January 5, 2013

Books I Read So You Don’t Have To

Thursday was January 3, 2013. AKA 1/3/13. It was my dad’s birthday, and his lucky number is 13, so he was thrilled. Coincidentally, that was the day I wrote my 13th book review for SmartPlanet. SmartPlanet is run by intelligent, savvy people who are always nice to me. I want to bolster their readership anyway I can. If you’re interested in any of the following subjects, check out reviews #8-#13.

For shutterbugs – Picture book, a review of The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos

For egalitarians – Fair enough, a review of Against Fairness by Stephen T. Asma

For hoofers – Stage left, a review of Dancers Among Us by photographer Jordan Matter

For collectors – Business casual, a review of Etsy-preneurship: Everything You Need to Know to Turn Your Handmade Hobby into a Thriving Business by Jason Malinak

For sippers – Tap dance, a review of Drinking Water: A History by James Salzman

For pacifists – Nuclear reacting, a review of Five Myths about Nuclear Weapons by Ward Wilson

Jenna Marotta @ 9:00 am
Filed under: Book Reviews andPersonal Thoughts
October 25, 2012

A is for Asshattery

Today my first story was published in Time Out New York. For their fall comedy issue, I interviewed Doug Benson, Donnell Rawlings and Lisa Lampanelli about good hecklers vs. bad hecklers. I’m very pleased with how it turned out — there’s even an illustration!

Heckling: Three comics discuss their experiences with asshattery

Since I began writing book reviews for SmartPlanet, the name of my blog on their site has changed: The Printed Word is no more, long live The Word. My first review was published back in July, and the writing was a bit flat as I adjusted to tackling a new form. Review #8 posts tomorrow, and I think now you can tell that I’m no longer self-conscious (and also really enjoying myself). Here’s my small archive of reviews #2-#7:

Trust Issues, a review of Trust Me: I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Flavor Extracts, a review of The Tasti D-Lite Way: Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave by James Amos Jr. and BJ Emerson

Night Owls, a review of Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall

Copycats, a review of The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation by Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman

Warehouse, a review of Building Stories by Chris Ware

A Dining Room of One’s Own, a review of The Art of the Restaurateur by Nicholas Lander

Of these books, one I will cherish forever, one was pretty good, two were OK and two were…meh. Read the write-ups to find out which is which!

Jenna Marotta @ 10:45 am
Filed under: Book Reviews andComedy Reviews
June 12, 2012


Friday I started a new long-term freelance gig that I’m very excited about. I’ll be writing two book reviews per month for SmartPlanet, CBS Interactive’s online magazine devoted to technology, business and innovation. I’ll be working under the tutelage of Andrew Nusca, who was previously my editor at the Washington Square News, NYU’s student newspaper. He and his web designers created a blog specifically for my literary criticism: The Printed Word.

For my first SmartPlanet review, I chose Taschen’s new book, Information Graphics.

A couple asides…

Last month, the Just For Laughs Festival came to Chicago, and I as fortunate enough to be in town to help out with Time Out Chicago’s coverage.

Here are my three festival-related articles:
Q&A with The Daily Show’s John Oliver
Review of Patton Oswalt at the Vic
Review of Aziz Ansari at The Chicago Theatre

Also, this my first story for a new-to-my-repertoire media outlet, The Daily Beast (Newsweek‘s website): Zooey Asks Siri Creator Revealed

I’m sad to say that I cannot share my first (and only) story for The A.V. Club Chicago, as the website shut down on June 15. The piece was a Q&A with Neil Massey, who melded his two passions – theater and weapons – better than just about anyone I know. He’s the proprietor of Rogue Steel, a highly-respected maker of stage combat weapons.

Jenna Marotta @ 12:46 pm
Filed under: Book Reviews andComedy Reviews andEvents I Attended andInterviews andNews Stories
March 12, 2012

Monday Night Recall

This week my first-ever magazine feature story hits Midwestern news stands. It’s more exciting than getting a summer job at Anthropologie, although not quite as exciting as quitting that job 10 weeks later. Anyway, I worked very hard, and you can see the comedy guide I put together in the April issue of Chicago magazine (pg. 84-87).

You may have noticed that I have a new photo on my About page. A very adorable redhead named Kristen Lynn Barker took the picture, along with all of the images accompanying my text in the aforementioned Chicago magazine article. Click here to see more of Kristen’s work.

A couple more quick thank yous…
In my long absence from Just Jenna, I’ve been given two wonderful opportunities to share my work with kids. When I decided to become a writer, I never imagined anything except long lonely hours sitting at a desk, punctuated by the occasional book release party. A few weeks ago, I got to teach a writing workshop to fifth-eighth graders called “Baby Got Snack – How to Write a Song Parody.” My students came up with four parodies: “We Found Bugs” (Rihanna’s “We Found Love”), “Broken Clock Anthem” (LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”), “School Lunches Are So Gross” and “I See Someone I Know” (both riffing on “My Heart’s A Stereo” by Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine). And the last Tuesday of February, I got to read my work in front of 500+ students at Fremd High School in Palatine, IL. My sister attends Fremd, and I spoke as part of their annual Writers Week. I was very self-deprecating and I wore lilac H&M tights – it was pretty great.

And now, some more stuff that I wrote:

Time Out Chicago
A review of Jerry Seinfeld at the former Rosemont Theatre
A preview of Graveyard, a web series starring Dave Pasquesi and Christian Stolte
A review of Ripper: The Musical at The Annoyance
A review of Tracy Morgan at The Improv
A review of Barretta at Stage 773

New York magazine
A Mayoral Mexican Wrestling Challenge at Occupy Broadway
Hugh Acheson Offers to Pluck the ‘Hughnibrow’ for Charity
A First Peek Inside Joanne, the New Restaurant from Art Smith and Lady Gaga’s Dad

Do Egg Donors Lie?

Jenna Marotta @ 9:21 pm
Filed under: Comedy Reviews andEvents I Attended andKidstalgia andNews Stories andParodies
October 27, 2011

A Birthday Rant from the Statue of Liberty

Let’s play 20 Questions. Or 20 Answers, since I can’t hear you from up here. I am older than Idaho but younger than Iowa. I’ve been landmarked by the United Nations and name-checked by Jay-Z. I costarred in esteemed cinema such as Splash and Spaceballs. I have my own Barbie. I’m an immigrant who was given up for adoption. I’m a Lady, but my name isn’t Gaga. I have my own Silly Bandz. I’ve been struck by lightning many times. I have chronic pain in my right arm. I look down on New Jersey (but who doesn’t?) I’ll admit it: I’ve had work done. Of the Fab Four, Abe’s my fave. I live in an apple. And for a woman, I’m pretty erect.

That’s right; it’s me, the most famous green lady outside of Oz, La Liberté éclairant le monde. Or as my friends call me, S-O-L. I kid, I kid. You know who’s actually S-O-L? America. First of all, the economy . . . do we even have an economy anymore? I wouldn’t know; I kind of checked out of all the financial talk when Taft passed the Aldrich-Vreeland Act. Anyway, there’s all kinds of S&P BS. Nobody has a job (I know firsthand by how many English-speaking, non-seventh graders ferry out to say hello). I don’t even have a job! Well I won’t soon, but it’s only temporary. You may have heard that the National Parks Service will be shutting my doors tomorrow, the day of my 125th birthday. Sure, it’s all for the greater good; I’ll be getting a $27 million makeover; with all kinds of ‘necessary’ upgrades (they’re fireproofing the elevator). But the timing of it seems. . . strange. Since the nation isn’t going through enough shit right now (foreclosures, loony presidential campaigns, a certain anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks ever, the end of the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met) the appointees of your elected officials are closing the most iconic symbol of freedom in the world. Ominous, much? Bizarre message to send to the people. But what about me? CONGRATULATIONS!!! Now we’re going to incapicate you! Sounds like one of those seventh graders left their copy of The Lottery dockside, and some bureaucrat picked it up and anointed it the official reading selection of Oprah’s National Parks Service Book Club. But it’s all good (says people who aren’t me); S-O-L will be G-T-G in time for the big 1-2-6. Except no one cares when you turn 126 years old. 125? That’s major. You owe me a 10-carat diamond and a set of sterling silver ramekins, if we’re being technical. I guess a 10-carat diamond would be pretty small on me. How about a solid-diamond VW Bus, hanging from a necklace made from all the Olympic gold medals ever handed out?

For now, I am an unemployed American. But I know that situations that seem bad can yield surprisingly good results (years of corrosion led to my minty tint; once upon a time, I was the color of tobacco spit). So I will use this mandatory vacation time to do all things I’ve always wanted to do. Taste Pinkberry. Take a bath in the Grand Canyon. Serve on a jury. Ride a roller coaster. Write a Jerry Maguire manifesto. Jump in a pile of leaves. Milk a cow. Get a tattoo. Have brunch. Go on a date. Smoke a joint. Build a sandcastle Buckingham Palace. Give a toast. Get Lasik. First up: sneak behind a subway busker dressed as me and scare them.

Jenna Marotta @ 3:12 pm
Filed under: News Stories andParodies
October 24, 2011

Stuff I Wrote While Neglecting This Blog

In the five-plus months since I last posted to Just Jenna, in between eating McFlurries and asking, ‘Why did I just eat that McFlurry?’ I did manage to get some stories published. A nice little compendium, actually. But I swear I didn’t ignore my blog for this purpose.

Chicago magazine:
A beer expert shares five thing he wish he’d known when he started imbibing.
A story about a famous little person where the title ‘Small Tales’ did not fly.
I selected Chicago magazine’s Best New Improv Group.
Radio host Tony Sarabia introduces us to a Wisconsin restaurant with goats living on the roof.
Mainstager Katie Rich shows us how to have a Second City weekend.
When Morlen Sinoway’s not designing fabulous furniture, he’s trying to track down his stolen bike.

Time Out Chicago
Review of They’re Not All Winners! at the Annoyance.
Review of Rhys Darby’s stand-up set at the Improv.
TJ Jagodowski’s book collection is one of a kind.
The East Coast/West Coast Cupcake Rivalty (Butter and sugar is better than murder)

New York magazine
Monologuing Steve Jobs: Mike Daisey Explores ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy’
Things Other Than The Future Movie and TV Show That Were Covered at the Arrested Development Reunion
Mike Daisey Hasn’t Forgotten About the Sins of Steve Jobs

Why We Should Stop Telling Women To ‘Have It All’

Jenna Marotta @ 8:48 pm
Filed under: Comedy Reviews andInterviews andNews Stories andPersonal Thoughts
April 6, 2011

Reading and Remembering

I never met either of my biological grandfathers, and I know very little about my dad’s dad. His name was Pasquale Peter Marotta, ‘Patsy’ to his friends. He worked for General Electric for many years, and raised four boys with my grandmother, Mary Virginia Marotta, who died in December 2008. The family lived in upstate New York. In 1984, Patsy died of lung cancer. If he were here, we would celebrate his 99th birthday today, April 6th. One consolation: during his lifetime, Patsy, a Yankee fan, never had to watch the Red Sox win a World Series. I’m grateful on his behalf.

Speaking of sports, I checked in with three beloved Chicago athletes for the April issue of Chicago magazine:

Before she was a nun, Andrea Jaeger was the second-ranked women’s tennis player in the world.

Luc Longley won three rings with the Bulls, and once killed a scorpion with an Eagles CD.

Fifth degree black belt Arlene Limas was the first American gold medalist in tae kwon do.

Jenna Marotta @ 4:07 pm
Filed under: Personal Thoughts
March 28, 2011


Thursday night, I saw a show, drank $9 worth of beer and then wrote this review about some nice lady on the TV for Time Out Chicago.

Jenna Marotta @ 2:33 pm
Filed under: Comedy Reviews
March 25, 2011

Charlie Bucket List

I wrote this for Chicago magazine and Ivan Brunetti drew the pictures.

He signed a copy for me, which I’ll frame and keep forever.

Go out and buy his new book Cartooning: Practice & Philosophy. On sale Tuesday.

Jenna Marotta @ 2:03 pm
Filed under: Interviews andKidstalgia andNews Stories
March 12, 2011

I’ve always wanted to be able to shave my legs with a pen


Jenna Marotta @ 7:51 pm
Filed under: News Stories andParodies andPersonal Thoughts