Neal Pollack at the 2013 Texas Book Festival
|Born||March 1, 1970|
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
Neal Pollack (born March 1, 1970) is an American satirist, novelist, short story writer, and journalist. He lives in Austin, Texas. Pollack has written eight books: The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Never Mind the Pollacks, Beneath the Axis of Evil, Alternadad, Stretch, Jewball, Downward-Facing Death, and Open Your Heart. He is also a three-time Jeopardy! champion.
Pollack's eccentric literary career has seen many highs and lows since he burst into literary fame with the publication of his first book in 2000, a journey that was chronicled in a far-reaching confessional interview  with The Onion newspaper in May 2013.
After graduating from Northwestern University's Medill School Of Journalism, Pollack worked as a staff reporter for the Chicago Reader from 1993 to 2000, covering Chicago city politics and writing profiles of urban eccentrics. Meanwhile, he performed with various improv comedy troupes around Chicago, including ImprovOlympic (where he studied with Del Close) and the Free Associates. After Dave Eggers's magazine McSweeney's began publishing his work, Pollack began appearing in shows with Eggers, John Hodgman, Sarah Vowell, Zadie Smith, David Byrne, Arthur Bradford, They Might Be Giants, M. Doughty, and many others before parting ways with McSweeney's in 2003.
Pollack wrote a political satire column for Vanity Fair, and the "Bad Sex With Neal Pollack" column for Nerve.com. His freelance journalism appears in Wired, Slate.com, Salon.com, Men's Journal, GQ, and many other publications. One of his Slate.com articles was featured in the Best American Sportswriting collection of 2006. His satirical online take down  of James Frey was named one of the "Top 26 Cultural Moments Of The Decade" by Slate cultural critic Troy Patterson.
In 2007, along with Ben Brown and Matthew Tobey, Pollack started Offsprung.com, a humor magazine and web community for parents, where Pollack contributes an advice column. He writes features about technology for the American and British editions of Wired and contributes frequent car reviews and auto-culture features to the Motoramic blog of Yahoo.com. In addition, Pollack writes "The Y Factor," a column about yoga from the male perspective, for Yoga Journal. In June 2010, Pollack completed a 200-hour yoga teacher's certification course at Richard Freeman's Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado, and he teaches yoga at conferences and studios around the country.
On September 24, 2013, Pollack appeared on the legendary quiz show Jeopardy!, defeating returning champion Matt Volk and challenger Loni Geerlings with a stunning comeback victory. He came back to win the next two days as well before finally falling on September 27 to Sarah Zucker, a Los Angeles screenwriter and Internet entrepreneur. Pollack won more than $62,000 on his four-game run, enough to qualify him for the Jeopardy! Hall Of Fame.
Books and other media
In September, 2012, Amazon's Thomas & Mercer mystery and thriller imprint published Pollack's novel, Downward-Facing Death as part of its new Kindle Serials program. This "yoga mystery" features a former LAPD detective-turned yoga teacher named Matt Bolster, who solves crimes on the side to pay the rent. Downward-Facing Death was published as a full book in January 2013. Amazon published a second serialized Matt Bolster mystery, Open Your Heart, in the summer of 2013.
Pollack self-published his previous book, Jewball, in October 2011. A marked departure from his previous work, Pollack wrote Jewball, a serio-comic noir set in the world of 1930s Jewish basketball players, as a tribute to the days of classic American crime fiction. Forbes Magazine said of Jewball, "Pollack's book reflects the acumen of an accomplished storyteller." Thomas & Mercer released a new edition of Jewball in March 2012, and it quickly climbed the Amazon bestseller list.
Stretch: The Unlikely Making Of A Yoga Dude, a chronicle of Pollack's adventures in American yoga culture, appeared in August 2010 to largely positive reviews. Wrote Ann Pizer in About.com: "Those yogis who are not naturally athletic, were never a member of professional dance troupe, and were not raised in a yurt, in other words, ordinary yogis, have found our spokesmodel." Pollack continues to practice and write about yoga and occasionally teaches yoga classes and workshops around the U.S.
Alternadad, published by Pantheon in January 2007, first exposed Pollack's work to a wider public. Unlike his previous arch satires, Alternadad is a straightforward, if humorous memoir of his early days as a "cool" parent in Austin, Texas. Upon publication, Alternadad received a flurry of press, largely in the form of trend stories about "hipster parents." It was featured in Time and The New York Times, earned Pollack a cover profile in Poets & Writers Magazine, and led to a filmed feature about Pollack's family on Nightline. Critics were sharply divided on the book, calling it everything from "the most offbeat parenting memoir ever written" to "indescribably dull." The book was nominated for a 2008 Books For A Better Life award, in the parenting category.
The Neal Pollack Anthology Of American Literature, a collection of short satires of literary pomposity, was originally published by McSweeney's in 2000. It won the 2001 Firecracker Award for best independently published fiction and led to Pollack being named a "Hot Writer" by Rolling Stone. HarperCollins later published an expanded edition.
Beneath the Axis of Evil, a parody of post-9-11 war punditry, was published in a limited edition by So New Media in 2002. Never Mind The Pollacks, a satirical novel about dueling rock critics, came out from HarperCollins in 2003.
Pollack is also the editor of Chicago Noir, a collection of original crime stories from Akashic Books. His crime fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and short-story collections.
In 2001, to coincide with the publication of the paperback edition of his Anthology, Pollack recorded a spoken-word album on Bloodshot Records, produced by Jon Langford and featuring Sally Timms and Kelly Hogan. Designed to look like Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, the album is a bizarre if entertaining mishmash of styles. HarperCollins put the album out in 2002 as part of a boxed set of Pollack's "collected recordings," including an hour-long disc of Def Poetry Jam parodies and a fake interview with John Hodgman.
Pollack formed a punk-rock band in 2003 to publicize Never Mind The Pollacks. The original Neal Pollack Invasion included folk-rock musician Jim Roll, veteran touring musicians Neil Cleary and Jon Williams, and Dakota Smith, a young Austin musician who later became the lead guitarist for Peel. They recorded an album of original songs. Pollack wrote the lyrics and Smith and Roll wrote the music. Telegraph Records released the album in the fall of 2003, and the band went on a 20-city tour, including shows at the South By Southwest and CMJ music festivals. They played their last show in New York City, at the Virgin Megastore in Union Square. Three weeks later, Telegraph Records went bankrupt. In 2013, Chicken Ranch Records, an independent punk label in Pollack's home of Austin, re-released the album, including a new "bonus track" called "Beer and Weed," as a digital album and limited-edition vinyl. Pollack and Smith played several shows, including South By Southwest, with a newly formed Invasion, before once again vanishing into the mists of rock-n-roll time.
- The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (2002) ISBN 0-06-001168-8
- Beneath the Axis of Evil, One Man's Journey Into the Horrors of War (2003) ISBN 0-9727636-0-0
- Never Mind the Pollacks: A Rock and Roll Novel (2003) ISBN 0-06-052790-0
- Jewball (2011) ISBN 1612187234
- Downward-Facing Death (2013) ISBN 1612187056
- Open Your Heart (2013) ISBN 1477848444
- Nealpollack.com - Official Site
- Interview with Pollack in "The Onion" about the financial ups and downs of a writer's life.
- Profile of Pollack and Jewball in The Jewish Daily Forward.
- Interview on Yoga Dork
- Radio Interview with The Sound of Young America
- Interview with Flak Magazine
- Interview with The Coming
- Interview with 3:AM Magazine
- Interview with Gelf Magazine
- Interview with Identity Theory
- Pollack's one and only appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.