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June 2008

June 23, 2008

Rest in Fucking Peace, George Carlin

Georgecarlinl1_3 I have had few “a-ha” moments in my life, moments when something that’s been kind of tickling at the outer reaches of your consciousness suddenly snaps into focus and you are forever changed. George Carlin provided me with one of those moments.

In 1990, my friend Ben Garant and I were traveling the country together, and while on the road Ben purchased a George Carlin cassette at a truck stop or something. I had certainly heard of Carlin before, and was probably even aware of his famous “Seven Dirty Words” bit, but I had never sat down and listened to a George Carlin album.

Ben popped it into our in-dash cassette player (it was a very fancy car), and we listened to it straight through. There was one line he had on that album that had us both in stitches. He was talking about God and said, “God is so powerful He can throw a boat over a hedge.”

A boat over a hedge.

We probably listened to that one line ten or twelve times, laughing every time. The specificity of that image just made us howl and it changed the way I think about comedy. It was the combination of the completely grounded and completely absurd that transformed the way I looked at writing comedy, and is more than a little responsible for the kind of stuff I write to this day.

I never met George Carlin, and only saw him perform once, a couple of years ago at the Aspen Comedy Festival. That night he did about an hour of new material, explaining throughout the show that he was still developing much of what we were seeing, and so it wasn’t as polished as it would be a few months hence. Time and again, he returned to his notes, which he had onstage with him, and which seemed to be hand-written on index cards and pages from legal pads. I would be lying if I said it was the funniest show I’d ever seen. It wasn’t: some of the new material was good, some of it not so good, and a few things were just bad. Even so, I thought it was a great show. Not because of the material, but because here was a guy, almost seventy years of old, sweating it out on stage, working.

Once comedians reach a certain age, I imagine it must be very tempting for them to rest on their laurels. How easy it must be to stroll onto the stage filled with an audience of admirers, reach into the grab bag, and start pulling out the same old dusty gags. Nobody begrudges those comics because after decades of honing their acts, they’ve earned it. But Carlin never did that. Carlin never stopped writing, never stopped touring, never stopped pushing the envelope, never got sentimental and never grew up. George Carlin never stopped being relevant.

Rest in motherfucking, shit-eating, titty fucking, cock-sucking, cunt-licking peace, George.

June 22, 2008

David Spedaris Responds!

While perusing my web page, as I do several times an hour, I happened across a most peculiar comment in response to my posting, “Help Me Defeat David Sedaris.”

The comment was from somebody called “Liz,” but if you read carefully, as I did, you will soon come to the conclusion, as I did, that it was written by none other than David Spedaris himself! The comment reads:

Sorry but you aren't witty enough to carry Sedaris' shoes. Quit before you embarrass yourself. Hope this is mutual joke. A curmudgeon.

How do I know that “Liz” is a nom de guerre for Spedaris? Meticulous deconstruction, that’s how. The same method I used to determine that Joe Klein was the author of the “anonymous” 1996 novel Primary Colors.

Read on and see if I don’t make my case.

Continue reading "David Spedaris Responds!" »

June 20, 2008

Some Ways to Casually Put Down David Sedaris at Your Next Social Event Without Looking Like a Total Jerk

Sedaris_2_5 In the spirit of continuing to fan the flames of my incipient literary war with David Sedaris, here are some suggestions for how to subtly put down this best-selling memoirist the next time you find yourself surrounded by people susceptible to changing their opinions about humorists based on the snarky comments of casual acquaintances.

Say, for example, you are at league bowling night and your buddy finds himself facing an easy pick-up for a spare. Just before he bowls say something like, "Don't miss, Bob, or you might hear David Sedaris telling a long and humorous story about what a boob you are on 'This American Life.'"

At a cocktail party, a bottle of lousy champagne is uncorked. You take a swig, grimace, and say, "Send this swill back to France where David Sedaris is undoubtedly enjoying a baguette." (I admit this probably doesn't seem like much of a put down on paper, but if you say the word "baguette" with a sneer, trust me, this will be devastating.)

Another idea: you're knitting with some gal pals. Somebody drops a stitch. You respond by saying, "Speaking of stitches, that's what David Sedaris wishes he had me in when I read his last book."

Perhaps you are simply riding the subway. Somebody across from you is reading "Me Talk Pretty One Day," or another Sedaris gem. You lean over to that person and say, "I read that book, too..." Wait a beat, then unleash the punchline: "When I was in a coma!" (This one doesn't make that much sense, but if you say it fast enough they will probably ignore the glaring logic problem of trying to read something while in a coma.)

You've just been arrested for aggravated assault. The processing officer instructs you to make your one phone call. You dial seven random digits and say to whoever answers the phone, "Call David Sedaris and tell him I've just been arrested. If he pretends he has no idea who idea who I am, then you will know all you need to know about 'The Great' David Sedaris."

When referring to him, put a "p" after the "S" in "Sedaris," so that what you're saying is "Spedaris." This isn't a put down exactly; it's actually just a mispronunciation of his name, but if enough people start doing it, I have no doubt it will drive him fucking crazy.

[NOTE: Spedaris responds to me here.]

Help Me Defeat David Sedaris

Sedaris_2 In my desperate bid to dismantle that mo-fo David Sedaris's lock on all things "best-selling," I am putting out the word to all my web pals: help me.

If you have any suggestions about how to get the word out about my new book, "My Custom Van," let me know. Maybe you host a popular blog and would like an interview. I can do that. Maybe you pilot a skywriting airplane and want to volunteer your services. Super. Maybe you are one of the Presidential candidates and want to plug the title of my book into your stump speech. That's a great idea. Or maybe you just want to ring the doorbells of strangers to spread the good news like a Jehovah's Witness.

I could come up with suggestions all day, but that would take the fun out of it for you. So join me. Together, we can defeat David Sedaris and send him packing back to his glittering life in Paris, France.

P.S. Why does David Sedaris hate America?

[NOTE: Sedaris's wildly inappropriate feud with me continues here.]

June 19, 2008

I Am Currently Outselling David Sedaris

While perusing the Amazon sales rankings of my book, which I do occasionally (every fifteen minutes), I noticed that I am currently outselling David Sedaris's 1994 book "Barrel Fever" in the Humor Section. Here is proof . (By the time you click on this link, it may no longer be true, but you will have to take my word that it once was.) Of course he has about ten other books on that list that are currently outselling mine but I would like to make the point that mine is the only one of those books that HAS YET TO BE PUBLISHED!!! Which is to say, my YET TO BE PUBLISHED book is outselling one of David Sedaris's already published books. Impressive? Oh yes. Further, mine is the only one which has an essay entitled "Hey David Sedaris, Why Don't You Just Go Ahead and Suck It," which is kind of like bending matter back on itself. Additionally, alone among our books, mine is the only one with a blurb from David's sister Amy. Why is it that I love Amy Sedaris more than David Sedaris? David Sedaris, you are a bad brother.

Am I attempting to start a literary feud with David Sedaris with the feeble hope that the resultant publicity will increase sales of my book? Yes.

June 18, 2008

I am REALLY Good at Self-Promotion

In the few hours since my last posting, my book sales have jumped 50,000 places.

Check this shit out on Amazon.

PT Barnum can suck my dick.

My Whereabouts

I know that I have been a little MIA with the blog lately and I apologize. Saturday I flew home, after a month in Los Angeles, then spent Father's Day at home ignoring my children. Monday I ran errands (played poker, did some blow), Tuesday I ran more errands (ordered mulch, did a little more blow), and today I am at my friend Michael Showalter's expansive Brooklyn manse. We are hard at work on a hush-hush television project for one of the only two networks that will employ me: Comedy Central. At the moment he is at the veterinarian because one of his cats has the dropsies. Actually, I'm not sure what the problem is with his cat, but I'm hoping they put the thing to sleep because when I was eating lunch earlier today, it stuck its big cat snout in my cream soda, rendering it undrinkable. Many people would say that just because a cat sniffed my soda pop is no reason to wish for its death, but many people aren't me. I'm me, and I want it dead. I freely admit that my anger may be misdirected at the cat, when the person I am really angry at is me due to some unresolved emotional issues, but as I think about it, I think it really is directed at the cat. Anyway, I also did a photo shoot today for New York's hometown paper, The Daily News. They're going to run an article sometime soon about me and my book. I went to Amazon to see how the book is selling. Not well, my friends, not well at all. It's ranked number 65,414. That's not very good. Of course the book doesn't come out for almost a whole month, but I'm still concerned. To contrast, Chelsea Handler and David Sedaris, two contemporaries also writing humorous fiction, each have a book in the top 10. That's 65,314 places better than me. Are Chelsea Handler and David Sedaris 65,313 places better than me? I don't think so. Especially when you consider how short David Sedaris is. My height alone should prove my worth against him. Anyway, those are my wheareabouts. Tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, I will also be working with Showalter. You are probably chomping at the bit wondering what kind of amazingness we are coming up for Comedy Central, but I am not going to tell you because that would spoil the surprise. But I will say this: it's going to be at least the 65,414th funniest show on television.

This is from a site called Galleycat

They like the blurb, but don't say anything about the book. They also like Hodgman's blurb, but again, don't say anything about the book.

Wednesday Jun 18, 2008

My New Favorite Blurb of 2008

my-custom-van-cover.jpg

"With this funny and idiotic book, Michael Ian Black has proven that even the most simple-minded among us can occasionally create works of stupid genius."

That's Stephen Colbert on My Custom Van... And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face, the first humor collection from Black, a fellow Comedy Central icon. I like that blurb even better than John Hodgman's claim that the book "speaks to the laughless in all of us and asks, 'Why aren't you laughing?'"

June 13, 2008

See You Later, Don

165043__cheadle_l Today is my last day in Los Angeles, and while I will certainly miss the filthy air, brush fires, and bumper to bumper traffic, I will miss one thing most of all: Don Cheadle. Like a lot of actors, Don makes his home here in Los Angeles and while we have never met, I have friends who are friends with Don, which is almost like being friends with him myself. Maybe you are thinking, "If you don't know him, why will you miss Don Cheadle so much?" To which I respond: "If you'd seen 'Hotel Rwanda' you would know exactly why." Then I would ask, "Why are you such a racist?" I saw Don Cheadle last night at the poker emporium where I ply my trade. I lost some money last night, and I think Don did too because he was leaving empty-handed, which is to say, he didn't cash out any poker chips. The difference between Don and myself is that, when I lost, I began blubbering at the table. I was crying, rocking back and forth, and letting the snot stream down my nose like a burbling mountain stream. Don, on the other hand, didn't even seem perturbed. Maybe that's because he has a lot of money and so can afford to lose a hundred and forty-six dollars, whereas for me that kind of money represents about a significant portion of my total net worth. But I don't think that was the reason. I think it had something to do with an innate coolness under pressure that separates us. Some kind of mystical Zen-like approach to life that probably explains why he is an international movie star and I am hosting a fake reality show on Comedy Central. No, I don't think it has anything to do with "talent," because on a pound for pound basis I think we can all agree that I am a far better actor than Don Cheadle. For example, when I was doing Sierra Mist commercials, there was one where a hawk landed on Jim Gaffigan's head. Even though I was sitting right next to that hawk, I didn't freak out and start screaming "HAWK! HAWK! HAWK!" Would Don Cheadle have had that kind of self-control? I don't think so. See? Talent only takes you so far. So I'll see you later Don. Good luck with poker and being an Academy Award winning actor. While you're doing all that I'll be at home fighting with my wife. I think I've got the better end of the deal.

June 11, 2008

A Little Hunky Press For My Book

In retrospect, "hunky" probably isn't the best word to describe this little blurb from Esquire, but it's an underused adjective, so I thought I'd give it a go:

The Hall of Cultural Significance

The five most intriguing performances this month

OTHER GUY OF THE MONTH

John C. Reilly, costar of this month's duo comedies The Promotion and Step Brothers. Reilly's first true starring role (Walk Hard) is followed by two antibuddy films, first opposite Seann William Scott, as an assistant manager competing for control of a grocery store, and then alongside Will Ferrell, competing for his share of soon-to-be-overquoted jokes.

GENRE CROSSER OF THE MONTH

Adam Yauch, director of Gunnin' for that #1 Spot. This Beastie Boy turned filmmaker's documentary about top high school prospects playing a 2006 basketball game in a Harlem park features Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. The on-court sequence lasts about as long as their college careers did. See also: Billy Bob Thornton, on the new Boxmasters album.

SUDDENLY IMPORTANT DEAD GUY

Hunter S. Thompson, subject of Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Academy Award winner Alex Gibney's documentary is narrated by Johnny Depp and features interviews with Jimmy Carter, Tom Wolfe, and a former landlord who almost wistfully accuses Thompson of dodging rent, destroying his marriage, and giving drugs to his kid.

SURPRISINGLY AGILE WRITER

Michael Ian Black, in his new book, My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays that Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face. Yeah, the title's a rocky start, but VH1's resident talking head redeems himself with the essay "What I Would Be Thinking If I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano."

ODD BUT FRUITFUL PAIRING

Dan the Automator and Russell Simins, otherwise known as Men Without Pants, on the album Naturally. One produces hip-hop albums for Dr. Octagon and Gorillaz; one drums for the rock band Blues Explosion. Raucous, beat-heavy tracks like "And the Girls Go" result. See also: Will Smith and a beached whale in Hancock. -DAVID WALTERS