Jesus, Drew, Damn

I’m a fan of Drew Magary. I like reading the mailbag he does on Deadspin, I like his columns and such, The Hike was a pretty good book, etc. What Drew does very, very well, though, is point out when takes are bad and excoriates the taker both accurately and sardonically. He’s fun.

Recently, in response to the news that Louis was a serial sexual abuser, he published this. This is an exceedingly bad take, so in his honor I’ll be going over why it’s bad. Even though I know it is ultimately a meaningless and fruitless endeavor for the internet to bounce a ping pong ball of take evaluation back and forth across every possible interpretative angle, why not? Life is meaningless.

Still worse, I’m already in check, as he’s called the comedy community “very insular and VERY protective”. I’m part of that community and you could interpret this as fulfilling his assessment. Or you could see it as someone compromised and with too much personally invested. Or you could view it as a defensive response to an aggressive action. More likely you’ll never see it, never have an opinion, never know my name, and be utterly confused as to why I would do something like this in the first place. But hey, fuck it.

The central thrust of the piece is that powerful men in comedy are bad and that there’s a generally toxic atmosphere in the comedy scene, one that enables and protects its abusers. To which I respond, Yes! That’s an accurate assessment. Even in the local Chicago comedy scene we’ve had multiple multiple instances of abusers unpunished due to their standing within the scene. The only response to that is that the only reason you’re writing about this issue in comedy is because a comedian was in the news. The only reason people are writing about abuse in Hollywood is because a producer was in the news. Everybody writes about the toxic culture of whatever community surrounds and protects whichever monster du jour, when the reality is that this toxic culture is unique to no clique or community. It is a pervasive toxicity that exists wherever men are given even the slightest modicum of power. It’s dudes all the way down.

If your hero is a man rich or famous or powerful (especially if he’s religious), lowballing, there’s a 40% chance he’s abused his power and a 90% chance that the victim was/is a woman/women. Take down Richard Pryor, Louis CK, Bill Cosby, and all the rest of them who’ve abused women all day, all fucking day. I’m in.

But weirdly, he then deviates from this theme and goes after comedy, and comedians especially, as a whole. I’m not being defensive about my insular and VERY protective community when I say no one in any community likes being told why they think things, especially by people outside that community.

To write that the toxicity within the scene is “borne of the strange and deathly seriousness with which many comedians, including C.K., venerate their craft. No one takes himself more seriously than a comedian,” is wrong, for the reasons I’ve outlined above, but also really, really wrong for reasons I’ll outline below.

First, some of us do, most of us don’t, and most of the comics who do take it that seriously are delusional, irrelevant old dudes being asked the same boring questions they’ve answered a million times. When you hear about a younger comic taking it seriously and reacting to every little thing like an asshole, think about why you’re hearing about it. We don’t hear about every mass shooting anymore, there are too many, but we hear about every fuckface accidentally nearby who uses a gun, maybe, to help. The latter is rare enough to become news. There’s an annoying amount of comics now (to the point where we need to unionize since our pay has stayed the same since the collapse of the comedy boom twenty years ago, probably Reagan’s fault), and when you have that many people, a percentage are going to be completely delusional assholes. The larger scene spends most of its time talking shit and mocking these idiots because they’re bringing us down.

Beyond that, taking comedy seriously is not why Norton leapt to Tosh’s defense, nor Cross being a bitch, nor why Stanhope does whatever Stanhope does (frankly, no one really knows why Stanhope does anything). They did what they did because they’re being left behind and they don’t really understand that. If you’re not a comic, you don’t understand The Road and you’ll never understand it twenty years ago. These guys came up on the road in the 90s when you really could say whatever the fuck you wanted because no one was watching. After the boom, if an audience came out to a comedy show, they were not on your side. Audiences were hostile (they still can be, of course, just not to the same extent). Every comic that’s worked the road has horror stories, and the ones from that era are the most terrifying. These guys leapt to each others defense because they’re used to comedy being US v THEM. The scene is insular for sure, because many of us, ironically, view ourselves as survivors. The closest corollary to a comic is not a musician or a writer, it’s indie wrestlers; it's all silly and stupid and we love it and maybe we make some money, maybe we don't. The road does affect you and the way you view audiences, then people entire, and moreso back then, but, to be clear, we all find it hilarious.

Comedy is moving away from that. People are watching. People are even watching open mics, policing them. That’s awesome! At the lowest level of open mic, we’re starting to see fewer and fewer of the “I should be allowed to say whatever I want, fuck the PC police” assholes. We’re seeing more people do weird, interesting, creative things. There’s so many of us now, it’s the only way to stand out. We’re not close to where we should be, yet, but neither is literally everyone else.

Like so many people from the previous generation, these comics are discovering the world changed much faster than they’re able to. That is not an excuse for their behavior, do not misunderstand, I hate it, and a lot of them, as much or more than everyone else. But don’t tell me you know why comics do what they do, what they did.

The next part made me black out with its staggering wrongness, strawmanniness, self-righteousness, and silly, silly dick-waving.


“Artie Lange once framed comedy as an addiction, one of many he admits he’s had to juggle throughout his adult life. “Ask any comedian, when an audience erupts at something you say, nothing else matters,” he wrote in his second (!) autobiography. “It’s like tossing a bucket of blood into the water when a hungry shark is around: once a comedian gets a taste for laughter, they’ll hunt it down by whatever means necessary.” And that’s telling, because it’s a reminder that laughs are the ONLY goal in comedy, and that everything used in service of getting them is mostly illusory, including the truth. You, the comedy enjoyer, are a mark. Lange, like other comedians, wants you to think that this addiction is some kind of plight, when really it’s just a way of selling their own personal misery to justify whatever jokes they need to make to get their fix.”.



Laughs are not the only goal in comedy. Ask most comics and they will tell you that laughs are not even in the top 3 goals of comedy. Ask any comic and they’ll tell you that there are many different types of laugh and the goal isn’t just to get them, it’s to control them. There are a lot of shitty comics that just want laughs and they are shitty because of it. I’ve thrown away a lot of jokes because they elicited the wrong type of laughter, or worse, they were laughed it in the wrong way. That’s the more common point of view on getting laughs. Not to wax poetic, but You, the comedy enjoyer, are not a mark, you are the instrument. Or, to really not wax poetic, any shitty comic can masturbate and cum, but a good comic looks for the best orgasm. We lotion up, do some edging, and then, after an hour, the orgasm is ecstatic and lasts long after you’re done (only difference is that, unlike masturbating, if a comic adds toys, it really doesn’t make things better). In this metaphor, tortured as it is, is that You, the comedy enjoyer, are cumming too. The best shows a comic will ever do are the ones that neither the comic, nor the audience, can forget.

He closes with this bananas paragraph:

“But it’s still way past time for the comedy community to address the pervading mentality that let C.K. thrive for so long. It’s time for comedians to get over themselves, because this job is not some glorious exercise in free speech. It’s just a laugh hunt, and I never wanna hear another goddamn hint about how it’s anything more than that. Because that’s when it becomes a bunch of weak men finding ways to excuse their weakness, failing to realize that it’s 2017 and a lot of their bullshit isn’t funny anymore, and that they aren’t the only people who get to be angry.”

Now, the obvious response to this is an eyeroll and a hearty, damn dude, how bout you get over yourself, too. The aggressive response is who died and made your dick twice as big as mine? But the reasonable response is no comic seriously thinks comedy is a glorious exercise in free speech except for failed comics (who almost always wind up turning into right-wing idiots); comedy isn’t just a laugh hunt, except when it is, except when it’s not; comics don’t actually think they’re martyrs, we think we’re monsters thank you very much; and what Drew wrote was an aggressively bad take.

They're More Afraid of You than You are of Them

When we’re talking about the conservative/progressive spectrum we’re not talking about political positions or policy ideas or tax cuts or whatever. What we’re actually discussing is the percentage of people who feel relatively safe versus the people who don’t.

When this type of psychological study is performed (oh those studies, aren’t they fun to blow out of proportion and consider fact?) the conclusion is consistent. If people are subjected to fearful situations, they act more conservatively (*voice of the gun lover* “gotta protect me and my own!”), when they feel safe, liberal (*voice of the oppressed underclass* “hey, how about we treat everyone like fucking people you fucking assholes”). Intuitively, we all knew this. Conservative media is just a smorgasbord of terrorism and government coming for your guns and blah blah blah. Imparting that amount of fear, injecting it directly into the shriveled genitalia of people staring down the scythe blade of death, inspires conservative behavior. Not just that, but when people are afraid, they run to a trusted source. Ironically, of course, that source is the one that inflames their fear, creating a feedback loop of stupid. This is, to a relative extent, regardless of the conservative/progressive spectrum. Recall W.’s approval rating after 9/11. What a group of fucking morons humans are.

What’s a more important of a feedback loop, and a far more destructive one, is how easily we are manipulated when we are afraid. The theme of conservative policy runs pretty simply: increase fearfulness. Conservatives are warmongers. Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, paying for the tax cuts with cuts to programs that benefit the poor (seriously, fuck Reagan). Conservatives dismantle regulations that protect the environment. Conservatives LOVE guns, and the businesses they love most profit more when they’re used on innocents. Conservatives privatise prisons, creating demand for more prisoners, demand the militarized police happily supply. Conservatives inspire fear of immigrants, fear of the other, fear of a lost white majority, and perhaps the greatest fear of all, irrelevance.

Conservatism is now (Dan and I disagree on whether or not it has always been) a morally desiccated husk of imaginary principles driven by the engine of an exploitative fear machine that purposely creates the conditions necessary to propagate itself endlessly, paid for and built by the corrupt oligarchs who benefit. It’s a magnificent con. When the oligarchs successfully combined racism, tribalism, and religion with economic policy immediately following the Civil War, they created generation upon generation of people willing to vote against their own interests, not just that, their own suffering. Best example? Roughly 25% of Latinos voted for Trump. For realsies.

All of this is, of course, the most ironic. Who complains most about liberals wanting safe spaces? The people who are most afraid. Who bitches most about PC culture? The people afraid of being called names. When these people vomit their implicit racial bias into the explicit and see liberals getting angry at it, they misinterpret it as fear because that is all they know. They think when someone is triggered it’s a sign of weakness, when it’s the signal of a survivor. Conservatives project their insecurity on the rest of us, and so imagine what I can only describe as the upside down world, where they are the strong, the controlling, the powerful, the smart. Trump is not an aberration, nor a mistake, he is the avatar of the modern conservative. Paranoid, illogical, distrustful of empathy, worshipping of wealth, and truly incapable of understanding the pullies and levers of complex systems, instead imagining that “common sense” will solve things.

What I’m saying is I’ve figured it out; all we have to do is convince conservatives that there’s nothing to be afraid of.



No Tao Time

I’m an infrequent follower of the Tao. I have the opening line to Chapter 56 of the Tao Te Ching tattooed on my back. It was my very first tattoo. In moments of self-awareness at the age of 18, I understood that I was (am) a blowhard with a superiority complex and an inveterate asshole. I decided to tattoo that fact and its solution on my body forever, to remind myself that I can go fuck myself. The Tao is a sacred collection of musings from an apocryphal cat named Lao Tse almost entirely about telling yourself to go fuck yourself. It’s brilliant.

It can also be wrong in a spectacular, confident fashion, but also it could be right at the same time. It’s a weird book; the other topic that it’s concerned with is good governance. Self-help meets Zbigniew Brzezinski.


If any one should wish to get the kingdom for himself, and to

effect this by what he does, I see that he will not succeed. The

kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He

who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp

loses it.

Chapter 29 is right/wrong in this exact manner. Obviously, the first part is wrong, because all of history, and the second part is clearly right because duh, but also, because the second part is right if you look at the first part in that context the first part is probably right, too, because what the fuck?

In the context of the present, every president (the office that is becoming ever more reminiscent of kingship) has wished to get the kingdom, and has succeeded by doing. That’s kinda how it works. Unless you consider the kingdom a spirit-like thing, in which case he fucking nailed it. His point is, essentially, anyone who wants to president should be automatically disqualified on account of they’re going to fuck everything up. So, yea, he fucking nailed it.


The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the

hardest; that which has no (substantial) existence enters where there

is no crevice. I know hereby what advantage belongs to doing nothing

(with a purpose).

Chapter 43 is right/wrong too. All of this is right in the long run, unlike Jesus’ “meek shall inherit the Earth” line, which by now we all know isn’t true. The meek is getting fucked, bro. Water erodes rock over time and you should totally be like water, as Bruce Lee told us two thousand years later (and then Spike from Cowboy Bebop only slightly more recently). To be deliberately flowing, rather than actively struggling, is to embody the principles of the Tao. Awesome. But we don’t have the luxury of becoming one with the universe and therefore ourselves, because we don’t have time.

In order to survive this time, we’re gonna have to be hard.


To know and yet (think) we do not know is the highest

(attainment); not to know (and yet think) we do know is a disease.


It is simply by being pained at (the thought of) having this

disease that we are preserved from it. The sage has not the disease.

He knows the pain that would be inseparable from it, and therefore he

does not have it.

Lao Tse got to the Dunning-Kruger effect a lot sooner than they did, which is pretty cool, and not only that, but he also solved it, which is super cool, but also no one ever paid attention and no one ever will, very less cool. Like he says, “My words are very easy to know, and very easy to practise; but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practise them” (which is just such a fucking cop out, if you ask me).

That is the reason we don’t have enough time to be Taoists. The diseased people Lao Tse describes are legion and they are in power. They’ve spread that disease to, if not a majority, a plurality and if that disease isn’t stopped we will all be destroyed by it.

Dan and I make sure to point out that we have no love for either party, we don’t give a fuck about Republicans or Democrats, we’re done with politics as a team sport. The problems we face are not the result, really, of the right or the left, they are the result of people who think they know what the fuck they are doing and stick to it regardless of the reality of the situation. The Iraq war is still going. We’re still putting shit tons of carbon in the atmosphere. We can’t fucking stop electing idiots.

We can no longer be patient. It’s time for the people who know what the fuck they’re talking about, but question everything, to publicly abandon that position - but privately prize it like precious metal - and start insisting loudly and forcefully we have simple, easy-to-understand solutions. Bernie Sanders knew well that taxing the rich isn’t a tax code, but it was a simple concept that penetrated the know-what-the-fuck-they’re-talking-about assholes. In America no longer can you discuss policy, reality, or much else. In order to defeat the Dunnings-Kruger, you have to appeal to them directly using their own language.

We need to take our good ideas and boil them down again and again until they’re at their simplest expression and repeat it loudly and confidently. They do it and that’s why they’re winning.  

Focus, Damn It

I check Google News every morning because it’s an exceptional news aggregator and because I am a sheep incapable of escaping from the foul grip of our shadowy technocratic overlords. I’m absolutely contributing to the death of investigative journalism (even though it’s been bleeding out from countless wounds for 40 years) and the ever greater consolidation of power within corporate media sources, but hey, fuck it.

At least 70% of the headlines feature the word “Trump”. This is a massive problem. The trend inescapable is maddening because every article is redundant. We already fucking know. Everyone who’s going to get it, gets it. Everyone who doesn’t get it, will never. There’s no story of his psychopathy that can surprise, there’s no bottom to his madness, there’s nothing more to say about him. He’s not news. He’s not even fucking fake news at this point. He’s the presidential equivalent of Dog Bites Man.

When he called the widow of a dead soldier and was a dick, were you at all surprised? When he tweets out some threat to North Korea or some defense of some racist or some racist shit himself, are you surprised? More pressing, does it change your thinking regarding him? Of fucking course not. Because we already know enough about him to judge accurately what needs to happen to him and that’s some sort of ironic, Twilight-Zone-y type of punishment. Like maybe he’s put in a small, padded room with a permanent gag in his mouth and his hands tied behind his back while civil rights leaders tweet W.E.B. DuBois quotes from his account. Maybe not that, but something along those lines.

I’m not giving some kind of “If you ignore him he’ll go away” take, quite the opposite, I think every story should be about him. He is the largest immediate threat to the entire world. The entire GOP is butt and should be removed with the use of a time machine set to 1979, but none of them are so obsessed with a combined paranoia and pathetic need for instant and total approval. Those two qualities are the perfect Nixonian mix of getting us all killed. The damage Pence and the rest of the GOP fucks will do once he’s gone will be catastrophic, but it will be reversible so long as we can come together and defeat them, but the reality of Trump is not necessarily nuclear war, but definitely the destruction of any kind of global cooperation with the US.

It’s time to let go of the shit that Trump does being the story, “Trump makes false claim” is not news, he’s a liar. “Trump lies and needs to be impeached” is the news. “Trump tweets…” should be changed to “Fuck Trump, he needs to be impeached, and also why the fuck is tweeting a news thing? Like, for real, what world do we live in where the President is even allowed to tweet?” “Trump says…” needs to be changed to “The oligarchs are murdering us all because all they fucking care about, and are using the stupidity of their easily lied to racists to gain, are Tax Cuts”.

Most importantly, every front page, blog, and tweet should be about the cowardice, worthlessness, idiocy, and actual, real-life evil of the GOP house members who refuse to do the only fucking job they have. If enough of them can be successfully bullied into doing something valuable for once in their lives, move on to the Senate.

So I suppose the great question of the internet generation is simply, “Can we focus if our lives depend on it?” Cause they goddam do.