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Anthony Bourdain (3) vs. A. J. Liebling; Steve Martin advances

Yesterday‘s decision was pretty easy, as almost all the commenters talked about Steve Martin, pro and con. Letterman was pretty much out of the picture. Indeed, the best argument in favor of Letterman came from Jonathan, who wrote:

I’ll go with Letterman because he looks like he could use the work.

Conversely, the strongest argument against Martin came from Adam, who wrote:

Steve Martin once said:

I know what you’re saying, you’re saying, “Steve, where do you find time to juggle?” Well, I juggle in my mind. … Whoops.

so that’s the problem: he might just do magic in his head. and that’s no fun to watch.

Then again, along the same lines as zbicyclist, he might be able to shed some light on the stuff you post on here. In the same routine, he said:

And then on the other hand science, you know, is just pure empiricism and by virtue of its method it excludes metaphysics. And uh, I guess I wouldn’t believe in anything if not for my lucky astrology mood watch.

Take the strongest case for Dave, and the strongest case against Steve, and Steve still comes out on top. So, no contest.

And now for today’s contest, featuring two people from the Creative Eaters category. (It’s the nature of the random assignment of unseeded competitors that sometimes two people from the same category will face off in the first round.)

Seeded #3 in the group is legendary globetrotting tell-it-like-it-is chef Anthony Bourdain. You can’t go wrong with Bourdain. But his unseeded opponent is formidable too: A. J. Liebling, one of the greatest and most versatile reporters who’s ever lived, author of The Honest Rainmaker and many other classics and the inspiration for O.G. blogger Mickey Kaus’s invention of the concept of Liebling optimality.

Bourdain was skinny and Liebling was fat; make of that what you will.

So give it your best: this round could turn out to be important!

Again, the full bracket is here, and here are the rules:

We’re trying to pick the ultimate seminar speaker. I’m not asking for the most popular speaker, or the most relevant, or the best speaker, or the deepest, or even the coolest, but rather some combination of the above.

I’ll decide each day’s winner not based on a popular vote but based on the strength and amusingness of the arguments given by advocates on both sides. So give it your best!


  1. Ethan Bolker says:

    I’d cheerfully come to a seminar featuring either, but I’d enjoy anticipating Liebling more because I’d have no idea what he’d address. Boxing? The Jollity Building? The liberation of Paris? Go with the Times book review headline: He Spread Himself Thick (lived that way too).

  2. Sean says:

    I saw Bourdain speak on a tour about 10 years ago. I think I had unrealistic expectations, and it was still great, but I left a little disappointed to hear what in large part amounted a collection of some of the best one-liners of No Reservations. They were still great to hear in person and I felt special sometimes knowing what would come next.

    For some obvious reasons, I’d still take a chance to hear him talk. He thrives off of a good audience.

    • mitzi says:

      I saw Bourdain speak about 15 years ago at a NYC “Star Chefs” event – a kind of conference/trade show for local high-end restaurants. at that point he was still in his “Kitchen Confidential” phase – a bad-boy story-teller, glorifying the macho, political incorrectness of the kitchen. the meta aspect of this talk was that he prefaced it by saying that since “Kitchen Confidential” he’d been giving talks to executives on how the corporate workplace could learn from what went on in the kitchen. the execs really ate it up.

  3. Jonathan (another one) says:

    I like them both, but I have the feeling that we’ve seen everything in the Bourdain bag of shtick, while Liebling could still surprise.

  4. zbicyclist says:

    Not that familiar with either, but to bring political science into it — who would we rather hear comment on the Whoppers served up by the President? (referring, of course, only to the Whoppers served the Clemson football team).

  5. oncodoc says:

    Liebling is my darling.

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