On being caught Manspreading

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Such singularity was found in him that many people refused to interpret the scarlet “M” by its original signification. They said that it meant “Marvelous,” or “Marsupial”; anything apart from the sin-stained frailty and passion of “Manspreader.”

When her elf-child had departed to gaze out the window at the never-ceasing loquacity of the dark tunnel, Hester replied, fervently resolved to buoy him up with her own energy, “Thou art crushed under this seven years’ weight of misery. But thou shalt leave it all behind thee! It shall not cumber thy steps as you treadest along the subway stairs; neither shalt thou freight the bus with it, if thou prefer to cross the traffic. Leave this wreck and ruin here where it happened. Meddle no more with it! Begin all anew! Be, if thy spirit summon thee to such a mission, the teacher and apostle of the close-legged men. Or as is more thy nature be a spreader and a sage among the wisest and the most renowned of the transportation world. Ride! Sit! Spread! Do anything, save to close legs and die! Up, and away!”

“O Hester!” he cried, in whose eyes a fitful light, kindled by her enthusiasm, flashed up and died away under the terror of the MTA, “thou tellest of boarding a crowded subway car to a man who is bearing airport luggage! I must close here! There is not the strength or courage left me to spread my legs into the wide, strange, difficult world, alone!”

He repeated the word.

“Alone, Hester!”

“Thou shalt not spread alone!” answered she, in a deep whisper.

Then, all was spoken!

Tim O’ Brien

A true MTA story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper straphanger behavior, not restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a MTA story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of moving room has been salvaged from the larger crowd, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no moving room whatever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thigh, therefore, you can tell a true MTA story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.

He put his hand on the closed-legged boy’s wrist. He was quiet for a time, as if counting a pulse, then he patted the stomach, almost affectionately, and used Kiowa’s hunting hatchet to remove the thumb.

Henry Dobbins asked what the moral was.

Moral?

You know. Moral.

He wrapped the thumb in an old copy of AM New York and handed it across to Norman Bowker. There was a lot of blood. Smiling, he said, It’s like with that old game Subway Surfers. Have legs, will travel.

Henry Dobbins thought about it.

Yeah, well, he finally said. I don’t see no moral.

There it is, man.

Fuck off.

George Orwell

The station smelt of spilled coffee and old urine. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for the usual advertisement space, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous man, more than a metre wide: the red face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy slouch and ruggedly handsome spread. He made for the stairs. It was no use trying the escalator. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the line was long and crowded during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. His train was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the escalator, the poster with the enormous man gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. DUDE…STOP THE SPREAD, PLEASE, the caption beneath it ran.

He froze as O’Brien’s words coursed again through his mind. Almost unconsciously he traced with his finger on the pillar labeled “Wet Paint”:

Closed + Legs = MTA

The paint was dry despite the label. He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden inside the red figure. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two coffee-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved the MTA.

John Steinbeck

“You remember about us goin’ to that machine, and it give us Metrocards?”

“Oh, sure, George. I remember that now.” His hands went quickly into his side coat pockets. He said gently, “George . . . . I ain’t got mine. I musta lost it.” He looked down at the filth in despair.

“You never had none, you crazy bastard. I got both of ‘em here. Think I’d let you carry your own Metrocard?”

Lennie grinned with relief. “I . . . . I thought I put it in my side pocket.” His hand went into the pocket again.

George looked sharply at him. “What’d you take outa that pocket?”

“Ain’t a thing in my pocket,” Lennie said cleverly.

“I know there ain’t. You got it in your hand. What you got in your hand— hidin’ it?”

“I ain’t got nothin’, George. Honest.”

“Come on, give it here.”

Lennie held his closed hand away from George’s direction. “It’s on’y a man, George.”

“A man? A manspreading man?”

“Uh-uh. Jus’ a little red man figure, George. I didn’t paint it. Honest! I found it. I found it red.”

“Give it here!” said George.

“Aw, leave me have it, George.”

Give it here!

Lennie’s closed hand slowly obeyed. George took the man and threw it across the track to the other side, missing the electric rail and landing onto a few dropped chip bags. “What you want of a manspreading man, anyways?”

“I could try and close its legs with my thumb while we walked along,” said

Lennie.

“Well, you ain’t closing no manspreaders while you walk with me. You remember where we’re goin’ now?”

Lennie looked startled and then in embarrassment hid his face against his knees. “I forgot again.”

“Jesus Christ,” George said resignedly.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I followed Daisy around a chain of loud teenagers to the yellow bumped line in front that warned us to stand behind. In its deep gloom we sat down side by side on an old bench carved with profanity. Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling its lovely shape, and her eyes moved gradually out onto the velvet dusk of the tunnel. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.

‘We don’t know each other very well,’ she said suddenly. ‘Even if we are cousins. You didn’t come to my wedding.’

‘I wasn’t back from my time as a spreader.’

‘That’s true.’ She looked at me absently. ‘Let me tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?’

‘Very much.’

‘It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was the MTA knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the straphanger right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a nonspreader —that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little nonspreader.’

After that summer the East was haunted for me, distorted beyond my Metrocard’s power of correction. And as I sat there brooding on the sticky bench, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first became a manspreader at the end of Daisy’s station. He had come a long way to this yellow line and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the underground, where the dark fields of the MTA rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in manspreading, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our thighs farther…. And one fine morning——

So we beat on, legs against the public, borne back ceaselessly into the spread.

 

 

J.D. Salinger

I don’t even like the MTA. I’d rather have goddam carpooling or a tram like the one to Roosevelt Island, but not if they have goddam anti-manspreading campaigns. I wish to God I’d have some transportation to respect. Always makes you feel phony as hell. But here I was, having to get a move on. There was no goddam other transportation near. You fall half in love with the MTA, and then you never know where the hell you are. Jesus Christ.

“I got my damn bags at the station,” I said. “Listen. You got any dough, Phoeb? I’m practically broke.”

“Just my Christmas dough. For transportation and all. I haven’t done any traveling at all yet.”

“Oh. I don’t want to take your Christmas dough.”

“Here,” old Phoebe said. She was trying to give me the dough, but she couldn’t find my hand.

“Where?”

She put the dough in my hand.

“Hey, I don’t need all this,” I said. “Just give me two bucks, is all. No kidding– Here.” I tried to give it back to her, but she wouldn’t take it.

“You can take it all. You can be a manspreader.”

“How much is it, for God’s sake?”

“Three dollars. No, two dollars and seventy-five cents. I spent some but made sure to leave enough for the subway.”

Then, all of a sudden, I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it, and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can’t just stop on a goddam Metrocard swipe.

Herman Melville

Consider the subtleness of the MTA; how its most dreaded creatures squeeze their legs together underground, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of manhood. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the embellished shape of many species of teenagers. Consider, once more, the universal tension of the standing pregnant and elderly; all who are ignored or granted seats awkwardly and helped above each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to the gentle and most docile thighs; consider them both, the publicity and the shame; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling atmosphere surrounds the verdant leg, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Manspreader, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the closeted stretch. MTA keep thee! Spread not off on that seat, thou canst never close!”

William Carlos Williams


so much depends

upon

a triangular

gap

glazed with phone

light

between the wide

knees

Sylvia Plath

God’s lioness,   

How one we grow,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

 

 

Splits and passes, sister to   

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,

 

 

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,   

Shadows.

Something else

 

 

Hauls me through air—

Thighs, hair;

Flakes from my heels.

 

 

White

Godiva, I unpeel—

Dead hands, dead stringencies.

 

 

And now I

Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.   

The child’s cry

 

 

Melts in the wall.   

And I

Am the arrow,

 

 

The dew that flies

Suicidal, at one with the drive   

Into the red

 

 

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

 


Michelle Chen is a poet, writer, and aspiring comedian who takes inspiration for her writing from the events that occur in and around her home, New York City, though she was born in Singapore and hopes to return and visit someday. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Bat City Review, and elsewhere, and been recognized by Ploughshares Emerging Writers, the Lancaster Writing Award for Literary Criticism, and the City College of New York Knopf Poetry Contest, among others. She has performed her work at venues including Lincoln Center, Sotheby’s, the National Arts Club, and the NYC Poetry Festival, and has attended writing workshops at Amherst and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio with the support of the National Society of Arts and Letters. She is currently a senior at Hunter College High School and will be going to college in the fall. Visit her blog for ambitious youth at www.mc-ambitiousyouth.com.

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5 ways the internet has transformed comedy

Watch this clip! Download this podcast! HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN the latest episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee?!? Thanks to the internet, comedy is EVERYWHERE—and it’s pretty much always screaming at you to take your funny vitamins. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, for both comedy and comedians? The answer: IT DEPENDS, OBVIOUSLY. Here are five key changes, according to me.

 

1. The internet makes performing easy.

In the immortal words of Aparna Nancherla: “Best part of internet: everyone has a voice. Worst part of internet: everyone has a voice.” In a comedy context, that means that the internet can help budding comedians—especially those in club-starved towns, or too young for THAT LIFESTYLE—find an audience, or help anyone with a YouTube account think they can become an overnight comedy sensation.

 

2. 140 characters is the soul of wit.

Or is it? Some, like Peter Serafinowicz, laud platforms like Twitter for forcing them to hone their one-line game. Others (see Martin Trickey) think this makes an audience too hard to work with the online audience craves instant gratification, and can only sometimes get it, leading to instant approval or dismissal of a performance.

 

3. It’s there…FOREVER.

The ability to replay and rewatch has led to increased scrutiny. That’s good, when it helps hold comedians like Tosh, Bill Maher, etc. accountable for inappropriate jokes. But it also opens up every last detail of a set for criticism. Internet hecklers don’t leave when the show’s over.

 

4. It makes for a bigger farm team.

Not every attempt to convert internet comedy to mainstream works (think Netflix specials like Haters Back Off). But comedians like Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer originally started out on a web series. That’s where HBO’s Insecure came from, too. The Internet might not make everyone a star, but it is fertile new ground for talent.

 

5. It opens virtual doors.

The internet is high on bias, but also pretty low on red tape. This means that folks who normally come up against barriers to entry in comedy (sexism and racism, say!) can produce and share their own work, set their own terms, and build their own audiences. Best part of internet: everyone has a voice!

 

Tell us what YOU think!Click To Tweet

 


Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. She is currently a student of Competitive Swordplay (member of Fairfield High School Fencing Team.) She is also an alumna of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series!

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9 alternatives to PowerPoint that will really make your presentation sparkle

Groan! PowerPoint again? I don’t know about you, but I just hate the sinking feeling of walking into a conference room expecting something exciting to happen, and instead getting a bunch of slides telling you how much stuff costs and how that affects your company’s bottom line. Yawn!

 

Rather than trying to spice up your PowerPoint with comedy tricks and technical ka-zowie, why not look at alternatives to this purgatorial format? Marketers and business types across the globe are finding new ways to get information into the medulla oblongatas of meeting attendees. Now you can, too.

 

Power-Point Alternative #1: Mass Hypnotism

 

You want your information to have sticking power, right? Well, a little-known trick to successful implantation of thoughts, feelings, and impulses is the power of mind control. It’s easy: Simply have your meeting attendees kidnapped by Soviet and Manchurian operatives who brainwash them into believing every word of your presentation. If they ever forget, just show them the Queen of Hearts. (Am I the only one who saw this movie? Angela Lansbury. Not the remake. Classic. #TCMParty)

 

Power-Point Alternative #2: Scent of a Budget

 

Smells are a powerful memory tool. The reason for this is the location of the olfactory … things … in the hippocampus, which is in the … brain … part. Anyway! Science!

 

So: During your presentation, don’t bother with visual assets. Instead, pass out individual-sized jars of Carmex and instruct everyone to open them up and inhale deeply while you speak. Whenever you need them to call up the information you’re presenting to them, open your own jar of Carmex and wave it under their noses. The scent will immediately call up every precious word you presented to them.

 

Power-Point Alternative #3: Hand-Written Sticky Notes

 

Just yesterday, someone said to me, “I’ll never forget those invitations you made for your thirtieth birthday party. They were so funny!” Hm, did someone say unforgettable?

 

Instead of pouring your energy and time into a soulless and sterile tech solution that will vanish with the click of a mouse, ladle it instead into individually-crafted artisan creations that your attendees can take back to their desks and cherish forever. What’s more likely –  that they’ll go hunting for the data using command-C, or that they’ll look up at the Post-It pinned next to their picture of their duck-faced friend, thereby cementing the info contained therein?

 

Don’t answer. It’s rhetorical.

 

Power-Point Alternative #4: Create a Mind Palace of Your Marketing Plan

 

Fans of Sherlock, starring Schmendrick Mahumperback, might know that the classic detective character – played by Humperdink Tunnelwreck in the BBC version – employs a memory trick called the “mind palace” that harkens from ancient Greece.

 

The idea is to place every item you want to remember in an imaginary room of an imaginary house; to recall these items, you would “walk through” the path you created and peek into each room to “see” the item ensconced there. Just like Hammerhead Flagglerock, you can “walk” your meeting attendees through a mansion created solely out of your sales targets and associated assets. Easy-peasy benedy-cumberbeedy!

 

Power-Point Alternative #5: Take 8 Seconds to Make Your Most Important Points

 

According to unsubstantiated rumors, it takes 8 seconds to commit an important fact to memory. For instance, you will remember where you parked if you pause for 8 seconds to focus on your car before racing into Target.

 

8 seconds! C’mon! If Luke Perry can stay on a horse that long, you can focus on a … what was I saying? Anyway, try this: Give out an important bullet point, such as “Tablet users surpassed both desktop PC users and notebook PC users in the second and third quarters of 2012, respectively.”

 

Rather than providing a visual cue for this information, stop and let it sink in. Lean in to your meeting. Put your knuckles on the table, then rap upon it in a staccato fashion as you repeat that fact, slowly, for eight seconds. Then move on to the next bullet point. Who could forget that?

 

Power-Point Alternative #6: Break The Ice – Literally

 

Ever been to one of those super-classy weddings with an ice sculpture of a couple embracing next to a pair of swans lit with mauve light from below, so that after a half hour the whole thing looks like the nazi-melting scene in Indiana Jones and the floor is so wet you have to cordon it off with yellow caution tape? Good times.

 

With that in mind, go straight to the head of your department and demand a budget big enough for a really memorable presentation. Have your power point slides etched into ice. Have that ice placed at the center of the conference table. Then, when everyone is seated, turn your iPhone on to “Eye of the Tiger” at top volume, run in, and smash the whole thing with a meat-tenderizing mallet. Think anyone will forget that meeting? Bam.

 

Power-Point Alternative #7: Serve Brain Food

 

People looking to improve their memory are encouraged to eat foods high in Vitamin E, folic acid, and Omega-3 fatty acids. So instead of donuts, serve bowls of tuna fish, spinach, and sunflower seeds at your next meeting. Your attendees’ cardiologists will thank you – and so will they, when they see how well they remember everything you said.

 

Further research shows that increased exercise also has a beneficial effect on memory retention, so go ahead and have that meeting at the gym, with everyone walking on treadmills arranged in a circle. Stand in the center and spoon tuna into everyone’s mouth as you give your PowerPoint-less presentation. Oh, they’ll remember it, all right.

 

Power-Point Alternative #8: Tell Your Story Entirely In Emoji

 

Many companies are pivoting to a millennial model – providing vertical assets to digital natives in a collaborative environment. Obviously, the ideal “meeting presentation” would be a Snapchat story shared with your team, but we all know there are certain fuddy-duddies who still can’t hang, amirite? So harness the power of visual stimulation to make your attendees think – which will amplify your points by requiring multiple senses to understand them.

 

👀 ➕🗣🔝🤔🌟

 

Power-Point Alternative #9: Use an Actual Slide Projector

 

What was more riveting than seeing Don Draper deliver an impassioned defense of the slide carousel? Everyone wants to be Don Draper. Even Jon Hamm wishes he were Don Draper, for crap’s sake. So create PowerPoint slides, sure – but then send them to an online vendor (oh, they exist) to be printed on acetate slides suitable for projection. When they arrive, call your meeting and give your presentation using your smoothest, most patriarchal tone. Then fly into a rage and shove everything off your desk because RAAR DON DRAPER!

 

With these amazing strategies in your quiver, you’ll be sure to hit the bullseye at your next corporate presentation. If not, don’t blame me! I work from home for a reason!

 


Amy Keyishian has worked for the entire range of magazine genres, from her start as an editorial assistant at Sesame Street Parents to her four-year stint as a staff writer at Cosmopolitan. She has also written for Maxim, Glamour, Self, Redbook and Men’s Health, and was the sex-advice columnist for the military-focused magazine Drill. Amy has also moonlit as a young-adult fiction author (with three under her own pseudonym, Amy Kaye), a standup/improv/sketch comic, and, in her darkest days, as a marketing copywriter.

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10 ideas for YouTube channels no one has thought of yet

You know what’s fun? Watching homemade YouTube videos, especially the ones that start out with someone perkily saying “Hey guys!” and then taking three and a half minutes to explain that they’re so sorry they haven’t made a video in a while.

 

Anyway, you’ve probably been wanting to make a YouTube channel of your own. I know I have! But where to start? I mean, I was listening in on my kids as they watched YouTube this morning, and one of them said “Wow, fur fingernails? I never thought of that!” and I was like “time to shut down the internet, folks. Fur fingernails.”

 

But that got me thinking. I hadn’t thought of fur fingernails, it’s true, but that must mean there are other things I haven’t thought of, and they would probably make good YouTube channel ideas! And so, with no further ado, here are my big ideas free for you to use for yourself or someone you dislike intensely.

 

1. A family that stops at convenience stations instead of theme parks and makes the best of it.

 

2. Old episodes of M*A*S*H but dubbed so that “hawkeye” is always replaced with “fanny pack.”

 

3. Reboxing Shopkins.

 

4. Beauty hacks for those retainers you used to have to wear overnight that strapped around the back of your head.

 

5. Game-play watch-along of me doing the NY Times crossword puzzle on a Friday.

 

6. An undertaker “unboxes” the stuff in people’s pockets (like a blind bag, but pants).

 

7. The Neener Channel: Neener neener, I have a thing that you don’t; let’s look at how great it is and how much you stink for not having one.

 

8. My Dog Has a GoPro: Live feed of everything my dog gets up to during the day. Like the Panda Cam, but much more banal, yet active.

 

9. LaproCam: A live feed of the camera-eye view of every laparoscopic surgery being done at a hospital in Nebraska that really needs cash.

 

10. DIY hair removal (comparing Nair, wax, and shaving) for furry fingernails.

 


Amy Keyishian has worked for the entire range of magazine genres, from her start as an editorial assistant at Sesame Street Parents to her four-year stint as a staff writer at Cosmopolitan. She has also written for Maxim, Glamour, Self, Redbook and Men’s Health, and was the sex-advice columnist for the military-focused magazine Drill. Amy has also moonlit as a young-adult fiction author (with three under her own pseudonym, Amy Kaye), a standup/improv/sketch comic, and, in her darkest days, as a marketing copywriter.

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Mini Q&A with Allison Summers

Allison Summers is an improviser, comedian, and writer based out of Nashville, TN. She has written for theBerry and has performed with the Second City, iO West, and with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Her one-woman show, Collections, is currently running at Third Coast Comedy Club.

 

Favorite response to a heckler?

I’m sorry you’re hurting on the inside. Which parent didn’t love you? Oh shit, was it both?

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Fuck it and fuck them. You are enough.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

You will never be able to make everyone in the audience laugh.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Moving to Nashville will kill my comedy career.

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

I am in the recovery community and I teach improv to recovering addicts and alcoholics. It has helped me find a way to be of service to that community and help those who are struggling learn how to laugh again.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

I had really great teachers at The Second City who were very encouraging. My closest friends were involved in comedy as well so it was the biggest part of my life and community.

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

It’s a tie between Viki Lawrence and Damon Wayans. I loved Mama’s Family and really believed that she was this old woman and Damon Wayans put together this brilliant and edgey show that housed amazing comedians. It was my dream as a child to be on In Living Color.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I have never heard this before, I had to google it. After knowing what it is for twenty seconds- I hate it.

 


Allison Summers is an actress and writer performing and working in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a graduate of The Second City Conservatory, IO West, and UCB Theatre. She has written for the female version of theChive, theBerry, and her one woman show, “Collections,”  has been performed at Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival in Austin, Women in Comedy Festival in Boston and Los Angeles. Currently, she teaches improv classes at Third Coast Comedy Club in Nashville.

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Mini Q&A with Abby Sher

Abby Sher is a comedian, improviser, and author currently living in New Jersey. She was a member of the celebrated Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, before moving to Brooklyn, New York, and becoming a freelance writer. Her latest book ALL THE WAYS THE WORLD CAN END is available everywhere. Not to mention she’s a friend of GOLD Comedy!

 

Favorite response to a heckler?

Hey, is that my rabbi?

 

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig.

Doing a comedy show at a country club and for our intro they announced all the members who had recently died.

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

BE LOUD!

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Start making monkey noises and throwing things.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

An old grumpy man who told me to stop being small.

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”?

Vaginas have all the fun.

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

Gilda Radner – her wild leaping into walls, her Jewess jeans and gum smacks. Her raw honesty.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Needs to come with cheese to be worthwhile.

 


Abby Sher is a writer and performer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times,Self, Jane, Elle, and Redbook. She is also the author of Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery, Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying, and Kissing Snowflakes. Abby has written and performed for the Second City in Chicago and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Magnet Theater in New York. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

Twitter: @abbysher

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Unsuccessful portmanteaux

MEMO from the International Ministry of Wordthings 
Head Minstress Amy Keyishian

 

It has come to our attention that many of you are overusing the portmanteau option. Please be advised that we are limiting use of the portmanteau until you all get this under control. This means you.

To review, “black” + “actor” = “blacktor.” This is the Platonic ideal of the portmanteau. It takes up less space, it is efficient, it contains no internal caps, and it is pleasing to the ear. Please note the final bullet on this list: pleasing unto the ear, fellow citizens. Ugly portmanteaux are not helpful and are therefore an abomination.

 

Peruse this list of verboten word combinations and consider them with sober aforethought before bandying about this most precious and vital linguistic resource.

  •      Flow + chart ≠ flart
  •      Book + club ≠ blub
  •      Chardonnay + party ≠ chardonnarty (this will get you expelled.)
  •      Party + hardy ≠ pardy  (are you kidding us?)
  •      Vaginal + atrophy ≠ vatrophy
  •      Cranberry + applesauce ≠ crapplesauce
  •      Peanut + butter ≠ peabutt
  •      Mango + chutney ≠mutney
  •      Elevator + operator ≠ elevoperator
  •      Canada + Washinton ≠ Canoshington
  •      CD + single ≠ C-dingle
  •      iTunes + playlist ≠ iTunafish  (now you’re just off the chain)
  •      Twin Peaks + freaks ≠ tweaks
  •      Palpebral + fissure ≠ palprissure

 

Addendum A: These are allowed only if used ironically. If we can’t detect a wink, you must rethink.

  •      Granny + panties = granties
  •      Presidential + pardon = prizzardon
  •      Hogwart + nerd = Hogwerd = HAGRID REALLY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT

 

Addendum B: Verboten Portmanteaux of Celebrity Couples:

  •      Jared + Ivanka ≠ Javanka
  •      Brad + Sienna ≠ Brienna (just sounds like the most popular baby name at the trailer park)
  •      A-Rod + J-Lo ≠ AJ, RodLo, A-Lo, or any other combination
  •      Kylie + Travis ≠ Kylass
  •      Dev + Tilda ≠ Dilda
  •      Rooney + Joaquin ≠ Roonaquin (willing to reconsider)
  •      Selina + The Weeknd ≠ Seliknd
  •      Ellen + Portia ≠ Ellortia
  •      Goldie + Kurt ≠ Goldirt

 

ADDENDUM C: TOTALLY ALLOWED CELEBRITY PORTMANTEAUX:

  •      Jenny Slate + Jon Hamm = Slamm (OBVIOUSLY HOLY GOD IS THIS A THING?!)
  •      Beyoncé + Jay = BeyJay (WHAT WHY HAS THIS NOT BEEN DONE BEFORE NOW)

 

Please contact the ministry via owl or smoke signal if you have any questions.  

 

Mini Q&A with Cathy Ladman

Cathy Ladman’s show is a self-probing vehicle which draws laughter from exposing personal neuroses. She has not only appeared on “The Tonight Show” nine times, but was also the only female comic to appear on the last two of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show Anniversary” shows. She’s made four appearances, thus far, on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” did her own HBO “One Night Stand” comedy special, and was awarded the American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand Up Comic.

 

Favorite response to a heckler?

It seems like you don’t get enough attention in your life. I think I know why.

 

BRIEFLY describe your worst gig (noting that you survived).

About a year into my doing standup, I was onstage, the audience chattering got louder and louder, and finally, people began throwing things onstage. I said, “Thank you,” and left the stage. Note: NEVER say, “Thank you,” to an audience that throws things at you!!!!!

 

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

“Wow. You’re still saying that? Poor you.”

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

My mentor, who told me that tenacity was 99% of everything.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t worry about who you are onstage for the first year or more. Just get as much stage time as you can.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

You need to get dirty for certain crowds. “Throw in a few ‘fucks.'”

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

People are always attracted to funny people. You can get your message across so much more easily when it’s funny and entertaining.

 

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian?

Mike Nichols & Elaine May’s album, “Nichols & May Examine Doctors.” I was drawn to it at about 8 years of age. It was an innate response. I just got it. And I watched all the standup comics on Ed Sullivan and decided that that was what I wanted to do. Robert Klein and George Carlin. Thinking comedians all.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

HATE it. We’re not the diminutive version of a comic. We’re comedians, or comics.

 


Cathy Ladman is an acclaimed television and film actor. Her film credits include “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Aristocrats,” and “White Oleander.” Her TV appearances include “Mad Men,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” She’s done several TV pilots, including “Caroline in the City,” in which she had a recurring role, and a bunch of others that barely saw the light of day (or night). She also appeared regularly on ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” and Comedy Central’s “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist.”

Website: www.cathyladman.com

Twitter: CathyLadman

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