Mar 24, 2012 - Social Studies    6 Comments

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, part 1

I love making lists, but I’m terrible with lists that force me to make Big Decisions. Ten albums I’d take to a desert island? Hah. Ten books I’d take to outer space? Puh-leeze. Ten foods I’d eat for the rest of my life? Are you kidding me? Here’s what happens the minute I finish my list:

*foot stomp* DAMMIT. I forgot one! Let me start over.

But, for whatever reason–perhaps I’ve been away from friends for too long–I’ve been thinking a lot about my ultimate lists of dinner guests. To have even a hope of fitting everyone around the table, I had to divide them into three categories: Living Guests, Historical Guests, and Fictional Guests–I’ll present each in a separate blog post, because otherwise, it’s just too long! They’re in alphabetical order, since I can’t assign them any kind of priority. I’ll give a little blurb about who each one is, and maybe a bit about why I chose them; most of the time, those things are one and the same. And, of course, my Darling Husband is included at every dinner. My children are decidedly not.

Never heard of someone? Know that they come with my highest possible approval, and follow the links I’ve provided. Also know that, as soon as I publish this blog entry, I’ll stamp my foot and think of someone I forgot. Please suggest your own in the comments!


  • Alex Kingston: actress; lovely scenery. She’s my female Freebie.
  • Alexander Skarsgard: actor; lovely scenery. He’s my male Freebie. And if I can have them together, I don’t have to worry about calling one the wrong name. Isn’t that handy.
  • Anthony Bourdain: chef; traveller; writer. His cutting humor and relentless curiosity about one of the most universal features of human life make me want to go where he goes, taste what he tastes, and stay the hell off his bad side.
  • Barack Obama: lawyer; community organizer; senator; first African-American president of the United States.
  • Bret McKenzie & Jemaine Clement: comics/musicians/actors; AKA Flight of the Conchords. They’re Kiwis and they’re hilarious. McKenzie wrote the music for the recent Muppet movie. What’s not to love?
  • Eddie Izzard: comic/actor. His brand of weird, hilarious, super-smart free association humor is so similar to my Darling Husband’s, I just want the pleasure of seeing them riff off one another.
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: current president of Liberia; first female head of an African state; co-winner of 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. She’s an icon of feminism and peace activism–what a hero.
  • Madeline Albright: former Secretary of State; Holocaust survivor. She’s so smart and grounded and kind; I admire her immensely.
  • Mary Robinson: first female president of the Republic of Ireland; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Much the same as Ms. Albright, only Irish.
  • Melissa Harris-Perry: professor of political science; author; liberal media commentator. She consistently rocks me with new insights, and she never talks down to her audience.
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson: astrophysicist. He’s so smart and good-humored, and he’s got a natural talent for explaining complex scientific concepts to laymen.
  • Neil Gaiman: author. He’s written one of my favorites in three different categories of literature: graphic novels (The Sandman), YA fiction (Coraline), and adult fiction (American Gods). No one else thinks quite like he does.
  • Pema Chodron: Buddhist monk; teacher; author. She translates esoteric Buddhist concepts into easily understandable Western contexts, and she embodies the idea of compassion, both for self and the world.
  • Rachel Maddow: liberal media commentator on politics and current affairs; author. She’s crazy smart, and funny, and geeky. I agree with her on almost everything, but she’s so humble and modest, she’d never admit how much fans like me respect her analysis.
  • Stephen Fry: actor; author. He’s incredibly well-read and whip-smart; he manages to be jolly and sweet and clever and self-effacing, all at once. He seems like a completely delightful person.
  • Temple Grandin: engineer; author; autism advocate. She was one of the first autistics to really explain to the wider world how the world she experiences differs from the one neurotypical people perceive. She’s an amazing role model for everyone, not just autistics.
  • Tenzin Gyatso: current Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism. His laugh is infectious, and so is his open, loving, intellectually curious, and human-hearted attitude toward the world.
  • Terry Jones: historian; member of Monty Python. His academic influence can be so clearly felt in the group’s classic skits and movies, and he’s exported that funny, accessible perspective on history well to non-fiction series. I love and emulate his humble, humorous approach to teaching others about the past.


  • The description of Stephen Fry is dead on.

    Jon Stewart? Terry Pratchett? Malcolm Gladwell and Peter Gabriel. Rob adds, Ta-nehisi Coates and Atul Gawande.

    • OMG, I can’t believe I forgot Stewart and Colbert! See what I mean? I always leave out someone important!! Thanks for pointing it out. 🙂

  • For me it’s Colbert but not Stewart. Dr. Tyson and President Obama are also on our overlap; I love Bourdain but I’d be too nervous to eat with him. Also for me: Jeopardy superstar and hilarious dude Ken Jennings, GISHWHES mastermind Misha Collins, hilarious social justice seeker (and mastermind of “Yo Is This Racist”) Andrew Ti, funny girl Mindy Kaling, Jeff Goldblum, assuming it can be scheduled for when he’s allowed to speak again John Mayer, and Manolo For The Big Girl’s amazing Miss Plumcake. (

    Amusingly enough, the list was much bigger but I spent a lot of time worrying if everyone would get along.

    • I know–I felt like a cruise director organizing these people! Part 3 (Fictional Characters) gets really difficult, because some of the people I love the most from literature just don’t make good conversationalists.

  • First of all, awesome list. Educational in some cases. I’m in agreement w/Jon and Stephen…How about: Eddie Vedder, Milan Kundera (still alive, I assume), Michelle Obama (intrigues the hell out of me, but she may be a “two-for” w/the prez), Sean Penn, Jenny McCarthy (unusually evolved), Lars Van Trier, Pink, Roberto Benigni, Olivier Martinez (Eye/accent candy), Tina Fey…Just some thoughts…Hopefully not too sophomoric… 🙂
    This is fun! Lol

    • Not sophomoric! I count a couple of couples on coming lists as a single guest, so I should put Michelle in there with Barack. Roberto Benigni would be awesome, and Olivier Martinez would make a lovely addition to the scenery. 🙂

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