Episode 185: "Sucking In"

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September 19, 2014


Charles Graeber

Origin of the episode title[edit]

A teenaged Julie once watched a videotaped production of Pippin with some other girls, who commented that one actress was "sucking in," as she had a flat tummy.


HWYW Book Club! HWYW Book Club! Welcome back to HWYW Book Club. CHARLES GRAEBER is this week's guest. He wrote the fabulous True Crime book THE GOOD NURSE, and he's here to tell Julie about the banality of evil, and how bureaucratic failure is scarier than a lone psychopath, how sex stuff can make murderers confess, why his book was originally called THE PRESSURE SUIT, and how, to the man who killed around 400 people, the story could be best described as a "dark comedy."

Plus: Finally appreciating PIPPIN, and how it's about choosing disappointment over death; a nosy dog named Ringo; Bridget Everett as Iggy Pop; and the return of Spoony's BORED-walk Empirezzzzz recaps!

Trivia and References[edit]

  • Saylor Twift

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Monologue Transcript[edit]

Hi everybody. It’s Julie Klausner back for another episode of HWYW.

I’m sitting on the couch now with Jimmy Jazz. I’m a little shook up because I just saw a very upsetting image on my twitter feed of animal cruelty. I’m at a place right now in my life where I cannot handle even the notion of someone…I can’t even think about somebody leaving a dog alone all day while they go to work. I think about the dog being lonely or bored and I get really sad. I have to distract myself with something. I have always been sensitive about anything having to do with animals but lately, as I‘ve gotten older it’s gotten a lot (worse) I cannot handle it. If there is an image-no, no, no, no, no. There goes my day. I am little upset. But we have a podcast to do. We have a podcast to do. How many great works of art end that way?

Shake it off. What’s that stupid Taylor Swift, Sailor Twift song? Shake it down, ugh! Taylor Swift ruined everything. We went from Carole King writing One Fine Day to Taylor Swift bringing her cat…speaking of animal cruelty, bringing her cat named after a character on Scandal; she brings her cat with her on the street while she is wearing a little outfit. The cat does not want to be with her on the street. That cat wants to be in a square patch of sunshine on a window sill asleep. That cat does not want to be in New York in New York City carried by Taylor Swift. He does not want to be on a street corner. He does not want to be photographed by paparazzi.

For someone who claims to like cats Taylor Swift does not seem to care about what they like, what they want. As I speak to you on what is technically Friday-ish. It is no longer Robert Blake’s birthday. Robert Blake and Billy Eichner share a birthday. Yes, they are both totally Virgos. Is it Virgo now? “Honey, is it Virgo outside?” The other thing I’m a little concerned about is it is Friday now, late September. I am concerned that the era of booties is on its way out. If you read blogs, like I do, you’ll know that butts are having a moment. I’m really worried that like all moments, this one will pass. I have got to say I don’t know if I am ready to let go of butt stuff. What an asinine thing. To say that butts are ‘in’ right now. Vogue magazine did a spread, and Miley Cyrus wore some obscene prosthesis or some racially unacceptable device—wouldn’t it be funny if my body were different. I guess what I am saying is how dare you insinuate that butts and assholes haven’t always been, not only a thing, but an essential part…I’m not going to say that the asshole is a poetic source of creation and all life but it gives you a reason to enjoy life once someone gave it to you. I am so pro-butt stuff I may as well sell boy butter.

I do on my etsy. I take the boy butter; I scoop it out and put it in a mason jar. Then I put a ribbon around the mason jar. You can buy one for $1000.

I am very grateful because I went out this week. I went out three nights in a row and saw three different shows. One I took part in. I saw Ronna and Beverly on Monday night. They had me on as a guest. That was so fun. Oh my god, oh my god, Ronna and Beverly are just the funniest act. They kill me. If you ever get the chance to see their live show and you don’t take that chance then I don’t respect you and I don’t like you. I will never like you. I saw that on Monday. On Tuesday I went to see Pippin which I loved. On Wednesday night I went to see Bridget Everett at Joe’s Pub which was incredible and so powerful. It was raw but polished. It was like watching somebody at the top of their game just going for it and not using the opportunity to exhale. It was absolutely incredible. Bridget Everett gave me pause because she was so potent that I found myself thinking who am I to call myself a performer when Bridget Everett is alive. Bridget Everett is like Iggy Pop at the top of his game. I keep thinking about that story how Shep Gordon booked Alice Cooper at the Detroit Festival. He said you don’t have to pay us just put us between John Lennon and Iggy Pop. It was MC5 in Detroit, so people freaked out. Iggy Pop was doing his first solo, so Iggy Pop had something to prove. It was full-on rolling around in glass Iggy Pop, just hyper active little boys that’s been kept in a cage all day and being poked. Total explosive punk rock sexual perfection, then came Alice Cooper. I guess my point is that Bridget Everett is Iggy Pop. Not to compare because there’s no point except for a sense of place and belonging and thinking there’s a community, it’s always nice to know, remember and be inspired by.

Watching Bridget all I could think about was Bridget, oh my god it’s great. Afterwards I wondered should I be a performer. It’s a crisis of confidence kind of thing. Is there any point unless you are Bridget Everett? You know the world needs David Byrne. If she’s Iggy Pop, there’s nothing wrong with the Cars. Maybe I can be Rick Ocasek, maybe I could be I don’t know (Don’t say Peter Gabriel out loud Julie, don’t say Peter Gabriel. Don’t compare yourself to Peter Gabriel. Those are somebody’s last words, or should be.) Bridget Everett is absolutely extraordinary. Her show is absolutely fabulous and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s called Rock Bottom. It’s at Joe’s Pub.

Pippin was so great. My relationship with Pippin is pretty complex. I saw Pippin when I was little and I didn’t like it. Then I watched a school play version of Pippin with a bunch of girls that were bitches I remember having to hang out with them and I didn’t like them and they were just lousy friends and they stunk. I remember watching a video of slightly older girls doings Magic to Do and they were all wearing leotards. The first girl walked towards the camcorder that was mounted in some sort of 80s device. One of the girls watching with me, I think it was Andrea, said, “She’s sucking in,” because her stomach looked flat. Growing up in the suburbs has its pros and cons ladies and gentlemen. Pippin is basically a story about a dreamy lad whose father is Charlemagne. The Charlemagne stuff is all a big fat red herring because surprise the show isn’t really about Charlemagne and Visigoths and so forth. Here’s why I never liked Pippin. I thought it was a show about whimsy but it’s not, it’s show about choosing disappointment over death. It’s a show about growing up and learning that the world is not so great. People who are optimistic and smiling all the time are either stupid, mentally ill or evil and that they are trying to bend your will to meet their own needs. It turns out that is what Ben Vereen is doing. Ben Vereen doesn’t care about Pippin. Ben Vereen cares about the show.

The woman who played Ben Vereen in the version I saw the other night is our pal Maggie’s roommate. She was extraordinary. Her name is Ariana but not Grande, let’s call her Ariana Venti. She was terrific. Andrea Martin was in it. She plays Pippin’s grandmamma. She has a show stopping number in the first act where she does trapeze things. It’s incredible. It’s a perfect harmony of elements that make audiences freak out and lose their minds, give standing ovations, give Tony awards, which she deserves. It’s a charm song. It’s in the middle of the first act. It’s delivered with perfect timing. It’s comedy perfection by a beloved and inherently wonderful actress. It is a song about getting older and how one needed age if one decides not to. Life is short. Carpe Diem. That is a song that kills with Broadway audiences because Broadway audiences for the most part are on death’s door. To watch a youthful Andrea Martin sing a song about getting older and how it doesn’t suck is very encouraging to people who should know better. People should know that it actually kind of does.

One of the other golden elements is that she’s doing absolutely astounding feats of athletic and acrobatic choreography. Oh my god! She’s 66 and she’s hanging upside down and singing upside down! Oh my god look at her body. Her body is so slammin’! That is all true. The reason I thought Andrea Martin’s performance was particularly extraordinary, and extraordinary is a theme in Pippin. I am so excited to finally appreciate Pippin. I love watching Andrea Martin because she commands not only your attention but your rapture in that she takes her time. Watching her deliver lines is like seeing someone really enjoy what they are doing. It’s not about the choice not to rush as much as it is if you’re going to be with me then why not be with me? Why not have this experience be special? Let’s connect. Let’s make a line that’s not that funny really really funny because she can? She’s extraordinary and I can’t recommend that production enough. Pippin himself was fine. He was Pippin.

I guess I have never really seen the second act of Pippin. The last time I saw it I saw a high school production 6 years ago as a goof. My friend Jeremy was working with someone who teaches at a high school and asked if we wanted to see their production of Pippin. Yes. I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time. I was heavily into drugs. It was funny until it wasn’t. We left during intermission. That’s what you do. You have a window of escape, you escape. I remember wondering what the fuck is this play about, Charlemagne? Who cares? I’m not saying I wish I stayed for the second act, but now that I have experienced the second act in the production that I saw I appreciated it as a complete work very much.

The rest of this podcast is entitled Love Letter to Pippin. I am not going to continue spilling vague praise on the show but I love it. The point is I loved Pippin and I love pippin. Oh Pippin. Pippin is a good name for a dog. I knew one dog named Pippin. There’s a dog I know named Ringo. I got to see Ringo yesterday. The woman who cuts my hair has me over at her house sometimes. I went to her apartment and Ringo was there. Ringo was behind the door when she opened it. Ringo is a Malamute. He is a giant polar bear with a big goofy smile. His head is significantly smaller than his body. He also kind of looks like a very misshapen snowman, if you look down on him. He is a goofy boy. He is a silly boy. Ringo is a perfect name for him. As I was about to leave I asked to use the bathroom. I went in, closed the door and was peeing, as it were. All of a sudden I see and hear the door sort of slowly open. “I’m in here.” I see Ringo’s giant face slide through the opening and look at me. “What are you doing?” Why did you go in this room? I like this room too. Why don’t we spend more time together? What are we doing now? I’m Ringo. There you are. What are you up to?” Shouldn’t dogs know you are going the bathroom? I feel like they must know. They know right? They just don’t know it’s rude. Ringo.

We have exciting news. This is a throwback. It’s wonderful, wonderful thing that we have for you now. This is a treat. Our beloved Chris Spoony ‘Spoonair’ is watching the last episode of Boredwalk Empirezzzz. Spoony, as you know, used to recap Boardwalk Empire because I forced him to. We made him recap Luck. Speaking of animal cruelty, speaking of Spoony cruelty. His Boardwalk Empire recaps became recaps of his dreams. He started combining them. I was delighted to learn that Spoony is watching the final season of Boredwalk Empirezzz, for that reason I demanded a recap. He emailed me recaps of episodes 1and 2. Before we start the show with today’s guest, Charles Graeber, author of the Good Nurse, I would love if you’d humor me, Spoony, and Steve Buscemi, to read you this beautifully written synopsis of events of our favorite show.

Chris ‘Spoony’ Spooner writes, I apologize for my tardiness in reviewing last week’s episode. I literally had no idea it was coming back until it appeared on my DVR and it has taken me a little while to work up the nerve to watch it. I am excited that this is the final season and I am looking to some closure.

Episode 1- the season start with some little boys swimming in the ocean trying to catch money that millionaires in top hats are throwing into the water from the pier. It’s olden times, even more olden than times usually are. One of the little boys is Nucky or it’s a dream Nucky is having because he is actually in Cuba where a little boy is shaking up drinks and dancing on a bar top while people crowd around him. I don’t like how the theme of the season so far is little boys. Margaret is at work in New York and everyone in the office is gathered around their boss while he recaps a Mickey Mouse cartoon he saw at the movies the night before. When he finishes he pulls a gun out of his pocket and blows his brains out. He is history’s first recapper. They think they are indicting me but he’s the first sensible character I have seen in the show so far. Nucky gets into a fight with a man in Cuba, wins by goring his eyes out with his thumbs while his bodyguard buries a machete in his head and cuts off his ear. Everyone is a prostitute.

I like that it is unclear how much of these are Spoony’s dreams and how much are just recaps of the episode

Episode 2 We go back to l’il Nucky’s childhood and I am realizing that this season is a prequel. It’s also having fun because while Michael Shannon and a gangster talk about gangster stuff in an elevator, old ladies in their feathered hats step on and get off. Shannon has to stop talking about gangster stuff long enough for them to leave. The odl ladies are flouncy and they are tittering. Their feathered hats tickle Shannon on his nose. He just has to be cool and not talk about Gangster stuff. Gretchen Mol is somehow in a different show altogether that is a lesbian prison exploitation flick so maybe she’s in the future 1970s. Nucky meets another bootlegger who is laying on a thick Boston accents and he’s got giant teeth. Of course you know who it’s going to be but you are not sure until the end when Nucky is like, “So long Kennedy.” Nucky’s bodyguard machete’s someone else.

Great job Spoony. That’s our Boardwalk Empire recap for the week.

I am not going to waste any more time in delaying our very exciting interview with Charles Graeber. Charles Graeber is the author of a fabulous true crime book called The Good Nurse. He’s a very exciting and welcome addition to the HWYW book club author selection. The Good Nurse is a book about a serial killer named Charles Cullen. He killed a lot of people while he worked as a nurse in a bunch of different hospitals here on the east coast. He was employed for way longer than he should have been because of the negligence of the hospital’s he was working for. That’s a little background. Hopefully you will catch right up to the other things that I haven’t set up. You should buy the book. It’s a fabulous book. I loved reading it. I loved talking to Charles Graeber. I hope you enjoy this chat about his book as much as I did.