Tag Archives: Rockstar Storytellers

KarmaStarter

I’m a huge fan of Kickstarter. It made my book Comedy of Doom possible and more recently it made my comedy album Flaw Fest possible. One of the rewards for Flaw Fest was a short comedy video about any flaw you wanted. My pal, cartoonist and game designer, John Kovalic, suggested the flaw of Kickstarter Addiction. So I made the video below.

After making that video, I worry about my Kickstarter Karma so here are a few projects from friends and awesome humans that I think you should check out.

Singing funny humans, Paul & Storm, (who are featured on the Flaw Fest album) just launched a campaign for their new album Ball Pit!

If you’re a fan of Paul & Storm, you probably know about JoCoCruiseCrazy. Here’s a Kickstarter campaign to create a high-end animated trailer for the cruise.

My friend and partner-in-comedy-crime in Rockstar Storytellers, Courtney McLean, just launched a cool project for a 12 night tour that never leaves the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul!

Finally, Mary Jo Pehl, of MST3K and Cinematic Titanic and general awesomeness, wants to sing to you AND give you a recipe for tater tot hotdish.

My recipe for tater tot hotdish is take 2 or more ingredients of any kind then add enough CREAM to kill a small moose. Lovingly cover this gastronomical death trap with tater tots and enough SALT to make sure the dead moose’s body will never decay. That recipe is free, but I should probably do a Kickstarter campaign for a cookbook on how to murder friends and loved ones with food stuffs.

Thanks for all the support you Kickstarting sons of bitches!

-Joseph

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STAND-UP and KING ARTHUR: Obsessed Ep 30

Stand-up comedy and King Arthur! Two different obsessions that go weirdly well together! Joseph is joined by his friends and cohorts in the storytelling collective Rockstar Storytellers–comedian Ben San Del and playwright Phillip Andrew Bennet Low. Ben shares the story of doing dirty comedy at a clean wedding, Phillip reveals he used to be a hipster who hated Lancelot for being too sincere, and we all agree that a good stand-up set about King Arthur would include a fair amount of dick/sword jokes. PLUS the most direct answers to the “What is happiness?” question yet!

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.

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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

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Blink Blink Blank

The first Kurt Vonnegut novel I read was Breakfast of Champions when I was in 8th grade. After I read it, I developed this opinion: if you accept that the world is a stupid illogical place, then the world suddenly makes a lot more sense. This has always given me a strange comfort. I wrote this story for a group I perform with in the Twin Cities called The Rockstar Storytellers. Our assignment was to write in the style of our favorite author. Thanks, Mr. Vonnegut. Poo-tee-twoot?

Here is what I know:

Algernon Grimshank was a human being on the planet earth. Like most human beings on the planet earth he had the following problem:

He was very smart and yet most of the time he behaved like an absolute idiot. He knew for a fact that most people behaved like idiots, too, and he suspected most of them were smart enough to know he behaved like an idiot. And yet, he tried to pretend he didn’t, which was of course a very idiotic thing to do.

Algernon Grimshank’s personal idiocy manifested itself like this:
He told people he was a writer.

He would go to cocktail parties and high school reunions and say things like:
“Yes, writing is who I am!”
“Yes, writing isn’t about deadlines!”
“Yes, writing is about truth!”
“Yes, yes!”

Here was the truth:
On any given moment, on any given day Algernon would have vastly preferred to sit on his couch, eat pizza, and stare at a television than lift one finger to do anything even remotely productive.

Many of the idiots on planet earth felt this way. But they all thought it was very important to lie to one another about it.

And so Algernon Grimshank spent a ridiculous amount of his short life staring at things that were blank: pieces of paper, his computer screen, his friends’ faces when he told them his story ideas.

Blink blink blank.

Over the years, older wiser idiots had taught Algernon many glib, cliché catchphrases that would help him become a truthful writer.

One of those phrases was this:
Write what you know.

Here is what Algernon Grimshank knew:
Laziness. Horrible soul-crushing sloth. So, one day he decided to write about that. He did research on his subject by looking up sloth on a website called wikipedia.org.

Wikipedia was an online encyclopedia that any yahoo could edit. Many well-educated idiots doubted its truthfulness when compared to a real encyclopedia that could only be edited by a handful of highly trained yahoos.

This is what the ambiguously educated collective of yahoos knew about sloth:
It is a cardinal sin. Like murder, it merits damnation in hell without the possibility of forgiveness. Algernon found it odd that if you plan on killing another human being but don’t really get around to it—you are just as likely to go to hell as if you actually slit someone’s throat.

Blink blink blank.

Next the website told him sloth was sometimes associated with goats and the color light blue. He noted that a citation was needed.

Then the website told Algernon something so idiotic he doubted its truthfulness.

It said:
Each of the seven sins is paired with a patron demon. The patron demon of Sloth was Belphegor. A demon who was sent from Hell by Lucifer to find out if there really was such a thing on earth as married happiness.

The website also told Algernon that Belphegor was Hell’s ambassador to France.

Furthermore, the website told him that Belphegor tempted humans to be slothful by creating ingenious bits of technology which would waste their time.

Like all demons, Belphegor could only be summoned to earth by throwing a sacrifice of some kind on the floor of your home. The sacrifice required by Belphegor was this: shit.

This caused the following sentence to pop into Algernon’s brain against his will:
The mystical portal between Hell and France is poop.

Finally, the website told Algernon that Belphegor was traditionally pictured as an old man sitting on a toilet. Algernon Grimshank never knew that traditional Judeo-Christian demonological iconography could be this low-brow.

He was curious. He looked around his home for something akin to a big piece of shit.

He picked up a copy of his latest half-finished story and threw it on the floor.

POOF! A puff of acrid smoke filled the room and Algernon found himself in the company of an old man on a toilet.

The toilet-man said:
“Hey Buddy! I’m Belephegor! What can Belphegor get for you? Don’t just stare at Belphegor! Belpehgor is here to help you. You got any questions for Belphegor?”

Algernon threw open the wardrobe of his mind and desperately searched for a few words that might go well together. He said:
“Why are you sitting on a toilet?”

Belephegor responded: “It’s like sitting on the truth!”

Blink blink blank.

“Look, Belphegor made something for you, buddy!”

The demon reached a wrinkled hand into the toilet and threw something to Algernon.

It was this:
A light blue Nintendo 3DS portable video game system. Belpehgor pulled one out for himself. The game loaded in both devices was Tetris. They both began to play.

This is how you play Tetris:
You stare at a blank screen. Eventually different geometric shapes fall from the sky. You use your thumbs to jostle buttons so you can make the shapes connect with one another. Once the connected shapes form a complete line they disappear.

You can’t win at Tetris. It’s just a question of how long until you fail.

Hours passed. Belphegor yelled out things like:
“Yes, I just flipped the l-shape!”
“Yes, I just made six hundred and sixty-six lines disappear!”
“Yes! Yes!”

Algernon was enjoying himself. His eyes burned and his thumbs ached. Pieces of half-digested pizza fell in his gut, piling up into a mass of twisted geometric spires. He felt like an idiot. He should be writing, creating. He wanted to make all his words connect and form lines so he could win his next high school reunion.

He was all conflict and no resolution. His story really should end there. Instead, I am going to do something glib and cliché. I am going to insert myself, as the author, into the story. It’s a lousy trick that reeks of post-modernism.

Here is what I know about post-modernism:
It’s an ambiguous term that educated idiots like to bicker about at cocktails parties. We are currently trying to look smart by debating whether or not post-modernism is dead. It’s difficult to decide since none of us can agree on what post-modern meant in the first place. Personally, I think it means to have the creator comment in a knowing way on his or her own narrative.

So with a poof of light blue smoke I enter the room with Algernon Grimshank and say this:
“Hey buddy, I’m your creator! How can I help you? What can I get for you? I’d like to resolve your problems as neatly and quickly as possible.”

Algernon stares. Blink blink blank.

Belphegor tries to throw me my very own Nintendo 3DS, but I’m ready for him. Wikipedia told me the secret to defeat the demon sloth: zeal.

Each of the seven deadly sins is opposed by one of the seven virtues: chastity, moderation, generosity, charity, humility, meekness, and zeal. Putting them all together, they don’t make a lot of sense. I would not want to be in a room with a generous, humble moderate zealot meekly offering to give their chastity to charity.

Eager to save my protagonist from himself, I launch into a zealous tirade! I say things like:
“Yes, you’ve got to write for yourself, not for anyone else!”
“Yes! Writing is like a fire in your soul and you must release it or you will get burned!”
“Yes! Writing isn’t about coming up with answers it’s about asking questions!”
“Yes! Yes! YES!”

A huge flushing sound fills the room and Belpehgor swirls into thin air–sucked back to Hell. Or France. Yes, let’s go with France. Yes.

Finally, Algernon and I are alone together.

He asks the question we idiots rarely ask one another.

He says:
“Did you mean all that or did you just say that because you thought it would impress me?”

Eventually, these words fall out of my mouth and form lines:
“I want to say whatever I have to to win this story.”

Algernon asks:
“But why?”

I answer:
“So I can tell myself that I’ve done something today. Once I’ve done something I can go home. I can sit on my couch, drink whiskey, and watch hours of television while complaining about how shitty the writing is.”

Algernon asks:
“Will that really make you happy?”

I do my best to answer him truthfully.

I say:
Here is what I know.
Here is what I know.
Here is what I know.

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

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Sense and Seven Minutes in Heaven

I wanted to write a new romantic story for Valentine’s Day. Instead, I just spent some time poking around on the internet. And I found something incredible: an unpublished Jane Austen erotica story called “Sense and Seven Minutes in Heaven.” Really, this was not written by me. It was written by Jane Austen. Which is odd, because there are a ton of f-bombs. Enjoy.

SENSE and SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN by JANE AUSTEN

MINUTE ONE:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man locked in a closet with a single woman must attempt to engage in pre-marital fornication. However little known the feelings or views of such a man on first entering the closet, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of single women, that should the suggestion of wanton ribaldry not be made, a single woman is disposed to consider it an insult.

These truths were not lost on Miss Margaret Lucy Anne Cockingwood of Cockton Manor on Old Cockingham Lane nestled in the quaint village of East Poppingcockshire.

Maggie, as she was known to her closest friends, was currently locked in a rather small closet with a legendarily dour gentleman named Mr. Frith Banbury Fannycock Cardington.

Mr. Cardington had protested greatly when the spinning bottle of port came to a definitive stop while clearly pointing in his direction with all the firmness and rigidity of a scolding Dowager’s jutting digit.

“I am ever so afraid, I must decline,” whined Mr. Cardington. “I do suffer from allergies so.”

But Maggie and the other dinner party guests had forced him into the closet as he bleated like a sheep about the dire risk of an apocalyptic sneezing fit.

And so, Maggie and Mr. Cardington stared at one another’s dimly lit silhouettes as the precious seconds ticked away and Mr. Cardington fumbled about for something interesting to say.

“I say,”  he said redundantly. “This small, tight space is rather damp isn’t it?”

“Not yet,” responded Maggie with an equal mixture of annoyance and lascivious intent.

MINUTE TWO:

Mr. Cardington was baffled by this blatant innuendo. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, “come again?”

“At this rate, there shan’t be time for that,” grumbled Maggie.

“What?” retorted Mr. Cardington as though he hadn’t just been bashed about the head with a rather obvious reference to multiple orgasms.

“Honestly, Mr. Cardington,” Maggie huffed, “have you no sense of social decorum? We are in this closet for a most singular purpose. Do you know what it is?”

“No!” Mr. Cardington whisper-yelled.

“There are no end of euphemisms for it,” Maggie protested. “Roasting the beef. Ringing for the butler. Braiding the wick. Visiting the stable. Polishing the soup spoon. It works with virtually any verb and noun, for heaven’s sake!”

Mr. Cardington’s ignorance was palpable. Indeed his confusion was as large as the British Empire itself, but ironically it appeared as though the sun would never rise on it.

“Mr. Cardington,” Maggie blurted, “I simply wish to fuck you!”

MINUTE THREE

Sadly for Maggie, the only part of Mr. Cardington that stiffened was his upper lip.

“Miss Cockingwood,” he lectured, “as a gentleman, I’m afraid that I cannot bring myself to even mention aloud, much less agree to, such an illicit act.”

Maggie took a deep breath and launched into a lengthy speech about pride and pagan rituals and the hubris of British culture daring to impede the basic carnal knowledge to which flesh is heir, about sense and bi-sexuality, and the hideous damage sexual repression can do to the psyche of a nation. However, the thesis of her strident and eloquent argument could have easily been communicated with this compelling universal truth:

“There is nothing sadder than a single man who will not put out.”

MINUTE FOUR

The next 30 seconds passed in silence.

Time dragged forward with all the speed and warmth of a melting iceberg.

Finally, Mr. Cardington’s defiant posture slumped in defeat as he mumbled, “Oh, bugger me, fine.”

“We shall have to make haste,” Maggie admonished. “We only have three minutes left.”

Mr. Cardington cocked his left eyebrow and said, “That shan’t be a problem.”

Maggie kissed him furiously and the unlikely couple engaged in an awkward ballet of inelegant button popping and lace removing that was as hideous as it was exciting.

MINUTE FIVE

They fucked.

MINUTE SIX

They continued fucking. The couple stumbled and wrestled, kicking up dust, causing Mr. Cardington to sneeze repeatedly. The closet became a symphony of bizarre human sounds.

Sneezing, moaning, copulating, perhaps flatulating?

Who could tell?

And who cared?

What with all the fucking.

MINUTE SEVEN

Still fucking!

Maggie reached for Mr. Cardington’s fob. It was not a euphemism.

She reached into his waistcoat and popped open the watch. She was able to make out the time as Mr. Cardington’s naked white ass was so bright it actually gave off a glow—a dim romantic light like a big, tight kerosene lamp.

“We’re almost of time,” Maggie moaned.

Mr. Cardington, ever the gentlemen, informed Miss Cockingwood he was simply waiting for her.

There was a polite round of offers from both parties to allow the other to climax first.

Mr. Cardington stated rather firmly that he would hear nothing of it. He argued that he had already violated his own sense of gentlemanly conduct by agreeing to fuck Miss Cockingwood in the first place and should he allow himself to climax prematurely he feared he would not be able to live with the shame.

What would they say in London?

Maggie began to rebuke Mr. Cardington for his baroque attitude towards orgasm etiquette when fate intervened.

At the exact same moment, five things happened.

Maggie climaxed.

Mr. Cardington climaxed.

The closet door fell open.

Mr. Cardington sneezed.

The rest of the dinner party guests stared in shock.

Luckily, they were all quiet high on opium. They were also blinded by the sudden brightness of Mr. Cardington’s luminous white ass, so no one was precisely sure of what they saw that night.

Later, Maggie and Mr. Cardington would agree that three out of the seven minutes they spent in that tight, damp closet in Cockton Manor on Old Cockingham Lane nestled in the quaint village of East Poppingcockshire were, indeed, heaven.

THE END.

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

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IT’S OVER, SNOW

Before I lived in Los Angeles, I lived in Minnesota for many years. As the difficulty of winter increased for me I struggled to describe to friends how I felt about snow. I realized the best analogy for my relationship with snow was this: It’s like dating a crazy person. The following is my attempt to  break up with snow. It will probably get ugly.

Snow.

You and I have to talk.

We’ve been seeing each other on and off for more years than I like to think about and—no, no—Snow—I don’t want to play. No, I don’t want to throw you at my friends or roll you into balls and make you a man. That’s just weird.

Snow. This is serious.

It’s not you, it’s me, but I think we need to break up.

No, no, Snow, don’t lose your shit. I don’t deny we’ve had some really good times together. Usually in December.

You’ve been away for a while and when you first come back I’m excited to see you. You look fresh and pretty. And, honestly, it’s really nice to have you around for the holidays. I sit by a warm fire and I could just stare at you all night.

But then January 1st hits and I am so fucking done with you.

Why? Because I know you’re going to spend months making ridiculous demands of me.

How many times have I made plans with friends that I have had to cancel because of your bullshit?

I’m sick of the embarrassment of calling my friends and family and saying, “Sorry, I can’t make it to dinner or the show or the family reunion because Snow showed up in the middle of the night and fucked up my car.”

You don’t care what’s going on in my life. You show up whenever you want with all your needs and your issues. Shovel me! Scrape me! Blow me!

Not to mention my favorite passive aggressive game—pour kitty litter on me or I will knock you on your ass. That’s just deviant.

And then you try to play it off  like it’s cute. You’re all like, “Oh, come on, stay home from work, lie down inside me, and let’s make an angel together.”

It’s cute in December, Snow, but by February, it’s just pathetic.

And that’s another thing. By February, you’re not exactly pretty anymore. Thousands of different people and machines have trampled through you, you’re full of mud and filth, you keep melting and refreezing, melting and refreezing. By March we finally start to see the truth: you are a messy, dangerous bi-polar pile of crazy mush.

No, no, I am not being overly harsh. Remember when I said it wasn’t you, it was me? I was lying.

It is totally you. You’re insane. You dictate where I can park my car!

By the end of March, you are downright sociopathic. I’m not playing with you enough, so you start a big melt to try to get my attention back. The second I start to feel a little sad that you’re leaving, you pound me with another ten inches.

That’s it.  That’s the end of the story. Can we just be friendly about it?

Can I have my stuff back?

What stuff?  All the stuff I’ve lost inside you over the years. Hats, mittens, keys, glasses.

No, you do not give them back every year. I wait while you slowly melt to find the stuff I dropped. Somehow, my class ring never reappears but you manage to retain every single piece of dog shit you’ve collected for the last six months.

See? I can’t do this anymore. You drive me into a frenzy of anger and whining. I can’t even complain about you to my friends because they’re sick of hearing it.

All they say is, “If you hate this relationship so much, why don’t you just move on?”

And the answer is: I don’t know.

Maybe I  like to complain. Maybe it is me. Maybe I’m afraid to try a different relationship.

What the hell is out there for me, anyway? I don’t want to date fog. I don’t want to build a life with dry heat. I know you’ll just follow me to the mountains.

I need to be strong. I need to break the cycle. I need to do something crazy like hook up with a fault line.

Until then, you and I are stuck with one another, Snow.

But from now on, we are just friends. And barely that. I’m sure I’ll see you at parties. Whether you’re invited or not.

I’ll do my best to be civil and if I can’t look at you without screaming, I’ll just hide in my house. But if you pile up on my roof and try to break into my house—I will get a restraining order.

Have a good life, Snow, have a good life.

This story is now available in audio format as part of my comedy album A VERY HOLIDAY THING. The album and the blog post were made possible by funding from Patreon. Thanks, patrons!

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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.

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WORD PORN

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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