April 9th, 2012

Crossing The Line

I was with a group of friends a while ago and we got onto some subject that led me to explain my hand-washing procedure:

(For public washrooms)

-turn on water
-roll out sufficient paper towels
-wet hands
-soap up
-sing through “Happy Birthday” twice (usually in my head) while scrubbing
-dry hands
-use paper towels to turn off water
-throw away paper towel (unless the exit door opens inward, then “use paper towel to open door” before throwing paper towel away

There were nods of agreement, and some questions about the process.  I explained that I had modified the process to be more efficient here and there, but everyone seemed to think it was about right.  (Side note: I don’t think I mentioned the singing part to them, which probably would’ve made them think I was crazy.)  I also mentioned that I was looking for ways to save water in the process because I sometimes think about how much water I’m using in a day.

That’s when someone said, “Why do you turn the water on before you roll out the paper towels?”

I was feeling safe and accepted at this point, so I told them without hesitation: “To let the water heat up.”

Well apparently you can have all manner of weird little quirks when you’re washing your hands except for letting the water heat up. That was the final straw and I was roundly mocked. Pardon me for wanting to wash my hands with warm/hot water like you’re supposed to!

Since then I’ve considered it more, and the water at work never really warmed up anyway, so I was probably wasting water. I’ve adjusted my routine there. I can’t help wondering, though, how many quirks we allow people in different situations.  “You can do this, this, this, and this, but the minute you do that other thing?  Hoo boy. You’re crazy!”

From here out I’ll refrain from revealing my quirks to people, I guess. Well, except for here on the blog, because if it weren’t for quirk talk, the blog would be maybe six entries.

April 6th, 2012


Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke. -Steve Martin

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to write some material for a luncheon one of my pastors (Trey) was hosting. He had originally wanted me to get an improv group together and perform, but I wasn’t going to be in town the day the luncheon was held, so we had to come up with something else. We ended up on something similar to David Letterman’s “Know Your Current Events,” only geared towards the children’s ministries of our church, since the luncheon was for people who work in those ministries. The basic premise was asking a basic question, waiting for the participant’s response, then informing them of the “right” answer, which was generally ridiculous.  Standard stuff.

I had three weeks to come up with the material, and in that three weeks I learned something: writing comedy is hard.  It doesn’t seem like it should be, but it is. I’ve dealt mostly in improv, making things up in the moment, based on what’s currently happening, while also pulling from knowledge of movies, current events, and what-have-you. That’s always felt easy to me, and while not everything hits, improv is ephemeral enough that it doesn’t matter – it’s quickly forgotten. (Sadly, that works the other way, too. Good and hilarious bits get forgotten just as easily, and trying to explain something you saw an improv group do to someone who wasn’t there is like describing a dream you had.) Writing an actual bit doesn’t come as easily to me, and I suspect trying to write a comedic scene would be the death of me. (Now that I think about it, “Killed By Comedy” would be great to have on my tombstone.)

I go back and forth on one particular theory of comedy: writing to your audience vs. writing and hoping your audience finds you. I think most people would want the latter, but often feel they have to do the former. In this particular setting, for instance, I made a joke about a pastor getting a full-back tattoo of Luke Skywalker and Batman fighting off Decepticons while trying to rescue Princess Peach from Mordor. When I submitted the first draft to Trey, he said, “No one’s going to know who any of these characters are.” I fought for it, arguing that everyone knew who Luke Skywalker and Batman were, and that even if they didn’t know who Princess Peach was, she had “Princess” in the title and princesses are forever getting rescued (in fairytales, people!), and people could tell by context that Decepticons and Mordor were bad. He kept the joke, but I have no idea how it was received.

Look at a comedian like Dennis Miller. He’s famous for dropping all kinds of crazy references into his routines – like, stuff from Plato for crying out loud – and he doesn’t make apologies for it or explain it, he just expects the audience to know. That’s kind of my dream, I think. Make my references and let those who get them enjoy them and nertz to those who don’t.  Well, sorta nertz. I don’t want to antagonize an audience necessarily, and I’d still like for them to enjoy the show. Maybe the goal is to have both – a baseline that everyone can (hopefully) enjoy, but with references thrown out here and there that only some will get. Not everyone likes Star Trek, but those of us who do really like it. Maybe a small but rabid fanbase is better?

The other thing I learned in this most recent experience is that I think I’d do better as part of a writing team rather than trying to write on my own. I really enjoy bouncing ideas off people and recrafting and shaping those ideas into something (again, hopefully) better. On my own I get caught up in the mindset that everything’s gold and there isn’t a person alive who wouldn’t like jokes based on knowing that Samuel L. Jackson was in both Star Wars and Pulp Fiction.

I still entertain thoughts about trying stand-up comedy or writing a movie or a sitcom pilot, but it’s funny how these little experiences tend to bring out the realist/pessimist in me. I guess could write to entertain myself, but I’m already plenty entertained, so that seems wasteful.

April 4th, 2012

Ranking Even Worse

One week shy of 24 years ago, Weird Al released this album, which featured a parody of another huge (pun intended, as you’ll see) Michael Jackson song. The title of the album and even the album cover are also spoofs – MJ’s album was “Bad,” this one is “Even Worse.” The album went certified platinum (over a million sold), Al’s first.

11. Lasagna – A parody of “La Bamba” that’s all about Italian food and the tendency for those who usually serve it to try to get you to eat more of it. It’s okay, but I skip this one a lot.

10. Alimony – Parody of “Mony Mony,” about a fellow who feels he is getting the raw end of the deal in a divorce settlement.

9. Melanie – Could also be called “The Stalker Song.” He wonders why Melanie won’t go out with him, and as the song progresses, we find out why. “Are you still mad I gave a Mohawk to your cat?” This song definitely goes on the “Dark List,” as the main character commits suicide because she won’t go out with him.  Doesn’t sound funny, I know.  But it somehow still is!

8. I Think I’m a Clone Now – “…there’s always two of me just a-hangin’ around.” A lot of great puns about being cloned, with the best one being “Every pair of genes is a hand-me-down.”

7. You Make Me – Another song about a girl, this one about a girl who makes him want to do weird things, like slam his head against a wall and buy a Slurpee at the mall. Pure silliness.

6. Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White – A song about recurring dreams, where no matter how his dream starts out, he always ends up as the title would suggest.

5. (This Song’s Just) Six Words Long – This song is the first one I noticed in his collection that makes fun of the actual song it’s a parody of. Most of his parodies are the tune with word changes, but this one makes fun of the fact that George Harrison’s original “(Got My Mind) Set On You” pretty much had the hook of those words and not much else to it. Poking fun at a Beatle! But he asked for and received permission, so George must have been amused by it.

4. Velvet Elvis – In the style of  The Police, about a painting bought at a garage sale. I love love love the “He’s so fuzzy / He’s so great” lines near the end.

3. Good Old Days – If you’re making a list of Al’s darkest songs, this one would have to be at the top.  I’ll let Al himself explain it: “I wanted to see if I could write a song as if Charlie Manson and James Taylor were collaborating.” He pretty much succeeded, and this one is twisted, twisted, twisted.  Speaking of twisted…

2. Twister – A rap song about the board game that is just so smile-inducing. It’s in the style of The Beastie Boys, in case you were wondering. I always thought it was a Run DMC-type thing, but Wikipedia has corrected me.

1. Fat – Parody of MJ’s “Bad,” won Al a Grammy. It’s another food song – well, more of a “result of food” song, with every pun about being large that you’ve ever heard. The video for this one was just fantastic, and to this day, Al ends his live concerts wearing the fat suit from it.

I’m very excited about the next album, as it contains my very favorite Weird Al song. Stay tuned!