Neal and Elijah. (Courtesy of Audible)
Neal Pollack is known for many things. He’s a certified yoga instructor, a three-time Jeopardy! champion and most notably, the author of the humorous, sarcastic “Greatest Living, American Writer” column and author of 10 bestselling books, including The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature and Keep Mars Weird. He’s also the former frontman for the punk rock band the Neal Pollack Invasion.
He’s also a dad and can now add audio documentary host to that resume.
Similar to a podcast, Pollack’s latest foray is a series of short audio-only episodes on Audible called Extra Credit. The show is a sequel, of sorts, to his 2007 parenting memoir Alternadad, about his early days as a father to his son Elijah, while living with his wife in Austin.
The show’s premise is simple: Pollack teaches Elijah, 14, about the things he doesn’t learn in school. In the show’s first season, the Pollacks talk about slavery, religion, comic books and cars. But the elder Pollack doesn’t know everything, so he and Elijah go on adventures to talk to experts in each field so Elijah can gain new experiences for himself.
I talked to Neal and Elijah about their show and about what the show has done for their relationship.
Washington Post: Tell me how this show got started and why.
Neal: My parents were visiting and we were talking about this issue of slavery, a history of slavery being poorly taught in public schools, particularly in southern states. This tendency to downplay the history, or to teach that slaves are immigrants or voluntary workers. Or to say that the Irish were enslaved in addition to black people. So I thought that it would be better to productively channel my neuroses about the education system.
I pitched the