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.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

November 17, 2000

SUMMARY: Narrator complains about neighbors, slips into non-sequitors, and finally, pees own pants. Comedic monologue.


RECURRING THEMES: Suburban frustration. Loss of self-control. Humiliation.

- Ghost, Star Trek, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Nash Bridges, Perfect Strangers, Fear

It was only the first few weeks of No Shame Theatre and already, I had established a writing routine that would willfully enslave me for the next four years. The obsessiveness of this ritual was second only to my eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch every morning from grades 1 through 6, Cap'n Peanut Butter Crunch from grades 6 through 8, and Count Chocula from grades 9 through 12. But hey... this isn't the "Annotated Cereal Archive," it's the "Annotated Cereal and Script Archive." So let the writing routine break-down begin! It is:

1. Early Saturday morning, No Shame Theatre's lights dim to black and I promptly begin drafting next week's piece in my mind and its accompanying eye.
2. Thursday night, I write the first draft (after replaying the beats of a piece in my head throughout the week). Jokes, new ideas, and plot variations are the order of the day.
3. Friday afternoon, classes are dismissed and I make a second draft (basically cutting out your mom's fat and fixing up language where the rain gets in).
4. Friday night at 9:00pm, a hot-and-steamy script is printed out - after a final read-through and one more quick re-drafting.

On November 17, 2000, however, this all went out the window and off to the junior prom with your older sister. It was 9pm and I had already printed off my No Shame script for the evening. Killing time before the show, my friend Jake and I are walking around campus and talking 'bout shit. Somewhere around that cobblestoned hill near ye olde Hillcrest Castle, we start chatting about a couple friends of ours:

1. John Henry Muller - Early that fall, in Omaha, Nebraska, John's housemate takes a dare and pees his pants in their living room.
2. Rick Herbst - At Nortre Dame, Rick is working on a sketch-comedy show, in which one performer considered peeing his pants onstage, but decided not to.

It was at this point that I decided to change my No Shame piece for the night.

Knowing that I had little time to do so, I ran to my friend Adam's dorm room and used his "personal computer" to pump out a monologue in 15 minutes.

And how do you write a monologue in 15 minutes? You rely on inside-jokes (the "Four Kirks" was a long-standing joke between Jake and I), recycle past material (that final thread of linked words was developed with friends to pass the time at a Northwest Iowa Chorus Festival in high school), and you title your piece after a fabled line from "Ghost" (it's your favorite scene). All done in the service of the final sight gag: Me peeing my pants onstage.

There probably should have been multiple concerns on my part, but my sole preoccupation was that I didn't want to go onstage and "choke," so I took some important precautions. First off, I wore light-colored, khaki pants, so the pee would be more visible on that material than, say, dark Wrangler denim or checkered Nascar swishees. Also, during the black-out after the announcements, I tugged my penis out from underneath my underwear (but still underneath my pants, ladies), so it would have a stronger path to flow. Finally, and most importantly, I made sure to drink as much water as humanly possible before the show. Ultimately, I drank too much - because by the time my piece came up, I was crossing my legs and biting my lower lip (and it was only the second piece of the night).

So I go onstage and I do my piece and I pee my pants.

The thing is... when I played the piece out in my mind beforehand, I envisioned a small puddle to form in my crotch and a small trickle to go down my right leg. Boy, was I wrong! The floodgates opened and then the flood came out of my pantlegs and the flood went all over the stage. I brought a "Daily Iowan" to sop up the pee after the piece was over, but when I set it on the puddle, it just rested on the top and floated across (this regretably got the biggest laugh of the night). Fortunately, No Shame writer/performer Al Angel had brought a towel with him that night and he graciously lent it to me to wipe it up. A quick change of pants later and I was ready to watch the rest of the show.

Afterwards, reactions were mixed. A lot of audience members, for instance, thought I had faked it. Apparently, before I started peeing, I fumbled with my belt and it appeared as if... I don't know... I set off some elaborate fake-urination contraption in my pants. Because, you know... I'm a famous inventor who develops whimsical gadgets in my subterranean labratory. Gouche. What's the point of peeing your pants if you're not gonna' get credit for it?

Other reactions were more rule-minded. No Shame writer/performer Aaron Galbraith expressed concerns that I had broken one of No Shame's 8 simple rules. He liked the piece and all, but he was fearful that I would face a severe punishment from the Board. I never did. God bless their apathy/laziness/favortism.

And finally, there were some people who genuinely enjoyed the piece. One person commented in their review that it was "heart-breaking" to see me peeing my pants onstage. Later on, it occurred to me how true this was. It is heartbreaking. And often times, I kick myself for not holding out on the "pants-wetting" idea for a more-developed piece where I could accentuate this. Ashamed at myself or not, my main objective at No Shame tends to be "break the audience's heart," so... I feel like I wasted an opportunity.

But I know that's not true. Scrappy and shaggy as it is, this is a piece that's best in its present form. It's quick and it's bizarre and it's fun. And although it would sometimes be a cross to bear on my bloody, splintered shoulders (i.e. "you're the guy who peed his pants at No Shame"), I ultimately like this monologue a lot. I'm proud of it.

Strangely, after the show was over, I went back onstage to find the plastic bag where I kept my soiled pants. But it was gone! Somebody had taken my piss-pants. So if you own my piss-pants or have information regarding the whereabouts of my piss-pants, please contact me. No questions asked.


"Real pee! If you didn't hear me the first time, that was PEAL PEE! The real pee, mixed with an mumbling, nervous, and stuttering monologue sent up an aura of cute and childish, but funny. The only problem I had with your bit was having to stand in real pee during my monologue. Next time, make sure you're standing on a pile of newspapers or something." - Tom Kovacs

"i loved the non-sequitor/sequitor stuff. very funny. not sure how that couldn't have been real pee, in which case: 1) have to laugh because it's funny and effective, 2) have to frown because you broke the rules, 3) for christ's sake, bring more than a single sheet of newsprint to clean it up with. still, a good piece." - Aaron Galbraith

"According to Rust, that was real pee. I sure couldn't pee in my pants in front of an audience. Not that I would be mortifyingly embarrassed, so much, just that I don't think I could. It was a funny piece in its own right, and the gradual degradation of the monologue into incomprehensibility compounded by the additional information of the pee was quite funny. Though I think that PR's reliance on a barrage of pop-culture (television) referrences tends to alienate more than include. I wish Rust had practiced this beforehand to know how to pee his pants without making a mess of the stage. Or at least known to be prepared to clean up." - Nick Clark

"pseudo-tragic, funny, well-delivered. i don't think it was real pee, but i didn't sniff it, and the fact that i really wanted someone else to sniff it to determine whether or not it was real pee speaks for itself. great delivery, really heartbreaking descent into incomprehensibility...and good job not putting a lot of important writing during the peeing because no one would have paid attention anyway." - Aprille Clarke

Oh, Aprille, you are so not right. It was, in fact, real pee, and I know it's true, just as you, deep in your soul, know it. No, no. I am not kidding. Yes, Rusty peed in his pants, for real. Yes, yes, yes, Aprille. Yes." - Al Angel

Sunday, March 07, 2004

November 10, 2000

SUMMARY: A college admissions advisor admonishes an applicant's inferior school-shooting.


RECURRING THEMES: Influence of the media. Failed attempts for notoriety.

- The 1999 Columbine school shooting

To the young social satirist, the most exciting element of the genre is the promise that anything can be mocked for laughter. And that means anything. All of society's establishments, conventions, and mores are fair game for your wicked (and damn you bet, insightful) rakin'-over-the-coals. This has been true since the beginning of time. Just imagine li'l Ezra McGintey's joy when he discovered that he could stick it to those Phillistines!

And just imagine li'l hayseed Paul Rust's joy when he came to big, ol' college and discovered that he could stick it to the whole, stinking, uptight, wrong-headed world. Go ahead. Imagine it.

That's piss and vinegar you smell.

After re-reading this piece, it occured to me how much of my early No Shame work was infused with a charged college-freshman vibe. Because for me, No Shame Theatre was all about "doin' what I want." Yeah, that's right, mom and dad. You ain't around to tell me what to do no more. And sorry, teach. Class is out... and irreverence is in!

So you write pieces like this one. About school shootings. Because for the last year-and-a-half, this shit was the ultimate untouchable subject - especially in high schools where "jokes" could be considered "threats" and any "questioning" was regarded as "insenstivity."

Plus, the entire ordeal was fascinating to me. And still is. School shootings (such as Columbine and others) offer a plethora of intriguing social problems: the negligence of baby-boomer parents, the effects of a media-savvy youth, the pent-up violence of teenage boys, etc. In this sense, April 20th, 1999 affected me a lot more than September 11th, 2001 ever did. Because when it comes to understanding issues of international conflict, I regretably struggle... but talk to me about adolescent boy problems and I can get my head around that stuff in no time.

As such, this monologue is a combination of both my desire to vent about school shootings and my new-found discovery that... I could vent about school shootings. Unfortunately, you get a sucky piece like this one. "Your Permanent Record" is obvious social satire shoved in the mouth of a smarmy and dislikable character.

Who would enjoy a piece like this one?

Well, apparently... a lot of people.

For weeks (and months) after this piece was performed, I would have a handful of people approach me and tell me "how much they liked that piece about the school shootings." This would soon be followed by the qualifier that "no one else was laughing, but I was." And that, readers, is what makes me really hate this piece - and to be honest, most dark humor in total. It's a genre people so often proudly jerk themselves off to, thinking that, "Most people wouldn't laugh at this, but I do. I'm so naughty and with it!" Dark humor - as terrific and eye-opening as it can be - is also the single-most self-congratulatory form of comedy there is. It's simultaneously smug and elitist - a horrible combination. Watch a 17 year-old male brag about how he thought Very Bad Things was "brilliant" and you'll know what I'm talking about.

But it's not just audience members though. Writers are guilty of this, too. I think most practitioners of dark humor think they are being "risk-takers" and pride themselves on doing so. You know, like young male writers. Who are freshmen. At the University of Iowa.

Named Paul Rust.


"Overtly topical humor makes me squirm, and that's my own problem, but this teetered between total flippancy and wanting to make a Point, however irreverent that may have been. Of course Rust has an adorable charisma, so there's never a question of being unentertained. However, the finest politically charged humor is fueled by profound anger and frustration. The best move was to identify with school-shooters by way of folk heros, instead of persecuted victims, an unpopular angle. Which is why the movie "Badlands" is more profound, but "Rebel Without a Cause" is more popular." - Chris Stangl