Behind the Lines: “If Adult Movie Dialogue Were Actually ‘Adult’”

Image credit: Manuela Montanarelli

Read the piece (my first for National Lampoon) here:

He threw me onto the bed. I stared up at him, hot burning desire in my eyes.

“What do you want? Tell me what you want me to do to you.”

I pulled him close. I leaned in, and in a lustful whisper I said, “I want you to smack my ass and tell me I’m a good girl.”

A puckish smile flickered across his face. He turned me over, his palm smoothing the surface of my stockings before pulling back and striking me.

“That’s a very good girl. What else do you want?”

“Tell me that I’m yours.”

He grabbed a fistful of my hair and pressed his body on mine, his breath hot on the nape of my neck.

“You’re mine. What else?”

“Tell that I’m totally going to be able to find a stable, fulfilling job with health insurance and good retirement benefits in the next five years.”

Okay, the idea for the piece didn’t happen quite like that. That would imply that I am open, honest, and communicative in bed. It would also imply that I do anything in bed other than eat pizza, take naps, and lie awake at 3 am bemoaning the fact that my bed is full of crumbs and I took too many naps to be sleepy.

This piece is one of many that came out of taking the Online Writing Satire for the Internet class at Second City (taught by the delightful Caitlin Kunkel). Our assignment on this particular week was to do one palate cleansing short list, a form we’d worked on some six months ago in the first few weeks of the series (and one I like a lot, since that first short list also got published). I was struggling to think of something clever enough to justify to myself why I had decided to go down the road of comedy writing. I wrote out a half a page of half-baked half-ideas before I decided to explore my google drive and see what past-RK had to say about things.

My google drive is full of angry teenage rants (oh bless the internet for having to see my progression through puberty), lots of cover letters and college writing assignments, but also infinite abandoned novels, brainstorming, and character bios from back before I thought I was a writer, and back before I had all the “you’re a writer so your writing should be better than this” self-editor noise to yell through when drafting things. There is a lot of truely terrible crap from that era. But there’s also a lot of nuggets of gold that I can now actually make something out of with my somewhat-more-skilled hands. This piece came out of one of those docs.

I think I was brainstorming ideas for a piece I wanted to do at one of the Atlanta live lit scene’s shows, and the original piece was far more explicit, and couldn’t decide if it was making fun of Atlanta, being an adult, or nerd culture. A lot of the references were clearly in the mindset of ‘OH MAN I have only barely scraped the zeitgeist but I know people like topical references so let me use the tiny tiny percentage I know’. A few of the original bullets:

“Jam me like Atlanta traffic”

“Fuck me like I’m the Atlanta arts scene and you’re an urban developer”

“I want to feel your dick shoot into me like it’s the 1990s and I’m hunting with the vice president” (Very topical, y’all, given I wrote this in 2013).”

“You make me wetter than asscrack of a Chewbacca cosplayer”

“I need cock like a stoner in a KFC”

and, my favorite:

“Do I need to put on some Sarah Mclachlan to get you to give my pussy what it needs?”

In all my nerdy obsessive-research-of-how-humor-works, I’ve found two things are true:

  1. Comedy is often written by outsiders, particularly ones who have had pretty rough go of it. If your life doesn’t have a significant amount of wear-and-tear, it’s hard to find that unique-but-universal perspective that makes folks laugh so hard and repost your piece with the caption “omg it me”.
  2. So much of comedy, for me, is taking the cultural zeitgeist and finding new and interesting ways to mush two parts of it together. In both my published lists, I took millennial/adulting angst (something I understand really well) and I mushed them against something very familiar (inspirational quotes and/or bad porn dialogue).

I came from a childhood that so perfectly set me up for the first point that you’d think it was everyone involved’s evil nefarious plan all along. I was a weirdo. I was bullied. I was abused. I was all those things. For someone in their mid-to-late-twenties, I’m pretty worn-and-torn in the rough life experiences area.

But part of those childhood experiences that set me up so perfectly to be wordly weird and worldy wise also puts me at a distinct disadvantage for number two. I was sheltered, and in areas where things weren’t outright banned or strongly discouraged, I was far too busy battling a variety pack of personal and biochemical demons to sit around and watch Dawsons Creek. I’m still playing catch up on the zeitgeist I missed in my teens and early twenties. And it shows in my writing.

Since I’ve realized this, I’ve started making ‘learn how human pop culture works’ an important part of my writing ritual. I assign myself TV shows as homework. I recently finally watched all of Friends. I’ve been binging West Wing and Cheers. I’ve been catching up on the works of Neil Gaiman, but also catching up on the required reading I missed during bouts of homeschool, depression, or after I dropped out (Although if someone would have told me how much sexual content was in Perks of Being a Wallflower, I would have read it ages ago. Sexually frustrated teenage me would have been thrilled to have more material to work with).

I’m also trying non-media related zeitgeist things, like going to dance clubs, moving to new cities, traveling, playing D&D. Hell, I literally just agreed to be the equivalent of an adult RA in a co-living space (the housing equivalent of fancy millennial co-working spaces). I never had a dorm experience, and I haven’t had many roommate experiences, so why not kill two birds with one stone, right?

So, medium folks (do we have a cutsey name like ‘tweeps’ yet?), what bits of the zeitgeist come up the most in the comedy you consume and create? Do you have cultural-hivemind blindspots?

“I want you to degrade me like you’re a nobel prize winning physicist and I’m a woman in science”