Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deep Joke (Part 1)

This is the first of two excerpts from Deep Joke by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Mark Katz Press in April 2009

I am not a journalist.

I am an entertainment writer.

I ask questions like “How did you prepare for being a pirate?” or “What was it like filming in Canada?” or “What makes you laugh?”

I don’t ask for the truth and don’t even want it.

I forgot that I even went to school to learn to ask questions until Johnny Dillon threw himself off his hotel room balcony and onto the valet sandwich board.

My interview regarding Johnny’s stand-up special was scheduled for that morning I arrived about 3 lines of coke and 30 odd floors too late.

“If you arrived 15 minutes earlier it would be his last interview” bitched my editor.
Entertainment Journal love dead people. There are so many dead people on the cover it ought to be called Entertainment Graveyard. “We need to put together a career overview to fill the space. You got all the notes on him. See what we can pull from this shit pile.”

When writing a tribute piece you need comments so gushy and soft they can barley fit between quotation marks without pouring down the page. The moderator of his official fan page would be a good start.

The fan boy was a college kid. Most of his fans were in college. They were just figuring out the world and what they were figuring out is that it wasn’t fair.

Johnny announced that the world wasn’t fair in the most caustically funny way possible without actually throwing a temper tantrum.

“Johnny was like, the perfect journalist” said the fan boy. “ He could give you the fact but he could say that this is fucked up. If Tom Brokaw could end the evening news by saying ‘everything is fucked, trust no one’ we wouldn’t need a Johnny Brokaw.

Johnny’s career was based on him telling the truth, I guess. He mostly just complained about the President. The President was a comedian’s wet dream. He was embroiled in an unwanted war, a financial crisis, and a sex scandal. He had a bizarre Boston accent that made impressions of him very easy and he had no control of his hands. At least once at every public appearance he would drop something or trip. He was sworn in with a mustard stain on his shirt.

Johnny moved beyond the superficial attacks on the Presidents appearance though. He made intelligent political observations and then wrapped them up in dirty jokes.

There was a reason that a young activist poli sci student was running his fan page.

“Johnny never backed down. He was afraid of nothing” said the fan boy.

“He was afraid of something. Not heights, but let’s not glamorize this. He was afraid of living.”

“He never jumped. He was murdered.”

Of course, here we go. A guy like Johnny kills himself and the conspiracy theories explode. By this time tomorrow the head shops will be full of “Johnny was pushed” t-shirts.

“I saw the hotel room. I was there to interview him. It was covered in half snorted lines of blow and empty vodka bottles, and the weirdest thing was a stack of porn the height of me.”

“But you didn’t see this.” Said the fan boy “he turned to his dorm room computer and loaded a video clip. “This is his last performance.”

Johnny staggered around the stage like he was tacking on the deck of an America’s Cup entry. He was dressed all in black, like a jester Johnny Cash, with the dark colours trying to hide a beer gut. He held the mic too close to his mouth and I could hear him breathing into it.

“The president has announced that schools should not only teach an alternative philosophy to evolution but to Copernicus as well. I think in his version it’s not just earth, but actually America, that’s the center of the fucking universe.”

I guess it could have been funny if he didn’t slur the punch line. So far the footage supported my theory more than fanboy’s.

“So,” I said “You think that the creationists killed him.”

“That performance was 3 days before the President announced his terracentric policy. Johnny knew too much.

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