#14. Anyone Who Isn't Beyoncé, Refs, and You
You ARE irreplaceable. (Maybe not to Beyoncé though.)
Hi everyone! I want to give a quick shout out to all the new readers who found this newsletter in the past week! I’m excited to have you on board! (And thanks to Substack for featuring That’s Marvelous!)
Last Wednesday I had an incredibly fun show at Helium Comedy Club. My openers (Meg Goetz and Casey Kuftic) were super funny, and the crowd hot from the very beginning. I recorded a few little jokes about Philly that I’d written earlier in the day, and I’m pretty pleased with how they came out (even though they’re slightly dated post-Super Bowl).
Before we really get into today’s pep talks, I have a fun piece of news to share! Peter Sagal, host of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, is on parental leave for a few weeks (congratulations to Peter and the family!), and the show is bringing in a rotating set of guest hosts. (You can probably guess where I’m going with this.) On Thursday 3/2 at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, I will be guest-hosting a live recording of Wait Wait!!!! I am basically jumping up and down with excitement! You can get tickets to the live show if you’ll in town, and the episode will be available on NPR and as a podcast on Saturday 3/4. Okay that’s all!
Let’s groove, pep cats! (Wow, oof.)
PEP TALK FOR ANYONE WHO’S NOT BEYONCE
Eight days ago, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter set the all-time record for Grammy award wins, finally vanquishing her nemesis, previous record holder and classical music conductor Georg Solti. Many people believe that Beyoncé should have won even more Grammys, which would have left Solti so far in the dust it would have been embarrassing for him had he not died in 1997. (Incidentally, it is pretty astonishing to see Beyoncé break this record the same week LeBron James broke the all-time NBA scoring record. What a week for excellence!)
Most of us, however, are not Beyoncé. By her current age (41) very few of us will not have set any kind of high water mark for Grammy wins (and total nominations). We probably won’t even have done that challenge where you drink a gallon of milk in an hour. It’s harder than it seems, and exactly as gross as you’d imagine!
As upsetting as this fact is, most of us are not the all-time greatest at…anything. Most of us, myself included, are pretty normal. This is a tough pill to swallow. It’s why so many pizzerias and roast beef sandwich stores (that second one may be specific to where I grew up) claim to be famous when their renown stretches a few blocks at most. It’s why George Costanza was so desperate to preserve his high score on a local Frogger console.
But I am here to tell you it is fine to be okay! In fact I’d even argue that it’s very good to be pretty good! We are socially compelled to compare ourselves to the most successful people on earth, never mind the ones in our own lives. That’s ridiculous, and it’s not our fault. (For the sake of pinpointing the blame let’s go with capitalism, social media, and American individualism as a few culprits.)
Most of us will never win even one Grammy. Who cares? Maybe you’ll never have an infinity pool. Even a pool with finite boundaries is a totally sick pool! And so what if it’s your neighbor’s pool and not yours? That’s just less upkeep you’re responsible for! Do you have a good recipe for chocolate chip cookies? Can your friends rely on you when they are in a crisis? Do you parallel park smoothly on the first try? Congratulations! If any of these things are true of you, you’ve got a worthwhile skill that you should celebrate! If all of these things are true of you, you are a substantially better person than I am!
I do not mean to say these attributes make us normzos as good as Beyoncé. They definitively do not. She is better than we are, and we should appreciate her instead of feeling bad! I’m just saying that rather than being disappointed that we aren’t All-Timers of Greatness (A.T.O.G.s, a handy acronym I developed for this title), we can instead think of ourselves in terms of progress we’ve made so far and goals we realistically hope to accomplish. This also goes for the friend whose career is better than ours or the colleague with the impeccable fashion sense we envy or the neighbor who somehow always gets to the front of Ticketmaster’s queue. We are no one but ourselves! Other people’s success is not a referendum on our own worth! Sorry to go all 525,600 minutes on you, but it’s true!
It’s important to take stock of the little things you have accomplished and feel pride in them. Will I ever win a slam dunk contest? No. Did I recently throw out a bunch of old socks and underwear and replace them with new socks and underwear? Yes.
And that’s not great, but it’s not bad, and not bad is pretty good!
PEP TALK FOR REFEREES
During last night’s Super Bowl (don’t worry, this isn’t going to get too sportsy) a dubious late-game penalty call changed the complexion of the contest and most likely messed up a zillion people’s daily fantasy sports bets. The public, including all-time NBA leading scorer and Space Jam 2 star LeBron James blamed the refs for interceding when they could have let the players play on.
This is, of course, a common occurrence. Refs screw up all the time, because they are people, and people often make mistakes at work. They then become the objects of public scorn for a period of time ranging from 24 hours to forever, depending on the stakes of the game. This is, in a way, fair. No one should be above the law, even sports-law. In another sense, though, it’s profoundly unfair. No one ever celebrates a referee for getting a call right. People don’t memorize the names of history’s best refs. A person sitting in the stands watching an athletic competition in a referee’s jersey would be, in no uncertain terms, the biggest loser in the arena. And yeah, lots of people don’t receive acclaim for simply doing their jobs competently. But those people are not at risk of being booed by a packed stadium, not to mention the people at home, when they slip up.
Referees, you’ve got a difficult job. Like dentists and airport gate agents, your best work often goes unnoticed while the worst parts of your job are placed under intense scrutiny and cultivate widespread antipathy. But what you do is important. And you go out there day after day, knowing you might be the night’s villain even though you have no chance of being the hero.
So to every referee*, I say: Thank you. And also: Fuck you. How do you even blow that whistle with your head so far up your own ass?
*all the ones that have not been implicated in point-shaving scandals, at least
PEP TALKS FOR READERS
Per usual, I’ve tweaked a little wording and punctuation in my correspondence with readers because that is my prerogative!
My body is aging without my consent and I DON’T LIKE IT. I’m currently laid up with a back injury and it’s insulting to my state of middle-aged denial.
First of all, Rachel, I hope you’re feeling better soon! Even though, as we all learn over time, “better” and “soon” both take on new meaning as we age. I am maybe the wrong person to come to for this pep talk. I’ve been fortunate to have fairly good health, and the little tweaks and dings that come with piloting a human body through a sharp and bumpy world I basically ignore. “I guess my elbow just makes a noise that sounds like striking a match that won’t light when I reach for things now,” is a thought I had recently, without any follow-up.
On one hand, it’s good not to judge your body for how it ages. Most of us don’t have to the time and money to get that smooth round beachball face procedure that celebrities do now for some reason. (Never mind the high-price picklings and lubrications that I have to assume the super-wealthy are secretly administering to the insides of their bodies.) On the other hand, it’s important to clock what’s actually going on with your body so that you can care for it in the long term. (This is the point where the pep talk becomes mostly for my benefit.) You can’t treat your one human form the way you might react to a car that’s started making a weird noise when you drive on the highway (thinking “that sounds expensive” and refusing to investigate further). You deserve careful care and attention from yourself. Because a body isn’t like a 1999 Toyota Corolla; you can’t just get rid of it and start taking the subway. (Although fingers crossed that the head-in-a-jar era of humanity is coming! I’m sick of buying new pants!)
There’s only one way to stop getting older, and it is way less appealing than regular stretching and ice and Advil and general slowing down! It stinks to feel bad, but it’s an important reminder to show up for yourself, even when showing up means lying down.
PICK-ME-UP SONG: Beyoncé - “Break My Soul”
For thematic unity, it had to be Beyoncé this week. I’m not much of a dancer (surprising no one) but this is a perfect dance-away-a-bad-week song. Any movie featuring a character getting over a breakup or the loss of a job at a club for the next several years should be contractually obligated to at least inquire about obtaining the rights to this song.
BONUS SONG: De La Soul - “Eye Know”
As you may have heard yesterday, De La Soul’s Trugoy the Dove aka Plug Two aka Dave Jolicoeur has passed away at age 54. De La Soul is one of the greatest and most inventive hip hop groups of all time, and Dave is one of the most skilled and (arguably) most underrated rappers in history. De La had been on my concert bucket list for a long time, and I finally saw them a few years ago and was overwhelmed by the electric “still got it” quality the group radiated from the stage.
I will leave the eulogizing to more qualified music writers, but I will say that Dave’s death hit me in a way that very few celebrity deaths have in my adult life. (Off-hand, some of the names on my list are Mitch Hedberg, M.C.A. of the Beastie Boys, Phife Dawg, and MF Doom.) And it’s insult to injury that so much of De La Soul’s music is unavailable to share and enjoy right now because of record label bullshit. (Although it is set to re-release soon!) I’m going to take some time today and listen to what’s available to stream currently.
For some deeper cut listening, check out this song featuring the aforementioned DOOM, and the episodes of Open Mike Eagle’s outstanding podcast What Had Happened Was where he talks to former De La Soul member Prince Paul about the group’s first several records.
R.I.P. Dave. May your memory be a blessing.
A LITTLE RECOMMENDATION
A friend of mine recently co-founded an app called Whatcha (as in “Whatcha watching/listening to/reading?”). It’s kind of like Letterboxd + Goodreads + more stuff. You can list/rate tv shows, movies, books, and podcasts, and I’ve been having fun doing that! It’s not currently available for Android yet, but if you have an iPhone, you can download the app now if you’re so inclined! I’m enjoying having a quieter, less annoying/glitchy place than Twitter to talk about stuff I’m enjoying (and some stuff I’m not enjoying quite as much).
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
2/16 - Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me live taping in Chicago (as a panelist)
3/2 - GUEST-HOSTING WAIT WAIT DON’T TELL ME IN CHICAGO!!!
3/5-3/12 - JoCo Cruise
More info and dates available at joshgondelman.com/schedule!
Okay! That’s all for now! Thanks for reading! And as always, if you enjoyed the newsletter, please subscribe and/or share it with a pal!
you are great and this is great as always.
particular great things i will highlight:
-- Beyoncé Knowles-Carter set the all-time record for Grammy award wins, finally vanquishing her nemesis, previous record holder and classical music conductor Georg Solti
-- Most of us, however, are not Beyoncé. (SPEAK FOR YOURSELF)
-- us normzos
-- a body isn’t like a 1999 Toyota Corolla; you can’t just get rid of it and start taking the subway.
you have done work that is funny and kind! love!
love you, love this, love all,
Mazel Tov on the Wait Wait gig