'Mortified', First-Hand Tales of Love and Pain David Nadelberg, author of the book, Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic and Neil Katcher, co-producer of the stage show Mortified, talk about first-hand tales of love and pain.

'Mortified', First-Hand Tales of Love and Pain

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LYNN NEARY, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

Now that every moment of teenage life is chronicled on MySpace or in blogs it's hard to remember that teenagers used to record their lives in journals. And anyone who's ever stumbled upon their old well-worn diary or a passionate love letter scribbled during study hall knows that what once seemed like Byron might now leave you, well, mortified.

Since 2002, David Nadelberg has captured this anguish in the stage show "Mortified," in which grown men and women confront their own pasts through their own primary documents: first-hand tales of love and pain. Now, following the same formula, he has collected their entries in his new book "Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic."

Later in the hour, we'll be talking to legendary comedian Phyllis Diller, now nearly 90, about her new DVD.

But first, this hour is all angst, all the time, and we'd like to hear from you. Have you ever stumbled upon the embarrassing evidence of teenage passion: a letter from camp, humiliating diary entries, and of course the ever-present teenage love letter? Join the conversation. Our number here in Washington: 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. And our e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

Author, producer, and angst-ologist David Nadelberg is with us from our Chicago bureau. Welcome to the program.

Mr. DAVID NADELBERG (Author, "Mortified”) Thank you.

NEARY: So, David, how did you begin to collect these - this evidence of mortification?

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, it all kind of began where I was doing something I think a lot of people do, is when they become adults and they move or something like that, they uncover some unfortunate artifact, written artifact, of their past. And in my case I found a love letter that either luckily or not I did not give to a girl who I more or less stalked in the 10th grade. And I found it and I just thought, wow, this is atrocious and funny. And I started reading it to some friends, and I'm not a performer by any stretch, and it just felt like something that there were probably lots of other people with a lot worse writings than I had.

NEARY: Well, at the risk of mortifying you, can you tell us a little bit more about that? Give us some details of that letter you found, or...

Mr. NADELBERG: Sure. It was, you know, one of the fun parts of that is that I'd forgotten that I'd actually written this thing at all. And when I discovered it, I realized that it was a draft. And it was written on the backside - just to kind of give you a level of what pretentious, you know, kid I think I was in high school. I was the editor of my school's poetry lit magazine...

NEARY: Mm-hmm.

Mr. NADELBERG: ...which was actually called "Etchings."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NADELBERG: And of course...

NEARY: I thought they were all called "Etchings."

Mr. NADELBERG: I think they're all called "Etchings," and it's just a big franchise.

NEARY: Uh-huh.

Mr. NADELBERG: It's the McDonald's of angst. And basically it was on the back of an entry form to that, and so that means there were many other drafts out there. And in our book we present that draft, because it's the only one in existence - and there's even, you know, the crossed-off lines and stuff like that that clearly I was debating using and didn't.

NEARY: So how did you get other people? How did you pull other people into this?

Mr. NADELBERG: I have no idea.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NADELBERG: No, I - basically, I sent out a little SOS and said, hey, you know, I've got this idea. It's called "Mortified." And, you know, about four years ago, I started this really exciting process and just friends started coming to me, and then strangers started coming to me. And they all had really interesting things that they had found, and it wasn't just letters and diaries. It was homework assignments, and it was songs, and it was, you know, occasionally media. It was home movies and other things.

And what excited me about them was that they weren't just embarrassing but they all revealed something about each of them. And, you know, that - it had this weird sort of autobiography meets archeology kind of aspect to it, but all in the, you know, context of comedy, which was really what I was interested in.

NEARY: Now it's a book now, but first it was a show. How did you - you made it into some kind of a - it was a one-person show or...

Mr. NADELBERG: No, it's - basically, "Mortified" is, you know, sort of this comic excavation of teen angst artifacts, and (unintelligible) you know, all this people are sharing aloud all these, you know, letters and journals and such in front of total strangers.

And so we launched that in Los Angeles, you know, four years ago. And then opened up, you know, just kept doing more, in New York, Boston, Chicago - I think we have a show in Chicago tomorrow night - San Francisco, which is sort of our most raucous city. And it's just - it's a completely grassroots thing and really embraced by word-of-mouth.

NEARY: Now we have a clip of the show with performer Gillian Griffith(ph), or is it Jillian(ph) Griffith?

Mr. NADELBERG: Jillian.

NEARY: Jillian Griffith and...

Mr. NADELBERG: She's mortified that you screwed up her name on national radio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Let me say that again correctly: Jillian Griffith. And we should say this is a fictional piece. She's imaging that her parents have died and she's in the hospital, but things are looking up because her idols, Duran Duran, have showed up. Let's hear that clip.

(Soundbite of stage show "Mortified")

Ms. JILLIAN GRIFFITH (Performer): At the hospital, I sat in the waiting room with my face buried in my hands. I heard voices walking by. I looked up and I saw John, Roger, and Andy Taylor from Duran Duran.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRIFFITH: John stopped and looked and stared at me. He started following me. What a weird situation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRIFFITH: My parents who've loved me and raised me have just died, and my future full of happiness was following me. I don't know whether to break down and cry or rejoice.

NEARY: All right, so tell me how that fits into the show, because this is a piece of fiction, a work of fiction, but most of the stories are true.

Mr. NADELBERG: Yeah, well, you know, the point is that - of I think of what we're trying to do is that we're celebrating these things that we created, you know, as kids, usually kind of ending at around age 19 or so. And in this case of sometimes we'll do fiction pieces, so kids write school essays or they'll do poems and songs. And in Jillian's case, she wrote fiction, and what is now known actually as fan fiction...

NEARY: Uh-huh.

Mr. NADELBERG: ...but wasn't a thing back then. And so she's really ahead of her time, and we should give her credit for that. And - but what's important about it is that it's just as revealing as, say, had she written a journal about how, you know, Brian McGillicuddy wasn't talking to her in, you know, AP English that day or something.

NEARY: So this is fiction she wrote when she was a teenager.

Mr. NADELBERG: Yeah, this is complete fiction she wrote when she was a teenager.

NEARY: Ah, so it's embarrassing fiction that can come back to haunt you as well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NADELBERG: Yeah, and it really just showed her vicarious - you know, she was living through her words in such a, you know, a wonderful way but also a completely lame way that we're trying to celebrate.

NEARY: We are talking with David Nadelberg about his book "Mortified" and the show "Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic." If you would like to join our conversation, the number is 1-800-989-8255. And we're going to take a call from Monica who is calling us from Columbia, South Carolina. Hi, Monica.

MONICA (Caller): Hi, how are you?

NEARY: Good, thanks.

MONICA: Well, first of all, I have to say I loved what I just heard, the piece about Duran Duran thing. I recently came across a story I wrote when I was really young about Shaun Cassidy being my brother and that we were raised by wolves...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONICA: ...so that was pretty exciting to come across.

Mr. NADELBERG: Why did you write that?

MONICA: You know what? I was obsessed with Shaun Cassidy as a very small child...

Mr. NADELBERG: No, the wolves.

MONICA: ...and I forget the assignment that - I made a little book and everything that I came across not too long ago.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONICA: The point of my call is I'm a drama teacher. I teach sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at a middle school in Columbia, South Carolina. And "Mortified" is a great name for your show and your book because finding a student writing a note in my class I have to confess is like a highlight to my day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONICA: And they truly are mortified when you take it away from them. And I've often thought, as an actor and as somebody who, you know, teaches theater, that it would make a great show, it would make a wonderful play. So I'm so jealous that I'm, you know, that you're doing performances in places other than South Carolina.

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, hopefully we'll get to South Carolina. We're really working hard to kind of grow.

MONICA: Yeah, go down to Charleston for the Spoleto Festival or Piccolo Spoleto, something like that.

NEARY: Now do your kids know that this is a highlight of your day, when you're finding their notes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONICA: Well, I (unintelligible).

Mr. NADELBERG: You're the meanest teacher in the world.

MONICA: I try to play it down. I do keep them in a file. And on bad days, much like today, I came out of school and got in my car and heard the topic. And I thought, oh, my God, I've got to call immediately.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONICA: But it's fun to kind of go back and look. But notes nowadays, a lot of my students use fake names or code names like Baby Boy and, you know, Chickadee, and things like that. So you don't really know - if you find one on the ground, you don't really know who wrote it, but they're fun anyway.

NEARY: All right, well, thanks for your call, Monica.

MONICA: Thanks, bye.

NEARY: Bye-bye. You know, as I was sort of flipping through the book and looking at some of the entries, it did occur to me that this whole landscape is changing radically with things like MySpace, where kids are going online and putting down their deepest, darkest thoughts on their pages for, you know, millions of people to read.

Mr. NADELBERG: Yeah.

NEARY: It's a whole other thing going on now. And they don't even realize how mortified they may be a few years from now when they realize how many people have seen it.

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, and it's all digitally archived, so it's a lot harder to lose in a lot of ways. It's not going to rot in the back of a closet.

But yeah, it's interesting. It's really that adage of the more things change, the more they stay the same. Because I've talked to a lot of teenagers, actually, since doing this project, and they still, you know, write letters and they still write in diaries with actual pen and paper.

But actually in our book - actually, the very first entry, by Alexa Alemanni, is several drafts of a love letter that she's writing to a guy. And what we present is all the drafts that lead up to what she sends, and she sends him about four letters. And you see all of her neurotic, you know, variations before she just writes her one word, hi, how are you doing? And that's actually a piece that's from an e-mail.

So we've actually gotten to that age where we don't realize that - and the reason I left out the fact that that was from an e-mail in the book was - and also in the stage show when we do that, or there's a piece in Chicago that's based on actually a Web site - it's rare, but that stuff is coming up. And the reason to leave it out at the moment is I find that audiences just, they wind up getting confused and then they start doing the math in their heads and realizing, oh, yeah, I guess e-mail is 15 years old.

NEARY: Do you audition people for your show, by the way? I mean how does somebody become a “Mortified” performer?

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, there's a lot of ways to participate. Most people, if they live in a city where we operate, they just go to GetMoritifed.com, and we have a section for casting. And then there's also we have a section on our Web site called Woe and Tell where anybody, 24/7, can actually anonymously post their own mortifying prose and pics. And then other people who just are bored, I guess, can vote on that and sort of - it's sort of like an Am I Hot Or Not, but sort of Am I Angsty Or Not?

NEARY: OK. We are talking with Dave Nadelberg about his new book “Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic.” We're hoping you'll call with your own stories of finding long-lost notes or embarrassing diary entries. Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Or send us an e-mail: talk@npr.org.

I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of the news)

NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington.

We are talking about the new book called “Mortified” by Dave Nadelberg. It's an inside look at teen angst and the long-forgotten or what you might wish were long-forgotten love notes, diaries, and other embarrassing personal tidbits. You can read an excerpt at the TALK OF THE NATION page at NPR.org.

David Nadelberg is with us. He is the chief angst-ologist, and the full title book is “Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic.” Of course you're invited to join the discussion. Give us a call at 800-989-TALK. Or e-mail address - or e-mail us at TALK OF THE NATION at talk@npr.org. That's talk@npr.org.

And joining us now also is Neil Katcher. He is another humiliated party, and he joins us from the studios NPR West. His humiliating work appeared both on stage and in the book, and he's a writer and screenwriter who lives in L.A. Thanks for being with us, Neil.

Mr. NEIL KATCHER: (Writer and Screenwriter): Thanks for having me.

NEARY: So how did you get involved with “Mortified”?

Mr. KATCHER: Well, I had seen a bunch of shows. I actually saw the very first show and was just very motivated from the beginning to sort of go back to my own home, childhood home in New York, and sort of dig up - because I knew I had a lot of bad stuff, or at least some bad stuff, and I knew that the only times I was really motivated as a child to write was when I had faced and sort of failed and been rejected incredibly hard. So I knew I had some pretty bad stuff.

NEARY: What kinds of things did you write? Were they - were these diary entries? Were they fiction, poetry? What was it?

Mr. KATCHER: I had a little bit of everything. I had a couple of poems that were brought on by rejection. One's called “Prom Is A Fantasy,” which was a poem...

NEARY: “Prom Is A Fantasy”?

Mr. KATCHER: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KATCHER: And is all about…

Mr. NADELBERG: It really is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KATCHER: It was all about me saying, you know - because I didn't want to go to the prom mainly because I was too afraid to ask a girl out. And so I decided to say that the prom was like the American Dream, and that it was all just a big fantasy.

NEARY: Do you have that poem there, or at least an excerpt from it?

Mr. KATCHER: Actually, I do.

NEARY: OK, why don't you read that for us?

Mr. KATCHER: Let's see what I should give you here. OK.

You should go to prom. You should also go to college, get a well-paying job, get married, have at least two children, live in a white house with a white picket fence, and have a dog named Spot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KATCHER: This used to be called the American Dream. But a dream is exactly what this is. Prom is a fantasy - and it goes on from there, but that's (unintelligible).

NEARY: You were a bitter teenager about that prom it sounds like.

Mr. KATCHER: Yes, nothing got me on my high horse on a soapbox more than rejection. And that's basically the theme of my childhood, is sort of the concept of being so bitter by not being able to get a girlfriend that I basically blamed the entire world for it through poetry.

NEARY: Now you did grow up to be a writer, didn't you?

Mr. KATCHER: I did. I did. And it's ironic that the things - my writings that are getting the most sort of exposure are my worst.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Is there a connection between the teenage you as a writer and the grownup you?

Mr. KATCHER: Well...

NEARY: Other than that you're reading your teenage writings to - on the air right now, but...

Mr. KATCHER: I haven't changed a heck of a lot, that's for sure. But I think I have grown up a little bit, but the sort of - I don't have as a big a chip on my shoulder anymore, that's for sure. But ironically the coolest thing about this piece for me is that my piece is all about not being able to ask a girl out because of that rejection, and one of the coolest things that's happened as part of performing this piece live is that I've had a lot of sort of reaction from women who sort of connect to it in an odd way. And so it's actually turned into, in a weird way, a way of asking girls out.

NEARY: Oh, wow, a happy ending. That's good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KATCHER: Yeah, in fact, when I read this in San Francisco, a girl came up to me after the show and said I have angry poetry that's almost as bad as yours.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KATCHER: And we've been dating for nine months now.

NEARY: All right, well, we're going to take a call now from Andrea(ph). She is in Kansas City. Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Have you had any mortifying moments that you'd like to reveal?

ANDREA: Oh, yes, I have.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ANDREA: When I was 18 I was having a secret summer dating relationship with someone who my parents would not have approved of, and it ended tragically. And as they have mentioned before, I only would write when I was incredibly sad. And so I filled up a diary with horrible, desperate, you know, whining and complaining; it's so angsty it's really embarrassing. And there was profanity, you know, everywhere. And I was just angry.

And probably about five years later I had moved to California, was going to school, and my parents - my mother actually found it and called me. And in it were also pictures which could have been incriminating. I was - pictures of me smoking a hookah, and my mom was convinced, like, I was smoking pot and doing drugs and had this whole secret life that they knew nothing about. And it took me about half an hour to calm her down, but it's pretty hilarious now. At the time I was devastated, but of course now it's just hilarious when you realize...

NEARY: Well, do you still have it? Or did you burn it? Or do you still have it for someone else to find?

ANDREA: That one actually I think I threw away. A lot of the stuff I ended up throwing away because it was just focusing on so many negative things in my life. But now I do have a MySpace, and I do write a lot of blogs. And my mother's organization actually has a MySpace, so I am a lot more careful with what I talk about and the words that I use, knowing that she might be able to read it.

NEARY: All right, well, thanks for your call.

ANDREA: Thanks.

NEARY: That's interesting. You know, I was going to ask you, David, it's so interesting that people do save this stuff. And I had the impression, Neil Katcher, that you knew exactly where to go to find those letters when you wanted to find them. You know, people really know where their stuff is stashed, don't they, David?

Mr. NADELBERG: Yeah, they, you know, I think everybody's got this secret shoebox somewhere, you know, whether it is that or not. And I think often when they go back home, a lot of times it's just still at their parents' house - you know, if their parents haven't moved yet - and it winds up - you know, they go back home and they have no more friends because everyone's moved out of their hometown. And, you know, they're in the 30s or whatever, and they - this is all they got. And they dig it up, and it just - it's a really interesting way to learn about yourself.

But an even more interesting way is to just share that, and I encourage anybody, even if they're not interested in “Mortified,” just to share that with just one person. It's a really interesting experience, and you learn a lot about both.

NEARY: All right, let's take a call from Julie. She's in Cleveland, Ohio. Hi, Julie.

JULIE (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Hi, go ahead.

JULIE: Yes, hi. You know, it's such a wonderful topic, and I'm really glad that, you know, you're discussing it. I had a question. I do think it's a wonderful way to learn about yourself, to go back and look at your old letters and your old diaries, and I have many of them. But what my concern is that my children are going to learn something about me that I might not want them to learn about.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JULIE: It's also my husband's concern. Yet I can't get rid of my old diaries and my old letters, so I just wondered if you had any comments about that.

NEARY: All right, David or Neil...

Mr. NADELBERG: Sure.

NEARY: Is that a kind of common problem for people? Or perhaps it's not a problem?

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, I...

NEARY: Go ahead.

Mr. NADELBERG: I think when - you know, we've actually - it's been weird - we've actually been getting approached a lot by educators of late to come and speak to students or whatever and even read these. And we've found that when teenagers kind of hear this stuff. It's - yeah, I mean I guess you're acknowledging, oh, mom and dad may have smoked pot or had sex or something may have happened that you've been lying to them about all these years that didn't exist on your radar and you're trying to steer them away from.

But the important thing is I think when they see all this stuff is that these are - all these life experiences really are things that we all go through and, you know, no matter who we are. And that's one of the exciting things about this is that sort of universality of all this. And then they learn, well, no matter what's thrown my way, I'll survive.

NEARY: Neil Katcher, why did you hang onto your stuff?

Mr. KATCHER: You know, that's a good question. I'm not totally sure why I held onto it. I think I've always had a hard time throwing away anything that I wrote. But what was ironic in some of the stuff that I held onto is that there were things that I knew I had. There were some things that I had, like, do not open on with several pieces of tape wrapped around it to make sure that no one would ever kind of look into it; although I'm sure that just made people more curious if they did stumble upon it.

But there were a lot of things that I didn't realize that I had kept, and those were - and that was really the joy for me of going back and looking, was seeing all these things that I hadn't even remembered. Like some of the love letters I had found are to girls I don't even remember talking to. So it's incredibly interesting to sort of see like what you were feeling and how strongly sometimes you were feeling something. And in retrospect, not remembering anything about it I think is a very interesting sort of part of this entire experience.

NEARY: All right, well, thanks so much for joining us today, Neil.

Mr. KATCHER: Thank you very much.

NEARY: Neil Katcher is a writer/screenwriter living in L.A. He is also the co-producer of the “Mortified” show, and he joined us from our studios at NPR West.

Lori Fowler is another participant in the “Mortified” show. Some of her most heartfelt journal entries were about being a cotton judge. Here she is performing in the “Mortified” stage show.

(Soundbite of “Mortified”)

Ms. LORI FOWLER (“Mortified” Performer): September 16th. I don't understand why we have to practice five days a week.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FOWLER: I have a life outside of cotton. I have homework and stuff to do. I don't think they expect us to do anything except eat, breathe, and live cotton. I'm going to start wearing anything but cotton.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Lori Fowler is now an office manager for a staffing agency in San Francisco and she joins us from KQED in San Francisco. Thanks for being with us Lori.

Ms. FOWLER: Thanks for having me.

NEARY: I have to say I'd never heard of a cotton judge before this. What is a cotton judge?

Ms. FOWLER: Well, it's actually part of FFA, or Future Farmers of America, and it's kind of a competition. You learn about cotton and then you go out and you judge it and just - you have to give reasons - there's like this whole process to it. You have to take a test. There's just all kinds of things to it. They also do it for dairy and poultry and milk and you name it they do it. They judge it.

NEARY: So when you go back and read these entries about being a cotton judge, you know, what do you think of them when you look at them? Does it seem like this is another person that did this?

Ms. FOWLER: A little bit. I've moved away from the small town that I've grown up in and I'm now in San Francisco, which is polar opposite. And there's nothing agriculture related here really. So I've kind of uprooted my roots and replanted them somewhere where there's no farming really around.

NEARY: Well, what was funny in the entries that I read was how you were just kind of full of yourself weren't you as a cotton judge? You didn't want to take direction from anybody it seemed like.

Ms. FOWLER: Well, I had a long history of family in Future Farmers of America. My grandparents had a ranch. I kind of felt like I knew what I was doing and just let me do it.

NEARY: And I understand there are some diary entries that you can't even read on the air because you did a lot of swearing, huh.

Ms. FOWLER: A little bit. Well, a lot, but…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FOWLER: …it's the one place where I could swear without getting in trouble. So I just kind of catapulted it all into my diary.

NEARY: Is there an entry you could read for us that you can read on the air that doesn't have any swear words in it?

Ms. FOWLER: Yes. I am going to change a few words, but it won't lose what it was.

NEARY: OK. All right, you go ahead.

Ms. FOWLER: September 9th. I got into an argument with a judge last night when I was giving reasons for bolls. The judge told me he was going to mark me down for not identifying correctly what sample three was infested with. I was shocked. And asked him if it wasn't the corn earworm, what was it? He said it was the cotton bollworm.

What the hell? They're the same thing. Same worm. Well, that's when I lost it. I told him it was the same thing just a different name. He told me when it's on cotton it's referred to as the cotton bollworm and when it's on corn it's the corn earworm. I shot back, what if cotton grew across the street from the corn and the worms cross the street. Then what'll it be called? He told me to calm down. Did I? Nope.

I continued that it doesn't matter what you call it, it still ate the sample. I then asked him if we had one of the worms and it was found in the middle of the round between the corn and the cotton then what would it be called. Would a corn earworm by any other name still eat cotton? I walked out and was disqualified from the boll competition.

NEARY: That's Lori Fowler. She is reading from one of her journal entries, which is now part of the book “Mortified.” And you are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

That's pretty funny, Lori.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: You were pretty indignant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FOWLER: I knew I was right and I wasn't going to back down. And then two, there was separate - like we had to judge the bolls and then the seeds and the lint and the plant, and each one was separate and just kind of went off on my point.

NEARY: All right. Well, let's take a call now. We're going to go to John. He's in Columbus, Ohio. Hi John.

JOHN (Caller): Hi.

NEARY: Go ahead.

JOHN: Yeah. I was just calling - I'm actually a high school biology teacher. I teach mostly freshman, but I'm just amazed at the number of notes that I find, you know, dropped in my class. Rather incidentally, this is my first year as a teacher in a traditional high school setting. I've done alternative education for some number of years.

And so, you know, I've been finding these notes after school in my room and it just kind of prompted me to go back and - you know, I know that you were talking about that everybody has that secret shoebox - and it prompted me to go back and look at some of the notes that I had gotten and some of the notes that I had written. And I'm just kind of astounded at kind of the differences. Much more, at least in my school, explicit so to speak.

NEARY: The notes that you're seeing from your students now are more explicit than what you wrote?

JOHN: Yeah, by far. And I mean - and there are, you know, some of those with code names and, you know, some of it's left to the imagination, you know. And we just had, you know, homecoming about a month or so ago. And some of the notes that are being, you know, picked up between, you know, different students corresponding about stuff.

I had, you know, two girls that were obviously writing a note in class and inevitably there's always something at the end of the note that says well make sure that you rip this up and throw it away so that nobody sees it. And that's the one that ends up getting left on the floor for me to pick up and read.

And, you know, things left to the imagination. Like there was a part of their note that said, oh you definitely have to teach me how to do that thing before this weekend because I have a date with so-and-so. And it's just kind of like they're not really telling you, but it's all left up to the imagination.

NEARY: All right. Well, thanks so much for your call John.

JOHN: Thanks.

NEARY: I just wanted to ask you, David Nadelberg, what's the most mortifying story that you've heard or in going through all this material what's the funniest or most mortifying experience somebody recorded and saved?

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, you know, I never actually try to pick favorites or anything like that. I wish I could say mine was the most mortifying. The way I try to answer that is the pieces that I think take the audience on sort of a range of emotions are the ones that kind of excite me the most.

You know, one that actually comes to my mind is - there's a guy named Mark Phinney(ph) who's in our book, and it's a really disturbing piece when it's done on stage and hopefully it is on the page too. And I think it's a good example of some of the range where basically Mark's girlfriend when he was like 18 or something said I'm going to dump you.

So he said all right, I'm going to kill myself. And he's way too lazy to actually do that. So he just wanted attention. But you don't say that to a girl and you certainly don't say it to the E.R. doc when she takes you to the hospital because then they put you in a mental ward for several days. And he wrote journals in there. And we happen to have them and they're fascinating because he's - and he won't mind me saying this - he's clearly crazy.

NEARY: So this can be serious stuff as well as funny stuff.

Mr. NADELBERG: Well, darkly funny. I mean, but he's clearly crazy but not that kind of crazy and it's interesting seeing that.

NEARY: All right. Thanks for joining us today David.

David Nadelberg is chief angst-ologist and his book is “Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic.” We were also joined by Lori Fowler. Some of her diary entries appear in “Mortified.” She's an office manager for a staffing agency in San Francisco.

When we come back, Phyllis Diller. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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