High Times Greats: Fran Lebowitz, America’s Funniest Femme Fatale

Glenn O’Brien’s interview with the iconic Fran Lebowitz from the August, 1978 issue of High Times magazine.
High Times Greats: Fran Lebowitz, America's Funniest Femme Fatale
Fran Lebowitz/ John Beam

Fran Lebowitz is 69 years old October 27. To celebrate, we’re republishing Glenn O’Brien’s interview with the living legend from the August, 1978 print edition of High Times.

At the age of 27, Fran Lebowitz has been suddenly hailed as the funniest writer to come down the pike since Dorothy Parker or, by some accounts, Oscar Wilde. There are a lot of funny people around, and a lot of writers too, but somehow the combination of great humor and great writing has become an exceedingly rare commodity in the modern world. And that’s why Fran’s first book, Metropolitan Life, has become a smash hit.

Fran began her pro writing career at 20. She had managed to infiltrate the staff of a New York underground arts magazine called Changes as an ad sales person and eventually conned her way into writing assignments. At first Fran had to sneak in her own brand of humor. Then, in 1972, she began writing for Andy Warhol’s Interview. Interview was then a film magazine, and it reviewed almost every film that was released. Fran’s column was called “The Best of the Worst”; her job was reviewing the best of the current bad films, and she worked as hard as a Variety critic, taking in two or three screenings a day. As a result, the column was the last word on Hollywood’s follies, and it was also hilariously funny, winning her a small cult of fanatical fans.

But after a while Fran outgrew the bad-flick format. She needed something bigger to disapprove of, and so her column became “I Cover the Waterfront,” and her beat became the entire universe of questionable taste. Fran took on modern manners, aesthetics and culture the way William Buckley takes on liberalism. But her crankiness betrayed a heart of gold. Although complaint was her form, the result was a celebration of practical intelligence, a kind of Dr. Atkins epicureanism.

And as Fran took on polyester, landlords, press agents and pop psychology, her reputation grew. She began a similar column (although PG rated) in Mademoiselle. And soon she had a book offer from a fan in publishing. Metropolitan Life, published by E.P. Dutton, is a collection of Fran’s columns. There’s an out-loud laugh (or more) on every page, as well as many passages destined for the quotation dictionaries, and the best epigrams written since the invention of television.

Ms. Lebowitz was interviewed by Glenn O’Brien, a longtime friend who has proposed marriage on several occasions.

High Times: What were your first words?

Lebowitz: “Daddy.” My mother taught me to say that so I would wake my father up instead of her.

High Times: Do you remember the first funny thing you ever said?

Lebowitz: No. I can’t remember the last funny thing I ever said.

High Times: Were you a behavior problem in school?

Lebowitz: I was a behavior problem as far as talking. I talked out of turn, I talked too much, I talked in class, I made jokes during the lessons, I whispered to other children. I wasn’t an interesting behavior problem. I wasn’t glamorous and rebellious. I just talked too much. My first school punishment was sitting in the corner in kindergarten wearing a Band-Aid over my mouth and holding up a sign that said “I am a chatterbox.” That was my first run-in with authority.

High Times: Did you watch television as a child?

Lebowitz: I don’t really remember it. The only shows I remember when I was a little kid are Miss Frances’s Ding Dong School, which I watched because everyone made fun of me because my name was Frances. Also a TV show that was on Sunday morning for four hours: I can’t remember the name of it, but Sonny Fox was the emcee. Children played marbles on it. There was nothing televisiony or psychological about it. It was like watching children at a birthday party. Children would get up to watch other children playing marbles and Ping-Pong and stuff like that.

I was a big fan of Sky King. I Married Joan, I Love Lucy, I loved all those situation comedies. I loved getting the measles and colds so I could sit on the couch and watch all those morning situation comedies. The Great Gildersleeve. I never watched TV at night because my mother put me to bed at 7:30 until I was 12. I went to bed earlier than anyone in the world.

High Times: What did you do in bed?

Lebowitz: Actually my main occupation in bed was book reports. In my grammar school we got extra credit for extra book reports. So I would lie in bed and make up book reports about books that I made up. These were oral book reports. I would stand in front of the class and report on a book I had made up. And at the end of the book report you were supposed to tell people where they could get the book, and I would always say. “You can get this book in the Derby Library in Derby, Connecticut, where my grandmother lives.”

High Times: What was your best subject in school?

Lebowitz: Smoking.

High Times: When did you start smoking?

Lebowitz: When I was 12.

High Times: Why did you start smoking?

Lebowitz: To be glamorous. It was really a passion with me. I loved to smoke. I would wake up and be so excited because I could smoke.

High Times: Did your mother know?

Lebowitz: I guess after about six months I started getting caught constantly. It became the major thing I was punished for. I think my most enormous smoking punishment was being grounded for a month. The day my grounding was up and I was going to be allowed to go out on Saturday I got the flu and was sick for two weeks. I was caught all the time.

Then I started getting suspended from school for smoking. At my high school they employed a woman known as the matron whose sole job was to go into the girls’ bathrooms and catch people smoking. But there was a myth about her. It was like the myth where if a girl gets pregnant and takes the boy to court, if three other boys come into court and say that they had slept with her, they would all get off scot-free.

Well, huge myths grew up around the matron at my school. Everyone thought that to actually suspend you for smoking the matron had to catch you either holding a cigarette or with the smoke coming out of your mouth. Once a girl was sitting on the window ledge smoking a cigarette and the matron walked in and the girl jumped out the window. That was on the second floor.

Another time I saw a real pretty girl standing in front of the mirror with a little tiny cigarette butt hanging out of her mouth, teasing her hair. And the matron walked in, and the girl actually swallowed it. I was caught smoking, and I didn’t have the cigarette in my hand or smoke coming out of my mouth, and they suspended me anyway, so it turned out not to be true, just suspicion was enough.

High Times: What brand did you smoke?

Lebowitz: Tareyton, because that’s what my mother smoked. I used to steal hers. When she started realizing cigarettes were missing it never occurred to her to accuse me, so she went to the supermarket where she bought her cigarettes and told the manager that the boys who worked there were stealing packs out of the cartons. She said they’d take one pack out and then move the rest up.

High Times: What brands have you smoked since then?

Lebowitz: I smoked Tareyton the longest, then I switched to Lark. Then I moved to New York and switched to exotic foreign brands. Gauloises, English Ovals, any cigarette that looked like it would annoy people. Black cigarettes, every horrible adolescent smoking gesture imaginable. I rolled my own cigarettes. After that I switched back to Larks, and I smoked those for a really long time. Then I switched to Vantage. Then to Merits. Then I switched to Carlton in an attempt not to smoke too much, and now I smoke nine times more Carltons than I ever smoked anything else.

High Times: What was the first thing you wanted to be when you grew up?

Lebowitz: A writer. It was the only thing I wanted to be except for a brief flirtation with wanting to be a cellist. I played cello in the school orchestra, but I was so horrible that I soon got over the notion of being a cellist. When I was really young I wanted to be a toll taker because I thought they kept the money. I thought they owned the roads; I always used to tell my parents I wanted to be a toll taker, and they couldn’t imagine why.

High Times: What was the first thing you wrote as a serious attempt to be a writer?

Lebowitz: I wrote a book when I was about eight called The Secret Castle that owed a lot to Carolyn Keene, who wrote the Nancy Drew books. I wrote it in a loose-leaf notebook in pencil. I had this aunt who had a book called The Night Visiters. It was written in the nineteenth century by, I think, a seven- or eight-year-old child who was the daughter of someone very rich who had this book printed. That’s why “visitors” was misspelled. I just knew an eight-year-old wrote it and it was published. I didn’t connect with the fact that her father was a lord and that he had it privately printed, and that my father was not a lord—he owned a furniture store and had no intention of having a book privately printed. So I wrote The Secret Castle and was very disappointed to discover that no one published it.

I also wrote plays for my cousins to perform at various family gatherings. I also used to write a zillion songs. I took popular tunes, like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” and wrote lyrics having to do with my family. I wrote a musical comedy for my grandparents’ 35th wedding anniversary. I wrote for the school newspaper. I wrote an editorial about the matron and got kicked off the paper.

Then I went to a prep school that had a paper called the Wilson Wyndowe. We went to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Connecticut and interviewed the star of the play, and I wrote this incredibly bitchy Rex Reedish interview with her and got an outraged letter from her press agent. Maybe 20 people had read it, and he acted like it was in the Daily News. I was really very proud of that.

High Times Greats: Fran Lebowitz, America's Funniest Femme Fatale
Fran Lebowitz/ John Beam

High Times: Tell me about your career as a poet.

Lebowitz: I don’t think I was a poet for even an entire year. I was a poet for about nine months. I started being a poet when I lived in Poughkeepsie, and I wrote a book of poetry called Poughkeepsie Blood. My first action on coming to New York was walking into Grove Press, plunking down the manuscript and demanding they publish it. Fortunately they didn’t, so it’s not around to haunt me.

High Times: What was the style? French symbolist?

Lebowitz: No. I had never really read any poetry, so it was a completely invented style. It was kind of adolescent-petulant—sulking, rebellious. It didn’t rhyme. There were maybe 40 poems, the only poems I ever wrote. There were two funny ones that were real crowd pleasers when I used to read them. During the time that I read poetry, because I was such a wonderful reader of it, people who actually had a legitimate interest in poetry would hear me and ask me to send it to them because they thought it was good. And then they would get it, and I would get these polite little letters back rejecting it. I’m happy none of it was ever published.

High Times: Where did you read?

Lebowitz: The Village Vanguard. That was actually a job. I saw an ad in the Village Voice that said “Wanted—Poets.” This really weird guy named Jack Scully, who was an ex-monk, had somehow convinced Max Gordon, who owned the Village Vanguard, that the fact that the Vanguard was empty during the day was losing him a great fortune. It wasn’t enough that he had Charles Mingus playing there every night.

So Scully put on something called Village Varieties, and he hired all these teenaged artists-to-be, and it opened at ten in the morning and closed at six. Customers paid 99¢ an hour to listen to this garbage. I’d read five or six each time I went on. And sometimes I went on at ten o’clock in the morning and read to the guy sweeping up from the night before. It’s very disconcerting to be in the basement of a night club at ten o’clock in the morning reading poetry on a stage with a spotlight on you and no one there.

But I thought it was a job. I got up every morning, brushed my teeth and went to the Village Vanguard and read poetry. They had a very weird array of people who worked there. They had one guy who was like an Elvis imitator, only he imitated Oscar Wilde. He was the only one of us to break out into the big time, because he got a job on the first gay cruise ship. We were all really jealous of him. The rest of them were mostly folksingers and blues musicians and other horrible poets. There was one 75-year-old woman who was a torch singer; she had varicose veins, and she’d get up on this stool and sing Marlene Dietrich songs, also at ten in the morning.

High Times: Were you a beatnik?

Lebowitz: I was beatnikesque. I wanted to be a beatnik. But I wanted to be a beatnik when there were already hippies. My inspiration for wanting to be a beatnik was not Allen Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac but Maynard G. Krebs from the Dobie Gillis show. The first time I ever came to New York by myself, I snuck to New York on a bus and bought a pair of bongo drums with all the money I’d saved my whole life, which was $12.

High Times: How far did you get in school?

Lebowitz: I was unceremoniously expelled from prep school in my senior year for no apparent reason. I didn’t do anything interesting. I didn’t lead a riot or set fire to the gym or do anything James Deanish. Just one day the headmaster woke up and thought. “She’s really not our type.” I was home sick when I was expelled.

High Times: Did you ever worry about not graduating from high school?

Lebowitz: I didn’t worry about it. My parents did. I was quite happy to be out. My mother and father thought that because I didn’t go to college I’d probably end up working in the five-and-ten. They had a vision of me in a pink smock with a little square badge on it saying Fran. But I did actually graduate from high school, because I took the New Jersey High School Equivalency Test. So I have a state diploma. I can’t imagine what I could have done with it. I guess I could have gotten into driving school.

High Times: What jobs have you had besides writing?

Lebowitz: I’ve had a number of interesting, colorful jobs. I drove a taxi. I was a chauffeur for Johnny and Edgar Winter. I answered Steve Paul’s telephone and was a general schlepper and errand girl for him, and I drove for him. Steve paid me excessive amounts of money to answer his telephone. It was charity really. I sold belts on the street.

And I participated a lot in market research. I got on this list, and I went and discussed products. They would give you $15 and a sandwich. I watched 400 Bayer aspirin commercials. The most interesting one I went to was for a company that wanted to make a vodka for women. This guy came in and showed all these fake advertising campaigns and fake brands of vodka. One was called Catherine the Great, and it had a picture of her on the label. I wanted to know what a vodka for women meant. I guess it didn’t go.

I also cleaned people’s houses, specializing in Venetian blinds. During that period I had stripes cut on my hands. I never had any skilled jobs because I never had any skills. I still can’t type.

High Times: I remember telling you you’d never make it as a writer until you learned how to type.

Lebowitz: I’ll never make it as a typist. I think I will learn to type. I now dread the getting-it-typed part as much as I dread the writing part. I finish things now, and I think, “Who was the last person who typed for me? Who hasn’t typed for me in a long time?” I could probably get a secretary for what I spend getting my friends to type for me. “I’ll take you to 21 if you type for me.” I’ve typed some of my columns. The last one took me 11 hours to type. I could have written a trilogy in 11 hours.

High Times: What was it like being a cab driver?

Lebowitz: I was 19 at the time, so I thought it was entertaining. I got a lot of tips. I didn’t have any adventures. I picked up two famous people: one was Dr. Joyce Brothers, who undertipped me, and one was Rod Steiger. I met some very interesting taxi drivers. I met one who used to go to Kennedy Airport, to the terminals where people were coming from Florida, and there were a lot of Puerto Ricans who had never been to New York; he used to have a bathroom scale in the taxi, and he would tell these Puerto Ricans that in this country taxi rates were by weight and that it was a quarter a pound or something like that. And he would weigh them. He was the most inventive cabbie I ever met.

High Times: What writers have inspired you?

Lebowitz: I don’t know if any inspire me. I know who I like. I like that Oscar Wilde. I like Thurber. I like Dorothy Parker. I like lots of writers, but now I can’t think of them.

High Times: How about comedians?

Lebowitz: I like Marshall Brickman. He writes for the New Yorker. I like Woody Allen. Don Rickles. I used to like this guy Milt Kamen. I like Mel Brooks, especially the 2,000-year-old-man records with Carl Reiner. I love Richard Pryor. But I will go see any comedian. Especially really horrible ones. I’m always sorry when I see that someone has tried out 11 new comedians and I wasn’t there.

One of my all-time favorite funny people was Jack Douglas. He wasn’t a comedian, but he was the funniest talk-show guest. He wrote a lot of books. I read How to Be a Naked Bus Driver and My Brother Was an Only Child. The first sentence of one of those books was, “It was autumn in New York; you could tell it was autumn because chorus boys all over town were losing their leaves.” I thought that was the most hilarious thing I’d ever read. At the foot of his driveway in California, Jack Douglas had a sign that said “Have you called these people?” I also thought Oscar Levant was hilarious. I couldn’t imagine knowing someone who was that funny.

High Times: What are your favorite magazines?

Lebowitz: Sepia is my all-time favorite. I like Ebony too, but it’s no Sepia. I like Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, anything with recipes that use marshmallows and American cheese in the same dish. I like Rock Scene, Jet, Bronze Thrills, Interview, Italian Baby Vogue, Used Planes. Used Planes comes out every single month. I like Richie Rich comic books. And I even have the Richie Rich home game. I also have the Family Feud home game, but I can’t figure out how to play it.

High Times: Did you ever smoke pot?

Lebowitz: Yes, but not with much zeal. It was unavoidable. But I never liked pot much. I was more of a drinker. I did once smoke an ounce of marijuana in one day and ended up in the emergency ward at Mass. General in Boston.

High Times: Why did you smoke an ounce of marijuana in one day?

Lebowitz: Because I was 19 years old. Because I was stupid. Because I had an ounce of marijuana. I was at that time living on the floor of a friend’s room at Boston University, and I knew that if I didn’t smoke that ounce of marijuana, someone else would. In those days you smoked whatever pot you had that day, so rather than share with others I smoked as much as I could humanly smoke.

When I got to the hospital they did not believe that I had smoked marijuana, I was so smashed. They thought I had taken acid, and I couldn’t convince them it was marijuana. Their antidote to this was giving me about 22 Thorazines. I think I got to 2, and then I slept 22 hours. It was a very terrifying experience because when I started to flip out having smoked this much pot I was in a room with people who had also smoked this much pot and no one would help me out.

At that time colleges had these hotlines, and you could call up and say, “My friend just ate 14 pounds of acid,” and some graduate student would drive over in his little Chevy and rescue you. On the Boston University phone you dialed N-E-E-D and a concerned Jewish graduate student came over and took me to Mass. General with two other people who were also smashed out of their minds. On the way he started to drive into a tunnel, and I decided they might be going into a tunnel but I wasn’t, so I tried to jump out of the car. When I got to the hospital I was restrained.

And I was really distraught. I had been spending all of my time with drug-addict college students. I really wanted someone to save me. I wanted to see Robert Young. But this was the ’60s, and there were all of these Harvard medical students there learning to be doctors, so all the doctors in the hospital had hair down to their shoulders and granny glasses. It was terribly disconcerting because I knew that they weren’t going to cure me. I thought they’d probably just give me another joint.

They made me wait three hours to see the psychiatrist, and by that time I was starting to come down. The person who checks you in and takes your name and insurance came over to me and actually said, to me, “Why did you choose Mass. General?” And I said, “Because I liked your clever ads.”

At that point one of the boys I was with realized I was feeling better and got really mad at me for insisting on going to the hospital, and he screamed at me, which made me perfectly crazy by the time I got to see the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist also had shoulder-length hair and Levis under his white coat, and I spent ten minutes arguing with him over whether I’d taken acid or smoked pot. So he gave me enough Thorazine to put the entire college to sleep.

High Times: Have you ever taken acid?

Lebowitz: No. I was never interested in having such interesting experiences. I didn’t want to have my consciousness expanded, I wanted to have it restricted. I wanted consciousness-restricting drugs; that’s why I used to like liquor. Now I hate the smell of pot. I’d rather have people shooting up in my apartment; at least I don’t have to smell it. Unless they die.

High Times: When you were writing “The Best of the Worst” what was the best bad movie you ever saw?

Lebowitz: I don’t remember. American International made so many great movies that they’ve all melted in my mind into one great A.I.P. movie.

High Times: Did A.I.P. ever react to your devotion to their product?

Lebowitz: Not Samuel Z. Arkoff or anyone, but the press agent there loved me. I remember one of the best days of my life was an all-day A.I.P. screening with three movies and lunch. One of the movies was The Thing with Two Heads, starring Ray Milland and Rosie Grier. Ray Milland’s head was on Rosie Grier.

One of the other ones was a Manson-type film, a hippie death cult. A.I.P. had one incredible movie after another. Truckstop Women was one of my favorites. The title song was sung by a truck. I have a great collection of A.I.P. press handouts. Maybe I’ll donate them to one of those film schools in Los Angeles for a tax write-off.

High Times: Did you ever get any bad reactions from your bad movie reviews?

Lebowitz: Not from the people who made the movies. But John Springer banned me from his screenings. He was the only person who took me seriously enough to ban me. And at that time he had every important movie, and that ended my movie-reviewing career. He had only the biggest movies, and he acted like I was affecting the box office. But he was very nice, and in the letter that banned me he told me how much he liked me. I do remember that the worst movie I ever saw was called Four Flies on Gray Velvet, with Mimsy Farmer, one of your great loves. But to this day I have never seen a worse movie.

I saw a lot of movies that were never released because people knew of my interest in that sort of movie, so I often went to distributors’ screenings and sat with 12 men with cigars. I liked it better than critics’ screenings because they didn’t sit there trying to think of entertaining comments; they just sat there with their cigars, trying to figure out how much money they could make on it. I reviewed lots of movies that never opened in New York, only in drive-ins. My whole movie consciousness was based on movies no one else had ever seen. They thought I made them up.

I saw a group-therapy movie—and the whole thing took place in redwood hot tubs with people screaming their problems at each other. And I was once ejected from the Whitney Museum for making comments during a film about baking.

High Times: Tell me about your books before Metropolitan Life?

Lebowitz: What books?

High Times: Didn’t you write some pornographic books as a struggling artist?

Lebowitz: I only wrote one by myself. I don’t remember who published it. I also did some subcontract work for porn writers. I knew about four or five people who wrote porn books at the time that I was a poet. The one I wrote myself was called House of Leather. I published it under the name of the headmaster who threw me out of school. I remember I got $500 for it. I just talked it while a speed freak typed it. It was the most money I’d ever made.

They were terrible. They told you what to write. They told you what kind of sex to put in it. What you couldn’t have at the time was male homosexuality, because the only books with male homosexuality were for male homosexuals. They had a style sheet that was kind of the opposite of the New York Times. You have to say fuck, you have to have these kinds of sex. It was incredibly boring writing that stuff. As boring as reading it.

High Times Greats: Fran Lebowitz, America's Funniest Femme Fatale

High Times: Tell me about your writing habits.

Lebowitz: My writing habits are basically nonwriting habits. I sulk for several days. Then I start thinking that maybe somewhere in the house is a column that I never turned in. This has never occurred. Then I try to bargain with them to wait until I get to the absolute edge of the deadline. I wait until the editor says, “Unless it’s in tomorrow morning at ten o’clock we can’t run it.” Then I stay up all night and do it.

High Times: Do you ever think you can’t do it?

Lebowitz: Every single time I’ve ever written I thought I couldn’t do it. But I’ve never missed a deadline. If I know it’s the last day, I always do it. And I always start writing very late at night. I used to start at midnight, but that’s gotten pushed up, so now it’s common for me to start at three in the morning. I get tired, but fear keeps me awake. I used to be able to do it without feeling it, but now I’m in bed for three days afterward.

The whole time before I write I spend on the phone begging people for ideas and solace and sympathy. My favorite thing to do is to call another writer who has a deadline, because they will stay on the phone with you. Your friends who don’t write will not stay on the phone with you, because they have other real things they want to do. If someone else has to write, then you know you have a willing companion to talk to on the phone for hours and hours while they put off their writing.

But now, as I’ve grown up, all my friends have developed much more mature writing habits. They all say, “Oh I did it this afternoon,” or, “Oh, I’m finished. I’m going out.” I’m the only person left who is this irresponsible. Now I call up friends during the day and they’re writing. That never used to happen.

I also have several writing habits necessitated by living in this apartment. I have to take the TV off the chair. I have to move the lamp to the desk. I have to take all the junk off the desk and wash the desk. That’s good for at least an hour of not writing. I’ll also invent things, like I have to clean the entire apartment before I write. And now I eat a steak before I write, like a prizefighter.

High Times: If someone offered you an hour TV special that you could do anything with, what would you do?

Lebowitz: I’d like to have a talk show with no guests. I’d just sit at a desk and talk. Or I would call people on the telephone and have their responses broadcast. I think Brigid Polk did that once. She rented a theater and sat on stage and called people up and didn’t tell them. That’s what I’d like to do. I’d call it “Hello, This is Fran.”

High Times: Do you answer your fan mail?

Lebowitz: I have to say I have only written back to important people, people in the publishing business. The idea of writing something without publishing it is too horrifying to me. I never write anyone letters. One of my resolutions is that I am going to start answering my mail. Once I wrote a column for Interview called “Send This Girl to Camp” where I set myself up as some sort of fresh-air-fund child and announced that I wanted to go to camp: I invented a camp called “Camp Sensibility” and asked people for contributions to send me there. And people sent in money. But then I found out it was fraud or something and I could go to jail, so I sent the money back and wrote to the people who sent it to me.

High Times: Have you gotten any marriage proposals?

Lebowitz: I’ve gotten some marriage proposals, but I don’t think they were serious. I’ve gotten lots of date proposals. Someone once told me they were sending me 14,000 roses and 12,000 Chinese concubines, but they never showed up.

High Times: What hours do you keep?

Lebowitz: I see no reason to get up before one o’clock except to watch Family Feud. When it was on at 1:30 I saw no reason to get up in the morning, but now it’s on at 11:30, so sometimes I wake up to watch it. I don’t like to go out during the day—it’s too crowded.

High Times: Do you watch anything else on TV besides Family Feud?

Lebowitz: I went through a period of watching $20,000 Pyramid, but it was too frustrating because every day I won $20,000 and I have no money. I also went through a period of watching Name That Tune.

Oh, now I remember my favorite TV show from my childhood. It was The Modern Farmer. It was actually a show for farmers. I don’t know why it played in Morristown, New Jersey. It went on at five-thirty or six in the morning. As a child I kept the opposite hours. The Modern Farmer came on before Sunrise Semester, and it was about farming. One day they would show you how to plant tomatoes, the next day they’d show how to raise chickens, the day after that how to can peas.

I was mesmerized by The Modern Farmer. I used to sneak out of bed to watch it. I wish it was still on, except now I guess it would be too modern. I think there should be an oldies TV station like there’s an oldies radio station, with Dobie Gillis and Life of Riley and all those great shows. Richard Robinson thinks there should be a TV station that’s only the best commercials.

High Times: Did you ever have any pets?

Lebowitz: I had a parakeet when I was four called Polka Dotty, and I killed Polka Dotty by eating its food. Polka Dotty ate seeds and celery tops, and my mother would give me Polka Dotty’s food, and I would go downstairs and eat it. I did not connect eating with staying alive, so I didn’t think anything of eating the food. Then one day Polka Dotty was found dead. But my mother didn’t tell me. One day I went downstairs to eat Polka Dotty’s food, my mother told me that Polka Dotty had flown south for the winter.

I have two animal theories. One is that deers are rats. I once read that deer are in the rodent family, and I still believe this. The other is that horses are hands. Because someone once told me that horses’ legs are actually like fingers and that their hooves are actually fingernails. So I evolved the theory that horses are hands. But I really don’t like animals at all. I would rather have a typist.

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