21 questions

John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants Helps Buskers Leave Early

John Flansburgh

Photo: Joshua Kessler

Name: John Flansburgh

Age: 47

Job: Songwriter, guitarist-vocalist in They Might Be Giants. The band’s new album, The Else, hits stores on July 10.

Neighborhood: Williamsburg

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
My wife, Robin Goldwasser. She is a classic New Yorker — won’t drive, believes the plots of musicals, and knows how to have a good time.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I sit in front of a computer with a keyboard, guitar, bass, drum machine, or microphone within arm’s length and work on a small pile of unfinished songs, or think of new ones.

Where do you get your coffee?
I go to a Williamsburg coffee shop called Oslo, which has a lovely staff and very strong coffee. It has gone from being generally quiet to something of a spot for what seem to be young-designer types. I have no idea how they found each other.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
The last thing I saw on Broadway was the revival of Sweeney Todd, which was just great. More recently Off Broadway I saw Passing Strange on opening night at the Public. It’s a very original show with a supernaturally talented cast and band. At the risk of sounding absurd, the lights were also original and amazing. As a rock performer, I usually find lighting in stage shows tacky or stodgy or both.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Sometimes, sometimes not. As a former busker, I have at times afforded a street musician the ability to go home a little bit early.

What’s your drink?
Red wine in the winter. Campari and soda in the summer.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
If you’re talking “meals” in the bachelor sense, like making oatmeal or spaghetti, probably once a day.

What’s your favorite medication?
I actually really enjoy a couple of aspirin.

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A very small Turkish rug. It’s the kind of rug that rug-makers learn with, so it’s a little lumpy. It has an illustration of two slightly distorted birds on it.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
As far as I can tell, the real question is why some people aren’t spending enough! Actually I am a bit worn out by the application of morality to amoral issues, so whatever works for the hair owner is really fine by me.

When’s bedtime?
Sometime between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Brunch: pro or con?
I guess con. I like eating in quiet restaurants so I try to go during off-peak hours.

What’s your thread count?
I never bothered to look that closely.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
The increasing population density of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

What’s your brand of jeans?
One of our songs was used in a very stylish ad for a jeans company a couple of years ago, and for that my landlady and I will both be forever grateful, but I have no bond to any jean brand.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
Today. Because I am constantly moving equipment, I drive my car or use a car service almost every day — and I am still in favor of the congestion pricing.

Who should be the next president?
A Democrat, please. I could live with Clinton in spite of her pitifully weak war rap, I respect Edwards for just mentioning poor people, and I dream of Obama.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
The Times. There is no comparison. The Times is simply the real news, though I find when there is something truly ludicrous going on, I become one of those “two paper” dudes and get the Times and the News or the Post.

Yankees or Mets?
I grew up in Boston, so just the premise of the question is a little uncomfortable for me. I support my friends who are Yankees fans, but I find the team itself corporate and a tad self-possessed. It’s really odd for a team to expect to win the World Series every year.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
One of the many great things about New York is that anyone can be a New Yorker.

John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants Helps Buskers Leave Early