Do you know you can say whatever you want? People may not like it, but they also can’t stop you. This, of course, does not mean the majority of modern, self-described “truth tellers” have anything worthwhile or thought provoking to report — rather, they stoke the flames of intolerance, parlaying their idiotic, artless roles as “devil's advocates” into $100k a month via Patreon.
Lenny Bruce is long dead; in his place have emerged a murderer’s row of roided out men of privilege talking about how trans and Asian people have had it too good for too long (sadly these men, unlike Bruce, are never handcuffed mid-set). These hacks are not truth tellers, they are shit spewers. Because telling the truth does not fill coffers with cash.
This week I appeared on a YouTube show hosted by an infinitely more successful comedian than myself (a label which describes most comedians); I used the appearance as an opportunity to talk, at length, about celebrities who were pedophiles, as is my wont. Reactions were mixed.
“Today I found out who @bornferal was,” someone I do not know and will never meet tweeted, “and that she’s obsessed with child r*pe and not funny.” “idk why you would launch into a discussion of David Bowie child rape when a young fan asked Neil about Tony Clifton,” another said, “but it sucked ass.”
Let the record show I am not obsessed with child rape, merely famous child rapists (and, let’s be honest, all rapists, regardless of their predilections or celebrity status). I am obsessed with anyone who gets away with anything they shouldn’t because their peers are too cowardly to call them out on their malfeasance. I find myself (and by “find myself,” I mean, “willingly choose to be”) in a business primarily populated by self preservationists who operate accordingly, unwilling to expose the crimes of anyone who could potentially do something, anything, for their careers.
I live in a world in which other “truth tellers” still keep actual truths close to the vest, taking stances only when it has been deemed safe to do so by the publication of a heavily fact-checked New York Times piece. One such truth teller once felt uncomfortable appearing in a segment of a show of mine which referred to Max Landis as a rapist because they didn’t want to potentially alienate Max’s father, John (a man whose actions, not that you asked, resulted in the beheading of multiple children), as John was on the Emmy voters board.
Side Note: Twitter recently “did its thing” and ousted the hateful, hatted booker of Just For Laughs, a comedy festival/terror organization which did something for someone’s career 30 years ago and has been eating lunch on it ever since. While I am nowhere near adverse to the idea of burning said booker at the stake, I was nevertheless tickled by the idea of comedians finally TAKING A STAND against a troll whose boots they had willingly licked for years simply because doing so had finally become a trending topic.
Side Note to the Side Note: The then-COO of JFL who yelled at me for asking comedians about Louis CK jerking off in front of people without their consent is now the organization’s President, as his predecessor was unceremoniously dropped for being a, uh, rapist (note that, while he was eventually acquitted of the crime which resulted in his firing, in 1998 he was actually found guilty of assaulting a 19 year old yet was allowed to stay on as head of JFL). To which I ask: Why don’t they make the whole organization out of the cancellation?
Being a true truth teller makes you mineable as a character study, but means you don’t get anything yourself other than the non-monetizable respect of your peers. Verisimilitude is a nice place to visit, but nobody wants to live there. And why would they? It is a Peloton-free zone.
A friend, who it goes without saying is infinitely more successful than me, once asked if I was sure I wanted to keep talking shit, aligning myself with “unmarketable” people — I could really make a go of things, they said, if I shut up and played the hits. I was young enough at the time to actually take their advice into consideration; the fact that I had recently bombed in front of copious industry at a comedy festival had rendered me even more vulnerable to their suggestion. Ultimately, though, I chose unmarketability. I don’t regret it. I don’t need a Peloton. Walking up hills is free.
Because, as a powerless woman in the entertainment industry, I can say whatever I want, much as if I were a powerful man. When you have no career, you have nothing to lose; when you don’t want anything, you don’t need anything. I am writing this while forking mouthfuls of tuna fish out of the can and washing them down with tap water. I can fend for myself, thank you very much — I don’t need someone earning less than minimum wage to bring me $17 salads in order to sustain life. I’m not a TV writer.
While I love/live to complain about how I have to sell other people’s trash on eBay to pay the bills, it’s also my choice; it also means I have agency. Am I almost 38 and still on food stamps? Absolutely. But do I feel the need to tweet about how “amazing” an HBO Max property is in the impotent hopes I will be staffed if it gets a second season? No. Speaking truth to power is the only power I have. I don’t care if I have to do it in someone else’s unwanted, discarded pants, so long as I can do it. I only, after all, am a comedian because “they” don’t want me to.
Today a couple dozen people showed up to celebrate the 100th episode of a podcast of mine that has never received any press, save a blurb in a Norwegian newspaper (roughly translated, it read “Under the motto ‘my time is worthless,’ the comedians provide a look into a pretty different world than the one you would find in other LA-based humor pods: Here is no glamour or dreams about sudden career boosts, only scanty savings, curious collector's impulses mixed every once in a while with tedious work as an extra. It’s always funny, often educational and at times so disillusioning that you are forced to rethink everything you thought you knew about American showbiz”) and a factually-incorrect listing buried in a Vulture “Best of the week” wrap-up neither I nor my co-host tweeted about (if a blogger gets paid $0.004/word to cover something and it isn’t liked and shared, does the content actually exist?). We persist solely by word of mouth; we exist solely to cater to a small yet grateful demographic.
The listeners were sweet. They gave us gifts, I sold them cactuses (and when no one wanted to buy them, I insisted they take them sans compensation). One guy came all the way from Spokane. One woman cried because listening to us had helped her through a hard time. It felt good.
This all happened while we sat behind a folding table on a sidewalk where people routinely defecate. It wasn’t exactly glamorous, but what the fuck do I need glamour for? Glamour is for those who lack a rich inner life. I don’t trust artists with fillers.
Last week I found myself in a diner off the I-15, waiting to be seated. A hostile man in a Gucci tracksuit I doubted the authenticity of with big “I lease a late model Mercedes” energy took up the entirety of the diner’s vestibule while loudly, masklessly, barking into his phone. I understand that the usage of masks in a restaurant environment is now more or less decorum, an impotent appetizer before a raw dogged meal, but it nevertheless remains the law; that being said, he clearly believed he was above said law. With nowhere else to stand, I hovered in front of the man’s lady friend, who passive aggressively asked Anthony and I if we could “move back so we can stand in front of you and get out of peoples’ way?”
We moved, and she tried to get her man child to join her, but he waved her off, still barking. Anthony laughed and said “And then he’s just going to stand there anyway,” which made the two of us laugh louder, collectively. The man looked up and spat, “What, it’s a problem for you if I stand here?” Anthony responded, “No, man, I just think it’s funny that your girlfriend was trying to get out of peoples’ way and then you’re just standing there anyway.” He did not take kindly to this observation, responding with virulent hostility designed to make us back down.
Upon eventually being seated, we walked past his table. I leaned in — and while I wish I weren’t wearing a mask, but I was, as that is the law — stage whispered “fuck you” while making stark eye contact. He immediately exploded, as if he had waited his entire life to hear those two simple words. “Fuck YOU, bitch!” he yelled as I continued to walk away. “Fuckin’ white trash bitch!” I laughed a laugh which reverberated around the diner. It felt good, knowing he felt bad. For someone like me, it was Heaven. For someone like me, it was the point.