Ex Lion Tamer
I’ve read Something Awful for years, so I know what it’s like when there’s a new writer. It’s like walking to the bathroom at night and sitting down half-asleep and realizing the seat’s up, and you’re sitting on that cold, damp, slippery ring of porcelain. Maybe your butt even falls in a little bit. You thought you could trust your bathroom, but it fucked you.
Well, I'm sorry. I'm the new guy, the interloper, the Johnny-come-lately, the you’re-not-my-real-dad. My cooking smells weird and I’ll never be a replacement for your dead dog, but I’m here, and you’ll have to deal with it.
Perhaps you’re wondering what makes me qualified to write for this most dignified and prestigious of web sites. Well, to be honest, nothing. The only jobs I worked prior to becoming a writer were completely unrelated to the field of comedy. Even though it's not my duty to win you over, since you're stuck with me anyway, I'm hoping that you'll be satisfied enough with my employment history to deem me worthy of this position.
Like many boys, my childhood spent with adventure magazines and comic books endowed me with a fanciful desire to run away and join the circus. My dream was to be a lion tamer, the fearless mustachioed he-man with naught but a whip and a chair between him and the perilous jaws of a flaming cat (I don’t know why I thought the lion had to be on fire, but it was my dream). When I came of legal lion-taming age, I was shocked at the ease with which I landed an apprentice lion-taming position at Barnum’s Magnificent Two-Ring Circus (no relation to that Barnum, obviously).
The sport of kings!
As soon as I was put to work as a lion tamer, my dreams were shattered. Instead of working in a big cage filled with lions, I was on the eighth floor of an office complex, caged in a cubicle with a computer and a fax machine. My whip hung flaccidly on the wall, and my chair was subjected to the stifling indignity of human recumbence. Around me were dozens of other lion tamers, many of whom had never seen a living lion in their lives. As it turned out, modern lion taming is 95% bureaucratic.The visceral thrill of the whip and the mustache is seldom seen.
Before one is allowed to step into a cage with a lion, there are hundreds of matters to be seen to. Even after concerns like insurance, union contracts, prop rental, bidding for cage-time, kickbacks to politicians and organized crime, and greasing the various wheels that made big-top politics motor along, a lion tamer still couldn’t jump into the ring. First, the tamer would have to approve his act with the Lion Union, making sure none of his moves “belonged” to another lion tamer. When I dreamt of taming lions as a child, for example, I always pictured sticking my head in the gaping, ferocious maw of a roaring lion. It turns out that you can’t do that. That one belongs to “Ranger John” Calloway, and I’d have to pay him more money to do that move than I made in a year.
Even after I’d finally cleared my act, I had to prove to the Lion Union that I could do it without injury, which required a dozen non-lion run-throughs. The only animal approved by the union for this purpose was a declawed red panda. Not only is a red panda a terrible approximation of a lion, renting one for an afternoon costs upwards of ten thousand dollars and is highly illegal unless you’re using it for sex.
In my fourteen years as a lion tamer, I only saw two lions. One, named Brenda, was a representative of the Lion Union, but I wouldn’t call her a friend and I certainly never tamed her.
My second lion encounter led me to quit the industry forever. After years of taming a desk, I was given a shot at actual lion taming: I was allowed to go into the ring as a substitute after my friend Flaco Fantastico was savagely mauled by a non-union lion in an unscrupulous Mexican big top where he was performing a secret show. Although I yearned to avenge his death, instead I performed my zestless and stilted Lion-Union-approved act before a bored audience in a sterile American circus.My whip never cracked and my chair never held back a flying paw; due to all the regulations, I practically had to pamper and mollycoddle the smug beast. The final straw came when a listless child yelled “put your head in its mouth!” I laid down my whip right then and there and wept at the state of contemporary lion taming.
Enjoy your health plan, you fat son of a a bitch.
The main problem, as I saw it, was that the corrupt Lion Union was far more powerful than the generally honest Lion Tamer’s Union. Unscrupulous lion fat-cats (literally) would constantly award lucrative no-show jobs to wild lions on the Serengeti. It boiled my blood to know that my tax dollars were paying the six-figure salaries of lions that never actually had to be tamed, but at least those lions were too far away to harm any of my colleagues.
The inequity of the arrangement went far beyond that. To this day, lions get health insurance but lion tamers do not, even though lion tamers aren’t the ones mauling lions. Even more unfair and dangerous is the fact that lions get three weeks of paid vacation per year while lion tamers only get two, which means that for at least one week out of any given year, a lion may prowl around Club Med totally untamed.
French Horn Player
Disillusioned by my lion taming defeat, I decided that the time was right to fall back on my secondary passion: the French horn. Due to my abnormal proficiency in the field of tooting, I was quickly snapped up as the primary French hornist for the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (no, not that Vienna, obviously).
Clear man, active lifestyle.
Although the French horn is among the smallest of the stately medium-sized instruments (only slightly larger than a rotary harmonica and about the same size as a one-handed cello), it’s one of the most complicated instruments to play. The French horn, like the human circulatory system, is composed of thousands of interconnected brass tubes, roundabouts, mirrors, and switches which supply sound (or blood) to the open end of the device (or, on a human, to a gushing wound).
If you were to uncoil a French horn and lay it out to its full length, it would be over six miles long. Unlike most instruments, the French horn is played by blowing into the big end; since any sound blown into the horn has to wend o’er dell and vale and round Robin Hood’s barn before notes are emitted, there is a twelve-second delay between blowing in the instrument and receiving music from the small end.
This delay can be widened by playing more rapidly. The faster the musician plays, the more slowly the music is produced, which can lead to a vast backlog of stored music within the instrument. This creates both difficulties and benefits for the instrument’s handler. Inexperienced musicians often lose track of the timing of the piece of music they’re playing, because they’re playing several bars ahead of the rest of the orchestra.
The skilled musician, however, can use this delay to his advantage. I was usually able to play the horn rapidly enough that I could be done with most symphonies about half an hour early. After that, I would just suspend my horn from a wire coat hanger and leave. Generally, I would be in the conductor’s lavishly furnished van playing backgammon with one or both of his handsome wives while he was still conducting the final movement (conductors are allowed by law to have either two wives or two houses, but not one of each).My own arrogance and greed cost me my position in the orchestra, however. Eager to test my limits as an artist, I decided to blow twelve hours of silence followed by a musical performance into the instrument. I calculated my pre-blown playing such that the horn would remain silent until the next night’s performance, and then play its part in the symphony right on schedule. I would suspend the horn from its coat hanger and watch my own deviously post-modern performance from the wings.
The conductor went on to a lucrative modeling career.
The symphony began right on schedule, with my majestic horn blaring away exactly on time. However, only moments into the performance, the horn began to make a sound like a whistling teakettle, getting louder and louder. A shocked murmur ran through the crowd, as the horn began to violently vibrate on its hanger. I had overloaded it!
I rose to my feet to shout a warning to the musicians near the instrument, but it was too late— as I stood, the instrument’s silver speculum, white hot from the strain of the stored music, shot out like a champagne cork and punctured the soft gristle of the conductor’s eyeball. Destroyed by my own hubris, I slunk out of the building, never to return.
Adult Film Director
Destitute and without marketable skills, I decided to lower myself to the seedy world of adult entertainment features. I quickly learned that it was very difficult to break in as an actor, so I made the difficult decision to abuse my formal film-school training and prostitute myself as a director of smut.
Imagine this pointed at the ass of an eighteen-inch-tall man.
The pornography industry spends millions of dollars every year to maintain the illusion that adult films are produced just like any other features, with paid actors and actresses acting out various grisly scenarios on professional sets. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Adult film actors do not actually appear or act in films. That would be illegal due to laws against obscenity and prostitution. Instead, an adult film actor is paid for the use of his or her likeness, and for peripheral concerns like publicity appearances, interviews, and occasional photo shoots.
The actual on-screen copulation presented in adult films is done by quarter-scale homunculi produced by highly-paid industry wizards. I use the word “wizard” in the most literal sense; adult film wizards (or, due to the success of women’s liberation, witches) work in extremely secretive laboratory/farms, where they use an arcane combination of alchemy, sorcery and dowsing to produce miniature human-like creatures.
When an actor or actress is hired, he or she is given a through physical examination to ensure his or her perfect health (for reasons explained later). If the actor or actress is in suitable condition, a wizard then cuts a dime-sized piece of flesh from his or her soft palate and buries it in a freshly-tilled field. At midnight, the wizard returns to the field and performs an extremely secretive ritual involving strange incantations and exotic ingredients (I remember one wizard rushing around town trying to find a child whose adult teeth had formed but not yet protruded; apparently, “a tooth that has never seen the light of day” is one of the key ingredients of a homunculus).
After a week in the ground, the homunculus is harvested by the wizard. Homunculi are usually between fifteen and eighteen inches tall, and look almost exactly like the humans from whom they’re spawned. The only differences are that they are entirely hairless, they have a bluish tint, they have no belly-buttons, and they have nostrils in the backs of their heads. With makeup, camera filters, and wigs, these problems are easily correctable. The main problem with homunculi is that they have the mental capacity of cats, which is why the acting in many adult films is so unconvincing.
Adult film actors are always careful to avoid disease, because even minor afflictions can produce unsuccessful homunculi which can poison entire productions and waste days of shooting by suddenly “giving out,” which is an industry euphemism for the horrible process of homunculus death. On the set of my first film, Jackhammer Jim, I bore firsthand witness to this tragic debacle. The homunculus of an actor named Jim Barrowswain, in the middle of acting a vigorous a scene of amorous coupling, began to quiver like a leaf. Thinking that miniature Jim was merely mistiming his climactic release, I yelled at him to take a break, hoping against hope that his tiny feline brain could comprehend my words.Instead of stopping, the eighteen-inch-tall mooncalf quivered faster and faster and began to scream like a rabbit in a well. Suddenly, his quivering stopped and his body snapped into a rigid, contorted position reminiscent of a street performer pantomiming the paroxysms of a dying saint. As his scream became more shrill, his skin sloughed off into a wet pink glove around his ankles, and black blood began to course out from between every muscle of his skinless body.
Moments before a vile death.
His screams continued as his sinews began to snap, freeing hunks of muscle to fall off of his body; as his shrieking throat fell out of his neck, his shouts of pain were replaced by wet, gurgling whistle. The harmonic frequency of this horrible high-pitched din caused the female homunculus with whom he was working to rupture almost as violently. Her skin formed bubbles like a frying egg, and her eyeballs bulged and strained at the confines of their sockets. Luckily, Jim’s homunculus was reduced to a puddle before the miniature actress sustained any fatal damage, and we were able to put her out of her misery humanely (the producer put her in a paper bag and smashed her with a shovel in the parking lot).
Over the years, I endured many such mishaps with the tiny, inhuman actors who populated my films. Like all veterans of the industry, I eventually came to see them as little more than props to be posed, abused, and discarded. During the filming of the eightieth feature, Squirt Hogs, I actually became so enraged with a homunculus of actress Kristy Klittingsworth because of its failure to switch to the complicated reverse boatswain position on cue that I picked up the nude, exhausted creature and tore it up like a piece of wax paper, showering the miniature bed with black blood and gravelly innards.
As I was doing so, the full-sized Kristy Klittingsworth happened to walk on the set; she hadn’t seen the mitigating context of why I was tearing up her doll-like doppelganger, so she screamed at me, calling me a brute and a monster, and ran from the set crying. She never worked in adult films again. Of course, I was made out to be the bad guy, and practically blacklisted from the industry. Unfair as it was, I took my banishment as an opportunity to start my life anew. And here I am.