Joel McHale Is Terrifying

Ok, not really. It’s not like he has tentacles or body spikes (at least not that I could see). But I was able to sort-of meet him at his local book signing, and, judging by my reaction, he’s a bloody alarming fellow. (This is ALL ME, folks. My weirdness. For the record, Joel really couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious and welcoming to the fans who came to the book signing.)

I do not do well with famous people. While my experiences have been limited, it generally involves me rehearsing in my head something to say, not saying it, and being completely out-of-the-moment.

A number of years ago, I went to see Eddie Izzard in concert. He is, and was, brilliant, and would come out after the show and meet and take a photo with anyone who wanted one. I was with some friends, and we were one of the first people in line, and I just knew that if I could just come up with a winning line, he’d instantly see how fabulous I was and we’d be best friends. Should I talk about his movie work? Previous comedy shows? Make a bon mot about the state of European politics? (Never mind that all of this would have to be accomplished in less than 90 seconds. Details!) “No” on all those points. When my big moment came, what did I spew forth?

“How do you stand in these high heel boots? My feet are killing me!”

My friend Patti shot me a look, asked him about Shakespeare, and we took the picture.

Went to a book signing last spring with Nick Offerman, from “Parks & Recreation.” (Well, not WITH him. He was the featured author. It’s not like we hung out beforehand and went to Build-A-Bear.) He spoke first in front of the group, then we lined up for autographs in our newly-purchased books. He and I actually know some people in common through the Chicago theater community, so I had an “in.” But all that came out at the crucial moment was some sort of incoherent sentence about being a fellow thespian.

Well, fuck me.

He grunted, signed the book, and said “Thank you for coming.” I moved along, feeling very dopey, until I realized he probably didn’t actually hear a word I said. I felt slightly better.

Last Wednesday, I spotted Dr. Ian Smith, celebrity diet doctor, at my local Whole Foods. He was there promoting his new line of healthy popcorn. Nobody had really discovered him in the store yet, so I sauntered over.

“Excuse me,” I said gently, “Are you Dr. Ian Smith?”

He smiled shyly and said, “Yes, I am.”

“What a thrill. I’m an admirer of yours, and I’ve read a few of your books.”

So far, so good, right?

“Well, this is my new popcorn, mentioned in the books…” he began.

All of a sudden, I felt like I was The Woman Who Wouldn’t Leave, and I panicked. Would he see the box holding the pizza slice in my cart? Did I have obvious wax buildup coming out of my ear? WAS I BLOCKING THE WAY OF SOMEONE MUCH MORE POPCORN-WORTHY?

“Ha Ha, Ok, BYE!”

I smiled, pushed my card forward, and got the hell outta Dodge. I did manage to put together a much more coherent Tweet about the encounter, which Dr. Ian was very kind to respond to. I also can’t believe there was food involved and I totally missed the opportunity.

So, yeah. McHale. He’s got a new book out, “Thanks For The Money.” It’s got a green cover and pages in it, as well as words and illustrations. So, book. He spoke to a crowd of about 200 at the Naperville Marriott, and everyone had a good time. Then, we lined up to get our books signed and a picture. I tried not to plan conversation in my head pre-encounter, because, as I’ve mentioned, it tends to go slightly on the diagonal. I was actually more concerned with my purse. More specifically, the size of my purse and it’s proportion to my hips. I’m kinda pushing maximum density these days with my weight (that’s a whole ‘nuther blog post. Or seven.) so I was literally standing in line in Ballroom B of the Marriott, holding my wallet-sized bag, thinking, “Purse on? Purse off? Hold it under my arm?” and wondering how much bigger the stupid thing would make my hips look.

Then, it was my turn. (PS I held the purse like a clutch.) Joel asked my name, and gave me a hug, which surprised the hell out of me, and was kind of awkward as I’ve never actually mastered hugging. (WHERE DO THE ARMS GO???) Then he asked where I was from, and what I did in said town.

“I’m a writer,” I responded.

So far, so good. And I’m not sweating much.

“What do you write?”

“I wrote a book of essays, and I recently finished a novel.”

“What’s it called?”

Wow, he’s listening? Cool.

“Girls Who Wear Glasses. It’s kind of a rom-com.”

“How’s it doing?”

“Well, I’m shopping it around. It’s being considered by an indie publishing house.”

This is when things took a turn.

I turned to the nice lady from the bookstore.

“So maybe I’ll be having a book signing, too!”

Shit.

“Just kidding!” I paused. “And I’ve taken classes at Second City!”

“You’ve gone up there to study?”

“I have…” It sounded more question than statement, as I hit the word “have” with just a little too much emphasis, then paused like I was going to add more but couldn’t quite manage.

Then it was time to pose for the picture. The sun was at just the wrong angle, so I had to awkwardly switch to his left side. He’s really quite handsome, more so in person, and I was very aware that my chin was blushing (yes, that’s a thing) and my purse felt even smaller in my hands, thereby widening my hips exponentially.

Click.

I knew I had to move on and let others have their turn. I turned and said, “I hope we get to work together professionally some day.”

“It’s will cost a lot of money,” he joked.

“Well, for you.” It was not the witticism I hoped for. I was going for dry wit; I think I landed in something snark-adjacent. My heart was pounding a little more than the situation probably called for.

Save it, save it, save it…

I looked up at him, smiled (I think) and said, “Thank you for doing this. I really enjoyed it.” I think he said “You’re welcome,” but I was pretty much checked out at that point.

Then I walked away. And let out a breath for the first time in about three minutes.

I do hope I figure this sort of thing out, because I’m getting to the point where I’m actually afraid of meeting another famous person. Like the next time I’ll just stand there holding my shoe in my hands or something. Or speak in some weird accent. It’s probably a lack of confidence in myself that causes all this, because I have dork episodes with “regular” people too. But with people I admire, it’s like I somehow want to stand out, to appear like I belong in some pseudo-rarified air. I think I want them to think, “I’d want to be friends with her,” and not, “Oh dear, she dropped her unusually small purse.”

Well, maybe next time. Unless I somehow run into Benedict Cumberbatch. In that case, all bets are off. I’d probably just stand there, humming.

And maybe he’d hum too. Stranger things, you know.

I’ve Got to Talk to Some Food About This

I’m not proud of the amount of pizza I just ate, but I’m pretty sure I can add it to my resume under “Additional Skills.”

Sunday I ate pretty much half my body weight in bacon. Apparently I’m training for the Bacolympics.

It has occurred to me that I may have some food issues. Moving on…

I’m doing well. And by “well” I mean I have only screamed twice at Donald Trump. When he was on the TV. We don’t hang out.

In fact, I’m going to give myself an award. I’ve nominated myself in several categories, and I like the odds. Awards I could win today:

“Didn’t punch anyone in the neck.”

“Ate only a slightly unreasonable amount of nachos.”

“Able to segue primal scream into chorus of ‘I Will Always Love You.'”

“Discovered I could fit under desk without measuring first.”

“Probably convinced liquor store guy I was actually having people over and not drinking in the dark with hand grasped tightly around abnormally large glass of Zinfandel.”

And to round out the completely random musings (yes, I just said “musings”) I have notes on sunflower seed butter, which I sort of accidentally bought today. Sunflower seed butter is disappointing. It’s like cheap wine or stale pizza: it gets the job done but for a little while your life has slightly less meaning and you start thinking that “Full House” reruns seem like a perfectly valid use of your time, then oh screw it youll just take a nap afterwards and hopefully won’t dream of Bob Saget. And you’ll start thinking that maybe you’ll read the “Twilight” books, or watch a Rob Schneider movie. The sky is a little less blue, the grass a little less green, and that stupid bird is ever so slightly out of tune.

Next time, I’ll buy almond butter. Life is for the living.

Commercial Fatigue

Just saw an ad that promised to remedy “fatigued skin.” What the hell is fatigued skin?

“Gee, Stan, I’d love to go out with you but my dermis is pooped ”

“I’m sorry I’m late. My skin overslept.”

“My skin is so fatigued. I need another cup of coffee…poured over my head.”

What’s next? Trite hair? Jejeune fingernails? Exasperated eyelashes?

On Loss…

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Joan Rivers. When I was younger, the only thing I wanted to be more than an actress was a stand-up comedian. Back then, there just weren’t very many females in the field, but leading that very small pack was Joan, busting balls and being as good (or better) than any of her male counterparts. Her work ethic was incredible, and she continued to be wickedly funny until the end. She was a huge influence on me and, although I never met her, I feel her loss acutely.

It’s been a sad three weeks, losing her along with Robin Williams, two icons of my personal comedy pantheon. I’ll keep working hard, Joan. I’ll try to keep writing the funny. I’ll try to make you proud.

Middle School Students and the Alternate Winter Dimension

In addition to my writing endeavors, I also teach middle school. I know. Pray for me.

Middle school students get weirder in the winter. Actually, they’re weird in the spring, summer and fall as well. Well, perhaps there is maybe one day in mid-March when they’re not completely nutters, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re permanent residents of some sort of pre-teen bizarro land.

My 6th period drama class. Kids are working on their puppet project. Suddenly, Jasmine* looks up and says, quite sincerely…

“Can we work outside?”

I’m thinking, “What — on the landscaping?”

Then I realize she means having class outside.

“No. It’s about 19 degrees outside!” I replied.

“It is???” The increased diameter of her eyes indicates her sincere surprise, despite the fact she probably trudged through the snow this morning on her trek to school.

“Uh, yeah.”

“So?”

I thought the mere mention of the temperature was enough. Apparently I had to be less subtle.

“It will be cold!” I said.

“We can put on jackets.”

While I couldn’t argue with her unassailable logic, I just didn’t think I could swing having drama class in the parking lot. And I’m still not entirely clear why she thought this would be a good thing.

Kids and the cold are an interesting combination. I see so many kids across the economic spectrum refusing to wear warm garments, choosing instead to walk around wearing hoodies, hunched over with fists jammed in their pockets. Some leave the aforementioned hoodies unzipped. Can’t be bothered with a coat. Yes, trembling vigorously with visible ice crystals forming in your overly-gelled hair is cool. By the time they walk into school, they all seem to resemble the Snow Miser, but at least HE was wearing a scarf.

(I’m not kidding about the overuse of gel products in my school. Those hair spikes are intense. When I walk down the hall, I fear for my safety. I’m considering goggles.)

A few weeks ago, after school, Susan (the art teacher) and I were doing our outside supervision duty, keeping the parking lot safe from the forces of evil, armed only with our teacher I.D. badges. There were a few 8th grade boys in the P.E. field, playing pick-up football. Not only were they not wearing jackets in 15 degree weather, one kid didn’t even have a shirt on. Susan looked at him and said, “Maybe it’s the ‘mom’ in me, but I really want to go over there and tell him to put on his shirt.”

So we did. And he did.

Walking back, she said, “I know he’s running around, so he’s not cold and all…”

I said, “Yeah, but his skin doesn’t know that. It’s still exposed, and could freeze.”

“True,” Susan said. “And I bet he’d be really surprised when his nipples fell off.”

“Yeah, he’d probably miss them. We could just have Mrs. Benson sew them back on,” I replied, “But really, how would he explain that one in gym class?”

This is what teachers talk about when forced to roam the parking lot unsupervised. Now you know.

*All names changed.