Seth Simons: I have a few favorite birds. I’m into birds of prey, your normal backyard songbirds...there’s a really stupid bird that lives in New Zealand called a Kakapo, I like that bird. Total idiot.
Street: Why is it stupid?
SS: Well, it’s flightless, and kind of fat. When the male is looking for a lady, he digs a little hole in the ground and gets into it and emits a very low frequency call. But the female has no idea where the sound is coming from. They’re very endangered.
Street: What’s the difference between performing for Simply Chaos and for Excelano?
SS: With comedy you know right away if it works, because you pitch a joke and people laugh. With poetry, it’s kind of more numinous. [Ed. note: Good word. We had to look this up.] You read a poem and people feel feelings, maybe, or they don’t.
Street: How did you get involved?
SS: When I was at NYU, I was in a playwriting program. We had a class called “Colloquium” where every week we’d all bring in scenes that we wrote for each other to perform. I just started writing things for myself, which gradually turned into spoken word. And stand up too, though I didn’t really know at the time. And I came here and I auditioned and I got in, and the rest is technically history.
Street: You also write plays. Tell us about the one you wrote for Penn.
SS: I received a Kelly Writers House playwriting fellowship with the Front Row Theater Company. That was for a play about a girl who lives with her grandfather. And one night an owl comes in and whisks her away to the world of owls and she has to find her way back to her grandfather, who is dying.
Street: Do you prefer writing drama, or do you like to throw your comedy into it?
SS: I try to do something that is both things, same when I do stand up comedy or poetry. I think each is more...not powerful, but effective with the other next to it.
Street: What makes a great poem?
SS: There’s a poet named David Smith who says the best poems tell the best stories. I think that’s probably true. When it comes to spoken word, which has an audience that has usually paid to come see, narrative is an important element. And also, entertainment. That doesn’t mean funny, it just means something that needs to be on stage, and alive, and it has multiple layers.
Street: If you could live anywhere on the planet, where would it be and why?
SS: I like Australia a lot, because...well Sydney, Australia specifically. They have really fun birds—ibises. We have pigeons, they have ibises!
Street: When you go bird watching, do you do bird calls?
SS: There are probably people who do, I don’t. [Ed note: When we asked nicely, he did. Check out the video at 34st.com]
Street: If you could have a drink with anyone in history, whom would you choose and why?
SS: My father’s grandfather disappeared mysteriously in 1941. I’ve always wanted to know what happened to him.
Street: What will you be doing on this day in 10 years?
SS: Breathing. Perspiring. Metabolizing. I don’t wanna jinx it!
Street: Tell us about the last time you cried.
SS: I cried when Lupita won. I had pneumonia and I was overcome with angst and existential stuff. Do you ever feel uncertain about what you’re doing with your life? Yeah, everyone feels that. That’s boring. That’s a boring reason to cry.
Street: Sorry you had pneumonia.
SS: It was the kind of pneumonia you want to have...is what they told me. So, the walking kind rather than the go to the hospital and almost die kind. I was pretty grateful for that. Not as grateful as when Lupita won!