Standing in line for a show at the UCB this week, I noticed someone behind me who looked familiar. “His name was…ME!” For every article of clothing he was wearing, there were probably five copies just like it in every thrift store in the city: the solid color hoodie sweater, black Converse sneakers, an appropriately worn ringer-tee promoting some summer camp kayaking trip that had occurred decades before he was brought into existence. I knew that I knew him from somewhere, but I couldn’t quite place it until a friend of his showed up and they got to talking. Their conversation went a lot like this: -“Have you watched much South Park?” -“Nah, I only really watched the first couple seasons…” -“Well you know that Kerri Kenney, Ben...Something, and Thomas Lennon all went to college together, right?” -“Yeah, that’s where they started The State. Man, Porcupine Racetrack is such an amazing bit!” -“Do you ever watch The Office?” -“Yeah I catch it sometimes but, I dunno, to me it’s just, like, missing something from the British version.”
It must’ve been when one of them brought up Mr. Show for the third time that I realized why they seemed so familiar. It was because they were having the exact conversation that I probably had four years earlier, the first time I trekked across town from Westwood to see an alternative comedy show at the same theater in the bright morning of my early college years. I was doubly excited by my youthful belief that any venture east of Doheny held a good chance of being tranny-raped. I listened in on the rest of their talk the way a proud parent might watch a toddler stagger to its feet and pull itself along the edge of a coffee table. I could see where certain views would later be refined, tightened up, where certain connections would eventually be laid in, or abandoned. One of them, for example, was still under the impression that Robin Williams is funny. Tsk tsk, and for shame. This culture is a constant exam and that view is a patently wrong answer. Williams is ironically likeable in Mrs. Doubtfire, he served his purpose in Death to Smoochy, but he has no place anymore on the stand-up stage. Not in the post-Patton era.
Other guy, you showed good instincts by downplaying your ignorance of a popular TV show by explaining that you only watched it in its early days, before all the fucking fanboys jumped on the wagon. Of course, you’ll soon learn that this technique doesn’t work on South Park. The sanctioned view is that the show has actually gotten better over the years. In the future, try covering such flub-ups with a line like, “Oh, you were talking about South Park? I totally thought I heard you say The Simpsons.” Another excellent gauge of these guys’ familiarity with the alternative L.A. lifestyle was that they had heard of Toi “Rockin” Thai Food, but had not yet eaten there. However one of them did understand that the thrust of the restaurant is, “really good Thai food, but, like, with this really edgy atmosphere.” Yeah, edgy because the whole ordeal of parking, waiting, eating, and paying can take upwards of 3 hours, and it will totally make you late for David Cross’ set at the M Bar. But you didn’t really care about seeing him anyway, right? Or did you? Go on, say what you think. Everyone is listening.
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