The Monthly Memo — August Edition


Chicago Needs a Late Night Talk Show

Between Second City and the nation's third largest media market it makes no sense to me why Chicago doesn't have a late night talk show. In this article I speculate about it -- the media and comedians don't intersect here like they do in New York or Los Angeles. But beyond that, America largely functions on a bi-coastal mentality. For a number of reasons, New York and L.A. run things. But Chicago is a respectably large city, and it would only be fitting if it reclaimed it's place in American culture. 

The city has a respectable comedy scene and an extremely large media market. So why doesn’t Chicago have it’s own late night talk show? Late night shows have been a staple of television since the Ed Sullivan Show debuted in 1948 and Johnny Carson popularized the format to a mass audience with The Tonight Show. But Chicago has never had a late night set or a late night headliner despite the city’s position nationally.

Knowing Chicago’s place in television history also makes the late night absence more confounding. The city played a crucial role in promoting television as a popular entertainment medium before losing the production battles to New York and then Los Angeles.

The first televised presidential debate (the famous one between sweaty Richard Nixon and suave John F. Kennedy in 1960) was broadcast from the WBBM studios downtown. The ten year run of Kukla, Fran and Ollie proved that television programming could be creative and carry a good message — and be successful. And of course, Chicago played host to the Oprah Winfrey Show for 26 years.

Read more at Medium.

The Restaurant City of the Year Is...

I was wondering to my friends recently if Chicago's food scene is dramatically underrated or actually mediocre. From my experience here and in other cities, Chicago tends to be underrated on the national stage. We have more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than New York City, and our high end establishments (Alinea, Grace, Oriole, etc.) are on par or exceed those of New York and San Francisco. It's frustrating that it's taken so long for Chicago's food scene to be recognized as more than deep dish and Italian beef. But I'll take the accolades.

I don’t own a single piece of Cubs paraphernalia. I don’t have Chicago’s four-star flag tattooed on my forearm. I don’t care if you put ketchup on a hot dog. But there’s one thing from my hometown that I will absolutely go to bat for, and here it is: Chicago is clearly America’s most exciting city to eat in right now.

As a Chicago native who covered the city’s food scene for years as a local restaurant critic, I’m obligated to tell you that my hometown has always been able to hold its own against the best food cities in the country. But I can’t remember a time that I’ve been as psyched to eat there as I’ve been this year. Where other cities fall into soulless trend cycles, Chicago has a way of generating distinctively personal restaurants. So, SF and L.A., this might hurt a little, but here’s all the proof you need that the Midwest is best.

Read more at Bon Appétit.

Prime Cut
The best of the best

On an April afternoon in 1929, a timid-looking man with a broad face appeared at Moscow’s Academy of Communist Education and asked to see a memory specialist. The man, who would become known in the psychological literature as S., had been sent by his boss, a section editor at a Moscow newspaper where S. was a reporter. That morning, the editor had noticed that S. did not take any notes when the daily assignments were made. When he confronted S. about this, S. explained that he didn’t need to write anything down; he simply remembered. The editor picked up a newspaper and read at length from it, challenging S. to repeat everything back to him. When S. did so verbatim, the editor sent him to have his head examined.

The researcher who met with S. that day was twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Luria, whose fame as a founder of neuropsychology still lay before him. Luria began reeling off lists of random numbers and words and asking S. to repeat them, which he did, in ever-lengthening series. Even more remarkably, when Luria retested S. more than fifteen years later, he found those numbers and words still preserved in S.’s memory. “I simply had to admit that the capacity of his memory had no distinct limits,” Luria writes in his famous case study of S., “The Mind of a Mnemonist,” published in 1968 in both Russian and English. In the book, Luria describes how S., desperate to purge his mind of unwanted recollections, turned to writing down everything he wanted to forget on slips of paper, in the hope that he might somehow offload these memories. When this failed, he lit the slips of paper on fire and watched them burn to ash, also to no avail.

The Mystery of S., the Man With An Impossible Memory from The New Yorker