Episode 164: Marjane Satrapi, Fran Lebowitz, and Pizza Brains

Marjane Satrapi/Courtesy the artist

This Week: “Persepolis” author/filmmaker Marjane Satrapi laughs in the face of death… satirist Fran Lebowitz plays Nanny to America… author Emma Straub narrates a Hollywood fable… multi-Oscar-winner Ve Neill makes up a Makeup list… and Brendan inhales info about air. Plus, a visit to Philly’s Pizza Museum, the high-cost of Tsarist-era beards, how to lose yourself, and indierockers Nude Beach expose their dinner party playlist.

Icebreaker: Emma Straub

We re-heat a pizza joke from writer Emma Straub. Emma’s debut novel “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures” hits shelves this week…and you’ll hear more about pizza later in the show.

Small Talk: Richard Lawson

Richard Lawson, Senior Editor of The Atlantic Wire, explains the miraculous true story of a tourist in Iceland who – after days of searching – found herself.

A History Lesson with Booze: Pay up, Beardo! and the “Rasputin

This week in 1698, Tsar Peter the Great tried to change the face of Russia… by instituting a beard tax. Fight the power – and put some hair on your chest – with a classic cocktail from America’s most famous Russian-themed restaurant.

“The Rasputin,” as mixed by Ken Biberaj, Vice President at the Russian Tea Room in New York City.

In a cocktail shaker, combine:

  • 1 part Czar’s Gold Vodka
  • 2 parts Frangelico

Shake and pour over ice. Drink it quick. Pay the penalty:100 Rubles (or local equivalent).

Guest List: Ve Neill

Ve Neill is one of the legends of movie makeup. Her startling creations for “Beetlejuice,” “Ed Wood,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” have won her Oscars; she also created wild designs for “Edward Scissorhands” and the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies, among many others. Ve’s a judge on SyFy’s special effects makeup show “FACE-OFF,” which recently kicked off its third season. Just before heading off to work on the second “Hunger Games” film, she stopped by to list her favorite work by others in her field.

Guest of Honor: Marjane Satrapi

Author, illustrator and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi broke onto the international scene with “Persepolis,” a touching graphic novel about her life growing up in – and eventually leaving – Iran. (She now lives in France.) The 2007 movie version was nominated for “Best Animated Feature” at the Oscars. With partner Vincent Paronnaud, Satrapi has now co-written and co-directed the live-action film “Chicken With Plums,” based on another of her novels. The genre-bending love story opens in L.A. this week, and expands nationally in September. Marjane tells Rico about the appeal of bad taste, fighting Iranian stereotypes, and her alternate career – in the circus.

Eavesdropping: Emma Straub

Emma Straub dazzled readers last year with the short story collection “Other People We Married.” This week, she releases her highly anticipated debut novel “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures,” the biography of a fictional Hollywood starlet. Today we overhear her read a scene in which the star (or at least her name) is born.

Main Course: Pizza Brain

This week, the Philadelphia shop “Pizza Brain” opened its doors. This is no ordinary pizza joint; it also houses the most extensive collection of pizza memorabilia anywhere in the world (Guinness Book-certified). You’ll find everything from pizza-inspired fashion and music to pizza kitsch to XXX pizza posters. Native Philadelphian Brendan gets a sneak peek of their pizzas de resistance from collection organizers Brian Dwyer and Ryan Anderson.

Etiquette: Fran Lebowitz

In the early ’70s, at the age of 21, Fran Lebowitz started penning a column for Andy Warhol’s fledgling “Interview” magazine. Those pieces were later collected in the books “Metropolitan Life” and “Social Studies,” and her wit (and cynicism) grew into legend. More recently, she’s acted on TV shows like “Law and Order” and served as the subject of Martin Scorcese’s 2010 documentary “Public Speaking.” This week, Fran releases “The Fran Lebowitz Reader” – the first-ever audio book of her essays. She pounces on our listeners’ etiquette questions, then recounts the tale of her 4-hour stint as Nobel Nanny.

We’re always looking for new etiquette questions. Would you be so kind as to send them to dinnerparty@americanpublicmedia.org? Thank you very much.

Chattering Class: Air

Writer William Bryan Logan knows his way around the elements. Having written the engaging explainers “Dirt” and “Oak,” he’s turned to a topic far more difficult to grasp in “Air: The Restless Shaper of the World” (out this month). Far from ‘nothing,’ air is actually composed of millions of particles, spores, and fungi. Logan tells Brendan about some of these ‘beautiful creatures,’ El Greco’s sublime depictions of air, and New York air’s secret ingredient.

Dinner Party Soundtrack: Nude Beach

Nude Beach II,” the latest offering from New York rockers Nude Beach, has been the soundtrack to many a rooftop BBQ this summer. Here are a few tunes they’ve been playing at their (clothing optional?) gatherings.

Other Music In this Week’s Show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Traditional – “Kalinka”

Tobacco – “Hairy Candy”

Franz Waxman – incidental music from “Bride of Frankenstein”

John Williams – “The Cantina Band”

Mike Oldfield – “Tubular Bells” (theme to “The Exorcist”)

CSS – “Knife”

Artie Shaw & His Orchestra

Django Reinhardt – “Stardust”


Of Montreal – “I Was Never Young”

Pure X – “Heavy Air”

Nude Beach – “The Endless Night”