Last night's benefit for 826 Seattle, the Greenwood writing center started by author Dave Eggers- brought the New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones together with Eggers himself, John Roderick who hosted the evening (with a newly chipped front tooth), Rosie Thomas, funnymen Eugene Mirman and Todd Barry, Blue Scholars' Geologic and a few 826 kids thrown in for good measure.
I came in just as Rosie's set was coming to a close, but she (though not her comedic alter-ego, Sheila) made a handful of additional appearances throughout the evening- chiming in often with her exceptionally high pitched giggle.
Frere-Jones (who Roderick introduced by noting that for years he'd imagined the writer as an African American female who had "piercing insights into hip-hop") was up next, taking the stage with a darling brother and sister team who both attend workshops at 826, as they read their own works including a short story about skipping, a longer story called "Food Dude" about an entity with an insatiable apetite that causes him to go to battle with arch enemy Paris Hilton, who's weaponry included self-induced projectile vomit.
and an endearing tale about a dog named Curly and his passing.
The kids were a tough act to follow, but Eggers- charmingly self-depreciating about his casual dress and moth-eaten sweater- talked about the benefits of 826 programs, recounting his experience earlier in the day helping a girl with her spelling homework, and read a short story he'd penned that touched on wild bears and their literary distastes (particularly early Dickens).
Mirman was hilarious, noting relief that most of the kids were removed from the audience for his set so that he could swear and talk about boners, and the hushed, sly and always cynical Todd Barry spent a good chunk of his routine making sure that everyone was well aware that he'd performed at Carnegie Hall the night before.
Geologic of Blue Scholars followed a moving spoken word/ poetry slam by another 826 student about a daughter's relationship to her drug addicted mother. With no Sabzi to back him up on the decks, Geologic rapped tracks like "Joe Metro" and "Morning of America" acapela- drawing much more attention to the beat-free words.
Roderick took a break from his emcee duties to play a beautiful solo rendition of "Pushover" on the acoustic guitar and joined forces with Rosie in the end to take audience requests that included butchered, abbreviated versions of the theme from Charles in Charge, "Free Bird", "Stairway to Heaven" and an eerie finale of "Silent Night" that felt more than a bit churchy in Town Halls' wooden pews.
All in all, including the ticket sales, a pass the hat (that invloved hugs from performers as giving incentives), and silent aution, the event raised nearly $2,500 for 826 according to event organizers.