We’re proud to announce the publication of The Beautiful Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Collins, now available in trade paperback from TNB Books, the official imprint of The Nervous Breakdown.

The Beautiful Anthology can be purchased at Amazon.  To order your copy, please click right here.  (Note:  in the coming days, TBA will be available via other retailers like Powell’s and BN.com.  Ebook editions are also forthcoming.)

James D. Irwin has been writing for The Nervous Breakdown for several years. He is 23 years old and lives in England. Irwin’s writing is featured in TNB Books’ THE BEAUTIFUL ANTHOLOGY, on sale June 9 wherever books are available online.

 

What is NOT beautiful to you?

The majority of modern art. I went to a gallery once and somebody had smeared cake on a table. That isn’t art. It’s a good afternoon tea spoiled.

The title of this piece comes from the 1993 Rush album of the same name. It’s not about Rush, but it’s an apt title for a conversation between two college students in their early twenties who study at college, enjoy the music of Rush, and engage in the barbaric sport of stand up comedy. However, whilst we’re similar, we live on either side of the Atlantic ocean. We’re counterparts, geddit?!

This discussion was carried out two months ago. I am a British person, and my words appear in bold. Riley Fox is my American counterpart, and his words appear in italics.

When did you do your first stand up show, and what prompted you into doing it?
 
The first time I performed stand-up was May 26, 2006, although I don’t count that as my official start date.  For the last few years I had been really getting into comedy.  I watched stand-up on TV constantly, I bought CDs, DVDs, books by stand-up comedians, books about stand-up comedy in general–I got my hands on everything I could.  Sometime after I started educating myself on it, I just started writing jokes.  Every day after school, I would go home, sit at a desk, and write jokes in a spiral-bound notebook.  I wasn’t going for any kind of Seinfeld-ian level of discipline–I was just constantly writing.  Granted, whenever I go back and look at those old notebooks, I realize that nothing I wrote really resembled jokes.  They were more just goofy ramblings of an American high school kid, but of course I found them all hilarious at the time.

Haha, I think that, the old notebooks, are part of the territory when it comes to writing jokes as a kid… Where did you go form there?

I was wrapping up my junior year of high school, and I had some friends who were in a band.  They knew that I was writing these jokes (even though they’d never heard anything I’d ever written), and we were all young kids who didn’t know any better, so one of them basically said, “Hey, we’ve got a show.  You wanna open for us and tell your jokes?” Amazingly, I didn’t even think twice about it before saying yes.

One of my early shows was like that. My first time telling jokes on stage was the 2003 school talent show where my friend George and I were the only acts not doing an Avril Lavigne cover version (Avril was pretty big at the time…). That went okay but I didn’t do it again for about four years and it was kind of like your thing— a guy I knew was desperate to pad out this high school concert and put me on despite my lack of experience. I absolutely died onstage, but somehow got paid for it…

I’ve heard so many comedians tell stories about their first times onstage–usually they KILL, or they DIE. It’s almost never anywhere in the middle.  I got lucky, and I killed.  Not only that, but I somehow managed to do a 25-minute set. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and in an odd way, I don’t think I’ve done that well since that night. To some extent, my whole career since then has basically been a collective attempt to do as well as I did then. The jokes don’t hold up anymore, but it’s more about going for that feeling of connecting with the audience mentally to the point that they are completely onboard with everything you say. It’s only happened to me a couple of times since that first show, but not to that level. However, after a few more of those gigs opening for friends’ bands and a couple of bar shows— gigs that didn’t go very well in comparison to the first—I kinda drifted away from comedy for a little bit when I left for my first year of college.

I think I know the feeling. Up until last year I could practically count the number of shows I’d done on my thumbs. I’ve only done one really good show, but I felt it validated the effort spent trying to get onstage. It was a twenty minute story, rather than traditional jokes, about being painfully rejected by a girl. Just as I was about to start the routine I had to deal with a heckler, who I managed to silence. Weirdly that helped give me focus and authority. I could see people on the edges of their seats, and each punchline in the story killed. It’s an incomparable experience. It’s that feeling, or at least the search for that buzz that makes it worth the effort… what keeps comics coming back, even if they’re bombing most nights…

I don’t think I’m ruining the suspense by saying you drifted back to stand up…

Fast-forward to Fall 2008.  I almost flunked out of college my first year, and I had just gotten out of a fairly heavy relationship, so I moved back home outside of Nashville to regroup.  Over that summer I had slowly started reconnecting with a couple of comedians whom I’d met during my previous stint in stand-up, and they encouraged me to start doing it again.  I needed something to fill the void, so I started performing regularly at open mics and comedy clubs in Tennessee the week after Barack Obama was elected.  I remember it that way because Nashville‘s most popular open mic show is on Tuesdays— and so was Election Day of 2008.  I wanted to stay home and watch the election results, so I decided that the next week I would begin doing comedy for real.  Haven’t stopped since.

On your Facebook page you claim your job is better than everyone elses because you can drink at work if you want to. When we started hanging out in that old MySpace group in 2007 neither of us were old enough to drink. But now that you are old enough to drink on stage, do you ever make use of the opportunity?

There are two things that go into that:

1. what kind of show it is, and 2. what my role in the show is.  If I’m emceeing/hosting at a comedy club, I usually don’t drink during the show. I like to be in control of myself when I’m performing.  And as the host, you’re essentially the person in charge of controlling the show.  If you can’t control yourself because you’re drunk, you can’t control the show.  I might have a beer or two at most, but I try to stick to the whole professionalism thing because I think its important starting out, especially in comedy clubs.

That was my attitude when I started, on and off stage actually. I used to be quite sensible…

Now, if I’m just performing at an open mic at a random bar, then it doesn’t matter.  I’ll have a few drinks before I go on if I feel like it.  It’s a much looser atmosphere.  The only thing that will stop me there is if I’m really focused on workshopping a specific piece of new material— this goes back to the whole control issue.
 
I never did, but then I started getting free drinks from the management of the place where I run a comedy night. There were mixed results… the material I’ve been doing fit with drinking, but drinking didn’t fit with being a good host. 

I try not to overthink that kind of stuff, as far as the whole “comic persona” thing goes.  I try not to have a particular “attitude” or what have you.  I’ve always tried to present myself as myself in the sense that if I’m telling a joke about something that happened to me, I want to tell the joke in the same way that I felt when that thing happened to me.

I’ve been wrestling with the ‘comic persona’ thing since I got back into doing it because I wanted to be a ‘cool’ stand up. Which is ridiculous, because there’s nothing funny about being cool— some, if not most, comedy comes from awkwardness and being an outsider.

Exactly.  There’s an American comic named Jimmy Dore who has said in interviews and podcasts that comedy should always aim upward, in that your targets should always be above you in some sense-like making fun of political leaders rather than the homeless bums around the corner.  To him, comedy is about being the underdog in every situation, and I think that’s the right perspective to have.

You host an open mic, right?

Yeah, I host an open mic in Knoxville, TN, where I go to school.

How did that come about? 

Quite frankly, it just fell into my lap, and I wish the story was much more interesting than it is.  The open mic had already existed for a couple of months, but another guy hosted it.  Then the workload from his day job got too heavy, so he handed it off to me.  That’s it.  I should make up some outlandish behind-the-scenes story. (“Yeah, another guy hosted it and said that if anyone could pin him in a no-holds-barred backyard wrestling match, he’d give them the show.  Well, a couple of chairs and a figure-four leglock later, I hosted the next show via Skype from my hospital bed across town.”)

Funnily enough that’s almost exactly how I came to host one over here…

With the one I run it was a total accident. I e-mailed the one venue in town asking how much it might cost to hire a room to do a stand up show and ended up with free reign over my own series of open mic shows. I wasn’t the most qualified candidate, but it would take an unambitious and/or honest man to turn that down.

How does acting as MC compare to a usual slot in the show? I find I almost prefer it… it’s almost less pressure… if a joke bombs you can just bring someone else on to repair the damage and you get plenty more chances to win the crowd over again…

I like emceeing.  Its fun, but the amount of pressure depends on where you’re doing it.  I don’t know how British comedy clubs are, but in the US, there are some clubs where as the emcee, you have to do four or five minutes’ worth of announcements to plug their merchandise, social media (Facebook, Twitter), drink specials, upcoming events, etc., in addition to performing your material.  That can be a pretty big challenge because now you’re thinking about eight different things in your head that you gotta juggle alongside your jokes.  It’s great experience, though— a bit of hosting boot camp, if you will, and it makes it easier to handle in other situations.

I guess I’m pretty lucky. It’s not strictly a comedy club, and the managers don’t really give a fuck what I do as long as I include an interval so they can sell drinks…

There are other clubs that might just want you to maybe throw in an announcement for upcoming shows and then let you do whatever you want with the rest of your time.  Obviously, this scenario is much easier to deal with because you can focus mainly on the material.  The only other challenge as an emcee at a comedy club is keeping track of time.  The shows have to stay within a certain length, so you can’t spend 5-10 minutes in-between acts doing more material— you gotta keep things moving.

I don’t have official time constraints with mine. I sort of throw in a little joke here or there if it feels like it’s a good time or if the previous act maybe killed the mood a bit. I do tend to find there’s a natural time limit with the audience. Once it gets to about half past eleven people start leaving…

At an open mic, or an independently-run comedy night like yours, the emcee has a lot more leeway.  You can makes jokes in-between performers–which most comedy club shows prefer you not to do.  But you have no time constraints (unless there’s some other event happening after your show), so you can do pretty much whatever you want.  At a comedy club, you’re basically running the club’s show.  At a bar open mic, you’re running your show.

Another horribly clichéd question: influences. We could both probably talk about Bill Hicks at length at this point, and probably Carlin too… but let’s go more contemporary… which current stand ups do you admire right now?

Haha, you and I have gone on for way too long about Hicks and Carlin in past conversations, and I could keep going if I had to.  But I love discussing more contemporary comics too.  Lewis Black is probably at the top of my list.  He was actually the guy who sparked the whole thing for me.  I saw him on Comedy Central when I was a teenager and thought he was the funniest guy in the world.  I remember once actually recording a couple of his old half-hour specials on the network so I could transcribe his act and study it.  I’ve always had an affinity for the social commentary-types–although my act isn’t nearly as far in that direction as I’d like it to be–and he was the first one I latched onto.

I’ve only ever really seen Lewis Black on The Daily Show which doesn’t air over here any more. I remember he did a particularly long segment on Glenn Beck’s obsession with Nazis which was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Lewis Black’s stand-up is hysterical.  If you have to start anywhere, you have to start with his first three albums-the White Album, The End of the Universe, and Rules of Enragement-they were recorded back during his comedy club road-dog years (he mainly plays big theatres now).  His pace has slowed in recent years, but on those records he is in full-on rapid-fire pissed-off rant-mode.  Top-form. (I think I’ve hit my hyphen quota for the decade.)

Another big favorite of mine is Marc Maron.  He has a podcast called WTF with Marc Maron that is required listening for anyone with an interest in comedy.  He mainly focuses on American comedians, but he’s done a few episodes abroad, such as England, Ireland, and very recently, Australia–each featuring comics from those regions.  His stand-up is top-notch as well.  One of the most emotionally open comics I’ve ever seen in my life, and his podcast reflects that as well.

I remember you recommending that podcast. I don’t have a good excuse for not listening to it either. The main internet place for British stand up, Chortle.com, has had a link to it for weeks. I suppose my excuse is I’ve been kind of busy writing recently. It’s not a good excuse, but it’ll have to do…

And then, as far as simple jokes go, I am a huge Todd Barry fan.  He is one of my favorite joke writers.  He has one CD that has 55 tracks–one joke per track, and most of the jokes are the length of about a minute or less.  He’s not a one-liner guy like Mitch Hedberg; he’s just a bare-bones set-up/punch kind of guy.  No filler; no fat.  Every joke cuts right to the chase, and they are all fucking masterpieces.

I just watched [British stand up] Stewart Lee’s latest TV show which is inter-cut with conversations with his producer apologizing for the lack of jokes in the episode. He tells four deliberately bad jokes right at the end in a weird send up of his lack of conventional joke telling. He’s one of the few British stand ups that I take influence from/totally rip off. I know we’ve spoken about him before; did you ever get around to checking him out? 
 
I still need to get into Stewart Lee.  One of these days I’m just gonna go on a big YouTube binge and watch everything I can find of his.  Anyone I’ve ever known who’s talked about him–yourself included–has done nothing but sing the highest of praises for the guy.  He’s like your Winston Churchill of comedy or something.

I should probably absorb more from British stand ups, because frankly I sound too middle class and well spoken to pull off the same sort of delivery as those American stand ups. It’s one of those weird situations, like with sitcoms I guess, where Americans can come over here and we relate, but it doesn’t work so much the other way around. Are you familiar with any of our comics? 

I’m aware of several British comedians, though I still am ridiculously behind in my knowledge of modern British comedy.  I know of guys like Stewart Lee, Bill Bailey (I’ve got a friend who is REALLY into him), Tim Minchin, and then of course your heavy hitters like Ricky Gervais, Eddie Izzard, etc.  However, I’ve only seen very small snippets of things from each of them, so I don’t have as much to draw on as I do the American comics. (Bill Bailey’s “oud” bit is pretty damn funny, I can say that much.)

I feel I should add, for any Aussies that might read this, that Minchin is technically one of yours.

It’s interesting you mention Gervais. I read an article by a professional stand up who doesn’t think Gervais can be counted as a true stand up. I’m sort of inclined to agree… his shows are very funny, but it’s hard to imagine them being so successful if he’d started out before writing an incredibly successful TV show. Some stand ups over here consider it almost cheating…

Yeah, there’s some debate about whether Gervais is really a stand-up over here too.  There’s a small group of comedians in the States who started off as television or film actors and then used their success to fuel a second career in stand-up after their acting career went bunk.  Hell, I think there are even some soap opera stars touring comedy clubs in the US now.  They aren’t really regarded as legitimate comics either, because they never had to work their way to the top in the stand-up industry (and therefore, don’t really have the chops for it).  Case in point: Michael Richards.  And, I guess, Gervais.

Finally, you’re one of the people to blame for me liking Rush. I hated them, but between you and the radio DJ with a Rush obsession who kept playing Far Cry every twenty minutes I ended up totally reversing my opinion. I’m still not sure what it is about them that I like… can you describe the appeal?

One of the reasons Rush resonates with me so deeply is because all three of them are social outcasts that never really belonged in the framework of the mainstream. Their music doesn’t fit into a neat little box, and the three of them as people are even a little eccentric. But rather than complain about how they’re not more popular, they’ve pretty much come to terms with their cult status and even embraced it. I think most comedians are wired the same way— we don’t fit in with the sort of generic cookie-cutter lifestyle that the rest of society leads, and comedy is our way of circumventing that path.

But I don’t blame you or anyone else for hating them at first.  Hell, truth be told, I hated them at first too.  

I think it’s mostly Geddy’s voice… that or all the talking trees…

They are definitely an acquired taste, but in my opinion, it’s a taste worth acquiring. Like really good beer.

Kind of like Guinness…

EXACTLY!





Shortly after the completion of this interview I semi-retired from semi-doing stand up to focus on re-writing and directing my first play at a proper theatre.

Meanwhile Riley is a better and more accomplished stand up than I am because he does regular shows. This is a list of his upcoming shows.

 


I don’t know much about the First World War. I know about Ypres and the Somme, and that it was started with Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand… but the details are sketchy and vague… my knowledge of The Great War is a fraction of what I know about The Second World War.

The Second World War is generally considered somehow more exciting. It’s certainly more cinematic; there are hundreds of films set during WWII, and hundreds more that feature Nazis as the villains. I suspect this is largely because the Nazis are easily identifiable villains locked in a clear battle between good and evil. The Waffen SS— literally Nazi death squads— wore, as well as the black uniforms with sinister slashes of red on the left arm, skull and crossbones on their uniform in an almost comical caricature of villainy.

The start of WWII is also easier to understand. Although a lot of Hitler’s military actions were driven by the desire for revenge over the terms of the German’s surrender and Treaty of Versailles at the end of WWI, put simply the Nazis invaded Poland, Britain declared war on the Nazis, and every country in Europe (aside from Ireland and Switzerland) picked a side. Once the party was in full swing the US turned up fashionably late, just in time to inject new life into proceedings.

Although a lot of British people still don’t like to accept it, the Allies would have lost the war without American intervention. Without their troops, funding, or munitions we would have run out long before the end and we wouldn’t have been able to keep mass producing the Spitfires and Hurricanes that won the Battle of Britain.

The high involvement of the US in WWII probably explains the high ratio of Second World War to First World War films. The U.S contribution to WWI was vital, but their role always seems less prominent. They were also much more reluctant to get involved the first time around. Although these days American foreign policy has ramifications on a global scale, under Woodrow Wilson the U.S government followed a policy of isolationism. Essentially this made their foreign policy ‘well, that’s not our problem…’

I feel quite guilty about my WWI knowledge gap, particularly given the vast amount of time— in and out of school— I’ve spent learning about WWII. I’ve been to Nuremburg, seen the sight of the Munich putsch, and I’ve been inside the attic that Anne Frank hid in. I’ve spent hours at the Imperial War Museum marvelling at Spitfires, and recreations of the trenches.

I watch a lot of documentaries. I’ve seen one about a man who broke into Auschwitz and survived. He still has nightmares some sixty years later. I’ve seen a documentary about four Jewish men who escaped by stealing SS uniforms, equipment, guns, and a car. It was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen.

War is a terrible thing, but it unites and brings out the best in people. Whilst the Nazis were displaying the absolute worst humanity was capable of, so many in the Allied forces were demonstrating the absolute brilliance humanity was capable of.

That brilliance lives on, even today in the 21st century. There aren’t many left, but those who are meet up occasionally— men from both sides. One of the best things I’ve ever seen is a wheelchair bound ninety-four year old Englishman called Henry Allingham sitting in a room with a ninety-four year old German man sharing memories of the war. At one point they realized they were both fighting in the same battle, firing shots across no-man’s land at each other. And they both laughed; they found it hysterically funny, and joked that neither of them could have been much good with their weapons.

They laid a wreath together at a local war memorial to remember the fallen. I’m sure that even if Henry had the mobility to dance he wouldn’t have danced to the deaths of the German’s former comrades. I’m fairly confident that when the Allies finally won the war Henry danced to the end of the war, not celebrating the end of people’s lives… revelling in the end of the suffering, rather than the thought of it.

We have Remembrance Day in Britain primarily to remember those who sacrificed themselves in the World Wars. There are very few towns in the country that don’t have memorials to those who died. Some are bigger than others. In the village where my parents live there’s a very small plaque and although there are fifteen different Christian names, there are only four different surnames. The majority of the names are from the First World War.

The guns fell silent across no man’s land twice during that war— once on Christmas day when the two sides played a game of football, and for a final time at eleven a.m on the eleventh of November 1918.




There was one surviving veteran of World War One.


He was Claude Choules, a British man who was known by his comrades as ‘Chuckles.’ He joined the Royal Navy at the age of fifteen, and served on the HMS Revenge where he personally witnessed the surrender of the German Imperial Navy.

He later transferred to the Royal Australian Navy and saw active service in the Second World War. 

He died in the early hours of Thursday May 5th 2011.


And now there are none.




Shortly after writing this I learnt that Claude Choules never celebrated the Armistice, and refused to participate in memorial marches. After witnessing so much suffering and death he became a pacifist; he objected to violence and the glorification of war. I don’t really know what to make of that. I just know that it makes me feel incredibly glad that the last man standing was a good man.

One of our best. 




As one of the few British writers at TNB I felt it was my duty to record the historic Royal Wedding for the site. It also helps that we have a Bank Holiday so we can all watch it, and that due to time difference I was able to sit through it without waking up at a ridiculously early time.

What I’ve done is record my observations as they popped into my head whilst watching the coverage on the BBC. Hopefully this will make you feel like you’re watching it with me… get out the good china and pour a hot cup of tea…

Woke up late— started watching just as Kate arrived. My first thoughts are: she looks very grown up, her eyebrows are quite thick, and she looks absolutely amazing. The phrase ‘lie back and think of England’ has never seemed more exciting…

 

A few clips of previous Royal Weddings. Kate is easily the most beautiful bride since the Queen married Phillip back in the 1950s. Incidentally the Queen has lent Kate a Cartier tiara from the 1930s…

 

Jesus, how long does it take to walk down an aisle? We could be done by now if they picked up the pace a bit…

 

The vows: William sounds like a posh actor whose name I can’t remember. This is the first time I’ve heard Kate speak— she’s terribly well spoken for a ‘commoner’…

 

Oh… is the ring going to fit?

 

Only just!

 

This is way better than when Charles and Camilla got married. Prince Harry is wearing more gold than Mr T and William looks like an ostentatious Thunderbird…

 

There are trees inside Westminster Abbey. Everyone is standing and facing the bride and groom. It looks almost exactly like the end of Star Wars.

 

A very young man is talking about good and evil. It sounds like a very posh pep talk…

 

There are far too many hymns. It feels like a Christmas service. I’m not actually sure if they’re married yet or not…

 

The Archbishop of London addressed William and Kate from a high vantage point and talks about setting the world on fire. This is questionable advice.

 

Oh, it’s a metaphor…

 

They’ve exchanged rings so they must be married, surely…

 

Was slightly disappointed no-one had a reason they couldn’t be married…

 

Is the Queen asleep?! She’s definitely asleep! In fairness she’s hosting the reception and there won’t be a time for a nap between now and then…

 

The Archbishop has started talking about starting a family… that’s got to be a bit awkward for Wills and Kate in front of al those people…

 

I’m sure he was expecting more of a response to that ‘Amen’… tough crowd…

 

Interesting selection of guests. William has invited David Beckham and Elton John whilst Kate has invited the Indian couple who run the Spar in her village…

 

A Holy man keeps begging for mercy… ah, the Lord’s Prayer. This is getting a bit sombre…

 

No response for the ‘amen’ again…

 

This is the first time I’ve heard Jerusalem outside of a sporting event. I fucking love Jerusalem.

 

Best. Fanfare. Ever… followed by an epic sweeping shot of Westminster Abbey as everyone launches into the National Anthem… This is fantastic!

God Save the Queen… It’s got be kind of weird for Kate Middleton… it’s her wedding day and everyone is singing a song about her (grand)mother-in-law…

 

They’re definitely married now. They’re going off to sign the register… it’s illegal to film it so everyone is just going to sing hymns until the come back…

 

Getting a montage of previous Royal wedding certificates… and they’re back!

 

There’s a wedding theme. It sounds very John Williams. Everything about this is awesome.

 

Prince Harry is terrible at walking slowly. He’s almost skulking…

 

The William and Kate— no, sorry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge— step out to the sound of wedding bells. Lovely.

 

A carriage awaits— it’s from 1902 and I think it was the one the Queen used at her wedding…

 

A whole convoy of carriages going down the Mall… it’s like a slow motion chariot race…

 

They’re approaching the finish line… I think William and Kate might just win it…

 

They arrive to the sound of the National Anthem… it seems no-one knows what happens next…

 

The National Anthem plays again… Good lord, Princess Beatrice is wearing a giant pretzel for a hat!

 

 

Apparently it’s a whole hour before the traditional presentation of the bride and groom on the balcony… at least the Queen can sit down for a bit…

 

Now it’s just an hour of talking to people in the crowds… kids… Mexicans… Americans… Aussies… South Africans… but mostly people in plastic hats…

 

We have studio coverage. The historian Simon Schama is acting as a pundit. He liked the trees and the gothic vaulting…

 

Apparently there are five rooms in Buckingham Palace that can be opened up into one super-room. I wish I was rich…

 

There’s an announcement for anyone wanting to watch the snooker. Ding is playing Trump. Seriously.

 

The analysts are talking about the future of the monarchy whilst dancing around the phrase ‘she’s got to die eventually.’

 

An American girl has given one of the presenters her straw hat and is teaching him how to courtsey. This is lovely, they’re really enjoying this— no-one does this stuff better than us… Probably because we have the monopoly on gilded carriages…

 

There’s coverage from Kate Middleton’s home village of Bucklebury. There are about ten people there who didn’t get invited and they’re all incredibly fat.

 

There’s a sixty year old man wearing Kanye-esque shades!

 

Performance artists and incredibly camp Spaniards!

 

This wedding has everything!

 

The crowds marching on the Mall are pretty intimidating… they’re just flowing like water…

 

The place is packed like the front few rows of a Bon Jovi gig… I’m getting kind of bored now… Oh! Someone just peaked out of a window. Is it Princess Catherine?

 

No.

 

There’s going to be an RAF flyover in a minute. It doesn’t get any more British than this…

 

It was Harry at the window apparently…

 

The camera is now just fixed on the window and the shadowy figures behind the net curtains…

 

 

Here they come!

 

The Prince and Princess are on the balcony and waving. This is brilliant, the crowd love it!

 

The Queen looks sooo bored. There are some kids dressed like toy soldiers.

 

We’re still waiting for the traditional kiss…

 

There it is! It’s more of a peck on the cheek, but this is Britain after all… the crowd cheer regardless…

 

The BBC have a presenter in the Lancaster Bomber leading the flyover. There are all kinds of technical difficulties and the presenter looks like he’s about to throw up…

 

There’s a second kiss! A second cheer! The planes fly over right on time… magnificent…

 

A second wave of more modern fighter jets in tribute to Prince William who is a pilot himself…

 

They head back inside, but there might be an encore…

 

No, that’s it. It’s all over!

 

Y’know what? I think these kids are going to be alright…

Most of the time I hate doing stand up comedy.

I hate coming up with jokes.

I hate rehearsing jokes until I can remember them.

I hate the deathly silence or mild indifference most of the jokes in question receive.

Most of the shows I do are comedy nights I run out of the room above a bar in town. They give me free drinks and the room upstairs once a month. All I have to do is advertise the night, get enough acts to fill a two hour show, and enough customers to buy drinks.

It’s a pretty good deal, with an incredible level of creative freedom. I can do whatever I like with the show. I’m writing and directing a play for a festival and I keep having to re-write that to avoid offending people and getting around staging limitations.

With stand up it’s just a mic, a warning about adult content and I’m free to do anything within the boundaries of British law.

I never said I hate stand up as an art form, I just hate doing it.

I blame myself. You see what happened at first is I’d get all my performers from the university. It was strictly amateur night and the playing field was level… There wasn’t anyone who had much more experience than I did. I’m very, very low level in terms of ability and experience but it didn’t show for the first couple of shows.

Then I started getting e-mails from guys on the professional circuit. I wanted to put on the best shows possible, so I let them all in.

Unsurprisingly they pushed the standards up with their fancy pants notebooks and stage presence, and made me look even worse than I am.

I hate doing stand up.

I’ve quit comedy more times than I’ve performed it.

*  *  *  *  *

One of the greatest moments of my life so far was on St. Patrick’s Day. I’d passed out the previous year after drinking around ten pints of Guinness so I decided it’d be safer to just stick to Jameson. I ditched my friends on the dance floor because I was bored and the band kept playing U2 songs. I ended up drinking with an American exchange student who’s playing God in my play, and a professional magician who performs at my comedy night.

As we were drinking a girl came over to us and asked me if I was the guy from the comedy night. When I told her I was she smiled and told me she ‘really enjoyed going…’

That was nice, but it would have been better if the sentence hadn’t ended ‘… with my boyfriend’ and me getting the barmaid to put another double in my half pint glass that had probably forgotten what being empty felt like.

The point to the story is not that I am an awesome bitchin’ rockstar from Mars. No, the point is that however awesome that felt it’s not the reason I do stand up. It’s a feeling that pales in comparison to spending twenty minutes on stage with forty people watching your every move, listening to your every word, and laughing at every joke.

That’s what gets you addicted. I’m no better than a crack addict really, and I certainly don’t dress any better.

Since I performed that routine my life has been an empty and futile battle to come up with anything anywhere near as good. I’ve told jokes that have got laughs since, but it’s not the same.

At one point during the single greatest twenty minutes of my life a girl right by the front of her stage was literally on the edge of her seat and gasping with each twist of the story I was telling.

Power — total control.

For those twenty minutes the darkened lounge was my kingdom, and I was its God. It’s a strange and heady cocktail of power and constant, instant validation… It only feels like two minutes, and it seems like there is nothing else in the world but you and forty faces.

The whole twenty minutes essentially paves the way for the ten second payoff at the end which is met with laughter and applause whilst I thank everyone for coming.

As the room emptied I collapsed down on the stage floating slowly downwards into a perfect cocktail of solitude, validation, adrenaline and free whiskey… And now I feel like a rockstar…

Most of the time I hate doing stand up comedy, but this is why I don’t stop… Why I can’t stop…

For the same reason sports fans cheer their team season after season however bad they might be performing.

For the same reason some people keep doing drugs, however adverse the physical effects might be.


It’s an addiction… and I don’t want a cure.


Words are the very DNA of literature; the tiny building blocks that make up the characters we love and cherish, the worlds in which they inhabit, and the sentences that describe every action within.

At least seven hundred words in the English language can be attributed to just one man: William Shakespeare. If words are the DNA of language he is the Lord of creation.

I hated Shakespeare at school. I was won over through my own reading, although the simple fact that he invented the expression ‘what the dickens?’ would have been enough. Mostly it was down to Hamlet. I love that play. I used to know the speech he gives to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Act Two, Scene Two off by heart…

I will tell you why; shall my anticipation prevent your discovery and your secrecy to the King and Queen, moult no feather: I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercise; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals; and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.

In Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead the whole speech is dismissed by one of the title characters as Hamlet saying ‘something about losing his mirth.’

I’m currently working as script editor on a condensed adaptation of Hamlet for a friend who’s directing it at the big theatre in town. I’m pretty proud of that, and was flattered to be asked to do it. It’s a fairly standard production that does little to the original text aside from place the action in a more modern war setting, and cut out as much as possible in order to keep the play to approximately an hour in length.

I’m also writing a version of Hamlet which is little more than a low brow version of Stoppard’s play. It tells the story of Hamlet through the trial of Horatio, who is arrested at the end of Shakespeare’s play and charged with every death in the play. It’s indisputably a low-rent bastardization of a literary classic in which original lines are re-worked as lame jokes.

The bit I’m least proud of is Horatio informing the ghost of Hamlet that Tuborg is the new most popular beer in Denmark, to which Hamlet replies ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark…’

I wouldn’t protest too much if the ghost of Shakespeare appeared in my room, gagged me with his ruff, and then stabbed me through the heart with his quill until I die.

I hope it doesn’t come to that though.

I wrote a play over Christmas which is being staged at an arts festival in the summer. It’s loosely based on The Divine Comedy and features God as an alcoholic raconteur. It plays the concepts of journeying though Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven for laughs— and cheap ones at that.

And yet poking around and mutilating Hamlet somehow feels more blasphemous… more sacrilegious….

There’s always the sense with long dead writers that you can get away with messing with their original work without asking. Jean Rhys didn’t ask if she could borrow the characters from Jane Eyre, she just did. She won a literary prize for it, and then complained that it was long overdue and worthless.

You couldn’t exactly do that with living writers, in the same way you have to get permission to borrow any songs you want to re-work, or borrow parts of. I couldn’t really sit down after lunch and take the characters from The Da Vinci Code and place them into my own idea for a zany comedy.

That’s not a great example to use, as I’m really talking about literature.

How can it be that pillaging from the shit-sodden streets of medieval London feels more acceptable than playing with the characters from a more modern time?

I think it is as simple as the concept of ownership, very similar to the idea of songs entering the public domain. Except that with literature you have to wait more than fifty years for it to be okay. Hamlet has been around so long most people know the story without even reading it, or being conscious of where they picked up that knowledge. Its part of British culture, the same way I knew what a Tardis was despite being born the year Doctor Who was cancelled.

Essentially people were borrowing from Shakespeare before he’d even finished giving us all those new words… those fresh building blocks of literary life.

I’d love to ask Shakespeare what he thinks about all the thousands of versions of his work… particularly how he would feel about my own twisted experimentation with Hamlet.

I hope that he’d crack a wry smile, and enjoy and appreciate the affection that is intended. It’s not exactly the sort of thing you could sit down and write without a deep familiarity with the text, and a genuine love of it…


We sit there, the two of us. We’re drinking Carlsberg against out better judgement. Shakespeare asks me if there’s any mead, and I have to tell him sorry, we haven’t had that liquor here since 1869.

I begin to tell him about this play I’m writing, and about how it starts right after Hamlet ends. I tell him how as Horatio says ‘now cracks a noble heart: good night sweet prince’ we hear police sirens.

‘Police sirens?’ enquires the Bard, who died several hundred years before Sir Robert Peel founded the modern police force.

I explain to him as briefly as I can the history of the police. I tell him they’re officials who are meant to uphold the law.

‘People who stop people like you stealing my work?’ he asks. He asks with a smile so I can’t tell if he’s being serious or if this is that famous Shakespearean banter.

Slightly nervously I try and explain away any feeling of guilt and wrong-doing I feel. I try and explain that no, what I’m doing isn’t theft. I ask him to listen and to understand that I’m taking his characters and putting them in my own story. Then I let him know that what happens is Horatio gets murdered for every murder in Elsinore.

‘That’s ludicrous’ says Shakespeare. ‘Hamlet killed everyone. You should know that.’

I tell him that he doesn’t get it, and that times have changed and that now if the police walked into a building that was full of dead bodies and there was only one guy in there still alive then he would be under suspicion. Furthermore he would have a motive by being Hamlet’s sole heir as his friend, and thus become the King of Denmark.

‘That’s stupid’ he says. Shakespeare starts sulking. ‘I don’t like it.’

‘Tough’ I would retort. ‘I’m taking a logical approach to your story and using that to derive humour.’

He begins to look visibly angry. He crushes his beer can into an aluminium ball and throws it to the ground as he rises to his feet. ‘It sounds like you’re just picking holes and making fun of my work!’

As the Bard rises he draws a small bladed weapon from his coat pocket.

‘What the dickens?!’ I exclaim.

‘Stop. Stealing. My. Words!’ The Bard says through gritted teeth.

I panic and cry; this hypothetical chit-chat has rapidly spiralled out of control.

‘Is that a dagger I see before me?’ I shout, which only really exacerbates the situation.

The Bard moves towards me silently, thrashing his blade in my direction.

‘O happy dagger!’ I cry, still refusing to learn my lesson. ‘This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die!’

I feel the blade kiss the base of my neck, and few droplets of warm red blood blossom like rose against my skin.

‘A touch, a touch I do confess’ I announce, only enraging the Bard further.

‘For fucks sake! Stop taking my words and placing them out of context for comic effect!’ Shakespeare shrieks as the dagger plunges deep, raking over the topsoil of my flesh and planting the seeds of death deep into my leaking heart.

His face contorts into a cracked smile of evil satisfaction. My blood drips from his dagger like the droplets fall from an ice lolly in the hot summer sun.

As I lie there the blood pumps from my open chest cavity, the blood cells escaping like rats deserting a sinking ship. There is a darkness… a terrible, ghoulish darkness. The edges of Shakespeare’s body begin to slip into the shadows and merge with the black abyss.

‘You’re not so clever now, are you?’ he says, and it sounds like a distant echo… a whisper on the wind.

With the last of my vitality I break into a beatific, taunting smile. My lips twitch uneasily. I look into his eyes and I in a fractured whisper I say ‘O! I am slain.’

In those final moments I am left with the frustrated horror enveloping the Bard’s countenance.


The rest is silence.                                                                            






When It Reigns It Pours

Prince Oscar is a nervous eighteen year old bedwetter with a rare bladder control problem brought on by generations of inbreeding within the Royal Family. His affliction is only exacerbated when both his parents die, and he ascends the throne and becomes King.

A madcap, heartfelt emotional sitcom about the trials and tribulations of monarchic duty, losing loved ones, and the all too real perils of incontinence.

A vague subplot involving Oscar’s on/off romance with the Norwegian ambassador’s daughter, and lots of jokes about ‘being on the throne.’


Wax and Wayne

Abrasive US comedian Ruby Wax and NHL legend Wayne Gretsky star in a contrived and fantastical sitcom inspired by The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Heroes, and William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience.

After a booking mix up, Wayne Gretsky ends up as a guest on Ruby’s dire BB3 talk show. A freak electrical storm then gives both Wax and Wayne superpowers. They now, intermittently and uncontrollably, change in size and shape.

Conflict arises from their obligation to use their powers to help society whilst still struggling to come to terms with the unlikely turn of events themselves. Also they have to live together for some reason that’s never really explained and boy do they not get along!

Humour is derived from the lead characters’ unconcealed hatred for each other, and also from the hilariously and unlikely lengths they go to in order to disguise their sudden transformations and explain their random disappearances.

In a twist final episode Victoria Principal wakes up to find it was all a dream.


Nena!

German pop sensation Nena plays a fictional version of herself living in an apocalyptic wasteland. Episodes focus on the day-to-day running of the Berlin toy shop she inherited after the tragedy, although also deal with the wider issues of attempting to rebuild civilization, and the difficulties in finding a man in a world where 99% of the male population has been vaporized.


Count Me Out

Count Dracula finds himself sharing a house with four goofy college kids who are always trying to peer pressure him into doing dangerous and occasionally illegal activities at a Midwestern university.

Every wacky scheme is met by Dracula’s catchphrase, ‘you can count me out!’ His excuses range from moral objections to his crippling sunlight allergy.

The remainder of each episode focuses on the Count lamenting his lack of adventurousness, considers theories of man’s true purpose, and ponders the existential quandary that is immortality.

In a twist final episode Dracula renounces Satan in order to enter a church and marry the bookish, mousy librarian played by Pamela Anderson.


Margaret, Thatcher

A historical sitcom about the day-to-day running of a roofing firm in medieval Basingstoke.

Humour is largely derived from satirizing Thatcher’s government by placing her political actions in a historical context that somehow also relates to thatch roofing.

In a twist final episode Margaret Thatcher resigns before she completely fucks everything up for everyone for the next thirty-plus years.


Going Straight

Butch Gaye is a notorious and flamboyant bank robber recently released from prison after a five year sentence for robbing a bank. Each week the authorities set Butch up on a date, hoping that he’ll fall for a girl, get married, and become a law abiding family man.

Each episode climaxes with Butch being arrested in various shops for stealing lip gloss, designer jeans, or male erotica. Every week we see Butch being cuffed whilst he protests his innocence and insists he’ll ‘never go straight.’

Humour would largely be innuendo/catchphrase based.

In a twist final episode it is revealed that Butch Gaye is actually wanted Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess.


Nun the Wiser

Nunnery set sitcom depicting a group of recently arrived young nuns trying to get away with bad habits and mischievous deeds without attracting the attention of the wise, elderly nun, Sister Sledge. 

The comedy will be derived from the farcical situations that the girls get themselves into. Each episode will have a moral theme, with the episode interspersed with Sister Sledge reciting relevant Bible passages in a similar way to Jerry’s stand up bits in episodes of Seinfeld.

Humour mostly accompanied by slap bass.


Accidentally/On Porpoise

Dick Van Dyke plays a fictional version of himself as a stereotypical Italian-American mob boss in 1930s New York.

Each episode begins with someone coming to Don Van Dyke with a particular problem, which Van Dyke then vows to resolve. However, Dick Van Dyke proves incredibly inept at heading a crime syndicate. Every week his harebrained schemes result in much slapstick and countless pratfalls which contrive to resolve the established problem entirely by accident.

Every episode concludes with the grateful beneficiary of Van Dyke’s buffoonery asking Don Van Dyke what he did. Each week Van Dyke recounts various fantastical acts of heroism carried out whilst riding on the back of his trusty porpoise sidekick, Hamish McFitzlebrook.

In a twist final episode Dick Van Dyke commits suicide in order to live with Hamish in his fantasy world for all eternity.

Author’s Note: This has been written shortly after England retained The Ashes (it’s a real thing) in Melbourne. I am wearing a knitted cricket jumper and drinking tea. I’m doing my bit for the national stereotype.

A Brief History of Cricket

Cricket is an exquisite sport enjoyed by gentleman of fine taste, and tolerated by ladies of a discerning disposition. Invented, like all the best sports, in England it soon spread across the globe with the ever expanding Empire.

Originally devised by the Earl of Thannickshire to keep his staff occupied during the summer months, the eleven-a-side sport was soon picked up by the middle and working classes and played on the finest lawns across the country, every village green, and even in the streets by the orphaned ragamuffins of old London Town.

Unfortunately the great scoundrel epidemic of 1834 led to the imprisonment of up to seventy ne’er do wells, all of whom were exiled to Australia. These men quickly raised the popularity of the game in Australia, where they’ve been taking it far too seriously ever since.

Meanwhile merchant traders travelling to India and the West Indies taught the locals in all the major ports the game; a decision many regretted almost one hundred years later when the West Indies bowling attack was all but unstoppable. It was also taught to traders in China, but despite being able to understand mah-jong, the rules of cricket somewhat befuddled them.

Despite being the greatest game on Earth, the popularity of cricket was diminished by the invention of both rugby and football. The former being more entertainingly violent, the latter more easily understood by every nation on Earth.

Cricket took a further knock when the United States ended their Civil War and created violent versions of British sports to give the world baseball, FOOOOOTBALLLLL!, and basketball. For added measure they also took hockey, the game of choice for sexually confused private school girls, and added ice, Canadians, and Rambo-esque violence to sate any remaining bloodlust amongst the new nation’s sports fans.

In the modern age cricket is a marginalized sport that is often ignored in favour of more dazzling events, such as darts, snooker, and lawn bowls. However, it is one of the few English sports that has successfully blended old traditions with new technology and has recently seen a resurgence in England’s ability to win games. They have recently defeated Australia, in Melbourne, Australia. This is significant, because in its long and glorious history England vs. Australia is the only game of cricket that anyone really cares about.


The Ashes

The Ashes is a tournament held every eighteen months or so, hosted alternately by England and Australia. Each tournament is comprised of five tests (matches) and each match lasts for up to five days. If England are hosting it happens during the summer, but it’s played during Christmas if it’s in Australia.

The Ashes is almost as old as cricket itself, and was started because of the aforementioned habit of the Australians to take things far too seriously. The players essentially play for pride, because the actual trophy is a minute urn older than the jar of salad cream in my grandmother’s fridge. It contains, surprisingly enough, ashes, taken as a souvenir from the legendary ‘Hercules Test’ of 1844 which lasted twelve long months and ended in deserved draw.

The England-Australia rivalry is one of the greatest in any sport because it is fierce but good natured and rarely descends into violence. This is largely thanks to both sets of fans enjoying al fresco dining, the consumption of beer, and directing witty songs at each other.


Instances of Humour in Cricket

Cricket commentary is often rife with humour, as commentators spend five days alongside each other with admittedly very little going on in front of them. They can often be heard entertaining themselves by making lewd remarks about any young ladies in attendance, and satirize the faces of crowd members with the misfortune to be either unattractive or unusual in some way.

It has been known for cricket commentary to descend into absurd, existentialist games of I Spy which only ends when Shane Warne inevitably spies ‘B’ for ‘bosoms.’

For many enthusiasts the funniest thing that has ever happened in cricket is when Michael Holding of the West Indies stepped up to bowl to English batsmen Peter Willey. The commentator proudly announced that ‘the bowler’s Holding the batsman’s Willey.’

Tragically, listeners were unaware of the extra ‘e’ in Willey and many broke down in hysterics under impression that not only was the bowler sexually abusing the batsman, but neither the umpires nor commentators seemed particularly phased by events. Fortunately the mix-up was soon put clear, although by that point England had already lost and Holding was under investigation by the authorities.

On the pitch ‘sledging’ is commonplace, and refers the exchanging of cheap insults between batsmen and bowlers. Often this amounts to little more than childish accusations of homosexuality, ineptitude, or a baseless questioning of the opponents ability to satisfy his wife sexually. On one occasion an Australian batsmen asked England’s Ian Botham ‘how’s your wife and my kids?’ Botham, widely considered the Oscar Wilde of sport, replied ‘the wife’s fine, but the kids are retarded.’ Haha!


Understanding the Complexities of the Game

Cricket has come along way from its humble beginnings, but is very much the same game played by the Earl of Thannickshire’s man servants all those years ago. You may, after reading this, be inclined to try watching an actual game yourself. The following is intended as an instructional guide to aid your understanding and following of the action:

Cricket matches can be played on beaches, quiet streets, school playgrounds, village greens, and even in hotel rooms with two or more people, a chair, a shoe, and a rolled up pair of socks. However, your best chance of viewing a test match will be by visiting a cricket ground, which will boast a full sized pitch, a good bar, and more men in white than a lunatic asylum— and nearly as many lunatics.

Cricket can be quite simple to comprehend, because almost everything is called a ‘wicket’ and wicket rhymes with cricket, so it’s fairly easy to remember.

A cricket pitch is vaguely circular, with a dusty strip in the middle. This strip is called a wicket. At either end there are three stumps of wood (stumps) with two bits of wood perched along the top. These are also called wickets. Like basketball, the aim of the game is to score as many runs as possible by hitting a ball with a bat. Runs can be scored by running between the wickets, or by hitting a ‘boundary.’ This can be achieved by hitting the ball to the edge of the pitch along the ground for four runs, or over the edge of the pitch for a tantalising six runs.

But the bowlers (pitchers) will try to best the batsmen by ‘taking a wicket.’ This can be done either by hitting the stumps, by forcing the batsmen to block the ball with his leg (against the rules), or if a fielder catches the ball between the time the batsmen hits it and the time the ball hits the ground.

Unlike most sports which last, at most, a few hours and are divided into halves or quarters, cricket lasts from 11am to 6pm over five days. There are breaks for lunch at 1pm and tea at around 4pm. 11pm is, contrary to popular medical belief, a perfectly acceptable time to start drinking— although it is considered quite common to drink anything other than ale before lunch.

At lunch fans and players convene in the pavilion dining hall where a light lunch is served. The salmon at Lord’s is famous the world over, although the oxtail soup is not to be turned away lightly! Tea is exclusive to players only, as they enjoy a full Devonshire cream tea and Vera Lynn records in the Gentleman’s Lounge. Of course it is possible to purchase equivalent sweet treats within the ground. It is considered polite, after tea, to move onto either wine or spirit drinks.

Clapping is the standard and only accepted expression of approval within cricket grounds. Unlike American sports, cricket does not encourage horns, whistles, face paint, body paint, costumes, or any form of nudity. This is relaxed slightly during the Ashes, but that’s largely to accommodate visiting Australian fans. Make sure to only clap when something happens (when it does you’ll know), and when everyone else is.

Fortunately for you, the uninitiated, cricket is full of nonsense terms which, when used heavily in a sentence, will make sense to those around you; for example ‘Oh, gosh. That reverse sweep of the googly was rather exquisite— if only they’d fielded fewer slips and shifted the gully leg-side I dare say we would have had a fair shot at nipping the bugger’s wicket’ is little more than a string of made up words with ‘wicket’ thrown in at the end for context. It really is that easy.

Finally

You hear the term ‘that’s not cricket.’ This refers to cricket’s standing as a gentleman’s game, with cricket a synonym of ‘fair play.’ However, it can also be accurate said of any object, activity, or person who is not a game of cricket.


Author’s Note: A surprisingly high amount of this post is factual. Seriously.

a sign outside Lord's Cricket Ground, London during the summer

a sign outside Lord's Cricket Ground, London during the summer

I love the popular Bruce Willis action film Die Hard. Of course I do: there are explosions, expletives and badly dressed German criminals. I also like the second instalment and believe that Die Hard With a Vengeance has one of the greatest openings of any film ever.

As you may know—but may not, because of my Scorpio predilection for Dick Cheney-level secrecy—I am a semi-professional astrologer.*For many months, I have been quietly collecting birth data from TNB contributors** whenever the topic came up on the comment boards, a sort of horoscopical scavenger hunt that netted quite a few charts for my burgeoning collection.

July 19th 2008


Mom,

 I know you must have been worried sick about me. It’s okay, I’m safe and it’s not your fault.

 I’m not running from you-— I love.

It’s because of Larry.

I’m safe here— it’s a commune for young people like myself to live away from the normal rules of society. It’s like, sooo liberating.

I’m only trying to make Larry jealous.

That’ll teach him for fucking that Starbucks barista whilst I was having my appendectomy.

Has he called?

Love

Alex


 

July 28th 2008

Mom,

Relax. This isn’t some crazy cult like you keeping making out. You are NOT a terrible mother. I told you, this isn’t about you. This is about me and Larry.

Is he still with that coffee slinging slut? I hope she gets a yeast infection.

Anyway, even if Number 1 did try and ‘brainwash me into being his sex slave’ there’s no way it’d work. I don’t fall for mind games like that.

And he’s got like six wives or something— what would he want with me?

Still love you, but not coming home. So happy here!

Alex

P.S Thanx for the care package!


 

August 2nd 2008

Mom,

No, I don’t have ‘confidence issues.’ And if I did it certainly wouldn’t be because of what Larry did with a glorified waitress in the back of his uncle’s shitty SUV.

I know I’m a beautiful young woman, that wasn’t my point— I wasn’t subtly asking for you to pay for a nose job either. My point was the guy has six wives… even Larry would be satisfied with that!

And who says I’d be interested in him anyway? Just because he’s in a position of power doesn’t stop him from looking kind of creepy. He’s all scrawny with like, this barely there beard and totally gross dirty hair. He’s no Johnny Depp— I don’t care what the group mantras say about him; he’s totally not my type.

I know you’re just worried about me, but really, everything is just great here.

Love

Alex


 

September 5th 2008

Mom,

Great news! Guess who just got ascended to the second rung of the outer sanctum?!

And this from the girl voted ‘Most Likely to Be a Homemaker’ in High School. Ha! If only they could see me now!

I bet that stupid coffee girl will never do better than branch manager— and she’ll only get there by sleeping her way to the top.

I never want to leave here— it’s just so great. I never thought I’d feel this enlightened. I was spiritually awakened last night by Number 14— if things work out you could be a Grandma soon! Exciting, right?

All Power to the Celestial Oak and his Prophets

Alex


 

September 20th 2008

Enemy of the Celestial Oak (and his many Prophets),

This is NOT a cult.

If you want to talk about cults then why don’t we talk about YOUR cult of atheism, hanging on the every word of your infallible leader Richard Dawkins and angrily reacting to those who disapprove?!

Yours is a cult of spiritual emptiness, sexual repression and material things!

How do you like the violation of YOUR ‘false truths’?!

Still no word from Larry?

Alex



 

September 29th 2008

Enemy of the Celestial Oak/Mom,

I’m sorry for the last letter.

I said a lot of things I didn’t mean to— except the bit about Number One. Really, Wow!

You might be interested to hear that since embracing the Celestial Oak with mind and body I’ve now been ascended to the inner sanctum. Things are working out great.

Next week is my ceremonial entwinement with Number 14— yes, it’s official!

I’d really love for you to come, but the Elders are very strict about allowing ‘outsiders’ into the community. We consider you to be impure and corrupting spirits— no offence! Hopefully I’ll be able to send you some photographs of the ritual…

May the acorns of understanding within you grow into mighty trees of love,

Number 34

P.S. I take back what I said about Number 1; the mantras were true. WOW!



 

October 3rd 2008

Mom,

I’m sorry you didn’t feel up to responding to my last letter.

Anyway, things are getting very busy here. On top of preparing for my ritual I’m now in charge of catering for our Christmas party— a little early if you ask me, but who am I to question our Celestial guides? Not even the Elders are permitted such impudence!

I’m mentioned in the community newsletter. I’ve included some clippings.

I hope you can be happy for me,

34


P.S. What’s Larry up to these days? Did he get into college like he wanted?




 

 

 

I have a weird obsession with religious figures. I’m not very well versed in theology, and I’m not even all that interested in it, but time after time I find myself including Jesus, God and Satan as characters in the things I write.

Dear Jim,

Although my father and brother both disapproved of our relationship, things were going great with my boyfriend— he treated me almost like a princess.

But it seems of late that he has lost all his mirth. He lost his father recently and his mother remarried very soon after, which must be tough for him to deal with but all of a sudden he’s like a totally different person.

Until the other day he’d always remained the perfect gentleman. He took me to this play he’d produced and spent the whole time making crude comments and lewd suggestions. I want to be strong and be there for him, but I’m beginning to think that things are never going to work out between us.

And now on top of everything he’s killed my father!

Am I crazy to have my doubts?

     Dane in Distress, Elsinore

Dear Dane in Distress,

It’s only natural to have doubts about your relationship during clearly what is clearly a tough and stressful time for you both.

Guys can often forget that they’re not the only ones suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. What you have to do is remind him of your existence and your needs as a woman.

Try talking almost exclusively in riddles or singing songs about virginity— and if that fails nothing says ‘notice me’ quite as emphatically as a suicide.




Dear Jim,

I went to see my ex-wife today only to find the mutilated corpses of her and her ‘friend’ in the front courtyard.

Now I’m worried everyone will think I did it.

What should I do?

     Innocent of Los Angeles

Dear Innocent,

I assume you’ve already written a public letter expressing your innocence?

Try acting innocent— you know what they say, ‘innocent by name, innocent by nature.’ Your best bet is to go for a relaxing drive in an SUV to show you feel reflective but clear of conscience. There is a small chance that some people will interpret this as fleeing, which is why a novelty face-piece is essential— maybe a fake beard?




Dear Dr Jim,

I’ve recently discovered that whilst I’ve been working overtime to keep my carpentry business afloat my wife has been seeking solace in the arms of an omnipresent deity and now she’s pregnant with his child.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose my wife, but I know she’d be better off with Him. I mean he created all life in less than a week and he’s always there for her whilst I could only knock out a few cabinets in that time. Of course I’d have to spend so much time working I’d barely be present, let alone omnipresent.

And now with them having a child in the way it just feels like I’m the one in the way.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to lose my wife but I want to do the right thing for her and the baby…

     Cuckold Carpenter, Nazareth

Dear CC,

I’ve heard from many men in your position, and believe me, it always ends the same— the omnipotent lothario soon tires of his mortal matrimonial meddling, whilst the woman becomes desperate to rid herself of such a controlling, overbearing presence.

Stick out the rocky patch and get ready for parenthood. Christmas is a stressful time, and the new arrival won’t make things any easier!




Heil Dokter Jim,

I’ve been married to the love of my life for less than three days and already we’ve hit a rough patch.

We already had like, this massive row over the honeymoon— I wanted to go to the Bahamas or maybe Vegas but he wanted Russia. But he just sent all his work buddies instead and decided we’d just stay in our poky little bunker instead.

It’s ridiculous. Maybe it would be okay if we were alone but we live with his best friend and their whole family. They’re always getting together and making jokes or coming up with crazy schemes and here I am— his new wife— with only his stupid dog for company. I don’t even like dogs!

But that’s nothing next to what he wants me to do now. When he came over and whispered that he wanted us to do something intimate together I thought he finally He wanted to do something a bit kinky— I mean he’s the guy that was all about coprophilia when he was trying to get into art school!

But no, he’s got hold of some of those Zyklon B tablets you’re never hearing about in the press and he wants us to enter into a suicide pact.

I’m not so sure— what should I do Dokter Jim?!

     Conflcited Newlywed, Berlin

Dear Conflicted Newlywed,

I always find love can be the bitterest pill to swallow, although I’ve never tried this Zyklon B (is it anything like Ecstasy?). Anyway, the pill represents love, but only you can decide whether you want to swallow it. Unless he has a gun. And a total sense of panic.




Dear Doctor Jim,

I was created in a lab, and frankly I’m quite hideous— so hideous that my creator abandoned me!

Ever since I’ve been trying to make myself feel better by wreaking vengeance on his family, but this only makes me feel worse. I’ve discovered that it’s not looks, but actions that maketh the monster.

How can I break this terrible cycle of violence? All I want is to feel accepted.

     A Very Modern Prometheus, Geneva

Dear AVMP,

It sounds like you have a total lack of self-confidence. Try my book There’s No Such Thing As Ugly available for just $34.99 from my website, www.drjimsbrainfood.org.