April 27, 2009 16:09This Hour Has 22 Blow Jobs
"This is great," I said. "I can't wait to get home to Montreal and tell my wife. Although she's probably already read all about it on Twitter."
A chuckle from the audience. So far so good. My name had just been announced moments earlier as the winner of the 2009 Writers Guild of Canada award for animation writing and now I was standing on a podium in front of a packed room of film and television industry people. For those in the back, my image was being projected on a screen off to one side. Half a dozen lights were shining directly in my face, so bright I couldn't see a single person in front of me. I felt like I was being grilled in a 1953 police interrogation room.
"Just don't tell her about the blow job," I added.
I hate public speaking, but I like awards and accolades enough to subject myself to the risk of having to make a speech from time to time. There was an open bar at the awards, but I didn't want to get sloshed in case I won. No use slurring my acceptance. To steady my nerves, I had allowed myself one glass of wine. And a blow job from Geri Hall of This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
In all honesty, the blow job just added to the stress of the whole situation. I had to get it up on the podium in front of everybody. And I had performance anxiety. It was my first one.
"When I was a little kid sitting in front of the television watching Bugs Bunny blow up Elmer Fudd for the ten millionth time," I continued, "I never imaged I'd grow up and write cartoons for a living. If someone had told me that back then, I would have thought it was a pretty cool way to waste my adulthood."
I knew what I had wanted to say beforehand. Now that I was up there, I was saying the words, but I was having an out-of-body experience and couldn't tell for sure if I was saying them in the correct order. People seemed to be laughing in the right spots, so I kept going.
"Unfortunately you're not really allowed to blow up cartoon characters anymore because it might encourage children to behave irresponsibly with their own stashes of dynamite."
Another laugh. At least from those listening. The back half of the room had been nattering away amongst themselves since the awards began, talking shop and forgetting all about why they were supposed to be there. A few suggested etiquette calls of, "Shut the fuck up!" from one member of the audience failed to take hold for more than a few minutes at a time. We pressed on regardless.
Oh right. The blow job. You want to hear more about the blow job, don't you? It's a drink. A shot of Bailey's and Kahlua topped with whipped cream. The whipped cream tends to leave you with a white glob on your upper lip, thus the name. Ah, whimsical alcoholic beverages and your wacky monikers! What would drunks laugh about without you? Geri Hall had opened the show by announcing she was going to give all the winners a blow job. As in the drink. Har har. Get it? You need a room packed to the rafters with unionized writers to come up with material this golden.
To my horror, I realized she wasn't kidding. As each winner arrived on stage, they were served a freshly poured blow job that they were required (under threat of public disgrace and mockery) to gulp down in one shot. When one winner attempted to sip his, he was boisterously booed.
Fun fact: I had never done a shot before in my life. The assumption at the show was, quite naturally, that all writers are alcoholics and will therefore happily accept a free shot of anything. However I had always been a teetotaler until my two trips to Dublin on business. A few years on and I'm still just a junior alcoholic. Although the Irish had insisted on teaching me to drink in trial-by-fire manner, I had managed to avoid the slippery nipple shots (whimsical! wacky!) one producer so enjoyed ordering for guests.
Much as I dreaded making a speech, I dreaded taking my first shot under the sharp scrutiny of so many hundreds of seasoned twelve-step wash-outs. I looked down at the brown beverage with the white creamy head and had no idea what I was about to drink. Making a mental note to Google the ingredients later, I cupped my mouth around the lip of the glass and threw it back with a single swallow. The presenters before me watched in awe and commented, "Oh, so that's how it's done." Beginner's luck. I didn't try to tell them they'd just been schooled by a novice.
With my speech in the home stretch, I went into my mercifully brief thank-yous. Everybody hates listening to a tedious list of thank-yous, so I tried to sex mine up a bit.
"I especially want to thank David Fine and Alison Snowden who brought me on board this particular cartoon show. Their example showed me that all you really need to have your creative vision as a writer respected in this business," pause for dramatic effect, "is an Oscar."
Oh good, another laugh. I must have timed the delivery right. I was still on auto pilot, floating around outside my body, lost in the glaring lights. I'd never said any of this out loud before, but going over it in my head repeatedly just before show time was carrying me through.
"Just one!" I added.
I smiled, happy. I'd won and, even better, had made it through my speech successfully. I was pretty sure I hadn't made an ass of myself, which is a good day for me.
"I don't expect this has quite the same pull as an Oscar," I held up the award for emphasis, "but I've wanted one for a very long time now, so thank you for this."
Lifting the thing took some effort. It was fucking heavy. A solid metal globe on a solid granite base. Blinded by the lights, I found my way off stage by memory and instinct without stumbling. One presenter chased after me to hand me the winning envelope with my name printed on it. Another souvenir -- proof that I had indeed won, and Jack Palance hadn't misread my name or anything. Not that there was all that much doubt. The award itself was already engraved with the specifics. The WGC Award winners aren't exactly a state secret kept under lock and key by Price Waterhouse.
As a few individuals offered me their congratulations, I took my place in the crowd and sat out the rest of the awards, my arm straining under the weight of my block of metal and stone. By the end of the ceremony, I was starting to wonder if it would be inappropriate to coat-check my award while I grabbed some food. And drinks. Lots of drinks. It was time to take full advantage of the open bar, but it was announced that it was only going to be charge-free for another hour. I had to hurry. The bartender helpfully doubled up my last call.
The details of what exactly transpired in that post-awards high are fuzzy. I know it involved a lot of pasta and pilsner. Torontonians like their pilsner. And then there was a trip to the venue's fancy-shmancy restroom where I found myself tipping a bathroom attendant for the first time in my life. What can I say? It was a special occasion, and I leapt at the chance to pay a grown man good money to hand me a towel.
The evening of opulent decadence ended with my stretch limo (read: city transit streetcar) ride back to my penthouse suite (read: father-in-law's guest room) for a night of partying with thousand-dollar hookers and mounds of blow (read: watching The History Channel and passing out on the hide-a-bed).
Aside from weighing down my baggage on the train trip home, the WGC Award accomplished one important thing. As I made the rounds in Toronto over the course of the rest of the week, having meeting after meeting with producers and development executives, the reason I had come to town would come up. Inevitably the question would be asked, "Did you win anything?"
And I was able to respond, "Yes. Yes I did."
Winner in Animation for Ricky Sprocket, Showbiz Boy "The Perfect Family"
April 21, 2009 01:03The 2009 Writers Guild Of Canada Screenwriting Awards
Victory is mine!
Open bar. Too drunk to blog.
April 18, 2009 04:25The Hallowed Halls Of Academia
Further to the last blog entry, Kristiaan sent me a couple of photos he took during the Pictoplasma festival in Berlin. As you can see, this was a little more of an involved conversation about the graphic arts than the typical comic shop "Sucks!/Rocks!" debates we tend to have over here.
Germans discuss just how damn brilliant I am.
Only by projecting individual panels twenty feet high and wide can you truly appreciate the magnificence of my pointillist artistry.
Which doesn't really remind me of a story, but I'll share one just the same.
The first time my work was ever discussed in a more learned environment was when a high school teacher and fan of mine invited me to speak to his class after final bell about working in comics. He picked me up one afternoon and we shared the long ride over the river to the desolate south shore of Montreal.
It occurred to me, as teenagers flipped through some of my less G-rated material -- like The Squalids -- that perhaps this extra curricular activity should have been accompanied by a parental waiver. I thought I detected that silent buzz of classroom excitement when the kids realize that they've just been handed something off the provincially-approved agenda. Eyes flitter about the room, making contact with the eyes of their peers, and a look is exchanged that says without words, "Hey, this isn't algebra…this is DIRTY!"
What I most remember from that afternoon, however, is one individual kid. The troublemaker. An Attention Deficit Disorder case if ever there was one. He'd been bouncing off the walls about my impending visit for days. Now that the day had finally arrived, he was so thrilled, he promptly got himself saddled with a detention. And since my appearance was scheduled for after class -- right at detention time -- he was going to miss it. Some woman, probably the vice principal, obviously the school disciplinarian, clearly a bitch, was determined to make sure he served every moment of his punishment. After a brief conversation with him at the beginning of my Q&A, he was swept away to do hard time. I was disappointed because he seemed so intensely interested.
Ten minutes later, he appeared at the first floor window of the classroom again, having busted out of detention. He listened closely to my every word from just outside, and although his reappearance caused some minor commotion in the room, he wasn't interested in disrupting anything, he just wanted to sit in.
This only lasted a few minutes before The Bitch found him again and dragged him back to high school prison so serve the remainder of his sentence in closely observed isolation. I never saw him again, but I'll always remember him. This was years after my own high school experience, but it reminded me what was so damn wrong about our educational system. Here was a kid, obviously a handful, who was probably failing everything. Not because he was stupid, but because he wasn't engaged. And then the one day something happens in class that he's actually interested in, dying to learn about, they deny it to him just to administer an arbitrary punishment he'll learn nothing from and never remember in years to come.
I can count the days I genuinely learned something in high school on one hand. And I might even have some fingers left over. I'm not saying I could have educated that kid one iota talking about comic books for forty minutes, but I could have given him one of those four or five days he might have remembered years down the road. A day he learned a little something that was off the lesson books, and formed a permanent memory that wasn't about the pranks he pulled or the antics he got himself into.
I still feel it was a terrible missed opportunity to reach out to a kid who so desperately needed to be reached. I suppose I can add it to the meagre list of days I learned something in high school, even if it wasn't my high school and I wasn't a student. I just wish we'd both been able to come away having learned something new that day.