You can tell a lot about a person by their email sign-off. The first time I corresponded with Logan Ledman ’24, I was treated to a Malcolm Gladwell quote about success. After we went back and forth a bit over scheduling, Joe Wickline ’24 inserted a reference to Julia Child’s penchant for onions with no semblance of pretense. Nader Granmayeh ’24, “the most outwardly-facing-normal” of the bunch, made no conspicuous indications of quirk, but he was also the first one I interviewed.
The premise of this article was to profile three guys who started a radio show on WYBC entitled “The Unseen Hours, Featuring Doja Cat,” where Doja Cat is a perennial guest who keeps on flaking. And either the show goes viral and Doja — whom the group refers to as Ms. Cat — actually makes an appearance, or the bit continues. It becomes abundantly clear after tuning in to an episode about Michael Bennet and Persian music, however, that Ms. Cat is just a MacGuffin. Like a Horcrux or a briefcase, she’s a plot device driving the narrative, an arbitrary choice of conceit — Nader even admitted to confusing her with Dua Lipa. So what’s more interesting than their supposed fixation with her is instead their actual obsession with each other — or, to put it more gently, the nuances of their friendship dynamic. But how best to understand the tenor of such a relationship?
This is the tale of my attempted infiltration into a friend group. No one likes to be the desperate outsider trying to worm their way into inside jokes, “proving their vibe.” But in my case, the pretense of journalistic integrity provided the perfect cover, allowing me to don the role of inquisitive antagonist. As a reporter, my purported aim was to learn more about their show. In actuality, my goal became to get them to acknowledge their absurdist premise. It would have no value if I got it immediately, however; rather, I needed to earn it first for the win to have any meaning. They needed to know I was buying into their bit, operating on the higher plane of comedic intellect, before I could even try to get them to break. Ultimately, of course, the score didn’t matter as much as playing the game.
Since I’m not a comedian myself, nor the quickest on my feet, my greatest asset would be catching them off-guard. Throughout this process, I interviewed several people surrounding the friend group, including Philip Mousavizadeh ’24, a close friend of Nader’s, and Phil Schneider ’24, the other roommate who “probably has the most life away from the rest of the group.” I gathered as much ammunition as I could: prying into ex-girlfriends, burner Twitter accounts, obsessions with Olivia Rodrigo, run-ins with the law and other antics, along with keywords and key questions like “how has your relationship with your belt changed during the pandemic.” Armed as such, I met with each individual one-on-one before confronting them all together.
Logan, Joe and Nader met their freshman year, serendipitously placed in the same Trumbull suite and fro-co group. What perhaps started out as a friendship of convenience and proximity — as first-year relationships often do — turned out to be genuine compatibility. They currently live together in the same suite, except for Logan, who lives in a single down the hall — “down the hall” being a mere geographic technicality. They also work at the buttery, eat in the dining hall, go to the gym, talk about girl problems, and now do this show, together. They live, laugh, and love — together. Imagine Seinfeld adapted for the Yale campus, and you’ll have a pretty good portrait of their energy. Joe stars as a taller and lankier Jerry; both perform stand-up and present as a central figure, and not just because Joe was sitting in the middle of the couch when I met up with the three of them. Nader is equivalent to George, sharing not only the height and glasses but also quiet neuroticism and a history of female troubles. Logan leans into being Kramer, the “slightly kooky” guy literally down the hall, encapsulating distinct yet sociable quirkiness.
I would say I was most prepared for Nader, my first interview. Most of my intel did pertain to his private life in particular, and I think the key difference lay in expectations — i.e., him having none. At first, things were cordial; he was subdued, and so the conversation was too, and to be honest, a little boring. But as soon as I mentioned I had listened to the show, making homage to a few bits, some bravado, and creativity emerged. Suddenly, their radio show was actually very popular, owing to the charm of the hosts. And in fact, the reason Mike Bennet, the U.S. senator from Colorado, was mentioned so frequently on the show was because “he’s got this pull with girls 16-24,” a key demographic of their audience they were missing. Now we were talking, and we were playing. Every so often I’d sneak in a reference to his ex or the failure of the Yale Students for Pete Buttigieg, and I’d win a barely suppressed chortle, plus the surprise in his eyes. Reporter: 1. Nader: 0.
Nader is, as depicted earlier, the most “outwardly-facing normal.” Though he is Persian, when asked if Nader was white, Logan replied, “I would without a doubt characterize him as a typical white man, and I think it’s my place to do that.” Perhaps glasses say more than they should for me, but I could also see a little Steve Kornacki in him. Slightly reserved, he’s the most rational of the trio but also the truest gym bro: works out religiously, obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles, reports on Yale football games, etc. But he’s also the Donkey to Joe’s Shrek — the “wonderfully cherubic angel of a kid,” cool with sometimes being laughed at rather than with, who can also occasionally deliver the best one-liner punchlines. Though comedy isn’t his 9-5, being around the other two allows this side hustle of his to thrive; they form an environment outside a campaign or the gym in which to truly embrace his favorite alias, “Lord of the Idiots.”
Logan was my most memorable interview. Considering he was after Nader, I assumed there would be some collusion behind the scenes, so I was expecting a more brash personality. But I was still caught unawares: storming into Blue State with a dark hoodie and greeting me with a firm handshake, I was not expecting the distinctive mannerisms of Logan Ledman, which seemed as surreal as they did somewhat familiar. Wolverine, Zach Galifianakis, Bobby Berk, Ron Swanson, Phoebe Buffay, Hagrid, the Lorax. Here was a bona fide character. Logan speaks with a characteristic lull, or a measured rhythm, in which the time it takes for him to build a sentence indicates climactic suspense and some impending sagacious insight, only to lead nowhere, or land south of Dakota. He also has a predilection for adverbs and prepositions, like “wherein,” “for whom,” and “therein,” that help him tease out his prolonged statements. A few highlights:
On what music means to him: “It’s the soul of humanity for whom there is not a soul without the universal language of music.”
On a thesis of their radio show: “I think it’s understanding where the unseen hours are in this moment here right now in America, in this America, in our America, wherein someone like Doja cat, for whom there is such — among all of us, serious acclaim — wherein there for her, the unseen hours are, and are not, and what those results of that would be right here, right now, and for the posterity of our audience.”
On the helpfulness of their show during the pandemic: “Does it make us heroes? Probably. But that’s more, like, for you to say.”
Other comments included comparing the three of them to the 1789 Constitutional Convention — Doja Cat being the Declaration of Independence — aspiring to be the Federal Reserve Bank, and considering his peers to be “empty blank slates.” Honestly, Logan is a master at saying so much without saying anything, a trait I can’t help but think would make him a skilled politician. But it was hard for me to take him seriously without laughing, and therefore I did lose some ground. Luckily, I still had a few tricks up my sleeve, which garnered a few rewarding wins in the form of escaped guffaws, and rolling, frantic stutters: in response to an inquiry about questionable twitter behavior, “I would say” was repeated 8 times in a row when, evidently, nothing could be thought of to say. I will concede he had a good counterattack— “why am I being asked this question”— and questioning my credibility as part of the YDN. But overall, it was a very fair match. Reporter: 1. Logan: 1.
A history major who once co-wrote a whole play about a historical figure in his hometown, and who knows the ins and outs of said hometown in Minnesota, “Logan is like [a] gem…one of the smartest people I’ve met, but also the dumbest.” He can present as dazed and confused, but it’s exactly this sort of self-proclaimed “dumb humor” that discloses the keenest intellect. Gruffy but lovable; awkward but at ease — these are just a few contradictions that compose the caricature that is Logan Ledman.
Joe “DJ Joe Wickline” Wickline, as he asked to be referred, is the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Yale Record, a satirical publication that partially fills in the void of humor on campus. I’ll admit to having attended one of the first club meetings for the publication myself this year, before realizing I wasn’t actually funny or willing to subject myself to be judged as such. By contrast, Joe Wickline is exactly the sort of person you might expect to head such an organization. He has the understated confidence of someone who knows they’re awkward and proud of it, the gait of someone self-aware of their own idiosyncrasies and fine with it. He also looks exactly how you might imagine someone with such an assertive, if not slightly generic, name to look. Towering at 6 foot 7, there’s a slight hunch in his shoulders as he walks, the trademark one tall people weather as compensation for standing out. But sitting down, “DJ” Joe Wickline’s posture relaxes, as if more comfortable in this less measured realm of engagement.
Of the three, Joe is by far the hardest to read. Unlike his peers, whose boundaries between character and self were clearer to identify, I couldn’t always tell whether his answers were genuine or genuine to be funny. He seemed too normal and too professional, to the point where it was a bit unsettling. Was his passion for the show “as an audiovisual community space for dialogue, discourse and radical compassion” unfeigned? At one point, I brought up his past bouts with narcolepsy to see if I could extract anything, but then I couldn’t tell if he got truly offended, or was just skilled at ruffling my own confidence. Looking back, Joe’s style is just more subtle, perhaps; “I bet the compass of Doja’s heart points straight toward justice, and that ain’t got no party affiliation,” dropped in between conversations. It could also be that he expected me to expect him to be funny, and so purposefully maintained an air of ordinary nonchalance. Either way, the jury is still out on “DJ” Joe Wickline. Joe: 1. Reporter: 0.
I was warned beforehand that the suite-meet would be a lot. A giant tapestry of Jeff Goldblum, a flag of Eswatini, a lingering musk of boys and weed. But besides a jar of mayo, a book by Dr. Seuss and a CD player with “Say So” on repeat for an hour, I didn’t find the room to be that much more eccentric than any other Yale room — we do all generally pride ourselves on our unique paraphernalia. I would characterize the overall vibes as chaotic neutral, however. It’s easy to see how their suite could be a home, a safe place for them to freely release their inner oddity. “A delightfully symbiotic relationship,” as described by Phil, one of the rotating characters in the supporting cast. Following a question about whether humor could be inherited, their conversation followed a tangent from eugenics to white supremacy to the evangelical base of the American right to the resurgence of the Labor movement—basically, it became a highly lucid discussion about the state of American politics today. They became pundits as quickly as they fell back into debating just how Cowardly Logan would be as the Lion in Wizard of Oz, and whether Nader would be the Wizard or Dorothy — I personally would consider Dorothy Doja Cat, and Nader Toto. At another point, Joe admitted to using “comedy as a shield, because if [he’s] making a joke [he doesn’t] have to do anything else”; but again, this seemed too on the nose. Was he saying that because it was true, or because he knows that’s what I “wanted” to hear? Was it a moment of gravity or masked levity? Or perhaps both could be true, and that’s the punchline.
Tucked away in a corner of Trumbull College is a very peculiar group of friends. Highly intelligent, to be sure, verified excelsior by their political jargon alone. But also a breath of fresh air from the rest of Yale, where everyone is always taking themselves so seriously — myself included. I’d like to thank the numerous friends surrounding the trio for inviting me in on their jokes, indulging my inner comedian, and generally letting me be a part of the group. It was fun. And of course, to the three boys who are constantly getting stood up, unseen by both pop star Doja Cat and the masses, I’m sure you’ll continue to find solace in each other Tuesdays at 1pm on WYBC. If you ever need a shoulder to literally or comically cry on, just Say So.