Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

Fat Andrew: The Third Decade

February 4, 2011

Andrew Hicks

When I got to college, I was in the heart of my isolated-loner stage. I had all kinds of free time and a 20-a-week meal plan at the dining hall. The only restriction was that I could only get two entrees per trip through the line. I could live with that. I ate my ass off. I wore sweatpants for like three years. No belts, no stepping on scales and a personal appearance and demeanor that cried out “purposefully unlayable.”

Red Flag #1 was when I realized I was too big to fit on the Batman ride at Six Flags. I’d waited with a buddy in hot summer weather for almost an hour for the front car, and when we finally got on, I couldn’t get the shoulder harness in reach of the seatbelt clasp. A grunting, straining employee threw her weight into trying to wedge me for almost a full minute while the next train behind us was stopped on the track, riders waiting while swinging their feet. The acne-faced ride operator had to press the button that released everyone’s restraints so I could do the Lardass Walk of Shame. That sucked.

Red Flag #2 was when I finally did step on a scale and saw it tip 300 pounds. I was already not happy with myself in general, which brought me shame and despair. Well, there’s no temporary cure for shame and despair quite like a few Big Macs. One night, after binging on something I don’t remember, a switch turned on in my brain, and I knew I was done eating bad food.

The next day, I cut out red meat, fried foods and processed desserts and made sure to walk at least a half-hour per day. I even remember ordering the fresh fruit platter when out with some friends one night at a Mexican restaurant. It cost the same as everyone else’s dinner, but it arrived on a side plate garnished with leaf lettuce and a plastic flag sticking up that said, “Hey, fatty! I ain’t NEVER gonna fill yo’ ass up!”

My resolve stuck with me long enough to lose almost 50 pounds, then I started to slip. And it was around this time, age 19 and 20, that I really realized I didn’t just have to write down what I thought was funny. I could say it, too, and people would laugh. Some people even liked it when I talked serious.

I got a little self-esteem on my shoulders, made some enjoyable friendships and partied my ass off. Alcohol is chock full of empty calories, but I also lived in a college town that delivered pizza until 3 am. The Texaco was right up the street, offering chocolate pies and as much nacho cheese as you could fit on a plastic tray. Oh, and Mountain Dew slushees. Those were incredible.

I’d put every ounce of those 50 pounds back on by the time I joined Bally’s Total Fitness in February, 2001. My package came with two free personal-training sessions. Kurt, the personal trainer, looked like The Rock if he was white, 5’8″ and couldn’t raise the one eyebrow. What Kurt could raise was the entire stack of weights on the pectoral fly, and he’d make a show out of inviting the nearest hot girl in the gym to push against the top of the stack of weights with all her might, throw all her weight into it, then he’d lift all that. While he was keeping a half-eye on me incorrectly doing lunges across the exercise floor.

Kurt used to put me on this stairmaster/lunge combo machine, crank the resistance up to 20, then walk away while I surreptiously pushed the down button to get the resistance back to 1. And this was like seven years after my last gym class. I wished you could get the free personal trainer sessions after you’d been going to the gym for a few months and had built up a little tolerance and strength.

I kept going to the gym and working out for the next seven years, off and on. More on than off. I dropped an easy 30 pounds at firsst, even though I was eating whatever I wanted to and chasing it with gallons of beer. I’d go to the gym, lose a little weight, stop going and gain it back, but I never got close to hitting 300 again.

On two later occasions — the fall of 2004 and the late-summer of 2005 — I went back to the no red meat/fried food/desserts lifestyle. Each time, I thought it was a permanent change that would stick with me. Each time, I was wrong. In spring 2009, I dropped a bunch of weight because I lost my appetite for months due to depression. People would compliment me on the weight loss, and I’d tell them I wasn’t on a diet or working out. They’d say, “Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it.” I didn’t usually tell them what I was doing was hating myself and hating life in general.

These days, I’m happy, I eat healthy sometimes, I eat crappy most of the time, and I’ve been recovering from a broken ankle since September. I’m ready to be physical. I’m itching for nice weather and talking walks and playing outside with kids. The best news is, I don’t drink anymore, and I have a beautiful wife who thinks I’m beautiful. I’ve got a handful of lingering problems with self-image, but they don’t seem tied into a weird food-based shame cycle.

Enough of this. I’m gonna go make dinner now. Probably nothing healthy.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

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My fat, lazy childhood

February 3, 2011

Andrew Hicks

I was ahead of the curve, a major trendsetter. By which I mean, I was fat before America was.

I spent my first handful of years as a skinny kid, but there’s a picture of little school-age me looking all groggy and sugar-shocked, with a sucker in his mouth and the cookie jar to his left freshly raided. Early episodes like this formed the genesis of an addictive personality with an only marginal sense of moderation.

By fifth grade or so, I was a little husky kid. I think my first attempt at a diet was the summer I was 11. I was raised by a single mom who worked, so my brother Matt and I spent all our weekdays at a summer day camp. I remember packing my lunches and counting calories on my baggies of Teddy Grahams and pretzels and lunchmeat sandwiches. I was already one of those fat kids who’d pig out on diet soda, too.

The diets I’d go on were pretty much starvation diets like that — a thousand calories a day until I’d go crazy and binge out. I never lost more than 15 pounds. I’d spend more time off diets than on, and both parents would indulge me and Matt (who was skinny as a rail until well past his teenage years) in the inexpensive excesses of drive-thru fast food, delivery pizza and buffets.

My childhood involved a lot of trips to the park and Six Flags, baseball in the backyard and bike riding through the neighborhood. When adolescence set in, and self-esteem problems and worry problems, my lifestyle got more reclusive and lethargic. We had a small family, three people, and we kept to ourselves. Lots of movie watching and mom working at home and me crudely drawing comic strips and writing “Batman” fanfic stories (a good decade before I ever heard the word “fanfic”).

Once I reached my mid-teen years, I was physically so far out of the loop that gym class was often humiliating. I liked that the teacher would put us through a strict ritual of stretches, jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups and laps, though I often hated it at the time. I really hated the Presidential Fitness Test, because all I could ever really qualify on was the stretching stuff. I’ve never done a pull-up in my life; I hope to before I die.

I didn’t want to join any sports teams because the jocky kids seemed so much more bold and put-together than I did. And because I was lazy and afraid of everything. Also, I knew you had to take group showers, and there was no way in hell I would’ve let all the buff kids see me naked, soaping up.

So, more pizza nights at home, compulsive TV watching, homework and personal writing. I did manage to drop something like 25 pounds before my junior year, which brought me back under the 200 mark and saw me accomplishing the previously unattainable feat of running the mile in under ten minutes. I beat the kid with the baboon heart by, like, a full lap.

But then my small Christian school closed down, and I spent senior year in public school with the misguided notion that I should keep my head down, write down all my funny stuff instead of sharing it with people, and basically stay at home as much as possible. For one glorious quarter, I got to school early for A-period honors world history and was then done with classes by like 11:30.

Every day, I’d walk past the guard at the gate, continue walking a mile home, and spend my afternoon watching sitcom reruns on cable and binging on Doritos and day-old Hostess products. I had the house to myself for hours, I could take naps at will, and I didn’t have to endure the humiliation of voluntarily excluding myself from social activity in the lunchroom.

Oh boy, that’s when I truly got fat. In another year and a half, I weighed myself on some pseudo-classy novelty scale at Sharper Image and saw the scale tip 300 pounds. It depressed me more than ever at a time when I felt like a super-freak isolated from my peers. But after wallowing for a few strange months, I finally got motivated to do something.

TO BE CONTINUED

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas is awake, and he's grabbin'.

5 comedy techniques that have stuck with me

January 28, 2011

Andrew Hicks

While on the phone with my dad the other night, we were talking about comedy and my history with comedy, and he asked me, “Well, what are some of the early types of humor you liked that still stick with you?” I was a little tired, a little brain dead, and my immediate answer was, “Uh… as a kid until now, I’ve always enjoyed silly stuff. But not all silly stuff. Some of it’s stupid silly, some of it’s intellectual silly, and there’s good and bad examples of each, which kinda makes it all more silly.”

I stopped right there, as I was making not a single lick of rational sense, but my dad’s question led me to think a little bit about which forms and methods of comedy I appreciated early on and still carry with me. So I wrote this:

5 COMEDY TECHNIQUES

THAT HAVE STUCK WITH ME

DEADPAN

At the age of 11, after seeing the 1989 Tim Burton movie, I became obsessed with all things Batman. The ’60s TV show, in particular. I took it rather seriously at first, but as I grew into my sense of humor throughout adolescence, I started to appreciate the deadpan genius of Adam West and a few of the veteran character actors on the show.

Neil Hamilton, who played Commissioner Gordon, was a master of finding the super-serious side of funny in the often-outlandish dialogue he was given and performances he was surrounded by. The man was a brilliant straight man, whether he realized it or not. The style and rhythm of his dialogue delivery influence me to this day.

Also, I fell hard for Airplane! at an impressionable age. I loved the combination of obvious, elementary-level jokes and straight-faced performances of Leslie Nielson, Peter Graves and Robert Stack. I recently learned that the studio balked at the casting of dramatic actors in those parts and wanted Chevy Chase, Dom Deluise and Bill Murray instead. Which would not have been nearly as sublimely silly.

 

INSIDE JOKES

This is more tried and true in real-life conversation for me than in written or performed comedy, but when I connect with someone on a comedic level, I relish developing and sustaining inside jokes with that person.

The magic of Facebook has allowed me to create and expand a central group of writers and comic thinkers, and we stumble on new inside jokes every day, lending a sense of inclusion and continuity to our humor.

As an occasional stand-up comedy performer, I strive to create shared references with an audience early on and cash in on it more and more as my routine unfolds. I’m not quite consistent at achieving this, but I get better and better, IMHO.

 

IMPRESSIONS

As mentioned numerous times in this blog, I have a lifetime devotion to Saturday Night Live. I started watching at 11, in the apex of the Carvey/Hartman/Hooks/Jackson/Lovitz/Miller/Myers/Nealon period. Immediately, my favorite SNL thing to imitate whenever I got the chance was Carvey’s George Bush.

Then and now, I have a soft spot for SNL’s comedy characterizations of famous people from pop culture, politics and sports. Most of the impressions I’ve been doing for 15 years or more — Carson, John Travolta, Ed McMahon, Paul McCartney, Tom Brokaw, Pat Robertson — owe their existence to old SNL.

Since being married and having a wife who straight-out tells me most of my stable of voices sounds pretty much the same, I’ve started to downplay that amateur SNL side of my comedy… Aw, who am I kidding? I’ll spend the entire night doing bad Jerry Seinfeld if someone’s there to laugh. Even if that someone is 2 years old. Actually, especially if that someone is 2 years old.

 

MUSIC-BASED COMEDY

When I’m not writing about daytime dad things, a lot of my humor revolves around music. Pop music, hip-hop, rock,old stuff, new stuff. Funny observations about songs and artists. I like song parodies as a genre, though most of them aren’t that great. I never liked movie musicals, but I liked a lot of older TV show theme songs, which are funny for reasons right and wrong but decidedly very geeky.

As a mid-teenager, I went through a brief but pretty intense “Weird Al” Yankovic phase, and now still think he has a couple dozen songs I’ll take to the grave. Only one of my standup bits relies on rewritten pop music for its humor, but right now I’m wishing I would have learned to play guitar in my youth. My father-in-law has contributed a spare acoustic guitar to the cause. Have not yet gotten around to doing anything with it. Unfortunately.

POP CULTURE/TOPICAL COMEDY

I’m sure it started with being in junior high and trying to figure out what current events SNL was parodying and Dennis Miller was cracking his lofty, obtuse jokes about, but I also got into David Letterman for several years as a teenager. The peak of it was during the O.J. years, where Letterman first declared sanctimoniously — to HUGE applause — that he wouldn’t do O.J. jokes because “I don’t find anything funny about double murder,” and later devoted hours of monologue time to the Juice.

Anyway, there’s something fascinating yet revolting to me about our celebrity culture, irresponsible government and corporate-owned media that makes me want to stay current enough on the news to instantly crack wise about whatever’s going on out there. I still strive to stay on the level of Stewart and Colbert, “Weekend Update” and late-night talk show monologues when it comes to current events. Some of my jokes are far better than others in this respect.

There’s more, of course, but these five things formed a pretty wide base for much of my humor over the years and still now. If you’d like to share any of your old favorites and comedic influences, please hit up the comments section.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, newborn Silas and Tiffany's parents.

Slackluster holidays

December 15, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The Christmas season is upon us. Only ten days left before I do all my holiday shopping at Walgreens really late at night on Christmas Eve.

Batman's inconspicuous skyflier.Christmas was never a big deal in my house. The peak of our family Christmas celebrations came when I was 11. Logs crackling in the fireplace, mounds of presents and full stockings of goodies. I remember my younger brother got the Batwing from the first Tim Burton Batman movie and the elusive April O’Neil action figure, the rarest in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of 1989 play products. I got turtles Leonardo and Rafael, if I remember right, and a shrink-wrapped cassette copy of Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out. Which, 21 years later, is still a great album. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Batman and TMNT these days, incidentally.

My family put up the same fake Christmas tree every year, and it was always a fun night of hanging branches and lights and digging through what was a pretty decent collection of ornaments. The unpacking of the ornament box always included a quick memorial for whatever old ornaments had ended up shattering just before or after the 11-month offseason the ornaments spent in the basement.

Sometime during my teen years, we kind of disbanded the formal Christmas celebration. Around Thanksgiving, my mom would ask me what I wanted, and I’d usually cash in for one big-ticket item that was bought and put into circulation way ahead of December 25th. No surprises, no waiting, no wrapping even.

Our holiday dinners were always spent with our maternal grandparents at Old Country Buffet, the college dining hall of the elderly. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I could count on waiting in line with the non-cooking masses and pigging out on mashed potatoes, gravy and dried-out chocolate cake with vanilla soft-serve on top.

After my grandparents passed, we went back to small-scale holiday family dinners at home, but I don’t think that Christmas tree ever went back up. I don’t think it survived the move when my mom traded up from my childhood house to a nicer home in a nicer neighborhood. The most I would observe Christmas, aside from the family dinner, would be to send out a round of holiday cards with smart-aleck writing inside.

There was one Christmas I had a girlfriend and came to her with the bright idea to not exchange presents and instead do something nice on New Year’s. After, unbenownst to me, she’d already bought me a nice watch*. She had to take that back, then on Christmas, I actually surprised her with a small present. She was not surprised and in fact had come prepared with a small counterpresent, a hardcover copy of the SNL book Live From New York. Which, 8 years later, is the only enduring thing to come out of that relationship.

Now that I’m married with kids, Christmas can’t help but mean something again. We have a larger built-in family that gathers for all the major holidays. My wife Tiffany, as I stated a couple posts ago, has problems with procrastination and organization just like I do. Our Christmas gift efforts to our parents and in-laws have been less than stellar the first three years, and I can’t be sure we won’t repeat the mistake this year.

But I can make the following pair of predictions for this Christmas – there will be lots of love and absolutely no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures.

*Which I had mentioned I wanted before I finally caved and got my first cell phone. What do I need a watch for when I’m carrying a phone? For the sophisticated look of wearing a watch? If you’ve ever met me, you know fashion sophistication and I don’t coexist unless I have to go rent something to wear in a wedding. The only remotely classy thing I have is a silk handkerchief monogrammed with my initials. My real initials: SBJ. At least I tell people those are my real initials when they ask me why I’m sporting a handkerchief with the initials SBJ.