I turned 29 this past February. For those who can't do the math, this means that I've got less than a year before succumbing to the ripe old age of uselessness. As we all know from Wild in the Streets, the seminal film on aging, it's only a matter of time before my old ass gets put out of commission and shoved into an LSD concentration camp. Here I will have all the time in the world to vegetate, contemplate on my faded youth, and vegetate. Prepping myself for the days ahead, I've trained myself on bein' one nostalgin-ass motherfucker. When it comes to training for future nostalgia days, I don't fuck around. I can't even write a simple review of a Rutger Hauer blind swordsman action film or a straight to video, intergalactic, small man action picture without bringing the focus back to me and memories from my childhood. Maybe it's narcissism. Who knows? I just like writin' 'bout me I suppose. Does there exist a more interesting subject? I think not.
It's always the little things that seem to trigger the ol' memory thought remembrances. A certain phrase, sound, color, or even a scent can bring them out of hiding. They say that the sense of smell is the one most closely linked to memory. They say, for instance, that the scents associated with one's first sexual encounter will forever bring back memories of that fuckin' experience. [For me, those aromas are cigarettes, whiskey and failure.]
I can't smell hickory without being reminded of my old job Movie Place, the place through which I joined my first and only sketch comedy group, "Group of Names".
I've had a lifelong obsession with sketch comedy. Having feverishly devoured such staples as Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, Upright Citizens Brigade and the like, it seemed only natural to me that I would have soaked up all the funny through osmosis and been funny likewise. I assumed I would be a perfect addition to any sketch group. Unfortunately, my brain lacks one of those things that produces wit. Sure, if I take my time in front of a computer, over an extended period of time, I can construct some humor. But plain, natural, on the spot funniness; that shit is beyond me. Not that it proved a hindrance in my joining the comedy group.
I happened to happen into GoN through Matt, a coworker at Movie Place. I don't quite remember the specifics of our initial conversation on the subject but it probably went something like this [Side note: my memory sucks. It probably didn't go anything like this]:
Matt handed me a flier, "Hey, if you're free next Friday night my comedy group is doing a show at Caroline's."
My ears perked up. "You're in a sketch comedy group?"
"Yeah, my friends and I started it back at NYU. We've been at it a few years now."
"Wow, comedy group. That's awesome. I love sketch comedy. That's really...yeah, whenever I write, most of the stuff is like-"
"Oh, you're a writer?"
"Yeah, I mean I've been writing for a few years now, mostly screenplays. I love to write. Most of it's comedy stuff of course."
"Yeah, you know, that's really the only kind of stuff I like to write, comedy stuff. Yep, short funny comedy stuff."
"Cool, I've actually written a few screenplays too."
"Most of my screenplays are pretty episodic. Yep. When you think about it, you could say that I write sketch comedy bits rolled together in screenplays. Yep, that's what I do alright."
"My problem is, that my stuff is a little too funny, you know? I think it would be hard to be taken seriously as a serious writer, what with all the funniness of it all and such. Yep, I like to write short funny comedy pieces. Yep, that's what I like."
"You know, if you'd like to come by, we have a meeting in a couple weeks. If you wanna check it out-"
"What? You want me to join? I couldn't."
"Well, I'm just saying, you know if you'd like to come to a meeting, check it-"
"Sure, yeah, I'll definitely join."
Of course, there was another reason I'd felt the need to join a comedy group. Performing onstage seemed a surefire way to overcome my awkwardness/shyness/stage fright-nesss/social retardation-ness (and a way to meet chicks). Before joining this group, the only other time I had appeared onstage was in a kindergarten Christmas special, in which my entire class appeared onstage together and belted out a Christmas tune. It was somewhere between the auditorium and our car, immediately following the show, that I puked my nervous guts out.
Hoping to avoid similar embarrassment with my first performance for GoN, I decided to go with an easy piece, a monologue. Realizing that I might be too nervous to remember this bit, I wrote it in such a way that I would be able to read from my notes while performing. Ain't I the smart one.
"Damn," I thought, "I can't do this shit sober. Maybe I'll have a few drinks to loosen up." By the time my nearly-blacked-out-ass staggered onto the stage, I was unable to read my notes. I don't remember much else about the performance, except that this night likewise ended with vomit. [Side note: I did not meet any girls this night.]
I was not deterred. Continuing to perform, I eventually discovered, through very scientific experimentations, that three pints of Brooklyn Lager consumed thirty to sixty minutes before showtime proved the perfect dosage of courage lubrication, allowing me enough confidence to perform without also rendering me an unintelligible mess.
When I eventually wrote, directed, edited, and acted in a video for the group (why not?), I somehow managed to convince my boss at Movie Place to allow me to shoot in his store after hours. MISTAKE! This sketch, in which I would play an asshole customer at a bookstore, should have been a no-brainer. It was a simple two people set-up requiring few angles, which was great, given my non-existent directing experience and the two hours I was allowed to film in the store before the alarm kicked in and the po-po arrived. Our two hour window proved somewhat of a godsend, actually. It allowed me an excuse not to shoot more than one take of anything. "Goddamn, why would we shoot again from the same angle? We already got this shit recorded. Let's move on. Time's a wastin'."
This sketch would not be a complete breeze, of course, as it would involve some special effects. We had to convincingly simulate a book covered with melted poo. After much contemplation, it seemed that the most logical/effective/quickest way of achieving the doody simulacrum would be to throw a piece of chocolate on a book and pop that shit in the microwave. Problem solved.
It's much more difficult than one might assume (especially after having downed a Colt 45) to explain to a group of angry building tenants, worried that their homestead had been set ablaze, why you felt the need to microwave a book. Some people just can't be talked to. I mean, we did put the fire out, after all. We should have gotten some points for that. But no. It took some doin's and some mighty convincin' persuasions but these folks soon agreed not to call the cops. We were left to quickly finish shooting our piece, after which, we cleaned up any evidence of the night's mishap. None would be the wiser.
Unfortunately, the smell of hickory that punched me in the face when I walked into the store the next day (and, indeed, every day for the next six months) served as a reminder of my momentary lapse in brain function. "There's no point in lying," I thought.
After sheepishly informing him of everything that had happened the night prior; my silent, stone-faced boss eventually replied, "Don't do that again." I tucked my tail between my legs and went about my business.
To say that the filming mishap left me with a dearth of editable material would be a massive understatement. Just about nothing was worth salvaging. Of course, retakes were completely out of the question. Nevertheless, I trudged on and edited the bitch. I would have to make do with what I had. And make do I did. After a quick intro to Final Cut, I went to work. After downing a 40, I was amazed at what I could piece together. "This is almost watchable," I thought. "Actually, it's kind of good. I kinda like this. This is really good. I'm awesome."
I hadn't seen this sketch since I viewed it with the group about three years ago. Perhaps because I like to make myself squirm I decided to rewatch it. Sure, it was an early work, but it might be pretty good. MISTAKE! So many memories and thoughts came flooding to me while watching this abomination unto all that is good: "Holy shit, why did I use to cut my own hair? I'm glad my chinless face has a beard now. I wonder whatever happened to that green coat? I have terrible posture. Is that what my voice sounds like? Goddamn, I slur like a motherfucker after downing some booze. This dialogue is terrible. Why did I think this was funny? These cuts don't match. I can't act for shit. I should never be let in front of a camera again. I can't watch this. I think I'm going to puke."
[Because, apparently, I'm a masochist, I am posting here the video I so lovingly/lazily produced those years back. MISTAKE!]