Hello everyone. I am David Rees. I previously visited reddit to answer questions about my pencil-sharpening business. My new show, GOING DEEP WITH DAVID REES, airs Monday nights on the National Geographic channel. It's a show that allows me to explore in depth things people tend to take for granted ... like how to open doors, tie shoelaces and make ice cubes. I am physically and spiritually ready for your questions - so AMA!

My Proof: https://twitter.com/david_rees/status/498868875648589824

UPDATE (2:30) Thanks everybody! I need to go eat lunch. If people keep asking questions I will answer more later this week. Please watch our show on Monday nights on National Geographic, or on Hulu.com or Amazon.com. Tonight's episode is HOW TO LIGHT A MATCH and it's pretty intense. Tell your friends!

Comments: 126 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

handsomegiant14 karma

Hi David, I am a huge fan of your show Going Deep. I can't help but laugh throughout the whole show, but in the end I learn so much.

Were you approached to host this show or was it your idea?

Also, how did the NASA experts initially react when you wanted to have such smart people on a show that was about making paper airplanes?

Thank you for having this AMA and I am looking forward to your new show tonight!

Edit: Formatting

davidreespencil11 karma

Howdy. Thanks for your kind words. My friend Christine Connor is a TV producer and approached me about making a show after seeing me 1) lecture about pencils and 2) get enthusiastic about dance parties on her husband's cruise. She and Jo Honig (another TV person) helped me figure out what the show would be about. Then they put up the money to make a "sizzle reel" which we took around to various networks as part of our pitch. So we are all co-creators of the show.

NASA was super-cool and excited about helping out with our show! Which I really appreciated, because that trip (to the Armstrong Flight Research Center) was definitely one of the highlights -- the chief scientist, Al Bowers is LITERALLY a genius, no matter what he says. I got goosebumps when he explained his new wing design to me.

ellepav12 karma

Love the show and all of your work! How much do you shoot relative to how much is shown on the show? Are there more interviews with experts that get cut for time/episode flow?

So happy for your success :D

davidreespencil19 karma

Thanks for your kind words! I've never made a TV show before, so one thing that really surprised me (other than the fact that you get a free lunch every day FOR FREE) is how much footage we shoot compared to what makes it into the show.

Our visits with experts usually last 4-5 hours. And that winds up being about 2-3 minutes onscreen ... sometimes less. A lot of that was due to my inexperience in hosting a TV show: I would go on these long tangents with people, where we would start talking about roller derby or heavy metal for like 30 minutes even though there was no way any of it would make it into the show. I just like talking to people about interesting topics! But anyway, yeah, I must give massive props and respect to our experts, who have all been very patient and gracious and knowledgeable about roller derby and heavy metal.

patcartelli11 karma

What is your favorite knot?

davidreespencil17 karma

Oh man, that's a hard question! When we were researching knots for our episode HOW TO TIE YOUR SHOES, we bought the Ashley Book of Knots, which is an exhaustive compendium of all known knots. It's an amazing book to leaf through -- knots are basically machines made out of rope, which is crazy when you think about it. It's hard to pick a favorite .... on the other hand, this radium release hitch is BONKERS.

MrAnseBundren10 karma

I always really enjoyed hearing you on the Best Show. Do you have anything in the works with Tom Scharpling?

davidreespencil8 karma

Thank you for that! I really miss the Best Show; I was listening to one of the Best Show Gems yesterday. Scharpling and Wurster probably made me laugh more than anyone else in the last 10 years. I see rumors on twitter that the Best Show is coming back and I hope those rumors are true!

RiotDavin9 karma

What topic do you most want to tackle for season 2?

davidreespencil22 karma

We have a list of 100 topics. The ones I would really like to do include:

-HOW TO JUMP INTO WATER -HOW TO TAKE A NAP -HOW TO GO TO THE BATHROOM -HOW TO BOUNCE A BALL And, finally, the greatest topic of all, which literally came to me in a dream: -HOW TO WASH A BUSINESS CARD

RiotDavin8 karma

Teaching better nap & business card techniques are essential to my survival. I keep some business cards in my wallet and they get gross. Help us, David!!

PS: You're the best, and I'm so glad the show is doing well. I miss Lollygaggin' <3

davidreespencil4 karma

Thank you friend!

velebak8 karma

What's with the donut in the title sequence?

davidreespencil16 karma

Good question. Basically the donut situation on this show spun out of control. Before we shot the title sequence, we had visited a mine in Colorado for HOW TO DIG A HOLE. The staff at the mine had a pastry table set up for us and there were a couple donuts with sprinkles and I thought, "It would be really cool to eat a donut in a deep, dark mine" so we shot some footage of what I called my "underground donut party." And then, later, when we were shooting the title sequence, one of the producers was like, "let's get another donut in this shot." (I think because we had also shot a scene of me holding a donut while being swarmed by flies.) Anyway, the point is: DONUTS

AslimmerAdare8 karma

My boyfriend and i watch Going Deep with David Rees every week just for the look you give that says "that's right bitches... I'm getting paid to talk about swatting flies, digging holes, and opening doors... Bet you wish you thought of it first."

TL;DR I love you.

As for my question: What is your favorite nontraditional pizza topping?

davidreespencil7 karma

My favorite non-traditional pizza topping is mayonnaise.

ash_2437 karma

Hey David, my brother and I love your show! I was wondering, what's the most surprising thing you've learned while making an episode? Also, any chance of getting an episode on how to skip rocks? Thanks! :)

davidreespencil11 karma

Ooh, tough question: I would say the intellectual highlights for me have been those moments when I finally understand something that I've kinda-sorta wondered about my whole life ... like what fire is (from tonight's episode HOW TO LIGHT A MATCH) or how planes fly. These are actually pretty basic, fundamental science questions but I never had a mind for science in school so I've always been pretty ignorant about such matters. So to meet with experts and have these things explained and then have that moment of "Oh my God, fire is just a bunch of chemicals breaking atomic bonds and producing energy which makes heat which emits photons and that's what fire is holy Toledo I can't believe I actually understand this sh*t!" is super exciting.

billlwoo6 karma

hey david, any plans to have another dance party soon? It was a ton of fun, I hope your friends gave you the wedding dj gig! Also, when we will see party hole t shirts?

davidreespencil11 karma

Hello and thanks! My next DJ gig is at one of my producer's weddings. And I am working on an album of Aphex Twin / Taylor Swift mashups that will probably win me the Nobel Peace Prize.

Greasier6 karma

I heard you talking shit about mechanical pencils... Care to defend yourself? Or is it that you just can’t cope with the threat of your artisinal pencil sharpening business going obsolete (as it damn well should be)?

davidreespencil22 karma

It's not the duty of mechanical-pencil haters to defend themselves, but it is the duty of mechanical-pencil defenders to hate themselves.

MrAnseBundren6 karma

When can we expect the first Kale City locations to open up?

davidreespencil7 karma

Spring 2017.

NanobotOverlord6 karma

Is there going to be another season of Codefellas?

davidreespencil5 karma

My understanding is the paperwork is just about finalized and yes there will be more Codefellas. I hope so because I miss working with Emily Heller and John Hodgman; they are two funny, funny people.

DragonVariation5 karma


davidreespencil14 karma

GREAT question! All my annoying elitist friends are like, "Dude how do I watch your show? I don't own a TV." (I guess because they are too sophisticated to want to enjoy things.) So I tell them to do what I do: GO TO A FRIEND'S HOUSE. (I don't own a TV.) Or, if you don't have friends with TVs, you can watch episodes on hulu.com (famous web site) or amazon.com (famous web site). When I watch the shows on Monday night I live-tweet footnotes and annotations for the episodes, to give people more context and fill them in on any cool stuff that had to be cut from the episode. And I usually drink a couple beers, so I guess that's like a party.

DragonVariation5 karma


davidreespencil10 karma

I enjoy many different kinds of books. Right now I am reading four books (some with more enthusiasm than others):

  1. TIME AND AGAIN by Jack Finney (genteel time-travel novel)
  2. BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago (fun, light-weight beach read)
  3. LET'S TALK ABOUT LOVE by Carl Wilson (best book ever written about Celine Dion)
  4. BARNABY by Crockett Johnson (anthology of this fascinating 1940s comic, made by the guy who did HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON)

MrAnseBundren5 karma

I've heard John Hodgeman talk about the comedy self-education you under went. Could you expound on it some? What's your approach to being an autodidact?

davidreespencil7 karma

Hodgman and I were invited to perform at the Aspen Comedy Festival in early 2005. Neither of us had done stand-up at that point, I don't think: He was reading from his forthcoming book (AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE) and I was doing weird comedy-comic-strip stuff on an overhead projector. But while we were at the festival we saw a lot of stand-up, and when I got back to NY I decided to learn more about comedy so I watched a lot of comedy and went to a lot of shows and then a friend and I started a comedy research group (kind of like a book club) where every month we'd pick a comedian and listen to their canonical works and then analyze their material. It was fun! AND NOW I NEVER HAVE TO SEE ANOTHER MINUTE OF STAND-UP COMEDY AS LONG AS I LIVE

Abby557755774 karma

Hello David! I love your show, I try to watch it every week. It is really entertaining and also very educational! I was wondering if you have any advice for people, like me, who don't have cable or TV access in general in their homes, but would still love to watch your show. I don't have a cable box so I don't have basic cable, and I watched your premiere episode at my Aunts house. I try to spend the night at my Aunts every Monday, but it's not always possible. Are there any alternative sources that I can use to watch your show? Also, what is your favorite type of pencil? Thanks!

davidreespencil9 karma

You need more aunts.

_5004 karma

Can you tell us a good joke? :D it says you're a comedian in the upcoming AMAs description

davidreespencil6 karma

The best joke of all time is Stewart Lee's bit about Ang Lee but it's hard to summarize because it's like 30 minutes long.

qdHazen4 karma

Can we expect an episode of "Going Deep" to cover your particular specialty (sharpening pencils)?

davidreespencil9 karma

Doubtful. We try to cover topics that I don't know much about, so I can actually learn things for the first time, on camera. And frankly at this point I don't know how much more I could learn about pencils. Does that sound arrogant? I hope so, because when it comes to pencils I am extremely arrogant. (Just kidding.)

paulisnofun4 karma

How many push ups can you do?

davidreespencil12 karma

My sense is I have a lifetime limit of about 500 pushups.

tonydac4 karma

would you consider an episode on the proper way to cook a steak?

davidreespencil15 karma

See, this is the interesting conundrum we sometimes find ourselves in: I don't think that episode would work for us, because THE PROPER WAY TO COOK A STEAK actually sounds hard, like there obviously IS something to learn about, there. Whereas we try to pick topics that sound soooo simple, people are like, "NO WAY CAN I LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT HOW TO OPEN A DOOR, I HATE DAVID REES AND I HATE THIS SHOW ARGGGGH." To us, that's a successful episode.

onefinelookingtuna4 karma

"Sarah Palin and the rape kits? Sounds like a punk band." 6 years later this is still one if the funniest things I've ever heard. Thanks for that.

I miss Get Your War On.

davidreespencil7 karma

Thanks, I appreciate it!

tonyvila3 karma


I fear you are driving a wedge between me and my wife. I have been a fan of your work since GYWO, and sat at your feet and learned how to sharpen a pencil. She finds your on-screen persona puerile and self-centered. What can i do to foment peace instead of strife in my home?



davidreespencil8 karma

It sounds like you might be married to my ex! Tell her the Cuisinart broke.

mickiemoose3 karma

Hey David! I watch your show every week with my whole family gathered round the tv. You are hilarious and we love you. My question is: Which episode has been your favorite to shoot? Also, What is your favorite thing that you've learned through the show?

davidreespencil4 karma

Thanks, I appreciate that! I think the biggest thing I learned while making the show was the idea that the practice of science is a lot like the practice of making art -- it's fundamentally creative, and good scientists need to have the same mastery of metaphorical thinking that you see in great novelists and poets. I've never been much of a science person, but talking to so many scientists really opened my eyes and inspired me to think about science in poetic terms. ALSO: Learning that fire obeys the laws of fluid dynamics was kind of mind-blowing (HOW TO LIGHT A MATCH).

DragonVariation3 karma


davidreespencil2 karma

I met Jimmy Jazz. Briefly.

SuckItWhoville3 karma

How many episodes have you filmed so far, and is there any one in particular that you found to be the most fun to do?

davidreespencil8 karma

We made 10 episodes total, one topic per episode. Because we were shooting multiple episodes simultaneously, AND out of order, things are kind of jumbled in my mind -- I don't remember making the episodes as a whole so much as I remember specific moments from individual shoots, like going to the ice-core lab for HOW TO MAKE ICE CUBES, or meeting Professor Shoelace for HOW TO TIE YOUR SHOES.

MrAnseBundren2 karma

Any chance of more Friday Face-Offs on your website? They seem hugely time consuming, but I loved them so much--especially the Katy Perry "Firework" one

davidreespencil3 karma

Friday Face-Offs was the only project I've ever done that was more time-consuming than making a TV show. But yeah I miss the Face-Offs and was just thinking about them last night. Hopefully someday I can do a new round of 'em!

AslimmerAdare2 karma

What would be your steps on: how to jump rope?

davidreespencil8 karma

Way too complicated for our show. Maybe we could do "HOW TO JUMP," but adding rope to the equation seems like gilding the lily.

lookmanohanda2 karma

Hi David! I have some questions for you:

  1. What is your educational background? Did you go to college? If so, what was your major?

  2. Did you ever find out what happened with the sound mishap last week?

Thanks! My dad and I are huge fans of the show.

davidreespencil5 karma

  1. Philosophy major at a hippie college
  2. I think it was a Time-Warner (cable provider) issue. I have been told tonight's episode will have sound!

lookmanohanda2 karma

Sounds good! Thanks for the answers!

PS any chance that tonight's lighting a match episode will evolve into a HOW TO START A FIRE?

davidreespencil7 karma

Umm... yeah, we get pretty deep into fire by the end of the episode. Basically I meet the Professor Shoelace of fire.

qdHazen2 karma

What's your favorite tool that you use for your sharpening and why?

davidreespencil5 karma

I have a bunch of different tools/sharpeners and kinda rotate among them so I don't ever get too bored with one tool/technique.

Having said that, I really like The Little Shaver, which is a reproduction of an early 20th-Century pencil sharpener. Check it out:


DragonVariation2 karma


davidreespencil5 karma

We have had pretty good luck with PR people, by which I mean: We haven't had to deal with many PR people. Obviously when we film at an institution like a university or a government lab, there are sometimes PR people hanging around to make sure we don't steal equipment(?) or set fires(?). I'm not really sure why the PR people are there, is what I'm saying. I suppose it's to make sure we don't disrespect the institution, or ask an inappropriate question ... which is reasonable. I think sometimes people are a little confused about our show, and they want to make sure I'm not doing some kind of gotcha/Borat/Daily Show goof. But usually within a few minutes they realize my enthusiasm is sincere and I actually DO want to learn about, say, the best way to make an ice cube, and that's when the fun begins.

tonyvila2 karma

Another question - Your work seems to be very polarizing - the vehement comments on youtube for anything to do with pencil sharpening attest to this. To what do you ascribe this, and what do you say to the haters?

davidreespencil6 karma

I've given up trying to figure this out, because it just makes me sad. I think some people just can't stand me. Maybe because they can't tell if I'm joking or not, or because my voice is nasally, or because I'm loud and a bit obnoxious ... who knows? I try to focus on making things that I enjoy, and trust they will find their way to others who might enjoy them.

DragonVariation2 karma


davidreespencil11 karma

Ha! No, she was definitely not fired. I loved my crew and really wanted to incorporate them into the show, because I wanted the show to reflect my experience in making it -- to acknowledge that, yeah, this is a TV show, and that means camera people and audio people are surrounding me at all times, and naturally we became friends while traveling around the country interviewing people. So why not include them in the show? Or, at the very least, don't pretend that you are magically making a TV show with no support from anyone, in a mystical world where images are recorded without the talent and expertise of camera operators. Basically my attitude was, "If you are part of my experience making this show, then I want to be able to acknowledge you on camera, even if it's just me yelling at you."

premature_eulogy2 karma

Are number two pencils still the only types of pencils you sharpen?

davidreespencil6 karma

This is correct.

beardedlemon2 karma

Hi David! Chopped any pieces of ice with a kitchen knife lately?

davidreespencil6 karma

I was booked as the "bartender" on Watch What Happens Live (BRAVO) and we showed up with a big block of ice and all the equipment to make ice cubes ... and then when we explained how time-consuming and noisy it would be, the producers (wisely) decided that maybe Andy Cohen and his guests could have their drinks neat, rather than on the rocks.

AsiaAneka2 karma

Hi David! I really love the show. Which episode was your favorite to do? And in the How to Dig a Hole episode that cemetery you were at didn't happen to be in my hometown in Ohio, was it?

davidreespencil5 karma

Hello and thanks! I don't have a favorite episode. Each episode was made up of so many different visits and experiences, it's hard to separate them out. It's more like a huge delicious salad bar of memories. The cemetery we shot in was Woodlawn Cemetery in New York. It is a beautiful place!

lifeisspiffy2 karma

How do you/the show people pick what to explore?

I really enjoyed the making ice episode. You crack me up

davidreespencil5 karma

During the pre-production phase, we sit around ("we" = producers, researchers, and me) and bounce ideas of each other. That's the easy part. The difficult part is finding appropriate experts. Sometimes we come up empty and have to scrap an episode idea. Or the network decides that they prefer Episode A over Episode B and so we scuttle B and focus on A, but that means we need a replacement for B that isn't too similar to A, so how about C -- or did we already decide that C would be too hard to film because Expert C isn't available until March and Episode C is due to be finished by then? I guess the point I'm making with my alphabet-soup jumble is there are a lot of moving parts and I'm amazed we actually got these things done! It's a testament to a lot of talented people working really, really hard.

SomeOldGoat2 karma

I was a big fan of that Relationshapes comic you used to do on The Hairpin. I love the non-Relationshape based stuff you do too but I can't help but miss the 'Shapes! What should I fill the Relationshapes-shaped hole in my heart with? Can you give me a Relationshape for old times' sake?

davidreespencil5 karma

Thanks for the Relationshapes shout-out! That was a fun comic to make. I remember that some people got super-annoyed by it, which made me sad, because basically it was just supposed to be fun and goofy. Oh well.

I don't have Photoshop on this computer so I can't make a Relationshapes comic for you. I apologize.


("internet sad face")

darumswizel1 karma

We all know your view on pencils and sharpening them, but what are your thoughts on pens?

davidreespencil5 karma

I've never really thought about them.