French-Kissing a Picture of Myself

The Paul Rust Annotated Script Archive

I know, I know. Writing extensive "background info" on your No Shame Theatre pieces is both self-obsessed and pathetic. For me, there's nothing sadder than an amateur artist believing his/her work is worthy of examination, discussion, and analysis. HOWEVER! I know if any other No Shame writer did this, I would be completely fascinated/irratated/fascinated.

The preceeding paragraph functioned as both an excuse and an apology.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

November 3, 2000

SUMMARY: A married couple informs a police officer that their daughter (Judy Winslow from Family Matters) is missing. Comedy sketch.


RECURRING THEMES: Parasocial relationships with popular culture. Self-deception. Fractured families. Suburban isolation.

- Family Matters
- Life Goes On
- Caroline B. Cooney's "The Face on the Milk Carton"

I attended No Shame Theatre as an audience member for three weeks before deciding to throw my own three-cornered hat into the ring. During my second week as an audience member, I saw writer/performer Arlen Lawson perform a monologue entitled "What Became of Tom Thumb?," in which he referenced the Cheech Marin comedy Born in East LA.

It was about that time when my head exploded.

Excuse me?! Someone else knows about Born in East LA?! You mean, it isn't just something that my dad's cousin Al played for our family while we were visiting him in Minnesota?! You're saying, I'm not alone in this world?!

And it was at that moment when I realized the unifying power of pop-culture references. Audiences - with their conflicting races, colors, and creeds - are miraciously united by laughter and esoteric recognition. Performers and audiences exhange "food jokes" through one glowing, referential umblical cord. By God, the entire youth culture takes a seat around the fabled Young-People-Who-Are-With-It campfire.

I was ecstatic... for I had discovered the back-door to people's laugh kitchens.


I write a sketch like "The Other Face on the Milk Carton." Yes, it references Judy Winslow, long-lost daughter on Family Matters. And yes, it parodies the kidnapping melodrama genre. And you betcha, that title is a literary shout-out to Caroline B. Cooney's elementary book-order classic "The Face on the Milk Carton."

But you picked up on all those pop-culture references, right? Because you're cool. You "get it."

Then, as what seems to be the trend in most of these commentaries, I quit believing such nonsense. It occured to me that pop-culture references are indeed a god-send... a god-sent curse, that is! They are double-trouble double-edged swords because:

A) Sure, the audience is laughing, but they're only doing so out of recognition. It's like if you were watching the local news and your grandma came on the screen. Yeah, you'd start clapping and cheering and farting because, "Look-ee! Gramma's on the TV," but soon enough, a boulder falls on her and the newsman has to fake being remorseful. And big deal if the audience is laughing hard at the reference? It's just so that the hottt person behind them knows that they're "cool" and they "get it." References are not jokes. They are pandering attempts for an audience's approval. I should know. That's how I bought my first three BMW's.


B) Anyone in the audience who doesn't get the reference is alienated completely. They think, "Everyone else but me gets this. I'm not part of the club. Screw this Paul guy. And screw everything else he has to say for the rest of his piece." And honestly, how many people are going to get your "clever" nod to Joe Camp's The Double McGuffin? Do you really want to alienate everyone in the audience except that one nerd with a Double McGuffin t-shirt in the third row?

So, yeah... this piece has got its references. Do what you want with them. Nevertheless, I like the concept: the idea of television-as-band-aid healing viewers' wounds. People make dates with their favorite shows. They talk to the people on their screen. They share a few jokes. They forget stuff for 30 minutes. Sitcoms ease the pain. At least, for me they do.

On a sidenote... this was the first-ever comedy sketch (read: not a monologue) I ever wrote! From here on out, I would only write, say, 10 more monologues in my lifetime at No Shame. Why? More often than not, monologues suck. Ass. They are boring. Don't you want to see a bunch of people onstage? Don't you want to see life happening before your eyes instead of having it described to you? Some folks write monologues and they are masterpieces. Most folks write monologues and they are suck-pieces.

And this has nothing to do with my frustration over not understanding something others appreciate. Nope. Not at all.

HOT GOSSIP!: Two years after this sketch, me and a bunch of other amazingly talented No Shame regulars are sitting at Village Inn after the show, talking about how brilliant we are. The subject of pop-culture references comes up and I remark, "I quit doing them because I found out they're easy ways to get the audience to like you. And I didn't want to do that." To which, fellow writer/performer Arlen Lawson scoffs at me. Granted, he could be scoffing at my round-about-way of saying that I don't care what the audience thinks of me (because... yeah, maybe... I clearly do). But maybe he was also scoffing because I do continue to use pop-culture references in my pieces? Automatically, my defensiveness-reflex kicks in and I think, "Well, I learned it from watching you, Arlen. I learned it from watching you."

And what 1980's anti-drug PSA was I referencing there? Exactly.

Christ. This will never end.


"It's good to see rust experimenting with forms other than the monologic. This piece failed for me simply because it was a one-joke idea that went on for too long. If it had been shorter, or had more twists to it (say the appearance of Judy Winslow) I may have, once again, been sold. Good save on the fucked up joke though!" - Mark Hansen

"Frankly I am disgusted that Paul knew that there once was a Judy on Family Matters. Aside from the people who worked on the show how many people can claim that knowledge? Makes me wonder just how many Urkel-Ohs Paul has consumed in his life. I don't know what would have been funnier. Pulling off the Rudy Huxtable joke or fucking it up like he did. I'll toss my vote in the fuck up pile. Paul Rust impresses me. I want to be him." - Dan Fairchild

"Oh, I was a bit dissapointed by this one. Firstly bcause we have seen Rust write some extremely funny material. Secondly, because it was really exclusive. You would have to have watched a lot of television and paid rapt attention to be in on the 'in' joke of the dissapearing daughter. The explaination of this seemed like a pretty feeble attempt to redeem that exclusivity. Rust's performance was good, as was newcomer Michelle Something's (and balls', but you knew that) and the save on the Huxtable joke was definitely funnier than the joke could have been." - Nick Clark

"I heard someone wondering--just a few days before I saw this piece--what happened to that other Winslow daughter. I thought this was neat. I don't think one needed to know that someone disappeared from Family Matters to "get" this piece." - Merideth Nepstad

Sunday, January 04, 2004

October 27, 2000

SUMMARY: Children's show host maybe a pedophile. Comedic monolouge.


RECURRING THEMES: "Impurity" in innocent subject matter. Self-deception.

- Paul Reubens' 1991 indecent exposure incident
- The Bozo Show

Hey, wouldn't it be crazy if a children's show host didn't act like a children's show host? Like sort of perverse and weird? Woooooah, funny stuff! Take this concept and you got Death to Smoochy - quite possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen. And oh... you also got this piece. That I wrote. With my own two hands. Why do I keep doing this?

This time, however, I can't blame it on misguided intentions. I genuinely thought this was an original (and hi-lar-i-ous) idea. At the time, I was really into the idea that there's a darker side to seemingly innocent subjects. It's a pretty typical "young person" thought, if you think about it. I mean, you grow up thinking stuff is pure and good of heart, but then you grow up and find out it's not and that's unsettling. This was my major preoccupation from 1996-2000.

It was as if everyone had a dark secret. Cheerleaders had buckets of cum in their stomach. Junior high teachers beat their wives. That kid's dad was addicted to drugs. All that stuff.

And there's an obvious influence of Pee-Wee Herman as well - what with the children's show host whose perversity is revealed to the public. For me, Pee Wee Herman was the epitome of the "innocent figure with a dark secret." When I found out about his masturbation scandal in August 1991, I was devastated - even more so when I realized that my father had lied to me earlier by saying that Pee Wee got caught "mooning an audience." In the end, the two men I admired most had disappointed me. Corny or not, that's the one moment I can pinpoint where I "lost my innocence." That and the time I murdered a weatherman in Salinas, California.

Regardless of its source material, I hate this piece. Just like the previous monologue, it takes an obvious target and treats it in an obvious way. One notable tidbit, however, is that it's the first instance of a "switcheroo" ending in my work, which would appear consistenly in the future. By extension, it's the first instance in my work of an actual narrative (as well as a character with an arc). The past two pieces were essentially a grocery list of jokes, but this piece has a story of sorts and a developing character of sorts, so... I guess I was improving.

And this is not a myth we tell ourselves. All history is one continuous line of progress.


"I liked that this overcame what could have come off as a panderance(is that a word?) to the no shame crowd: man beloved to children admits to being pedophile. The fact that the man's vociferous opponent in this admission was his own hand made it different from the start, but not different enough to convince me. When the truth came out (this really is joke) it made sitting through what seemed like a desparate, hackneyed play for weak shock humor really come together hilariously. Hooray." - Nick Clark

A sick twist to the standard children's TV show host, with a startling resemblance to Mr. Garrison and Mr. Hat on South Park. Interesting interplay between Uncle Petey (you) and Mayor." - Tom Kovacs

I, for one, could see that the pediphile thing being a joke sent on by a viewer was coming but this didn't diminish it's effect. I was anticipating it rather than dreading it. Plus it was really well delivered. Paul began to falter in his sock voice at points but I'll forgive him that. Plus, no offense if you're reading this, Paul reminds me of Steve from Blues Clues so he had that going for him." - Dan Fairchild

Brilliant. I'm with Mr. Fairchild. I knew once he said the pediphile thing was a joke it was a matter of time before he would be telling which viewer sent in the joke. Masterfully delivered, though. He set it up perfectly with his sock puppet telling who sent in the joke the sock puppet told. I dig." - Chanc

When I see Paul onstage, I am immediately engaged. His presence and delivery are rare for a newcomer. His writing is entertaining as well, but at this point he still sometimes has a tendency to go for the obvious jokes and easy targets (kid show host who likes kiddie porn, ultra-right-wing types). I have no doubt, however, that he will continue to improve and grow more inventive. The kid's got a lot of promise. I certainly didn't see the "this joke was sent in by" twist coming. Unexpected. Funny. Good. " - Neil Campbell

Saturday, January 03, 2004

October 13, 2000

SUMMARY: Christian fundamentalist argues there is a hidden gay agenda in the Walt Disney corporation. Comedic monologue.


RECURRING THEMES: Obsession with popular culture. "Impurity" in seemingly innocent subject matter.

- Southern Baptists' late-90's "Ban Disney" campaign
- Dana Carvey's "Church Lady"
- Snopes' Walt Disney urban legends webpage
- Walt Disney's various characters and films

Hey, doesn't it suck how close-minded the religious right is? And hey, wouldn't it be someting if an institution we all perceived as innocent (i.e. Disney) was actually something more perverse and distorted? Take these two concepts and you got Dogma - quite possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen. And oh... you also got this piece. That I wrote. With my own two hands. Why would I do this?

This is a perfect example of good intentions gone bad. And as we all know, the road to Hell is paved with... No Shame pieces like this. Originally, I just wanted to do a piece about the hidden things in Disney movies (i.e. the subtle "SFX/SEX" message in The Lion King, the hushed "good children, take off your clothes" line in Aladdin, the nakey titties in The Rescuers). These things fascinated me to no end. I suppose it had something to do with how they suggest a secret, unknown world behind the movies. And how they're slipping out behind that nylon screen and I'm catching 'em with my big, wide eyes. Because for me, as a kid, "film flubs" and "movie mistakes" were my Holy-Grail-shoved-in-the-Ark-of-the-Covenant-buried-with-a-native-whose-heart-was-torn-out. They were that important! And simply, I wanted this piece to be about that.

But the thing is... I needed a framework, so I chose the religious leader/minister/whatever to be the mouthpiece for all of it. Unfortunately, the more and more I wrote it, the more and more the Disney stuff took a backseat... then took the trunk... then took that hitch-thingy on the back bumper. Everything I originally liked about the piece was replaced by a Christianity critique I was only half-interested in. As a result, the piece... sucked.

And honestly... does the all-too-polemically-liberal No Shame audience really need another stinging critique on Christians? Or Republicans? Or (insert any goddamn thing that college students are supposed to haaaaate)? How is this "satire" going to benefit or progress anyone? Exactly. Right now, in my life, I'd be less likely to satirize Christian fundamentalists and more likely to satirize people who think such commentaries are useful. You know, people like me - circa October 13, 2000.

What a shitty piece.

Two-and-a-half years later, I received an email from a douche named Vinny Kaprat from Nowhere, USA. He sent me an email, telling me he read my script online. I replied and asked him how he came across it. Here was his reply:

How did I find your webpage? I did a search on google for Mickey Mouse and Jesus (just for fun, i like to type in random words in search engines when I am bored) and your page was the first hit. I am a student of Mass Communication, I found your page "Jesus Christ, Mickey Mouse, and You" to be .... um.......inter----es--ting, at the very least. Wrong at the very most. But hey thats just my opinion.

What a douche! Oh, wait. He's a student of Mass Communication? I take everything back I said! He's changing the world with every passing day! Forgive me for my harsh words, Vinny Kaprat! You are an inspiration to us all!


"I liked it a lot. It went after an obvious target: homophobic christians, but Paul brought a fresh complexity and energy to the piece. I didn't like it as much as last week's, but still it was great." - Nick Clark

"For some reason, I recall this as being one of several pieces of the night that revolved around homosexual jokes. This being the most tasteful one. Ultra-Right Christians are definitely not an unfamiliar target, but Paul's assured delivery saved it from being too cliche. Do more!!" - Mark Hansen

Friday, January 02, 2004

October 6, 2000
(Peformed at Best of No Shame: December 8, 2000)

SUMMARY: Narrator shares how his friends resemble various celebrities. Comedic monologue.


RECURRING THEMES: Parasocial relationships with popular culture. Self-deception. Attempts to impress others.

- Hey Dude.

My first-ever No Shame Theatre piece! One would think that after three-and-a-half years, I would have moved onto different ideas/material/subject matter. Nope. Here I am... still interested in the dehumanizing effects of popular culture, fascinated by people's ability to lie to themselves in an effort to manage their own lives, and obsessed with characters who desperately want you to think they're COOL. I am willfully stuck in a rut!

Also, take notice of the structure. What's this? A seemingly innonucous situation slowly revealed to have a more sinister undercurrent? Yep. That's there, too.

The origin of this piece is fairly obvious, I'm sure. I noticed how people compared themselves and their friends to celebrities - despite not having any real basis for such a comparison (i.e. not once interacting with, say, Eddie Murphy). And in the end, aren't you just doing it to distract yourself from how ugly and boring your real-life friends are?

The self-delusion in all this is amazing. Did you see that episode of Candid Camera where people-on-the-street were asked what celebrities they resembled? Trust me... there is nothing more depressing/enthralling than an overweight, ragged woman looking straight-forward into a camera and saying, "A young Cher."

All in all, I'm proud of this piece (especially in terms of it being my first). It's got a character. It's got jokes. It's got an idea. The sucky pieces that I'm ashamed of would appear in the next three weeks. In fact, for me, this piece's only major fault is the Saturday Night Live-style of repeating the same joke, making it more and more absurd as it goes along. But what was I to do? I was born and raised on SNL and unaware of that essential component of great sketch comedy, which is... you know, narrative.

On a sidenote... two years later, No Shame writer/performer Chris Stangl asked me, "Paul, when did you ever see the Indian from Hey Dude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly?" And to that, I answer, "Issue #109!"

HOT BACKSTAGE GOSSIP!: On my first night, I sat in the lounge to hand in my script - BOUND AND DETERMINED to not say anything to anyone. I didn't want to be perceived as someone who did No Shame only to rub elbows with the "regulars." This meant that even when Neil "Balls" Campbell asked people, "Did anyone get the new Radiohead album?," I kept my mouth SHUT - even though I did buy that album and brother, did I have a lot to say about it! I kept this self-imposed silence for three more weeks. It wasn't until my fourth week of performing that I began talking with other people in the lounge. I still regard this as a wise decision on my part.


- "Paul Rust's No Shame debut (bravo!!!)" - Greg Mitchell

"This didn't really...go anywhere, did it? i mean, it was ok...his delivery was rather charming and i enjoyed his big nose, but it got a little tedious because he was neither making any points nor saying anything really funny. but he was a first-timer, right? he showed potential. he was better than a lot of first-timers. and his piece was double-spaced so the pages went rather fast." - Aprille Clarke

- "Same thing four times. I didn't care. The friendships of grown men are always funny to me. Mentioning "Hey, Dude" is funny. Wheelchair jokes are funny. Needed a trim, needed some variation. I loved how this was actually very bilious, but delivered joyously." - Chris Stangl

- "Energy of performance was soo great. I really hadn't expected this from seeing the guy in the lounge looking nervous. The text could've been trimmed, but I didn't really care because it had enough going for it that, even though part of me said "the joke has been made", I didn't really care that I was still hearing the joke, because the writing and the performance made it work for that long." - Nick Clark

"This one was great. But I wouldn't want to be Paul's friend. I don't know quite what appealed to me about it--maybe how far he reached to make some people remind him of stars--but he did something right." - "Kelcey"

- "I thought this was just terrific--a little long by about one famous-looking friend, but delivered with energy, style (did you see those page turns???) and wit to spare. Strongest debut in a while. WRITE MORE!" - Chris Okiishi