Expert at Getting Dumped

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I am not a serious journalist. I realized this when I set my backpack down and sprawled on the floor near the Art section at the crowded Barnes and Noble in Park Slope, squat prone in front of three yet-to-be-sold editions of Modernism and the Feminine Voice: O’Keefe and the Women of the Steiglitz Circle and other such works with similar erudite titles. I don’t know how to will advance copies of books to my mail slot, so I was there in a minimally trafficked area of the store reading Things I’ve Learned From Women Who Dumped Me in order to command a passable semblance of familiarity with Ben Karlin’s new book.

The work is an anthology edited by Karlin of funny life-stories-for-the-dumped with contributions from many of the other most influential comedic minds around, including Stephen Colbert, Will Forte, David Wain, Todd Hanson and just about every leading man in The Believer magazine universe.

Ben is now staging Things I've Learned From Women Who Dumped Me...LIVE!, a weekly series of shows throughout the month of February at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. The wonderfully stacked live events each feature a host, an introduction by Ben, readings by contributors, the promise of “surprise guests” and an abridged rock concert by Fountains of Wayne. These $5 shows are already sold out, but more tickets will be released just prior to show time. For those who can’t get in, you can close your eyes, listen to the Things I’ve Learned audiobook, and imagine yourself in a setting 10 times more fanciful than a sad, barren sidewalk outside a Gristedes grocery store.

I suggested to Karlin that the title of the anthology and his role in its creation implies he’s an authority, if not the ultimate authority on being dumped. Getting dumped is the worst, so why would he or anyone else want to revisit these feelings?
“There’s a reason why I edited an anthology versus write a whole book on the subject,” he explains. “I mean, I’ve been dumped, but only enough times to fill a 28,000-word book and my contract called for 40. I do like the idea of taking universal subjects and themes and trying to bring an interesting approach to it. As a comedy writer, the instinct is often to go very esoteric, and I like the challenge of trying to be relatable but also funny. Sadly, I failed. My next book will be about a mutant dwarf population in Micronesia.”

About a year ago, Karlin left his position as executive producer of both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Since then, he has finished up this book and started his own production company, Superego Industries. Superego has a multi-platform deal with HBO to produce and develop content for TV, film and the Internet.

“We are going to do a show about a guy who tries to become the richest man in the world,” says Karlin. “A movie about fucked up children of divorce, a movie about the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold, and several other ideas that look great on colored index cards but will actually be quite difficult to make.”

He works out of Superego’s Brooklyn Heights office with Will Reiser—Paul’s cousin!—whose background includes producing Da Ali G Show and other notable works an IMDB search away. Together, the two are producing Things I’ve Learned... LIVE! events in NYC, Los Angeles and a couple of other cities where the book’s lovers and the book’s contributors coexist.

I did find it a little suspicious that the publication of Things I’ve Learned From Women Who Dumped Me and its live shows are all taking place during the month of February. A heart-tugging coincidence?

“I wanted to release this book around the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah,” says Karlin. “But my publisher—with their so-called marketing team—thought Valentine’s Day would be more appropriate.”

Feb. 7 (w/ Kristen Schaal of Flight of the Conchords), 13, 21 & 28. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 307 W. 26th St. (betw. 8th & 9th Aves.), 212-366-9176; 7:30, $5

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