Write a Lot, Cut a Lot: My Comedy Writing Process – by Dana A. Snow

The comedian and gag writer for the likes of the Oscars; Dana A. Snow lays out the guts of his joke creation process.

Like the sharp wits of the Algonquin round table many moons before him, Dana A. Snow’s cutting humor is intricate and funny, no matter how you slice it. Photo by David Billingsley

Writing, but Seldom New Ideas

I don’t know if I have time to write this article.  If you are reading it, I did.
I write  a  lot.  I am a one-man joke machine, so if you ever want a jokes only one man will laugh at, call me.  That one man is John Russell of Boulder, Colorado.

I have a lot of material.https://goo.gl/images/QUpCTn

If  I  was  performing the whole thing in a show, it would  be at least 2 hours long.   I select 5  to 20 minutes from that repertoire for the show at hand, based in part on whether a set should be clean or dirty, “edgy”  or  “family friendly.”   (As an outline, it runs 2 to 7 pages.) I  give myself  writing assignments.  Anything  that  fills a  page with short conversational sentences that might be funny.  Mostly I add jokes to topics already in my outline.  I  have a stripper routine (that started with a joke I offered to another comic but they didn’t accept it) where I try many jokes every year and tend to keep one new one a year.  I  have a  slapstick routine that also has had one joke added a  year.  That one started as an  ad-lib and I kept adding to it.   In both cases, what started as 5 tight seconds, became 5 tight minutes over the course of a year or more.  When  I  rehearse a  routine, I sometimes  ad-lib  additional jokes and transitions that  try to make  things  clearer or take  the  existing attitude further.

I  seldom add new premises or topics.   Recently, I  added two, one being my “advice on love” section with a list of things you shouldn’t say on a first date.  As a writing exercise, it’s like a Letterman Top Ten List or a Mock The Week (A British game show available on YouTube) closing competition.

When  you  first  go  to   a  therapist,  you  shouldn’t   answer  all  their  questions with: “None’a   your  damn business!”

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Anything can be comedy inspiration. Including a taco.

I let anything and everything inspire new jokes.  I made up an egg joke after seeing an egg reference on the menu at Taco Bell.  I’ve written jokes in response to things posted on Facebook and some deserved reposting as my status and some of those seem worth trying in my act.  For example, someone quoted a great politician of the past and I came up with a paraphrase as if Trump had started to say the same thing and then detoured:

“Ask  not   what  your  country   can  do   for  you,
’cause  you’re  not   gonna  get  it  anyway!’

I  give myself  writing assignments.  Anything  that  fills a  page with short conversational sentences that might be funny.

A  lot of it is role-playing.

I write  gags as if being said by other comedians (like Tom Lehrer and  Red Skelton), comic actors/characters, like  Art Carney as Norton on “The Honeymooners”  or Tom  Baker  of “Doctor  Who” years  ago.  I’ve written jokes imagining what friends would say.  One neighbor dabbled in standup  and his real self seemed like  Archie Bunker, so I used that attitude to write jokes about my list of subjects.

Imagining what another comic might say:

IN MY PARENTS SECTION – MOTHER’S DAY CARD

“When  we’ve  got   some  time  t’  kill,
We’re  gonna  cut  you  outta  the  will!”

I explore some  philosophical  themes that are important  to me, such as:

“We are lazy and  want rewards without doing the work required.”

Example of a joke from the theme of “we are lazy & want rewards without doing the required work”:

I went on a job interview; the first thing I said was
“Is  it   too  soon  to  ask  for a raise?”
He said  “Yes!   It  is too  soon!”   I  said
“Oh.  Then, uh,  remind  me  later!”

I imagine super-idiots’ responses to my topics.

https://goo.gl/images/7XzN5aA  lot of comics just tell true  stories.  I  prefer  jokey satire like The Mad Tea Party part  of “Alice in Wonderland.”  I imagine super-idiots’ responses to my topics. Captain Peter “Wrong-way” Peachfuzz from  Bullwinkle cartoons, The Bizarro World in 1960s DC Comics, Mortimer Snerd on 1940s Edgar Bergen radio shows, The 3 Stooges.  Sometimes Steve Martin and Martin Short have used this style. (Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick is hilariously wrong all the time!)  Characters  who  are reliably wrong about everything, such as:

In   romance,  you  shouldn’t  say
“I   am  your  slave!    All  the  money   I  have   in  the  bank  is  yours!  You’re  PERFECT!  Just  being   in  your  presence  is  enough   for  me!   Um.  What’s  your  name?”

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Welcome Back Kotter’s Gabe Kaplan

Sometimes I try to write things to improve my act’s marketability.   Who would I play in a sitcom?   How could the character I play in my act be adapted to be a main character on a sitcom?   This was done with Roseanne Barr, Tim Allen, Gabe Kaplan (“Welcome Back Kotter”), Seinfeld
In my case, would I play a teacher?   A married  pretentious idiot?  A  newscaster?  I  have many jokes about teaching (which I have done in real life) and teachers are often main characters in a sitcom whether the main character is a kid or a fellow teacher or if it’s about a family where one of them is still in school.

I attempted to write jokes plugging upcoming shows I hope to have, such as: “I’m  gonna  be   in  a  movie   called  “Sequel  2:  The  Sequel!”

I keep trying to come up for titles if I do my standup in a theater.   I have  two old titles that I used years ago and I  have two new ones.  They could be used in ads for the show, but also on T-shirts and business cards.  When I get one I like, it sometimes inspires a few new gags for within the show.  I used the title “The Sensuous Nerd” for quite a while and it lasted longer than I expected, despite the title it parodied be long gone. Those are just methods  I’ve  used recently.

Earliest Tryouts on Friends

https://goo.gl/images/nnf6HXI  wrote about 20 jokes, told ’em to  friends & trimmed it down to 10 and then 7.  It averages about one out of 20 gags I create are actual keepers.   It’s the editing that cuts it all down to gags as strong as Rodney Dangerfield & certain other favorites.   It’s not that I’m brilliant; I’m just ruthless in cutting or changing what doesn’t work.  I have 4 friends who hear the 30 new minutes each week; some in-person and some on the phone because they live out-of-state.    When I tell jokes to them, they’re not kept in the act or cut from it based on whether they each friend laughed or not.  If  I get a laugh but feel embarrassed by the joke (finding it corny after the excitement of making up the joke wore off), I will cut it.   If they  don’t respond, but I feel

https://goo.gl/images/nNBQdM
W.C. Fields

an average audience would laugh, I keep it in to try it again.    I  have  certain friends  I  regularly use  to  try  jokes.  Some  are  easy  laughers and some difficult.  One friend doesn’t laugh often but makes useful  suggestions  on  rephrasing.   Some friends  respond  better when I read my jokes imitating comedians  from  the  past  like  W. C. Fields.   Some are even more “politically correct” than me and I want to hear those opinions  too.    Knowing they’re listening and reaction patterns helps me  judge their responses.

I hope this article gives any new comics or writers of stand-up material an idea of my joke writing process.  I wish you luck.   Do good work!

For Larf Magazine, this is Dana A. Snow, 7-27-18
Comedian and comedy writer Dana A. Snow with comedy cohorts at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California. Dana is center, pinkish red jacket, purple tie, and youthful look.

Author’s custom disclaimer: Copyright 2018 Dana Snow. All rights reserved. These are my jokes! Mine mine mine!! Quotation of these jokes is not allowed in joke books, speeches, other people’s stand-up or on radio or T.V.  shows or any other media when not performed by the author. I had to write lots of jokes to find ones that worked and fit my character, so bug off. If it’s worth stealing, it’s worth telling people to see my shows and hire me & pay me!    The exception is that I give permission to Steven Alan Green in LARF MagazineImage result for copyright symbol and when publicizing LarfImage result for copyright symbol.

Lighten Up! – One comedian’s view of fat shaming jokes – by Adam Ellis

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Terry Jones as the continuously famished Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life; 1983.

There is an unfortunate trend in today’s society to try and censor comedy (not to mention almost everything else), in an attempt to remove anything that might possibly offend anyone.

Whatever form the attempted censorship takes (tweets, reviews, calls for boycotting), it is almost always done in the name of Protecting the Feelings of the Innocent! “How dare you make fun of the left handed!? It’s not their fault they’re freaks!”

What seems to go unnoticed is that, largely, these protestations come from the outside. If the issue becomes large enough to warrant news coverage, the stations always manage to find a member of whatever group is supposedly being targeted to throw in front of the camera, but dollars to doughnuts (Homer: “Umm…doughuts…”)  it isn’t the person that started the outcry.

Fat Shaming in Comedy?

Which brings me to the issue of fat shaming. It’s not hard to find examples of thin people mocking their heavier counterparts, but try finding examples that are funny! The funniest fat jokes come from fat people themselves. And don’t give me that crap about their being fat giving the audience license to laugh, because they ALWAYS have license to laugh if the joke is funny enough!

Largely, these protestations come from the outside…

When Louie Anderson stepped onstage, already mopping his brow with a handkerchief, and said, “Pardon me for sweating, but if I don’t, I’ll explode,” he took the audiences immediate perception of hey, this guy is huge and one-upped them before they had a chance to form their own jokes. When John Pinette did his Chinese Buffet bit, he turned his size into an asset. I saw him a few years before he died, and he’d lost quite a bit of weight, but was still quite large. He quipped, “I’m the only guy I know who could lose a hundred pounds, and people look at me and go, ‘You get a haircut?‘”

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Not even Oliver Hardy sailed as smoothly as Jackie Gleason when it came to the perfect balance of fat shame and who gives a fuck.

 

Fat comics have been mining the rich vein of material that their size gives them a unique perspective as outliers, and have done so since the days of Vaudeville, silent movies, and probably before that. Hell, at one time, the biggest (no pun intended) star in this country was known as Fatty Arbuckle!

The Rib-Eye of the Beholder

There’s a great comic named Bob Zany, who used to be fat. Almost the entirety of his act was fat jokes. Damn good fat jokes at that! “I got pulled over the other day. When the cop got to my door, he asked, ‘You know why I pulled you over?’ I said, ‘Because you’re lonely and you’ve never been with a fat guy?’ He said ‘Bingo!’” Then Bob lost a whole lot of weight, and by consequence, his entire comedy act. He had to reinvent himself as an insult comic, because he knew that those jokes wouldn’t work for him anymore. You can’t tell fat jokes from a third person perspective and slay the audience. If they aren’t about you, they just don’t work. The joke is still the same, but you are no longer in the joke, so it falls flat.

The great Louie Anderson as Mrs. Baskets on the hilarious “Baskets” on FX.

Now, some people (mostly thin) want fat comics to stop telling fat jokes, for fear of offending other fat people. If fat comics stop telling fat jokes, then no one will be telling them, and a large (again, not a pun) part of the population stops being talked about on stage.

If we allow this blatant artistic censorship to happen, how long until it reaches the point where fat actors aren’t even considered for roles anymore, as seeing them on screen might make someone uncomfortable? Maybe it’ll get to the point where someone will take a print of The Maltese Falcon and digitally slim down Sidney Greenstreet, and alter the audio track to remove all references to “the fat man.”

So my advice to all those looking to stop us (yep, I’m one of ’em) from telling fat jokes (and, pointedly, not to those telling them) is the same as this article’s title:  LIGHTEN UP!

Later,

Adam

Adam Ellis is a Las Vegas based comedian.

How I Became a Paid Regular at The Comedy Store

Becoming a stand-up comedian regular at The Comedy Store was totally an unintentional accident.

It was 1981 and I was happy living the life of an early morning telemarketer selling a quarter a million a year gross of office supplies by calling businesses all across the country and offering the purchasing agent a free food processor if they only purchased 20 gross of overpriced ball point pens.  Yes, I was a conman.  But, “everyone was doing it!”.  No excuse, but I was a superstar at it; I’ll admit.  Had a very nice apartment, new Beemers every year, dinners at Mussos and Mr. Chow and trips to Hawaii and Aspen.  24 years old.  I also ran a weekly open mic for singer/songwriters at a now defunct health food restaurant called (wait for it), The Natural Fudge.  Interpret that brown steamy image at will.  You see, I was a singer/songwriter back then and the reason I became a singer/songwriter was that I had been a rock n roll drummer throughout both elementary and high school and after graduation the band broke up and everyone went to different universities. It was also because I was a great “Ringo” on the beat drummer, whereas the rest of the band’s musical taste permutated into progressive shit I not only didn’t understand, I hated.  Having a very good singing voice and having been in musicals since I was a child, well, I taught myself to play guitar.

The Natural Fudge

The Natural Fudge Cafe was located here at 5224 Fountain Ave in Hollywood.

Was a crazy kooky place.  Right in the middle of the Scientology belt in Hollywood and run by a character named John Roberts, who had a “Satchmo” type raspy voice, a nice veggie restaurant, and a Jew-fro, I booked the talent and hosted the show for the sizable stage riser and we had a regular heavy weekly turnout.  I wrote songs and one of them was about the commercialization of violence in America. A singalong. “The Homicide Song” was pure satire (not parody because it wasn’t mocking another song); a tongue in cheek bullet along the lines of Tom Lerher meets Randy Newman. One night, this songwriter who called me from Texas to reserve a spot, Mark Bloodworth, showed up and asked if I’d heard the news about John Lennon.  It wasn’t the first time when I felt a weird synchronicity with my creative instincts and the darker real world.

Comedian Bob Petrella is Walter Cronkite on the moon.

Mostly the performers were light-hearted, talented, and great people.  There was one guy – a comic, who came on stage wearing a snare drum.  He explained up front that if a joke worked, then we the audience would laugh.  If it didn’t, it would be art.  He’d tell a very dry joke, it predictably didn’t get a laugh.  He’d then “barrum-dum” on his snare, followed by: “That was art“, which was the planned laugh.  Genius and it was one of things which immediately hooked me into comedy early on.  Never saw him again, but we had regulars, including comedian/impressionist Bob Petrella.  Bob was a quiet fellow who did really inventive “mixed impressions” of like Walter Cronkite on the moon.   Bob and I became friends but then we lost touch for years until decades later he’s on national television revealing his true identity as one of the handful of humans on Planet Earth who possess “HSAM” or High Superior Autobiographical Memory.  You could ask Bob what he did on January 17, 1974 and he’d tell you he woke up late, made breakfast but there were no eggs in the fridge but he turned on the television and hear the news that Madison Square Garden officials announced that all tickets for the 12‐round heavyweight rematch of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier on Jan. 28 have been sold and that the Pittsburgh Steelers won against Greenbay by 2 points in overtime.

Shifting from Music to Comedy

My name immortalized on The Comedy Store wall of fame. Makes me a quote unquote “legend” with the young comics.

I was the host of the evening and really cut my teeth on how to produce a show.  I purposely balanced the night between music and comedians and poets and odd novelty acts.  And, I would always open the night by performing 2 or 3 of my own songs.  Including The Bluebird is Blue, the first song I ever wrote.  Before I ran the Fudge, I had done music gigs at the Troubadour, opening for a punk rock band called Kim Wilde, F. Scotts in Venice Beach and The Blah Blah Cafe on Ventura Boulevard, where Al Jarreau started and Rickie Lee Jones played for that matter.  I got these music gigs mostly by auditioning for the manager during the day, one on one.  Once they heard I could sing, they booked me.  It was then on me to bring 40 people to see me.  A musical version of the contemporary comedy bringer.  The night at the Blah Blah Cafe was a great turnout, but I noticed that a lot of people just tuned out and when I sang my songs, they just talked amongst themselves.  Which was doubly annoying because these were invited friends and family.   And so I had to do something.  When I finished the song, people would applaud, but that wasn’t enough.  I needed to throw them.

“Ladies and gentlemen; I’d like to play for you a song I just wrote this morning; I hope you like it.”

I would then, with all serious deliberation begin to play the beginning opening guitar riffs of Stairway to Heaven.  BOOM!  Laugh.  I then played it hard.

“Uh, I don’t know what’s so funny.”

I’d start again and would milk my seriousness for “my song” until I got to the lyrics, which were The Beatles’ Yesterday.  More laughs.  I’d then go back to my real songs and everyone would be talking again.

So, one night Bob Petrella and another comedian Buck Simmons, tells me I should go down to some place called “The Comedy Store” and audition to get in as a comedian.  If I passed the audition, the owner of the club, Mitzi, would give me spots.  Just a few years previous I worked the counter at Hollyway Cleaners in West Hollywood, where we’d remove spots and now five years later I’m hoping to get spots.  (I’m just trying to keep up folks.)

So, on a Monday in March of the year of our comedy lord 1981, I found myself on line (the old meaning; meaning standing behind and in front of others) and signed up to “do 3 minutes”.  When my name was called, all I could think about was when 5 years earlier I went up at The Store, pretending to be President Jimmy Carter and my dad in the crowd trying to help, when after my 30 seconds of material ran out, I said (as Carter): “Any questions?,” which got an unintentional surprising laugh.  My dad from the back of the room: “What’d you get Amy for Christmas?” I don’t remember what I said.  It was all a disaster and I didn’t even think about becoming a stand-up comic for another 5 years; but there I was,  waiting for my name to be called’ then it was time.  3 minutes.

27 Laughs in 4 Minutes

Comedy Pioneer Mitzi Shore

I brought two guitars on stage, told the audience I was really a songwriter and did my Stairway to Heaven bit, which they ate up.  Actually, my opening line was: “Thank you. I didn’t know this was ‘comedy’ night!” which immediately got everyone on my side because the 5 comics on before me sucked big weenie.   I went on with some material about the “Paul is dead” Beatles theory and how it was related to Opie on The Andy Griffith Show (a bit to this day I feel guilty about because one of my co-workers at the office supply deal, Eddie Serrotta, told me and I have no idea where he got it from), then my “expensive antique guitar” bit whereby I hold a cheap guitar and drop it while I look for a pick and then closed with me just playing one chord, getting the crowd to clap along and the eventual lyrics were: “I only know how to play one chord!”  The light came on about 3/4 of the way through, but I was just too into my thang and kept going.  4 minutes, 27 laughs, and I got the first big applause for my version of stand-up comedy.

Over the next five years, I would be one of the regular emcee’s, live at “the house” (which was behind the club and known as “Cresthill”) as well as write for other comedians and for a while, become a doorman and phone guy.

Me as a brand new happy Comedy Store Paid Regular. Photo: 1981

The host, comedian Robert Aguayo, told me to come back the next week and audition for Mitzi.  I did, she saw me and hired me on the spot.  I was immediately thrown into an incredibly intense world, was given upwards of 2 dozen paid spots a week (including the Sunset club, The Store in Westwood and The Store in La Jolla) and folks.  These spots were 15 minutes.  I only had 5 minutes of material.  And what would happen over that very tough first year would teach me one thing.   And that was this. To really make it, you have to rely on the one thing you do that nobody else does or does as well as you do.  For me that was my lightening quick interplay with the audience and laser like vanquishing of hecklers.  The only question remained.  How could I turn that into a successful comedy club act? Every comedian who made it out of the Store had a tight scripted 6 minutes.  Although I wrote and sold jokes to the likes of Jimmy Walker, Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall; it was like what uber talent agent Chris Albrecht at ICM would tell me: “Steven Alan Green.  You’re one of the funniest people I know, but you have no act.” Chris represented Eddie Murphy at the time and a new up and comer dynamic impressionist named Jim Carrey.  Chris would go onto run HBO, turning it into the comedy behemoth it became and there’s an entirely whole crazy story with him I’ll write about another time, when I’m drunk enough.

In the meantime, it would take me a long 5 years of experimentation, pissing people off, trying to fit in, and finally finding that one thing.  That one thing which would not only guide me, but open heretofore important locked hidden doors.  That one thing came to me all because I did what you were never supposed to do in showbiz.

I Quit.

To be continued.

For Larf Magazine…

…this is Steven Alan Green, July 17, 2018

KEEP LAUGHING OR BE MISERABLE

The Myth Council Handbook – A novel by Steven Alan Green / Chapter One: “Nigel Reemerges”

“A long time ago, I lived on a place called Earth. Earth was what they used to call ‘a planet,’ though to be perfectly frank, they didn’t ‘plan it’ very well, now did they….”

Professor Nigel P. Arrisson, Cryptocapitalist, Paranotnormalist and Theatre Critical for The London Fogg

The Myth Council Handbook – Chapter One: Nigel Reemerges

The darkest of darkest nothingness.

Cold beyond description. Void of the natural elements which make up fundamental life. Deep space and long and wide time have been and will be here, waiting and watching over us for countless more millennia.

The Milky Way.

A clouded dream of forgotten eons slowly swims into consciousness like a disabled octopus as we accelerate and descend into its sinewy complex tangled web of matter, gravitation, and light: the three basic elements contriving existence.

The Solar System.

An ancient association of planets and gaseous bodies eternally sailing around their worshiped god, the Sun.

Earth.

A dark blue orb seemingly both lost and at home lies within the ellipses and once again remains the question mark of the universe, crying out to its mommy like a lost child in the supermarket.

The atmosphere.

Intense cloud cover acts like an ominous shroud where great angels once stood; but now has all the natural appeal of an abandoned parking lot.

The North American Continent.

Against the relief of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the middle land bit of the Western Hemisphere stands like a naked Cherokee holding a flaming torch, posing for an awkward turn of the century carnival photographic selfie.

The American countryside.

Odd patchwork farmland comes to slow life as the sun creeps over the eastern curvature of the horizon, awakening the animals and beasts, while men, women and children dream in their most profound cycle.

Cemetery.

Freshly fallen snow blankets the neatly kept Belleview Cemetery, which lays quietly next to the Belleview Mortuary, a Victorian two-story with rickety windows and in desperate need of a paint job. A crow caws, an owl hoots, a window rattles as a secret wind makes its damming presence known.   In the midst of the eerie tranquility, the blackest of ravens, supremely guided by the moon’s watchful spotlight eye, descends from above, landing confidently on a tombstone.

Prof. Nigel P. Arrisson

Born a long long bleedin’ time ago; “died” March 24, 1939.

I mean, we’ll see.

The raven speaks and when it does, it’s not a raven’s voice at tall. No. It is the Victorian voice of an era way gone. An English chap, perhaps 50, perhaps ageless. And yet, the raven mouths the words perfectly, as they strangely come out and indeed sound human.   As evidenced as you can hear…

“My name is Nigel Arrisson and I am dead and here present today speaking to you through this bird. I perished on March 24, 1939 just outside of Dusseldorf in a horrific biplane accident. My head and torso were tossed on either side of the Hungarian Romanian border. I was too unconscious to remember much after that, other than the sweet angel Gabriel carrying my soul in an intertransdimentional rickshaw up towards the Heavenly Gate, when lo and behold, Beelzebub shot an arrow he nicked from Cupid, piercing our hot air balloon and down I fell straight into the Underworld.   It was a rough weekend to say the least and I decided from then on to pay a little closer attention to the details of existence.

On May 4, 3,256 B.C., it was a Tuesday I believe, I became employed as a junior auditor in training with The Myth Council, a 100,000 year old bureaucracy set up to monitor, tax and regulate myths worldwide. Every myth, from Cupid and the Devil to Lucky Number 7, but also modern myths such as weapons of mass destruction which led to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to Climate Deniers to those are Nicole Kidman’s real breasts and to the basic notion that the free market democratic society works on behalf of everybody; every single myth – no matter how big or small — is created and monitored and regulated and ultimately taxed. Myths are not something to be merely relegated to ancient and superstitious societies. No. Myths are more alive, more prevalent and more powerful these modern days than ever before. Take for example, the final United States presidential election.

The notion that this billionaire celebrity could lead and in fact inspire the rest of the world by embarrassing his own nation, was a myth created by the billionaire himself. This was unheard of, heretofore; not since Julius Caesar woke up from a drunken orgy proclaiming to be God, had a mortal ever attempted this sort of political tomfoolery. Trump’s presidential victory caused such a row within the halls of The Myth Council, one meeting got so out of hand between the “Reality Right” and the “Leftist Imaginationers”, they had to bring in Hercules as head of security. And, even then, the lug-head sided with the wrong side.

The myth business has something called “A balanced myth,” whereby two opposing myths rise up and sort of bump heads if you will, causing discord and turbulence. Kind of like Jesus and the Devil, luck and science, and of course, gluten free and bacon. Never before has the beacon of civilization been so challenged. For here were myth creators on both sides. On one hand, you have those who believe that the man who ultimately became the final president of America was placed in office by, not just the will of the people, but by, much like Caesar believed, God himself, who I can assure you, cares fuck all about politics. To God, politics is merely mortal man pretending to be God. Politics to God is Cosplay. I’ve gotten drunk with him; I should know. On the other side of the opinion coin, the radical ultra-left intellectual set postulate that America’s last president was simply illegally seated by the head of an enemy state. And, by enemy state; of course, I’m talking about rednecks.

But even the 2016 election was incomparable to what had nearly happened to, well, the universe itself as we know it.   Everything – and I do mean everything – was in various forms of control over the multiple millennia; that was a given. But, then, a very strange and totally unexpected thing occurred. Something so potentially devastating, it actually threatened the very existence of the sacred divide between reality and fantasy, which would certainly of course, implode every single atom ever created.   In fact (not to take credit for it) it was my warning paper on the ever growing fissure in the fabric of existence, which caused sudden consternation within The Myth Council, and rather than taking my warning seriously as they should and funding research in an effort to prevent total universal destruction (as you do) those powerful fools instead decided classify my research itself as a myth, stripped me of my longstanding membership in The Imagination Guild, banished me from the faculty of Valhalla University, as well as making me redundant as Para-not-normal Investigator at The London Fogg. I was forever doomed to babble my proven hypothesis to unknown quantities of lessor educated minds, shall we say, inside of a maximum security mental prision.”

The raven picks at its feathers then shakes and caws, then continues speaking as he strolls through the cemetery.

“Apparently, it was my paper on the secret code of the English language that truly got them upset. It was almost as if I was somehow unwittingly revealing knowledge of a very powerful secret they didn’t want let out into the general reality. My paper, “The English Language Decoded”, not only postulated, but indeed proved, that the English language is not only purposely numbers based, but if properly understood and then applied to the inert laws of existence, Mankind could achieve godlike status and unlimited power. And that meant that everyone’s jobs would be up for grabs; not just mortal men, but gods and goddesses as well. Spiritual temp agencies would find themselves in an economic boon.

The Myth Council was very powerful for multiple millennia. There were a lot of lives and careers and egos at stake. And my hat’s off to them, for it is a tough job to tax and regulate all myths in the world, but to do so efficiently and quietly for a hundred thousand years is really quite the feat to be admired. However, let’s face it. They were too powerful. You see, The Myth Council could in fact not just affect so-called “reality” on Earth and other nearby being-based planets, but indeed change it; and that’s something that someone deep within the council apparently didn’t want to happen for one simple reason. It would make them all redundant. Useless. Think on it. If suddenly there was – let’s say — an app, which allowed every citizen of the final century of The United States of America to automatically, simply and easily get not just food, housing, and transportation immediately for free and forever, but also everything from unlimited coffee to eternal youth and indeed downright superpowers. Well, there would be no need for myths and if there was no need for myths, well, there goes the need for an utterly useless irrelevant bureaucracy. I’m talking about congress, as well as The Myth Council of course.

My troubles started off as sort of a meaningless pastime for me, you know, spending hundreds of years in solitary at the Universal Home for the Criminally Insane and Good Looking got boring.   There’s only so many electroshocks one can truly enjoy before becoming addicted. And, so I doodled. I became obsessed with this notion that the very tool with which humans use to verbally communicate with one another was to them, unconsciously numeric and in fact secretly coded with the basics of the powers of the universe.   The idea, at first, was quite simple. Allow me to simplify this for you as much as immortally possible. So.   If I typed out the following sentence: ‘The red fox jumps over the fence,’ the human mind sees a picture.   A picture of a red fox jumping over a fence. Nothing too mysterious about that. However, if one assigns the proper numeric value to the letters, the words, the phrases, the sentence, it means something entirely different.   The word ‘the’ has a numerical value of zero. That’s because ultimately it’s a meaningless word. The modifier ‘red’ has a numerical value of 12,518 because red is such an emotional word and associated with things like fire trucks, bulls, blood, as well as early stages of syphilis. And, it’s not just words. Phrases have hidden numerical value as well. Full sentences, paragraphs, chapters, book titles, page numbers, punctuation and it goes on and on. Literally like the etymology of the ancient Hebrew language, but on steroids. When it’s all added up – literally added up – you end up with a specific sequenced number. For example, ‘The red fox jumps over the fence’ has a numerical value of 345,678.   And that’s because the use of a second ‘the’ in the same sentence is not a value, it’s an exponential multiplier. And, that sequenced number (345,678) corresponds to The Myth Council Handbook and Operations Guide – Master Edition. For on page 3,456, the seventh line down and eight letters and spaces in, lies the following sentence: ‘God exists but only in church’ and when combined with ‘The red fox jumps over the fence,’ you get: ‘The red fox jumps over God but only in a church with a fence.’ You see? Trust me; it’s important. Ahem… Naively thinking it was just an interesting theory based on a mind boggling mathematical coincidence (as well as an overindulgence of Absinthe) I never intentionally meant to present these wild unformed drunken ideas to the Myth Council. Never. It was accidental. Although, ironically, according to the council, there are no such things as accidents. There is only miscalculation.

You see, when I presented another paper entirely; my paper on the existence of a universal fissure between the parallel universes of reality and fantasy based on a newly discovered growing fault within the universal matrix, well, I had been down the prison pub the night before and my theory on the English language’s secret numerical code, frankly, had been written on a cocktail napkin, which unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, got stuck on the bottom of the stack of papers entitled ‘The Final Fissure’. So, when it came time the next morning to present my paper on the potential disaster relating to the complete unknown parallel universe as we know it, well, I was basically, how do you modern Americans say….oh yeah, ‘fucked without knowing it’. The Grand Master Myth himself was even there. The entire board dismissed me out of hand without explanation, without even hearing my theory, and the next thing I knew, I was stripped of my doctorate and thrown in mental prison for 700 years, where I had quite the long time to think about why they were so upset with me in the first place.   It took me literally 200 plus years, but one day whilst I was drying my washed socks on the steam radiator in my cell in Hades’ underworld, the penny dropped. I finally figured it out,.   The answer was simple. The Myth Council were afraid of something else I had written. It would take me another 100 years plus to finally figure out that it wasn’t my somewhat dire warning of universal destruction in my paper The Final Fissure, but indeed the smeared cocktail napkin containing their heretofore ultimate secret of how the average mortal sentient being could indeed take compete control over their own lives by simply understanding the hidden code of the English language. And, my socks dried magnificently, by the way.

You see, like most ancient bureaucracies, The Myth Council has a myth of its own.   A myth which circulates to this very day.   They believe – and remember, myths are 50% belief and 50% real, they believed that nobody would ever discover there even was a code, let alone crack it. The code, which by definition, was supposedly purposefully hidden in the text of the literal bible and operations manual they use every day at work, was their little joke amongst themselves. The Myth Council Handbook, edition 11, was published and issued to all agents some time just before the Middle Ages, hundreds of years before ‘the invention’ of the printing press.   (Another myth that things are invented.)   In the Handbook of Myth Council Beliefs and Operations, every single myth ever invented is listed, as well as its origin, symbolic meaning upon the society when it began, as well as its powers of creation and destruction. Through the understanding of myths, the council controlled everything from world economies to religion to global warming (the worst plague seen on Earth in over 500 years), as well as the enormous disparity of wealth between the One Percent and everyone fucking else. The Myth Council was and remains the single most powerful governing body in the world and yet, very few people even know of its existence. They don’t have a website.”

The raven flutters up to and alights on top another tombstone.

“Like any out of control bureaucracy, they were and are potentially very dangerous. And, when something so unexpected happened in the world as we know it happened, they just didn’t have a clue how to handle it.  And that thing that happened, happened simply because their system of accounting was flawed and they knew it. Mythical beings are created by the World of Fantasy and Religion Department on the 947th floor of Myth Council HQ in North London. Just up from that very nice new vegan restaurant on Rivington Street. Try their mango salsa. It’s lovely.

As many as one thousand years ago, I had warned the council that will-nilly retirement of myths, and modern myths in particular, could lead to some very serious consequences of epic and worldwide proportion. Then again, they never took anything I told them seriously.   Those fools never realized they were simply playing god. For it begs to conclude that if a myth can come to life, then all evidentiary reason and inductive logic leads to the probability that a myth can also die. And, if a myth, which came to life in fantasy, dies in the real world; well then, you can pretty much kiss your optimistic ass goodbye.”

The ground around the grave starts shaking, the bird is fluttering up and down, trying to keep calm. A great underground earthquake rumble is heard and felt and all of a sudden, dirt starts unearthing itself, steam shoots up in spirals, the entire cemetery turns a monotonic chartreuse, and like a Victorian actor on an old stage elevator, a man rises up and presents himself. First, we see a black silk top hat. Then the dirt covered face of one of the oddest characters to ever enter a library, or a morgue for that matter, late at night. He rises up further, revealing an antiquated black Edwardian tail-coat.   As the man’s spats reveal themselves, he appears to hold a black cane and a great white light from above, a spotlight from the heavens, beams and illuminates Professor Nigel P. Arrisson, Crypto-capitalist, Para-not-normalist and Theatre Critical for The London Fogg. He dusts himself off then extends his cane parallel to a grave. The raven flies and perches itself on the cane.

Ah, sweet bird of flight.   How I longed to be with you on the primal plane.”

Nigel suddenly and swiftly tilts his cane up towards the moon, the raven forced into his open mouth. He gulps, swallowing him whole.

Yum. I was famished!…So, now, my universal flock. Let us being our story of how a troubled American teenage girl finds out she’s really the entire key to the potential destruction of everything as we know it. Let us meet the mysterious one. Let us meet……”

Nigel opens his hands and arms like Jolson meets Jesus and addresses the reader dead on.

“The one and only Mary!”

He instantly vanishes into a flash of smoke and fire, leaving confused field mice to squeak around the bit of scorched earth where he once stood only moments ago.  On the outer reaches of the cemetery lies a lone tombstone, one which seems disenfranchised from the rest. As we inch towards it, the engraving becomes clear. And it is a sad shock:

 Santa Claus

Born: December 24, 1881 –

Died: December 25, 2019

Even though, it hasn’t happened yet and by all previous knowledge, might never happen at all.

END CHAPTER ONE

Image result for copyright symbol2018 Steven Alan Green for Larf Magazine

Chapter Two of The Myth Council Handbook