Sunday, August 14, 2011

Accidental Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Iceland-Land of Fire and Ice. But, mostly ice.
    One of my best friends when I was living in Iceland (NOTE: the fact that I lived in Iceland isn’t germane to this story.  I just wanted to rub it in that I lived in a place renowned for its beautiful women and salted fish) was the base chaplain (yeah, go figure).
Really, we have hair
    A Lutheran, his faith was pretty close to the Catholicism learned at the point of a yardstick from the good sisters of Saint Stanislaus.  The prayers, service, robes, and wine were pretty much the same.  The biggest differences were that he didn’t send the Pope Christmas cards.  And he could “do it.”
Confess, and we only take your pinky fingernails
    It wasn’t until much later in the Reformation that Protestants began to grow more distant from the “true Church” (according to Sister Mary Ignatius).  In response to what they deemed a suffocating stranglehold by the Vatican, they opted for grape juice instead of wine, direct prayer instead of confession, and hanging New England witches instead of ripping fingernails off Spanish heretics.
    In any case, Greg (yeah, the altar boy in me still has a problem using first names) and I found out we had a lot more in common than fear of eternal damnation and erectile dysfunction.  One night, while pontificating on the meaning of life over what turned out to be far too many glasses of wine, he remarked that I reminded him of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show.
    For those who do not know, The Daily Show is a show on Comedy Central.  Hosted by the comedically acerbic Jon Stewart, it is a satirical take on current events around the nation and the world.
    And the main source of news for the Obama Administration.
    Taking his comments as little more than the ramblings of a man who could recite dirty limericks in Latin, I didn’t pay them much attention.
"A parrot, rabbi, and a Democrat have illegitimate 
children..stop me if you heard this one"
    I watch The Daily Show and think Mr. Stewart is pretty funny, even if we don’t share the same points of view.  Still, being compared to him is much better than being compared to that noted jokester, Warren Harding.  Let’s see...Teapot Dome...or riotous send-ups of political figures....? 
    Close, but you get the idea.
    So, I forgot what Greg said.  And forgot my way home after his wife threw me out.  Thank goodness it was summer in Iceland, where it’s broad daylight at three in the morning.
    Anyway, I recently picked up a book written by Jon Stewart, America.  As I flipped through the pages, I started laughing out loud.  Causing angry stares from Mrs. Penwasser and the nice ladies in the choir.    
    The man presents American history in such an entertaining way that you’ll forgot it’s completely inaccurate in practically everything (except that Thomas Jefferson is dead).  Still, if you know enough history to realize that most of what he writes is pure bunkum (NOTE: that’s the first time in over 50 years I have used that word), you could do a lot worse than picking up this book (like The Collected Wisdom of Michael Moore-Now With Nutrasweet!).
    The more I read it, though, the more familiar it became to me.  At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but, by the time I reached the part about Warren Harding being our worst president, it became as clear as the Hudson River (the upstream part):  my writing style is just like Jon Stewart’s!
    If you don’t believe me, check out my Harding reference from six paragraphs ago.  I know.  Uncanny.
    Which begs the question, am I copying Jon Stewart?  Or is Jon Stewart copying me?  Let’s see....Jon Stewart has a highly successful show on cable television.  I own a cable television.  Jon Stewart is a much sought-after humorous commentator.  The only one who listens to me is my dog (but I think that’s because I don’t make fun of him because he has no balls).  Jon Stewart has made thousands of dollars from a hugely popular book.  I haven’t even received a “Blog of Note” from the fine folks at Blogger-who don’t pay me a nickel.
    Still, I think it’s a safe bet that nobody ever said to Jon over, “You know?  You remind me a lot of Al Penwasser.”
    That being the case, I can assure you I don’t copy him in any form (although I may wear a Jon Stewart costume when I ring the doorbell-and run-at the White House). 
    Even though our styles are eerily similar, I think it has more to do with our upbringing than anything else.  We’re approximately the same age and he was born in New York City, while I grew up in Connecticut.    
"Have you seen 'Annie Hall?' Genius!
Not so much since then."
Take my infidels...please. Death to America!
    For some reason, that section of the country has spawned a style as unique as any reality show on MTV (ooh, bad example).  Even though those lovable cut-ups from Iran could give them a run for their money, funnymen from the Northeast (and Woody Allen) bring to the table their own special brand of comedy (and a change of socks).
    Even so, I still think you should check out America.  I wouldn’t go to Borders, Barnes and Nobles, or any of the other bookstores which are going bankrupt (damn Kindle!).  I found my copy at a “Care and Share” used bookstore for a quarter.  And, that, my friends, is like a sore peter.
    You can’t beat it.
    As you read it (and trust me, you’ll laugh), you’ll be tempted to think you’ve wandered into Penwasser Place.  Never fear, though.  I didn’t lift any of his material.  I just give you more of the same. 
    Because, after all, nothing says America quite like wretched excess.     


  1. Your last line made me laugh. And I've never heard of this book, but I'm going to check it out sometime.

    And hell, geniuses think alike. You're not copying Jon Stewart and he isn't copying you. You're awesome by yourself, not by proxy. (:

    (Now that I have stroked your ego excessively, I shall counterbalance it by telling you that you should tweak your post format a little bit because the paragraphing makes it kind of hard to read.)

  2. Sore peter. Well said.
    Mr. Penwasser I congratulate you on your newly found, if not only by coincidence, fame. If a man of God said you remind him of Jon Stewart (and he didn't see it on a piece of toast) than I will take his word for it. You don't really need comparison your great the way you are even without Jon

  3. I love Jon Stewart! the Daily Show is one of my favs! I'll be looking for that book!

  4. I love Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert---which I don't think you are supposed to do...aren't you just supposed to like one or the other? Oh well...I'm a rule breaker.

    You cannot beat a book for .25cents. (Grrr why did they do away with the cent symbol?) I'll have to give it a read some time. I agree with Lemons are a genius in your own right.

  5. i like when my writing style reminds someone of a person who is famous and makes money. it makes me think that perhaps there's something of value in the things i babble about, if only humor and self-deprecation.
    consider it a delightful compliment to be matched with jon stewart. yay, al!

  6. I might give it a go. But I get the idea that it might contain a few US 'in jokes' which would go straight over my English head.

    That happens sometimes reading American bloggers as it is.
    Cor blimey guv.

  7. Hey this is the first time I have been here came over from Barb's blog and have liked what I have smelt burning what I mean read sorry but something is burning here I should go and check that out before the house burns down around me but hey it will wait till I have finshed this...........nah it's ok just my grandson sticking chocolate in the heater so house not burning down.......all good.....

    Jon Stewart yeah I know who he is is he funny maybe or maybe he is just a little strange ok I am the strange one but hey got nothing just felt like say hey........hey............what's going to work team work bloody wonder I'm rambling but wonder pets is the show my grandkids are watching and that song gets stuck in my head..............

  8. You are just too funny Al. I did my post that you tagged me on btw. So of course I put in a big plug for you on the blog! Jon Stewart is a riot, no doubt!

  9. John Stewart is not as funny as you. I got the other guys (Colbert) book for free, the library was trying to get rid of it. It could have been funny, but to me felt like it was written by a committee. I know that W. Harding was a good president. Don't watch stuart or colbert, but have seen small tidbits now and then of stuart, I suppose he's ok.

  10. @Lemons: The last line was exclusively mine and not lifted from a Hollywood celeb (ok, last time I feel I need to say it). Let me know what you mean about the paragraphs. I really want to make things easier for people to read.
    @Bushman: Thanks! Wow, you're right-he WAS a man of God. And he hung out with me. Does that make me God's Sidekick? (or Man of God's Sidekick? That's probably it). I've been using that "sore peter" line ever since I knew what could cause a sore peter (I was 12 or 13).
    @Eva: Even though we don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues, I like him, too. Humor is humor, after all.
    @Jewels: So do I. I know-25 cents!-couldn't believe it. The book is in perfect shape, too. It was at the Care and Share in Souderton (or is that Hilltown?? Aw, crap, it's real close to Souderton, anyway), by the way. If you want cheap books (some of which are apparently in fantastic condition), stop by there.
    @Sherilin: My one rule (which I try to adhere to as much as I can): I'm the only one I'm allowed to make fun of (oh, crap, there I go ending a sentence with a preposition again!). Similar to my other rule: I'm the only man I allow to touch Little Al.
    @dirtycowgirl: I do try to keep the American in-jokes to a minimum. If people whose nations aren't blessed with the cast of the "Jersey Shore" take the time to read, the least I could go is give them material they can understand. Like Anthony Weiner jokes.
    @Joanne: LOVE that comment rambling. Please come back.
    @Barb: Since I just got back from Virginia, I will most definitely go looking!
    @Anthony: Thanks, Anthony! I really try to keep any political commentary to an absolute minimum because it's tiresome (which is the only problem I have with Stewart and Colbert). But, Harding was the best president with bushy eyebrows in American history.
    Okay, everyone....time to go read your blogs!!

  11. i try to follow that same rule - i can only make fun of myself. the only exception is when it's my husband or kid & i get their permission to write a story about them. i think it's healthy for us all to laugh at ourselves & not take shit so seriously.