The Paris Review

Boy Genus: An Interview with Michael Kupperman

Michael Kupperman’s work traffics in one-off and absurdist premises and is immersed in a certain kind of Americana nostalgia. His ongoing series Tales Designed to Thrizzle, which comprises eight issues collected in two volumes, features jokes that riff on everything from Dick Tracy villains to the Hardy Boys; Mark Twain and Albert Einstein team up for raunchy adventures; and fake 1940s-era ads for haunted chewing gum punctuate oddball comics about magicians and Picasso. Kupperman’s work is notable not just for its impeccable comedy but for lampooning its subjects in a contemporaneous style and language, making the comic simultaneously irreverent and ahistorical.

It was a surprise, then, to learn that his latest effort, All the Answers, isn’t humorous. The graphic memoir is a serious look at his father’s time as the math whiz on the popular 1940s radio and television program Quiz Kids, a show that featured hyper-bright children and teens answering difficult questions on topics in their area of expertise. While most kids ended their tenure on the show before high school, Joel Kupperman stayed on well into his teens, spending a decade or so living as a minor celebrity—a life that was fraught with anxiety and discomfort. As an adult, he repressed the experience and refused to talk about it until Kupperman began researching his years as a child and teen sensation. On a sunny day in April, Kupperman and I spoke by phone about the book’s impact on his family and his own understanding of his father’s trauma. 


All the Answers begins with your early awareness of a decline in your father’s mental acuity. Why did you decide to make that decline the subject of a book?


It was really a

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