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Thursday
Nov152012

Special Limited Edition Command Performance of WRITE CLUB - 50/50

OK, this was the coolest - Ann Cibulkis, fan of WRITE CLUB, was celebrating a 50th birthday with her twin sister Suzan, also a fan of the show. Ann commissioned myself and her good friend David Isaacson (mighty and poly-victorious WRITE CLUB combatant/member of the fearsome Theater Oobleck) to perform a special single-bout birthday surprise command performance edition of WRITE CLUB - in honor of the occasion, the topic: 50/50. As I was stalking my way to the stage, Suzan, the surprised sister, declared: "Ohmygod! WRITE CLUB"

On the face of it, 50/50 would seem to be the most evenly matched bout possible. It is – again, on the face of it – the soul of equanimity, the embodiment of equilibrium, a paragon of identicality. On the face of it, there is nothing for my opponent and myself to grapple with – there is no bone over which to contend, for this is the Even-est Steven there can be. Again I say: on the face of it.

Because for anything to be evenly divided, for there to be an equal split of anything, there is the reality – as unavoidable as it is unpleasant – that there is a shittier half of everything. The perennial futility of debating whether the glass is half full or half empty is beside the point – the semantic sparring over this non-distinction representing as it does the hair-splitting depths of ineffectual academic folly. What MATTERS, the question WORTH asking is this: IF there is anything remaining in the glass, then IS it shitty? If shitty, destroy the glass and shed not a tear. If unshitty, reflect upon the senselessness of everything and grow sorrowful.

When someone hands you half a cookie, you KNOW their half is bigger; as surely as you know that in every set of twins, one of them is… evil. There can be no even split. Of anything. Ever.

It is the same with age. Middle age. PLEASE. The average life expectancy of an American is 78.5 years, which technically means that be of middle age you have to be like 39. TOPS. So, the latter half of life has you in its grip. Upon the sea of this life, aging is time’s undertow – you take yourself to be lithe and trim and fit as you stride in, one foot on the sun-baked sand, the other circled to the ankle in the cool aqueous embrace of the briny sea. One foot in. One foot out. 50/50. Half. And half.

My opponent would have you believe that half is great, half is worthy, half is nearly MOST. My opponent does you a disservice. Truth to tell, my opponent insults your intelligence by suggesting that you should deny the evidence of your senses, and fail to arrive at anything like a sensible conclusion about the nature of things. Which, as if you need reminding, is this: squalor and faltering; rupture and madness and waste.

My opponent is a lily-gilder of the worst sort. He stands before you glibly lying to your faces about the so-called virtues and the alleged advantages of what he claims to be the better half. In so doing, he insults your intelligence – and make no mistake, this is no garden variety insult, but a stinging and resonant wiener-slap of an insult; whereas I take you to be clear-eyed and sharp-witted enough to accept the truth of the situation, my opponent is slapping you right in your brain with his misshapen man-parts.

On your behalf I say this aggression will not stand. I urge you not to be taken in by his pandering assurances that there can be anything like equity or justice in this life. He and his collectivist agenda would have you believe that life will deal us all a fair share. POPPYCOCK. You know it and I know it.

One need only think of Lucy’s mishaps in attempting to divide the Ricardo apartment with masking tape, or the time Ralph and Potsie were roommates and attempted the same thing. HISTORY TEACHES THAT THIS CANNOT WORK. Someone will always be getting the kitchen with its food supply, and someone will always be getting the bathroom, which for most of us is the favored pooping spot.

It is only by abandoning the dream of equality and fully embracing the crookedness and unfairness of it all that you can know anything like happiness, or victory over the systemic failings of life, the universe, and everything. Liberation from the tyranny of the unequal division – of wealth and power and love and time and friends and talent and good fortune and health and good looks and smarts and courage and candor – this liberation is only possible where we accept the certainty that these things, indeed all things, exist in criminally uneven supply.

It is only by cleaving close to this injustice, by keeping constant sight of it and keeping it near your heart with constancy and fidelity – it is only coming almost to cherish this injustice that one can know peace. It is only by keeping the ember of this injustice bright and hot in your heart that you can know anything of bliss.

Push from your mind the fact that your bliss sprouts from the festering soil of unfairness, which rests upon the grievous and harsh bedrock of injustice – this cognitive dissonance in unsustainable. Focus you gaze instead upon your thousand little victories, the countless ways the injustice that fuels this crooked system plays in your favor. For every deficit on your ledger, there is an asset; for every fallow field, there is a harvest, and for every pile of rubble, there is a palace. To gaze upon the sweeping vista of injustice and harm and want is to know madness. Narrow your focus upon the bounty at your feet, for only then can you know victory over this irascible reality, because it is only this confounding Paradox of Plenty that allows us to reconcile ourselves to these teetering Scales of Injustice.

Which is what our milestones are for – our weddings and funerals and birthdays – they are a time to take stock of our abundance, to disregard for a moment the tide of unfairness that laps at our shores, and to know that we are favored by fortune. Our milestones are visits to the pantry of our lives – a time when we may survey the shelves piled high with all things nourishing, and know that the sometimes galling inconsistencies outside are of no consequence, for we know freedom from want, and are therefore rich beyond measure.

Friday
Sep212012

WRITE CLUB - Belknap, Start, 9/18/12

Start is the best and only site of auspiciousness, the only place where everyone has equal reason to hope. Start is the only place where each pair of feet set into the starting blocks is as fleet as any other in the race, the only place where every rocket will deliver its payload to the stars, the only place each preschooler is a genius and each freshman is valedictorian.

Starting is best. There is no defeat in starting. There is no woe or sorrow. There is a limitless vista of victory and valor. The start is the only place on one’s timeline that is not sundered by disappointment. At the start we are each of us lean and lithe, our features fine and fair – our beauty is arresting and total, since it predates the intercession of mirrors and their attendant judgments and unkindness.

At the start, we are limitless in our capacity, we are favored by providence. At the start, we are unhindered by custom, we are unhobbled by misfortune. It is only at the start that our world is swollen with possibility and promise.

At the start, the phrase “he has SO MUCH POTENTIAL” is not a lament, as by an exasperated guidance counselor, but a statement of plain fact.

The start is the only place where universality and harmony are attainable, the only place where we can claim commonality with our fellows, the only site of equality. Up to a certain point, the fetus of a human, and the fetus of a pig, and the fetus of a chicken are nearly indistinguishable from one another – vertebrate tetrapods, curled like fiddleheads. They unfurl, of course, the fetus of the human and the pig and the chicken, and grow into the big-brained bipedal primate that is master of all he surveys, or lunch, as the case may be.

And it is not just that start is thrumming and fulsome with all things bright and beautiful – far from it. The start is engorged with the entire spectrum of possibility, every eventuality of every sort stands beneath its infinite canopy – in the manner of the expanding universe, the start represents everything currently possible, and enlarges to include every possibility not yet conceived. It is no exaggeration to say that the start includes everything within it literally – that every conclusion is foregone, every culmination or consummation – no matter how far off, no matter how involved or improbable, no matter how internecine or circuitous – every ending, every FINISH, has its roots at the start.

There can be no finish – no finish of any kind, ever – without having had a start. Start is the primordial ooze, the enzymatic slop, the genetic material without which there could be no finish.

Think of stories. They do not begin:

“And they lived happily ever after,” or

“And they found, on the handle of the car door … a METAL HOOK!” or

“And then he turned the gun on himself.”

Were stories to lead with their finish, they would be deeply dissatisfying exercises fraught with confusion that would only contribute to our sense of dislocation and misery. Stories would, instead of fostering a sense of kinship as they do now, by their nature make us feel like stupid losers. We’d have no idea what was happening.

Which is what my opponent is attempting tonight. Finish is intent upon making each of you feel like stupid losers with no idea what’s going on. Finish considers you ignorant swine undeserving of any kind of sensible progression. Finish is all massacre and aftermath and rubble.

Start is pudgy, sweet-smelling babies. Finish is placenta. Viscous placenta between blighted rows of corn. On a wind-swept plain. Trailing between the emaciated and blood-streaked legs of a dying Okie, tethering her to the scrawny wad of her stillborn son.

Start is the bloom of a first kiss, dewy and trembling. Finish is robotic missionary sex with your spouse of many years, on sheets gritty with the dander of your failings. Scheduled sex – a chore for which neither of you has any appetite – you avoid eye contact during this dry and joyless grinding.

Start is the tentative shoots of the crocus probing upward to the sun through the winter-hardened earth. Finish is the dying breath of the final Scandinavian botanist tending the world’s last seed bank deep beneath the scorched and sandstorm-blasted hellscape that was once Norway.

Start is sinking one’s teeth into the first bite of a meal lovingly prepared on a sun-dappled porch, surrounded by people you love. Finish is the last drop of acidic and acrid-smelling bulimia-barf, pushed to the back of your closet, in a Nine West shoebox lined with a Forever 21 bag. And you know something? YOU’RE STILL FAT!

Start is the first hour of the first day of your first real job. Finish is being escorted from the building, with your personal effects in a file box.

Start blushes and yearns; it is that place we carry inside us before we were ground down and compromised and leached of our hankering. Remember if you can that pure version of yourself – I’m talking about yourself at your most unafraid. That self you are meant to attain, the one untrammeled by circumstance, unbowed by worry and in no need of solace. I speak now to your strongest self, the hero within you that cannot be struck down; the stalwart and steady-eyed self who remains willing to start even though you know you may not finish.

To this self, your best, most fervent self, your self that aches for discovery and wonder and majesty. It is ONLY in starting that these things are possible. It is my hope that you find for possibility and promise – to do so, you must find for Start. To find in favor of Finish is to concede that your dreams are dead, your aspirations extinguished. I know you to be a dreamer still, and know that you will vote like one.

Friday
Aug032012

For Breezy Summer Fun Times, the Best Beachwear is the Blood of Your Forebears.

This was a featured story I read last night at Story Club Chicago. It was then untitled. Nestled as it was among stories of hook-ups gone awry and summer dalliiances of various kinds, I have given it the title you see above.

Human blood coagulates in a predictable way. Various factors govern this – temperature, humidity, altitude, sunlight, wind, whether the blood in question is covered – by a body, say. There is a whole constellation of processes and conditions affecting blood’s progression from liquid to syrupy to encrusted.

Likewise, human tissue may be observed to decompose at similarly predictable rates, depending – again, similarly – upon the various conditions to which the tissue is exposed.

There are formulas by which one can predict these processes, there are instruments to measure them. If you were so inclined and you had the patience for it, you could cut yourself right now and watch the scab form, you could burn yourself and measure the blisters as they come on.

The force that exerts the greatest influence on the coagulation of human blood and decomposition of human tissue is time. Given enough time, no matter what other conditions are at play, the blood will dry out completely, the tissue will become desiccated. It is time primarily that renders us, each of us, soft as a garbage bag full of cake batter, then spongy as termite wood, and then dry as a Death Valley dog turd. There is no avoiding this. There is no minimizing this.

Do me a favor. Look at the person next to you. Look into the eyes of the person next to you.

That person – the person whose eyes you’re looking into right now – will be dead. Those eyelids will curl away like birch bark. Those eyes will collapse into sightless, lumpy little nuggets. All the tissue that constitutes the features of that face will dry and crack like a cream pie in a blast furnace.

You know this. But I’ll wager I know this harder than you do.

There are two episodes.

The first took place in March of 1985 – I was 18. My grandfather Preston Belknap was beaten to death in his garage in Sarasota, Florida. We called him Papa. His homicide remains unsolved.

The other took place in December of 1986. My father Peter Belknap killed himself. He ran a hose from the tailpipe to the inside of his car. He drank wine and smoked cigarettes while he waited. Then six days elapsed before he was discovered. This was in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Somebody crushed Papa’s skull with a pair of pruning shears. Pruning shears that belonged to Papa, which doesn’t matter, obviously, but it’s always bothered me some that the murder weapon was just whatever was handy – the nearby thing that leaned against the garage wall.

Oh. He didn’t die right away. He slipped into a coma and died at the hospital four days later. So the night of the attack, it was just an assault. It got upgraded to a homicide when he died. There’s a line in the police report with “Assault” crossed out, and “Homicide” overwritten above it in angular cop handwriting, like the bureaucratic residue of the bloodbath.

Years later, when I was researching this episode, a kind police captain showed me a single photo of Papa’s injury. It looked like Lutheran Papa was wearing a leaky red yarmulke. This was the cleaned-up version – his head as it looked when photographed by the coroner on the cool steel of the examining table. Might have been porcelain. I don’t know. I’ve never seen the examining table.

I have seen the garage floor where Papa died, though. I’ve seen it in person and I’ve seen it in crime scene photographs.

It’s an unremarkable concrete floor.  Next to Papa’s green Lincoln, a pool of his blood – big around as a manhole cover – was congealing under his head when the cops and EMTs took Papa away in what proved to be the vain attempt to save him. The wailing of an ambulance siren can convey urgency, but can also signal futility – a kind of keening before the funeral has begun.

In the photographs, which admittedly are not great, the puddle of Papa’s blood looks to have begun solidifying. It is dimensional-looking – raised a bit at the edges, not strictly flat. It looks like when pudding has cooled and has begun to form a skin, but red as melted lipstick. It is the degree to which Papa’s blood has coagulated that permits the cops to begin building a timeline of events on the night in question – time governing at a consistent and predictable rate the process whereby blood goes from slippery to viscous to sticky.

The worst and most indelible thing? My Nana’s stocking feet, soaked in the blood of her husband, leaving four separate tracks from the spreading pool in the garage to three locations inside the house. She went to fetch towels to soak up the blood. She went to the phone in the living room to call the cops. She went to the bedroom. Each time, she left a fading trail of old lady feet.

Now, if you have ever seen them, then you know that old lady feet are the saddest, the most frail-looking part of the human body. And I can promise you that blood is the absolute fucking worst medium in which to render old lady feet.

Grandma feet. In socks. Tracking blood all over the house. THAT is a sticky fucking image. THAT is an image of persistent adhesion to the surface of the mind. It is the image I’m least able to shake, the image that I will likely never eradicate whenever I think of the abattoir their garage became that night. It is a dispiriting keepsake, I can tell you, but it’s what remains.

So then, to my dad. Peter Belknap. Suicide.

He was 40. Things had not – it will come as no shock – panned out for him. Since he’d left us about ten years before, my dad had been a hippie drifter long past the point when hippie drifters had a ton of social relevance.

We’re talking about the mid-80s, so this is not the America of Easy Rider and Hunter S. Thompson, this is the America of the Brat Pack and Ronald fucking Reagan. My dad was a hapless alcoholic who couldn’t hold a job – I don’t say this as a judgment. I myself have logged a lotta my own time as a sketchy waste case. But in this regard, my dad was in a class by himself.

He was an untethered and purposeless druggie you wouldn’t trust to cat-sit for you. He never acquired any skills to speak of, except for having become a passable conga drummer. He never acquired any property to speak of, except the car he killed himself in, and the dog he tied up nearby.

That’s right – my dad brought his dog, a purebread Cocker Spaniel named Prince, along on his suicide. But, since I know you’re gonna ask: the dog was OK. He tied him up a few feet away from the car and left food and water for him. Prince lasted six days before the discovery of my dad’s corpse. Prince got adopted. Prince did OK.

But my dad, no. Among my many questions: how the fuck did my shiftless dad come into possession of a purebread fucking dog?

Sidebar: I realize that the WAY in which I am telling this is not transporting you to these places – you are not seeing these people. Because here’s the thing: this is MY story of THEIR events. Real events. And I don’t want to pretend like I was there when I was not.

I could finagle this so that it was vivid and visceral, so that your pulse quickens and you’re leaning into the story. I mean, if I told you the story of my dad’s suicide from the point of view of Prince tied up outside, forget it. It would kick your fucking asses.

But it would be a lie. It would be a make-believe lie. If these were made-up characters, then OK, fair enough. But these were real men – men who died in actual horrible fashion. So I have a hard fucking time making up stories about them.

What sticks about these episodes is the time.

The time to wait for the carbon monoxide to gather in the car and crowd out the oxygen; the time to kill a bottle of wine while that gas did its work. It’s the time that’s unsettling – smoking Winstons and staring out the grimy window as the dog grew more and more anxious. The thousand chances to open that door and roll out – chances not taken. Panic must’ve welled up in my dad’s chest. The impulse for self-preservation – however vestigial it may have been – must have reared up.

Estimating the kind of carbon monoxide levels you could reasonably expect to accumulate in a chamber without an airtight seal – then we’re talking about somewhere between twenty minutes and two hours before he died.

Now, he obviously passed out somewhere in there. But still. The fact is that he sat on that vinyl bench seat with sufficient time to decide over and over again to die – reenlisting in the plan.

Say it was only twenty minutes. And say he passed out after ten. That means that for TEN MINUTES – the amount of time I’ve been speaking to you tonight – he kept his eyes on the prize. He didn’t let that desert air rush inside the cabin of that poisoned car.

So, the only time he ever followed through on anything – the only time ever he saw a thing through to its conclusion – was the last fucking thing he ever did.

The worse time that sticks with me, though, is the time immediately following.

Six days.

Under the Arizona sun. Wasn’t that hot, cause it was December – like sixty, sixty-five degrees. But if you leave a veal chop or a chicken leg out on the sidewalk for a week, it doesn’t matter how hot it is out there – that thing is gonna get gross. Sickening, even.

I have made what peace I can with the events. The troubled passing of these men I frankly didn’t know well.

But these fragments, these shards. Are what stick.

Old lady footprints, rendered in the drying blood of her husband.

A hippie, locking eyes with his dog through a car window, waiting to die.

Now, I realize that there is the perceived obligation of the storyteller to imbue his story with meaning, or to shape it in such a way that it reaches a satisfying conclusion. I mean, I should probably cry, or something.

But that’s not the sort of story I have been here given. The bell of this story was struck twenty-six years ago, all that remains is its echo, its raggedly persistent pictures – old lady blood steps, and a sad-eyed hippie, staring at a dog.

Saturday
Jul212012

WRITE CLUB - Belknap, Madness - 7/3/12

The year was… I wanna say like ’87.

Because when you drank as I did from like for the period between 1983 and 1994, all dates are approximate.

Because check it out – all that enriching experience you were gaining – all the international travel and internships and Peace Corps shit you were doing? I took all that focus and initiative, doused it in firewater, and poured it down my gullet.

You know the most hammered you have ever been? That hammered where you need to piece things together and wake up feeling like somebody drove a shit-covered spike through your skull? That’s how drunk I was getting all the time.

But ’87 feels pretty right, or right enough.

The scene: New York City. Early spring. A party. Cold as fuck outside. My girlfriend had a friend visiting from L.A. Naturally, he was terrified – this was not the post-Guiliani, post-9/11 everybody-play-nice New York we enjoy today.

In the 80s, New York still had the residue of its reputation for senseless violence and decay – a place where there’s packs of feral dogs roaming a hellscape right out of Bronson’s Death Wish franchise. And as in Death Wish, the feral dogs wore lots of eye makeup, and had bitchin’ mohawks.

Tell what these feral dogs did NOT do, however. They did NOT wear CBGB’s t-shirts. Cause what’re they? Fucking tourists?

So we go to this party, and I am stealing beers and turning inexplicably hostile and threatening to jump off the roof.

So then we ride the train home. 3 A.M., like you do. And this guy, this L.A. guy – who looks like an extra from a Knack video, by the way – he tells my girlfriend later that he was terrified on that train – like pants-pissingly scared. He thought – as all out-of-towners did back then – that the feral Death Wish dogs were gonna get on at the next stop and stuff his skinny tie in that pretty mouth of his and rape him like crazy. He KNEW it was gonna happen, like at any moment. You know when you get terrified and you fixate on the terrifying thing and it keeps growing in your mind until it squeezes everything else out of your skull?

That’s where he is – feral dogs, high on club drugs he’s never heard of, are gonna board the train and rape him with their glistening red penises. And all the jaded and joyless New Yorkers on the car are not gonna help him one bit.

But then he catches a glimpse of me. And it’s like a bracing wind of hope. He looked over at me, he knew. That everything. Was gonna be OK.

The next day, after we’d slept it off, he said – and I’m quoting, here:

“I was scared out of my mind, but Ian looked so fucking crazy I knew nobody would fuck with us.”

My insanity – the roiling miasmic cauldron of inarticulate hatred and arrhythmic chaos strobing behind my eyes carried with it a menace and volatility sufficient to shelter this callow and scrawny boy from Los Angeles from the menace and volatility surrounding us.

It could not be more clear: crazy can save you.

Or at least spare you the most egregious intrusions upon your fleeting peace.

I don’t drink any longer, so that madness is no longer boiling just below the skin. I need to send the bucket deeper into the well to fetch it. But it is there – like a wicker basket full of battery acid. So trust me when I tell you: crazy has its uses.

Look. Order and pleasantry have their place. No doubt about it. But there is JUST. TOO MUCH. EXASPERATING. SHIT. In this life.

So when you are able to lower over yourself a cloak of I Seriously Want to Kill You Right Now, you are granted a wide berth by the Relentless Forces of Dumbassification and Arch Criminal Dickbaggery. This does nothing, obviously, to slow the march of these forces, but it prevents their enlisting you in their dubious cause.

Which isn’t to suggest that Dumbassification is what my opponent is engaging in. No. He’s reasonably bright.

It’s worth asking, however, why Bob Stockfish – a name of disreputable Scandinavian origin, by the way – has consistently failed to publicly oppose Arch Criminal Dickbaggery in all its forms.

Not ONLY, ladies and gentlemen, has he steadfastly REFUSED to denounce Arch Criminal Dickbaggery, he has sought at every turn to become the enemy of this Great and Glorious Enterprise we call WRITE CLUB.

Those of you who’ve been to the show previously will recognize him as the trollish and foul-smelling presence holding up the wall over there and issuing forth an unbroken strand of slanderous and hurtful untruths about myself, about the show, and about the many worthy and gifted persons who have donated their time and talent to appear here. But most hurtfully, and if I may say, most SHAMEFULLY, ladies and gentlemen, this bitter and wall-eyed little creature has had the TEMERITY to impugn you the audience of WRITE CLUB, which science has determined is the most fetching and whip-smart audience to be found anywhere on the planet.

That this snaggle-toothed little bastard would have the guts to show up anyplace and run people down is the very DEPTH of self-delusion, folks. If you good people have an ounce of self-respect – as I know you do – you’ll send this scurvy little grease monkey scuttling in defeat back to the shame cavern he calls home.

You must find in favor of Madness, ladies and gentlemen – if you fail in this, you will open the floodgates of unchecked criminality and dickbagishiness. Which none of us want. Except Stockfish. Because he is the absolute worst.

Tuesday
Jul172012

Sweet Christ, If Only So Caitlin Parrish Can Know Peace. Essay Fiesta, 7/16/12

The facts would seem to be these:

According to an anonymous blog post about a week and a half ago, a comic named Daniel Tosh, who has a show on Comedy Central, was doing a set at a club called The Laugh Factory.

During his act, Mr. Tosh apparently asserted that “rape jokes are always funny.” A female audience member yelled out “Actually, rape jokes are never funny.”

Mr. Tosh is then alleged to have responded:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her?” 

Tosh tweeted a conditional apology.

The club’s owner Jamie Masada came to Tosh’s defense, as did other comedians on Twitter.

The Internet has settled into a froth about the wrongness of making light of rape vs. the discourtesy of interrupting a comic. All of which misses the point.

Here then, is everything wrong with this story in the order it is mentioned:

 

  1. Naming a place The Laugh Factory is to equate the creation of comedy with the joyless place where ambition and innovation go to die the factory – a place where you clock in to stare slack-jawed at the drill press that gives you repetitive stress injuries and eats your dreams. If you think so little of comedy, why not just call your place the Gulag of Giggles and be done with it.
  2. This is an ANONYMOUS BLOG POST. It opens with the phrase: “This is something that happened to a friend of mine in her own words,” and closes with the words “Please reblog this and spread the word.” So the original item was posted by somebody who concedes they were not there, and who is not held to any form of journalistic ethics, and who states flatly that their primary aim was for it be disseminated widely. The opening line of this piece could well have been: “This here some shit I overheard at the bus depot,” and closed with “Kim Kardashian was naked when she told me she wanted to you to put it all over the Internet.”
  3. Daniel Tosh has founded his entire career on being a smirky douche. If you were the casting director for Law & Order: SVU, and you were looking to cast the role of Trust Fund Date Rapist or Roofie-Wielding Frat Boy, you could do a lot worse than Daniel fucking Tosh. So for any of us to pretend that this non-joke about gang rape represents for him some form of stunning departure is the kind of willful ignorance that makes people like me want to move to Alaska, where the ignorance is genuine.
  4. Here’s a salient aspect of this: the fact that he includes material about rape in his act, and in his unscripted, what – banter? is NOT THE POINT. It is entirely possible to do rape bits that are funny. But if your allegiance is with the rapists, you may encounter difficulty with certain crowds. Like say a crowd containing women. You stupid pig.
  5. There is no law against being a stupid pig. In fact, if history is to be believed, being a stupid pig is one of our most cherished and consistently exercised freedoms.
  6. This does NOT mean that humorless feminists are granted license to police our speech. Hate speech is still speech. And speech – any speech – even speech that reinforces gender narratives and perpetuates the prevailing patrician power dynamic, is protected. Period, full stop.
  7. Here’s doddering club owner Jamie Masada leaping arthritically to Tosh’s defense, according to BuzzFeed: “Masada says Tosh asked the audience, "What you guys want to talk about?" After someone in the front said "rape," a woman in the audience started screaming, ‘No, rape is painful, don’t talk about it.’ Then, Masada says, ‘Daniel came in, and he said, 'Well it sounds like she’s been raped by five guys' — something like that. I really didn’t hear properly.’” He continues, "It was a comment — it wasn’t a joke at the expense of this girl." Flames, meet fan. Fan, flames.
  8. The first of Tosh’s two tweets regarding this incident: “All the out of context misquotes aside, I’d like to sincerely apologize. And he LINKS to the blog post” Beyond the pulling-teeth-style of deliberate half-assed-ness, there is the split infinitive. And linguists agree that the only – the ONLY – acceptable spot for a split infinitive is in the voiceover intro to Star Trek. Which is to say nothing of the petulant and puny atonement an apology via Twitter represents.
  9. Tosh’s second tweet, sent like a minute after the first: “the point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies” Now, science has established that dead babies are indisputably hilarious. Come on. Baby at the bottom a staircase with his shattered femurs poking out of his fat little thighs? That is a hoot. Savor that laugh for a sec. And regarding the rest of this tweet, I think Mr. Tosh needs to curl up with a good dictionary and clarify for himself what a “point” actually is, and more importantly, what “heckled” means. Dictionary.com: “to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; to badger.” Look, son, if you open the can of rape-worms and then fold like a little origami bitch when somebody says ONE THING to call you out, you are not fit to be doing standup. Now sit your punk ass down and shut your smug mouth for all time, you whiny little shitbird.
  10. Other comics tweeted their supposed support of Tosh. Jim Norton, whose ouvre has a rich ribbon of rape running through it, asks “Why is is OK for an actor to play a rapist, but not for a comic to joke about it?” Which is a pretty transparent way of saying “Please. I wanna keep doing rape jokes.” Dane Cook, the platinum-selling hack, had this to say: “If you journey through this life easily offended by other peoples words I think its best for everyone if you just kill yourself.” Which gives a sense of Mr. Cook’s level of craft and capacity for nuance. Look – comics are in the business of saying outlandish things. Any curtailment of this represents a threat to their livelihood. What else are they gonna say publicly about this? It’s like telling a baker that flour and sugar are illegal – what do you EXPECT to hear from these people? They’re not defending Tosh – whom I can guarantee most of them despise him with a blazing, volcanic hatred – they’re defending their bit of turf.
  11. Footnote: Tosh is now scrambling like mad to rewrite the pilot of the cartoon show he’s doing for Comedy Central, scrubbing it free of, you guessed it, rape jokes.

 

Now. In conclusion – there are several things that bug the bejesus outta me on stories like this:

A) This is not a story. In the days since some rich white TV star said a thing in a comedy club that hurt some girl’s feelings, like 38 real live, actual children have been killed by gunfire in Chicago alone. I confess I haven’t had the heart to look up the exact number, because I don’t feel like crying bitter, bitter tears of impotent rage and perplexity.

B) Who wins in this? The rich white TV star. The stupid Internet has been talking about the rich white TV star nonstop for like 10 days. The rich white TV star’s fire is fueled by the oxygen of our regard. It is our gaze that permits him to burn. Without us, he is heatless and lightless. Without us, he is snuffed rapidly out. But we keep our gaze trained on him. We keep baying in our outrage and he, along with hundreds of others like him, smirk at what hapless dopes we are, and keep taking our money.

C) We seem hopelessly addicted to taking umbrage. I am old enough to remember a time when a grown-up could feel offended by something, and then PROCEED WITH THEIR LIVES AS THOUGH NOTHING MORE THAN A FEELING HAD TRANSPIRED. Now, too damn many of us are compelled to hit the brakes in a shower of sparks and squawk about our hurt, hurt feelings until we are paid heed by the media which should be devoting its shoe leather and moxie to the question of kids getting gunned down on public streets, but have grown so soft and dim that they would rather devote inch after column inch to the frothing feelings of some girl who heard objectionable words in a comedy club and had her friend write about it. 

And so then I, and by extension you, have gotten caught in the gears of this idiot machine.