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.