Six Ridiculous Questions: Iris Smyles

The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.

1. What type of lycanthrope (werewolf, werecat, werebear…) would you be? Give us your backstory.

I’d be a werechair. After getting a splinter from an old chair under the light of a full moon, every month I’d transform into an uncomfortable ladder back shaker. 

Ha. Maybe I should have used “species” or “breed” instead of “type.” What if you could only be a wereanimal, what would you be then?

Weredodo. Once a month I’d lose the ability to fly and subsist predominantly on nuts and seeds.


2. Do you think Chewbacca and Pikachu would understand each other without subtitles? 

Most everyone can get by with hand signals or the language of love. But if they wanted to talk about String theory, they’d need Esperanto.

But they’re both fictional constructs, right? Isn’t that like being different breeds of dog? Couldn’t they just sniff each other or whatever? Anyway…how long would it take Chewbacca to kill Pikachu? Or can a cartoon even be killed by a live action construct? I think they answered this question in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but I’m too lazy to check.

Why would Chewbacca want to kill Pikachu? The motive is a major factor in determining how long it would take. Is it a crime of passion, or a calculated “knocking off” we’re talking about? Another question: How long would it take Chewbacca to morally recover from having taken another character’s life? I’m thinking about Chewbacca in the Martin Landau role in Crimes and Misdemeanors.


3. What’s your favorite conspiracy theory? 

Birds aren’t real. 

OK, that’s pretty good. I hadn’t even heard of that one. What’s your second favorite? What’s your least favorite?

I don’t know that many. I like the idea that the moon photos are fake. This is an offshoot of the faked moon landing conspiracy that doesn’t doubt that we went to the moon, but only that we remembered to bring a camera. My least favorite is probably that I’m a robot. 


4. Say your mind was swapped with your pet’s: Who would be more successful, you as your pet or your pet as you?

I don’t have any animate pets; I have a bunch of stuffed animals—among them, an elephant called Elephantitus (he is looking over my shoulder as I type this)— and my guard plant Epstein. Epstein has the confidence I lack, so he’d do better in social situations. As for me being trapped in Epstein’s body, I’m already pretty good at sitting silently by myself in a room. 

Is Epstein named for the character in Welcome Back Kotter? If, yes, do you imagine expanding your gang of inanimate pets to include a Vinnie Barbarino or perhaps a Horshack? If no, why on Earth not?

Epstein is not named for Welcome Back Kotter, though I am a fan of the show. While I’d love to meet a horse named Horshack, my pet’s names aren’t really up to me. As it is with all new friends, when I get a new pet, I wait for them to tell me their names and so address them accordingly. Sometimes they are shy and this can take a while. My gorilla Count von Soda was with me a week before he conveyed his title.


5. Would you rather spend an hour as a guillotine cleaner in 18th century France, a summer wearing a character costume at Disneyworld, or a year working in the Trump White House?

My immediate feeling is to be a guillotine cleaner in 18th century France. My only concern is the lack of penicillin. The other jobs would be too upsetting; I’m not a people person, and wouldn’t like to be at the center of so much action. If I’m cleaning the guillotine, I’m coming in after the execution and after the crowds have gone, so I could retreat to my own world and daydream about switching bodies with my guard plant.


6. What if god was one of us?

IS: If you’re asking if god was eliminated on season 7 episode 2 of ABC’s The Bachelor, the answer is maybe. Nietzsche implies as much.


Iris Smyles is the author of the novels Iris Has Free Time and Dating Tips for the Unemployed, which was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Founder and editor of the web museum Smyles & Fish, she edited and wrote the afterword for the cult humor book, The Capricious Critic by Ari Martin Samsky, based on a column she commissioned for that site. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue, BOMB, Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Hotel, McSweeny’s Internet Tendency, and Best American Travel Writing among other publications, anthologies, and artist catalogs. She was a humor columnist for Splice Today and wrote the “Sheets to the Wind” column for The East Hampton Star.

Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, The Weeklings, Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press in 2017. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki, and a hybrid collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entitled Superman, the Seven Gods of Death, and the Need for Clean, Romantic Poetry. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at

Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebook, and sign up for our mailing list.