Published on October 26th, 2008 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Sarah Vowell in Toronto, 10/26

The brilliant and hilarious Sarah Vowell visited Toronto to read from her new book Wordy Shipmates today at the Harbourfront Center’s International Festival of Authors.

After a 20-minute reading from Shipmates, Vowell sat down for a conversation with journalist Ian Brown, and signed books for a long line of admirers.


-Sarah noted that Wordy Shipmates continues her trend of writing about groups of people, something she’s done since she was in school (her Master’s thesis was on Fluxus, performance artists from the 1960s).

-So much of Americans’ history lessons come from sitcoms, and she says they’ve all had a Puritan episode: Mr. Ed, Happy Days… Bewitched had two Puritan episodes, one for each Darren.

-When the subject turned to Canadian history, Sarah faked a huge yawn, and said “you’re superior human beings and therefore nothing ever happens.” But would she want to move to Canada? “I do have a thing for Banff.”

-Ian Brown’s fascination with Jon Stewart led Sarah to reveal that “he’s actually a six-foot tall black man”. Much Stewart-height discussion ensued (is he taller than Sarah? Same height?), with the duo ultimately settling on the simple fact that he is indeed quite short. (I did my part later by informing Sarah that Stewart is 5’7″. “Oh he is taller than me! Good to know.”)

-Sarah prefers the solitude of writing books, rather than appearing on the radio or in live performances. She says that her voice and appearance make her seem younger than she is, which is also a factor.

-Fans of the film The Incredibles will remember her as the voice of Violet. She greatly admires the work of Pixar, and the level of detail they achieve. She noted a few examples from The Incredibles, including how the school looks very similar to the office building as if the school is farming future office workers.

-When asked by an audience member what super power she’d like to have, she responded by asking “is there a superpower where you’re always well-rested?”. Sarah is an insomniac, and has been since she was a child. Sarah is on the board of 826NYC, a youth writing skills development organization. At their storefront, the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., everyone dresses as a supervillain character for Halloween. Every year Sarah’s supervillain is “Insomnia”.

-Her favourite historical monument is the Lincoln Memorial, “especially at night”.

-She’s been trying to break her swearing habit, but when she opens the newspaper in the morning she’s “like a gangsta rapper who’s stubbed her toe.”


About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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  • The Colbert Report A-Z

    Third Beat editor Sharilyn Johnson presents the ultimate fan guide to The Colbert Report, available from all major booksellers including amazon.com