14 Packets Of Oatmeal
My friend died three years ago today and the last conversation we had was an argument. Now that the hard part’s out of the way, this can get hilarious, right? Get ready for the jokes to drop any second now. Any moment I will find a way to make this so funny. Are you ready?
It’s not getting funny. I apologize. Let’s regroup. I began a friendship with this person in college and he was one of the absolute funniest, coolest people I’ve ever met to this day. We liked all the same comedy, all the same music (except for one insanely popular band that has it’s own ice cream flavor with marshmallows AND fudge pieces), and could talk about anything. We both had plans to move to LA and pursue comedy, and the month before I left we (along with our best friends) produced 4 original hourlong shows that set the ball in motion for years of future collaboration.
Once in LA, he and I would write at night until 3 AM with our similarly driven and sleep deprived comedy friends so we could perform one long, rambling, insane sketch every Friday at a popular free midnight show. This paved the way for a regular slot for an original show our group put together, and places on the same house team for years to come. He also became insanely successful as a stand up and a TV writer. We all did pretty well in our own right, but he was, for lack of a less awful cliche, on a runaway success train.
I’m going to stop right here and say that the above is unnecessary. If you know enough about comedy you probably know who I’m talking about and you know everything about him. I’m only writing this because I never have. I haven’t posted anything about it since the day it happened, and even then it was a tweet that said “Hey, we just put an entire Phish album on the jukebox at this bar and left. Miss you, dick.” Even then I still deleted it days later (we did do that, by the way. It was Junta). I just didn’t know what to say. Or how to say it. We had drifted considerably in the last few years of his life when we were both writing on TV shows. His were way more successful and beloved than mine, but we were both doing it. THE DREAM! That said, we had a bit of a contentious relationship by that point and I felt incredibly conflicted writing about him because toward the end I didn’t even know if he liked me anymore.
Our last full conversation was a Twitter fight. He was mad at me for a joke I thought was innocuous and he wouldn’t back down, and soon we were texting on breaks from our respective jobs. His tone was of a wise, chastising older brother even though we were peers. I felt incredibly slighted by it and resented him for months after. I didn’t know at the time of that fight, but he was already in the throes of addiction.
I could say a lot of useless stuff about opiates and how it’s a slippery slope and how Oxy and Fentanyl are killing Americans at a shocking rate, but nobody is reading this for that. At THIS point, if you’re still reading, you’ll want to know that I’m haunted by the fact that I let that fight effectively end our friendship forever. If he hadn’t died maybe we’d have made up by now. We’d probably never have been close again, but we could have been the type of friendly acquaintances to like a tweet here or there or goof around a little if we were both at a party. Maybe if I ever impulse bought the kind of frozen chicken nuggets (for kids!) that he still ate all the time, I’d text him a picture of them at the checkout line and he’d reply “nice.” I don’t have any way of knowing. Maybe he’d hate me forever. He was kind of a dick that way, but if I had the chance to do things differently I would absolutely have made some weird overture to him where I say it’s water under the bridge as is every other odd thing that happened between us over the years. Of course, death really pulls stuff into focus and I can’t imagine I would have thought to do any of this were he alive and well.
One thing I’ve never forgotten about was the time he paid me for the ability to perform a monologue in one of our shows that I was supposed to do. I was broke but I really wanted to do it and I had written most of it. He insisted and even drew up a contract. I let greed get in the way and I accepted the money. When I finally signed it he paid me but claimed I never wanted it in the first place, because if I did I’d have never given it up (in hindsight, he was right). However, he was also the most effortlessly funny person I’ve ever met. Here are some things he did that I still think about:
- He once did stand up in character as a hipster one-liner comic. He held a guitar but never once strummed it. One of his perfect jokes was, “I wanted 14 packets of oatmeal so I bought 7. I already had 7.”
- He wrote a sketch where he was playing a tough gang member and the stage direction was that he was supposed to storm out, and when he did he also said the words “storm out!” and it was the funniest line in the show.
- He went as a “Sexy Ghostbuster” for Halloween once and wore a woman’s costume that his balls kept (intentionally) falling out of.
- His favorite part of Drumsticks ice cream was the bottom of the cone, so he’d buy a whole package and throw out all the tops.
There’s more but this isn’t one of those things. There were plenty of those three years ago. I guess I’ll end on this: The night he died, all our friends got together and got so incredibly drunk and just cried in the same room. When my (very recent) ex offered to pick me up, I agreed, only to find the person I’d just spent two years with had just come from a music video shoot and was in a full face of animal makeup. It looked like Rum Tum Tugger from (Sir!) Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats was picking me up from the saddest party I’ve ever been to.
And in that moment, sitting there in the passenger’s seat, I couldn’t help but think that this was exactly the kind of thing my stupid dead friend would have written into a script. Or said on a podcast. Or blurted out in a casual conversation or a text. Actually, he would have thought it was hack and punched it up immediately, twisting it into something one hundred times better. Because he was just that kind of dick.