Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Meme

ANNOUNCER: You're watching Gasp! A Countdown to the Apocalypse With your Hostess With the Mostest, Laura Axelrod!

LAURA AXELROD: (Under her breath to a PA.) I've always hated that intro. (In her "on camera" voice.) And we're back. We're talking here today with business journalist and playwright James Comtois, who's agreed to talk to us about his passion in life. Thanks for being here, James.

JAMES COMTOIS: Well, thanks for having me, Miss Axelrod.

LAURA: Oh, pish-tosh! Call me Laura.

JAMES: Okay, sure. Laura.

LAURA: Now, let's talk about your area of expertise. What would you call yourself, if you'd have to self-apply a label?

JAMES: I guess I'd call myself a writer.

LAURA: How did you become interested in it?

JAMES: I mean, I guess I've been interested in writing since I was a little kid, but I don't remember how or when exactly. I really liked reading and I really liked movies, so I guess it's just natural that I wanted to make them. I became interested in writing plays when I was in college when I realized that writing scripts for comics or movies would never get any further than the printed page.

LAURA: How did you learn how to do it?

JAMES: Wow. I have no idea how to concisely answer this question.

LAURA: (Curt.) We have four minutes before commercial.

JAMES: (Visibly thrown.) Oh, uh, sorry. Um...I guess I'll be incredibly presumptuous and take it as a given that I have indeed learned how to write. I suppose the short answer is I took some summer activity writing courses in grade school, then a handful of English composition classes in high school, and then majored in English literature in college, which requires you (go figure) to read a lot and write a lot. I took one playwriting class at Boston University, which was also a big help. Can I talk about Oxford?

LAURA: Sure!

JAMES: Okay. I spent a semester at Oxford, where I ended up having to write a 7-10 page paper each week and read it aloud to my professor and only two other students.

LAURA: Really?

JAMES: Yup. It really forced me not only to write a lot, but also to make sure my writing was something I felt comfortable reading aloud to three sets of very judgmental ears. Nothing against my fellow students or Oxford professors, of course, but-

LAURA: -I got what you meant.

JAMES: Oh. Okay. Good. Well...after college, Pete and-

LAURA: -this is Pete Boisvert, the other artistic director of your theatre company?

JAMES: Oh. Yes. Right. Pete Boisvert. After college, Pete Boisvert and I formed Nosedive Productions and I've often used the company to figure out, sometimes the hard way, what works and doesn't work when writing for the stage.

LAURA: (To the audience.) Isn't that something?

JAMES: (Not sure if she's making fun of him.) I...yeah.

LAURA: Who has been your biggest influence?

JAMES: Jeez. There are far too many to...(Laura gives her blathering guest a "look.") Well, okay. Obviously Stephen King and Isaac Asimov were the two authors that really made me want to write at a young age and I think a lot of my earliest short stories were basically blatant rip-offs of their work. Eventually, I got really into James Joyce and later Dave Sim. I mean, there's also my parents, Mrs. Robidoux, my junior high English teacher, Mrs. Banks...

LAURA: (Laughing.) This isn't an Oscar acceptance speech, James.

JAMES: (Laughing as well.) Oh, right. Sorry.

LAURA: Well, we're almost out of time. So we have one last question.

JAMES: Okay.

LAURA: What would you teach people about writing?

JAMES: Hmmm...interesting question. I'm not sure you can really teach the stuff. I mean...you can guide someone who has some writing ability into making good decisions and force them to persevere, but I don't think you can teach an inherently bad writer to be a good one, if that makes sense. I suppose if I had to teach a writing class I'd just make the students write a certain amount every week ... this is a weekly class, right? ... and have them read what they've written aloud to the class. The classmates would then offer their immediate reactions. Not pointers or ways to improve it, but just honest responses. After a period of time doing that, the competent writers will eventually improve and the incompetent ones will see just how below the mark they are. But I'm really just making that up on the spot. I don't think I'd be a very good teacher.

LAURA: And whadda ya know? We're out of time. Thanks to James Commtoast for-

JAMES: -Comtois.

LAURA: What?

JAMES: Comtois. Pronounced "kum-TWAH." The 's' is silent.

LAURA: Oh. Right. (Pause.) James Kumquat, everybody!

(Applause from the studio audience as James is quickly escorted off the set.)

LAURA: When we come back, we'll get some cooking tips from our hip-hop chef, Joshua James. How's that stew coming along, Joshua?


Meming everyone who reads this,

James "Time For You To Be A Guest" Comtois

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Anonymous Joshua James said...


I'm a long way from hip hop and even FARTHER from being a chef!

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

That's hysterical. :) And it made my day.

BTW, thanks for the explanation about your last name. I'm famous for mangling pronounciations. Seriously. I had no idea how to mangle your last name correctly. ;)

3:24 PM  

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