Coronawhat, Now?

The time has come, yet again, to craft an unbelievably hilarious humor piece, at once demonstrating my peerless wit and charm while leaving no doubt that the lethal coronavirus sweeping the globe has barely crossed my mind.

Let’s get down to business. Perhaps I’ll drum up a bit on how we can’t even make airplane peanut jokes anymore because no airline still offers them. No, no that’s no good: Airplanes and travel and maybe even food are off limits. Because of, well, nothing. Never mind. Moving on.

Is that a siren? Is someone sick?

Alas, there’s no cause for alarm! I’ve forgotten that, in an effort to make a smooth transition to my inevitable month-long quarantine, I’ve begun watching, alphabetically, every movie available to me. I’m currently on “G,” streaming that scene in The Goonies where Mouth isn’t sure if the police chase is coming from the TV or not.

Time to focus. My creative loins have given birth to this gem of an idea: Seven dirty words, updated for 2020.


I watched one of those videos for how to wash your hands properly and the guy was using a little brush to get under his nails. Checking Amazon. Little nail brushes are $86. And aren’t on Prime. And will be delivered by June 17, 2023.

Let’s all remain calm here. No problem at all.

Working out of the coffee shop—in public, surrounded by various other human beings who may or may not have watched the how-to-wash-your-hands-properly video—is shaping up just fine.

Well, except for the facts that I’ve seen two people blow their noses, everyone is touching their faces like they’re auditioning for a gig at Mary Kay and one guy is drinking tea. You’re busted, tea guy: Only sick people and hippies drink tea, and I’m not seeing a ponytail or hemp necklace from where I’m sitting.

I think I just touched my face, too.

Back on track. This is The Idea, no doubt about it: an homage to Steve Martin’s “King Tut.” The lyrics will satirize the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, mostly relying on the implication that he’s a sissy. Let’s just do a quick search to see if…oh, shit, yep: The coronavirus is in Egypt, too.


Pretty sure the gentleman closest to me is reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich in preparation for his imminent demise. I can’t believe this. We are all doomed.

Upon closer inspection, it looks like it’s a copy of InStyle.

Pull it together, man.

Wait. Did that woman two tables over just cough? No, forget it. I paused The Goonies and I’m listening to “Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath.

Black. Sabbath.

Of course. It’s another fucking New York Times push alert.

Now, why did—why did—why did that customer just purchase three pounds of coffee? Why would he buy that much coffee? He must be hoarding coffee. He must know something I don’t know.

Nice guy. Said he got an email from the shop about buying two pounds and getting one free.

Oh my god: Is that a group of kids running from the coronavirus as it spreads throughout our country, picking us off one by one? Ah, nope: I turned The Goonies back on again. Whoops. Fratellis, not coronavirus. Classic mix-up.

I surrender.

Facial Hair Grooming Tips

–Attention moustache wearers: Always remember to brush upwards on an ironic moustache, downwards on a sincere one.

–Look smart! Paying a white-smocked barber $35 for the same exact shave you can give yourself in two minutes yields a sophisticated look envied by men and cherished by women.

–To achieve a virile three-day’s-growth, consume several healthy swigs of Long Island Iced Tea and embark on a bar crawl, in which you travel to various drinking establishments on your hands and knees. Spend one night sleeping in an alley behind your neighborhood cathouse, one night in the drunk tank of the county jail, and one night in the arms of your best friend’s wife. Upon waking, your face will host the stubble of a Hollywood star.

–A little bitty Hitler moustache never goes out of fashion. Whatever your thoughts on the Führer’s politics, the man was a hunk.

–Those gentlemen in the early stages of puberty will want to maintain a touch of peach fuzz on their upper lip. It’s a reliable hit with older women and never fails to make its wearer appear wise beyond his years.

–When grooming during a house fire, always shave your goatee first. Otherwise, if you are forced to evacuate mid-shave, people will not think you are running from fiery flames; they will think you are running to a Stone Temple Pilots reunion concert.

Shove off, 2019!

Farewell, 2019…hello, 2020! Alas, this year seems to be heading out the door without a new Lowbrow Reader issue. But never fear: With the new year will come a new issue, the long-awaited Lowbrow Reader #11, rife with rich surprises and guaranteed to blow minds the world over. The new issue is not due for a few months, but in the meantime, we still have a handful of copies of LBR #10—it is destined to sell out soon, so buy it while it’s still available! Still want more Lowbrow? Who doesn’t?! Our sterling book anthology, The Lowbrow Reader Reader, remains available from its publisher, Drag City, as well as from the kindly retailer who controls the earth’s tilt. Order today!

Otherworldly: Performance, Costume and Difference

Rammellzee by Keetja Allard

Those aesthetically minded New Yorkers interested in art and fashion—and really, who isn’t?—are hereby alerted to the existence of “Otherworldly: Performance, Costume and Difference,” a flamboyant exhibition freshly opened at Parsons’s Aronson Galleries, on Fifth Avenue. Curated by Charlene K. Lau and the all-star Lowbrow Reader contributor Francesca Granata, the exhibition features work by a trio of uncorked New Yorkers: Machine Dazzle, Narcissister, and the late Rammellzee (pictured). All three work or worked on the margins, mining what the curators call political material “at the intersections of costume, fashion and performance.” The exhibition, at 66 Fifth Avenue, is part of the Performa 19 Biennial and runs through December 15. No plans this week? Check out the opening, on Thursday, November 21st, from 6–8pm.

Read more about “Otherworldly” at Fashion Projects or the New School.

Saw, 2019

Chained-Up Guy #1: Where am I? What is happening?

Chained-Up Guy #2: I think we’re in one of those Saw movies.

Chained-Up Guy #1: You may be right. We’re both chained to pipes and there’s a hacksaw on each of our laps and a dead guy in the middle of the floor in this windowless, feces-covered room. Definitely Saw.

Chained-Up Guy #2: I thought they were done with these things.

Chained-Up Guy #1: Wait, that clock on the wall say it’s the year 2019? My memory is foggy, but I think the last thing I remember was the Cubs winning the World Series. That was 2016. I guess I have a lot to catch up on!

Chained-Up Guy #2: Oh no, dude. You’re not gonna like this but….

Chained- Up Guy #1: Alright, here comes that creepy Billy the Puppet guy. Maybe he will tell us what’s going on.

Billy the Puppet: Donald Trump is president.

Chained-Up Guy #2: There it is.

Chained-Up Guy #1: Good one, Billy. (more…)

One-Liners III

Watch Out: I have a certificate that reads, “Sense of Accomplishment.”

Idea: What about an audio disc for drivers, of cats mewing?

Attention, Friends: In a misunderstanding, my heart was given to Roland Thompson. Now that guy has two hearts. Arrggh, I hate that guy! [Drops dead.]

Excerpts from My Mental Notes:

1. That thing you always think is wrong—do the opposite
2. I am wrong. This thought I have can’t possibly be right. Remember to think this other, nonsense thought every time.
3. Try thinking own very wrong thoughts in a different order.
4. Aha! You found me! I planted this worthless mental note!
5. Put a lot of animals in my humor.

Spouse’s Ultimatum: Can’t love me? Buy!

Punny Relationship Ultimatum: You and what are me?

Little-Spoken Fact about Life: The hurts truth.

Hipster Band Name: Milk When You’re Expecting Orange Juice

Dad Joke: Q: What do you get when you sneeze while eating nachos? A: “Nachoo!”

Regular Joke: Q: What’s worse than a vomitorium? A: A vomiteria.

Random Funny Thing to Say Using a Character Name from The Simpsons: All should be well if this goes through, Disco Stu.

I Will Leave You with This: There is nothing worse than being none the wiser.

The Show Won’t Go On

Here’s a book to dig! The Show Won’t Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage, which was written by Lowbrow friends Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns and has been newly published by Chicago Review Press. In gory detail and with no small amount of black humor, the book recounts those surprisingly numerous moments when a performer gets onstage and never comes off, reaching his end before a horrified crowd.

The well-researched book includes chapters on performers of all ilk, be they doomed singers, magicians, or, of course, comedians, including the notorious Friars Club death of Harry Einstein (father of Albert Brooks and Super Dave Osborne). All are handled with grace. What might have proved grim or exploitative turns celebratory, as the authors examine the careers of largely obscure artists united in misfortune. For instance: Dick Shawn, an uncorked comedian (he played Lorenzo Saint DuBois in The Producers) whose heart failed during a climactic moment of his one-man show. “The whole time he’s lying there, the audience is still there,” the comic’s son recounts in the book. “And there were people that wanted their money back.” Learn all about Shawn, Einstein, and others in their woebegone fraternity. Buy The Show Won’t Go On today!

Puncture: The First Six Issues

Of all the dynamite magazines to evaporate in the unforgiving current century—and please take a moment of silence for MAD—few had the secret charms of Puncture, a home-baked music magazine that published 47 issues between 1982 and 2000. Puncture chronicled the indie-rock of its day with a snob’s flare, forever tasteful and intelligent. It was the first publication to print features about Sleater-Kinney, Guided By Voices, and Broadcast; it excerpted Infinite Jest and interviewed Yoko Ono; it was a passionate champion of the Mekons, the Go-Betweens, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Throwing Muses.

Puncture Magazine ceased publication in 2000 as its editors, Katherine Spielmann and Steve Connell, turned their attention to their publishing house, Verse Chorus Press. (The fact that The Lowbrow Reader published its first issue the following year is no coincidence—Lowbrow’s editor worked at Puncture in its final years.) Spielmann died in 2016—yet the legacy of Puncture lives on. Next year, Verse Chorus will publish Now Is the Time to Invent, a book anthology featuring writing and photography from the magazine, tracing the growth of indie-rock in real time.

But first up, there is Puncture: The First 6 Issues, available now from Tract Home Publications. For before it was a (scrappy) magazine from Portland, Oregon, Puncture was a (scrappier) zine in San Francisco, covering Bay Area punk of the early ’80s. This book reprints every vibrant page of the first six issues, with a new introduction by Patty Stirling, who founded Puncture with Spielmann, plus a foreword by J. Neo Marvin, a favored byline throughout the magazine’s run. For years, these issues have been difficult to find—even in the Puncture office—and generally priced for big-pocketed collectors. Seize the opportunity to read every word today! Snap up Puncture: The First 6 Issues, at retailers big or small.

Homicidal Robot Alligators

The daily grind can be a lot: work, kids, bills to pay. It’s no wonder so many of us are in therapy, on medication, or addicted to drugs. No thank you. I’ve found that the best solution for alleviating the angst of modern life is pretty simple: Realizing that a flying swarm of tiny robotic alligators will eventually lead to the collapse of our society and all of our deaths.

Just yesterday, as I walked in the rain after a long day at the office, a car sped by, soaking me with filthy gutter water. Ready to snap, something dawned on me and I let out a long sigh and smiled: We are all going down, courtesy of these god-forsaken robot alligators.

The mini gators might fly into our noses or ears to inflict unbearable pain or, perhaps, some maniac will design ones that just explode our brains. Either way, it’s going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it.

I took my wet shoes off and poured myself a nice, cold Miller Lite.

Sure, this all may sound a bit fanciful. But it might not even necessarily be alligators! It could be flying orbs, helicoptering hot dogs, or, chillingly, bees, like in that creepy TV show.

And, hey, maybe it won’t be every human on the planet who dies this way. But, there’s little doubt that if any government or rebel group or even an acne-scarred teen with a bone to pick assumes similar control, it’s only a matter of time until chaos reigns. (more…)

Welcoming Purple Mountains

If you have read The Lowbrow Reader you surely have admired the mind-bending cartoons of all-star contributor David Berman. Yet like many, we first encountered the artist through his songs: Namely his near-perfect recording project the Silver Jews, which he laid to rest about a decade back. But congratulations! You have successfully waited out Mr. Berman’s musical retirement: Earlier this month, he unveiled a new band, Purple Mountains, whose self-titled album comes out on Drag City in July. For now, feast on the knockout first glimpse, “All My Happiness Is Gone”—rarely have we been so happy to be this sad. Order Purple Mountains through Drag City, where you can also pick up a new hardcover edition of Berman’s poetry book, Actual Air, plus his book of cartoons, The Portable February.

But how else to celebrate Mr. Berman’s return to music? Easy! Cover your wall in “SilverJewsLand.” With MAD magazine splendor, the brand new poster (above, in miniature), illustrates over 75 Berman songs. And the artist? None other than Jeffrey Lewis—who, like Berman, is a polymathic singer, songwriter, cartoonist, and Lowbrow Reader contributor! Buy a copy of the poster through Lewis’s website today, and watch for both Lewis and Berman on tour in the months ahead.