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Wits at the fitz

This year’s “Wits” series features big-ticket names like Chuck Klosterman, Patton Oswalt and Neil Gaiman.
Comedy geek Patton Oswalt will be the featured guest for this seasons first installment of the Wits series
Comedy geek Patton Oswalt will be the featured guest for this season’s first installment of the “Wits” series

WHAT: Wits at the Fitzgerald Theater (with Patton Oswalt and Paul F. Tompkins)

WHEN: Friday, 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: The Fitzgerald Theater (10 E Exchange Street)

COST: $32

Describing Minnesota Public RadioâÄôs âÄúWitsâÄù series as a radio stage show doesnâÄôt do the prospective listener much good. But with guests like irreverent funny man Patton Oswalt and famed metal head and pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman on the bill, we can, at the very least, expect some hilariously snappy dialogue. This Friday, MPR will kick off the second season of âÄúWitsâÄù with guests Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins and musician Grant Lee Phillips at St. PaulâÄôs illustrious Fitzgerald Theater.

In an age where communication has been redefined by text messaging and social media, conversation has become somewhat of a lost art. But with help from NPRâÄôs John Moe and Minneapolis composer John Munson, âÄúWitsâÄù attempts to engage audiences by inviting some of AmericaâÄôs most intelligent and loquacious personalities to speak their minds.

âÄúWe picked people who had an elaborate way of delivering a funny idea,âÄù said MPRâÄôs director of performance programming Tony Bol. âÄúPeople who have a high energy. They canâÄôt just be witty, they have to move quickly with their wit.âÄù

This year âÄúWitsâÄù will be streaming live on MPR, The Current and online. The show is split into segments with an opening monologue from host Moe who will then ease into his conversation with Tompkins and Oswalt. While itâÄôs unclear what exactly the scheduled topic of discussion is, the conversations arenâÄôt necessarily supposed to be tethered to a single subject.

âÄúThis is a new experiment for us to get a bunch of shows that are right in the middle. The idea is you donâÄôt necessarily want to be jerking from one to another, but you want to keep the variety going,âÄù Moe said. âÄúPart of what really helps is it isnâÄôt going to be like SNL. When Miley Cyrus is doing a sketch and then all of a sudden thereâÄôs The Strokes.âÄù

So-called âÄúalternative comedianâÄù Tompkins will be joining FridayâÄôs show by phone from Australia. Tompkins, who is lauded for his whip-smart absurdity and work on shows like âÄúBest Week EverâÄù (which he hosted) and âÄúMr. Show,âÄù isnâÄôt too familiar with the series but looks forward to being a participant.

âÄúI like John Moe a lot. IâÄôve gotten to know him through Twitter, and IâÄôve had a few fun conversations with him about various things on his show,âÄù Tompkins said. âÄúIâÄôm excited to be a part of âÄòWits,âÄô which IâÄôve never seen, so itâÄôs a little bit of a mystery to me, but IâÄôm looking forward to participating.âÄù

âÄúWitsâÄù is a four-part series extending to late June, and future guests include Craig Finn, Rosanne Cash and Neil Gaiman.

âÄúItâÄôs a party, I want you to have a good time, I want you to share some jokes, share some stories. I have to treat the Fitzgerald Theater stage as my house and everyone else as my guest,âÄù Moe said.

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