The Fish
for 13 June 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

[Tim Cavanaugh]
Tim Cavanaugh
Special Guest Editor


Terry Colon
Terry Colon
Art Director


Heather Havrilesky
Senior Editor


[Phillip Bailey]
Phillip Bailey
Production Editor


Joey Anuff
Joey Anuff

Suck Alumni
Suck Alumni Text
Last Man Standing


As the editor and publisher
of, and
having just spent five days
covering the Chicago Comedy
Festival, I must tell you
that the person who wrote the
article on standup has
crafted a wonderful-sounding
article that says nothing.

The readers of would
probably like nothing more
than to believe that standup
is dead. I must tell them
that, in spite of what their
favorite online magazine
says, they will find that
their next trip to a comedy
club will probably be a
wildly entertaining one. It's
just a matter of exercising a
little more care in how the
entertainment dollar is

It sounds as though your
columnist has based many of
his conclusions on "one
recent performance of a
long-established gay and
lesbian comedy night in
Seattle." I would caution
him/her to do a little more
field research.

This column has repeated the
same nuggets that have
appeared in countless
analyses of standup over the
last 15 years, only it used a
slightly larger vocabulary
and a few more semicolons.

Your columnist betrays his
hatred for standup with the
introductory clause: "The
bleakest future of them all,
and therefore the scenario we
prefer..." You'll get no
points for honesty from us.

Take it from someone with his
pulse on the business,
standup has never been
healthier, either as a
business, an art form or a
springboard to success; and,
according to our
calculations, it's only going
to get better.


Brian McKim
Editor, Publisher
SHECKY! A magazine
about standup...

Thanks for writing, Brian.
And thanks for noticing those

40th Street Black
Fish With Letter Icon

Another nail in the coffin:
Margaret Cho's unwatchable
concert film I'm The One I
Want — which turns out
not to have an ironic title.
It demonstrates that even a
gay audience — one of the
last audiences for standup,
since they can go out at
night without having to get a
babysitter or without
fretting about what the urban
vandals are doing to their
SUVs — even they can be
as easily stroked, cosseted
and otherwise sucked up to as
much as any Las Vegas
audience in the 1950s. Good

Richard Von Busack

Thanks. By the way, I think
Cho clearly had the requisite
combination of self-loathing
and outsized personality to
be a major sitcom star, but
her producers forgot that
broadly appealing
spouse/lover (Meadows,
Goodman, Richardson) to let
the audience know not to be
scared of her.

40th Street Black
Fish With Letter Icon

Dear 40th Street Black:

Your article was both amusing
and engaging. As a comedy
producer (I produce shows at
UC Berkeley through, I
frequent the San Francisco
clubs and will readily admit
that it is an overwhelmingly
depressing and anemic scene.
However, there is that 1%
that really makes the art
form worth it. Nationally,
it's people like Dave Attell,
Rick Overton, and Patton
Oswalt who write well and
take their jobs seriously,
while in San Francisco, guys
like Jim Short and Dan
Rothenberg are amazing. Some
are clean (Rothenberg), and
some are a parody of the form
itself (Attell), but all are
respectable artists. Whether
or not the media
infrastructure will support
them in the future is
uncertain. Whether or not
that support is wise is
another question. I saw Robin
Williams drop into the
Punchline San Francisco for a
guest set several weeks ago,
and it was completely
unremarkable and tedious
except for the fact that it
was Robin Williams.

Most people who can't make a
living doing stand-up don't
deserve it. That also applies
to most who can and do.

I guess in closing, I don't
really care about your
article or stand-up comedy
that much. I was just a
little bored at work.


Luke Filose
Superb-Squelch Presents
Comedy Producer

p.s. I would love to work for
Suck some day. Just so you

I know Oswalt and Attell's
work, and I enjoy David
Cross, too. I'm sure there
are others. But like you
indicate, the percentages are
just tough.

If an upside of one percent
was enough to make people
happy, I'd have way more

But here's my real question:
Was Williams working new
material? And if so, whose?

40th Street Black
Fish With Letter Icon

Points well made on the death
of standup, but you forgot to
give some much-deserved
heckling to cable channel
Comedy Central as a prime
suspect. Notice how, when CC
bothers to run taped standup
anymore, it always seems to
be reruns of routines from
years back? Oh, look, there's
Drew Carey ca. 1994!

Ralph Ward

Most days I agree with you.
Others, I'm absolutely
certain that Gallagher
re-runs are the only thing
that stands between America
and a major class war.

40th Street Black
Fish With Letter Icon

In your wonderful article,
you wrote:

"In this future, the number
of comedy clubs dwindles even
further, and the remaining,
little-paid stand-ups write
increasingly elusive and
nuanced material completely
inscrutable to all but a
highly-knowledgeable and
devoted fan subculture."

I was wondering if you
weren't referring to Suck, in
a backhanded way? Do I get a
prize for getting that? Or
just insulted in the Fish,
which is a prize, in it's own

Russell May

You're halfway there,
Russell! Not only was I
referring to Suck, I was
referring to my own
contributions to Suck and the
cadre of high school
classmates and bored
relatives which will make up
the entirety of my fan base.
You know, John Burgess-style.

40th Street Black
Fish With Letter Icon

It is not surprising that
stand up comedians are forced
to explore means of income
non-traditional to their
field. With riveting comedy
like "Why A Beer is Better
Than Women" and "Redneck Jedi
Quotes" popping up in mail
boxes, often completely
unsolicited, how can the
laboring jokesmith expect to
squeeze out a cover charge?
However, the loss of the
comedy club may turn to the
comedian's advantage. The
urge to perform comedy is,
after all, seated in
insecurity and the fickle
reinforcement dished out at
these places is not
dissimilar to gang or drug
cultures. The only difference
is gang members grow up and
move out of LA while
comedians finally move out of
their parents house and camp
out on the highway with a
sign that says LA or Bust.
Maybe if those punch line
houses didn't exist Chris
Farley would be a happy web
designer in Cleveland. Maybe
not. In any case, the timing
of the decline of comedy with
the rise in Prozac may not be
a coincidence.

Laughing on the inside,

Clay Niemann

Very salient points, Clay. I
know the decline of comedy in
my own life is directly
attributable to a rise in

40th Street Black
Fish With Letter Icon

Cancer Schmancer

I'll leave it to other
Canadians to defend the
relative merits of our
health-care systems (summary:
our popular system works,
your unpopular system
doesn't), analyze the logical
inconsistencies (summary:
"American health is getting
better and better" [HMO
apologist] versus "consumer
goods are bad for you"
[unnamed Cuban doctor]), or
point out the Pee-Wee
Hermanesque subtext ("I don't
care if we can't get medical
help, I didn't want it
anyway. Health care sucks.")
No, I want to concentrate on
the most important facet of
the health care debate; it's
impact on screenwriting.
Specifically, movies and TV
shows about good people
dabbling in crime to pay for
a loved one's operation. If
America solves its health
care accessibility problems,
where will the next rag-tag
band of amateurs pulling a
wacky caper come from? What
will pull the grizzled yet
charismatic thief back from
retirement for just one more
job? Where is our next Johnny

There has even been a
promising new mutation in the
medical-care- driven plot
device: the uninsured person
who swaps identities with a
friend in order to get
coverage, to comic (old
episode of Friends) or
dramatic (some B-movie I
can't be bothered to look up
on imdb) effect. Just as
ready availability of divorce
decimated the murder-mystery
kill-the- spouse-to- get-out-
of-the- marriage plot,
universal accessibility of
health care will seriously
endanger America's supply of
mediocre plot devices.

Think about it.

Michael K.

I only wish I'd had time to
stress your excellent point,
below. And please do continue
searching for logical
consistency, especially
between all of the laff


Fish With Letter Icon

Could someone knock that
Libertarian chip off your
Courtney Cunt loving
shoulder? Healthcare is
admittedly a multifaceted
issue that doesn't deserve a
quick size up, as you seem to
think. Hey, let me guess,
you're employed with good
health insurance, are healthy
yourself, and probably have
wealthy parents, CONGRATS,
you won the fucking elitist
lottery! You never had to

want for a goddamn thing in
your crystal palaces, never
had to have emergency surgery
for sure with no way to pay
for it. Must be nice to be so
blessed, in your world
everyone is lucky, survival
of the fittest, makes me want
to pop a cap in your head,
forget your ass, you seem to
need that to write with. You
need your puppet mouth to the
Neil Bortz contingent shot
off though.

One thing I've always admired
about Suck writers is they do
actually a fairly good job of
reporting facts of issues on
top of their biases, even
Polly. In other words you're
sorta given news at angles
about current topics. Be
those stories in some essence
letters from the editor, the
final call is pretty much
left up the reader to make
opinions. That's the sign of
a good writer, something you
are not. Who there gave such
an opinionated

blowhard as yourself a job,
they should have put that
crack pipe down and backed
away quickly. What the hell
is Suck doing putting such an
opinionated politically
motivated jackass like you on
the web? I could write

around you in a much more
Suck vein with opinions just
under radar but exposing in
expose form topics while
keeping it frothy but more
importantly, funny, something
you haven't even the concept
of as you verbally jerk off
to your opinions. You truly
are a Eugen Von Bohm BaJerk!


I do earn a living by my own
labor, I don't have health
insurance, when I had over
60,000 in medical bills that
insurance didn't cover my
parents took me off their tax
returns as a dependent quick
as a wink. And I'd love to
see the list of factual
errors in my essay — the
ones that aren't jokes, which
I don't think you're good at
recognizing. (Except that
"BaJerk" one %#151 that's a
killer. Please do begin
writing for Suck, we need
that kind of insightful

Fish With Letter Icon

Herr von Bohm-Bawerk —

I've just finished reading
your odd piece on health care
and I must say I'm confused.
Perhaps it's because I'm a
bit sleep-deprived: I just
got off my shift (6pm-8am) as
ER and inpatient pediatrician
at St. Luke's Hospital,
arguably San Francisco's
poorest hospital (we beat out
the county hospital, SF
General, because they get
bunches of tax money —
not enough, but a great deal
more than we). My hourly wage
for my fourteen-hour shift is
less than that earned by a
master carpenter, a

plumber, or a cop with
seniority, and I'm
unbenefitted — I even
have to pay my supplemental
malpractice insurance out-of
-pocket. I don't even qualify
for overtime pay, because I'm
"a professional" (which makes
me sound a bit like a fille
de joie, but so be it).

I frequently hear about how
profit-driven and uncaring we
MDs (and DOs) are, as well as
how grossly overpaid and
over-respected we are. To

complaints, I say: come see
my paycheck, and sew up your
own lacerations. We're busy
monopolizing the treatment of
the ill and the counseling of
the well; we're overusing
antibiotics, setting up the
next plague; we're performing
all manner of unnecessary
surgeries and procedures.
What a bunch of creeps we
are. Makes me wonder how I
can look in the mirror in the
morning to shave.

Fact: infant and child
mortality is down — way
down — largely because of
large-scale immunization
programs (publicly funded,
just like in Canada and Cuba,
your betes noire) and
increased surveillance of
infectious disease. Fact:
overuse and improper use of
antibiotics is often due to
medications obtained without
recourse to a physician —
I can't tell you how many
moms I've seen giving
over-the-counter Mexican
tetracycline to kids with
colds. Fact: hospitals are
folding all over — San

lost three ERs in five years
— in part due to the
failure of the "grassroots
free-market Yankee ingenuity"
you (presumably ironically)
champion. HMOs don't want to
pay out the money they take
in, and thanks

to absurdly lax oversight,
they frequently don't have to
— which allows them to
offer breathtakingly
extravagant salaries and
benefits to their executives
(and, occasionally, their

To be sure, if you are
essentially healthy, diet and
exercise will do more good
for you than a busload of
medication, and sewers have
done more for the public's
well-being than all the
antibiotics ever devised.
However, with an aging
population, increasing
incidence of asthma and
allergic disorders, no let-up
in the rate of accidents and
violence, and

the stubborn persistence of
the ills to which the flesh
is heir, we docs

figure we're going to be
necessary for a while. So
please, Herr von Bohm-Bawerk,
come work in the hospital
with me. I could use the
help; you could use the

Yours most sincerely,

Michael Treece, MD

I wouldn't want to live in a
world without ya, doc. I
would want to live in a world
where your union didn't have
a significant grip over the
granting of legal permission
to perform certain services.
Certainly, some people need
the services of the health
care profession frequently,
and all of us will in our
dying days. I was just
arguing against the
centrality of the
profession's role in the
actual good health of most
Americans. Good to have you
when health fails; but you
aren't the most important
champions of health per se.

Get some rest.

Fish With Letter Icon


Well put m' man! And what
really irks me is having to
pay for clean water. If there
are any inalienable rights,
access to clean water (of the
non-chlorinated variety) has
to be one of them. Regarding
health care,

people are more comfortable
being told what to do as long
as the mandates come with
options and almost everyone
seems to feel a societal
obligation to wait in line.

HEHEHE I loved the healthy,
wealthy and wise clip... see
ya on "Who Wants to Be A

Gordon Woodcock

You may well be putting me
on, but it's hard to get me
riled about demanding
something for free that
requires building expensive
infrastructure to set up
(water). Otherwise, keep
missilin', or whatever it is
happens at Honeywell.



Subject: not too...

...funny. Or well aimed. You
had two good points: the
infantilization and
"externalization of
expectations" one and the
higher effectiveness of
public health than private
medicine. But why are you
dismissive of the health care
needs of the unhealthy? It's
not all last-stage treatment;
some people get sick in their
20s or 50s, are needed at
home and work, and actually
respond to treatment and
recover. Is this news?
Everyone knows

some story like this. Is my
wish not to die if it happens
to me entirely irrational?

The reason that Americans
hate HMOs is that at a time
that medical treatments
appear (note verb) to be more
effective and easier to
undergo, the bureaucratic
treatment becomes more of a
jungle. My doctor can get
through my colon faster than
I can get through my HMO's
IVR. (And the pictures look
the same!) I've sat in on
some HMO strategy sessions,
and they're not about
ease-of-use, except for
signing up.

I know it's supposed to be a
humor site, but maybe your
dyspeptic-pontification ratio
was lower today than your
personal best.

Jim Tobias
Inclusive Technologies

Sorry you didn't chuckle. Not
even at the "Learned Elders
of the AMA"

bit? Heh, that one slays me.
Anyway, one of your two
points is actually the
opposite of what I believe,
and the major one I had in
mind was pointing out that,
despite the way they are
conflated in various public
policy debates, for most
people in most situations
neither health care nor
health insurance have
anything to do with their


Fish With Letter Icon

"A similar combination of
officially superlative health
care with near complete
misery can be found in
Canada, "

Like, what's this about? I
have lived in the US (Los
Angeles), and now live in
Canada with so-called
'socialized' medicine. My
sister in law gave birth to
triplets last year (extremely
tough load on the health care
system), one niece has had
liver cancer and taken
treatment for it, my partner
had terminal cancer and I had
to drag him through the
health care system here. So
I've got a pretty good handle
on the relative merits of
both systems and a thorough
association with the health
care system here. You know
what? The Canadian system is
*vastly* superior in every
way..... I haven't had cause
for one complaint in any of
the treatment I've seen
received by my family. Ever
lived in Canada and seen the
health care system up close?
I thought not. Don't comment
on stuff you don't know
anything about. Americans are
stupid and selfish enough
without encouraging them to
think that they and their
health care system is better


Larry M. Retzlaff, Planner
City Planning Branch
City of Saskatoon
Development Services

I wouldn't dream of arguing
with a Canadian gov't planner
about the Canadian gov't
(though there are plenty of
long-winded arguments about
relative availability of the
best equipment, waiting
periods, why so many
Canadians actually go to
America for certain
treatments, etc.). But broad
mocking of our brothers to
the north is kind of a suck
tradition, and an Eugen one
in particular. In fact, I've
received over 200 angry
emails from Canadians in my
Suck writing career, and yes
I'm proud.


Fish With Letter Icon

Dear Eugen,

Nice article today - I
blindly agree with you about
everything. My own
grandmother died of pneumonia
misdiagnosed at a Socialized
Scotish hospital. I do wonder
why you're calling Dr.
Kevorkian out - the man's
always seemed like an honest
lunatic to me, not some flak
for the establishment.

I thought of you last night
in a pizzeria when a Whitney
Houston song came on - I
wondered if you ever
mentioned in your April
article that, whatever the
politics of celebrity
misbehavior, her music is
utterly boring. I've just
skimmed through it and can't
seem to find any reference to
the quality of her work -
only Courtney's. Suck writers
(yourself included) usually
do such a good job of
pointing out how capitalist
solutions to life's problems
just RULE, but I wonder if
anyone has ever really
tackled whether capitalism is
good for the arts? There was
something about filmmakers
making better movies under
oppressive regimes, but I
wasn't paying attention.

You're my new fave,



Kervorkian may himself be a
pleasant lunatic, but I
thought it worth pointing out
the pro-medical establishment
nature of the campaign to
legalize not suicide but
doctor-assisted suicide.
Seems like just another power
grab to me.

I don't enjoy Whitney's
music, but since I was
writing to defend her honor
against scurrilous assaults
in that ol' piece didn't see
it worth mentioning.

I don't know if Suck has ever
tackled capitalism vs. art,
but Colin there are these
things called books where
people make extended
arguments about things not
necessarily leavened with
cruel sarcastic
half-witticisms, and in that
realm I recommend Tyler
Cowen's In Praise of
Commercial Culture
(I think I
have that title right) from
Harvard U. Press last year.
Check for Tyler
Cowen at any case.


Fish With Letter Icon

 The Shit
Krushchev Remembers, by Nikita Krushchev (authorship disputed), translated by Strobe Talbott
Five-Star Day Cafe
Athens, Ga.
Salon's "Action Figures"
TV ad
Donna's Famous "Long and Short of It," by Donna Anderson and friends
Two-Lane Blacktop, directed by Monte Hellman (The Anchor Bay/Universal letterboxed edition)
George Bush, Dark Prince of Love: A Presidential Romance, by Lydia Millet (Scribner)
King Kong: The Complete 1933 Film Score, by Max Steiner Moscow Symphony Orchestra, William J. Stromberg conductor (Marco Polo)
Eightball #20, by Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics Books)
The ECW's Little Spike Dudley
Stan Kenton, City of Glass, featuring arrangements by legendary weirdo Bob Graettinger (EMD/Blue Note)
Comix 2000, Edited and published by L'Association, 2000
Star Dudes
Do you know of stuff that doesn't actively suck? Things so good they deserve to make the Shitlist? Send your suggestions to us.

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