HOW TO BE THE BEST

Thanks to everyone who attended the June 2004 edition of How to Kick People, and apologies to everyone who didn’t get in. (brag) Last night was our “valedictory” show, and we began by holding an open panel interview with two real-life valedictorians and, without their knowledge, one comic performer planted as the valedictorian of his 1984 high school class, and has done nothing of note since. I couldn’t tell when the other valedictorians figured out he was not legitimate, or when/if the audience figured it out at all. In fact, I know one woman in the audience approached our plant after the show and told him his valedictory speech really resonated with her, which is fairly astounding to me. The speech was, of course, scripted by Bob, Mike (our plant) and myself. Here’s an excerpt from the speech:

[EXCERPT HERE]

[Mike is asked if he had any advice to give today's graduating class, since he now has twenty years of experience as a valedictorian. Without a word, he gets up from his seat, pulls a piece of paper from his suit jacket, and approaches the microphone.]

Have you read the cover story in Newsweek? They say your generation isn’t going to amount to anything. That you’re too addicted to high-tech video games like Defender and Burger Time. They say you’ve got Pac-Man fever, and it’s driving you crazy.

Do you know what I say to Newsweek? I say, “GAME OVER.” Because I’ve spoken to some members of this generation of so-called “vidiots” and you haven’t abandoned your goals. Did the editors of Newsweek speak to Eric Simms, who told me he wants to drive a monster truck and/or funny car some day? Did they speak to Molly Pickles, who said she wants to marry Trapper John, MD? Or Kevin Greenaway, who is saving all his money to enter a karate kicking contest? [INTERRUPTED HERE]

BOB/TODD:
Mike, this sounds like it was your old valedictory speech, from 1984.

MIKE:
Yeah, but I think it still applies today. (continuing as before) What about Angela Middlechoice, who hopes to one day beat her own high score in Centipede [INTERRUPTED AGAIN]

BOB/TODD:
We appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but can you please wrap it up.

MIKE:
Sure thing…Let’s see…(skipping to the end) In conclusion, graduating class of 1984 – or 2004 – I have been hearing a lot of kids out there and they’re all saying the same thing: We don’t need no education. (making it very clear to the audience) WE-DON’T-NEED-NO-EDUCATION. Well, you know what I say to them? I’ll see YOU on the dark side of the moon. Thank you.

Following our interview panel, the valedictorians competed in the first annual H2KP VALEDICT-OFF, which was actually just a very elaborate excuse for Bob and me to ask several very smart and talented people to take the Pepsi challenge. (The results of which were not promising for Pepsico, I might add.)

Because the show was running long (at least that’s what my neurotic brain insisted), I cut one of the pieces I’d planned to read. In retrospect, I think I made a very good choice and I am pretty sure you’ll agree when you read it.

Here’s the piece I did not read last night. It is a graduation commencement speech, delivered to the audience:

*****

Before I begin, let me just say it is no small honor to find myself standing here today, as your commencement speaker. Looking out from this podium, however, I realize my own pride cannot possibly compare to sense of accomplishment and joy you must all be feeling. And you deserve it! Hold for applause – oh, I’m sorry. You have so much to be happy for today. The weather is gorgeous, despite earlier reports suggesting God and the angels were going to cry and go bowling today. You’re all on the verge of a great new journey in life, for which there is no comparison. And, earlier in the ceremony, we all saw a kitty kat run across a fence. Truly a happy day.

When I told some of my colleagues that I was commissioned to deliver a graduation commencement address at the Erasmus Corning Bright Star School for Special Needs Children, their reactions ranged from total shock to some other stuff that was kind of like shock but then turns into laughing and then, much later, when they realized I was serious, ends in an apology. “Why?” they asked. “Because,” I said, “the Erasmus Corning Bright Star School for Special Needs Children is my Almond Motter.”

When I was a child I, like you, found myself chided and bullied. And not just by my speech therapist. By my peers and complete strangers as well. They said, “you’ll never be as good as us.” They said, “don’t put that in your mouth. It just came out of a horse.” They said, “No, no no. This bathroom is for little girls.” Everywhere I turned, I was challenged with negativity and resistance. Everywhere except Bright Star.

It was at the Bright Star School for Special Needs Children that I learned I had nothing to be afraid of, with the possible exception of swallowing too much pool water and ghosts in the telephone. And it was here I learned to listen to my own heart, and not the hearts of outsiders who couldn’t understand my special needs. I threw myself into school and, eventually, held the distinction of being the Bright Star senior class valedictorian in 1983, and again in 1984. And that’s because I worked harder than my classmates. I ran faster than my classmates, and in a straighter line. I put my coat and mittens more efficiently than my classmates. And I knew how to pet the classroom bunny using my gentle hands so I wouldn’t make it go sleepy-time forever more often than my classmates.

After high school I went on to become valedictorian again, at The Texas A&M University for Special Needs Students. And now, just twenty years later I stand before you the most powerful studio executive in Hollywood. Not bad for a guy who still has a small letter “L” and “R” printed respectively on the insides of his shoes. Only now those letters aren’t written in magic marker; they’re written in 14 karat gold paint, with crushed diamond trim.

Yes, I was called many names when I was younger, including the “S” word, the “D” word, and evven the “M-F-C-S-F” word. But do you know what people call me now? They call me “The man who greenlit such family-oriented blockbuster Hollywood films as PUDDING CAMP, THE UNITED STATES OF TICKLES, OPERATION: SHOELACE, MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO, and MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO PART TWO: THE RECKONING.” And they call me, “The winner of three People’s Choice awards and a Blockbuster Lifetime Achievement award.” They call me “The multi-millionaire studio executive who rides to work every day in a rocket-powered school bus with its own on-board taffy machine.” And, when they’re ejecting me from a restaurant for pulling all the tablecloths from the tables or removing me from the white house for making a pretend finger-gun and jabbing it into the back of Secret Service, they don’t say, “Get out of here, you big “F-R-D-A” word. They say, “Get out of here, sir.” Sir.

If you leave here with one piece of inspiration, let it be this – [PUT PAGE UP TO FACE] OH MY GOD, WHERE DID EVERYONE GO?? [PUT PAGE DOWN] Oh, there you are. Now where was I? Oh yes. All your life, people have called you “special.” And you know what? Now you have a chance to prove them right. Look at me. Twenty years ago I was getting tricked by neighborhood kids into climbing inside a trash can with a sign on it that said, “time machine,” only to have that trash can beaten with wiffle ball bats and then rolled down a hill. And not just on one occasion – many, many times. Today, I am this close to building the first-ever time-traveling trash can. If I can do that, what’s to stop you from being whatever you want? You down there – you can, and should, be a lifeguard. And you, fidgeting in your chair, you might be a greeter at Wal-Mart. You there with yo
ur shoe on your hand – you could pet a nice dog. And you – yes you – you can be Spider-Man. Or you might be the lead character in the next Harmony Korine film. Or maybe you will grow up just like me, traveling around on choo-choo trains to visit the location of my studios latest production, MONKEY MADE A DOO-DOO PART THREE: JUST ADD PEE.

Let me leave you with some advice from someone I think we all know and trust – Hammy Butterbell, the clumsy mechanic from my international box office smash, BATTERY-OPERATED TOY TRUCK: THE MOTION PICTURE. “It takes at least 50 people to build a giant robot car made of chocolate cookies, but it only takes one person to eat the ding-dang engine.” You, collectively, are that one person. And life – life is that cookie-flavored engine.

*****

Yes, I’m fairly certain I could have read anything but this and still be credited for taking the high road.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR ENTIRE WAY OF LIVING

After a full week of repainting, and two more weeks of fussing, moving furniture, drilling, buying, failing, respackling, sweating, crying, cursing, self-medicating, sitting in garbage, consolidating, reconsolidating, discarding, and deep breathing, my apartment has finally been made-over to my satisfaction.

Check out a “before” picture of my living room:

It’s crowded, mismatched, and dour. Now, feast your eyes on the results of my intensive makeover. Huh? Huh?

(i haven’t had this much fun with something this stupid since i did this.)

HOW TO KEEP YOUR PHONE FROM RINGING

I saw a man and woman struggling on the downtown F train subway platform this evening. It seems the gentleman was trying to push the woman on to the tracks.

A couple of young Puerto Rican teenagers intervened and restrained the perpetrator, while several nerdy and unrelated white kids, and one young Korean woman with iPod earbuds, stood back and announced, completely inside their heads, “I’m totally blogging this!”

HOW TO RESPECT YOUR ELDERS

A little while ago, I was complaining about the whereabouts of my time machine. Update: still no time machine. (WTF? LOL!) When most people wonder what the future holds, they think of one of maybe three or four things:

  1. oral sex robots
  2. horny radioactive mutants
  3. solar-powered flying automobiles with vagina and anus holes
  4. jet packs

All of those things are fine, but I was thinking it would be nice if Jet Packs were available only to the elderly. I am not interested in putting them in peril; I just think it would provide senior citizens with a newfound respect. Old people are treated horribly – just this morning, I saw a group of rabbis pushing an old couple into a mud puddle. They are made to feel small and weak and without value in contemporary society. And they are all of these things, of course, but we sometimes forget how adorable they are, what with their cellophane wrapped sucking candies and their loose neck skin. And seeing old people zooming around on jet packs would be extraordinarily cute. Even a rainy day would feel like sunshine if you could see your grandmother flying around, feeding squirrels from up above.

Giving jet pack ownership rights exclusively to the elderly would also encourage more inter-generational communication. People would surely be more patient with senior citizens, and treat them with more kindness, if only to improve their own chances of getting a ride on the jet pack for a little bit. “Hey, Miss Rosenberg, I have this extra package of Stella Doro breakfast treats and I can’t eat them all by myself. Maybe you’d like them? Here, I’ll hold your jet pack while you fumble with the crinkly packaging.” Hey, it worked with dorks and Segways. If it weren’t for Segway scooters, you would never get to see cool kids with low-ride jeans and chain wallets talking to grown men wearing monogrammed fanny packs, fedoras, “Intel Inside™” sunglasses straps, and cargo vests.

p.s. Yesterday, I heard a Park Slope dad trying to explain a children’s song to his 3 year-old son. He concluded his argument by saying, “Hence, no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” It is in this moment that I wish his Future Son could slip a note to his Present Son that says, “learn kung-fu now, because you’re going to need to physically defend yourself every single day from the age of 12 onward.”

HOW TO WASTE VALUABLE TIME AND A HUGE RESEARCH GRANT

I woke up angry this morning, because there are no time machines. It hardly seems fair anymore, really. I know there are no time machines because, as a friend once pointed out, if time travel were ever possible everyone would already own a time machine. Someone would have already traveled into the distant pace, from possibly even the far-distant future, and revealed the technology.

That means by now, Nerf would be making time machines and there would be an entire cable network dedicated to time travel. There would be shows in which obnoxious 20-somethings would travel back or forward in time and try to prank famous people. For instance, maybe the time traveling pranksters would make a fake loch ness monster and hide in it while George Washington was crossing the Delaware. They’d let it surface right before he arrived on shore, and scare the lumber-teeth out of him. Then they’d all jump out of the bushes and shout, “You’ve been Time-X’d, faggot!” Of course, if my friend’s theory held true, Washington and his soldiers would also possess a time machine and could then travel back in time, to when the Time-X pranksters were setting up their fake loch ness monster, and shoot them all with muskets.

Perhaps there would be another reality-based show featuring hockey players using the Stanley Cup as a time machine. They would travel back in time to show how the Stanley Cup trophy was being defaced and defiled by previous Stanley Cup winners. It would be an incredible and disgusting historical travelogue.

If I had a time machine – and I don’t, just in case you’re still curious about the disappointed hue to this writing – I think it would be very funny to travel back in time just to finish other people’s sentences. My first stop would be Gettysburg, for certain. I would just love to stand in the gathered audience for Lincoln’s address and, as he intones, “Four score –” I would just jump in and scream, “and seven years ago! Yeah, we know when our fathers brought forth this nation. We’re not fucking idiots. Proceed!”

HOW TO DELICIOUS GOLDEN HONEY TASTE

I had a dream last night that carried me into morning. In the dream our unconsious thoughts were a legitimate media buy, advertisers could compete for our brain space while we dream. There were also peak times to make the buy so your message made a stronger impression, and the top-tiered media purchase was your “alarm state.” My dream posited that people no longer set their alarms for specific times, like “9:14am.” Instead, we would set them for 9-ish. You’d have a few minutes of wiggle room. This gave advertisers the freedom to complete their message in time during your alarm state and, as soon as the ad played out in its entirety, your alarm clock would sound and the advertising message would be the last thing you remember from your dream and the first thought you experienced for the waking day.

I am pretty sure an old episode of FUTURAMA explored a similar idea. If they would like to sue my subconsious for copyright infringement, they may be my guest. My subconscious attorney can be a real nightmare, though. She has the body of Christina Ricci and the angry, disappointed face of my mother. Zim Zam!

HOW TO WRITE AN INSIDE JOKE

Last night I had a dream that I was walking through the Museum of Metropolitan Art, giving every single work of art the finger. I wasn’t even speaking, or expressing anger. Just giving some art the finger. For hours. It struck me as the funniest thing in the whole world.

(i think this dream was inspired by watching my friend, andres, perform on monday night. in a minute of stage time, he made a captive audience wait 50 seconds while he fumbled through his pockets for something. that “something” turned out to be two middle fingers, which he flashed at the crowd for the remaining 10 seconds of his set.)

p.s. In case you were wondering, the second funniest thing in the whole world would be a snapshot of six impeccably costumed Goth adults riding a log flume. (now with pictures! thanks, lauren, for making my dream a reality.)

HOW TO FORSAKE THE NEXT GENERATION

After days of prancing gingerly, even in combat boots, I noticed that by yesterday much of the ice had finally been scraped or salted from the sidewalk. In fact, as I marched to the gym (brag), the only place I encountered a dangerously icy sidewalk was directly in front of the daycare center on my block. That’s nice.

[addendum: today I took a walk in my neighborhood and noticed there was also a bit of ice left on the sidewalk in front of The Levinson Center for Blind, Crippled Old Gays in Slippers. bad luck for those guys.]

HOW TO BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU

Remember when everyone was rich? That was fun. And it was just a few years ago. Imagine. This was when you could walk into the fanciest French restaurant in the city and see a sign at the register declaring, “we accept cash, Visa, Master Card, and Beenz.”

If you worked an office job back during the most recent economic boom, Christmas time was especially amazing. There were so many young, smaller companies, trying to suck at the teat of larger corporations – in consulting roles, etc. – that during the holidays they would shower your office with incredibly expensive gifts in order to more effectively suck up to you. The bounty was so plentiful that its recipients couldn’t possibly consume all of it. So, instead, they would inevitably just leave the stuff out, for anyone to take. You could walk by any conference room and the table would be piled high with free gourmet chocolates and fresh fruit and bags of honey roasted diamonds, and giant, elegantly arranged trays of pussy. And none of that skank pussy, either – this was Beluga pussy.

But now that everyone’s broke, Christmas time has become a grim reminder of our conservative economy. There are no crate-loads of illuminated yo-yos being dropped off at our door from one of the offset printing facilities hoping to curry favor with our company. The rare occurrence cheese platters and smoked fish and flat breads never makes its way to the general corporate populace. The gifts have almost completely dried up. In fact, today I walked by one of our conference rooms, hoping to freeload off any treasures the vendors left behind and all that was there was an IOU for peanut brittle, and an open box of pancake mix.

HOW TO PERFORM A SLIDING TACKLE INTO SALVATION

[This piece was written to salute the tireless efforts of the Coca-Cola corporation and their winning, nationalistically-zested advertising campaign for the fictionalized "FOOTBALL TOWN, USA" and its gung-ho, one-for-the-team citizens.]

I’m scoring one for the home team!…in FOOTBALL TOWN.

I’m living life on the fifty yard line…in FOOTBALL TOWN.

I’ll try harder next time, dad. I promise…in FOOTBALL TOWN.

When I cut myself just a little bit, we win a lot…in FOOTBALL TOWN.

In FOOTBALL TOWN, it’s all about you, and you, and you, and you, and you, but
not really you so much. Sorry. Homo Town is two exits back on the interstate.

FOOTBALL TOWN will notice me if I can just land this split right.

In FOOTBALL TOWN, my mother learned her place.

Remember the earthquake? FOOTBALL TOWN does, grimly.

Dear Dr. Drew, I’m ready to put some more pizzazz in my sex life and some extra spice in the bedroom after 18 years of marriage but I’m stuck with a stubborn hubby. What should I do? I’ve tried everything – fad diets, glamour studio portraits, scented candles, a home perm, prayer, softer sheets, mint drops, international coffees, French feathers, even stuffing ether-soaked rags into the ventilation ducts – but nothing seems to work! Each night it’s the same old thing. He lumbers into the bedroom after four hours of television, and I follow. He crawls into bed. I lift my nightgown over my head, he sees the tattoo on my belly that says “I FUCK BLACK DUDES” and he cries and cries and cries and insists on sleeping in the bathtub. What a fussbucket!!! Well, I’m nearly out of ideas. Signed, FOREVER FLUMMOXED IN FOOTBALL TOWN.

You can be President if you jump up and down for fifteen more minutes…WHISPERS FOOTBALL TOWN.

When the fatcats from Washington roll into FOOTBALL TOWN, the government can pry this oversized foam rubber “WE’RE #1″ finger from my dead cold hands.

And all the world is football shaped it’s just for me to kick in space – I just made that up myself! Thanks to FOOTBALL TOWN.

Our mayor is a football cleat…filled with great ideas!

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! FOOTBALL TOWN.

I know I can make a difference, as soon as I clear these charges…with a little leniency from FOOTBALL TOWN.

Too bad there are no do-overs for hitting the paperboy with a bottle. Huh, FOOTBALL TOWN?

The town slogan is “kill the carrier” and the state bird is the buffalo wing and the national anthem has a double-neck guitar solo and we greet each other with a sporting slap to the ass and eat dinner off our tailgates and do the Icky shuffle to make it stop raining, and we all agree that only a wrathful God would have taken the guy from Blind Melon so soon and we’re still not over that botched two-point conversion from 1997, and we are 100% positive that if we pray hard enough and look the other way when the Satanists sacrifice a head of cattle once a season for good luck that we’ll each have our very own Superbowl ring waiting for us in heaven…engraved, “With Love…To FOOTBALL TOWN.”

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