Tuesday, January 29, 2008

(Couldn't resist) LOVE LETTERS, PART 3: Enter Sab The Redeemer!

This is also available as a comment on "LOVE LETTERS, PART 1" as it appears on the myspace blog. I just like this better as a trilogy. But after this, no more. I swear.

CHAPTER 3: Intimidated by the good points I've been making in the first two love letters, the enraged Muslim beauty Fatima gives up and sics "Sab" on me--her cute little blue-eyed blonde girlfriend.

"hey will,

I think the issue is that you have to distinguish between extremists and muslims. While you may understand the difference, most people do not and continue to perpetuate this false perception. Not all terrorists are muslims bc Islam does NOT recognize muslim extremists as Muslims. Unfortunately these extremists have ruined the world's perception of Islam which is actually (believe it or not) a religion of peace. I understand that you are a comedian but just keep in mind that this is a sensitive issue right now and we should all try to work together and promote peace rather than hate.



Let's break this down.

1. "You have to distinguish between extremists and Muslims."

Sab, I do distinguish between extremists and Muslims. It's my portrayal of extremists that has Fatima bothered.

2. "Most people do not and continue to perpetuate this false perception."

Meanwhile, pretty young college girls like yourself and Fatima continue to perpetuate the false (and dangerous) perception that all Muslims are peaceful.

3. "Not all terrorists are Muslims because Islam does not recognize extremists as Muslims."

Well then, tell the extremists that. Not me. I don't give a fuck. I'm not a Muslim. I don't give a fuck how your religion is perceived. Not my problem, sister.

4. "Islam is a religion of peace."

George Bush said that as well, but you're both wrong. Hinduism, maybe. Buddhism, possibly. The word "Islam" means "to submit". And as you can tell by this ongoing argument, that's always been difficult for me. When are you girls going to cry "uncle" already? I win! Now let's go fuck.

"This is a sensitive issue right now."

Obviously it is. Otherwise, you girls would be able to talk openly about it instead of trying to stifle me.

"We should all try to work together and promote peace rather than hate."

That's not my job.

My job is to have a good time.

Give me your phone number. Let's really celebrate diversity.

Before Sir Elton Gets The Chance

(To the tune of "Candle In The Wind")

Goodbye, Heath Ledger
though I never knew you at all.
You had the grace to die from pills
and remind me that I'm small.

You rode up Brokeback Mountain
and played a cowboy who was gay.
And when you died in Soho,
that was equally as brave.

And it seems to me you lived your life
like another Hollywood whore.
You're dead and in the headlines
now more than ever before.
And I would have liked to have known you,
but I am only working class.
The Ledger burned out long before
I could ever kiss his ass.

Loneliness was tough.
But, respectfully, join the fucking club.
I mean, what's the going rate
for a professional in-house back rub?

Even when you died,
oh, the press still hounded you.
All the papers had to say
was, "Gee, Heath Ledger sure was cute."

And it seems to me you lived your life
like every other star.
When they want a little attention
they O.D. or wreck a car.
And I would have liked to have known you,
but I live way out in Queens.
And I don't think you'd have liked it here
cause it isn't very clean.

Goodbye, Heath Ledger.
From the guy who's never seen your films at all.
I'm sure things didn't come easy
in that perpetual debutante ball.

"Goodbye, Heath Ledger!"
screams the TV all it can.
It perceives you as something much more special
than the common working man.

And it seems to me you lived your life
like the graceful Princess Di.
Wave and smile and meet your end
and my! how the whole world cries.
And I would have liked to have known you,
but I'm not a member of The Guild.
Membership was denied me long before
you ever took those pills.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You'll Never Play Here Again, Ya Bum!

Last Friday marked the third time I've sold out this particular 200-seat theatre in New York City. Of the $8 this particular theatre charged my audience members for tickets to my one-man shows, the writer and performer of the one-man shows, myself, received zero.

Apparently, this is standard fare for this particular "cutting edge" theatre. Unless, of course, you happen to be a real starving artist like the working-class, salt of the earth production team of "Saturday Night Live" who, evoking images of Woody Guthrie and The Grapes Of Wrath, arranged with this "underground" theatre to put on a live performance of SNL to circumvent the writer's strike. Please note in the New York Times story linked to above that proceeds from those $20 tickets went to--well, to the working-class, salt of the earth production team of "Saturday Night Live".

The first two times I played here, I was a little disappointed about the financial arrangement, but I did it anyway because I was anxious to develop a following in New York City and needed a stage to do so. Following a third sold-out crowd and a standing ovation on Friday, I felt it was within my rights as the writer and performer of the one-man show to, literally, "pass the hat" so I could buy a new pair of shoes. (My old ones had holes in them, which was unfortunate whenever freezing rain occurred like it did the night before this show). I didn't necessarily want to close the show on a financial note, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Furthermore, I was extremely tactful in my curtain call--for example, saying vaguely to the audience, "I don't make any money doing this" versus "I receive none of the $8 you guys paid to see this show." A fact, as it turned out, the majority of the audience did not know.

Apparently, this action was too "cutting-edge" and "alternative" for this "cutting-edge" and "alternative" theatre.

Hey Will -

I was disappointed to hear about you asking the audience for money from the UCBT stage on Friday night. It's unprofessional and completely unacceptable. And it created problems for our staff who had to deal with complaints from audience members after the show who were not happy about paying for a ticket and then being asked for additional money from the performer on stage.

I was told by the hyperbolic stage manager that the number of complaints, out of over two hundred people, was five. (Which, interestingly, if you've read the previous two blog entries, is also the number of the irate Muslim woman plus her four "horrified" friends). I also reminded him that, unlike the theatre, I was simply "passing the hat" and not charging ticket prices. The audience was under no obligation to contribute, although most did. I have a new pair of shoes now.

I totally understand you need money, but I hope you can understand that we cannot have this kind of thing happening at our theatre. Yes, performers are not paid for performing at UCBT, but you do receive a free space to perform in NYC, free tech help, free publicity, free access to industry through our connections, free access to our reputation and built-in audience, etc. There are many performers in NYC who would happily trade the box office they make at a space they have to rent, publicize, and employ on their own, for that kind of access.

Or I could just go home to San Francisco, a city that, despite its faults, still has a bit more respect for the financial value of a live artist versus a town that enjoys taking it up the ass from television moguls. I didn't put up with any bullshit out West. What makes you think I'm going to put up with it out here?

If you'd rather receive a box-office split, there are many options in NYC available to you. The UCB Theatre is not one of them. We choose instead to charge very low prices that barely cover our expenses, thus giving more people more of a chance to discover new talent, and for talent to more easily reach an audience.

In other words, to create a Wal-Mart of underground comedy where I'm an illegal immigrant "greeter".

I've been more than happy to give you access to our stage, talk you up to industry, etc. And when you asked me to return in January, I was happy to find a place for you on the schedule and publicize the show again. But you betrayed my help with your actions on Friday, and you hurt your standing with this theatre and our audience.

Betrayed! I passed the hat. I am Judas Iscariot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LOVE LETTERS, PART 2: I Think I'm Going To Arrange To Marry This Woman

My responses are in italics. Also, I won't be posting another one of these. Although I dearly love her, I have comedy to write and shows to perform. Oh, Fatima! Why must we go on like this?

"No - I'm NOT saying you shouldn't make jokes about Muslims- I'm saying you shouldn't make jokes only about Muslims and not other religions...it makes you seem like a racist and thanks for the correction, but it SEEMED like 2 hours...it seemed like it would never end

Heavens to Betsy! It seemed like it would never end! Those 9 minutes just turned into infinity! Yes it seemed like that because you're an uptight theocrat looking for something to complain about. You hate fairness and equality. You can't tolerate criticism of your religion. In short, you are a prejudiced asshole. Or bitch. I'm not gender-specific when it comes to assholes. By the way, at what point in history did Islam become a "race" and not a "religion"? I missed that chapter.

During your islam+christianity+judaism=money skit, you went out of your way to bash Islam before going on to the other religions..."Islam- you know the religion that..."

The religion that what. . .? Go on, say it-- Hangs homosexuals from cranes in Iran? Stones rape victims to death under sharia law unless they can produce four male witnesses? Smashes planes into buildings and expects us to believe it's because they're impoverished? Commits genocide daily in Darfur? Calls for the death of schoolteachers for naming teddy bears "Mohammad?" Tells the free West what cartoons they can and cannot print? Mutilates female genitals? Yes, I rattle off a bunch of shit that radical Muslim groups have been involved with because Muslims like you won't. The religion that what. . .? Say it. I'm waiting to hear your words of condemnation. Your silence is deafening. And since you obviously aren't going to say anything, I guess that job belongs to me. Just don't shoot the messenger, honey.

"I would feel more comfortable on an airline with a radical Christian than a radical Muslim." What are you trying to prove with that statement-how would you know who you're sitting next to? Maybe you should write a book about how to tell what kind of a radical you're sitting next to on a plane

Anybody who asks for a seatbelt extension and is reading from a Koran. That kind of person. But maybe you're right. Maybe it would be hard to tell. Because, again, Islam is a religion and not a race.

And your medal is in the mail for using the word "radical" once when talking about terrorists and for not mentioning Osama...it would have been better if you did mention osama because at least then you are being specific- not generalizing all muslims...

The only thing I'm generalizing is radical Muslims. They are shit. How about that? Is that enough of a generalization for you? They murder people and expect us to believe it's because they're poor and have no educational opportunities because of the Great and Little Satan (America and Israel, respectively) despite the fact that most of their leaders are rolling around in oil money like pigshit. You can shove these people up your ass. Also, I didn't mention Osama by name because a) unlike SNL and Jon Stewart, I avoid the obvious and b) Osama is not the only radical Muslim in the world. But I think you want him to be. That way you have a nice scapegoat to point to and say--"Not all Muslims are like him!" You need more fingers, sister. Many more.

You say: "I do not consider it racist given the worldwide death toll in places like Darfur, Indonesia, London, or even New York where murders have been committed specifically in the name of "a certain religion..." Hate to break it to you but more people were murdered in the name of a different "certain religion" during the crusades than all of those put together...

Actually, that's not true. Islamic murders passed that watermark many years ago. By the way, I already explained what the Crusades were about in my last e-mail. The next time an Islamic Empire starts enslaving people all over Europe (which might be any day now) you can help stop it before another defensive Crusade begins. All you have to do is point the finger where it belongs. At radical Islam. Oh, and how long ago were the Crusades anyway? Or are you just collapsing all time into a single infinite point like you did with the 9 minutes into 2 hours magic trick?

"to get to the point where certain denominations now openly accept female and homosexual clerics, for example. What if Islam could do the same? As a Muslim, you could make a difference in your religion where it's needed most. " - there are also certain denominations that openly accept female clerics and some that would not- the same as the idea of gay clerics in christianity....

Yes, Christianity at least has a choice nowadays. Better than not having a choice. So your point is meaningless. Give me choice over lack of choice any day. Give me diversity over lack of diversity any day. As the song goes, "accentuate the positive". Here's a funny question: have you ever been to a Christian church dressed as a woman? I have. Many times. Not only was I allowed to live, but I was invited to come forward and read a passage from the Bible. Afterwards, everybody had coffee and donuts and nobody said a fucking thing. It's nice to have a little wiggle room in religion sometimes. (I'll explain all this later in a separate blog entry--ed.)

You don't know me- I try to make a difference in my religion and teach acceptance and understanding,

No you don't. "Acceptance" and "understanding" are your handy little catchphrases to deflect from what you really are--a fascist who can't tolerate criticism. What the hell is tolerant about "racist douchebag" and "racist bastard"? Give it a rest with the peace and love bullshit. You're an ideological stormtrooper.

But it's assholes like you that make it a whole lot harder to talk about understanding and tolerance

Yes, because I won't blindly apologize to people like you who can conveniently morph 9 minutes of intellectual comedy into 2 hours of Hitlerian hate crimes.

If we're not "giving a shit" about people's feelings, then i think you should know that you're not funny...at least if you were funny that would be one thing- he's a racist, but he's funny-

Oh, so you CAN be a racist and be funny? Thanks for the heads-up. Next time, I'll just pick on the Jews.

There was nothing funny about your show and not even because it was offensive...you're just a guy with ADD subjecting people to the horseshit in your head. Maybe you should quit your job as a comedian and work as a skit writer for fox news...i'm sure they'd have plenty of use for your anti-muslim crap there...

Yes, and maybe you could write for Al-Jazeera. Something unique and earth-shattering, something completely unheard of in this politically-correct wasteland of unoriginal thought. How about. . .I got it! An op-ed piece on how badly Muslims are persecuted in the New York underground comedy scene in the Chelsea district of Manhattan on 26th street between 8th and 9th avenues! You could call it "9 Minutes That Shook My World"! Run with it, sister! Give it voice! Go girlfriend!

OR because you believe that when land was being "gobbled up by Islamic clerics" before the crusades, the only way to stop that was through mass murder--

I think they tried releasing doves first. . .

Then I think you and Bush have a lot in common- keep that in mind when thinking about replacement jobs as well...

Listen, bitch, why don't you go off and write a one-Muslim show of your own and stop busting my balls? Just make sure it doesn't go over 9 minutes. I don't know if I could handle that much criticism.

Monday, January 21, 2008

LOVE LETTERS: Or, When Intelligent Words Fail You, Try "Racist"

This is from a woman named Fatima. I should point out first, if you haven't seen it, that the show is actually 70 minutes in length and only 15 of those minutes specifically deal with religion. Of that number, roughly 9 minutes are devoted to Islam. Here's what she had to say:

I went to your friday show at the ny ucb and i have to say that of all the (many) shows i have seen there, this is the only time i left feeling disgusted. What the hell makes you think it's ok to bash muslims for 2 hours straight? You like to think you're a good person by putting in the ironic slavery jokes, yet it's ok to go on and on about how muslims are evil? Guess what? NOT ALL MIUSLIMS ARE EVIL! Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone needs to tell you what a racist douchebag you are! You brought up the crusades, but that was something that was done by the religious leader of ALL Catholics...Osama is by NO MEANS the leader of all muslims- he's the leader of a bunch of crazy people... True muslims don't follow him. There are 1.6 billion muslims in the world, so I think that fact is pretty obvious- we would be in a very different situation if they did. There are crazy extremists in every religion. Seriously- my 2nd grade students have a better grasp on reality than you do. I'm not saying you shouldn't make jokes about muslims (i love john stewart/SNL) I'm just saying you should make fun of both sides- it's different when you are making fun of everyone, instead of spending 75% of the show bashing one religion. At least have some sense of decency- slamming the Quran on the floor is a huge slap in the face to a muslim. I thought I should give you the benefit of the doubt and watch the whole show, but I can tell you I deeply regret making that decision. You just sat there making ridiculous generalizations. Being Muslim, I of course am more sensitive, but I was there with 4 friends, all of which left as horrified as I was. In conclusion- you are a racist bastard. I thought you should know that (if you don't already). And maybe just go all the way and change the title of your show to 'Will Franken: Hitler & KKK Lover.' You do them proud.

I actually do make fun of both sides in the show. I think that's her problem. Some people hate fairness. Ironically, the last time somebody complained to me about being offended was when some uptight Marin bitch got mad when I used a crucifix as a junkie's needle. Anyway, here's my response:

I appreciate your concern.

"I'm not saying you shouldn't make jokes about Muslims" (Really? That's not the impression I got from your e-mail)

The show was 70 minutes, not 2 hours. A mere 15 of those minutes were devoted to religion, 9 of those specifically dealing with radical Islam. I'd ask you to note the word "radical", but that would conflict with your contention that I just hate all Muslims.

The reason I wrote those 9 minutes (again, which you perceived as 2 hours) is because there is a drought in contemporary comedy, thanks to political correctness, when it comes to making fun of Islam. I am simply filling the gap. Your religion is no more special to me than Christianity, Judaism, etc. Please watch the video on myspace where I shoot up a crucifix if you don't believe me.


The first reference to Islam comes in the diversity seminar bit. If you remember the visual, Islam plus Judaism plus Christianity equals money. This is not a slam against Islam. It is a slam against hypocritical businessmen out for profit.

The second reference to Islam comes when I reveal one of the Danish cartoons of Mohammad. I quickly flip the cartoon to reveal a picture of a woman with a crucifix shoved up her ass. Again, not a slam against Islam. It is a slam against hypocritical artists and politically-correct purveyors of mainstream media. I'll show whatever cartoons I want. Again, your religion is not special. As you could see if you paid attention to the picture of the woman with the crucifix shoved up her ass and the words 'Fuck me, Jesus' scrawled over the top.

The third reference to Islam is during the Westminster Abbey bit when the preacher is arguing with his choir over the validity of the statement: "There is no difference between radical Islam and radical Christianity." This is an argument against postmodern relativism. Again, please note my tactful use of the word "radical". And, like it or not, there is a difference. I do not consider it racist given the worldwide death toll in places like Darfur, Indonesia, London, or even New York where murders have been committed specifically in the name of "a certain religion" when I would say honestly that I would feel more comfortable on an airline with a radical Christian than a radical Muslim. However, If you'd like to feel persecuted and think that I was saying all Muslims are evil, then go ahead. If that is your identity--perpetually offended victim--then Godspeed. However, I am not a relativist. Therefore, I argue that one is more preferable to the other at this point in time. If you're so concerned about this, don't complain to me. Complain to the murdering motherfuckers who aren't really helping your religion get any good PR. Think productively--Christianity had to go through a reformation, a renaissance and an enlightenment to get to the point where certain denominations now openly accept female and homosexual clerics, for example. What if Islam could do the same? As a Muslim, you could make a difference in your religion where it's needed most.

As to the Crusades reference in the same bit, the preacher character says "Concerning the Crusades, I was led to believe they were a reaction against Muslim imperialist expansion throughout medieval Europe." The choir answers, "That's just Christian indoctrination." However, the preacher character is historically correct. If you've studied the political and military history of your religion, you'll see that through violent conquest and enslavement of native peoples, including the imposition of the 'dhimmi' tax on subjugated non-Muslims, vast areas of land across Europe were being gobbled up by Islamic marauders at a staggering rate. The politically correct myth is that Catholics were just sitting around one day, got bored, and decided to go kill some Muslims.

The last reference to Islam is the longest, I admit. It is the terrorist bit. If you're familiar with any of the writings of Islamic dissidents like Aayan Hirsi Ali or Wafa Sultan, you'll see this sentiment echoed time and again: "Not every Muslim is a terrorist, but almost every terrorist is a Muslim." If I were to do that piece reading from a Bible, it wouldn't make any sense. As it is, I'm reading from the Koran; specific verses like: "Take neither the Jews nor Christians for friends." Am I arguing that the Bible is perfect in comparison? Not at all. However, I would argue that verses such as that one may be responsible for whiny assholes like Yassar Arafat, Hasaan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden (none of whom I specifically mention in the show, by the way) getting away unchallenged, say, with calling for the death of the Jews and denying the Holocaust. Who's the Hitler/KKK lovers there?

Also, please note in that same bit, the character is an American. Rather than make him Arabic, he is a convert to Islam who has only converted because he likes the idea of blowing up a plane. Furthermore, he references the keffiyeh he's wearing as having been purchased from Urban Outfitters. Simply a slam against terror-chic fashions being worn by ignorant hipsters.

Finally, yes, I do close that piece by sticking chewing gum on the Koran and tossing it on the floor. The reason I do this is because--well, because I can. It's just a fucking book to me. And, quite frankly, I don't give a shit what it is to you.

In Allah's name,


PS--I'm sure you do like Jon Stewart/SNL. That's just the sort of the tepid non-challenging bullshit overly sensitive assholes like yourself can handle. I could also direct your attention to any number of clubs in the city where you can get a steady diet of Brittany Spears jokes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

For Nina

"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames"--Jim Morrison

I'm not sure what's going on with me right now. I am dirt poor. I have no romance in my life. Talentless assholes and obtuse businessmen still jealously guard the gates to material success. Despite all of this, or perhaps because all of this, I have been exceedingly and uncharacteristically happy these past five days.

Perhaps it is because I have been performing constantly and know that after three excruciating days of rest, I will embark upon another delightfully maddening itinerary of shows between New York, Ohio, and San Francisco.

Perhaps it is because I am free to say or do whatever I want on stage. Or am simply reminding myself of this freedom.

Perhaps it is because I am fast approaching that mystical point where I no longer give a rusty fuck what "The Entertainment Industry" can or cannot do for me and my career.

I am surviving on a thread. And I've never been happier.

There is something so liberating about literally having nothing left to lose.

I am living each day as if I'm dying of a brain tumor.

And I live these last days only to serve my art.

For too long, I have tried unsuccessfully to straddle the fence between art and business. But now I am tired. My pockets are empty. And my spirit is thirsty.


The general comment I always get from people who work in "The Entertainment Industry" after they've seen one of my shows is this:

"We really like the smart stuff you do. We just don't know what to do with it."

What I want to say is:

"Of course you don't. Because you're stupid. If you were smart, you'd know that the smart thing to do would be to put the smart stuff on television and make more people smart."

Honestly, how stupid do they think I am?

People who work in The Entertainment Industry are generally lazy people. To be sure, they might play racquetball or go for a jog after sushi. But their minds are lazy. And a lazy mind is a stupid mind. Furthermore, when stupid minds are employed in major television networks, they indirectly help create millions and millions of like-minded stupid minds. All this, of course, makes it extremely difficult for a smart mind to succeed anywhere in this whole stupid world.

This is why people who work in "creative development" at major television networks ask me for ideas. They don't have any of their own.

It's always the same. I get invited to come down to a fancy high-rise office and a hot chick takes me to a meeting room and asks me if I need anything. Or want, I always forget.

Want. Need. It's so easy to get those confused in the offices of a major television network.

I ask for a glass of water because I'm a little nervous and don't want to get cottonmouth when I talk with the creative development people of the major television network.

Sometime after the hot chick leaves the room, the businessmen enter.

"So, Will. If you could do anything, what would you do?"

The answer is always the same, "I'd do what you saw me do last night on a television and get paid lots of money for it."

And it's never the answer they want. Even though, given the open-ended utopian rhetoric of the question, it perfectly fits. "Well, what we were thinking was, what if we could take one of your two-minute ideas and stretch it out over ten years?"

I wince. "That's an idea. Or I could just do what you saw me do last night on a television and get paid lots of money for it."

Now they try to sweeten the deal, "Okay, what about this? What if we assigned you a team of fifteen professional writers to take one of your one-minute ideas and stretch it out over twenty-five years?"

"I hear what you're saying," I say. Although it isn't true. By this point, I'm usually hearing ragtime music in my head or thinking about a new one-man show or how I might turn this depressing corporate bullshit into a poignant satirical vignette.

I'd probably listen to them if they weren't so adamantly opposed to my main idea. "Come on. Let me do what you saw me do last night on a television and pay me lots of money for it. That way, you can get all of my ideas exactly the way they're supposed to be delivered--in their purest and most enlightening form. And the best part is, being employees of a major television network as you are, you guys can disseminate this artistic purity across the nation via television! And all I ask in return for this service is that you pay me lots of money."

"Okay," they fume, "what if we assigned you a Head Writer to oversee a community of twenty writers who would take one of your thirty-second ideas and stretch it out over forty years?"

This is lunacy. If they're the ones in creative development, why aren't they bringing ideas to me?

Ideas like: "So we saw your show last night, you did a lot of funny voices, a lot of different characters, and you seem to have some acting ability--how would you like to play The Guy With The Rake?"

Now that would be cool. "The Guy With The Rake? You bet! How much would that pay? By the way, I can also play The Girl With The Shovel or The Dog Who Won't Eat His Dog Food!"

I would play anything. Raking is pretty good money.

But playing The Guy With The Rake is even better money.

No, I wouldn't mind acting at all. That way, my ideas wouldn't get ruined. And if anybody complains about how stupid the show is--don't look at me. I'm just The Guy With The Rake!

But they never give me the rake. No matter how willing I am to clean up the leaves. They want me to work for my work. "Easy there, champ. We just want to know, if you could do anything--anything at all--what would you want to do?"

Again with the hypothetical utopia. "I'd fly. I'd kiss the moon. I'd travel back to the early 19th-century. I'd turn concrete into money. I'd--"

They sigh, "We mean as far as ideas go."

"Oh, as far as ideas go? Well, let's see. How about I do what you saw me do last night on a television and get paid lots of money for it?"

If you've never been in this situation before, trust me, it can be quite a challenge providing people in creative development with creative ideas for them to develop.

Unless you're that magical combination of good businessman and mediocre artist. That seems to be the type of person that creative development people generally hire to do their creative development for them.

A good businessman is a businessman. But a mediocre artist is not an artist. The only kind of art is good art. Everything else is just business.

O! Brothers and Sisters, that which we call "mediocre art", after the revolution, let us call it what it really is: shit.

There is no "glut of talent". There is a glut of people who think they have talent.

And there are lazy businessmen.

These twin demons are the gatekeepers to the hell in which you and I live.

And I want out! Deliver me up from this evil, O Lord! Deliver me up from this stultifying wasteland, My Lord and Keeper!

Until that day of redemption comes, O Lord, just help me stay busy. Give me a rake.

"If I get a haircut, will you let me play The Guy With The Rake? Or The Guy That Mows The Yard? I'm a hard worker and I'm looking for some sort of job until the day comes when I can get my ideas on a television exactly the way they should be delivered and get paid lots of money for it."

My throat is starting to get dry. The hot chick never brought me my water.

"Well, you see, Will, we've already got A Guy With A Rake to play The Guy With The Rake. We're thinking of you more as an Idea Person."

My heart sinks. "Aw, fuck. I'm already an Idea Person. I've been an Idea Person my whole life. That's all I've got in the bank right now--my ideas. I've been saving them up for the day when I could perform them on a television, exactly the way they should be delivered, and get paid lots of money for them. And if I can't do that on a television, then I'll do it in a theatre. And if I can't do it in a theatre, I'll do it in a comedy club. And if I can't do it in a comedy club, I'll do it front of the fucking mirror and pay myself with laughter. This is my life, you understand?"

I'm really starting to get thirsty now. Where is she?

"So honestly," I continue, "if you're not into that idea, I completely understand. All I ask is that you give me a rake. Or a garden hoe. Or a lawnmower. Put me to work. Seriously, don't you have anything in this entire major television network for me to do other than compromise?"

They think for a second. "Well, what sort of ideas do you have?"

"Jesus fucking Christ! Is my business card the one that says 'Creative Development'? If not, it should. But it doesn't because I don't have any fucking business cards. Now, if you were to loan me some money, I could afford to get some made that said 'Creative Development'. Maybe I could do that, you guys could hire me, give me a fat salary, and then we could talk about some ideas."

They think for another second. "Okay, let's say we did hire you. What sort of ideas would you have?"

"See, you think I'm stupid. You're trying to trick me into giving you free ideas."

They think for a third second. "Here's ten bucks."

I take it, because I'm a starving artist. Then I give them an idea, "All right. Now out in the hall, you've got The Girl That Gets The Water. Well, what if she had a boyfriend?"

Their eyes light up. "Tell us more about that."

"Yeah, she has a boyfriend. His name is Will. He's this poor working-class comedian who grew up in the backwoods of Missouri and has never seen the inside of a major television network before, much less a trust fund account. The Girl That Gets The Water gets the water for Will. Next thing you know, they start talking about water. . .about wetness. . .about when things get all nice and wet. . ."

Their mouths begin to foam, "This idea has legs!"

I caution them. "But this is no smut tale. This is high-class romance. True, they've got a deep physical connection: both of their bodies are made up of three-quarters water. But they've also got a spiritual connection. They're both water signs. She's an Aquarius. He's a Cancer. Their love is forever inscribed upon the stars. The cosmos, that is. Not celebrities."

They put their fingers to their lips and squint their eyes in an illusion of deep thought, "This idea is down to earth."

I caution them again. "But this is no junk reality-TV bullshit either. All the characters and stories will be sculpted to perfection within the framework of a singular artistic vision."

They vomit. "That might be a little difficult."

At this point, the hot chick enters the room and cleans up the vomit. Then she leaves, forgetting my water again.

It's so hot in hell.

"Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

It's so hot in hell.

But I can hear a trickle.

Somewhere beyond this godforsaken Hades, there's a stream.

It's so hot in hell.

They move their lips and I can't hear a thing. I have to find that stream.

It's so hot in hell.

I'm never going to get any water here. I'm never going to feel refreshed here. I'll never be clean here.

It's so hot in hell.

Where is that stream? Not out here, O Lord.
It flows not here to ease my pains.

It's so hot in hell.

Let my soul be quenched, O Lord.
Deliver me, O Lord, my spirit to sustain
with nourishment coming from your heaven-sent rain.
Deliver me, O Lord, from all that's the same.
If Art is my water, my soul shall be sated
imbibing God's drink, for this has been fated.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Every Day In New York

A response to Wm. Blake's "The Divine Image"

Every day in New York,

I see people I'll never see again,
but it never makes me lonely when

every day in New York,

taking their place, strangers are near
when all my friends have disappeared,

for every day in New York,

rain or shine,
the human form divine
is always present here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Oh, hello there. And thank you for joining us. Today on Thoughts we're thinking about keys to happiness.

I think the key to happiness is not allowing yourself any time to think. That way, your thoughts are never yours because you didn't work for--or think of--them. They are the thoughts of other people. They take the place of all the thoughts, including the sad ones, you would have had if you were still thinking for yourself.

There is no such thing as pure thoughtlessness. Even the absence of thought is itself a thought. You will always have thoughts. The question is: whose thoughts will you have? Yours. . .or someone else's?

You must actively think in order to have your own thoughts. Paradoxically, it is precisely by not thinking that you can think other people's thoughts. They simply get thought for you when you're not paying attention.

It sounds existentially dreary, I know. But really, it's not.

I have noticed that people who think their own thoughts--in a word, individuals--are generally not as happy as people who think other people's thoughts. By allowing yourself to think other people's thoughts, you become part of a community of Other People. And therefore not alone.

Theirs is the blessing of convenient simplicity. Freedom from the chafing shackles of choice.

I heard that this thing is nice! Somebody told me that this thing is great! I saw on the television that this thing is important!

Even when they're sad, they're happy. Because they are not themselves. They are Other People. Only an individual can truly be sad. For in his or her sadness, the individual has no ready access to the endless supply lines of happy thoughts being shipped all over the globe via Other People Express.

Individuals. Theirs is a storm to be weathered alone. We'll be right back.
Welcome back to Thoughts. Today we're thinking about keys to happiness. Joining us in my head right now is Dr. Expert. In your expert opinion, doctor, what is the greatest problem with thinking for oneself in the postmodern age?

"Thinking for oneself at this point in history is unquestionably an arduous task. What Herculean labour--to uphold originality in an age that rewards the otherwise! How stoop'd thy frame, how somber thy countenance, anchored by that albatross of individuality! And how more imposing the world doth seem when aware we fully become as to the reach and influence of other people's thoughts on other people's thoughts! These are dark days, indeed--the loneliest time in the history of humankind to be thinking for oneself."

How depressing! When Thoughts returns, some final thoughts. We'll be ri--

Sunday, January 13, 2008

This Is Where I Belong: The Hawk And The Rat

Of all the times not to have a camera!

I was walking down 7th street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in the East Village yesterday.

Just outside of the well-known Irish Pub, McSorley's--(oldest ale-house in NY, established 1854, complete with sawdust-covered floor)--there was a crowd of about twenty-five people of varying ages, ethnicities, and sexes gathered in the middle of the street, gazing upwards at a third floor fire escape landing. Some were merely staring, others were taking photographs.

Before arriving at this scene, I had spent the previous few hours fretting about what material I was going to perform at my show in Greenwich Village later that evening. Electing to clear my head for the moment, I decided to satisfy my curiosity by joining the throng.

"What's going on?" I asked an East Indian gentlemen leaning against a parked limousine.

"A hawk is trying to eat a rat." He then directed my attention to the fire-escape landing where I could see a red-tailed hawk with the head of a very large rat buried in his beak. This was no easy predatory conquest for the majestic hawk, however. The rat, still kicking and flailing, was wedged between the metal slats of the fire escape grating; the bottom half of his writhing body exposed to the cruel winter air between the floors and the top half suffering the unimaginable pains of the decapitating beak of the hawk above. Unfortunate for the little vermin, to say the least.

As the hawk yanked upwards with his beak, the fattened hindquarters of the rat slammed repeatedly against the grating, preventing the noble bird from bringing the entire body to a position enabling easier consumption. As it was, the hawk found himself simultaneously gnawing away at the rat's skull while persevering in his valiant attempt to squeeze the remainder of the rodent through the grating and up onto the landing.

Adding to this struggle, as the grizzled neck of the rat was becoming ever more bloody and sinewy, a new concern arose for both the hawk and the onlookers below.

"I'm worried he's going to tear the head off and drop the rest of the body," said a very attractive blonde girl in a rainbow scarf who had suddenly appeared next to me.

"You know," I said, "in San Francisco, that hawk would be denounced as an aggressor."

"I've never been to San Francisco," she said, "They don't like hawks out there?"

"They're a bit squeamish when it comes to the harsh realities of the natural world. I think their ideal is to have hawk and rat coexist in equality and understanding."

She laughed. That made me happy. This is New York, after all. No time to rewrite the laws of nature out here. That's the just way shit happens on the fire escapes above these mean city streets.

By this point, the crowd had now swelled to around forty people. Taxi cabs were honking to usher us out of the way. I saw a Latino father holding his toddler-aged daughter, pointing excitedly for the little girl to see. Off to one side, there were a group of middle-aged drunken Irish men slapping each other on the back and saying, "Only in New York, right?"

Truly, this was diversity. Human diversity. Unscripted human diversity. No seminars, no forums, no quotas--spontaneous, authentic, and natural diversity. And it didn't cost a thing to be part of this.

But what I especially enjoyed was the fact that nobody was taking the side of the rat. All of the praise was reserved for the majestic hawk.

Said an Italian-American man with slicked-back gray hair and gold chains, "That's a byoo-ti-ful fucking bird!" Yes, the hawk was receiving more than an adequate amount of encouraging phrases from every direction. "You got it, man!", "Don't give up!", "Stay with it, now!"

I was shouting myself after a few minutes, "Hang in there, buddy! You can do it!"

It's amazing, this spontaneous kinship we all felt for this bird. I think in a way, the hawk served as a personal symbol of triumph over adversity and a public symbol of communal persistence for the common good. There wasn't a man, woman, child, or transsexual among us who didn't wish to see the hawk yank those fat-ass rat hips through the grating and enjoy his well-earned dinner to the fullest.

After awhile, I couldn't stop laughing. This whole scene was joy! beauty! divinity! Not only the predatory act we were witnessing, but we--the witnesses ourselves. We were the emblem of humanity at its purest. There were no racial, economic, or gender divisions here. There was only an unflinching admiration for the noble hawk and an unapologetic contempt for the despicable rat. If only foreign policy could be this easy.

Once the rat's feet and tail stopped twitching, the excitement in the crowd grew to a fever pitch. The fucker was dead; his lower extremities hanging lifeless three flights above. Instead of a hangman's noose, the beak of the red-tailed hawk held secure his neck--or what was left of it.

Now it was time to finish the job!

"Come on!" We shouted one and all, our collective heart pounding with anticipatory bloodlust, "Do it! Do it! Do it!"

A black guy in his twenties with a hot Asian chick at his side shouted out, "This is better than the Seahawks game!" Perhaps for luck, he kissed his girlfriend.

"Bring him on up, buddy!" I yelled, "He's yours, man!"

But then disaster nearly struck. In a split-second, the hawk opened his beak to try and shove even more of the rat into his gullet--perhaps in the hopes of gaining more leverage in this Darwinian and Newtonian struggle between hawk, rat, and gravity.

In that terrifying moment, the rat carcass slipped free and fell a good three inches through the grating, right up to his gnarled neck! Luckily, with no time to spare, the hawk seized the exposed clump of bloody sinew which used to house a head and held fast, preventing--for the moment--the dreaded free fall.

We all gasped!

And then an ominous hush came over the crowd.

The headless rat corpse now hung ever more precariously under the fire-escape landing, gently swaying in the light mid-January wind, held aloft only by a thin pink strand of tissue. How long, we wondered, could the hawk maintain this balancing act? His prey was dead, but the treasure of the feast might very well elude him if he could not once more regain the higher ground. Would he be able to make the necessary advance with only a long sinew as his tether? None among us could say. We could only wait. And hope.

I surveyed the crowd once more. All eyes were riveted upon the hawk. Young, old, male, female, black, white, straight, gay--I imagine each of us prayed to our respective gods at that moment, beseeching the governing cosmic forces to find some way for our aviary friend to hold fast, bring home the verminous bounty, and provide us, the audience, with some sense of closure before dispersing to return to our normal and separate lives.

The seconds dragged into minutes. Some people began making calls on their cell phones. Newly arriving strangers were now approaching me to ask what was happening. Every one of us became our own information center help desk. On some people's faces, I saw exactly the same look I've seen during baseball playoffs when the home team is down by one run and the pinch hitter steps up to the plate. It seemed a hopeless situation. But in such situations, heroes are often made. I thought of Churchill.

"Come on, Hawk!" I shouted. I had given him a name.

Just then--in one mighty show of strength!

Hawk craned his head upwards again with all the force he could muster, the bloody strand in his beak stretching but not breaking! And with this newfound show of force, the decapitated remains were pulled nearly three-quarters of the way up through the grating! The majority of the rat carcass now lay in his domain! Hawk had regained the upper hand and the crowd erupted with joy!

We spontaneously burst into a round of applause--hooting, hollering, whistling! To my right, a group of teenagers lit cigarette lighters and shouted "Encore!" It was indeed a home run, a touchdown, a goal, a hole-in-one!

The only thing that remained now between the hawk's well-deserved feast and further entrenchment between the metal slats of the grating were those fat-ass rat hips. This game was as good as over.

Or so we thought. As it turned out, our noise had frightened the bird. Soon after our thunderous ovation had commenced, Hawk looked up--apparently noticing all of us down below for the first time.

Perhaps in a fit of stage fright, perhaps wanting to say something to his newly acquired fans below, perhaps a fear of success, perhaps for reasons we may never know--

He opened his beak.

And the rat fell.

Looking back on it now, it almost seemed like the whole thing happened in slow-motion. The headless rat corpse completed no more than two, maybe three, aerial somersaults before landing on its back on the second floor fire escape directly below--the end with the exposed sinews draped grotesquely over one edge, near the "McSorley's" sign, his four feet pointing upwards, frozen and useless.

Once more, a hush fell among the crowd. Though now one of sadness, not anticipation. It was over. We had to accept it. True, there were a few well-intentioned observers on the sidelines who weren't ready to throw in the towel. In vain, they pointed to the corpse and shouted to the bird, "He's down here! Look!" It was no use.

Instead, Hawk flew up to the third floor fire escape railing, ruffled his majestic feathers and with no small modicum of dignity, puffed out his chest. He needed no compass. He knew exactly where the body lay. But he wasn't going to go after it. It wouldn't have been sportsmanly. Hawk was a gentlemen and a gentlemen always knows when a hunt is over.

He lingered there for a few seconds longer. Just long enough for us to applaud him once again for his inspiring efforts.

And then he flew away. As did we.

The teenage kids putting away their lighters and skateboarding over to St. Mark's Place. The black guy and his Asian girlfriend walking a few blocks away to make out. The Latino father and his daughter off in search of some other family-friendly activity. The drunken Irish guys returning to McSorley's for another Guinness or two. The East Indian driver getting back into his limo, perhaps twenty minutes late on his way to pick up a passenger.

The pretty blond girl in the rainbow scarf also gone. Probably off to meet a boyfriend.

And I?

Alone, I walked away and began to worry again. What material was I going to perform tonight? It had to be a perfect show. You see, I have to kick ass at every show I do in New York from this point on. For the lesson of the Hawk and the Rat confirm it:

"This is where I belong."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Desperately Seeking Gracie

One of the more interesting side effects of being divorced, I've been noticing, is that I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about all the women in my past that I should have married instead.

I've had almost nine months to narrow down the numerous candidates and, just this morning, I arrived at my final decision. Here's who I should have married instead:

Her name is (was) Gracie Fields. She was one of the leading British stage comediennes of her day. Armed with only a gorgeous voice and bags of personality, Gracie reached the peak of her popularity in the late 1930s as Europe prepared once again for war.

True, she's not technically part of my past. But she is part of The Past; the larger, all-encompassing past to which my past--and your past as well--are inextricably enmeshed. So I consider her fair game. That is, if she'll still have me.

I had a chance to marry Gracie in early 1940. This was right after she'd split up with her first husband, Archie Pitt, a struggling music hall comedian. Yet before I made my move, she got married again; this time to that asshole film director Monty Banks.

The problem was I could never find the words to tell Gracie that I loved her. I couldn't even find myself. For in 1940, I did not exist.

Oh, sure, I might have existed as eternal ether, hovering outside and beyond linear time as a disembodied essence waiting to be given earthly form. But high-class tangible reality of the sort that Gracie inhabited? Well, I just wasn't really part of that scene.

By the time 1973 rolled around and I finally entered this limiting spatio-temporal reality which is only a mere illusion concealing the underlying divine force which permeates the cosmos and collapses all perceivable time into a single mystical point, Gracie was living in the Isle of Capri with her third husband and only six more years to live. It didn't matter, really. I still didn't have the words to tell her I loved her. Even though I now existed, all I could say in 1973 was "abble-baw-baw-guggle".

When Gracie passed away in 1979, I was only six Earth years old. In order to avoid dwelling on the cosmic misfortune which had prevented our marrying, I soon shifted my romantic intentions to one Miss April Knapp--the cute little girl from kindergarten whose hand had felt so warm and soft when we played "Red Rover" at recess.

I never forgot about Gracie, though. April might have had soft hands, perty hair, and was right there in front of me. But being only six years old herself, she hadn't yet developed anything slightly approaching the unrivaled charisma and beauty of our Gracie. For instance, no amount of after-school hand-holding and cheek-kissing would ever erase the timeless image of Gracie singing "Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)" for the boys sailing off to smash Hitler's Reich. Gracie knew right from wrong, all right. And she knew how to make it sexy. There'll never be another girl like Gracie.

But Gracie's dead. And I'm here. Heartbroken, I kill my time in this limiting spatio-temporal reality as Gracie is now the one to hover above and beyond me as pure and timeless essence. At some point, I too shall leave my present form and experience formlessness once more among the eternal ether. Such is the never-ending cycle of birth and rebirth; the never-ending procession of opportunities fulfilled and opportunities squandered. O, my beloved Gracie, how much of our estrangement was dictated by the oppressive neutrality of cosmic fate?

What am I saying? I don't believe in fate.

I believe in choice. Just like Gracie did!

I have a choice. I can sit here and wallow in self-pity. Or I can go after the gal I should have married a long time ago!

I'm gonna get my gal Gracie!

I've got a plan to make it happen. It's not gonna be easy, but it can be done, by gum! And here's how:

I. I will die and become disembodied essence once more.

II. Thus, my existence will become paradoxically twofold at the point my existence ceases between:

a) The perceivable composite individual that did exist and now exists only as a point of reference in linear historical memory

b) the formless essence which remains after the crossover via physical expiration to cosmic timelessness.


III. If the disembodied essence of Gracie Fields has not been given a new physical form by the time of my death, the formless half of my now-dual existence will have achieved the objective of coexisting with Gracie in a state of formlessness. (No sex, but at least we'll be together in spirit)

I know exactly what you're thinking. Well, Will, that sounds all fine and dandy. But what about the possibility that by the time of your death, Gracie has been given a new physical form and your formless state will not be able to co-exist with her formless state seeing as how she will no longer exist in a state of formlessness?

No problem!

If I arrive in the eternal ether to find Gracie's formlessness has already been shaped into a new form, rather than engage myself in a long and mistake-prone search for whatever earthly form she might have taken, I will instead fix my cosmic sights on the older and easily recognizable form of Gracie Fields from the year 1940 (which exists as a fixed composite entity within the navigable framework of linear historical memory)--ed.

More importantly, 1940 is the year that Gracie left her first husband and married that asshole Monty Banks.

If I can time this mission just right and get to 1940 before Monty Banks comes a'wooing, I just might have a chance to rewrite a little romantic history.

But remember, this is all part of a larger question of form emerging out of formlessness. What form should I take? Going back to 1940 is only part of the equation. Who should I go back to 1940 as?

Easy. This guy. George Formby.

Formby was himself a major star of British music hall and cinema. In fact, you should look up some of his songs. Extremely fucking funny. Personally, I always thought it was a shame that he and Gracie never got married. They seemed such a perfect fit. True, he did have a wife. But I remember reading that it wasn't a particularly happy marriage. Perhaps this is my chance to do something good not only for myself, but for George Formby as well.

Besides, as George Formby, I will have insider access to a 1940 British music hall world, thus increasing the likelihood of a romantic backstage rendezvous with a 1940 Gracie Fields.

Okay. Recap. The mission again:

1. Commit suicide in order to return without form to the eternal ether.
2. See if a formless Gracie Fields is anywhere about.
3. If a formless Gracie Fields has already been given a new earthly form, I'll then recreate myself in the form of a 1940 George Formby in order to gain physical access to a 1940 Gracie Fields.

And most importantly,

4. When I finally come face to face with my beloved Gracie, try not to get nervous and, for heaven's sake, just be myself!

Very simple. Die. Take a look around. Get reborn if I have to.

Okay, I'm off to get the razor blades!

Wish me luck!

I know Gracie is!

Can't you hear her?

Well, then, click on the lyrics below and let's set sail!

"Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.
Cheerio. Here I go. On my way.

"Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.
Not a tear, but a cheer. Make it gay.

"Give me a smile I can keep all the while
In my heart while I'm away.

"Till we meet once again, you and I,
wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!"