Actress, Writer, First Female President

This was my answer that’s printed in my 4th grade yearbook to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

(Well, 2 out of 3…)

Speaking of Hillary Clinton though, earlier this year I unearthed this 1996 cartoon in some elementary-school treasures my mom kept for me. (The junk-to-treasure ratio is unbalanced, for sure, but it’s hard to complain when there’s a find like this at the bottom of the stack.)

I love it for a couple of reasons. First, my feminist leanings were showing, even then. (Though I “campaigned” for Dole/Kemp that year and thought I liked Rush Limbaugh, I’ve always been a little feminazi, to use one of RL’s imaginative terms of non-endearment.)

But also, guys, it’s actually funny. I was only 12 in April of 1996, but damn. I was a clever little dweeb. (And I knew it, too…I recall with a cringe. Remember when Liz Lemon goes home for her high school reunion, and she discovers that she was actually the mean girl to all the popular girls and not the other way around? I was probably the worst. But so were they. All 12-year-olds are the worst. Fact.)

And finally, Garfield. What a lovable little curmudgeon. I love how much I loved Garfield. I still do. He taught me a lot about jokes. And the value of naps.

I hope you read the whole thing and enjoy it, but if not, I transcribed the final 3 frames:

Oprah: Now welcome our present first lady, Hillary Clinton!
*applause* Mrs. Clinton, what are your issues?

Hillary: Childcare.

Oprah: Oh, nice.

Hillary: And don’t forget cat care. Those cute things.

Garfield: That is one smart woman! Makes me proud to be an American.

Hillary: And a 100% increase in lasagna.

Oprah: Great idea, Hillary.

Garfield: Well, these women sure are smart cookies… That reminds me…

(just. c’mon.)

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Follow your heart and mind on Tuesday, of course. But think about it: a 100% increase in lasagna could do us all some good.

 

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2015: 13 books, 140 characters

It’s 2016. Let’s live our truth: I finish fewer books and I write fewer blog posts per year than I used to. Blame the busyness of life, the ease of sharing ideas online in smaller quick bites, the existence of the internet in general.

But also, I think, my twentysomething self (who started blogging in earnest in 2007) was a more obsessively introspective, self-discovering and self-centered type of self. (As she should have been! That’s what 20s are for! You go on and find yourself, baby SJ!) Whereas now, I’m a little more grounded in who I am, and feeling better about it (thanks, therapy!), and enjoying the things I like without the need to justify, explore or explain. This is all good.

Wasn’t expecting that nugget of self-discovery. Just occurred to me while writing. Funny how that works.

2015 was good to me. I still read 13 books, not too shabby considering that roughly 20% of adults read NO BOOKS at all. Oh my, internet, say it ain’t so!

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So here we go. Keeping with tradition (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014), here’s my tweet-length year of reading in review:

On Writing | Stephen King
My very first S.K. book, and it’s not even a “Stephen King book.” Practical and poetic guide to the writing process—from somebody who knows.

Lizz Free or Die: Essays | Lizz Winstead
Memoir by Daily Show co-creator and feminist icon…I didn’t love it. But that’s okay. Not all comedy is for me. (Lookin’ at you, Master of None. I SAID IT.)

Man Seeking Woman | Simon Rich
Hilarious, bizarre series on FXX is based on a book by former SNL writer. So, duh. Inventive, of-the-moment romance chronicles, rated NSFM (Not Safe For Mom).

Syllabus | Lynda Barry
Part nonlinear graphic novel, part handwritten creative journal, part offbeat instruction manual. All fun to read and digest.

Attachments | Rainbow Rowell
Delightful YA novel recommended by my writing group. Set in 1999, the pre-Facebook story feels retro, as romance unfolds (or does it?) via intercepted emails.

Better Than Perfect | Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo
Perfectionism survival guide. 6 of 9 “Does this sound familiar?” intro statements sounded just like me. Scrawled inside cover: “So, wait, everybody’s self-worth isn’t determined by how well they live up to their own harsh, improbable standards?” (Not really joking.)

Harebrained | Meg Myers Morgan
Written by a college classmate and available at an amazon near you! I wrote a longer blog post singing its praises already. Go read that.

Theatrical Husbandry | Susan Mann
Not on shelves yet, but will be. Have gotten to watch the process as my writing group friend worked her way through revisions. Now she’s moving toward publication. How cool is that?

Funny on Purpose: The Definitive Guide to an Unpredictable Career in Comedy | Joe Randazzo
This book gets me. Funny, practical primer on all things comedy. He had me on page 15, with this horrifyingly, comfortingly accurate list:

FOP

Hey look! That’s me!

Writing Television Sitcoms | Evan S. Smith
Somebody wrote a whole book about this! Can you believe it?! (Exciting to only a small sliver of the population, but I’m one of them.)

The life-changing magic of tidying up | Marie Kondo
The title doesn’t lie. KonMari has changed my life for the better, and I’m still in process. Some of her philosophies seem foo-foo, but they also work. (Magic.)

“If we acknowledge our attachment to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us.”

Mr. Puffball Stunt Cat to the Stars | Constance Lombardo
Happenstance while roaming kids section at Barnes & Noble. Almost didn’t buy it (see above, buying less), but very glad I did. Delightful and clever for film-buffs, cat-buffs and tiny-silly-joke buffs.

Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers | by Mike Sacks
447 pages of pure inspiration. Creators of Parks & Recreation, Cheers, National Lampoon. Writers for The Onion, New Yorker, Tonight Show. All in one book! And you can buy it!

“I think you should follow your dreams. Why not?”

Following dreams. Following ideas. Following funny fellows on Twitter.
Hold on, it’ll all come together…

“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats:
you make them follow you.”

Today I found this quote from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing in a post on good books about writing via brainpickings.com. I found it entirely delightful, and so I posted it on Twitter — which in the early days I would describe as my internet scrapbook of cool ideas. This Twitter archive came in handy later today, when I wanted to remember the exact day that I discovered John Mulaney…

See, I got to see him do stand-up tonight (along with Vanessa “it’s pretty cool and stufflikethat” Bayer) at MSU, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I wanted adorably nerdy jokes with some comedy writer inspiration mixed in. The evening did not disappoint. (I even got to ask an overzealous-audience-member question about what it’s like to write “Stefon”…)

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I can trace my J.M. discovery to the exact moment of origin:

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This was almost 2 years ago. Wowsers. Tried (and failed) to find the video clip of his Weekend Update appearance online. Apparently NBC is real concerned with preventing copyright infringement of obscure episodes from 2010.

How could you not love this face?!

At any rate, I remember watching an adorably unassuming, super-smart commentary from this kid (who turns out to be an SNL writer who’s just a year older than I am…ego smash…), sitting next to Seth Meyers at the Update desk. He wasn’t a character; he was just this guy basically doing a monologue of his witty observations, with a big smile on his face (see also: living the dream).

So fast forward to 2 years later, and I’m as obsessed as ever with SNL and the idea of comedy writing. Whenever I bump up against someone living this kind of life, a little alarm goes off inside of me: I want to go to there. This idea has been following me around forever, like Ray Bradbury’s cat. (You heard it here first: If Jenksie ever gets a sibling, I’m naming her “Ray Bradbury’s Cat”)

I couldn’t stop gushing about it. To my friends after the show. To myself on the drive home. To mom on the phone, then to my boyfriend, and now to you guys.

 

Mom gets credit for the title quote, which warmed my heart more than she can know. I think sometimes my parents don’t know what to do with me…with my big dreams and my unrealistic expectations and my highs-and-lows, crashes and bursts…but instead of her usual dose of pragmatic advice peppered with motherly warnings, she just simply told me what I needed to hear:

“I think you should follow your dreams. Why not?”

(Right?)

She also reminded me how I used to love telling jokes to our preacher when I was preschool age. I was painfully shy for the first 20-or-so years of my life…and young childhood was the extreme. I remember hiding behind mom or dad’s legs whenever people tried to talk to me at church, but I’d totally forgotten that the one exception to my sheepishness was performing. If I could make someone laugh, then shyness be damned! Bring on the STAAAGE!!! (*little girl Carol Channing voice*)

Even now, I get a little sheepish when I talk about this. I feel like I have to qualify it somehow, explain that I’m not just another anybody who wants to be famous. But then I stop myself. Because that’s silly. When someone with pre-med aspirations says, “I want to be a doctor,” I don’t think they immediately feel like they have to apologize. We might go, “oooh! That’s going to be tough!” or make some joke about student loans, but we don’t doubt that it’s a worthy goal, if they can do it. (And I feel like I could do it… Write comedy, that is. Not be a doctor. Blood. Ick.)

Here’s how I tried to explain my post-show feelings to Matt:
When I was little, I didn’t believe much in Santa Claus, nor did I get all excited over photos with Mickey Mouse — but I imagine that this is the feeling of wonder that most kids experience while in the presence of their superheroes. Here is this magical thing that I love, and it’s RIGHT THERE, and it’s real… Mid-explanation, I started to feel silly again. But his answer, more sincere than it may seem on a computer screen, was perfect: “Well, I’m glad you got to sit on Santa’s lap.” And so am I.

So come along, metaphorical Ray Bradbury’s Cat. Keep following me around for a little while longer. We’ve got lots of stuff to do.