Why, specifically, was that challenging? Because there was a huge, international media scandal. Because people who’ve never seen your work in the theater, and never would, and never will, and never intended to, feel free to shit on you. It was mostly an Internet phenomenon. It’s almost not at all an actual, real-world phenomenon. In fact, I’ve never actually had an encounter on the street where someone said, “You! You upset my public radio boyfriend! I’m mad at you!” That actually never happened.
You were looking at the stuff being written about you online? I was a public figure before and after, and it’s my job as a small independent artist to be aware of how people are talking about my work. . . . I read everything anyone wrote about that scandal; I believe I read every single thing.
To be clear, it’s not actually over. I’m being taught in many college courses. College students set up a Tumblr, or the professor does, and everyone writes essays about my behavior, and that will show up on Google.
That is so weird. How does it feel to read that? How does it feel? Well it’s actually really useful. I’m a white man, I’m mostly straight, and in some ways I live a very unconventional life, but in some ways it’s very conventional. It’s actually very useful to understand what objectification is like, to understand it.
A couple of times over the last year, people on Twitter will be talking at journalism conferences, and I will be the subject of a session. I’ll interject and answer some points they’re all wondering about, about my psychology or something. It’s like being struck in the face with a wet fish. I am an object. I’m never actually supposed to speak.
It’s a really interesting thing, to have gone through a scandal on that magnitude and be alive—fully alive, not just in the world, but actually to still be practicing my work, to still be performing in the same or better venues and to have emerged, career-wise, unscathed. That’s actually kind of unprecedented.
I’ve spent a lot of time this year reading fiction and nonfiction, including, of course, every single thing anyone wrote about the scandal, even all the things that were really insipid, of which there were so many. But there’s been some really great writing about it. I’m actually taking a journalism course right now.
No kidding! Why bother? It’s a course in fiction and nonfiction at NYU with Lawrence Weschler. I’m really excited about it. The reading has been helpful in clarifying my positions in fiction and nonfiction, and understanding how I tell stories and why I tell them. It’s really useful.
At the same time, we learn from adversity, so they all tell us. The reason we don’t keep learning forever is that adversity sucks. I’m a much better artist now than I was a year ago, but it would be hard to sign up for it voluntarily. . . . But you begin to be a better person. It’s very difficult to voluntarily put your arm in the wood chipper, but it’s really valuable.