Reporter Confronts His Dead Matador Doppelganger

Jon Moallem is part of the Pop-Up Magazine 2017 Winter Tour

Pop-Up Magazine, the “live magazine” traveling road show, is currently in the midst of its 2017 Winter Tour. Each performance is a little different and after hitting Washington D.C. and New York this week, the tour will wrap up with shows in Austin, Portland and Seattle.

Among those in the D.C. audience Tuesday was PBS NewsHour reporter Elizabeth Flock, who does a nice job of capturing the energy and spirit of this enterprise:

I went home and recounted at least five of the 11 performances to a friend, spending extra time retelling the haunting-funny performance of The New York Times Magazine’s Jon Mooallem, called “About Face.” In his piece, Mooallem told of how he’d discovered he had a doppelganger in a dead Spanish matador, who, unfortunately, was so ugly a book described his face as being “as dreary as a third-class funeral on a rainy day.”

There was the funny ha-ha, self-effacing power of Mooallem’s story. But there was also a deeper exploration of what it meant to accept versus try to transform oneself, both for Mooallem and the matador. And all of this was conveyed in under 10 minutes. The performance was also accompanied by Spanish music from the live orchestra, an illustration of Mooallem with an appropriately Picasso-esque face and historical photographs of the matador with his bulls.

Pop-Up Magazine is part of a growing multimedia empire that also includes The California Sunday magazine and a brand studio. Moallem, a writer at large with The New York Times Magazine since 2006 and contributor to This American Life, will also be part of the aforementioned Austin, Portland and Seattle shows.

Below is the illustration and cheeky caption that greets visitors to Moallem’s personal website. If you ask us, this matador is far from third-class. Olé!