Jack O'Brien, Cracked's founder and Editor-in-Chief and possible co-conspirator in the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding thing in the '90s that I don't totally understand called me into his office, and I obliged like I sometimes do.
"Jlack Channel," I said, doing a really accessible pun that combined his name (Jack) and a popular office messaging service (Slack). "How are you?"
"Don't call me that," Jack said, because he lacks vision. Or should I say, he Jacks vision? "Step inside and have a seat. I have something important to talk to you about. I need your full attention."
"Or should I say, 'You JACK vision,'" I bellowed.
"Moving right past that, how would you and the team like to go to Chicago to meet with some fans and do a live After Hours event?" he asked in a way that made it clear that I was totally in control.
"Ah yes, Chicago," I mused "the City that Launched a Thousand Ships."
"It's not called that."
"The City That Never Wakes Up."
"The City That's Actually Just a Bunch of Organized Cats That Let You Walk and Build Property On Them, but ONE Day-"
"It's the Windy City."
"The Windless City."
"It's the Windy City."
"Chicago: Parachute Swamp Party; We Are All Bugs."
"You're getting farther away. I need you to stop saying what you think Chicago's nickname is," Jack said, in a way that made it clear that he wanted me to guess some more later. "Will you go to Chicago with the After Hours team for C2E2, a comic and pop culture convention?"
"Only if there's a little money in it. Just a little bit, for me. Just a taste, to wet my beak, ya know?" Jack stared at me in a way that suggested he didn't know. "My beak, you understand, is just so dry, and if I'm gonna fly all the way to Chicago -- the City of Dark Truths -- I'm gonna need some assurances that this dry-ass beak of mine will be just sopping with some nice, wet money by the end of my time there. I want it soaked, homey, do you understand me?" I threw some corn from my pocket onto Jack's desk and started pecking at it pretty violently to drive the beak metaphor home.
"I don't know why I phrased it as a question," Jack said. "You're going to Chicago. I already booked the flights. And we won't be giving you any additional money, because this company is already in tremendous amounts of debt because of you. You know why."
I thought back to what has since become known as "The Most Expensive Sketch We Never Aired." The budget did sort of go off the rails, and the lawsuit from the apparently very litigious Judy Blume didn't help. Plus there were all those dead pandas. But sometimes that's what happens when artists aspire to greatness. Did I fly too close to the Sun, as they say? Maybe. Maybe I did fly too close to the Sun, just like Icarus -- and also and more accurately, just like me when I spent a soft 20 million on an allegedly consumer-friendly rocket that mysteriously melted. But do I have any regrets? I do not.
"I stand by that sketch, Jack. It was a great idea."
"Our website isn't allowed near schools anymore because of that sketch. I still don't even understand how you did that with a sketch that never aired."
"Same thing happened to da Vinci," I said. "He did some weird stuff people didn't get, maybe killed a few pandas, maybe made the Dalai Lama say the F-word for the first time ever, and no one forced HIM to go to Chicago. I've always said that if pandas can't drink alcohol, they should come with a warning. You can check the records. I've literally always said that."
"We're moving on," Jack said, in a way that made it clear that he and I would talk privately later about the things I always said, and that we would agree about it. "The case is closed. You, Katie Willert, Soren Bowie, Michael Swaim, and Cody Johnston will be in Chicago 4/21-4/23 for a pop culture and comic convention. You will be doing a live After Hours panel wherein you will workshop a future episode in real time, and then you'll read an episode that hasn't yet been seen, and then you'll take pitches for future After Hours episodes from the audience."
"I accept, as long as there's room for me to do one of my long and fun dances for an audience that isn't allowed to leave. Here are my demands for what I need for that dance: a giraffe, but not just any giraffe, a giraffe that is down, and I want you to note that I'm using italics when I say 'down,' so to suggest that-"
"I'm not granting any of your demands, because you have no actual power here," Jack said. "And you have two more panels that you need to do. You'll be doing a panel about Bad Movies that Deserve a Remake and a panel about Guilty Pleasures, Defending Your Indefensible Taste. Can you repeat that back to me so I know that you heard and understood it."
"You want me to find a famous boxer, get him to pee in the same water fountain as me so we switch bodies, and then you want us to box each other to see if having the brain of a boxer is more important than the body of a boxer."
"Of course I don't want you to- Wait, did you think they peed in a water fountain? Like a drinking fountain? Jesus, no, you're not doing any of that. Just- here, take this piece of paper. It has all the information about the panels."
4/21/17 - 5:15-6:15
4/22/17 - 11:15-12:15
4/23/17 - 12:00-1:00
"Great," I said. "I'll help promote this, Jack, but you've got to promise to do one thing for me."
"Declare martial law, put me in charge of the website in a very violent way, and also let me wet my beak a little. My beak, you see, is just fucking RAVAGED with dryness."
"Did you hear me say 'no' seconds ago?"
"Hero's hear what they want. I think Plato said that. Anyway, here's my pitch:"
But Jack was gone. Likely he sprinted off to approve another one of my great ideas, or to tell a woman how good and long at dances he is. We'll never know. OR WILL WE? Find out at C2E2!
Get your tickets here!