There’s this scene in the Muppets Take Manhattan, one of the greatest movies ever made, where the gang has been scattered to the winds after unsuccessfully trying to launch a Broadway musical and then Kermit gets amnesia and it’s up to Pete, who owns the diner where Kermit and Piggy and Rizzo used to work, to get everyone back together. So, Pete writes this letter to everyone that reads, in its entirety, “Dear bears and chickens and things. Is New York! Is play! Is time!” I think about this scene a lot. First of all, the brevity! Truly cannot relate. Second of all, every time a theater company asks my advice on how to market a play of mine I always tell them to use this and they always politely mute me on the call and it’s a real missed opportunity all-around. Is the play in New York? No. But people will figure it out. Or they won’t. That’s part of my whole gestalt.
Third of all, this scene is also a close approximation of what it’s like to try to tell everyone you’ve ever met that you published a book and they, uh, should buy it. “Dear bears and chickens and things,” I wrote on every social media platform last week. “Is book! Is time! Is available at your local independent bookseller!” And the gang actually came together, which is amazing. People have been so nice and so enthusiastic about Here for It, which I hoped for but, well, you never know. And maybe it sounds falsely modest to say “you never know” but I literally do not know. It’s been incredible doing book tour stops and having people who have read the newsletter for years or interacted with me online come up and introduce themselves. I, honestly, feel like amnesia-struck Kermit slowly figuring out who Fozzie is again. I had a whole conversation with three doctors at the Baltimore signing, signed their books, took a picture and then connected the dots to realize we talk literally every day on Twitter. I am just a frog with a memory problem and you’re all being very nice about it.
(Side note: It is clear now to me that my entire fashion aesthetic came from this one shot in the movie. I just want to be early-80s, cravat-wearing, Studio 54 daddy Kermit.)
One thing that was surprising to me is that by Wednesday people started messaging me to say they’d finished the book. I was like, “What book?” They’d be like “Your book. I have so many things I want to talk about! Where did the pee come from?!” (This question is a general one but also one specific to the book.) And I’d just stare at the message, slack-jawed, because one thing they do not tell you when you publish a book is that people will read the book. Also, they will read it quickly because it’s a quick read and apparently some people do not have 30 books in progress on their nightstand. One Bookstagrammer, read it at work, got in trouble for reading it at work, bought the audiobook to continue reading it, and then filmed a review at work while whispering so he wouldn’t get in trouble. This is so wildly extra and I am obsessed!
This is all wild, honestly. People are just sliding into my DMs fully conversant on the facts and events of this book and I was not expecting that at all. It’s just that for so long literally no one outside of your team has read the book and you just edge everyone on the internet for a while with cover reveals and stuff. Book promotion is like a burlesque number and then all of the sudden publication date comes, the bodice drops and you’re standing there twirling your pasties as fast as you can.
Anyway, it’s been wonderful and quite a surprise. I just don’t think I thought this part through. It’s like having a conversation with yourself that suddenly everyone can hear. And you have to tell everyone you’ve ever met “Listen, the truth is, if I knew where the pee came from, I wouldn’t have written the book. I would have lived a completely different life, to be honest. If I had a point of origin for the urine, I would probably be an accountant, actually.” It’s a whole thing.
Another thing that’s been wonderful and surprising has been how great the book tour stops are. I puzzled a lot about what exactly to do at a book reading and my wonderful, very patient team at Ballantine would tell me “At a book reading, you should read the book.” And I’d be like “Hmm. So, what you’re saying is I should bring a Mary Poppins bag on stage and do a half an hour of prop comedy?” And they’d be like “No, please read the words that you wrote in the order that you wrote them” which is also advice that I’ve frequently gotten from Jarrod when I’ve bamboozled him into directing me in a solo show. Of course, when that’s said that I hear “Incorporate a costume change and a game show. Consider learning to juggle. Magic????” So. It’s a process. Look, I’m just an amphibian with amnesia who is so glad to see the bears and chickens and things back together for the first time, holding a church fans and laughing. It’s, honestly, everything I could have wished for.
Early on, she started taking down Michael Bloomberg using the billionaire kryptonite of “facts” and “things he’s said and done” and though she made it look as effortless as Maria teaching the Von Trapps the scales, I was at home straight up sweating. I jumped up and immediately called the police. I was like “hello, officer? Elizabeth Warren just pulled off Michael Bloomberg’s face like a Scooby-Doo villain mask.”
Warren stopped and frisked Bloomberg on national television because he matched the description. When I tell you I am screaming and will be screaming until Warren personally calls me and tells me to calm down.
The best thing about this challenge, which last year featured New York City workers and this year features Olympic athletes, is that it is fully aware that normals frequently have hilarious and yet totally relatable ideas about what they want to wear on their bodies in the real world, and it's the designers, actually, who come out looking strange. Frequently the contestants will try to push their normals into some kind of elevated territory and the normal, who spends her day doing important normal things, will say something like, "what would be great is a nice pair of jeans" or "how about a bridesmaid dress? I could use that." I love this. And, not for nothing, who amongst us couldn't use a nice pair of jeans?
Some excerpts from Here for It were published on ELLE.com and in TIME Magazine’s special Equality Issue!
We may very well be living in the montage at the opening of some climatological disaster flick. I’m the one idiot holding up a sign that reads “Stay hydrated!” as the sea levels rise on the beachfront property I just bought. No one is interested in humor during the apocalypse, but I don’t let that stop me. It’s all I have to offer in this scenario. Because I am not end-of-the-world material.
We commonly sing only the first verse of the anthem. The singer wants confirmation about what is seen, what is perceived and what it means. And that lack of surety is America most of all. America is never a set notion; it is an ideal scarred from battle, perceived through smoke. The people must cry as one, “We do!” Is that what patriotism feels like? I feel that I should know, but patriotism, too, is always a question. It’s a concept that has been hijacked and beaten up, sold out and ripped to shreds by those who want it only for its surface rush, and not its arduous roots. Anything good in this country has had to be wrestled free.
Lastly, I wrote an original piece for O, the Oprah Magazine’s Coming Out series
Sometimes I forget that I’m gay. Which is to say I sometimes forget that not everyone is gay and that it is, in some spaces, an experience of otherness that needs explanation. My mind palace is a queer utopia. Like a potluck at a co-op. In some small way, I always knew that I was gay, but it’s also true that I continue to discover new aspects of my queer self every day. So when I think about coming out, I think less of a before and after—a sharp line through my story—and more of an unfinished list: moments of understanding and discovery and remembering and forgetting. For instance, 20 such moments, abridged.
Let’s hang out!
Thursday 2/27 - Here for It at Free Library of Philadelphia Central Parkway Branch, 7:30 pm / free
Tuesday 3/3 - Here for It at Catonsville Public Library First Edition series, 7pm / free
Random Thing on the Internet
Spent the morning watching videos of a hydraulic press squishing things. No regrets.
That’s part of my whole gestalt,