Managing Editor Charlotte Slivka engaged the drDOCTOR team in conversation via email. They discussed their reading series/podcast and where they’re going next.
Sam Farahmand and Luke Wiget are the New School MFA Grads that make up the team of drDOCTOR, a live reading series and podcast that sprang from the New School community in tandem with Audiograph: a podcast that features interviews and readings with The New School’s literary faculty and can be seen/heard on the New School writing blog.
Partners in literary crime, partners in comedy, and partners in podcast during their time at The New School as MFAs, Luke and Sam were often seen together and the effects of symbiosis would render them brothers. And they do look alike: long dark hair in lively conversation with itself and they are both tall and slim. Sam’s glasses separate him from Luke and Luke’s mustache and beard separate him from Sam. Other than these physical attributes (like the geography of neighboring islands that share the same water) there is only one fiendishly paradoxical mind at work here. Sam’s surreal comedy to Luke’s Dada straight man, and then they swap and interchange and the two of them together is always refreshing and funny and you never quite know what’s going to be said next.
My first early encounters with the dRs were at the Undergrad Riggio student readings apparently favored by the MFAs for its open and freeform atmosphere and the free beer and pizza.
One reading went late. Inspired by his inner Beat, Sam stood in a chair and read from pages that he let flitter to the floor like baby butterflies attempting flight and land, as good dreams do, in a light caress of the floor. This prompted everyone in the room to rush for their poetry and take a turn in the chair. Good times.
One month later the very first of the drDReading series would begin at The Mellow Pages; a free reading room and event space in Bushwick. The Dr’s in the house for this maiden voyage: drDOCTOR w/ Dr. Luis Jaramillo, Craig Morgan Teicher, MD, and Jen Choi, DO
This interview with Luke and Sam occurred over two parts of emailed questions as Luke now lives in Nashville and Sam lives in Brooklyn. Even with this change in geography, the drDR podcast pods on.
THE dOCTORS arE IN:
Diagnostic interview, Symptoms and Evaluations, Hypotheses
Street: Firstly, happy spring! I’m really looking forward to this next edition of of drDOCTOR w/ Dr. Melissa Febos, Laura Cronk, MD, and Dolan Morgan, DO. I think the last one it was about 6 degrees out? Seems like a while ago. Luke, you have moved to Nashville and Brooklyn will definitely miss you, Sam are you going to Skype him in or digitize a version of him like the the Max Headroom show?
dR: Well, at one of our previous DReadings, Luke was also in absentia (recognize a pattern here?), and at that one I ended up filling in for him by growing a goatee and mustache to look like an idiot, and get into character to act like an idiot. There’s a good chance that this time I’ll be an idiot all by myself.
Street: Tell us a little about your germination, drDR has been going since?
dR: drDOCTOR has been going since April of 2014. The first DReading, which was followed by our first podcast episode, was at the end of that first month, which was April (of 2014).
Street: I think the first thing folks would want to know is: why doctors? Why drDOCTOR?
dR: There’s a long literary tradition of writers being doctors, whether they’re actual doctors, as in the case of William “Doc” Williams, or fictional doctors, as in the medical case of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. But for us, why doctors, as in medical doctors, I think there is this American fascination with doctors, sort of the same way there is with people who do real things, blue collar workers and the like (remember that scrubs are so blue collared they are entirely blue). Being a writer, or any sort of artist, is so absurd in the day to day, in the making of some sort of a living, or even in being a human being. Being a doctor is much more defined. A lot of what we like talking about on the podcast and a lot of what we like complaining about in our personal lives is the mystery of being a writer (most of all if you’re not a mystery writer–they seem to have things easily defined for them), the work you put into writing that seems to come from nowhere and often ends up right back there, the work you put in forty hours a week to make a living (for your employer).
As for drDOCTOR, the name, it mostly came together when the two of us were appointed as Riggio TA’s. We were shooting the shit about what we would want our students to call us. It quickly escalated from Mr. Farahmand to Professor Wiget to Dr. Farahmand to Dr. Professor Wiget, and that sort of name calling stuck between us (our students didn’t take to it in the same manner we did) referring to each other as doctors, so when we were far enough along in the process of building a reading series to warrant a name, it had to be drDOCTOR.
The referring to other people at our readings or on our podcasts as doctors goes back quite some time in comedy routines. The Marx Brothers comes to mind, but there is something so funny about someone pretending to be a doctor, referring to someone as a doctor. One scene we often come back to is from the film Spies Like Us, in which there is an endless line of doctors shaking hands with other doctors and saying doctor, doctor. Thus our twitter being drDOCTORdrDR and our website drdoctordrdoctor.com.
Street: When I Google drDR, I get:
1) A song by brit rock band UFO
2) A sitcom from 1989 about 4 doctors who meet at Harvard and start a practice together (we could substitute ‘practice’ for ‘band’ here for a different sitcom). All the action of the show is based the zany antics of the main character a Doctor who is a novelist.
3) Another sitcom based in South Korea
4) A live British talk show
5) A South Park character
6) A Thompson Twins song
7) A song from an electronic musician named Just Jack
Are there any other drDR references we can add to the list?
dR: No. That seems complete to me.
Street: Lets talk a little about the Dr’s: from where and when did you come to the New School? When did you know you wanted to be Drs?
dR: Sam came to the New School from Los Angeles by way of Berkeley by way of Los Angeles (which is to say, he was born in Los Angeles, studied undergraduates in Berkeley, then spent a year not finding himself in Los Angeles, ending up instead in the MFA Program at The New School). I would say that’s a long story short, but really, it’s not that long of a story.
Luke made it to The New School by way of Santa Cruz, California, which is the capital of flipflops and bleached-tip hairdos. It was only after quitting his job as a high school teacher and then playing some guitar and keyboards and things for a while and working as a janitor that he decided to try and write his way into grad school.
We ended up as doctors in our tenure as Riggio TA’s when we were in our final semester at the program and were looking at life post-MFA and Luke didn’t want to go back to being a janitor.
Street: Tell us about the format of how drDR appears in print, is the use of the upper case lower case purely style choice, or is there a more complicated idea at work here?
dR: Both. Both lower case and upper case, I mean. And also both purely stylistic and more complicated as well. drDOCTOR is all about paradox–a pair of docs, if you will. When it does come to the style though, I think it speaks to wanting to be absurd but also serious, as with our twitter account where we’ll have poorly typed all lower case tweets as well as thoroughly typed out and well thought out tweets. Being an artist is such a paradox, but being a paradox is such an art. (The previous sentence feels like a tweet that’d probably be better off in all lower case).
The stylization of drDOCTOR itself, maybe it was alluded to some earlier on, is this desire for actualization, being a doctor’s doctor, a writer’s writer, a writer’s doctor, thus the lowercase dr and the uppercase DOCTOR. Hear me, but also, understand me. As in any partnership there is inevitably some playing to characters, whether it is perceived only by the audience or whether the comedic/creative partners play to that themselves, but the contrast in dr and DOCTOR addresses that. A Costello and Hardy sort of thing.
Street: Ultimately, do the Drs have an agenda?
No, really though.
But really, at this time we’re sort of in a state of transition, with Luke having moved from New York City to Nashville. It is hard to do things–create art, have a job, be alive, do a podcast about creating art and having a job and being alive. Maybe it’s a bit repetitive (and there’s nothing repetitive about drDOCTOR, so I know this might come as a bit of a surprise), but the agenda is to speak to those things for artists while also having those things in our own lives.
Street: What were you thinking about when you did drDR #1?
dR: Why are we even doing this? What if no one shows? What if we were to quit while we’re ahead? Maybe we can still get our deposit back on that X-raying machine.
All thoughts we haven’t really shaken.
I will say, though, that at the heart of drDR is a desire to continue meeting other thoughtful people (though we’re both introverted, sweaty, and bad at meeting people — most of all if they are other and thoughtful). We were thinking that our MFA program was coming to an end and we wanted to continue having good conversations over decent to bad beers.
Street: What are you thinking about now?
dR: Moving to a new city, getting a new job, getting a new identity. Selena’s twenty-year death anniversary. Jokes we would have written at the recent Bieber burn. Writing an autobiography of Randy Newman.
We’re always looking for new ways to speak to art and the state of art and the state of the arts (whether they be state-of-the-art arts or not). Right now that consists of looking for new guests to have on the podcast, readers to have at readings, new formats (to release content) and new mediums (writerly or visually) and new mans (Randy Newmans) that might pair well with the podcast.
Street: For some of the readings, Mellow Pages resembled the L train at the height of the morning commute, will the Doctors be seeking a larger operating theater?
dR: We love Mellow Pages and think most of our readers do too. There’s nothing worse than an uncrowded reading. You are right that it is a small theater of war-ds, words, I mean, but they put up with our nonsenses and they keep giving us the good vibrations we look for in a reading.
Street: Where do you see drDR going? Now that Luke is in Nashville, will you be taking this Medicine show on the road? Does the Doctor do house calls?
dR: We’re still sort of feeling this one out. I think one of the best things one can do when doing something, whether or not it is doing something with someone else or doing something by oneself, is to, of course, set out to do something and see it through, but also, to welcome revision along the way and be okay with it turning into something else.
That, and be precise with one’s wordings.
One of the things Luke and I have always done is fail. We’ve failed at a lot of things, the most recent of which being the answering of this here question. But that being said, out of those failures we’ve always moved on to trying different things with dD. I think one of the things we’ll be feeling out (failing out) right now is the back and forths we’ll be having over the phone to anchor the podcast in the coming months, which shouldn’t be quite as difficult as creating some form of consistency when we individually interview guests in our respective Yorks and Villes (New and Nash, respectively). It might start looking a little more like a late night variety show, or at the very least, sounding like one. It is, after all, first and foremost a podcast, and always will be —
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