In April of 2006, You Learned:
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE: TOTAL ANNIHILATION!! (tonight).
Tonight we are going to smash the moon with our fists at How To Kick People—the nation's greatest comedy reading series. Please come out, and keep your guard up:
H2KP: TOTAL ANNIHILATION!!
with Bob Powers & Todd Levin
and featuring the strongheaded talents of:
KURT BRAUNHOLER & KRISTEN SCHAAL (Hot Tub Variety)
SAM MEANS (New Yorker cartoonist, Daily Show writer)
PATRICK BORELLI (Comedian, writer for ESPN's 'Cheap Seats' & 'Assy McGee')
Wednesday, April 26th @ 7:30pm
Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction
34 Avenue A b/w 2nd & 3rd Streets
for more information, advance tickets, and loads of photos from past shows: www.howtokickpeople.com
HOW TO ACT LIKE A WISEGUY.
I didn't get a chance to see last night's episode of The Sopranos and, though I don't want anyone to spoil it for me, I can't stop thinking about all the toughguy mafia action I might have missed.
Did Silvio Dante have an asthma attack? Did he lose his inhaler, and get winded on a broken escalator? Did Johnny Sacks cry again? Did Paulie cry? Did Tony cry? Christopher? Tears? Did Christopher accidentally hit a deer with his SUV and then sob hysterically while standing over the expiring creature, its broken body a symbol for Christopher's own fractured, feral sense of morality.
Will things at home explode in that signature Sopranos style? Will Carmela rub salve into Tony's wound? Will Tony experience pain on the toilet? Will Meadow help a black lady or give her mother a disapproving glance? Will AJ throw his PlayStation 2 controller to the floor and storm off? This season is making me crazy. The mafia is so stressful and hard-nosed.
Oh wait! Did Vito find that Louis XIV armoire he had his eye on? That would be intense! DON'T TELL ME! Has he met some new friends in New Hampshire? Did he kiss a boy? And did he ever end up getting a new cell phone, after he tosssed his out the window? Which provider did he choose? I'm sure The Sopranos wouldn't spare us that particular detail.
Did anyone get shoved last night? Or sternly talked to? Did anyone get winded or frustrated? How were the sandwiches? Did Bobby Bacala finally find an HO scale lumber car for his train set? How's that going? Did Junior shit his diaper, or make a God's eye at the mental facility's craft therapy workshop? There are so many questions, with so many hard-boiled answers. The Sopranos is really ratcheting up the action during its final stretch and I don't wanna miss a single minute of those murderous New Jersey mobsters crying, fussing over their weight, attending NA meetings, staring glumly at children playing on swingsets, or antiquing in quaint New England towns. Fuggedaboudit! Right?
HOW TO RENEW YOUR VOWS WITH THE INTERNET.
Some days the Internet infuriates me. (The same opinions, echoed a million times over; the same angry dissections of articles from, of all things, the NYTimes Style section; the same picture of a cat wearing a melon helmet when bloggers could be more ambitious and create their own cat-with-melon-helmet pictures.)
Fortunately, other days it really rewards me. Ever since my friend Chris started his weblog, MYTHSTORY, I have felt richly rewarded. Having something new, smart, and very funny to read has a nice way of cosmically balancing out the terrible stuff I read against my better judgment. I hope you like Mythstory, too.
HOW TO DISAPPOINT A TODDLER.
Before dinner, while the grown-ups shuffled around the kitchen talking about professional sports and kugel recipies, my nephews and cousins were outside building up their appetites in a more direct manner: by inventing, then competing in, makeshift obstacle courses.
I wandered into the backyard, and was immediately seized upon by my nephews to design an obstacle course. "No problem," I told them, "except I'm not going to design an obstacle course. I'm going to design the greatest obstacle course this world has ever seen." They seemed OK with that.
I sized up the backyard area, quickly assessing the contours of the land and any stray objects I could use to create makeshift obstacle course challenges. I wanted it to flow organically, with a series of challenges of steadily increasing difficulty, until the course climaxed in an epic release of victory. Here's where I landed:
- Begin at the paper plate, then run at top speed to the toppled-over plastic toboggan
- Leap over the toboggan and, as you land, drop into a somersault
- Upon getting up from the somersault, immediately scale the steep hill, heading directly toward the blue plastic thing I placed at the hill's crest
- Touch the blue plastic thing and then race at top speed back down the hill, toward the plastic children's picnic table
- Seat yourself at the picnic table, then raise your left arm in victory, screaming, "AMERICAN FREEDOM!!!" to signify your completion of the obstacle course.
We went over the "American freedom" chant a couple of times, because they wanted to make sure they had the line reading and hand gesture 100% correct before beginning the course. One by one, they rehearsed the chant/gesture, looking to me for my nod of approval. Once I was satisfied, the race was on.
I lined up Oliver (age 6) and Avery (age 4) at the paper plate, and instructed each of them to shake out their nervousness with a small loose-limbed dance of my own invention. (This step was not necessary—they alreadly seemed pretty loose to me—but was impossible to resist simply as a way of reminding myself how easy it is to command the minds of children when a goal is involved.) Then I gave the orders. "Ready...set...LEMONADE!"
I don't know why I false-started the race, but I think history demanded it. Not that it mattered, because Avery was out of the gate as soon as I bit off the end of "set." I escorted him back to the starting line, and apologized. He seemed pretty worked up. We tried again. "Ready...set...GO!!!"
Oliver, game but graceless, stumbled off the paper plate while his younger brother steamed ahead. He took the toboggan with authority, then dropped into a perfect forward roll. Oliver forgot the somersault altogether, or ignored it, and started up the hill. But something was wrong. Avery was just standing there, at the base of the hill, reaching his hand behind his back to touch his shirt. Was he letting his fastidious nature overshadow the importance of athletic competition? Or did I set up the somersault obstacle on the only patch of lawn that was soaked through and muddy from the previous night's rain?
It was an oversight on my part—a major one. Avery was soaked through his shirt and the seat of his jeans. This made him very fussy, and he mumbled something about needing new clothes. Avery shuffled into the house, where my sister dressed him in a clean, dry shirt and little girl's jogging pants. (She hadn't packed an extra pair of pants for Avery, because she overlooked the obvious possibility that his horrible uncle would command him to roll around in wet mud for his own sadistic pleasure.) Meanwhile, the rest of the obstacle course competitors quickly lost interest in the challenge. And I went from being the Howard Roark of obstacle courses to the Dick Assmunch of Boner Junction. I was genuinely crushed, in the way only a group of small children can crush you. In a way, I'm still running that obstacle course, over and over again, in my heart. I'm just kidding. It was actually pretty hilarious seeing Avery walk around the house in girl's pants. Thanks, kid.
HOW TO COLORFULLY ASSESS THE GIRTH OF YOUR ENEMY'S MOMMA.
Spending time upstate with my family usually means three very specific things to me:
- Desperately searching my parents' refrigerator for something edible, as a means of avoiding small talk.
- Controlling the minds of my very young nephews by making them say things they would not otherwise say.
- And, of course, staring at the latest crop of MTV reality shows, dumbfounded, as if bearing witness to a slow, cruel train wreck that also totally wants to get up in your daughter's bubble, yo.
While Lisa slept on my parents' couch, I was able to experience MTV's brand new nadir without fear of rebuke. I can't say which program I liked best, but it was either MY FATHER IS RICH AND POWERFUL AND I TOTALLY CONTROL HIM, or I'D TOTALLY DO YOUR DAUGHTER AND/OR SON. Oh, who am I kidding? MTV's most essential new show is, without question, YO MOMMA!
So what's Yo Momma all about? Well, if you've ever thought to yourself, "man, I love snaps and dozens! But if I had one complaint about people indiscriminately making fun of each others' mothers, it would be that it doesn't take long enough. It's usually a couple of quick snaps on the basketball court, and then a fistfight breaks out. Why can't it last 21 minutes, with commercial breaks? And if I had a second complaint, it would be that the art form of snaps is too informal. Why are 'yo momma' jokes always restricted to a park bench or a stoop? I think they would totally benefit from being staged on a unionized production set designed to look like the parking garage in 8 Mile, and then presided over by Wilmer Valderrama from That 70's Show, and two other snaps officials while a paid audience stands by and screams very loudly." Well, lucky you!
Yo Momma is really just that—a round-robin competition of posturing suburban brats who are basically reading entries from SNAPS: The African-American Art of Verbal Warfare.
In between rounds, Wilmer visits the homes—excuse me, "cribs!"—of the two final competitors, and cracks wise on their sneakers, baseball caps and dust ruffles. From what I saw, Wilmer has a really unique way of busting on the competitors. His secret snaps formula seems to consist of picking up an object in someone's bedroom, waiting for one of the show's writers to come up with something mean to say about it off-camera, and then repeating that mean comment on-camera. Wilmer's line readings are so wooden I heard he stutter toothpicks. OH SNAP, WILMER! YO MOMMA!
Then, during the final round, the contestants wait while Wilmer drives up in a very expensive sports car, gets out, and stands in between a white guy (best friend from performing arts camp) and a black guy (African-American verbal warfare consultant) and explains the rules. Then the white guy explains them. And then the black guy does, too. I'm not kidding. Here's a loose transcription of the lead-in to round one of the Yo Momma finals:
WILMER: This first round is Yo Momma snaps only. Scotty, explain how this works.
WHITE GUY: Yo, for this round, only Yo Momma snaps. Drell?
BLACK GUY: So, yeah, this round we'll judge who tells the best Yo Momma snaps. Hit it!!
But the best part of Yo Momma? The contestants' actual mommas are there, standing on the sidelines. The cameras constantly catch their reactions, whether they're pleased ("My son just delivered a wonderful snap!") or pained. ("Oh dear, I have been snapped!")
Having their moms there is probably intended to heighten the snapitude of Yo Momma, but it only makes the show seem that much more ridiculous, and here's why: we get to see, immediately, why the snaps are not on-point. In the episode I saw, one of the contestants made a fat joke about the other kid's momma. (I think it was, "Yo Momma's so fat, she tried the subway diet and the C Train disappeared" or "Yo Momma's so fat, she was knighted at Burger King" or something else about a mom being fat.) Then, after snapping the mom with fatness, they cut to a mother who must have weighed about 110 pounds soaking wet with Extra Value Meals stuffed into her pockets. It made no sense. You can't snap on a woman's weight when she clearly takes care of herself. It's untenable! At least snap on her greasiness. Or her glass eye, or brain cancer, or her desperate bid to win the respect of her children. But save the weight issues for when they count. There is such a thing is the rule of proportionality with regards to snapping.
And Wilmer did nothing.
After watching this show, and many others, it's easy to conclude that MTV has a hard time producing original, compelling content but an easy time wrangling 100-200 screaming teenagers.
HOW TO DO YOUR PART.
I caught up on emails this morning, and finally got around to completing my Doughnut Survey. You're welcome, Krispy Kreme.
This post was wasteful!
HOW TO DOMINATE THE MEDIA.
I've authored (gay!) a new piece at The Morning News today. It's called "How to Hang a Cabinet" and it's about how to hang a cabinet. I wouldn't want to mislead you.
In addition, you can see me perform comedy the entertainment industry's most respected and coveted medium: the cell phone. Comedy Central is responsible for it and, though I have no idea how it all works, you might. Here are the instructions, as given to me by someone smart at Comedy Central:
For Verizon Vcast subscribers, go into Vcast, then into Entertainment, then into Comedy Central, and The Clip Joint will be a channel.
For Sprint subscribers, you need a Power Vision plan, then you must subscribe to the Comedy Central video channel, and again, The Clip Joint will be a channel.
Additionally, The Clip Joint, and my performance on it, will soon be available online, at Comedy Central's Motherload. I'm not sure what I'll be doing in the video, as I recorded two distinct "bits" for the live show. But I can assure you I will be doing it bearded. Heavily so.
[If you're interested in more video stuff, you can visit toddlevin.com. I'm less shy about posting that kind of thing there.]
I also appeared at the Wolf Parade show at Webster Hall last night, as an audience member. I think it might have been "free camera" night at Webster Hall because nearly every person in attendance was armed with some kind of digital looky-loo device. During the show, a woman standing in front of me was "schooling" her friends about all the great new music they should love. Despite her obvious enthusiasm, it all was very boring and non-specific. The monologue sounded like this: "BAND NAME and also BAND NAME and have you heard BAND NAME because BAND NAME is so good. Just really, really GOOD. They sound sorta kinda like BAND NAME mixed with SECOND BAND NAME. Hi! BAND NAME!!" I wonder of that's how music PR people talk all the time.
The BAND NAME woman was wearing those very dangerously pointy shoes that creep me out for some reason. I don't know what they're called but they're pretty popular and they look like one sharp, narrow hoof sticking out from beneath a slightly flared blue jeans hem. They make a lady foot seem as though it's three full sizes longer than it really is. Why would anyone do that on purpose?
She was also incredibly territorial. She had a spot right against the center balcony ledge (where old people stand during shows), just to the right of the sound booth. When we approached from behind, to afford ourselves a better view of the show, I saw her fur momentarily stand on end. Then she began "stretching" out her left leg, effectively creating a little psychological gate between her body and the wall of the sound booth. She was blocking the space to the right of her with not-so-much subtlety, in case we had the idea that we might want to squeeze in beside her.
I quickly assessed the situation, and figured she was holding that spot for a boyfriend or girlfriend on bathroom break, and the whole thing became really fascinating to me. She obviously knew that general admission concert etiquette does not permit you to tell a perfect stranger, "I'm sorry. You can't stand next to me, because my friend was standing next to me and he just stepped away for a second." You just can't do it. She knew this, so she tried to extend her physicality in the absolute most awkward way, with her leg jacked all the way out to the left. She looked like a still frame of the money shot in Basic Instinct (and, I imagine, Basic Instinct 2.) When her leg grew tired, she would casually stretch out her left arm and grip the sound booth with her hand. I was enjoying it very, very much.
I hated her instincts, because it's just incredibly self-important and childish to think "maybe if I just stick my leg up against this wall, no one will try to pass." But to sustain that position for as long as she did—about 7-8 minutes in all (p.s. that means your boyfriend was probably taking a tremendous shit. just fyi.)—must have been so stressful and weird for her. It took a tremendous amount of self-control to resist my immediate (then nagging) urge to point out the awkwardness of the situation in the plainest of terms. I wanted to say, "Excuse me, but I'd like to stand here. Or are you stretching your leg out in this very weird way because you're actually trying to hold a spot for someone else?" Or "You know, I teach yoga, and that's a really bad stretch for opening up your pelvic bowl. You should really work with a stronger base. You are performing a yoga stretch, right? And not actually hiking your leg up there to block other people from standing near you, the way a small child might extend his arms as far apart as possible and declare, 'this is all my private property.' Please tell me you're not doing that because that would be CRAZY."
Instead of doing any of those things, I wrote this. Curse you, Internet!
[P.S. I can always tell when Heather has linked to me. My site traffic jumps like crazy, plus many of dooce's regular readers will write me saying, CONGRATULATIONS. YOU HAVE BEEN DOOCE'D. THANK DOOCE FOR ALL YOUR VISITORS. So I'm saying thanks, dooce.]
HOW TO FIND A FELINE PSYCHOANALYST.
I sometimes wonder if my cat suffers from depression.
HOW TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS, HARDCORE.
I don't usually like to dedicate space to a single link on the World Wide Web, but sometimes the Internet provides.
This is the most hardcore Christmas day video I have ever seen. Seriously, it makes me so incredibly happy every time I watch it. And the most amazing thing about it is the parents' ability to hold their video camera steady, and not jostle it from laughing their asses off.
I don't even care if it's a celebration of consumerism and BOO to you if your need for social commentary compromised your enjoyment of two good old-fashioned kids absolutely losing their minds over a new Nintendo 64. Man, this makes me want to have kids. Stuff like this almost completely compensates for kids acting like assholes and humping each other in your car and stealing money from your wallet for drugs.
[Thanks, joe, for pointing me to this excellent Internet Moment.™]
HOW TO EAT LIKE A CHAMPION (MORE FROM THE MANHATTAN MALL).
The coffee bar is in the Manhattan Mall, right near the entrance. it's nothing more than a short counter with 2-3 employees crowded on one side, pulling espressos and steaming milk, and usually 3-4 customers crowded on the opposite side, glumly staring at a display case filled with baked goods. The baked goods—a typical, repetitive assortment of muffins, croissants, and pre-sliced loaf cakes—all have that quality of having just been removed from cold storage. They're slightly wet, with surface tears and bits of adjacent pastry stuck to them from where they were mashed together in the slaveship-like conditions of their bakery distribution center shipping box.
This morning, a couple of men were having a loud, animated conversation on the customer side of the coffee bar. The head barista leaned into the counter and yelled, "Gentlemen, please have your loud conversation outside of my café." I admired her sense of social order, but there's actually no café to speak of. It's just a small island in the middle of a noisy, dirty shopping mall.
So the gentlemen were already outside of her café because the truth is everything is outside the café. Or everything is inside the café, depending on your point of view. And if that is her point of view, she must do a lot of yelling, all day long. "Hey, will you please stop pressing all the buttons for the elevator inside my café?" "Excuse me, but I'd appreciate it if you sold your Lids™ elsewhere. This is my café and I won't stand for it." "We've had this talk before, and this is the last time I'll tell you. Please do not set up your 40-foot Christmas tree with a guy dressed up like Santa Claus, posing for pictures with kids, IN MY CAFÉ. I can barely hear my milk frothing." Etc.
While waiting in line for coffee, I watched a flying insect land on a blueberry muffin. The bug danced around for a bit, dragging its poop-covered feet all around the muffin top, then flew away. Then, when it was my turn to order, I asked for a medium iced coffee and a blueberry muffin. This is the closest I've ever come to self-knowledge.
HOW TO POISON YOURSELF FOR LUNCH.
On my way to lunch at the Manhattan Mall Food Court, I noticed how many reflective surfaces there are in the mall. You can spend your wait for the elevators by staring at your mirror reflection in its closed doors. Structural columns are also covered in mirrored glass. Certain stores, like LIMITED, employ reflective trim around their plate glass windows. Everywhere you go, you get to see what a terrible decision you've made by visiting the mall.
Today I also got to see, very plainly, the small lump developing around my mid-section. I have not yet determined if it is benign. It's that weird lump you get after you've grown pretty accustomed to being skinny and then nature tells you, "hey, check it out. Party's over, fatty." It's small now, but I fear it could grow into what I like to call a "weed baby." (Check out lifelong pot smokers. Even the skinniest of them get a crazy second trimester weed baby. Skinny pot smokers eventually develop upper bodies that resemble a python digesting a mouse.)
I decided to swallow my shame, in the form of General Tso's chicken, food court style—probably the third-lowest tier of the food pyramid. (The lowest rung is the fried onion loaf, just barely edging out "turds.") General Tso must have been the most reviled military leader in the history of China, because if ever there was a "fuck you" entrée created by a disgruntled personal chef, it was definitely General Tso's Chicken. Napoleon lucked out. And General Custer's custard, although not a reliable meal for dinner, was at least pretty delicious.
But General Tso's chicken is like a culinary dare disguised as comfort food. It's made of all the wrong parts of chicken, each blindly hacked off with a cleaver, then cleverly concealed inside some kind of Asian glazed doughnut. The worst part is that its deep-frying only creates a perfect outer seal, protecting the bacteria crawling throughout the weird interior of poultry and tendon clinging desperately to each other. I love/hate it.
On my way back from purchasing my General Tso's Chicken, I saw myself in about fifteen mirrors and realized that the proliferation of mirrors in the shopping mall might have been a secret act of consumer advocacy on the part of mall architects. All those mirrors are like a warning, repeated over and over again for emphasis, telling you, "Jesus Christ, will you look at yourself? Is this what you really wanted? Standing there, clutching a shopping bag from 'Lids' with Cinnabon frosting stuck in your mustache! Our ancestors built America with their calloused hands. They fought off invasions—and for this?! Drop that fried chicken and just start running. Run and run and run, miles from any advertisements or free samples of smoothies, until you hit an undeveloped parcel of land. Then build a home on that land! With your own backbreaking labor. Plumb the lines. Grow what you need, and talk yourself out of flavored coffee cravings. Find a woman, make a child, work the land, die in the winter frost with collagen-rich skin. Drop that chicken and run, man! RUN!"
I guess it's hard to absorb that message, when you can see the reflection of a Brookstone massage chair directly behind you.