Anthony Bourdain on Harvey Pekar

I just wanted to point you over to Anthony Bourdain's blog where he wrote a very touching tribute to Pekar, and what he meant to his home city of Cleveland, based on his experience of shooting an episode of No Reservations in Cleveland, which he professes to be his favorite.

Check out this sample, then go read the whole piece.

That show was unique among over a hundred others in that everything–absolutely everything–went perfectly and exactly as planned. Unlike every other episode, pretty much everything had been "written" (or at least planned out) in advance: the look, the American Splendor graphics, destinations, subjects and content. In the middle of a blizzard in the dead of winter, we got exactly what we were looking for. We wanted American Splendor and that's what we got.

This is due entirely to Harvey (and the incredible Joyce). Harvey may have had a reputation as cantankerous, TV-averse and difficult but from the very first minute he and his family were a delight. They opened up their lives to us in every way they could. They were exactly as they appeared in the great graphic novels and in the film–only warmer and even nicer.

The look, the tone, the sound, the whole feel of the episode that followed was Harvey's. There was a moment at Sokolowski's I'll always remember as quintessential Pekar–that perfectly encapsulated the way we all felt absorbed in to PekarWorld. We'd just finished shooting a scene with Harvey, Toby Radloff and Michael Ruhlman–and Danielle, Harvey's daughter, who'd been hanging out off- camera, temporarily went missing–out of Harvey's watchful gaze. I remember looking at him, swiveling his head frantically, the very picture of parental concern and exasperation and actually SEEING comic book curlicues, exclamation points, question marks and smoke emanating from his head. He had made the world around him his world. We were–all of us– just passing through.


  1. That piece is really amazing, thanks for the recommendation.

  2. When I first saw the headline I was like "Huh? What a strange pairing." But after reading the piece, it’s clear that Pekar touched the lives of everyone he came in contact with. Bourdain’s a class act.

  3. The episode is streaming on Netflix just in case anyone is interested in watching it.  I just rewatched it and it’s a great one.

  4. Brilliant piece. 


    I wish we had netflix here!

    Completely off-topic:

    I would also like to say that the sitcom based Kitchen Confidential, starring Bradley Cooper as "Jack" Bourdain, was brilliant in its short run. Its sad that it never ‘really’ aired in America. I think its on hulu, can’t confirm!

  5. @JoeFX – Thanks for the tip! I put in my queue and will watch it tonight.

  6. If you have Netflix Instant Que, the Cleveland episode with Harvey is in collection 3 of No Reservations. It has some pretty funny moments.