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POP INTERVIEW: Joe Wenke Teaches Us How to Become Culture Arsonists!

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Comedian Joe Wenke is the author of You Got to Be Kidding, described as a Bill Maher take on religion, shutting down myths and stories as he probably irritates the entire Bible belt. The very second I heard he referred to himself as a “culture arsonist,” I wanted to be one. As it turns out, I was sad upon learning setting random things on fire is not involved – the book description says it is actually about “causing trouble” – but pleased I can be at once angry-bitter and living in Hello Kitty Land.

joe wenke

What does a “cultural arsonist” actually do? Is this anything like a help wanted ad put out by Ann Coulter? Why did you want to call yourself this moniker?
A cultural arsonist is somebody who sets fire to stupidity and burns up bigotry, metaphorically, of course. That’s what I do, so that’s what I call myself. I have lots of rhetorical tools at my disposal, but the primary tool is satire. Ann Coulter? No, she is definitely not a cultural arsonist. In fact, she trades on stupidity and bigotry, so she’s the opposite of a cultural arsonist.

Did being a cultural arsonist derive from your years working as a speechwriter, sort of being silent while you told other people what to say, essentially? Or did it strengthen your opinions more so?
It didn’t derive from my having been a speechwriter. I’ve always been very outspoken and questioned everything since I was a kid. I have to say, though, that being a speechwriter is a weird job. You have to have a huge ego to deal with CEO types and other so-called big shots, but then you have to pretend to have no ego when they set about changing what you’ve written. But you do learn to be very persuasive and adept at arguing different positions. Being a speechwriter also helped me to become a very fast writer.

Is being angry required, or can I be a cultural arsonist too in a Pollyanna sort of way? I kind of want to crack jokes while I’m attacking culture and hand out healthy, low calorie cupcakes I decorated before I grill people. With Sanrio products somehow involved. What steps are involved in my path to being one?
My own style is playful rather than angry. My artistic models are the Beatles early press conferences and Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope. I mean, sometimes the best way to win a debate is to just let the other person do all of the talking. Actually, being a cultural arsonist is more about pushing limits and boundaries than being angry—sort of like, if you see a line, cross it, or if you think you’ve gone too far, go further. It’s also about how you live, how you present yourself to the world, as much as it is about writing. I’m very girly in how I present myself to the world. I have long hair, wear mascara, eye shadow, pink fingernail polish and girls clothes. That look definitely pushes boundaries and is very edgy and funny. It’s very disarming—like handing out cupcakes before grilling your next victim.

Your book info says it “tempts readers to more closely examine the stories they think they know about the Bible.” What is an example of a Biblical story that needs to be restudied?
How about Noah’s Ark? Scientists have identified more than a million species, so how big was that boat? It’s just a guess, but I’m thinking something along the lines of the state of Rhode Island. And just how did Noah round up all of the animals? I mean who went out and picked up the polar bears and penguins. And what about the kangaroos and kiwis? Also, was every insect species on board, or was there a cut off point? Did roaches and mosquitoes make it? How about bed bugs?

Why did you want to focus on Christianity? Why not other religions?
I wrote about the Bible, which is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition, because that’s the belief system that I was brought up in. I wanted to expose the absurdity of the Bible. How is the Bible absurd? Well, the most absurd thing about the Bible is that in all probability nothing of importance described in it ever actually happened. Also, Old Testament morality is really more like tribal code like we get today from the Taliban. I also wanted to call out people who use the Bible to justify their own bigotry against gay and transgender people as well as their contempt for women. If God did write the Bible as the fundamentalists contend, then my message to them is just because God is a bigot doesn’t make it right.

And while we discuss other religions, what do you want to pick apart from Buddhism or other religions?
Absurd beliefs of any kind are worthy targets of satire. At the same time, I really don’t care about what people believe. People believe all sorts of crazy things. That’s fine with me. That’s what makes the world go round. I object when somebody thinks that their religion is the one, true religion or when they use what they view as scripture to justify their own bigotry against people who are different from them.

What are some great things people have told you about your book? What have the worst critics, or possibly a group of people you may call “haters,” told you?
There have been more than 40 reviews of the book, and almost all of them have been very positive. I love that people find the book to be very funny. I think that the humor of the book is very disarming. It opens up people’s minds to entertain new ideas. One reviewer said the book should be part of any library, particularly a religious library. I like that. One guy trashed the book, and said it was sophomoric. That was good too since it reminded me of how much I like the word “sophomoric.”

I like the book cover art interpretation. Somehow, it speaks a lot for being so subdued. How did you declare this to be what you were thinking? Because people really do judge a book by its cover in the publishing world.
I absolutely love the cover of my book! My good friend, Gisele Xtravaganza, who is a very beautiful and successful transgender model, is the nun on the cover. The original cover designer had proposed the idea of having a laughing, scandalized nun on the cover. I thought the attitude was a little heavy handed and obvious, but I liked the nun idea itself. I bought a nun costume online and gave it to Gisele. She tried it on and took a picture of herself. She looked so beautiful and angelic, very close to the image that we have on the cover, and I though, oh, my God! That’s it. Jeffrey Michelson, the ultimate cover designer and the designer of my website, loved the image too but said quite rightly that it also had to be funny. He came up with the idea of having a cartoon balloon with the book’s title coming out of Gisele’s head. So, to me, the cover art really captures the point of view of the book, which is very funny while at the same time calling out bigotry against gay and transgender people.

joe wenke book

Other than religion, how can we find sarcasm, wit and humor in life?
Objects of satire are everywhere around us—politicians, celebrities, our family, friends, people at work—the list goes on. Life is crazy and difficult, but humor is very powerful. It exposes hypocrisy and absurdity, and it makes everybody feel good at the same time. We argue about everything, but if something’s funny, it’s funny. It’s hard to argue about that.

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Lizzo Is An Icon In The Making – And Here’s Why

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Mirror, mirror on the wall don’t say it ‘cause we know Lizzo cute. And by cute I mean extremely talented, gorgeous and totally inspiring!

A few months ago I was watching The Ellen Degeneres Show when I witnessed one of the most fun, exciting and awe-inspiring performances I’ve ever seen. Lizzo popped onto the screen in a sparkly, pink getup and began singing what would become her big hit song, “Juice,” – I was immediately hooked (more like obsessed). During this performance she also jammed out on her flute alongside her plus-sized backup dancers and suddenly I knew I had been changed forever. I did some more research on the rapper/singer and found out I had been sleeping on this gem! Lizzo has been doing bad all by her damn self for years, having already released two albums in the past. I am suddenly mad at every single person who neglected to tell me to jump on the Lizzo train sooner! If you’re like me and need a bit of catch up, I’m going to break down exactly why you need to know this icon in the making.

You can throw a stone in any direction and hit a triple threat nowadays. Lizzo’s brings talents we have yet to see in the mainstream music industry.

If singing, rapping and dancing make Lizzo a triple threat, what does flute playing making her?!? A STAR THAT’S WHAT! Lizzo has displayed her abilities as a talented flautist, which is not an instrument you would necessarily think of in conjunction with the rap genre making this talent all the more extraordinary. Lizzo even used her flauting skills to compete (and defeat IMO) with Ron Burgundy. Not Will Ferrell, but Ron Burgundy.

Oh, and she can also twerk while playing the flute. 

As if playing the flute wasn’t impressive enough, Lizzo can also twerk while playing. I really hope some high school kid is deciding to take band just so he/she can flutwerk their way around campus like their fav flautist, Lizzo.

Lizzo uses her platform to inspire and raise up everyone around her.

Lizzo uses her voice for more than just creating fire music, ya know. She uses her platform to defend the belief that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Her Twitter is filled with positivity and strong messages about acceptance.

 

Uhm…she’s straight up gorgeous. 

We cant forget to mention that Lizzo is a straight up beauty queen. She is known to switch up her look but I’ve never seen a bad pic of this queen. To solidify my point, she is now officially the first, plus sized black woman to be featured in Playboy magazine!

Credit: Playboy.com

Move over Avenger’s, Lizzo has been in a comic book too!

Ok indulge the nerd in me on this one…Lizzo was even featured in a comic book!!! That’s right, she has become so influential that even Marvel comics wanted a piece of the Lizzo-pie. Check out this shout-out in Unstoppable Wasp #4!

 

So now that you have become as obsessed as I have, you are probably wondering how you can get even more Lizzo in your life. Well lucky for you, her new album dropped TODAY! Her third studio album, Cuz I Love You, is available anywhere you listen to music and let me tell you, YOU WILL LOVE IT. The album is varied and showcases all of Lizzo’s incredible range with some songs being upbeat and funky, and others being slowed down and heart wrenching. For a taste of what to expect, click below to listen to the title track of the album. If the new album still doesn’t satisfy the hunger for more Lizzo, she’s also on tour! You can click here for more info on tour dates.

Oh Lizzo…you are most definitely 100% that bitch.  

Like what you read? Follow @ChrisSiretz on Twitter and Instagram

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LISTEN AND VOTE: Madonna Has A New Single. What Do You Think?

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Madonna has released her first single in three years. Her highly-anticipated 14th studio album Madame X will be released on June 14 – but the first single is out now.

The premiere single, “Medellin,”features Colombian superstar Maluma. She credits her experiences living in Lisbon, Portugal over the past several years as a strong influence into the tracks. 15 new songs will lean heavily into Latin and global beats. (Not to mention Maluma’s incredible popularity – he has nearly six million followers on twitter.)

Lisbon is where my record was born,” Madonna says. “I found my tribe there and a magical world of incredible musicians that reinforced my belief that music across the world is truly all connected and is the soul of the universe.

 LISTEN AND VOTE IN OUR POLL BELOW!

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Nine Types Of Facebook Posts That Are Insufferable, Needy Or Annoying

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We all know someone who does these.

Facebook is like a window into a person’s soul – and it doesn’t take much to see when someone is looking for your attention. Do you know someone whose guilty of these nine Facebook faux pas?

THE “I’M CLEANING OUT MY FACEBOOK FRIEND LIST, HOPE YOU MAKE THE CUT!” POST

We all know a person who decides they are going to going to edit down their friend list and posts a not so thinly veiled warning to their friends that, horror of horrors, maybe they will be among those ousted! It’s like the hunger games, except no one really cares if they’re killed off. Let’s examine the real intention here: they want you to say ‘please don’t unfriend me!’  What they fail to realize is how many people are dying to sarcastically say ‘I’m shaking… Oh no. How will I go on without you?’ If you want to edit down your friend list, go nuts – but do it quietly, without the rallying cry for attention. Chances are the people who are begging you to keep them aren’t going to be unfriended anyway because they feed into your exasperating neediness regularly already.

THE “I’M TAKING A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WHILE. SEE YOU IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS” POST

If social media is such a drain on your life, why do you need to use social media to announce your desperately needed hiatus? The absence of posts more than likely will go completely unnoticed by your friends because, you see, they actually follow other people too. Again, this is a post that is seeking some sort of comforting or validation. If Facebook is the means in which you keep up with someone you truly have a close personal relationship with, you might instead tell them personally that you can be best reached by phone or email. If an announcement needs to be broadcast, the intention is not one of genuine concern. Again, it’s done out of neediness.

THE “PLEASE RESPECT MY PRIVACY” POST

A recent friend posted a lot of details about their breakup. Details no one asked for, and followed it up with “please respect our privacy.”

This, to me, was hilarious. This is the physical equivalent of getting a megaphone and going to a public park, shouting out about your painful breakup, and then saying ‘but please, don’t ask me about it, it’s very personal.” Think of Facebook like a town crier: it’s shouting everything you say to a few thousand (or more) people. If you want privacy, don’t say it at all. (Unless of course, you do want the attention, then by all means, do exactly this.)

Lastly, you’re not Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. If you don’t have a career that requires you to have a press agent, you probably don’t need to worry about the paparazzi asking for more details.

THE “BIG ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SOON!” POST

No one cares about your vague announcement announcing a future announcement that no doubt will delight us all. Save the ‘big news’ for when there is actually big news to announce.

THE BLOODY CUTS, STITCHES OR BLISTERS POST

People cut themselves, it’s true.  But there is no reason to put your recent bloody injury on Facebook. Yes, you’ll receive a flurry of ‘are you okay?!,’ or ‘so sorry that happened to you!’ comments, but the truth is, no one really cares to see it. It’s gross.

If you want to see – or show – something gross, put it on YouTube where people can go looking for it.

POSING FOR A PICTURE WITH AN ELDERLY PERSON CLOSE TO DEATH IN A HOSPITAL BED AND POSTING IT

Ask yourself – when you’re 90 years old, do you want someone taking your photo and showing the world what a wonderful person they are for being with you, and in turn revealing how frail and sick you’ve become? Think before you post deathbed photos. Are you really doing it for them? Or for you? Instead, how about a written status saying how much you love them, or a photo from when they were feeling better and fully themselves, living life to the fullest might be a better option.

THE “LET’S SEE WHO READS MY STATUSES. IF YOU DO, YOU’LL REPOST THIS RANT” POST.

No I won’t. Yeah, I can see that post where you say ‘if you see this and read it, you should copy and paste it and post it to prove it to me.’ Then it goes on to comment about stuff most people have no interest in sharing. How lovely, a chain letter based on an imposed obligation to validate someone. In summary: Facebook isn’t about testing people’s friendship. Stop.

THE “PLEASE SEND PRAYERS” (BUT I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHY!) POST

I’m all for supporting people with the power of prayer. And it’s actually because prayers are powerful – and a very personal request – that it seems only fair to explain what we’re praying for. If you are going to ask for something from your peer group as sacred as prayer, it’s only fair to explain what you’re going through, rather than place the burden on the reader to dig and ask. Again, this is a status that brings it back to the poster, and not the potential recipient of the prayers themselves.

BONUS: this one might not make you needy, but it’s worth noting:

THE “I HEREBY DO NOT APPROVE OF FACEBOOK USING MY PHOTOS FOR ANY REASON AND I THINK THIS IS ACTUALLY A LEGAL STATEMENT PREVENTING THEM FROM DOING SO” POST.

Here’s the thing: You use Facebook for free, and you upload your photos onto their servers – drive space that is theirs, not yours. Your blah blah ‘legal’ proclamation gives you no rights. For nearly a decade there has been a hoax announcement saying Facebook was going to publish your photos for everyone to see, and it hasn’t been true yet. And yet – by signing up for Facebook you are agreeing to their terms of service, (look them up if you’re confused) which means no matter what you post in your status you’re not going to have any legal right to change that agreement. Here’s the bottom line: The best way to deny Facebook’s access to your photos is not to upload them there.

For more pop culture ridiculousness follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter! He’s also cleaning out his facebook friends soon, (everyone is so worried!) so there’s room for more on facebook too!

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