Inhuman Swill : Page 2
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics, Throckmorton Theater, 24 April 2016

Greetings from San Francisco! I've been meaning to blog about this crazy week for a while now, but this crazy week keeps getting in the way.

I arrived here yesterday afternoon, having flown from Baltimore after visiting a book club in York, PA, that was discussing The Accidental Terrorist. I'm telling you, you haven't lived until you've faced a roomful of strong professional women who all want to tell you what they think about your book. Fortunately, the comments and questions were uniformly thoughtful and perceptive. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

Sunday, April 24, Mill Valley, CA

But the week is far from over! Tonight I'm delighted to be joining the incredible Bengt Washburn and his Beehive State Boatrockers for an evening of standup comedy, storytelling, and loud laughter:

Sunday, April 24, 7:30 pm
Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics
Throckmorton Theatre
142 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Tickets: $21 to $36

Bengt will headline the show, I will tell amusing anecdotes from the mission field, and we'll hear from comics spanning the spectrum of views on Mormonism: Abi Harrison, Christian Pieper, Spence Roper. It's going to be a truly telestial evening. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, April 27, Ridgewood, Queens, NY

By Wednesday I'll be back home in Queens, and I'm honored to be kicking off the debut of the Wednesday Night Reading Series at the monk, a fabulous Belgian beer bar in Ridgewood. Joining me is poet extraordinaire (and science fiction editor) Emily Alta Hockaday.

Wednesday, April 27, 8:00 pm
Wednesday Night Reading Series
the monk
68-67 Fresh Pond Rd.
Ridgewood, NY 11385
Admission: free

the monk is an easy walk from the Fresh Pond Road stop on the M line. Join us, expand your beer palate, and take home a new reading list!

Thursday, April 28, Forest Hills, Queens, NY

Last but not least, Line Break—the eclectic live literary magazine that I host at Q.E.D. in Astoria—has been given its own evening-long stage at the Queens Literary Crawl in Forest Hills!

The Queens Literary Crawl (which benefits the Queens Book Festival) is an amazing assemblage of more than a hundred literary luminaries all reading on various stages throughout Forest Hills on one magical night. One $9.99 ticket gets you access to it all, which includes our special Line Break stage at Aged Restaurant.

Don't miss the amazing lineup of writers we've assembled, including Jacob Appel, Marleen S. Barr, Carey Bernstein, Jeremy Blutstein, Malcolm Chang, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Alex DiFrancesco, Nancy Hightower, Robert J. Howe, Rajan Khanna, Barbara Krasnoff, Ilana C. Myer, Richard Taylor Pearson, and Sarah Riccio! (And of course I'll be there too, as both host and reader.)

Thursday, April 28, 7:00-10:30 p.m.
Line Break Reading Series @ Queens Literary Crawl
Aged Restaurant
107-02 70th Road
Forest Hills, Queens, NY 11375
Tickets: $9.99 ($20 at the door)

Aged Restaurant, like all the Queens Literary Crawl venues, is near the Forest Hills/71st Ave stop on the E/F/M/R subway lines. You have no excuse for not joining us!

Whew. That's it for my crazy week! Or is it? Stay tuned.

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Ella's album covers: Signals

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Twelve years of Ella

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Ella the Wonder Dog, April 2004, 6 months old
It was twelve years ago today that I posted my first-ever blog entry about Ella. I hadn't met her yet. I was traveling on the West Coast. Laura was visiting her parents outside of Chicago. The neighbors asked if she would adopt their puppy. She said yes. History was made.

Laura flew Ella home to New York, and I didn't meet her until I arrived home a couple of days later. It was love at first sight, of course. This is the first photograph of Ella I ever took:

We've had plenty of ups and downs over the years—health issues, food allergies, several moves, dog attacks, bouts of fearfulness, surgeries, and, worst of all, burs—but through it all, Ella has remained a sweet, lovable, adventurous, bouncy, curious, intelligent, regal, goofy, strong-willed but good-hearted dog.

She's slowed down a little, but she's still in good health, and she'll still give a squirrel a run for its money. Here she is now, at age 12, in a photo taken by her dogwalker:

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Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics, Throckmorton Theater, 24 April 2016

I'm delighted to be joining the hilarious Bengt Washburn and his Beehive State Boatrockers on April 24 for an evening of standup comedy, storytelling, and loud laughter. It all takes place at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California!

Here's the official spiel:

Sunday, April 24, 7:30 pm
Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics
Throckmorton Theatre
142 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Tickets: $21 to $36

We invite you to join us for Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics: a night of bare-knuckled satire and stories of downward spirals. On this night, 6 comedians and story-tellers from all over the country gather at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA, to tell jokes about the good, the bad, and the crazy parts of Mormon theology and culture. With a lineup consisting of active, inactive, and ex-Mormons, the jokes come from a wide range of perspectives, but are unified by the idea that, for at least one night, a little loud laughter might not be all that bad. (If you're worried about being offended, you probably will be.)

Headlining the show is the brilliant Bengt Washburn. He's been seen on Conan and Comedy Central and was the winner of the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition.

Also featuring:
Christian Pieper (Boston Comedy Festival)
Spence Roper (Limestone Comedy Festival)
Mike Grover (Second City)
Abi Harrison (Bob and Tom)

And special guest, author and storyteller William Shunn (The Accidental Terrorist)

Make sure to stick around for the Q&A session and the very special "Happy Ending."

Tickets start at $21. Get yours here, and I hope to see you at the show!

And if you need any added enticement, here's a sample of some of the Mormon-related material from Bengt's act:

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CJAD 800 AM, Montreal
This past Sunday morning, I appeared on Montreal radio to talk about The Accidental Terrorist. Specifically, I spoke with Dave Fisher on CJAD 800 AM, whose program "Dave's World" is the most popular weekend radio show in Montreal.

Of course, it was a phone interview, since I'm not legally allowed to travel to Canada. But at least my voice can travel north of the border, even if my body can't.

A big shout-out, by the way, to the excellent writer Michael Libling, who brought me to the attention not only of Mr. Fisher but also of Peter Anthony Holder, who interviewed me last fall for "The Stuph File Program."

Listen to the CJAD interview below:

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Mardi gras cake with baby Jesus
You may not be aware of it, but today is the day that many Mormons believe to be Jesus Christ's actual birthday. (Happy birthday, Mormon Jesus!)

It also happens to be the 186th birthday of the LDS Church, which was officially founded on April 6, 1830. I'm old enough to remember the church's much-ballyhooed sesquicentennial year (1980), and I certainly hope to live long enough to see it turn 200 in 2030. (Not that I'll be celebrating. I just have no wish to die that soon.)

This got me thinking. Back when I was a lowly 12-year-old deacon, 150 years seemed like a long, long time, especially relative to my age. But now I'm 48, which means that I have lived through a full quarter of the church's history. A mere four 48-year spans will take you back to before Joseph Smith sprang the Book of Mormon on an unsuspecting world. That's a remarkably brief period of time, historically speaking, especially for the lifetime of a church that I was raised to believe was the be-all and end-all of human existence.

My mother, at 70, has lived through well over a third of that history. My grandmother, who passed away a couple of years ago at 95, live through more than half. That's how young the LDS Church really is. All of Mormon scripture, doctrine, history and culture arose during two of my grandmother's lifetimes.

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Happy Pi Day!

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My first summer job was in a cabinetry shop. I worked there all three summers throughout high school. My boss was a crusty old shop teacher whose sense of humor and store of aphorisms had stopped evolving on approximately V-E Day.

He could be one mean sonofabitch. In fact, I can't watch Reservoir Dogs without thinking about him because he looked so much like Lawrence Tierney and said things like "My way or the highway" in so similar a way.

But sometimes he would saunter up and tell a joke, deadpan, like that one with the punchline: "No, you idiots. Pie are ROUND." Then he'd allow himself a tiny smirk of satisfaction and walk away.

Stay rational out there today.

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Tarring and feathering of Joseph Smith
The term "anti-Mormon" is tossed around too lightly.

A few months back, I linked to a video in which Lewis Black read an angry rant submitted by an 18-year-old Mormon apostate named Trevor Sepulvida. A week after the video appeared online, Jana Riess of Religion News Service casually called it "anti-Mormon."

One of my old mission companions emailed me recently to share his impressions of The Accidental Terrorist, which he wanted to read because I wrote about our time serving together. He generally enjoyed the book and had only minor quibbles with what I'd written about him. But, he told me, he skipped the chapters about LDS Church history because they were "anti-Mormon."

My own sister is one of many church members I've heard call the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon "anti-Mormon," sight unseen.

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William Shunn at Up Comedy Club, April 17, 2013
A couple of days ago, I directed your attention to "Caffeinated Confessions of Mormon Comics," a comedy showcase that Bengt Washburn periodically organizes in different cities.

The reason this show is on my radar is that Bengt has invited me to participate in an April 24 edition of "Caffeinated Confessions" at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA. I'm ridiculously thrilled for the chance to be part of this, taking the stage alongside real, working standup comics—even in the capacity of a storyteller, which is what I will be, relating the tale of my missionary misadventures.

The problem is, live storytelling in front of an audience of strangers terrifies me.

This is not a theory. This is a fact. I have no problem telling a story for a small audience of friends, and I have no problem getting up in front of an audience of strangers with a script in my hand. But when you ask me to wing it in front of those same strangers, even when I have all the bullet points of my story firmly in mind, it's classic stage fright. My mouth gets dry. My hands shake. My lungs constrict. My tongue thickens, and the words fall out of my head.

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Trump vs. Bernie (Anthony Atamanuik and James Adomian)
But Bengt Washburn is not my only comic friend you should be paying attention to.

Anthony Atamanuik (perhaps best "known" as a Silent Writer on "30 Rock") is the other hardest-working man in comedy. He's been touring the country lately in the persona of Donald Trump, debating James Adomian's Bernie Sanders in the sharpest, funniest piece of political comedy I've seen in a long time.

You should see them live if you can—there are still a few dates remaining on the tour—but the great news for Anthony and James and all of us is that, according to The Wrap, Fusion is launching a "new cross-platform video series that will see the Republican billionaire and the Democratic socialist senator argue over the issues driving the 2016 presidential election."

Fusion's "Trump vs. Bernie" partnership kicked off last night with a hilarious Facebook livestream of Trump and Sanders kicking it together in a hotel room as the Super Tuesday returns rolled in.

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