Sunday, December 11, 2011

OPF (Original Pompous Fan)

Bill Hicks famously said: You do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever.

When I was a young lad, green and pretentious, I seconded that notion. I thought: How dare Pete Townsend sell his songs for use in commercials?

Now that I’m older, I see that it is not so simple. Making money from music is a very rare thing (and getting rarer by the hour). Ever notice how few musicians DON’T have stories of embarrassment and disgrace? Ever wonder why so few bands are able to wear that stamp of so-called “integrity?”

When you’re one of those precious few like Springsteen who crashed the 1% party by selling albums and going on tour, you can pick your spots and “keep it real.” You can say no to commercials, no to scene-ruining cameos in movies, no to inhumane duets with younger, hipper acts. But remember, the Springsteen elite is a very tiny elite. Even lots of popular acts don’t get rich from their music due to unprofitable deals with their managers and labels.

Those acts that aren’t part of that precious elite have to find other ways to make money. The fact that you’ve chosen to be “an artist” doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your bills. Your landlord doesn’t care about your legacy.

This leaves you with two choices:

1) Try to make a living by touring long after your voice and body has given out, leaving your fans with the memory of the rickety, expired version of you trying to make some coin by flailing through the hits.

2) License your song for a Land Rover commercial.

At least when you let your songs become jingles, you’re not disappointing your fans in a direct, visceral way by subjecting them to a live show that could be mistaken for an open casket wake. Selling your songs for commercials is a much more passive (and dignified) way to disappoint.

Some might say: why don’t they just get a job like the rest of us? C’mon, you know better than that. What kind of job do you suddenly get when you stop being a full-time punk bassist at 38? What special skills do you list on your resume? Faking a British accent? Drilling Frankenstein Monster knobs into your neck? People with real resumes can’t even get jobs these days. I doubt prospective employers are going to be excited about your second stage blowout at Lollapalooza ‘97.

Next time you’re ready to mount your high horse about bands embarrassing themselves with commercials, THINK OF ALL THE EMBARRASSING THINGS YOU DO FOR MONEY IN YOUR JOB. Is selling a song to Suburu any worse than watching an HR sensitivity video and taking a multiple choice test about it afterwards? Is it worse than fetching coffee for a guy who misquotes Office Space without realizing it is about him?

You’re telling me you wouldn’t appear as a chipper chirping chicken in a KFC ad if it meant never having to see your boss again? Of course you would. Pete Townsend doesn’t even have to play a chicken. All he has to do to rake in the cash is let “Happy Jack” play while some thespian bites on a burger in a Jack in the Box ad. If you can’t understand why he might say yes to that…I CAN’T EXPLAIN it you…(yuck, yuck, yuck).

P.S. It probably isn’t a coincidence that the black and white, NO COMMERCIALS MAN! rant usually comes from young people. Young people usually don’t have grown-up bills. They usually don’t have kids. They usually don’t have mortgages (or even rent payments). They usually don’t have a body that cries out for pricey medical attention. When you’re 23, your only medical bill is that once every three years dentist appointment you make to get your girlfriend to shut up. It is easy to be pretentious about the tug-of-war between art and money when your problems fit in an Altoids box.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Heckled by a Prostitute

Once upon a time I was in Amsterdam, and like any sane man, I found my way to the Red Light District. Any guy who sneers at the Red Light District is a disingenuous sack of novelty dog plop (not even good enough to be the real thing). Even the ones who go there "for a laugh" are clearly being titillated in some way. It's not like they're just there to see another canal.

The Red Light District is a legal sex buffet where a bunch of attractive, half naked chicks stand around waiting to service you. Don't pretend that's not exciting. Next these guys will be telling us they go to Bourbon Street for the hush puppies...

So I journeyed to the RLD, but was undecided about what I was going to do. Of course I wanted to partake, but wasn't sure I could actually go through with it. Also, being a comedian, I identify with prostitutes. An open mic is only a hair away from open legs. Hookers should be asking me how I got trapped in that life.

As soon as I made my first turn down the Red Light, I was given the hard sell by a woman who looked like a slutty Famke Janssen (Bond Girl from Goldeneye). She was all smiles, and as I walked by, she opened the glass door they stand behind and said, "F*ck and suck. 50 euros. All the positions. I f*ck you good."

Much more appealing than the pitches I get from credit card companies.

I desperately wanted to accept, but sadly, couldn't muster the courage. I even tried giving myself a pep talk, which I should have known wouldn't work. If you're about to punch someone, you can always psych yourself up by shadowboxing. But when you're standing in the middle of the road shadowjerking, it typically doesn't end well.

I continued to browse the scene, but didn't find any girls as sexy as the one who cold called me. In fact, I probably passed her seven or eight times while making the rounds.

Two doors down from the Bond Girl (the doors are very close together) was a glamorous looking chick who was tall, dark, and handsome. Hot, but about three inches too tall for my indefensibly diminutive frame. She rapped her window at me a few times, but never said anything.

That is until I made maybe my eighth trip past. Mind you, I hadn't even made eye contact with her since my first glance, so I was quite shocked to hear a sultry, exotic voice say, "Hey, I ask you question."

I turned around and the woman shouted: "You. Come here!"

I am used to hot chicks aggressively soliciting me for sex, but they usually aren't already in their underwear. The Too Tall Chick continued:

Her: I ask you, why you walk by every two minutes? (It wasn't THAT frequently, but yeah, fair question)

Me: I'm a tourist.

Her: But I show you something.

Me: No, I don't think so.

Her: But I show you something.

Me: (Dying to say yes) No, sorry.

Her: But I show you something. (Hopefully where to find my manhood, which had obviously gone missing)

Me: No, just looking.

Her: Then go on back to your hotel, man! If you're tired, go back to your hotel!

As she said that, the slutty Famke Janssen who first approached me banged on her glass and yelled, "Yeah, go back to your hotel!"

And with that, they both threw their heads back in laughter.

Inexplicably, I still couldn't find the strength to have sex with them.

Even more inexplicably, I couldn't find the strength to throw myself in the canal.

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