Nov. 04 2014 — 4:05 pm | 371 views

Bite the Book: New York Times Book Review Chats with Tarzan

By Lewis Grossberger |

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 2.31.39 PMWhat books are currently on your night stand?

Ape man not have night stand. Keep books under rock. Me read lot of social anthropology and environmental studies. Also, any book that discusses how to fight lions with knife. Right now, Tarzan reading Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel.” Me on page three.

How long have you been reading it?

Five years. Tarzan slow reader.

What book most influenced your development as a heroic adventurer and fighter for justice in the jungle?

Me brought up by apes; they no read. So not start till age 27, after go to England, become Lord Greystoke. Then Tarzan read bio of Lord Byron. Decide want to be just like him, have adventures, see far-off lands, do sex thing with pale, swoony ladies and gentlemen. Except Tarzan no write poetry, instead fight lions with knife.

Do you read any fiction?

Sure. Tarzan especially enjoy novels that rip away thin veneer of civilization, expose savagery beneath. “Lord of Flies” real good, and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” “Heart of Darkness” has compelling plot, evocative symbolism, but Conrad get jungle foliage all wrong. Tarzan borrow “Fifty Shades of Grey” from Jane, but it make Tarzan blush.

What’s the last book that made you laugh?

“Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare. Everyone talk funny, wear too much clothes, look silly. All you need is loincloth. You wear toga, knife get caught in folds when you try whip it out for killing lion.

The last book that made you cry?

“Moby Dick.” That very sad book. If only Tarzan be there, me wrestle evil whale, kill him with knife, save Captain Ahab.

Any books that did not live up to your expectations?

“War and Peace.” Me enjoy epic scale and historical realism, but Cheetah eat book before me can finish. Tarzan disappointed. Tolstoy masterpiece should have stronger binding, be able to withstand rigors of tropical climate, molars of chimp. This flaw in book make Tarzan angry. Tarzan beat chest in frustration, scream real loud.

But surely, you can’t blame Tolstoy for that.

Hey, Tarzan is simple creature with primitive code of morality. Me believe people either good or evil. You come into jungle, try to make off with precious carved idol of native tribe, Tarzan kill you, eat your heart, beat chest, scream real loud.

Has Tar…have you ever thought of writing a book yourself?

Tarzan once approached by American publisher to write memoirs. Ape man come up with great title: “Me Tarzan, You Reader.” But then Tarzan have big fight with editor. Editor evil. Him want cut chapter on vine-swinging technique. Him say put in sex with apes. No! Tarzan no write sex with apes. Me role model for youth. Tarzan bash in brains of editor, leave rotting corpse for jackals. Triumphant scream echo throughout entire jungle. This happen years ago but natives still giving Tarzan high fives.


Oct. 24 2014 — 5:25 pm | 658 views

Mr. Ebola Expert Answers Your Questions

By Lewis Grossberger |

Screen shot 2014-10-24 at 4.59.17 PMQ. I’m a New Yorker and I’m afraid. Can I get ebola from the L train?

A. No.

Q. Are you sure?

A. Yes

Q. Because yesterday, I took the L train to Brooklyn, and when I…

A. I said NO!

Q. I don’t have ebola, but I have severe ebola anxiety, and it’s so bad, I’m throwing up. What should I do?

A. That’s outside my area of expertise. I’m Mr. Ebola Expert. You want Mr. Ebola Anxiety Expert.

Q. There’s an ebola germ crawling up my wall. Is it safe to swat it, or would that just give me ebola?

A. That’s not possible. Ebola viruses are so tiny they are invisible to the naked eye.

Q. Oh, I know that. I’m using a powerful electron microscope.

A. Uh…All right, keep watching it. If it tries to leave your apartment, call the authorities.

Q. I’m a bowler and I bowled at the same alley where that ebola doctor bowled, so I was wondering if I can get ebola from–

A. No.

Q. Is ebola airborne? The experts say it isn’t, but two of my Facebook friends say it is.

A. It isn’t.

Q. Are you sure?

A. Yes.

Q. Can I panic anyway?

A. No.

Q. I watched the mayor’s news conference on ebola and then I started feeling a little feverish. Do I have ebola?

A. No.

Q. I live in the same neighborhood as the ebola doctor; does that mean I’m gonna die?

A. No.

Q. If a guy who has ebola coughs in my face, can I get ebola?

A. It’s possible. Did someone with ebola cough in your face?

Q. No, but I’m worried someone might.

A. Put a plastic bag over your head. Secure it tightly around your neck. Then it can’t happen.

Q. I went to the drugstore and asked to get the ebola vaccine, but they claimed they don’t have any ebola vaccine. They’re really saving it for the big shots, aren’t they?

A. There is no ebola vaccine.

Q. I knew it. I knew they were saving it for the big shots.

A. You know nothing.

Q. I was coming to New York this weekend but now I don’t know if I should. What do you think?

A. Don’t come.

Q. Because I could get ebola?

A. No, because we already have enough idiots.

Q. I just had twelve beers, and threw up, which I never do after only twelve beers. So I probably have ebola, right?

A. No. What you have is stupidity.

Q. I’m a cabbie. There’s a guy in the back of my taxi right now who looks to me like he has ebola. How do I throw him out without catching ebola? Hello? Is anyone there?

Editor’s Note: We’re sorry but Mr. Ebola Expert has resigned. This feature is discontinued.



Oct. 22 2014 — 12:51 pm | 292 views

Is Ebola Funny?

By Lewis Grossberger |

That's funny

That’s funny

Okay, for those of you about to explode in fury in the comments box, enraged by my mere posing of the question, let me save you the trouble by writing your indignant reply right now:

You think it’s funny that thousands have died, eh? Well, wait until you get ebola, wise guy. Wait until you’re (here insert horrible, lurid ebola symptoms–bleeding from the eyes, explosive vomiting, uncontrollable diarrhea, etc.), then we’ll see how funny you think it is.

Actually, it would be pretty funny. Imagine the headline on Gawker: Ha-ha, Guy Who Made Fun of Ebola Gets Ebola. It would also be tragic–for me, anyway; not so much for you–but undeniably funny.

See, it’s possible for something to be both. Funny doesn’t necessarily mean unserious. Or without its beneficial uses. The humorless don’t know that.

Most of them don’t even know they’re humorless.

The wait-until-you-get-ebola comment above, by the way, isn’t something I made up. It’s exactly the kind of disgusted utterance I’ve been reading in online venues, where ebola jokes have run rampant. Or you might say viral.

The other day for instance, some Twitter user posted the hashtag #AndNowIHaveEbola. The phrase was intended as a punchline, to which myriad tweeters then added the set-up. Hence:

I tore that tag you’re not supposed to remove off my mattress. And now I have ebola. 

I ate Taco Bell for lunch and Chipotle for diner. ANIHE.

I watched Honey Boo Boo. ANIHE.

Interspersed among these dark jests were the predictable bellows of umbrage, such as: This is sick! I can’t believe this trash is trending! Don’t you know people are dying?

Yeah. We do.

And we’re not happy about it. We’re not saying the victims’ pain and suffering amuses us. We’re saying something more like: “What kind of insane world is this where a person who one day is perfectly healthy can be stricken down the next day by an invisible barely alive organism that makes blood spurt from all one’s orifices? Laughter is a perfectly normal and healthy reaction to the cosmically absurd lunatic asylum we all live in and whose impersonal savagery we all will die from.”

And do you really need a psychologist to explain to you that joking about scary things makes them a little less scary, a little more endurable? Isn’t that kind of obvious? Maybe not.

Which is not to say, of course, that any joke about ebola is necessarily funny, or in the best possible taste.

There was one I heard about the poor guy who died in Dallas, and how his disease probably being caused by that hideous green shirt he was wearing in the news photos. I didn’t think that was too funny. You can if you want.

Joke quality varies. Taste varies. But you cannot rule out an entire category of subjects. Anything, yes, anything is potentially jokeable.

And please don’t give me the “too early” bit, the comedy- equals-tragedy-plus-time rule. That is not an actual law. It’s just something somebody said, and somebody else repeated.

If it’s funny, it’s funny.

Now if anyone deserves your fervid denunciation here in the time of ebola, it’s not the jokesters. It’s A. the hysterics, you know, the Omigod-we’re-all-gonna-die-crowd; and B. the politicians and cable-news people exploiting those panic-prone runamucks.

Of course, those two groups are pretty funny, too.

Except they’re not.