Neil Gaiman's night had been going according to plan. The world-famous comics and fantasy author had just finished a lengthy, somber, occasionally wry onstage conversation about his new graphic novel, Sandman: Overture. He and interviewer Junot Díaz had spoken eloquently about all the work Gaiman's done on the Sandman comics series over the past 26 years, the passion he's put into novels like American Gods and Coraline, and the ways fatherhood has made him a better writer. The crowd at Brooklyn's Congregation Beth Elohim was eating it up.
But just as the evening seemed to be drawing to a close, an emcee reminded Gaiman that he was just hours away from his 55th birthday. That's when his wife, musician Amanda Palmer, surprised everyone by taking to the stage and treating him to a vigorous serenade of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" (get it?) and "Happy Birthday" on ukulele and kazoo. (The Díaz/Gaiman talk is great, but if you want to skip to the uke action, go to 1:20:39.) Gaiman buried his hands in a mix of embarrassment and delight, as is right and proper.