In April of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO SLICE UP EYEBALLS.
Top Ten Differences Between Seeing the Pixies Live in September, 1989, and April 23rd, 2004:
- The "Death to the Pixies" t-shirt I purchased in 1989 for $5 was available for purchase for $25.
- Attendance at the 1989 show couldn't have possibly exceeded 150 people. Attendance at the 2004 show couldn't have possibly been less than 2,500 people.
- 2004: Far less combined hair, far more combined weight.
- Frank Black: gay? When I was younger, I either didn't notice or was too sheltered to notice even if he was wearing a giant foam finger bearing the message, "#1 GAY GUY!"
- In 1989 I wasn't worried that the bass vibrations in the floor would cause me to release my bowels.
- At the 2004 show, before every song, Frank Black announced, "It's great to be back after all these years. We're just doing it for the fun of it. And the only thing more fun than playing live in front of thousands of fans, is kicking back with a cold Michelob Ultra – the new low-carb beer with a taste smooth enough to carry the legendary Michelob name. I GOT A BROKEN FACE UH-HUH!!"
- I cried less this time. I've seen enough pain in my life.
- In 1989, I think I was angry about all the older (late-twenties) people at the show. In 2004, I was nauseated by all the younger fans for pushing and shoving and smoking the pot and french kissing without protection. Also, one of them knocked the palm pilot out of my hand during "Crackity Jones."
- I don't remember the Pixies being so loud. My goodness. The music is delightful, but I can hardly enjoy my Riesling over all that noise. Note to the Pixies: I don't see Sting hiding behind all that extra volume to communicate his message of love.
- Holy shit, I got fat.
Actually, the show was pretty amazing. I will confess to being sort of embarrassed about attending, like I had something to prove all these years later, or something I never resolved. (i have many things i never resolved. mom, call me.) But it was an incredible show, whether it was seen with or without my soft haze of nostalgia. They just tore through song after song, almost without interruption, just as I'd remembered them.
One thing I noticed this time around was how intimate their fans are with their music now, and how badly they wanted to express this. There was a woman standing in front of me who, during "Monkey Gone to Heaven," held her hands up "rock out" style, and used them to count off the middle section: "If man is FIVE etc." It was fun watching her add a new finger whenever appropriate. She counted all the way to seven with almost no difficulty.
[The intended effect of this entire entry was to make you jealous, although I think the actual effect might have been to make me look pathetic. Either way, we're both right.]
HOW TO HAVE THE MOST ASS-KICKING DAY EVER.
Central Park has no shortage of people quietly and shirtlessly vying for public attention. Recently, I saw a juggler whose routine was harmonized with Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," and included a full lip synch and calculated ball-dropping each time the refrain announced, "and another goes another one goes another one bites the dust." I should also mention the juggler was filthy, and had a large grease-painted biker mustache. Not sure why.
But my favorite sight of all is the adolescent jackass two-man team. These guys usually appear in very public spaces – the Vegas strip, Myrtle Beach, or, in this case, the fountain at Central Park. They're never women, because I guess women are accustomed to receiving attention with or against their will. The team I saw in Central Park consisted of the jackass leader – a skinny 15 year-old dressed head to toe in stars and stripes regalia. He had American flag workout pants, a red, white, and blue sleeveless t-shirt and bandana, and a blue and white face-mask. (the mask, i guess, was something a professional wrestler might wear to intimidate his opponent. it was similar to the mask employed to restrain hannibal lecter in silence of the lambs.) He looked like an idiot, which was surely close to his intention. I just don't think he intended to look like the kind of idiot that no one wanted to honor with any kind of attention, good, bad or otherwise.
Either unfazed by the cold reception he received, or totally oblivious to it, the American Jackass wandered through the crowds, waving at people and trying very hard to make eye contact and stifle his laughter. All the while, he was being trailed by a friend – an essential co-conspirator in this entertainment – who filmed the proceedings with a handheld video camera. The videographer was also on the verge of hysterics as his friend smiled and goofed his way through a completely indifferent crowd, trying desperately to draw some kind of attention to his outrageous and carefully-executed costume. Watching them for a while, barely able to contain themselves while everyone else failed to see anything funny or interesting, it reminded that this must be how Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz feel when they giggle their way through sketches, finding themselves so precious and kick-ass that they are unable to see that the viewing public fails to see the humor. And, judging by their forced, trembling smiles, their castmates, whose lines fallon and sanz often crush under foot in the interest of having a live tickle fight, share the majority interest. Now, whenever I see these two, I'm going to imagine Jimmy Fallon in a stars and stripes bandana and face-mask, smirking and waving at a disinterested crowd, with Sanz manning the camera right behind him, saying, "Dude, this is gonna be awesome."
HOW TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE.
Last year I wrote this about the arrival of spring in New York City. I would like to re-emphasize that point today. I just had a conversation about "titties" with one of the guys who works at my corner pharmacy.
We don't talk so often – I usually just walk in, ask if any packages arrived for me, then flash him an embarrassingly self-conscious hip-hop inflected peace sign as I leave – but it was nice to find some common ground on such a beautiful day. Apparently, we both like titties. He might like them more, though. He promised he would alert me if he sees any awesome ones today. I'm not sure how he will do this; he doesn't have my cell phone number. Maybe he'll throw a rock at my window, then I can race down my stairs, shoes untied and laces tapping, burst out my door and scream, "WHERE? WHERE ARE THEM TITTIES???" Now that I've said that, I think his gesture was more friendly than practical. The fact is, he's not going to tell me anything about titties. Still, it would be awesome if he kept a log book and presented me with a copy next time I stop in to pick up a UPS delivery: "April 20th, 1:13pm - two excellent titties headed north on 7th Avenue. Made eye contact."
I wonder if I should go down there right now and tell him what kind of titties I like. I wouldn't want him to waste his breath telling me about the good ones if they're not my kind of titties. Yes, I'll do that. As a courtesy. I need to make a list, and find my radiograph pens for sketches. I would feel like a jerk if I accidentally sent the pharmacy guy on a wild titty hunt. Maybe he can spend 45 minutes of each hour looking for his favorite kinds of titties, and set aside 5 minutes for me. Then he can use the remaining ten minutes to masturbate to his log book. Titties can be confusing!
(this entry employed the word "titties" nine times. i'm going to submit it as a spec script for "The Man Show.")
HOW TO GET WHAT YOU WANT.
There's a storefront in my neighborhood that's been "Under Renovation" for a long time. The windows are papered-up. Aside from the occasional eye rolls and tongue-clucks of Park Slope's self-appointed Neighborhood Aesthetic Congeniality Committee, most people would walk by a papered-up storefront and pay it little to no mind.
However, this storefront is really distracting because, in addition to the newspaper collage designed to keep out all sunlight and retain all privacy, the owners (or owners-to-be) have hung all these posters advertising the impending arrival of "HOT FRATS." It's all over the windows. HOT FRATS. I'm not sure what Hot Frats are; the poster says something about fried ravioli but has a photograph of something that looks like cream puffs covered in blood.
This morning I thought it would be fun to camp outside the store with a sleeping bag and picnic basket and a copy of Isaac Asimov's Robot Trilogy, and insist to any passer-by, "I'm getting the first Hot Frat. Me! Hot Frat #1!!" Then every couple of hours I'd bang on the windows of the store and demand to know when my Hot Frats would be ready. "COME ON!! From whence will these delicious Hot Frats come, if not from within that storefront yon? I'm getting hungry out here! I want a Hot Frat in my mouth, anon, and a matching pair in my stomach. I want to feel a Hot Frat being broken down in my digestive system. Good Sirs, I will not rest until I've tasted your finest Hot Frat!! Please summon your exchequer, for I must know what financial straits are causing my Hot Frats to tarry so!" (here's a peek behind the curtain of hilarious: ridiculous demands are made that much more ridiculous when phrased in the parlance of the society for creative anachronism.)
Then I stopped thinking about Hot Frats and started thinking about this. Funny how the mind works.
HOW TO WASTE VALUABLE TIME AND A HUGE RESEARCH GRANT.
I woke up angry this morning, because there are no time machines. It hardly seems fair anymore, really. I know there are no time machines because, as a friend once pointed out, if time travel were ever possible everyone would already own a time machine. Someone would have already traveled into the distant pace, from possibly even the far-distant future, and revealed the technology.
That means by now, Nerf would be making time machines and there would be an entire cable network dedicated to time travel. There would be shows in which obnoxious 20-somethings would travel back or forward in time and try to prank famous people. For instance, maybe the time traveling pranksters would make a fake loch ness monster and hide in it while George Washington was crossing the Delaware. They'd let it surface right before he arrived on shore, and scare the lumber-teeth out of him. Then they'd all jump out of the bushes and shout, "You've been Time-X'd, faggot!" Of course, if my friend's theory held true, Washington and his soldiers would also possess a time machine and could then travel back in time, to when the Time-X pranksters were setting up their fake loch ness monster, and shoot them all with muskets.
Perhaps there would be another reality-based show featuring hockey players using the Stanley Cup as a time machine. They would travel back in time to show how the Stanley Cup trophy was being defaced and defiled by previous Stanley Cup winners. It would be an incredible and disgusting historical travelogue.
If I had a time machine – and I don't, just in case you're still curious about the disappointed hue to this writing – I think it would be very funny to travel back in time just to finish other people's sentences. My first stop would be Gettysburg, for certain. I would just love to stand in the gathered audience for Lincoln's address and, as he intones, "Four score –" I would just jump in and scream, "and seven years ago! Yeah, we know when our fathers brought forth this nation. We're not fucking idiots. Proceed!"
HOW TO PEEL OFF A HONEY.
As an experiment to see how quickly I could undo the recent exercise I've been doing lately, I decided to indulge in a multiple-day drinking bender, beginning last Wednesday night. (i would detail how this came about through a series of social obligations, but listing one's social obligations feels a little braggy to me. if you're a careful reader, that last statement should telegraph the following: i am lame enough to have the instinct to announce to no one in particular all the wonderful things that occupy my night life, yet self-conscious enough to resist executing that list.) The nice thing about choosing a drinking bender over, say, entering a candy-apple eating contest, is that while a completed candy-apple eating contest rarely leads to several hours of heavy drinking, a drinking bender is very likely to lead to late night candy-apple consumption, or worse. Drinking loses points for creativity but it is inarguably a more efficient, more comprehensive plan for total self-destruction.
I had many wonderful adventures during my bender – I ate a late-night turkey burger alone in a crowded pub, and salted it with my bitter tears; I hassled a writer for whom I have great admiration and made him commit to reading at How to Kick People; made a friend storm out of a bar in anger; met a female bar owner who proudly advocates child abuse; met a guy whose dad is recently a biological woman who dates other women; argued with two perfect strangers about which Led Zeppelin album is the most precious (an argument i haven't engaged in since i was 16, when i led my high school debate team to a regional victory with the platform, "Led Zeppelin's 'Physical Grafitti': A Watershed Musical Statement, and Epic Salute to Smoking Drugs." my closing argument was, "dude, it's a double-gatefold; the hinge is ideally suited for catching weed shake."); endeared myself to two shifts of bartenders on the same night; left a bar with the metal security shutters locked down and in place; fell asleep sitting up straight, with my glasses on; joined the National Guard; deftly argued my way out of the National Guard by insisting I had my fingers crossed when signing all the paperwork; evaded a pair of Keystone cops who were giving chase, by dumping out a box of small ball bearings; and read some Bukowski and laughed knowingly at key passages.
I should have said this at the top of this passage, but I'm not not a big drinker. I've never been one, honestly. 98% of my friends can attest that they've never seen me drunk. Therefore, marathon episodes of drinking are rare for me, as are the social politics of a bar just after last call. On Friday night, my last night of serious drinking (i was half-assing it on saturday, frankly), I remained at a neighborhood bar until closing time. It was interesting to note the bar's shifting gender ratio as it neared its final hours of operation for the evening. It was a pretty even female-to-male breakdown for most of the night. However, around 3:30 a.m. nearly all of the female patrons disappeared and the bar was suddenly humming with extremely drunk men, alone or in pairs.
Not only this, but the few women who remained were subject to long, menacing stares from some of these men, particularly the men who remained alone, slumped over the bar or in low chairs around the bar's inside perimeter. This will sound like a very naive statement, but I think some of these guys just assumed that if women remained at the bar this late into the evening, they absolutely wanted to be ineptly fucked by a bloated alcoholic. I was speaking with a woman (brag) – an endangered species at this hour – and kept noticing a man with a searing gaze, directly over her left shoulder. His body was completely slack in an upholstered chair so he was left with no other option but to rape with his eyes. He was making the most of it, though.
Then, minutes later, another guy rolled up to the bar and positioned himself to the left of this same woman, leaving her kind of sandwiched between us. He had his jacket on and was headed to the door, but made this one last stop to ask her, without even a hello, "Is he your boyfriend?" I didn't hear this line of dialogue because it was delivered at a deliberately soft volume, in great confidence and hushed tones. All I heard was the woman's incredulous reply – "What?!" – and then saw the young swain give the hush sign, shake his head exactly fast and long enough to communicate the words, "never mind," and then make haste for the door. (he was also leaving with another woman. nice.)
Does this happen? Does it REALLY happen? Do men just troll bars at closing time and peel off women? I guess I expected it might happen in clubs with names like "Lotus" and "Om" and "Tongue", but not in fun neighborhood bars with good jukeboxes and a kindly buy-back policy. I would be lying if I said I don't fall in love every six minutes or so when I'm at a bar filled with attractive people, but I don't think it takes much restraint to know better and just finish sipping quietly at your Harvey Wallbanger.
EPILOGUE: As for the mysterious woman sitting next to me, here's what happened. I spent the remainder of the night trying to give her bus fare back to Kalamazoo, insisting, "This city is full of vipers, little girl, and I don't want you to get bitten. Now go back home and make some fella proud!" Then I threw up in her hair. And that's how mommy and daddy met, and made you.
HOW TO SKIP TO M'LOU.
Since spring finally put out, I was just looking for some music to take outside on this cuddle-warm sunshiney whee whee ha ha tickle ring-a-ding miles of smiles turquoise and terrycloth day. During the process – I eventually chose The Feelies' "Only Life", thanks – I came upon a CD I plumb forgot I owned. It's easy to overlook, as it is dead last in alphabetical order, visible only at slug's-eye view from my floor.
I have listened to this CD only twice and, while I thought it was a good idea at the time, the band's title now elicits only girlish titters from me. I know it's been a long time since its release and many of you – perhaps all of you – have probably forgotten about it but I think it's important to remember. For now, and for the rest of history, I would just like to ask, "ZWAN?" Really, ZWAN? REALLY? Corgan, you named your band ZWAN. You had a million names to choose from, many of which might have provided the same prog-rock resonance, and you fucking chose ZWAN. You know what would have been an awesome exercise? If you and your bandmates role-played for a bit, pretending to be potential ZWAN consumers and fans. Like, you could have said the following sentences out loud just to hear how ridiculous they all sound:
- "Dude, I'm totally psyched. Just three more weeks 'til ZWAN."
- "OK, who wants ZWAN tickets? No one? Cool. More ZWAN for me."
- "Anyone up for some ZWAN?"
- "Hey, do you own this bar? Well, can you tell the owner that his jukebox is severely lacking in the ZWAN department."
- "Two ZWANs, please. Thank you, sir."
- "Ronnie, I would like it very much if you fingered me to ZWAN."
- "What? Oh yeah, my t-shirt says, 'ZWAN.' Huh? Oh no ha. It's not the name of a gay magician. It's a band. Yeah, for serious. ZWAN. No, I can't think of the names of any of their songs but they rock. Quit laughing, I'm serious."
I'm just saying, is all.
HOW TO DELICIOUS GOLDEN HONEY TASTE.
I had a dream last night that carried me into morning. In the dream our unconsious thoughts were a legitimate media buy, advertisers could compete for our brain space while we dream. There were also peak times to make the buy so your message made a stronger impression, and the top-tiered media purchase was your "alarm state." My dream posited that people no longer set their alarms for specific times, like "9:14am." Instead, we would set them for 9-ish. You'd have a few minutes of wiggle room. This gave advertisers the freedom to complete their message in time during your alarm state and, as soon as the ad played out in its entirety, your alarm clock would sound and the advertising message would be the last thing you remember from your dream and the first thought you experienced for the waking day.
I am pretty sure an old episode of FUTURAMA explored a similar idea. If they would like to sue my subconsious for copyright infringement, they may be my guest. My subconscious attorney can be a real nightmare, though. She has the body of Christina Ricci and the angry, disappointed face of my mother. Zim Zam!
HOW TO LAUGH, QUESTION, SCOWL DERISIVELY, THEN LAUGH AGAIN FOR JUST A LITTLE BIT.
[this is the best. after dumping 300,000 words to describe a ten-minute stand-up routine, i never checked to make sure the link worked. it didn't. it does now.]
I am going to do something I promised myself I'd never do. I'm posting an unedited stand-up comedy set. It was taped during my April 2nd performance at "Sweet Paprika," a weekly comedy show in the West Village. Of course, if I'm going to stick my neck out like this, I reserve the right to annotate the audio recording to my satisfaction. So first, here is the set (warning: it's almost 10 minutes long, and 9.1MB. patience is therefore required.):
April 2nd, 2004: Live at Sweet Paprika
Because the show was in the heart of Manhattan's West Village, it's not my typical audience. I am more accustomed to performing further downtown, in front of semi-drunk 20-somethings in cute t-shirts. While the West Village used to be very bohemian, and nurtured comics like Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce, the neighborhood is now the home of Senor Suavé's $5 Godzilla-Rita drink specials and countless bars featuring the Chicago style blues of Ken Morgensen's Blues Satellite. The West Village is lousy with tourists, and this show gets quite a few of them. The audience at last Friday night's show was predominately people who make their weekend plans by TimeOut magazine, gawkers off the street, performers and their closest loved ones, and on this particular evening, a cadre of reformed alcoholics. (long story.)
I used to get very nervous at shows like this, fearing that there was no way I could relate to this kind of audience. However, I've sort of grown to like them. Tourists can be very fickle, but they can also be very generous. As much as I love doing the more alternative rooms – I'm usually much more at ease there, because a kind of shuffling ineptitude is actually considered a positive attribute – the scenester audiences do sometimes suffer from the "appreciative nod" or the "I-am-taking-that-joke-in-stride" indifferent gaze or, worse still, the "this material needs work" extended middle finger. They're less likely to cut loose, unless you've sprinkled them in ecstasy.
You can't hear the beginning, because I started taping late, but the host introduced me and listed a couple of credits that would mean nothing to the audience because, frankly, my credits really do mean nothing to a comedy audience. I wasn't paying attention so I had to dash from the back of the room, where all the comics were hanging out, drinking, and grousing about tepid audience response throughout the evening, and through the crowd to reach the stage. I think my first words are, "running to the stage," and then I make a small joke about this. I think the audience is laughing here because someone farted very loud.
Ahh, yes. The "Jew" material. This is traditionally reserved for comics who have run out of things to say, and are stretching for time. Please note that I use it right up at the top – my A-list material! Lately, I've decided it's a good idea to acknowledge onstage how Jewish I look. It makes the audience comfortable and keeps them from wondering why they hate me before I've even spoken a word.
Honestly, sometimes I'm worried about wearing my glasses onstage because then all bets are off in the "Is He A Jew" betting pool. Without the glasses, audiences can look at my dark, curly hair, olive skin and beard and may be fooled into thinking I'm Greek, or perhaps my great-great-grandmother was raped by Moors. But with the glasses, there is very little left to the imagination. (It should also be noted that starting the set off by directing attention to some of my very obvious physical attributes is a great way to establish a rapport with the audience without the burden of acknowledging them as human beings. It's a nice piece of "crowd work" for comics who are working with that extra touch of dangerous self-absorption. delicious!)
Right on the heels of the "LOOKY-LOOKY I'M ALL JEWED UP" comes the time-tested "Judgmental New Yorker" bit. Please note how, already deep into the laboriously long setup, I test the audience's patience even further by coughing into the microphone. Here's an insider secret: I didn't need to cough. I was just playing to their sympathies by trying to convince them I had tuberculosis. Life-threatening illnesses = warmer audience response. Several minutes further in the set, I spit some lung blood into a cocktail napkin. I learned this comedy trick from Alan King, who used to fake it when he was eating in onstage; now he does it for real all the time.
The audience adores my new "gaylord/jackass" tag! Of course they do. (OK, full disclosure: the audience did not actually laugh at this tag so, in order to win them back, I executed a perfect Chinese split. HUGE response. Even the Chinese lady liked it.)
OK, I confess this entire stretch of material about the Mars Rover was made up while I was waiting to go onstage, and was based on an idea I had a couple months ago but never committed to writing down for stand-up. (or anything else.) I am not bragging, but merely qualifying the high "um" to "material" ratio, which was slightly higher than the rest of my set. I have been making an effort to avoid anything remotely topical, particularly when the topic is as old as the Mars Rover's discovery of water on the planet's surface. However, I think there's a rule that says when a comic treads there earlier in the show, it creates a wrinkle in time that transports us all back to whenever that outdated topic was relevant. From then on in, it's fair game. I only wish he'd mentioned Lorena Bobbitt, because I HAVE A DOOZY ON THAT ONE!!! Ah, but I would have needed my banjo. (Another sure way to tell that I've made this joke up on the spot is that I found an extra tag for the first part of the joke well into telling the second part of the joke, and I slipped it right in, anyway. I save myself some work by leaving a sense of professionalism to the professionals.)
"My parents are not Amish"??? That really paid off. At this point, a family of Lancaster Amish left the room, disgusted. They didn't even finish making their tapers.
This section should be included in a stand-up comedy textbook, under the chapter, "STICK TO YOUR NOTES." Please notice how long it took me to spontaneously come up with "Bryan Adams" vs. how much it paid off. The math is not in my favor.
Yes, that faint rusting sound is me taking a stage fall. Is there anything I won't do for a cheap laugh? (You can't tell from this audio recording, but I also performed the entire set by placing the mic stand in front of a clown face painted on my naked ass.) I had to undergo total spinal reconstructive surgery because of that joke, and it was worth it for the smattering of giggles.
Incidentally, the reformed alcoholics did not enjoy watching me fall down onstage. A little close to home, perhaps.
This is the first time I say "grab a pole." Can you count how many more times I say it in the next several seconds? Yes, three. Did I write the joke that way? No. However, when you spend very little time rehearsing your material, you find magical moments like that right onstage, in front of a paying audience.
The astronaut tag does not work, though I still stand by it. I just said it wrong. Please note that I follow this depressing moment of silence – this is the first moment in the set that I am sure the audience has revealed me as the phony I truly am – by coughing again. DESPERATE! At this point, a table full of nurse practitioners leaves the room, but not before one of them throws a half-full glass of plasma at me.
This joke has been told twice, and has received the same uncomfortable silence twice. Should I cut it from the act, or pretend it's still just a fluke? You guess what happens next.
Truthfully, this might be one of those jokes (like many of the ones I've told recently) that appeals to an audience of one. It might be improved with better language and setup, but I doubt it. I don't know. There's something funny to me about accusing my ancestors of deliberately fleeing from Ireland to Poland during World War II, to encourage Nazi persecution. In fact, there's something so funny about it that, even after letting you listen to it bomb onstage, I still went to the trouble to write it in this space, praying you would find something good in it so's I don't have to take it behind the shed and shoot it in the face.
Also, were I a more experienced comic, I would have a "bomb line" prepared for this occasion. A bomb line is something funny you say to save face when a joke dies in front of an audience. When faced with indifferent silence, my friend, Christian, often says, "Let us pray," which often immediately wins back favor with the audience. One of my favorite bomb lines of recent memory, however, came from my friend, Chris. I saw him tell a joke that received a response one might politely call "confused and silent." He took a beat, looked out over the audience, and said, "Thanks for your notes on the new stuff."
I think my bomb line would be, "Don't hit!" And then I would shield my face with my arms.
Perhaps the sour taste left by that joke lingered into the following joke, about my sister's early suicide attempt. I have evidence that this joke has been favorably received in the past, though during this set I would describe its audience response as somewhere between "tepid" and "lynch mob." If I were a bigger failure, I would have chastised the audience at this point by saying, "fuck you, that joke always kills." But I have not known that level of personal failure...yet. YET.
Did I just mention the weather? If you stopped listening right now, I would not blame you. If you continue listening, you might hate yourself enough for me to love you.
The gentleman was not writing, "this guy fucking blows" on his pad of paper. He was writing, "business idea: discount brothel for irregular pussy." And then he drew a picture of a Mexican riding a bicycle.
The extra-loud laughter is coming from the giant mouth of an overweight black man who is a total stranger to me. I am huge with morbidly obese minorities. (wait till you hear him when I use the word "cock".)
This is notable only for the fact that I turned off the tape recorder just as the crowd was applauding me. My therapist would have a lot to say about that action, as it relates to my self-esteem issues.
When I walked back to my drink, I thought I'd had a pretty lame set, and I said as much. I was told I was wrong, but listening to it on tape it's only "eh." I was consciously trying to do less perverse stuff, because I feel like I use creepy material as a crutch. (my web site just clucked its teeth and said, "mmm-hmmm. You're telling me, sister!") But it's funny: when I do the perverse stuff in front of an audience of my peers, I feel like I'm pandering to them, and when I don't do that material in front of a more mainstream audience, I feel like I'm pandering again.
OK. The set-ups were a bit sloppy, and I wish I were quicker when a couple jokes received a cold (but deservedly cold) response. And, as I just mentioned, it would have been nice to incorporate some of the creepier material. However, certain things worked well, and I was pleased with how nicely the Mars Rover material was received. Not the best night, not the worst. I give it Two and a Half Erect Penises. Zing.
HOW TO BEAT YOUR INNER DEMONS AT THEIR OWN GAME.
I finally discovered how to prevent myself from writing in a vacuum. The secret is more simple than I'd ever imagined. As soon as I finish a story, or an anything, just the very first moment that I read it back and think, "Yes, I'm OK with this," I have to mail it out and hope someone will publish it/produce it/make love to it. I cannot even allow time for the ink to dry because that small window is exactly enough time for self-doubt to creep in. It's an interesting process, and here's how it works.
[Time represents actual time elapsed since my first reading.]
3 minutes: "This is the best thing I've written in a very long time. And, once again, its tone and content are totally incongruous with the book I've been trying, and failing, to write. No worries. I will write this off as distraction with a very happy ending."
2 hours: "I need to find that list of publications I've been meaning to submit stories to. It was aggregated by someone – a friend? and ex-girlfriend? – who clearly believes in me more than I believe in myself. I swear it was in an email somewhere. Please don't tell me I deleted it."
3 hours: "Fuck it. I'm sending this to 'This American Life.' Perfect. Now where's my microcassette recorder?"
3 hours, 7 minutes: "I swear I had a microcassette recorder. I have a clear mental picture of it sitting in this drawer, right beneath those illegal firecrackers I bought on the Indian reservation. Oh well...I can still send it out to magazines."
24 hours: "OK. Before I send this out, I should read through it one more time, just to make sure it's as perfect as I remembered."
24 hours, 15 minutes: "I have made a terrible mistake. I am about to embarrass myself. This needs to be edited, heavily."
One week: "Seriously, I should edit that piece. Right after I finish this boss level. Focus, Todd: strafe, strafe, missile. Strafe, strafe missile."
12 days: "Cool. Now this story is nearly twice its original length. Looks more ambitious. Fuck Hemingway."
13 days: "Holy shit, how did this story become so bloated? It's like a canvas that's six inches thick with paint. I have ruined my perfect story!!"
6 months: "Hmmm...There's a new literary magazine. Maybe that old story I wrote a few months ago would make sense for submission."
6 months, 1 hour: "DID A RETARDED EIGHT YEAR-OLD SNEAK INTO MY APARTMENT, BOOT UP MY LAPTOP, AND WRITE THE WORLD'S SHITTIEST STORY????? How could I have possibly thought this was appropriate for publication? And what kind of title is, 'The Things We Said, and the River That Passed Through?' I might as well have named it 'The Whole Ten Yards.' I am a phony. If I send this turd out, everyone will know I'm a phony. THIS MUST NEVER BE SEEN BY ANOTHER SOUL."
14 months: "Crap. I've got a reading tomorrow night. Time to dust off 'The Things We Said, and the River That Passed Through.' They asked me to read something funny so I'll just change the title to, 'All Wet.' Perfect."
If I can just figure out a way to preserve that "3 minute" feeling long enough to stuff a few envelopes, I may actually legitimize myself as a writer. That is, of course, until everyone discovers what a tremendous phony I am.