get them out of here!

In 1968, Andy Warhol famously predicted that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Here’s the problem: nobody is content with fifteen minutes anymore. Used to be, quasi-celebrities understood when their fifteen minutes of fame had elapsed. Tawny Kitaen rolled around on the hood of a Jaguar in 1985, and then she mercifully disappeared. And it’s not like Whistle Pops ever made a comeback. They had their moment.

I remember watching “Match Game” in the seventies, and though I didn’t have the razor-sharp pop-culture awareness I have now, even then I would see ‘celebrities’ and think “why are these people famous?” Oh, I get it…they’re famous because they’re celebrities.And they’re celebrities because they’re famous. And the dog chases its tail, and so on, and so on, and blah blah blah.

Now, I’m kinda old-school when it comes to language. Well, except for using ‘kinda‘ and ‘old-school’. I can’t help but have the nagging feeling that if one is to be called a ‘celebrity,’ then one should have done something worthy of being CELEBRATED!And even the definition of ‘celebrity’ has been watered down to where most reality ‘stars,’ to rework a Dorothy Parker quote, run “the gamut of talent from A to B.”

NBC even had a show called “I’m A Celebrity—Get Me Out Of Here!” I still remember the promo for the show this week began with the most promising tease I have ever heard: Ten celebrities are dropped in the jungle. Unfortunately, that phrase was not followed by and are left there to die. Now that would be ‘must-see TV.’ Renew it every year, and every year we would get rid of ten more barnacles on the hull of American culture.

Seriously, I’ve always had a problem with reality TV (and remember the days when ‘reality’ and ‘TV’ were two different things?). If you’re going to put people in dangerous situations, in theory to see if they can survive, then I say, let it play out. Don’t give us some deus ex video where we know that if someone gets their ass bitten by a poisonous tree lizard they’ll end up ok—let’s see if they can really survive.

Tell me ‘Survivor’ wouldn’t be more compelling if, after dividing the attention-mongers into teams, the camera crews and host simply packed up and left them on the island. A couple of years later, send the crew back in to see if that annoying investment banker or the plucky waitress have morphed into Brando at the end of “Apocalypse Now.” You want to deprive these people of the basics, take away the cameras–see if they can survive without attention. It would have all the wacky of “Lord of The Flies,”, but with commercials.


what if?

What if we’re wrong. And by ‘we,’ I mean…me, and the people who agree with me. For instance–as much as I might think fundamentalist right-wing narrow-minded racist misogynistic homophobes are idiots–what if I’m wrong. What if, when I depart this plane of existence, I am greeted by the real St. Peter–at a real gate, with a real clipboard in his hands-and he’s working through a checklist.

“Okay–pro-choice…that’s not good. Had sex with other men…that’s a big ‘no’. Believed that Christian doctrine is –and I’m quoting here–’a feel-good myth that keeps people weak and easy to manipulate and encourages right-wing narrow-minded racist misogynistic homophobia’–that is definitely not what we’re looking for. Off to the fiery pit with you.”

Or what if we’re wrong about the internet. What if, instead of being potentially infinite, there is actually a limit to the amount of, for lack of a better word, crap that can be posted to the web. What if, at some point, some blogger (or worse–a ‘Tweeter’) could post something entirely innocuous, and all of sudden, the internet is full. No more room. What if all that information basically crashed the whole thing–one nerd in his basement thinks “I should add some Flash animation to my website, then link my website to my Facebook page where people can see a link to my YouTube video–” and the whole thing goes kerflooey.

No more IMDB, no more Googling, no more email–talk about a good old-fashioned Christian apocalypse…the skies would be raining twenty-something middle-management lemmings jumping out of corner offices–the streets would be littered with Blackberries and Bluetooths (Blueteeth?). People would be forced to actually talk to each other.


me and al capone

One of the most under-reported stories of Tax Day  is that I filed my tax returns. You know, the yearly ritual of teeth-gnashing, hand-wringing and misdirected whining that everyone goes through. Well, until this week, that was everyone but me. The IRS even has a term for me (makes sense–we have plenty of terms for them)–I am known as a Chronic Non-Filer. Believe it or not, I am fifty-one years old and had never, until 2009, told the government how much money I made.

When I first started making money as a comic, I wasn’t really clear on how to file with that kind of freelance income. Then, as each year passed, I became afraid to file, thinking than once I started the paper trail, I would be in some serious trouble. After all, this is how they got Capone–not the stealing, or the killing people, but the tax thing.

What’s ridiculous about this is it’s not like I was leading a Capone-like life. When I was on the road as a comedian, the most I ever stole was some hotel towels, and other than metaphorically, I killed nobody. I wasn’texactly hiding from a reign of scandal and terror (although I have often thought that I’m just not famous enough to know if I fathered any children–when I’m huge, that’s when I’ll get the letters saying “I was a waitress at a the Chuckle Hut in East Des Moines in 1987, and here’s a picture of our son–send money”).

I also never made enough money to have to PAY taxes. Even in my best years, I would frequently get bailed out by various friends and “the kindness of strangers” (It’s so much easier to pull of Blanche Dubois now that I’m a tired old queen). I wasn’t hiding all of my vast income in some offshore unmarked account–I put most of my ‘assets’ into the pockets of my weed dealer and the CD store  at the mall in the town where I was performing.

The IRS never contacted me–I’d like to think changing my stage name twice and moving every year and a half  made me more elusive, but that’s ego talking. I changed my name because I thought of one I liked better, and I usually moved because I ran out of money and–had to. The reality is that one occasionally employed guy telling jokes in bars for a hundred bucks and a couple of drinks just wasn’t a priority for the Federal Government. I feel so insignificant.

I realized a while back that I was actually living ‘off the grid’. Now unlike the Unabomber, I didn’t have the discipline to write a manifesto, and unlike Jack Bauer, I wasn’t using my fringe status to infiltrate any terrorist organizations. Frankly, I’m just too lazy to make the most of being off the grid. Then there’s the issue of my politics. Anyone who knows me would vouch for my lefty sensibilities–as far as I’ve always been concerned, to paraphrase Jefferson, “that government which governs best spends buttloads of money building really cool things”.

When friends would confront me about this (ok, they usually were confronting me about money I owed them, but that’s not the point here), I acknowledged it would be more consistent with my politics if I, oh, paid into the system I supported, but I always said that I’d deal with my tax status ‘next year’.

Well, next year became this year, and I’ve started the paper trail. Of course, now I’m afraid that I’m gonna have to do all those other grownup things I’ve dodged on my blithely blissful bohemian path–like I’m worried that when I get my refund check, in the same envelope will be directions to my house in the burbs , the names of my wife and children, and a Home Depot credit card. I suppose to assuage my fear of growing up, I could take the refund I’m expecting and piss it away–buy a few hundred Powerball tickets (you can’t win if you don’t play!) or fly to L.A. just to have a drink with some old college buddies.

When the Tea Party protests started, I couldn’t help but relish the ironic juxtaposition with my life. Here were thousands of people protesting the very thing for which I had finally signed up. But that’s me–I’ve always been a little back-asswards. Or maybe I’m just a rebel. Yeah, that’s it–I’m a rebel.