Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Very Best Of My Very Bad Halloween Costumes

A brief remembrance of my top five horrible Halloween costumes.


Age 7. My cape was an old white pillow case that had turned kind of yellow. It was tied tightly around my neck. My tunic was a red-tinted Super Grover Sesame Street t-shirt. My little green shorts were a pair of long green bell bottoms. I had no mask because my parents were concerned about my safety. Apparently, they wanted me to be able to clearly see what was happening when I choked to death from having a pillow case wrapped around my throat. Also, my older brother dressed as Robin’s crime fighting partner: Humphrey Bogart. I am not making this up.


Age 11. For horrible details, see this post.


Age 15. Some friends who lived in a not very cultured (okay, white trash) suburb of Minneapolis convinced me that we would get a “butt-load” of candy if we went Trick Or Treating as the members of Guns N’ Roses. I won the honor of being Axl because my natural physique was closest to that of a heroin addict. Our costumes were mostly jean jackets and fake mullets. We were indistinguishable from the majority of grown men who lived in this suburb. We did not receive a “butt-load” of candy. Perhaps, a “shoulder-load” worth, though. Most adults probably thought we had come to the door due to a paternity dispute involving their teenage daughter. No singing was involved.


Age 28. For three years, I was an assistant manager at Kinko’s. I happened to quit on Halloween. My girlfriend and I were going to a costume party that night. By now, I was an actor and didn’t like dressing up for Halloween. As I told her, “I feel weird looking like a plumber without doing plumber things. I don’t want to go to a party and put on a little plumber play.” As I tore into my closet full of theater costumes and props, I decided I should probably put my stupid blue Kinko’s apron in there in case I ever wanted to play a stupid Kinko’s guy on stage. Then I realized, I could play a stupid Kinko’s guy for Halloween. So I wore the stupid blue apron. I wore it ironically. And I spilled a decent amount of beer on it. Perhaps intentionally. Perhaps not. Intent and beer are often mortal enemies.


Age <redacted> I now worked at a museum giving tours and performing. I felt obligated to attend a co-worker’s costume party. Strangely, the stage costume I felt most comfortable in was my giant squirrel outfit. The giant squirrel outfit wasn’t easy to put on. There were belts and straps involved. I put it on in my apartment. I walked two blocks to my car, while smoking a cigarette. I stuffed myself and my huge tail into a Subaru. I then drove several miles, hunched over the tiny steering wheel. I imagine it looked like Frank Miller illustrating a Warner Brothers cartoon. I got to the party. There were witches, mummies, vampires, and plumbers. I was voted “most creative costume.” People kept offering me the bowl of mixed nuts. I only knocked two paintings off the wall with my tail. Overall, I felt it was going well. I spent the rest of the night drinking bloody punch (cherry vodka) and chatting about the future of non-profit organizations in Minnesota. Dressed as a fucking squirrel.

Happy halloween.

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This story was originally written for a friend of mine who loves two things: words and mythology. By words, I mean he loves big words that make him feel smart at the expense of others. And by mythology, I mean fantasy. And by fantasy, I mean cheap swords and sorcery fantasy like a combination of He-Man and soft core pornography. Actually, He-Man pretty much is soft core pornography, isn’t it?

This is a fantasy story starring words.

This is WORD PORN.

Once upon a time in the land of Dictionary, there lived a word called Indefatigable. Indefatigable was a huge leviathan of a word. His scandalously long vowels and hard consonants caused others words to swoon and sway. Their syllables would spread wide–revealing their trembling trochees and gliding diphthongs in an orgiastic fit of phonetic submission.

But there was only one word in the entire land of Dictionary that Indefatigable had eyes for: Pulchritude. What a noun. Pulchritude’s undulating flow, harsh rhythm, and wanton popping of her plosive P was almost unbearable. There was no adjective to describe Pulchritude with the exception of her sister. Pulchritudinous.

But all was not well in the land of Dictionary—a word of great evil was gathering power. A flabby, jaundiced, heinous word known only as Oleaginous.

Oleaginous had hatched an unspeakably odious plot to slaughter every word between himself and Pulchritude so she would be forced to live directly next to Oleaginous and endure his fetid polysyllabic advances.

Oleaginous, together with his lugubrious henchmen, Squamous and Feculent, marched through the lower O lands of Dictionary—murdering O word after O word with feckless disregard for their antiquity. They silenced Oration! They beheaded Overpass, defenestrated Overthrow, and ripped a gaping hole right through the center of Ozone.

Word of the atrocity traveled to our hero, Indefatigable. Together with his chatty sidekick, Loquacious, Indefatigable set off on a perilous venture to rescue his coveted noun.

As Indefatigable raced through the land of Dictionary, Loquacious babbled and chattered in a desperate attempt to provide comic relief that was neither humorous nor particularly successful in facilitating an emotional catharsis.

“Looky there,” squawked Loquacious like a socially challenged eunuch, “Larceny is having a lark with Laxative!”

But Indefatigable could not be consoled. He raced forward pausing only to wave a friendly hello to his good friends Libido, Liqueur, and Lubricant.

Meanwhile, the villainous triumvirate of Oleaginous, Squamous, and Feculent plundered a path through the hills, valleys, and streams of P. They perforated Penetration! They plastered Pedantic and sent Perdition straight to Hell! They pricked Promiscuity and popped Prophylactic! Oleaginous was almost within propinquity of Pulchritude. All he had to do now was pass through Puberty.

Suddenly, Indefatigable burst upon the scene. Pulchritude told him to capitulate to Oleaginous as she was more than capable of defending herself. But Indefatigable was intransigent.

“You’ve killed a lot of good words today, Oleaginous,” said Indefatigable. “And I’m going to make you pay.”

The two big, hard to say words stared at each other with mutual loathing. Wind whistled atop the rocky plateau upon which they stood. Lightning slaked the dark clouds’ hunger for illumination. And all the other words in the land of Dictionary gathered to witness this apocalyptic conflagration.

Tension paced back and forth. Histrionic wailed and moaned. Ellipsis waited to see what WOULD…HAPPEN…NEXT…

Suddenly, the titanic battle began!  Swindle barely had time to collect bets before it was over. Without breaking a sweat, Indefatigable had ripped Oleaginous into his component parts leaving a hideous splatter of flaccid letters pooled in their own fluid. An Alphabet Soup of death.

The crowd began to disperse when Indefatigable cried out, “Oh, I’m not done yet!”

And his tireless eyes met with the unfathomable beauty that was Pulchritude’s pupils.

And even Loquacious was speechless as Pulchritude mounted Indefatigable like an umlaut on a U. They copulated for what seemed an incalculable time—an astounding epic of hammering, pounding, and punctuating—the two words riding one another like prurient asterisks!

It was too much for most decent words. Hell, it was too much for most naughty words. Fellatio’s jaw fell open in shock. Sodomy turned his back. Even Fuck blushed.

And finally, in a swelling exclamation of teleological bliss, Indefatigable and Pulchritude climaxed–their syllables intertwined in an obscene mockery of a compound word.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the true story of the invention of the word: In-pul-chrat-ah-ga-tude-able.

Or to describe this linguistic union in more pejorative terms—their disgusting, spasmodic lovemaking had created a lovely new word that simply means “tireless beauty.”

Because sometimes even ugly things can be pretty.

A version of this story is also available in my book COMEDY OF DOOM.
Thanks for reading.

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May The Tweets Be With You

As an important writer (who was probably trying to avoid spending time writing) once wrote, “Write what you know.”  The internet tells me this quote is from Mark Twain.  According to the internet, everything ever uttered in the universe tripped lightly from the lips of Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and X where X equals a famous person who died recently.

As a writer, I follow an amended version of this common wisdom: “Write about the stuff you keep thinking about that is preventing you from writing.”  This motto has caused me to write stories, sketches, and entire plays about donuts, squirrels, video games, Kinko’s, kidnapping theater critics, horrible blind dates, the French, legitimate 1099-C tax deductions, whiskey, and much more.

This summer, as a deadline loomed for The Rockstar Storytellers, a spoken word group based in the Twin Cities, I found myself obsessively making jokes about Star Wars on twitter.  Knowing that procrastination is just a really negative word for muse, I wrote a new piece about the plot of Star Wars as told through the twitter feed of the main characters.

The performance in this video, filmed at the sci-fi/fantasy convention CONvergence as part of my geek flavored show, The Comedy of Doom, is the ultimate result.  Please, ignore your writing or other important life tasks and enjoy.


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Come Along, Scrimshaw

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joseph Scrimshaw. I’m a comedian and writer born in the age when human beings were taught everything they know by the television box. I would like to introduce you to my favorite show from the television box–exactly as it was introduced to me.

Imagine, one day, your older brother tells you some guy at school says there’s this British science fiction show on every Friday and Saturday night on the Sesame Street channel. You had no idea that station even broadcast after 10 AM but you stay up late and tune in. Literally. You have to turn a PHYSICAL dial and adjust AN ANTENNA like you’re a steampunk. Your wrist aches.

Suddenly, the opening theme warbles through your tinny speakers. You watch as monsters outfitted with guns, toilet plungers, and bumps that look like the robot version of an STD outbreak match wits with a charming man whose nose is so large he would not be allowed on American television unless he was playing a serial killer.

What the hell is this?

You watch again on Saturday night and see an entirely different charming man with an entirely different giant nose.

What the hell is this?

You want to look it up on Wikipedia. But Wikipedia doesn’t exist yet. So you ask your brother to ask that guy he knows at school.  Which, when you think about it, isn’t that different from looking it up on Wikipedia.

On Monday, you finally get the download. The show is called Doctor Who. The plunger monsters are Daleks and the charming men with the giant noses are The Doctor. He’s played by different actors because instead of dying like a boring American hero, he regenerates. (You briefly think James Bond might also be a Time Lord. Sadly, he is not.) The Doctor flies through time and space in a blue box because that seemed like a good idea to someone in 1963 and it never changed because, dammit, they like it that way. And so do you.

Your life is now changed. Every kid you know likes Star Wars and Super Heroes. But this…this is a low-budget, sometimes blatantly educational show featuring women whose breasts are often fully covered and a protagonist who actively tries to prevent cool military guys from blowing crap up. You will not be playing Doctor Who on the playground. As a more pessimistic Obi-Wan Kenobi might say, “you have taken your first step into a much smaller world.”

And I took that step. I flew off the cliff like a lemming with mild astigmatism.

I convinced my pals at school to give the show a try. They returned with this actual quote: “That show is so stupid, watching it will probably give you AIDS.” It was a bit of a rough school (with an obviously poor sex ed program), but the kids were cool. I had always been a little weird, a little artsy but the kids at this school liked and/or tolerated me. Then we moved to a different neighborhood with fancier schools. Against my will, I was forced to regenerate.

At the new school I was treated as a full-blown geeky loser. We had a reading period every day. The other kids brought sports magazines. They looked at the pictures and occasionally sounded out the captions.  I brought novelizations of obscure Doctor Who episodes carefully wrapped in plastic comic book bags so the corners of the book wouldn’t get bent. The bullies were so hyper sensitive to people being different the fact that I could even spell PBS would have enraged them. But a British science fiction book in a plastic bag?  That was like an attack on Middle America.

Against all normal instincts of self-preservation, I persisted in my Doctor Who love. When Halloween rolled around I dressed up as The Doctor’s archenemy: The Master, an evil genius clad in ominous dark robes and gloves. The best I could do was faded black jeans, a black short sleeve shirt, and one sparkly white Michael Jackson glove. I spent the day repeating The Master’s catchphrase: “I am the Master and you will obey me.” In retrospect, telling prepubescent girls to obey me was a little creepy. But, I digress.

My conflict with the bullies culminated during a field trip to the State Capitol. While standing in line, one of the bullies entertained himself with the stupidest of all bullying techniques– the tapping game.

He would tap me on the shoulder.

I would turn around.

He would look the other way.

And repeat.

It was as if he were preparing himself for the monotonous factory job he no doubt holds today.


I had resisted getting into a physical fight all year because I wanted to be a pacifist like The Doctor.


The Doctor would try to talk it out.


I had tried, but it didn’t work.


I admired The Doctor for his kindness and his empathy.


But I also admired his willingness to fight.


The only thing bigger than The Doctor’s nose was his brass fucking Time Lord balls.


I whirled around and punched the bully in the face. He punched me in the gut, I tried to knee him in the groin, and the teacher pulled us apart. He, of course, mocked me for the rest of the year but never within punching range. And if I turned around and stared at him fast enough, sometimes he would flinch. I had triumphed the way The Doctor so often did: with just enough justifiable violence to hang on to the pacifist cred.

The next year I went to a different school and regenerated back into an artsy kid who was just kind of weird. 

For better or worse, Doctor Who helped make me the man-child I am today. The show reminded me to value intelligence, creativity, poor fashion choices, and absolute pig-headed defiant individuality.  Over the years, I internalized my own inner Doctor Who novelization, and lovingly wrapped it in plastic so the corners don’t get bent. And if there were an inscription on the inside cover it would read:

I am Joseph Scrimshaw. I am my master and I will obey me.

A version of this story is also available in my book COMEDY OF DOOM.
Thanks for reading.


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