What makes NPR reporters’ names so particularly mellifluous? There’s that pleasing alliteration — Allison Aubrey, Louisa Lim, Carl Kassell, Susan Stamberg. And it’s hard to match those mouth-filling double-barrelled names. Think Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Chana Joffe-Walt, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Dina Temple-Raston, Charlayne Hunter-Gault. According to one study, women in the arts and entertainment are more likely to keep their names; the authors hypothesized that their maiden names had already become “akin to a ‘brand’.
I’m not married and I don’t have a ‘brand,’ but I’m posting this because a) It’s true, NPR reporters have the best names; b) ‘Double-barrelled’ is such a great term for it, so much better than ‘hyphenated.’
From here on out you may refer to me as a ‘double-barreller.’
Women in any position of power or outspokenness, people are just uncomfortable with it, men and women alike. It just freaks them the fuck out. I may sound like a megalomaniac, but I feel like I’m equipped to become a great, memorable comedian, if I keep working my ass off and staying at the pace I’m at, and I feel a responsibility to do that because of the women who have done it before me, and the ones who need to do it after me.
You’re never too old to have the life you want. Truly. But you do need to know what you want first, and—maybe even more importantly?—you need to be able to say it out loud, without shame.
When I was, oh, thirteen or so, my cousins and I wrote a musical called “Lights, Camera, Disaster,” which we performed in my relatives’ living room. The plot involved a struggling movie production company that took a gamble on a script called “Idaho Jones and the Search for the Ultimate Potato,” which (spoiler alert) triggered a show-within-a-show followed by (big spoiler alert) hilarious disasters.
I have a lot of cousins, but not that many, so we all played dual roles, and awkwardly/innocently enough we wrote a love story plot that required my cousin Joseph to pretend to fall for his sister. I played an airhead producer in the framing scenes and a director with a drinking problem in the central scenes on the movie set. I had no idea what it was like to have a drinking problem, but I staggered around and yelled at the camera operator, played by my then-very-little brother John, who elicited “awws” from the audience when he mumbled his lines.
The play ended with the producers back in their office reading reviews of “Idaho Jones,” which had managed to wrap despite my character’s alcoholism and a creepy German villain played with much aplomb and mustache-twirling by my cousin Matt. The movie was a flop. The producers sank into depression. We thought we needed a joke there but we weren’t sure what to do, so during rehearsals I wrote this exchange:
Me: Hey, Siskel and Ebert gave us two thumbs up!
(The others brighten.)
Me: …Oh, never mind. I was holding the newspaper upside-down.
In some ways it was a custom joke for my movie-obsessed family: We read Roger Ebert’s collected reviews over and over, memorizing and quoting particularly funny or scathing observations, using them to guide us in our regular binges at the video rental place down the road. Our copies of his review anthologies grew tattered and dog-eared, and someone was always sneaking off to the bathroom with them.
In other ways it was just a joke, and when I said it during the performance the grown-ups laughed, real laughter, not the polite stuff, and that felt better than anything I’d ever felt before, like flying mixed with candy.
Anyway. Two thumbs up, Roger, always and forever, no matter which way I hold the newspaper.