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May 2009

May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is the best weekend of the year. For one thing it’s got parades. My daughter marched in our little town parade yesterday, which featured an appearance by Connecticut’s own Lieutenant Governor, ____ _____. I’m leaving the space blank because I have no idea what his name is, but he seemed pleasant enough in a bland politician kind of way. He wore one of those sports coats that only men of a certain age and Century 21 real estate agents can get away with. I was surprised to see that the Lt. Governor has two security guys that travel with him, both of whom had earpieces. Who were they listening to on the earpieces? There were only two of them and they were right next to each other. Can’t they just communicate directly to each other without an electronic intermediary? I really don’t think there were extra, hidden security guys, and I doubt there were any snipers in the bushes or anything like that. My guess? They just feel cool wearing the earpieces. Or they have second jobs at the Gap.

I felt kind of bad for all the assembled politicos in attendance, who have to put their hands over their hearts every time the national anthem is played, and bow their heads at every convocation, benediction, and religious utterance of any kind. They must say “amen” every time somebody else says “amen.” Our Congressman Jim Hines looked he had to sneeze during the ecumenical Memorial Day prayer. His face got all contorted and screwy, and I wondered if his allergies were bothering him like mine were bothering me. I know I would not have thought less of his patriotism if he had sneezed during the prayer, let alone let out several loud farts as I did. I definitely honor our fallen soldiers, but what’s a fellow going to do when he has to cut one? 

Before the parade, we all assembled at the elementary school, which gave me an opportunity to observe the Boy Scouts at close range. Boy Scouts creep me out. Last winter, my son was interested in joining so we went to a Cub Scouts orientation meeting to get a feel for the organization. I was not expecting the overwhelming feelings of creepiness that overcame me during the meeting. First of all, any group which features so many middle-aged guys in quasi-military uniforms is inherently weird. The whole thing struck me as a paramilitary Christian organization whose main purpose seemed to be to tell each other what to do and sell Christmas wreaths. As a Jew, any youth organization in which people earn badges and wear matching uniforms makes me nervous.

The Daisies, which my daughter belongs to, is different. For one thing, instead of uniforms they wear smocks. Smock-based organizations are fine with me because they make me think of finger painting, which I like. Also, Daisies are a feeder organization for the Girl Scouts, which seems more pleasant than Boy Scouts if only because they sell cookies and because I’ve never met anybody older than ten who is still a Girl Scout.

Also marching on this day honoring our fallen dead were the local Little League teams. My wife correctly noted that T-Ball doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the Battle of Bull Run, but it’s a small town and it seemed silly to quibble about inclusion. These are exactly the sorts of arguments that caused so much controversy when gay Irish people wanted to march in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. My feeling with the gays and with the Little Leaguers is that everybody should be welcome. Gay Little Leaguers might have been pushing it, however. Also inappropriately marching was the Boys and Girls Club and the local karate school.

Suspiciously absent, however, was the high school marching band. What is the purpose of a marching band if not to march? Marching opportunities come far and few between in small towns, so it seemed somewhat strange that they were not there. Perhaps these high schoolers hate America, I do not know, but a little spirited John Phillip Sousa would definitely have been welcome.

After the parade, as I said, there was a short service honoring the dead, followed by hot dogs and ice cream for everybody, provided you had money, which we did because I’m on TV.

Memorial Day is one of the few good holidays whose meaning has not become totally obscured over time. Despite the car sales and barbecues, I believe that people still take a few moments on Memorial Day to think about our great soldiers, and the sacrifices they’ve made over the centuries. I know I do. Especially now that we’ve got so many people in harm’s way, Memorial Day is a perfect opportunity to offer a “thank you” for their service. My brother-in-law is currently serving in Iraq, so although I have never before used the phrase “I’d like to give a shout-out,” I’d like to give a shout-out to him on this Memorial Day. We are a better country because of our military. We are also a better country because of the topless shows in Vegas, but that is a subject for a different post.

May 17, 2009

Week One Down

Just a quick check-in to let readers know I am alive and well. Our first week of production for “Michael & Michael Have Issues” is done, and based on what we’ve done this week, I think it’s safe to assume this show will be on television for, at a minimum, seven weeks. So I feel good about that. We’ve got five more weeks of shooting left, and we’ve already learned a lot. The main thing I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t make incredibly racist comments about the network executives when you’re wearing a wireless microphone. Those little buggers are pretty sensitive and do not come equipped with the “racist filter” that I assumed they had. My bad.

Another lesson from the first week: if you eat salad every day for lunch, you will spend much of the rest of the afternoon looking for discreet places to fart. Of course, with a large crew around, those places are tough to find. Also, just as the microphone does not have a “racist filter” nor does it have a “sputtering engine fart filter.” Unfortunate, but true. I assume network television shows can afford these filters. Not us.

The third lesson from the first week is that swordplay is pretty funny and surprisingly dangerous. Swords were apparently used in old-fashioned times for actually hurting and/or killing people and not just for sketch comedy. So when you run around with swords, even though it’s modern times, I’m told the swords don’t know the difference and are capable of putting out an eye. Did this happen on our set? It depends on how you define “put out.” The way I define it is that it means the eye cannot be reattached, so by my definition that did not happen on set this week.

Also, horses are not that gentle if you grab their dicks and pretend they’re furry tennis rackets. Lesson learned.

Mostly, though I’ve learned that if you give me enough caffeine I can be charming and funny even at dawn. Again, this depends on your definition of “charming and funny.” In this circumstance, I am defining it as being awake, which is admittedly setting the bar low, but at five in the morning, it’s impossible to set it much higher. All in all, a good first week and I look forward to our second.

May 07, 2009

My Comings and Goings (I Said "Comings")

Yes, my blogging has fallen off substantially in recent weeks, but that’s because Michael Showalter and I have been working our little tails off trying to get the scripts ready for “Michael and Michael Have Issues,” which we begin shooting on Monday. Finally, after many late nights and weekends (on his part. I’m out of the office every day by three), the scripts are more or less locked and ready to go.

We’re both quite excited about the new show and hope that people like it, since we’ve both pretty much worn out our good will at Comedy Central and no other network will hire me. Showalter’s got plenty of other opportunities (“The Baxter 2,” for example, entitled “Welcome Baxter: The Baxter 2”). Plus, we think the show will be good and want people to watch.

After several years, I watched a couple episodes of “Stella” on Hulu the other night and was pleasantly surprised how funny I thought they were. I also realized, seeing it again, that we were out of our fucking minds if we thought people were going to watch a show about three fey, semi-retarded, suit-wearing adult men living together in a magic vegetable-growing apartment. I used to think that America just wasn’t willing to meet us halfway; seeing it again, I think maybe they needed to travel a little further than halfway to meet us. Maybe considerably further. And frankly, understandably, they just weren’t interested in making the trip. So be it.

Oddly enough, when we were making “Stella,” we all thought “We’ve finally got our finger right on the American pulse.” Sometimes self-delusion feels an awful lot like a realistic worldview. This time around, I think we’re a little wiser about our expectations.

We’ve also started doing some press for the show, which will be dribbling out over the next few months. There have been several photo shoots, an ad campaign, and Kanye’s new album is inspired by the show, which is weird but very flattering.

Family life gets put on the back burner when you’re making a TV show, which is tough. Not so much for my kids, who are indifferent, or for my wife who said to me last night when I came home unexpectedly early, “You know, it’s nice having the house to yourself.” But for me, who misses them all very much and doesn’t necessarily enjoy spending every night alone in my tiny studio apartment watching the BBC show “MI-5” on my laptop. Although all that alone time does leave me plenty of time to Twitter.

(Yes, I recognize that I have all that alone time that could be spent blogging, but after spending the day writing jokes for the show, it’s hard to come home and write more jokes for my blog, particularly after you’re feeling bloated from eating as much Kashi GoLean Crunch as I consume.)

Anyway, just thought I’d keep my regular readers informed of my comings and goings. Hopefully in a few months, the show will be a big hit and I’ll be able to forget about all of you entirely.   

May 04, 2009

If I Ever Create a Doomsday Machine, I’d Like it to Have the Following Features:


• An On/Off Switch. You might think the “off” switch would be an unnecessary feature since turning the machine on pretty much guarantees that there won’t be anybody there to turn it off, but I prefer the symmetry of the “on/off” switch to the more whimsical “on” switch. Besides, simply having an “on” setting implies an “off” setting whether it’s labeled as such or not. So you might as well just ahead and label it.

• A Self-Destruct Function. Nobody has ever addressed the following question as far as I know: what happens to the Doomsday Machine after Doomsday? Does it doom itself? And what if it dooms itself before it dooms everything else? Then it’s faulty. To guard against the possibility of my Doomsday Machine surviving Doomsday, I would like it to have self-destruct function which self-activates twenty-four hours after the machine is turned on. This just seems like common sense. After all, I wouldn’t want my Doomsday Machine to get into a Wall•E situation where it’s all by itself and lonely.

• Digital Countdown Clock. On my Doomsday Machine, as I said, there’s no going back. Once you turn the thing on, it’s on. But I would like to have an adjustable digital countdown clock. After all, one of the best things about a Doomsday Machine is knowing exactly how long you’ve got until Doomsday strikes. How are you going to know that without a digital countdown clock? You won’t. Also, the numbers should be in red.

• Sexy Female Robot Voice. This goes along with the digital countdown clock. She should speak in that soothing Doomsday tone we all know from the movies. And I would prefer it if she said things like, “Doomsday will commence in…” and then say the time. And then at the end, after the final second has ticked to zero, I’d like her to say, “Doomsday has begun.” I think that would be hot.

• Fudge Cabinet. This is probably gratuitous, but it’s kind of my hallmark. All of my inventions include a small mahogany drawer which is used to store pieces of delicious homemade fudge from mom and pop fudge shoppes. Obviously, there would be no need for fudge once Doomsday has begun, but there would be lots of opportunities to eat good fudge in the weeks and months of planning leading up to Doomsday. My fudge of choice for Doomsday: maple walnut fudge.

• Electric Dog Fence. I think anybody who touches a Doomsday Machine should get a mild electric shock. That just seems fair. There are some very good electric dog fences on the market that give just such a shock. We use one for our dog and it works like a charm. It would also (hopefully) prevent curious toddlers from accidentally turning it on.

• Solar Panels. To conserve energy.

• Advanced Artificial Intelligence Consciousness and Desire For Self-Actualization. This would be the ultimate Doomsday Machine mind-fuck. Give the Doomsday Machine an awareness of self and a desire for self-actualization. The machine would know it exists, but would also know that to fulfill it’s potential it will have to destroy everything, including itself. What would it do? It will definitely fulfill its destiny but it will hate itself for doing so. Which only seems fair.

• Ms. Pac Man. Like the fudge cabinet this is probably unnecessary, but it’s the kind of thing that would be a fun diversion when working on the DM during beta testing and everything. Yes, I could just have a separate Ms. Pac Man machine somewhere else in the underground testing facility, but all things being equal, why not just build it into the mainframe?

• Fiberglass Outer Body Painted With Trans-Am “Screaming Chicken” Design. The fact is, the Doomsday Machine has to have an exterior, and you might as well make it the most awesome exterior imaginable. Which is, of course, the Trans-Am “Screaming Chicken.” No other graphic design has ever come close to touching it. How do I know? Because Burt Reynolds drove a Trans-Am in “Smoky and the Bandit,” and Burt knows a thing or two about awesomeness. Plus nothing says Doomsday has come like a screaming chicken.

 

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                (When you see this, you will know Doomsday has arrived)