Tim Maytom’s Person of the Year is a venerable institution around these parts, dating all the way back to 2010. Every year since, Tim has come to me, and the following dialogue has ensued: “Alex, can’t I make you my Person of the Year this year? Please?” “No, Tim, that would look too self-congratulatory.” “But you’re my hero, Alex.” “I know, but…” And then Tim has to go and find a different name to add to our own personal Hall of Fame. In previous years, we’ve inaugurated Donald Glover, Amy Poehler, Pete Holmes, Matt Fraction & Kelly Sue DeConnick and most recently Taylor Swift. Most of the time, Tim isn’t wrong. Will this be the year he finally slips up?
We all have a favourite Christmas/New Year tradition. Maybe it’s a Christmas Eve drinking session with people you don’t see as often as you like, or a Boxing Day family walk. For me, it’s Tim Maytom‘s Person of the Year. We’ve recognised five Persons of the Year on this blog, given a boost by the fact that Tim’s a dirty cheat, and last year picked both Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick. This year, I’ve managed to keep his rulebreaking to a minimum. So who will wear the Alex-Spencer.co.uk Sponsored by Tim Maytom Person of the Year crown for the next twelve months? Let’s find out. Taylor Swift is by far the most famous person I have awarded the much-coveted title of Person of the Year to. The previous four entries were far from unknown, but to one degree or another, you had to be interested in them to know who they were. Even Amy Poehler, 2012’s PotY, has a tendency to disappear into her characters, and certainly has a lower profile here in the UK than she does in the States, where SNL put her on more people’s radars. Those kinds of qualifiers don’t apply to Taylor Swift. Even if they’ve never heard her songs, the vast majority of people will have heard of her, thanks to the tabloid machine. And the number of people who haven’t heard at least one of her songs must now be a considerably thinner wedge of the pie chart, thanks to 1989. Swift’s fifth studio album wasn’t the catapult that sent her into the mainstream consciousness (that was 2012’s Red, with its peerless “We Are Never Getting Back Together”, and the press at the height of their ‘who’s Taylor Swift dating?’ mania) but it is the one that cements her position as a global pop sensation. Much has been made of 1989 as her first true pop album, and while there’s elements of truth to that, with guitars swapped for drums and synths and a sound steeped in the legacy of acts from its title year, Swift has always been a pop star, it’s just now she’s embracing that. In the liner notes that accompany 1989, Swift writes about change and coming into her own, addressing the foreword from “the girl who said she would never cut her hair or move to New York or find happiness in a world where she is not in love”. For all the effort people put into working out which ex-boyfriend every given song is about (answer: all of them, none of them) that seems to be the true theme of the album – Swift realising that she has changed and that she enjoys her new status quo in the spotlight. In “You Belong With Me”, from her second album Fearless, Swift pines for a boyfriend from afar, criticising his current girlfriend and singing that “she wears high heels, I wear sneakers”. Now, Swift is the one in short skirts and high heels, happy to add a few more inches to her 5’10” frame so she towers over others. It’s worth noting, though, that even back in 2009, Swift played both her ‘self’ and the girlfriend in the video and cover art for “You Belong With Me”. 1989 is a record about confidence and comfort. That’s reflected in the masterful video for “Blank Space”, satirising those who would accuse her of being a vengeful ex. It’s reflected in the absence of duets with artists who can’t compare with her, two of which dragged down Red (fuck off, Ed Sheeran). It’s reflected in the final three bonus tracks on the deluxe version, demonstrating her song-writing process to all of those who complain she’s a manufactured star. And it’s reflected in the build-up to the album’s release.‘Authenticity’ is one of those ridiculous terms that crops up in music criticism with a cyclic regularity, and Taylor Swift manages to carve through that with impressive assurance. Are her Instagram and Tumblr accounts cynical ploys to engage with the teen girls who form the core of her audience? Was inviting fans to a sleepover at her house and listen to the album ahead of time a marketing strategy?Whether Taylor Swift is actually the global megastar who still manages to be the cool girl next door, or if it’s just an act, does it really matter? 1989 and everything that surrounds it is a resounding “hell no” to that question. So often, our artists arrive fully formed, aesthetic and style set in place from the word go. Watching Swift evolve from country singer to true pop sensation hasn’t been an evolution, it’s been a camera coming into focus, refining what was always there until it shines through clearly. It’s been the act of a young woman embracing her power, her status and her agency, and showing the world exactly who she’s become. It is customary to begin this biog of Tim Maytom by pointing out that he is always my Person of the Year, but that has been aggressively true in 2014. As well as setting up a joint blog about The Wicked + The Divine, we now work together. As a result, I am treated to his witticisms daily – watch out for future bestseller Maytom/Spencer: The Skype Conversations (2013-15) – as well as Twitter, Tumblr and occasionally his own blog. Jealous? You damn well should be.
Happy New Year! A quick break from the Play Off tournament – which will be back shortly, narrowing the contenders for Track of the Year from 16 down to our four semi-finalists – for a guest contribution from the ever-lovin’ Tim Maytom. This is the fourth time Tim has shared his Person of the Year on this site. His previous picks have all tended towards comedy – Pete Holmes, Amy Poehler and Donald Glover – but this year, he’s talking comics of a completely different kind. Enough preamble. Let’s find out who takes home 2013’s Person of the Year. The good thing about making the rules is that you can decide when to break them. That’s something I think this year’s choice for Person of the Year represents, and so in that spirit, I’m breaking my own rules and declaring a joint selection. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction are both comic writers who have had great years. They have worked within the system of the ‘Big Two’ comic companies to craft superhero stories that resonate on a personal level and go beyond folks in tight costumes punching each other (not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional spandex fistfight), as well as producing creator owned books that have pushed themselves, and the medium, into telling new types of stories. They are deft practitioners of social media, using their Twitter/Tumblr/whatever presence to interact with fans and build a sense of community among like-minded readers. They are everything a modern comic writer should be. They also happen to be married to each other. Let’s consider Kelly Sue DeConnick first. Having risen up through manga translation and the odd issue and mini-series at Marvel, Kelly Sue earned the job of relaunching Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel in July 2012. Danvers, previously Ms Marvel, was a character that Marvel had slowly been raising the profile of, clearly aware of their lack of a female superhero able to support her own series à la Wonder Woman. Ms Marvel was a natural choice, and with Kelly Sue’s relaunch, she finally took the name Captain. Like so many female superheroes, Danvers’ origin was tied to a male hero, the original Captain Marvel, but by taking on the mantle as her own, both the character and Marvel themselves were making the statement that this was no longer a spin-off, distaff companion to another hero. She had inherited his name, and so was his equal. The series proceeded to build upon the ideas of legacy, exploring the world of female aviators while Carol adventured through time and fought monsters and villains across the globe. DeConnick built a wonderful supporting cast for Carol, using established characters from her previous solo series and introducing new ones, and in one of the most exciting developments, this year it was revealed that the Ms Marvel title would relaunch with a young hero inspired by Carol’s exploits. There is a long and embarrassing history in comic books of female heroes all being based on existing male characters – Batwoman, Supergirl, She-Hulk, etc – and while many of these characters have had fantastic stories written about them that treated them as well-rounded, three-dimensional characters, that initial secondary nature hangs over them. Just as Carol Danvers had shed that idea by truly embracing her position as Captain Marvel, the new Ms Marvel, Kamala Khan, is unique for being one of the few female heroes inspired by another female character. As many of 2013’s Year in Review-style articles will tell you, we seem to be part of an exciting time for feminism, and bringing the idea of female role models, mentoring and friendship to the fore in this way is just one of the methods DeConnick has employed to create a modern feminist hero in Captain Marvel. The book is full of interesting, conflicted woman who feel real, and who deal with issues that all readers can relate to (albeit in the magnified, larger-than-life way that superhero comics tend to use). This deeply integrated feminism has created a huge and devoted fanbase online, the Carol Corps, who read, write, draw, craft and cosplay to support their hero. Captain Marvel is relaunching with a new #1 in 2014 and I can’t wait to see where DeConnick sends Danvers next. DeConnick’s other big project this year was a creator owned one, a mythical Western horror series called Pretty Deadly she made with Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles. Pretty Deadly is well removed from Captain Marvel‘s primary coloured exploits, for although Carol Danvers is a complex, rounded character, there’s no denying she’s a hero. As befits its genre roots, there are no obvious heroes in Pretty Deadly. Instead, there’s Johnny, the nihilistic coward, languishing in a prostitute’s bed with a bruised ego; Fox, the blind wanderer with a dark secret; Ginny, the daughter of Death, a skull-faced avenger loosed on the world. Pretty Deadly is different to almost everything out there at the moment, a lyrical folkloric tale that entrances and disturbs in equal measure. Rios’ beautiful fluid art and inspired layouts combine perfectly with the tone DeConnick creates, giving everything an otherworldly, dream-like feel. Each issue begins with the framing story, as the tale of Deathface Ginny to told between a butterfly and a skeletal rabbit, and the first issue was largely taken up with a gorgeously relayed song describing Ginny’s origins. These stylistic choices feel like acts of faith, asking people to get on board with the book’s atmosphere, accept the world the team is weaving that is so different to most other comics. I’m sure there were a fair few people who never got past the song of Death’s daughter locked in a tower, but those of us who gave the book a chance became utterly bewitched by the story being told. Pretty Deadly is DeConnick’s first creator-owned series, and that she has chosen such a bold, unique story, clearly born of her passions and executed in such a confident way speaks volumes about her as a […]
Between his blog, his mix CDs, and his all-round lovableness, Tim ‘Trivia Lad’ Maytom is my pick for Person of the Year, every year. Fortunately for you, he’s too modest to write a thousand words on himself, and always seems to have his own opinion on the matter anyway. His Person of the Year has been a fixture on this site for three years now, and in past years has talked up Amy Poehler and Donald Glover… But who will it be this time? Let’s find out. Once again, my choice for Person of the Year revolves around someone from the world of comedy, but as this year’s choice would say, comedy is a ministry, and it can have a tremendous impact on how we view the world. Pete Holmes is an American stand-up comedian, and a very funny one at that. His album, Impregnated with Wonder, is filled with brilliant observations and manages to combine a whimsical sense of fun with real human honesty. He’s appeared on various talk shows and Comedy Central specials, and this year recorded some pilot episodes of a talk show that would follow Conan O’Brien’s show on TBS (this hasn’t aired yet, and is still waiting for confirmation over whether it’s been picked up, but is still an impressive achievement), but the real reason he’s my Person of the Year is for his podcast on the Nerdist network, You Made It Weird. “I’m thinking about getting off of Facebook and Twitter, all of that, and just signing up for a service that every 30 minutes texts me the phrase ‘You’re Not Alone’.” You Made It Weird started out with a very loose interview format that revolved around “weird things” Holmes knew about the guests, who tended to be other comedians from the LA comedy scene, but evolved very quickly into a more wide-ranging discussion that tended to focus on three areas: comedy, sex and God. The guests interviewed Holmes as much as he interviewed them and his honesty about various aspects of his life, from his youth as an evangelical Christian to his experiments with becoming a “[physical intimacy] person”, via his divorce from his wife, is both rare and infectious. We live in an age when everything we do is shared on the internet, which creates an odd mix of openness and image management in most people. Holmes bypasses this by moving beyond the 140-character limit and getting into deeper conversations that last long enough to find recurring themes and patterns in people’s lives (the average episode length is about 90 minutes and longer episodes get up to two-and-a-half hours). He is remarkably unguarded in how he presents his thoughts, and this in turn encourages his guests to be the same. “This is a weird little part of your life, isn’t it? Feels like we’re snowed in together. There’s only one bathroom and there’s so many of us! ‘What do we do? Put on a show! Beats getting to know each other, right?’ It sure does.” Holmes’ approach to religion and spirituality follows the same approach as his discussions of his personal life – honest and infinitely curious. His guests span from the strongly atheist to the deeply spiritual (his talk with Duncan Trussell gets into some truly esoteric areas) and Holmes himself claims that he can believe everything from a godless universe to one where every action has meaning and purpose. There’s a very open-minded, non-judgemental approach to talking about faith, and a profound acceptance that not really knowing the truth is inevitable, but thinking about these ideas is important. The ultimate strength of the podcast, and by extension Holmes’ comedy, is that you are listening to someone smart who has accepted that he doesn’t have all the answers about faith, relationships and life explore these issues with equally smart people, all of whom happen to be hilarious. I listen to a great number of podcasts at work and You Made It Weird is the one that gets me the most funny looks for suddenly bursting into giggles. The weightiest subjects are always going to be the most fertile ground for comedy, and Holmes isn’t afraid to dig into the most profound questions there are. He has a child-like glee and enthusiasm for the strangeness that reveals itself when people start opening up about what really drives them and what’s important to them, and it results in some achingly funny but deeply thoughtful conversations.
Aiding me today in my recap of 2011 is Monsieur Timothy Maytom – Agent of B.A.D.A.S.S., blogger extraordinaire and, I learnt this year, all-round top bloke. Last year, he picked Donald ‘Childish Gambino’ Glover as his Person of the Year, and I spent most of this year catching up and realising he was right at all along. Who will be this year’s best human? Amy Poehler Last year’s Person of the Year, Donald Glover, was about recognizing a somewhat meteoric rise to fame. Not to reduce what was surely an awful lot of hard work by Glover, but his story is one of making the most of some very good opportunities. This year, we look at someone that has had a longer path full of a lot of hard graft, and no one could deny that she deserves every plaudit that is thrown her way. Amy Poehler started out at Chicago’s famous improv theatre Second City, going on to be a part of the influential group Upright Citizen’s Brigade. From there, it was onto Saturday Night Live, and a well-known spot co-hosting the Weekend Update segment with Tina Fey. In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey tells of how Amy shot back at Jimmy Fallon after he called a bit she was doing ‘not cute’: “Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not [especially – clean language ed] care if you like it.” This is the year when Poehler truly did what she wanted, and not only do I like it, I bloody well love it. Parks and Recreation, which Poehler currently stars in, as well as produces and writes, is probably the best comedy on television at the moment. It does what no other comedy right now does, which is fight back against the 21st Century trend of meanness in humour. It doesn’t truck in cynicism, or wallow in embarrassment, or sit on the sidelines, snarkily commenting in a superior tone. Instead, it embraces and celebrates friendship, hard work and idealism, all while staying side-achingly hilarious. It manages to sneak (and sometimes trumpet) a feminist message onto US network TV without anyone pitching a hissy fit, and has assembled one of the best ensemble casts around. Poehler’s Leslie Knope is a fantastic comedy creation, balancing competence and intelligence with naïveté and well-intentioned over-ambition. Her slow-burn romance with Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt has been sweet and relatable, and her relationship with Rashida Jones’ Ann Perkins is one of the best-realised friendships on television. The episode that Poehler wrote this year, The Fight, delved into that friendship as the two had a very drunken falling out, and resulted in a truly hilarious half-hour of television. Poehler was honoured this year with Variety’s Power of Comedy Award, where she gave a fantastic speech, that also saw Will Ferrell and Nick Kroll make out in the background. On a slightly more sober day, she delivered a speech to the graduating year at Harvard’s Class Day, where, between jokes and Bostonian accents, she spoke of the importance of humility, collaboration and how improvisations rules apply to real life. She’s also one of the minds behind the website Smart Girls At The Party, a brilliant community for young girls championing feminism. Poehler’s talent, hard work and wisdom make her my Person of the Year. In every stage and aspect of her career, she has demonstrated the power of collaboration; that two people can make a change that one can’t, that asking for help can sometimes produce results one couldn’t dream of. In the year that saw the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, in the age that champions crowdsourcing and kickstarting, it’s a timely lesson, and we’re lucky to have someone out there leading by example.
[You have selected: Tim Maytom] A break from breathless one-sentence listporn from a familiar face… Person of the Year – Donald Glover We live in a society without many renaissance men (or women) nowadays. It’s understandable – human knowledge has expanded to the point where one person can’t know “everything” or be considered at the top of their field in a wide variety of subjects. Still, that doesn’t stop the occasional individual from surprising you, and in that spirit, my Person of the Year is Donald Glover. I first became aware of Donald Glover as Troy Barnes on Community, a show that has, in the past year, rapidly become one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. It boasts a flawless ensemble of comedy talent in its main group of characters, but early standouts were the unlikely pairing of Troy, a high school quarterback of considerable stupidity, and Abed, a film and TV nerd who communicates almost exclusively through pop culture references. The two shared a child-like enthusiasm for fun, and their interactions often formed the basis for the post-episode, over-the-credits stings. As the series carried on, all the characters developed considerably, and the second season is continuing this growth while also maintaining a ‘no weak episode’ run that is frankly intimidating. But Community isn’t the only place Donald Glover could be found this year. Glover got his start with the ‘Derrick Comedy’ troupe, whose online sketches are well worth checking out on YouTube, and as a writer on 30 Rock before leaving to concentrate on his stand-up. He joined Community shortly after, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting a special on Comedy Central this year and demonstrating that in addition to sketch and scripted comedy, he can kill on stage too. Writer, actor, comedian – that’s three solid strings to his bow. But why not throw in a fourth? Because he’s also a pretty astonishing rapper in his spare time, under the name ‘Childish Gambino’. Not only has he put out EPs rapping over a variety of top shelf tracks (Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells, The Very Best) but he’s also created an album, working with Ludwig Göransson, one of the composers of Community’s score. Culdesac (put out for free, just like his previous EPs) is a remarkably assured piece of work for what Glover claims is just what he does to relax. He wears his influences on his sleeve, with references to Kanye West and Lil Wayne, but Glover has made something all his own, with earworm-y hooks and witty, incisive lyrics. More than anything else, I have to respect Glover’s work ethic – the sheer amount of places he can be found this year has been astonishing. He has managed to achieve what I like to call ‘The Swan Effect’ – appearing effortlessly graceful and cool, while working like hell underneath the surface. If I can spend 2011 working half as hard as he has, then I’ll be extremely proud of myself, and if I can look a tenth as good while I do it, then I’ll be very happy indeed. About the author: Tim Maytom is himself, for reasons thatshould be obvious by now, one of thiswebsite’s Persons of The Year. As this willbe his final …&Friends! contribution, it is onlyresponsible to point readers suffering fromwithdrawal symptoms to trivia-lad.tumblr.com