You Gotta Be Kidding Me With These Drones, Nerds

“Another Defense Department official said that law enforcement agencies were planning for any number of possible events, some of them horrific. Worst-case scenarios include snipers targeting inauguration dignitaries, ‘suicide-type aircraft’ entering Washington’s restricted airspace and even remote-powered drones attacking the crowd.” – The New York Times

My fellow citizens: I stand here today, at this inaugural address, humbled by the trust you have placed in me. I am ready to take on the many challenges that await us as a nation.

I also stand here looking at all of these flying attack drones over my head. You gotta be kidding me with these things, nerds.

That we are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation war against a deadly virus is at the forefront of our minds. And, to be sure, it is also at the forefront of our minds that purchasing one of these rotorcrafts and then hovering it above a crowd means you are a complete and utter dork.

Go ahead and shoot those suckers down. Thanks.

Today I recognize that the challenges we face are real. These obstacles include the pandemic, an attack on our Capitol, record unemployment, racial injustice and stark political divisions.

One such challenge is not these cockamamie unmanned aerial vehicles, though. We have 20,000 United States National Guard troops and Lord knows how many members of the Secret Service present.

Oh, look. Down goes another drone.

We are still the greatest nation on Earth. We Americans are still full of creativity, innovation and energy. For instance: Think of all of the science and technology it must have taken to get the XL-56T spinning right over my head off the ground.

Ha, just kidding. I made that name up. I don’t know what they’re called because I am not a poindexter.

We are in the fight of our lives, but I know that if we are united, nothing can stand in our way.

And speaking of the fight of our lives, I used to fistfight a gang leader in east Wilmington named Corn Pop. Did you comic book–reading dweebs think I’d be afraid of your little helicopter toys? Are there supposed to be lasers or little ninja stars on these things?

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson writes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” We live by these words. And we die by these words.

He must not have been talking about people who fly drones, though. Burn.

Thank you. May God forever bless the United States of America. And may He bless you all.

Well. Maybe not “all.”

One-Liners IV

If you eat a lot of rosemary, you will have more recurring dreams. If you eat a lot of rosemary, you will have more recurring dreams.

I have a really stubbly beard. My beard is so stubbly, I had to type this joke with my tusks.

Do trees with body dysmorphic disorder think every bird is a woodpecker?

A dog walks into a bar and says, “Yelp!” The bartender says, “Good dog.”

What type of candy bar is fastest: pun size.

What type of woolly mammoth either loves or hates construction sites, I don’t know—and who cares?

Desert pro-tip: eh, what the heck, leave the oasis.

My rabbits are very feline: lately, they have been reading books meant for my dog.

What’s the least deadly part about my music? Well, there’s less arsenic in the flute—now.

How many 3-D printers did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart use to invent the light bulb? Zero—and voila!

The universe is really big. Compared to what? I bet the universe thinks we’re really small.

Whoops, I almost fainted there—whew! That’s a joke, that counts as a joke.

I feel bad for dodo birds. I mean, you want to be physically strong for your size, but you also want to never go extinct.

What if all crime actually started as random security checks?
Q: Then why did the security checks exist?
A: Well, I don’t see any crime, do you?

Something you don’t want to hear on your driving test: “I’m not a driving-test proctor, if that’s even what they’re called—heh heh, what we’re called. I didn’t just say this.”

I’m a right-side-up guy: I fall asleep as soon as my feet hit the pillow.

I’m afraid of sharks. Jaws is my favorite movie—because it is about fear of sharks.

Someone with laryngitis thinking of a joke: “I am only going to say this zero times.”

A person who can talk but who can’t think: “I’m just thinking out loud.”

He lost a bet: Sonic the Hedgehog to serve human meat at my house.

If a tree falls in the desert—and that’s a pretty big “if”—does it make a sand?

There are not enough letters in the alphabet. I know what would solve the problem: more letters!

Patient: “Doctor, I have a favor to ask. Would my child-prodigy son be able to perform the operation? It would mean a lot to my wife. Whoops, wrong son! Billy that’s not a scalpel! (The anesthesia begins kicking in.) “I guess I should count down from beep… hey-o!” (patient flatlines.)

I practice negative psychology: I see that somebody’s at a +4 mood-wise, I try to get them down into the dumps, into the negative numbers, that kind of thing.

“This might give me an idea,” I thought.

I need a low-calorie flarf. Long story, but I eat my flarfs. You guessed right: I eat the flarf last.

You ever give yourself a little depression to take the edge off your anxiety?

You know, sometimes I think some people have the tip of the iceberg as the part of the iceberg that is underwater, and vice versa—and don’t get me started on this.

I invented a rat trap that really sticks to your hand.

I’m a glass-half-full sort of pessimist: you might tell me that I have “some cheese Danish on my nametag,” but the way I prefer to think about it is, “there’s a cheese Danish with my name on it.”

I always try to get what I want; and if I don’t get what I want, I just sour grapes it.

Ideas for the Cleveland Baseball Team Name

“Following years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist.” – The New York Times

Naps: While this name—in honor of the Hall of Fame second baseman Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie—has been used for a Cleveland baseball club before, it also paints an accurate picture of what my grandfather would do in the sixth inning as his team was losing yet another game.

Pennys: My mother’s name is Penelope. She goes by Penny. Born in University Heights in 1951. It also doubles as a price point for how much a ticket should cost to see a game played by an organization that has not won a World Series since 1948.

Fellers: Not to be confused as an honorific for one of the best pitchers of all time, Bob Feller, this is instead the way my Cleveland-born, steel salesman grandfather would pronounce the word “fellow” after an encounter with another man.

Spiders: Another former name for the team. But for my family from Northeastern Ohio, this is mostly about the giant bugs that crawled out of the ravine next to the house on Lake Erie.

Lawn Mowers: Okay, Pop-Pop, I get it. Even on vacation, there are chores.

Rockers: Yes, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. You will also find the rocking chair hall of fame about 45 minutes east in a living room in Madison, Ohio.

Stop Signs: Some have suggested that “Burning Rivers” be considered, a tongue-in-cheek jab at the Cuyahoga River’s tendency to inflame over the course of a century. Instead, here we tip our Chief Wahoo–less caps to that time that my cousin Will and I found a real, rusty Cleveland stop sign while we were swimming in the lake. (This name could also function as a guide for the third base coach as a sluggish Cleveland runner attempts to round the bag.)

Yankees: Because the Indians caused the family so much distress over the years, my hard-headed grandmother switched allegiances to another squad that, at the time, was in the same division. Her remarks of “at least they actually win” did not sit well with most of us—but, hey, she wasn’t wrong.

Aqua Sox: The Dantean script “abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” should be inscribed upon every Lake Erie beachfront sign marking hours and prohibited items. You’re going in barefooted? There are rusty stop signs in there, man.

Now Is the Time to Invent!

When the Lowbrow Reader debuted in the summer of 2001, the publication’s muses were clear: Billy Madison, Howard Stern, the Three Stooges, and other enlightened fare. But one of our primary influences had little to do with comedy: specifically, Puncture, a fabled indie-rock magazine that was published between 1982 and 2000. I began writing for Puncture in 1996, when I was a wee college student, and later moved to Portland, Oregon, to work for the magazine. When Puncture closed in 2000, I shipped off to New York City, began working at Time Out New York, and launched the Lowbrow Reader.

Of course, the comedy zine deviates from the much larger music magazine in a million different ways—Lowbrow is more Andrew Dice Clay, less Belle and Sebastian. Yet Puncture’s inspiration was monumental. Don’t believe it? See for yourself! This week, Verse Chorus Press is publishing a beautiful Puncture anthology, Now Is the Time to Invent! Reports from the Indie-Rock Revolution, 1986–2000. The lushly illustrated door stopper examines indie-rock through interviews and reviews torn from Puncture’s pages. It features the first-ever profiles of Sleater-Kinney and Guided by Voices; a pair of essays by Terri Sutton that helped light riot grrrl’s spark; and long takes on blue-chip indie artists including the Mekons, the Go-Betweens, Neutral Milk Hotel, Royal Trux, Beat Happening, the Magnetic Fields, Jonathan Richman, and more.

Along with Katherine Spielmann, Steve Connell, and J Neo Marvin, I am a very proud editor of the anthology. However, the book is overwhelmingly the work of the couple behind Puncture—Connell and, especially, Spielmann, who co-founded Puncture as a punk zine in 1982 and died in 2016. Now Is the Time to Invent! is long-in-the-works but well worth the wait, and not owning the book will be an embarrassing affront. Don’t let your bookshelf be caught on Zoom without it. Buy a copy for every room of your house AT ONCE!

Dum Ditty Dum

By now, it’s pretty clear that the Internet will never be the path to salvation. Print remains the future, okay? For one glimmering piece of evidence, see a recently hatched music publication that we heartily and unequivocally endorse: Dum Ditty Dum. Published in Chicago by Other Forms, Dum Ditty Dum is high concept and cerebral yet lucid and fun. In each issue, the editors examine a single day from the rock era, defined here as launching in 1950 and halting—much like democracy itself!—in the last few years. The day is generated at random, “to understand by inference the total set of ad-hoc forces operating at the spectrum of popular rock music in that single arbitrary moment.”

The new Dum Ditty Dum issue, #3, looks at November 7, 2012. Written by Eugene V. Booth, with Chris Kuck and Jack Henrie Fisher, DDD #3 examines its day’s hitmakers, in particular Kendrick Lamar. But it also addresses the avant-garde: The month marked the final tour of Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, whose ashes get sorted via both essay and a sharp Q&A interview Booth conducted with the musician Fred Lonberg-Holm. Previous issues looked at October 28, 1977 and March 24, 1987. All DDD issues are designed with panache, crisply written, and blissfully individualistic. Don’t slack on this. Check out Dum Ditty Dum at once!


Help Fund B&H Dairy

If the Lowbrow Reader were to transform, for whatever strange reason, into a restaurant, we’d like to think it would become B&H Dairy, the storied Yiddish diner in the East Village. Hovering around 85-years-old, the petite dairy kosher restaurant is ground zero for Ashkenazi vegetarians; while Lowbrow HQ shipped over to the west side nearly two decades ago, the diner still seems like a home base of sorts. Read about B&H in Ben Katchor’s new banger, The Dairy Restaurant—and, if you are anywhere near St. Marks Place, read it over a bowl of matzo ball soup at the hallowed joint itself.

B&H has weathered some wild storms over the decades, including a gas explosion down the block that knocked it out for several months in 2015. (Bizarrely, this same explosion indirectly led to the permanent closure of our own neighborhood’s center of operations, La Taza de Oro.) Like nice small businesses the world over, and especially New York, B&H Dairy currently finds itself in a Covid-derived muddle. It needs your cash! Head to the diner and load up on challah and borscht—or funnel some funds to B&H via this handy GoFundMe page.

If the diabolic current officeholder somehow holds the White House in the fall, the United States of America, too, may get its own GoFundMe page. But in the meantime, be a mensch and unload your riches onto B&H Dairy, pronto!

Come One, Come All to Chris’s Not-at-All Racist Cake Shop

Chris Janicek, the Senate candidate who lost the support of the Nebraska Democratic Party this week after sending a sexually explicit text message about one of his campaign staff members, has also made racist comments in the past, according to four people who knew him or heard about the comments at the time…“He had a history of making racial jokes and racist jokes and then saying ‘I’m just kidding’ if somebody got offended by it. He was pretty well known for doing things like that. A lot of times people excused his behavior because he was a cake maker, so he would always bring cakes to parties — you know, ‘He’s kind of a racist, but he makes really good cakes.’” – The Times

Hi! I’m so glad you’re all here, from members of the press to my family to Omaha’s preeminent pastry connoisseur, Joe “Custom Suspenders” Markey.

As we all know, my campaign has hit a few bumps in the road of late. The purpose of this little pow wow is to get back to basics. I want you all to know where I come from—as a small business owner who loves to bake delicious cakes. Let me walk you through our menu as the team passes around free samples.

Chocolate Cake – Bar none my favorite cake! Definitely. Definitely my favorite cake.

Vanilla Cake – Not as good as chocolate cake. But still pretty good. I mean, really, though, who can say which is better? Chocolate or vanilla. Two classics. I think I prefer vanilla when I really think about it.

Linzer Torte – Thought to be the oldest cake in the world, its recipe comes from Austria. And everybody loves everything that comes out of Austria, right? Beethoven, Freud, Schwarzenegger. What’s that from the back row? Who else is from there? Some other guy, okay, cool.

Birthday Cake – Happy birthday! Sprinkles! Happiness! One of our most popular cakes is moist, triple-layered and chock full of all the colors in the rainbow. And what could be better than that? Well, maybe just one or two colors. I dunno. Sometimes that rainbow can be overwhelming. Probably just the one color of sprinkle, yeah. That’d be best.

Cupcakes – Sometimes my campaign manager stuffs one of these in my face when I’m about to say something stup– [muffled voice]

Red Velvet Cake – That cupcake hit the spot. Thanks, Scott. When I started selling red velvet, the G.O.P. called me a commie. Gimme a break. It’s just dye. Trust me, I used the same Red 40 to dress up as an Indian for Halloween once.

Upside-Down Cake – Could there be a better cake for the crazy world we’re living in? I don’t think so. Our pineapples are the ripest in the whole Midwest. I’ve often said, “If I accidentally uttered a slur in your presence, this is the cake I’d serve to win you back.” And I stand by that statement. Miss, don’t leave! Try the upside-down cake!

Wedding Cake – This is a sublime version of Omaha’s tastiest nuptial cornerstone. We’ve got as many flavor varieties as you can imagine and almost as many little figurines with which to top it. We can do two men, two women or anything you desire! Totally open to everything here. I’m a Democrat, after all. We’ve even got an Asian couple that works for Koreans, Chinese, Japanese or whatever any of those other countries are over there.

Carrot Cake – Ew. Not a fan. Especially when there are raisins. Anyhow, they say it’s a “healthy” cake. And we make the best in town! Have a slice.

Coffee Cake – Scott said I got through that one without saying anything racist. Let’s go for two in a row. This one is flaky, buttery and best served with a cup of our delicious joe, which we make sure is unfair trade. What’s that, Scott? Ah, darn. Welp, we’ll always have carrot cake. I mean, I won’t. Carrot cake is disgusting.

Makes Moves with John Hammond

Podcasts! They are the future! Or…the present? Who the hell knows? But here’s one super sharp program to glue your ears on: Make Moves with John Hammond, produced in loopy California. Each episode features a glorious deep-dive interview with a creative risk taker, be it a musician, feminist art collective, or artisan baker. Through it all, Hammond proves an alert and curious interviewer.

But at the end of the day, who takes more creative risks than the Lowbrow Reader? Honestly, has any other American publication been pounding the pavement all these years, lobbying the Nobel Committee to grant a posthumous peace prize to Rodney Dangerfield? No! It’s a lonely road. Thus, in its most recent episode, Make Moves turns its gaze to our humble comedy zine, via an extended interview with Lowbrow editor Jay Ruttenberg. Check it out through the Make Moves homepage, or Apple Podcast, or Spotify, or YouTube, or however else you prefer to cast your pod!

Announcing…Lowbrow Reader #11

We are thrilled to announce the publication of our new issue, Lowbrow Reader #11. It’s the first Lowbrow Reader issue in over three years. Was it worth the wait? That’s a no-brainer! The issue features long articles about Andrew Dice Clay and “Hey! It’s Enrico Pallazzo!,” plus stellar contributions by David Berman, Professor Irwin Corey, Dave Eggers, Sam Henderson, Steve O’Donnell, and more. Dig it! We go to 11! Order the issue today via our ordering page!

Lowbrow #11 costs $4, shipping included. Check out the Table of Contents:

From the Desk of the Champion

To Associated Grocer,

I hope you are staying safe during this crazy time.

I recently placed a delivery order for two cans of Coca-Cola, one box of Frosted Flakes cereal, and 96 Teddy’s Frozen Hot Dogs. Regrettably, when the order arrived at my house, it was 92 dogs short.

Please know that the franks are a necessity not only for my health and well-being, but also for my profession. You probably would recognize me from my trips to your store before life was upended by this horrible virus. However, I suspect you do NOT know my identity as the reigning Hot Dog Eating Champion from Teddy’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Brooklyn, New York. As I’m sure you will understand, I prefer to be discreet when interacting with the public in my day-to-day life. I am “outing” myself now as the Contest is mere months away and I cannot afford to lose time training.

Know that helping me prepare for the Contest will allow your store to play a small but critical role in my ultimate victory.

Respectfully yours,

Arthur Rendaro, Hot Dog Eating Champion

To Hank’s Franks,

I hope that everybody at Hank’s Franks is okay during this terrible time.

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You may find it hard to believe, but despite my standing as defending champion, the corporate “powers that be” behind Teddy’s Hot Dog Eating Contest have been unresponsive to my numerous queries regarding this year’s Contest. Sports leagues across the globe are canceling events and, as I’m sure you know, the comp-eating world is abuzz with rumors that Teddy’s plans to follow suit.

Enter…Hank’s Franks? If you sponsor a tournament—guaranteeing proper social distancing to ensure the safety of both eaters and civilians—I can be persuaded to participate. I am confident that my presence would lure Naoyuki Kurihara, my most fearsome rival, to emerge from his medically-imposed retirement. Other comp-eating notables—Otto the Infinity Tummy, Fritz “No Potatoes” Belson, Big Vinnie Lambardo, Little Tony Ratowski, Kenny Pickles, Salt Whitman—would surely answer the irresistible call of competition, as well. Once Hank’s Franks steps in during this time of national emergency, Teddy’s “flavorless franks” will be forgotten to time.

Stay safe and keep swirling your cherished Secret Signature 14-Spice Blend. Know that in this difficult moment, your work is giving sustenance and hope to everybody from humble frontline workers to globally recognized Hot Dog Eating Champions.

Respectfully yours,

Arthur Rendaro, Hot Dog Eating Champion

Note to Self

[Here’s the text for tomorrow’s video. Remember to wear shirt.]

Hi Guys! [Wave] It’s the Hot Dog Champ here. I hope you are all doing well in this time of crisis. I’m sure that like me, you are all stuck at home. As an entertainer, I thought I would bring a small amount of joy to everybody who might be bored under quarantine [Core-an-tiine]. For the first time ever, I am opening a window to my practice routine, and letting you [point at camera] watch as I consume 35 hot dogs in 10 minutes time.

But before I begin eating, I have some important business to address. As you probably know, the status of this summer’s Teddy’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, set to occur in the Brooklyn section of New York City, New York, is currently up in the air. I hope we all do everything in our powers to save the Contest!

[Serious face] Look, when eating franks, I try to leave my politics at the door. Whether we identify as eaters or fans, we are all people—not splotches of red or blue. Regardless of political affiliation, now is the time to contact your elected officials. While I have been unsuccessful in my quest to reach representatives at the city or state level, I am happy to report that the White House has been very engaged with the situation surrounding this summer’s Contest.

Remember to wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and—if you want things to return to normal by the time of the Contest—STAY INDOORS! And now, watch as I devour these delicious Teddy’s franks. [Hold wiener vat up for camera]

Dear Naoyuki,

We have always faced one another as the fiercest of rivals; know that any verbal and physical aggression on my part was only generated in the heat of battle. I wanted to reach out to check on your well-being during this pandemic, which I know has been particularly devastating to the Oriental Region.

As you may have heard, the “Einsteins” behind the Contest have been noncommittal regarding the fate of this summer’s event. Major League Baseball has floated the prospect of moving its players to a massive quarantine in Arizona. Assuming that the chronic conditions afflicting your gallbladder, esophagus, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and anus have subsided, might we borrow this idea from our fellow sportsmen? If the traditional venue proves inhospitable to this summer’s Contest, you and I might still face off, mano a mano—quarantined together, alone with a tub of franks.

Respectfully yours,

Arthur Rendaro, Hot Dog Eating Champion

PS: Please accept my condolences on the death of your wife to this dreaded virus.