(Source: Vice Magazine)
In 2013, I saw a lot of women. They were all beautiful. I also saw a lot of garbage. It was beautiful too. I don’t remember seeing all that many men.
Is Andy Kaufman Still Alive? Probably Not
Yesterday, Defamer published an article titled “Is Andy Kaufman Still Alive?” Gothamist, theComic’s Comic, Dangerous Minds, and others posted similar stories. The posts were based on accounts of a very strange ten minutes during Monday night’s ninth annual Andy Kaufman Awards, during which Andy’s brother Michael claimed to not know if Andy was alive, and then may or may not have been reunited onstage with his long-lost niece (Andy’s daughter). I was a judge at the (untelevised) event, so I figured I’d share what I saw and clear some stuff up.
I met Michael in January when I interviewed him about “On Creating Reality,” an Andy Kaufman exhibition at Maccarone gallery in New York. I hadn’t spoken with him since then, but last week I got an email from Wayne Rada, the producer of the Andy Kaufman Awards, saying that Michael wanted me to be a judge at the finals. I said I’d be happy to, and when I got to the Gotham Comedy Club I was told that Michael would be making a “very special announcement” at the end of the show.
After the contestants finished their sets, I went to the basement with the other three judges, who told me that, with the exception of tonight, Michael was always down there with them. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in hindsight it seems obvious that I was asked to take Michael’s place in the judging process so he could focus on making his special announcement at the end of the show.
We probably deliberated for all of about four minutes before coming back upstairs, as the host of the show was wrapping up. Before announcing the winners, he said, Michael would like to say a few words. Michael walked up to the stage and squinted a little in the lights. He’s a soft-spoken man with mannerisms eerily similar to his brother, and when he began to speak the entire room fell silent.
Danny McBride Talks About the Final Season of Eastbound & Down
Last week 19 million people watched the narrative landfill known as The Big Bang Theory. It makes me wish Charlie Sheen and the nutso Seventh Day Adventist who played his nephew on Two and a Half Men would go on a drug-fueled killing spree, using data from Nielson boxes to pinpoint the exact location of their prey. Or maybe they could just develop a primetime comedy show based on this premise. They could call it The Big Bang Theory, for Real; I know more than a few people who’d watch it.
But enough bitching. Streaming and on-demand services have provided an audience for amazingly well written and produced TV shows that otherwise might’ve been canceled after their first seasons. Breaking Bad, the series finale of which aired last night on AMC and now has the entirety of the internet creaming its pants, is one such example.
Another is Eastbound & Down, which coincidentally entered its fourth and final season on HBO minutes after the tale of Walter White came to its bitter end. While in many ways a deeply dark episodic drama about a science teacher turned meth kingpin is diametrically opposed to a balls-out comedy about a washed-up Major League relief pitcher with a mullet and a penchant for cocaine and jet skis, they both share many important core elements: meandering but believable story arcs that constantly introduce new characters, locations, and conflicts; they rely on unexpected plot twists that, without careful consideration and writing, could easily alienate audiences who have been conditioned through blatant foreshadowing to know what will happen next long before the characters become aware; and protagonists who, like real people, adapt and change according to the situation at hand.
And so the story of Kenny Powers—played by the show’s co-creator Danny McBride—continues. I was fortunate enough to preview the first two episodes of the new season, which I have been absolutely assured will be the last. It takes place at an undefined point in the future, which judging from the age of Kenny and April’s son seems to be about a four or five year leap forward from when we last left the troubled couple. In case your memory is fuzzy: the first episode of the third season (which, when first announced, was said by the show’s creators to be its last run) saw April leave Kenny and their son in the middle of the night, and from there the newly single father was drafted by a minor league team in Myrtle Beach where he struggled to find his stride. In the end he manages to get an offer to reenter the majors, but instead bleaches his hair, fakes his own death, and returns home to find April and commit to becoming a family man.
In the first episode of season four it appears that Kenny has finally submitted to his fate, content with the comforting routine of being a husband and father who works at a car rental agency. But things quickly change, of course. They always do.
A few days before the season premiere, I spoke with Danny to ask about how his life has changed along with the show and to glean some insight into what happens to Kenny Powers in the end.
VICE: So is this really the last season? I am somewhat dubious, given that you guys have said that before.
Danny McBride: I think it’s definitely the last season. Maybe there will be a time where we’ll come back to this character again years from now. From the outset though, we approached every season as if we weren’t going to have an opportunity to do it again. Even when we were shooting the pilot, we kind of were like well you know maybe who knows who will pick this up, but at least we’ll have a 30-minute short film. But this season was definitely more of a surprise just because we kind of thought that we were done after the third season and, you know, HBO called us and just wanted us to do one more. [Co-creator] Jody [Hill] and I were kind of looking at each other and we felt good where we left things off last year, but they were just very persistent about it.
They pretty much asked us what would it take to get you guys to do this again. Originally, our third season was going to be about Kenny and April together. But Katy Mixon, the actress who plays April, was on Mike and Molly so we found out after we started to write the third season that we were only going to have her for two episodes, so it kind of fucked up what our plan for the whole season last year was gonna be. We had all this material, all this stuff, all the angles that we basically had to just throw out the window. So what we told HBO was “Look, we liked last season but we weren’t really able to do what our original plan was because we didn’t have Katy.” So they were like if we could get her would you guys be interested in doing it again? And sure enough, they got her, and we said, “Alright well why not, let’s do it.”
Deep Thoughts on Jack Handey’s Days Writing for ‘SNL’ and His New Novel, ‘The Stench of Honolulu’
Jack Handey—who is indeed a real person, despite common misconception—is best known for his series of hilarious faux aphorisms, Deep Thoughts. Handey is also the writer of many ofSNL’s best sketches from the 80s and 90s, such as “Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car,” “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer,” and “Happy Fun Ball.” For the past decade, he has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs section. This summer he released his first novel, The Stench of Honolulu, which begins: “When my friend Don suggested we go on a trip to the South Seas together, and offered to pay for the whole thing, I thought, Fine, but what’s in it for me?”
Lincoln Michel talked to him for VICE about writing, funny grammar, and proper cowboy dance moves.
VICE: I’m curious about the writing process for your novel, The Stench of Honolulu. Did you write most of the jokes separately, like for Deep Thoughts, and then add them to a narrative? Or did you write the jokes as you wrote the story?
Jack Handey: Some jokes were preexisting, but most were written as the story developed.
In the early 2000s, SNL ran excerpts from a fake novel of yours called My Big Thick Novel. If I’m not mistaken, one or two of those bits ended up in The Stench of Honolulu. For example, the one with a woman named Lanani (in the novel it’s Leilani) who gets annoyed about being a “personal blowdart counter.” Did the idea for writing an actual novel originate in the My Big Thick Novel spots?
Yes, I stole that joke from My Big Thick Novel. I think the novel did have a lot of its origins in My Big Thick Novel. I like a jungle setting, because just about anything can happen there, real or supernatural. It adds to the possibility of jokes you can use.
Andrew Dice Clay and His Spectacular Wrongness
If the name Andrew Dice Clay has any significance to you, it is, inevitably, as the blockheaded, spectacularlyleathered obscenity-dispenser who once looked like some combination of Mad Max and Liberace, who now looks like the guy who lives downstairs from your grandmother and can get you a great deal on calling cards. The perfect avatar for all that slimy, bicep-smooching late-80s male machismo, slicking his hair back in every reflective surface, winking at girls in skirts and when the girls snort in disgust he holds up his arms with a “WHATS-A-MATTA-HONEY?” and then tugs on his crotch and lights another cigarette. The definitive representation of the swaggering, filthy, bombastic “I’M HERE, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE WALKING” New York City, a place memorialized in heavy-handed Spike Lee montages, scored to car horns and relentless come ons, all intolerance and impatience and flamboyance, every accent like bad parody.
Andrew Dice Clay is that man. He is so that man. He is throwing you against a motel minifridge and he is chewing the button off of your jeans. He is shouting in your ear as you place his takeout order, and he is telling you to make sure they don’t forget his extra fucking ketchup, sweetheart. But he is also something else. In a sense, Andrew Dice Clay is the greatest comedian you’ve never heard of.
What’s It Like Being a Stand-Up Comedian in Saudi Arabia?
Breaking into stand-up comedy is notoriously hard in Western countries where there’s an infrastructure of clubs and agents and laws that allow performers to say pretty much whatever they want. But in Saudi Arabia, where the notoriously oppressive government still uses beheading as a punishment and women aren’t allowed to drive, among other things, it’s nearly impossible to be a comedian. The country’s stand-up scene is “burgeoning,” to be kind, or “pretty much nonexistent,” if you want to be mean.
So when Ahmed Ahmed, the Egyptian-American comedian, was performing in Saudi Arabia in 2008 and the bookers wanted to find some locals to open for him, they had to hold auditions to find ordinary people who were funny enough to get onstage and tell jokes. An English teacher named Omar Ramzi got a Facebook message that said auditions were being held, tried out, and soon found himself in front of a thousand people doing stand-up for the very first time.
Omar stuck with comedy, and four years after his debut he had become famous enough to acquire a nickname (“the White Sudani”), made good money doing underground comedy gigs, and was featured on national TV and in the Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily newspaper. The catch was that despite being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Omar had never received Saudi citizenship and was living illegally in the country thanks to a string of mishaps. After navigating the not-funny joke that is the Saudi bureaucracy, he eventually managed to flee to Cairo. I reached out to him through Skype to talk about the turns his life has taken.
VICE: So your nickname is “the White Sudani”? How did that happen?
Omar Ramzi: Yeah. See, my mother’s Irish and my dad is Sudanese, and obviously most Sudanese people are dark-skinned, with African origins, but there is a small minority of white Sudanese that came from North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, and places like that. My dad is from that small minority. We’re like the bluefin tuna of the human race—almost extinct.
What was it like growing up as part of that tiny minority?
So, I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but I lived a very different life than most people—I lived in a compound, which is like a gated community. There’s several of them all over the country. The one that I lived in was called Saudia City, which is for the employees of Saudi Airlines. They had everything: They had their own schools—American schools, British schools—medical centers, pools… It was like a little city where the rules of the country did not apply. Women could drive and wear whatever they wanted to. There were parties and alcohol. And just outside the gate, you would see women all covered up with the black [burqa], like all ninja’d out, you know? They were like completely different worlds.
When you started doing stand-up, you were doing it in that wider world of Saudi Arabia. What was that like? It must be a lot different from what I think of as stand-up in America.
The thing is, in the West, heckling is part of the norm in stand-up comedy. In this part of the world they don’t know about heckling. There’s no such thing. People sit down and they will respect you, even if you suck ass.
Omar’s first show ever.
That must be nice.
Yeah, but it’s a bit of a challenge because they had a lot of rules. You can’t use profanity. You can’t talk about the government. You can’t talk about the royal family. You can’t talk about religion. So what is left to talk about? What is left to make fun of? I ended up making fun of the students I was teaching English to. I’ll tell you one of my jokes. I was teaching them the difference between “to” and “too.” After like three weeks of going through it, I thought, They must finally understand. So I asked who could give me an example of the difference between the words.
[heavy Saudi accent] “Teacher, teacher, I have the answer for you, teacher!”
[normal voice] “OK, go ahead.”
“For example, teacher, the one with the one ‘o’ teacher: ‘I want to go to the supermarket.’”
“Oh, very good, good job. What about the other one?”
“Yes teacher of course teacher. For example: ‘I want to go tooooooooooooooooo the beach.”
So you know, things like that, things that everyone could laugh at and that weren’t insulting.
Every tattoo tells a story and has a story—that’s two stories per tat! So every month we stop someone on the street and ask them to “tell us ’bout them tats!” We even say it just like that, with a southern accent. It gets people to open up. This month we stopped Gordon Penniweather in Park Slope, and he filled us in on the story behind a few of his many tats.
Thanks, Gordon—for the great stories and the cool tats!
THE SUSSMAN BACK TAT
“Basically, I was drunk and made a bet on a baseball game with some guy in a bar. Can’t remember his first name, but his last name was Sussman. Funny story—we almost got into a fight because he was talking shit about my beloved White Sox, and in the course of stepping outside to hammer each other, we started laughing because I realized he was talking shit about the Red Sox, who I also hate. There and then we decided to bro down by getting tats and spent the whole night in an all-night tattoo parlor with me getting his face on my back. We were supposed to meet up again the next night to get my face on his back, but… never happened.”
THE “START TODAY” ARM
“These three tats are actually connected. First, the bird happened. I was drunk and won a bet—this was at a poker game held in a tattoo shop. Anyway, some asswipe didn’t have the cash to cover his raise so he used his credit card to reimburse me for my win and let me pick any tattoo I wanted from a certain section. I wanted the Dude from Lebowski, but that cost too much. My girlfriend at the time was kind of cuckoo, so she chose the bird. Below that is the girlfriend—I can’t remember her name. It might have been Birdy or… Bethany? Something. She HAD a name, I know that much. I got it so I’d always remember who had picked out the bird tattoo. The “Start Today” thing on my wrist is a reminder to start saving to have tattoo-removal surgery done on most of my body. Pretty funny, if you think about it. I try not to think about it.”
An Oral History of the Recent Unpleasantness of Olympics Mascots
"I’m Wenloc, the Olympic mascot for London 2012. I love finding out about all sports, having fun and making friends."
"I’m Mandeville, the Paralympic mascot for London 2012. I love trying new things and challenging myself to be the best I can be"
- 2012 London Olympics official website
Waldi the Dachshund (1972): Yeah, I was the mascot for Munich. First German games since the Holocaust. [Takes long drag on cigarette] So, you know… that worked out well.
Misha The Bear (1980): They had me pose with just about every goddamn sport you can think of. Fencing, running, sitting in a frigging wheelchair holding a javelin. After a while, I’d get panic attacks. I wouldn’t leave my trailer.
Sam The Eagle (1984): I was pumped. When it was over, I was all, what’s next guys? And they just laughed. I was like, huh? When’s the next Olympics? What’s the game plan here, you know?
Beibei the fish (2008): Between my Etsy shop and the Section 8 vouchers, I make out. But it’s tough. I don’t really have any savings.
Magique the Snow Imp (1992): I had some seasonal work at the Poughkeepsie County Fair, in the “tickle monster” booth. Obviously, that’s over now.
Schneemann the Snowman (1976): My daughter made me a gold medal out of the foil lid thing from a sour cream container. I just looked down at the floor. I couldn’t even cry.
Nokki the Snow Owl (1998): I haven’t been able to cry in years.
Hodori the Tiger (1988): They don’t make a 12-step program for people like us. [Pauses] Should I be using “people” in air quotes? I was never really sure about that.
Roni the Raccoon (1980): I’d gotten a settlement from a snowmobile accident and used the money to party every night. I started running with a bad set of guys—the Hamburger Helper Hand, the Phillie Phanatic, Eddie the Iron Maiden skeleton. It was a dark time in my life.
Copper the Coyote (2002): I started snorting a lot of that shit… what’s that called? Those glue stick things? Head On. That shit.
Sam the Eagle: I was doing a lot of jenkem, a lot of ground-up Yaz. What ever I could get my hands on.
Howdy the Polar Bear (1988): Bath Salts. Like from the Body Shop? I was smoking maybe 30 or 45 pounds a day.
Sydney the Platypus (2000): You set up rules for yourself. “OK, I’ll do handies, but I won’t turn tricks.” The next month, it’s like, “OK, I’ll turn tricks, but I’ll always use protection.”
Copper the Coyote: You can make good money at, you know, truck stops. [Pauses] Depending on what you’re willing to do.
Sam The Eagle: Guys would pay more if they thought I was one of the muppets.
Powder The Hare (2002): I tracked down Coal the Bear. He looked tore up. I told him, “I can get you work through my construction company. It’s not the easiest job, but if you settle in, we can fast track you for management in six months. One thing, though. We drug test. No exceptions.” He looked right in my face and—I’ll never forget this—he said, “Fuck you, you Jar Jar Binks motherfucker.”
Paloma the Dove (1968): My wife threw out all my Olympics stuff years ago. What are you going to do? I love that woman.
Izzy the Abstraction (1992): I still get royalties from that Super Nintendo game modeled after me. You need Windows 95 to play it, but it’s a pretty cool game.
Amik the Beaver (1976): I’m in Provo now, married, got a decent job at a company that manufactures industrial adhesives. Every now and then, one of the vendors will recognize me from the Olympics, and they get a kick out of that. But mostly, no, I don’t really think about it too much these days. I’ve moved on.
Previously - Sheriff Joe Tweets