Tag Archives: Halloween

EXPLAINING HALLOWEEN CEREAL TO ALIENS

I love Halloween. One of the many reasons I love it is because it’s a chance to take a step back and realize the deep, deep complexity of human society.

I was at a store and I saw a box of spooky Halloween cereal. Yay! Fun! But then I stopped and really looked at it.

It was a box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes featuring Tony the Tiger dressed as Count Dracula and the cereal itself contained marshmallows shaped like a ghost, a bat, and the head of Frankenstein’s Monster.

When I saw this box of cereal, I imagined the effort it would take to explain this to an alien. So I tried writing it out.

So, first, let’s just define the basic building block of this: Frosted Flakes.

In order to start our day with a healthy breakfast, we took corn–a thing that is already food we could just eat–and we smashed it into flakes.

But we still don’t want to eat that so we put a bunch of sugar on top of it. Then we pour milk on it so we can lie to ourselves and claim it’s healthy.

Now there are many different companies making these denial corn flakes and they are all basically the same product. So to make them seem different from one another, we invented a thing called branding.

We want to create a bond between the cereal makers and the cereal eaters so we created a mascot. Someone fun and friendly that people could relate to. Like a giant tiger.

A tiger is a large animal which, under the right circumstances, would happily kill and eat us. They require no branding to do this. Just hunger.

But this is not a normal tiger. This one walks on two legs and has a name. His name is Tony and he exists only to sell us things. He sells us things with the catchphrase, “They’re great!” Normally, shouting a biased subjective opinion about the quality of corn flakes is enough to make them fly off the shelves.

But not now. Not at Halloween. So Tony, a predator salesperson pretending to be our friend, needs to dress up as something scary. Normally, Tony the Tiger is nude with just a handkerchief around his neck. Like a bib for eating humans. But that’s not scary enough during Halloween.

So Tony is dressed up as another character named Count Dracula. Dracula is an undead rich person who wears a cape because he’s from Europe. Dracula is a vampire and he wants to hurt us. But not by eating us. He wants to suck our blood in a psycho-sexual ritual designed to steal our life essence so he can go on living for all eternity.

This is only barely a metaphor for what actual rich people do to us everyday. But during Halloween it’s fun because he has a cape.

Now, let’s move on to the Marshmallows. Marshmallows are pieces of sugar that don’t bother lying to us about what they are.

And these particular marshmallows are shaped like a bat, a ghost, and the head of Frankenstein’s Monster. Let’s break those down.

First, a bat. In reality, a bat is a small animal that mostly means us no harm whatsoever and couldn’t eat a human if it tried. But somehow we have become more afraid of bats than a tiger. A bat is basically an animal that suffers from extremely inaccurate branding.

Next up, a ghost. A ghost is what happens when a human dies but their soul is trapped on the mortal plane. When that happens the soul wears a white sheet with eyeholes so the soul can watch Netflix, I guess. I don’t know. That one’s a mystery. The point is: this marshmallow is an opportunity to eat the undead souls of other humans.

And finally, Frankenstein’s Monster’s head. Oh, boy. This one would take a very long time to fully articulate. So real short version. A woman named Mary Shelly invented the concept of science fiction by writing a novel about a dude who could not accept death so he made a fake man using body parts and lightning and since then we’ve told hundreds of stories about this monster being lonely and having a hard time making friends. We’ve told so many stories about this large lonely man that as a culture we can instantly recognize JUST HIS HEAD rendered in crude marshmallow form.

So that’s basically it. If you encounter an alien wanting to understand the spooky limited edition Halloween Kellogg’s Chocolate Frosted Flakes you know what to tell them:

It’s a tiger but it acts like a human to sell us things but it’s Halloween, a time we embrace darkness, so it’s dressed as a blood-sucking monster and the sugar blobs are all death imagery so we can eat our own fear. With milk.

And if that isn’t fun I don’t know what the hell is.

If you enjoyed this post, you can check out my comedy albums on bandcamp here!

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy Products, Comedy Story

A Man and His Spooky Tweets

For almost two years I’ve been doing a series of daily tweets. First tacos, then monkeys, then daily affirmations, then daily etiquette tips, then incorrect quotes, then fake TV shows, horoscopeshorrorwriting tipsholiday tweetsresolution tweets, Hey Girl tweets, Urban Myth tweets, pastry tweets, boring tweets, social media tweets, incorrect facts, slogans, and Conspiracy tweets, and now Spooky Tweets! Enjoy!

You can also follow me on Twitter to enjoy November’s series!

Day One – You get a phone call. It’s coming from someone who could have sent a text or email.

Day Two – Once, as an adult, I shopped at Hot Topic.

Day Three – Sometimes three white guys get together in a basement and don’t record a podcast.

Day Four – If you watch an episode of Doctor Who and don’t have a strong opinion about it, you will die in 7 days.

Day Five – The term “mouthfeel” exists and is in common usage.

Day Six – It’s possible that my home is haunted and I don’t know because the ghost is just a lazy ass.

Day Seven – If you look in the mirror and say your own name three times, you’ll realize you’re a fucking narcissist.

Day Eight – Today is the twenty year anniversary of twenty years ago. Soon we will all die.

Day Nine – Satan is only interested in purchasing your soul if it’s part of a GroupOn deal.

Day Ten – A remake of The Tell Tale Heart but the beating heart sounds like the car alarm on a Prius.

Day Eleven – Don’t be afraid: Zombies are more tired of us than we are of them.

Day Twelve – Ghosts are just dead people who can’t stop buffering.

Day Thirteen – The noise is coming from inside the building. The man has an acoustic guitar and is learning to play The Eagles’ songbook.

Day Fourteen – All Blockbuster Videos are now haunted by restless spirits that can never pay the late fee on their VHS copies of Titanic.

Day Fifteen – If you look at WebMD, you’ll think you’re going to die in seven days.

Day Sixteen – Once, I went 24 hours without seeing a picture of a cat on the internet.

Day Seventeen – In the future, people will fight to get little blue verified check marks on their tombstones.

Day Eighteen – Once, I left ear buds in my head for seven hours before I noticed I wasn’t listening to anything.

Day Nineteen – The bolts in Frankenstein’s monster’s neck can only be tightened with a little wrench from Ikea.

Day Twenty – Theirs a ghost in your house and it wants to correct you’re grammar.

Day Twenty-One – Once I went three days without asking anyone if they’d seen The Wire.

Day Twenty-Two – I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, vampires, spiders, burritos, discounts. We never stop screaming.

Day Twenty-Three – Before you die your life flashes before your eyes but it’s not in the correct aspect ratio.

Day Twenty-Four – Dance like no one is watching except a sad ghost named Toby.

Day Twenty-Five – Some of the things smartphones have replaced: watches, alarm clocks, mp3 players, books, family, friends, hope.

Day Twenty-Six – The mad scientist’s name is Frankenstein, the monster’s name is actually Chad Lonelypants.

Day Twenty-Seven – If you eat enough candy corn, your colon will turn into a mummy.

Day Twenty-Eight – We will never know which long dead British guy we’ve never heard of was the real Jack the Ripper.

Day Twenty-Nine – The most terrifying Halloween costume is emotional nudity.

Day Thirty – If you make a funny face, your face will stay that way. If you make two funny faces, you will become an animated gif.

Day Thirty-One – Things vampires can turn into: bats, wolves, mist, Diet Pepsi, a turducken, YouTube comments, ebola reporting, money. #DailySpookyTweet

Yours in Spooky Town,

Joseph

If you enjoy my work, you can check out all the comedy words and things I’m making via Patreon.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Daily Tweet Collection

An Open Letter From A Ghost

GhostLetter

Dear humans,

I am a ghost and I can prove it. Here goes:

BOOOOooooooOOOOOOOOooooo!

Because all ghosts go BOOOOOOooooOOOOOOooooo, right?

WRONG. Ghosts have no desire to shout weird noises to frighten you. We just want your attention. Like you living humans, we just want to be HEARD. In a way, we’re all going BooooOOOOOoooooo all the time. The internet is nothing but BooooOOOOOOOOOOooooo 24/7.

Besides if we just wanted to scare you, we could say more terrifying things like:

AHHHHHHHH!
or
SON OF A–!

We could also shout terrifying things that are relevant to modern times like:

Not All Ghosts!
or
Technically, it’s pronounced JIF!

That’s right, ghosts are very well aware of animated gifs. We like comparing Benedict Cumberbatch to otters just as much as living people do.

Everybody thinks ghosts are all old-timie. Like we’re all just cartoons wearing sheets over our heads. Ghosts wear a lot of other things besides sheets. Things like:

Spanx.
Star Trek themed bathrobes.
Google Glass.
Some of us are furries.

And we don’t just haunt creepy places like castles, abandoned amusement parks, or the DMV. We haunt any place we have unfinished business.

I know a ghost who haunts a Chipotle because she could never afford the extra guacamole on her burrito.

Most old Blockbuster Video locations are haunted by people who never got a chance to return the DVD of Hotel Rwanda they rented in 2005.

The most embarrassing place for a ghost to haunt is Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I mean, it’s got all the sheets and the whole “beyond” thing. It’s just too on the nose. It’s like a vampire working at a blood bank. It’s just stupid.

But ghosts can’t choose where they haunt. That’s the main thing to understand about us: Ghosts are just souls who can’t move on. We’re basically souls that are always buffering. Do you how annoying that is? We’re like souls operated by Time Warner Cable. We can’t move on. We’re like your mom talking about how much she likes Anderson Cooper. We just will not let it go. Maybe that’s just my mom. She really likes Anderson Cooper.

The point is ghosts need all kinds of different things before they can go on. Sure, some ghosts need to figure out who killed them, but most just need regular human things. They want to finish that novel they were working on, see their kid graduate from high school, beat the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, change their twitter handle back to their real name instead of Werewolf MacFartPants or whatever dumb Halloween name they died with. Normal human things!

Personally, my needs are modest. I died in 2006 in a small apartment watching the season six finale of Gilmore Girls. All I need to move on is to see Season Seven of Gilmore Girls. There have been twelve different tenants in my apartment since 2006. NONE OF THEM WILL WATCH GILMORE GIRLS! IT’S ON NETFLIX INSTANT NOW! HELP ME OUT PEOPLE!

So look for us! Pay attention! Unless you’re one of those Ghost Hunting shows. Screw those guys. If a ghost lives in your house and you try to watch one of those stupid shows, we’ll change the channel to a rerun of Project Runway. We will Tim Gunn your asses.

If you ever get the feeling you’re being stared at and judged, there’s probably a ghost in your home. Or maybe you have a cat. If you feel stared at, judged, AND like someone is putting their butt in your face, you are being haunted by a ghost cat. Yes, there are ghost cats. They mostly want their ears scritched, but that’s another story.

Or imagine you live in an apartment. Maybe you have important work to do. But then the lights flicker on and off. You hear a dial-up modem noise for no reason. You feel an overwhelming desire to drop everything and watch Season Seven of Gilmore Girls.

DO IT. JUST DO IT. YOU WILL MAKE A GHOST WEARING A STAR TREK BATHROBE VERY HAPPY.

With sincere thanks,
A ghost

P.S. BOOOOOoooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOOO!

If you enjoy my posts, check out Patreon and the kind patrons who make them possible. Also, please don’t worry about me, I have actually seen every episode of Gilmore Girls.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Comedy Story, Uncategorized

HALLOWEEN: Obsessed Ep 63

Writer, vlogger, and self-professed “dorky goth” Nika Harper joins Joseph to obsess over Halloween. Topics include bats, candy corn, a hatred of the word spoopy, bobbing for things, monsters, and, again, bats.

AWOOGA! Obsessed is now a part of Feral Audio! Go to Feral now to listen to this episode and subscribe for new ones!

Listen, rate, review, and subscribe to OBSESSED on iTunes.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Obsessed, Podcast

FUN MONSTERS

Halloween is my favorite holiday for one very specific reason:

No one tries to tell you how you should feel on Halloween.

Sure, there are plenty of emotions one could associate with it: horror, gluttony, glee, sexy feelings, and whatever emotions are brought up by the sense memory of trying to see and breathe through a latex mask of Batman’s face.

But that’s it. Every other major U.S. Holiday is an endless barrage of the world telling you what to feel.

Thanksgiving. You’re supposed to be grateful. Even if you hate Turkey and football. You should be grateful it’s only one day a year.

Christmas. You are supposed to feel an endless string of emotions. Joy, peace, good will, guilt, massive (yet hidden) pride in the raw power of consumerism.

New Year’s. Optimism, lies about exercise, hangovers, guilt.

Valentine’s Day. Love, sexy feelings, ironic dislike of the Hallmark card you just purchased, guilt.

St. Patrick’s Day. Alcohol poisoning, guilt.

Easter. Joy, renewal, fertility, confusion about why the hell a giant bunny left perishable food items all over your house, guilt.

Fourth of July. Patriotism, a desire to eat meat outside, fear of blowing your hand off, guilt.

Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Arbor Day, National Pancake Day, National Think About Clowns Day, National Eat Pancakes Shaped Like A Clown’s Head Day: GUILT.

But not Halloween. Halloween is an honest holiday. We all like monsters. We’re all intrigued by dark and scary things. We all like candy. We get to put on masks, go to other people’s homes, and take things from them.

Halloween is basically a huge group of otherwise normal people role-playing an elaborate heist film.

The only difference is that at the end no one has to feel guilty.

We just get to have fun.

Happy Halloween, you monsters.

If you enjoyed this post, you can make more happen by supporting Joseph on Patreon!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Comedy Real Life

What did you do, Joseph, what did you do?

I suspect I am not alone in feeling as though I am never really getting enough done. While I try not to procrastinate too much, I do make jokes about procrastinating a lot. When I realize I’m procrastinating, I have a lot of little motivational phrases I say out loud to myself. One of them is this:

“Get back to work, you idiot.”

And if I don’t get back to work, I sometimes follow up with:

“You are a bad and stupid person.”

Then I feel guilty that I’m being so mean to myself and I try to make it up to me by allowing myself to make a joke on Twitter about procrastinating. And the cycle continues.

This year, I decided to actually review my calendar and make a list of (almost) everything I did. Please enjoy procrastinating from your work to read about mine!

January

I worked with John Kovalic on some spec scripts and started writing daily tweets for @DrBlinkShrink.

I did two shows at The San Francisco SketchFest. CineMadness with Bill Corbett and a short version of my geek stand-up/storytelling show, Comedy of Doom.

I performed the role of “Balthazar, D & D Champion” in promotional videos for a company called Awesome Dice.

I co-wrote an internal awards show for General Mills.

I made jokes on Twitter about procrastinating.

February

I launched the Obsessed podcast as both a live show in Minneapolis and released the first episode online. There have been 10 live shows that have generated 16 podcast episodes.

I wrote a sketch for a magician.

I wrote and performed (with Shanan Custer) a commentary about smartphones for Minnesota Public Radio.

I did a story with the spoken word collective The Rockstar Storytellers.

I was one of the entertainers on JoCoCruiseCrazy II. I performed a full length version of Comedy of Doom. I was thrilled to get a surprise volunteer named Wil Wheaton for my Star Trek bit. I also played the role of “Ed McMahon” on Paul & Storm’s podcast with Paul F. Tompkins.

I gave a talk in a bar about zombies and Minnesota geek culture for the Minnesota Historical Society.

I made jokes on Facebook about procrastinating.

March

I performed at the Twin Cities convention Mars Con.

I started working as an occasional writer and performer on Wits. Since March, I’ve written for and/or performed with Tim Meadows, Rhett Miller, Andy Richter, Reggie Watts, Fred Willard, Paul F. Tompkins, Wyatt Cenac, Bobcat Goldthwait, Amy Sedaris, Dave Foley, Mike Doughty, Maria Bamford, and Brandi Carlile. And of course host John Moe, John Munson and The Witnesses, and other frequent Wits performers Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, and Neil Gaiman.

I went out to eat with my wife on her birthday. She mentioned maybe I should write a book.

I made jokes on Google+ about procrastinating.

April

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I wrote and did eight performances of a one person stand-up show about vampires, stand-up, and vampires doing stand-up called The Sad Vampire Comedy Hour.

I wrote and performed a short story as part of a Minnesota Public Radio showcase led by Kevin Kling.

I did three performances and presentations about using comedy to discuss history for the American Alliance of Museums convention.

I did not get around to making any jokes on social media about procrastinating.

May

I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book version of Comedy of Doom.

I wrote a lot of new material for the book. I edited the material from the stage version. I took photos for the cover and organized all the illustrations for the book. I hit refresh on the Kickstarter page roughly 700 times a day.

My odd little rock band called Math Emergency (composed of a math professor, a public radio producer, a public radio host, and me) played a gig. I played the drums and made jokes into a microphone.

I appeared on the AON podcast.

I made jokes on Twitter about spending too much time on Twitter.

June

I went on my friends’ annual bar crawl. I only note this because, while fun, going to 13 bars in 12 hours does feel a bit like work.

I appeared on the Vilification Tennis podcast where I cemented my reputation as an Axl Rose apologist.

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I did multiple rounds of proofing and editing on the book and we sent it off to be printed. Comedy of Doom was officially published on June 20, 2012.

I wrote the pilot for an animated series version of the web comic Least I Could Do.

I made mean jokes about Google+ on Twitter.

July

We sent out all the copies of Comedy of Doom to the kind Kickstarter backers.

I attended the big Twin Cities convention CONvergence. I wrote and performed a one person storytelling and stand-up show about romantic advice for geeks called Verbing The Noun. We’ll be releasing a CD and digital download of the show in time for Valentine’s Day 2013. I did a live Obsessed show with Paul Cornell and Bonnie Burton. I did 10 other comedy panels and a signing for Comedy of Doom.

I went to San Diego Comic-Con. I performed at w00tstock. I had fun meetings, fancy parties, and saw a lot of men dressed as Jedi having a hard time at urinals.

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I co-wrote and performed a comedy show called Comedy: The Show with Four Humors Theater on the Centennial Showboat in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I made a quick trip to Los Angeles for a friend’s birthday party. I even wrote something for that.

I made mean jokes about Google+ on Facebook.

August

I wrote, produced, and performed in an hour long one act play called Nightmare Without Pants for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Here is a three minute live video preview of the show, in which I perform an accidental magic trick with a pair of rip-away pants.

Due to the stubborn forward movement of time I became a year older on August 17th.

I performed and did some comedy panels at Dragon*Con in Atlanta.

I made jokes about Google+ on Google+.

September

I was still at Dragon*Con. For one panel, I was challenged to sing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” I attempted to do it in the style of Nine Inch Nails. It’s a better song that way.

I did a performance at Space Camp with Marian Call, Molly Lewis, Ken Plume, Phil Plait, and more.

Obsessed was featured on iTunes as “New & Noteworthy” and a “Staff Favorite.”

I co-wrote, helped to organize, and performed in a large awards show for the Minnesota theater community called The Iveys.

I did a podcast with the awesome Len Peralta and became a trading card for his Geek-A-Week series.

I hosted and performed at a viewing of the Doctor Who episode “The Angels Take Manhattan” at The Parkway Theater.

I tried to treat Google+ with a little more respect.

October

I co-produced, directed, and wrote a piece for a theater event called Thirst. It’s a series of short one-act plays performed in a bar. The show had three performances and it was a benefit to fight for Marriage Equality in Minnesota. Here’s the monologue I wrote about Harry Potter and kindness.

I joined The Ladies of Ragnarok (Molly Lewis, The Doubleclicks, and tour manager Dammit Liz) for a leg of their tour. I performed in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison. The Ladies also appeared on Obsessed.

I recorded the audiobook version of Comedy of Doom. We’re still working on editing and mastering the hours of audio.

I did another show with the Rockstar Storytellers.

I wrote and performed a ghost story for Torch Theater in Minneapolis.

I played another gig with Math Emergency.

I started a Tumblr account and wrote a thing about Halloween.

November

I used National Novel Writing Month as a motivation to work on some screenplays. I finished plotting and scripting the first drafts of two feature length films. Now working on second drafts.

My wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. The traditional gift is iron. The contemporary gift is candy. We gave one another Iron Man Pez dispensers.

I tried to make fun of Google+ on Tumblr, but I felt like I was kicking a puppy.

December

I wrote and performed the short story Adult Santa for The New Standards holiday show at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I did another story with the Rockstar Storytellers.

We (and by “we” I really mean my wife Sara and my graphic designer, Matthew Foster) made Comedy of Doom available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and many stores in the Twin Cities.

I wrote a story about the grim superhero The Leaping Lord for Paul Cornell’s 12 Blogs of Christmas.

I started writing a new stand-up/storytelling show that I’ll be performing on JoCoCruiseCrazy III.

I started writing another stand-up/storytelling show that I’ll be performing at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis in March of 2013.

I booked guests for Obsessed through March of 2013.

I wrote some stuff that I’ll perform for my annual New Year’s Eve show at the Bryant Lake Bowl.

I made fun of LinkedIn on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr.

I debated whether or not I should write this. I stared off into space and screwed around on social media. I beat myself up about procrastinating. I forced myself to write this. I read it. I thought about all the amazing creative people I got to meet and work with this year. I ran the post by my wife and business partner without whom none of the above would be remotely possible.

Later tonight, I’ll watch some TV, drink a martini, and think about ways to get even more done in 2013.

I’m going to start by coming up with some new motivational phrases.

I think I’ll try:

“Come on, you idiot, get stuff done so you have something to blog about next year.”

and

“Stop calling yourself an idiot, you jackass.”

And then I’ll hug myself and move on.

Happy New Year’s,

Joseph

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy Real Life

The itPhone

I’m a big fan of old horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. I also spend a hideous amount of time playing with my smartphone. This led me to think about what kind of story these masters of macabre suspense might write if they were alive today. Enjoy.

I would like to tell you a story about a terrifying, soul-sucking, life destroying thing that happened to a friend of mine.

He got a new smartphone.

My friend—whose name was Jonathon—was a huge fan of Apple. He once sent me an article saying experts predicted that the next iPhone after the iPhone 4 would be the iPhone 5. To which I responded, “Which experts are saying this? Counting experts?”

But the next phone was, strangely, the iPhone 4S and Jonathon dutifully lined up in the middle of the night to buy one. But while he was waiting, a small wizened old man with a crooked smile and bulbous eyes emerged from the shadows of a nearby alley. The old man wanted to sell Jonathon a knock-off iPhone called an itPhone.

Jonathon laughed and said no, but the more he played with the itPhone, the more amazing it seemed. So fast, so responsive, so intuitive as though the phone knew what Jonathon wanted even before he did. On an impulse, he bought the phone.

At first, he was thrilled. Jonathon’s phone was always the fastest. He was that annoying guy at the bar who could look up character actors’ names on his phone faster than his friends could remember them with their slow human brains.

But after a few months, Jonathon started having problems with the phone. One day, he called me and I was terrified. Because who the hell uses their phone to actually call people these days?

Also, my ringtone is the Wilhelm Scream. For anyone who is not familiar with the Wilhelm Scream, it’s a famous audio clip used in many films when minor characters die or fall from high places. It sounds something like, “oooWAAUHHHooohhh!”

Anyway, Jonathon was in panic about his phone.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

“It’s…it’s haunted,” Jonathon said.

I asked for some examples of what this haunted phone was doing.

Jonathon quickly rattled off a list. “It keeps giving me the wrong directions! And it autocorrects all of my texts! And without asking me it keeps poking all my Facebook friends!”

“Yeah,” I said supportively, “That’s what phones do.”

“You don’t understand,” Jonathon shouted, “It took a picture of my junk while I was sleeping and sent it to my co-workers!”

“Well,” I said, “Was it a good picture? Tasteful lighting? Did it use an Instagram filter?”

“This isn’t funny!” Jonathon whisper-yelled. “It downloaded an app and I can’t delete it.”

“What does the app do?”

“It makes it so the phone screams if I stop touching it.”

I laughed and the line went dead. I almost called back but I really, really hate talking on the phone. It just seems so much easier to send a text, you know?

Anyway, I didn’t hear from Jonathon for a little while. But I assumed he was alright, because he was always online. He was very active on Facebook. And Twitter. And Google+. And Pinterest. And Reddit. And Tumblr. And Etsy. And Regretsy. Even LinkedIn. I admit, that gave me some pause.

Eventually, he stopped responding to tweets and texts, so I decided to make a personal sacrifice, stop everything I was doing, and call him on the phone like a savage.

The phone rang and rang and finally Jonathon picked up and said in a raspy voice, “Hello?”

“Jonathon. It’s me. I decided to call you. On the phone. Because I figured what the hell is a phone for after all?”

There was a pause. And then Jonathon cackled like a maniac for a solid minute. He followed the laugh by quietly saying, “LOL.”

That seemed redundant to me. Then he said something even more bizarre. He said, “No, seriously. Actual LOL.”

That just pissed me off.

I mean, LOL stands for laughing out loud. When you add the “actual” you’re just admitting that the majority of times you say LOL you’re lying.

But I digress.

Jonathon hung up and didn’t answer my calls after that. He started changing all of his profile photos. Strange, artsy shots of the corner of his jaw or just his eyebrow. Thankfully, never his junk. At least I don’t think so.

I emailed his co-workers and discovered he had stopped showing up to work weeks ago.

I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. I decided to physically get in my car, drive through actual traffic to his home, and speak with him face to face. I even parallel parked. It was horrible.

When I arrived at his house, the door was ajar. I gently pushed it open and it screeched ominously. The house was a mess. Clothes, food, bottles, and papers everywhere. It looked like the home of the least organized serial killer in the world. I heard the soft mewling of a cat.

As far as I could remember Jonathon didn’t own any cats.

I followed the noise to the bedroom. There was a dim glow coming from inside the room. I steeled my nerves, peeked inside, and saw him.

Saw it.

Illuminated by the glow of the phone, it was clear that Jonathon had changed. He was shriveled and hunched. His tiny arms could barely support the weight of his hands. His thumbs were enormous and his fingers had developed into fine points. His hair had fallen out and his head had contorted to make more room for his eyes….his giant bulging eyes. His whole body was bent and angled as if it were being pulled into the phone.

His huge, bloodshot eyes seemed to strain out of the sockets as they stared at the phone.

Stared at cat videos on the internet.

I stood there, arms grasping the door frame to hold myself steady. “Hang in there,” I thought, “Hang in there like the cat on the motivational poster.”

Almost against my will, I heard myself saying, “Jonathon?”

Suddenly, his huge bulbous subterranean eyes locked on mine.

“You,” he croaked, “I know you from the Facebooks.” Then he reached out one of his tiny, pointed fingers and growled violently, “POKE!”

I ran out of the house, screaming and thinking to myself, “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS IN PERSON!”

By the time I had run halfway down the block to my car, I began to doubt if I had even seen it. There was a phrase nagging at me, some traditional wisdom, handed down through the generations. Then I remembered.

The phrase was this: “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

I made my way back to the house. My trembling hands pushed open the door. It screeched again. This time there was no cat sound. I trudged through the debris to the bedroom door and looked inside. Jonathan was gone.

I began to explore the house, my heart lurching into my throat every time I opened a closet door or pulled aside a shower curtain. But Jonathon was nowhere to be found.

Then I heard something, very faint yet very close. Was it a cat? No, it was a scream. A repeated, muffled scream.

And I realized the phone call was coming from inside my pants.

Idiot.

I pulled out my phone, cursing my choice of the stupid Wilhelm Scream for a ringtone. I touched the answer button and held the phone to my head.

“Are you looking for me, Facebook friend?” Jonathon rasped.

“Yes, Jonathon, yes I am.”

“I’m in the bedroom.”

“No, you’re not, Jonathon. I’m standing in your bedroom right now.”

“I’m right where you left me. On the bed.”

I turned and looked at the bed. I gathered my courage, terrified that I knew what I was about to see, and I pulled the covers away.

Sure enough, there was Jonathon, his horrible face writhing with laughter.

Writhing inside his phone.

His pointed little fingers scratching the glass surface from the inside. He stared into my eyes and said, “END CALL.”

The line went dead and Jonathon’s phone went black. I left the phone there, raced to my car, and drove straight home.

Well, not quite straight home, I got lost and had to do a google map search, but the point is I never saw Jonathon again.

No one did. At least, not in real life. He’s plenty active online though. He always says YES to my Facebook invites, but he never shows up. So in many ways, he’s living a very normal life.

I’ve tried to tell mutual friends what happened. But they never believe.

After all, there are no pics. So maybe it really never happened.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my writing, check out other stories like this in my book Comedy of Doom or support me on Patreon. Thanks!

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy Story

A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A DEAD MAN

Last Halloween, I was challenged to write a scary story. So I wrote about the most horrible thing I could imagine. It’s not “creatures popping out of the dark, make you scream, run, and twist your ankle” scary. It’s horrible explicit gore. But not physical gore. It’s emotional, existential gore. It’s like a pompous French film version of Saw. It’s a story about fear. Please try to enjoy “A Portrait of the Artist as a Dead Man.”

John Ludd died accidentally on October 18th, 2011.  He is survived by his parents and some friends. I guess. When reached for comment, his parents simply sighed. John Ludd had no spouse or partner to contact. He also had no children. He didn’t even have pets.

I guess it’s safe to say John Ludd is survived,  begrudgingly, by his parents and the not insubstantial amount of mold growing in his kitchen.

And, of course, his friends. If you could combine the hundreds of people John knew, taking bits and pieces of all them, they would form one or two actual close friends. I, myself, am writing this obituary because you can only play hot potato for so long before that tuber starts to cool down and you have no choice but to say yes.

Don’t get me wrong, John was a nice, fun guy. He was interesting to observe in exactly the same way a black hole is: from far enough away that you don’t risk getting sucked into the void.

But here I go.

John Ludd was a novelist. He was cooking up a great American novel in his head. But there seemed to be an unfortunate blockage between his head and his fingers because, to my knowledge, not a single word of that novel exists in the corporeal world.

John spent his final days on his smartphone playing a game called Words With Friends. Words With Friends should be called A Barely Legal Rip-Off Of Scrabble With Strangers From The Internet. Of course, that’s not quite as appealing. But then honesty never is.

John held a string of crappy office jobs. He would immerse himself in petty office politics—who got to take a longer break, whose key card allowed them to swipe into the slightly nicer bathroom, how come someone threw out his week old frozen pizza leftovers after only giving him three written warnings but no verbal warnings, and on and on.

It was almost as if he needed to cram pointless crap in his head to make sure the great novel simmering in there never had a chance to come to a full boil.

Still, John was not without his accomplishments. He once scored over 120 points in Words With Friends. Even more impressively, he did this by spelling the word “Jazz.” It must be noted, the game only provides one “Z.” So John, in a display of patience and planning rarely seen in his life, had to hold on to the high point letters of “J” and “Z” until a blank tile came up that he could transform into a second “Z.” Luckily, John immediately took a screen capture of the game or this momentous achievement in his life would be lost to the mists of time.

I knew John, as almost everyone did, as that mildly entertaining guy who hung out at the kind of depressing bar that had a really good happy hour deal on Miller High Life. I would call John a bar fly, but comparing him to a weaving darting creature like a fly would not communicate the anchor like weight with which he sat at the bar. John was a bar hippo.

John had an uncanny ability to know exactly how other people should fix their lives with absolutely no ability to apply the same ideas to his own. He would dole out advice like “remember to keep things in perspective” and “just be the best you you can be,” not to mention rhetorical winners like, “Are you afraid to be fearless?”

Sometimes, after a particularly long rant, listeners would comment, “You should write that down, you could use it for your novel.” To which John would reply, “You’re right. Another pitcher sounds like a great idea,”  and launch into yet another cheap beer infused tirade about the mysteries of the universe.

Alas, in my humble opinion, life is like a “life is like” analogy made at a bar late at night. It only makes sense to people who are drunk.

John always said he wanted to die in an interesting, flamboyant manner.  And, well, there’s no way to sugar coat it, he failed at that, too.

John died as he lived. Just fucking sitting there. There was a slow but deadly carbon monoxide leak in his apartment building. Everyone else got out as their alarms alerted them to a problem. Not only had John removed the batteries from his alarm, he had earbuds in and his iPod set to maximum volume. As far as we can tell, the last thing he heard or experienced was Led Zeppelin III. Which isn’t even a particularly good album.

John did not believe in the afterlife. Which should be a comfort to his atheist friends, I guess. And god knows, atheists could use some comfort. After all, atheists are, by definition, cheated out of the opportunity to gloat. When you die and stop existing there’s really no opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

To be perfectly honest, I used to be an atheist.  But after John died, I just can’t. I mean, the man did nothing. It’s frankly amazing that I have so much to say about someone who did so little. I want there to be an afterlife, so John can DO SOMETHING.

Screw the great American novel! Write a cookbook, a haiku, carve a dirty limerick on the back of whatever tablets god’s cooking up for us in the next century. Just make a fucking impression.

In conclusion, John Ludd was a novelist.

He had a great novel.

In his head.

He once tried to shotgun a beer out of a glass bottle.

There will probably be a small, informal memorial service at the bar during happy hour. Maybe we’ll scratch his name on his favorite stool. And we’ll share memories.

One last memory before I go. John often talked about what he would do after his novel was published and he made a bunch of money. He described this moment as “when his ship comes in.” It always struck me as a pretty depressing turn of phrase for someone who lives in the middle of the land-locked Midwest. But in all fairness, I think a lot of us are waiting for our ships to come in.

Allow me to close by sharing my new personal motto. A motto that is, at the very least, co-written with John Ludd.

If all I intend to do with my life is wait for my ship to come in, the least I can do is move a little closer to the fucking ocean.

Thank you.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Very Best Of My Very Bad Halloween Costumes

A brief remembrance of my top five horrible Halloween costumes.

1) ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER

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.

2) THE MASTER FROM DOCTOR WHO

Age 11. For horrible details, see this post.

3) AXL ROSE

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.

4) A KINKO’S EMPLOYEE

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.

5) A GIANT SQUIRREL

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized