In July of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO PROMOTE 'HOW TO KICK PEOPLE'.
This is such a bloggy thing to do, on this bloggy Wednesday morning, but here it is anyway:
Please get your ass to HOW TO KICK PEOPLE. It's a monthly lit-comedy show I co-host and co-produce with Bob Powers. We're today's daily pick in The L Magazine, and they were the first publication to really nail what the show is. Here's how they described it: "Two guys with similar hair and different ethnicities jerk off into each other's mouths for two hours and occasionally let funny, talented guests interrupt them with stories and shit."
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE "GOES TO HAWAII"
(our summer vacation show)
Wednesday, July 28th at 8pm
with Kirsten Major, Patrick Borelli, and John Wesley Harding
at Under St. Marks Theater
94 St. Marks Place between 1st and A
admission: $7 (advanced tickets can still be purchased HERE)
HOW TO WIN THE SELF-LOATHING OLYMPICS.
Here’s one for the books. Last week I received a strange envelope in the mail. The return address was written in blocky letters with ballpoint pen, and indicated the post had originated from “WHOEVER” at “12345 WHATEVER PLACE.” (or something equally, adorably cryptic.) There was only one other clue to the source of this envelope – a postal stamp marked, quite generically, “Westchester.”
As I examined the envelope, I noticed it was lumpy. It clearly contained not a letter but a “something else.” Now, this is the part where a sane person would grow curious and excited, possibly wondering if a small gift was contained within. I long to be that sane person someday. Instead, I handled the package – scrutinizing the placement of girly stickers on the rear of the envelope – and was quickly overwhelmed by a heavy sense of dread. “Someone hates me,” I assured myself. “Someone hates me and has decided to anonymously mail me something horrible, possibly lethal, in order to exact some kind of revenge, the origin of which will likely remain a murky puzzle to me until perhaps the last deadly moment of bloody poetic justice, when I cry, ‘But of course!’ and then clutch my throat while the life is squeezed, burned, melted, or poisoned out of my body.”
I opened the envelope with shaky hands. Inside was another envelope, covered in more stickers. “Oh, this guy’s good,” I thought. “So much subterfuge.” Then, for just a moment, reason took hold. Maybe it’s not a sack of anthrax, I thought. Look at all these cute stickers! Maybe it’s just something that will sicken me – a baby’s finger, a dead mouse, a sour patch kid dipped in feces – so that I will finally understand how I’ve sickened the world around me.
I felt a little relieved as I tore into the second envelope. (And don’t think the possibility that two envelopes were used to disguise the package from postal x-ray scanners was not lost on me.) Inside was a small parcel, double and triple-wrapped in leopard print tissue paper. I’m dead, I thought. Totally dead. I almost left it alone, and I actually (sincerely) considered opening the package under cold, running water. Then I let go of all my paranoia and, like a Sioux warrior or one of those dudes in Point Break, I told myself perhaps today is a good day to die. I swallowed hard and peeled back the paper to reveal a yellow terrycloth wristband with a kick-ass spider embroidered on it. This was my death threat? This unsolicited random act of kindness was the gift horse I punched square in the mouth? I couldn’t believe how much self-loathing I had to summon in order to take a sticker-adorned envelope with a wristband inside and spin it as an act of murderous revenge. And then imagine how dumb I felt when, days later, I forwarded the discarded envelope and its contents to the CIA, with a “cc” to the Department of Homeland Security. Better safe than sorry, I say.
HOW TO DISGRACE YOUR HERITAGE.
Attended a party this evening for HEEB magazine, in honor of their latest issue. (They've outclassed themselves with the cover, by the way. It has lots of pizzazz.) First of all, let me tell you the place was lousy with Jews. They were everywhere, from what I could tell. It's weird for me to be in an environment where I fit in so well that it's actually entirely uncomfortable. I even removed my eyeglasses after walking through the bar, because I was afraid they made me look like I was playing to type.
I had been meaning to introduce myself to HEEB's editor, because we'd talked on the phone a bit and I'm embarrassingly late on a piece I promised him. It's been making me feel guilty (and, yes, even responsible), and when I finally found him at the party he did very little to alleviate my guilt. Lesson learned: never disappoint a Jewish editor.
While we talking, a small German woman was trying to pull him toward the front of the bar. Josh explained that there was a film crew in attendance, covering the party and HEEB for a German television show. He joked that he's going to become the next David Hasselhoff. In my typically socially graceful fashion I countered, "Don't worry. They're probably just gathering footage for a propaganda film." His expression sank faster and harder than a drowning victim on Baywatch. (Incidentally, still Germany's #1 television show.)
HOW TO GET A FIRST-CLASS SEAT IN HEAVEN.
I recently started volunteering for a nonprofit arts organization benefiting inner-city kids, which has been great fun. So far, my responsibilities have been very limited. I basically sat around with a couple of people, drew pictures, and then colored them in with magic markers. It was refreshing to discover I could make a difference in some kids’ lives simply by drawing a picture of a group of cartoon rats being poisoned, and then spending the next several minutes hogging a Sea Foam Green marker until another one of the volunteers claimed. “There’s no such thing as private property. Those are God’s markers.” Touché. I was left with no choice but to capitulate to the irrefutable logic of her argument, and issued my formal surrender by throwing the Sea Foam Green marker into a toilet and screaming, “God says, ‘fetch!’”
I like that the spirit of volunteerism can be awakened with the quiet solitude of coloring. And I like that kids might shoot less drugs into their eye sockets and penises because of this nonprofit group. But at its most selfish level, I’m probably just volunteering because it makes me feel very good. Of course, urinating for a very long time after swimming in the ocean also makes me feel very good, but it’s a different kind of good. More diluted, I guess, because there are usually no disadvantaged inner-city kids around to witness it. Usually.
Of course, since my single evening of helping out (more will follow, I’m sure, providing there are more fun things to draw), I’ve been doing that awful thing where I’ve been telling absolutely everyone – including, as of this sentence, you – about my work with this nonprofit arts group. Part of it is designed to incite a similar sense of responsibility in my peers but, just barely beneath that brittle crust of civic-mindedness, is the rich, earthy loam of my own self-righteousness, crawling with worms and bugs.
I’m even finding very unsubtle ways to work it into conversations, when I know it’s perfectly wrong and shallow (and obvious) to do so. I sincerely can’t help myself. Someone will be talking to me about anything – relationships, stress, a movie they just saw – and I’ll let it slip out against my better judgment. “Oh, you saw Chronicles of Riddick last night? Man, I’d love to see that next Tuesday night, but I’m volunteering at the blah blah blee bloo.” (I should also point out that I use the word “volunteering” a lot to describe my involvement with this group, when I could just as easily say, “I’m drawing a picture of ham, and then coloring it so it looks more ham-like.” It’s sort of like when someone says, “I’m a writer,” instead of simply stating the truth: “I have a blog and sometimes I link to a conservative news story and comment on it with a twelve-word equivalent of a sarcastic eye-roll.”)
Do people generally experience this lack of control? Behaving poorly despite total self-awareness? I always assume when others brag about something or telegraph a sense of great self-satisfaction, that this must be occurring purely on a subconscious level, rather than manifesting from an acknowledged but uncontrollable compulsion. Conveniently, this assumption has allowed me to feel better about myself, since I get to observe and dissect a character flaw to which the other person seems completely oblivious.
But I think I’ve been mistaken all along because, more often than not, I’m perfectly conscious of my self-righteousness, my mendacity, my hubris-disguised-as-self-deprecation; I just can’t seem to repress the urge to express them. In fact, just the other day I was talking to my friend, The Guy From The White Stripes, about this very same subject. He laughed his smoky laugh, told me not to analyze my life so much, and pressed a CD of some new White Stripes demos into my hand. Then I wiped some fresh soapsuds from the tip of his nose, and we returned to our task at hand: washing a leper’s disgusting feet.
HOW TO SPLIT YOUR BANANA, BITCH-ASS MOTHERFUCKER.
Welcome to Brooklyn, New York. Our ice cream man can bust your ice cream man's ass:
Incidentally, the words "Mister Softee" appeared nowhere on this truck, but people were still lined up as usual, buying the shit out of some fudge-ickles. And the ice cream man inside was pretty typical looking, apart from his kevlar bowtie.
[I don't mean to brag, but an acquaintance of mine wrote State Property 2, the Roca-Fella movie advertised on the back of the truck. Like its prequel, this movie stars Beanie Sigel. However, unlike the prequel, Beanie Sigel was incarcerated for the majority of State Property 2's production. Now that sells Nutty Buddies.]
HOW TO RESERVE SHELF SPACE FOR YOUR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD IN BREAKTHROUGH ADVERTISING.
It's not that I haven't had anything to say; it's just that I haven't had any time to say it. I recently embarked on an exciting new project in the tweedy literary world of Madison Avenue i.e. ADVERTISING. This enterprise has become a great, fiery love for me and as such has consumed my every waking hour – even the waking hours traditionally spent with my other great love, wok cooking. (Yesterday I noticed, with great sorrow, that my bok choy had wilted from neglect. And my water chestnuts are tough around the edges, also suffering from the absence of flaming canola oil. And yes, what you just read was the world's greatest wok-cookery-as-sexual-performance-and-romantic-infidelity metaphor ever written. Jealous much, Amy Tan?)
The nature of my advertising assignment is secretive but, since it has become the whole of my life, I thought it would be nice to share some details assuming I have your complete confidence. There are reams of documents – the result of months worth of expensive market research to help understand the tricky demographic. They've even taken all of their findings and reduced them to the creation of a singular composite profile which perfectly exemplifies the character of the target audience with laser-precision accuracy. The agency has given this profile a name: Lester Briggs. He "lives" in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and divides his free time equally between "televised sporting events", "enjoying pre-packaged chips and mild salsa", and beating his three beautiful kids, "Kyle", "Katie", and "Katie II."
It's a pretty exciting opportunity for the advertiser, too – a well-known brand moving into a very new market category. I'm not supposed to say who it is or what we're selling but I kind of can't resist. Besides, I haven't signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement yet. So, between us, here are some of the headlines I've been cooking up for this virgin campaign:
- WITHOUT A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE® BRAND SLAW CUP, LUNCH IS JUST ANOTHER REASON TO KILL
- YOU GOT TWO CHOICES: A SLAW CUP OR A HANDFUL OF DIRTY DICK. EITHER WAY, YOU'RE EATING SOMETHING TONIGHT, JAG-OFF
- I CAME HERE TO DO TWO THINGS: KICK ASS AND EAT A SLAW CUP. AND GUESS WHAT? I'M OUT OF ASS.
- BY THE STAFF OF POSEIDON, HERE BE SLAW CUP
- THAT'S THE SLAW TALKING [This tag line would be preceded by many different "in-brand-character" scenarios for which the slaw cup would blamed. For instance, a weekend hunter at a truckstop diner with his genitals stuck in the gas tank of someone else's automobile, filling the gas tank with his own cabbage-scented urine. Or – for a more sentimental moment – perhaps a father reuinting with his son, who is just returning from overseas. We would see them embrace and then the camera would swing around to capture the father's expression and, as we get in close, and he tells his son, "I love you," we can clearly see he has tears of watery mayonnaise running down each cheek.]
- IF YOU DON'T EAT YOUR SOLDIER OF FORTUNE® BRAND SLAW CUP, THAT'S JUST MORE FOR THEM [With an image of two gay communists frenching each other.]
- "HELL, I'D EAT A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE® BRAND SLAW CUP DIRECTLY FROM OSAMA BIN LADEN'S FORESKIN POUCH" [i've been assured this idea is "very campaign-able" and i've already cooked up some alternate headlines: ...DIRECTLY FROM HITLER'S CHEST CAVITY; ...DIRECTLY FROM WENDY CARLOS' BARREN VAGINA-WASTELAND; ...DIRECTLY FROM A NIGERIAN; ...DIRECTLY FROM A THREE-WEEK OLD VIET CONG TIGER CAGE; ...DIRECTLY FROM A NEW YORK CITY WET SPOT, etc.]
- SOLDIER OF FORTUNE® BRAND SLAW CUPS: AMERICA TIMES THREE [The guys at our ad agency wanted us to make this "America Times Seven" and Soldier of Fortune loved it, but their legal department came back and said America Times Seven might be "too over-promisory" and made us tame it a bit. This kind of thing happens in advertising all the time.]
HOW TO SIMULTANEOUSLY MOISTEN 18,200 PAIRS OF WOMEN'S UNDERPANTS.
After seeing Prince in concert last night (performing with the Prince Superfriends Musical All-Stars – Morris Day and the Time, Sheila E., Maceo Parker), Prince has officially cracked my list of the Top Ten Coolest People of all time. I hope he enjoys his place aside Bruce Lee, George Jones, Takeshi Kitano, Paul Newman, Stellan Skarsgaard, Ralph Ellison, and Chuck Norris. (but only in his role as Scott James in The Octagon.)
HOW TO GET YOUR SKULL CAVED IN WITH A BOTTLE OF NIGHT TRAIN.
I learned a hard lesson today. Never under any circumstances – even as a kindness in the middle of a dismal rainstorm – tell a homeless alcoholic vet to "stay dry."
HOW TO 'PLEASE MOON-EXCUSE OUR SPACE-APPEARANCE'.
Mars 2112 is, by any standard, a tragic enterprise in theme restauranting. Guess who wants to eat in the dark, in a banquette made of moon rocks? No one. And no one wants to insert an additional layer of self-consciousness into their already compromised dignity each time they crave an onion blossom, by being required to order it by its proper menu name: "Galactic Martian Blooms From the Onion-12 Star System." And absolutely no one wants a fake rocket ship ride standing between them and their overpriced domestic beer and fried appetizers. And that was Mars 2112 in its heyday.
There is a song by Crooked Fingers called "A Little Bleeding" which contains the following excellent lyric: "Last night I drove to go nowhere at all / And came upon the saddest thing I ever saw / A pretty girl all strapped up in an ugly car." I find that contrast very effective, and feel similarly sad about seeing a theme restaurant in decline. Theme restaurants, like amusement parks, arrive with a perfect un-self-conscious jubilance and they remain perfect only prior to being touched, lived-in, and enjoyed. That is the great tragedy of theme restaurants. They are at their peak before they can even be appreciated. From there, based upon the commitment of investors – which is directly proportional to the number of chicken fingers making their way from the kitchen to your tabletop (which is, of course, shaped like a tall ship or a cow or a turntable or helen reddy) – the pacing and attention to the restaurant's upkeep will be determined.
Some restaurants keep it together for years without showing any sign of wear. Others give up relatively quickly, but eventually all theme restaurants lose their good times patina and start to naturally develop a "whore's face." An "excuse our appearance" sign at an ordinary restaurant hardly registers any emotion, but if you go to Chuck E. Cheese and see an "out of order" sign on the whack-a-mole, with a mole half-emerged from its mole-hole, your heart can't help but sink a few inches. It's like a scab on a baby's head. (Has anyone been inside a Chuck E. Cheese lately? Adult film veteran Nina Hartley's rectum has more lived-in charm. [please repeat that joke in dennis miller's voice, and then kill me.] The animatronic puppets are either gone, or have cloth sacks covering their dead eyes. The video games are still from the "Mr. Do" and "Pengo" era. And the plastic ball cages have gone so long without being cleaned out that when you dive into them you're bound to come up with a piece of discarded pepperoni or someone else's band-aid stuck to your eyelids. Chuck E. Cheese has become a lousy place to hold a birthday party, and a decent place to get raped.*)
Mars 2112 might be suffering more than any of its peers right now. The sidewalk in front of the restaurant is undergoing long-term construction, and very uninviting black fencing stretches all around the above-ground entrance, with just a small, understated white sign bearing the logo of Mars 2112 with a message begging people to ignore the catastrophe barricading the restaurant away from public viewing. The overall effect – dark, ominous fencing; broken asphalt; the stench of the earth's core – brings to mind an establishing shot on Hogan's Heroes.
And right out in front of it all is a lone out-of-work actor dressed as a space alien. Somehow, Mars 2112 thought the appearance of a member of their cast of kooky alien characters – I think it was Glorianna – would help to distract tourists from the network of plasticized razor wire long enough to slip inside a hole in the fencing for some Phobos Phries with Moon Gravy. And Glorianna felt just as embarrassed as the passers-by. She stood near the entrance, a faint beacon of fun juxtaposed with a dark industrial apocalypse, and didn't do much of anything but offer a weak smile from beneath her alien prosthetic face. She had nothing to hand out, no story to tell. She was just a women in glittery robes, wearing cheap Halloween makeup in broad daylight.
When a mother and child approached, curious, Glorianna spent several moments not noticing them, perhaps hoping they would leave and help make this day lurch forward without incident. Finally, she swiveled her head toward them, accidentally setting her rubber head extension off to a jaunty angle. "Hi," said Glorianna, grease paint running down her chin. The mother covered her child's face and quickly ushered him into Cosi.
*Please excuse me as I sit here and quietly await my lawsuit.
HOW TO BEAT A DEAD HORSE, MAGICALLY REVIVE HIM AND, AS SOON AS HIS HEARTBEAT REGISTERS, BEGIN BEATING HIM SENSELESSLY ALL OVER AGAIN.
Guess how long pretending a chihuahua wrapped in a black towel is really an old, grief-stricken Sicilian widow can seem very funny? Now multiply that by 20, because that's how long I laughed myself retarded doing it.
I hope you had a nice fourth of July. LIVING IN AMERICA! Am I right?
[small Italian, widowed dog courtesy of Miss Kambri Crews.]
HOW TO BE THE BEST.
Thanks to everyone who attended the June 2004 edition of How to Kick People, and apologies to everyone who didn't get in. (brag) Last night was our "valedictory" show, and we began by holding an open panel interview with two real-life valedictorians and, without their knowledge, one comic performer planted as the valedictorian of his 1984 high school class, and has done nothing of note since. I couldn't tell when the other valedictorians figured out he was not legitimate, or when/if the audience figured it out at all. In fact, I know one woman in the audience approached our plant after the show and told him his valedictory speech really resonated with her, which is fairly astounding to me. The speech was, of course, scripted by Bob, Mike (our plant) and myself. Here's an excerpt from the speech:
[Mike is asked if he had any advice to give today's graduating class, since he now has twenty years of experience as a valedictorian. Without a word, he gets up from his seat, pulls a piece of paper from his suit jacket, and approaches the microphone.]
Have you read the cover story in Newsweek? They say your generation isn't going to amount to anything. That you're too addicted to high-tech video games like Defender and Burger Time. They say you've got Pac-Man fever, and it's driving you crazy.
Do you know what I say to Newsweek? I say, "GAME OVER." Because I've spoken to some members of this generation of so-called "vidiots" and you haven't abandoned your goals. Did the editors of Newsweek speak to Eric Simms, who told me he wants to drive a monster truck and/or funny car some day? Did they speak to Molly Pickles, who said she wants to marry Trapper John, MD? Or Kevin Greenaway, who is saving all his money to enter a karate kicking contest? [INTERRUPTED HERE]
Mike, this sounds like it was your old valedictory speech, from 1984.
Yeah, but I think it still applies today. (continuing as before) What about Angela Middlechoice, who hopes to one day beat her own high score in Centipede [INTERRUPTED AGAIN]
We appreciate what you're trying to do here, but can you please wrap it up.
Sure thing...Let's see...(skipping to the end) In conclusion, graduating class of 1984 – or 2004 – I have been hearing a lot of kids out there and they're all saying the same thing: We don't need no education. (making it very clear to the audience) WE-DON'T-NEED-NO-EDUCATION. Well, you know what I say to them? I'll see YOU on the dark side of the moon. Thank you.
Following our interview panel, the valedictorians competed in the first annual H2KP VALEDICT-OFF, which was actually just a very elaborate excuse for Bob and me to ask several very smart and talented people to take the Pepsi challenge. (The results of which were not promising for Pepsico, I might add.)
Because the show was running long (at least that's what my neurotic brain insisted), I cut one of the pieces I'd planned to read. In retrospect, I think I made a very good choice and I am pretty sure you'll agree when you read it.
Here's the piece I did not read last night. It is a graduation commencement speech, delivered to the audience:
Before I begin, let me just say it is no small honor to find myself standing here today, as your commencement speaker. Looking out from this podium, however, I realize my own pride cannot possibly compare to sense of accomplishment and joy you must all be feeling. And you deserve it! Hold for applause – oh, I'm sorry. You have so much to be happy for today. The weather is gorgeous, despite earlier reports suggesting God and the angels were going to cry and go bowling today. You're all on the verge of a great new journey in life, for which there is no comparison. And, earlier in the ceremony, we all saw a kitty kat run across a fence. Truly a happy day.
When I told some of my colleagues that I was commissioned to deliver a graduation commencement address at the Erasmus Corning Bright Star School for Special Needs Children, their reactions ranged from total shock to some other stuff that was kind of like shock but then turns into laughing and then, much later, when they realized I was serious, ends in an apology. "Why?" they asked. "Because," I said, "the Erasmus Corning Bright Star School for Special Needs Children is my Almond Motter."
When I was a child I, like you, found myself chided and bullied. And not just by my speech therapist. By my peers and complete strangers as well. They said, "you'll never be as good as us." They said, "don't put that in your mouth. It just came out of a horse." They said, "No, no no. This bathroom is for little girls." Everywhere I turned, I was challenged with negativity and resistance. Everywhere except Bright Star.
It was at the Bright Star School for Special Needs Children that I learned I had nothing to be afraid of, with the possible exception of swallowing too much pool water and ghosts in the telephone. And it was here I learned to listen to my own heart, and not the hearts of outsiders who couldn't understand my special needs. I threw myself into school and, eventually, held the distinction of being the Bright Star senior class valedictorian in 1983, and again in 1984. And that's because I worked harder than my classmates. I ran faster than my classmates, and in a straighter line. I put my coat and mittens more efficiently than my classmates. And I knew how to pet the classroom bunny using my gentle hands so I wouldn't make it go sleepy-time forever more often than my classmates.
After high school I went on to become valedictorian again, at The Texas A&M University for Special Needs Students. And now, just twenty years later I stand before you the most powerful studio executive in Hollywood. Not bad for a guy who still has a small letter "L" and "R" printed respectively on the insides of his shoes. Only now those letters aren't written in magic marker; they're written in 14 karat gold paint, with crushed diamond trim.
Yes, I was called many names when I was younger, including the "S" word, the "D" word, and evven the "M-F-C-S-F" word. But do you know what people call me now? They call me "The man who greenlit such family-oriented blockbuster Hollywood films as PUDDING CAMP, THE UNITED STATES OF TICKLES, OPERATION: SHOELACE, MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO, and MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO PART TWO: THE RECKONING." And they call me, "The winner of three People's Choice awards and a Blockbuster Lifetime Achievement award." They call me "The multi-millionaire studio executive who rides to work every day in a rocket-powered school bus with its own on-board taffy machine." And, when they're ejecting me from a restaurant for pulling all the tablecloths from the tables or removing me from the white house for making a pretend finger-gun and jabbing it into the back of Secret Service, they don't say, "Get out of here, you big "F-R-D-A" word. They say, "Get out of here, sir." Sir.
If you leave here with one piece of inspiration, let it be this – [PUT PAGE UP TO FACE] OH MY GOD, WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?? [PUT PAGE DOWN] Oh, there you are. Now where was I? Oh yes. All your life, people have called you "special." And you know what? Now you have a chance to prove them right. Look at me. Twenty years ago I was getting tricked by neighborhood kids into climbing inside a trash can with a sign on it that said, "time machine," only to have that trash can beaten with wiffle ball bats and then rolled down a hill. And not just on one occasion – many, many times. Today, I am this close to building the first-ever time-traveling trash can. If I can do that, what's to stop you from being whatever you want? You down there – you can, and should, be a lifeguard. And you, fidgeting in your chair, you might be a greeter at Wal-Mart. You there with your shoe on your hand – you could pet a nice dog. And you – yes you – you can be Spider-Man. Or you might be the lead character in the next Harmony Korine film. Or maybe you will grow up just like me, traveling around on choo-choo trains to visit the location of my studios latest production, MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO PART THREE: JUST ADD PEE.
Let me leave you with some advice from someone I think we all know and trust – Hammy Butterbell, the clumsy mechanic from my international box office smash, BATTERY-OPERATED TOY TRUCK: THE MOTION PICTURE. "It takes at least 50 people to build a giant robot car made of chocolate cookies, but it only takes one person to eat the ding-dang engine." You, collectively, are that one person. And life – life is that cookie-flavored engine.
Yes, I'm fairly certain I could have read anything but this and still be credited for taking the high road.