Send in the Clowns

Ashworth playing the fool
Accomplished actor, musician and theatre historian Tom Ashworth. A few years ago when I was between jobs, I filled the time by creating a feature for my website called The 100 Greatest Shakespearean Performances of All Time, in which I documented what a theatre geek I am by listing a hundred notable performances in The Bard's plays over the last 400 years or so and including a cool popup box that has fun photographs and critical appraisals of each actor's work, as well as my own thoughts on the matter based on more research about the subject than I want to admit to since it's the social equivalent of two science fiction geeks debating the merits of Star Trek vs. Star Wars. The list includes appraisals of performances by notables like John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Ian McKellen; going all the way back to the leading tragedian of Shakespeare's company (and creator of his greatest roles), Richard Burbage. This is where Mr. Ashworth comes in since, on a whim, I posted a link to the thing on my Facebook page. The list has been online for years (I recently revised it) and has been seen by people all over the world (one of the highlights of my life was when the great grandniece of legendary 19th century tragedian J. Forbes Robertson e-mailed me for information about him, which goes to show exactly how big a nimrod I am on this stuff), but as soon as Mr. Ashworth got a glimpse of it, his only response was to try and out-geek me by expressing outrage that I had included the tragedian Burbage but not the creators of Shakespeare's great clown roles, comics Will Kempe and Robert Armin. Mr. Ashworth was especially upset over the snubbing of Kempe, writing "Clowns never get respect, comedians seldom get Oscars, and the most noted clown of his era is shunned by another noted clown of his era. He was also the first Falstaff."

I assume Mr. Ashworth was referring to me as the noted clown of this era even though I've told him many times that I only wear that costume for babysitting gigs. That doesn't get him off the hook for reaming me over not including Kempe, who was a star performer in his time for his improvisational ability (some scholars believe that when Shakespeare wrote "And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered: that's villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it" in Hamlet that he was referring to Kempe) and his appearances in post-show jigs that were popular with Elizabethan audiences. But since there was no back in those days to apprise us of who played what, records are sketchy. We know Kempe played the small role of Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing (primarily because a lazy scriber replaced Kempe's name with that of the characters in spots of early printings of the text) but the other parts that are traditionally assigned to him are only derived through deduction and guesswork (unlike Burbage, who is documented to have created the roles of Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Richard III). Kempe left Shakespeare's company in 1599 and publicized himself the following year by performing a fantastic morris dance over the course of nine days from London to Norris and publishing a pamphlet about it called Kempe's Nine Days Wonder, and almost nothing is known about him after that. As far as how effective he was at playing the specific Shakespearean roles that he created, no contemporary recollections exist so the best we can guess is that the roles were good and he was the first guy to play them, so he must have been good too, right? All I have to say in response to that to point out some people who first played roles made memorable by other actors – Barry Nelson as James Bond, Lewis Wilson as Batman, Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade – and you'll understand why I'm going to wait to see a few reviews on Kempe before I include him in my pantheon. It's all part of the Geek's Code.

Mara Marini as Brandi Maxxxx,and vice-versa
Enemies List favorite Mara Marini, who reprises her role of porn star Brandi Maxxxx in the season finale of the popular sitcom Park & Recreation this Thursday night. The lease on my cabin deep within the woods is about to expire so I am forced to conclude that my wedding to Ms. Marini (to be performed by YifhatBazded Yifhated, spiritual leader of the cult I recently joined after my old cult kicked me out for so-called "inappropriate and antisocial behavior") will have to be postponed yet again. This is especially true after a federal judge informed me that Ms. Marini's restraining order against me is not only going to be extended, but I may have to relocate to Puerto Rico to maintain the distance the court has mandated that I keep from her. But then it occurred to me that Ms. Marini may have ill-advisedly set up some legal barriers to keep our love from being consummated, but Brandi Maxxxx and I have a clean slate. Not only that, but if I channel my affection towards Ms. Maxxxx, I won't have to swap out any of the photographs in the Mara Marini shrine that I keep in my basement (which will remain permanently locked no matter how many law enforcement officers come knocking on my door with warrants to see what's going on down there). So I began my campaign to win Ms. Maxxx's affection by sending her the thrice-daily love letters that I usually pen for Ms. Marini and sending them to her care of NBC at Burbank Studios. The upshot is that the court has not only ordered me to stop writing Brandi Maxxxx any more letters, but I have to keep at least 1500 yards away from Burbank Studios at all times. YifhatBazded Yifhated is going to be really disappointed.

Betty Cooper from “Archie Comics” (top) and Mara Marini from “Jonny Comics.” I see no similarity between them.
My old buddy Reese Timm. Jonny Comics are becoming more and more popular with each issue, especially the ones whose covers depict Jonny's delightful interactions with the fore-mentioned Ms. Marini. But Mr. Timm crawled up my ass after a recent edition which showed the hilarious results of Ms. Marini's trip to a tattoo parlor to get some new body ink. According to Mr. Timm (who I first met in junior high school and haven't been able to shake since), the character of Ms. Marini as she is depicted in Jonny Comics not only bears a strong resemblance to a character called "Betty Cooper" from an obscure publication titled "Archie Comics," but the Mara tattoo which Jonny sports on the cover was actually an illustration of Ms. Cooper drawn by Mr. Timm's own brother (who later research proved to be a successful artist and animator). I am going to tell Mr. Timm the same thing I said in a deposition related to a lawsuit filed against me by Archie Comics Publishers Incorporated: that I am completely unaware of their comic book and I see no similarity between their "Betty Cooper"character and my "Mara Marini" character. I only hope that we can end this silly legal bickering by the time the next Jonny Comics special issue comes out. It's a flashback story that depicts Ms. Marini before she went blonde and I've been going through hundred of illustrations of Veronica Lodge for it. But I'll deny that if anybody tries to bring it up in court.

The always-annoying Amy Ball. To amuse my legions of Facebook followers, I have created a timeline cover image of my beloved Pug Winston and me standing perturbedly in front of framed pictures that have been used in past Enemies Lists. My most recent version included a photo of Ms. Ball from a delightful entry about her fascination with knitted facial hair called Beardos and a cheesecake image of the previously-mentioned Ms. Marini taken by photographer Melissa Schwartz (who I am giving credit to because frankly, I have enough lawyers crawling up my ass right now) that had not yet been seen on these pages but which I wanted on my newsfeed to cheer me up after I read insulting comments about Shakespearean lists which I had posted. To give Ms. Marini's photo some loose connection to me, I added a tattoo of the famous Jonny caricature on her right arm, adding a caption assuring my Facebook pals that of all the images on the cover (which also included depictions of one dude as Gandalf the wizard from Lord of the Rings and a successful businesswoman of my acquaintance as a ardent communist), the one of Ms. Marini being so devoted to me that she'd want a tattoo of my mug on her bicep was the most far-fetched. But Ms. Ball couldn't even let me have that small victory, commenting "Actually, I'm pretty sure Mara is into ME. That tattoo is definitely me with my beard. Sorry, Jon." At first, I was mortified; especially when I realized that the Jonny logo does bear more than a passing resemblance to Ms. Ball in her Beardo. Then I concluded that it not only made sense for Ms. Marini to have always snubbed my many romantic advances upon if she was actually into chicks, but that it was pretty damned hot. It all fell apart when I compared the photos of Ms. Ball and me side-by-by-side and realized that in her Beardo, she cut a far more masculine figure than I do. Not only that, but I'll bet that she doesn't cry for two hours after sexually climaxing like I do. But the joke's on her because the tattoo I Photoshopped on Ms. Marini's arm is just a henna, which means she can wash it off as soon as the next hot chick with fake facial hair comes along. As George S. Patton said, "all glory is fleeting." And I'll bet he said it to a chick after she beat him out for the affections of some other chick. Enjoy it while it lasts, bee-otch.

Monique Johnson (L) and me each sporting jaunty headwear. She is lauded for the fashion choice yet I am inexplicably ridiculed.
Speaking of chicks who are more attractive than I am, Monique Johnson. I attended a reunion of my high school drama class (most of whom I hadn't seen since I was drummed out in senior year for attempting to stage a one man show-version of the all-nude review Oh Calcutta! in the multi-purpose room when the teacher was out with the flu) last Sunday and while it brought a tear of sentimentality to my eye to see the beautiful young girls who wouldn't give me the time of day all those years ago had all grown into beautiful mature women who wouldn't give me the time of day. But the star of the show (aside from our teacher Mrs. Lewis, who looked fantastic and patiently endured our awkward attempts to call her by her first name to prove how grown up we'd all become) was Ms. Johnson, who all the ladies waited with star-struck anxiety to appear as though Godot was showing up to reminisce about our high school staging of Harvey. Ms. Johnson, you see, was one of those rare teenage chicks who was not only blessed with exquisite beauty, but who was somehow able to project a sense of sophistication and style while the rest of us were dealing with an outbreak of pepperoni slices sprouting from our youthful epidermis. The gaggle of yentas who served as her fan base (all of whom I pined for in that age of feathered hair and ultra-wide lapels and who returned by affection by having their football squad boyfriends stuff my head down the boy's room toilet while my pants were proudly suspended from the school's flag pole) explained that the hallmark of Ms. Johnson's teenage refinement was the fact that she frequently sported a beret, apparently the apex of European style at the time. Yet I have written on these pages that I often sport jaunty berets but when I do it, I am always met with howls of derision that are usually followed by some former football jock stuffing my head down a toilet. It occurred to me how cruel Jehovah is that He can not only create someone like Ms. Johnson and bless her with a perfect face and figure while I have to make do with the spare parts He culled me together from, but that when we both attempt to improve on what we've got using identical sartorial choices, she is lauded as a fashion icon while I am taunted and brutalized. It wasn't fair, especially when Ms. Johnson finally showed up and was even more beautiful and stylish than she was in high school. It was lovely to see her but I didn't have the guts to ask her if she was wearing the same kind of butt-floss thong that I was wearing. I couldn't bear it if she looked better in it than I did.