Hey there. Welcome to the Phile for a Thursday. This is the last summer entry for this year. Has anyone else noticed this summer was kind of the worst? The news cycle was overwhelming, the weather was subprime, Mars and Mercury both went retrograde at the same damn time. Let's all commiserate together that this is the last weekend of one of the most "meh" summers ever. Okay, let's get on with the news...
Well, it looks like the man President Grab Them By The Pussy nominated to roll back women's rights is just the kind of guy that President Grab Them By The Pussy would trust to roll back women's rights. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor in California, came forward with the harrowing story of her alleged assault by a teenage Kavanaugh in The Washington Post. "I thought he might inadvertently kill me," she said. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing." The story is made credible by corroborating notes taken by Dr. Ford's therapist in 2012, as well as an FBI-administered polygraph test, and the fact that a witness issued a non-denial denial. The details of the story are devastating, especially because Dr. Ford had looked at the Senate Republican caucus and resigned herself to the likelihood that they simply just don't care. "Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?" she said. But women, Democrats, people who don't want another sexual assaulter to have a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas, what's good?), and Dr. Ford herself, are making it matter. On "The Today Show," her lawyer Debra Katz said that she would testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and is "willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth." Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is usually, well, a flake, even took what might finally be a stand. Flake is a member of the Judiciary Committee, and said that the Senate should pump the brakes until Dr. Ford's story has been heard. (It already has been heard in The Washington Post, but even if he needs her to say it out loud in front of him to believe her, at least he somewhat cares). Kavanaugh, on his end, is calling Dr. Ford a liar, and saying that he'd testify, too. Who knows, he might even be excited to testify and have another opportunity to lie to the Senate. It's been a hobby of his for years.
Sean Penn, who was charged with hitting his ex-wife Madonna in the head with a baseball bat (she later withdrew the charge), has some thoughts on the #MeToo movement, because of course. The Oscar winner was on "The Today Show" to talk about his new Hulu show about space, and took the opportunity to attack the global movement against sexual harassment when his co-star mentioned how strong a woman her character was. Penn said that the #MeToo movement is "too black and white" with a goal to "divide men and women." Sounding like a drunken thesaurus, Penn said that #MeToo is "shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious," proceeding to rant, "I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed onto, in great stridency and rage, and without nuance. Even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked." As the prophecy foretold, Sean Penn's name started trending. Sean Penn wouldn't know nuance if it hit him on the head with a baseball bat.
Before you keep reading, are you sure you want to know the gory details of our esteemed president's junk? Like, really really sure? Okay, if you're sure, here's the situation. Stormy Daniels has written perhaps the tell-allingest tell-all book of all time. In it, she describes Donald Trump's lovemaking process and his weird dick. Specifically, she compares it to the mushroom character, Toad, from Mario Kart. From the Guardian: "She describes Trump’s penis as 'smaller than average' but 'not freakishly small.' 'He knows he has an unusual penis,' Daniels writes. 'It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool… I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart... It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.'" Okay, ew. Anyone who had to learn this news is the real victim in all this, with Nintendo at a close second.
Just in case that Stormy Daniels comparing Donald Trump's penis to the Nintendo character Toad wasn't enough sexualization of cartoon characters for you today, "Sesame Street" has put forth a statement insisting that Bert and Ernie aren't lovers. Let's go back a bit. Former "Sesame Street" writer Mark Saltzman told Queerty that the singing dancing roommates grew up with was often inspired by his own relationship with acclaimed editor Arnold Glassman. Asked if Bert and Ernie were a gay couple, Saltzman answered candidly. "I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were," he said. "I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as 'Bert & Ernie.'" The head honchos (and homophobes?) at Sesame Workshop were not happy with Saltzman sharing this insight into his writing process. "As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves," Sesame Workshop announced in a tweet. "Even though they are identified as male characters and posess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation." Aww man. Did Mike Pence put them up to this? Director 9and Phile Alum) Frank Oz said that in his opinion, Bert and Ernie aren't a beloved celebrity couple called "Bernie"... not that there's anything wrong with being gay, though. It wasn't long before the Twittersphere was abuzz about "Sesame Street"'s disappointing announcement. Hypothetically, if the Muppets wanted to get married, the Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage in 2013 would have been a big deal to them. People called out a double standard in the Muppetverse. If Miss Piggy and Kermit are allowed to be straight, why aren't Bert and Ernie allowed to be gay? LET THESE PUPPETS LIVE THEIR TRUTH! Mitch McConnell's speechwriter predicts that this announcement will translate into a "red wave" in the midterms. So please, for Bert and Ernie's sake: vote.
Today in casual racism: New York Times confused Angela Bassett for Omarosa. Shame shame shame. During Monday night's Emmy awards, Tiffany Haddish and Angela Bassett presented the award for Best Actress in a Comedy together. They opened with the Wakanda salute, and then Haddish had a moment when she realized she was presenting an award alongside an icon. Next, they presented the award to Rachel Brosnahan from "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." The New York Times highlighted the moment in its Emmys coverage... but there was one glaring mistake. They referred to Angela Bassett as Omarosa Manigault Newman. Julia Reinstein, a reporter for Buzzfeed News, pointed it out on Twitter. Omarosa wasn't even at the ceremony as far as I know, so it's unclear why the New York Times thought Bassett was her. According to another Twitter user, it appears the Times removed mention of Tiffany Haddish, Angela Bassett, and Omarosa from subsequent printings. Either way, this pic of Angela herself in Waiting to Exhale seems appropriate...
Okay, are you a baby boomer? Here's a text from a baby boomers that proves the technology struggle is real...
You have to admire their persistence. Do you know what manscaping is? I didn't really until I saw this...
Maybe I'll get something similar done. Are you cheating on your loved one? You might wanna think twice after seeing this...
You know what makes me laugh? Old people with inappropriate t-shirts...
Hahahahahaha. Okay, so, if I had a TARDIS I would like to go back in time and meet Elvis in the 50s. Knowing my luck though it'll be when he's in the Army.
My dad used to say Elvis "died" in the Army. He wasn't the same when he came out. So, did you see Nike's new ad? If you didn't I have it here....
Hahahahaha. I agree. Hey, you know who would do a better job as president? A fucking penguin!
So, remember when Trump fist pumped on September 11th? Well, that was not the only time he fist pumped that day...
I can hear him now... "HELLLOOOOOO, SHANKSVILLE!! ARE YOU READY TO MOOOURN??!! WHAT'S THAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOOOUUU!! C'MON, PEOPLE!! GIVE IT UP FOR 9/11!!" Sheesh. Okay, so, the best part of the Internet is you can look at porn easily and for free. The problem with that is if you have a blog, like I do, someone might stop reading it and go look at a porn page instead. So, I thought to keep people here why don't I just show a porn pic. But then I thought you might be at work or school and I don't wanna get you in trouble. So, I came up with a solution...
You're welcome. It's Thursday, kids. You know what that means...
WTF? Man! That's crazy. Okay, being it's Thursday it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.
Me: Hey, Jeff, welcome back to the Phile. How are you?
Jeff: Always good to be back here on the Phile. I'm doing well. How about yourself?
Me: I'm okay. Did you see Taiwan Jones was bloodied pretty good after taking brutal shot to head without helmet? Shit. By the way, a few weeks ago I fell backwards down some stairs at work. Are you surprised? Haha.
Jeff: Yeah, that's not a good thing. Helmet to helmet shots can be brutal, helmet to exposed head? No thank you. Were you wearing your "I do my own stunts" t-shirt again? Well, at least it wasn't falling off a Segway. This time.
Me: True. What’s the other NFL news this past week?
Jeff: The biggest news is the trade of once great but always troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon. He went from the Browns who haven't won a game since the 2016 season to the Patriots who haven't won a game since well Week 1. I call that an upgrade for him. The other big news is we've had two ties in two weeks. It's very rare to have one tie in a season let alone two in back to back weeks.
Me: That's true. The British are taking over the teams this year. Look...
Jeff: I support anything that tosses yankees. Oh? Not the New York kind? Nevermind then!
Me: Ha! So, I can’t believe the Cowboys beat the Giants. How did we do?
Jeff: Neither of our teams are looking good this year. We have a combined record of 0-3-1. At least we are doing a little bit better than that. We mirrored each other again, both going 1-1 this week. So since neither of our teams have a win, you and I are tied through two weeks.
Me: That's great! Okay, this week I pick Seahawk’s by 2 and Rams by 5. Whet about you?
Jeff: My picks are the Vikings by 4 and the Jaguars by 3.
Me: Okay, see you here next Thursday.
Jeff: See you next week!
This is weird. If you spit the Mindphuck let me know. It's really not much of one I know. Alright, so,
a majority of the modern world has progressed to the fact that women are not only funny, but they're also terrifying human beings who are capable of great violence if you don't laugh at their jokes.
Ha. I think I understand. Hahahahahaha. Okay, wanna play a game?
So, which is it? A potato or Amy Schumer? Haha.
Dancing with your friends makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself, gives you a merged sense of you and them, strengthens your relationships, builds trust, and raises your pain tolerance.
Donald J. Trump is not the most empathetic man alive. Remember that time when he had to hold a note card reminding him how to say things like "I hear you" during a town hall meeting with Parkland school shooting survivors? Yikes. So it comes as no surprise that he's handling the fallout from Hurricane Florence in a way most normal humans would not. Instead of offering support and seeming like he genuinely understands what people are going through, he's apparently trying to pump them up like some sort of giant orange hype man in a windbreaker. For one, he's handing out boxed lunches to survivors and saying, "Have a good time." He said this in New Bern, North Carolina, and it prompted a nearby off-camera MSNBC reporter to say, "Did he just say 'have a good time'?", according to the New York Post. People are appalled, to say the least. Turns out this isn't his first time making that particular blunder. He did the same thing in Houston in 2017. Elsewhere in the Carolinas this week, Trump also seemed to be congratulatory toward a man who was surveying the damage of his home. A boat washed up in his yard, and seemingly all Trump could think was, "Free boat!" From The Cut: "President Trump marveled at a boat that had shipwrecked on a man’s wooden deck. He asked the man if it was his, and when he said no, the president replied, 'At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.'" The man reportedly told Trump that insurance didn't want to pay for his home's damage, and Trump assured him that he'd "find out the name of the insurance company." He then switched focus back to the boat, saying, "I think it's incredible what we're seeing here. This boat just came here... They don't know whose boat that is. What's the law? Maybe it becomes theirs." So basically, Trump views hurricane recovery as a mix between a keg party and prize time on "The Price Is Right." What a fascinating look into the twisted psyche of our commander-in-chief.
The 87th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...
Ben Watt will be on the Phile a week from Monday.
It's a sunny morning in the Big Forest and the Bear family is just waking up. Baby Bear goes downstairs and sits in his small chair at the table. He looks into his small bowl. It is empty! "Who's been eating my porridge?" he squeaks. Daddy Bear arrives at the table and sits in his big chair. He looks into his big bowl. It is also empty! "Who's been eating my porridge?" he roars. Mommy Bear points her finger through the door from the kitchen and yells, "For pete's sake, how many times do we have to go through this? It was Mommy Bear who got up first. It was Mommy Bear who woke everybody else in the house up. It was Mommy Bear who unloaded the dishwasher from last night and put everything away. It was Mommy Bear who went out in the cold early morning air to fetch the newspaper. It was Mommy Bear who set the table. It was Mommy Bear who put the cat out, cleaned the litter box and filled the cat's water and food dish. And now that you've decided to come downstairs and grace me with your presence... listen good because I'm only going to say this one more time... I haven't made the stupid porridge yet!!"
This is cool, kids, today's pheatured guest is an American comedian, musician, actor, filmmaker and poet. He wrote and directed his first feature film, Eighth Grade, which came out a few months ago. Please welcome to the Phile... Bo Burnham.
Me: Hey, Bo, welcome to the Phile. How're you?
Bo: I'm terrific, Jason, great to be here.
Me: So, I have to tell you I wasn't 100% sure who you were... I kinda thought you were a comedian, but thought you were a musician as I saw pics of you at a piano. I asked my friends Samantha and Jeff if they knew who you were and Samantha said she's obsessed with you and your new movie is amazing and Jeff said... "Comedian, actor and now director of a critically acclaimed movie about a girl in high school? Nope never heard of him." Hahaha. Samantha said to look at your stand up videos and I did and you were crazy, running around and jumping over pianos and shit. Do you still do stand up now that you're directing movies?
Bo: No, I felt that version of hopping over pianos, being hyper on stage persona was not me.
Me: Do you think people who are used to seeing you doing stand up are surprised you're now directing a movie?
Bo: People have seen this movie who don't know me think it's a real left turn or whatever, people that know me think it's probably true the way I am I think.
Me: Was it hard to go from doing stuff by yourself to working with other people?
Bo: I did theater all my life and I really love working with people, working with actors. Stand up is so insula, I was just looking at myself for inspiration. I got really tired of myself. I got really tired of my own face and like having to express anything I wanted to through myself with my voice. I was just desperate to collaborate with people. I tried to do something that was not clever and satirical. I've done that for so long, I tried to talk about the current movement through satire and jokes I just sort of reached of the end of that rope and wanted to do something different. Something more natural and human. If I was being honest with myself I was more confused than I was certain, you gonna have to be certain in stand up.
Me: So, what made you decide to leave stand-up and pursue a career in filmmaking?
Bo: I started when I was sixteen. Now I'm twenty-seven, so I'm at a certain point where I had to take inventory of things, like I've been doing stand up for ten years, it's something I started when I was sixteen. Is this really what I'd want to do if I started fresh right now? That was part of it.
Me: Okay, so, where are you from originally, Bo?
Bo: I was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Me: Okay, cool. Let's talk about the movie, which I didn't see, but did watch the trailer. Ha. Your movie is supposed to have a fresh take on teenagers that other movies don't. What do you think other movies get wrong about teens?
Bo: I think a lot of movies and the way we remember that age isn't the same it was to be that age. I like nostalgic movies, I like movies that feel like memories, but I didn't feel like making one. I wanted to make one that was more visceral and not nostalgic. I think kids are generally way too articulate, I often see young kids in movies who tend to express themselves in the ability that is suspiciously similar that a screenwriter expresses themselves. A truth of being a kid is like they just drank a glass of milk and they're talking like this... ggmfkrtmcnduindqjxn. The story of being young is being inarticulate. The story of anyone is being inarticulate.
Me: Ha. That's how I sound sometimes. So, why is your movie different than other movies with kids?
Bo: That was important to me, is to have the film live in the world of the kids, so have the film to think like kids think and to express themselves like kids express themselves. Which is not perfectly. It's actually their failure to articulate themselves and the failure to sound like the people in movies that they wished they sounded like and the movies they watch. A part of this movie is you could tell which her favorite movies are... she's trying to be like the girls she sees in movies she sees but she can't, none of us can.
Me: What is the one thing you wanted to come across in the movie?
Bo: The hope was just to reflect objective experience this kid, not to view it through it through the lens of adulthood looking back and going "oh, wasn't it all simple and cute back then?" It's like in that time it was not simple, it was not cute, it was intense. Life to a kid, a regular day, to a kid feels like life or death. So, can we take a regular day make it feel that intense, make it feel that visceral?
Me: Okay, I have to ask you about Elsie Fisher, who plays Kayla, the lead in the movie. How did you discover her?
Bo: I saw her on a "brown" carpet interview at some weird event. I don't know if it was a rec center and she was talking about cupcakes. It was not that glamorous.
Me: Was this her first acting role?
Bo: She was a voice on Despicable Me, she was the youngest girl, the "it's so fluffy" girl, that was her. So she had acted since she was six or sven as a voice acts and then took some time off.
Me: How did you pick her for the role?
Bo: She was just incredible. Every other kid that auditioned to play Kayla pretended to be shy because Kayla was apparently shy, but Elsie played like she was pretending to be confident, which is actually what the girls doing. To be shy and to be anxious isn't sitting around going "I'm shy, I don't want to talk." To be shy is someone wants to speak, to to be anxious is to want to engage and not be able to. So she was able to make it active and not passive.
Me: So, she didn't have it, the confidence?
Bo: No, it wasn't that she didn't have it, that she could control it. It wasn't like she wasn't actually terrified. She had experienced anxiety, what it felt like, so she knew how to create it. I could just see in that little interview that she has the vulnerability and complexity that's needed. She's not totally fully comfortable, totally presetting herself at like a 25-year-old which every 13-year-old actress does because they want to present themselves as an adult. Elsie still is grounded in reality. That's a huge strength, it's difficult. The hardest thing is trying to play someone like yourself on camera, that is impossible. It's so much easier to get a pirate patch and go "arrrggghh." It's way harder to be you in a scene over and over again. It's very difficult.
Me: What made you pick a girl, Bo?
Bo: It wasn't like a choice. It was really like watching a bunch of videos of kids on-line talking about themselves, because the movie is framed with these blogs she makes. I watched a lot of videos of kids actually talking about their life. The boys talked about Minecraft and Fortnight and girls talked about their souls. It's a little cruel and I'm sure there are a lot of boys out there that don't about Mindcraft and talk about girls but on average it's just at that age girls run a little bit deeper. It'll even out at some point but at thirteen girls are asking deeper questions about themselves for whatever reason... cultural pressures or whatever. Also being a girl I couldn't project my own experiences fully. It didn't become about my 8th grade experience which I didn't want it to be about. I didn't want it to be about 2003s whatever thing. I wanted it to be about whatever is happening now is different and new, and being a girl forced me to go "I don't know what this is so I just have to research it." I'm gonna have to experience 8th grade with her like it's new to me.
Me: Did you plan to make a movie about the 8th grade originally?
Bo: No, more about anxiety and the Internet and what it felt like to me to just be alive right now and what I was feeling like. I realized I guess I'm feeling like a 13-year-old girl. That's cool. It just feels like the current moment is very 8th gradeish. It kinda turns us into 8th graders. My countries president is slightly 8th gradeish. It all kinda makes sense.
Me: Ha. So true. My humor here is kinda 8th gradeish as well I guess. Did you like doing research for this film?
Bo: Yeah, I loved it. It's like the kids were so fascinating. I remember watching these videos watching these kids do a video called "How To Be Popular," and it had twelve views and it was last posted two years ago. I was thinking if this was a performance it'll be genius.
Me: You started out doing YouTube videos that had a million views and went viral, Bo, why look at these videos with a few views? Are they more interesting?
Bo: Good question.. It's like we tend to only talk about the Internet in terms of people getting attention understandably. But the truth is like the majority of the people on the Internet are expressing themselves and not necessarily being seen. I'm much more interested in that. I was someone who was a comedian touring around, talking about the pressures of being a performer and having an audience. I thought this was only way to be relatable to performer's with audiences. Normal kids, 15-year-old girls, would come up to me and say, "I feel like you do." I'd go what? How do you in sophomore high school be like I am performing a show? So, I was very fascinated with that. I wanted to explore the pressures of anxiety and performance and audience in people that won't necessarily have those. I think that's what social media does, social media is like puts all the awful pressure of being a D-list celebrity like me onto everybody. So, it was sort of beauty realization I had later in life, which was two sides of one coin. One was my ultimate fear and one was my salvation which was I am not unique and I am not alone. What I feeling, these incredibly deep things that I'm feeling are just so specific to my experiences as a comedian are actually shared by a lot of people. That was a great thing.
Me: I had anxiety before, everybody gets anxiety somehow. What kind of anxiety are you focusing on in this movie?
Bo: I'm focusing on the kinda anxiety everybody has, you don't need to clinically suffer from anxiety to relate to this. It's just about the sort of low hum of anxiety that I feel is just sort of always in the air from the phones in our pockets and things. It's just a sort of sense of uneasiness. You know that feeling when you leave your phone in the other room, you feel like a little caffeine buzz or something, I didn't want to dwell on it too much, and it's also because she's discovering it. It's something I didn't dwell on, it's just something I took for granted that this reality of my life I didn't know was something that I was dealing with. I think that's the case for a lot of people. It's hard to prioritize things like mental health when the world is happening around us.
Me: Did you know what they were, this anxiety thing, all your "career"?
Bo: I didn't know until I was twenty-three. I didn't put a name on it.
Me: Was doing stand-up a way for you to deal with your own anxiety?
Bo: Yep. Stand-up definitely did, it was a great way to express myself through things. It was a certain point at the end I just felt I was at the end of me. I was done with me in terms of being the main character and vessel.
Me: So, then, was making this movie Eigth Grade another way for you to deal with your anxiety? Bo: Yeah, I felt I was done doing this alone, I wanted to work with other people. The truth is it wasn't like I wasn't through people, it's not like they're my instruments, they are my collaborators. The movie was made by a group of people that all offered elements of it and I was just a part of it. It was a really beautiful thing, it was something that I was so happy to be part of.
Me: Do you ever see yourself getting back into stand-up?
Bo: I think so. I'd love to want to do it again. It wasn't just the anxiety, it was more like I just didn't feel like I had anything else to say up there. Right now with this part of it it feels a little less urgent. Stand-up was a place someone could go to get a regular persons take on something. Are we at a loss for regular peoples take on things? Who in their free time on a Friday night wants to go and watch someone give their opinion for an hour? I feel like I'm drowning in peoples all the time. That's why I think like comedy is feeling a little weird right now. It's just been turned inside out to a degree, but I'd love to get up there and do it again, of the idea is right.
Me: So what's next for you?
Bo: Just be chilling out. I'm not a great multitasker so once this is all over I'll just chill out and retreat and try to write again. That's a process I really like, just taking the time and sit around. I'd love to make another movie and if a show happens that'll be wonderful too.
Me: Cool, thanks for being on the Phile, man. Please come back on the Phile again. Continued success.
Bo: Thank you, Jason, I love your blog.
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guests Jeff Trelewicz and of course Bo Burnham. The Phile will be back on Monday with singer Paula Cole. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker