Friday, January 18, 2013

A Novelist and His Brother Sell Out Carnegie Hall

Damon Winter/The New York Times
John Green, right, with his brother, Hank, rehearsing at Housing Works in SoHo for their show at Carnegie Hall, which featured songs by the Mountain Goats and an appearance by Neil Gaiman.
Goofy variety shows are not the stock in trade of most authors, especially those who write emotionally wrenching novels about teenagers dying of cancer, but John Green inhabits a multiplatform world with few boundaries. So when he took the stage at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night along with his brother, Hank, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the release of John’s critically acclaimed book “The Fault in Our Stars,” all of his diverse interests were on display.
The two brothers performed their classic routines: songs about Harry Potter and quarks, readings from Mr. Green’s books, and a segment answering mostly weird questions from their audience until a timer ran out, and Hank was painfully electronically zapped.
The show had the polish of a really good high school talent night, but the audience members — many wearing red T-shirts with John’s face and the word “pizza” (his favorite food) — lapped up every minute. They clapped along to a song about high school performed by the Mountain Goats, whose refrain was “People were mean to you, but I always thought you were cool,” and nearly broke into pandemonium when Neil Gaiman, the author of “The Graveyard Book,” a 2008 children’s novel that won the Newbery Medal, was introduced as a surprise guest.

The sold-out show put on full view Mr. Green’s uncanny knack for channeling the voice of marginalized but smart, self-identifying nerds, a gift he has turned into a YouTube empire. The core of his online presence is the VlogBrothers channel, where once a week he and Hank exchange slightly manic but humorous and sincere riffs on science and life.  
He and his brother also use the Internet to raise money for charity and broadcast “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a video adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” They also teach what they describe as advanced courses aimed at high school students online. 

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