Age: 33. Location: Park Slope. Occupation: Software Designer.
This code-loving software designer moonlights as a singer and songwriter. Formerly a temp (temp! slut!) at William Morris and an assistant at a record label, nearly once a month you can find Jonathan singing silly songs at Little Gray Books in Brooklyn. The Connecticut boy has one cat and one wife, and is ready to sell out to millionaire media moguls. We don't know if the wife comes with the deal, but so many of those media moguls are gay, we're not sure it'll matter.
1. When you performed your song "Mandelbrot Set" at Pop!Tech you received a standing ovation. Were you worried that anyone at the convention might confuse you with GANGgajang who wrote a song of the same name (though they did not include the actual equation in the lyrics or the words "one badass fucking fractal).
When I played this song at Pop!Tech, I was more worried that I had gotten the math wrong, and that some superscientist in the audience was going to come up to me after and correct my work. I have never heard of this GANGgajang, but I can only imagine that they are huge math fans and I salute them. However, I think even they would admit that they pussied out a little when they failed to include any actual math in the song - you're not going to find anything in that fractal unless you dive in and start poking around, people! Me, I got my hands dirty. By the time I finished writing that song, I had discovered that I was really kind of emotionally involved with it, which was something I didn't expect. Even now I get a little lump in my throat when I think about it. You can change the world in a tiny way...
2. I'm constantly amazed that all-male singing groups are big at Ivy League universities. In order to process it, I need to think of it in terms of sports. So: If the Wiffenpoofs of Yale took on the Kingsmen of Columbia U. in a freestyle a capella battle on the mean streets of Hanover, NH, what would the outcome be and would any girls be present?
Actually, the Yale Whiffenpoofs did take on the Princeton Princies (or whatever their name is) in a touch-football game when I was in the group. We lost. But our cleaner vocal blend and wackier stage antics absolutely destroyed them at the joint concert that night. It's hard to really explain a cappella to someone who hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid: think of it like a singing fraternity, or a beer drinking choral group, or a bunch of guys in ill-fitting tuxedos tearing through "Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye" and meaning it. Most important, remember that the only girl you'll find hanging around at any a cappella event is the kind of girl who likes hanging around at a cappella events.
3. In what capacity did you work for the William Morris agency?
I was temping at William Morris agency, answering phones in the basement, getting yelled at by coke addicts, etc., when I suddenly found myself alone in a room with a phone ringing. It wasn't my phone, I wasn't charged with answering it, but I did anyway to be helpful. The guy on the other end said something like "Did Robbie get that thing for me?" I told him I wasn't sure and maybe I could take a message. He said "Oh man, I'm screwed unless Robbie got that thing. Can you get Robbie? Did he get that thing?!" He was really anxious about something. I said maybe I should take a message, and who was calling please? "Tell him it's Henny Youngman," he said. I was a little surprised to suddenly be on the phone with a panicky Henny Youngman, and I was also suspicious that it was some kind of a joke, so I asked him again. Then to be sure, I asked him to spell it. I can only assume this annoyed him, because he said "Henny! Young! Man!" and hung up. Now that I'm remembering it, I have a sneaking suspicion that I never gave that message to anyone.
4. Temping is joyless. Did you ever think you just might have to leave NYC for good?
I had just recently quit my job as the assistant to the director of A&R at this crappy crossover adult contemporary record label to avoid being fired, and wanted to leave the rat race and hang out and be all bohemia. So I got a job at this now defunct Starbucks rip-off called Cooper's Coffee on the Upper East Side, slinging espresso drinks. It got a little too bohemian: eventually I had no money, and no health care, and developed a pretty bad case of pneumonia. At one point I had to go to the emergency room and then pay for it with an already overloaded credit card. To top it all off, I was sleeping on a futon in those days. A FUTON! I can't express this strongly enough - if you are a young person struggling to make your way in New York, please, take your futon down to the street and smash it into pieces and buy yourself a nice bed. Everything else will fall into place.
5. Put on your software designer hat for this one. We re attempting to post five interviews a week for this site. It's tiring work. Will there ever come a day when a robot could write the questions for us?
No. Any robot smart enough to write the questions would just blow it off and spend the afternoon googling himself instead.
Jonathan Coulton s Top 5: Guilty Food Pleasures That Other People Might Find Disgusting:
1. Hamburger Helper (Cheeseburger Macaroni flavor only please) - This is a nice way to treat yourself when the wife is away and you want to sit in front of the TV eating something gross. I like to dress mine with a little sour cream, Worcestershire and Frank's Red Hot sauce. Eat quickly, before it congeals (sauce will thicken as it stands, if you know what I mean).
2. Kraft Mac n Cheese w/ Hot Dog cut up in it - You can save time if you cut the hot dog and plop the uncooked pieces into the boiling water along with the macaroni. Plus the hot dog grease helps to lubricate the noodles during the delicate powder-mixing phase. If you eat it right out of the pan, it's a one-dish meal!
3. Kippered Herring from a can - If you can ignore the parts that are crunchy and/or furry, you will be surprised how good this is.
4. Tuna Fish Sandwich and Chocolate milk - For some reason, this combination is as delicious as it is awful-sounding. It's the classic synergy of salt and chocolate, further blessed by the magic of fatty dairy. It should probably be whole milk.
5. Gooey Buns - I don't have a precise recipe for this, but it hardly matters. My Grandmother used to make these. It's baloney and cheddar cheese ground in a meat grinder, and then mixed with some chopped onion, relish, mayo and mustard. You put some of this orange paste into a hot dog bun, wrap it in foil, and bake it in the oven for a little while, until the bun is slightly crispy and the filling is dangerous. I guarantee you will burn your mouth very badly.