The best Chicken Soup at The New Yorker Festival

Remember the Chicken Soup for the Soul books and all the variations of it, like Teenaged Soul and Cat and Dog Lovers Soul? Those books were like listening to Dr. Phil or Rachel Ray on television and being like, Yup! Mmmmmmhmmm to everything they say. Don’t ask me why I used Rachel Ray in this example.

This weekend there’s a real life Chicken Soup, The New Yorker Festival, and I’ve had my eyes on it for quite a while. There’s 52 events, most all moderated by an editor or writer at The New Yorker, and I get a sense there’s a session for just about anybody, like the Chicken Soup series.

But there’s too many event for one human being to go to, especially since each costs a pretty penny (especially ones involving food, i.e. four course meals or three-hour food tours from Greenwich Village to Chinatown. You can’t possibly go to all of them; in fact, I’m going to none of them because I live in Illinois and couldn’t afford to go to more than one $75 event, let alone a plane ticket to the City.

So, we’ve filtered the outstanding list of events into seven (SEVEN!!) must-sees or can’t-misses, whatever you want to call them. They’re all chosen for different reasons. We aren’t just going to say go to the Michelle Williams session because we love Michelle Williams. This isn’t for us (we’re not going). This is for a variety of people, which The New Yorker perfectly aims toward with this variety of Chicken Soups this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.



Here’s a two’fer. Tavi Gevinson has interviewed Joss Whedon, Emma Watson, Sofia Coppola, Aubrey Plaza, Kiernan Shipka, Elle Fanning, and David Sedaris, to name only a few. Oh, she’s also 17, from Oak Park, Illinois, and started blogging six years ago. She makes my blog look like its three months old or something (oh, yeah, it is…).

She writes, edits and created Rookie magazine, which is a fashion magazine written for and by teenaged girls and has garnered international praise, all stemming from her Style Rookie blog she started when she was, yes, 11 years old. She’ll fly solo at a session on Saturday, before teaming up with other Rookie contributors for “music, ice cream and a reader talent show.” It’s all so timely, as her Rookie Yearbook Two is released Oct. 1 (today).

From blogger to blogger (well, she’s a magazine editor), I have a lot of respect for her because she’s figured out her niche and stuck with it for a lot of success. I suppose you could say I look up to her in some ways, while I’d physically be looking down at her in person. And I don’t need to know anything about fashion to know she’s smart. 4 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.


Funny or Die is hot right now; well, it always has been. My two college roommates three years ago were all over that website and I give them a lot of credit, because I wasn’t. Lately, I’ve enjoyed the Kiernan Shipka psychology videos (this is the second time I’ve mentioned her now. Impressive) and anything else I stumble on. Billy Eichner is going to be in the City representing the viral video website.

Actors go out of their way to be involved at Funny or Die. I mean, did you see Aubrey Plaza’s Daria movie trailer! It’s trendy for The New Yorker to bring Funny or Die to the festival and I like that. The most intriguing thing is what the event promises: “an evening of sketches, new comedy videos, and surprises.” One thing to expect: lots of laughs. 10 p.m. Saturday.



I had to look twice at this “Spy vs. Spy” panel before I could believe what I was seeing. If you can imagine what it’d be like to pour a bowl of Lucky Charms and only marshmallows come out. The New Yorker has gathered an unreal panel to talk about the art of espionage.

Antonio Mendez, the CIA agent played by Ben Affleck in Argo, will be on board. Jeffrey Moss has been a hacker for two decades, founded Defcon and Black Hat, and was appointed to the advisory council of the Department of Homeland Security. Stella Rimington was the director-general of MI5, the United Kingdom’ domestic counter-intelligence agency, from 1992 to 1996 (if you’ve seen any Bond, you know what I’m talking about, MI6). Joseph Weisberg is the creator of the spy series on FX, The Americans, but worked for the Directorate of Operations at the CIA before writing on television for Damages and Falling Skies.

It’s simply a dream team, all which know more than any of us can imagine about espionage. This could turn out to be one of most eyes-wide-open panels this weekend. 1 p.m. Saturday.


You may know by now that anything involving Aubrey Plaza is an easy sell to me, but this “Without A Script” panel on Saturday includes other big names that give it staying power — Horatio Sanz, Christopher Guest and Rachel Dratch.

To avoid gushing over Aubrey any more than I may have in previous posts, let’s talk about the other three big names here. Guest you may know from This is Spinal Tap, which he wrote and starred in. Sanz and Dratch I’m sure you know from Saturday Nigh Live.

Aubrey Plaza is sensational, but in this foursome she’s the young up-and-comer, and that’s really weird to imagine because she’s not at all. Like the Funny or Die conversation, this is sure to bring lots of laughs — only with more firepower. 1 p.m. Saturday.



My brother’s girlfriend brought him home whisky from a trip to Scotland and I wonder if the “rare whisky” that will be tasted at this event will include the whiskey she brought back, because it’s like 65% blacked out wasted alcohol and that sounds literally insane. Simon Coughlin is the CEO of a Bruichladdich, a distillery of single-malt beverages on the island of Islay in Scotland, and his partner Jim McEwan will be hosting a taste test that includes one said beverage that’s not yet available in the U.S.

Moreover, they’ll be discussing the craft with guests and I’d love to know all about how whisky is clear initially and gets its color from sitting in oak barrels for years on end. Due respect to wine, but this is my kind of tasting. 10 p.m. Saturday.


In news media terms, there may be no singularly more powerful woman than Jill Abramson, who was named the executive editor of the friggin’ New York Times in 2011 — yes, the Times, the one media that comes standard stock inventory on all of your iPhones and iPads. For those of you that don’t understand titles in journalism, executive editor is a huge deal.

I’d have so many questions for this woman, starting first and foremost: What’s it like being the executive editor of the New York Times, no matter you being a woman. And then: … On top of being a woman in the business. So on, and so forth of other nerdy journalism topics I like to talk about. Much to my disappointment, I didn’t know how high up she was at the Times, but she may have some incredible things to say about her work and you should probably be there because the executive editor of the Times isn’t going to be walking around giving public speeches every day. 10 a.m. Saturday.


It was impossible to find a tame enough photo to post for this “The New Burlesque” panel and performance, which is more than a good enough reason to go see it for yourself. If nothing else, it’ll break you from your little shell. I saw a diva drag show once. This will be that times one billion booby tassels. 10 p.m. Saturday.

There you have it. Seven events you can’t miss at this weekend’s The New Yorker Festival. We wont be there, but we’ll keep tabs on it. This list could’ve been so much bigger.


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