Vonnegut in Blank on Blank

The PBS video series Blank on Blank creates animated videos from old audio interviews with celebrities, writers, and pop culture icons. Kurt Vonnegut is featured in their most recent production.

They also blog about how these interviews were rediscovered, and how the animations were developed. For example, the “Kurt Vonnegut Episode Production Notes”

Then we came across the tape of Kurt Vonnegut giving a lecture at NYU in 1970. It’s actually more of a talk. Or really a monologue that he delivered with the help of some notes scrawled on a few sheets of paper. Beyond his wise ramblings on family, growing up, being an artist in not-artist-friendly Indianapolis, keys to writing, WWII and life in the infantry, and, of course, The Big Space Fuck…. we loved to hear the response of the students in the room that day. It’s like being a fly on the wall….

Animator/director Pat Smith and I ping-pong a bunch of ideas when production begins on a new episode. Here’s what was going through Pat’s head when he first listened to Vonnegut:

“When I sat down to start drawing Kurt Vonnegut, for some reason I kept thinking about this mixture of Albert Einstein and Mark Twain. Vonnegut struck me as this brilliant, kooky, genius who, maybe, was a tad messy. Like you’d see him with papers coming bulging out of his briefcase. On the tape, you can actually hear him shuffling through his notes as he spoke to the class at NYU…”

And the final result is: “Kurt Vonnegut on Man-Eating Lampreys.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]