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Jonathan Rogers

Author

Dr. Jonathan Rogers is the author of fewer than forty-seven books including the Wilderking Trilogy, The Charlatan's Boy, and The Terrible Speed of Mercy. He teaches literature at New College in Franklin, Tennessee, and always thinks he's the best looking man in the room (he is).

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson usually gets interviewed by publications like CCM Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and World Magazine. He was kind enough to take a break from talking to respectable journalists in order to tell me about his public humiliations in pursuit of rock and roll stardom and literary greatness. 

Welcome, Andrew Peterson, to Sad Stories Told for Laughs.

It’s an honor. I’m ready to bare my soul.

Good. The Rabbit Room readers have come to expect nothing less from my guests.

I’ve read all the other entries in this esteemed series, and I have to say, it’s been encouraging to know I’m not alone. I could relate to all of them–except for Nick Flora’s weird nudist story.

That was weird, wasn’t it?

Profoundly so.

You were a character yourself in a few of those stories.

Unfortunately, yes.

I think you were in Jill P’s “Promoter who ran off with the money” story.

Oh, man! That’s the only story I’ve been a part of that got legal. Litigious? Whatever.

I did have the cops show up at a show of mine a long time ago…

Tell us about it.

Sad Stories Told For Laughs: Eric Peters

Eric Peters is a great songwriter (check out his music here). He is also a bibliophile (check out his Bookmole online bookstore/book-finding service), a visual artist (here’s some of his artwork), a history buff, and an amateur ornithologist. He is also a world-class self-deprecator, to the chagrin of the many friends who love him and think he’s brilliant. 

Welcome, Eric Peters, to Sad Stories Told for Laughs.

Thanks for the opportunity to humiliate myself.

Your reputation for humiliation precedes you.

Yeah, I’m good at going Eeyore….

One of my favorite Eric Peters stage moments was this fall during the release concert for Andrew Peterson’s Burning Edge of Dawn Record

Uh oh…I know where this is going.

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Doug McKelvey

Doug McKelvey is an exceedingly thoughtful and outlandishly funny author, songwriter, and filmmaker. One of the great pleasures of this year’s Hutchmoot was to see first-hand the joy of people who were exposed to Doug and his work for the first time. His book The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog has just been re-released as an ebook (you can get it here). I also adjure you to check out Subjects with Objects Doug’s collaborative effort with painter Jonathan Richter. And finally, if you want to see some heart-warbling promotional videos, hie thee to the blog at DougMcKelvey.com.

Hello Doug.

Howdy Doc Rogers.

Welcome to Sad Stories Told for Laughs.

I’m both nervous and honored to be here. And also mystified as to your choice (of me).

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Arthur Alligood

Arthur Alligood makes me think of Hank Williams in his ability to take hurt and transform it into something beautiful and soulful and swampy. If you don’t own his album One Silver Needle, you really should. And just this fall he surprised us all with a new album called The Shadow Can’t Have Me. He describes it this way: “These are gospel songs for those in the valley—songs that confess the shattered nature of everything and in the same breath point to a hope that is real and eternal.” With characteristic honesty, Arthur talked with me about some of the mortifying moments of his career as a singer-songwriter.

Thanks, Arthur, for joining me on “Sad Stories Told for Laughs.”

Happy to be here.

In an earlier episode, Nick Flora and I were talking about the different categories of funny performance stories. One of the important categories, we agreed, is the “Odd Venue” category. You once told me about an unusual concert you played at a country club in Atlanta.

I was asked to play a benefit concert of sorts on a Saturday afternoon at this really nice country club in north Atlanta. The promoters told me it was a benefit for orphans in Africa. So, I get there and it’s essentially 10-15 ladies in a room knitting. Seriously knitting. Some of them were using knitting apps—which I didn’t even know existed—to help them stay on track with their stitches or something. I’m not going to lie, it felt a little odd at first.

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Jill Phillips

Hello, Jill, and welcome to Sad Stories Told for Laughs.

Thanks, I think?

As I think you know, the idea here is for you to tell stories of the hardships of being an artists…specifically, hardships involving public embarrassment.

I think my first promotional tour (before my Word record release in 1999) was my intro into challenging shows.

1999? So you were 14? That’s a hard age for anybody.

I was 21, thank you very much. I remember playing at a bookstore of some sort and the young male employee and several older ladies watched me with little interest and crossed arms. He then commented, “Well, she’s OK but she’s no Jennifer Knapp.”

Jennifer Knapp? Is she the one who quit playing Christian music and became Daisy Duke instead? 

Funny Things Are Everywhere: A Thanksgiving Meditation

A week or so ago, Travis Prinzi posted on Facebook a bedtime prayer his young daughter prayed a week or two ago:

God is good, God is great.
Funny things are everywhere.
You need to go to sleep.

There’s a whole worldview in that little prayer.

I am thankful for jokes and funny things. I believe they represent […]

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Buddy Greene

Buddy Greene has been a working musician for over forty years. Like Flannery O’Connor, he hails from Middle Georgia, but unlike Flannery O’Connor, he has spent most of his adult life in Nashville. He first came here to play in Jerry Reed’s band. You remember Jerry Reed, no doubt, from the movie Smokey and the Bandit (he was Snowman). Buddy also toured for many years with the Gaithers.

He is probably best known as a harmonica genius, but he is also a great guitar picker and singer and has released a dozen or more solo albums. For my money, however, the most remarkable thing about Buddy Greene is his joy, which is as apparent in every interaction and obvious on stage. I started to describe Buddy’s joy as “irrepressible,” but in the interview below he speaks very honestly about a time his joy was repressed. Which is to say, he is also an authentic and humble man. Though I don’t see or talk to Buddy all that often, I am encouraged and edified every time I do. I want Buddy Greene to be my mentor, but I don’t really know how to ask him.

Thanks, Buddy, for being on “Sad Stories Told for Laughs.”

I’m glad to be here.

You’ve been performing for a long time. You’ve told me a couple of crazy stories about your early career—including a time you played in my hometown and were glad to get out of the Duck’s Breath Saloon alive. I trust that you find it easier to maintain your dignity now that you’ve been at it four decades. But from time to time do you still experience those moments of mortification that seem to be just a part of life for younger performers who are still trying to establish their careers?

Oh, actually, those moments never stop. They happen so often that I just forget about most of them. But there’s one that I love to recall because it sums up my career. It happened about ten years ago.

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Nick Flora

Nick Flora has toured for the past 13+ years with many different bands and as a solo artist in every conceivable place that music can be held. And a few inconceivable ones. He also hosts the podcast, “Who Writes this Stuff,” which, I am sorry to report, is coming to the end of its run.

Welcome, Nick Flora, to “Sad Stories Told for Laughs,” a hard-hitting interview series in which artists tell sad stories for the delectation and amusement of Rabbit Room readers.

I have so many laughably sad stories!

Let’s say you play 20 shows. How many of them produce laughably sad stories?

Easily five to seven.

Wow. That’s more than I would have thought.

There are always moments in each show that aren’t great. And then sometimes it’s the whole shebang—the perfect storm.

But are you saying you get five to seven anecdote-worthy atrocities out of every twenty shows?

Sad Stories Told for Laughs: Andrew Osenga

In my many conversations with artists, I have noticed that a disproportionate number of their anecdotes—and most of their best ones—involve public humiliation. “Sad Stories Told for Laughs” is an interview series in which I ask artists to share their best stories of mortification and humiliation for the edification of Rabbit Room readers. My first guest is Andrew Osenga. Andrew has been making music for a long time, with the Normals (named for his hometown of Normal, Illinois—go Ironmen and Lady Ironmen!), Caedmon’s Call, and as a solo artist. He now has a nine-to-five job as a record executive in Nashville.

Welcome, Andy Osenga, to “Sad Stories Told for Laughs.”

Glad to be here.

Well, let’s get right to it. Have you ever experienced public humiliation?

So many times. As in, are we counting junior high or just professional career?

In The Foot-Care Aisle: A Sonnet

[Editor’s note: If only this had been written by John Bunyan . . .]

In the Foot Care Aisle

The foot care aisle at Walgreen’s maketh glad
The footsore souls who come to find relief—
Support for fallen arches, gel-filled pads
To cushion every podiatric grief.

My feet are sound and healthy, fungus-free,
But in the foot care aisle they ache to ache.
They itch to itch and burn so they might be
Soothed and eased and salved for comfort’s sake.

I contemplate my future and I smile.
Corns may mar my toes, a plantar’s wart my sole.
What then? I’ll come back to the foot care aisle.
I’ll manage with the help of Dr. Scholl.

Such pains are vague and far from where I stand,
But remedies are real and close at hand.

Overspray

A few years back I was the copywriter on a team that was working on an ad campaign for a huge national organization. We were in a meeting one day with one of the higher-ups in the organization—the Director of Marketing, I think it was. In any case, he was high enough up to fire us if he wanted to, and he was talking like he wanted to. He was chewing us up one side and down the other for some ideas that he thought were terrible.

He took a quick bathroom break, leaving us at the table to give each other significant, raised-eyebrow looks.

When he came back to the table, the tirade picked up where it had left off. But from where I was sitting, I could see the man’s shoes. Black wingtips, glistening with drops of overspray from his peeing.

I felt ever so much better. Nothing he could say could hurt me. I wasn’t the one who had peed on my shoes.

Writing with Flannery O’Connor

Writing with Flannery O’Connor—my six-week online course—is starting Monday. Here’s the introductory lecture.

To register, click here.

Plato, Aristotle, and Writing Close to the Earth

[Jonathan Rogers has a couple of online writing classes starting up next week. Here’s a bit of theory behind his “Writing Close to the Earth” class. Click here for more information.]

One fine Easter weekend, having come home from graduate school, I stood in a field where waist-high egg hunters swirled like waterbugs. Their fathers and grandfathers stood in a knot and told each other stories, mostly about tractors they had known.

I stood a few steps outside the circle of men, my arms folded, and I thought to myself, “Ah, yes…here is how men construct community: by rendering experience into shared narrative.”

It makes me blush to admit that I ever entertained such a thought. Not because it’s untrue—for all I know, men do construct community by rendering experience into shared narrative. The embarrassing thing is that I stood outside that circle of men—at a critical distance—and thought I understood more about what they were doing than they understood themselves.

The Man Who Planted Trees

[This piece first appeared at Jonathan-Rogers.com.]

Until recently, my in-laws had a farm in South Georgia. When they bought the place, its charms weren’t altogether obvious to the casual observer. It was scrubby where it wasn’t planted in pines and swampy where it wasn’t scrubby. But my father-in-law made it the work of twenty years to beautify the place.

When he planted pines, he planted longleaf, the tree that once shaded all of South Georgia–indeed, the tree that towered over nearly every mile of Hernando Desoto’s path from Florida through the Deep South to the Mississippi River.

By the time my father-in-law was born, the longleaf had been logged to near-extinction; when the trees were replaced at all, they were replaced by faster-growing slash and loblolly pines, which produce income twice as fast as longleaf, but always fall well short of the longleaf’s native majesty. Much of South Georgia’s wealth and beauty had once been attached to the longleaf pines, before they were felled and floated down the Ocmulgee and Altamaha to the ocean, then shipped away to be the ribs of great buildings far away from Georgia.  My father-in-law loves his native country; no wonder he planted longleaf. If they take forty years to grow to maturity—well, then, they take forty years. He is a man of imagination and hope.

Drunk Mailman

The drunkest man I ever saw was a mailman. I had gone down to the Echeconnee Creek with my fishing pole and was startled at the sight of him slumped against a bridge piling. There was always trash under the bridge at the Echeconnee—beer cans and fast food wrappers thrown from passing cars, old tires and broken palettes, the remains of campfires. I mistook the mailman at first for a pile of something left on the bank by the latest flood. I might have passed right by him if he hadn’t moaned and raised his head when I was five steps away.

He fixed me with heavy-lidded yellow-brown eyes. Black hair hung in limp, greasy hanks on either side of a face as rutted and hollowed out as a strip mine. He was still in his post office uniform; but it wasn’t the crisp, pressed uniform of an on-duty letter carrier. He had obviously been wearing it for many days. It was dingy and wrinkled and covered in sand. The blue cap with the eagle logo lay cockeyed on the ground beside him. The man was small and wiry. His small uniform hung loose on his frame, as if he had lost weight since it was first issued.

The mailman’s head swayed on unsteady shoulders, and he blinked slowly as he mumbled and slurred something in my direction.