Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Al Zimbler: Author, Comedian, and Extraordinary Man

SM: I'd like to welcome Al Zimbler, author of The Love Life of Howard Handsome and Other Short Stories. Al, thanks for joining me today.

AZ: My pleasure.

SM: This is your first book of short stories. What inspired you to write them?

AZ: I have been writing poems and limericks for about 20 years. Then I began writing short stories around 2006 when I started online classes from the Writers’ Village and New Trier Extension.

In 2006 I signed up for a writing class taught by Linda Baker Fradin. In one of the class exercises we had to fill out our writing goals. I then wrote that I hoped to write 10 short stories a month. I did that for quite a few years and I have written over 750 short stories.

Some are pretty bad, and some are personal memoirs from my youth and of the Zimbler uncles and aunts. Some are a little risqué, but none have swear or filthy words. I have tailed off the last year or so, and I now only average about seven short stories a month.

SM: Writing 750 stories is remarkable. You're very prolific. No wonder you've slowed down a little bit.

The title of your book talks about Howard Handsome. Who is he and what does he mean to you?

AZ: The stories are inspired by someone I know who got divorced, but what I wrote is not exactly what he told me. I created a sequence based on my own ideas of what could have happened or might have happened, but didn't really happen. Then I added everything together, including some sexual references, to spice up my stories. Once I started on the original story of dating again after divorce, I thought why not keep adding? So I did, using a wide selection of my crazy ideas.

SM: Interesting.

Many of your stories are very funny. Tell us about your background in comedy improv.

AZ: Eleven years ago, when I was renting an apartment in Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles, I saw an ad in the local newspaper stating there was a free senior improvisation group on Sundays in Santa Monica. Free is free. So I went down there and watched. They asked if I would like to get on stage and take part, and I did.

Wow, what fun. No experience necessary! Just be a good listener so that you can respond and always keep the story going by listening to each line spoken to you. I then took free lessons at UCLA. In Chicago I have taken classes at Second City, Piven Theatre, and IO, which was formerly called Improv Olympic.

I have led senior improv classes here in Chicagoland at Sedgebrook Retirement Home and The Friend Center for Alzheimer Patients. I have led a class at Lifelong Learning Institute at National Louis University in Skokie, Illinois, and also for my men's club, MEL (Men Enjoying Leisure).

SM: You sound very busy, and it's beautiful that you give back to the community in the retirement homes and the Alzheimer's Center.

I understand that you’ve also performed on cruise ships. What was your experience like there?

AZ: My wife and I took a cruise on the QE2 to Australia and I persuaded the entertainment director to let me be on the daily program to run a class in improv. It was not very successful as most of the cruise people were older and from England and did not fancy themselves going up on a stage and performing, but I was on the program for two days.

Three years ago my wife and I took a Holland American cruise to Spain, and this time I was on the program for two days and was successful. On the first day we had six people performing and laughing. On the second day we were down to four people, but again we had lots of laughs.

SM: That does sound like fun.

Are you planning to write another book? Tell us a bit about it.

AZ: I am planning to write another book. In fact, my editor has over 100 new stories that she is reviewing in order to get the second book together with about the same number of stories (78) that the first book contained. It might be 2012 before the second book gets published. I am waiting to see if the first book sells 100 books or more before I decide to go ahead with the second book.

SM: I'm sure that your first book will sell many more than 100 copies. Meanwhile, I want to let everyone know that they can purchase your book on Amazon Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/63dvfgn  or in print on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/6dpfhq5

Good luck with your stories and thanks so much for joining me.

AZ: You're welcome.