About Malignant Brain Humor
In 1978, my dad, Daniel Blejer, a young Argentine graduate student in physics developed a brain tumor. They repaired it by putting a shunt in his head – a tiny tube running from his heart to his brain, cutting through his occipital lobe, giving him life long double vision. Nine years ago, as a result of the surgery to remove the tumor, he contracted Mad Cow Disease, and ten years ago he died.
And now I'm a hilarious comedian!
The podcast is called Malignant Brain Humor, because although my dad's tumor was benign, I think we can all agree that "Benign Brain Humor" isn't quite as funny. In the podcast, I interview comedians, writers, and other artists about their lives, their work, and their malignant brains. I try to contextualize their work within comedy, comedy within art, and art within a broader scientific worldview. Because of the way my brain works, I hyper analyze things, breaking them down into their smallest pieces to see how they work together to make up complex and beautifully troubled humans. The podcast is funny, because I'm talking with funny people, but it's also sad or a bit touching sometimes, because a lot of funny people are sad and a bit touched.
The podcast is kind of my love letter to comedy, but it's also my way of trying to approach a developing art form with our best current understanding of the human mind and the universe in which it exists. Comedy has always been about the mixing of the high and the low, the sacred and the profane. Why shouldn't it be that way in the 21st century? I want to make fart jokes about how Saturn's atmosphere is made up almost entirely of farts, and it has rings just like a dirty hooker's butthole. I want to make sex jokes about the middle area of a Venn diagram, because it looks kind of like a vagina, and I think that's funny. I want to do observational jokes about genetic observations made by MRI and CAT scans. Like, my dad had a brain tumor, so y'know, I'm not saying I'll definitely get a brain tumor, but if I do get a brain tumor, I won't be shocked. Unless the tumor is pressing on the part of my brain which causes surprise. In which case I'll be shocked as shit. I'll just be like,
"Guys, can you believe I have this brain tumor?"
"Yeah Mike, we can all believe it, we've known for years."
"I know, it's unbelievable! Who made toast?!" (nobody made toast).
When I was growing up, my dad taught me how to see the joy and wonder of the natural world around me, to marvel at the very real mysteries of the universe, and to delight in seeing the progress we've made in learning about humanity and our place in it. I'm never really going to know the things my dad knew; he worked for NASA. I mean, he was literally a rocket scientist. Compared to him, I'm probably always going to be a little bit stupid. And I know this may sound a little bit schmaltzy, but that's probably just the tumor speaking (I don't actually have a tumor. Probably). I love what I do, and I really care about doing my part to contribute to the world of comedy and art, and share the joy I feel when I read a study about why we're *all* a little bit stupid, and how by continually pushing ourselves to be honest, and present, and engage with the world inside and around us we can be ever so slightly less stupid with each passing day. Basically, I want to install a tiny tube running from our hearts to our brain.
I just think it's remarkable that this man, my father, who came from another country and built a home in this one, gave me the tools to construct a worldview that let me build a home inside this universe. I feel like he gave me this great gift, and the only way I know how to pay him back is to try to share that gift with as many people as I can. And if you've made it all the way down here, I thank you, not from the bottom of my heart, because recent studies show that the heart is not where thanks are generated, but from the front right center (temporal lobe) of my deeply malignant brain (I hope that doesn't shock you).