Kung Hii Fatt Choi from Booby Hatch!

Imagine if you will that the text on this page is beginning to flicker. You check your computer, swearing that if it dies on you, you will “totally go 100% mental, and this time you mean it.” By “100% mental,” you mean you will go to a Big and Tall Men’s Store and buy a giant suit, like the one that David Byrne wore in that Talking Heads video, and you will run around the streets in the middle of the night, holding a stuffed penguin, and screaming “BOW WOW WOOGIE WOOGIE WOW!” And by “this time you mean it,” you mean that you’ll talk about doing it with your friends as you get drunk in a bar and swear that you’ll do it next week, but “next week” will never come, and when your friends tease you about it later, you’ll say, “Let it go already, Funky Winkerbean!”
But before you can further contemplate your computer’s demise, the words fade and the image of a deserted moonscape appears on your screen. Without much hesitation, you realize that your FaceTime Jetson phone (a.k.a. Skype) has turned itself on and “accidentally” dialed our number. 
Now “close your eyes” and keep imagineering. Take a deep breath. By “close your eyes,” we mean keep your eyes wide open and read the words on the page.  By “take a deep breath,” we mean put down the bong and exhale.  Celebrate the fact that with modern technology and old-fashioned mind drama, any crap you can think of becomes possible. Just ask Steve Jobs. Cough. Too soon? Back to our future playtime saga…

Sabrina stumbles into the frame, holding a tiny man in a space hat.

Sabrina: AAAAAAAAAAAAAALEX!!! Yer space phone’s ringing.

Alex pokes her head into the shot and looks around suspiciously.

Alex: Ahoy ahoy?

Sabrina: How many times I gotta tell you – save that crap for Alexander Graham Bell Assassination Re-enactment Day. The BLOG is ringing!!

Katharine runs in, holding a smoking gun.

Katharine: Is it the neighbors? I just shot their parrot.

Alex: Dammit, Katharine! He was the only one who knew my email password!!

Sabrina: (Looks at the tiny spaceman) We should probably wish them a Happy New Year or something. We’ve neglected the blog for a while.

Alex: What about the neighbors?

Katharine: Taken care of. I told you I just shot their parrot. Why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me?

Sabrina: No, no. Not Jim Nabors and his wife, who coincidentally happen to be our neighbors. It’s time to wish our blog readers a Happy New Year.

Katharine: Taken care of. That was last year. I wrote a Haiku about it.

Sabrina: No. For this year.

Alex: AGAIN??? This happens every time I drink whiskey. WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?? (sings) Sunrise, sunset..sunrise sunset…

Katharine: You really need to stop blacking out. You miss so much.  Also, people keep writing “Twat” on your forehead.

Alex: This pop stand blows. Let’s get in the time machine!!

Sabrina: But…but…(looks sadly at the spaceman, who has fallen asleep in the crook of her arm.)

Katharine runs out of the frame and returns with a Vita-Mix with a large pineapple sticking out of it.

Sabrina: We can’t all fit inside there! Tiny Spaceman, you’ll have to stay behind.

Tiny Spaceman: Mumble, mumble, fart, poop.

Alex: Good job Tiny Spaceman! That’s another Adam Sandler script in the can. Stay here and write us a Steve Guttenberg vehicle.

Sabrina: Enough jibber-jabbering! It’s time to go BACK! To the fu—(she begins violently coughing. Alex slaps her on the back and a dead parrot shoots out of her mouth. Somewhere, John Cleese rolls over in his cash-filled swimming pool.)

Katharine: (stroking the Vita-Mix time machine affectionately) I have complete faith that this will work.

Alex: That’s what I’m afraid of! Never tell me the odds! Yippy kai ay motherf— (Katharine slaps her.)


Sabrina covers the tiny spaceman’s eyes with her hand and gently carries him off-screen. She returns and the three ladies climb inside the blender, alongside the pineapple. Alex hooks the pineapple up to a computer, and the lights begin to flash. You put a bra on your head and press this link, as it disappears beneath your finger:  The screen goes dark, and one-by-one all the lights in your house/coffee shop/office/train car/box of donuts go out. You sit in darkness, wondering what in the Heckleberry Finn you have gotten yourself into, when suddenly power is restored and your screen comes back on. The moonscape is gone. You are now watching the past, a New Year’s party in an old-timey wild west saloon. The date is December 31, 2011.

Alex: (Looks around) What a dump.

Katharine: I don’t think my spleen made it.

Sabrina: It did, but it’s over there, sitting on Mark Twain’s Melba toast.

Katharine: Again?

The camera zooms out and reveals Mark Twain, Shania Twain and Damon Wayans standing in front of a poster of Dwayne Wayne, star of Michael Bay’s remake of Shane.

Mark Twain: All things change except barbers, the ways of barbers, and the surroundings of barbers. These never change.

He eats Katharine’s spleen.

Shania Twain: Men are like shoes! I ain’t got time for the flip flop kind.

Damon Wayans: I was 12 years old when I had my first job, delivering packages.

If you decide to follow Nostalgic Damon Wayans to the nearest UPS, turn to page 15. If you decide to suggest that Mark and Shania Twain are the same person, click this link:  If you think politicians have become way too political, grab some poster board, the ghost of Andy Rooney, glitter glue, and make a sign about it, why don’t you? If your name has any vowels in it, continue enjoying this space blog.

Alex: This Western SUCKS. Where are all the floozies and sarsparilla?

Katharine: Ooh check out this trunk fulla junk!

Sabrina: EXCUSE ME? Just because a lady has a curvaceous derriere does NOT —

Katharine:  Wha chu talkin’ bout, Brina?  I was just pointing out this mysterious trunk full of Olde Tyme Western Wear I just found.

Alex: I call dibs on the chaps!!

Sabrina: I call the tiny spaceman! Wait, what’s the spaceman doing here? I thought we left him behind.

Katharine: Don’t question it; this is fantasy. And put a kerchief on that spaceman; he’s nude, and this is a family show.

Alex: Isn’t it New Year’s Eve? Sabrina, didn’t you and Don Rickles have a gig tonight?

Sabrina: Crap, you’re right. (turns to the blog audience) Thank you all for coming to the New Year’s Eve Friar’s Club roast of Kadeem Harrison. I would like to take this opportunity to share this eggnog recipe from the restaurant formerly known as St. Elsewhere with you:

6 eggs separated
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
6oz Scotch
3oz Bourbon
3oz Brandy
1 pint milk
1 pint cream
3 tablespoons white sugar

Beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar, salt and vanilla to the ribbon stage. Add the booze and the dairy and mix until incorporated. Set this mixture aside.

Whisk the egg whites with the white sugar to the medium-hard peak stage. When ready fold the egg whites into the boozy mixture. Season generously with freshly grated nutmeg. FRESHLY!

Allow this to sit for at least an hour or two to let the drink separate from the foam a little. Garnish with a pair of round flip glasses and shoulder pads. Enjoy!

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a large crowd begins to count down in unison. The Ladies of the Hatch throw on their Western wear, dress up Mark Twain as a saloon tranny floozie, and pose confidently against the flimsy backlot film set as flashbulbs pop and confetti cascades down upon them. There is a resounding cry of HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Ryan Seacrest makes out with a New York City cop and all is right with the world. Sabrina, Alex, and Katharine clink glasses of eggnog.

Sabrina: (leaning on the tiny spaceman’s rifle) God bless us, every one!

Alex: (through violent hiccups) It really is an (hic) anytime drink…Ann Jillian (hic) was right…(hic)

Katharine: Who’s the dude?

Sabrina and Alex: MARK TWAIIIIN!!

Katharine: Huh. He looks different in person.

Lost in Space

In New York City, no one really has a home base. Most of us don’t travel to work in cars so we spend part of each day marooned far from comforts and conveniences we could easily toss in the back seat if we had one: a fuzzy sweater, a comfortable pair of shoes, library books, a family-size box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies (what? I’m a family.) Instead we carry this stuff on our backs or slung over a shoulder in a giant tote bag that pulls relentlessly at our weak urban arms, stretching them towards the pavement like orangutan limbs.  We defy common sense and lug bulky items onto the subway – things that should never be taken on a moving train: coffee tables, king-size comforter sets, pool cues, a chipped wooden headboard that probably has bedbugs but really looks like it’s worth something, a twin stroller the makers swore could be folded with one hand, because we know that squeezing them into a cab would be a hassle and we’re New Yorkers dammit – we can DO this!! Gamely we struggle, up subway steps, through the turnstiles and past train doors, overbalancing and apologizing but never giving up…mostly because it’s illegal to dump a 6 foot plaster giraffe on a subway platform.

I think about this in the Duane Reade, looking at their line of “Help!” products:  adorably-packaged single-serving items one commonly needs in a pinch. Pain killer! Band Aids! Opaque nipple covers! Ok that last one is made up but if you’re wearing a summer-weight top they’d really come in handy during a flash thunderstorm (think about it.) For city dwellers already weighed down by other necessities (running sneakers, tins of cat food, rape flute) and tourists burdened by distinctly unnecessary items (I Heart NY t-shirts, Magnolia cupcakes, a caricature drawn on a grain of rice, tickets to Stomp) these products are life savers. I’m just surprised it took Duane Reade so long to come up with a way to commodify our needs. Sure, every drug store carries travel size items, but how often do you really need a palm-sized bottle of conditioner? Or a tiny can of Barbisol? On a given day, chances are the urban emergency you’re experiencing is more along the lines of a giant heel blister or a jacket stained with A/C leakage than a five-o-clock shadow or scarecrow bangs.

In my ideal world, I wouldn’t have to make a drugstore pitstop for emergency basics, because I would have a dedicated space, outside my apartment, of my very own. The stationary equivalent of a suburbanite’s car packed with Capri Sun and Paul Simon CDs, it would be strategically located to wherever I spent most of my time for easy access. I could go and recharge, or sit and think, or nap, or – just for a miraculous second – put down the giant fucking duffle bag of old heels and t-shirts destined for the Salvation Army across town. Having a space like that would make me feel great – like Little Orphan Annie when she arrives at Daddy Warbucks’ mansion. I would spin around grinning under my bad perm and jitterbug with any gay gardener or turbaned doorman who’d have me.

And that’s for a space as tiny as a bus locker. (Those don’t exist anymore, do they? Shame, because the idea that I could leave something heavy at Port Authority and skip away holding a key makes New York in the 70s seem like a utopia. THANKS TERRORISTS.)

The sad thing is, if I was a person with more ambition my Annie Warbucks dream might have come true. Right after I finished college I had the idea for something called “Siesta Village”. It was a place in the city – perhaps a single floor of an office building – where anyone could go to take naps, any time of the day, for as long as they wanted. I envisioned the space as a network of cubicles, separated from one another by hanging drapes or woven tapestries. Each unit would be carpeted, with a cot, a nightstand, a cubbyhole, and a place to hang your clothes. Nap sessions as short as a half hour could be purchased on the spot or booked in advance. (I envisioned a “frequent napper” card, embossed with the image of a sleeping kitten, where the 10th snooze was free.) The vibe at Siesta Village would be as quiet as a library, with no infuriating chimes or whale songs. Everyone would wear slippers, and pad around in an alpha-brainwave state of blissful half-consciousness. It would be a soundproof oasis at the center of a honking, angry, grit-caked city. I wasn’t sure how much to charge for a nap, but honestly? There were days when I would gladly pay $50 for a place to drop my bags and zone out for an hour before schlepping to my next appointment. It was a scheme that could only have been born of post-college culture shock combined with the trial-by-fire of producing theater in New York City.

Even though I never had any intention of trying to make Siesta Village fly as a business, I spent a lot of time thinking about the practicalities (because in any city fantasizing about real estate is just another form of porn. ) I realized that discouraging squatters would be a problem, ditto masturbators and people engaged in illicit affairs who wanted to use my carpeted temple for a lunchtime quickie. I thought of all the good people: the weary, sincere nappers who would be disturbed by the interlopers’ animal grunting, and the amount of time I’d spend with a blacklight and anti-bacterial wipes. It occurred to me that Siesta Village was an idea best preserved in dreams, as I dozed on the subway or hauled dirty clothes to the laundromat. Nevertheless, when a facility called MetroNaps sprang up a few years later, I was slightly envious. I consoled myself with the thought that a hooded La-Z-Boy is no substitute for a room of one’s own. Even if it’s just a bus locker.

The Rage Haiku: An oxymoron, or just moronic?

What, you may ask, is a rage haiku? It’s a wonderful thing which, yes, yes, I invented. It recently came to me in the shower (the crucible of all brilliant ideas) that the haiku, though long-reputed as a poetic form best suited to the subtle, rosy-hued observations of intellectual gurus, would in fact be the ideal form in which to express unalloyed, vitriolic anger. The kind of anger that would vindicate your long-repressed misanthropy, redeem you in your father’s eyes, and finally pay off all those pesky student loans. I mean, think about it: by definition, haikus are:

  • Brief: just 5 syllables, then 7, then another 5; YOU’RE DONE!
  • Vivid: sunsets, delicate petals, and dewdrops are all popular subjects.
  • … according to intellectual guru Natalie Goldberg, textual gems that should contain a “hint of epiphany” in which something powerful and unexpected is revealed about the subject.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could channel your righteous anger about subway etiquetteorange juice, or criminal trial verdicts, into something with the thought-provoking, bone-crushing CH’I of a fucking haiku? Your enemies would fall like flabby mall walkers to your dragon-veined, 17-syllabled katana! Faster than a zinging comeback, more powerful than a made-up curse word, wittier even than the Drunk Hulk twitter steam, a hail of meticulously-crafted poetry would stun the most seasoned nemesis into a shocked stasis, allowing you to slip away unnoticed or exit to rapturous applause from the assembled crowd.

Allow me to demonstrate, via a series of common, everyday situations:

You buy a newspaper at the local bodega and the gentleman behind the counter hands you change for a five dollar bill when you clearly paid with a ten. You object. He insists. You skool him with a little 5/7/5:

“Dishonoring me
Will mean a holocaust for
Your Chifles* display”

*For the uninitiated, “Chifles” is a popular brand of plantain and cassava chip, which according to some, “tastes like cardboard.” Me, I love them.

Your ex-husband’s birthday party. It’s been a while. He’s remarried; you’re not. You look hot, there’s no denying that. But there’s also no denying you’ve had four martinis. Your index finger is suddenly on his sternum.

“You know your problem?
You could never loosen up!
Yo Chex mix LET’S DANCE!!”

A tense situation in an abandoned building ends with the drawing of guns in a Mexican Standoff. Your tummy rumbles.

No one gets hurt if
You motherfuckin’ get me 
A Royale with Cheese!!!

See? RAGE HAIKU. Try one. Keep a few in your pocket. And leave those anger management classes to the proletariat.

Manimal, get thee behind me!

Oh hello. Nice to meet you. I’m a grown woman. Who is afraid of animals.

Well, not animals per se. Specifically, I am petrified of a fictional genus of animals that I like to call “human-animal hybrids”: Man-imals if you will. Their natural habitats are children’s TV shows and films starring Marlon Brando, although they can occasionally be found grazing outside used car lots and chicken restaurants.

Not sure what the hell I’m talking about? Allow me to ‘splain. It comes down to this: whenever I see a human dressed up in a realistic animal costume, I have the urge to run in the other direction, or if that option isn’t available, cower like a child with my head tucked into my shirt. (Notice I said “realistic” animal costume – this is not a reaction prompted by mouse ears from Disneyland or those knitted hats with gerbil ears that hipsters wear; only by the combination of prosthetics, head-to-toe fur, and the kind of faithful animal imitations that most actors left behind in Strasberg Level 3.)

Still not sure what I mean? Check out the horrifying examples below. With any luck they’ll make you just as phobic as I am!

Bob Dog, from Mister Rogers Neighborhood: truly the Famous Original Ray’s of terrifying Manimals, and the bête noir that started it all. Like many of my peers I watched a lot of PBS as a child, and Mr. Rogers was a frequent visitor to our tiny black & white TV. Though I remember thinking Fred was a little wussy at the time, I now credit him with helping build my delicate semblance of self-esteem. I also credit (blame?) him for introducing me to Bob Dog – a seemingly innocuous inhabitant of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe who sported a spirit-gummed canine nose and footy pajamas, walked around on his “hind legs”, and howled and woofed his way through lessons on being nice to others. I never absorbed any of his teachings, however, because I was too busy screaming. Seriously. My Mum used to tell me that she’d have to anticipate Bob Dog’s appearances in every episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood (not that hard considering each character had its own theme music) and distract me, or she’d end up spending the next hour talking me down from a psychotic break.

Zoobilee Zoo: Apologies to Ben Vereen upfront, because though I love him I can’t stand even the thought that this show existed. Actually, Hallmark should apologize for making him prance around moronically in a leopard suit, mug to the camera and sing songs like “Rhyming is Fun” with the other – ahemZoobles, but they never will. Plus the costumes all look like they were pulled out of some crazy old woman’s basement where they were used as cat beds. Can someone tell me why human-animal hybrids seem to be the inevitable default setting when networks are coming up with kids shows?? Are lessons about sharing and counting somehow easier to absorb when delivered by a terrifying freak? I have to assume they are. Because as much as I try, I will never get the damn theme song out of my head.

The Island of Dr. Moreau: I actually can’t believe I’m bringing up this film, because writing about it will require me to do a Google image search for stills, the thought of which makes my hands shake. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Well, my nightmares anyway, and I don’t even know what the movie’s about. I once saw some scenes from it by accident when I was channel-surfing and the memory of those ungodly creatures is branded forever onto my brain grapes. And yes, I understand that’s part of the point: that Dr. Moreau is some kind of twisted evil man who populates his island with homemade animal deviants by blending DNA like a breakfast smoothie. Well done, Island of Dr. Moreau! You have succeeded in arousing in me the kind of deep-seated Jungian revulsion normally reserved for Real Dolls, and guaranteeing that whenever I pick up the remote with one hand, my other hand will be hovering over my eyes.

SpliceI am a HUGE fan of Sarah Polley, but the preview for this film forced me to cover my ears and hum loudly whenever it appeared on TV. ‘Nuff said.

So…yeah! Hope you enjoyed the forced thrill ride into the darkest corners of my neuroses.  I certainly feel better for having heaved a little mental poison onto your collective laps. And if by admitting my phobia I can prevent one more adult from donning a latex nose and whiskers in the name of entertainment, well…then my work here is done.

Great Cultural Milestones I Have Missed

Storytelling, or “bragging” as it’s more commonly known, is a popular pastime for humans.But unless you fought in a war or dated Mickey Rourke before 1995, the only bragging worth doing is about the cool cultural events you’ve attended in your lifetime. True, a kick-ass scar beats a stupid concert any day, but for many of us these stories are all we have: they build street cred in the right circles, and make city-dwellers feel that our cranky, pocket-sized existences are somehow worthwhile. Age is a factor too: as far as I’m concerned, one of the perks of making it out of your twenties is that you earn the right to self-mythologize a bit. It will certainly come in handy in writing the memoir that every single one of us will eventually publish! (You know, the collection of semi-true, moderately humorous confessional essays about summer camp and bulimia that yields average sales near the check-out counter at Books-A-Million? Start jotting down notes now is all I’m saying.)

But myths aside, flashing my own cultural achievement scorecard is not the purpose of this post. Instead I’d like to eulogize the many, many milestones that I wish I could say “I was there” for. Regret is healthy and it’s honest.  instead of leading people to believe that my world-weary, Sam Shepard-esque, taken-by-the-wind brand of sexy cool is anything but the result of years of practice and wishful thinking, I can come clean with exactly the kind of square I am.  So here are my regrets, in reverse chronological order, and spiked with a jigger of professional jealousy:

January 2011: P. Diddy graces the stage at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre New York
I will confess upfront that I’m not a huge fan of Diddy, Ciroc, or the crowded, smug conditions in the UCB basement theatre, but I am a fan of comedy stunts, and feeling like a cool kid. So it was with MUCH regret (and some loud ranting that disturbed my cats) that I awoke the morning after enjoying a friend’s sketch show at UCB, to the news that I had missed Diddy’s heavily rumored and tweeted-about surprise appearance on the Chris Gethard Show by AN HOUR AND A HALF. (Ah, so that’s why the UCB staff shooed us out after the show like feral cats – DIDDY WAS IMMINENT.) Had I faked hysterical paralysis and refused to leave my seat, I might have caught a glimpse of Puff the Magic Mogul. Alas.

November 2007: The cast of 30 Rock performs an episode live on stage
The WGA writers strike was on, and this sweet comedy antidote was announced very quietly through a handful of comedy nerd news sites…which of course immediately spilled over to EVERY MEDIA OUTLET IN EXISTENCE. Tickets were sold online to the general public, but predictably, they sold out in a nanosecond. I had one or two strings I could have pulled to get in, which I now realize I should have not only pulled, but swung upon as if they were the bells of Notre Dame and I, Quasimodo. That I was too busy pining after a young gypsy dancer is the only excuse I can think of.

October 2001: Jane’s Addiction plays Madison Square Garden on their Jubilee Tour
Normally I would feel fine about missing this concert, since tickets were harder to get than a fingerbang at a Christian Rock show. Normally, that is – except for the fact that a group of my (infinitely cooler and better-looking) friends got in without tickets by a crazy stroke of luck. They had been waiting outside MSG in the freezing cold, with throngs of other vinyl-corseted freaks for hours. Then, straight out of a Rolling Stone essay titled I’m with the (Pidgeon-chested Guy in Eyeliner and a Wrist) Band, the stage door opened a crack, and a roadie beckoned for them to come in. Two of my friends managed to slip in before the door slammed shut, and they joined the teeming audience for a night of transcendent druggy mayhem. Granted, one of them left behind his girlfriend (later the mother of his child) without so much as a glance, but hey – in the pursuit of “I was there” stories, sacrifices must be made.

Early 1990s: Seattle Grunge/ Riot Grrl Music Scene
While I didn’t technically miss it, I do think it sucks that I lived smack in between Tacoma and Seattle during the years leading up to the scene’s explosion, and then we moved to the East Coast right at the moment when:

  1. The music was taking off, and
  2. I was entering my iconoclastic, moderately angry teen years, outfitted in clunky boots, Dad’s motorcycle jacket and a suburban scowl.

The significance? Had we stayed in Washington I COULD HAVE BEEN KATHLEEN HANNA OR CORIN TUCKER. Or at least the girl they experimented with backstage.

1985/86: Singing with Placido Domingo and the LA Opera
Ok this less a cultural milestone than a missed opportunity, but it totally fits the “Look Back in Anguish” theme. When I was ten years old our school choir auditioned to sing with Placido Domingo at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I don’t remember which opera it was, but my mother, a HUGE Placido fan, was thrilled and kept talking about how proud she’d be to see me on stage with him. In preparation for the audition I rehearsed a french folk song with a friend, in addition to the ancient choral number we sang as a group. Although mostly on-key, my voice could at best be described as “reedy” – I was always being told to “Sing OUT!” by our enthusiastic music director. Nevertheless I had the optimism of childhood on my side, and I envisioned myself at the stage door after an exhausting performance, graciously smiling at my admirers while clutching armfuls of roses. At the audition, I did my best but was not chosen for the “angel choir” in the opera. I bravely put the snub behind me, until the day a few weeks later when I came home from school to find my mother glowing, with a letter in her hand. I had been offered a walk-on role in the opera with Placido!! I asked my mother what “walk-on” meant and when I learned it meant pantomiming in crowd scenes I immediately refused – I would have a singing role or nothing! Her disappointment in me eventually faded but I have felt like a complete, utter jackass for 25 years and counting.

1981: Simon & Garfunkel Reunion Concert in Central Park
Yes, I was six years old. And we lived in LA, and my parents were bigger fans of latin jazz than folk rock, and were never the types to fly cross-country for a music event, but I still resent them for not taking me to New York. The video of the concert shows TONS of blissed-out children on their parents’ shoulders – WHY NOT ME??? Oh right: my fear of heights meant I was too scared to sit on my Dad’s shoulders, and I probably would have spent the entire concert screaming. Sounds of Silence indeed.

So that’s my list of regrets, may they rest in peace. I could probably think of more if I wracked my brain, but I’m saving the real gems for my memoir, tentatively titled Fumbling Towards Mediocrity: My Life in Slipper Socks. And now I’m curious: what are your biggest cultural regrets? Let’s share. I showed you mine!

A Valentine Hosanna to Andy Richter

On this day of chocolate-fueled hysteria, mylar burn, and obligation sex, I’d like to shift the focus away from the man who was clubbed, stoned and beheaded for marrying people against the state’s will (which maybe accounts for all the red?) to lavish praise on a man who is perhaps less obsessed with labeling relationships, but whose unique talents are criminally undervalued in our age. That man is Andy Richter. 

Let me begin by saying…we’re all married here. St. Valentine would be proud. Andy’s spoken for; so am I. And happily so. No one’s going to show up on anyone’s doorstep with a batch of homemade Roofycakes iced to represent the milestones of an Illinois boyhood. Nope; I’ve learned my lesson where antics like that are concerned (plus buttercream doesn’t travel well.)

But Richter deserves serious props. The guy is really, really funny. Let me count the ways:

First, he’s versatile. His funny can be stingingly acerbic or sweetly self-deprecating, cerebral or completely silly. Andy is as comfortable on Conan’s couch as he is helming a (sadly short-lived) comedy series. He can play a tough, ladykilling private eye named Andy or an adorably unassuming short story writer named Andy That’s range, people!

Second, he’s an assured, nimble improviser, the true litmus test of which is his ability to support Conan and get laughs of his own, night after night. It was a crabby college acting teacher who once remarked that it’s a much harder job to be Ethel than Lucy. And he wasn’t just talking about ego. The second banana on a talk show needs to have a razor instinct about when to interject, when to spar, and when to rescue the host by changing the subject, all while never stealing focus or making it look contrived. Lucy wouldn’t be Lucy without Ethel. And Coco wouldn’t be Coco without…his…Nut? Crap. Failed metaphor. Cut to a bullet list!!

Facts that I enjoy about Andy:

  • May look pocket-size next to Conan but is actually a brawny 6’2”
  • Played Mike Brady on stage opposite Jane Lynch in The Real Live Brady Bunch
  • Does a voice on the Amy Poehler-written/ produced animated series The Mighty B!
  • Was on the wishlist to play Mitchell in the original cast breakdown for Modern Family

It was another, slightly less-crabby college acting teacher who once dropped this nugget of truth: “If you look at the puppet, the audience will look at the puppet.” While you could argue that many of the celeb guests on Conan have one or more parts of themselves shoved WAY up their own sock-holes, that’s not the comparison I’m going for. My point is this: Andy’s attention never leaves the guests. After some brief camera-time during the monologue, and some banter after the first commercial break, he cedes the couch and the spotlight  to every sports thug or model-actress-hyphenate who struts through the curtains. And for the rest of the show he listens. Pays total attention to whatever banality they’re plugging. And as a result? They become the most interesting people in the room.

Third, he’s fucking adorable. I mean, look at his face. LOOK AT IT – how could you not fall for that picture-day hair, that impish smile? That’s a smile that helps you pick up your groceries when you trip over a sleeping Schnauzer double-parked in front of the Whole Foods. It’s a smile that listens to all your Dad’s golf stories and then makes an insightful comment about them later that makes you tear up juuuust a little. But most importantly, it’s a smile that’s ready and willing to marinate in a bathtub of coffee for a 30-second gag – IN A SUIT MIND YOU. (“Sure”, you’re probably thinking, “I’d lower myself into a piranha bubble bath if the price was right.” So would I! But COULD YOU CONVINCE US YOU ENJOYED IT? Yeah. That’s what I thought.)

According to Andy’s Wikipedia page he was voted prom king in high school. I would KILL to have heard his acceptance speech and watched his ceremonial cry-walk through the gym, because I’ll bet it was funny, humble, and probably made everybody there feel like the most interesting person in the room.

Happy V’Day y’all.

A Transcen-dental Meditation

Toothbrushing, am I right? Who thought of that bullshit? “Hey everyone, let’s scrape hard plastic bristles against our tender pink gums!  Poke around in our mouth crevices with teeny tiny spikes! And stinging peppermint disinfectant!!”  Sure, the scrubbing may feel good at first. Until you see the blood. In your spit (what the HELL’s it doing there??)  In the sink (DITTO!!) All of a sudden brushing seems barbaric, aggressive, violent. Like an unholy congress with a crafty porcupine, jabbing its spines under your gumline like it’s trying to knit a sweater from the leftover spinach stuck there since lunch.

Alright, I concede that I might be exaggerating juuuuust a tetch. It’s just that brushing my teeth has always been one of my least favorite rituals. (That said, I’d like to take the opportunity to reassure anyone reading this that I DO IT REGULARLY, AND WITH VIGOR.)

So before you judge me, and forward me all sorts of links to dental urban legends about “flossing”, hear me out. This morning was different.

This morning I enjoyed the saucy tickle of a new toothbrush that changed my life: so soft, it might as well have been made of chinchilla. Like a minty nuzzle from the Doublemint Twins, it felt like America. Sunshine. Warm laundry.  I damn nearly danced out of the bathroom, ready for anything.

Yeah, that’s right: I keep my expectations low. Goal for the day = plaque-free teeth?  DONE! What else ya got for me, Universe?? I may be a disappointment to myself, others, and all those who came before me, but I will no longer be held back by the Scylla and Charybdis of diamond-hard bristles and razor-sharp floss. EVERYTHING WILL BE BETTER FROM NOW ON!

Dissolve to: A tree-lined street on a Hollywood backlot. Cue jaunty horns!

I high-step along the street like I’m in a musical with Judy Garland from the 40s. She’s dressed as a friendly Technicolor wino. Judy smells great: a heady mix of Thunderbird and that mush-in-a-bowl the Hare Krishnas give out on Avenue A. She’s missing some teeth but hey – it’s charming, like she lost ‘em playing dice with Mickey Mouse instead of knocked out in a brawl with her dealer over two dollars. We fall into step together and grin, thumbs hooked into our suspenders and faces lifted to the sun. A syncopated bass line plays and we tip our faded, fraying hats to a campy extra who will go on to own an Arthur Murray franchise, then design orthopedic inserts for retired dancers. Our smiles widen, and we break into a song about the three precious teeth we got between us – they bring us luck and we ain’t never lettin’ ‘em go! Never mind the teeth we lost – that’s all in the past and THIS IS SHOWBIZ! Our dental hygiene routine involves a rag, some Old Granddad, and JAZZ.

Seriously though – Celebrities in the ‘40s had the right idea:

  1. Maintain your dental health through booze (WIN!)
  2. Turn tooth loss into a hilarious comedy chestnut
  3. Spend your sunset years hawking denture cream

Truly, it is the American Comedy Dream. And I am living it.