The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders
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The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders [Paperback]

Stephen Thompson , The Onion
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 10, 2002
For ten years, The Onion A.V. Club—the entertainment section of the award-winning humor publication The Onion—has been interviewing entertainers and storytellers of every style and stripe. But it has always placed an emphasis on those with fascinating, hard-won careers, from amiable retirees and passionate visionaries to bitter, jilted, eternally warring cranks. Collecting dozens of The Onion A.V. Club’s most entertaining and candid interviews, The Tenacity Of The Cockroach offers a pop-cultural tour unlike any other.

The Onion A.V.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Here are two quirky and entertaining collections of celebrity profiles. Since 1993, The Onion's entertainment section, "The Onion A.V. Club," has regaled millions with its profiles of artists and entertainers whose stars are not necessarily on the media ascendant. Section editor Thompson has culled some 68 of them from the last decade, arranged by tone into ten chapters. The dazzling diversity of entertainers and personalities on parade includes Merle Haggard, Elvira, Bob Barker, Joan Jett, James Elroy, Jello Biafra, Ron Jeremy (discussing his penis size), Mr. T., "Weird Al" Yankovic, The Unknown Comic, Henry Rollins (from whom the title is derived), and, wonderfully, Tom Lehrer. Repeated interviews with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the brain trust of HBO's beautiful Mr. Show, and occasional observations from "Weird Al" provide a throughline. An excellent choice for all libraries. Zehme (Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman), writes director Cameron Crowe in his foreword, is "the King of the First Sentence." Journalist to the stars for the past 20 years, he has accrued an amazing list of celebrity profile credits in, among other high-profile magazines, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Playboy, and Spy. The 25 reprinted pieces collected here, all of which are introduced by Zehme with trenchant comments and observations, reveal his playful irreverance, openly breezy style, and talent for turning guarded deified personalities inside out. If The Onion favors stars whose A-list status has waned, Zehme's milieu is the rarefied air of the most famous, and so we are fated to spend time with the likes of Sinatra, Seinfeld, Letterman, Leno, Schwarzenegger, Madonna, and Howard Stern. Despite its racey and promising subtitle, Zehme prefers to dish rather than dis. More often than not, in fact, he is openly sympathetic with his charges. Fun, informative, and dead-on perfect for insatiable stargazers.
Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In most arenas, the art of the interview is in peril. Publicists have trained their charges to regurgitate scripted anecdotes and plug upcoming projects; TV, magazines, and newspapers usually play along, fearful they'll miss an opportunity to feature the star of the moment. But editors of the Onion, the satirical newspaper, have long known that people who don't have a movie opening in 2,000 megaplexes still have something to say. While the Onion's pursuit of iconoclastic interviewees began by necessity, not design--Mr. T was more likely to grant an interview to the fledgling, Wisconsin-based publication than Mike Tyson--these strugglers, has-beens, hermits, and successful malcontents proved both more frank and more interesting in discussing their art and experiences. This anthology includes conversations with a delightfully unpredictable mix of filmmakers, musicians, writers, and more. Among the best are cynical comedian George Carlin and a curmudgeonly Harlan Ellison. Roughly organized in an attitudinal decrescendo from vitriolic to content, and interspersed with recurring chats with the creators of the late, lamented Mr. Show, these exchanges sparkle. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (December 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609809911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609809914
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love Cockroaches! December 28, 2002
While it's true that this book is a compendium of previously printed interviews, for those of us with little time to sift through the Onion seeking them out, this book is not only a time
saver, it helps focus the subject into a veritable intellectual safari.
What an interesting blend of people this book contains! Of the 65 Hollywood "outsiders" ("Weird Al" Yankovic, Penn & Teller, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Stan Freberg, Mark Mothersbaugh, Dr. Demento, Jello gads...somebody stop me! There's just so many of them!) you have a chance to compare & contrast people in all aspects of the entertainment industry, and, I think, find something interesting about each of them. From the stream-of-consciousness of David Lee Roth (I like Dave, but I'm glad I wasn't the one to interview him. Yikes! No more caffiene for you Dave) to the single mindedness tackiness of Russ Meyer's, "interests" (glad I didn't interview him, either but for entriely different reasons), to George Carlin's cheerful nihilism, Harlan Ellison's eternal angst, and yes, even the mysterious possibility that Al Yankovic may be harboring overdue library books, there's a wealth of humor and interesting stuff in this inexpensive book.
Granted, if you are already really au courant with the entire arts and entertainment scene, this book may not jazz you as much. However, it introduced me to people I didn't know before (or didn't know as well), and to people I wanted to know better but didn't have the time to research. It hints at a lot of new artistic avenues to explore (and most of the accompanying pictures are pretty nice, too).
I don't know if I'll ever have the time to satisfy the pop culture craving this book has started, but...all in all, I think I'd rather have an unsatisfied craving than no craving at all.
Well, it's a blustery tempest outside right now, and I want to read some more of this book before the power goes out.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Collection December 30, 2002
By A Customer
Celebrity interviews aren't supposed to be frank. They aren't even suppoesd to be honest - not really. Celebs are generally supposed to smile and tell interviewers that everything is wonderful every minute of every day. Not so! The Onion A.V. Club has a delightful way of making celebrities so comfortable that the celebs are beyond honest - they dare to be frank.
Where else would you find Harlan Ellison bemoaning the question, "What have you been doing lately?" Ellison remarked that the emphasis on new, new, new, "is killing life for writers."
If that wasn't interesting enough, Elvira commented that she leans toward B-horror films and not the Scream-type of films because she doesn't classify them as horror at all. She said, "I classify that as the evening news."
Aimee Mann discusses the realities of the music business and how critical success doesn't automatically translate into commercial success. As she see's it, radio airplay isn't determined by songwriting talent, or the relevancy of your content, airplay is just another business decision.
The wonderfully candid atmosphere of each interview in this collection that spans the entire entertainment industry is refreshing-these entertainers are outsiders, and not only do they have something to say, they say it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun March 22, 2003
A very worthwhile collection, with something to entertain and inform in nearly every interview. As the title says, the subjects are mostly entertainers who've maintained their popularity over some duration without ever going totally mainstream: Tom Lehrer, Berkeley Breathed, Dr. Demento, Henry Rollins, Harlan Ellison, KRS-One, etc. There are few exceptions: what is cultural blip Vanilla Ice doing here? Some of the interviews interested me especially, for various reasons. Ian MacKaye proves himself to be a man of deep intelligence, which I already knew, but more than that: he possesses a strong, pragmatic view of the world. Rather than railing (rather short-sightedly) at the evils of record companies, as several of the subjects in this book do, for example, he sees that they exist to make a rpofit, and those musicians who wish to make their own profit by signing onto them shouldn't be surprised when they're used as dollar-generating tools rather than as artists. As he says, he doesn't want to destroy the world, just create his own little world that can co-exist within the larger system. Andrew WK, whom I envisaged as some head-thrashing meathead based on his music (and song titles), turns out to be an introspective young man, honest and full of enthusiasm for all life has to offer. He's a bit like Brian Wilson: meticulous, fragile, but wanting to bring joy to people with music. Who knew? KRS-One also turns in a surprising interview, with some rather unusual comments about the sate of hip-hop culture and how the black population is hurting it. And there's David Lee Roth, whose interview is a splendid olio of self-aggrandizing, stream of (semi-)consciousness, disjointed logic, and outright nonsense. The man's brain must be fried. But all the subjects have something of value to impart (except perhaps Russ Meyer, whose answer to every single question involves his need for well-endowed women), even if a streak of the curmudgeon runs through most of them. Good fun.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I wasn't entirely certain if I would like this book. Could a collection of interviews, more than a few of which I've read before, really be all that interesting? A few interviews into the book, and I knew that the answer was yes.
Reading this book is like being at a cocktail party full of interesting people. Some of them are interesting for what they have done, some are interesting for what they have learned, some are interesting for how they have evolved and changed, and some are interesting because they're such flaming jerks. And like a cocktail party that you attend with a friend who provides running commentary on the people you meet, "Weird Al" Yankovich provides sidebars to several of the interviews with his impressions of and experiences with the interviewee. Also like a cocktail party, there is a recurring theme of someone whose story to which you keep on returning to hear where it has progressed: the comic geniuses behind the HBO sketch comedy show "Mr Show" provide five separate interviews through the course of their show's tenure on HBO.
My favourite interviews were those with Henry Rollins (whose interview provides the title for the collection), Berkeley Breathed, Joan Jett, David Lee Roth, both halves of Penn and Teller, KRS-One, and Alice Cooper. I could name my least favourite interviews, but these interviews were not least favourite because of the interview itself. Rather, they were not as interesting because the subject turned out to be a flmaing jerk, but not enough of a jerk to be funny.
This is an interesting roadtrip through pop culture. I didn't read it all in one setting, but rather between other things. It's not deep or meaningful (although the book does close out with a collection of interviews with several people who had positive messages), but it is entertaining and often hilarious.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of a More Than Ten Year Old Book
I didn't pay the money for this as reviewers back in 2002 did, and when I opened my much used by other people for the first time copy a few days ago I knew the interviews weren't... Read more
Published on December 8, 2012 by James N Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating.
Most books put out by "The Onion" are spoofs; fun, silly "Harvard Lampoon" style faux news that is extremely well done, extremely funny and without a trace of reality to be found... Read more
Published on July 29, 2012 by James Yanni
5.0 out of 5 stars FIFTEENTH!
I really love the AV Club, almost as much as I love the Onion. I'm also a huge fan of the minds of artists, getting a little peek inside them, being inspired by what they have to... Read more
Published on October 14, 2009 by Mike Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Interviews beat any others out there
I've long thought that the Onion AV Club's "interviews" section was a premier example of smart, funny, revealing interviews from all sorts of showbiz folks, from the really famous... Read more
Published on October 1, 2004 by Trevor Seigler
5.0 out of 5 stars You Won't Tenacity To Read This GREAT Book
This is a MUST motivational book for ANYONE. It doesn't matter what you do for a living -- you're going to read in this zippy book of interviews a bit about how people (mostly... Read more
Published on June 16, 2004 by Joel L. Gandelman
3.0 out of 5 stars Original but not much depth
This is a quick, easy read. The choice of subjects makes it work --- the people at the Onion went after the entertainers on the fringes, people whose careers have hit the ceiling. Read more
Published on September 2, 2003 by SPM
2.0 out of 5 stars Give this cockroach a good blast of Raid.
I expected this book to be hilarious, but it was a huge let-down.
First of all, I do not like books that have an obscene word in every other sentence, as this book does. Read more
Published on March 7, 2003 by Robert Moran
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than People
The great thing about this book is the celebrities that were interviewed. I have never seen a cover feature in People Magazine on Weird Al, but his interview in Tenacity is great. Read more
Published on December 26, 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection of Interviews
As the title says, this book is a collection of interviews with the outsiders. The outsiders being a group of individuals that many people may not be familiar with. Read more
Published on December 24, 2002
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