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New Year’s Food Resolutions 2023 «

New Year’s Food Resolutions 2023 «

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Anna: Hi, My name is Anna, and I’m from Tuscan, Arizona. And this year, I vow to eat more foods made in the microwave. Why? Because for part of my life, I’ve been microwave-phobic and I just realized how silly that was, and you know, realized that it’s a very useful tool. So I bought some cookware specifically for the microwave and so far, I’ve made a yummy chocolate chip cookie cake in three minutes, I’ve made some delicious scrambled eggs that took less than two minutes, and next up is the peanut butter chocolate lava cake — and it’s only going to take 13 minutes. Happy new year!

Holly: Hi Sporkul, my name is Holly. I’m from Utah. In the new year, I resolve to eat more slow cooked meals. I’m really committed to finding some slow cooked meal to make it easier to coo for my family but ones that are good and make good leftovers. 

Jerry: This is Jerry Espanoza, in Tampeka, Kansas. In the coming year, I resolve to eat more artichokes. Lately, I’ve come across recipes, which artichokes are used for something other than a fatty dip. And incidentally, that would remind me of sharing a steamed artichoke with a lovely young lady back in 1987. 

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Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies it’s for eaters, I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people and we have come to the end of another year, my friends. It is time for the Sporkful New Year’s Resolution year end spectacular episode. It’s where we typically slow it down a little bit. Take our time and enjoy ourselves. Okay? There’s no rush. All right? We got all — we got all year! [LAUGHS] Thanks for those resolutions. We’ll have more shortly. Anna in Tuscan, using the microwave — that’s a good move! I’m all for microwaves. I a big fan of microburst with a microwave. I will often use the microwave in six to eight second increments use to take the chill off something. I’ll microwave leftover salad. It sounds crazy. I understand it sounds crazy — like seven seconds, just cause you don’t want it ice cold right out of the fridge. Okay? Just take the chill off. So I’m all for the microwave.

Dan Pashman: Now, later in the show, I’m gonna grade myself on this past year’s new year’s food resolution and I will reveal the food I resolve to eat more of in 2023. And of course, we’ll also replay one of our favorite episodes from the year. The Sporkful team and I, we get together and we pick one of our — it’s not necessarily the one that maybe got the most attention, it’s the what we think of as a hidden gem episode. So we’ll get to that. But before that happens. Let’s hear a few more of your new year’s food resolutions. 

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Aym: Hello, my name’s Aym. I’m live in Paris, France. So I’ve had a couple of major changes since September. My second child went off to university, following my eldest. I also decided to separate from my husband of 22 years as it’s no longer making sense and I wanted to feel free. So the population of my house has gone from five to two all of a sudden. I’m having a bit of a hard time adjusting to the volume of my cooking. I love cooking a lot of food for a lot of people. So my new year’s resolution is to figure out cooking for two people in my house, with out compromising on the variety of food that we are eating. I think maybe I just need to find good friends to share baked goods with too. 

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Asmita: Hi Dan, I’m Asmita from India. I’ve resolved to eat more chocolate in 2023 because I feel that chocolate gets vilified unnecessarily. And 2022 has been a really hard year from me in terms of the emotional and physical transitions that I made and moved from one country to another and I had just gone through a break up, so it’s — it was very overwhelming. And as I process all of that and navigate my way though, it was chocolate that stood by my side. It just felt that gave me so emotional support more than any person ever could. So yeah, 2023 is going to be more more chocolate for me to eat. 

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Dan Pashman: Thank you so much Aym and Asmita for those resolutions. And I think right now, I’m gonna grade myself on last year’s resolution. I’ll reveal my new resolution at the end of the show. But for 2022, my personal resolution, as you may recall, was to eat more yogurt. And you guys sent in to many great recipes. I ask for suggestions, but honestly, you sent in so many good ones, it was kind of overwhelming. And then I also kind of just like — I lost my way on the yogurt resolution for the first half of the year. I just — I wasn’t making it a priority. I didn’t go out and buy it. At one point I had some at the house and I put some za’atar on it. That  — I didn’t do it right. I don’t know what I screwed up, but it wasn’t good. And I was really —  I was kind of beating myself up about it. I mean, I had never — I’ve done like — a B+ was my lowest grade I ever gave myself. I was failing at my resolution to eat more yogurt until August hit and we had a family trip to Israel. And as you may know, yogurt across the middle east is easier to find, it’s in a lot of dishes already and it is fantastic on a whole other level. It is tangy in a way that you just — it’s just very hard to find that tang with the yogurt in America. And like yogurt with like grilled fish? Yogurt with calamari? Yogurt at every breakfast buffet? There was just yogurt everywhere all the time and I ate yogurt every single day. 

Dan: Okay, they had fresh pita, yogurt, olive oil, za’atar — there it worked. It worked in Israel. It worked in the middle east. Okay? And I ate so much yogurt, that I think just in that 10 or 12 days, I got myself up to B+. And since I came home, I’ve done a lot better. I talked to our friends Sohla and Ham El-Waylly, I said, you got to give me a yogurt brand cause I can’t find yogurt that tastes like that. They recommended one called White Mustache, which is very good. And I did that with some za’atar and olive oil and that I nailed it. Okay? So anyway, at the end of the year, I’m gonna give myself an A- on the yogurt. A-. I pulled it out and I recommend that you eat yogurt too because it’s delicious. 

Dan Pashman: Right now, it’s come to the point of the show where we replay one of out favorite episodes from the year. And this is not necessarily the most listened to episode or the one that got the most response. Typically, we like to pick a show at the end of the year that we really loved, those of us who work on the show, but that maybe we feel got a little overlooked. And the one that we’re gonna replay for you is my interview with comedian, Jason Mantzoukas. And what I think we all loved about this show — I mean, he is one of the most incredibly hilarious people you will ever encounter, so of course, the show’s very funny. But also he’s a great story teller and he has spent his whole life with a severe life threatening allergy to eggs. And it has shaped his whole relationship with food in way that was very interesting and he told some great and powerful stories about his experience with this allergy in of course his life. So just this mixture of extreme hilarity and also great story telling, I think, really made this conversation shine for all of us. And so, we’re excited now to share it with you once again.

Dan Pashman: And I do want to say before we get started, this episode contains explicit Language and Mature Content Warning, and it comes up really quickly at the start of the episode. So I’m just gonna stall here a few more seconds, just in case, you’re like, oh God, no, kids in the car. You can turn it off. You can fast forward to the end, but there’s going to be some profanity. Ready? Here we go. 

Dan Pashman: This episode contains explicit language and mature content, and it’s going to start just about as soon as the show begins, so I’m pausing here for a second. Maybe you’re a parent in the car with small kids and this just started playing? Maybe you’re cooking in the kitchen and you’re chopping vegetables and the kids over there listening? Just take a beat. It’s okay. Maybe switch to a different one? Or maybe you let the kids hear these kinds of things and that’s cool, too. It’s your choice. Okay? Here we go. 

Dan Pashman: Quick point on the roast beef sandwiches. 

Jason Mantoukas: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: To me — look, there’s more than one great roast beef sandwich in the Boston area. 

Jason Mantoukas: Oh, yes. 

Dan Pashman: But if you are not grilling your buns in butter, then get the fuck out. 

Jason Mantoukas: I know. Are we allowed to say, “Griddling your buns on this show,”? 

[LAUGHING] 

Jason Mantoukas: I just want to make sure. I just want to make sure that’s cool. 

Dan Pashman: We are now. 

Jason Mantoukas: This is Sporkful After Dark. 

[LAUGHING] 

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Dan Pashman: Today, I’m talking with actor Jason Mantzoukas. You might know him from Parks and Rec, where he played the fragrance maker Dennis Feinstein. 

CLIP (DENNIS FEINSTEIN): You guys ever been fox hunting? I have my own foxes flown in from Russia. We drug them pretty heavily, makes it easier to just walk up and — POW! 

[LAUGHING] 

CLIP (DENNIS FEINSTEIN): Stupid Foxes. It’s deeply erotic. 

Dan Pashman: Or maybe you recognize him from The Good Place. He was Janet’s short lived boyfriend, Derek. 

CLIP (DEREK): But I almost have a full grown penis now. It’s resplendent and mostly functional. 

Dan Pashman: He’s also played Rafi in The League and currently voices Jay in Big Mouth and Alex in Close Enough. Jason tends to play characters that are a little out there, oversexed, overconfident, exuberant, and yet somehow very lovable. Well, maybe not, Dennis. Jason also co-hosts the podcast How Did This Get Made about the worst movies of all time. But as he told me, more than anything else, he is an improv comic. 

Jason Mantoukas: Doing shows is the thing I love the most, like — and I love doing movies or TV, or I love doing my podcast or — and whatnot. But improv gave me a safe place to truly just take leaps of faith. That’s really exciting and electric and — and for me, quite freeing, you know, from what is otherwise a life that is pretty much based on routines and rigidity and vigilance. 

Dan Pashman: That rigidity, that vigilance that Jason’s talking about, it all has to do with food. You see, Jason is allergic to eggs. 

Jason Mantoukas: I’ll describe it to you the way I describe it to like if I’m eating at a new restaurant, right? I have a life threatening food allergy to eggs. I can’t eat anything that uses egg in the preparation at all, and that can mean trace elements that are from the cross-contamination of the kitchen, itself. You can’t put the — something I’m eating in the same fryer that the crabcakes just came out of or whatever. 

Dan Pashman: What is your earliest memory of your egg allergy? 

Jason Mantoukas: It was discovered when I was like, you know, a baby. So I don’t remember any of those times, but it was frequent that I would eat something and have to be taken to the hospital. And my earliest memory is probably — I was at another kid’s house and the mom was trying to give us cookies. And I was trying to say, I can’t have cookies. And the mom and I kind of were like going back and forth. And eventually, obviously, I was a little kid, so I ate the cookie and then had to be — an ambulance had to be called and I had to go to the hospital. 

Dan Pashman: What was she saying? Was she like, no, you’re fine. You can eat these?

Jason Mantoukas: Oh, you’re fine. Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’s going to be fine. Listen, we’re talking about a time when food allergies weren’t thought about and weren’t frankly like, believed. I’ll get it every once in a while now where, you know, I’ll say in a restaurant like, “Can you find out from the kitchen if this has eggs in it, blah blah blah. I have this allergy, blah blah blah.” And the person will be like, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Jason Mantoukas: And I’ll be like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. I don’t need you to be sure I’ll be fine. I, actually, need you to talk to someone in the back and make sure this is safe, you know? 

Dan Pashman: Right. Oh, my god. 

Jason Mantoukas: And that’s the kind of vibes that I grew up with a lot in, like ’70s Boston, because a lot of people’s minds they’re picturing — is there a fried egg on this? No. 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Jason Mantoukas: You know, they’re not thinking like, oh, is their egg in the bread that that sandwich comes with? 

Dan Pashman: Or was it cooked on something — 

Jason Mantoukas: Correct.

Dan Pashman: Right, right. 

Jason Mantoukas: And so that’s how I would get burned a lot. 

Dan Pashman: Jason grew up north of Boston, in an area called the North Shore. North Shore is actually where my mom grew up, so my whole side of the family is from there. I spent a lot of time in that area. It’s known for its roast beef sandwiches. My favorite place is Kelly’s roast beef, one of the most iconic ones, but I was curious to hear Jason’s Go-To spot.

Jason Mantzoukas: We would go to Mino’s Roast Beef in Marblehead. And that was like a big deal because we were going to go into like rival town territory, you know, where there would be a rumble.

Dan Pashman: This is like Sharks and Jets type stuff. 

Jason Mantzoukas: It literally I was just going to say, it literally was like a rumble like West Side Story.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: But, you know, you know, it always started in that Boston way of like, you got a fuckin problem?

Dan Pashman: Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: Hey, you got a fucking problem? You know?

Dan Pashman: I’m partial to Kelly’s because my family, when we would come from New Jersey up there to visit, there would always be a stop at Kelly’s on the way to my grandmother’s house in Marblehead for lobster rolls and roast beef. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: My grandmother would still remember going to the boardwalk and the amusement park …

Jason Mantzouks: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Dan Pashman: There, in Revere Beach when she was a little kid. You know, but she’s since passed away, but you know, it’s now probably 80 or 90 years ago that she was there — actually, could be close to 100 years ago that she was there. And she still remembers the fact that her and her sister, her mother, my great grandmother, would only let them get one hot dog to share.

Jason Mantzoukas: Ugh.

Dan Pashman: And like, 100 hundred years later, she was still bitter …

Jason Mantzoukas: Ugh.

Dan Pashman: About the fact that she couldn’t get her own hot dog. [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: Those food grievances, those will stick with you.

Dan Pashman: Yeah.

Jason Mantzoukas: You know, that’s like a real — when you are denied food or when you are — 

Dan Pashman: Yeah.

Jason Mantzoukas: When your food is like, like controlled in that way? Like that — you — that sticks with you. You remember that.

Dan Pashman: Is there a specific food grievance from your childhood that you remember?

Jason Mantzoukas: You know? There’s a — yeah, there is a bit of one. I was staunchly not allowed to have sugar cereals, like at all. It really upset me. It was such a bummer. But any time we went to my aunt’s house, she would always bring me into the kitchen and in her pantry, she would have a box of Honeycomb cereal, which is the sugar cereal that I had had, and I liked. And then also, she would wrap and give me a box of sugar cereal for Christmas.

Dan Pashman:  [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: Because that would be a way to smuggle it in, that I would be able to have it. And that was also like …

Dan Pashman: Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: So there’s like, it’s a grievance, but the grievance also comes with kind of a wonderful story about my aunt.

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Dan Pashman: It wasn’t just sugar cereal that Jason couldn’t have, of course. The egg allergy made almost every meal a challenge for him. As he said, growing up in the ’70s, food allergies just weren’t as commonly diagnosed. So it was a struggle to explain it to people, and it made him feel really different from other kids.

Jason Mantzoukas: I didn’t know anybody else who was allergic to anything. And as a result, I feel like my pediatrician’s methodology for impressing upon me the reality that I needed to take my allergy seriously, was fear. One year, he told me a story. He was like, “You know, it’s too bad because you want to have these things, ice cream or you want to have pancakes or you want to have these — you want to eat these things because they’re so good and they’re so normal,” he said, “but I had a patient who is a little boy just like you. And he went to a pizza party and he had an allergy just like yours, and that pizza had eggs in it. And when he ate the pizza, he died.” And I’m like, probably, I don’t know, six-years-old, five-years-old? I mean, like, I was like a child.

Dan Pashman: Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: So the real kind of framing for me to understand the severity of my allergy was an awareness of my own mortality. You know, that every meal was an opportunity, unless I was really careful and very vigilant, every meal could end in my death.

Dan Pashman: And how did your parents deal with all of this?

Jason Mantzoukas: I mean, they were great about it in terms of like keeping me safe and all of that. But it also was, I think for them, quite scary. You know, it was very clear like my mom would make my lunch and she would be very — and impress upon me this idea of only eat what’s in the bag. Do not trade, do not buy, do not get — you’re not allowed, essentially, to eat anything except for what’s inside this bag. It also applied to my birthday party. So like, my birthday cake would inevitably be made with eggs. So everybody who came to the party would get my birthday cake, but I would have to eat something else.

Dan Pashman: How did that feel? 

Jason Mantzoukas: Super weird. You know, years and years and years later, I was walking in New York City and I ran into a guy who I grew up with, who I knew. And we weren’t like super close friends, but we knew each other. So we hadn’t been in contact since, you know, probably we left high school, 15, 20 years. And he goes, “Hey, Jason Mantzoukas!” And I was like, “Oh, hey.” He said his name and and I was like, “Oh my God, what is this? We’re running into each other on the street in New York. So strange.” He goes, “Hey, I got to ask you, are you still allergic to eggs?” And it was like, oh, clearly the most defining thing about me from his point of view was that I was allergic to eggs. 

Dan Pashman: Right. I mean look, there are worse things to have for it to have been known. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, absolutely. 

Dan Pashman: Right. Like you, at least you weren’t the kid who like ate his own poop in kindergarten. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah, exactly. Or the kid who went into the second grade closet and peed in the teacher’s boot.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: True story.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Wait, you did that or someone else did? 

Jason Mantzoukas: No, I didn’t do it. Dan! What do you think, I did that? I can’t be both the egg allergy kid and the pees in the boot kid. That’s too much. 

Dan Pashman: Maybe you invented the egg allergy to cover for your boot peeing habit. 

Jason Mantzoukas: By the way, that would be bold. That would be — it’s not a bad idea. That couldn’t have been me! I’m allergic to eggs!

[LAUGHING]

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Dan Pashman: Growing up, Jason would end up in the hospital with an allergic reaction about once a year. No matter how careful he was, accidents would happen. Like the time he was egged on Halloween and broke out in a rash. Even today, it’s still a constant issue. A couple years back he went on a first date — no food, just a drink. But after he kissed his date good night, he started to feel a tickle in his throat. Turns out her drink had egg whites in it. 

Jason Mantzoukas: I have a very complicated relationship to food. Food is in many ways to me, first processed as a threat and has to be vetted completely before I can proceed with it. The idea of a sumptuous feast laid out before me and me just indulging is so attractive. But my entire life, before I can indulge in any feast, I have to have a full conversation with whoever prepared every element of that feast. Food is a source of great frustration for me. I love food. I love eating. I love being out to dinner with friends. I love being out in the world and trying new stuff. But all of it starts with a direct challenge to my mortality. And, you know, a trust that I believe the people who are telling me, I’m going to be okay eating this.

Dan Pashman: But does that make it hard to enjoy food? 

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh yeah. I feel like people feel about the food, the way that I feel about music or the way that I feel about movies. They have a passion and an indulgence and I feel very challenged by food. Like a real breakthrough moment for me was hearing the artist Adrian Tominey on Fresh Air talking about his peanut allergy. And he was saying some version of, for kids with food allergies, they’re not able to live a carefree childhood. No child should grow up so acutely aware of and in charge of their own mortality. 

Dan Pashman: Jason says growing up this way, he felt like he was a boy made of glass. 

Jason Mantzoukas: I don’t know if it pushed me to be funny. I was like a funny kid, but I think being performatively funny was a way to be like, “Look at me because I’m being funny, not because I’m the kid who is like … “

Dan Pashman: Not because I’m getting wheeled out on a stretcher.

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah. And so I feel like there was a way that becoming funny made me the center of attention in a way that I could control.

Dan Pashman: Right. And the peeing in the boots didn’t work for you.

Jason Mantzoukas: You know, as many boots as I peed in, it — no, it never seems — nobody got the joke. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]

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Dan Pashman: Coming up, Jason gets his first big break on TV and immediately ends up in the hospital. Then later, I offer him a therapeutic escape from his allergy. And you’ll hear my new year’s resolution for 2023. Stick around.

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+++ BREAK +++

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Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. And hey, please take a minute right now and connect with our podcast in whatever app you’re using to listen. It might be the follow button or the heart or the favorite or the subscribe or the plus sign, whatever it is in your app, go to our show page and click it. Then you’ll connect with our show and you won’t miss future episodes. You can do right now while you’re listening. Thanks.

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Dan Pashman: All right, before we get back to Jason Mantzoukas, here are a few more resolutions from you, our listeners.

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Rebecca: Hi, this is Rebecca from Eagle Rock, California. And in 2023, I vow to drink more green tea, because according to the internet, it’s going to erase my wrinkles, make me lose 10 pounds, and I’m gonna live forever!

Aba: Hi Dan and the Sporkful team. My name is Aba, and I’m calling from London in England. My food resolution for 2023 is to eat more Ghanian food. That’s where my family is from. I tend to get lost in exploring the food of other cultures and eating more of that food than of the food, I guess, of my “home”. And I only generally go to it when I feel like I need to be comforted or for celebration and I quite like to reincorporate it back into my everyday food just to maintain that connection with my heritage. 

Samuel: Hi, my name is Samuel Panteri and I live in Connecticut and I’m five-years-old. And I resolve to eat carrots because they’re good for me. 

Shelby: Hi, my name is Shelby and I live in Richmond, Virginia. My new year’s food resolution is to eat more mashed sweet potatoes. I just discovered the wonders of mashed sweet potatoes and now I’m in love and wondering why I haven’t done this before? They’re so easy, so flavorful, and I can’t get enough.

Dan Pashman: Mm. Mashed sweet potatoes, that’s a good one. I’ve been — you know, I’m really into the Japanese sweet potatoes, that ones that are sort of my white inside? Roast those up, split them open like you would any baked potato, a lot of butter, a lot flaky salt, and then a big squeeze or lime juice. That is an absolute home run for me right there. Ugh, God, I want that right now. Anyway, let’s get back now to Jason Mantzoukas…

Dan Pashman: As Jason said, he was always a funny kid. But it took him a little while to turn that into a career. He left the Boston area to go to college, where he studied music, played in a bunch of bands. Then he got an ethnomusicology fellowship in North Africa and the Middle East. Being in countries where he didn’t really speak the language was very stressful. The first French and Arabic words he learned were the ones he needed to explain his allergy. 

Dan Pashman: After a couple years there, he moved to New York City. And that’s when he first started doing comedy. This was the late ‘90s, right around the time that Upright Citizens Brigade was starting up. That’s the famous improv theater in New York and LA. Jason joined an improv troupe and started performing there. 

Jason Mantzoukas: It was like a really vibrant, really incredible kind of comedy scene. Improvising, getting on stage, being part of an ensemble, that is the thing I am most excited by, most engaged by. And it’s also the place that I feel the most present. Everything goes away and it’s like, I enter flow state. And it’s really so satisfying and it’s so fun. And doing a show for people that is improvised means we’re coming, we’re getting on stage, and we’re making up a full show right in front of your eyes that will never be done again. 

Dan Pashman: It sounds like part of it is that there’s a level of focus and engagement that’s almost meditative, probably. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: But then like it is the absolute opposite extreme of the way your egg allergy has pushed you to function in the world, which is nothing can happen without planning and discussion. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Correct.

Dan Pashman: In egg allergy world. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh yeah. Oh, you’re absolutely speaking right to it.

Dan Pashman: In the world of improv, there’s no planning and discussion.

Jason Mantzoukas: Correct.

Dan Pashman: It’s just immediate reaction, immediate movement.

Jason Mantzoukas: It’s just live in the moment, listen, react. And that’s it. There’s something about that that is incredibly grounding for me. And in a way that you’re talking about, like I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to be concerned. I don’t have to be vigilant. I can just be free. And it is my favorite thing.

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Dan Pashman: UCB became Jason’s community. In addition to improv, he started writing and directing other people’s shows. He took acting classes when he could. Eventually, a lot of his UCB friends started moving out to L.A. to do more film and TV work. After a few years, Jason followed them. 

Dan Pashman: In 2010, he got his first major TV gig: a recurring role as Rafi on The League on FX. Rafi’s kind of a side character — the brother-in-law of the main character played by Nick Kroll. Jason’s first shoot for the show was in a hotel in Vegas. Day one went great. Day two …

Jason Mantzoukas: That morning I went to Starbucks and grabbed a coffee and a granola yogurt fruit parfait, which had ingredients listed on the side that was — you know, I read and was safe. And so I had like two bites of the yogurt parfait and I was like, “Oh, something’s weird.” I get like a weird almost ticklish sensation in the back of my throat, which is usually the first sign that I’ve eaten eggs. And so I went back to the Starbucks and I said, “I know this ingredient list doesn’t say so, but is there any possibility there’s egg in this yogurt, fruit, and granola?”, which again seems preposterous.

Dan Pashman: Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: And the woman working there was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know. Let me see. We make it here in the kitchen of the casino.” So she called down to the kitchen. Uh-huh. OK. Yeah. He says he has an egg allergy. Uh-Huh. Oh, OK, OK, I’ll tell him. OK, thank you. And then she walked up to me and she said, “The granola has egg whites.” Oh … Cut to I’m being wheeled past all of my castmates on a gurney in — my castmates, who are expecting me to join them to shoot a TV show. I am literally am wheeled through production into a waiting ambulance and taken to the hospital for the next like seven hours. And then have to return to set jacked up on drugs like crazy. I still needed to complete what I needed to shoot.

Dan Pashman: Right. They’ve got a schedule. They gotta get their scenes for the day.

Jason Mantzoukas: Yes! Whenever they give me all the drugs, it’s like hitting control-alt-delete on a computer.

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: So there is a whole series of scenes in The League where I have no recollection of having been there shooting them. The only evidence I know is that it was on the film. I’m like, what? I don’t remember doing that. I don’t remember being in that room.

Dan Pashman: Imagine if like those are the best scenes you ever shot and that just became your method.

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah. I developed a habit of like, I have to like, eat an egg, go to the hospital. This is the only way I can deliver a good performance. He’s really good, but the way he works is so difficult on s production.

Dan Pashman: Yeah. [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: He insists on being wheeled through the set on a gurney, just to engender sympathy from his castmates. [LAUGHING]

Dan Pashman: Well, if you do an indie film, you can be like, look, Just paint my tongue with some egg wash and shoot me with an EpiPen, and I’ll be ready to go.

[LAUGHING]

Jason Mantzoukas: Give me a Benadryl. Let me nap for a little bit.

Dan Pashman: It’s not that surprising Jason could be hopped up on epinephrine and still nail the character of Rafi on The League. Because Rafi is loud, brash, and does every kind of stupid and irrational thing you could imagine. In one scene, Nick Kroll’s character wants Rafi to pose as him, and take his son to swim class. 

CLIP (RUXIN): OK, a few rules. One: No smoking.

CLIP (RAFI): Cigarettes or drugs?

CLIP (RUXIN): Both.

CLIP (RAFI): Oh come on. How long does this class even last?

CLIP (RUXIN): Like and hour.

CLIP (RAFI): What?

CLIP (RUXIN): Two: No swearing.

CLIP (RAFI): Oh, shit on me.

CLIP (RUXIN): Three: No knives.

CLIP (RAFI): What if there is an attack?

CLIP (RUXIN): It’s a bunch of children and mothers in a pool. 

CLIP (RAFI): That’s exactly when I would attack. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] As I said earlier, this style is a common theme with Jason’s characters. He plays Jay on Big Mouth, it’s an animated middle school sitcom full of graphic puberty humor. Jay is always running around yelling, mostly about his sex pillow. As Derek on The Good Place, Jason played a brainless goofball who lacks any sort of self-awareness. In the recent series Pam and Tommy, Jason is the voice of Tommy Lee’s penis. All these characters are the exact opposite of that boy made of glass. 

Jason Mantzoukas: A lot of the characters I play are me exercising a version of myself that is — that does not have the weaknesses that I perceive myself to have. These are people who don’t have weaknesses in their opinions. These are people who are — you know, like literally, I think Rafi from The League probably thinks he’s immortal, you know, like truly.

Dan Pashman: Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: I think — I don’t think he thinks about himself as vulnerable in any way, shape or form.

MUSIC

Dan Pashman: So I got an idea, Jason, I want to throw something at you. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Go for it.

Dan Pashman: As a person, myself, who loves food …

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: And gets forward to every meal like…

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh yeah.

Dan Pashman: The second one meal is ending, I’m thinking ahead to the next day, you know, after dinner, what am I going to eat tomorrow. I feel bad for any person who doesn’t get, for whatever reason …

Jason Mantzoukas: Sure.

Dan Pashman: Doesn’t get the same pleasure from food that I get. I wonder if there’s a way for us to allow you to have that feeling, even for a brief moment through improv?

Jason Mantzoukas: How do you mean?

Dan Pashman: Well, what if we were to play a little improv game right now? 

Jason Mantzoukas: Sure. OK.

Dan Pashman: We’re at a restaurant. I’m going to be your server. I’m going to name a give you a character. 

Jason Mantzoukas: OK. 

Dan Pashman: And you’re going to portray the part of that character. And that is a person who has no allergies to food and can eat whatever they want. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, interesting. OK. OK, great. 

Dan Pashman: So as an eater in this improv scene, you are totally free.

Jason Mantzoukas: Great. I love it. I love it. 

Dan Pashman: All right. You’re a kindergarten teacher who’s skipping class to go out to lunch. 

Jason Mantzoukas: OK. 

Dan Pashman: Ready?

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah.

MUSIC

Dan Pashman: Hi, how are you?

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, I’m good, I’m .. ehh. I’m playing hooky, you know?

Dan Pashman: Oh? Oh, really? What do you do?

Jason Mantzoukas: I teach kids. And, you know, today they were just — I went in my closet. There was a boot full of pee and I really — I had — I really, you know, I just I’m at my wit’s end. You know, I really — these kids have pushed me to the limit. So I’m, you know, while they’re doing an assembly, I decided to sneak away and get some ramen.

Dan Pashman: That’s — that makes a lot of sense because I got kids, too, and that’s why I’m here. They don’t even pay me. I just come here to hang out.

Jason Mantzoukas: You work for free?

Dan Pashman: Yeah, yeah, but I just need to get away from my kids.

Jason Mantzoukas: Okay, yeah. Listen, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life.

Dan Pashman: OK.

Jason Mantzoukas: But you should not be working for free as a waiter.

Dan Pashman: They let me have some ramen out in the back by the dumpster at the end of my shift.

Jason Mantzoukas: You’re working for dumpster ramen? Do you have a family? 

Dan Pashman: Yeah, I have — I have four kids.

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, you can’t be supporting four kids on dumpster ramen. You should ask them to pay you here at the ramen place.

Dan Pashman: You know, you’re right. But anyway, have you had a chance to look at our menu? What are you in the mood for today?

Jason Mantzoukas: You know, whatever you think is like the best ramen. I’ve never had ramen. It looks delicious. So what is the like, the ramen to get?

Dan Pashman: Well. So I like the ramen with the thinly sliced pork on top. It’s a big bowl of noodles.

Jason Mantzoukas: Great.

Dan Pashman: Steaming hot broth full of flavor.

Jason Mantzoukas: Ugh.

Dan Pashman: Scallions, and then what I like to add to it is a nice egg. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah. No, that’s why I mention it, because even though I’m not allergic to eggs at all, I’ve never had, somehow, a ramen with with an egg, so I would love to … I would love to try this.

Dan Pashman: Well, you are in for a treat because what we do is we take the egg …

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: And after we slice it in half.

Jason Mantzoukas: Great.

Dan Pashman: And the yolk is like bright yellow and glistening and just a tiny bit runny. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Even that description is giving me a tickle in the back of my throat. I can’t wait.

[LAUGHING]

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah, great. I’ll have one of those. And please, I beg of you, ask to be paid. Ask to be paid for your work. You should be paid — not being paid in dumpster ramen. Respect yourself.

Dan Pashman: All right. All right. I’m going to go talk to the manager right now while I put in your order. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Great.

Dan Pashman: OK, talked to the manager. Come back. 

Jason Mantzoukas: I like that you did an aside for talked to the manager.

Dan Pashman: Right.

[LAUGHING]

Jason Mantzoukas: Keep that in. Even though you could have just come back and say, “Here’s you’re ramen, sir.” 

Dan Pashman: Yeah.

Jason Mantzoukas: I like that you looked to the side just for the listeners. You looked to the side as if you had that conversation.

Dan Pashman: Right. No, I felt as if I did.

Jason Mantzoukas: Great edit Dan. Great edit.

[LAUGHING] 

Dan Pashman: Here’s your ramen, sir.

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, so excited. This looks great. I can’t — I’m also like, so excited to have noodles. I’m not somebody who really much ever gets to have noodles like this. So this — oh, wow. Ooh, this broth is so good. Wow. Mm. Mm. Hmm? Oh wow, that’s delicious. Holy cow. That is absolutely delicious. Wow. I’m so glad I did this. I’m so glad — this is exactly what I needed, you know, after I put my left foot into a boot full of some kid’s urine. This is … this is the salve I needed for this day.

Dan Pashman: Yeah. Well, eggs are powerful.

Jason Mantzoukas: They really are. They really are. Powerful? Honestly, in many ways they are. They are — they have the power to give life and take it.

[LAUGHING]

Dan Pashman: All right. End scene.

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh wow!

Dan Pashman: That was fantastic.

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh. OK, I’m out of it now. Phew!

Dan Pashman: How do you feel now?

Jason Mantzoukas: I feel like I have to do an EpiPen.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: I was so committed to my character. I was so committed to my character that I actually felt like I’m having an allergic reaction. My mind convinced itself it had eaten eggs. 

Dan Pashman: I want to skip back for a minute. I know this is against the rules of improv, but I’m not an improv pro like you, and I realize — 

Jason Mantzoukas: You wanna go back?

Dan Pashman: Well, I just want to add one — because I don’t know if it’ll be obvious to all listeners that you were talking about the noodles, in part because there’s also egg in the noodles.

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, OK, sure. 

Dan Pashman: And so I think we should just like, make one small reference to that because I think it’ll just pay off the arc of the episode better.

Jason Mantzoukas: Wait, in the scene?

Dan Pashman: Just like — 

Jason Mantzoukas: In the improv scene or in our conversation?

Dan Pashman: In the improv scene. I just want to — I just want to be able to be like —

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, I see.

Dan Pashman: Well, you know what makes ramen noodles so good is there’s egg in the batter, and that just adds a special kind of toothsinkable texture that’s fantastic.

Jason Mantzoukas: Okay. Well, here’s what I’m going to say, because that is antithetical to the entire principle of improv, I’m going to let us do it, but we have — you can’t put it in the scene. You have to put it here. 

Dan Pashman: OK. [LAUGHS]

Jason Mantzoukas: You have to keep it here, like this.

Dan Pashman: OK.

Jason Mantzoukas: To edit into the improv scene is literally against the entire principle of what I was saying I like about improv.

Dan Pashman: You’re right. I understand I will not violate that code.

Jason Mantzoukas: That would be like walking out front of UCB and be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. Everybody, get back in. Get back in. I thought of a better joke. Can everybody go back to their seats? Please, go back to your seats. 

Dan Pashman: Right. Right.

Jason Mantzoukas: But no, let’s do it. Let’s do it right here. But keep it here.

Dan Pashman: All right, OK. All right. So talk again about how you’re so excited to eat the noodles. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah, I’m really excited because like this broth is so aromatic and this egg was delicious, and I’m excited to get it to get into these noodles. I rarely — you know, I don’t get noodles like this all the time.

Dan Pashman: Well, you know what makes ramen noodles so good is there’s egg there in that batter, and that gives them an extra sort of like soft and chewiness that is unmistakable, and that’s part of what makes ramen so delicious. 

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, hold on. I’ll try ‘em. Mmm. Oooh. Mmm. Yeah, that’s delicious. Ooh, yeah. You can really taste the eggy flavor, which is a flavor, of course, I know very well. Mmm.

MUSIC

Dan Pashman: How do you think that living with this allergy for so long has affected you more broadly? I would imagine that living with a constant low grade fear of dying at any moment would have some effect. 

Jason Mantzoukas: It makes me mistrustful of the world and people, not because they have malice towards me, but simply out of ignorance. Everybody else’s life is food is there to be eaten, enjoyed, and my relationship to it is so complicated. I want a guarantee. I want a guarantee that this is going to work out. That’s how I’ve approached life, that’s how I’ve approached a career in comedy, that’s how I’ve approached interpersonal relationships, all of these things. I would say, in a lot of ways, to the negative, like, too rigid. You should be able to proceed forward with things with less than 100 percent guarantee of certainty of working out, because that’s impossible. I had a therapist once say people aren’t eggs. People aren’t going to kill you. They might disappoint you. They might let you down, blah, blah, blah. But people aren’t eggs, you know? And that was like a real like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right.

Dan Pashman: Right

Jason Mantzoukas: Yeah, smart.

Dan Pashman: So you talked about how like if you’re going to go out to eat or if you’re going to go to someone else’s house for food, you know, it’s this whole stressful production, a lot of questions, a lot of, you know, vetting. But when people do take it seriously and the meal goes off without a hitch and you can tell that they went to great lengths to make sure of it. How does that feel?

Jason Mantzoukas: Oh, it’s like the greatest. It’s like … because sometimes people will be like, OK, Jason, those three, dishes don’t eat that. But there have been a couple of occasions where people have been like, you can eat everything. Everything, I made sure everything is safe. And that is so generous and so kind and so thoughtful because, you know, I know that a lot of probably adjustments or a lot of thought had to go into making a meal completely egg-free, and I’m telling those people, you’re in charge of keeping me alive tonight. And I know that that’s a burden. It stresses people out. There is a way in which people taking care of me that way, that is love. The way that cooking food for people is itself a demonstration of love, there is an added element to when people make me food, that is I’m going to keep you alive. Don’t worry about this dinner. You are safe, just enjoy.

MUSIC

Dan Pashman: That’s actor and comedian Jason Mantzoukas. You can hear his voice on Star Trek Prodigy. He’s also a cohost of the incredible podcast How Did This Get Made.

Dan Pashman: All right, it is time for me to reveal my new year’s food resolution for next year, 2023. Now, over the summer, I was together with the Sporkful crew, we were celebrating our James Beard award win, congratulations to us. Exciting year for the Sporkful, thank you. And I was talking with Emma and Jared. I don’t remember how we got on this topic, but we were talking about pepper, black pepper. And I was like, you know, I kind of think its bullshit, like, you know, every recipe I follow tells you to put black pepper in. I’m always putting it in, I never taste it. What’s it doing in there? What a waste. So then I went into this restaurant in New York called, La Peroro Bianca, Italian place, and had cacio e pepe, which I’ve had cacio e pepe before, you know, just cheese and pepper. But this just had more pepper than other cacio e pepes and not just ground pepper, but whole pepper corns that are just sort of been cracked in half but were still big pieces of pepper on top. And it was so peppery but also like a deep earthy, smoky flavor that just absolutely rocked my world. And I was like, oh this is was pepper is supposed to taste like. [LAUGHS] Yes, I won two James Beard awards before figuring out what pepper tastes like. [LAUGHING] 

Dan Pashman: So that happened. And so now, this whole fall, I’ve been cooking a ton of — especially cooking a ton of pasta dishes, cause I’m working on a cookbook of pasta preparations and recipes — all shapes, not just cascatelli. I’ll talk more about it down the road. It’s not coming out till 2024, so we got time. But the point is I’ve been cooking a lot and also having to measure all the ingredients for the recipes. And so I’m — let’s say, I want to do like, you know, a half teaspoon of black pepper. So I actually gotta measure that out. In the past, whenever I looked at a recipe, if it said a 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, I would just take my pepper shaker, you know [DAN MAKES SHAKING SOUNDS], shake, shake, like, eh, that’s probably 1/4 teaspoon. I’m not gonna measure 1/4 teaspoon, just whatever, that’s probably it. Good enough. Now, I’m measuring — [laughs]. Turns out, you have to grind a pepper grinder a lot to get 1/4 or 1/2 of a teaspoon. It’s like hard work and it also now has been revealed to meal that I have never put the correct amount of pepper into anything that I have ever cooked until now. Like, I thought I was putting in 1/4, whatever 1/2 teaspoon, whatever the recipe called for, I was probably putting in like 1/16 of a teaspoon. And thats why I never thought that pepper tasted like anything. [LAUGHING] 

Dan Pashman: So that was a big revelation for me. And now in the cookbook, not only am I like, more pepper, I love pepper, but I’m also like, we’re not just grinding the pepper, let’s crush up the pepper corns and sprinkle those on top of a bunch of dishes. Let’s get it like it was at that restaurant. Let’s get it earthy and smoky and I am just vibing on the pepper! 

Dan Pashman: So you can probably see where this is going. My new year’s food resolution in 2023, I resolve to eat more [DRUMROLL] black pepper. Yes, I’m gonna put pepper in a lot of things. What I would love to hear from you is what’s a surprising use of pepper? Like obviously, it’s in sauces, it’s in a million things. You know, it’s in almost everything it seems like. But like, where is a place that I can use black pepper where I will really know it’s there, but not an obvious use, one that I wouldn’t have figured out on my own. Clearly, I’m able to figure out a whole lot when it comes to pepper on my own, so this seems like a low bar. That’s what I want to hear from you. I would love to hear those suggestion. So drop me a line at hello@sporkful.com. And I can’t wait! 2023 is the year of black pepper. 

MUSIC 

Dan Pashman: Well my friends, we will be back in three week. Our next show drops January 9th. In the meantime, we got some great episode we did this fall. Check those out. Those will keep you company. Okay, scroll through the feed, find one you like, find one you missed, and make sure you connect with our show in the process. Click that plus or follow or heart or subscribe, whatever it is. But I want to say thank you. Thank you, as always, for listening to our show, for interacting, for sharing, for emailing, for liking on whatever social media you use just for, you know, being part of the show in whatever way you are. For coming out to our live events! It was great to meet so many of you this year at some of our events. So it means a lot to me and to the whole Sporkful team, so thank you. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and happy new year, and we’ll talk to you January 9th. 

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