Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Deepest, Darkest Secret*

Or, Why Am I a Balloon Pirate Which is Really Not That Deep and Dark but Makes a Suckier Subject Line:

In college, my friends Phil, Larry and I produced a TV series called "The Nothing Special." It was a lot of fun, but our ideas always exceeded our capabilities and our means. Which didn't really matter. We were doing something creative. Phil and Larr were TV-Radio majors, and I was an actor. Well, I was an Acting major, as opposed to an acting Major, which is a pro-tem field promotion to a positional operational command which may or may not become a permanent position.

We wrote our sketches by a process known as 'riffing,' a very poor example of which is above. Someone says something, and we ran with it, twisting the words this way and that, looking at if from different angles, trying to 'find the funny.'

One bit that we were working on was a pirate radio station that was run by real pirates.

(I, on occasion, will write stuff that seems incredibly obvious. But I have made the mistake of writing things that are blindingly obvious to ME, but not to others, thus finishing up what I thought was a cogent point or an amusing anectdote and getting a response similar to that of a dog watching a card trick. Even though we all speak the same language, cultural [and perhaps generational] differences do appear. If I explain a blindingly obvious point, this is why.)

Pirate radio stations were high-powered stations that were run in Canada, offshore or in Mexico, thus avoiding FCC licensing and regulations, but still able to reach a large portion of American listening audiences. With the internet, I don't even know if any still exist, but they were a big thing back in 1979, when this story takes place. (Blindingly obvious?)

Where was I? Oh yes. Pirate radio run by real pirates. I have a facility for voices, accents, and dialects, and because I do look a little pirate-y, we were working on a sketch where I was to play Artie Mehartie, from WRDR (say it like a pirate and it's funnier). Anyway, we were riffing on it, figuring out what I would be playing and saying--sea chanties, looting and pillaging ettiquette, the ravishing wench o' the week, stuff like that. This was not the only idea we were working on at the time--we had notebooks filled with sketch ideas, and we would go from one to another whenever we seemed to hit a dry patch. Thirty minutes a week of comedy is a lot of work, especially when you're taking a full course load.

One night we were working at the campus pub (yes, there was a place on campus that served alcohol), where the relentlessly cheerful people who put on relentlessly cheerful school activites were doing something relentlessly cheerful and getting the fuck in the way of what we were doing, so we went back to Phil & Larr's dorm room to work some more. The RC squad had put up a whole bunch of balloons, so I grabbed some on the way back to the room.

So we sat around their dorm room, throwing ideas around. When you're in college the novelty of a helium-filled balloon wears off rather quickly. So, while we were trying to figure out what was going to be in this week's show, I untied a balloon, inhaled, and in my best pirate voice (and I do a pretty damn good one), I said "Give usssss yerrrr ballllooooons!"

Howls of laughter, and thus was born the balloon pirate.

Although it never made it on the show, over the years, whenever we would get together, the balloon pirate would show up.

I haven't seen Larry in 10 years, haven't talked to him in 5. Phil and I have kept in closer contact (of course, him being in LA and me in NY meant it wasn't that easy, but we do what we can). When Phil started blogging, and eventually asked me to be a contributor, I had the feeling that there would be times when I would want to retain as much anonymity as I could (I'm in Al-anon, STBEW's supposedly in AA and NA, and the principle is very strong) because I could see where I might want to reference something in my life to make a point. So, for blogging purposes, the Balloon Pirate was reborn. Besides, it matches my initials.

So that's the story of how the Balloon Pirate came to be. Phil's blog has gone dark, so I no longer post there. It was a political blog, where we would vent our spleen over the crap that the current administration is doing to our country. I've pretty much given up on poliblogging, since it seemed that either folks agreed with me, or disagreed vehemently--no one ever changed their minds, and it resorted to ad hominen attacks. So that's why there's political references in my profile and the subhead. I suppose I could change it, but I don't. I guess it's laziness, but how many of you read that stuff anyhow? Now go get a glass of warm milk, and go to bed.


*This is essentially a copy of an email I sent to a blog buddy asking about the story behind my name. So if you feel like you've read this before, that's why.


Blogger United We Lay said...

People have gotten nicknames by wierder and much more embarrassing means, so you should be happy! The radio station sounds like fun.

12:03 PM  
Blogger terry said...


so when do we get to hear your pirate impersonation?

1:28 PM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Great tale and I always wondered why...

2:18 PM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

I thought I dreamed that.

Four of you tried to kill me. One of you succeeded!

3:22 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

it wasn't dejavu

5:54 PM  
Blogger Guy Wonders said...

I'm relieved. While it didn't fit with your character, I've always had this mental picture of you stealing balloons from small children. . . .

6:03 PM  
Blogger Miss 1999 said...

You know, that's a great story! I wondered where you got the name Balloon Pirate from, and honestly meant to ask before now, but with all of the shit you've been through, I didn't wanna just ask something off the wall of ya-- but glad you told us all, anyway!

2:08 AM  
Blogger GC (God's Child) said...

great post
and thanks for the explanations of the blindingly obvious because I'm too young to know all that

re no one ever changed their minds

very good point
reminds me of that John Mayer song
you may not like him but he has a point

10:48 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Where is my Johnny Depp?
Where is my Caribbean?
Where is my Jolly Roger?
Where have all the pirates gone?

12:41 AM  
Blogger Holy Visile said...

Great story, TY.

2:20 AM  
Blogger cadbury_vw said...

arrrrrr you feeling better after sharing your secret?

12:10 PM  

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