When Wenkman was 12, his parents went through a rough time. He moved out of their house to live with his 22-year-old sister, who had just returned from following the Smashing Pumpkins around the country. It was the same year Wenkman saw a copy of the Onion that featured his then-18-year-old brother as the "Drunk of the Week."
"I learned a lot that year," he says with a laugh. "Twelve-year-olds don't usually get so accustomed to eating noodles with cold spaghetti sauce every night and actually have a good time doing it."
He moved back home after his parents reconciled a few years later, and he began to see his mother through a new lens. She was a nurse and would always come home with a story to tell, if anyone was willing to listen. "My mom was so lonely for a long time," he says. "She didn't have many friends to turn to. Most of her friends were lying in hospital beds. That really rubbed off on me. She was so selfless."
Which also might explain why Wenkman is so hyperaware of loneliness, in himself and his subjects. "I think loneliness is a byproduct of being an observer just as much as happiness is," he says. "But I guess no one wants to be an observer all the time. Sometimes you want to be on the other side of things, being the one observed and having someone giving that same amount of empathy." He pauses. "Yeah, I guess it is lonely."