The Dirt, Scarcity, and the Emptiness

Hi there, friends and neighbors! I suppose it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Feels like it’s been even longer. Life’s funny that way. Not “ha ha” funny, but the other kind, whatever that may be called. Funny when it happens to someone else. Yeah, that works.

It’s been so long since I updated this site that I feel as though I should re-introduce myself. Once upon a time I was a slightly-known cartoonist. I was never able to support myself on cartoons alone, but I somehow managed to keep one comic strip in print for nineteen years. I might’ve made it to twenty, but around three years ago almost the entire world’s population decided to be willfully ignorant to the point of self-injury, and so I had to take my work exclusively online. Since then I’ve basically survived on donations and the charity of other people.

My internet service was cut off months ago, so I get to type out private thoughts like this in the local library, where every day, a disgusting pigwoman sits and snaps her chewing gum while browsing her laptop, eating and drinking directly under the NO FOOD OR DRINK sign. She plugs her computer clothesline-style into the outlet across the walkway from her table, because she is apparently too cool and/or stupid to use the outlets beneath her fat loathsome feet. I get to type these words while listening to the inside of this horrid woman’s slobbering yap, unless I stick a pair of earplugs in, which are designed to muffle the din of power tools.

Every single day of my life is spent in the presence of monstrously obnoxious persons, regardless of what I do or when. Oh cool; a man just brought his shrieking toddler into the library to do cartwheels. I guess I’ll put the earplugs in after all.

Think about that. Think about living in a world where other people are so thoughtless, you have to wear earplugs in the library. Think about what day after day of life in that world would do to your morale and your psyche. Think about the energy that would be required to keep your head up under those circumstances.

I’ll go you one better. Think about living in that world while almost everyone you know presumes you’re the problem, and treats you as such. Imagine what that would do to your confidence and self-esteem. Imagine that they told you that your defenses for dealing with the annoyances you face were worthless, or that they make you a bad person. Imagine if you were weak-minded and dumb enough to listen to them.

Twenty years is an eternity in pop culture. Superstars become pariahs. Savants turn rube. Companies shutter, entertainment mediums go obsolete. Twenty years ago, Austin Powers was still on top of the world. Today, if Mike Myers tried to subject the world to a movie wherein he sips boiling diarrhea, no legitimate studio on earth would back him up, for any price.

Like Myers (but lacking the enormous reservoir of wealth), I too put all my faith in “gross-out comedy”, when I produced John’s Arm: Armageddon independently fifteen years ago. People were actually fun back then. Far fewer folks, if any, fancied themselves some manner of self-appointed political correctness squad. “Woke” was but an antonym for slumber. There was at least the pretense that funny material, whether it be animation, comics, music or simply men being struck in the testicles, was worthwhile and artistically valid.

Since losing wi-fi some months previous (it being of less import than rent or food), I have resorted to using for entertainment my collection of CDs and DVDs, most of which are twenty years old or more (that being a time when my poverty was less lethal). As it happens, I have a semi-respectable collection of the MTV show Jackass, both movies and digital transfers of VHS recordings. For a lark, I watched all of it over the past couple of months. I hoped to laugh like I did back in the early 2000’s at the scatological hijinks of Johnny Knoxville and company. Truthfully, I can’t remember the last time I laughed hard at anything.

(Actually I can; I laughed my ass off at my own recent comic strip “Th’ Changin’ Times”, which I then showed to my roommate who didn’t even crack a smile, so I stopped. It’s on my Patreon, because nobody cares.)

Watching Jackass in 2023 is a sobering, largely joyless experience. In the entire first two seasons of the show, I’d estimate there are about five funny minutes, total. There is literally footage of nothing more than a door-stopper being twanged in one of the first episodes. All the best bits involve people trying not to vomit, and/or vomiting. Everything else, almost without exception, involves Chris Pontius, Preston Lacy and Jason “Wee Man” Acuna running amok in their underpants (or less). Knowing the monster that Bam Margera is today (presuming he is alive when you are reading this) makes even his rare funny segments, like his endless assaults upon his fat father Phil, fall flat as paper. Yes, I get that countless jaw injuries and an odious Pennsylvania-backwoods patois combine to make him talk that way, but it doesn’t make him any less grating, and there are inveterate male prostitutes who don’t crave dick as much as Bam Margera does. Jesus Christ, dude.

Oh, and the less said about Ryan Dunn the better. It’s rather difficult to laugh at any of his appearances. Let’s leave it at that.

Despite enjoying the first three Jackass movies when I first saw them, I never saw Jackass 4ever. I’ll wager you didn’t either. Judging by the overly-glowing press notes, it needed all the help it could get, but good luck getting accurate box office figures in the 2020’s. The idea of adding a girl to the crew was just fucking stupid. Nobody, not even other girls, wants to watch females deliberately hurting themselves or pulling pranks. The core idea of the original Jackass was that girls would be revulsed by it, hence the need for a constantly nude Pontius to lure them in. Hey- remember the “Joan of Arc” bit from when Family Guy was actually good?

Yeah. Jackass was funny when it was only guys, and guys we knew. Guys like Steve-O, who actually has an innate sense of how to entertain people, partly because he actually went to college for it. Steve-O only gets tattoos if he knows they’ll get a laugh. That’s true dedication to humor.

Johnny Knoxville in old-man makeup is hardly funny because it takes away the scrappy spontaneity of public pranks and enters the gated realm of expensive film production. The bits where he dangles studio-quality fake nuts from his pant leg are almost excruciating to endure, because by the time they were filmed, Knoxville’s recognizability limited the targets of his pranks to confused non-English speaking persons. It hardly seems worth the considerable effort.

Jackass was a hit because it was the rebel of its day. When it was new, much like its Canuck sister The Tom Green Show, you watched because anything could happen. Now we know what happened. Some of it is emotionally unpleasant to relive. What’s left, when two decades of internet content have come and gone? Why bother making more?

That very same question is one I’ve asked myself repeatedly over the course of this year. Where am I going with all of this anymore? What ultimate goal do I have for continuing? Another book, another movie? How can I expect to see any project to completion when I don’t see success being had by anybody?

I suppose I’ll have to figure that out as I go. I don’t know how to do anything else in life other than draw cartoons. It’s typically a lucrative profession. What does that tell you about the current economy, if a brilliant cartoonist like yours truly can’t make enough money to keep from getting evicted?

I have to go now. Someone just brought their chicken dinner into the library. God bless.

Me twenty years ago, getting smacked in the nuts for the aborted EJECT video. [link]

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