I’m sorry for the week of silence. School starts up again tomorrow, and I’ve been drinking too much as a farewell to my vacation time.
Now, if any of you are anything like me, then you know Cracked.com. And, if any of you are even more like me, John Cheese is one of your favorite personalities on the site (second to only Daniel O’Brien because goddammit he’s cute). And, if any of you are *exactly* like me, well then we’re clones and you should probably get over here so we can either fight or fuck (See, Daniel O’Brien, So You’re Locked In A Room With Your Clone: Fight Or F#@k?, Cracked.com (2009)), but aside from that you also stalk Cheese’s tumblr, and know he recently put out an open call for interviews.
If you are none of those things above, then this is an entirely self-absorbed, not at all funny post for my own pleasure, and I’m not even a little bit sorry.
Q: 5 Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better, and 5 Reasons You Don’t Miss Your 20s When They’re Over are two of my favorite articles. Many people in law school find themselves feeling duped by a certain discourse that surrounds the profession, but only after sinking a year or two and a lot of money into law school (the few emails I do get from strangers who read my blog all center around this issue). Do you have any general advice for 20-somethings who feel like their life has somehow gone irreparably off-course?
Let me tell you a story before I give you the advice…
All through high school, I was told by adults that I was going to be a famous artist because I have the ability to draw photo-realistic human portraits. Don’t take this as me bragging because I don’t enjoy drawing, and I don’t do it anymore, but when I had my best work on display, most people thought they actually were photographs until they were told that they were charcoal drawings.
I graduated high school in 1992, and the advice I got from adults wasn’t, “Ok here’s how you make money with your skill.” It was, “The Walmart distribution center is looking for someone to stack pallets.”
I jumped from fast food jobs, to gas stations, to nursing home cafeteria worker, to roofer. I hated it all. Then, I finally broke down and said, “College is the only way out of this.” So I took out a couple thousand dollars worth of government loans and started school. Later, I dropped out, not knowing what I really wanted to be, about as burnt out as a human could get. I spent the next couple of years, drinking and living on other peoples’ couches. My lowest point was in the following January, when I found myself having to spend a couple of nights in an abandoned trailer during the worst snow storm of the year because I had nowhere to go. Not even my mother would allow me to stay with her, and she was as much of a fuckup as I was.
The point is, if I could come back from that, then anyone can. And unfortunately, the only way to do that is to grit your teeth, focus on whatever new goal you set for yourself, and start working towards it. It’s not the end of the world to get off course. It’s expected when you’re in your 20s because the career direction that you chose when you stared college was based on ideas and motivations you had when you were a teenager. Once you have a few years of non-teenage life under your belt, it’s natural that those aspirations change.
Yes, it’s going to take a little while to fix it, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to fix it right now. Because the older you get, the harder it is to correct your course.
Q: Many times when I read something you’ve written, I find myself thinking, “Oh yea, I totally thought that too,” but the difference is I didn’t consciously *know* I thought that until I read what you wrote. Like the thought was sort of hazily floating around in my brain somewhere waiting to be solidified. I am continually struck by your ability, and David Wong’s ability, to take something that seems broad and amorphous in my mind, and cut right to the heart of it in a coherent, concise way. Do you think this is a natural talent, or is it skill that a person can practice and learn to hone over time? If the latter, how do you think they might train themselves to realize their own thoughts in a communicable manner?
That started with Wong, himself. He studied and has a degree in broadcast journalism, which taught him how to trim off all of the fat from a piece and get right to the point. In turn, I’ve worked so closely with him over the years that he’s taught me the same lessons. My earlier articles for Cracked were so long that we literally trimmed off half of the content in order to cut it down to its basic ideas. When you start to cut all of the filler crap from an article, it makes the ideas stronger and the jokes sharper.
If you have the natural ability to write in the first place, then I believe that this is a skill that can be learned. All it is, is taking your basic foundation and building a more advanced technique into it. But if a person doesn’t have at least a rudimentary understanding of writing, then they’ll never even get to that second part.
Most people don’t understand the most basic rule of creating articles: Never write filler.
Q: You also wrote a great article that you labeled your “apology” to the OWS generation. What kind of repercussions do you think the OWS generations’ frustrations might have on how they raise their children, and more broadly youth culture in the US?
Every generation deals with this sort of thing, so I don’t think what they’re doing is going to have any more repercussions than the flower children of the 1960s passed along to their kids. I think the worst that came out of that was when their kids grew up, they created 80’s music.
But no, after this is all settled down and people continue on with their lives, they’re going to find themselves raising their children just like everyone else. They are trying to make a point, and for better or worse, at least they’re attempting to make themselves heard. Whether a person agrees with them or not, you have to at least respect the fact that they’re trying to take at least some sort of action, even if that action is kind of soupy and not entirely understood by the average person.
Q: I’m a huge consumer of comedy – online, stand-up, movies, whatever – but I’ve recently been wondering if our culture currently puts such high stock in satire and parodies, and this pseudo-intellectual-but-witty-nerd archetype, that it has become very hard to be genuine. You have somehow circumvented that issue. Do you think we undervalue sincerity? Additionally, do you think it’s become harder to know when a person is being sincere versus ironic or sarcastic?
I think that when we do see sincerity, which isn’t often, we latch on to it. One of the reasons we loved Conan O’Brien so much is because he really seems to be genuine with his comedy and his on-air personality. The reason we hated Jay Leno is because there’s… just something fake about him that we can’t quite put our finger on.
That is something that I don’t believe Hollywood executives will ever truly understand. They created that Zooey Deschanel character because the internet society proved how much we love that dorky, awkward, yet attractive type of woman. They did that based on our overwhelming support for Felicia Day. But what they didn’t realize is that we don’t just like the idea of that type of character. We like the fact that Felicia really is an attractive gamer geek in real life. And because of that, we collectively hate that Zooey show.
And yes, I do believe it’s becoming harder to identify ironic humor when we see it. A good example of that would be my OWS article. I had to flat-out say in the intro of that article that I wasn’t being sarcastic or making back-handed insults. And people still thought I was doing it, even after making that statement.
Q: Do you think it’s a sign of deep-seated chauvinism in our society that comedians are referred to as “purveyors of dick jokes,” but never “purveyors of pussy jokes”? (Note: I am not a militant feminist, and this is supposed to be a joke. See, question 4).
Not really because we’re so publicly open about male genitalia in our society that it’s just funny to make fun of. If you reverse the roles, people just aren’t used to hearing it, and we kind of cringe and label them as sexists. We kind of lump them in with the frat boys and high school jocks when we hear them making those types of comments.
But that’s not to say that we’re totally against it. I’m a huge wrestling fan, and the most popular female wrestler on the TNA roster is one who goes by the name O.D.B. She constantly grabs her own boobs and her crotch. She has a couple of moves where she slams her boobs into her opponent. She pulls it off well enough that it fits in with the tone of the show, and people find it pretty funny, overall.
I still think we have miles to go before female comedy is as accepted as male comedy, but we’re making progress.
Q: You are going to die in a few seconds in a dramatic way, and the situation is such that there is someone too far away to reach you in time to save you, but just close enough to hear and record something for all future generations. Any last words?
I’d like to say something profound and life-affirming. But the truth is, my last words would probably be, “SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!”