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The Month Ahead

A carnivorous plant and its unsuspecting victim / Shutterstock

A carnivorous plant and its unsuspecting victim / Shutterstock

The Garden of Eatin’

A new exhibition explores the darker side of vegetation / Chris Wright

It’s hard to find fault with plants. They’re generally nice to look at. Bunny rabbits eat them. They’re said to be quite good for the environment. There are, though, some truly horrible leafy things out there, examples of which are on display this month at San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers. Among the hundreds of carnivorous plants in “Chomp!: They Came From the Swamp” are pitcher plants, which dissolve their prey in gastric juices, and the sticky sundew, which uses a gluey mucus to trap its victims, who go on to meet a slow and uncomfortable end. Then, of course, there’s the Venus flytrap, the most infamous of these psychos of the soil. Along with the living exhibits, the show also has walk-in models aimed at giving visitors a sense of what it’s like to be eaten by a flower. Who could resist? (April 11)

culture2What’s the Deal withShow Business?

Former “Seinfeld” writer Carol Leifer gives it to us straight in a new instructional memoir / Jacqueline Detwiler

Those who seek long-term showbiz success could do worse than to follow the example of Carol Leifer. In a career that has spanned four decades, the comedian has written for “Seinfeld,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Saturday Night Live,” and been nominated for an Emmy three times.

It’s lucky, then, that Leifer had an unusual idea for a follow-up to her best-selling 2009 book, When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win. “I thought, well, I could just write a straight memoir,” she says, “but then each story from my career reminded me of something I learned along the way, and I felt like that might be an interesting twist.”

The result, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying, is a sort of how-to for the wannabe comedy writer. It includes such saws as “always assume someone’s watching” and “don’t be afraid of failure,” told through lighthearted anecdotes involving the likes of Aaron Spelling and Frank Sinatra.

And it appears that Leifer has been following her own advice: After finishing the book, she got herself another plum gig, as co–executive producer on Lifetime’s “Downton Abbey”-goes-Hollywood series “Devious Maids.” (April 8)

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A Taxonomy of Titters

“A journalist and a scientist walk into a bar…” This may sound like the opening of a joke, but it’s actually the story behind the creation of The Humor Code, a new book from Joel Warner and Dr. Peter McGraw. In it, the duo attempts
to decipher what makes people laugh and why, an effort that involved 91,000 miles of travel and a bunch of interviews with humorous types. Here, the authors share a few stories from the road, and the lessons therein / Erin Brady

Story: We got employees of a New York ad agency liquored up and asked them to dream up funny ads. The result? A bunch of unfunny, offensive ads—and a $1,272.96 bar tab.
Takeaway: Alcohol makes things funnier—to the person doing the drinking.

Story: In an interview, Louis C.K. pooh-poohed Pete’s humor theory. Rattled, Pete ended up asking an inappropriate question about the comedian’s anatomy.
Takeaway: Comedians and those deconstructing comedy don’t always mix. Like magicians, humorists aren’t eager to give away their tricks.

Story: While researching a 1962 laughter epidemic in Tanzania, we got caught in a squall in a tiny dinghy on Lake Victoria. We were terrified—until we erupted in a hysterical laughing fit.
Takeaway: Laughter is a powerful signal. It can help indicate that a potentially negative experience is actually OK.

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Tasting Notes

This month’s musical smorgasbord includes three new food-centric releases. Here, we separate the Fritos from the filet mignon (and give each album a drink pairing) / Erin Brady

culture3Steel Panther: All You Can Eat
(April 1) The Los Angeles–based ’80s hair metal parody band returns with its third studio album, All You Can Eat. The lead single, “The Burden of Being Wonderful,” picks up where previous records left off—in the ’80s. As for the title, we’re not sure what’s on the menu, but we bet there’s “Cherry Pie.”
Pairs best with: Tepid Moët served in a high-heeled shoe

culture4Kelis: Food
(April 22) Best known for bringing all the boys to the yard, singer-songwriter Kelis is back with her sixth studio album, Food. Judging by the soul-tinged single “Jerk Ribs,” the record will put some meat on your bones … or hair on your chest … or something.
Pairs best with: Pretty much anything but a milkshake

culture5Mac DeMarco: Salad Days
(April 1) Oddball Canadian Mac DeMarco follows up his 2012 debut, 2, with this month’s Salad Days. Featuring the singer’s signature slacker-rock sensibility, the album appears to be aimed at those who forgo lettuce and cucumber in favor of a different kind of vegetation.
Pairs best with: A spiked 7-Eleven Slurpee and a dozen Slim Jims

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It’s a Mad World

This month marks the return of AMC’s hit drama “Mad Men” for its final season (well, the first half of it, anyway). Amid reports that the show will conclude with a present-day look at an 84-year-old Don Draper, we decided to read the tobacco, er, tea leaves to divine the fates of the Sterling Cooper crew / Justin Goldman

culture9Don Draper
Returns to Sterling Cooper after promising to quit it with the confessions. Continues smoking, drinking and philandering. Narrowly misses out on accounts with Nike and Microsoft by offending clients. Has several more marriages and divorces. (What, you think Draper’s going to change?)

 

culture10Peggy Olson
Finally (!) splits from Draper and builds her career at various agencies throughout the ’70s. In the ’80s, coins the term “glass ceiling” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Swears off men and eventually undergoes artificial insemination, giving birth to a daughter.

 

culture11Betty Francis
Becomes First Lady of New York when her husband is elected governor in 1974. Uses her notoriety to turn her parenting book, Fetch Me My Cigarettes, into a best-seller. In the 2000s, becomes a regular guest on “The View.”

 

culture12Roger Sterling
His use of mind-altering substances spirals out of control, and he snaps out of an extended trip to find himself onstage at Woodstock, playing congas in Jimi Hendrix’s band (but still wearing an impeccable suit).

 

culture13Pete Campbell
When a decades-long career of sniveling and manipulation gives way to his conscience, he dedicates his life to helping orphanages and adoption agencies around the world. Even develops a self-deprecating sense of humor, naming his nonprofit the Pencil Neck Foundation.

 

culture14Joan Harris
Outlasts all the other partners at Sterling Cooper, becoming the first woman to be the chief owner of a major advertising agency. Retires to Key West, where she is entertained by several houseboys and is frequently visited by her son, a physician who treats inner-city children.

Images: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

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Three Questions For Nick Frost

culture7The British comic actor Nick Frost is best known as Simon Pegg’s sidekick in films like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. But this month he plays the leading man in Cuban Fury, a rom-com about an overweight schlub who takes up salsa dancing in order to woo the woman of his dreams (Rashida Jones). To prepare for the role, Frost trained intensively for seven months. Here, he tells us what it was like / Chris Wright

Q: What was the main challenge in your quest to become a salsa dancer?
A: I’ve always liked dancing, and I’ve always been okay at it. The hardest thing for me was learning to dance with a woman and not be terrified. I spent a lot of the time with my hands behind my back because I didn’t know what to do with them.

Q: There’s something inherently comical, isn’t there, about a full-figured man displaying that kind of grace? Visually, the film is a bit like Kung Fu Panda.
A: I hope if they ever do make a live-action version of Kung Fu Panda, I’m the one they’re going to come to.

Q: A man of your size doesn’t usually play the romantic lead. Was it difficult to get into the role and pull off such sexy dancing?
A: I’ve always been a sexy [guy]. I never look at myself in the mirror and think, “What a pitiful hippo.” I look in the mirror and think, “I’d [date] me.” So I didn’t see any downside in that at all. (April 11)

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culture6
“I turned back to the steady lines of the court, listened to the thwock of the ball. The sun was lowering. I loved the liver-colored rectangles and clean yellow lines, even the hazy poor park trees, where dim light settled a jewel on every branch. I pictured my mom’s earrings—all gifts from my father—flung up in the air and landing in the cupped leaves.”

From Casebook, the new novel by Mona Simpson, about a boy who eavesdrops to discover the mysteries of his unraveling family (April 15)

 

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Emiley Schweich/Everett Collection

Emiley Schweich/Everett Collection

Reid Scott On…

Rude Tube

“Veep” star Reid Scott talks about his role on the most insulting show on TV / Chris Wright

“Jesus, look at his stupid gaping mouth. Let’s put stuff in it.”

This line, delivered by Reid Scott (pictured above, center) on the HBO comedy “Veep,” isn’t the most inventive insult aimed at the show’s lumbering scapegoat, Jonah Ryan, but it’s one of the few we can print in this magazine. Some of the best (and most unprintable) lines come from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays the Vice President of the United States, and whose fans include real-life VP Joe Biden.

Entering its third season this month, “Veep” is the work of the Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci, creator of the BBC’s acerbic political comedy “The Thick of It,” and like its predecessor the show is extravagantly profane. Certainly, anyone who has watched “Veep” will never look at a croissant the same way again.

Scott, who plays Dan Egan, the Vice President’s smarmy, self-serving deputy director of communications, says that one of the perils of being in “Veep” is taking your work home with you. “I’ve found my insults have gotten very verbose,” he says. “I try to be polite, quiet, but then someone will turn without using a signal and Dan Egan comes vomiting out of my mouth.”

While much of the invective lobbed about on “Veep” is the product of Iannucci’s febrile imagination, the show’s actors are also encouraged to improvise, which, Scott says, can get awkward at times. “You’ll have said something about someone’s face, and you’ll go over afterwards and say, ‘I’m so sorry!’”

Off screen, says Scott, there’s a little more warmth among the cast members, who are effectively sequestered in Maryland during the shooting. “We go to a lot of movies. We drink a lot of wine.” As for Timothy Simons, who plays the hated White House liaison Jonah: “He’s one of my closest friends.”

Simons, Scott continues, is “a great guy, so unlike his character,” but admits that the line is a little more blurry with his own role. “There’s a bit of Danny here or there,” he says, adding that this fact isn’t as bad as it sounds. “He’s a charming, upwardly mobile jerk, but there’s a heart in there somewhere.” (April 6)

Becoming Dan: “When I first went in, Armando asked me to just talk to him as Dan, without a net, just get on with it. I’d never been asked to do this before. I’m spoiled for the rest of my life now. I don’t think I can go back to ‘Come in and be the guy on the page.’”

Popularity: “I thought for sure ‘Veep’ would find an audience in New York and L.A. I thought people in Washington would get a kick out of it. But I’ve been blown away by the response. I get stopped every day by people who love the show, some of them kids.”

Realism: “I’ve met congressmen, lobbyists, chief-of-staffers, and they all said, ‘Oh, man, you guys are nailing it.’ One of my friends worked in D.C. for years, and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Okay, so you’re playing me.’ I’m happy we’re accurate, but it’s also terrifying.”

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Also out this month

FILM Another—yes, another—Marvel comic book movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier // Supernatural thriller Oculus contains “terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language” TV Season four of “Game of Thrones” airs on HBO, with the promise of more big-budget decapitations than ever MUSIC Tweeny-boppers One Direction kick off their “Where We Are” global tour in Bogotá, Colombia // Post-Britpop band Embrace returns after eight years of eerie silence with a self-titled album BOOKS McPostmodernist Douglas Coupland publishes the brilliantly titled novel Worst. Person. Ever.

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