Villains and Hairdressers (Ep. 64 - Bryan Safi)

This Week's Guest: Bryan Safi

As a flamboyant kid in Texas, humor was Bryan's protection in situations where standing out might otherwise have been risky. He escaped to the big city he'd always dreamed of to become an actor, and for a time he tried to peel off that funny armor by taking on serious roles. But stripping down revealed something he didn't expect -- underneath the humor that he once hid behind was a man who was even funnier.

PS: Bryan's podcast, Throwing Shade, is going on a 21-city tour! Tickets are on sale at

This Week's Recommendation: A Confederacy of Dunces

I'll confess that when I first started listening to Throwing Shade I would get a little frustrated when one of them got a fact wrong, or broached a topic with what I thought was insufficient gravity. But being silly is kind of the point of a comedy show, and if you try to take it seriously, well then, you're the one the joke's on. Generally speaking, the more seriously you take yourself, the funnier you actually are.

For my recommendation this week, take a look at the book A Confederacy of Dunces, written by John Kennedy Toole in the 1960s. It's the story of a man who considers himself very important, and is in fact very ridiculous. His name's Ignatius Reilly, and he's by turns a hot dog vendor, a pants manufacturer, a revolutionary, and a serial masturbator. His grasp on reality is not the strongest, but his plans are terribly grand.

For example, one day while dressed as a pirate, Ignatius makes the acquaintance of a gay man named Dorian Greene. As Ignatius learns about the basic tenets of homosexuality, it occurs to him that he might be able to achieve world peace by infiltrating the nation's army with gay men, transforming all future wars from conflicts into orgies. He commands that Dorian assemble all of his gay friends for what he expects will be a political rally, but what winds up being somewhat less sober.

This is but one of many memorable escapades in the book, all of which involve Ignatius's increasingly grandise plans and increasingly chaotic failures. The title is a reference to a Jonathan Swift quote -- "When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him." For Ignatius, this explains everything: all his failures simply confirm his genius, and motivate him to attempt ever more serious endeavors. 

When things aren't going as you might've planned, you basically have two choices. You can either panic about your wounded pride and convince yourself that the world's out to get you. Or you can just laugh about being wrong. And you might as well laugh -- expecting that you're going to be right about everything is funny. 

Clips of Stuff we Talked About



Parisian Kevin MacLeod (
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