THE STUFF ABOUT THE STUFF (2000)
Matt Malanka was a guy I went to high school with. We never talked all that much but seemed to have an easy rapport and a certain shared dementia that allowed us to have some fun joking around. We wrote the lyrics for a few insane songs together in English class around the time we were reading Death of a Salesman.
Then there came one of those assignments where you had a list of options. One was a “radio show/play”, and Matt and I ended up working together as partners. He came over to my place one day after school and we recorded our script, which was a mock-commercial for “Henry and Sister Inbred Baby Farm/Factory”, complete with celebrity testimonials and lots of improvised insanity.
We each played about half a dozen different characters, and I provided the music and sound effects. Bill Clinton sang “I Touch Myself” by Divinyls as a piano ballad while getting a hummer from Hillary that took a bad turn. We even made room for a pretty racy news and weather report, with Matt improvising in character like a pro. It all ended with an intentionally off-key and warped rewritten reading of “If God Was One of Us” by Joan Osbourne.
The end product turned out to be not quite what our teacher was looking for, but we had fun doing it and the class seemed amused. I’m a little amazed today that we had the audacity to turn something like this in as an assignment, and even more so that Mrs. Gilham had enough of a sense of humour to give us a good mark.
But back to the recording session for a second. I got to telling Matt about a parenting class assignment I was none too thrilled about. I was supposed to interview a number of adults and ask them a list of questions about — gasp! — parenting. I needed to meet a certain criteria and wasn’t looking forward to reaching outside of my family circle to satisfy the demands of the assignment.
Matt’s solution? “Let’s record a bunch of phoney interviews. I’ll pretend to be the adults.”
I never ended up turning in what we did, because it got twisted pretty fast. Matt played the part of “Jordan Cobb”, a crotchety old man who talked about his intestinal issues and ended the interview by saying (not in an unfriendly way), “Never speak to me again.” Then Matt interviewed me and I imitated Arnold Schwarzenegger, talking about my daughters “Clarice & Hyondra” and my muscles. After that, Matt pretended to be an old woman who was all but incoherent.
We laughed like crazy, but my parenting teacher never would have accepted it. So I just took a mark of zero and didn’t hand in anything. There were enough other assignments in that class that it didn’t even matter, and I still ended up with a mark in the eighties or nineties.
I still need to mix those interviews, if only for my own amusement, and our infomercial could use a fresh mastering, because it was recorded at the time of CHILDREN HAVE NO EYES and I squashed it a bit the first time.