In February of 2007, You Learned:
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE TONIGHT.
Tonight is the third year anniversary of How to Kick People, which is sort of crazy to me. If you haven't been before or haven't been in a while, I think tonight a good night to check it out. I'm pretty crazy about our guests. The NY Observer listed us again, and they didn't even say anything disparaging about the show this time around. I think we're in love now.
Here are the details:
HOW TO KICK PEOPLE: "I Coulda Been Someone"
hosted by Bob Powers & Todd Levin
and featuring the talents of:
JACK KUKODA (writer for The Onion's video news
ELLIE KEMPER (contributor to McSweeney's and The Onion)
and a performance from REGGIE WATTS (winner of the 2006 Andy Kaufman Awards)
Tonight! Wednesday, February 28th, at 7:30pm
Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction
34 Avenue A, b/w 2nd and 3rd Streets
Get advance tickets now
A SINCERE POST-OSCARS MESSAGE FROM STAR OF 'THE NUMBER 23', JIM CARREY.
Guys, I'm seriously worried about him.
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON 2.21 (2+21=23!).
It is incredibly difficult to resist the temptation so many critics and web loudmouths will surely give in to, which is to make a lot of numerology-based jokes at the expense of the film, The Number 23. ("Number of people excited about this movie: 23," "Number of months since anyone has walked into a tattoo parlor and asked for 'tribal barbwire': 23" etc.) But, honestly, sometimes all you need is a picture like the one above.
This photograph looks like the results of someone playing with a set of "How to Sabotage Jim Carrey's Film Career Colorforms®." Every detail in this image meticulously conspires to add a new layer of ridicule to Carrey's attempts at earnestness. Tribal tattoos—check. Ripped biceps—check. Hollowed-out cheeks and harrowed expression—check. Saxophone??? The only things missing from this photograph to make it truly a perfect exercise in awkwardly executed cinema noir is a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, a snakeskin jacket, a loose cigarette tucked behind the ear, and a fedora. My God, I wish Jim Carrey were wearing a fedora in this photograph, even if it meant temporarily camouflaging his Light FM Disc Jockey haircut.
I realize it's easy to lose perspective when you're so deep inside a project, but since I really like Jim Carrey I do hope he'll carry this photograph around with himself as a totem, right next to that "check for one million dollars" he famously wrote to himself long before he became a star, to remind him of how horribly miscalculated even his best intentions can be.
In fact, I'd go further. I hope tomorrow, on February 23rd, every web site around the globe will simply display this image of Jim Carrey from The Number 23, without commentary, as a kind of worldwide "Day Without Art" vigil.
I'M CHANGING THE NAME OF THIS SITE.
...to "The Fried Chicken Diaries." Apparently, this seems to be my singular focus these days.
WHY WE CAN'T RELY ON THE AMERICAN SOUTH.
After performing at a comedy festival on the University of North Carolina campus last friday night, we thought we'd try to catch a late-night burlesque show or poetry reading, or perhaps just curl up with a large, warm bowl of Korean Kimchi Bokkeumbap. Unfortunately, this was North Carolina, so instead we just drank one thousand gallons of American alcohol, and then shouted and stumbled our way to Time-Out, one of Chapel Hill's more notorious all-night food venues.
My friend, Bryan, a UNC alum, told us about Time-Out as we made our way over, and I don't think I realized at the time that he was giving me all the reason I needed to turn around and practice a tiny bit of self-love. But you know how someone will tell you about something that sounds too unbelievably horrible that your sense of curiosity gets the best of you and you tell yourself, "I have to know if this place is really as disgusting as it has just been described, and the only way to know for sure is to see it for myself and then fill my bourbon-soaked belly with its hateful, hateful food?" You know?
Bryan told us two particularly improbably stories about Time-Out that I've since verified. The first was about the original late-shift operator of this "restaurant." (I am placing that word in quotes because to call Time-Out a restaurant requires seriously embracing irony. Kind of like saying Anna Nicole Smith was an American "icon" or Idi Amin had a "temper.") His name was Billy Ray Penny and before he died at 49 of completely unsurprising heart problems, Bryan explained that he'd gained a reputation for insulting his drunk, Tarheel customers. According to Bryan, Penny's favorite retort to slurry, demanding customers was, "I'd slap your face but shit splatters." Besides being awesome, this was true; so true that Penny even owned a t-shirt bearing that very same expression.
The other piece of Time-Out lore that I absolutely refused to believe was the "Box of Bones." (Bryan called it a bucket of bones, but I don't blame him for trying to suppress his memory in this case.) When you walk into Time-Out, weave your way past the numerous police officers stationed inside, and then scream at someone Mexican to give you a "Chicken Cheese Biscuit," here's what that Mexican guy will do. First, he'll use a pair of barbecue tongs to reach into a large metal bin filled with on-the-bone fried chicken breasts. Then he'll pull out a breast and, with a quick tug on the tongs, quickly remove the slab of white meat and plop it unceremoniously on to a butterflied, cheesed biscuit. Finally, still using the tongs, he'll pick up the bony carcass, with its few remaining scraps of meat clinging to it, then wheel around 180 degrees, and drop the bones into another metal bin.
After a while that bone bin will fill up (can you see where this is going) and, when it does, it officially goes on the menu as a "BOX OF BONES." For two dollars, less discriminating customers with two dollars may purchase a large box filled with about two dozen greasy chicken breastplates. "They must be for a dog," you might think, but you'd be crazy to think that because it's very dangerous for a dog to eat chicken bones. Fortunately, human beings can eat them all they want. And what kind of human being would pay $2 to strip the last, desperate morsels of meat off two dozen chicken bones? I think that kind of diner falls into one of five categories:
3. bowery bum
4. frat pledge
5. young ironist*
Eating at Time-Out (and, on the following night, Hector's) is kind of like unwittingly taking part in a hate crime against yourself. Of course that did nothing to keep it anything but packed to its slick, greasy walls with college students still capable of sleeping off their almost-nightly mistakes. I envy their elastic skin and short attention spans.
*this last category is the only one who won't finish eating the box, yet the only one who will talk about eating it afterwards. often. with eye-rolling, sarcastic pride.
Walking by Crown Fried Chicken and realizing that's the most convenient takeout place in my neighborhood can be a little depressing sometimes. (Although their new "ad," posted directly on the glass entrance, is awesome. It's for their fried chicken, and features a gigantic bucket of it, in poorly color corrected splendor, with a crazy collage of people from all different ethnicities and demographics beneath the bucket, clamoring for it. Actually, some of the people look like they're no so much clamoring as standing still, oblivious to the fried chicken mothership hovering above them/crushing their families. I guess the graphic designer's stock photography search for "people + excitement + chicken + international" did not yield enough results to fill the poster, so they had to do a back-up search for "people + waiting for a bus + existentially dead.") That's why I was very excited to discover a small oasis of fancypants food in my neighborhood, called Choice. (subtext: "White People's Choice")
Although I felt a bit guilty being drawn into Choice—I was on my way to a very solid neighborhood café, minus the French-accented "e", that lacks any of the pretension Choice could be accused of possessing—I couldn't help but be sort of intoxicated by all the delicious ingredients at play. Muffins with candied ginger. Herb roasted everything. Cookies in pretty glass jars that make you feel like it's your birthday as the café employee pulls one out for you. And, of course, Aranciata. (I can't prove this, but I'm pretty certain walking around with a can of Aranciata and drinking from it with one of those right-angle bendy straws is in violation of some states' anti-sodomy laws.)
I have a love-hate relationship with places like Choice. I really do want to like it, as it's filled with lots things I would gladly stuff into my cookie-hole (ass), but I don't like being part of the whole gourmet tableau it creates. Getting my victuals at Choice means associating with certain undesirable aspects of my demographic. It's kind of like holding a mirror up to myself, except in the mirror's reflection I'm wearing white iPod ear buds, a Jack Spade messenger bag slung around my shoulder, adult sneakers from Camper, and I'm checking my RSS feed from a Blackberry. I would hate this imagined reflection, if he didn't have such excellent taste in snacks.
The café was fairly packed with the type of people who could have just as easily been crowding against me at a Broken Social Scene concert, or the noodle bar at Momofuku. We were all waiting for our pressed sandwiches and frothed milk with various degrees of self-awareness and self-hatred. I tried to drown out my inner-conflict by focusing my attention on some crazy-looking chicken paillard but I was snapped back to reality by this exchange between the counter person and a customer:
COUNTER PERSON IN EXPENSIVE EYEWEAR: (holding croissant in waxed paper) I'm really sorry, but we only have one croissant left. Can you do a roll?
MALE CUSTOMER IN CASHMERE SCARF AND UNDER-EYE MOISTURIZER: (dying inside, a little bit) ...I think I can do a roll.
The male customer then turned to his friend, who was across the café, securing a table and the dogeared Arts & Leisure section of the Sunday Times. He raised his eyebrows while scrunching up his mouth and nose to pre-empt the delivery of sour news, and said, "They only have one croissant." (I was already certain at this point which of them was going to get the croissant.)
I would like to say his friend's expression was indifference, or even disappointment, but no. He was completely grief-stricken. Completely disproportionate. In fact, it was the kind of expression you'd make after being told, "Yo dawg, I got the Bug" or "I just found out the National Anthem has been changed to the American Idol opening credits theme song" or "They only have one croissant, and it has the Bug." It made me want to wait for my roasted chicken with avocado, rucola, bacon and vinaigrette panini AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!
I look forward to the day when I find happiness without the guilty need to apologize for myself, or stop being drawn to the kinds of pleasures that require apology. Either would be fine.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR.
I attended all of the shows, with my Persian cat tucked under my arm, and I can definitively say these are my least favorite trends from this season's fashion week in NYC:
Apparently, these are flip-flops that are meant to be worn on the wrong feet. Does that even make sense???
RAW SILK AND LEATHER 'KICK ME' SIGNS
Listen, I appreciate the return to rough-hewn fabrics. But who is going to pay $500 and up to wear a safety-pinned "Kick Me" sign on their backs, even if that sign is fabricated from beautiful imported materials? Stupid!
LADLE OF WARM CHILI
Let me get this straight—all over Milan right now, woman are carrying elegant, curve-handled stainless steel ladles filled with a scoop of lukewarm venison chili? Why? (I know, I know—if you have to ask why, what's the point?) But seriously––WHY?
'FUNNY FACE' STOMACH HENNA TATTOOS PAIRED WITH OVERSIZED, FULL TORSO CONCEALING TOP HATS
OK, this one sounds kind of fun. Kudos, haute couture. Look forward to seeing some of these in the spring.
GRAFFITI-COVERED COLOSTOMY BAGS
You are going to upset a lot of people with this one. Some people need colostomy bags to live! (Larry King) Expect some angry letters from people whose colons have been removed. I'm just saying.
MINI SKIRTS CONSTRUCTED OF ANGRY, IMPASSIONED LETTERS FROM RECTAL CANCER SURVIVORS SEWN TOGETHER AS PATCHWORK
Oh, I guess you're one step ahead of the game. Congratulations! (Yes, that was meant to be sarcastic, you dicks.)
Are you serious, world of fashion?? You mean to tell me that you want women to vaginally insert small, water soluble capsules containing rolled up pieces of paper with bits of everyday wisdom written on them. Who wants this? Really!
PLASTIC DRACULA TEETH
Come on! Are you kidding me?
MY LEAST FAVORITE NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT.
Every so often, I'll get stuck on his train. Always the same train (F), always the same time of day. (late night) Always the same interminable synthesized melodica medley. I hate this man so very much.
Usually, when musically inclined panhandlers enter your train, you can expect to be serenaded with a one-stop horn and synth arrangement of "New York, New York" or an a capella "Under the Boardwalk" in three-part harmony. In most cases, short, sweet. Ignore it or enjoy it.
But when Mr. Medley (not his real name) joins your commute, you have no idea how fucked you really are. At first it's kind of cute, the way he seamlessly segues between the theme music from The Odd Couple to the theme music from The Addam's Family to "Silent Night." You might even turn down your iPod and crane your neck to see which direction this silly music is coming from. Then you'll go back to business until, several minutes later, something horrible becomes clear: he's still going at it. This realization impresses itself on you very slowly, kind of like waking up from a dream in which you were scampering through a meadow, high-fiving unicorns and munching on butterfly wings, then, as the fog of your dream dissipates and consciousness creeps its way back in, louder and louder, remembering that today is actually your execution day. That's exactly what it feels like when you realize you've traveled three full subway stops and this man is still in your car, pulling a Waco on the F train by powering through the entire back catalog of songs you've always detested for their half-witted catchiness. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and "The Theme from The Pink Panther" and all the rest, back to back to back, without interruption. It's like you've been cornered by some unhinged individual who was just fired as Yankee Stadium's Jumbotron Musical Accompanist.
I don't usually think about killing people. However, it would be untrue to say I haven't fantasized about this man's death at my hands. If I were convinced he is just a naive and untalented musician down on his luck, the thought of tearing at his face with my clawed fingers would probably never even cross my mind, but I'm nearly positive he knows exactly what kind of terrible torture he's exacting on all of his hostages. I think he revels in it, and his medley is just a more high-concept version of that ancient Dadaist panhandler technique of "please pay me to stop singing so horribly, y'all!"
I haven't actually tried to physically force Mr. Medley out of the train car yet, though I've imagined this exact scenario, which usually ends with everyone on the train thanking me and asking if I have a MySpace page. I think the only reason I keep my cool is that my contempt for him is less visceral than the enjoyment I experience sharing that contempt with the other passengers on the train. Nothing beats the entertainment value of seeking out someone who has just discovered he is under musical siege, then watching him search the faces of other passengers for shared displeasure, just to reassure himself that he hasn't become a cynical, hostile creep.
Once, as I was nearing the peak of melodica-induced irritation, I witnessed a police officer turn on Mr. Medley and verbally attack him, demanding that he stop playing or he would be ticketed and fined. Mr. Medley immediately complied, and the train grew chilly. A few stops later, the police officer finally exited the train. Once the doors closed behind the officer, Mr. Medley let a few beats of dramatic silence pass and then attacked his weird toy keyboard, playing, "Da da da dum da dum...Charge!" This was received with thunderous, wallet loosening applause from the whole car, myself included. Everyone loves an underdog.
My prediction for VH-1's Best Week Ever's decision about who is, in fact, having the best week ever: diapers.
STAY SHARP! Tonight.
I'm hosting a show in NYC tonight, as part of CBS-NY's weekly comedy showcase. It's called "Stay Sharp!" and features some of my favorite comedy pals performing under the duress of individually assigned comedy challenges. They're talented enough to handle it, I promise. Here are the details:
You can even purchase advance tickets here, if you're the kind of person who likes to plan ahead.