How to Be A

Without Getting Your Skinny, Little Butt Kicked in While Maintaining an Overall Sense of Superiority

Unaplogetically by  Tom Ziegler

Reglar Wiglar #1, 1993

Are you fed up? Does every last loser on this festering hole of a planet grate on the one nerve you have left? Are your friends a bunch of leeching sycophants, or do they simply ignore you, those snobs? Is your family out to get you--Mom and Dad will just not get off your back to finish school, get a real goddamn job, find a mate? What about your job--slogging away forty plus hours a week, punching buttons on a computer, absorbing cathode rays until your bones glow green through your skin for some no-neck boss, breathing down your butt, a cretin who revels in reminding you that yes, you are indeed expendable, so you better drop that attitude mister, and remember this is your life? Are you having a hard time sticking to Mom's old adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?" Are you sick of listening to self-righteous assholes prattle on about how much they hate their friends, family and their boss?


If you gave a big fat YES to any of these questions, if you feel as though you can go no further, if you are ready to just pitch it all, I suggest you consult a therapist. What the fuck do I look like Ann Landers? Sorry, Charlie, sucks to be you.

Ok, we've just learned Lesson #1 in your quest to be a smart-ass: NEVER LET AN OPPORTUNITY SLIP BY TO GET ONE IN. Life's precious moments are so few and far between. They must be savored like a cold beer on a hot summer day.

Like the body of an athlete, or like the dexterous fingers of a virtuoso pianist, one's wit must be honed and exercised constantly.

Practice, baby, practice.

Don't fret though. As the athlete has the gymnasium and the pianist the piano, so do you possess important tools necessary to the sculpting of your craft. Being a smart-ass requires not only the unflagging desire to laugh at the misfortunes of others, but a knowledge of your own limits. As the pianist must first learn his scales before graduating to a Chopin Etude, and just as the athlete must start with a quick jog around the block before entering as a contender in the Iron Man Triathlon, so must you, start small and work your way up.

Start with the TV--an easy target. Face it, TV sucks unless you're dead drunk at 4 AM and all you want to do after a rough night is relax in front of the missing children's report.

Unfortunately, TV does not talk back. When Angela Lansbury pops her withered, old prune face on the screen hawking laxatives and you scream, "Hey Angie, baby! Whattsa matter? Stool a little hard?" Angela Lansbury is not going to turn to you and say, "Bite my big hole, Felch-face."--(that is unless it's 4 AM and you've spent a rough night speed-balling cocaine.)

Start with bad sitcoms. Luckily, Suzanne Somers has spent the last fifteen years building a career as a has-been. Find her with the remote. Tell her what you would like to do with her Thighmaster®.

Work your way up from simple crudities to a mocking falsetto of a character's every line. Trust me, Tony Danza will sound much better in your whining sneer--"But Angela, I'm just a dumb boxer from Brooklyn." try it. See?

Move from sitcoms to family dramas. Most of these are so laughably melodramatic that you may find yourself unable to yell at the TV because you'll be on the floor clutching your sides and giggling insanely. Life Goes On? Make it end.

'70s cop shows make for excellent fodder. Try and figure out who has the wider tie, Kojak or Barney Miller.

Once you've mastered the art of yelling at the TV, share your new found skill with friends. Be careful though, some fools misinterpret the term, "Television Entertainment." These dolts actually enjoy watching TV and hope to get something meaningful out of it. They will drool and gawk at the television for hours on end like a jackrabbit caught in the oncoming headlights of a screaming semi.

Television is an event. Television is an interactive process. Occasionally one of these simpletons will roll his eyes at you and ask you to kindly shut the hell up as you orate on the fact that there are more anachronisms than coconuts on Gilligan's Island.

Or worse yet, you may be ridiculed by some other smart-ass who may remark, "There goes, Grandpa talking to the TV again," which is even worse, because you didn't get a chance to say it first.

Choose your friends wisely, and above all else, make sure you're watching TV at your house. You control the remote. The TV is your punching bag. If anyone cares to differ, well, they can just hit the road.

You may be lucky enough to find that special friend who shares an equal contempt for life as you do. Consider yourself blessed. Go to the store. Buy some cheap vodka and cheese doodles. Camp out in front of the TV with your fellow smart-ass.

Remember, some of the funniest people in the biz started out in a comedy team--Burns and Allen, Martin and Lewis, MacNeil and Lehrer.

Play games with your friends. Play connect the dots with the liver spots on Matlock's hands. Wonder aloud whatever happened to Gary Colemen (don't worry, he'll be back on some late night infomercial hawking juicers). Count the number of times Buddy Ebsen says "Hoo, Dawgie," or "I'm Barnaby Jones."

Work with one another. Play off one another. Then, if your partner is funnier than you, take the cheese doodles and the vodka away, turn off the TV and announce, "Well, time to go to bed. You know where the door is." As soon as your fellow smart-ass has vacated the premises, remind yourself that he's just another asshole like all the rest, turn the TV back on and watch Erik Estrada make an ass of himself on the Psychic Friends Network.

Remember though—BE CAREFUL. Television is only a tool. It is not your friend. Hopefully, by this time you will have no friends—only obligations.

If you're not careful, TV will turn on you, and you may actually begin to look forward to watching it. When you turn on "The Beverly Hillbillies," and you already know how many times Buddy Ebsen has said, "Hoo-Dawgie," it's time to move on.

Now you're ready to work with people. Don't get discouraged. Remember, like the TV, people are essentially two dimensional, but unlike the TV, you can't change the channel and they do talk back.

Your first attempts at retort may sound clunky--a simple "fuck you" may induce sneers of dersion--but that's ok. You must walk before you can run. "Fuck you," may one day blossom into, "Say, how's rehab going? You look like you could use a drink." 

Which leads us to Lesson #2: Find your victim's weakest point and attack. Don't grab it—pinch it between your fingers. Make it smart.

Start with family members. You've known them all your life so you know just what makes them tick.

Do you have an older sister who is getting a little long in the tooth and still hasn't found Mr. Right, much to the chagrin of Mom? Place a personal ad in the paper with a creative description of your sister: "SWF, into power boats, tobacco spit and gettin' weird. Seek same." Sis will simply adore you for the little boost you've just given her social life.

At the next family gathering, casually rattle off statistics like, "you know, it's easier to get kidnapped by Shiite fundamentalists in Beirut than it is to get married after thirty." Then produce a one-way ticket on Lafsa, the Lebanese National Airline (of course, you've charged it on sis' Visa—don't worry, she'll appreciate the extra effort) and make sure there are lots of other family members around. Sis will look bad if she punches your teeth out in front of Grandma. Besides, they'll love it. You're clever. If you play your cards right, Dad may shake his head and wag his finger at you, but he'll be smiling.

Which brings us to Lesson #3: EVERYONE LOVES A SMART-ASS—well, almost everyone. Big guys named Zeke with forearms bigger than your torso do not like smart-asses. Stay away from them.

Why do you think David Letterman is so popular? Talent? No. A pretty face? No way. David Letterman is a smart-ass plain and simple. If no one liked Dave, no one would appear on his show. Celebrities receive a paltry stipend just so they can sit on national television and let themselves be openly and gleefully ridiculed by this acerbic Indiana weatherman turned social critic.

Likewise, those of us in TV Land love the vicarious experience of watching those who are more beautiful than we are, make more money than we could ever hope for, and who have achieved a social status unheard of to the likes of you and me, open themselves up for a verbal flogging. It adds that tiny glimmer of hope to our otherwise wretched lives.

When is Dave not funny? When he tries to be nice. You've seen those gushy interviews where he fawns all over some guest (most likely a very attractive female type) and makes a perfect ass of himself. He hasn't failed entirely though because now you get to laugh at Dave! Isn't TV great?

Here's an idea, set up your own talk show at home. Carefully research your friends' private lives: go through their mail, hunt through their garbage, put a wiretap on their phones. Invite them and a few other friends over and conduct your own little talk show interview. Go all the way: set up a desk, play a record with your own special theme music (I like "Taste of Honey" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass), get an annoying sidekick.

Invite "Steve" up to be interviewed:

"So tell me Steve, anything crazy happen this week?" When Steve just shrugs and throws out some off-hand comment, smile and produce a speaker phone from beneath your desk (a must for all up-and-coming talk show hosts. Casually dial Steve's number. When you get his answering machine, punch in Steve's secret retrieval code that you memorized while looking over his shoulder one day and listen attentively:

BEEP. "Hi Steve, it's Mom. I found those old pictures of you when you were the Easter Bunny in that school play. You were so cute then, Stevie. Do you still want me to drop them off like you asked?"

BEEP. "Hi, Steve, it's Rita. Listen, "I'm really sorry about the other night. I guess I shouldn't have laughed at the bunny suit. It was a nice gesture, really."

BEEP. "Hello, Steve, it's Dr. Winkleman. just calling to ask you why you missed our last session. I thought we made a really nice breakthrough there with the whole rabbit suit issue. Call me."

You'll love it. Your friends will love it. Steve may not love it, but what do you care? So what if he likes to dress up in a big furry suit with big floppy ears. We all have our little secrets, and it's up to you to get them out of the closet and into the public domain where they belong.

We've covered family and friends, but what about the kids? The wee little ones innocent as a seraphim on high? Fair game, I say.

When junior loses his first tooth, inform him that the tooth fairy isn't going to be satisfied with just one—oh ho—the tooth fairy looks just like Freddy Kruger, and he's coming into your room tonight with a pair of rusty pliers and he's taking them all. See if Junior doesn't develop a chronic bed-wetting problem that will last well into his forties.

Watch that sickening kids show, Barney the big purple dinosaur, with little Suzy. Tell Suzy that Barney is an ex-con on furlough who did time for kidnapping little boys and girls and taking them to his terror castle in the hill and (looking her straight in the eye) NO ONE EVER SAW THEM AGAIN. Suzy will beg you to change the channel to something really educational like the monster truck races on ESPN.

Of course, children have their limits. Besides, when you fill Junior's head with v visions of hellfire, who's he going to run to first? That's right--Mommy and Daddy.

Parents, especially new parents, become pathetic shells of their former selves, and will often scold you with the condescension they normally reserve for their children.

"How can you tell him those things!" Easy. "He's just a child for God's sake!" "What's your point?" And my personal fave: "He's going to develop a complex!"

Since the subtleties of high humor are often tragically wasted on the wee ones, one must often resort to base humor, or in the comedy textbook term, "Physical Humor."

If you're lucky enough to be invited to a friend's or family members home for dinner (as you progress these invitations will dwindle—go figure), and they have small children, roll out the barrel boys, and let the fun begin.

On your way over, stop by the local S-Mart (remember—Shop smart. Shop S-Mart) and head straight for the toy section. Find the loudest most obnoxious toy there. I prefer the Wee-Tykes Cellular phone. It's a stunningly accurate replica of a real cellular phone, and best of all, when you press the right button, it emits a harsh beeping noise that sounds just like the real McCoy!

Junior and Suzy will adore you. Kids love toys that make them feel grown up. When they discover that magic button (and they surely will) watch Mommy and Daddy run to the real phone, pick it up and stare in befuddlement. Watch Junior and Suzy crack up over their little shenanigans. After the third time, watch Mommy and Daddy catch on to their little ruse. Watch Daddy snatch the Wee-Tykes Cellular Phone from Junior and Suzy. Watch Daddy smash the Wee-Tykes Cellular phone with a meat tenderizer. Watch Junior and Suzy cry. Poor kiddies. Mean old Daddy.

Just before dinner, draw Junior and Suzy aside and tell them you have a secret. Kids love secrets. Junior and Suzy will follow you as though you were dangling a one-way ticket to Rock Candy Mountain in front of their perky little noses--providing you haven't already let them in on that other little secret regarding Barney the big purple child molester.

Lead Junior and Suzy into another room away from the watchful eyes and stern gazes of Mommy and Daddy. Remember, it's a secret. Quickly run through your repertoire of guttural sounds, clucking noises, and the old standby, farting sounds you can make with your hands. they will be beside themselves with glee at their newfound talent. Remind them that it's "our little secret, ok?" They'll bob their little heads in vigorous assent, and when mommy yells, "Soup's on!" Junior and Suzy will practically knock each other out in their haste to get to the dinner table.

Wait a few seconds, and nonchalantly stroll into the dining room. When Daddy cocks that eyebrow and gives you that suspicious look, point and say, "I was out on the back porch having a cigarette." You're covered—you're being considerate. Wouldn't want Junior and Suzy to develop lung cancer from your nasty, stinky, second-hand smoke, now would you?

Now that the table has been set, sit back and let Junior and Suzy do all the work. Kids can't keep secrets, but you already know that. Before the first spoonful of Stove-Top stuffing hits the plate, Junior and Suzy will make like an armada of sailors at the tail end of a thirty-two day garbanzo bean diet.

Now Mommy and Daddy will react one of two ways:

#1 Upon Junior's first Bronx Cheer, Mommy and Daddy may stare in stupefaction that such a horrible sound could emanate from their precious angel's lips. They may demand, "Where did you heat that?" Immediately, as if on cue, Junior and Suzy will turn to you. Watch it. Children are notorious rat-finks. However, like most stool pigeons and criminals, children can be bought. If you did your job right and remembered the toy, they may just giggle insanely into their chubby little fists.

However, like stool-pigeons and criminals, children can't be trusted. They may very well turn on you. Mommy and Daddy's accusing stares will now rest on your shoulders. Remind them that Junior and Suzy are merely expressing themselves. Applaud their efforts—Bravo, Junior! Bravo Suzy! Encore! Junior and Suzy will be only too happy to indulge. Remember, children don't mind making fools of themselves. In fact, they really enjoy it. Why because they can. If Daddy started making farting noises with his armpit at the dinner table, Mommy would suspect that he'd been hitting the scotch again (of course, Daddy is allowed that one last luxury of childhood-—the classic "pull my finger").

#2 If Junior and Suzy are especially obnoxious children, Mommy and Daddy are used to it. They'll ignore them in the hopes that they'll soon tire of their new game. Fat chance. Mommy and Daddy's lack of reaction will only prompt Junior and Suzy to increase in volume. Junior and Suzy know; no rise, no fun.

Time Mommy and Daddy to see how long it takes the pressure cooker to blow it's lid. Ten minutes on average. Be careful, though. When Mommy and Daddy do indeed explode, it will be ugly. Try and remain inconspicuous or you may be sent to your room without supper.

If you play your cards right, though, they will simply adore you and Mommy and Daddy will never invite you to dinner again--but's that's ok--the seeds have been sown. Since you have ingratiated yourself so nicely with the wee ones, they will pester Mommy and Daddy for weeks to come: "When's Uncle Buddy coming to dinner again? Huh? Huh? "Uncle Buddy was torn to bits by wolverines, honey. He can't ever come back." 

Finally we come to our last Lesson, #4: How to keep from getting your skinny little butt kicked in.

When I was but a lad of nine, my sister insulted me. She told me my Disco Snoopy shirt looked dorky. I asked her if it was true that she was adopted. She replied, in that last resort of the ignorant that you will be hearing often, "You know, one of these days, that mouth of yours is going to get you into trouble. One of these days you're going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person." Fourteen full years later, my sister's prophecy has yet to come to its full fruition. Sure, I've come close a few times, but through a combination of quick wittedness and divine intervention, this skinny little butt has remained intact.

Here's a simple list of Do's and Don'ts:

DO make fun of big, dumb bullies. However, they are sometimes an easier target than television, so use them only for practice.

DON'T word your insults so that they can A) hear them or B) comprehend them. Flipping the bird to a bully behind his back is cool, but make sure he doesn't turn around. Even though a big, dumb bully may not know exactly what the middle finger signifies, he knows "it real bad" and he will give you a real big pounding.

Instead, give him the middle finger and the index finger. That's how they do it in England. He will think you are saying, "Peace, Brother," when in reality, you're saying, "Bugger off, Jack." (If you live in England, even big, dumb bullies are polite and he will probably apologize as he is pushing your face into the cobblestones.) While big, dumb bully is mulling over such an inappropriate gesture, turn and run, run, run as fast as your skinny little legs will carry you. Big, dumb bullies are noted for their muscles not their speed.

DO make friends with a few big burly types. The term, "friend" is flexible here. Sure you can actually take the time and trouble of hanging out with a big, thick neck, and you can go to the trouble of teaching him how to read or tie his shoes--you can even give him rides if you have a car, or pay for his drinks, whatever. However, $20 can make you a friend a lot quicker and easier.

Having a little trouble with your boss? Slip some bones by Tony's way. He's happy--most big burly types are big dumb bullies at heart and few pass up an opportunity to administer a little punishment. You're happy--your boss has learned his place, albeit painfully, but life is a little cruel sometimes, isn't it?

DON'T ever let your guard down with your newly purchased friend. Like children and criminals, muscles can be bought, but also like children and criminals, they can't be trusted. $20 may grow into $50, $100, until your wallet is as empty as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. A simple business arrangement may become a simple case of extortion. Always have a few other big burly types in reserve. If you are clever, you can set them on one another, and then no more big burly types! Yayyyy?

DO compile a dossier on anyone who may give you trouble. Again, is your boss giving you a hard time? Xerox his phone records, carefully circling the fifteen calls to 976-SINS he made last month on the company phone. Present them to him. Your boss will admire your initiative and may even grant you a promotion.

DON'T dig too deeply. Take those 8x10 black and white glossies of you boss to him. Your boss will admire your initiative and may even grant you a promotion, making his monthly payment to the police and burn them. A self-righteous snicker at his reaction as you toss them on his desk is not worth getting killed over.

Follow these simple directions. Make up your own. Don't blame me if they don't work.

Finally we come to the end of your lessons. Remember this above all else: NO ONE IS ABOVE CONTEMPT.

We live in a repressive society. People don't want to hold themselves up to some much-needed ridicule. It bruises their fragile, pampered psyches. We all like to feel as though we're #1, but we can't all be top dog, now can we? There's always going to be someone who's brighter, better looking, wealthier, stronger, more powerful, more successful, more famous than we are.

How does one cope with all this? That's a tough load to haul. Sure, we've all entertained fantasies of killing our boss, kicking some fat meathead in the butt or dumping that oh-so-attractive snotty super model type just for the satisfaction of it. Let's face it though, killing your boss will only result in a prison sentence, kicking some fat meathead in the butt will only result in a loss of teeth and that oh-so-attractive snotty super model type is certainly going to have nothing to do with the likes of you.

Remember though, you are superior. Your boss is a company stooge stuck in a dead-end job and maybe someday, you'll have someone to boss around. That fat meathead can't even spell his name let alone fill out a job application. That snotty super-model type? Anorexic/bulimic. In two years she's going to check into a clinic and come out looking like a ravaged poodle.

Maybe someday you'll pull up to a gas station and the fat meathead will be working the pumps. Don't forget to remind him to check the tire pressure, check all the fluids, and wash the windows. He doesn't get paid minimum wage for nothing you know.

Maybe the washed-up super model will be the cashier. Don't forget to remind her that since you paid in cash, gas is three cents cheaper a gallon. Watch her struggle with the arithmetic as she has to re-ring the cash register. And maybe, just maybe your old boss made one too many calls to 976-SINS, and he's now the station manager. Watch him yell at her. Tip him a quarter, and stroll out to your car smug in the satisfaction that revenge is a dish best served cold.

You see? It's easy. You feel better already, don't you? Self-righteous satisfaction that results from the ridicule of others is a tonic like no other. Don't worry about that Karmic retribution clap-trap spouted off by those crystal-clutching New Age freaks. They're not happy. They look to some outside force to bring a little meaning to their self-deluded lives. What you possess comes from within. Fuck you.

More by Tom Ziegler

Zima with a 'Z'
Psychologically Unfit
Save the Planet
Making the Least of Your Time



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