Friday, March 19, 2021

Cancel Culture

"Cancel culture" is just a modern buzzword for "boycott". People boycott products, companies, and artists they don't like for all sorts of reasons, and they have been doing so for centuries. In this country, boycotting is a fundamental part of our First Amendment rights. Does anyone reading this actually believe that Civil Rights activists in the 1950's had no right to boycott or "cancel" the Montgomery Bus Company?

I remember Catholics attempting to boycott or cancel "The Last Temptation of Christ" back in the 80's, and I remember Evangelicals and Catholics joining forces to attempt to cancel the movie "Dogma" in the 90's. I certainly remember efforts to boycott or cancel "Harry Potter", Howard Stern, yoga, Colin Kaepernick, Ellen Degeneres for kissing a woman on television, rap music, heavy metal, and more. Going back a few generations, religious groups tried to boycott or cancel jazz music, Elvis, Ray Charles, and more.  The main reason these religious groups were unsuccessful is because their numbers were, frankly, too small, and their attempts to cancel these films and artists ironically gave the films and artists extra publicity, which led to an extra boost at the box office. Therefore, the producers had a financial incentive to not only ignore the boycotters, but to increase their controversial output.

I don't believe it's a coincidence that Marilyn Manson, Eminem, gangster rap, and shock comedy movies and television shows all gained in popularity in the late 90's through the early aughts. The attempted boycotting of these artistic endeavors in the 80's and 90's actually helped to vault the entertainment industry into record profits. Furthermore, the people boycotting were unlikely to have ever been consumers of said products anyway. Evangelical church group members were probably never going to buy a Marilyn Manson CD anyway, so why should his producers care what that group thought of him? They lost zero revenue from the boycott, and the extra attention only brought in more money.
The issue we are running into today is that the actual consumers of these entertainment "products" (music, movies, television shows, etc) are the ones actually doing the boycotting and, to use the current buzz word, "canceling". This current trend of boycotting is having a very real economic impact on these companies' bottom dollars, and that is the ONLY reason contracts are being nulled and different actors/artists/personalities are being fired. The Catholics and Evangelicals couldn't do a thing to Marilyn Manson's record sales because they weren't the ones buying his albums in the first place. Young girls with a goth fetish are his core audience, and THEY are the main people boycotting him now because of the recent sexual assault allegations! So yes, "cancel culture" is an effective form of boycott (which is what makes it so scary for these artists), but it only seems to be effective when the artists' core audience are the ones doing the boycotting. Otherwise, said boycotting or canceling is likely to have no negative impact.

Here's another example: Recently, several Twitter users attempted to "cancel" Eminem. Millions of his fans responded by buying multiple copies of his albums and vaulting him once again to the top of the charts. The "cancelers" had no luck with him because the ones trying to cancel him were not his core audience anyway. Morgan Wallen is another example. He said the "N-word" in public, and got dumped by his record label, and yet his existing albums immediately shot to the top of the charts and have remained there ever since. It is almost guaranteed that his record label will re-sign him in a few weeks after the hubbub dies down.

You literally cannot cancel someone who is making too much money for the industry. That's how capitalism works. However, it is entirely possible to cancel someone when their core audience refuses to pay for their products. It is only at that point that the industry begins to take notice.

The Montgomery Bus Company had every legal right to segregate their buses in 1956 since segregation was not only lawful, but also encouraged at the time. However, after nearly a year and a half of losing revenue from their PRIMARY CONSUMERS, the bus company realized they had no choice but to give in or go bankrupt. Let's say a group of car owners had decided to boycott the Montgomery Bus Company in 1956. How effective would that boycott actually be? They weren't going to take the bus anyway. That boycott was only effective because African Americans usually took the bus more often than anyone else in town - because segregation also affected them in the workplace, and therefore, many African Americans in 1956 could not afford cars.

As an artist, do I worry about being canceled? Sure, it could happen. I write a lot of satire that could easily be misunderstood. When I was younger, I used to dream about the Evangelicals trying to shut down one of my plays. The idea of it was actually exciting to me, because I thought, "Oh, think of the controversy! Think of the news headlines!" etc. But today, I'd just be grateful if ANYONE showed up to one of my plays - with or without a picket sign.

But, while I certainly would hate to be canceled by folks that I respect or consider to be my peers, I also fear the alternative even more - a world in which we cannot criticize, boycott or challenge artists, companies, politicians and people that we disagree with. If person A says something terrible on the internet, I have the right to criticize that person. If I say something terrible on the internet, that person has the right to criticize me. That's how freedom of speech works. "Cancel culture" is only seen as dangerous today because it involves money, and specifically the loss of it. But, we live in a capitalist society, so why shouldn't we use money as a weapon? In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court essentially ruled that "Money is speech", so I guess some people feel that if they are losing money, then that also means they are losing their freedom of speech?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

I Support #MeToo

The pain that I see in my friends' posts, my loved ones' conversations, and in the countless interviews I've seen in the news in response to Kavanaugh's hearing, as well as in the last several years of the #metoo movement, have deeply affected me.
I have hurt people. Mostly without realizing it. Sometimes I did realize it, but I justified it by saying that other people laughed, so it was ok. Hurting people was never the end goal; the goal was usually to make people laugh - but if some people got hurt in the meantime, well, so be it. I was driven from a young age by a need to make people laugh - I found it to be an effective defense mechanism against an otherwise cruel world. But occasionally, I perpetuated that cruelty unto others.
One time, I broke up with a girl in a really cruel way because it sounded funny in my head. Why would anyone try to be funny in a break up? I have no idea. I can't even begin to understand my own logic at the time, let alone explain it. All I know is that I recognized the cruelty even as the words were exiting my mouth. I do not regret breaking up with her (it was not a healthy relationship), but I have regretted the way I went about it for years. I even wrote half of a play about it once, but I didn't finish it because the friends I had shown it to said the male character was way too vicious, and they didn't like it. (They didn't recognize that character was me, and I didn't have the courage to tell them. I also didn't feel right watering it down, so I just set it aside for a time).
Sometimes I was cruel in a way that I instantly regretted. Other times, it took a while for me to recognize how much I had hurt someone. (And I also don't mean to imply that my life has been spent inflicting one cruel joke after another - I hope I have ultimately brought more joy than pain to others over the long haul - but there were enough cruel moments in there for me to feel the need to share this.)
My wife is one of the most empathetic people I know. When we met, I was not in a great place in my life - but she listened, loved me, and made me feel like I meant something in this world. She also taught me that there are a lot more ways to make people laugh than just being cruel. Over the last 10 years, I have listened to her, I have grown with her, I have developed a far keener sense of empathy and compassion than I even knew I was capable of. Most people who have met me in the last 10 years probably would not have recognized me in the previous 30.
When the #metoo movement began, I listened - to my wife especially - but also to many others.
In addition to waking me up to the horrific experiences of others, these stories have made me reflect upon my own bad behavior. I know that I have been a terrible person at times, and that I have caused people pain.
When people say that Judge Kavanaugh couldn't have been guilty of hurting someone in his teens because he's "so nice now", I call bullshit. Maybe he found God (or lost God), or maybe his wife helped him to become a better person (or not, because based on his testimony, he certainly doesn't SEEM like a nice person). But, even the nicest human being in the world is capable of hurting others. This does not mean that anyone (even Kavanaugh) is incapable of redemption, but it certainly means that an effort must be made.
If you have hurt someone in your past, please acknowledge it - at least to yourself. Listen to others. Reflect on your past. Promise yourself and others that you will do better - and actively work towards doing better. None of us are perfect. All of us are human and fallible - but if we can't even acknowledge our own shortcomings, then how can we expect it of others?
I am deeply ashamed and sorry for my actions which have hurt people. I truly wish I could undo those actions, but I CAN work harder towards being a better person today. The world is far too cruel as it is without my dumb ass adding any more to it. For all those who've shared #whyididntreport and #metoo messages, please know that I'm listening, I hear you, and that your words are having an impact. Please don't ever feel that you need to be silent. These messages break my heart, and they make me want to be a better person. I know I'm not alone in this. And neither are you.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Atlas Shrugged Vs. The Fountainhead

I originally wrote this back in 2010, but I read it again today and it still holds up:

So, I recently read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" for the first time, and was... well... impressed by the scope of the novel, however disappointed by the actual writing - especially compared to her previous novel, "The Fountainhead", which I loved. A friend asked why I liked one, but not the other, and here was my reply:

"The Fountainhead" deals primarily with art and imagination and creativity, and not letting any other human dictate what one should or should not create. So much so, that Howard Roark (the novel's protagonist) will not be moved by public opinion OR by financial concerns. He would rather go bankrupt and be blasted publically by every newspaper from here to kingdom come, than to sacrifice his vision. To that end, I found it fascinating. Yes, the protagonist is an architect, not a playwright, but I still connected with him on an artistic level.

In "Atlas Shrugged" however, we focus on businessmen. These businessmen have the same intensity of focus as Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead", which I admired, AND their approach to business is very similar to Roark's approach to his architecture. They plan to earn money REGARDLESS of public opinion, and even in the face of pending bankruptcy, they will still do everything they can to produce, create, and hopefully make their millions in the process. In many ways, I admired "Atlas Shrugged" and what it set out to do.

However, "Atlas" is WAY too judgmental of other viewpoints. In a key scene, the main protagonist calls social workers the most evil people in America, because all they want to do is take money away from the rich and give it to the poor. I happen to like social workers. I have several family members who are social workers. They are about as diametrically opposed to evil as I am from a turtle. The most likable character in the novel makes a broad comparison of Robin Hood to the devil, and over and over again, Rand calls people with a social conscience "Evil" or "a looter", as if a person's desire to help others is a sin. Yes, I understand WHY she wrote this novel, and what worldy concerns were happening (Stalin was in power, Cuba was overthrown, the Red Scare was in full effect, and McCarthy was at the height of his popularity). However, the judgments hurled at some of my own philosophies were not well met by me as a reader. In fact, I felt many of her arguments were not even well formed. Had she been in the room as I read it, I'd have challenged her on many tenets of her argument.

On the flip-side, the protagonist in "The Fountainhead" makes one thing very clear - he doesn't give a DAMN what others think of him or his work. Roark does not judge people - not even Peter Keating, who is stealing his ideas and marketing them as his own. He just does what he does, and allows others to judge themselves. He is a mirror by which others can see their own faults and reflections. Yes, the character of Ellsworth Toohey is a Socialist, and clearly the villain of the piece, but in the greatest line of the novel, Toohey asks "Why don't you tell me what you think of me, Mr. Roark?" Roark replies, "But I don't think of you." It sums up everything.

Had Rand been more subtle in "Atlas Shrugged", I might have been on board. But "Atlas" is SOOOOOOOOO judgmental, with the words "Evil" and "A socialist" tossed around so much that it resembled a McCain/Palin rally, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of her protagonists is so amazingly brilliant and of the same mind, I felt bored. Yes, there are some (possibly many) great businessmen out there who make a sizable profit doing the right thing. But as we've seen recently with Enron, Halliburton, BP, and many other examples, there are LOADS of businessmen who are JUST AS BAD as the corrupt politicians who are villainized in "Atlas Shrugged." Rand proposes (like a Tea Partier) that government should stay out of big business. That's all well and good, and I might be able to support it - Except in her example, all businessmen would naturally work within the United States, keep jobs for our citizens, promote the best employees, fire the worst, regulate themselves in order to maintain a better profit, and so on. Yet that doesn't happen! Businesses are constantly outsourcing, letting people go regardless of their talent, as long as they can save a buck somewhere else. Rand IGNORES the handicapped entirely, shits all over anyone who cares about their family more than work, and she favors social selection over any other societal model. Which again, is an ok philosophy worth debating, but in this novel, she makes NO ROOM for disagreement or doubt. Her protags are all perfect beings - ALL of them. And I get her point - we should encourage the best workers and discourage the worst. Fine, I'm all for it. But deregulating completely? Going back to "the perfect world" of laissez-faire capitalism? I'm sorry, I don't think it works. There is JUST as much temptation for a businessman to be corrupt as a politician.

Some other complaints:

1) She blames the fall of capitalism on Robin Hood - the idea of stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Yet, Robin Hood didn't steal from the hard-working rich, who earned their money honestly! He stole from LAZY rich, especially from the lousy politicians who over-charged taxes on their citizens, without offering comparable benefits in return. Robin Hood would have NEVER stolen from King Richard, the king everyone admired - he only stole from Prince John, who is the same type of douchebag as James Taggart in the novel. Prince John and James Taggart were both handed everything, put forth zero effort, yet felt the world owed them everything. So Robin Hood said "Screw you, I'm taking all your unearned tax money back." Based on this novel alone, I would have thought Rand would LOVE Robin Hood. In fact, she even has a likable character named Ragnar Danneskjold who is a modern-day pirate, who does what? Oh right, he steals from the corrupt politicans who overtaxed the businessmen, and gives the money back to the rightful owners. Ragnar Danneskjold IS Robin Hood. This was a poorly conceived metaphor on her part. Robin Hood is actually about as Ayn Randian as you can get...

2) Two of her main protagonists were born rich and handed everything. Francisco and Dagny were both heirs to MAJOR sources of wealth and property. Yes, so is James - one of the antagonists. But maintaining one's wealth, and rising up from nothing to earn it are two different things entirely. If you want to argue about the merits of capitalism, to a country that is divided economically, these two characters are NOT the best examples. They work as foils, but they're not going to "speak" to someone who is raising three kids, working two jobs, and struggling to pay the bills. Reardon did work hard to get where he is, but he certainly didn't come from poverty. He rose up from the middle class. Unfortunately, because of this, "Atlas Shrugged" smacks of an "I-have-everything-and-I-want-to-keep-it" smugness. In "The Fountainhead", you at least have Gail Wynand, who rose up from the slums of New York to become wealthy, which is more impressive, and you also have Roark, who doesn't CARE about money. Possibly John Galt's background is comparable to Wynand's, though he's only in the novel a relatively short time, and really, he's more comparable to Roark. Money is important to Galt, but more as a philosophy - making money IS Galt's artwork.

3) As a novel, Rand fails in "Atlas Shrugged" by creating TOO MANY perfect protagonists! There are not enough flaws (tragic or otherwise) in any of her protagonists, and there are SO MANY flaws in all of her antagonists. It's hard to swallow, at least on a dramatic level. I suppose the metaphor works for what she's trying to say, but as a novel, it sucks. In "The Fountainhead" you have ONE perfect person, and even the people who want to be like him fall short. I can buy that. I just can't buy that every single person who cares about money actually follows the same moral code as every other person who cares about money. I just don't buy it. They all use the same language: "The looters", "evil", "I will never put anyone else's interests above my own." etc. It's not that I don't get where she's coming from -- it's that for someone SO concerned with individuality, it seems weird and contradictory that these staunch individualists would each share the same philosophy - right down to the EXACT SAME WORDS every time they speak!

4) Dagny sleeps with three dudes in the novel - each one more impressive than the last, and EACH TIME, the previous dude is like "Wow, I'm so glad you're sleeping with that dude - because he's so much better than me." BULLSHIT! That is such bullshit. I don't care how "perfect" you are! What MAN, let alone a staunch individualist such as Francisco D'Anconia and Henry Reardon, is going to back down on his sexual conquest in order to promote the greater good of his philosophy? WTF?!? Again, I get where her philosophy is coming from, but it's BULLSHIT, and goes completely against human nature and biology.

5) And with all of those staunch individualists in that one community, are you really going to tell me that no wars are started? No arguments? No one has a bad day or gets sick, or wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and says something dumb to someone else? No one decides they want to make more money than the next guy, or tries to rob someone, hoping that no one will notice? And what about children? How will this society sustain itself without children? And if they have children, then what happens when those children become teenagers or decide they don't like the philosophy espoused by the rest of the community? I don't buy it. I DON'T BUY IT. The people in that community are described as having the biggest egos in the world. How are they even living near each other? Let alone not ripping each other's throats out? Again, it's a nice philosophy, but it's BULLSHIT. Human nature does NOT WORK THAT WAY.

6) And what happens when one of these amazing people has a child who is handicapped, and unable to give back to the society? Who takes of the child? Obviously not a social worker, since they're all evil. And probably not the parent, since they're so busy making money and being amazing for the good of all society. So do the parents simply abort the child who is incapable of providing any benefit to the society? This is never even touched on, and yet it is the biggest flaw in her entire argument.

Perhaps I'm cynical, and I really TRIED to see it Ayn Rand's way, but I don't. I think her "community" would dissolve in a month if it ever came to be. It would fall apart EXACTLY the same way communism would. One person would eventually get tired of being equal, and would try to tip the scales in his or her favor, which would piss off the other people, and a war would start. One person would eventually get sick, and out of fear of dying, might do something dumb - or the people that love them might do something dumb, or they might have a stroke and go crazy and break the rules. I don't know! But she completely fails to account for human nature. Not all people are smart, not all people are capable, and not all people are of sound body and mind. In her "ideal world," those people would just die, I guess. I simply can't accept that... There are far too many flaws in this novel for it work on its own merits.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Death of a Snowman

So, my 40th is coming up in less than a month. Yikes! If anyone is interested in doing something special for me, I would love for you to consider donating to my IndieGoGo campaign. I wrote "Death of a Snowman" back in 2009, and have wanted to see it animated ever since. It's a story about a young girl whose mother passed away, so she reaches out to her closest friend - a snowman - to discuss what happens in the afterlife. It's such a meaningful story to me, and I've heard many audience members tell me how meaningful it was to them, as well. (The play has been produced over 80 times around the world!)

Two years ago, I finally raised up enough money to have a serious discussion with a professional animator. The money I raised was not enough to complete the project, but it was enough to get things moving, with the idea that I would do a fund-raiser once most of the initial pieces were in place. Well, that's where we're at now. Please take a look at the project. There are photos and a trailer on this link, plus I'm offering some amazing prizes - a signed animation cel, producer credit, Christmas tree ornaments, signed books, etc. Please take a look, and please donate if you can. This project means the world to me, and I think it would mean a lot to others as well. Thank you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Title Change


So I wrote a play a while back that was very well received. So well, in fact, that a friend of mine wanted to film it as a short movie. I was thrilled, so I adapted it into a screenplay, we cast the actors together and we filmed it. After that, the friend more or less disappeared off the face of the earth for close to a year, along with the footage. I asked him several times how it was looking, if he needed any help editing, etc. I kept getting the same reply: "I got this. Don't worry about it." (This should have been a red flag). The actors in the film asked me numerous times if I knew anything. All I could tell them was that the director kept assuring me that he "got this." Four days ago, he sends out a rough cut of the footage to everyone on his email list (he didn't even send it to the cast and crew for review first, as is custom on short films like this). Some of the edits looked really good - which was exciting. But he changed the title. Which I didn't expect. And the change was not a positive one. He also made some editing choices which I felt interrupted the flow of the action. But most upsetting to me was the title change - mainly because we had numerous discussions about the script and he never once discussed a possible title change - and if he had, I would have fought him on it tooth and nail.
I sent him a very long email describing my concerns about the rough edit - both positive and negative comments, with most of my concerns revolving around the title change, since it violated our contract.
24 hours later, he has not replied to me at all, but he sends out a mass email to his email group:
"Thank you very much for your emails. Your kind words regarding the film are greatly appreciated. And yes, to the request I heard from many of you, you can provide a link to the film even though this is what those folks in the software industry call a “soft launch”.
Kind Regards,"
My response to this email:
"I have to be honest, ____. You never once suggested that you might change the title. Not in any of our discussions, or even in the contract does it suggest that you were considering changing the title. I take it as a serious slap in the face that you would even think about changing the title without discussing it with me first.
I am angry and I feel betrayed. When you and I spent several hours discussing this project, I thought "Man this guy really gets it." I told my wife that I finally found a director I could trust. But I was wrong. I fully expect that if I ever sell a script for thousands of dollars to Hollywood, they'll have the right to change whatever they like. But I didn't sell this to you for a dime. I gave it to you freely because I believed in you and I thought you would bring my vision to life. But I'll never make that mistake again.
At this point, I'm so disgusted I don't even want my name associated with this project. Please remove it. Thank you."
His reply:
"I'm sorry you're taking this so hard. I never imagined this would be your reaction to the title change. To take your name off would be dishonest."
My reply:
"Why did you change the title? And why did you never think to discuss it with me? I made zero dollars off of this. I gave you my script for free, out of respect and out of trust. Didn't you think that I might be a little bit upset by a major change of this nature? Why keep it such a secret from me? Did you not trust me? Did you not respect me? I feel absolutely betrayed. And the fact that you're sharing it publicly AFTER I shared my feelings about it tells me that you don't give a fuck how I feel. If you told me in advance that you wanted to change the title, I would have refused. And I think you knew that. Which is why you waited until now to just surprise me with it. Well, color me fucking surprised, man. But even more than the title change is the lack of common courtesy to even tell me about it. That's the part that stings. You didn't buy this script from me. I GAVE it to you. And the only thing I asked in return was a little bit of respect. You fucking failed in that department, man. I'm angry. Really angry. It case it wasn't clear."
His reply:
"Let's revisit the reality of the financials, I funded the entire project. There's never been an expectation of earnings coming out of this, so I'm operating at a loss -- but I have no complaints."
My reply:
"Well I have a big complaint. Please remove my name from the project. Thank you."
Then I followed with:
"You can put "Alan Smithee" in there if you like. But I want nothing to do with it."
Then I followed with:
"Plus I offered to pay half. You turned me down every time I offered. So please don't act like you have some financial foothold over me. I'll be happy to reimburse any and all costs right now if it would sway you to change the title back. Just let me know."
24 Hours later, the video was still up on YouTube with my name on it, and he had not replied. So I sent him this:
"I have requested three times now that my name be removed from this project. My next "request" will be in the form of legal action. You have altered my script beyond recognition and beyond the scope of our agreement. Furthermore, you have treated our friendship and collaboration with utter disregard and contempt. I appreciate and encourage creative differences between collaborators; but lies, disrespect, and outright breaches of contract will not be tolerated. Remove my name or be prepared for an unpleasant legal battle. You have 24 hours to comply." Within 6 hours, the video was removed. I hate that it went down like this, and I'm still sick to my stomach over it, but at least I know he's reading my emails.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

NBC Universal Application

So I recently applied to do a workshop with NBC-Universal. It's a 4-day workshop with some of the head writers of "SNL", "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon", etc. One of the assignments was to write an opening monologue for a late night comedian, filled with topical jokes from contemporary news and media sources. This is what I came up with. (Keep in mind that I completed this a few weeks ago, and so some of these jokes are a few weeks old):

So, North Korea’s in the news again. Apparently, their internet was down for 9.5 hours the other day. That’s right. 9.5 hours. That’s actually how long it takes for Kim Jung Un to walk three blocks, so it really wasn’t that noticeable to him.

Meanwhile, President Obama said that it was a mistake for Sony Pictures not to show "The Interview" in national theatres on Christmas Day, since that would set a bad precedent for terrorist groups to strip away our freedom of speech. Almost immediately, the director of Kirk Cameron’s latest feature "Saving Christmas" said that it was a mistake for national theatres not to show his movie as well, since that would allow public consumers, and audiences, and fans of quality cinema to erode his freedom of speech as well. (Beat) We’ll see how that turns out.

In other media news, Kanye West recently teamed up with Sir Paul McCartney for their new single "Only One", which is ironic, considering McCartney’s previous collaborator John Lennon once claimed that he “was bigger than Yeezus.” (Beat) Which is… of course… the name of Kanye’s 6th album, "Yeezus".

In further Kanye West news, his wife Kim Kardashian, aka Keezus, recently tried to “break the internet” with a picture of a champagne glass on her butt. In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has blamed Ms. Kardashian for their 9.5 hour internet outage, and has threatened to shoot a nuclear missile warhead up her ass. In lesser news, he states that all champagne glasses are considered enemies of the people, and must be summarily shoved up Seth Rogan’s butt.

Speaking of Seth Rogan, marijuana is now legal in Alaska. There’s no joke there. It’s just a train of thought from one subject to the next. But yes, marijuana is now legal in the state that once elected Sarah Palin to its highest office. Could it be that they’re just trying to forget?

And speaking of forgetting, Sylvester Stallone just announced that he’s making a new "Rambo" movie. That’s right. He’s forgetting that nobody gives a sh-t. He’s also forgetting that he’s 70 and he needs his heart medication before he blows up some North Koreans – which is… presumably whom he’ll be fighting in this latest movie. In retaliation, of course, North Korea has threatened to kill Stallone, and… anyone who likes "The Expendables".

Recently, Play-Doh released a toy that looks like a penis. Sylvester Stallone said that this was ironic, because his penis is starting to look like Play-Doh. In fact, he says he has to leave it out of its container for a couple of days whenever he wants it to get hard again.

Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is developing a revolutionary product that will convert human feces into palatable drinking water. This is true. Of course, the purpose of this product is to purify the streams and rivers in third world countries that often have human waste dumped into them. It’s a terrible problem, and it makes absolute sense that someone would create this product. And the fact that it’s Bill Gates makes even more sense – since he’s been sh-tting all over us for years with products like Microsoft Windows 8 and Internet Explorer. So… yeah. Way to clean up the mess, Bill.

And speaking of messes, Bill Cosby has been accused by two more women of sexual assault – bringing the total now up to 23 women who have openly accused Bill Cosby of some kind of sexual wrongdoing. Of course, many detractors have been referring to some classic Cosby routines, such as the “Spanish Fly” bit on his 1969 album It’s True! It’s True! in which he refers to purchasing Spanish Fly in order to get women to sleep with him. (Play segment of the track) It’s pretty condemning stuff. However, another fan discovered more recently, an even more condemning bit. See for yourselves. (Roll tape of Fat Albert, with a clearly dubbed voice saying “Hey, hey, hey. I’m Fat Albert, and I can’t get laid unless I drug some b-tches.” Back to host) Hmm, yeah. So there’s a lot of ambiguity in this situation, folks. We’ll see what happens…

In medical news, ebola is still wildly out of control in many countries – due in large part to people drinking poo water. So… hopefully Bill Gates will get that product up and running very soon. But in the meantime, several Nigerian princes are reporting a new scam. It appears that white Americans are writing them and offering ebola vaccines in exchange for their Social Security information. So… Interpol is looking into the matter as we speak.

And finally, actor Steve Carrel is gaining a lot of attention for his role as a wealthy aristocrat in the new movie "Foxcatcher". Carrel donned a prosthetic nose, fake teeth, and a terrible haircut in order to capture the essence of Donald Trump. (Looks at paper) Oh, I’m sorry. I meant John Du Pont. Sorry. Easy mistake. Sorry.

But anyway, that’s the fake news. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mr. Burr

INTERVIEWER: Tell me a story from your childhood that would best personify your personality today.

ME: In seventh grade, I had a math teacher named Mr. Burr. He was an older, mostly bald white man who always carried a comb in his front pocket, and spoke with a thick New Yawk accent. When the students would fall asleep, he'd kick the metal garbage can and yell, "Wake up! Wake up! What the hell you doin' to me? I'm trying to teach heah!" (New Yawker for "here"). In the winter, he'd open up the windows and let in the snow, and again yell "Wake up! Wake up! You lazy sons-a-you-know-whats! What the hell you doin' to me? I'm tryin' to teach heah!" And then he'd bust out the comb and run it up his bald head like Arthur Fonzarelli. So one day, I wrote a comic strip about him.

I had the man dressed up as Batman (Burrman), and had him do battle with the evil garbage pails who wanted to take over the world, using their freeze rays. Of course, Mr. Burr was impervious to cold, and his weapon of choice was a swift old kick in the garbage "can", if you get my meaning. My classmates loved it so much, I wrote more. I eventually had Superburr, Luke Burrwalker, Burrassic Park. You name it. I mean, it was just endless. I was not a popular kid in seventh grade (I had buck-teeth, bad acne, overweight, you name it) but my classmates LOVED "The Burr Files" as they were eventually called. I wrote comic strip after comic strip, and they ate that shit up. The only math lesson I remember from that class was "PEMDAS" or "Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract" in that order. I remembered this because of his mnemonic "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" which he repeated over and over again. Eventually, Aunt Sally became a character in the comics - farting, belching, removing her clothing in inappropriate places, and Mr. Burr would always have to excuse her, even while trying to save the world.

I eventually branched out to parody other teachers, but Mr. Burr was always the easiest and ripest for parody. Towards the end of the year, in English class, I was asked to write a poem, and so I chose to write about Mr. Burr (I'll never forget this line: "Bash, bash! Now the garbage can's dented. / Whew, said he. Good thing it was rented!") The English teacher loved it so much that he showed it to all of the other teachers - including Mr. Burr. A day or two later, I was walking down the hallway, and a GROWN MAN grabs me by the shoulders and shoves me into an empty classroom. It was Mr. Burr. His face was pale as a ghost, and he goes, "What the hell you tryin' to do to me, kid?! The entire staff thinks I'm some kind of moron! Oh marone. You're ruining my life!" And I realized he wasn't kidding. The entire class of students (And apparently the faculty) thought my work was hilarious - but he didn't get the joke. Here I had nearly 100 comic strips all making fun of this man, and the butt of my joke did not appreciate it at all. And that's when I realized the human cost of parody.

I really don't like hurting people, but I love parody so much. I crave sarcasm and satire in my life, but I'm always mindful of that look in that man's eyes when he realized I was making fun of him. And had been doing so for months and months on end. I like to think I still write satire, but it's satire with a conscience now.