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Wed, Jun 01


A BIT DIS-REMEMBERED

@ 12:04 PM

"What are you doing in the kitchen at 3am in the morning, Alice"

Well, I remembered it differently. Proust bit into a madeline dipped in tea (or something very much like a madeline - isn't there some dispute as to the actual cookie?) and, upon tasting it, remembered a lifetime. I remembered two sad people eating mass-produced snack cookies and closed a gulf of nearly three decades in my memory. And Proust had better dick jokes.

There's a bit on Feelin' Kinda Patton, my first album called "Stella d'Oro Breakfast Treats." It wasn't intended for the album. It was a bit that, by the time I was ready to record, I'd been doing way too long. Along with the bits "Tom Carvel" and "The Magic of Oil Painting" (which I'd done on my first 1/2 hour special for HBO) I really had no right to be doing anymore. They were reliable closers, yes, but having the three-ply security of a trio of no-miss closing bits was preventing me from moving forward into different and, now that I look back on those bits' bombast and crassness, better material. Those bits were an enticing invitation to repetition and laziness.

So I put them onto the album. As bonus tracks - three "bonus closers". I figured, once I'd put them on an album, and the album got released, I couldn't in good conscience do them in front of a paying audience. There's nothing sadder than seeing a comedian do that - and there's a lot of comedians I respect who'll nevertheless rip off their audience, reciting decades-stale bits. Sad. And I didn't want that to happen to me. Put it on a album, do it in a special - it's gone. I was engineering a forced march forward into novelty and invention. It was scary to do but, ultimately, it worked. I've just recorded my fourth album, and burned away another hour of what had become equally reliable (and, I think, more mature and deeper) material. We'll see what comes next.

The "Stella d'Oro Breakfast Treats" but, like "Tom Carvel" and "The Magic of Oil Painting", was inspired by my memory of things I'd seen on television growing up. There's a link to the Stella d'Oro commercial at the bottom of the page. Scroll down and check it out if you'd like. I'll still be here when you're done.

Okay, so at the time I wrote the bit, I hadn't seen the commercial in more than a decade. I'd searched for it on YouTube. YouTube, in 2003, had taken its first baby steps towards uploading every single thing ever filmed. Eight years later, as I write this, they're about .0000001% further into this task.

So I relied on my memory to write the bit. Just like I did with the Tom Carvel and Magic of Oil Painting bits. But those routines were more about the general impression that ice cream impresario Tom Carvel and painting teacher William Alexander left a viewer with. I did not even attempt to do faithful impressions or recitations of a local Carvel ad or an episode of Alexander's show. I took their essence, as I remember it, and spun off into flights of speculative fancy - in Carvel's case, his holiday-themed opportunism taken to grim extremes; in Alexander's case, wondering if his generic, forgettable, land and seascapes expressed a twisted, agonized artists' soul.

But it was different in the case of Stella d'Oro. I wanted to express how the commercial had burned itself, molecule by molecule, into my memory. Luckily, this is a commercial that, in the rhythms of its dialogue (it has a similar cadence to a Lou Reed song, now that I watch it again) did just that. Watching it again, it's made me re-think, even more profoundly, just how many books, CDs, DVDs I need to own. Maybe, I'm thinking, none.

Because, except for a few minor variations, I really did memorize this commercial word for word. I remembered 'George' the husband's, entrance line as an aggressive, "What are you doin'?", and not the vaguely accusatory, "What are you doing in the kitchen at 3am in the morning, Alice?" It's that extra, unnecessary phrase, "...in the morning," which is George's grumbling, whiney reminder that Alice has woken him the fuck up. And note how this threat has no effect on Alice except to stop her taking a bite of the breakfast treat. Then George repeats his threat/complaint in his second line, when he says, "Breakfast isnt for another four hours." Why the fuck are you robbing me of half a night's sleep, you bitch?

In fact, neither George or Alice never actually eat a breakfast treat in the commercial. George takes what seems to be a single, squirrel-like bite, but then brings the treat away from his mouth to show he hasn't even made a scratch in its toasty surface. And the last word in the commercial (which would make the aliens in They Live proud, in its proto-lizard brain command tone) is, "Eat", which Alice pointedly does not do once she hisses the word.

And look how cosmically pissed Alice is, having to explain anything to this lump she's married to. George is pragmatic to the point of having a hedgehog's logic - "What's the difference?", as if anything with the word "breakfast" must therefore be eaten in the morning. Imagine George listening to The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated." "It don't sound too 'sedate' to me," he'd intone, while Alice rolls her eyes. Alice has the faded witchiness of a 60's love child gone to resigned, exhausted seed - she probably met George at a barbeque her sister dragged her to and decided to settle. I mean, look at the wallpaper behind her head - faded, sagging, misshapen stars. The 60's Summer of Love rotted into earth tones and suburban ennui. What's behind George? A featureless field of piss-yellow beige. That's what his lovemaking must feel like to Alice, I bet.

But man, did I remember the tone of this perfectly. The resentment, the defeatism ("Not bad" says George, upon tasting the breakfast treat - and that's the best thing anyone in the commercial says about the fruits of Stella d'Oro's industrial ovens). The gloomy kitchen - I keep expecting a gut-stabbed Harry Roat, Jr. to lunge out of the darkness and sink a kitchen knife into Alice's head. The "greasy comb-over." Alice's housecoat, the mildewy quality to George's shapeless robe. The exact intonation and landi"What are you doing in the kitchen at 3am in the morning, Alice"

Well, I remembered it differently. Proust bit into a madeline dipped in tea (or something very much like a madeline - isn't there some dispute as to the actual cookie?) and, upon tasting it, remembered a lifetime. I remembered two sad people eating mass-produced snack cookies and closed a gulf of nearly three decades in my memory. And Proust had better dick jokes.

There's a bit on Feelin' Kinda Patton, my first album called "Stella d'Oro Breakfast Treats." It wasn't intended for the album. It was a bit that, by the time I was ready to record, I'd been doing way too long. Along with the bits "Tom Carvel" and "The Magic of Oil Painting" (which I'd done on my first 1/2 hour special for HBO) I really had no right to be doing anymore. They were reliable closers, yes, but having the three-ply security of a trio of no-miss closing bits was preventing me from moving forward into different and, now that I look back on those bits' bombast and crassness, better material. Those bits were an enticing invitation to repetition and laziness.

So I put them onto the album. As bonus tracks - three "bonus closers". I figured, once I'd put them on an album, and the album got released, I couldn't in good conscience do them in front of a paying audience. There's nothing sadder than seeing a comedian do that - and there's a lot of comedians I respect who'll nevertheless rip off their audience, reciting decades-stale bits. Sad. And I didn't want that to happen to me. Put it on a album, do it in a special - it's gone. I was engineering a forced march forward into novelty and invention. It was scary to do but, ultimately, it worked. I've just recorded my fourth album, and burned away another hour of what had become equally reliable (and, I think, more mature and deeper) material. We'll see what comes next.

The "Stella d'Oro Breakfast Treats" but, like "Tom Carvel" and "The Magic of Oil Painting", was inspired by my memory of things I'd seen on television growing up. There's a link to the Stella d'Oro commercial at the bottom of the page. Scroll down and check it out if you'd like. I'll still be here when you're done.

Okay, so at the time I wrote the bit, I hadn't seen the commercial in more than a decade. I'd searched for it on YouTube. YouTube, in 2003, had taken its first baby steps towards uploading every single thing ever filmed. Eight years later, as I write this, they're about .0000001% further into this task.

So I relied on my memory to write the bit. Just like I did with the Tom Carvel and Magic of Oil Painting bits. But those routines were more about the general impression that ice cream impresario Tom Carvel and painting teacher William Alexander left a viewer with. I did not even attempt to do faithful impressions or recitations of a local Carvel ad or an episode of Alexander's show. I took their essence, as I remember it, and spun off into flights of speculative fancy - in Carvel's case, his holiday-themed opportunism taken to grim extremes; in Alexander's case, wondering if his generic, forgettable, land and seascapes expressed a twisted, agonized artists' soul.

But it was different in the case of Stella d'Oro. I wanted to express how the commercial had burned itself, molecule by molecule, into my memory. Luckily, this is a commercial that, in the rhythms of its dialogue (it has a similar cadence to a Lou Reed song, now that I watch it again) did just that. Watching it again, it's made me re-think, even more profoundly, just how many books, CDs, DVDs I need to own. Maybe, I'm thinking, none.

Because, except for a few minor variations, I really did memorize this commercial word for word. I remembered 'George' the husband's, entrance line as an aggressive, "What are you doin'?", and not the vaguely accusatory, "What are you doing in the kitchen at 3am in the morning, Alice?" It's that extra, unnecessary phrase, "...in the morning," which is George's grumbling, whiney reminder that Alice has woken him the fuck up. And note how this threat has no effect on Alice except to stop her taking a bite of the breakfast treat. Then George repeats his threat/complaint in his second line, when he says, "Breakfast isn't for another four hours." Why the fuck are you robbing me of half a night's sleep, you bitch?

In fact, neither George or Alice never actually eat a breakfast treat in the commercial. George takes what seems to be a single, squirrel-like bite, but then brings the treat away from his mouth to show he hasn't even made a scratch in its toasty surface. And the last word in the commercial (which would make the aliens in They Live proud, in its proto-lizard brain command tone) is, "Eat", which Alice pointedly does not do once she hisses the word.

And look how cosmically pissed Alice is, having to explain anything to this lump she's married to. George is pragmatic to the point of having a hedgehog's logic - "What's the difference?", as if anything with the word "breakfast" must therefore be eaten in the morning. Imagine George listening to The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated." "It don't sound too 'sedate' to me," he'd intone, while Alice rolls her eyes. Alice has the faded witchiness of a 60's love child gone to resigned, exhausted seed - she probably met George at a barbeque her sister dragged her to and decided to settle. I mean, look at the wallpaper behind her head - faded, sagging, misshapen stars. The 60's Summer of Love rotted into earth tones and suburban ennui. What's behind George? A featureless field of piss-yellow beige. That's what his lovemaking must feel like to Alice, I bet.

But man, did I remember the tone of this perfectly. The resentment, the defeatism ("Not bad" says George, upon tasting the breakfast treat - and that's the best thing anyone in the commercial says about the fruits of Stella d'Oro's industrial ovens). The gloomy kitchen - I keep expecting a gut-stabbed Harry Roat, Jr. to lunge out of the darkness and sink a kitchen knife into Alice's head. The "greasy comb-over." Alice's housecoat, the mildewy quality to George's shapeless robe. The exact intonation and landing of George's line, "If you could eat 'em anytime, why do dey call 'em 'breakfast treats'?" Think about that final line for a second. George just saw how his if then/go to lack of imagination winds Alice up, so now he's deliberately re-asking a question he already knows the answer to just to ruin her moment of solitude in their tacky suburban kitchen.

***

Which brings me to memory and ownership.

I own too many things. I got rid of all my CDs and DVDs years ago. As far as music goes, I burned the CDs I loved onto my iTunes, pick up new songs and albums here and there as my circle of music-savvy friends recommend. I was never obsessive when it came to music, and I was never going to get around to listening to the every CD when my collection was massive, anyway. Same thing for DVDs - and once BlueRay came around, that was it for me. I'd re-purchased, as DVDs, every movie I owned on VHS. I wasn't going to do it again for BlueRay. And, with the cable package I have now, and with all of these streaming movie and TV channels, pretty soon anything I ever think I might want to watch, for any reason and at anytime, will hang over my head like glimmering, digital lighting bugs, easily captured in whatever "jar" - iPhone, flat screen TV or laptop - I happen to be holding, or standing near. Matt Fraction, at the end of every issue of his superlative comic book series Casanova, writes the same the same four words: "Stop downloading. Start uploading."

Yes. Yes yes yes.

But the books! The books, everywhere! Yes, they "furnish a room", and there are certain ones I really do intend to re-read someday, when I'm older and know I'll experience them differently (everyone should be required to read Huck Finn at 9, 21, 40 and then 60). But how many will I really remember, will I quote day to day in my head, will affect me as much as when I first heard Satie's "Gnossienses: No. 1 - Lent", or saw Tuco assembling his supergun in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (a metaphor I've re-used for so many doubtful moments in my life), or read Cormac McCarthy's description of the massed Apache near the beginning of Blood Meridien ("death hilarious") or when I first saw this fucking commercial for cheap cookies?

If anything, the Stella d'Oro commercial, and my subsequent bit about it (which I didn't even begin to assemble, in my head, until nearly three decades after I saw it) is telling me to own less and experience more. Or read slower. Streamline possessions but deepen by tread upon the path? Cut out the fat?

Wait - holy shit. What's it say, in tiny letters in the product shot at the end of the commercial? "Made without butterfat." That's what this commercial's been trying to tell me all along. Cut out the butterfat. I'm not sure what butterfat is. But I'm sure, like the fat-free, carb-free, sugar-busting and gluten-free diet fats, it was crucial to a guaranteed happy life. I mean, look how healthy these two are.

Cut out the butterfat. Message received, Stella d'Oro.



Stella D'oro Breakfast Treats bit from Feelin' Kinda Patton ng of George's line, "If you could eat 'em anytime, why do dey call 'em 'breakfast treats'?" Think about that final line for a second. George just saw how his if then/go to lack of imagination winds Alice up, so now he's deliberately re-asking a question he already knows the answer to just to ruin her moment of solitude in their tacky suburban kitchen.

***

Which brings me to memory and ownership.

I own too many things. I got rid of all my CDs and DVDs years ago. As far as music goes, I burned the CDs I loved onto my iTunes, pick up new songs and albums here and there as my circle of music-savvy friends recommend. I was never obsessive when it came to music, and I was never going to get around to listening to the every CD when my collection was massive, anyway. Same thing for DVDs - and once BlueRay came around, that was it for me. I'd re-purchased, as DVDs, every movie I owned on VHS. I wasn't going to do it again for BlueRay. And, with the cable package I have now, and with all of these streaming movie and TV channels, pretty soon anything I ever think I might want to watch, for any reason and at anytime, will hang over my head like glimmering, digital lighting bugs, easily captured in whatever "jar" - iPhone, flat screen TV or laptop - I happen to be holding, or standing near. Matt Fraction, at the end of every issue of his superlative comic book series Casanova, writes the same the same four words: "Stop downloading. Start uploading."

Yes. Yes yes yes.

But the books! The books, everywhere! Yes, they "furnish a room", and there are certain ones I really do intend to re-read someday, when I'm older and know I'll experience them differently (everyone should be required to read Huck Finn at 9, 21, 40 and then 60). But how many will I really remember, will I quote day to day in my head, will affect me as much as when I first heard Satie's "Gnossienses: No. 1 - Lent", or saw Tuco assembling his supergun in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (a metaphor I've re-used for so many doubtful moments in my life), or read Cormac McCarthy's description of the massed Apache near the beginning of Blood Meridien ("death hilarious") or when I first saw this fucking commercial for cheap cookies?

If anything, the Stella d'Oro commercial, and my subsequent bit about it (which I didn't even begin to assemble, in my head, until nearly three decades after I saw it) is telling me to own less and experience more. Or read slower. Streamline possessions but deepen by tread upon the path? Cut out the fat?

Wait - holy shit. What's it say, in tiny letters in the product shot at the end of the commercial? "Made without butterfat." That's what this commercial's been trying to tell me all along. Cut out the butterfat. I'm not sure what butterfat is. But I'm sure, like the fat-free, carb-free, sugar-busting and gluten-free diet fats, it was crucial to a guaranteed happy life. I mean, look how healthy these two are.

Cut out the butterfat. Message received, Stella d'Oro.



Stella D'oro Breakfast Treats bit from Feelin' Kinda Patton


 
 
   
   
   
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