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Issue Date: January 2010

Most Interesting People 2010 - Michael Oatman

by Jennifer Bowen, Katie Dragga, Emily Garvey, Lauren Hennen, Christina Ipavec, Brittany Moffat, Kim Schneider, Colleen Smitek, Beth Stallings, Carly Toyzan, Erick Trickey & Jim Vickers; edited by Colleen Smitek
Michael Oatman
Playwright | 35

Why he’s interesting … Oatman’s play Eclipse: The War Between Pac and B.I.G., about Tupac Shakur’s rivalry with fellow rapper Biggie Smalls, will be produced in March and April at Karamu House, where Oatman is playwright-in-residence. He has reported on the AIDS crisis in Africa for the Botswana Gazette and been featured in NPR’s essay series This I Believe.

Why Tupac? … “He can make a song like ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby,’ which is a very sympathetic song that takes the headline of a girl throwing her baby in the trash and backtracks to let you know how she got there, or he can be in a pool somewhere with strippers,” Oatman says. He’s “a tragic figure: He sowed the seeds of his own destruction.”

Reporting in Botswana … During Oatman’s internship in Africa, he interviewed a morgue worker who stacked the bodies of AIDS victims and chronicled the bar scene where young Botswanans hooked up for unprotected sex.

How he got into writing … He wrote a poem about a girl he liked in high school. His mother responded by buying him an electric typewriter.

Politically Incorrect … In 2002, as a “citizen panelist” on Bill Maher’s talk show, Oatman got into wild arguments with Ann Coulter about fat acceptance and the founding fathers. When Coulter referred to blacks as “you people,” Oatman went off. “I was like, ‘You people? Interesting! How very quaint! I haven’t been called “you people” since the ’30s!’ ”

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