please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Monday, March 26, 2007


At Thanksgiving most recent, we did a modified version of the 'what I am thankful for' thing. Participation wasn't mandatory. If I had done it though, I might very well have said, "I am thankful for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees."
I only sort of would have been joking. I view that body, like all organizations, as mostly being there to protect the mediocre and send money to Someone Else, Somewhere Else, while serving as a fantastic scale model of Mendacity and Incompetence in action. But on the other hand, what exactly am I but a carpenter of medium skill level, an electrician who barely understands it, though a superb warehouseman? Perhaps I truly am the sort of mediocre worker who needs job security just like anyone. Hence: the union.

And when I went before the membership committee, in January, I was asked the usual question: why do you want to be part of this organization?
Because, I said, I've been doing this sort of work for years, and it's about time I started being paid well for it.
The three-person committee gave me a laugh that was a bit more than courteous. The largest of the three saying something along the lines of "...very hedonistic...", to which I replied, "No. Realistic."
Of all things, being called 'hedonistic' by a man easily heavier than 350 pounds was something I didn't expect that day. Nor was any sort of Materialist Dialectic type rhetoric. They really sort of ARE Commies.

Then I was given a pop quiz. I did poorly due to my lack of knowledge on the terminology of most things theatrical. I proved that in a practical setting, I would have known what was what and how to use it, but not what it was called, necessarily.
I sat around for a month waiting for a reply. At the end though, there was the fat man again, on my phone.
"You interested in some work?" he asked.
"Well yeah...Uh, so I take it that I'm still on the extras list?"
"Don't worry about that."
"But I've kind of been sitting here for a month Not Knowing, shortly after being ambushed with a Pop Quiz..."
"Look, really: don't worry about it. You're fine."
"But I never saw a letter, as was promised. It was way longer than the two weeks I was quoted...I just-"
"Do you want to work or not?"
"Well, of course I do, you just gotta understand that I never know anything as far as you guys go. You're so...Light on the info. So I'm just gonna ask: Am I still on The List?"
"Yes. Didn't I just tell you that?"
"Not exactly you didn't. I just wanna make sure."
"...See Rich, this is why you and I should never drink together..."
"We'd empty out the bar in no time, I suspect."

So I've done a few things here and there since then ('Annie', Rod Stewart, World Wrestling Entertainment, Rascal Flatts, 'The Wiggles' touring show), but we're in another down period.
I got a phone call today. It seems that I have two hundred-ten working hours with the local. You need one hundred-sixty to apply for full membership.
I need to brush up on my knot tying skills, and terminology. They will no doubt ask me to explain to them-in terms they find acceptable-two possible ways to stage a piece of scenery, they will ask me to demonstrate a superior knowledge of three of the four knots every stagehand must know (the bowline, the clove hitch, the figure eight...I couldn't tell you the fourth), and other such things. The Handbook (which I just now found out existed) is available to me for twenty dollars.
And there's no doubt an application fee, on top of the dues I already pay. Then there's the 401-K that currently has fifteen dollars in it, since some employers pay into it and others don't. The possiblilty of health benefits (which means I could finally cancel all business relations with my family) is there...I hate organizations, as they seem to make us all a little more stupid, but I do have a great deal of pride in my work. Above all else, having been all manner of things in my working life, this here is the first thing in a long time I've found that I can do without it making me sick to my stomach, each and every morning.

There's a couple of the oldsters (they make up most of the local; a lot of us talk openly about waiting for a great many of them to die off) who don't like me at all, but many more who clearly have my back. We'll see about this.

On that list I hyper-linked up there, I see I neglected to mention my brief stint as a radio engineer. I wonder how many other things I left off.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


Just to break the silence of the longtime listener, first time caller, we'll discuss now why certain jokes are funny, thereby utterly killing any chance of actual humor to be had:

An Army of One
This is the joke where a single individual, engaged in single combat, keeps besting his/her opponents by approaching them and yelling, "Stab stab stabbity stab!" (which later became a band name, and is the reason that I ever heard this one). His/her reign of terror ends when (they) finally encounter a person who yells, "Tank tank tankity tank!"

I am fond of this joke because it seems to be the product of a particularly drunken (or glue-filled) evening between friends who knew each other well. The fact that it made it out into general population in what sounds like its original form is further testimony to its greatness.

Scenes From 'A Bar'
A rabbi, a priest and a horse walk into a bar. The bartender takes one look at them and says, "Get the fuck out of here."

This one works just as well, of course, with any grouping of stereotyped characters familiar from jokes. An alternate ending for this one is the bartender saying, "What is this, a joke?", but I like this one better for its economy of form, and the sudden reversion to What A Person In This Situation Would Probably Do.

Or, 'The Hawaii'
It is well known that James Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was a constant figure at the gambling table. History further recalls that he unwittingly revolutionized cuisine one day when he was taken with a powerful hunger, yet could not bear to leave the gaming table. So he instructed his manservant to place a slice of meat between two slices of bread, and bring it to him henceforth. This is why, to this day, we refer to that popular lunchtime dish as 'the manservant'.

That one's actually one of mine. (It turns out I don't actually know that many jokes.) It raises questions of class-consciousness, while hitting you-BOING!-with that surprise left hook that all yer best jokes do. It is best to deliver it as deadpan, History Channel-style as possible, to add to the BOING! effect.

Famous Last Words
"(something in German)" were Einstein's last words, as recorded by his nurse, who spoke no German. Imagine the possibilities, huh? Like what if he finally worked out the Unified Field Theory or something! Guess we'll never know...

Turns out this one isn't really a joke. Makes ya' think, though.

The Entire Presidency of William Jefferson Clinton, Forty-Second President of the United States and Bishop of the District of Columbia (I think) but in particular this early, evasive answer to the question, "Have you ever smoked marijuana?"
"Yes, but I didn't inhale."

HAW HAW HAW! Very few people at the time saw this one for the brilliant piece of political meta-humor it actually was. For one thing, it sort of made him all things to all people: of course I did, you tool. Haven't you noticed what generation I'm from? But also: Sigh. Alright. If you want to know how I feel about the whole legalization thing, I'm as aware as anyone is that the War on Drugs is lucrative as hell to certain sectors of our economy, and isn't going away, probably ever. In this way, he showed himself as the embodiment of America itself.
His trope here was familiar to those Smokers of the Pot like myself; tell the most ridiculous lie to avoid detection/opprobrium by the hysterics we live among. It'll probably work.
This also laid the groundwork for a later joke, "Don't Ask/Don't Tell", which may very well be the only example of return humor I've found in the annals of the presidency.

The Fact that Men have nipples
I mean, what the fuck is up with THAT, right? This is a favorite joke of relatively unimaginative people everywhere, although I did use it to create a little too much laughter directed at an unwise antagonist once.
In those days, with hair down to my ass, I often carried a woven Guatemalan bag ("Wha-at? IT'S MY LUNCH!"), and this fool I work with asks me, in front of a roomful of co-workers, "Are you aware you're carrying a purse?"
And I fire right back, "Are you aware that you have nipples on your chest?"
The crowd went wild, and dude sat there with his head down, knowing he'd been beat.

George Carlin, doing his usual schtick about slang and modern usage, throws in this one:
"Why isn't there a perfume for lesbians called 'Fuck Off, Mister'?"

This one comes back to me a lot, in the city I live in with the bars I tend to frequent. It's simple, but again, that's why it works. Also, he said it in 1974 or something, so points for being ahead of the curve.

Don't Look Up Here...
The joke's in your hand.