I dislike most mainstream comics. I find humor that’s very broad, obvious and hacky to be irritating, not funny. To rank anywhere higher than the level of what I associate with eighth grade, comics need to be smart and original, not derivative.
Guys like Doug Stanhope, Colin Quinn, Marc Maron, Dave Attell – and Bruce, Carlin, Pryor, Hicks, Kinison, and Michael O’Donoghue (one of my favorite satirists ever) before them, don’t (or didn’t) rely on bad pop culture references to get a laugh: they go much deeper and smarter.
Recently I was watching an episode of “Louie” (staring another smart and hilarious comic, Louis CK) , which generally consists of 22 minutes of smart and highly uncomfortable comedy that CK has clearly mined from deep within his not-insubstantial insecurities, and CK made this simple and profound statement to a stand-up audience:
“Finally I have the body that I want – and that’s a thing people really covet it’s hard thing to achieve, and I did. And I’m going to tell you how to have exactly the body that you want: you just have to want… a shitty body. That’s all it is. You have to want your own shitty, ugly, disgusting body.”
I thought of that episode while I was considering this week’s column. With New Year’s Eve mere moments away, most people start considering New Year’s resolutions; I don’t. Perhaps it’s just an excuse for my failure to keep past resolutions, but I’ve found that change comes when I’m ready for it, not before, and certainly not simply because I’ve decided that this year will be the year that I finally fix whatever it is that’s broken. I’ve recognized that to make 2011 a personal success, what I need is a group of anti-resolutions, not unreachable goals. So this year, I resolve to accept and continue the following questionable behaviors:
Anti-Resolution One: I resolve to keep eating poorly. This one’s a layup for me, and it’s my go-to anti-resolution. Anyone can decide to chase heady goals like cutting down on fats, eating more greens and drinking less coffee, but it takes someone with real intestinal fortitude to commit to another year of well-marbled steak, sausage and onion pizza, smoked pork and copious amount of caffeine to ward of the inevitable post-meal lethargy. It’s not easy being stuck on the couch for an hour after every meal, after all. You folks go ahead and start eating well, I’ll continue to eat delicious foods and tell you about them. Besides, the way I look at, all these fats create an internal gym for my heart to work out on, and working out is good for you.
Anti-Resolution Two: I resolve to continue my minimal exercise program. A perfect anti-resolution that fits well with my first, the last thing I need right now is the inevitable self-recriminations caused by going after six-pack abs but remaining an endomorph. This year, then, I’ll be keeping my exercise program simple and consistent, with regular strolls to the coffee pot and out to my Weber grill. Staying strong here may be harder than you’d think though, since basketball with my kids, going to the beach with the family, or skateboarding around the neighborhood might be considered weakness. In light of that, I’ll take the 80s pop culture advice to “give myself a break,” and allow all of those activities as long as I don’t spend more time outside getting my heart rate up than sitting in front of my computer getting carpal tunnel syndrome. The lesson learned from Louis CK should come in handy with these first two anti-resolutions.
Anti-Resolution Three: I resolve to continue staying up too late and oversleeping in the morning. This one is particularly tough, especially as it results in my wife having to get up much earlier than me to get the kids off to school, but I’m willing to continue making that sacrifice. It’s not all bad though: the late nights give me more time to work on anti-resolution number one, and the extra sleep cuts into my day and increases the pressure I’m already under to meet my writing deadlines. This in turn ratchets up stress and helps exercise my heart. Hopefully, all that heart work-out won’t count as breaking anti-resolution two.
Anti-Resolution Four: I resolve to continue waiting too long between haircuts. Pulling this off isn’t easy because “I don’t have time to make an appointment” won’t wash as an excuse; I cut my own hair with clippers. Despite the fact that my wife insists I get more obnoxious the longer my hair gets (unlikely: I’m already about as obnoxious as even I can stand), I’m going to continue to wait until it’s well past due for a trim, perhaps even until it approaches my high-school level of puffy afro (I seem to have aspired to looking like a cast member from “Hair”) before cutting it off. I’ll just have to keep putting up with looks of irritation from my wife and dealing with an infrequently itchy back for one more year.
Anti-Resolution Five: I resolve to avoid cutting down on video games. When I was a kid growing up in New York City, I spent more than a little time in the local corner store or pizza parlor, feeding quarters into a Space Invaders, or Galaxian, or Asteroids, or Defender machines. Almost nothing but proximity to a cute girl in the smoking lounge at high school got my blood going more than walking through the doors of one of the Times Square arcades with a pocketful of silver.
My affection for video games continued through my twenties when I picked up a hardball addiction to the game Mr. Do. When I became older though, I put away childish things. In my case those childish things were machines into which I needed to put quarters; I replaced them with (in order) ColecoVision (it came with Donkey Kong!), Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast, Sega Game Gear, Gamecube, Xbox, Wii, and Playstation 3, the last four of which we still have, and the last two of which were, um, for my kids.
It’s been tough, being a grown man in his 40s who still plays video games, but accepting my inner basement-dwelling anti-social geek is a huge part of properly approaching this year’s anti-resolutions. I may not have much time for them anymore, but I’m absolutely resolved to doing whatever I need to find the time to sit with my kids and waste hours playing Monkey Ball, Call of Duty Black Ops, or Donkey Kong Island Returns. I even resolve to continue pretending to care who wins, and to practice all alone after they’ve gone to bed. Because that’s the kind of dedication I bring to anti-resolutions.
Anti-Resolution Six: I resolve to not worry about getting a “real” job. Like my first resolution, this is another one that speaks to an inner strength. Anyone can sit back at a big corporation and take advantage of fancy cush benefits like health care, regular paychecks, vacation time and sick days, not to mention getting to go home at the end of the day and forget about work.
But that stuff just makes you soft: it’s embracing what you love and living paycheck to paycheck that builds character, and it takes a deep well of denial to plow through life without going to the doctor for a check-up. Thankfully, I’ve got just that kind of denial. The economy is bad enough in South Florida that I’m in little danger of being tempted to break this anti-resolution, so I’m confident I’ll be able to finish 2011 just like 2010: as a freelance writer scraping by and pretending he can’t get sick. I’m so confident about success with this anti-resolution that I’m issuing an open challenge to readers: I dare you to test my resolve by offering me a creative job with great pay.
That’s it: I think six is a good number, and I don’t really want to overtax my lack of resolve this year. After all, I suppose it’s possible that by the end of 2011 I’ll be employed full time, in fantastic shape, sleeping a full eight hours a night and extremely well coifed; any more failure than that I don’t think I could handle.