As the self-proclaimed, “life of the party,” I face a lot of pressure to top myself.
“Last time, you danced around with a lampshade on your head, what are you gonna do this time, Eric?” My friends will ask.
My answer is to usually wear TWO lampshades on my head. It works, but eventually, you get so many up there that they start tipping over and falling on people, knocking over their drinks.
This is what I call “going too far.”
So, in my quest to walk the line between “madcap hilarity” and “getting kicked out of my friend’s son’s bris,” I have increasingly found myself pushing things further and further.
Life is a lot like lampshades. And to some people, six lampshades are funny, while seven are not. But other people like 8 or 9 lampshades. Or 4.
Every once in a while, you get the guy who will stop you and say, “Hey, that lampshade doesn’t belong on your head, it was designed to go on that lamp. It’s way too bright in here.”
The only way to ensure nobody gets pissed off is to leave the lampshade where it is and tell people, “that’s OK, I’m just gonna sit here and play with your cat while everyone else has fun in this dark room.”
Sure, people are disappointed. They’ll try and talk you out of it, but this is when you have to remain steadfast in your resolution.
Nobody has a great time, but nobody has an awful time. Everything is kinda neutral. Some fun is had, not a lot, but enough. Then everyone goes home at 10:30 and nobody gets a hangover.
For a long time, I would say, “to hell with that! I’m drinking paint thinner!” And then I would. A lot of people would have a great time. A few people would have an awful time and end up getting sued by their landlord for damages I caused when I threw the propane tank in the pool and it cracked the bottom so badly that they had to drain the whole thing and resurface it at a cost of nearly ten thousand dollars and then lied and said it was the retarded kid next door.
But I didn’t care about that.
I thought I had some higher calling. I owed it to the people there, or myself or John Belushi and “the ghosts of comedy past” or something stupid like that.
A few years ago, I drafted a letter towards the end of March, informing my friends and loved ones that I was “quitting Hollywood.”
It wasn’t that hard to make it sound realistic, I just inserted all the genuine fears and doubts I had about my being here and wrote it as if they had informed my decision.
Here is the real letter:
I’m quitting hollywood 😦
That’s right folks, I’ve had it. With everything going
on in the world, I can no longer pretend like any of
this matters. It’s time for me to go home. I can say
the usual “well I’m gonna go back for a few months,
make some money and come back with a new attittude,
ready to tackle the world” but we both know that
probably won’t happen. Thanks to everyone who’s helped
me along on my journey, I will never forget you and I
promise to keep in touch. To those of you trying to
make it, don’t be disheartened by my example. If you
believe in yourself, truly believe in yourself, you
can do it. Maybe one day I will find that belief.
I’ll be keeping this email address so you can keep in
touch with me this way, and I’ll probably have my cell
phone through the end of the month but I’ll be out of
my apartment by the fifteenth of april.
Take care everybody and wish me luck, because I wish
you all the best in whatever you do.
The morning of April 1st, I sent it out and sat back in my chair, laughing my ass off.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Indifference? Congratulations? People begging me to stay?
Then what? I would throw it in their face that I had lied?
Good one, me.
I was thrown for a loop, when instead, I received thoughtful, heartfelt sentiment, sometimes from people I didn’t even know that well.
“Sounds like you have made your decsion, and if that is the case you know what is best for you and I wish you luck, but you have an uncanny sense of comedy I could only wish for. And I mean that, Eric.”
“Wow, this was a shocker, but if you are really out of here, good luck. You will be missed.”
“Wow, Eric. That really bums me out. I’m really glad to have met you and I hope you continue to write and act – I think you have a lot of talent.”
“I hope you do come back someday because you are a very talented and funny guy.”
“Wow. How very sad. We are losing a great writer and a lovely man. Not that you’re dead or anything but you will be missed.”
“are u serious! u cant quit. only quitters quit. why is everyone trying to quit everything all of sudden dont make a mistake. u already started you might as well finish.” (OK, well not that one, so much)
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!!! THIS BETTER BE A JOKE??? WHO AM I GOING TO WRITE WITH. ERIC YOU ARE SO TALENTED THIS EMAIL MADE ME CRY AND I SWEAR I REALLY HOPE YOU ARE JOKING!!!”
“Are you going to keep writing? I really think you have a great deal to offer the world as a writer, and your dark sense of humor is really great”
This kinda floored me. All these people really seemed affected by my leaving. I sure felt like a dick.
The worst was this one guy. Again, someone I didn’t know that well, who wrote me this really long email. It was very personal and sincere. He spoke about his own life and how you sometimes don’t know what the important, memorable occasions really are while you’re going through them. It’s only later, upon reflection, that you can see the bigger picture.
He said everyone out here in Hollywood was driven by a desire to have their story be told. It was actually quite poetic.
“You faced that challenge… most people in this world don’t have the courage to even try. You did much more than try. I am proud to know you and expect to get a lot of feedback from your twisted perspective on all future projects.”
Now I had to go and try to pick up the pieces of my shattered friendships as I told all these people that I had been yanking their chain.
Some were just relieved I was actually staying, but most were pissed. As they should have been.
The last guy, the one with the long, poignant email, I never heard from him again.
I’m tempted to go back and re-write some of that “life of the party” stuff at the beginning, in case anybody thinks I’m just kidding about this.
I swear that this is a true story. I really sent that email on April Fool’s Day, 2003 and I really got those messages in response. Direct quotes.
I guess the point is, everybody likes to laugh. Most pranks are funny. Just watch out, because when peoples’ real feelings are involved, it’s easy to go too far. Often, you don’t even realize it.
I thought this was a harmless prank and I lost actual friendships over it. It wasn’t even that funny.
OK, maybe the point is, you should only pull a mean prank on people if you know the joke is really funny? But isn’t the lesson here that you don’t really know if a prank is gonna be funny until it’s over? I mean, I thought this would be funny. Plus, you don’t really know it’s mean either, sometimes.
On second thought, I’m looking over these emails people sent me and I think the point is actually that I am a really talented writer. Probably one of the best ever.
These aren’t all just no-talent schlubs. I’m not gonna drop any names, but I know some famous people and they are well-represented here.
If famous people would get this upset, I must be really good.
And if I’m that good, then non-famous people really have no right to be pissed off.
In fact, they should be honored to have the privilege of being showered with the urine of my talent, if only for this brief moment in time.
You’re not gonna talk to me anymore? Well guess what, pal? I’m not gonna talk to you!
I don’t need you! I don’t need anybody! I’m a great writer, those people even said so! And all I had to do to get them to say it was to pretend I was moving away!
I had a front page story on Digg! I was in a commercial! I’m a fucking success!
OK, you know what? The world doesn’t deserve someone as great and talented as me. I’m officially quitting Hollywood.
For reals, this time. Seriously.
[UPDATE: If you don’t believe me, you can check my registration information at godaddy.com. I’ve dumped all my domains and this blog should probably go offline in the next few days or so. Smell ya later.]