X's X's X
October 30, 2015 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Louis CK is sometimes called a comedian's comedian; CPE Bach is a composer's composer. That is, they are supposedly admired by people in the profession more strongly than by people outside the profession. Who are some _____'s _____'s _____s in their fields, i.e. admired by the people admired by the people we lay consumers admire? (So far, I've only found an article calling Garry Shandling a comedian's comedian's comedian but I'm not sure if he really is.)
posted by michaelh to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've seen Elizabeth Bishop called a writer's-writer's writer (by John Ashbery, apparently), and searching for that term turned up an article calling Henry Green the same thing.
posted by theodolite at 9:46 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


bass: Tony Levin
posted by thelonius at 9:51 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Talcott Parsons has been called the sociologist's sociologist (and not just in the linked book).
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2015


I popped into this thread specifically to mention Henry Green.
posted by holgate at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is a pretty good blog entry on "poet's poet" Edmund Spenser.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2015


Richard Thompson has been called a musician's musician.
posted by holborne at 10:00 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Note, the question is about triple-ply X's X's X, not the more common double-ply X's X; those were just examples in the setup.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 AM on October 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Andy Kindler. He's barely known to regular comedy denizens but he does the annual "State of the Industry" address at the Just for Laughs festival. He does comedy in a lot of cases that is about comedy and for comedians. Comedian's comedians listen to him, so I think he's the X's X's X.

Likewise in the field of Critical Librarianship (i.e bringing social justice ideas and practice into librarianship) the people who are the librarian's librarians all look up to Sandy Berman and (for a more academic perspective) Toni Samek.
posted by jessamyn at 10:14 AM on October 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


OK, I'm overthinking this, but in my opinion this should not really be a thing. Calling someone a "writer's writer" or "comedian's comedian" should suggest that their writing or comedy is particularly well-crafted in a way other members of the craft find especially appealing (e.g., for writing, great sentence construction and word choice; writers with brilliant plotting wouldn't usually be "writer's writers" because even unsophisticated readers love brilliant plotting--you don't have to be a writer to appreciate it). Adding another prefix wouldn't change the meaning; someone admired by "writer's writers" is still only a "writer's writer."

That said, your question really only asked for some examples! In which case the above are perfectly good.
posted by _Silky_ at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


Ashbery has apparently also called Jane Bowles a writer's writer's writer. I think Ivy Compton-Burnett would also fit the description.
posted by neroli at 11:11 AM on October 30, 2015


I've heard this said of Bob Monkhouse (comedian, whose corny on-stage personality overshadowed one of the most thoughtful scribes on how comedy works), William "Ali Bongo" Wallace (magician and illusion technologist) and sometimes Jerry Sadowitz (close magic, cloaked by unrepeatable sick humour).
posted by scruss at 11:27 AM on October 30, 2015


Bill Laswell fits in a similar way to Tony Levin: he's collaborated with a huge range of musician's-musicians, almost none of whom have much mainstream following (with the exception of Peter Gabriel and some big-name funk artists).
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:35 AM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


(And probably Robert Fripp, too — partly for all-around collaboration with other musicians'-musicians, but more specifically for being an inspiration and teacher to a lot of guitarists'-guitarists who are interested in careful technique and nonstandard tuning.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:40 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Neil Peart.

Re: Shandling - A friend of mine told me a story about when he was an aspiring comic, he saw Shandling perform way back in the '80s at some nefarious craphole out west. He was playing to the back of the room so much, the comics were howling, and the crowd was politely chuckling.
posted by Sphinx at 1:08 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mitch Hedberg

I would say that Mike Birbiglia is a comedian's comedian, and he himself has said that Mitch Hedberg is a comedian's comedian. So I think that makes Mitch Hedberg a comedian's comedian's comedian -- right?

(Not entirely sure I understand the triple-ply formulation, though. I would just say that Mitch Hedberg is a comedian's comedian. So do I then need to figure out who Mitch Hedberg admired? It's giving me a a little headache. But maybe I am just too tired.)
posted by merejane at 1:16 PM on October 30, 2015


On the guitarists' side: Davey Graham, a key influence on Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson.
posted by holgate at 1:36 PM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Stewart Lee, a well known "Comedian's Comedian" regularly namechecks Simon Munnery and Tedd Chippington as comedians he has a lot of personal respect for, making them at least one Comedians' Comedian's Comedian. Neither are anything close to famous, really.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:36 PM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is definitely a thing in indie gaming. Robert Yang, for example, is someone who gets talked about a LOT by other developers and people in the scene but I'm not sure that many people have actually played his games. I feel like there are other people in this area of being "seriously dug by their peers but not widely known" like Nina Freeman.
posted by selfnoise at 2:56 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Calling someone a "writer's writer" or "comedian's comedian" should suggest that their writing or comedy is particularly well-crafted in a way other members of the craft find especially appealing (e.g., for writing, great sentence construction and word choice; writers with brilliant plotting wouldn't usually be "writer's writers" because even unsophisticated readers love brilliant plotting--you don't have to be a writer to appreciate it).
I disagree with this. Even "unsophisticated" readers notice lousy sentences and poor word choice, not because they're looking for it, but because it slows down the story. Dan Brown is the exemplary figure here. He is known for shoddy sentence-level prose but immensely readable plots. The common assumption here is that "lay" readers are too dumb to notice how bad his prose is. No one ever considers that Dan Brown's plotting is just so quick and satisfying that it makes up for the lousy word-art. That's just not how prose works. I sincerely doubt there are any writers who read like complete garbage unless you are also a writer. If you need every sentence of your fiction to sing like a line of verse I'd suggest you might save some time by just reading verse.

Anyway. I think the X's X's X implies someone who is a) not very commercially successful, b) highly regarded by insiders in the industry, and c) not well known outside the industry. This is distinct from an X's X by point c). Louis C.K. isn't a mass-market comedian but he's not really obscure either.

I'll do my own field. Ted Chiang is a sf writer's sf writer's sf writer.
posted by deathpanels at 5:27 PM on October 30, 2015


The institutions that award each Nobel Prize are made up of working professionals in that field. In the case of literature, that would be writers.

The committee that proposes candidates are a small sub-group, elected by the rest of the institution. You could arguably call the literature committee "writer's writers", since they are writers chosen by a larger body of writers. Any writer proposed for the award must be approved by this committee.

So following this admittedly tenuous logic to its conclusion, any candidate for a Nobel Prize (excepting Peace) fulfills the triple X criteria.
posted by rollick at 6:03 PM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Neil Peart

Heh. When I first saw this question I thought of Freddie Gruber, who was Neil Peart's drum teacher in the 90s.

Didn't know until I just read the Wikipedia article that Gruber also taught Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, and Bruce Becker.

Now that's a drummer's drummer's drummer.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:30 PM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wylie Dufresne has been called a chef's chef's chef.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:09 PM on October 30, 2015


Daniel Johnston and Scott Walker for music.
posted by zutalors! at 11:07 PM on October 30, 2015


Ceephax (via musician's musician Aphex Twin).
posted by en forme de poire at 11:51 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, Daily Alice. I could see Vinnie Colaiuta working here, too.

One issue is that many of the third-order people would also be second-order people. And conversely.

E.g. Wittgenstein is a philosopher's philosopher. But so is Kripke, and he admires Wittgenstein. Russell may be all three.

Maybe Alonzo Church? Maybe CD Broad?

I don't think Peart is a drummer's drummer. He's so obviously brilliant that he's just a drummer. Maybe Stewart Copeland is a drummer's drummer. And maybe some of Copeland's Lebanese influences are the third-order case.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:11 AM on October 31, 2015


Tony Levin is a bassist's bassist. Who is a bassist--Flea? Who is the third-order, case. Ron Carter?
posted by persona au gratin at 3:16 AM on October 31, 2015


Michael Pisaro is the composer most respected by composers and musicians who are respected by other musicians and composers.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:46 AM on October 31, 2015


Ricky Jay is unquestionably a magician's magician. And who is Ricky Jay's favorite magician?
At the moment I’m writing a book about my favorite character of all time, who was a magician born in 1674, who was also an incredible magician and did trick shots with bowling, and darting a sword to a target, and firing a pistol, and he did extraordinary calligraphy and beautiful magic—and he was 29 inches tall and had no arms or legs. How amazing is that! His name was Matthew Buchinger. His calligraphy is literally extraordinary. He kind of held the pen between the two unarticulated stumps and did this absolutely extraordinary calligraphy, and micrography—miniature calligraphy—which couldn’t be read with the human eye, without magnification.

One of his most famous pieces is a self-portrait that he did, he’s wearing a wig (as most people did in that period), but if you look closely, within the wig are seven psalms and the lord’s prayer, and you need a magnifying glass to read them. He was an extraordinary talent. And of all the people I’ve met and written about, and my mentors, and I’ve written a half a dozen books about unusual entertainers—this is my favorite guy. I still find him utterly remarkable.
(In that same interview, Jay also talks about the magician Robert Houdin, who performed what Jay considers "the most phenomenal illusion ever performed." So Houdin might count as an answer as well, although I'd say Houdin is probably a double-ply magician's magician, rather than the triple-ply you're asking about, just because Houdin is very well known within the magic community, whereas Buchinger seems like somebody only Ricky Jay would be so knowledgeable about.)
posted by yankeefog at 5:18 AM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


OK, I'm overthinking this, but in my opinion this should not really be a thing. Calling someone a "writer's writer" or "comedian's comedian" should suggest that their writing or comedy is particularly well-crafted in a way other members of the craft find especially appealing (e.g., for writing, great sentence construction and word choice; writers with brilliant plotting wouldn't usually be "writer's writers" because even unsophisticated readers love brilliant plotting--you don't have to be a writer to appreciate it). Adding another prefix wouldn't change the meaning; someone admired by "writer's writers" is still only a "writer's writer."

Agree, but some examples I got form the top of my head:

Joe Satirani, guitar players' guitar player's etc.
Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Daniel Day Lewis, Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, Christian Bale, Meryl Streep, Rooney Mara, Jack Nicholson, Helen Mirren, Juliette Binoche, Cate Blanchette, Tilda Swinton, Glenn Close, Ellen Barkin, Frances McDormand, actor's actor's actors.
posted by kinetic at 7:25 AM on October 31, 2015


Abbey Simon, pianist
posted by switcheroo at 1:32 PM on October 31, 2015


Your actor's actor's actor, in London theatreland at least, is Mark Rylance.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 12:27 PM on November 1, 2015


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