Punching Up And The ‘Rules’ Of Comedy

I wrote this for Thought Catalog!

Thought Catalog

Tosh.0/Comedy CentralTosh.0

During the now-quarterly giant internet war about comedy and offensive jokes, a lot of frustrated, privileged hands are thrown up in disgust wondering like, what are we allowed to joke about? It is an important question because, as we all know, if you break a comedy rule, you will be arrested, or barred from all comedy clubs, or expelled into space through an airlock.

Haha, no just kidding, that doesn’t happen at all. When people toss around the idea of “rules” for comedy (or art in general) they are not laws or even actual rules. The bad things that happen to people who break them are like, critical backlash and, at worst, lost gigs. Sometimes, when enough of your audience doesn’t like your art, you lose your gig. That is how gigs work. Welcome to the world. 

And what are the rules? No rape jokes? Rape jokes, but only…

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One girl’s frizz

I have been unhappy with my hair this week.

No false modesty here, I have great hair. When it’s good, it’s really good. I’ve been propositioned to sell it*. It’s thick, and strong. It has body and volume. But when it’s bad, it’s bad. 

My hair was unruly on Monday. Not Fantasy-Novel-Princess-Surveys-Windy-Plains-As-Her-Curls-Fly-About unruly. No. Frizzy, fly-away, dry, crazy-lady unruly. I was too sick and busy to care enough to do anything about it. 

Then a monk told me my hair was gorgeous. “Just absolutely gorgeous,” he said again. A monk. A classmate of mine, upon entering the classroom and before saying hello, commented on how awesome my hair looks. I look at it and it still seems frizzy and dry. 

So, ok. Everyone? Let’s just stop being mean to ourselves. Because clearly, as a species, we have no fucking clue what other people find attractive.

Read all the beauty magazines you want, it’s still a total crap shoot. Evidenced by the backlash against the most recent episode of HBO’s Girls, “One Man’s Trash” (which may well deserve its own blog post, if I can convince myself that the world needs another internet opinion on Girls), we love to pretend that there is some universal attractiveness rubric, and then BOOM, beautiful chiseled Patrick Wilson goes and fucks Lena Dunham, whose thighs touch, and everything we thought we knew was wrong and the internet explodes. Jesus christ. 

I know it sounds hokey to tell you to remember, the next time you’re hating on something about your appearance, that someone out there thinks it looks awesome, but literally, that is what happens. Somebody thinks my frizzy hair looks gorgeous. Somebody wants to bang that fat ass. 

 

*At this point, you should know that the only way I would sell my hair is if the love of my life were in need of a watch chain. 

How To Be Terrible At School: A Primer

Step 1. Open reading assignment

Step 2. Read 2 paragraphs

Step 3. Pace around house giving lecture to imaginary people on why opening paragraphs were wrong.

Step 4. Realize you misspoke in lecture. Revise.

Step 5. Sit back down to continue reading.

Step 6. Realize you haven’t purchased one of the books you need for this week’s readings.

Step 7. Go to Amazon. Hope the book is available on Kindle. It isn’t. Notice that Amazon is recommending you buy the second book in that YA series you started over Christmas, which IS available on kindle. Google to make sure you’re purchasing the second one and not the third one, because WHY DON’T PUBLISHERS NUMBER THESE THINGS?! Purchase that book.

Step 8. Remember why you went to Amazon in the first place. Return to homepage.

Step 9. Oooo, swimsuits!

Step 10. Search for the book you need again. Purchase a paperback version, which will not arrive in time to read for your class tomorrow, but at least you won’t have to do this again next week (yes you will, you still need to buy the course packet, only available at Pitt’s bookstore.)

Step 11. Maybe you should walk to Pitt’s bookstore and buy the course packet. Exercise and homework in one activity! Responsibility! (Pitt’s bookstore is closed for the same reason you have the day off.)

Step. 12 Write a blog post

Step 13. TBD

Conditional praise of the sweater dress

I own 2 sweater dresses and they are probably my favorite work-wear that I own. I had to really hunt for them though because, at least recently, most sweater dresses are slinky, short little tubes of stretchy wool .

Guys, if I’m looking to swathe my entire body in sweater material, I am probably not feeling like a sex kitten, ok?

But the right sweater dress is a miraculous thing. The two I own are A-line and swishy, but they look polished and professional. Much like the blazer made of sweatshirt material, the sweater dress masquerades as business-wear while feeling like pajamas.

A sweater dress is what you wear when your city is at the very, very fringe of the hurricane and you are in no danger whatsoever but the weather is just icky.

Outfits for weirdly specific occasions may become a regular feature on this blog.

Tokenism?

The backlash against Girls definitely made me look at my writing for racial diversity. And, yup, most of my characters are white. Nothing plot-wise makes them white, but looking at characters through the lense of a theoretical Hollywood casting session, they would all end up white. Now, of course, that speaks a lot to the fucked-up nature of Hollywood casting. It says something that people of color (or fat people, trans people, people with disabilities, etc.) are only cast when the plot specifically calls for them. White = default. Boo.

It also speaks to my life. Like Lena Dunham, my imaginary life is pretty racially homogenous because my social life is pretty racially homogenous. That is a fact of my life that I don’t like, but I don’t particularly know how to fix.

I started diddling around with the idea of a new play recently (which, in all liklihood, I will never finish anyway because I am bad at long writing projects, so this may all be moot, but let’s pretend I have an attention span longer than a gnat.) It will focus on a nuclear family and a few of their significant others. And, as I started to play out scenes in my head, I realized that all of my imaginary actors were white. Whoops. There is absolutely no reason they need to be.

How do I fix it? Do I specify that a particular character is black? That’s easy enough. But by doing that, now the rest of the cast is, by extension definitely not black. Leave it up to the casting director? Like, in theory, in my perfect world (where this play is being produced repeatedly! lolz) the racial make up of this cast would change with every show. But that feels lazy, too. Not my problem! I didn’t say they had to be white! The casting director did it! I’m the writer. I am aware that diversity is an issue. It is my problem.

It feels awkward, to insist on a physical trait for a character that has no bearing on the plot. But I guess that is the only way to make diversity happen. Major social change probably doesn’t happen by trying to avoid ever feeling awkward. This character is black. That one is fat. Because life has diversity, and we are failing to document the world artistically if our palette is so bland.

Rather than specify the physical characteristics of any particular character, I’m considering adding this note to the stage directions:

Author’s Note: When casting this show, please take diversity into consideration. Physical attributes are mostly irrelevant to this story, but what is relevant is reflecting a somewhat accurate portrayal of a “modern” social group. Assembling an entire cast of thin, conventionally attractive white people is not the correct tableau.

Thoughts? Do any of my director friends feel like this would impinge on their artistic freedom? It’s certainly bordering a little closer to Beckett-esque direction than I’m usually comfortable with, but I think it’s ok for a good cause. Is it even enough? Is the only way to ensure diversity at this juncture to specify?

The Groupon Diaries: Archery Lessons

For someone who doesn’t hunt, arrest criminals, or even play video games, I sure do like to shoot things. So when there was a deal offered for archery lessons, bow & arrow rentals, and practice time on the range, I jumped at it. Vicki got in on the action as well, having grown up a non-hunter in a hunting family.

We promptly forgot about the deal until May, when it was nearly expired. That is how I roll.

Finally, we trucked out to semi-rural PA for our lesson. There was some trouble finding the entrance:

Some people go both ways

My graphic designer friends may notice that there are two arrows. In addition to this sign, there was a large billboard next to the dirt road turn-off for the building. But it didn’t have the white arrow. So the logo pointed directly to an empty field. Obviously, we worked it out. But maybe be careful with including arrows in your logo, is all I’m sayin’. 

Inside, the staff was courteous, but reserved, in the way that seriously outdoorsy people often are. Our teacher took us to the range and tested our “eyedness” before handing us our bows.

He showed us how to place the arrows, how to draw, and did his best to explain how to release without like, releasing. Having read “Zen and the Art of Archery,” I understand, intellectually, that the release is supposed to happen sort of magically: plucking the string will disrupt the flow of the arrow. So a master in the art will be first in a state of tension and then in a state of release, without like, releasing. Yeah. Zen. Let’s be clear. I… don’t know how to do that.

But Vicki and I did alright even without spiritual enlightenment. I was pretty comfortable at least making it within the target. Vicki struggled a bit with her bow. She’s right-handed, but after testing left-eyed (not lopez), she was given a left-handed bow. I’m not saying the instructor was wrong, per se, but after she switched to a right-handed bow, Vicki got 2 bullseyes.

You can tell she got more badass because the lighting is different.

I got one bullseye, scouts honor, but the it was during the lesson and I was too embarrassed to ask the instructor to pause so I could take a photo of it for my blog. Because surely, that would be what gave me away as a nerdy city slicker. I figured if I got one, I would be able to get another during our practice time, which was a very stupid assumption.

While the instructor was still there, he would tweak our form or give advice (bending the bow holding arm ever so slightly will prevent nasty string ricochet!) and then say, “sooo, do you guys…have any questions?” Ah, the Socratic Method*. Interesting approach. We came up with a few questions, but mostly I didn’t really know enough to know what to ask.

“Uh…how do you get….good?”
“Practice. Like, a lot of practice. I sometimes practice 5 hours a day.”
“Oh.”
So there’s not like…a trick? Just practice, huh?

Cue training montage

We got to watch a staff member fixing and testing a crossbow, which was good fun. But the end of our practice time, both Vicki and I could feel the whining of muscles we rarely use, and I can see how with this whole “practice” business, they might strengthen and improve stability and therefore aim. I think both Vicki and I would like to return to practice more. I feel better prepared to survive the apocalypse, but perhaps not the zombie apocalypse, as my accuracy is probably good enough for a body shot, but not a head shot. I’m trying to figure out how to turn my basement into a range… I would definitely have paid full price for this, but I’m not sure I would have thought to go without the catalyst of a groupon.

 *Please no one leave a comment explaining the actual Socratic Method.

bureaucracy

I paid off my student loans about 7 years ago, pretty soon after I graduated from college.

Today, when I went to check on my transcripts request for my grad school application, I was told there was a hold on my account that had to do with my student loans. My sudden internal panic was replaced with annoyance when I was informed that it was because I hadn’t completed the mandatory “exit interview.”

The exit interview is entirely designed to teach you how to pay your student loans in a timely fashion. I…think I tested out of this class, guys.