This show continues to be the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me. Just when I think the tabloid exposure would be the strangest it gets, it gets weirder.
Sadly, Scott Thompson has had to drop out of the show. He loved it and was all signed on to do it, but then Touched By an Angel hired him for a two-week gig. I had no idea that show was still on the air. So he’s off to fabulous Utah, and now Edie McClurg has taken his place for our Valentine’s Day show.
The biggest star in this show is the show itself, and it’s becoming a very bizarre experience. I must say the word “show” seventeen to thirty times a day. I’ve discussed at length Anne Heche’s life, and how I feel about her memoir, how I feel to know that she knows of this show.
And then Michael Jackson comes on this week and does the very thing I’m spoofing in this show. He pleads with us to understand him, and refuses to acknowledge what we find so disturbing about him. He thinks that we are the problem. His life is our fault. And to some extent, it is. We follow him around and won’t let him enjoy a day at the zoo, so he has to build his own zoo. We won’t let him go shopping, so he develops a tacky taste in urns. We want to see his children so badly that he must nearly suffocate them with scarves while they bite his fingers trying to get away from him. I understand. We did this. We made him so famous that he has to sleep with children.
I know very few people in this business who didn’t have a shitty childhood. There’s an old Mr. Show sketch about parents deciding to fuck up their kids so they’ll turn out famous. It ends with Einstein confessing that someone touched him in the poo hole, but you get the point.
— Quick aside: I get so many hits from people googling dirty words. I shudder to think who’s going to stumble in here because I just wrote “poo hole.”
The point is, we all had shitty childhoods and questionable adult experiences and bad things happened to us and we all felt unloved and unwanted at times. We’ve all been the new kid, the lonely kid, the one nobody understood. We’ve been labeled weird, fat, ugly or smelly. That’s why we’re performers. We’re still looking for the attention we thought we missed out on as children. And I know people who had it way worse than Michael Jackson ever had it. They had a shitty childhood and weren’t famous. They didn’t travel the world. They didn’t have millions of dollars. They just had shitty childhoods. And no matter how bad the childhood, not one of my friends feels the need to sleep with children or carve up their faces and lie about it. Not one of them pretends to be a four-year old boy so he can climb trees and have water balloon fights.
We all made it okay. Why can’t Michael Jackson? Why can’t Anne Heche? And why does that make us the monsters for wanting to understand it? For needing to laugh about it? How is anything they’ve done our fault?
There’s a monologue in the Anne Heche show that intentionally ends on an non-comedic note. It’s the point in the book where Anne is about to be institutionalized, and she’s at this hospital in Fresno and she realizes that the doctors aren’t aliens about to take her on the spaceship to Heaven. She’s about to be put away for her crazy behavior. And she’s scared. You can see it in the writing, even if she didn’t mean for it to come out that way. For me, this is the moment when she decides to write this book, when she knows she has to in order to excuse all of her behavior over the past ten or fifteen years. This is the moment when she realizes that no matter how hard she wished, there was no spaceship taking her to Heaven, and it was just some really good Ecstasy and a really bad fight with Ellen that landed her topless in a hospital. For me, that’s a terribly sad moment. That’s rock bottom. The realization that everybody’s looking at you, and in order to survive, you now have to convince all of them that you used to be crazy, but now you’re not. And you have to go so crazy that you’re willing to say you healed people, that you spoke in tongues, that you at one point thought you were literally a piece of shit, and then you woke up one morning with stigmata. This is how far you’re willing to go to get people to accept you, to forgive you, to acknowledge and validate you.
I find it tremendously sad. And because of that, it’s amazingly funny. The best humor comes out of pain and our ability to recognize ourselves in it and then laugh at it. We laugh to deal with what is frightening to us. We shake our heads and moan when we know that it so could have been us up there. We’ve all had our weak moments when we were afraid we were frauds, that everybody could see right through us. Those of us without children could see a crazy moment where we might accidentally dangle our babies off balconies because Germans were chanting for us to do it. We might even have a Culkin sandwich if those cute boys really wanted to spoon one night. We might decide to be lesbians for a year. These are all choices we could have made, might have made. But we didn’t. And because of that, we can laugh at it. We feel better about our choices. We see the consequences of their actions. And because we were the responsible ones, we were the ones who did everything right, we have the right to laugh. We have to. Otherwise we might start crying in sympathy. In empathy.
And that’s exactly what they’re looking for.
But look at everything you’ve gone through in your life. Look at all the pain and suffering and hard work you’ve done to get where you are. And sure, you’ve done things you’re not proud of, but when you really fucked up, did you issue a press release? Did you ask someone to make a documentary about your life? Did you read a book on tape?
No. Because you didn’t ask to be a public figure. You didn’t ask for the ultimate attention.
So when people ask me how do I sleep at night (and people have asked me this), I explain that my show isn’t slander or libel. I am telling her story as she told it. I am not doing anything you wouldn’t see on Saturday Night Live or Letterman. I am only trying to make people laugh. I find celebrity to be a fascinating subject, and the lengths people will go to for attention astound me. It’s why I love Andy Warhol. He was an artist who exposed celebrity for celebrity’s sake. He would just focus a camera on someone for ten minutes and it would be fascinating. Why? Because people want to be watched, and we want to watch people. We want to see them eat, fight, have sex, screw up, sleep, tan and bathe. We want to watch others obsessively so that we can validate ourselves, justify our decisions, see how other people do it. We want to feel better about ourselves and commiserate with others. We need to see other people doing it worse than we are. We need to see people doing it better. We have to compare. Pick favorites. Choose sides. We must turn life into a game. It’s how we make sense of it all.
We feel better knowing we’d never name a baby Blanket.
I don’t think my show is cruel. But I also would never want Anne Heche to see it. This show is not about her. It’s about what human beings will do to be seen, to be discussed, to be famous. It’s about our drive to make ourselves bigger than we are. It’s about how crazy we’re willing to go, how crazy we can become if nobody is there to keep us in check.
Michael Jackson has no comparison. There is nobody to keep him in check. His closest friends are the craziest people in show business. He has no idea what a normal person does every day. He never has. But part of that is because he’s chosen to live his crazy life, and he refuses to see any other possibility. Because he likes the attention. He loves it, or he’d stop. He’d go away.
And that’s pretty damn funny, when you think about it.
And now for my own cry for attention: check this out.
Coming to see the show? Here’s a discount.