Review: Fran Lebowitz in Conversation with Martin Scorsese

by Matthew Leeb

On Jan. 19, writer and consummate New Yorker Fran Lebowitz left her Manhattan comforts for an evening of topical conversation with friend Martin Scorsese in front of a full house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Fran Lebowitz. From Public Speaking (HBO)

Fran Lebowitz. From Public Speaking (HBO)

The night played something as a live follow-up to Scorsese’s 2010 HBO documentary on Fran, Public Speaking, with Scorsese asking questions and offering topics for Fran to discuss. She recounted many stories from her past along with her opinions on New York – Brooklyn is different from Manhattan because “It’s further away” – politics, the South, New York University, aging, art, and, of course, her ardent advocacy for smoking. Here, sound bites of the evening’s talk.


“To me there are two reasons not to have horses [in Central Park]. One, it’s unfair to the horses. And two, the tourists love it. To me they should load up all the tourists into the last horse carriages and ride them out.”

“Another thing I love about [Mayor Bill] de Blasio is, so far, I have not heard the word ‘tourist’ out of him. I have not heard this word from him, which is all you heard from Bloomberg because Bloomberg loved the tourists. He preferred the tourists, because, of course, the tourists can’t vote.”

On the South

“You look at a map, you see what the Red is: it’s the Confederacy. That’s what it is. They are the same. They have not changed. They will not change. Move! I realize most people do not have a thing they do not like about Abraham Lincoln, but I do. OK. I would say one thing about Abraham Lincoln, which is, really, you should have let them go.”

“The things [the Red states] believe are so unbelievably outlandish you can’t even make an argument against it. OK. They don’t believe in evolution. They don’t believe in it. It’s not a religion! You don’t have to believe in it. That’s the difference between science and religion. I myself don’t believe in anything you have to believe in.”

On New York University Students and the Plus Side to Living in the Neighborhood

“Many NYU students have personally stopped me to tell me [about tuition], as if I care. It’s something psychotic like $60,000 a year. Sixty-thousand dollars a year! And they tell me, ‘Fran, I have all this student debt. I don’t know how I’m going to pay it off.’ First of all, how did you not know this? Did you enroll in NYU and then they tell you how much it costs? Second of all, an adult who makes 60 thousand dollars a year cannot afford to live in this neighborhood, and that’s because of you. Sixty-thousand dollars a year, you live in the village and you get a college education? I don’t want to hear your complaints.”

“There’s one advantage [to living nearby]. You know everything…. I mean I still don’t know algebra. But everything I’m capable of learning I know now…. But it makes hearing other people talking much more annoying. I happen to live in NYUistan. The worst thing is overhearing the conversation of these kids. I walk around and I feel like saying 150 times a day, ‘No! That’s not what’s going to happen’.”

On Smoking

“I don’t believe in second-hand smoke. I mean I believe there is smoke because I can see it, but I actually do not believe second-hand smoke kills. First of all, I have known people who have died of everything possible, including smoking, first-hand smoke. But I have never known anyone dying of someone else smoking. Which is how they get everyone to stop. It’s a scam. It’s law by tattletales….There’s one thing I know, I’m outside all the time. No one gets more fresh air than a New York City smoker.”

On Art

“I never got along with Andy. Andy never got along with me. He’s done much better since he died. How do I know this, because I sold all my Warhols two weeks before he died… And frankly, I think that’s why Andy died, because the second he died, of course, the prices went up.”

“That’s what we hear about [today] is the prices. You go to an auction. Out comes a Picasso, dead silence. Once the hammer comes down on the price: applause. So, we live in a world where they applaud the price and not the Picasso.”


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