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In A New York Minute

Satirist Fran Lebowitz has plenty to say by Monica Hooper | November 27, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Fran Lebowitz started her career as a writer, but is now more often considered a cultural touchstone. “I never cared what people think of what I think. I’m not saying I don’t care what people think about me, because I’m human. But if people disagree with me, so what?” she says. (Courtesy Photo/Cybele Malinowski)

Editor’s Note: Fran Lebowitz was originally scheduled to appear for “A Conversation with Fran Lebowitz” in February, but a snowstorm forced a change. Below is a slightly edited version of the story from the Jan. 30 edition of What’s Up! prior to her rescheduled appearance Nov. 29 at the Walton Arts Center.

Fran Lebowitz has done billions of interviews by her count. So when she sat down to talk to What’s Up!, our first question was: “What question are you tired of people asking you?”

“This is now my favorite question. I wish other people would ask me this,” she replied in her rapid-fire, New York cadence.

“I’m tired of people asking me why it’s so hard for me to write. That is my No. 1 question that I’m tired of answering. Obviously if I knew, I would be writing more,” Lebowitz continued. Fair enough. She’s just as well known nowadays for not writing but rather for sharing her observations and criticisms. In her Emmy-nominated Netflix series, “Pretend It’s a City,” there’s a clip of an audience member asking her when her next book will come out, and without missing a beat, she quips, “give me your number, and I’ll call you.”

Despite the question haunting her interviews with the likes of David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, she’s made a career of sharing her wit and opinions on all of her likes and dislikes, many of which involve New York City.

“I never cared what people think of what I think. I’m not saying I don’t care what people think about me, because I’m human. But if people disagree with me, so what? I’ve never understood why [my opinions] anger people. I have no power, I’m not the mayor of New York, I’m not making laws. These are just opinions!” she said in the first episode of “Pretend It’s a City.”

Now that she’s better known as a cultural critic who has been on the talk show circuit for decades, does she mind being called a cultural critic? “I don’t mind,” she said. “I’ve always been called this, so it’s not new, but I am probably new to some people. … It’s one of the things that I am.”

She began her career in New York working for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and moved on to write for Mademoiselle, The New York Times and Newsweek. She is the author of two best-selling books, “Social Studies” and “Metropolitan Life,” which have been combined to form her latest release, “The Fran Lebowitz Reader.” She played a judge in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and the TV show “Law & Order.” She’s been part of several documentaries, including “Public Speaking,” produced by Martin Scorsese, who also produces her Netflix show. She’s a walking, smoking and acerbic history of the city, someone who seems to know everyone, and she always has a story to tell — just not in any online format.

She famously shuns technology, specifically social media platforms. In “Pretend It’s a City,” she said that people will talk to her about things like Instagram and Facebook as if she doesn’t know what they are. Then she said: “I don’t have these things not because I don’t know what they are. I don’t have these things because I do know what they are.”

Still she remains an informed commentator on current issues, still reading The New York Times and saying she was pleased that Northwest Arkansas has a newspaper.

“I’m always delighted that a city still has a newspaper! Thousands of newspapers have gone out of business; most towns don’t even have them anymore,” she said. “I get The New York Times only on Sunday. Now of course I get the actual paper paper, what you call the print edition. Most people I know, even people my age, read it online.”

In “Pretend It’s a City,” she and Scorsese lamented the loss of papers in New York City. She commented that the city used to be covered in papers, and now what was once a bustling newspaper stand has been replaced by a bike rental kiosk.

FAQ

‘A Conversation With Fran Lebowitz’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Nov. 29 

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville 

COST — $27-$45 

INFO — 443-5600,

waltonartscenter.org


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