David Gerlach left a comfortable job working as a TV producer to launch Blank on Blank, a multimedia nonprofit with a simple mission — to curate journalists’ forgotten interviews with cultural icons, and then bring them back to life again, sometimes as animated shorts. You can start enjoying the fruit of Blank on Blank’s labors by watching a series of web animations, recently produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios. Above, we’re starting you off with a four-minute animation of David Foster Wallace reflecting on his early tennis days, the perils of perfectionism, and his tendency to be a “grammar nazi” when teaching college students — something we’ve covered here before. The interview originally aired on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show in 1996, and you can listen to the conversation in its entirety here.
Next comes some memorable moments with Jim Morrison, the great singer-songwriter, who met with Village Voice writer Howard Smith back in November, 1969. Going into the meeting, Smith sensed that things wouldn’t be easy. He later recalled, “I had a feeling that it was going to be a tough interview. I just kinda had a feeling that … it was going to be tricky, and I said .… if things get really difficult with him, I’m gonna suggest that we arm wrestle.” As you’ll hear, Smith made his great arm-wrestling escape an inevitability when he needled Morrison, suggesting that the singer had put on too much weight. You can see how things played out above, or catch the complete interview here.
Blank on Blank has produced other animated interviews with Bono, Larry King, and surfer Kelly Slater. But we’re going to wind things down with Dave Brubeck recalling how President Eisenhower sent him to Eastern Europe to fight Communism with Jazz. Brubeck related this story at the Litchfield Jazz Festival in 2008.