Funny/Scary for Halloween

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4 segments
Genie lamp

I am the genie of the lamp, I told her. “Rejoice, O fortunate one. I have it in my power to grant you three wishes. And don’t try the ‘I wish for more wishes’ thing—I won’t play and you’ll lose a wish. Right. Go for it. “No, she said. I mean thanks and all that, but it’s fine. I’m good. —Neil Gaiman, “October Tale.”

Fantasy writer Neil Gaiman presents four eerie tales, two of his own, and two favorites of the author Chuck Palahniuk which he selected for a SELECTED SHORTS evening he hosted. One of these is Charles Baxter’s “Through the Safety Net.” A busy dentist is annoyed when her pet psychic keeps calling with prophesies of doom.   The story is read by Becky Ann Baker, whose television work includes roles on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Girls.” Mark Richard’s “Strays” refers to dogs and two woeful kids.

Another Palahniuk choice is Mark Richard’s “Strays.” From the opening line, you know it’s a set up to a bad joke. Everything is just going from not so good to funny/awful worse in this tale of kids left in the care of a feckless uncle. Reader Alex Hurt is a chip off a favorite SHORTS’ block—his dad William has contributed many moving performances over the years—but Alex makes his own mark with this deadpan delivery of bad news.

The program features two tales by Neil Gaiman. He gives a chilling rendition of his own “Click-Clack, The Rattlebag,” a bedtime story you don’t want to hear twice, and John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) reads Gaiman’s “October Tale,” about a genie who learns a thing or two about wishes.

“Through the Safety Net,” by Charles Baxter, performed by Becky Ann Baker

“Click-Clack, The Rattlebag,” by Neil Gaiman, performed by Neil Gaiman

“Strays,” by Mark Richard, performed by Alex Hurt

“October Tale.” by Neil Gaiman, performed by John Cameron Mitchell

The SELECTED SHORTS theme is David Peterson's “That's the Deal,” performed by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.

For additional works featured on SELECTED SHORTS, please visit

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