let me reverse engineer your bad ideas

by Mark Reiley

A World Without Robin


This is going to be a long one.

Today, for the first time in my life, I awoke to a world without Robin Williams. Before today, there was not a single day of my life where Robin had not been Robin, and had not been a part of me. Before today, a world without Robin Williams was inconceivable. It still seems that way. Robin’s death feels like a hallucination wrapped in a delusion wrapped in a bad dream. I know it is not, no matter how hard the yearning ache in my chest wishes it to be. Before yesterday, if I were to imagine a world without Robin Williams, it would have been an impossibility. Might as well imagine the Vatican without a Pope, or Slash without a top hat, or Donald Trump without the hair, I might say.

Here was a man so ubiquitous, so entrenched into the fabric of four decades of my life, it was easy to simply take him for granted. Year after year would pass by; there would be wars, calamities, natural disasters and tragedies, yet there would be Robin Williams on the sidelines hands clasped in front of his torso bellowing in a mock basso profundo about the absurdity of it all. “Don’t be afraid,” he would holler, and then jump to another part of the stage and explode into another joke. This was a given. This was expected. Generations enjoyed it, it was as traditional as a bouquet being thrown by the bride at her wedding. Now, it will happen no more.

One of my earliest memories is of sneaking an episode of Mork & Mindy. While goofing off in his backyard one afternoon, a neighborhood friend named Christopher fell off his deck into his yard.
"Shazbot!" he yelled, grabbing his skinned and bloody knee. "What did you say?" I asked, running and kneeling be his side as he writhed in the grass.
"Shazbot. Shazbot, shazbot, shazbot!" he screamed, still wincing. After he recovered seconds later—as preadolescent boys are apt to do—he explained it was a swear word he’d learned from a new show that was really, really funny called Mark & Mindy. (He used my name, which peaked my interest).
"You should watch it," he suggested. I nodded, knowing full well there was no possibility my parents, with their strict one-hour-a-day t.v. show policy for me, would let me watch something in prime-time. As luck would have it, my parents were gone the very next Thursday, and I convinced the baby sitter my parents let me watch the show "all the time." I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. With only one episode clattering around in my skull, I was hooked on Robin for life.
The next time I went to play at Christopher’s house, I greeted him within Ork handshake and a hearty “Nanu-Nanu.”

Perhaps at first it was the accidental kinship that drew me in; his character’s name was Mork, my name was Mark. I had a few nicknames growing up, and Mork ended up being one of them. At the time it was a harmless, offhand thing to do; people steeped in t.v. and popular culture often apply their favorite memes to everyday life. My name happened to be very similar—so once in awhile I got called the name. I wore the badge proudly. Even as child, I felt a natural affinity to Robin’s character—because of his name, because he acted like an overgrown kid, because he was goofy like me.

As I grew older, I realized that it wasn’t only the character I had developed a fondness for; it was the man. There are too many moments in my life where Robin popped up, both as entertainment and as inspiration. Each successive era of my life included Robin in one form or another. His comedy albums were paired with Bill Cosby’s; I would listen to them in the dark in my room, Robin and Bill dancing around on the stage of my imagination. Dead Poet’s Society was an epiphany for me; I imagined my own parents’ reaction to my desire to act, and reveled in the support I was certain Robin would provide me.

My experience with Robin’s acting would rebound and invert into itself. Thanks to the wondrous invention of VHS, I would rediscover the “serious” Robin, watching his performances in The World According to Garp, Seize the Day, and Moscow on the Hudson, all of them discovered with the help of those wannabe Quentin-Tarantinos-in-waiting who stocked the dark and dingy shelves of local video stores in the 80’s. I even watched a poorly taped copy of Live at the Met sometime around junior-high. There was a thick line of recording static saturating the bottom third of the picture, but the audio was fine, and I could see Robin well enough to relish the flop-sweat glistening on his forehead while I laughed and laughed at all of his riffs. Even the ones I didn’t get. I must have watched him run around that legendary stage dozens of times, until the tape itself gave way and broke.

Quick note: my friend and comedian Mike Black talked about his experience with Live at the Met and memories of Robin recently in a podcast. I recommend you check it out: http://stolendress.com/comedyonvinyl/wordpress/wordpress/episode-98-mike-black-robin-williams-night-met/

I have to pick and choose my own anecdotes. There are dozens over decades. Most of them would be meaningless to the general public, but are meaningful to me because they are deeply personal.

I got to second-base for the first time with Good Morning, Vietnam playing in the background of the living room on one of those giant 50-inch tube tv’s. One day in college I faked being sick, then stayed in my dorm room and watched five Robin Williams movies in a row. I sat and watched these movies and contemplated where my life was going, what I was doing, who I was becoming. This is a very specific memory of mine, and I cherish it. Robin helped me make some tough decisions that day.

Or when I recorded an Robin’s episode of Inside the Comedy Mind with Alan King from the old Comedy Channel (pre-Comedy Central), and coerced everyone and anyone I could to watch the tape in awe. It was as if I had found the Rosetta Stone of comedy, and wanted desperately to share its significance with others.

I would seek out minutiae about Robin. Pictures of his early years, stories about his wild days at the Comedy Store, rumors about his love life. Once I sought out an obscure radio show Robin had been on in the early 80’s. Rumor had it there was a recording of it floating around the inter-webs. Remember, this was the era of dial-up, when AOL was still king. By some miracle, I found the recording online and spent the entire afternoon downloading the file, then listening to it with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning. In the recording, Robin was talking to the DJ’s about Germans in a silly German accent, and in a throwaway pun declared he was “hooked on teutonics!” I didn’t know the term, and immediately looked it up. It was another revelation: Robin didn’t just make me laugh, he made me want to find out more about the world. I remember very specifically that warm feeling of anticipation and excitement grow in my stomach. Often while listening to Robin, I would take notes, so I could look up some of his historical, political, and current-event references later. That desire for raw knowledge was something that I thought had been kicked out of me in high school by a long series of burnt-out teachers. Suddenly, the sheer enthusiasm of Robin’s silly puns had blown the doors wide open for spontaneous edification. I never wanted to be left behind again. I wanted to “get” it all. I spent the rest of the day reading up on anything and everything, and is a trend that continues to this day. Through Robin I had rediscovered the joys of learning to learn, and it felt wonderful. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, Robin *made me want to be a better person.*

(I’m imagining Robin doing the quote in Jack’s voice).

Watching Robin perform on late night shows was another light-bulb moment. Here was a man who seemed to be able to say anything, do anything—the more outlandish the better—and not only get away with it, but be celebrated for it. He was being encouraged to do it! Robin was a verbal whirling dervish, and it was an exhilarating sight to behold. The jokes, the endless voices, the hilarious non-sequiturs, the manic energy, all shining through with a certain off-kilter sweetness, tenderness, and vulnerability absent in other performers of his era. There was nothing better than watching Robin bring Johnny Carson to silent convulsions with his oddball behavior.

Of course, I had no idea about what was happening behind the scenes. For the most part, we—as his collective lifetime audience—had no conception of the darkness that enveloped him. He was a performer for the ages, but after the show was over, after the appearance was through, we didn’t get to glimpse his sadness, his frustrations, his disappointments, his addictions, and his personal failures. Not that we should have been privy to any of it. It was none of our business. However, my deepest Aladdin’s Genie wish is that he could have trusted someone to *make* it his or her business, to help him through his illness. Robin had imperfections of the same strains that affect all of us. Though he rarely let the public see them, it is now apparent he had miseries we couldn’t possibly imagine.

The public Robin always seemed to be gliding effortlessly along the surface, like an impressively skipped pebble—skimming and bouncing over the skin of the water, never never going deeper, never penetrating underneath the meniscus, never plunging into the bottomless depths under the surface, but always skipping, skipping, skipping across the ripples and waves of life. The cinematic Robin was a bit more personal. Sometimes, just sometimes—not often, and mostly through his dramatic work—we got to peak into that darkness. When he lifted the veil, he exposed us to a morose, soulful, beautiful side of his personality. The rarity of those moments made them all the more compelling.

We see comedy icons like Robin as untouchable, as rock gods, as ineffable and indefatigable. They are not. Despite his effervescent mind, his formidable abilities, his incalculable wit, he was dealing with all the same inadequacies, weaknesses, and imperfections that make us all human. Robin was superhuman? No, he was extremely human.

He was also the ultimate people-person. By all accounts, he was warm, sweet and cared deeply about people, whether family, friend, or stranger. These stories aren’t the normal gaggle of rubber-necking fawners and ego-strokers who come out of the woodwork when a celebrity dies. The inexhaustible list of admirers dates back years; story after story of Robin helping to push a stranger’s broken down car, Robin helping with a lady’s groceries, Robin listening—really listening—to a person telling her sad story and offering consolation, Robin giving not just his money but his time to charities, Robin treating cast and crew with love and respect on the set. And entertaining. Oh, the entertaining. Using his gifts to brighten the day of the one person in the room, not for the benefit of an audience, but for the benefit of that one person. These aren’t stories I’m hearing now after his passing, these were all stories I’ve heard again and again over years and years.

I deeply regret never being able to meet Robin and shake his hand. To tell him how much he meant to me. I am fully aware I would have been just another in a long line of awestruck fans pushing and prodding and preening for a chance for a moment with Robin. But this understanding doesn’t lessen my regret. It is a gut-wrenching feeling, this regret. I don’t want to feel it for anyone else in my life ever again. Robin’s abrupt end makes me want to reach out to everyone in my life who I might be struggling with depression, addiction, or other troubles in their lives and tell them I’m here for them. Because I am. I want to be. If each of us can let go of our egos and overcome our vulnerabilities, each of us can help each other. I can’t imagine the isolation, desperation and despair Robin was feeling. It must have been infinitely painful, and my heart aches to know he was silently suffering. My heart aches to know there are people in my life who are silently struggling with the same thing right now. I hope I can do my part to help. If you are reading this, and you are struggling, call me, email me, talk to me. I’ll listen. Maybe I’ll crack a few jokes here and there, but I’ll listen!

Beyond his four decades of spontaneous joy and love and laughter and inspiration, for me this is Robin’s legacy: being there for others. If you suspect a loved one in your life is troubled, talk to them, tell them you care. For this is what Robin did for others, if he couldn’t do it for himself. He was there for us. Having lived, he made us laugh, he made us cry, he made us feel more human and more alive. For a man as supremely talented at mending other’s hearts, it is a tragedy he was not able to mend his own. Yet in the end, his life is not a tragedy, for every clip, every movie, every show, every bit, every joke, every pun, every impression, every flight of fancy, every life he touched, every laugh he coaxed will echo on forever when we relive the memories.

I was mistaken. Today is not the first day of a world without Robin. Because he lived, the world will always have him.

Thank you, Robin.

Can’t stop smiling as this slightly smelly elderly gentleman in a mustang cap and fatigues rants and raves through his crumpled newspaper about the news of the day to his beleaguered, scraggly-faced wife. Here are a few highlights that came out of his mouth: 

* Hamburgers make him “fart like a freight train.” 
* Marshmallows are highly overrated as a snack. 
* We should kill “that Korean sonuvabitch” Kim Jong Un before it’s too late. 
* The cable cars in San Francisco are to be avoided because they are prone to accidents. 
* He would absolutely vote for Hillary Clinton because she “knows her stuff.” 
* Comedian Paul Rodriguez is really funny, “much better than that Cheech and Chong.” 
* There’s nothing of interest in the Kohl’s advertisement. 

Wise words from a wise sage, 
even if his mustache looks like a dead ferret doing the splits over his mouth.

Oh great, Ron Weasley has been using my laptop again.

Oh great, Ron Weasley has been using my laptop again.

Chris Christie Denies Responsibility for Denver Broncos Loss

(East Rutherford, NJ) Embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie has denied any culpability in the latest scandal to hit his state- the complete inability of the Denver Broncos to put points on the board.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with the traffic jam at the line of scrimmage that caused Peyton Manning to be held to only eight points in four quarters,” said a defiant Christie.

Christie went on to claim that neither he nor his staff colluded with the Seattle Seahawks defense to cause the total lack of forward movement by the Broncos for the entire four hours of the Super Bowl. “It was all their own doing, I was at White Castle the entire time,” said Christie.

In related news, Denver sports fans claim their state has gone to pot.

2014 Viral Videos: A Guesstimate

A projected list of online videos I imagine will become viral sensations in 2014 (arranged by number of hits):

  • Collection of hilarious Vines from a drunk and naked Henry Kissinger. (2 million hits)

  • Baby laughs at sunglasses placed on a dog’s butt. (4.5 million hits)

  • Heinekin commercial where Jim Belushi breastfeeds a wolverine. (6.3 million hits)

  • Scandalous video of Selena Gomez sniffing coke off Jack Nicholson’s ass. (8.4 million hits)

  • William Shatner and George Takai in a sexy, homoerotic Star Trek parody entitled “Bones.” (9.2 million hits)

  • Circle K surveillance footage of Jimmy Fallon murdering a hobo in cold blood. (12.8 million hits)

  • Inspiring footage of 3-year old Burmese breakdancing prodigy gettin’ down at a Pinkberry to the song “I Touch Myself.” (13.6 million hits)

  • Jimmy Kimmel’s hidden-video gag “Grandmas Lapdancing at Costco.” (22.9 million hits)

  • Bon Iver twerks a visibly aroused Justin Bieber at Coachella. (33.4 million hits)

  • Debut music video from the German comedy duo Sveltercocken entitled “Humping in Clown Shoes.” (78.5 million hits)

  • The Mary-Kate Olsen/Oliver Sarkozy sex tape. (105 million hits)

  • A super cute kitten and a super cute puppy licking each other’s super cute crotches. (190 million hits)

  • Baby elephant farts on a monkey. (236.2 million hits)

Additionally, there will be video compilations of various people doing their versions of the following online crazes:

  • The Slicknick: Running up to a bald man, licking the top of his head, running away.

  • Wumpernaut: Large groups of people synchronize smash bananas on their foreheads at different locations.

  • The Billingsley Jigglefest: Everyone does a silly dance to Skrillex while wearing Ralphie’s pink bunny outfit from “A Christmas Story.”

  • Dwerping: Headbutting someone’s ass while they’re twerking. 

  • Splanking: Being spanked by a fat guy while suspending oneself across two dwarves.

Current Event-Themed Halloween Costume Ideas

Need your opinion:

Here are my ideas for a current event-themed Halloween costume. Because doing a current event mashup/pun based outfit is always a great idea, right? It never backfires or exposes the wearer as a fiend, prick, jerk, or generally awful human being. And so far as I can tell, none of these are in bad taste in the slightest:

* 50 Shades of Gay. Dressed in an outfit made up of 50 greyscale pictures of prominent gay celebrities.

* Drone Bomb. Drone wired above from hat, dropping copies of After Earth on my head.

* Edward Snowden Cullen. Sexy vampire whistleblower sucking up secrets of the NSA.

* Miley Cyrus the Virus. A twerking version of John Malkovich’s character from the movie Con Air.

* Wikileaks. Julian Assange white wig, t-shirt that says “Classified Intelligence”, and a novelty size faucet protruding from my crotch rigged to gush liquid whenever you turn the knob.

* Zombie Paula Deen. “Deen of the Dead” - Chubby zombie in kitchen apron, smeared in cake batter; staggers around moaning the N-word.

* George ZimmerManslaughter. Use your imagination.

Which one should I go as this year? I’m a grown adult who still dresses up for a children’s holiday. I can’t wait!

Apple Unveils Cheaper Versions of Other Products

Along with the announcement of the iPhone 5C, a less expensive version of the iconic iPhone, Apple also announced reduced-priced, affordable versions of some of their other well-known products that may or may not make the corpse of Steve Jobs roll his eyes and sigh from the grave:

Apple TV Lite. Identical to the original Apple TV, except it will only play episodes of 2 Broke Girls. Can only be powered by the tears of the impoverished Chinese workers who manufactured it. $79

iMac N’ Cheese. An iMac with a base carved entirely out of Manchego cheese, with a quad core 3.4 GHz i7 Ricotta processor, and 1TB SSFD (solid state feta drive). $1099

iPod Bad Touch. A limited version of the classic 16GB mp3 player and portable computing device rewired to warn you when a Catholic priest is within a 50 yard radius. The 3.7V 800mAh Li-ion Polymer battery can be recharged via reciting 10 Hail Marys and/or 5 Our Fathers. $189

Macbook Airhead: An old 1989 Macintosh Portable taken out to the back lawn of Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, sloppily spray-painted silver, and sold at a price point $200 cheaper to fans of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. $799

GarageBand - Midlife Crisis. Geared towards Baby Boomers who are just now waking up to the fact that their dreams have been crushed by divorce, a soul-sucking job, and two mortgages, this pared down version of the original GarageBand software will help any delusional middle-aged asshole realize their dream of making shitty music using canned samples just like the children who hate their guts. Comes preloaded with samples of the same three chords you played to impress Sheila at that party in 1973, the cowbell sound from Blue Oyster Cult, and twenty-four variable clips of a grown man sobbing quietly to himself. $49

iPod Nanu Nanu. The same lightweight, portable mp3 player with a 2.5-inch (diagonal) multi-touch display and built-in fm radio you’ve grown to love through the years, only sewn completely from the luscious body hair of Robin Williams. $119

iPad Mini Mini. A miniature version of the popular mini version of the iPad, it looks, acts, and performs exactly like an iPhone in every, way, shape, form and manner. But it’s not an iPhone, we swear. Just trust us, it’s totally different. You can take your three iPads, your two iPhones, your iPad Mini, and shove them up your ass and still have room for the iPad Mini Mini- so buy one, you dipshit. $239

Commonly Used English Words American’s May Not Know

Here are some English words commonly used in Britain that Americans may not know: 

* Knobblits: The tiny hairs on a woman’s third nipple. 
* Scramp: An orphan used for fuel. 
* Thatchering: Sucking the soul out of a dog through a straw.
* Gildenshire: A mythical land of milk and scrotums
* Tinklybins: Magical treats found hidden inside a fat man’s belly button.

Republicans Accuse Hurricane of Liberal Bias

English: Hurricane Isaac

Republican leaders are up in arms over the impending onslaught of Hurricane Isaac, accusing the Category 1 storm of liberal bias.

“It’s obvious where the political loyalties of this hurricane lie,” said GOP spokesman Sean Spicer. “Isaac knows what he’s doing. He didn’t choose to blow through Occupy Wall Street, did he? What more proof do you need?”

The effect of the storm’s liberal bias has already been felt by supporters of the Republican National Convention, as organizers were forced to cancel the first day’s slate of speakers. “It’s going to be a challenge,” said South Carolina delegate Charlotte Higgins, “But I’m confident we’ll be able to cram four days worth of woman-hating and immigrant bashing into three.”

Conservative commentators and bloggers have critized Hurricane Isaac for the well-worn liberal tactic of allowing the government to be used to actually help Americans during a time of crisis. They also point to Isaac’s close relationship with his sister Katrina, who has a well-documented history of trying to make Republicans look incompetent.

Traditionally, religious conservatives like Pat Robertson have claimed hurricanes were God’s punishment for liberal transgressions. But Hurricane Isaac seems to have turned the tables. “I just don’t understand why God set His vengeance upon us, when no more than half of the Republican delegation are closeted gays,” said Robertson.

One Romney advisor said he feared Isaac’s far left-wing antics would ensure news coverage was about efforts to evacuate and rescue Americans instead of more pressing issues, like giving millionaires tax cuts. ”Some latte-sipping, socialist hurricane thinks it can come down here to Florida and kill a bunch of old retirees?,” said the advisor. “I don’t think so. That’s what Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is for.”

In other weather news, New Jersey governor Chris Christie tried to body surf during his convention speech, causing a minor earthquake that measured 3.4 on the Richter scale.

Hate is Enough: The Westboro Baptist Church Reality Show

Shirley Phelps-Roper

Wednesdays at 9/8 C on TLC.

It’s the all-American family you love to hate! Our friends at the Westboro Baptist Church are having another tumultuous and exciting year full of intrigue, controversy,  flag-burning and fag-hating. Tune in weekly to see your favorite family members fight, squabble, protest and hate themselves towards a prime seat next to the right hand of God in heaven.  It’s an all new season of adventures of Fred Phelps and his righteous clan of Abominators! Watch every Wednesday at 9 p.m. eastern as these Christian soldiers put the Big in Bigot.

It’s the WBC, only on TLC!

Season 2 Synopses

Episode 1: “Spellcheck For the Lord.” Due to a scheduling snafu, Fred has to decide between protesting Representative Barney Frank’s dinner party the funeral for Marvin Hamlish. Back at home, Shirley scolds her grandchildren for several spelling mishaps during their poster party, and has to decide what to do with a bunch of signs that say “God Hates Nags.”

Episode 2: “Glory, Glory Hole-lelujah.” The Phelps crew heads to Arlington Cemetery to protest God’s hatred of America for its tolerance of the homosexual agenda. After the family stops at 7-11 for Super Big Gulps of Mountain Dew: Code Red, it’s a race to the finish line. Will the family be able to hold in their pee long enough to urinate on the graves of soldiers, or be forced to use the facilities at a rest stop notorious for gay hookups?

Episode 3: “Hail Mary, Full of Rape.” When Timothy chooses a player that went to Notre Dame for his fantasy football team, the family must decide whether celebrate his success in the league or condemn him for supporting pedophile rapists. Margie walks in on her husband Brent in the middle of a hot and heavy hate-session with her sister Shirley. Will Margie forgive her husband for hating fags with another woman?

Episode 4: “I’m Qaeda In Love With You.” Rachel brings home her new boyfriend and the family embarrasses her by condemning him to hell for having frosted tips. Betty gets into an online flame war with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri over who hates America the most, and their shared revulsion secretly blossoms into a torrid internet love affair. The family cat goes missing.

Episode 5: “Guess Who’s Hating to Dinner?” Jonathon and Paulette hold a dinner party that goes terribly awry when one of the surprise guests turns out to be Richard Simmons. Margie deals with the realities of menopause by blaming the Jews. The family gets surprising resistance from their float proposal for the local Gay Pride parade, and a family member gets excommunicated from the church after a Lady Gaga CD is found under his bed. Richard Simmons guest stars.

Episode 6: “Fire and the Brimstones.” With funds drying up, Fred Sr. hatches a scheme to fund more protests of soldier funerals by getting his grandkids to perform on America’s Got Talent. The band practices variations on Beatles songs including “All You Need is Hate”, “A Gay in the Life” and “Hey Jew”. Tensions mount and tempers flare as the competition nears. Shirley gets into a heated backstage argument with judge Howie Mandel, until they find common ground in their mutual love for Gotye. Special appearance by Burt Bacharach.

Episode 7: “God Hates Pugs.” Do all dogs go to heaven, or do some go to hell? Shirley brings home a new addition to the Phelps family, a cute little pug named Kikey. At first the family is enamored with the sweet pup, until they notice the gender of the legs Kikey likes to hump. A butt-sniffing mishap with Fred Jr. is the last straw, and a family meeting is convened to decide poor Kikey’s fate. Meanwhile, the kids hatch a scheme to retrieve a lost frisbee from their neighbor’s backyard.

Episode 8: “Letting Out the Bible Belt.”  Time again for the annual Phelps Family Burn-In-Hell Barbecue, members reveling in the chance to place their meat in between some hot buns. But plans for the cookout get thrown into chaos when, in the middle of the festivities, one family member comes out as vegan. Betty’s increasingly desperate attempts to lose weight before next weekend’s WBC protest of the Holocaust Memorial ends in a re-creation of the pea soup scene from The Exorcist.

Episode 9: “Fifty Shades of Gay.” Shirley is concerned about the dedication of some of the WBC members to the cause, and holds a “hatervention” to confront Timothy and Rebekah’s alleged lack of passion at recent protests. Rachel becomes jealous of Elizabeth’s book deal, ending in a saucy cat fight in the church sanctuary. The grandkids raise funds for future protests by selling tasty beverages on the street corner at their “haterade” stand.

Episode 10: “Standoff at the O-KKK Corral.” Shirley and Margie have a Twitter flame war over whether a recent deadly tsunami that resulted in the deaths of thousands was God’s retribution for America’s acceptance of Mormonism or for the renewal of Glee for a 4th season. Fred Sr. gets beaten up by both the New Black Panther Party and the KKK at a protest of the Captain America movie. In the meantime, Rachel searches far and wide for the most flammable American flag.


Previous episodes available for streaming. Or but the DVD of Season 1, and burn a copy for your friends before they burn in hell!