Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fry Her? I Hardly Know... eh, forget it.

So Jest's esteemed editor, Frank Santopadre, arranged for the core writers, designers, and assorted hangers-on to have a little sit-down to talk about the future of Jest as a website. It's not my place to go into any details just yet, but let it be known that I'm excited. What I've seen has a lot of potential, and we could easily reach a much larger audience than ever before. Plus, I'll have a chance to get more material out there (probably on a weekly basis) and that'll be nice.

Anyway, if I can't say anything about Jest, then why am I posting now? Well, the meeting was at the New York Friars Club, and getting to be a guest there was a neat experience. You walk in to the club, and the first thing you see are paintings of Henny Youngman and George Burns, and that kind of says it all. We had a few drinks in the Celebrity Bar (and I saved my Friars Club swizzle sticks as a souvenir). Frank knew all the folks that worked there, and I definitely understood the appeal of belonging to a private club-- it's like stepping into a P.G. Woodehouse story (well, less British, and more showbiz-y, but you know what I mean). After the meeting we had a brief chance to see a little bit of the rest of the club (Frank: Do you want to see the Milton Berle room? Me: Is it as big as I hear?) and it was y'know... cool. Have I made it clear that it was cool? Oh, and we passed Dennis Farina going in, which was a kick. I always enjoy him.

In other news, I have discovered how to access the statistics that track visitors to my site, and have learned some disturbing things:

81.1% of visitors stay for less than 5 seconds.
The second-largest percentage, 8.1%, stay for an hour or more.

I don't know what's more distressing-- that the overwhelming majority can't be bothered to read the site for more than 1/12 of a minute, or that some people are reading what is essentially a collection of self-plugs and calendar dates for hours on end.

Also: many people come to the site because there's a guy at Pixar named Dan McCoy. I've caught his name in Pixar credits before, but didn't guess that he'd accidentally draw people (part of that 81.1-less-than-five-second-percentage, no doubt) to my site. And I guess he'll be drawing more, now that I've used the word Pixar three times. Pixar.

Anyway, if he ever self-googles and reads this site, let it be known that I think you do good work, Pixar-Dan-McCoy. Top notch stuff, really. Fuck Dreamworks.

The most unusual visit came as a result of a search for "nude Kim Cattrall." I can only assume that this is because I made an offhand reference making fun of Mannequin in my TV listings reviewer humor piece. What I find odd, though, is that someone would get here because of that one reference, considering how often Kim Cattrall has taken off her clothes. I mean, starting way back in Porky's, that's pretty much been her M.O., hasn't it? And I don't mean to slam Kim Cattrall. I loathe Sex in the City, but I do think it shows that she's a pretty talented light comic actress. Plus, I'm certainly not against women doing nude scenes. Basically, what I'm saying is that if you're looking for a naked Kim Cattrall through my blog, you're doing things the hard way.

God... again, now I'm going to have more people looking for naked pictures, through my blog. Stupid keywords. Not that I mind the traffic, I just can't bear the thought of disappointing all those poor misguided porn hounds.

Oh well. Keep looking, guys! I'm sure you'll eventually find something to get off to. I have faith in you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Muted Laughter

Here are a few of last Sunday's jokes. You can taste the hilarity. Or you could, if I was delivering them, rather than you just reading them-- which (face it) is the least funny way to encounter monologue one-liners. Do you ever laugh aloud when you read a recap of late-night jokes in magazines? Still, I want to stick up the occasional humor tidbits on this blog, and recycle old material, so here we are. I look forward to your mild inner smiles of vague appreciation...

A three-year study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania, found that the vast majority of chimps are left-handed. So if you're ever up against a baseball-playing chimp, look alive in right field!

Rap mogul Sean P. Diddy Combs announced last week that, rather than P. Diddy, he wants to be called just Diddy. This last week I also revealed my new name, which is: "Dan 'Doesn't-Give-a-Fuck-What-Sean-Combs-Calls-Himself.'"

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson's white Lincoln Continental convertible was put up for auction last week. The car in question is a little bit of history, but it is also one of the many chilling LBJ-Abraham Lincoln coincidences. For instance Lyndon Johnson drove a white Lincoln Continental, while Lincoln angered whites in the southern part of the continent by freeing the slaves. Oh, and also Lincon screwed a woman called Ladybird. Little-known fact.

Marilyn Monroe's last surviving husband, James Dougherty, died in California this Monday at the age of 84. Dougherty, a retired Los Angeles detective and former local politician in Maine married the then 16-year-old Monroe in 1942 and their union lasted four years. His tombstone will read, "I may be dead, but I had sex with Marilyn Monroe when she was sixteen. Eat it, non-corpses!"

After several competitive rounds of shrieking and oinking, the father-son team of Yohann and Olivier Roussel were crowned France's official Pig-Squealing Champions for 2005, this last Sunday. The American Pig-Squealing Champion is, of course, Ned Beatty.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Tired Monday Bloggery

The destruction of the copier was a rousing success. I can say with authority that you haven't lived until you've seen a woman smash a copy machine with a sledgehammer, to the tune of "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins.

Perhaps Sara got some pictures of the big event, and will post them. If not, you're out of luck. That'll teach you for not coming to the show.

In other news, The Onion has started a blog, which is good news for a guy like me whose work day consists of 10% work and 90% Internet time. I mention it here, because this post contains some apropos-of-nothing love for Brian Stack, which I heartily second. When we had him on Sara Schaefer is Obsessed With You he couldn't have been nicer or more interested in chatting with all of us before the show, and his interview segment was tops. All hail Stack!

Friday, August 19, 2005


I just discovered that a spec sitcom script I wrote (a Scrubs episode, titled "My Fake Family") was a finalist in a TV spec competition I entered. Check it.

As far as I can tell, I don't win anything (well, maybe some books on screenwriting-- it's hard to tell. They list a prize for "2nd place" and as far as I can see there is no second place, just 1st place and finalists. If I'd won I would've gotten $500. So close!). But I'm still excited. After all, it's something I can mention in my agent query letters, to slow down my inevitable relegation to the slush pile. Plus, it was the first such script I ever wrote. So I assume I'll only get better. I certainly hope so, since the alternative would be pretty depressing.

Anyway, I can finally hold my head high and say I really came very close to winning a TV writing competition. Yeah!

Bored on Tuesdays?

You all know me-- I'm self-centered, and I rarely plug other people's shows. Those jerks can fend for themselves. This is my poorly-read performance calendar/ blog, dammit. Other people can post their own cries for help on the Internet.

The other reason is: I rarely make it out to comedy shows. Consider this a blanket non-apology for all my friends' things I've missed, but there are two reasons for my low attendance:

  1. I'm lazy.
  2. I'm married.

Thus, after you factor in my day jobbiness and the shows I do and things I write for, I just want to hang out on the couch with my wife and my cat and watch full seasons of 24 on DVD. Which will probably be my downfall, someday, since I should be out "networking," but damn that Jack Bauer is a tough bastard.

Still, sometimes I get off my ass and go see someone else's show. One such occasion was this past Tuesday, when I finally, finally, saw Andres Du Bouchet's show, Gigantic Tuesday Night of Amazing Inventions and Also There is a Game. I realize I'm way behind the curve on this one. Sure it won the 2004 ECNY for Best Variety Show. Sure, Time Out NY consistantly reccommends it. Sure, Andres was one of Back Stage's comedy Best Bets for 2004-- an honor bestowed in 2005 upon a couple of other people I know. Also, yes fine, I met Andres over a year ago, when Ritch Duncan and I took part in a reading of humor pieces, and the three of us went out afterwards to drink and make fun of one of the other readers.

On the other hand:

  1. Lazy
  2. Married

The point is, I know Andres doesn't need my help (when I went, the place was packed), and even if he did, my endorsement might be worth one extra audience member at most. Still, I was impressed enough by the show that I had to post something about it. If you're like me, and you never see shows, this is the one that should make you break that lazy streak. The committment that the performer exhibited-- the real comic acting (remember that? acting?) that supported the cleverly written bits was a real inspiration. Andres almost made me believe that he was Francisco Guglioni, native of Boliviguay, the tiny Latin-American Extravaganzocracy, where virtually every citizen hosts their own show. And the ensemble brought the same level of committment to every sketch.

Plus it's free (although The Apiary claims that Rififfi might stick in a one-drink minimum someday).

Best of all, I was one of the winners of the "and Also There is a Game" part of Gigantic Tuesday Night of Amazing Inventions and Also There is a Game. I correctly identified "Monkey" as the word most often used in NYC improv-team-names. The prizes that were distributed to winning audience members were old pornographic videotapes that writer Michael Reisman was getting rid of to "...make room for the baby's crib." I was the proud recipient of "Deep Inside Sindee Coxx" a compilation tape padded with interview segments that take the time to help us really get to know what Sindee Coxx feels about things.

I'd like to close this inordinately long post by noting the special brilliance of the porn name Sindee Coxx. To wit:

  • Eschewing the normal spelling of Cindy, in favor of "Sindee," allows "Sin" to be part of her name.
  • "Coxx" = Cocks. Get it?
  • The double X at the end of Coxx refers to the pornographic nature of her films, and provides an eloquent echo of the double E in her first name.

See what I mean? It works on so many levels.

All right, enough of this. Go see Andres in GTN. And see me in Sara Schaefer is Obsessed With You, tonight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Contest Deadline

The Smash Sara Schaefer's Copy Machine contest is nearing its deadline. Get those entries in by 5 PM today, people!

For the official contest description, etc., visit Sara's website.


Monday, August 15, 2005

A Fine Guest Indeed

For our upcoming last-show-of-the-summer, "Casual Friday," Sara Schaefer is Obsessed With You (the one where we're destroying the copy machine, as seen in Gothamist-- you can still get your contest entries in) Sara will be interviewing a lady who's certainly my favorite Law and Order Guest ever:


Liz is one of my oldest and best college friends, and one of the sweetest, most fun, awesome-tastic-est (shut up) people you're liable to meet, and she's just one more reason to come and see this great show.


The number of visitors to my blog now equals the current year.

This means that my blog will explode! Please duck and cover.

Greenblatt on Film

The last (for now) in my astoundingly popular (not one comment!) series archiving my past humor pieces that ran in Jest, is a little number I like to call...

Greenblatt On Film

Though nearly forgotten today, Todd Greenblatt was, for years, one of America’s most influential film critics. He labored not in the high-glamour, fast-paced world of the Arts and Entertainment section—no, his contributions were to be found in the TV listings, the newspaper’s bastard child, which appears every weekend to be promptly stuffed in a basket near the television and glanced at when needed. Yet, Greenblatt’s trenchant insight and unfailing good taste were rewarded in 1981 when he became the first television listings critic to be awarded a Pulitzer prize, an honor he received yet again just before his death in 2001. Here is a typical example of his art, from the New York Times, week of October 10-17, 1993:

4 [NBC] 12:00 – 2:00 (Movie) Drop Dead Fred: 1991. Color, 103 min. Phoebe Cates deals with imaginary friend (Rik Mayall). Insipid.

In just one word, Greenblatt captures the essence of Drop Dead Fred, striking to its hollow core with witty insight (and eviscerating it much more effectively than J. Hoberman’s legendary 2184-word review in the Village Voice).
Greenblatt began as an old-fashioned newspaper man, covering city council meetings for the “Notes” column. His minutes from this period reflect some of the terse wisdom he later brought to bear on his film reviews.

“Councilman Ryan raised concerns regarding non-functioning stoplight at 23rd. Called for vote on new light. Passed by a margin of 8-0. Light sure to be appreciated by all.”

It was this extra attention to the needs of the community that caught the eye of his editor, the beloved Henry McManus. McManus had long sought for someone to take over the demanding Movies on Television beat (the previous reviewer, Scott “Old Scotty” Tolan, had collapsed from exhaustion, undone by the crushing schedule required to watch and review every film to appear on televison in a given week).
McManus knew of Greenblatt’s reputation as a film buff, having been subjected to opinions on the oeuvres of various directors while working the newsroom. (Greenblatt on Hitchcock: “Riveting.” Greenblatt on Renoir: “Enchanting.” Greenblatt on Goddard: “Confusing.”) So he tossed the cub reporter a bone—the coveted listings position. Greenblatt was only 23, the youngest reporter ever awarded the job.
While many were convinced young Greenblatt would fail, (Federico Ozols, editor of the Latin Tempo section is famously quoted as saying “I’ll bet Todd just calls every movie ‘diverting’”) he quieted his critics with his very first review:

2 [CBS] 2:00 – 4:00 (Movie) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: 1978. Color, 113 min. Bee Gees in Beatles musical. Worthless.

Everyone agreed that the Bee Gees’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was indeed worthless. And thus Greenblatt’s reputation was made.
From the beginning, Greenblatt caught the eye of a number of other influential critics, including Andrew Sarris, Francois Truffaut, and most significantly Pauline Kael with whom he had a brief romantic dalliance. (Years later, when asked how Greenblatt was as a lover, the notoriously spiky Kael snorted, “Short. Like his reviews.”) Kael and Greenblatt enjoyed a friendly rivalry, and in 1981, on the 10th anniversary of the publication of Kael’s famous essay “Raising Kane,” this listing appeared in The Times:

4 [NBC] 8:00 – 10:30 (Movie) Citizen Kane: 1941. B&W, 119 min. Orson Welles’ masterpiece. Greatest movie of all time?

The review elegantly sums up the prevailing thought on Kane, acknowledging its stature, while the question mark gently allows for the possibility that it may not be the absolute highest in film art. Years later, in one of her final interviews, Kael acknowledged that, “When all is said and done… [Greenblatt] had the last word on [Citizen] Kane.” The Pulitzer committee agreed.
* * *
At the height of his power, Greenblatt enjoyed not only respect of the highbrow film community and the larger American movie-viewing public. Consider this listing for February 28, 1983:

7 [ABC] 8:00 – 10:00 (Movie) Frogs: 1972. Color, 91 min. Big frogs terrorize Ray Milland. Don’t bother.
America agreed, heeding his warning. Viewers didn’t bother with Frogs, as a nation united, deciding instead to watch the series finale of M*A*S*H.
As the years passed, Greenblatt had to contend with a number of annoyances. One of the most insulting was the brief adoption of a star-based rating system. Grenblatt’s respected editor of many years had passed away, and the new editor, Tina O’Brian, decided that the listings lacked “visual flair” and “instant readability.” Thus, in 1992, the following review appeared:

40 [USA] 11:00 – 1:00 (Movie) Arachnophobia: 1990. Color, 103 min. Poison spiders terrorize Jeff Daniels. **1/2

While everyone agreed that Arachnophobia was the very epitome of a two and a half star film[1], Greenblatt was furious. According to legend, he stormed into O’Brian’s office, screaming, “What does two and a half stars tell people that the word ‘Watchable’ does not?! Fuck your G—damned stars! I’m a writer, not an astronaut!” O’Brian held firm, until Greenblatt threatened to accept a job with Le Monde (his review of Goddard’s work—“Le Oeuvre de Goddard est Confondre”—had caused a splash in France, resulting in lucrative offers). Fearing readers would cancel their subscriptions if he left, O’Brian caved. The star system was quietly phased out within the week.
More frustration came from imitators. In the 90’s, several critics attempted to mimic Greenblatt’s style, including Jonathan Duvoisin of the Boston Globe:

35 [TNN] 2:00 – 4:00 (Film) Every Which Way But Loose: 1978. Color, 110 min. Clint and a chimp. Monkey-tastic.

Failed attempt at humor aside, one wonders what sort of review “monkey-tastic” is supposed to be. Is it positive? Negative? The reader is left unsure whether he or she should watch this monkey-tastic film. Another imitator was Francis Galloway of the Dayton Daily News:

300 [HBO] 10:00 – 12:15 (Movie) Good Will Hunting: 1997. Color, 126 minutes. Matt Damon is a brilliant but troubled guy from Boston, whose therapist is Robin Williams. Basically a good movie. A little predictable, especially coming from Gus Van Sant who did all those art films, plus, who buys Matt Damon as a genius, and did Robin Williams really deserve the Oscar for best supporting actor? I was rooting for Burt Reynolds for Boogie Nights, and Matt and Ben Affleck winning the best original screenplay Oscar? That’s lame even if they actually wrote it (my cousin said it was William Goldman). Could be shorter too.

Physician heal thyself. Galloway’s overlong reviews soon cost the Daily News untold thousands in extra paper. Both he and Duvoisin were quickly fired from their respective posts, and Greenblatt was again the undisputed king of his field.
In his later years, he made the jump to television, contributing to the TV Guide channel’s daily listings, a move that cost him several highbrow critic friends who worried that abandoning print journalism would mean pandering soundbites. He also continued to review for the newspaper, though some feel that he was overextended. They point to his controversial review of June 19, 2000:

5 [Fox] 9:00 – 11:00 (Movie) Mannequin: 1987. Color, 90 min. Andrew McCarthy falls for a mannequin (Kim Catrall). Fun.

Fun? Was it really? Many say no.
However, like the great Orson Welles, whose Citizen Kane made his reputation, Greenblatt’s downfall came when he aroused the ire of a media giant. Instead of Welles’ William Randolph Hearst, the man Greenblatt angered was Ted Turner, of the Turner networks. In one evening, Greenblat’s TBS Superstation listings read as follows:

8 [TBS] 6:05 – 8:05 (Movie) For Your Eyes Only: 1981. Color, 127 min. A James Bond movie on TBS. What a surprise!
8 [TBS] 8:05 – 10:35 (Movie) The Blues Brothers: 1980. Color, 133 min. This may be your last chance to watch The Blues Brothers this week.
8 [TBS] 10:35 – 12:35 (Movie) Brewster’s Millions: 1985. Color, 97 min. Oh great. This is never on TV.

And those reviews are just a sample (his listings during TBS’s “13 days of Bond” are too obscene to be reprinted here). Exhausted from Turner’s programming schedule, Greenblatt attacked his stations week after week, until Turner grew tired of the editorializing. A fed up Ted Turner phoned a few key media friends, and at the age of 50, Todd Greenblatt was out of a job.
He died soon thereafter. His reason for living had always been to help the television viewers of this country use their time wisely. When he was no longer allowed to fulfill his purpose, he found that his own time was up. His death went unnoticed by all but the most devoted film lovers, but a careful examination of The New York Times obituary section for July 10, 2001 reveals this notice:

51 [Dead at] 1950 – 2001 (Person) Todd Greenblatt: Reviewer. Caucasian, approx. 26,805,600 min. TV listings critic of note. Delightful.


[1] History has borne him out, as Arachnophobia is the film most often awarded the two and a half star rating in a survey of over 1,000 top movie guides.

Friday, August 12, 2005


It's a very special time in a young man's life, when the number of visitors to his blog equal the year he was born.

Early New Yorker Edition

And now, for the latest in my series republishing old Jest pieces, we have this bit of humor-- out of date only in that Richard Avadon has since passed away...

Early New Yorker Edition

“Damn.” I muttered, as I examined the contents of mailbox 3G, St. Marks Place, number 18. “Wrong again.”
Aside from various bills, I held a New Yorker, addressed to me, Adam Shaw. That’s normal. I’ve been a subscriber since my birthday, eight months ago. My girlfriend signed me up to counter the embarrassment she feels when I skim Us Weekly. What was unusual was the date. The cover read October 20, 2003; and today was decidedly the 13th.
You see, since the start, I’d been receiving next week’s New Yorker. Not some early printing delivered by mistake, but an actual copy of New York’s foremost cultural and literary magazine—from the future.
The first hint of something strange came months ago, when I happened to remark upon a cartoon that tickled me. When speaking with friends at a bar, I said, “Hey, anyone see that Koren comic with the bumpy, furry guy, and he says something like ‘I had hoped you’d love me in spite of my flaws’? Cracked my shit up.” There was a deafening silence. I attempted to recover. “No? Well then you simply must have seen Roz Chast’s page on the 11 kinds of mother worry.” I could tell by their faces that they had not. I was about to forge ahead, when I felt my girlfriend’s hand, gently, on my shoulder. I shut up, and my friend Phil changed the subject to the Yankees’ recent loss.
Still, it stuck with me, the sense that something was amiss. The next evening I was walking home from work, when I passed a newsstand. The New Yorker was front and center, but instead of Art Speigelman’s whimsical pastel portrait of orthodox rabbis and Muslim taxi drivers waltzing together (which graced my copy) there was an issue I’d never seen before, sporting a watercolor of George W. Bush at a dog run, the dogs caricatures of the Democratic presidential candidate.
“Good God, what’s happening?” My head awhirl, I ran home, snatched the New Yorker from its place on my mantle, and sped back to the mysterious newsstand.
“What’s the meaning of this?” I demanded, shaking my 101 pages of essays, arts, and in-depth reportage.
The vendor narrowed his eyes. “I ask you same thing.”
“Is this, or is this not the New Yorker I have in my hand?”
“Maybe is, maybe isn’t. Give to me to see.” I handed him the offending magazine. He glanced at it, then knit his brows and fixed me with a furious stare. “Get away my stand.” he growled.
“But, sir…” I said.
“We deal in honest New Yorker here.” He struck the stack of magazines, sending one skidding into the gutter. “Honest. No phony!”
I struggled to regain my conversational footing. “Sir, I don’t know what you mean…”
“Get away! This is law abiding stand. Take counterfeit and go! Go before I call Richard Avadon, and have you arrested.”
Faced by this threatening prospect, I ran.

* * * *

Over time, the truth became clear, A whole month of showing up to Whitney exhibits one week early, convinced me that I had been selected for a special destiny. I had been granted a window into the future, and this was both my blessing and my curse.
Dropping my keys on the end table as I entered the apartment, I swept aside old pizza boxes, napkins, photos of myself in the nude, the accumulated detritus of my counter to make room for the latest issue. I opened it, flipping past the performance notes until I found what I was looking for—The Talk of the Town. I skimmed the columns. A whimsical black and white line drawing portrayed an owl in a concierge’s uniform holding a pair of binoculars. The looked down at some men in suits, who pointed up, agog. Above this, a red headline reading, “Department of Wildlife” followed by “Checking Owt” in black. I read:

Visitors to our city have always been dismayed
by its lack of aviaries, particularly in
metropolitan areas. Earlier this month a group
of philanthropic owls took it upon themselves to
correct this oversight by moving into the
condemned New York Grand Hotel on the
corner of 14th and Broadway.
The owls in question, beyond their impeccable
taste in luxury accommodation, are distinguished by
their rarity. These are spotted owls, a breed
traditionally confined to the Northwest, preferring,
as they do, old-growth forests (old-growth deco
interiors do not count). Their miraculous appearance
has created a new Mecca for conservationists on 14th
street, and has stayed, for the moment, the Grand’s
planned demolition.In fact, the hotel has become
a moneymaker for the first time in years, offering
expensive birding tours. Reports suggest that room
service is also doing a brisk business in mice.

"Not on my watch.” I muttered, as I grabbed my keys and strode, with a new sense of purpose, toward the door.

* * * *

On the way to 14th and Broadway I checked my cell phone, discovering (with no surprise whatsoever) that Fisher had left another pleading message.
Fisher’s been a buddy since college, when he convinced me not to major in business management, so in a way, he saved my life. I’ll always be beholden to him, but lately he’s become difficult to bear. In school, his first words to me were, “I’ll bet you I can drink this bottle of Schnapps,” and gambling and booze have been his twin obsessions ever since. Ever since I’d begun receiving magazine-shaped missives from the future, he’d been working every angle. I didn’t even know he’d ever seen a New Yorker until I heard he’d made a mint in Vegas, from betting the rag would pan Alice Sebold’s latest novel. I thought he’d worked it out of his system until I heard he got in trouble with some mobsters for choosing to bet against Michael Chabon. Since then he’s been on the lookout for the next literary long-shot, but I’ve kept an eye on him—for his own good. The ‘Yorker is not to be used for personal gain.
“Adam…” He sounded nervous. “Adam, you gotta let me see the new issue, you just gotta. Listen.” A pause. “I’m in a bit of a jam here. I got so used to having the inside information, I got greedy. I had to bet on something, even if I couldn’t be sure. So I put a little money—just a little, y’know?— on George Plimpton contributing in September. Turns out Plimpton writes for the Paris Review. Plus he died. So now I gotta try and make the cash up. I put some dough on ‘Shouts and Murmurs’ being more clever than funny, but it turns out the Nevada odds on that are 1-1. Time’s running out… I gotta get something Adam, that’s all. A scrap. They’re gonna break my toe!” The message cut off.
So he was in trouble again. Well, he was just going to have to deal with it. A month with a cane might do him some good. I had owls to visit.

* * * *

Getting into the old hotel was easy. After all, no-one knew about the owls yet, so there weren’t that many people around—just a security guard, and no guard gets paid well enough to worry about a condemned building. I snuck right in. The birds took a little while to find, but I wasn’t in any hurry. Floor by floor I made my rounds, until I heard a suspicious scuffling in the dumbwaiter. Owls aren’t too hard to scare off, especially when they’re out of their element. I opened every window and door, and one by one, I lit the firecrackers I’d brought with me, tossing each one strategically for the maximum scare. There was a great flapping of wings, and for a moment it seemed as if I was surrounded. Then, like the last kernels of popping corn, the noise slowly died out. Owls, about twenty of them, could be seen out the window, flying into the distance. “That’s one more thing the town won’t be talking about.” I said to myself.
“What are you doing?” said the confused old security guard, standing at the top of the stairs.
“Only my duty, old man. Only my duty.” I said.

* * * *

The October 20th newsstand copy of the New Yorker made no reference to any bird hotel. In fact, the only mention of the hotel on 14th street was a brief blurb in the back of that Sunday’s Times, noting that the old hotel had been demolished, as planned. I didn’t care. I’d already received the October 27 New Yorker. It told of a reunion, 50 odd years later, of three jazz musicians who had happened to serve in the same company during WWII. By sheer coincidence, the old comrades-in-arms had run into one another on the A train, and were planning a special concert at the Vanguard the following week. The theme would be wartime standards. “Not on my watch.” I muttered.

* * * *

Sometimes my girlfriend asks me why I do it. “Why,” she says, “do you care if these things happen or not? They’re fun stories—neat examples of all the little anecdotal things that happen in this great city every week. I’m sure they enrich the lives of all the people involved, and people certainly enjoy reading about them. Jesus. I just don’t get why you have to run around the city stopping them. Why, Adam? Why?”
I never answer; I just shrug. Then she shrugs, and makes a face, and leaves.
If she has to ask, she’ll never understand.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Get Those Contest Entries In, People!

Gothamist supports our wanton destruction...

...As does The Apiary (they even dug up a rare picture of Sara in her Gallagher phase).

The DEATH of the Copier -- coming soon.

Bush Beatability

The latest in my continuing series, bringing you old pieces I wrote, is this now-completely-outdated bit of humor. Still, cast your mind back to a magical time when Bush's second term kinda sorta looked like it might not happen and perhaps you'll enjoy this piece, titled:

Bush Beatability

Throughout the Democratic primary season, one concern remained constant—nominating a candidate that could potentially beat Bush. In fact, the question of who might successfully take on the president was brought up so frequently that one might begin to imagine that Bush-beatability was the only factor that mattered (worse yet, one might begin to imagine that “Bush-beatability” is a grammatically correct phrase). In that spirit, we suggest several theoretical Democratic candidates, judged solely by their likelihood of winning an Election Day match-up with George W. Bush.

Mickey Mouse
Vital Statistics: Septuagenarian flagship character for the Walt Disney company. Developed through pioneering animated shorts by Ub Iwerks, including Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon. Suddenly developed pupils circa 1940; later years have been spent primarily in Orlando.
Pros: Beloved icon, recognized worldwide.
Cons: Is cartoon mouse.
Likelihood of beating Bush: Popular write-in choice (though many would prefer a Pixar candidacy).

Vital Statistics: Famed Bethlehem carpenter/ religious leader.
Pros: Son of God.
Cons: Liable to alienate corporate Republican base with his, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" stump speech.
Likelihood of beating Bush: America not ready to elect Jewish president.

Tom Hanks
Vital Statistics: One of America’s most popular movie stars, a two-time Oscar winner, considered by many to be the next Jimmy Stewart.
Pros: Experience with The Money Pit taught him fiscal responsibility.
Cons: Gay marriage opponents likely to be distressed by his cross-dressing relationship with Peter Scolari.
Likelihood of beating Bush: Good, but CAA is asking 20 million per term, plus a cut of the back end.

Jimmy Stewart
Vital Statistics: When Jack Warner heard about Reagan’s presidential candidacy, he said, "No. That can't be right. Ronald Reagan for best friend. Jimmy Stewart for president." The day Jack Warner’s endorsement carries no weight is the day America loses its very soul. As for Sam Warner, fuck that jerk.
Pros: “Mr. Stewart Goes to Washington” campaign could be a barn-burner.
Cons: Rotting in the ground.
Likelihood of beating Bush: Stewart is the zombie to beat, as long as he can contain his hunger for human brains.

Vital Statistics: Employed for hundreds of years by British Royals to walk through woodland areas, beating undergrowth and brush in order to scare pheasants, quail, and other game into the open so that hunters can shoot them. Typically young outdoorsmen, with a good understanding of local wildlife and topography.
Pros: Years of experience beating bushes.
Cons: Unlikely to attract key ASPCA endorsement.
Likelihood of beating Bush: High—but aforementioned bush-beating experience is unlikely to translate effectively to political arena.

William Rouverol
Vital Statistics: Inventor of the punch-card ballot machine.
Pros: If anyone can hack the system, it’s him.
Cons: Voting fraud in a national election is a federal offense tantamount to treason. Plus, have you heard Rouverol’s economic policies? Talk about pie-in-the-sky!
Likelihood of beating Bush: Don’t tempt us.

Variegated Weigela Bush (Weigela florida Variegata)
Vital Statistics: A deciduous flowering shrub with pink blossoms that bloom in Spring and again throughout the summer. Usually grows from four to six feet high, with gray leaves sporting a gold edge and a shiny green center.
Pros: A real hummingbird magnet!
Cons: Native to Florida. Probably won’t flourish in the colder Washington D.C. climate.
Likelihood of beating Bush: The presence of a V. W. Bush next to G. W. Bush on the ballot may confuse some, leading to accidental republican defections. However, the Variegated Weigela is unlikely to lure independent voters.

Hulk Hogan
Vital Statistics: 80’s wrestling icon and the star of “Mr. Nanny.”
Pros: Of all the potential candidates, most likely to utilize the piledriver, clothesline, or half-nelson. Most importantly, our sources tell us that Bush is particularly vulnerable to the Sleeper Cross-Face Half-Nelson with Russian Leg Sweep, especially when followed by the deadly Gutwrench Suplex.
Cons: Bush is surrounded by secret service agents. With guns.
Likelihood of beating Bush: In Rocky III, Hogan played a character named “Thunderlips.” Interpret that as you will.

The American Bald Eagle
Vital Statistics: Haliaeetus leucocephalus. The symbol of America—majestic, imposing, and grand. An emblem of freedom across the land.
Pros: Impressive gravitas.
Cons: Baldness a liability in the television age.
Likelihood of beating Bush: Poor. Most eagles don’t live beyond the age of 30, and the constitution clearly states that the president must be older than 35.

Osama Bin Laden
Vital Statistics: Presumed mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Pros: Has element of surprise. Candidacy completely unexpected.
Cons: Hated by all.
Likelihood of beating Bush: It depends on the economy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

At Sara Schaefer is Obsessed With You, Friday, August 19, a copy machine will die.

...And one lucky winner will help kill it!

This is not the actual SSIOWY copier, but it will serve as an adequate visual aid for those of you who have never seen a copier before.

Why? Because it's huge and doesn't work. Plus, it feels good to destroy something in front of a live audience.

Here's how you enter:Show us why you deserve to destroy the copy machine! Submit your funniest, most outrageous true office story, e-mail, voicemail, powerpoint, fax, object, picture, etc. by Wednesday August 17 at 5 p.m. We will choose finalists who will present their entry on stage!

Our celebrity judge, BRIAN HUSKEY (UCB, Best Week Ever, etc.), will join Sara, the S.S.I.O.W.Y. writers, and the audience in picking the winner.

The winner will not only aid in obliterating the copy machine, but he or she will also choose the background music to which said copier will be annihilated. No doubt, an opportunity of a lifetime.

Submit entries to schaefersara@earthlink.net -- and even if you don't enter the contest, come to the show hungry for toner!

McSweeney's Quarterly Back Issue Order Form

The second in my "archiving old Jest humor pieces series" is perhaps my favorite thing I wrote for that magazine. It's the piece that got me blogged in New Yorkish; the piece that made future fellow-Sara Schaefer is Obsessed With You writer Amanda Melson sit up and say, "Who is this Dan McCoy?" and the piece that, when I pressed it into his hands, made former McSweeney's writer Neal Pollack look nonplussed and say, "Yeah, there have been a bunch of McSweeney's parodies."

Ye mighty, gaze upon the...

M c S W E E N E Y ’ S Q U A R T E R L Y
B A C K I S S U E O R D E R F O R M .


Issue 1
To purchase, please go to a McSweeney’s 100 bookstore near you (a list of participating independent retailers may be found online at Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency). Conversely, you may order a copy online at the aforementioned web site, or send $21.95 to the address listed in the endnotes.


Issue 2
Issue two has been engraved on card stock, and can be assembled to create scale models, which depict the houses of the authors whose stories may be found within. As the construction of these models is fairly complex, Dave Eggers requests that those wishing to buy issue two write him a personal note, and he will mail them a copy, complete with detailed instructions.


Issue 3
The third issue was printed entirely on strips of hickory bark, and published in limited numbers. Act soon. Supplies are limited, owing to a particularly cold winter.


Issue 4
The stories included in issue four are meant to be read while listening to a specially commissioned composition for piano, by Philip Glass, the sheet music for which can be found printed on the inner binding. As the piece demands several difficult fingerings, Mr. Glass insists that he perform it himself. Co-ordinating your schedule with that of Mr. Glass is solely your concern, as is any remuneration he may require.


Issue 5
The only existing copy of issue five has been mailed to J.D. Salinger. We encourage those of you who enjoy a challenge to obtain it from him.


Issue 6
On the coldest night of the year, stand at a crossroads. When the moon just hits the crest of the horizon, put shovel to dirt. At a depth of six spans, less one ell, find an earthen vessel. Smash it quick, and from the shards draw seven splinters, bearing four consonants and three vowels. These letters are a surname, to be confirmed by careful study of the county’s records of birth. If you have followed these directions true, the name shall be revealed to you. The disclosed man is a dwarf. Issue six has been tattooed on his torso. Should you wish to revisit the stories from issue six at a later date, the aforementioned gentleman allows readers to take Polaroids, but color copies are expressly forbidden.


Issue 7
Go to the lake isle of Innisfree. Sit on its shores. As the season turns, the wind will whisper issue seven into your ears.


Issue 8
Sit on the fire escape directly across from the McSweeney’s offices on August the 12th, at precisely 8:47 PM. Employing a Nikon camera, equipped with a telephoto lens and high-speed film, take pictures of Rick Moody, Nick Hornby, and Sarah Vowell engaged in an amorous clinch. Blow up the incriminating snaps on 8 1/2 by 11 photo paper, and enclose them in a manila envelope. Compose a threatening epistle, by cutting brightly colored individual letters from popular magazines and assembling them as appropriate. Send the photographs and the letter to us via personal messenger. In return, we will send you issue eight, in a series of plain brown wrappers, bearing non-consecutive serial numbers.


Issue Q
There is no issue Q.*

Issue 9
Lead a blameless life. When you die, ascend to heaven, where all the wondrous majesty of issue nine will be made known to you. (Special bonus: Issue nine includes an essay by David Foster Wallace, about ice cream.)

*At least, in this dimension.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Some Old Comedy

Hey. Since the Jest site is being rejiggered, and--at least for now--no longer holds any archived pieces (and a lot of my stuff was never put online in the first place), I'm gonna, over the next couple of days, post some of the things I wrote for them up here.

As far as I've been able to ascertain, I retain the rights to do this (at least with stuff that was published more than six months ago) as long as I make it clear that this material was originally published in Jest. Which it was. Jest, Jest, Jest! Contractual obligation filled! Plus, when the new Jest website is up, I'll let you guys know, and you can see all-new material from yours truly.

But for now, let's start off by revisiting my very first work for that publication, the piece that first brought me to the attention of then-editor Ritch Duncan:

Variations on Four Themes by Shakespeare

Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
You lack the pungent aroma of barbecue
but are much less likely to cause skin cancer

Shall I compare thee to a blood-fattened tick?
Thou art less likely to give me lyme disease,
but I think your deodorant is giving me a rash

Shall I compère for thee at the open mic night?
Write me some salty dialogue and perhaps I shall.

Shall I compare thee to the most beautiful woman in the world?
Are you sure? Don’t say I didn’t warn thee.

Sonnet 130
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
nor like the moon, neither;
nor like coffee-grounds in their discarded filter.
Also, they do not resemble limpid pools of half-melted butter,
and they are nothing like those of Don Knotts

My mistress’ breasts are not unlike two huge balloons, or perchance two smaller offshoots of a much larger balloon, such as one might find on balloons depicting Mickey Mouse

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.
They are not a swirling mass of hydrogen and helium;
nor are they 93 million miles away, preferring, as they do, to rest in her eye sockets;
nor by any stretch of the imagination would one call them life-giving,
although they are a nice shade of greeny-gray.

Sonnet 71
No longer mourn for me when I am dead.
Instead, agonize about how you should have been nicer to me when I was alive.

Sonnet 30
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
and I think once more,
I should have made a pass at Sally Ann Chambers that one time in middle school

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past.
Picking up Swann’s Way
I reflect: Seven volumes is too much.
And I wait, in vain,
for the movie

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Sara Schaefer Recap Fun

Friday's Sara Schaefer is Obsessed With You was one of the best yet, with great office sketches, and an extremely candid interview with Neal Pollack (he even talked about this stuff).

The sketches involved our efforts to start an office newsletter; our break into factions, and the newsletter wars that resulted (with many of us talking in old-timey newspaper voices for no good reason); and the ever-more-absurd competing publications that resulted. We also did mock-ups of the newsletters' covers to project on the back screen during the scenes, and I thought you might enjoy seeing some of those visuals. Here are the two that I put together (the others were done by Sara).



Ah, the hilarity of me in boxers.

Also: Neal Pollack was a great sport, especially when it came to poking fun at himself. He even appeared in the final beat of our office sketches. He was such a good sport that it's worth recapping in full:

After his interview he went backstage with Sara, and an announcer (me) explained that "...they came upon a horrific scene. The office newsletter conflict that had begun 2 sketches ago had erupted into a full-blown war." Through a series of events that would take too long to explain, Sara managed to bring the office back together by singing "Diff'rent Strokes." However, just at the end of the bridge, Neal Pollack came out to release a dove into the air, in a gesture of peace. Unfortunately, the dove is dead and simply falls to the floor. At this point, it's best to just let the script tell the story...

Oh great, Neal Pollack, way to go. I suppose you'regoing to blame that one on your persona?

[joining in]
Yeah, good one Neal Pollack! You’re horrible! Neal Pollack is a jerk! Your uin everything! Never mind the Pollacks indeed, sir!

[Just then a voice comes over the PA]

Hey! Everybody! Calm down.

Who are you?

I’m Dave Eggers.

[Everyone gasps]

I just bought this theater to add to my finely honed empire of whimsy. Anyway, you guys, look at yourselves. We need to stop tearing each other down – and come together! Sure, sometimes we get into media wars with people we love and respect, people we owe most of our success to, and sometimes we get into fights with Neal Pollack.

Thanks a lot Eggers!

That was more whimsy, Neal! Do I need to remind you that I teach children to read?

No, no. (sigh)

Listen kids, don't let an office newsletter divide you, certainly not when it's printed on such poor quality paper!

He's right, you know.

Thanks Neal, you're not so bad yourself...

Because it takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world. Yes it does. It takes, Diff'rent Strokes to move the world.

Dave Eggers is the best!

[as they exit]
Yay! Eggers rules! I loved “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”! I'm going to go buy that book of his that you can't buy in stores!

[Neal Pollack is left alone on stage, with a spotlight on him. The sad music from the end of the Incredible Hulk comes on. He turns, picks up a knapsack, and walks off slowly, pretends to hitchhike. The lights slowly fade to black.]

Ah, poignant and hilarious-- great stuff from Sara and Amanda, who had the biggest hand in writing the final beat (I worked most on the second part... which also went off really well, but I'm not posting the whole show for you suckers. Come to the theater and pay for a ticket).