Jan 25, 2010

Tame Minds Tell Tedious Jokes

How Exceedingly Witty!It happens about once a month. Someone else takes their turn at making a ground-breaking remark about my name of choice. That is, "Wilder."

Their gem of wit usually implies that I could only live up to such a name by being an asshole - an unstable, irresponsible, violent, hard-drinking, hard-drugging, mass-fornicating, nincompoop, hellion, shark-kicker - or something like that. I always think, this demonstrates a lack of imagination on your part. I always think, this demonstrates the limitations of a tame mind such as your own. I always think, how dreary and routine your inner world must be. I always think, I am never buying you frozen yogurt.

As best I can reason, these people must think "wild" means criminal, or rock-star, or lunatic. Or at least someone who shouts a lot. What they're describing is a fool, and wild things are not fools. A wild animal flourishes outside of domestication. They function, survive, and thrive. They find their own way. A fool destroys himself. He not only fails at domestication, he fails to find a way of his own.

Use your imagination, perverts.Andy Kaufman and John Belushi probably fit the conventional "wild" profile. But, I must insist, mild and polite Steve Martin is one wild and crazy guy. (*ahem*) Nice Jewish boys Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld are both wild men. Nerdy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is a wild man, and it's nothing to do with his hair. Woody Allen is a wild man, and not because of his love life, which people fixate on, I guess because they like imagining small, bespectacled geriatrics nude and humping. No, Woody Allen is a wild man because he questions god, purpose, morality, platitudes, politeness, limitations, reassurances, and good taste. His imagination is fearless. His observations are fearless. His work is wild, sometimes elevating, sometimes off-putting, but never domesticated, never by-the-numbers, never manufactured, never an empty entertainment, never an AVATAR. He finds his own way to thrive.

As a society, we tend to over-reward entertainers like James Cameron. With incredible skill, he trots out the familiar, the tested, the safe. He validates our expectations. He congratulates our comforting beliefs. He's an entertainer. He is talented, but he is tame. He is successful because most people like to have their lies validated, their routines celebrated. Most people don't like to feel silly and confronted.

On the flip-side, comics and artists mock and question the familiar. They subvert expectations and ridicule or question beliefs. They try to show us something we haven't admitted to ourselves. They giggle at comforting lies and unmask the futility of our habits. They confront us with the fact that we're all fucking ridiculous.

And perhaps it is my own fucking ridiculous ego, but I think, if you look at the things I've written, if you consider the things I've imagined, then you must admit - I am a metric-ton-measure wilder than most people. When it comes to wild thinking, I am several astronomical units ahead of those making the cracks about the name, and I'm accelerating into infinity. We're so far apart, we can send signals to one another at the speed of light, and we still won't communicate before the end of time.

Yes, it's true that I'm trying to be more of an entertainer. I'm trying to reach more people. And yet, despite myself, there is still subversion in there, there is still wild thinking. My imagination hasn't been corralled by Hollywood and habit. Not yet. I couldn't go on if I believed that.

So, perhaps that is my comforting lie.

bear.jpgIn any case, the message I'm writing to myself is this: as I take another stab at a mainstream, high-concept script, I need to keep this pride in mind. To be a successful comedy, this story needs to go places that earn the pen-name that's become my name. It needs to keep frightening the suits. It needs to weird-out the defenders of formula. The imagination needs to remain wild. The script needs to be born that way. Later on, it may get massaged and trimmed and dosed and caged and muzzled and leashed and quieted, but when something is raised feral, it never loses that wild streak. It's always a little different than the true domestics, born there on the farm.

I will not let this one get born on the farm. I will raise it with the wild things, out amongst the were-beavers, down in hiding with freed appliance underground. I will give it the streak of feral thought.

I will out-imagine all y'all, fuckers.

Jan 21, 2010

Now Open for Comments

comics throwing typewriter.jpgIt was pointed out to me that most of the posts here were not open for comments. I made the default setting "no comments" during an unreasonable flash of self-defensiveness. Apologies.

I started this blog primarily to speak with myself and get my brain writing, despite being seized up by lack of nicotine, but I also decided, perhaps impulsively, to share it with a small, trusted group. I've been thinking about it, and the best stuff ever made was fashioned through input from small groups of trusted persons (or by selective pressures on genetic traits). Denying comments on this blog might help my self-image, but it silences a source of potential challenge and contribution.

And so, comments are welcome. They are encouraged. They can be blunt, smug, and even nasty. I have always been a believer that the best comedy bits are born when typewriters are flung in anger during its conception and gestation. It helps if John Cleese is flinging Steve Martin's typerwriter at Tina Fey in Sarah Silverman's living-room (also, they're all in their 30s, and have sex afterward), but I suppose some ungentlemanly comments on a blog will suffice in a pinch. And we all live in a pinch.

But be warned: I own the content of your comments. I will make a fortune off them. Or be ruined by them. In either case, the consequences are mine.

Jan 19, 2010

Deleted Scene [Sick Day] Bathtub Politics

bubble bathHere's a little scene that will never make it into the final script, but which came to me while I was thinking through the possibility of a bath scene during that first night, when Jon is taking care of Maggie.
Peace in Our Time, Jon...
Jon turns the faucet, adding more hot water to Maggie's cooling bath. She is lying back with a washcloth folded on her forehead, looking very wan.
Do you think the hot water makes the cold water hotter, or you think the cold water makes the hot water colder?
I think they make each other more middle temperature.
That's the boringest possible answer. You totally science'd me.
He stares at her. One would imagine he's contemplating sexy thoughts. But no.
People don't act much like they're 75% water, do they?
I feel like I'm 99% snot. Does that count?
Cold people make hot people even hotter, and hot people make cold people even colder.
Are you talking about politics again?
Conservatives think we fixed things better in the past, that we should never have stopped doing things the old way. And liberals think we should keep trying new ways to fix things, that we'll do things better eventually. But there's gotta be a middle temperature.
Jon. The middle ground. Would be right after we stopped doing things the old way, and just before we started trying out a new way.
You mean, talking about what they're gonna do, but never actually doing it?
Maggie. I think you've has just proven our government is doing exactly what everyone wants it to do.
Peace in our time, Jon. Peace in our time.

Jan 18, 2010

Instant Messengers

Are very bad for my productivity.

Alternative Medicine

acupuncturepix Someone posted on Facebook: "Does anyone know if you can get acupuncture if you're allergic to nickel?"

I was tempted to respond, "Don't risk it unless a medical professional is present - and an acupuncturist doesn't count."

The placebo effect is a big part of healing. Finding ways to trigger it is not a bad thing. But taking risks with allergies, and infections, and paying someone handsomely in the process -- that shouldn't be acceptable behavior for a thinking person.

As a result of this posting, I've been reflecting on the sham triumvirate: homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. I've been searching double-blind placebo-controlled studies on all three, trying to determine how confident I should be in my disdain. So far, it looks like I should be pretty confident.

sexy needles 2 Now, I'm doing a movie with a flu-stricken character who believes in alternative remedies. Should I say something about these practices? Mock them? More to the point, can I afford to offend the 6% to 12% of Americans who subscribe to one or more of these optimistic fantasies? Or is this an area that I need to shush-up about? I fear Hollywood is full of folks putting sugar pills under their tongues while getting their spines aligned and their skin pricked. I bet that 6% to 12% skyrockets to 40% or 50% amongst influential Hollywood schmucks.

But - how do we write comedy if we can't ridicule the things that are verifiably ridiculous? We can't. Which means, the challenge becomes: how do you mock it in such a way that even the mocked will laugh? How do you pile the ridicule upon a masked target, and then unmask it.

What I Did On My Break [Quit Smoking]

I walked around the apartment building hallway, listening to the rain. I ate some grapes and some Ritz crackers with peanut-butter. I watched about half of an episode of Quantum Leap. I haven't thought of a fun or funny way for someone to "come down" with serious flu symptoms, so I'm going to go to bed.

No Smoke Break Break Time [Quit Smoking]

window-seat It's 2 o'clock in the morning: I can't make myself coffee. It's late, rainy, chilly, and Van Nuys: I can't take a walk. I've already had a shower: my skin would get itchy and dry. I've eaten more than I should: yet I can imagine enjoying some peanut-butter and Ritz. I could suck on honey-lemon cough drops, drink iced tea, and read John Hodgman from an old-fashion book, or perhaps read something else from my bourgeois Kindle. I could turn on the television, but that seems out-of-character. Are there still fascinating and strange things on television late at night?

Jan 17, 2010

Context [Quit Smoking]

Squirrel Bat Ram

Or "What's All This Then?"
This blog exists to force myself to think through writing problems.

In the past, when faced with a rusted-shut imagination, I'd step outside and have a cigarette. The chemical concoction, combined with a moment of solitary peace and metered breathing, would force my brain to focus and lubricate. Connections would be made. Ideas would stir up from the unconscious. The imagination would start spinning again. Alas, the physical consequences of this method are well known. It amounts to breaking a blockade by plowing the getaway car straight through the line of squad cars. Often, it works. But repetition is not advised.