Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hetero As It Gets (Ladies...)

It has been brought to my attention -- more than once, I might add -- that some have bandied about the notion that I, your humble narrator, might be a homosexual. This truly baffles me. But first a few housekeeping tips.

I don't think there is anything "wrong" with being gay, obviously. In fact, I would like to think that if I thought I were a gay guy, that I would be comfortable enough to come out and say it. I don't know if, when the rubber met the road, I would be able to actually do this. But I would like to think I could.

In the wake of Barack Obama finally joining most non-hypocritical people by saying he thinks gays should be able to get married, it seems that most of my friends are pretty tolerant of gay marriage and gay-related issues too. And actually, I am super-tolerant of all lifestyles. After all, if you live in a society where homosexuality is marginalized, why would you "choose" it? Wouldn't it just be easier to "choose" to be a heterosexual? I don't think you pick it; it definitely picks you.

Which brings me to this point: I absolutely love women. It's not something I talk about all that much, because I have a working brain and don't have to default to uninteresting neanderthal grunting. I love girls a lot. I am very shy around them, but that does not mean I don't admire them. I did not choose this, by the way: I did not wake up one day and decide to become attracted to women. I've been attracted to women since as far back as I can remember. Even when I was a kid, I knew that there was something about chicks that was pretty all right. I never admitted this to anyone, mind you, because of the guilt inherent in an Irish-Catholic upbringing. But I have always -- ALWAYS -- been into broads. Sorry, "skirts."

That brings me to a second point, and please hear me out. I know I just said that I'm crazy-tolerant, and I am. But here's the deal: homosexuality disgusts me.

Let me finish.

I'm not saying that a person's lifestyle disgusts me, or that I judge anyone, or that I look down upon anyone for any reason. Someone being a homosexual doesn't bother me at all. Not in the slightest. But the idea of two men being together -- sexually, I mean -- makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Especially the thought of one of those men being me.

Now before you play junior psychoanalyst, no, this is not one of those "I think he doth protest too much" situations. I already told you that I'm cool with gay dudes who wanna rail each other in the privacy of their own homes. But in the few instances where I've been privy to images of male-on-male action, I get incredibly uncomfortable. I loved Brokeback Mountain ... except for all the dude-on-dude action.

To me it's like spiders: there is nothing inherently wrong with spiders, but they gross me out, dude! I wouldn't want to be sitting in a pile of spiders, or a pile of naked bro's for that matter. It's just a matter of personal preference. But I'm not saying that spiders should all be eradicated or that spiders shouldn't be allowed to marry other spiders if they want to.

If I may sidebar: I think this makes me more tolerant that most people even! It's easy for people who "support" homosexuality (ie. aren't grossed out by it) to be tolerant. It's a whole other kettle of fish for people who think it's grody to be okay with it.

Back to the original topic. I can see how someone might surmise that I'm gay since I haven't had a significant relationship with a girl in about 6 years (at least that anyone knows about!), but that doesn't mean that I haven't had ... let's say "episodes" here and there. And it doesn't mean that I haven't been working my magic.

I tend to fly solo to bars and when out to dinner, but that doesn't mean that I'm a closet case.

I will say this: I think that gay dudes are generally very interesting, more interesting than a lot of straight guys. I don't know if it's that they are wittier, more bitchy or better with cultural references (all three of which I am as well ... I guess that might be leading people to the wrong conclusion), but I do find that I enjoy talking to to them. I just don't wouldn't enjoy making sweet, sweet love to them.

What confuses me about the conspiracy theory about me is that I don't "fit the profile" of a gay man in any way. I am 250+ lbs., I am sloppy as hell, and I dress like shit. I will admit that I can perform a perfect sibilant "S," which also might give people the wrong impression. But don't take my quick wit and whistlin' "S"s fool ya: I'm all about boobs and child-bearing hips. Always will be.

I will say that I possess, one could say, less "masculine" qualities. I am sensitive (overly so, one might say), I get easily emotional, and I get nervous easily. I don't do manly shit like going to shooting ranges or doing Vegas with a gaggle of douchebags. I like foreign films and independent music. I'm pretty sure all the hops I've consumed in the last half-decade have quadrupled my estrogen levels, but that doesn't mean I want to grab another dude's johnson. Not by a long shot.

I guess if you were to look at the circumstantial evidence, I come off as a regular Kevin Spacey, without the acting chops, that the world knows about! I've never been married or even engaged. (Incidentally, I was at dinner with some new coworkers a few weeks ago, and I was asked if I've ever been married or had kids; I replied no to both, and everyone said, "Really? Never?" As if it was impossible to believe that I wasn't at least divorced at my age.) But I live alone: you will never hear of me living with any "longtime companions," unless you're referring to the silverfish under the floorboards.

Long story short: you have nothing to worry about ladies. I am as straight as an arrow and as hetero as the day is long. Sometimes I wish I could just get down with dudes, because frankly most girls suck. But I would just end up feeling like a real silly goose. What with all the male genitalia in my bottom and all.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Actor Hetero-Man Crush Time!

The following are the actors that I will watch no matter how crappy their movie appears (and they've had a stinker or two in their day). This is a list of actors right now, not (necessarily) over their body of work. Also, this is male actors only, because you can't have a man-crush on a girl, dummy!:

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (naturally)
  • Paul Giamatti
  • Michael Sheen
  • Gene Hackman
  • Robert Duvall
  • Jon Hamm
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Bryan Cox
  • John C. Reilly
  • Alan Arkin
  • Chris Cooper
  • Don Cheadle
  • Ted Danson (tv mostly)
  • Willem Dafoe
  • John Malkovich
  • Luis Guzman
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Richard Dreyfuss(!)
  • Jeremy Renner
  • Steve Coogan
  • John Hawkes
  • Geoffrey Rush
  • Stanley Tucci
  • Casey Affleck
  • Viggo Mortensen
  • Tom Wilkinson
  • Michael Gambon
  • David Strathairn
  • Guy Pearce
  • Ed Harris
  • Alan Alda
That's enough for now I think.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I have flown a couple of times in my life, and largely without incident. Which scares the living shit out of me.

I know that the odds of being a plane crash are astronomically low -- somewhere between being hit by lightning and being eaten by a koala -- and yet, somehow my overblown ego feels that I'm likely to win the unlucky lottery. Even writing that sentence makes me think that I'm going to end up the footnote in some kind of ironic story where some schmuck in upstate New York predicted his own death, and how sad it was.

The thing is this: I'm not really afraid of dying, per se. It's not that I want to die, mind you, but death isn't the thing about flying. It's the falling, and the screaming, and the all that time you have to think about what a loser you are and how little you've done with your pitiful, meaningless existence. At least if I get hit by a bus, the lights are gonna go out pretty quickly and that will be that. If I ever have to put one of those fucking oxygen masks over my head in a plane, I might just tie the thing off so I can go off into the netherworld via a euphoric lack of oxygen, instead of a violent collision with the seat in front of me.

But is that really what terrifies me about flying? That's the endgame, truth be told, but there's a lot more leading up to that. You could die almost any day of your life, from almost any cause. You take a risk whenever you get out of bed or stick your face in a fan. So to me it seems (and I know that this is logically absolute bullshit) that the number of circumstances that could lead to death seem to escalate on a plane.

Side note: whenever you read about plane travel, they say that it's the safest way to get from one place to another, and then, for comparison, mention how many deadly auto crashes there are each year -- usually something like 40,000. Now I don't want to get into a fucking car either.

It's just that if the motor goes out on your car, you can pull to the side of the road and call AAA. You can't do that 30,000 feet up in the air. I know that planes can glide if power goes out (I'll take your goddamn word for it, thank you), but every little thing has to be perfect in order for a plane to work, right? Not only does each bolt have to be tightened, and the wings have to not fall off the side of the plane, but physics has to continue to work. I know that Newton proved his so-called "Laws of Physics" many years ago, but what if they aren't really laws at all. What if they're just "Tendencies of Physics"? Has anyone investigated this??

I'm not really afraid of terrorism so much, because that would be just dumb luck. The odds that my plane from Scranton to Wichita is going to be hijacked is slim. Also, it seems like if someone tries that shit these days, everyone on the plane will try to bumrush the guy. I wouldn't be one of them, only because if I take my hands off the armrests, the plane will destabilize and spin out of control anyway.

Do you know how many planes fly every day? It's something like 30,000 every effing DAY! Successfully! That has got to be some kind of witchcraft. There is no way that can happen. There aren't even 30,000 planes in the U.S., are there?

This is what scares me the most about flying. I've never had a "bad flight" (knock on Palo Santo wood), and I know that the more I fly, the greater the likelihood that I will. I've been in a few near-accidents in the car, and since I've seen them come and go, I'm pretty calm in the driver's seat when they look imminent. Not so in the cabin of a jet; the first sign of trouble and I will literally shit myself. Literally. I've done it over less.

So wish me safe travels as those engines spool up and the wind carries me and some unlucky saps to another area code. I need it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Tumble Out of Bed and I Stumble to the Kitchen...

So here's something. 

I was unemployed for about four and a half months. The reason why is immaterial; suffice it to say that I was rather terrible at my previous job, and both my former employer and I decided that I probably should stop coming in. So I was on the government tit for 1/3 of the last calendar year; it's not something I'm proud of, but I paid into the goddamn thing, so get off my ass.

Anyway I have recently procured myself gainful employment (my new employer got a nice discount for my copious abilities), and am back among the working stiffs. And although I couldn't be happier about it, I should reflect briefly about my time on the dole.

Do you know what sucks about being unemployed?
  • You don't make as much money as you used to.
That's the list. Everything else about it is incredible! I knew when I did get a job, I would have to give up some of the comforts of my freeloading existence. It almost makes me sorry that I'm so charismatic, convincing and qualified. 

When you're unemployed, you can get up out of bed whenever the hell you want. What day is it? Tuesday? Nope, it's Saturday. Every day is Saturday. I was shocked to see Judge Judy on TV when I got up instead of college football. One night I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up all night and watched TV until the sun came up. Then I went to bed around 11am and slept all day. Just like the old joke about the dog being able to lick itself, it was because I could.

This is true: one day I woke up and thought it was Thursday all day long, but instead it was Friday. Oh to have that kind of blissful ignorance at work!

There were times I needed to get to the bank (although I'm not sure why since they really didn't have anything for me) or the post office or wherever else. I didn't have to wait until my lunch break, or get up wicked early or rush there after work. I could get up, make some coffee, edit a few Wikipedia pages (okay, like a hundred of them) and go whenever I felt like it. Showering was strictly optional, though greatly appreciated.

If I wanted to go to a coffee shop or a diner or a book store, I could just get up and go LIT'RALLY any time I wanted to. (Granted, I never did any of those things, but you can imagine the possibilities!) Hit a matinee? Grab a beer at 12:30pm? Stay in bed? You're goddamn right.

I guess there are a couple downsides: when people ask what you do, you have to tell them you're unemployed or "between jobs," which always elicits a combination of sympathy and pretending it's okay. (When met someone and told her I was unemployed, she replied, "That's understandable." Bless her heart.) Also telling everyone you are out of work is pretty humbling; it usually comes up right after they told you they finally broke down and bought that solid gold front door.

Also, no round of drinks is truly on you: it's on Andrew Cuomo.

There is a certain level of despair, too, that comes with joblessness. It is a major blow to the ego, which is why (I'm guessing) that so many people lack the gumption to get up and find a gig. I know that I took my sweet-ass time (read: the holidays and a few weeks after New Year's) before I got my bee-hind out there looking for work. I had a total of three interviews: I was turned down for the first, I withdrew from the second, and I nailed the third. But my confidence took a big hit, and I knew it at the time. It was the kind of thing where I had to sit in my car for twenty minutes before every interview to simultaneously psych myself up and calm myself down. I can completely understand why people stay home on the couch instead of getting out there and looking for work: I did it too.

There is also a certain degree of loneliness you get when all your friends are at work and you are at home by yourself. There were days on end where I never left the house. Days fly off the calendar and you make not one dent in the world. That part stinks too I guess. But I would highly recommend taking a few months off if possible to decompress, get your head back in order, and get the "itch" to work again. Because before long, the itch becomes like a rash. The impetus to be around other people is also a surprising motivator.

But these days, as another working schnook, I have to get up before 8am(!), shower, put on pants(!!!) and show up to a place promptly in order to get a paycheck and not get yelled at. Isn't that really the Amer'can Dream right there? I like my new gig a lot so far, I just hope I'm good at it.

No I'm not doing play-by-play for Bills games, or working in a brewery, or writing for The Source, or any other dream job I had when I was a high school senior. But a j.o.b. of any type is nothing to sneeze at. It's not just the fact that they give you money for showing up, but it rekindles some sense of your own worth. I feel really bad for people who struggle to find jobs for whatever reason: no experience, lack of interviewing skills, lack of networks. It has to be maddening. I got very lucky that I fooled someone into thinking I'd be a good hire. 

I don't know what the hell the point of any of this was. Oh well. Happy Easter folks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bonus SNL: Best Ever Cast Members

Since I am still in my SNL frame of mind, I'm going to list what is, definitely, the best list of cast members the show has ever had. Let me set a few ground rules:

First, this is a list of those who performed best on the show. In other words, you won't see Robert Downey, Jr. Ben Stiller, or Sarah Silverman just because of their later success. If you didn't do it between 11:30pm and 1am, it doesn't count.

Also, this person might have gone on to have a flop of a career after SNL, but that doesn't weigh into my list. Which, by the way, is absolute gospel.

Also, this might not necessarily mean THE funniest (although I think most of them are) but sometimes the best role players or utility players. Some of them might not have been the primary focus of a given sketch, but they could be counted on more times than not.

Also, there are going to be some omissions here, and some might chalk it up to sexism or racism, but to me it's a matter of talent and performance. For example, some might think Amy Poehler is a no-brainer here, but aside from some early strong seasons, she got a little lazy with her impressions. (See: Clinton, Hillary; Grace, Nancy)

I am also going to put them into categories: Show-Stoppers, Utility Players, and Impressionists. The Show-Stoppers are the ones who could make a skit hilarious (regardless of writing) with just their charisma and humor. The Utility players could be relied on to do any role needed, despite the quality of the skit. (They were the ones you never realized you would miss so much when they left.) And the Impressionists were good enough to actually make you forget the performer's name.

Here we go...


  • Bill Murray - The original "alternative comic" on SNL
  • Eddie Murphy - Carried the show for 4 years by himself
  • Gilda Radner - Oozing with charisma
  • Jimmy Fallon - Despite his constant cracking up, his energy carried the show
  • Kristen Wiig - The most talented female the show has ever produced
  • Mike Myers - See Fallon above
  • Will Ferrell - The heir apparent to Bill Murray


  • Dan Aykroyd - The Swiss Army knife of the first cast
  • Fred Armisen - Can play any race, always finds the funny part of the character
  • Jan Hooks - The most versatile female the show ever had, and a great actress
  • Joe Piscopo - Don't laugh, the guy was Eddie Murphy's only wingman
  • Maya Rudolph - The female Armisen (or Armisen is the male Rudolph)
  • Molly Shannon - Woefully underrated
  • Phil Hartman - Never had a bad performance. Ever.


  • Bill Hader - The best technician in show history
  • Dana Carvey - No one did a better job of getting to the heart of the character
  • Darrell Hammond - Sometimes phoned it in, but brilliant


  • Tina Fey - Didn't perform much, but re-energized the show


  • John Belushi - I just never got him.
  • Chevy Chase - I thought he did the same schtick over and over
  • Chris Farley - Sometimes brilliant, but sometimes just over the top
  • Amy Poehler - Got a little too impressed with her own talent


  • Chris Parnell
  • Will Forte
  • Abby Elliot
  • Jon Lovitz
  • Jason Sudeikis

And the worst five cast members in SNL history:

5) Melanie Hutsell - One-note
4) Rob Schneider - The brainless "Richmeister" was his only notable character
3) Adam Sandler - One note (Opera Man, Cajun Man), and usually just juvenile
2) Keenan Thompson - Bad actor, terrible impressionist, always the same
1) Horatio Sanz -

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I'm Here to Fix Things: "Saturday Night Live"

Since I'm so full of good incredible ideas, I've decided to get back into the blogosphere with my new feature, "I'm Here to Fix Things." It's my way to give free advice or guidance to an institution that clearly needs it. It's my version of pro bono work.

I'm not breaking any news here when I say that the venerable Saturday Night Live has been a little weak over the last decade or so. It has had some flashes of brilliance (the Betty White episode from last year comes to mind, even though I'm pretty annoyed that it was spurred on by a knee-jerk internet campaign), and once in a while a very funny skit. But for the most part, it's really not that funny. I mean I still watch it (usually on Sunday mornings) but not because it really makes me laugh.

If it didn't have a rotating cast, tradition on its side, and the occasional "buzz," it would have been cancelled years ago. There is no way that it has merited 35+ seasons based on quality alone.

Although Lorne Michaels may be a powerful "industry" big shot, he has really let the show get away from him. It's almost like he doesn't know comedy anymore. He has let one of the more talented casts that the show has ever had (Wiig, Hader & Armisen are all in the top 15 in cast history) die on the vine with atrocious, lazy writing.

So here's how to fix it.

1) Get rid of the dead weight, ie. Taran Killam and Keenan from "Keenan and Kel." Killam technically can do an "impression," but he doesn't do any of them well. Keenan used to be the token black guy, but now that they have the eminently more-talented Jay Pharaoh, Keenan is really no longer needed. Not that he was ever good. His impressions are awful (notably his godawful Al Roker), and he is too fat to play half of the people he plays (Herman Cain, Tiger Woods, etc.). He almost makes Horatio Sanz look like a great talent by comparison. Almost.

2) Get rid of the skits where the hosts play themselves. These usually manifest themselves as a talk show, where the talk show host says "ladies and gentleman, please welcome [real host]." The point of having a sketch show is to portray other people and events, not to be a vanity piece for your host. When Donald Trump hosted several years ago, there was one (1) skit in which he didn't play Donald Trump. We already met the celebrity in the intro, let's make that the last time we see those people as themselves.

3) Stop having Justin Timberlake on. I get it, he's supposedly talented, and somehow he's made a side-career for himself by being a comic. (I don't get it, the guy is not funny when Andy Samberg or Jimmy Fallon aren't writing for him.) The subtext of every Timberlake appearance is, "Isn't Timberlake TALENTED?!" Enough. He plays along, and good for him, but I'd take Jon Hamm or Alec Baldwin any day of the week at face value.

4) If you are going to do a spoof of another show (like "The View," for example) have it say something. It usually only does the same impression week after week, going to the tried and true impressions that the show has made into a weekly staple. But it should either say something about the show, or reach some kind of absurdity. In other words, it should have a POINT.

5) It doesn't need to always be "live." Some of the best bits have been the pre-recorded Digital Shorts that Samberg does. But the show stubbornly clings to the idea of "live." Being live might have been impressive in 1975, but it shouldn't be a hindrance to comedy. If you need to pre-record some material to make it funnier, then do it, goddammit.

6) Destroy all recurring characters except for the ones that REALLY work (The Barry Gibb Talk Show, ummmm.....). Warming Glow does a much better job than I could at listing the ones who should have been killed off after one try.

7) The intro should have the guest host actually doing something entertaining, and not just "taking questions from the audience" or talking to a parade of wacky characters from pop culture, or from the guest host's fake past. In other words, stop being lazy. (That could pretty much apply to everything on this list.) The guest hosts should be asked to do a lot more: otherwise they shouldn't be hosting at all (COUGHJanuaryJonesCOUGH). They need more Jon Hamms, more Melissa McCarthys. (And stop asking Timberlake to bail you out.) Get people who are not only popular, but can actually perform. So more Donald Trumps, no more fucking Tom Bradys.

8) Get Seth Myers off "Weekend Update," or at least give him another Amy Poehler to bounce things off of. He doesn't work as the sole anchor. At all. Especially because of his EXACT SAME DELIVERY!, on every punchline. (The same kind of sing-songy finish that you hear from a local on-the-scene news reporter right before they say "Maggie Malone, AC-tion news...." and throw it back to the anchor.) Seth may be a good writer, but he has turned Weekend Update -- which was a highlight when Fey/Fallon were there -- and turned it into the most predictably boring slog in the show.

9) Speaking of Weekend Update, let's lay off the "Here, with a commentary is [bad impression by someone currently in the news]." These impressions are the one that aren't good enough to be in an actual skit. This usually begins with someone wheeling in on a chair and saying "Woooooo!" (I'm looking at you, Keenan.) The formula has gone bad. They need another Norm McDonald, or Dennis Miller (when he was still funny and not a GOP mouthpiece), with topical humor that is not only funny, but actually says something. Don't use it as a repository for all your leftover C-plus material. (Bill Hader's "Stefon" is exempt from this rule.)

10) Speaking of satire and "saying something," this is where SNL has really lost its way. SNL used to be a snapshot of what was going on at the time, and mocking it. Now, it has been left in the dust by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and even Daniel Tosh. Doing impressions is not enough. The impressions should either be dead on, putting the character in an unlikely situation, or should be something exposing the ridiculousness of a situation. In 1992, SNL was named the "Entertainer of the Year" by Entertainment Weekly magazine, because of how they helped shape much of the national dialogue of that year's presidential race.(Forget for a second, that EW's "Entertainer of the Year" award is specious at best, with such timeless performers as Ricky Martin, the cast of Grey's Anatomy, and Taylor Swift winning.) Can you imagine THIS crop of SNLers getting that award? For what? For Gilly? For satirizing Elizabeth Hasselbeck? What is the last culturally poignant skit they've had?

11) Finally, kill the skits that go absolutely nowhere and have nothing to say. Especially when they aren't especially funny. You know the type I mean: you see the skit coming to an end, and then realize it isn't going to have a punchline. It fizzles out, the camera pans back, and it goes to commercial. If your skit isn't going to shine some light on something hypocritical, or at least make humor out of something ridiculous, then cut it. We live in times that need humor to act as a spotlight on the danger, hypocrisy and insanity we see in the world. SNL simply hasn't had the chops to do so. It shouldn't be that way.

Am I a comedy writer? NO. Not in any way. But even I know that, when in doubt, you make the small big, and the big small. The Onion does this better than anyone. It's actually kind of a simple formula. You take a huge event and boil it down to some mundane detail; or you take an insignificant issue and magnify it. It's not that fucking hard. I need a job; hire me as a writer on that show and I'll crank out 10 or so good sketches in one season (which would be a single-season record for the last decade).

When I was a kid, I used to ask my mom if I could stay up to watch SNL, in the days of Christopher Guest, Martin Short, Billy Crystal and, well, Jim Belushi. I then get into the 1986-and-beyond cast of Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, etc., and they were a criminally underrated cast of performers and of writers. Had Will Ferrell not come around, the show might have been cancelled, and rightfully so.

The show can and should be a showcase for brilliant young writers. They should let these writers go for a full season, even if with the current cast (minus Keenan, of course). There is no reason that SNL can't reinvent itself, as it has so many times, and become, once again, the rapier of American comedy.

But I'll believe it when I see it.