William Denton is a scholarly analytics and mathematics and statistics librarian at York University in Toronto. He is also a man interested in the music of everyday sounds. He created STAPLR, which is a program that takes all of the noises around the reference desks of his library and live converts them into synthesized music that anyone in the world can listen to at staplr.org. There are a lot of questions I could have asked him about his time as a librarian at York University, his thoughts on songification, or his passion for all things sound but instead, we just sat in silence for 25 minutes.
On this, our 26th episode of 25 Minutes of Silence we go on a retrospective of the best moments from our first 25 episodes and boy, have there been some good ones. In just 25 episodes we’ve had everyone from a New York Times best selling author, to a former astronaut to a former presidential candidate, to an Emmy Award winning writer to the lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America and many others. These are all important, accomplished people who chose to sit in silence with me for 25 minutes. Was your favorite moment not included in this episode? Let me know by shooting me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Ken Bone’s life changed on October 9, 2016 after asking Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump a question about energy policy during the second presidential debate. His bright red sweater, glasses, disposable camera and genuine demeanor skyrocketed him to “internet meme” status within hours. The internet obsession with Ken Bone lead to endorsement deals, merchandise, and guest spots on some of the nation’s most prestigious talk shows. Through all of that, Ken has maintained being the same “normal guy” that just wanted to ask a question. Before recording this episode, Ken and I talked about his rise to stardom, the internet’s tendency to obsess over the weirdest things, and how “it’s possible for anyone to get used to anything.” During the episode, we just sat in silence for 25 minutes. Ken used that time to reply to letters from fans.
Matt Besser is one of the founding members of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade sketch group and theater. Together Besser, Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts helped revolutionize sketch comedy in the 1990s with their Comedy Central series and with the thousands of students that walk the halls of the UCB Theater each year, the UCB Four have become some of the most influential voices in modern comedy. I could have talked to Besser about the creation of “game philosophy”, his hilarious improv podcast Improv 4 Humans on Earwolf, his comedy special Besser Breaks The Record, the UCB Show Season 2 on Seeso, or his thoughts on the future of comedy. Instead of talking about any of that, we sat in silence for 25 minutes in his office in Los Angeles. Matt used that time to silently take me on a journey through his and his family’s shared history. It was both interesting and maybe the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced.
In 2016, Cartoon Network rebooted the classic 90s series The Powerpuff Girls. Today’s guest isn’t one of the show’s writers or one of the show’s artists, it’s nine of them! The series writers, Jake Goldman and Haley Mancini as well as many of the artists that create the Emmy nominated series each week joined me in this Powerpuff spectacular. I could have asked the team about what it’s like creating cartoons, the struggles of updating such a beloved brand, how to get a job in animation, or literally any fan question you can think of about The Powerpuff Girls. Instead of doing any of that, the ten of us sat in silence for 25 minutes. They used that time to draw or read.
Emmy award winning comedy writer Mike Upchurch literally wrote the book on sketch comedy. His University of Nevada master’s thesis, “The Poetics of Sketch Comedy” acts both as a history lesson, and a how to guide on all things sketch. Besides his Emmy winning stint in The Chris Rock Show writer’s room, he’s also written for classic sketch comedy series Mr. Show With Bob And David, MadTV and Blue Collar TV among other places. He currently teaches sketch comedy writing at The Pack Theater in Los Angeles. I can’t think of a better person to talk to about sketch comedy history, what it was like to be a part of some of the best sketch writer’s rooms in television, or what his thoughts are on the future of sketch comedy. Instead of talking about that, we just sat in silence in my car for 25 minutes. It was raining out, so that’s something at least.
John Cage was an experimental composer famously called “one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde.” Perhaps one of his most known works is 4’33”, a music piece where the composer sits at a piano in complete silence for the duration of the piece. Since John Cage is no longer with us, I figured it would be a great idea to have the John Cage Professor of Performance Arts at Bard College and the executive director and co-founder of the John Cage Trust, Dr. Laura Kuhn on the show. I could have talked with Dr. Kuhn about her experiences working with the late John Cage, any advice she has for would be composers, or questions about her professional experiences in music. Instead of doing any of that we just sat in silence for 25 minutes.
Marques Ray is an actor and comedian who has performed stand up on Conan on TBS as well as Montreal’s Just for Laugh’s Comedy Festival. You may also know him from Fox’s sketch comedy series Party Over Here or as Juan Julio in the ABC series Dr. Ken among other places. Marques’ subtle character choices are nothing short of genius and he is easily one of the funniest performers I know. He would be a great person to talk to about audition advice, career longevity in the entertainment industry, and what it takes to create a truly unique comedic persona. Instead of discussing any of those things, we sat in silence for 25 minutes. Marques used that time to quietly show me funny pictures on the internet.
Live theater originated in ancient Greece nearly three thousand years ago. Since then, an uncountable number of entertainers have done everything from comedy to drama and everything in between to delight and mystify an audience. Instead of doing any of that, I sat in silence with an audience for 25 minutes at Pack Theater in Los Angeles on December 23rd, 2016 during the show “Go Sketch Yourself.” I used that time to build a small metal Star Wars figurine while most of the audience looked at their phones. This episode features a live performance of the 25 Minutes of Silence theme song by Joseph Porter. He used his 25 minutes to quietly practice his fiddle in the back of the theater.
“Dude, you’re getting a Dell” is one of the most recognizable commercial catch phrases of the early 2000s. That line was performed by actor, yogi and musician Ben Curtis. The “Slacker Steve” commercials aired from 2000 to 2003. Since then, Ben’s appeared in Law & Order, The Jack and Triumph Show on Adult Swim among other productions. When he isn’t acting or performing with his band Full Moon Party, Ben teaches yoga and spreads wellness with his company Soul Fit NYC. Ben and I spoke for nearly an hour about the healing power of yoga, his recent career resurgence and the natural ups and downs of working as a professional entertainer. That was before we started recording. After we started recording we sat in silence for 25 minutes. Ben used that time to meditate while I took a short nap.