I am not Keith Richards. This undeniably true fact annoys me considerably.

What’s more, I am not in any way handsome or musically talented. This means that I am not, never have been and never will be a rock god. All I ever wanted to do is lounge around in villas in the south of France drinking wine, soaking up the sun and recording a bit of a classic rock album when I get bored of just being cool.

I imagine I’m not alone. Everyone wants to be something/somewhere different. People from London dream of New York and vice versa, people with straight hair wish it was curly and curly haired folk long only for straightness. I’m lucky; I have the worst of both worlds.

I am not cool; in trying to be cool I only become less cool. It’s 2010, and flared jeans are no longer cool. So now I’m just the quite short weirdo in flares with bad hair and the hallmark of British dentistry: a mouth that appears to have been designed by MC Escher and constructed from broken chalk and the nightmares of small children.

I am not cool, and this is why the only time I don’t sleep alone is when I fall asleep reading. It’s tragic, it really is. If only girls really liked quite short skinny weird looking guys in flares— especially ones with bad teeth and a long, wild bouquet of pubes for a hairstyle. If only there were a guy like me in the media to relate too… but TV is for cool people, and if you’re not cool then you at least have the decency to be good looking.

But I don’t begrudge the pretty people on television and the warm comfort they provide night after lonely night. Without pretty people on television masturbation is even more futile and drepressing than it is already…

I wrote a novel last year, and the second chapter I wrote was something of a cross between autobiography and prediction for the future:

”Brad Hannigan sat slumped back on the twenty five year old wingback chair in his claustrophobic grey cubicle. His mind drifted from thought to thought, never really focusing on one image long enough to process it and engage with it.

Most of the images in Brad’s mind were of topless young women he used to look at on computer screens when he was a student of English Literature at Pearford College. They were images burned onto his mind long ago, repetitively pleasuring himself to the same dirty Latina maids, first time anal virgins and nubile co-eds. Brad thought he was very clever; by only ever searching for ‘Latin’ ‘co-ed’ and ‘non-alcoholic cocktails’ anyone who happened to glance his search history would think he was a simply curious about ancient languages and healthy alternatives to mojitos.

It is said that pornography is the hardest addiction to give up due to it’s visual nature; you will eventually forget how good beer tastes, how sweet cigarettes once were, but once you’ve seen a poor German hitchhiker ‘stuffed in every hole’ because she didn’t have money for gas then you’ll see her poor, red sweaty face and hear her flesh muffled screaming forever…”

In the story Brad Hannigan is a journalist in the near future, as print journalism is dying out. His existence is pretty futile. He is totally uncool.

That’s me: uncool. And what’s worse is now I have to scrap the second paragraph because someone invented InPrivate browsing. The advert says it’s so you can buy secret gifts online, but I doubt that anyone ever uses it for that purpose and instead uses it either for hacking into partners e-mails/social network accounts or, more likely, wanking with wild abandon with no worry of the fact seeping into the hard drive forever the effluence of a wet dream seeping through the sheets and into mattress.

‘You’re funny though’ people say. Sometimes— usually quantifying this statement with ‘sometimes’ or ‘quite.’

This is true. One of the proudest moments of my life is the time my scriptwriting tutor told me he thought I had talent for comedy. Normally this would be quite pleasant, but this guy was in The Life of Brian, worked with Monty Python on other occasions and also worked with Douglas Adams. That… that was pretty cool.

And that’s all I’ve got really— the brief moments when being funny equates to coolness. It’s rare, but it happens.

But I don’t want that. I want to be in my villa abusing heroin, groupies and vintage guitars. If classic rock and television has taught me anything it’s that girls like guys with bad attitudes, awesome boots and excessively large belt buckles. Also: alcohol abuse. Yeah, alcohol is cool.

Except when I drink too much I am not cool. Except one time when we had to go to a fancy dress totally in character. I went as Keith Richards, stole two bottles of wine, farted loudly in front of everyone and fell asleep on the stairs when I got home.

That was kind of borderline— it’s both cool and uncool. On the one hand someone said I was an impressive method actor, on the other a girl in a wheelchair recoiled in horror when I opened my gruesomely-toothed mouth to speak.

Mostly though ‘rock and roll drinking’ ends with me asleep in the hallway, outside my bedroom door or on my bedroom floor; the girl in the next room thought I died once because she heard me stumble up the stairs, open the door and then, after a brief pause, a loud thud as a body hit the floor. She stopped worrying once I started to snore.

I want desperately to be cool. I want to be able to swagger around like a rock star and snort cocaine off silver platters and whatever else elegantly wasted rockers do besides making awesome music. I want girls to be impressed by my existence.

I made a film recently, for part of my university course. I left it until the very last minute. Even then I still found time to go to London and a birthday party where I ‘drank like a rock star.’ I made it with a lot of help from my friend Sam in one night. It was then edited the next day whilst watching National Treasure 2.

I had to show the film on a large screen to the rest of my class. It went down incredibly well— lots of laughs and an amazing round of applause. A lot of people came to talk to me afterwards. People were quoting from a film I’d made at five o’clock in the morning two days before.

People were impressed— girls were impressed.

And really, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? I mean Keith and me. And Jesus, look at his teeth back in the day… Keith was never trying to be cool (this is the only instance where trying already means you’re failing) he was just using all the talents at his disposal to get some satisfaction.*

I’ve been going about it all wrong the whole time. Sure, the villa in France and sunshine and shagging supermodels/actresses/both is way more fun than sitting in a dark room writing pages of shit like this in the vague hope that eventually you’ll strike comedy gold, but it amounts to the same thing in the end.

 We’re alike me and Keith, we just want some girls.**

*I know, I’m better than this.

**So, so much better than this…

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James D. Irwin is a British writer based in the Hampshire countryside. His work has appeared online, in print, and on stage. He can be contacted at [email protected]

69 responses to “I’m Like Keith Richards Because I’m Nothing Like Keith Richards”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    You also have your youth. Don’t discount that! KR is old, and it’s not like he’s spent the last 50 years doing yoga and eating alfalfa sprouts.

    That said, you should probably invest in a ginormous belt buckle, and pronto.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      yeah, but he was only thirty or so during Exile…

      So I guess I have nine years to get me a villa and some groupies…

      until then I’ll just make do with the buckle and bad comedy/sci-fi novels…

  2. Laura says:

    Seriously, how many of us are as cool as we want to be? We often can’t see, at all, how cool we truly are; something is always “lacking”. It is so very human to be/want more than what we are/have. I’m sure even Keith is disappointed about the way things are in his life.

    Believe me, enjoy the kudos from the scriptwriting tutor…and focus on that. You are very witty and talented…who needs good teeth when you’ve got that?!

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I read a lot of interviews and articles related to the Stones, and the reality of it is that they’re all quite normal and not very cool. Mick Jagger loves cricket. Keef is a voracious reader. They all love tea.

      But then that’s kind of cool too.

      And then there were guys like Hemingway and HST who, having cool reputations, felt compelled to play up to those reputations with very loud, messy consequences.

      Also, my teeth are incredibly healthy. I have no idea how the rest of the world manages such straight teeth. But I don’t have any fillings. My teeth are in good shape, they just look like they’ve been knocked off a shelf…

  3. Richard Cox says:

    You’re right. Everyone wants what the other person has. There’s probably some rock god sitting in a hotel room somewhere right now, hungover beyond imagination, strung out on heroin, sick to death of groupies, wishing he had the wherewithal and clarity of mind to sit down and write a novel.

    Or even a TNB post.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Haha. Actually I’ve been reading that Keith Richards loves reading and is trying to learn librarian skills to organize his book shelves properly…

      In all honesty though I’m quite proud of the limited skills I have. Not everyone can be a rock star, and but not everyone can write a novel either… and not everyone can write for TNB…

      I’m not cool, but at least I’m acheiving quite a bit being uncool…

      And of course the reality of groupies is probably gruesomely VD ridden….

      • I think the uncool ones do the best work. Cool people spend their time being “cool,” which usually isn’t all that cool. Note: go to any bar where frat boys or beautiful women or hipsters hang out and talk to them. The reality is that they’re probably not that cool. Or, at least, not so interesting that they’re god-like or even better than you. I don’t think DFW would have ever written anything worthwhile if he wasn’t depressed and socially awkward and a bit uncool.

        Good work.

        • James D. Irwin says:


          I think outside of the mainstream ‘cool’ is pretty subjective. After posting this, and thinking it over for a bit I sort of realized I’m quite cool in a very specific writerly-niche.

          Without wanting to sound like an incredibly arrogant asshole, in my creative writing class I’m probably more ‘advanced’ than most of the people. I mean that in terms of opportunity and ambition. Most of them won’t write novels because ‘it’s too hard’ or they ‘don’t think they’re good enough.’

          Well, there’s only one way to get good…

          I’ve been lucky, sure, but I’ve got a lot of luck from constantly trying to improve and prove how good I am. And the result is I’ve come in with a bit more experience and people are impressed. Which makes me kind of cool. Kind of.

          I mean I could have written a very serious post on this concept, but it was easier to make a few jokes about how shit my teeth look. But Keith got cool by being good at what he did. The looking cool came after.

          There is a difference between looking and being. Looking cool is, as I think you were saying, pretty hollow without anything real to back it up with.

          And that’s why TNBers are so cool. Some TNBers look incredibly cool, some less so. But every TNBer IS cool. There’s the talent, whether it’s dressed up in straw hats, cool t-shirts or flares…

  4. Becky Palapala says:


    I started laughing so hard at your description of the wild bouquet of cascading pubes, i started crying and had to slam my browser shut to keep from getting fired.

    I don’t know if that was the appropriate reaction.

    But Irwin, you always make me laugh. Always. So glad you’ve returned from your hiatus to grace us with your uncoolness.

    I wonder if anyone actually feels cool. I don’t feel cool. I’m always trying to buy cool shirts to make me cooler. Like the windmilling Vitruvian Man shirt.

    Which came in the mail last week.

    And I am wearing



    I may not be cool, but my shirt is.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      That’s one of my favourite reactions ever. It’s interesting seeing people react to self-deprecation. Some people really don’t get it, and think you just hate yourself.

      I like the thought of being ‘on hiatus.’ It sounds much better than ‘barren patch’ or ‘lazy spell.’ Which would be far more accurate. It was good to be back and not writing about sport. Those were kind of lazy posts too.

      For someone as uncool as myself I quite often feel cool. I delude myself. Cool t-shirts help. I think ‘cool’ is also pretty subjective. My five year old neighbours think I’m cool because I play soccer with them over the fence, and some people at college think I’m cool for many of the reasons most people think I’m uncool i.e. blazers, floral shirts, flares and boots. And tea. Alot of tea.

      You’re definitely cool in the context of TNB. i.e people who think intelligence, books and The Who are cool. And that t-shirt is beyond cool.

  5. Zara Potts says:

    I think you are cool, Jim.
    In fact, I know you are. You aren’t ‘quite’ funny – you are very funny. And man, I wish I could have written like you when I was your age.
    Besides, all the best people have wonky teeth.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      You’re cool too. And I’m not just saying that because you said I’m cool.

      We’re not ‘mainstream cool.’ Not many people on this site are, which is why it is so amazingly cool.

      I briefly had perfect teeth when I had a retainer. When it came back they all jumped around it what I can only assume was a fit of patriotism…

  6. Brad Listi says:

    “….once you’ve seen a poor German hitchhiker ‘stuffed in every hole’ because she didn’t have money for gas then you’ll see her poor, red sweaty face and hear her flesh muffled screaming forever…”


  7. Gloria says:

    You are funny, Irwin. You’re one of the funniest people I know.

    I love that you posted this in the midst of Listi’s posting and Richard’s posting and Greg’s posting… TNB synchronicity. We’re starting a band.

    Now, what’s this about private browsing? I need to buy some secret gifts…

    • James D. Irwin says:


      I heard about the band. Maybe it’s not too late for me to be cool and in a band. Especially if the commune takes off.

      But less cocaine and more tea.

      InPrivate browsing is great, but sometimes it’s annoying when you find a really enjoyable…er… present and then you go to find it again and you can’t because it’s not in your history. It’s very… um… frustrating…

  8. Wonderful post, James. All at once funny as hell and quite poignant. And that one line of yours:

    “…a mouth that appears to have been designed by MC Escher and constructed from broken chalk and the nightmares of small children.”

    Fucken hell, in guitar speak, that line is as good as anything Keith *ever* played.

    Rock on with yo’ bad self, brother.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Thanks man.

      I was quite pleased with that line, after a few weeks of trying to be ‘serious’ and the usual fears about trying to be a funny writer and not being funny…

      It’s kind of the conclusion I came to in the end… I can’t come up with riffs, but Keith can’t write ‘humour.’

      The big difference is that he just looks way more awesome doing what he does.

      You, of course, manage to dance across the writer/rock star line both elegantly and eloquently…

    • TammyAllen says:

      Another one. beautiful

  9. New Orleans Lady says:

    People who think they are cool, usually aren’t, and vise versa. I’m cool to a select few but what does a 4 year old know about cool, anyway?

    Having any sort of talent is cool and you, my friend, have talent. I lack talent. Or, not that I lack talent, I lack the balls to do anything with it. Maybe that’s even worse.

    But, like Becky, I have really cool t-shirts. So I’ll just leave it up to them to make me *seem* cool. Only my true friends know the truth.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      4 year olds know way more about being cool than most adults. Kids tend to see past bullshit and acknowledge what’s real.

      And I’m way older than four, and you’re definitely cool. But then I’m uncool, so maybe I’m just dragging you down with me…

      You don’t lack talent. Not doing anything with talent isn’t uncool. I’d say almost everyone has a talent they’re not using. You have to be very, very lucky to discover a talent and then get a really good opportunity to use it.

      Also, at the risk of sounding very, very cheesy, being a parent is a talent. It’s probably the only talent truly worth having. It’s also the coolest kind of talent, I think. It’s much harder to produce a smart kid than some ‘funny’ line about how uncool you are…

      And you can’t have a tattoo and not be a bit cool. Unless they’re really weird looking ones of Patrick Swayze as a centaur…

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        You never let me down and always make me laugh. And you’re right, Aiden is proof that somewhere deep down, I’m cool. Because he’s cool. Way cooler than me.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Three things that terrify me: the thought that one day I won’t be able to write, that I’lls top being funny and, very prematurely, that my kids are going to think I’m uncool. If I have kids by thirty, by the time they hit ten I’ll be listening to music that’s around one hundred years old…

          And absolutely none of those things are important. Well, unless I’m a professional comedy writer where my ability to write jokes is what puts food on the table. I’m sure any kids I have can look past the century old music, but not being able to provide food? That’s very uncool…

  10. You are lucky you are not Keith Richards though I hear he has a pretty cool library. I’m sure he can afford it! Enjoyed your piece very much. BTW, you never forget how good beer tastes, trust me.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Thanks man.

      Apparently he really likes reading stuff about WWII…

      I always thought I was the kind of guy who’d drink anything. I’m kind of fussy. I’ll only drink really good beer. But shit, nothing beats a really good beer.

      Except tea.

  11. Matt says:


    As Chris Rock once pointed out, if Keith and Mick hadn’t been rock stars, they would never have gotten any tail. Even young Keith looks like something the dog chewed up.

    Sitting down and writing a fucking book is cool, period.

    Rock on, man.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Keith would. He was at art college and played guitar anyway.

      But Mick, shit. He was pretty weird looking back in the day and he was at business school. He got better looking by the mid-70s, but he would have been screwed if he wasn’t the lead singer of the greatest rock and roll band on Earth— or more, he *wouldn’t* be screwed…

      Yeah, writing is cool. Even the sily nonsense I write when I’m not desperately trying to be cool…

  12. Joe Daly says:


    once you’ve seen a poor German hitchhiker ‘stuffed in every hole’ because she didn’t have money for gas then you’ll see her poor, red sweaty face and hear her flesh muffled screaming forever…”


    I like the fact that you seem comfortable in your own skin. Isn’t that what “cool” really is? Everybody’s got fear, needs, etc. But the ones who inspire seem to be the ones most comfortable with the hands their dealt, and who then go on from there. Sounds like you’re there as well. At any age, that’s one hell of a fucking starting point.

    Maybe you’ll never be a rock god, but I’m sure if you can figure out the feelings that you think a rock god has, you can find any one of a number of other ways to get there. You seem to be on one such road now with the writing.

    Rock on, brother. Rock the fuck on.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Thanks man.

      Yeah, being cool is technically about not wanting to be cool/not trying to be cool.

      I’m lucky. I don’t always want to be a rock god. I’m quite happy with who/where I am. I only want to be a rock god when I listen to really good music… which is really the point of really good music.

      It’s much easier to be comfortable with yourself when you get to post on literary websites and have people say nice things about you…

  13. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Firefox, man. Under the “Tools” menu, “Start Private Browsing”

    Who needs a 3rd party app?

    BTW, as Joe rightly says: rock the fuck on.

  14. Tawni says:

    You are such a funny writer, and this had me laughing the whole time. Especially the descriptions of hair, teeth and Keith Richards-esque behavior. Lovely way to start my day. Thank you. (:

  15. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    I think your short film is proof that all things should be edited w/ National Treasure 2 looming in the background. Hilarious piece, James!

    • Cynthia Hawkins says:

      Crikey! I tried to be smarter than you and figure out the italics and look what happened? Is there an italics camp the admin can send us both to?

      • James D. Irwin says:


        At least you got the italics to appear!

        I followed instructions and still failed.

        I miantain that that film is probably the best non-budget film ever made in one day at 5am that was edited whilst watching a Nic Cage film…

  16. Lenore says:

    girls like talented men. don’t worry about cool. most girls aren’t cool. we all suck most of the time. we have emotional problems and we cry over stuff like kittens. if you keep making stuff and proving your talent, eventually there will be a whole gaggle of obnoxious girls flocking toward you and they won’t leave you alone and they’ll all be crying about kittens. you’ll be so happy.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      It’s probably pretty uncool that ‘we all suck most of the time’ made me giggle as much as it did…

      Uncool girls are the coolest. Which roughly translates to girls who enjoy reading, tea and keeping dancing to a minimum.

      I’m going to start teaching myself about how to counsel those who have lost pets. Then I’ll be ready for the obnoxious crying girls. I’ll look like a sensitive nice guy, rather than a well-prepared pervert…

      • Lenore says:

        you won’t look like a pervert. girls aren’t smart enough to suspect preparation. but yeah, man, dancing girls are a no-go. beware of dancing girls.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          as pervert preperation goes it’s pretty low-key. I mean it’s not like specifically bringing electric cable, duct tape and a shotgun along…

          I can’t dance. I can do a mean jig, but I can’t dance. Except drunkenly to Thriller. The key is pretending to be a werewolf…

          Wait! Girls like sensitive werewolves these days, right?!

        • Lenore says:

          i’m not sure. i like some facial hair. but i think it’s all about effeminate vampires at the moment.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          will a fairly small waste and a few sharp teeth do..?

        • James D. Irwin says:

          or even a small waist.

          a small waste would only really appeal to environment-friendly girls…

        • Lenore says:

          girls have small waists, and therefore produce small waste. girls dig guys with big waste.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I’m just going to assume that this means all I need to do to impress girls now is to take a photo of my monday morning dump with my phone and show it to every girl I talk to…

        • Lenore says:

          correct. go get ’em, tiger.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Actually, a guy named Marco, who I went to school with, used to take photos of his own dumps. And he had a hole in his pocket that he would pull a testicle out through and surprise people with. Like, ‘Surprise! Testicle!’ He also had a guy he knew in the Air Force shanghai rocket fuel that he then used in his car.

          He was pretty successful with the ladies.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          W… um… wh… er, wha-

          I’m sorry…


  17. TammyAllen says:

    I kept thinking of this. I kept hearing Antonio Banderas in my head. lease forgive me…
    High flying, adored
    So young, the instant queen
    A rich beautiful thing, of all the talents
    A cross between a fantasy of the bedroom and a saint
    You were just a backstreet girl
    Hustling and fighting, scratching and biting

    High flying, adored
    Did you believe in your wildest moments
    All this would be yours
    That you’d become the lady of them all?

    Were there stars in your eyes
    When you crawled in at night
    From the bars, from the sidewalks
    From the gutter theatrical
    Don’t look down, it’s a long, long way to fall

    High flying, adored
    What happens now, where do you go from here?
    For someone on top of the world
    The view is not exactly clear
    A shame you did it all at twenty-six
    There are no mysteries now
    Nothing can thrill you, noone fulfill you

    High flying, adored
    I hope you come to terms with boredom
    So famous so easily, so soon
    It’s not the wisest thing to be

    You won’t care if they love you
    It’s been done before
    You’ll despair if they hate you
    You’ll be drained of all energy
    All the young who’ve made it would agree

    High flying, adored
    That’s good to hear but unimportant
    My story’s quite usual
    Local girl makes good, weds famous man
    I was stuck in the right place at the perfect time
    Filled a gap, I was lucky
    But one thing I’ll say for me
    Noone else can fill it like I can

  18. Simon Smithson says:

    Ah, the balance. Between what other people find impressive and what you find impressive. Fashionable, awesome, cool, impressive… or any other social praise you want to substitute.

    There’s one thing that’s always, always cool, Jim.

    Being fucking rich.

    Now tell me more about this German hitch-hiker?

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Yeah, being rich would be cool.

      I think I’d be good at being rich. I wouldn’t be a rich asshole or buy anything extravagant. I’d use the money for to live and travel in comfort.

      Also drugs and hooker. Maybe. Just for a week to see whether I could have coped with the rock and roll lifestyle…

      The example of a porn film given is, tragically, entirely fictional and based on several porn cliches.

      That’s not to say that searching ‘german teen hitchhiker stuffed in every hole’ wouldn’t turn up a few results…

  19. angela says:

    screw cool. i’ve tried and have given up.

    this weekend i tried to find some new cool clothes to go with my writerly persona (as opposed to my business casual and home-in-PJs personas), and had absolutely no luck, mostly because i was looking in Macy’s, perhaps the epitome of uncool. and there’s no way i’m paying a shit ton of money at little boutiques for “cool” clothes either.

    screw it, like i said.

    “wild bouquet of pubes for a hairstyle.” awesome!

    • which naturally means you are now cool. Besides, you’re a writer and you live in San Francisco.

      I want to be a writer and live in SF, and thus you are incredibly cool.

      I’d kind of gotten over San Francisco recently until I saw an advert on TV which was filmed there in the early morning and it was just so beautiful.

      Would that be the Macy’s by Union Square? AKA the Macy’s where my brother accidentally got shit on his hands…

      I spent my nineteenth birthday in the Macy’s in New York. True story.

      When it comes to dressing like a writer you can’t go wrong with PJs. My personal preference is for as few clothes as possible. Which is usually quite a lot of clothes, because it’s rarely very warm here…

  20. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    James, the rock and roll fantasy dies for a girl after she’s dated one musician. One is plenty. If he doesn’t die of an overdose by the time she’s twenty-three, she will break up with him. Smart, funny, talented, those qualities really work. Creative, considerate, interesting. You’re good to go.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      haha, thanks.

      I am technically in a band, but we decided we were only going to do novelty songs and I’m not allowed to touch anything musical… best of both worlds… I’m cool because I’m in a band, but I’m also largely sweat free and not on drugs.

      I can’t promise not to be drunk though…

  21. Rachel Pollon says:

    I think the coolest people are truly and comfortably themselves. Thinking you need to be different just makes you uncomfortable and uncomfortable is never cool. Accept yourself, your gifts, what you’re lacking what you want to work on, and go forth into the world making it really easy on yourself and other people to see who you are. I think you actually do that already. You’re just under the impression that you need to be different. Because you’re young and often drunk. 😉 Keep on keepin’ on, James. And, oh yeah, being a writer is thee coolest IMHO. (It’s what I want to be.)

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