Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

What do a 10 lb box of condoms, a taxidermy owl and a life-size model of a human throat all have in common?

…………….No, not that, you filthy animals. 

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Well, maybe that. But also this: They are all the subject of hilarious essays in David Sedaris’ new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

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In this, his 7th collection of autobiographical essays and short stories, America’s greatest humorist (IMHO) takes us on a journey from a suburban Costco, to his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to feeding Kookaburas in the Australian bush- all with the cunning wit and sharp observations of a perpetual outsider.

owls2 A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Sedaris do a reading of this book here in Toronto. It was a bit of a surreal experience for me, because having read all of his books, I sort of felt like I knew him already. I could tell you intimate details about his family, his childhood, even about his days as a meth-addicted starving artist. I had the urge to blurt out “How’s Amy?” (his famous sister) at one point, but then I remembered that I don’t actually know her at all, and wisely refrained.   

Although I do think we could be besties.. don't you?

Although I do think we would be besties if given the chance.

He spoke for over an hour, reading several pieces from the book, as well as sharing anecdotes from his tour thus far. He was witty, sharp, and incredibly gracious and welcoming of his fans – except for the fact that he had a very strict no picture policy. Luckily, I am a master sweet-talker who no man (even a gay one) can say no to, so I was able to superimpose my head onto some random man’s body convince him to take this one with me:

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I think it’s a framer.

Anywhoo- back to the review.

Longtime fans of Sedaris might find Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls a bit of a departure from his earlier works. Whereas Naked and Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim focused primarily on his childhood and coming of age tales; this collection delves more into his current, adult life and day-to-day encounters. If you’re open to it, this can be a refreshing change. We learn a lot more about his relationship with his partner Hugh in this collection, as well as receive an unexpected glimpse into his writing process with an essay on the diary he has kept since 1977. He also shares hilarious, cutting observations of the people in line with him at the Airport and Starbucks that are laugh-out-loud funny, and make you wish he was your best friend in real life.

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Throughout it all, you get a sense of what makes him tick; a behind the scenes look at the grown-up David Sedaris. 

Interspersed throughout the book are several pieces of short fiction, which Sedaris explains were written to be recited by teenagers at forensics competitions. Some are comic monologues; others are biting satires of right-wing ideals. I have to admit, these pieces were not my favourite. I found them too far afield from his regular style, and a bit too political for my liking.

That being said, overall, I still thought this book was great- perfect for a plane ride, a Friday night in, or a weekend at the cottage.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, and has felt like an outsider once or twice in their life.

On that note, the winner of my David Sedaris book giveaway IS: (drumroll please, assistant:)

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Ross!  E-mail me at thecamellife@gmail.com with your address to claim your prize!

(And just to be clear, anyone else is free to e-mail me at that address too. You know, if you wanna like, talk about the new season of Arrested Development, or who Desiree should pick on The Bachelorette. Whatever really. I’m basically just very lonely. )

Question of the Day: Who, in your opinion, is the funniest writer? 

Review: The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich

Simon Rich is a pretty impressive dude. At 28, he’s already held the position of editor-in-chief of the Harvard Lampoon, been the second youngest writer ever hired on Saturday Night Live, had countless short stories published in The New Yorker, and penned five books.

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Yeah. You’re not alone if you’re feeling REALLY inadequate right now.

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The Last Girlfriend on Earth is Rich’s latest collection of short stories. Each one is about love and relationships- but with a twist:

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From  a story written from the perspective of a condom in a young boy’s wallet, to Dog Missed Connections, to a little girl’s imaginary goat who wants to become “more than just friends”, each story is delightfully charming, quirky, and undeniably hilarious.

I first discovered Simon Rich, and this book through an interview he did on The New Yorker Out Loud podcast. He read an excerpt from one of his short stories, and talked a lot about writing- particularly his time at SNL I thought he sounded funny, and since I’m a die-hard SNL fan (how awesome was JT this past weekend by the way?)

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I obviously had to go out and buy this book… and I’m really glad I did.

It was the very definition of short (took me 2-3 hours to read total) and sweet. Besides just making me LOL, the best part for me was that each story read like an SNL skit. I found myself picturing how each one would be played out on-screen, and which SNL cast members would portray each character. I’d love to see the story about a blind date with an actual troll turned into a Lonely Island digital short, for example:

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And I'll never go back... to my not having sex ways of the past

And I’ll never go back…  to my not having sex ways of the past

Given what he has done so far, I don’t think it will be long until Simon Rich is a household name. I can see him having his own TV show- sort of like the Mindy Project, but about Jewish New Yorkers and relationships. (Ok so that’s basically Seinfeld. Or Friends. But you catch my drift

I thought this book was fantastic, and you should definitely buy it if you enjoy Saturday Night Live, Woody Allen, The New Yorker, The Simpsons, Futurama, Dude Where’s My Car (for the sex aliens) or if you just straight up love to laugh.

I give it: 4.5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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Question of the Day: Do you like short story collections or novels better?

Throwback Thursday: Where Are They Now?

I’m a sucker for a good Friends re-run.  Anytime I hear an episode playing, or catch a glimpse of it on TV, I automatically feel compelled to watch it.

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It’s like I’m being pulled by some sort of centrifugal force. Kind of like how Kramer felt about Mary Hart…. only exactly the opposite.

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Anyway, the other day I found myself watching an episode;  and as the iconic theme song filled the room, and my heart with nostalgia, I got to thinking about The Rembrandts.

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Remember them? They had a massive hit back in 1995 with the mind-numbingly awful yet unbelievably catchy ”I’ll Be There For You” , but what have they done since?

A quick Google search informed me that The Rembrandts (otherwise known as Phil Solem and Danny Wilde) had one other hit: the emo slow jam “That’s Just the Way it is (Baby”). Apparently, however, the stress of 2 hit songs was too much for them, and they split up shortly thereafter. Solem wanted to concentrate on his own band Thrush, while Wilde released his own solo album.

Both of these solo efforts met with about as much success as David Schwimmer’s movie career:

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So they eventually got back together in 2000, and have since released about 17 greatest hit(s?) albums. They also  write and produce music for other really current and relevant bands, like The Gin Blossoms. Other than that, I think they’re probably just busy hot oiling their hair, wearing round sunglasses, and cashing in on all their Friends royalties.

Syndication, baby! Ca-Ching! $$

Syndication, baby! Ca-Ching! $$

Incidentally, that episode also guest-starred Jennifer Grey as Barry’s fiance, Mindy. Obviously I needed a little refresher on what Baby was up to as well.

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Well, apparently that nose job wasn’t so “career ending” after all because home girl won Dancing with the Stars in 2010 and is now starring in lifetime movies! Holla!

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Take that, haters!

All of this got me thinking back to some other forgotten has-beens celebrities from my past.. like:

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Canadian ladies of my vintage will undoubtedly remember the hot mess of seashell necklaces, spiky hair and sub-par vocals that was B4-4.

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The band, which consisted of Toronto twins Ryan and Dan Kowarsky and their friend Ohad Einbinder,  hit it big in 2000 with their single “Get Down”:

WARNING: This video contains scenes some viewers might find disturbing. Like Orange and yellow parachute pants.. and Mank Tops.

I never heard much of them after this, but Wikipedia tells me that they went on to become a giant hit in Germany.

David Hasselhoff and B4-4? Germany, I may never understand you.

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They also used their fledgling celebrity status for a good cause by promoting an anti- frosted tips Smoking Campaign for the European Union alongside Moby.

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The band broke up shortly thereafter, and Ryan and Dan decided to branch out on their own and form the inventively named pop/opera duo “RyanDan” .

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I just can’t even.

According to the RyanDan website, they are releasing a new album soon. Get ready ladies!!

And as for Also-ran (I mean, Ohad Einbinder), apparently he works in music production now and developed a pair of headphones that transform into a boombox. Watch out for the film adaptation in 2014 starring Shia Labeouf.

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Natalie Imbruglia

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The Australian sensation had a giant hit here in North America in 1997 with her song “Torn”, which I was legitimately obsessed with back in grade 6.

I made an entire mixtape of it just this song, and listened to it so much that my mom and dad tried to impose a two-times-a-day limit. I also got my hair cut just like hers; failing to consider that the effect might be slightly different on a prepubescent, mildly overweight 12-year-old than on an Australian pop star.

Once I had my haircut, I would put on my matching grey hoodie and Chinese print tee, set my mixtape to “play” and lip sync in front of the mirror for hours. I had all the moves from the video down pat.. which mostly involved flailing my arms around and looking distressed.

This was not a proud time in my life.

So what has she been up to since? Well, apparently she was a judge on Australian X-factor and was married to Daniel Johns from Silverchair, but is now divorced. Currently, she is an  unsigned artist.

I also stumbled across her Instagram the other day, which didn’t tell me much, except that she has long hair now, and really likes Koala Krisp:

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Damn, that b*tch looks good in anything. Off to buy my own box of cereal and mimic this pose.

Question of the Day: Any forgotten celebs you’re wondering about?

(I’ll save you the 30 seconds and Google them for you)

Ain’t Got No Love For the Ding Dong?

So I know you’ve probably had enough of me after that long-ass diatribe I wrote last night about my experience at Sleep No More, but shockingly, I’ve got a few more things left to say.
Let’s just call this the “Friday Roundup of Randomness” shall we? (Or don’t, because that’s awful. )

1. Can we talk about Jamie Foxx hosting SNL last weekend?

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Nailed it. From his monologue featuring 2 Chainz, to his portrayal as host of the game show “B*ttch, What’s the answer?” to his performance as a disgruntled Hostess Ding Dong, 2 thumbs way up.

2. I have no time for impatient people (<;;— see what I did there?). Especially the ones in line behind you at the grocery store who load all their stuff onto the belt and then push their empty carts alongside the register and edge you out completely as you're trying to pay. God FORBID you want to go back and get that package of mentos you've been eyeing, because face it buddy, you're f*cked now. You have nowhere to go but OUT.

3. My new favourite person to Twitter-stalk is Judd Apatow. Not only does he tweet back all of his fans, he posted like 100 self-pics from the This is 40 premiere. I’m working on the perfect tweet to him as we speak. I’m thinking something short, sweet, and to the point. i.e.:

“@juddapatow: Who’s Leslie?”

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3. Instagram tells me that Lena Dunham and Aubrey Plaza are friends now.

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WHY AM I NOT IN THIS PICTURE

4. I tuned into Real Housewives of New York the other night after a brief one-season hiatus. Apparently, I missed a lot. Like who are all these new b*tches? Where’s crazy Jill Zarin? And wtf is “Yummy Tummy”? Someone fill me in.

5. (This one I’m really excited about): My dad is coming to Toronto this weekend! Frequent blog readers know him as the crazy, reindeer print making husband of the even crazier neat freak/religious zealot that is my mother.. but I just know him as dear old dad. He’s in town for the Buffalo Bills game in Tdot on Sunday and we’re gonna paint the town red. (And by that I mean visiting the hockey hall of fame, going to church and eating at diners).

6. I wrote this post on my iPhone with my WordPress app. #sotechy

And finally, who wants to hear track 2 from my highly anticipated year in review mixtape??

EVERYONE? Ok, here it is:

Question of the Day: What are you doing this weekend? or, any random things to complain about?

P.S. for all you techies out there : in the words of Drunk Uncle: twitter me! Twitter me! @thecamellife
Or, holla at my Instagram: @breezyk1

Aliens Come to Earth for Bieber, Stay for Stuffed Crust Pizza

Residents of South-western Ontario were stunned last Friday when an Unidentified Flying Object carrying over two dozen extraterrestrials from the Planet Zyrgon landed in a corn field just outside of Stratford.

“Yeah, it was sorta strange” said Red Tucker, the owner of the property. “I had just finished spraying the crops for billbugs when I looked up to see this big, blue thing coming outta the sky… and I thought to myself ‘Now what’s this all about.’”

Despite initial reservations, the Stratford residents soon came to embrace their Zyrgonian visitors, who, in turn, took an immediate shining to the small Ontario town.

“We love it here,” said Captain Zaphod Beeblebrox, head of the Zyrgonian forces. “Earth is awesome!”

Zyrgonians had limited knowledge of Earth until a few months ago, when their satellite systems began picking up an audio signal from a far off galaxy. “The signal was so high-pitched and unrelenting that it broke the intergalactic sound barrier!” exclaimed Beeblebrox.

While either inaudible or insufferable to male Zyrgonians, the sounds proved intoxicating to the planet’s females.

“It caused mass hysteria, and almost fever-like symptoms among our females,” explained Beeblebrox. “And since Zyrgon has been experiencing a population decline and chronically low birth rates for the past 10,000 years, we became eager to harness the power of this intense aphrodisiacal force and bring it back to our planet to ensure the procreation of our species”.

“We initially thought the sounds might be emanating from some sort of nuclear testing facility; or perhaps a large dying mammal;” continued Beeblebrox, “however, after setting up some intelligence in the way of sophisticated Earth-Rovers and several highly trained Zyrgonian forces disguised as Starbucks Baristas, we discovered that the sounds were actually coming from an 18-year-old homosapien man-child known as ‘Justin Bieber’.”

According to Beeblebrox, the Zyrgonian forces had been conducting reconnaissance and plotting Bieber’s capture for months. “When our intelligence informed us last week that Bieber had recently been discarded by his long-time girlfriend, Selena Gomez, we knew his defences would be down and it was time to make our move.”

And so the Zyrgonians boarded their spaceship to make the 10,000 light year trek to Earth in pursuit of Bieber.

“Originally, we wanted nothing of earth besides the Bieber Man-child,” explained Beeblebrox. “Our species has been in existence for over 7 million years, and our intelligence quotient is quadruple that of the average human being. We assumed we would have no use for Earthlings and their primitive ways. However, we soon discovered that humans have developed a number of remarkable technologies that Zyrgonians could not even begin to imagine.”

“Like this, for example,” said Captain Beeblebrox, holding up an open pizza box. “They call it ‘hot dog stuffed crust pizza’. It is the most glorious tasting thing ever created. The flavour profile is simply outstanding; and greatly supersedes our regular diet of Zyrgon Rocks, carbon dioxide and Tang.”

“We have also grown very fond of an Earthling child by the name of “Honey Boo Boo”, added Beeblebrox.”We would very much like to meet her and her guardian Miss Mama June in order to obtain their secret recipe for the “Go Go Juice”. We think this would be most useful fuel for our spaceship.”

When asked what else they liked about earth, the Zyrgonians rattled off an extensive list, including Snuggies, PajamaJeans, the SlapChop, and a myriad of other products largely sold on infomercials.

“And that song, “Call Me Maybe”, added Captain Beeblebrox. “I know I should hate it…. but I kind of love it.”

Despite their newfound love for Earth’s products, there are some things about our planet that still confuse the Zyrgonians.

“Initially, we had thought Mr. Bieber to be the supreme leader of your planet, given the rate at which he was praised and adored by Earthlings;” Explained Captain Beeblebrox. “However, we soon discovered that Earthlings seem to admire not one leader, but rather hundreds of false idols known as ‘Stars’”.

“Using our intelligence, we assembled this detailed constellation chart”. Captain Beeblebrox held up a large piece of paper with the names of hundreds of Celebrities in a complex web, all surrounding one name that had been starred in the middle. “As you can see, there are various tiers and rankings. We have yet to identify one supreme leader; however it all seems to come back to this one man in the centre; a ‘Kevin Bacon.’”

The Zyrgonians it seems, have no intention of leaving anytime soon, and have turned the corn fields where they landed into a makeshift home. “At least they’re keeping the damn crows away,” commented Mr. Tucker.

And as for their plot to kidnap the young Bieber? “He invited us to his Grandmother’s house for tea,” said Beeblebrox, “And after that, we just couldn’t go through with it. I mean, have you seen Never Say Never? How could you not love the kid?”

Indeed, the Zyrgonians and young Bieber have become unlikely pals, and are even in the process of recording a new single together. “We are working on a collaboration for his next album,” added Beeblebrox, enthusiastically “It’s called “ExtraTerrestrial Boyfriend” and it features at least 15 other names on our constellation chart. We couldn’t be more excited.”

Question of the Day: Do you believe in aliens? If so, what do you think they’re like?

Tales from the Altar

This week’s assignment for my writing class was to write a piece of dark, transgressive humor that pushes the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable. Our teacher provided us with some Sarah Silverman and George Carlin videos as inspiration, and encouraged us to be “outrageous” and really go for it.

I guess I’m a total prude, because I found this extremely difficult.  I worried everything I said was too offensive. Eventually, I just said f*&k it, and came up with the piece below.  Admittedly, I PG-ified it a bit for you – but in the event that I still offend anyone, I’m sorry. Breezy don’t mean no harm, y’all.

And Mom: Please, please do not disown me over this. I love you and I know you have done everything in your power to prevent me from turning out this way.

Enjoy!

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Whenever anyone asks me about my religious proclivities (or, if I just want to make things really awkward at a dinner party), I tell them that I am a lapsed Catholic.

A lapsed Catholic, at least in my case, is someone who was raised Catholic, in a good Catholic family, was baptised, received First Holy Communion and was Confirmed, and despite all of this, has not stepped foot inside a church for the past five years. Why? Well, how long do you have?

It’s not the whole sexual abuse and rampant discrimination thing (although, that doesn’t help). Or the rigidly formalistic ceremony and all of that damn sitting, standing and kneeling. It’s not even the intense and unrelenting Catholic Guilt (which, of course, I am experiencing intensely as I write this.)No. The real reason behind my estrangement with the Catholic Church stems from my brief, albeit traumatizing, history as an altar girl.

*Not me or anyone I know. Poor bastards.

Serving on the altar was never a role I coveted. I was forced into it by my mother, who, as a young girl, wanted nothing more than to don that miniature white robe herself, but was not permitted, due to her pesky vagina.

But in 1992, in perhaps the only development the Catholic Church as made in the past 50 years (besides installing bulletproof glass on the Pope-Mobile), girls were finally allowed to sit on the altar.

Since my older sisters were already in high school at the time and had aged-out of the “target demographic” (if you know what I’m saying), I alone was left to carry the weight of my mother’s lifelong dreams on my shoulders.

I begged and pleaded not to have to do it, all the while cursing my mom for not having a better lifelong dream, like “being a fairy princess”, or “eating the world’s biggest hoagie”. But resistance was futile. The day after my 10th birthday, she marched me down to the Glebe House to sign up.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, at each Catholic mass, there are between 2-4 boys or girls who sit beside the altar and assist the priest with the running of the mass. They set up the altar, fetch items as necessary, hold the bible open on their heads for the priest to read, etc. In essence, they are basically glorified stage hands. Or towel racks. I remember for some reason always holding a stiff, white towel on my arm. It didn’t seem suspicious at the time….

Soon the time came for me to put on my unflattering, off-white robes (which I’m convinced were actually old curtains from an abandoned convent) and make my altarial debut. I was instantly anxious about being “on stage” in front of so many people. At the age of 10, I was, to put it mildly, at an “Awkward Stage”. I was prepubescent, mildly overweight, and extremely clumsy, and had no desire to call further attention to myself; especially in that get-up. Each Sunday, I would say a silent Novena that I would not spill any wine, trip over my own feet or generally make an ass of myself.

Well that, my friends, is when I learned that there is no God. Every week, without fail, I fucked up. I stumbled up the stairs. I dropped things left, right and centre. Once, I even knocked over a candle backstage and started a small fire. I had to use three spare altar robes and a bucket of holy water just to put it out.

Almost my church.

Another time I had an allergic reaction to the Easter Lilies while on stage. I began sneezing like crazy and clutching my throat in an attempt to breathe, while 2 Eucharistic Ministers rushed to my aid and escorted me offstage.

While the process for regular masses was bad enough, it was even worse during church Holidays. At Easter, we pulled out a massive crucifix that I’m pretty sure had to be air lifted in, and set it up on the altar for the entire congregation to come and kiss Jesus. My job was to stand there, with one of those stiff white cloths I always had, and wipe the lipstick and saliva droplets from Jesus’ emaciated nether regions after each churchgoer was done. (Which, incidentally, is also a form of torture used in many Siberian prisons.)

Another ceremony we had at Easter was what I call the “Fucked-Up Holy Water Parade”. This is how it worked: I carried around a bucket of holy water while the priest dipped a sceptre-like device into it and waved it all over the people in each pew. (I don’t know why he just didn’t just use a Supersoaker. It would’ve been so much easier.)

Like this, only the bucket was allll me

I inevitably got soaked every single time. Looking back, I guess I was just really blessed, but at the time, I only remember feeling damp.

I thought that it would at least be interesting to get a behind the scenes look at the priest; the “man behind the robes”, if you will. But I soon realized that he was just as boring in real life as he was during his homilies. He would breeze in 5 minutes before mass, put on his jazzy robes and get to business, speaking little, if at all, to us kids. Which I guess makes sense, because it’s probably hard to stifle deep-seeded urges and make small talk at the same time.

My career as an altar server was ultimately short-lived. Admittedly, my commitment was pretty lax. Due to my aforementioned childhood obesity, I would rather watch TV or eat Passion Flaikies than actually move my appendages. Eventually, I started doing everything I could to affect my own constructive dismissal. I wore jeans on the altar (a big-no-no) paired with a too-short robe. I skipped my shifts. I started salacious rumours about my fellow altar servers. And, need I remind you of the infamous backstage altar fire of 1997? Enough said.

Eventually, my name began appearing on the schedule less and less, until one month it was nowhere to be found at all. My mother was devastated; convinced that this was yet another sign of the Church’s developmental retardation. They didn’t really want girls on the Altar. It had all been just a sophisticated ploy to appease the masses. She hugged me and told me to not let it get me down; that despite that awful Priest, girls in this world could still do anything! She insisted that we say the rosary together and pray for guidance. And as I knelt down and began saying my “Hail Mary’s”, I stifled a smug grin of victory into my folded hands.

Question of the Day: How do you feel about dark humor? Do you push the boundaries, or stick to what’s PC?

You Googled What??

The world is a strange and mysterious place.

I am reminded of this almost every time I log into WordPress and peruse the list of search terms people have used to find my blog.

While many are unsurprising (“Camel”, “Breezyk”,  “unbelievably hot Sex Goddess”), others are pretty funny, and some just downright weird.

Regardless, they give me a good chuckle every time I read them, so I thought I would share a few of the best with you guys today.

Lord knows we could all use a good laugh, given that it’s now the second most miserable month of the year (after February), and the days are about as long as an episode of Breaking Amish ( not nearly long enough).

Not to mention the fact that I’ve heard the term “electoral college” way more times in the past 24 hours than I have enough booze for. In the words of the great Canadian treasure Avril Lavigne: Americans, why you gotta go and make things so complicated?

Hurts mah GD brain, y’all.

Here we go:

 The 10  15* Best Search Terms That Have Led People to My Blog Lately:

*I tried to narrow it down, but couldn’t. There were just too many gems.  My editorial notes can be found below.

1. “where to find lonely people”

- Ding ding!!

2. “nadya suleman creepy”

-  couldn’t agree more.

3. “i wish my voice was like Lil’ Wayne’s”

- I wish a lot of things of mine were like Lil’ Waynes. Most notably, my bank account.

4. “fat ginger women”

- this one is just perplexing. I don’t even know any fat ginger women. Besides maybe Ron Weasley’s mom from Harry Potter. And I don’t even really know her. I just read about her once in a book. Keep searchin’, buddy.

5. “hipster ukelele”

- awesome.

6. “funny pictures about snacks”

- there is nothing funny about snacks. Snacks are sacred.

7. “Nice things about living in Nova Scotia”

- answer: EVERYTHING.

Well, besides the chronically high unemployment. And the mixed precipitation. And the low number of Starbucks per capita. But besides that.. everything else.

8 “loneliness is highly overrated”

- is it? caaaause I thought I made it look pretty miserable…

9. “seth meyers hot”

- Preach, like-minded google searcher!

10. “How long does carb face last?”

- Well, if you’re like me (checks watch), about 27 years.

11. “drink in moderation”

- Haha. Ha.

12. الورد الاحمر.

- still working on this one.

13. “my dirty laundry”

- sorry, you’ll only find mine here I’m afraid.

14. “archery backpack”

- Sorry I couldn’t help you, person who searched this. Let me know when you find one though. I’ve also been looking for a more efficient means of transporting my archery supplies.

hook a homeboy up too, would ya?

15. “”God wants to talk to you but can’t”

- Oh, I’m sure he does…

So to recap: according to Google, I am a lonely, ukelele-playing ginger woman with a voice like Lil Wayne and a penchant for archery, who lives in Nova Scotia, is a moderate drinker, and has not yet found God.

Sounds about right.

To all the Googling weirdos, creepers and lonely souls out there: keep on searching. You’ll get it right eventually.

Question of the Day: Any good google searches to share?

Always Be Ready to Say “Yes”

I recently had coffee with my friend Brian who was telling me about the improv classes he’s been taking. Since desperately trying to be funny is something both I and many of my readers can relate to, I asked him to write a guest post about his experiences. Hope you dig it!

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Greetings, Camel Life Nation! Thank you to the lovely and talented BreezyK for inviting me to hang out in the blogosphere with y’all.

Earlier this year, around the time that I realized I got excited for Tuesdays because it meant a new episode of Chopped, I decided I needed an adult extra-curricular to brighten up my colourless lawyer existence. But what would I do? Join some sort of sporting team? No. The point was to find something fun to do, not to get hit in the face or nuts with something ball-shaped after spending every day of the last 20 years trying to avoid that exact scenario. Instead, I decided to re-connect with my high school theatre roots and get involved with a company I’ve always admired from afar, by taking improv classes at Second City.

At its essence, improv is the art of creating something out of nothing. The best improvisers in the world, such as the folks you may have seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, make it look effortless. Regular people, however, struggle along as they try to find the logic in a scene that started out about Thanksgiving, and somehow ended with a bi-polar hippie and the Prince of Nigeria taking a road trip to Dollywood.

When I walked into my first class, I was surprised and delighted to be surrounded by a weird collection of strangers, few of whom I would ever have any other occasion to meet, each with his or her own reason for being there. There was another lawyer who had bought a discount coupon for the class on Groupon; a few aspiring comedians; a middle-aged marketing executive who wanted to improve her presentation skills; a hypnotist who wanted to improve his hypnotist “patter” for the show he was creating; undergrads looking for a few laughs off campus; a Yoga instructor/management consultant who felt stuck in a rut. Everyone has a story, and all of our stories had led us to this place.

That class was about 9 months ago, and I’ve been sticking with it ever since. Along the way, I’ve grown to appreciate improv not just as a fun way to exercise the creative half of one’s brain, but also as a sort of ideology – a way of facing the world, and dealing with whatever life throws at you. Consider some of the basic rules of improv:

1) Always say “yes” to offers

Long before Jim Carrey won the heart of Zooey Deschanel and became a better man, improvisers knew the value of saying “yes” to offers. In the context of an improvised scene, an “offer” is a statement. So let’s say you’ve got two people on stage, and the only information they have is that they’re siblings having a picnic. Improviser #1 says to Improviser #2: “Gee Bill, I hope you don’t ruin our family picnic with your disgusting coleslaw like last year.” Bill has been given an offer – he’s the bad coleslaw picnic ruiner. In order to create a scene, Bill needs to accept that offer – “Don’t worry Steve, I tried a new recipe this year, you’re really gonna love it.” Now we’ve got something we can work with – we know who these guys are and what their relationship is. In improv, as in life, saying yes to offers is how you move forward and avoid stagnation.

2) Truth is comedy, comedy is truth

There’s nothing less funny than a person who’s trying way too hard to be funny. In a post-Seinfeld world, we should know by now that some of the richest humour is in the mundane. Subways, offices, family gatherings – if you actually look at the behaviour of people in these contexts and parse it closely enough, it will seem fucking insane. Every day human interactions are full of absurdity, but we move through these interactions so quickly, and with such regularity, that it can be hard to notice. You don’t need high-pitched voices, or wacky premises to generate laughs; you just need to hold up a mirror and show people their already-absurd selves.

3) Don’t be afraid to fail

If I haven’t yet hammered you with the improv-as-life metaphor, let me hammer you some more. Improv, by its very nature, is all about the unknown. If you knew exactly what was going to happen in a scene, then it wouldn’t be improv. When anything can happen, the possibility of failure looms large. You may find yourself in the middle of a scene with nothing to say, or no idea as to where the scene could go; or you may be struck by a thunderbolt of an idea and shock yourself with your own quick wit. You’ll never know until you dive in. And really, what’s the worst that can happen? I find that one of the greatest challenges in improv is getting out of my head long enough to commit to the moment. That moment might be great, or it might be terrible, but it will be one moment of the day when I’m not just going through the motions (legal pun intended). [Ed. note: you would]

I don’t know where one goes with this particular hobby. BreezyK and I have often shared our mutual love of SNL, and while it’s fun to imagine that a phone call from Lorne Michaels could suddenly whisk me away from the world of files and dockets, I’m probably more likely to end up like these guys:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/everyone-in-improv-troupe-balding,29492/

Still, as we slowly move into the holiday season, and with it the inevitable thoughts of a new year and what it could bring, consider a few ways to embrace the unknown in your own life. Find something to do that you might be terrible (or great) at, with strangers who you might hate (or love). Don’t be afraid to fail; find the humour in your absurd life; and when the right offer comes along, always be ready to say “yes.”

******************

Thanks, Brian! I think my favourite part was when you called me “lovely” and “talented”. The rest was pretty jokes too, though.

Question of the Day: Have You Ever done Acting/taken improv classes? Would you?

So You Think That’s Funny?

There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you guys.

No, I’m not actually a man. And it’s a good thing, because I’d be horrible at it.  I don’t know how to fix or install anything and I take way too long to get ready.

Nah. The truth is, I’ve been taking a writing class.

I’ve been thinking about taking a class for a while now, and it was actually my New Year’s resolution for 2012. Realizing that the clock was  running out, I signed up a few weeks ago.

…… and part of me also did it because I thought there was a chance Jason Schwartzman might be teaching it. And that he might fall madly in love with me.

Shocker: he’s not.

The class is specifically targeted at comedy writing; so I guess you could say I’m testing out the age-old question of whether or not you can actually learn to be funny.

I was excited, but also nervous for my first class. I had so many questions… like what should I wear? And could I bring a pad and paper to class, or would that be lame? What if all the other kids brought iPads or MacBooks? Or worse, what if no one else even showed up and just phoned in via Skype … or hologram:

Tupac lives!

Luckily, my fears were assuaged as soon as I walked in the door. There are only about 10 people in the class, and it’s a real mixed bag- from a girl about my age with dreams of being a screenwriter, to drama geeks and aspiring novelists, to a middle-aged man who was recently laid off and now wants to do something totally different with his life. There’s also an older man with a long white beard who may or may not be Santa Claus. And if he is, that’s kind of concerning… because it’s probably getting close to crunch time up there in the North Pole and someone should really be supervising the whole toy-making operation.

Anyway, the first week we did a few ice breakers and spent some time talking about different comedic devices and various  forms of humour. Then our teacher gave us our first assignment: a 3-5 page piece about something funny that happened to us, to be read aloud in class the following week.

I’m not going to lie, I was freaking out a little bit. I distinctly got the impression that my teacher didn’t appreciate my sense of humour after we got into an argument in class about whether anthropomorphism (i.e. animals doing people things) was a legitimate comedic device. I plead my case using this as an example:

“A pircture of a cat baking…..” he asked, confusedly. “And you think that’s funny?”

So, yeah. I didn’t have high hopes my story would be well received. Plus, although I write a lot on my blog, they are mostly shorter pieces that rely on funny gifs and the aforementioned hilarious cat pictures to supplement my bad jokes. This was different. No pictures. No crossout text. Just me.

The other thing about blogging is that after you hit “publish”, you can hide behind your computer screen and never have to face whether people will laugh or not. The worst that can happen is you don’t get a lot of “likes” or “comments”.. but you’ll never have to endure a room full of awful, deafening silence. And that’s what I feared might happen to me.

Or worse, this.

After much stress and anxiety, I pulled together a sort of composite piece about funny Thanksgiving memories in our family and hoped for the best.

I was the last to present, and got to hear everyone else’s stories first. One girl wrote an entire piece about burritos. Another man wrote about his dead Aunt Phyllis. It really ran the gamut.

When it was my turn, I was incredibly nervous and looked down at my paper basically the entire time…but shockingly, people laughed. I’m not going to question why, or if it was out of pity.. all I know is that it felt really good. After the first few chuckles, it got easier, and by the end I realized that I was actually enjoying myself.

Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that with blogging, although you largely eliminate the possibility of rejection, you also miss out on the upside. Hearing people laugh at your jokes feels.. well, really awesome.

I’m not out of the woods yet. This week’s assignment is to write a topical piece about something funny in the news, which might prove more difficult. I wish I could make Seth Meyers magically appear and help me out with this one… and then be my boyfriend.

Can you tell I have a thing for funny guys?

Question of the Day: Have you ever taken a writing class? Do you take any other type of classes?

The Best Kind of Girl Is a Quirky Girl

I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday than meeting friends for brunch, eating my weight in poached eggs and butter croissants, then heading home to put on the largest, rattiest sweat pants I own and settling in on the couch for an afternoon TV marathon.

This Saturday I did just that. Somehow I managed to be out of the house most nights last week and so had a stocked PVR at home waiting for me..AKA: my idea of a boyfriend heaven.

Cat Relax Relaxing TV Remote Watch Watching Snacks Snack Funny Cats LOL Laughs Laughing icon icons emoticon emoticons animated animation animations gif gifs kitten kittens animal animals Pictures, Images and Photos

That’s right. “This Cat” was back in full force and effect.

Or maybe this Meerkat/Badger thing drinking Duff beer.

Besides spending four hours of my life I’ll never get back watching Kris Jenner stalk Angie Everheart on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Britney Spears diss X-Factor contestants while hopped up on bath salts, I also caught the premiere of Mindy Kaling’s new show, The Mindy Project.

I loved Mindy as Kelly Kapoor on The Office and think she’s a hilarious writer, so I thought this show could have potential.

In the show, Mindy plays a moderately overweight, 31-year-old OB/GYN who was recently dumped by her oral surgeon boyfriend and is having a tough time getting over it; as evidenced by the opening scene where she makes a drunken, inappropriate speech at his wedding, then proceeds to gets arrested for public intoxication after driving a bike into a nearby pool.

It becomes immediately clear that Mindy is a bit of a tragic case: She’s awkward, overweight, anxious and wears her heart (and neuroses) on her sleeve. She’s obsessed with romantic comedies. She google stalks potential suitors. She makes cringe-worthy comments on dates. But while it can sometimes be hard to watch, it also sort of makes you love her a little bit.

I’ve been noticing this trend for a while now- from Zooey Dechanel as Jess, the adorkable elementary school teacher who makes macaroni art and is physically incapable of saying the word “penis” in The New Girl:

……to Lena Dunham as the neurotic, unemployed writer Hannah in HBO’s Girls,

to  April, the deadpan, underachieving animal lover played by Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation-

the fact is, that quirky is hot right now.

Saturday Night Live picked up on this last season when they did a sketch called “Bein’ Quirky with Zooey Dechanel“, where Zooey (played by former SNL cast member Abby Elliot) hosted a talk show and invited fellow quirky guests such as Mary Kate Olsen, Bjork and Drew Barrymore to knit and make weird art projects with her while Michael Cera stood giggling in the background.

I suppose the idea of a neurotic leading lady isn’t really all that new- just a new iteration of an old trend. As pointed out  by this article, the quirky girl has been around since the days of Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore. Plus, the quirky, manic pixie dream girl has always been popular in indie films- from Diane Keaton as Annie Hall to Natalie Portman in Garden State. But recently, with women like Tina Fey blazing the trail on 30 Rock, the quirky girl has achieved  more mainstream success.

Today’s women of TV are being lauded not for their physical, shall we say, assets, tight clothing and signature haircuts, but for their own particular brands of neuroses.

But is that necessarily a good thing? If you were to believe everything you saw on tv these days, you might think that all women are awkward, moderately virginal introverts who can’t carry on a normal conversation, let alone get a date, and spend every Friday night at home with their cats watching Meg Ryan Films and planning their imaginary weddings on Pinterest.

And maybe that’s not so far off. This blog certainly doesn’t seem to suggest otherwise. I can’t say for sure, but I do know that it is damn funny to watch… so Pinterest on, ladies. Pinterest on.

Question of the Day: IS the best kind of girl a quirky girl?