in 1976.  She's hugely influential and yeah, pretty much invented goth.  

April: Growing up, this is my hair and skin.  Like, I grew up a pale brunette in a sea of tanned blond girls and so already, I was looking to like, Wednesday Addams and Morticia and the monsters, like, those were my style people, because I was like, well, they look like me.  It was either them or Disney villains.  Those were the only people I saw that looked like me, and so when I saw Siouxsie with like, her shock of black hair and her super pale skin and the fact that she was accentuating that with makeup, it kind of blew my mind and it made me, now I'm obsessed with makeup.  I wear it all the time.  I try to get super weird with it.

Sarah: Siouxsie went solo in 2004 and still puts out new music, performs, and looks incredible.

April: She's still at it.  She's still at it and she still looks amazing.  I saw recent pictures of her where I'm like, man, whatever you're doing, give me some of that.  I wanna age like that for sure.

Sarah: Thanks, April.

April: Thank you for having me and I can talk about 500,000 more things anytime you need me to.

 (08:00) to (09:13)


Sarah: I'd like to thank Hover for sponsoring this episode.  Hover is a service that helps you buy and manage domain names.  They have over 400 domain extensions, including, of course, .com and .net, but you can also get unique domains like .xyz or .rocks or .enterprises.  Like, if I were emerging artist Andy Warhol, who started out as an illustrator in the 1950s and named his company Andy Warhol Enterprises, I could go to Hover and snap up the domain andywarhol.enterprises, and once you have your domain, you can set up your custom e-mail to forward to your existing e-mail address, including Outlook or Gmail or whatever you use.

With Hover, you can get a custom domain and e-mail address for 10% off.  Go to hover.com/artassignment today to create your custom domain and help support our show.  

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