I too had an emotional experience in Katz’s Deli

Little known fact about me. I love romantic comedies. I also hate poorly made movies. I’m bothered by flimsy narratives, bland chemistry, unnatural dialogue, unearned connection and low stakes. I very much don’t think two people should be together purely because they’re both attractive. It may sound like I don’t like romantic comedies after all, but I certainly do. It’s about finding the right ones.

I’m not gonna get a medal for saying When Harry Met Sally is great. It’s the genre’s worst kept secret. It turns out that in real life, relationships often come together after years of friendship. That the aspects you look for in a partner emulate those you want in a friend: Emotional honesty, an ability to bring effortless joy into the most mundane of activities, caring about your struggles, because their happiness swells when yours does. Much as the logline of men and women can’t be friends because sex gets in the way is a relic of times gone past, the film holds up incredibly well. Firstly, let’s look at what could be better.

Times have changed and the whole binary Men/Women:Mars/Venus mentality is all too outdated. The film deals in constant generalisations that simply don’t hold weight. Now, the strength of this movie is that it doesn’t get bogged down by it. As the characters grow, they mature. Their core tenets remain, but their emotional aptitude and ability to empathise ages with them. They do see the failings of prior values and course correct. Both characters were immature in their 20s (Harry more so, but the point still stands). By the end of the film, Harry has reached a place where Sally’s emotional distress is enough for him to put aside his feelings for her and simply give her the comfort he knows she needs. The fact that it ended up being the catalyst for them getting together is irrelevant. That wasn’t why he was there, which is the important part.

All those sticking points with romantic comedies that I mentioned back at the start? This movie does a tremendous job of sidestepping them. The narrative isn’t convoluted or overly simplistic. It’s well constructed and weaves the years without getting bogged down with unnecessary detail. The film covers 12 years in just over an hour and a half and none of it feels rushed or slow. The chemistry is palpable, built off numerous encounters that grow to a solid connection. The fights they have and obstacles they face aren’t clumsy or shoehorned, their reactions are congruent with their personalities. We’ve all had those will they/won’t they friends where the window never comes, right? Where it seems bizarre that nothing has ever happened between you? The thing I love about Harry and Sally’s burgeoning relationship is that at the start, they wouldn’t have been right for each other. They needed to evolve in order to come to a place where it made sense. If it didn’t, they probably wouldn’t have.

Most of all though, it’s well written. The dialogue is fantastic and even now rings true. The two leads inhabit the characters in a way that feels lived in. They obviously did a bunch of work together re-working the script to make it seem natural. There are more than a handful of line reads and shots that tear me up. Harry’s front porch apology, the shot where they’re both slow dancing at New Years and realise the depth of their feelings, the “I love/I hate” monologues when they actually get together. It’s a wonder what great writing can do, embodied by actors who get it. The film has such a salient beating heart that it’s impossible not to feel it resonate in your own.

If you like romantic comedies and haven’t seen it, give it a watch. If you haven’t seen it in years, give it a watch. If you think you don’t like romantic comedies, I challenge you, give it a watch.

Maybe you like them after all, you just don’t like shitty movies.

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If so, you’re the person bankrolling Nic Cage’s career and I thank you

I was listening to an episode of Good One today. It’s a podcast about jokes, where the host talks with a comedian about one of their jokes and they break it down. They pull the curtain back to show the strings. Why did they choose certain words? How did the joke evolve over time to reach its final form? Where did the concept come from in the first place? Good One is good stuff, if you’re a comedy fan who loves that kind of minutiae. The episode was about Pete Holmes’ Green Eggs and Ham joke. I’m not gonna go into the specifics of the entire podcast, because you’d get a better experience listening to it instead.

One part that spoke to me was where Pete talked about his distaste for comedy where sarcasm is the punchline. It’s not challenging held expectations with a deft misdirect, it’s lazy. You’re not having to search for a creative out, it’s basically the punchline equivalent of a shrug. If you’re using your time on stage for that, why are you there? You’re not giving the audience anything. He was saying how grotesque (my word, not his) it was to get onstage with the intention of reaffirming what people already knew. His example was dudes getting onstage and being all “hey, isn’t sex great?” You did nothing. Nobody was suggesting the contrary. If you’re not gonna take a premise somewhere new, congrats, you wasted everyone’s time. Yours included. Comedy has this gift of showcasing your unique viewpoint. Why waste that spotlight to settle for mediocrity? That’s not to say by any means that people can’t start somewhere and improve, but more that thinking about what you’re really saying gives you an opportunity to leave the crowd better than they came. You’re taking their time and that’s something that should be respected. If you’re onstage just because you want to stoke your ego, then justify that ego. Make what you say worth hearing.

His point stuck out to me because of a conversation I had with a friend to other night. We were talking about how eye opening it was to really delve into your sense of humour and figure out what leaves you tickled. As dating profiles have taught me, everyone loves to laugh. It’s a gift. Enough so that knowing more about the kind of material you get off on is like a path to harvesting joy. That’s pretty much the best resource life has to offer. Aside from living and loving, if embroidered pillows are to be believed. I’ve realised lately that I’ve got such an affinity for excessive specificity. Going into such a microscopic level of detail that zooming out makes the scope of everything else seen utterly ridiculous. Liking action movies isn’t particularly funny, but the conceit of being obsessed by movies where people save the Statue of Liberty is all types of silly. What is it about the symbol of Americana that pulls you right in? I want to know everything about you right away. Please, I need your life story in my brain. What origin story made you into whatever it is you became?

This parlays into how much I adore rampant enthusiasm about things that don’t matter. Our lives are so crammed with stimuli. We’re constantly absorbing information and performing mundane tasks. If so little of that is notable, why are we here? Tell me why it is that one particular activity/interaction that everyone takes for granted sticks out to you. I want to see the world through your eyes. Give me hope that there’s still magic in the world, because I’m oh so ready to believe you. If your illuminating observation is that music was better in your day, go home. You’re extinct. A million someones are already raring to give that same hot take. Why shit on something that you don’t understand. Why not tell me how ridiculous it is that when you were 17 you built a shrine to Rush in your basement, complete with a full animatronic band that’d play Tom Sawyer on repeat 24/7? Because that’s a metric fuckton funnier than complaining that young girls like Justin Bieber? Use your time to make something.

Or I guess I could just continue skipping open mics.

If you don’t stand for Summer, you’ll Fall for Winter. Spring back the clocks?

So here’s a thing. I’ve always desperately wanted to do stand-up. I did it a bunch before I left for Canada, then a couple of times while I was travelling through. I never did well. I got disheartened, then scared to get back up. The honest truth is I was going about it all wrong. The “way to do” stand-up is to write a couple of jokes and refine them, editing to find the funny in your concept and tweaking them over time as you work on the right delivery, wording, etc. Instead, I’d write five minutes, it wouldn’t work well (because I was trying it for the first-third time) and I’d discard it to write another five. Accordingly, I was getting the response I deserved. Eventually I threw in the towel. For years now I’ve been secretly ashamed and resentful of myself for giving up. I’ve felt cowardly and had a hard time reconciling that if I’d just stuck with it through the hard parts, by now I’d be better regardless. It’s been the kind of thing that with no exaggeration I’d think about at least once a week, going back to try again. Fear told me no and I believed it had my best interests at heart. Or it was easier to do nothing than to try, which is a whole different kind of seductive.

On this holiday, my comedian friend said she was curious about trying an open mic in a new city. I pondered out loud about whether I should give it a try. She and my other friend couldn’t have been more supportive. “Sure”, she said “go write some jokes”. Simple as that. It was weird too, but in her cavalier delivery of those words there was something I heard that may or may not have been intentional. She said it so matter of factly. It sounded like she didn’t for a second entertain the notion that I wasn’t fully capable of writing jokes. So I chose to believe her. I went off to write and wrote a ton. There was so much waffling. I knew though, that I had the kernels of some decent jokes once I cut out the chaff. Even better, I’d worked within a structure I’d always wanted to replicate, but never had. You know when a comedian does the punchline and the room laughs, then it goes quiet? It’s like “well, that was a funny joke”, then instead of moving onto the next joke they tag with the real punchline, which is even funnier because it defies the room’s expectations of structure? Well I wrote some of those, and if felt so goddamn good to finally be able to see how that worked as opposed to only reaching that first stage. I looked at my page. I had material. I got excited. I woke up at 6am the next morning, too excited and nervous to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then as the night approached, fear crept back on in. I thought about how badly I’d feel if I tried and failed, See, until I did it I existed in this Schroedinger’s Cat style situation. I didn’t know that I could do it until I tried, but at the same time it wasn’t confirmed that I couldn’t do it. If I did it and sucked, that was it. If I never tried, in some twisted logic, I could never fail. I tried to make excuses and mentally talked myself out of it. I implored my friends to talk me out of it. They wouldn’t. We went.

I was nervous and shakey, which was only exacerbated when the host said sets were three minutes long. Back in Toronto most open mics have five minute sets. ‘That’s like one of my jokes’, I thought. I had three long jokes I wanted to try. I resolved not to rush, but to accept that I I would do the one joke and take my time with it, find the correct cadence.

Honestly, the set went better than I could’ve hoped. I was nervous, but my delivery felt natural and even. The structure and lead in felt right. They were laughing in the right places. It’s not like I ever expected I’d crush, but I had a bunch of big laughs and the joke I really liked got the whole room cracking up. They flashed the light at two minutes and I realised I was rounding off the end of my joke, that there was no way I could fit another one in. That felt good enough for me and I was stoked to get in the whole joke at an even pace, without rushing.

It felt so amazing to have faced my significant fears. I was proud of myself for getting up and overjoyed to have done it. Even now, the morning after, I still feel like I’m glowing. It’s probably just sunburn, but maybe I sunburned my heart, y’know? This holiday has been outstanding. I’ve enjoyed the pace, my friends and I have really complementary travel styles. We’ve done so much cool shit, but this is one of my favourite memories from it hands down.

If I had a dollar for someone to edit this shit…

Goddamn I’m having a riot here in Austin. I’m not entirely sure I want to leave. The food is amazing. The people are so unbelievably friendly and the vibe is off the charts. Today is designated for our day drinking experience. Gonna start with a boozy brunch and keep on rollin’, baby. I’m excited.

Today’s entry is gonna be a bit different. When I started this whole thing, the notion was that it’d be a great place to draft up a bunch of writing, works in progress, etc. Basically an open canvass for whatever writing style creativity went through my brain. I had some vain notion that maybe I’d write some jokes and do stand up sets. I gave that up for lent maybe four years ago, but here’s a thing. One of my friends I’m travelling with is a comic. She got excited by the notion of doing an open mic on Monday. I’ve been having an awesome time riffing with these folks in Austin and I woke up this morning thinking maybe I’d join her at the open mic. I don’t have “jokes” jokes, but I’ve got some sorta conversational bits that I think I could massage into something better. So today I’m gonna jot down some stuff, with the proviso that on the page it’ll look very different to how it’d present onstage. Also this’ll be totally unedited. Just getting ideas down on paper in order to cut them down and make them into something cohesive. On stage it’d need to be snappier. Tighter. Look, I’m trying to justify what I’m doing here. In short, be gentle. Baby don’t hurt me.

I’ve been having an amazing time here in Austin. I fucking adore food. I’ve been eating everything in sight and it’s been the best. I constantly wanna eat my way around the world, trying food from everywhere. Thing is, when I eat, it makes me aware of just how much of an asshole I am. A friend will be like “hey man, do you wanna grab some sushi for lunch?” And I’ll be all, “nah, I just had Japanese last week.” The horror, right? Having food from the same continent twice in two weeks? You know who’d have Japanese twice in two days? JAPANESE PEOPLE. Except they just call it dinner.

What’s worse though is how I so casually turn vast Pan Asian cuisines into one homogenous culture. A friend will be all “hey bud, wanna get Chinese takeout?” and I’ll be all “nah man, I just had Korean last week.” Discounting the fact that a) China is an enormous continent with a plethora of regional delicacies and variances, China and Korea are different fucking countries with diverse and vibrant cultures. The food is nothing alike aside from the fact that they both feature rice and noodles. It’s like someone being all “hey bud, want a bagel for breakfast?” and me being like “nah man, I just had a pizza last week. Wouldn’t wanna eat White Food that often. Plus I was planning on having a sandwich next week. Gotta slow my roll, ‘know?

This is also why I’m fucking useless at online dating. Nothing makes me feel more like a total garbage person. I’ll flick through these profiles treating women like menu items. I get so goddamn judgemental so quickly and like, where do I come off like I have the right to be picky? Here’s a thing though, and I wanna be real for a second. It’s 2018. We live in a progressive and technologically advanced society that gives people the freedom to be their authentic selves. Women, you can stop listing that you love to laugh. I never want to be presumptuous, but by virtue of being human I sort of took it as a given. Writing “I love to laugh” sounds like you’re a robot afraid of failing some Voight Kampff test. “I AM A HUMAN WOMAN OF VIABLE MATEABILITY. MY FAVOURITE ACTVITIES ARE CONSUMING OXYGEN AND LOVING TO LAUGHTER. I WOULD BE AN IDEAL CO-WORKER FOR THE TRANSACTION EXCHANGE OF REPRODUCTIVE SAUCES. ALSO I ENJOY BAGELS, PIZZA AND ALL OTHER WHITE CUISINES.” You love to laugh. Is that just shorthand for “I swear I’m not a sociopath.”?

I wanna take a minute to talk about one of my favourite people in the world. You might not think it to look at me, but I fucking ADORE 50 Cent. Or as we know him in Canada, .67 CAD. This dude is fascinating. I mean, I’m no economist, but watching the peaks and valleys of Fifty makes me understand why people get really into watching the Dow Jones. This guy’s like a cartoon character. As if he grew up watching Ritchie Rich. I’m not shitting on him or anything I have sincere affection for him. My favourite thing is how genuinely gleeful he looks so much of the time. Guy absolutely loves money. A massive part of this guy’s persona is his accumulation of worth. He’s always wearing expensive jewelery or like, lying on a bed of dollar bills. Thing is, despite the moniker, I’m not entirely sure that Fifty knows anything about money. I love the dude, but he doesn’t always seem like the smartest bloke. Here in the US, you guys have paper money. I get the feeling that to Fifty, paper and money are indistinguishable. Like, when he goes into the office at Fifty Cents Incorporated and instead of post it notes you just have these piles of dollar bills with rap lyrics scrawled all over them. But then he’ll go to the printer and see a stack of paper and be all “oh man, selfie time” He’s just like, throwing peace signs while fanning a chunk of printer paper “Hashtag eat your heart out Bill Gates.”

At some stage though, I legit thought the guy was wicked smart. Had that song Motherfucking P I M P. So the chorus goes “I don’t know what you heard about me, but bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.” I heard that and I was like “woah Fiddy, I needed to give you more credit, that’s pretty clever. Of course this “bitch” can’t get a dollar out of you. You’re 50 cent. That’s only half a dollar. 50 cents is not divisible by a dollar. Genius!

Then the penny dropped. Thing is, I realised that isn’t even the egregious part of the song. So he’s all “bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.” Then fiddy says “cause I’m a motherfucking P I M P.” He’s saying he’s a pimp, right? If Fifty IS a motherfucking PIMP he’s a motherfucking terrible one. By the very tenants of pimpdom, it has a transactional nature. Your employees provide a service to patrons and you facilitate these contracts by providing a business model. Then you pay your employees for their work. If bitch can’t get a dollar out of Fifty, then he’s not paying his workers. Fifty, you’re not a motherfucking PIMP, you’re an illegal sex trafficker.

Anyway, I guess his lack of a solid business model was his downfall. Fifty Cent filed for bankruptcy.

/done. Geez, that was a ton of mediocre slop. They can’t all be winners. I guess the real work is making it into something of worth. Oh well, first part is done. Time to get day drunk!

This is both The and A List.

With the year coming to a close, year end lists are all the rage. Without further ado, with no additional commentary, here are some things I enjoyed in 2017. I’ll at least sort them into sections. Note, they may not even all be from 2017. Maybe I just discovered them this year. No doubt I’ll forget a bunch. I’m not paying that much attention:

Movies

  • The Big Sick
  • Logan
  • Spider Man: Homecoming
  • Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Baby Driver
  • I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  • The Florida Project
  • Okja
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Get Out
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • It

Television

  • Legion
  • Trial and Error
  • Dear White People
  • Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 3
  • Master of None Season 2
  • You’re The Worst Season 3
  • American Gods
  • Catastrophe Season 3
  • Better Things Season 2
  • The Good Place Season 2
  • GLOW
  • American Vandal
  • BoJack Horseman Season 3
  • Big Mouth
  • The Katering Show
  • Rick & Morty Season 3
  • Please Like Me
  • Crashing

Music

  • Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
  • The National – Sleep Well Beast
  • LCD Soundsystem – Self Titled
  • Father John Misty – Fear Fun
  • Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
  • SZA – Ctrl
  • Kelela – Take Me Apart
  • Jlin – Black Origami
  • Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
  • Sylvan Esso – What Now
  • Fever Ray – Plunge
  • Zola Jesus – Okovi
  • LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  • St Vincent – Masseduction
  • Fleet Foxes – Crack Up
  • Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
  • Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
  • Lorde – Melodrama
  • Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
  • Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods

Comedy Specials

  • Vir Das – Abroad Understanding
  • Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For The First Time
  • Patton Oswalt – Annihilation
  • Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King
  • Chris Gethard – Career Suicide

Comedians I saw

  • Chris Gethard
  • Chris Locke
  • Chris Robinson
  • Gina Yashere
  • Hari Kondabolu
  • Kyle Kinane
  • Liza Treyger
  • Max Silvestri
  • Morgan Murphy
  • Rory Scovel
  • Roy Wood Jr.
  • Sara Hennessey
  • Sasheer Zamata
  • W. Kamau Bell
  • John Mulaney

Video Games

  • Cuphead

I guess now you know what I did with my time.

More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.

P.S. Never surrender.

Long weekend begins now, so this is gonna be a loose and scattered entry. In case you forgot it was Remembrance Day tomorrow, they’ve Monday-ised the holiday for some professions. Mainly banks. Our company decided to follow suit, so if I decide to take advantage of it to seek out trendy brunch spots, chances are all my juicy eavesdropping will be consumed by the “insightful” commentary of Banker Bros. I guess that’s called penance.

I feel like celebrate is the wrong word, but I plan on spending the weekend eating, drinking and letting off steam like someone who works for the weekend. I work a tedious office job, this is all I have. Going out dancing tonight, having barbecue with family tomorrow, attending a wedding on Sunday and playing Magic with friends on Monday. Also making sure not to forget about Dre the whole time. Never forget.

So Louis C.K. has put his apology out and it’s a bummer. The worst part is that he’s saying mostly the right stuff, but it’s a matter of too little, too late. For a proper apology you need to acknowledge how your actions have hurt the other party. You need to show remorse and empathy. Then you need to commit yourself to restitution, outlining how you plan to change or proceed in a manner counter to your previous behaviour. His apology mostly ticks all these boxes and likely would’ve had some impact on public opinion and reception. Would have. Timing is everything. He’s had so many opportunities to come clean. He could’ve issued this apology when the rumours surfaced or when he was called out by Tig. He didn’t. He denied it right to the last second. You’ve gotta question the contrition of someone who only apologises once their bottom line is in danger. If you’re only sorry for your actions because of how the outcome affects you, you’re not really sorry for what you’ve done, are you? Is he?

I dunno. I’m pretty burnt out on thinking about it. No, hiding away and pretending nothing is wrong sure isn’t the correct response, but I don’t have the emotional energy for this now. Really what I want to know over all else, what does Sofia Coppola think of Daddy’s Home 2? Why? Because one of the most refreshing things I’ve heard in recent memory is that one of esteemed director Sofia Coppola’s favourite films is the Will Farrell/Mark Wahlberg (he’s another piece of shit, never forget) vehicle Daddy’s Home. I’ve never seen this movie. I have no intention of ever watching it. That doesn’t stop me from being totally charmed by her admission that a dumb low brow comedy is one of her top films because she can watch it with her kids. What a nice way to give the middle finger to a holier than thou industry so concerned with personal branding. I think that’s fucking awesome. She’s fucking awesome.

Also when the fuck did we decide to forgive Mel Gibson? Never forget. Never forgive.