An ongoing project:

In funnylooking, the follow-up project to Children of Grass, I am refocusing my work to do another three year census, this time on another often misunderstood class of American artist: the humorist.  

"Humor is the good-natured side of a truth," Mark Twain wrote, and in assessing more than a hundred American humorists- comedians, writers, performers, cartoonists, and subjects who do not fit those categories or any other- we find the common threads of those subjects building their work out of their own lives and truths.

As with previous projects, the network of subjects is self-selected by the community themselves; every subject here selects others they feel are deserving of inclusion.



Produced in partnership with The American Bystander and the Martin Comedy Grant.

MARGARET CHO

comedian, humorist, winner of the American Comedy Award.  [with Michelle J. Li]

crazy eyes


Body dysmorphia has got to go. This is this ignant disease where you don’t know what you look like. It’s similar to another condition that I believe is called “crazy eyes”— not the way that other people see you (“Look at that fool Marty Feldman— he’s got some crazy eyes!”), but the way you see yourself. The insanity, which we use as our vision, surfaces when we get dressed to go somewhere where we think people will be looking at us with the same crazy eyes that we have. There is a cure for this disease, but, sadly, people don’t really think that it works. The cure is, nobody cares what you look like except you and your crazy eyes. It’s a tough pill to swallow, like a horse pill you have to take with a gallon of Sparklett’s to get the whole thing down, and even then it just sticks in your throat, creating a pharmaceutical Adam’s apple. That’s nasty, thinking that nobody cares what you look like except you, but that’s because they’re too busy looking at themselves, thinking about what’s wrong with them and dealing with their own crazy eyes. And even if they do care about what you look like, it’s only a momentary, fleeting thought,a brief overview and comparison between what you look like against what they think they look like, so the thought isn’t really about you, it’s about them and their crazy eyes, not you and your crazy eyes. So fuck it. You’re both crazy, and that’s final.


Crazy eyes is not fatal, but it can lead to other diseases that are. It is a gateway to other diseases, just like marijuana is a gateway to other drugs, and the “munchies,” which is a gateway to crazy eyes. If left untreated, crazy eyes will get worse, and could develop into disordered eating, which leads to the wonderful world of Bulimarama (Try ‘em all! Bulimarexia, Good Ol’ Binge’n’Purge, Exercise Bulimia, Laxative Bulimia, “I’m starting my diet tomorrow so I have to get it all in before midnight” Bulimia, Honey Mustard Bulimia) and the Grim Reaper, Anorexia, coming to claim the lives of young women, much like consumption did in the Victorian era. She’s a tall, gaunt figure, chic and wiry, draped in black muslin, but instead of a scythe this skeleton has a fork and spoon, because even death thinks you need a good hearty meal of macaroni and cheese to fortify you for your long journey into the afterlife.


And then, what if you die before you reach your goal weight of forty-five pounds? Perhaps your narrow—ass ghost will be condemned to roam the metropolitan shopping malls of your past, like the poor old prisoners who, even in death, refuse to leave their cells on Alcatraz. Will the dressing—room doors in Urban Outfitters creak open, then slam shut, for no reason? Supernatural shrieks coming from inside the slatted stalls, “I NEED A LARGER SIZE!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! HELPPPPPP MEEEEEEEE!” as clerks rush in and find nobody there, nothing but the lingering scent of almond vomit, a chill in the air and a size 0 pair of Frankie B. jeans turned inside out on the floor.


Or maybe you will find your way to heaven. God knows, you deserve it, having put yourself through a correspondence course in hell, getting your GED in suffering in the precious few days of your tragic life, all the while maintaining a rigorous workout schedule and an insufficient caloric intake. Will the first thing you ask when you reach the Pearly Gates, which, thankfully for you, is atop an impossibly long flight of cement steps, be, “Where’s the gym?”


Crazy eyes is wildly contagious. Everybody has some form of it. The people who pick and choose the images that we see daily on TV, in movies, in magazines and advertising— everywhere— have the craziest eyes of all, which is why this malady is worse than most other forms of biological warfare. Smallpox’s got nothing on CE. Crazy eyes is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction because it works slowly, eroding the mind and the spirit and eventually the body, pound by pound inch by inch, and it sets its crazy sights upon young women, who provide the gateway to future generations. If crazy eyes escalated to pandemic proportions, which is the next level up from the epidemic we have now, there would be a massive shortage of females capable of reproduction. Even if all of us didn’t die right away from CE, and the diseases caused by CE infection, low body weight would make menstruation impossible, and procreation rare and difficult. This, along with the few remaining fertile women unwilling to become pregnant because they don’t want to look “fat,” would eventually kill off the human race altogether.


And today, with the advent of the Internet, and the crazy eyes of the media enforcing their crazy vision on the global optic nerve, as the world gets smaller through technology, becomes more and more uniform in its tastes, customs, practices, beliefs, ideals, collective dreams and nightmares— as cultures homogenize and pasteurize and become one solid block of cheese nobody is going to eat— crazy eyes will spread faster than a wildfire in Granada Hills. Don’t act like I’m some crackpot who is about to put this manifesto on a sandwich board and walk up and down the Third Street Promenade with a megaphone and those joke glasses with the eyeballs on springs popping out. You know crazy eyes is real. You have probably suffered from it at some time in your life. I’m a CE survivor, and I live in fear for others who may not have the strength or even the reason to save themselves.


There is hope. Crazy eyes is even easier to fix than astigmatism or glaucoma. You don’t even need to get laser surgery on your retinas. Prevention is the best line of defense.When you look at yourself in the mirror, you can say only one thing: “I look fine.” Do not think about what you are today or yesterday— or ever. Do not change your outfit. Do not say anything about yourself to yourself. Do not think about the way you look again. Think instead about how nice it is that somebody loves you, or that your dog is so sweet when she follows the sunlight as it moves across the sky, napping at every window with such regularity that you could set your watch by her gentle snores and dog dreams, or that you miss someone and maybe you should call them, or if you can’t call them because they are not around anymore think about how much you loved them and why, or how much you hated them and why, or about how the thoughts of love or hate can be equally provocative and tantalizing, or that sometimes there really is an easy way to do things, or that popcorn is always a good thing to get at the movies, or that you can stay home and watch TV if you want to, not even committing to a specific show— just flipping for no reason except that you want to, or that it’s weird that certain colors are called that, like why is blue called blue— or whatever ignant or smart or sad or stupid or funny or brilliant or ridiculuos thought to fill your mind with instead of “Do I look okay?”

                 

Stop crazy eyes before it starts. You look fine.

 

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LARRY DOYLE
humorist, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

     
What am I going to do with my Mega Millions? Good question. Here’s a hundred dollars.
    

The truth is, I haven’t really thought about it. I mean, I suppose I’ll have to hire a lawyer to start preëmptively suing people who claim that I owe them money or fathered them or blinded them in a bar fight. And I’ll need bodyguards with double-0 clearance, for insurance purposes. And another lawyer to sue the first lawyer. But, beyond that, my life is going to stay pretty much the way it is, only with the Mega Millions.
     

Cheryl has been a good wife, financially supporting me all these years while I pursued my dream of winning the Mega Millions, and I’d like to keep her. She’s not really a Mega Millionaire’s wife, though, as she would be the first to admit. However, in light of all her years of loyal service, I’m going to give her first crack at the position.

Out of my own pocket, I’m advancing Cheryl up to three hundred thousand dollars for a series of upgrades. She has all sorts of complaints about her face that, frankly, I don’t see, but, fine, we’ll fix all that stuff. We’ll also be installing state-of-the-art breasts, right above the original ones, which we’ll keep around for old times’ sake to remind us where we came from. To go with her new Mega Millions looks, Cheryl will be getting extensive training in trophy-wiving from Melania Trump, on loan from my new friend Don, at a special discounted rate.
     

I do hope it all works out, because Cheryl was with me back when it all started. All those scratch-offs. All that black stuff all over the bed. She’s probably wishing that she hadn’t bitched so much about it now.
    

As for me, I can’t think of anything I want. Hair, maybe. Specifically, George Clooney’s. So far, he’s been unwilling to part with it at any price, but we’ll see how he feels about playing Khrushchev or Gorbachev or Blofeld or Mr. Clean in the new movie I’m financing. Plus, he travels a lot, often to countries where it’s possible to get what you want done done. You know what—that was off the record. Oh, and I forgot: here’s a thousand dollars for each of you.

Also, I may get a heart transplant, just as a precaution.
     

We’re going to keep the old house. We love the neighborhood, and we’ll love it even more without a lot of the neighbors. We’ll probably do some additions, preserving the original house as a centerpiece in the new living room, or maybe as a playhouse for all those grandkids we will no longer be denied. Cheryl’s going to be too busy pleasing me to take care of a house that large, so we’ll need some kind of staff: just a few French maids, one of those sinewy masseuses with Chinese tattoos, some house lawyers, a night masseuse, and a butler. A really good butler, from England.

Out back, I’d love to put in a small lake, where Mike McKenzie’s place is now. We’ll dock the yacht there, and copter it to whichever coast, as necessary. I haven’t decided what to stock the lake with, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment now that I’ll be owning so much of it. And it seems to me that the “greenest” thing to do would be to get a bunch of those Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, brush some scales on them with biodegradable body paint, strap each one in a helmet rigged with a giant eyehook or an industrial-strength magnet on top, and toss them in. Maybe. Like I said, I haven’t given it much thought. But I guess the short answer to your question is: I’m going to do a lot of fishing.

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DAN ZEVIN
humorist, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.



Most men drift through life in a fog, waiting for some moment of clarity to give them purpose and meaning. I should know; I used to be one of them. But then something changed. On an ordinary afternoon not long ago, I drove home from the dealership in my tricked-out new minivan.


I have come to terms with my choice. For I am the man in the minivan. And now, I rejoice. I rejoice every day for my collapsible third row of seats, my built-in DVD player, the bounty of cup holders I am blessed to behold.


Long ago, you see, my life was economy-size. There was room for just three passengers: Me, Me, and Me. Where we were headed was anyone’s guess, but in my younger years, I was lost; blind to the miracle of a Bluetooth-compatible GPS system equipped with advanced split-screen controls. I had a radar detector instead.


How it all changed is a bit of a blur. There was a wedding, and then there was a puppy. A home was purchased in New England. A wife was promoted and transferred to New York. A new baby boy. A new baby girl. A stay-at-home dad was born. A prescription for Xanax was filled. Gray hairs grew in, gray hairs fell out. Six years passed in six seconds. And then came the minivan.


I’ve heard it all a million times. “Does the driver’s manual teach you how to be boring?” joked my hipster friend, Max, who lives in the town house next door. My younger brother, Richie, gave me a bumper sticker that said “My other car is an aircraft carrier.” And some random schmuck on a Vespa- a kid who wasn’t even wearing a helmet- felt entitled to remark as follows: “Betcha get a lotta ass with that car.”


I was at a red light, on my way to feed the ducks in Prospect Park. “That’s right, buddy,” I answered. “Your mother rode shotgun last night.”

He flipped me off, but my kids didn’t see- they were in the back seats, plural, glued to Toy Story 3.

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EUGENE MIRMAN

comedian and writer.
              

I get a lot of emails from people asking me to join LinkedIn, or recommend them, and I know it’s not a dating site, but… I finally said okay, I’m gonna do it, I’ll make a resume. And did you know that, on a resume, you can write whatever you want? Like, anything. Nothing checks it. Like, for instance, I made a profile there and listed my job which, as you know, is the Senior Vice President of Pee-Pee at Verizon.

                   

I don’t think Verizon searches because I’m still the VP of Pee-Pee, and the only jobs I’m approached about are other VP positions in New York City. And then the site asks you to tell it about your job expertise and I’m like, y’know… I am.. passionately opposed to sex in bathrooms in the workplace. I don’t think it should happen unless both parties agree on it- I guess I’m simply against sexual assault in bathrooms. (I’m on the right side of that issue, just if there’s any question.)

                            

You can also write in what you did previously and I wrote in that I was the HOLY FUCK SHIT OH NO at CNN. You then write in your skills. So, my skills: my skills are marketing, my next skill is surgery- that’s a guy you want on your side. Another skill that I have is that I’m bi-curious… curious. So if you’re bicurious, I’m like… so... tell me what that’s like? Another thing I do pretty well is wolf toss, so if there was like a wolf that was asleep, I wouldn’t throw it because I’m not a fucking idiot, but I would gently *toss* the wolf.

                              

And finally, my last skill is I can tell if somebody is telling the truth… by drowning them. 

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STEPHAN PASTIS

cartoonist, "Pearls Before Swine," winner of the Reuben Award.

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CAITLIN PELUFFO 
stand-up comedian.
            

I don’t have a Lara Croft body. I have an in-betweener body. I’m not fat but I’m also not thin. I’m very muscular, I played a ton of sports, so I call this… softball skinny.
I had to learn to like this body, though, because I was this size in sixth grade. That’s a gigantic child. So my dad was smart about it, shoved me into every sport there was to play, and I was pretty good at it so I kept getting that “compliment”- hey, Caitlin, you’re a real beast out there. THAT’S NOT A COMPLIMENT. I’m twelve! You just told me I’m the worst part of my favorite movie.
                 
...I took another hit, when I was talking to one of my guy friends and he told me that I don’t have the body type for porn, which was weird because we were talking about coffee. I understand what he meant —I’m not 19 and tiny—but I think he’s wrong. I think there are plenty of guys out there who would like to see a porn starring a beefy gal like myself. I think it could be hot. I think it could be so hot, I’m thinking about making my own porn movie. How about this? How about a porn where a woman… PULLS. HER. WEIGHT. ON. A. CAMPING. TRIP? That’s hot, right? You want this on a camping trip. What’s a skinny girl gonna do? Complain there are too many M&Ms in the trail mix? No, that girl thinks half a grapefruit counts as a meal. You want a woman who thinks that half a chicken counts... as the second half of her meal. Me, I’m very practical: I can pitch your tent, I can chop your wood, and I am willing to carry that stupid cooler. No one ever wants to carry that stupid cooler— but that’s why you brought me, baby. You can even leave all the beer and ice in it, because mama’s got it. Now, that sounds like a hot porn- because in my movie, the beauty is also… the beast.

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STEVE HELY
humorist, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. 


from HOW I BECAME A FAMOUS NOVELIST 

Here’s the challenge I set for myself: with a baking timer and one of Hobart’s Lascar Pharmaceuticals notepads in front of me, I sat at the kitchen table and resolved to spend one solid hour seeing if I could come up with an idea for an airport thriller.


LIST OF BESTSELLER IDEAS


  • It’s July 1776, and George Washington and Ben Franklin and all those guys are in Philadelphia. There’s a murder, and the local authorities turn to the only man they think might be able to solve it: Thomas Jefferson. (Ties in to the always popular Founding Fathers, plus murder.)
  • A Border Patrol officer in the Texas desert discovers that some al-Qaeda guys are sneaking across from Mexico. He tries to warn the folks in Washington, but they don’t believe him. So it’s up to him and a tough but beautiful lady rancher to stop the terrorists from hijacking a train, filling it with chemicals, and blowing up the Alamo. (Might prompt a tie-in cover story in Time: ‘How Safe is Our Border?’)
  • A Hollywood actor filming a jewel-heist movie has to stop thieves who try to purloin the real jewels that are being used as props. (Maybe Clooney or somebody would play himself in the movie?)
  • A lowly but handsome US Department of Agriculture inspector discovers a vast conspiracy to sterilize American men through poison in food. (Relatable: everybody eats food. Another possible Time story: ‘How Safe Is Our Food?’)
  • A lithe and athletic former gymnast/archaeologist in Central America stumbles across a long-lost city and translatees some inscriptions that reveal a diabolical secret: the ancient Maya discovered how to make nuclear weapons. Pursued by deadly guerrillas and shadowy CIA agents, she has to race through the jungle to stop the technology from falling into the wrong hands. (Anything Mexican/Central American would probably make for a popular Spanish language translation.)
  • A fetching young computer programmer discovers that a Japanese video game company has implanted a code in their game that makes kids kill their parents. (Could market a tie-in video game.)
  • A handsome geologist and a beautiful former ballet dancer/penguin expert in Antarctica discover a sinister oil company plan to destroy the icy continent. (Penguins are sellable.)

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MICHAEL GERBER

parodist, editor of the American Bystander. 

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STREETER SEIDELL
comedian, writer, actor, and TV host.

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BILLY THE MIME

comedian and writer.
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GEORGE BOOTH

cartoonist, winner of the National Cartoonists' Society Lifetime Achievement Award. 

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