Welcome to 2013! According to Stanley Kubrick we’re twelve years past the future. We could’ve all been in space by now. The only thing stopping us is us. Although maybe we’d better start small, with the simpler questions. Are you keeping any of your resolutions so far?
“Resolution” is a good word. It’s got a few different meanings. At the start of the year — although less so by the day, it being January 17th already — resolution indicates a kind of fortified resolve, as in: These are the aspects of living which I insist on doing differently or better in the new year.
Resolution can mean determination: If you’re resolved, you’re certain of something. If a situation is resolved, that means it’s been settled. In political terms, a resolution is an official statement put into action. And in reference to images, such as on televisions or computer screens, resolution means clarity.
Sometimes clarity can be found by watching people you respect, and listening to what they have to say. This happened to me recently while reading the Vanity Fair Comedy Issue, where the great comedian Louis CK was interviewed.
For some random cosmic reason, or maybe just out of pure coincidence, I’ve been aware of Louis CK for years and have periodically lucked into vantage points to observe the arc of his career. My best comedy-expert buddy introduced me to Louis’ short films over a decade ago, the films he made around the time he was working behind the scenes writing for Conan O’Brien and Chris Rock.
When I first moved to LA, in 2001, I ended up at a screening on the Paramount lot of POOTIE TANG, the feature film Louis directed. It was an obviously-unfinished workprint and it’s safe to say that the crowd I was with didn’t get it. It must suck for filmmakers to sit through preview screenings, but it sucks only a little less to have to sit and listen to the dumb comments of humorless audience members. The movie has since gained a cult following but it can’t have been an easy experience at the time.
Around that time, maybe 2002, I befriended a guy who hosted a comedy night at a bar in Santa Monica. I went several times, during which time I decided beyond a doubt that stand-up comedians are to be respected. That’s a hard job. I got to watch plenty of them up close through those comedy nights. One of them was Louis CK! This was the first time I got to see his brilliant “Why?” routine. I have rarely laughed so hard.
The next time I saw the “Why?” routine, it was in 2006, as the opening scene of Louis’ HBO series Lucky Louie. This show was fucking great but it only lasted one season.
Thanks to that same comedy-connoisseur friend, I have seen Louis do stand-up live several times over the years. In the last few, those tickets have become harder and harder to get as his popularity has exploded. You’ve all seen his FX series, right? It’s wonderful, a true victory for individualism and uncompromised comic vision. The most recent time I saw Louis do stand-up, it was a week before he hosted Saturday Night Live on November 3rd. Once again, I was among the privileged who got to see a routine or two earlier, in the working stages. His SNL monologue was an abbreviated variation of the material he did at that show a week before (both versions were hysterical).
The point I’m trying to express is the admiration I have for such a hardworking and thoughtful artist. It’s humbling. And it’s instructive.
All of which brings me back to that Vanity Fair interview. It’s their Proust Questionnaire, an exercise meant to reveal the personality of its subjects. The following is one of the questions, and Louis’ response:
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could draw. I can’t make a thing in my mind go on paper. I draw like a child. Like a heavily beaten and molested child. Who can’t draw.
As a creative person who has struggled to find his way, reading something like that is incredibly illuminating. Louis CK can’t draw. Someone of so many obvious talents, who I respect so much — even he has limits that bother him. And I’m sitting here, lucky once again. I can draw! I can’t get up on stage and change the world with uncommonly perceptive and bluntly eloquent comedy like he can, but I can draw.
Believe me, that’s not ego inflation. I’m not comparing myself to anyone, or suggesting I have anything coming to me, or anything like that. This is about the inspiration I get from others, and about using it for self-motivation. There are plenty of wonderful artists who can draw far more beautifully than I ever will. But still, I can draw. I have talents that other people wish they could have, even some of the most famous and successful creative people in the world. I should appreciate that more. I should utilize that more.
So that’s my resolution, and my clarity. To use my talents, all of them. To find what I can do that other people can’t, to find what I can bring to the world that the world might need or want. I happen to believe that my writing and my personal perspective are among those virtues. My drawing ability is another.
What’s yours? Let’s all figure it out and get to work in 2013!