Lemony Fresh!

October 24th, 2005

The show that airs this evening at 7:30 (and repeats on Friday night at 10:30) is my truly digressive conversation with the hilarious Daniel Handler, author of the darkly wonderful Lemony Snicket books for children (The Penultimate Peril, the 12th installment of the "Unfortunate Series of Events" series, just hit the stores) as well as two novels for adults. While conducting this interview, I was continually delighted by Handler's grouchy, morose persona -- it was like hanging out with one of my dad's rowdy old Trotskyist friends, before they got totally bitter. Plus he plays a fine accordion!

Preparing for our encounter, I got happily obsessed with Handleriana. My son and I started making our way through the Lemony Snicket series -- laughing with cringing amazement as the author, improbably, was able to continually add to the poor Baudelaire orphans' misery. By myself, I read Handler's second adult novel, Watch Your Mouth, in which the frantic, pansexual, and possibly delusional hero must face the music in various aspects of his young life (Handler's an opera fan, and this particular obsession gives the book a unique structure). At this very moment, I am listening to The Magnetic Fields' pop masterpiece 69 Love Songs, for which Handler contributed the droll liner notes. And I note that early next year the amazing folks at Word for Word will be adapting four chapters of Handler's upcoming novel, Adverbs, into a stage piece. Those seeking to further satisfy a Handler jones can link to the cool weeklong diary he kept for Slate.com a few years ago.

Dare I say that Daniel Handler -- in spite of his eternal pessimism -- has been responsible for a very fortunate series of events? Yes, I so dare. And I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Entry Filed under: tv episodes


  • 1. Archie  |  October 24th, 2005 at 7:45 pm

    Hi, Please fix the “Michelangelo” book on the far right of the first shelf. It is upside-down and should be readable from top to bottom (as are all the books in the world) instead of bottom to top.
    It is distracting.
    Thank you.

  • 2. Julie Bernstein  |  October 24th, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    Ziggy and I were laughing out loud at this episode! What a great interview. I want to meet this guy myself!

    I think I also noticed a subtle change in the opening credits; where before the people were all thinkng “Yes/No” and you were “Maybe”, now they were “” and you were “=”? An allusion to your undregrad math days, perhaps? (Or maybe with my terrible TV reception I just couldn’t see straight…)

  • 3. Julie Bernstein  |  October 24th, 2005 at 7:47 pm

    (Note: my note above should have had “greater than” and “less than” signs between the quotes, but they were stripped out by the HTML filter I guess.)

  • 4. Denise  |  October 25th, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    This episode was hilarious! Keep up the good work.

  • 5. Alex Capasso  |  October 27th, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Josh –

    Recently, I caught an episode of your show, and now I’m hooked. I love the conversational tone of your interviews – it really makes for an interesting interaction between you and your guest.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d say hello, and encourage you to keep up the good work!

  • 6. Josh Kornbluth  |  October 29th, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    Yo, Archie: Well, I could try to say we had the title upside-down as a nod to the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, but instead I’ll just say: Thanks for your comment! We fixed it!

    Julie: You are keenly observant! There are in fact (I believe) three variants of those protest signs: one with Yes/No/Maybe, another with greater-than/less-than/equals, and a third involving cats and dogs — all, I’m sure you’d agree, being topics of intense political controversy.

    Denise & Alex: Thank you so much for your great feedback!!

  • 7. wirenut@yahoo.com  |  October 31st, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    First of all, I must say that your interview with Alan Alda was superb! Honestly, it was better than Charlie Rose’s interaction with Alda. You seemed really comfortable and brought out the best of him.

    Having said that, the interview with Lemony Snicket was slightly lacking, and by no means do I mean it was really your fault. I think his arrogant behavior tends to rub people the wrong way at times and I could see it making you feel a wee bit embarrassed. I think he even mentioned it at one point. He seems like the type of person who simply wants to talk about himself, rather than engaging in a conversation. I’m glad he was forced to eat b-grade rice crispy treats.

    All in all, I love your show and believe that you have excellent and original interview skills. Keep up the great work.

  • 8. Clement  |  October 31st, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    By the way, the last comment was from me, Clement. I was not sure where to put my name and e-mail in the bars for comment. Haha, now I know.

  • 9. Erik, the stage manager  |  October 31st, 2005 at 10:57 pm


    You still haven’t guessed what I changed on the set. And no, it has nothing to do with monkeys.

  • 10. Josh Kornbluth  |  November 1st, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks so much for your comments, Clement! The Alda and Handler/Snicket interviews were very different experiences for me — which helps make this job so fascinating, and so unpredictable. (And by the way, who is this “Charlie Rose” of whom you speak? Does he have an interview show too? If so, I hope he isn’t copying me!)

    As for you, Erik: I haven’t a clue as to what you changed. Did you subtly rearrange the Rice Krispy Treats?

  • 11. lucy  |  November 1st, 2005 at 11:51 pm

    i was fortunate enough to stop on pbs during a rare nighttime channel surf and watch this show. the episode with the lemony snicket author was absolutely hilarious. i haven’t laughed so much at anything on tv in a long time. plus i finally found out what the books are about.

  • 12. Josh Kornbluth  |  November 14th, 2005 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks, Lucy!!

  • 13. techie  |  November 16th, 2005 at 10:59 am

    I know this is a bit off topic, but since the issue was brought up I could not resist commenting.

    Archie I have to disappoint you here but I guess this is another ‘World Series’ thing. It has nothing to do with the world. It is a local convention, just like on which side of the road to drive and it might look completely different elsewhere.

    Just because you might be used to seeing book spines to be readable from top to bottom -that is actually the convention- it does not mean this fact is true all over the world. I don’t know all the local conventions on this topic but I can tell you for sure that it’s the other way round in Germany for instance.

    Moral: be careful when extrapolating… ~:o)

  • 14. Josh Kornbluth  |  November 17th, 2005 at 11:44 am

    You know, techie, I wondered about that myself. But being the craven blogger that I am, I simply gave in to Archie’s demands. I think we all need to take a moment and rededicate ourselves to diversity in book-binding orientation — as well as other things, perhaps.

  • 15. JoAnne Winter  |  April 28th, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Hey Josh!
    I just watched the Daniel Handler interview for the second time, and still I don’t know what children’s book it was, other than his own, that he held up (something he helped to get reissiued?). Also he mentioned an author he read as a kid – Zilfa something?
    A three named person. This is going to drive me crazy until I know, now that I’ve missed it twice. Can you illuminate?
    Your fan and fellow Z-er, JoAnne
    PS: Love the show.

  • 16. Josh Kornbluth  |  June 19th, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    Hey, JoAnne! Sorry to have taken so long to reply! The book that Handler helped to get reissued is The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, written and illustrated by the wonderfully named Dino Buzzati. I live in hope that this somehow answers both of your questions? …

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