57. James is the Glue

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The first thing I ever wanted to be was a comedian. Well, the very first thing I wanted to be was a magician, because I used to be obsessed with Harry Houdini. But then I learned that even with his powers of sorcery, he was felled by a punch in the stomach. ‘Fuck that,’ the 8-year-old James exclaimed! Well, then I wanted to be a firefighter, but then I realized that I was terrified of fire; I just wanted to look like the firemen that I saw on TV. Finally, I decided I wanted to be a comedian…with the body of a firefighter. Even as a small, prepubescent pervert, I wanted to be making people laugh so hard it hurt while my body… made them so hard it hurt.

Ah yes, readers, let the fuckery commence…

But let me start at the beginning. Let me start at a time when I had a more innocent sense a humor, a time before I laughed incessantly at the thought of a “dick fart”. Yes, readers, let start with the first person who taught me the meaning of comedy: my grandfather. (Just for the record, while my grandfather is mentioned in the cultivation of my comedic talents, this blog does not in any way reflect his personal endorsement or his condemnation of my disgusting fucking sense of humor. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…)

Flashback to my early teen years: I was having an angsty time in high school just like every other teenager tossing and turning on the tumultuous, cum-stained waves of puberty. I distinctly remember a specific time during which I thought everyone hated me; I’m pretty sure I was having a disagreement with every single one of my friends. I also struggled heavily with depression when I was younger. In middle school, I frequently cried hysterically to my mother and said, “I wish I were dead.” Once, she burst into tears after I said that to her. She asked me to stop saying it, so I did but I didn’t necessarily stop feeling it.

In a nutshell, the struggle was REAL for this lanky gay in his early, early teens. So my mother suggested I spend a weekend at my grandparents’. I remember feeling a combination of absolute nothingness and utter desperation to get away from everything. This was the first time I fell in love with my tried-and-true method of problem-solving: running the fuck away. So my mother dropped me off at my grandparents’ house, and I stayed with them for about a week. I spent my days playing with my Neopets on the computer, biking to the local swimming pool and being rendered breathless by my grandfather’s flawless sense of humor. For example…

One day, I was sitting on the computer checking on my Neopets, wondering if anyone would ever need me as much as these digital monsters, and all of a sudden I heard a quiet chanting coming from the living room. This was also the time in my life when I was really into the TV show Charmed so I’m pretty sure I had come to the conclusion that the mysterious chanting was coming from a demon that had come to take my life. I bowed my head, I solemnly bid my beloved Neopets goodbye with a lengthy, inexperienced tongue-kiss to the computer screen and walked towards the living room, resolved to die at the hands of this inevitably sexy demon. As I reached the living room, I raised my eyes to make full eye contact with the demon, but instead I saw my grandpa standing the middle of the room, arms extended halfway in front of his body, palms to Jesus, eyes closed, chanting in Latin. He must have felt my presence, because he slowly opened his eyes and smiled at me. I smiled back knowingly; he was up to some type of fuckery.

“What are you doing, Opa?”

My grandpa replied back without a single hesitation, “Oh, I’m just sacrificing this baby lamb to Jesus.” And with a twinkle in his eye, he resumed his Latin incantation to Jesus as he offered up the nonexistent baby lamb while I LAUGHED MY FUCKING ASS OFF.

This memory has stuck with me for at least a decade now, and I think it’s because it was one of my first lessons in comedy:

  • Don’t hesitate. Just go. When I asked him what he was doing, he just said the first fucking thing that came to his mind. He didn’t judge his thoughts and think to himself, ‘Is this funny?’ He just trusted his inner comedian and succumbed to a violent, hilarious case of word vomit. I know that even if the first thing that had come out of his mouth wasn’t initially funny, he would’ve worked his way into it. Cuz he’s a fucking pro and shit.
  • Commit, god damnit. My grandpa fucking went for it. He stood in the middle of the living room, chanting in Latin for fucks sake, over an imaginary lamb carcass. Does my grandpa even know Latin??! I don’t fucking know, but I believed it! And he wasn’t giving a half-ass performance of his “Latin” incantation; he was giving all he had! And he went on for a considerable amount of time in Latin/Gibberish. (Let the record show that it is highly probable that my grandfather actually knows Latin. Among the many things he studied in college, I know he took a few classes in Theology.)

Luckily, he gave me subsequent lessons in being absolutely ridiculous:

It was a sunny day in Horicon, Wisconsin as we rode down the highway. He was driving while I stared lackadaisically out the passenger-side window. The lady driving in front of us was cruising at a speed much slower than that which my grandpa desired. Honestly, it is very likely that this woman was driving the legal speed limit, but my grandpa just wanted to go faster. Or he just wanted to make me smile. Either way, we just road along behind her for a bit. But I guess the forlorn look on my face was too much for my grandpa to handle, because he looked over at me and said, “Hold on.” Then he slowly rolled down his window, calmly reached out his head and yelled, “DRIVE FASTER, YOU OLD BITCH!” I remember laughing so hard I cried, while my grandpa put on his shit-eating grin, rolled up his window and continued driving. This was Lesson #2:

  • Make fun of yourself. More specifically, be aware of which groups you belong to, and feel free to make fun of them all the time. Quite frankly, my grandfather also could have been classified as an “old bitch”. Therefore, he had a right to make fun of other old people. He had the right to “berate” this old woman for “driving slow” when she was surely driving the speed limit.
  • Do the unexpected. My grandpa is a super well-mannered man. He studied like a million things in college, including a P.H.D. in “How to Be a Gentleman”. He never raises his voice and he never swears. So he knew that it would be fucking hilarious for him to scream profanities out his window at this woman. Also, just so the whole world knows, this woman absolutely did NOT hear him yell at her. Her window was rolled up, the wind was roaring, she was an old bitch, etc.
  • Know your audience. He looked at me and thought, ‘Here’s a teenager who gets scolded if he ever swears in front on his parents. Hell, his mother won’t even let him say the word “fart”! I know that watching an old man swear will really make him laugh.’ And he was right!
  • Go all the fucking way. He didn’t pretend to yell; he yelled at the top of his voice. You have to give it 110%! I apply this to my life by abusing the literary device “hyperbole” every time I tell a god damn story. Everything is funnier when it’s bigger, especially an “accurate retelling” of any “historical” event.
  • Comedy is the best medicine. This might have been the most important lesson that I’ve taken away from all of my grandpa’s jokes. Comedy can literally fix anything. If I am ever sad, I trust that my grandpa still knows how to make me laugh, even though my sense of humor has devolved into a disgusting rompery of foulness. For example: my roommates are currently singing a Christmas carol where they replace random words with “ass-queefs”, and I can’t help but randomly bursting out in laughter. Despite my current extremely sophisticated sense of humor, I know that my grandpa can still have me rolling on the floor laughing. #partridgeinanassqueef

I’ve taken all my lessons, and I’ve fully integrated comedy into my daily life. I use comedy every fucking day. Comedy is the adhesive that binds the book of my life, and I find myself constantly using comedy as a heavy-duty sandpaper, aggressively (read: effortlessly) smoothing over all the rough patches that I encounter in life. I do it now without thinking. I find it to be my innate duty, necessary but exhausting.

I used to call myself “the glue”. The first time I called myself that was my senior year of high school. I was really worried about going away to college, because I felt like the glue of my family (which is comprised of me, my two parents and my three sisters). I remember crying to my dad and saying, “You guys are gonna fall apart without me! I’M THE GLUE!!!!!”(Cue EVERY crying emoji.) Okay… So first of all, yes, I have been dramatic for a long time. But second, I wasn’t being a pompous ass thinking that my family needed me. When I left, who was gonna smooth things over with a joke? When I lived at home, if my sisters were fighting with my parents I would easily diffuse the situation by firing a well-timed joke. The gunfire would cease, everyone would laugh and immediately the tensions would disperse. What were they gonna do without me?? My father looked at me with compassion in his eyes and chuckled, “We’re not going to fall apart.” I went away to college, and my family didn’t blast itself into smithereens without my tactful, diplomatic jokes. Life went on, but I kept comedy in my back pocket as my reliable Secret Weapon.

Now I work in a restaurant. Every shift starts with a brief meeting, and sometimes the morale of my coworkers is kind of negative. Hospitality is hard, and customers can be assholes. Unfortunately, this negativity can spread like poison in the bloodstream. But I take it upon myself to be the antidote, and I try to lighten the mood by making a joke. For example, there was once a competition in one of the preshift meetings about who could tell their most embarrassing story. I gladly told one of the many stories of me shitting myself. I think people were more horrified than anything, but I know that, even if for only a moment, they forgot about their shitty days as they thought to themselves, ‘Wow, I’m so glad I’m not half as nasty as James!” But my job doesn’t end there! When we all go downstairs to start serving guests as they give complicated martini orders as if I’m a fucking Starbucks barista, it’s easy to succumb to the general soul-sucking energy that the customers bring with them. So even then, I continue to make jokes in an effort to keep the mood light and easy as I trip theatrically on a chair in the dining room and suggest that we put some orange cones and caution tape around it. Or how about the one time when I was reaching across a table to grab some empty plates and the guest turned her head and got a face-full of my crotch, and I asked my manager if I should charge her extra for that. Most people just think I’m fucking weird, but I don’t really care as long as someone is laughing (…most of the time that “someone” is just me).

Meeting people is a pretty vulnerable situation, but I use the same gameplan every time: make them laugh. That’s it. Step One: make them laugh. Everything else comes after that. Once I can make someone laugh, I can figure out how to navigate the rest. Later in the conversation, I can make another joke by referencing back to my initial joke or use a piece of information that they revealed to me earlier. For example, if when we met they told me they were a professional goblin hunter, later in the conversation I will ask them to clarify: “I’m sorry. Now when you said ‘goblin hunter’… Is that a real thing or was that your way of telling me that you murder ugly people?” That way, I continue to make them feel more comfortable by making them laugh, and I’m showing them that I care to get to know them because I’m listening to the things they’re telling me. Once I make someone laugh, I know how to win them over. Eventually if this relationship grows into a friendship, I will know how to diffuse an argument between us in the future. When someone is mad at me, if I can make them laugh it’s gonna make it real hard for them to stay angry. And no matter how upset they are with me, once they laugh they’ll remember what it is they love about me (besides my devilish charm). And if they’re sad about something else, it’s even easier for me to make them laugh. I just give them two pieces of good advice and then my third piece of advice is something silly. For example: “You know what you need to do? You need to be brave, tell him how you feel and then eat all the fucking ice cream.” Tada! The rule of threes! It also helps to deliver a joke in the midst of a serious moment. For example, a friend is opening up to you, crying and wondering if someone will ever love them. And then you look them straight in the eye, wipe away their singular tear and say, “Hey. Now you listen to me. You are the filthiest fucking person I know, but I love you, you nasty fucking bitch.” Bingo bango! Sentiment with humor! Never fails. And if it does fail, you slap them in the face and give them a cookie; after that, at least one of you is bound to feel better.

Comedy is my foolproof lubricant in vulnerable situations. I have a bad habit of using comedy in my moments of uncomfortable vulnerability. For example, if I text someone and say something like, “Hey, I really miss you,” but they don’t respond right away, I am bound to then text something like, “Oh, man, sorry, that text was meant for my mom… and the dick pic I meant to send to you accidentally went to my mom. Fuck! Oh man. I hope she likes it? No, that’s fucked up. I hope she hates it! Wow, but I hope she doesn’t tell me that she hates it; that would really hurt my feelings. Does it turn you on when I use a semi-colon in a text? Maybe my mom won’t recognize my penis, and she won’t know it’s mine. I’ll tell her my iPhone was hacked by North Korea. That’s a thing, right? Also, do you love me?” And then I would insert a slew of emojis, starting with the crystal ball emoji and ending with the poopie emoji. I know in my heart that I should just sit patiently in my vulnerable moment, but sometimes I just can’t HELP but scramble to use comedy as my emergency parachute, uncertain if anyone is waiting to catch me as I careen towards unknown terrain in the Land of Vulnerability. That way, I’m safe either way. If the feeling is mutual, they’ll return the sentiment and my joke will just make them laugh. But if the feeling isn’t mutual, my joke serves as a landing cushion for me and it distracts them from my moment of vulnerability, like that super bright white light that the Men In Black use to erase people’s memories. Their conscience will be scot-free and unburdened while over in my apartment I’ll be sobbing wildly facefirst in my Stitch stuffed animal.

This leads to me the lesson of comedy that I appreciate the most: comedy is an excellent way to deliver a sincere message. You get people to like you and make themselves vulnerable to you by making them laugh, and then you sock ‘em where it counts.

Comedy is my lifeline. It’s my signature and I scribble it on everything. But it does get a little tiresome, being the social lubricant all the time. I feel like people look to me to save the day sometimes… “Oh, I’m sad… James will fix everything! Make it all better, James! Do that thing where you tell a disgusting story, and I forget about everything!” Whether this pressure exists in the physical world or only in my head, I frequently feel it’s my responsibility to be some sort of superhero of comedy, like it’s my duty to heal the hurt with my jokes. Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than to make someone explode with laughter and know that it was me that did that. But sometimes, I just wanna sit back and be the one made to laugh. Sometimes I don’t wanna be the superhero; I wanna be the damsel in distress who desperately needs to laughs until she sharts. Sometimes, I wish I was 15 again, sitting in my grandpa’s Buick while he screams out the window at an old woman to drive faster. I just wanna be sitting in that passenger seat, breathless with laughter while my grandpa smirks to himself, secretly satisfied that he made me smile while pretending he didn’t do anything remotely out of the ordinary. If only. But I can’t go back. I can only go forward when my eyes are open. So. In that case, I fully intend to soldier onward, carrying the blazing torch of comedy handed down to me by my grandfather and ignite the world with shart-inducing laugther.

Game on, Life. Here comes the giggles, you fucks.

“If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman? If I’m alive and well, will you be there holding my hand?
~”Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down

#dontgiveup

Love,

James / The Glue

This is what I looked like when my grandpa started teaching me to be funny. If only he would have taught me how inappropriate it is to wear a tye-dye shirt in front of a tye-dye background. Also. I'm posing with my stuffed animal. How can anyone be cooler than me?

This is what I looked like when my grandpa started teaching me to be funny. If only he would have taught me how inappropriate it is to wear a tye-dye shirt in front of a tye-dye background. Also. I’m posing with my stuffed animal. How can anyone be cooler than me?

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3 responses »

  1. You are an incredibly talented and confident writer. Even if someone doesn’t like the way you choose to colorfully describe something, there is no denying that you are a very effective writer. Too bad you can’t find 1 out of the 1000s of magazines that would wisely pay you to write for them. You’d just need to find that particular audience you would most appeal to. Believe me, James, that audience is out there! You could do that in the mean time until you make the big times…

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