Flop Sweat

edited by Joseph O'Brien, order at http://flopsweat.blogspot.com

Question: "What's the opposite of Christopher Reeve? Christopher Walken."

Ah, the sharp knockout blow of a dazzling one-liner. There are many more--some lighter, some more perverse--in a section called "Rodeo Bloopers" in the brand new zine Flop Sweat. Hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts and edited by Joseph O'Brien, FS is an impulsively readable 32 pages of whimsy, wonder, and the kind of jokes that can be bad or brilliant or both, depending on your disposition. Participants include Jonathan Ames, Mike Topp, and Sam Lipsyte, three of my current favorite writers. I was so strangely uplifted by the zine's accumulated effect I had to email O'Brien to engage in some chatting about his publishing venture and comedy in general.

What's your mission?

I thought it'd be cool to do a little magazine that was kind of like Milton Berle's Private Joke File (the King James Bible of joke books), a collection of one-liners, comedy sketches, drawings, and short humor pieces.

Where'd you get the name?

I got it from reading about the 1960 presidential debate and the idea that Nixon lost to Kennedy because of his flop sweat. It was streaming down his face. I've always been interested in that desperation and discomfort on the comedy side when a comic is dying onstage, or when a joke just bombs. That show The Office has a lot of moments like that.

Would you say humor writing has become better or worse in the last ten years?

I can't say. I wasn't reading a lot of humor writing 10 years ago. I was 16 and probably reading Maximum RockNRoll. I like a lot of the really old, kind of classic humorists like Perelman and Thurber. I just ordered Sam Lipsyte's new book--he's probably the funniest writer I can think of, but I don't know if you'd call him a humor writer, per se. So much so-called humor writing puts the humor under glass and makes it so boring and studied that it's not funny. I don't like the idea of all the humorists in America coming out of Harvard, that academic-type humor. I'm more of a Borscht Belt guy. I think comedians have definitely gotten better though, it seems like there are a lot of good ones around. KEVIN SAMPSELL

Flop Sweat