The game of "What historical figures would you have over for dinner?" has been played for ages. The predictable answers are Joan of Arc, Jesus, Gandhi, and so on. Thank you, but I'm limiting my fantasy guest list to still-living people who all speak English, so they can understand each other and so I can follow what's being discussed. If my list includes mostly entertainment figures, can you blame me? I'm in entertainment! I wouldn't know what to say to people like Nelson Mandela or Stephen Hawking anyway.
- Ice-T. The actor/rapper/former pimp has enough stories for a year's worth of dinner parties. He's hilariously outspoken. I can't imagine ever being bored with Ice-T in the room.
- Werner Herzog. The cult German filmmaker's oft-imitated accent adds color to his countless hair-raising tales from nearly catastrophic film productions. Other great directors might be socially awkward, but Herzog's an engaging raconteur.
- Johnny Rotten. For exactly the same reasons as Ice-T.
- Emma Thompson. You might think this esteemed actress/writer would be frightened off by the likes of these hellraisers, but I think Thompson could hold her own. She would add a bit of class to the proceedings as well.
- John Waters. Now here's a guy who loves to talk. His droll commentary always ensures a good time, and he knows a lot about the most random stuff.
- Ellen Degeneres. Although I've seen little of her talk show, she's a far more affable host than those late night loudmouths who aren't listening to their guests so much as scoping out the next chance to crack wise. If nothing else, I imagine Degeneres would excel at asking my other guests good questions.
- Sarah Vowell. I'm taking a chance here, as I'm skeptical that this history nerd is as outspoken in person as she is in her books and This American Life monologues. But Vowell is a walking encyclopedia and has an amazing squeaky voice. She might make some wonderful faux pas.
- Miranda July. This artist/writer/filmmaker is the only person on this list who's actually younger than I am, and I'm no spring chicken. I guess that's an argument for age making one a more interesting conversationalist. But despite her relative youth, Miranda July stands out. She seems shy and fragile at first blush, but she's a good talker, and I suspect she could cook up some brilliant party games.
- Warren Buffett. The buttoned-down billionaire may feel put off by all these weirdos, but Buffett is an excellent conversationalist and I'm sure nearly everybody at the table – wealthy as most of them are – would love to hear what he has to say. Lunches with Buffett have been auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here's hoping he'd be willing to eat with us for free.