You know what I’ll bet you’re tired of? Doing the same old thing with the same old people day after day, brunch after brunch. You can probably feel your brain melting as you trawl the Internet for something worthwhile or as you stare dead-eyed at your own reflection on Muni. We’ve all been there.
Well, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco has your rapidly degenerating attention covered with this year’s season of Arts & Ideas, a speaking series that’s guaranteed by science to stimulate those atrophied neurons and beef up your synapses – although they’re pretty entertaining and informative, if that happens to be your goal. This year’s mix of comedy to make you laugh, dating advice to help you score, music to soothe your inner wild beast, and, well, a cornucopia of famous people you’ll probably never see again are sure to be much better than whatever stupid venue your friends are trying to convince you to get drunk at. Here’s whom I’m excited about seeing; maybe you should get excited about something for once too.
OkCupid’s Christian Rudder
Dataclysm Tuesday, September 16, at 7:00 p.m.
OkCupid founder Christian Rudder, the guy solely responsible for all your Internet-based, late-night messaging flurries that inevitably end in cold showers, will be talking about his new book, Dataclysm, detailing the massive variety of things that can be predicted from the scores of data collected by services like Facebook and OkCupid. Apparently, you can tell a person’s sexuality by their Likes? I’ve always wondered; let’s find out!
Nightmares! Thursday, September 18, at 7:00 p.m.
Don’t miss your favorite funny dude, Jason Segel of Freaks and Geeks, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, How I Met Your Mother, and every single Judd Apatow movie that involves Seth Rogan. Segel will be reading from his newest book, Nightmares!, which is aimed at middle-schoolers and promises to be both funny and scary – a lot like Segel himself!
Conversation and Songs Tuesday, October 7, at 7:00 p.m.
Stephin Merritt has been described as “the most depressed man in rock” and is mostly known for being the front man of the Magnetic Fields, but chances are that you’ve heard his work literally all over the place, from Volvo commercials to the score of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at the Castro Theatre a few years back. Regardless of where you’ve seen him, this guy is solid talent and will be performing his music as well as having a conversation about his work. Worth it.
B. J. Novak
The Book with No Pictures Saturday, October 11, at 2:00 p.m.
Look, I know that B. J. Novak is not a robot. I’ve watched him age since the first season of Punk’d, but I have no other real explanation for how creative and prolific this dude is. The Book with No Pictures is his second book this year, following a collection of short stories released in February. This is a kids’ book full of weird words that you’re supposed to read out loud, so show up if you want to see Ryan from The Office say “bluurf” and other smart stuff.
The Daily Show’s
Saturday, October 11, at 8:00 p.m.
The Daily Show is responsible for launching the careers of a whole list of hilarious geniuses, among them Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, both of whom now have their own prime-time talk shows. Aasif Mandvi is incredibly funny and clever, so if you’ve ever wanted to know about the inner workings of America’s greatest newsroom before he ditches them for greatness, you might want to stop by.
Sunday, October 26, at 7:00 p.m.
Most of you probably recognize Bob Odenkirk as the shady lawyer from Breaking Bad, but I’ve always known him as the comic genius behind Mr. Show, an extraordinarily underappreciated sketch-comedy program he did with comedian David Cross in the ’90s. Check it out online, and make sure not to miss his talk. I guarantee you’ll be dying of laughter.
The Art of Asking Thursday, November 20, at 8:00 p.m.
Amanda F*cking Palmer is one of those people who seems to have her mind in every nook and corner of the creative world. She’s an accomplished musician, writer, and poet, and is now sharing her story of being an eight-foot-tall living statue, which you can see in advance as a TED talk; but it’s definitely worth seeing in person.
The Enchanting Neil Gaiman
With Michael Chabon Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.
Perfectly enough, writer Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer are in a relationship, and Gaiman is also one of those crazy workaholics with his thumb in every pie that needs a writer. If you don’t read, you might know him as the author of Coraline. If you do read, then you know exactly who he is – American Gods, The Sandman, The Graveyard Book. This guy is a genius. And guess who else is coming to dinner? Michael Chabon! Yeah. You’ve heard of him. Be there.
Tickets are on sale now.
Photo of Amanda Palmer by Shervin Lainez; photo of Jason Segel by Michael Muller; all photos courtesy of JCCSF