Grate Mynds Thinkk Alike!
By Max Burbank and John Saleeby
November 1, 2001
Max: Hi there, John, and how are you? I want to start by saying that while I have never met you or spoken to you on the phone, I've enjoyed your work at Acid Logic almost as much as I enjoy my own. You've got a certain free wheeling style that makes me think of this older gentleman I used to know who lived in the weeds behind a Seven Eleven out by the highway. If he'd, you know, written stuff down as opposed to moaning and cackling. Now, according to my research team, you wrote for the National Lampoon when you were just a teenager, and at a time when the magazine was moving out of it's golden age and beginning a long steady slide into the crapper. Without sounding bitter, would you say this was your fault? And are you the Pete Best of comedy writing? Oh, and where were you and what were you doing during this whole unpleasant terrorist thing? God, I almost forgot to ask that.
John: No, I am not the Pete Best of The National Lampoon. I am the Jon Moss of The National Lampoon. Just as Pete Best played the drums for The Beatles before they made it big, Jon Moss played the drums for The Clash before they made it big. Moss later went on to play the drums for Culture Club and become Boy George's gay lover, just as I am now the drummer for The Ghastly Futons and Flitty Floyd's . . . Wait a minute, I'm giving away too much of my private life here. And, no, it's not my fault that The National Lampoon went under. But it is my fault that George magazine went under. That's why I have been blacklisted from the aviation maintenance industry. Now I have got a question for you, Mister Max Burbank - You knock out so much stuff, how do you manage to get so much writing done when you have a wife and children and so much domestic responsibility? Admit it - You've got your poor wife and children writing all those nutty routines for you while you're sitting on your ass drinking beer and barking "Write! Write, dammit, WRITE! How am I ever gonna get a job in Hollywood and nail Kirsten Dunst with you lazy slobs sleeping two or three hours a day!?! Write!" Confess, you bastard. You should really read their stuff more closely, Max. Right there in the middle of your most recent I-Mockery.com piece - "Mister Mockery, Daddy has me chained to the hot water heater and won't let me eat anything until I finish writing this. Please notify the authorities." Crazy Crackers like Mister Mockery may just assume it's one of your nutty gags, but what if Barbra Striesand sees it? She'll get Hillary on your ass! Also - I know your comedy sketch group The Other White Meat has been playing The Circuit. Could you describe a typical evening's entertainment for those of us in the sticks?
Max: Well, John, you pose some interesting questions, by which I mean I assume we have a deadline on this piece which I take as seriously as I would any other thing that uses my time while in no way thickening my wallet. It's interesting that you should bring up my productivity, giving me a chance to make our alleged readers aware that my work can be seen here, at the aforementioned I-Mockery.com, Apeculture.com, Bullymag.com, and JustLaugh.net where I was recently awarded the coveted, albeit unknown, Weenie Award for Best Columnist and beating out syndicated columnist and all around rich guy Dave Barry. My wife also asks just how can I generate so much material and not get fired, since at home I don't write so much as plot out columns, by which I mean shriek at the kids about the severity of my current headache. I'll tell you both the secret of my productivity in three simple words: Plagiarism. There are a lot of unknown authors out there, and after five years of work on the computer I've pretty much mastered the Cut And Paste function. "The Other White Meat" was a Boston comedy group I was a Writer-Performer-Director with in the early nineties, and my favorite performing experience. We got together recently and did a reunion show in Boston and New York and had a great time, so we're doing it again in October ( Probably will have done it by the time this sees print ) and this time everyone who was ever in it will be on board. 'Back in the day' we were a very envelope pushing group, I don't think we ever did a show that didn't feature audience members storming out during intermission. Joyce Kulhawik, Boston arts critic, once said we would have been offensive if we weren't so downright stupid which made my wife cry. On that same night on her broadcast she totally ripped McCaully Culkin a new one for his performance in "The Nutcracker", saying he was wooden and wore too much lipstick. Joyce is The Nutcracker if you ask me. Now, back atcha with a no holds barred tough journalism type question - What kind of candy do you like best for Tricks Or Treats? And do you consider getting an apple to be insulting? Also, tell me about your day job.
John: Honestly, Max, I can't tell you what an honor it is to play Jessica Simpson to your Britney Spears. I don't have much of a sweet tooth now that I'm grown up. In fact, I ate so many sweets when I was a kid I don't have much of any kinda tooth. And apples aren't insulting - Apples are our shiney allies against international terrorism! But I grew up in New Orleans so when I went trick or treating, people who thought candy was bad for us gave out oysters for Halloween treats. Still in the shell, of course - This was in the suburbs, not the decadent French Quarter. "Day Job"? Day Jobs are BOURGEOIS! Real Rockabilly Rebels work nights while the squares are home in bed so we can go through their desks devouring their secret cache o'snacks and drawing pornographic cartoons on their paperwork. Night Shift - It's a wild wild subterranean scene where the hipster underworld of tomorrow is being created tonight on company time. Hold on, my Supervisor is coming! I work at a psychiatric hospital - All night long I walk around telling schiszophriendlyacs to get back in bed and then in the morning I walk around telling em to get outta bed. I was exaggerating there to make it sound about a hundred times more difficult than it is. As I write this I am in the Dayroom drinking coffee and watching a rerun of "Living Single", The Great Forgotten Sit Com Of The Nineteen Nineties. I am getting paid for this. So what do you do for a living, Mister Nosy Man? And what's it like being Comedy Dad? Are you like Rob Petrie? I don't have kids, but I love the little girl and her brother on that commercial where they say "Thank Goodness for Betty Crocker!" "Whoever that is." I also loved Kirsten Dunst's best friend in "Bring It On", but I think that was different. What are your kids doing for Halloween? Do they watch "City Guys" on NBC every Saturday? What a cool show!
Max: While the Dick Van Dyke show is my all time favorite sit com, the only degree to which I am like Rob Petrie is that I trip over the Divan whenever I come home, but I probably wouldn't if I ever paid the electric bill and laid off the sauce. I work at a Science Museum renting kits for Schools, Homeschoolers, afterschhool programs, prisons, rehabs, survivalists encampments and the few religious cults that don't have a 'thing' against 'science'. Comedy is unfortunately a 'hobby' for 'me' in that I never make 'money' from it. I used to support myself coaching stand up comedians in Boston in the eighties when everybody had money pouring out of their ass (in some clubs quite literally) but those days are as gone as the Charleston, elegant cigarette holders and civil behavior. My kids watch 'The Simpsons" and "Malcom in the Middle" when they are good. When they are bad I do the Clockwork Orange thing. Did you know there's cable channel that shows surgery? And I'm a Courtney Cox man myself. For Halloween my six and a half year old daughter is a Unicorn. My Bride was trying to think of something to dress up our baby as to accompany her, and I suggested a virgin, which struck me as a natural and almost certainly true, but she didn't laugh. I think that while I'm an acquired taste, if you stick around long enough I spoil and stink. Apparently, our Editor Mr. Wil "Lil Hitler" Forbis says this piece has to be done pretty soon. Our biographers are sure to point out the wealth of information denied them by bottom line behavior and so called 'deadlines' but its his magazine and if he wants it to be less than it could be far be it from me to say anything. So. To 'kick it ' into 'high gear' as the 'phat kidz' say; A great man once said, probably me right now, "Comedy is compensation" assuming this is true, just what are YOU compensating for, Mr. Saleeby?
John: "Comedy is compensation"? Like that old line about how they even told jokes in the compensation camps? You know why she puts a couple of tangerines in her sweater? Orange compensate. At'sa some joke, eh Boss? But it's time to stop being funny and start being like Steve Allen ( Or, now that Steve Allen is dead, Steve Martin ) - If comedy is compensation ( I think Cedric The Entertainer said that on the last Barbara Walters Oscar night special ) my nutty antics would be in compensation for the constant urge I have to knock the piss out of most of the people I come into contact with - Surprised, douchebags? If the comedy business had been just a wee bit less vermin infested ( Make that "a weee bit less". No, make it "a weeee but less". No . . . Well, you see the pattern. Just keep it going until you sound like Forbis when he heard that Elton John was coming to town. ) and I had stuck with it long enough to succeed I would have been a really pissed off comedian like Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, and ( Oh, watch this one, joke writing enthusiasts - the last one on the list will be something really silly! ) Melissa Etheridge as Willie Loman in the all lesbian musical production of "Death Of A Saleswhatever". If we've just absolutely got to go on with this serious comedy talk - Who's the funniest comedian these days? Who's the funniest comedian EVER? Who's the funniest character on the original "Bob Newhart Show"? Lenny is the funniest character on "The Simpsons", you know.
Max: Saleeby, you ask some damn tough questions. Funniest Comedian these days? I don't want to say, because what if it's someone you don't like and then you won't respect me anymore. No, honestly, I like different things different comics do. I'm a big fan of Amy Sedaris. Stephen Clobber. Donna Rumsfeld. I like anyone who fully commits to a role. I loved Phil Hartman, but lately he's not so funny. Best comedian ever? God, hands down. Then me. No, me, then God. Oh, and Ernie Kovacs. And Peter Sellars, John Cleese, Bill Murray, Alexi Sayles, the Marx Brothers, the Firesign Theater and the Kids in the Hall. Funniest Bob Newhart Character? Do you even need to ask. I'll beat the crap out of anyone who's answer is anything but Mr. Carlin. Unless they choose the "Bosom Buddies" guy that wasn't Tom Hanks. "Bosom Buddies" was a great show and is really up for critical reevaluation. I had a roommate who used to call it "Tit Chums". That's funny, especially if you're a thesauraphile. The funniest Simpson character is the baby with one eyebrow. I'm kidding, who knows how funny that character is when she's so tragically under used? Comic Book Guy. Know what else is funny? Sid and Marty Kroft. What Saturday Morning cartoon shows did you watch, John, and how have they shaped your adult life? And please, no stories involving Betty Rubble and Vaseline. There are kids reading this column. Well. Adult Children of Alcoholics really, but who's counting?
John: The best Saturday Morning Cartoon Show was "The Bugs Bunny - Road Runner Hour". That show was the best, Jerry - The BEST! But then the Road Runner OD'd in the Chateau Marmont in '82 and Bugs Bunny isn't funny anymore. God, remember that talk show of his on Fox in '94? And then Tweety Bird died of cancer after getting married to Gene Wilder and Yosemite Sam made that awful serious version of "The Razor's Edge". Okay, I'm sorry - I'll stop before I get to the part about Daffy Duck getting shot in the head by his blonde cokehead wife while he was asleep in bed. Uh oh. "The Jetsons" was a big favorite, too. Especially that kick ass instrumental finale to the theme song - Man, that thing rocks! Right after the lyrics " . . . Daughter Judy, Jane his wife!" you hear that little piano bit "Doo doo doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo", and then they just pull out the stops, Baby, Led Zeppelin never went as all out apeshit as whoever the hell it was they got playing at the end of "The Jetson's" theme song. Every Saturday morning they played that total punk rock anarchy erupted in TV rec rooms all over America - Cats getting pulled up on hind legs to become reluctant dance partners, bowls of Froot Loops getting spilled all over the floor, Dads bursting in all pissed off "Turn that damn TV down! And get that goddam cat outta the house! What is he eating? Froot Loops? Awwww . . . " That's why Dads just sat there watching "The Six Million Dollar Man" and not doing anything in the seventies while we were in our rooms getting high and blasting Led Zep in a futile attempt to recreate that "Jetsons" theme song - Froot Loop buzz - After all those Saturday mornings screaming at us to turn down those damn cartoons they were so happy to have the damn TV to themselves we coulda been in there sacrificing the goddam cat to the devil for all they cared. But why hasn't the future turned out to be anything like it was on "The Jetsons"? Cause we took so many drugs in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Like all those cool talking robots - Tthe guy who was supposed to invent em is a pizza delivery boy, the guy who was supposed to invent that gizmo that puts all your clothes on for you while you just stand there is a crackhead talking to a trash can on the corner of Broadway and One Hundred And First, and ( Here we go ) the guy who was supposed to invent all those zippy flying cars is The President Of The United States. TA DAAAAHH! What cartoons did you like when you were little? Do you have ideas for a new cartoon show? If you sell it will you give me a job? I pitched a sit com called "Gas Huffin' Teen Skanks" to CBS. If they go for it everybody in The Other White Meat can be on it.
Max: My memories of Saturday morning all revolve around the works of Sid and Marty Kroft. "The Bugaloos" (with Martha Ray), "Sigmund and the Sea Monster" (With Jody from 'family affair') "Lidsville" ( with Uta Hagen Protégé Charles Nelson Reilly) and of course, the father of them all "H.R. Puff n' Stuff". For those of you who've blocked out the memory, let me just sketch it out for you in all it's Freudian glory. A boy, played by the annoying little NAMBLA bait who played the Artful Dodger in the Musical "Oliver" and his magic, talking flute (obvious phallic anthropomorphism) end up somehow on 'Living Island', a bizarre other world populated almost entirely by folks in large foam rubber suits. Civic order is represented by Puff, a Dragon, although like his bastard step son Barney, his shape suggests the male organ more than anything else, who is supposedly the sheriff. He is by turns passive and incompetent, though well intentioned, an obvious Vietnam era commentary on our own government. Chaos and dramatic action are supplied by Witchypoo (played by the androgynous Billy Adams). Witchy wants the little boy's 'Flute' and will do anything to get it. You can only imagine the hilarity and sexual confusion this bizarre, hallucinatory half hour produced. Sid and Marty went on to produce Shazam, which taught us that justice can travel the country in a winebago in the form of an old man, a young boy and a buff, spandex cruise puppy played by a different actor every season; Isis, which taught us that even an eight year Jewish boy old boy can get to feeling 'funny' when confronted by a perfect set of Egyptian gams; The Sonny and Cher variety hour which taught us that Satan's power is awesome but temporal and the Barbara Mandrell show which taught us that Barbara Mandrell teamed up with a big foam rubber Barbara Mandrell puppet is more than twice as terrifying as just plain old Barbara Mandrell.
Well, John, old chum, I think we're just about out of time here. Why don't you bring it on home and mail it off to Mr. Forbis. Don't bother spell checking it, I haven't been paid in months.
John: Yeah, I remember Sid and Marty Kroft. When I was a kid I assumed they were brothers but now that I am a cynical adult who has heard way too many smutty Siegfried and Roy jokes I can't help but have suspicious notions. I remember "H.R. Puffenstuff" with disturbing clarity. My memory has no sense of priority - I have no idea when my Mother's birthday is but I will go to my grave knowing exactly which members of Monty Python, The Kids In The Hall, and The State were homosexuals. Blame it on all the punk rock records I've listened to. What's made Seattle famous has made a loser out of me. And now I've got that goddam Puffenstuff theme song stuck inside my head. Mon Dieu! I feel like Sharon Stone having an aneurysm. And as soon as I slip out of my panties I'll look like her in "Basic Instinct". Boy, did Max ever screw up leaving it up to me to wrap this thing up! Hey, I think I hear a song coming on . . . Beth, I know you're lonely, but I can't come home right now, Me and the boys are playing, but we just can't find the sound, just a few more hours and I'll be right home to you - ( I'm sorry, folks, but I've just got to cut this off before Saleeby can do his "Walter Cronkite Making Out With Yoko Ono" routine and ZZ Top Greatest Hits Medley - Wil Forbis )