Tonight in Ypsilanti, Art Spiegelman gave a talk titled “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics?” The crowd was a mix of EMU students and fiftysomethings in nylon windbreakers; Spiegelman took the stage dressed in a Lynd Ward t-shirt and holding a cigarette in either hand.
At one point he paused his PowerPoint presentation on a slide of “Mallard Fillmore” and started weeping. A student in a specially reserved “Live Tweet Seat” typed “What the %@&*! happend to Speegleman?”
A bit later, Spiegelman fired up four more cigarettes and began reading from Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him. He read: “We watched in real time as Richard’s genius outstripped the confines of stand-up comedy, ran circles around it, danced on its grave, even while—in the same way a length of rope can let you know about a knot’s design—it was his comic persona that allowed us to see what his genius was all about, which was this: it reflected our flawed and brutal humanity back to us as something we could both love and forgive.” He read: “Richard Pryor: Here and Now, filmed at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans in 1983, finds him off his stride and out of his depth, low on energy and retreating at times to old material. He never really takes off or gives the impression that he could.” He read: “A young woman leaving the cinema at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor on the film’s opening weekend spoke for many when she said, ‘He was funnier when he was on drugs.’”
The talk ended with Spiegelman holding up a copy of The Best of the Wizard of Id and ripping it in half. He then lit eleven more cigarettes and exited the stage.
After the talk, Spiegelman signed several packs’ worth of Garbage Pail Kids cards, along with copies of Raw, MetaMaus, and Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness.