Monday, February 22, 2010

Hear, Hear Roger.

You may have noticed the paucity of blog posts lately. Sorry about that. Let’s Recap:

- Lost my temp job. Complained about it all weekend.
- Had my second show at the Creek and the Cave in Long Island City
- Got a new job selling office supplies.
- Had my first paid NYC comedy show.
- Shaved my beard.
- Started new job. Complained about it all weekend.
- Got Very Drunk, danced around bar in brand new suit. Spilled hot sauce all over jacket.
- Hung-over all day. Drank again. Passed out on 4 train.
- Had my best New York City afternoon on Sunday, complained about Monday all Sunday Night.
- Went back to work, spilled Vegetarian Chili on my crotch.

So I’ve been busy. Not that the schedule justifies writing less. I was busy last month, when I kept up a steady 2 post-per-week routine. (Also please note: blogs are forthcoming concerning the shows at the Creek and the Cave, and my paid gig in New Rochelle.) I’m just having a hard time keeping things in perspective.

What’s the expression? I can’t see the forest through the trees? That’s it. I still want nothing but to be a successful comedian, but I’m preoccupied dealing with other problems, such as how I’ve been uninsured since October or how I’ve mercilessly plowed through 75% of my savings in 4 months. I obsess over these things. I scour Craigslist job-postings rather than writing jokes. I shop for business-professional interview clothes rather than updating the blog. I go to bed early to rest up for the job rather than staying up late and hitting the mics.

I realize these are all part of a process. I have to do these things. If I don’t maintain a steady influx of cash, I can’t afford to live in New York and I can’t pursue stand-up comedy. This is very simple stuff here- I knew this was part of the deal. Still, I complain so much. I’m awful. I whine like a child on Christmas who opens a Sega Genesis when he wanted a Super Nintendo (reference courtesy of 1993.) And I fully expect everyone to sympathize; to realize my life is so hard because I have to hold down a day job like every other day-dreamer.

I bitched about blowing auditions, about losing a job that was clearly a temporary position, about getting a new one so quickly. All the self-pity made me lethargic and my ambition wallowed. Then I didn’t write. Not jokes, not blogs, not letters. It’s only been about 10 days but it feels like a fucking eternity. It really does.

Then yesterday night, hours after I should have been asleep, I stumbled upon an article online. It was from Esquire Magazine and it was about movie critic Roger Ebert. Do yourself a favor and check out this link:

Literally, do a favor for yourself. Read this.

Roger Ebert has always been one of my favorite writers. He managed – and still does – to walk the precarious line between serious film critic and populist champion; he found a way to be regarded by snobbish film purists and appreciated by the casual movie buff. In any artform, that’s impressive. I loved the way his reviews so often rambled off the deep end, like a lecture by that teacher in high school you could oh-so-easily get off track. He loved throwing in an anecdote, or a philosophical ramble, or a simple “this movie sucks!” Ebert always says “it’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it’s about it.” He says it over and over, sometimes qualifying it with “I often like to say…” but often just saying.

As it turns out, how Roger Ebert is about his life is with steadfast optimism. He has been battling cancer and its harrowing treatment since 2002. He’s been in an out of hospitals virtually ever since. In June 2006, he underwent surgery to remove cancerous tissue in his jaw, which resulted in part of his jaw being removed. Since that surgery, Roger hasn't a thing to eat, a thing to drink, or spoken a word. Almost four years, now. Doctors have taken parts of his shoulder and his legs, trying to reconstruct his jaw, but each attempt has failed. These surgeries have left the rest of his body physically ravaged, and he has trouble just sitting up long enough to watch a movie.

For a man who made his name talking about his opinions, there seems to be not one instance in writing of him complaining. Nothing. He became famous telling people their movies sucked, but has never used such a word to describe what has happened to him. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but that it’s truly amazing.

And he never stopped writing. He never stopped doing what he loved. Roger Ebert still reviews movies daily. He habitually updates his blog. He’s followed by thousands of people on Twitter, which he also updates obsessively. And take it from a lifetime Ebert Reader, his reviews are just as good as ever. Better maybe. Here is a man with remarkable perspective.

Makes me feel lazy, guilty. It’s an age-old trick to use other people’s misfortune to feel better, and I guess that’s what I’m doing. It’s wrong, but it always seems to work. I really need to stop complaining and just do.

In the photo for the Esquire Magazine, Roger Ebert is smiling. He doesn’t have a jaw, but look at that picture. He’s smiling. There’s more to a smile then just the teeth and the lips and the jaw. A smile is in your eyes, in the wrinkles on your forehead. It’s all over your face. Look at that picture. His smile is conscious decision.

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting.

- Roger Ebert

Hear, Hear.

1 comment:

  1. Damn man, I still wish you got Sonic 3.

    But a great excerpt of thoughts on Ebert, I actually never knew specifically what he was going through. Hearing that story just makes me lend even more respect not only for the ability of expressing an opinion without being abrasive, but also for his apparent view on life in general.