The Write Stuff: Nate Waggoner on Being Tickled for Reasons He Can't Explain

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Lizzy Acker
Nate Waggoner is a contributor to KQEDPop and the author of a comic book called "A Lifetime of Free Haircuts." He and his ex-girlfriend host a romance advice podcast called "Invitation to Love," which is available on iTunes. His work has appeared on the SF Weekly blog, thefanzine.com, and in Sparkle & Blink. He is an MFA candidate in Fiction at San Francisco State University.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

I say I'm in school, and then await the inevitable dreadful next question, as if I'd forgotten it would come, which is the question of what I'm in school for, and the reaction to "Creative Writing" (my delivery of which phrase has to walk a line between overt embarrassment and the kind of confident assertion that makes me come across as delusional), is typically, "Ohhh, cooool!" in either a clearly very sincere tone or a clearly very insincere tone. The tone with which people deliver this reaction is a kind of litmus test for their overall personalities and outlooks on life. Sometimes I add that I work with kids or that I write for KQED's pop culture blog, KQEDPop, both of which are true.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

I have to pee a lot. I forget things, leave things places, get on the wrong train, because I'm so in my own head all the time. I'm also accident-and-misfortune-prone -- in the past year and a half I've been hit by a car, I've been mugged, I've locked my keys in my car a few times, I drove on the wrong side of the road for a second downtown, I've thrown up on BART twice now without even being drunk.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Find a way to have some solace every now and then so you can work out the ideas in your brain. Don't spend all your time in the park or on Tumblr. Say yes to everything everyone asks you to do, but also seek out stuff that seems cool. Get used to eating while walking -- pizza is optimal for this. I should mention that doing what I do doesn't pay very well or anything.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

No but I think I'm doing okay. I'm twenty-six, which tends to annoy people when I tell them. I'm very young in the literary world, and people take it personally that I'm that young. I think if people are mad, or even ironically mad, that I'm twenty-six, it means I'm doing okay.

When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

One of my ancestors on my dad's side came here from Germany because his parents were never married. Another one got run over by a train, and another I think died from eating poisonous mushrooms. I think I like the bastard best because he doesn't make me feel like I'm going to die an ignoble, premature death.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

I wanted to be Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. I got the part down where you spend most of your time daydreaming and living in a world or worlds of your own imagining, but I wasn't very mischievous.

Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.

I feel like I would be the guy who, as the hungry momma grizzly is circling the tent, and everyone is holding their breath, would sneeze.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

Step 1. Buy one of those Stripaerobics DVDs to learn how to strip.

Step 2. End up masturbating to it.

Step 3. Decide to buy some nice roses or something instead.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

$417.20.

What's wrong with society today?

Yelp. "The Big Bang Theory." Shitty dog owners. Dudes who walk around with their hands on their ladies' butts. Smugness. Standardized testing. Americans who affect British usage.

Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?

Allegra for allergies, kava root and sometimes B-100 for anxiety.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

Hey, I'm in a committed relationship! About three times.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

Ubiquitously available beignets, poutine, pupusas.

What is your fondest memory?

My dad used to read to my sister and me from "Little House on the Prairie" using an Ernie puppet, like of Ernie and Bert, and he would make the mouth move and do the voice. Ernie would fall asleep and start snoring when the book got boring, and he would weep uncontrollably during maudlin scenes. It's all been downhill since then.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

I had a professor who said art is something that can change your perception of the world around you after you experience it, like the way the night feels when you come out of a concert. I like that. I also like the Kurt Vonnegut thing of, "I feel the same way you do, even though you think you're alone." Maybe some people don't need to be big into art, but maybe if those people lived in a world without art, they would still have a less fun time. I know it's the only thing getting me out of bed some days, but maybe that means I should be more grateful for the other things in my life.

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

I like to do cute stuff like nibble her ear and kiss her on the nose. I can be pretty twee in the boudoir.

What are you working on right now?

A novel called "Dilettantes and Heartless Manipulators."

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

In terms of fiction, I wish I could make narratives come together in a really suspenseful way where all the pieces are necessary but you still don't see what's coming. Like "Breaking Bad" or something. I would like to write a crime narrative one day. In terms of just humor, I wish my jokes were less logical or didn't depend so much on real life. There are people who I think put words together in a way that tickles me for reasons I can't explain, or their delivery is just incredibly funny to me. Jon Wurster's calls in to The Best Show on WFMU would be an example of that, but also a lot of kids I've worked with are funny in that same intangible way. So maybe it's something people are just born with.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

I wish people would walk faster. I honestly think that's my number one complaint.

A night on the town: what does that mean to you?

Karaoke. I sing Dancin' in the Dark, Pony, Ms. Jackson, and sometimes Ignition (Remix).

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?

Tie between the following: my friend in a Jigglypuff costume which was really just a pink robe and pink stuff all over his face that made him look either like he'd been burned or like he just had a skin tone not known to man; a girl in a bee costume fucking a boy on a couch at a party; Tommy Wiseau in person; this artist in New York named Alexcalibur who you should look up on YouTube but that won't do the actual performance justice; everything I've ever seen in Berkeley; Las Vegas.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

Two jokes, twenty-five cups of coffee. Or, like, three haiku, two sweaters (one is a thrift store sweater.)

What are some of your favorite smells?

Rain on concrete on a hot day. Fresh laundry. Probably different perfumes that I don't know what they are. These are the only smells I can think of that I like that aren't also flavors.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

Be on tour in a rock and roll band.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview conducted by Evan Karp. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.

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