My Review Of Invisalign

When I was a child, I never had braces. I don’t know if this was because of poor dental coverage, the expensive nature of braces, or I didn’t need them. Maybe all three. But as I traversed the path from cute little blonde haired street urchin to ruggedly handsome upstanding member of society with a full head of dirty blonde hair, my teeth have , at some point, stopped coordinating their growth. Instead, each tooth has followed its own individual path, cause some of them to drift farther and farther apart from each other.

The number of people who’ve told me it’s not that big of a deal, that hardly anyone would notice, or to stop being such a baby about this, cannot be counted on two hands. However, I am nothing if not consistent in my disregard for helpful advice from people smarter than me. I live in a world where I constantly see pictures of myself speaking on stage, and in any one of them, when you look closely, there are these teeth, scattered like randomly placed tombstones in an pet cemetery no one remembers, except for the one guy who keeps burying the same dead cat there over and over for some reason.

I’ve lived with the for the first ten years of my comedy career. There’ve been a million things more important. But here I am in the middle of my life, and I find myself financially stable enough to do something about this. And the obvious answer, since I’ve seen so many people achieve great results from it, was Invisalign.

There are a number of teeth straightening options for adults these days, but I believe most of the ones that don’t involve braces are basically the same. They’re small plastic trays fitted to your teeth, but also shaped to push your teeth slightly closer together. You wear them for two weeks or so, and then you trade them (not literally, no one wants your old invisalign trays) for another set that’s slightly tighter than the last. You do this over a period of time until you’ve coerced your teeth into a position that more closely resembles the teeth of your local news anchor. I asked my dentist which method/brand I should go with, and he suggested Invisalign, because the progress is overseen by an actual orthodontist you can see personally. I grant you, he may be a member of the ADA branch of The Illuminati, tasked with trapping me in the system of tooth care providers trying to hold a monopoly on the lucrative practice of mouth medicine, but I like the guy and thought he had a point.

I made a consultation appointment to see if I was even a candidate for Invisalign. I was. I didn’t ask what would disqualify me as a candidate. I guess maybe if you had a gnarly meth habit and your teeth had the density of balsa wood, they may deny you. But I’ve only done illegal meth once or twice. I get laboratory created premium methamphetamine from CVS monthly as part of my ADHD treatment. So I don’t need that cheap stuff. So, I was happy to learn I could move forward with this chance for a mouth that looked more like that of my friends who went to private school growing up.

The next step was to sell me on the procedure. I told the orthodontist that he really didn’t need to hardsell me, since I knew I wanted this, but he wasn’t taking any chances. So, he leaned by chair back, jammed one of those lip spreaders into my mouth, and then used some kind of laser scanner on my teeth and gums. This produced a “3D” rendering* of my teeth on the computer monitor in front of us.

Do you want to feel horrible about yourself as a person? Do you want to be reminded that no matter how together you seem, you are still haunted by the consequences of some very bad decisions? Try taking a look at your teeth after you’ve removed your head and face from the picture. Looking at this image rotate 360 degrees as the orthodontist spoke, I couldn’t help but recall every time I’d used my teeth to open a bottle, pull the insulation off of a wire, snip a fishing line, serve as pair of pliers when trying to turn some bolt on a small object, or chomp down on every coughdrop or piece of hard candy I’ve ever been too impatient to finish the correct way. It is a grizzly view.

As you stare at this model, surprised by how much it looks like the teeth of some prehistoric fossil, it morphs into a line of nice straight teeth that look like there so close together, no whistle would even thing about escaping from between them. Clearly, this is the preferred oral state. Sign me up.

And they did sign me up. Invisalign is definitely more expensive than some of the strip mall/teeth by mail services I’ve seen advertised. The original cost was around $4,000. I’m lucky enough to have dental coverage that knocked $1,500 off the total. I handed over a down payment that made me cry a little as I signed the receipt, and the rest is billed monthly to my American Express card, so I can at least get some miles out of these teeth.

The actual process of straightening your teeth is pretty low tech. The technician superglued a number of posts to my teeth. These posts have corresponding catches in the plastic trays you wear. These lock together and hold the trays on your teeth while nudging your teeth close to alignment. You don’t notice the posts really except the adhesive tastes like shit, and you’ll be replacing them often if they have to put on on a crown. Otherwise, they showed me how to put on and take off the trays, and sent me out into the world with the first six. You’re supposed to go back every three months for a check up, and to get your next set of trays.

If your kink is being punched in the face, you are in for a treat. Because for the next year, your mouth is going to feel like you just walked away from a barroom brawl. The first tray is pretty bad, because you’re not used to having them in your mouth. So, you’ll end up scratching your tongue on the plastic edge. Your teeth will have a constant dull throb from the pressure. The worst part will be when you take them off to eat, brush your teeth or whatever. Every time I pulled these trays off, trying to free them from their posts, I felt like I was going lose every tooth in my mouth. It was hell.

You’ll be able to tell that they’re working once they’re off. You’re bite will already feel slightly different after the first day. And you’ll figure out how to pop the trays off using only your tongue, and in a way that has minimal pain. Eventually, you’ll even get used to the constant pressure on your teeth. And once all that happens, you’ll open up a new set, and go through it all again.

As I write this, I SHOULD be on my tenth set of trays. But I apparently have a much lower tolerance for mouth pain than I thought. Because, I have been on tray seven for about a month and a half now. This tray hurt so much when I put it in, I stopped after a couple of days of spitting blood into the sink each morning. I took a week off entirely. Then I put in the previous tray for week, thinking maybe it just needed a little longer. But seven days later, tray seven still felt like each tooth had a separate pair of pliers attached to it and was being pulled by a different person. I set them aside, and really didn’t know if I was going to go forward.

I tried two more times, failing each time, and honestly, if I hadn’t paid up front, I’d probably just accept that this is what my teeth look like. However, I’m a sucker for the sunk cost fallacy. So, this week I picked up tray seven and put it back in. It still hurts a ton, but I’m pushing through thanks to a combination of gum numbing gel, ibuprofen, and crying. I only have nine more trays to make it through.

So, if you’re thinking of getting Invisalign, and you came across this post in your search for information on what to expect, just recognize, you’re in for some serious discomfort.

Oh, I should mention that it IS working. You can definitely tell a difference between how my teeth looked before tray one and how they look at tray seven. If there wasn’t any difference, this post would have been a lot shorter and just told you not to even think about it. But, it’s showed me just enough that I’m onboard for suffering another eighteen weeks.

Coffee and Cookie

How Can These People Enjoy Fucking Each Other

I sit in a lot of bars and coffeehouses. When I’m on the road, my days are filled with either a day job or a ton of writing to do and emails I need to return (all in hopes of getting rid of that day job). All those hours I’m spending in places like Omaha, when I’m not on stage, are usually spent sitting at a counter, bar or table, keyboard in front of me, while I’m surrounded by the conversations of people who each think they’re the only person in the room.

Sometimes it’s fun. I’ve definitely heard some witty banter that I’ve stolen and dropped into a story or a scene in a play. I’ve heard beautiful moments of love and sadness that I could appreciate as entertainment since I wasn’t the one affected by them. I’ve heard first dates and last dates. I’ve heard reconciliations and interventions. A life as a nomadic wanderer has allowed me to silently sit and write as I witness the entirety of the human drama play out around me.

Times have changed (he says in the voice of an ancient mariner who’s been lost at sea for decades). Thanks to the cocktail of social media, dating apps, three years of Covid induced social devolvement, and the general rise in normal levels of narcissism, the bulk of these conversations have become less of a window into the souls of people who’ve let down their guard, and more of pageant of self involved monologues delivered while the other person waits for a chance to give their own monologue in a contest to vomit the most words and prove who is the most…well…simply the most.

Case in point, the couple sitting next to me right now. They’re not great. The barista and I are in disagreement about whether these two are on a first date, or if they’ve been dating for awhile, and I think the fact we can’t tell which is a good indicator for how terrible these two are.

The scene, a super trendy coffee shop that’s new(ish) in my neighborhood. The place has this minimalist aesthetic that makes it a wonderful place from which to post to Instagram. In fact, I just did it after typing that sentence.

This couple walks in and orders. Then for some odd reason, they sit in the two seats at the bar nearest me, even though there are six other seats. They each take selfies, before ever saying a word, and after hearing them speak, they should have just kept taking selfies.

What followed was each of them giving a two minute speech about the work they’re doing to be socially aware. Then they compare books they’re reading. He’s currently reading Circe by Madeline Miller. She responds that she wishes she had time to read fiction, but she’s trying to educate herself on some pretty heavy issues and can’t dedicate the bandwidth to stories that aren’t real. She had sushi for dinner last night, and he lets her know that he hasn’t eaten sushi since watching a documentary on how bad the fishing industry is for the environment. She was sorry she shot down his plan to meet at Starbucks, but she just couldn’t spend money at a place that was working so hard to fight efforts to unionize. She’s had a great morning at the farmer’s market, just walking around listening to this awesome Saturday morning playlist she made on Spotify. He canceled his Spotify out of solidarity with the artists they exploit. And so on.

The first twenty minutes or so of their conversation is just constantly taking turns shitting on each other in a way that would make anyone with a humiliation kink need a towel. And that lends itself to the assumption this is their first date. However, halfway into their coffee date she hits him with “Oh my god! Did you order your latte iced? With the sinus issues you’ve been having, I’m surprised you’d do that again,” and he just shrugged.

So now I’m thinking they’ve been together for a bit. I mean, she knows that he has sinus issues. She knows that he’s ordered iced lattes in the past. And he knows enough about her to not even think to ask what in the fuck she thinks an iced latte has to do with sinus irritation. All of this implies a deeper relationship than first hinted at.

I’ve written about how much louder everyone is in public places now, and this couple is no exception. I did not purposefully eavesdrop on them after those first terrible minutes. I put on a pair of AirPods and turned on the noise cancellation feature. But they spoke at a volume level that you’d expect from a broadway actor making sure she can be heard all the way to the cheap seats.

I wish this couple was the exception, but in the past few months I’ve heard patrons in various locations loudly proclaim that there’s no way a mom and pop restaurant down the street could be as good as Applebee’s. I’ve heard religious discussions that are infuriatingly reductive. I’ve heard someone suggest their partner stop taking their bipolar medication. I’ve heard Amway pitches. I’ve heard a crypto bro shit on anyone not investing with him as he roleplayed sucking Elon Musk off. The list, and there is a list, goes on.

It fascinates me. None of the people in any of these conversations speak nicely towards the other. In fact, apart from agreeing to take photos of each other for their influencer pages, you’d be hard pressed to prove they even liked each other. But here they are, together. And that leaves me wondering how bad sex between them has to be.

It’s not that you have to like the person you’re having sex with. But, if you’re going to have hostile sex, then it has to be the kind of hostility that evokes passion, that removes your instinct to be gentle, or channels your aggression into every movement. These passive aggressive interactions don’t lead to that kind of sex. Instead, at least as far as I can imagine, they would both go through all of the motions of what they think sex should be, and then lie there afterwards wondering why the other person was so bad at this. Then they’d each bring up some article they’d just read in the New York Times.

And as I’m typing this, I’m reminded that the birthrate in this country is dropping, and I’m making some connections.

As an aside, I’m guessing this is why conservatives need a religion that encourages breeding as one of its major tenets. They don’t have to be interesting, or nice to each other, because God told them to fuck no matter how bad they are at it. They have a tithing base to build and can’t risk their women deciding to never fuck a man because he refuses to wipe his ass out of a fear that would make him gay. God bless the simplicity of just fucking for the lord, rather than having to work through a set of Venn diagrams on various topics to find out how you align with the person whose genitals you want to see.

No final thought to tie this all up nicely. Just one more observation as we all slouch toward Bethlehem.

This Whiskey Tastes Like Goat Piss

In my first few years of performing stand up, I wrote a joke that went thusly:

I like whiskey. I like old whiskey, mostly Scotch.

Now, a lot of my friends like to ask me, “Chris, you can’t really tell the difference between a 40 year old Scotch and a 20 year old Scotch can you?”


I like to tell them, maybe not by taste, or smell, or anything real. But if you hold a glass of 20 year old Scotch up to your ear, you’ll hear the ice gently cracking as it swims in the whiskey.

And then when you hold a glass of 40 year old Scotch up to your ear, you’ll hear it telling you that Saturday mornings were better in the eighties, and real hip hop died in 1998.

I enjoy the joke, but within it lies a kernel of truth, in that I really can’t describe the taste difference between an old whiskey and a new one, or between two new ones for that matter. I don’t have the vocabulary that other people display at tastings for everything from whiskey, to coffee, to wine.

I used to belong to a whiskey club, where a group of us pooled our money and used that money to purchase various expensive whiskey’s that we’d share at our quarterly meetings. It sounds pretentious, because it was pretentious. But it was also a great way for a group of people in their twenties and thirties to purchase expensive bottles they normally wouldn’t have the money for.

To add to the pretentiousness, we kept minutes for our meetings, and had tasting notes for each of the bottles we tried.

I did not enjoy that part. From the first time we did it, it was clear that the other members had all done their homework. For each tasting, their notes sounded like they could have come out of an official tasting guide. They would take a sip, swish it around in their mouth, and instantly have flowery and detailed descriptions that pointed out they could taste hints of fresh cut grass, sea salt, or over-ripe fruit. Their descriptions would flow freely and read like poetry.

I don’t know if I have a defective palette or what, but I couldn’t taste those things. I could taste the differences between whiskeys, but it usually boiled down to “This one tastes like a whiskey. This one tastes less like a whiskey than the last. This one tastes more like a whiskey than the last. They all taste like campfires.” I could taste the grain and the malt, but I couldn’t tell you the weather conditions where it was made, or tell you who the master distiller was based on some signature taste.

Frustrated by this, I leaned on ways to comically handle my lack of sophistication in this area. My reviews would be like “This tastes as if it was bottled from the water used to put out a house fire,” or “This whiskey tastes like goat piss.” My favorite was my initial reaction to Caol Ila’s 30 year old Scotch. This whiskey, which has since become one of my favorites, is challenging for new people. I remember tasting it and being overwhelmed by the peatey taste. It was so intense that my review is something along the lines of, “I’d rather bang my mom than ever drinking this again.”

That review though, is more honest than anything else I could have written. I just don’t have the capacity for those types of reviews. And it doesn’t stop with whiskey. I like music, but my description of music ends at “I like this” and “I don’t like this”. I’ve played guitar for damn near 20 years, but I can’t tell you who’s playing guitar on a track just by listening. I definitely can’t trace the DNA for a song all the way back to two people banging on a rock in a cave thirty thousand years ago. My brain doesn’t work that way.

Maybe that’s good though. I live in the now, for the most part. And while I can’t offer you the type of description that lets you enjoy something vicariously through me, I at least enjoy them fully, immersed in them, not trying to over analyze them in a way that deprives them of my full attention.

Just one more side effect of the good time I’m here for, instead of the long time so many others seem to be so worried about.

Dying In A Place That Screams “LIVE FREE”

This December will be the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death. While I definitely get sad thinking about her not being here with us, I’m also reminded of the way death is managed in this country, and that makes me makes me angry.

It started on Thanksgiving Day in 2019, I had just finished dinner with my family. We’re early eaters, so it was only about four in the afternoon. My grandmother didn’t come to that dinner, opting instead to stay home and let people from different branches of her family tree visit her over the course of the weekend instead. She wasn’t feeling great. Since Thanksgiving with my in-laws was later that night, I resolved to visit her on Friday.

Coffee and Death

That Thanksgiving is bookended by two cups of of coffee.

Having finished with my side of the family for the day, I had a few hours to kill before needing to be at my inlaws. I wanted to write somewhere, and the Starbucks near my home was the only place open. I felt both happy to have a quiet place to drink a latte, but I felt bad for the people working. So, I ordered my coffee, put what I hoped was a surprising amount of cash in the tip container, and sat at the coffee bar with my notebook.

I sat there tapping my pen against my notebook, stuck in the middle of trying to make a joke about the third amendment funny. I’d brought this joke into rotation more than once in the last few years and just couldn’t nail it. But i wanted to make it work for a specific show in January. So I was sipping coffee and thinking about the name Cotesworth when I answered a call from my mom, who had taken a plate of food to my grandmother. Grandma was feeling really sick, she said. She was about to call an ambulance, but I told her that I wasn’t doing anything and would drive them. So I closed my notebook, and left that Starbucks and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney behind.

When I picked up my mom and my grandmother, my grandmother was complaining about a persistent cough that had been getting worse. That cough turned out to be stage four lung cancer that grandma had known about for a while and had kept secret, because she feared hospitals, and doctors, and surgery, and the kind of life cancer treatment meant for someone approaching eighty years old. While I hate that she kept this secret, I understand it.

I was standing there next to a Keurig machine in an alcove of the hospital waiting room drinking the worst cup of coffee you can make, processing this information. I had written a joke in my phone about how if I died in this hospital, I would haunt it until they figured out something better than generic k-cup coffee. That joke never made it further than social media.

DOGS GET MERCY – HUMANS GET MEDICAL BILLS

What followed was the beginning of her dying process, first in that hospital, and then under in-home hospice care provided by my mother and her sisters for the final week of her life. All-in-all it was a two week lesson in how fucked up dying is in this country for anyone who isn’t wealthy.

And I mean WEALTHY. I’m not going to post a bank statement here, but I do alright. I get paid to tell elaborate shaggy dog stories. I get money deposited in my bank from a podcast I regularly take three months off updating. And I have a day job that fits perfectly with my creative outlets and provides me with a level of financial security I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was a poor kid growing up in this city. I’m not flexing. But I want to make a point here.

I’m Just Saying, I Do Okay

And it doesn’t matter. For all the financial security I pretend I have, I am one rogue cell away from financial ruin, and traumatization by a medical system where the level of care you recieve is determined by actuarial tables, profit and loss statements, politics, and luck.

Way back when I did taxes (*shudder*), and when I saw more than one client, clients with medical insurance, go from six figure salaries to figuring out if they could survive living in the car for a bit, all because of a week or two in a hospital bed. Our medical system is a monster that can financially destroy anyone. (This is why I don’t understand when people white knight for the super wealthy in this country under some misguided notion they’ll eventually be in the same league as them. You are much more likely to have everything disappear in an instant, and your politics should be formed with that thought in mind. But that’s a different essay.)

If anything could have been done to save my grandmother, we would have made it happen, as long as she would have let us. My brothers, cousins, and I would have pooled whatever resources we had, without question, to save her life. But that wasn’t in the cards. Her cancer had progressed to the point where death was inevitable and any treatment or surgery would have caused more pain than benefit.

In a civilized society, a person presented with this inevitability would be given the power and resources to decide how their death would play out. They would be allowed to determine the level of pain they wanted to endure as they planned their goodbyes. They would be allowed designate some one to help them manage their exit from this world on their own terms. Their family and loved ones would still be hurt by the loss, but would know this person died with a sense of control, instead of feeling helpless and at the mercy of the universe. A civilized society would place the decision for when a life ends with the owner of that life. While we can argue about how that should be paid for, that basic right shouldn’t be up for debate.

We do not live in a civilized society.

Apart from the doctors, nurses, technicians, and other patient facing roles, there are no good actors in the American medical system, at least not from an institutional perspective. That’s not to say that there aren’t hospital administrators here and there who try to make compassionate decisions, or an insurance company executive who wished their company could do better. But as a whole, we’ve created a system that is Kafka-esque in its bureaucracy and operations.

It’s a system that isn’t just at the mercy of accountants and actuaries projecting a cost/benefit analysis for every single action that can be performed by a medical professional, but is also at the mercy of cherry picked religious tenets that make good talking points for politicians trying to appeal to the dumbest among us. And nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in how we treat end of life decisions.

Euthanasia is only illegal because it would affect productivity.  Because if you wake up in the morning knowing you’d be dead by the end of the day, you’re not going into Quiznos.

The CDC estimates that 10% of Americans considered Ending their own life in 2020. 

That’s 3,000,000 people.  That’s the amount of people employed by the airline industry, the automotive industry, and the meat packing industry combined.  

You think anyone in Congress is going to give up flying to Hawaii, driving from the airport to the restaurant, and eating a T-Bone while they wait for a suitcase full of cash to be slid under the table in exchange for their vote against universal healthcare just so you can escape a world devoid of hope?  Hell no. 

Can you imagine the damage this would do to banks if ending your own life was legal?  You’d go out and get cash advances on all your credit cards, drown yourself in sex workers of your preferred gender, hire a personal pastry chef to serve their creations to you all day, and then walk off into the sunset leaving those balances unpaid.  Congratulations sad boy, you’re the new mortgage crisis.

In order for any society with a hierarchy to guarantee it remains a going concern, there are certain ideas that have to become cultural norms, verging on commandments. Among those is the belief that ending your own life is always wrong. You owe it to your family, society, and GOD THEMSELVES to keep on keeping on. Work through the pain. Stay on the factory line until you drop. Never demand rest.

This Post Needs A Denouement

Ironically, it’s hard to tell when to end it.

Chris Cyr is a writer and nationally touring stand-up comedian from St. Louis, Missouri. His album, “Adult Child of Children” will be released on Helium Records in September 2022.

Theocracy For The Lulz

Here I sit in a coffee shop in middle America. Around me are various groups of college kids, people clacking away on keyboards, people reading various books (not a copy of Infinite Jest anywhere to be seen), people engaged in conversation. It’s a chill scene. If it wasn’t for the sleep deprivation hangover I’m suffering through at the moment, this would be perfect. Almost.

Parked on the side street, among the compact cars and SUVs sporting bumper stickers proclaiming the virtues of Salt Life (which I 99% of the time still confusingly read as “Slut Life” – it’s a bad font), clever decals relating the owner’s love of various dog breed, university parking stickers, and other bits of flare, is an unimpressive and completely missable white hybrid SUV that is only out of place for one reason. On the back window, in the only space that seems like it’s been cleaned within the last year, sits a sticker with the words “Let’s Go Brandon” on it.

Identity Comedy Is Inherently Unfunny On A Mass Scale

“Let’s Go Brandon,” is that insipid piece of doggerel that passes for comedy based in conservatives, and only serves a further evidence in the ongoing case being made that conservative comedy just can’t be funny. Time and time again, these red leaning hacks try to prove that they’ve mastered wit, sarcasm, nuance, and shock, and can deliver it in a way the left can only dream of. And time and time again, this time, again, being no exception, they fall on their face, succeeding only at impressing people far dumber than them, or people who have a vested interest in selling the myth of the conservative comic*.

Back On Topic

“Lets Go Brandon” represents absolutely nothing but an attempt to own the libs. It’s not particularly clever, and it’s devoid of any real message. It’s just a glib reply of “Fuck Joe Biden” by people too afraid to say “Fuck Joe Biden.” It’s tagged onto conversations where the person saying it can’t form a single independent thought.

I get it. It’s fun to say fuck authority. It’s fun to be bombastic. It’s fun to be against something so many people are for. Disco, thin crust pizza, ketchup on a hot dog…Almost everyone has a thing they enjoy more because everyone else is annoyed by it. So, the person parked in front of this cafe, sitting quietly at one of these tables sipping coffee while surrounded by people who probably feel the exact opposite of them on every issue, gets a kick out of anyone who does a double take at the sticker. The person is probably one of the four people sitting in the window. Because it’s way more fun to see people react than it is to just know they react.

In 2016, the number of people who said they were voting for DJT as a joke, or a “fuck you” to political correctness and woke leftism, was remarkable. There’s probably a statistical analysis a Google search ca but anecdotally, the incidence of this was almost uncountable. Fifteen year old Chris Cyr would have cheered them on.

“Yeah!” he’d scream. “That’ll piss someone off. Do it twice!”

15 Year Old Me Also Thought Huffing Duster Was a Fun Idea

But look where that’s gotten us. Four long years of the systematic undoing of our civil institutions by people using the incoherent mutterings of their clown puppet as cover for their own actions. And they were good at it too. While there are definitely some who drank Trump’s Kool-Aid and saw him as the prophesied god-king sent here to save the white race from fading into obsolescence, the smart ones knew that Donald wasn’t going to win re-election. They knew they couldn’t count on the votes of a lot of people who’d outgrown the oppositional defiance disorder that led them to vote for Trump in the first place. So they made sure we’ll feel the effects of his election for years to come.

The Supreme Court is the biggest weapon they’ve secured. The majority opinions in the last week reinstate school led prayer and further push the claim that the United States is a Christian nation. They overturn Roe v. Wade, and let us know that states are well within their authority to regulate a woman’s reproductive choices, and hint that states should think about non-heterosexual marriage, gun control, and other issues. They let us know corporations have the right to destroy the land, air, and water in the name of shareholder value. And we’re going to be stuck with this court for decades.

Win your presidential elections. Win your congressional seats. Conservative nation now has the ultimate roadblock to any liberal, much less progressive, gains.

And we did it because a good chunk of the country “just like how mad he makes the people on MSNBC.”

Okay, those assholes, and the other side who just didn’t vote because “OMG IS HILARY THE BEST WE CAN DO???”

I was going to finish this essay, but I have to get to church before the deacon reports me to The Authority and they pluck out my right eye for reading this.

Post Script

*Some reading this will stop right there, and instead of finishing, they’ll tell me to go fuck myself and start rattling off the names of comics who are conservatives and know how to write a joke. And they’re doing that because they don’t know the difference between conservative comedy and comedians who are conservative. This could be the subject of an entirely different essay, but the short of it is that one of these is a style of comedy based on the political identity of the audience and the comic. The other is a comic who has a specific political view, that while evident in their work isn’t the sole focus and stands a chance of being funny to people who think differently than them.

And to be fair, liberal comedy isn’t that funny either. Identity comedy in general doesn’t appeal beyond the built in “fanbase” it was made for. Like its conservative uncle, it mostly succeeds in being mean and getting preachy. It serves a purpose, sure. I’ve said before that I don’t do it though, and this is only the opinion of a middle aged middle comic in middle America, I don’t find it challenging, because preaching to the choir is as easy as it gets. And that, like I said, is a different essay.

If you’re still offended, I don’t know, stop being so sensitive.

They Eat People In Illinois

One of the side effects of being a stand up comedian in St. Louis is that you get familiar with the drive between St. Louis and Chicago very quickly. And while this drive is only 4-5 hours depending on how you do it, it can be as tedious as a drive across Kansas between Missouri and Colorado (if you know, you know). It’s a lot of highway, a lot of farmland, broken up by the occasional lake or factory. And a lot of small towns.

Small towns freak me out a little. Not for any rational reason. As a white man in modern America, the real dangers these town pose to me is minimal. I’ve done a lot of shows in a lot of small towns, and I know how to get in and out without pissing off too many people. But, I grew up consuming books and movies that all focused on the myriad of horrors served up in the small insular communities lining America’s highways.

It’s a hard picture to paint now, in this era of cellular phones, with cameras everywhere, where social media keeps us constantly connected. Cross country, and even cross state travel, used to be a much different experience. There was a time when if you were driving from Los Angeles to New York, you would tell people when you were leaving and when you expected to arrive, and then you would disappear for awhile, with no one having any idea of what was happening in between. On a three or four day drive, that’s a lot of time to be out of communication, by today’s standards. It was a world where you could have died five minutes into your journey and no one would think to look for you until you didn’t show up in your destination.

It doesn’t have to be that long of a journey. Off each exit ramp in the five hour drive between St. Louis and Chicago are countless small towns, with populations rivaling the average high school enrollment of a large urban neighborhood. Before the internet brought these towns into constant contact with the outside world, before Starbucks, Burger King, Taco Bell, and others bought the land around these off ramps and spread their brands into even the smallest towns, making each one indistinguishable from the next, they were all universes unto themselves.

The small town/dark secret trope thrives on that isolation. And my entire life has been spent ingesting every version of it served to me.

HP Lovecraft thrived in this genre. Arkham. Dunnwich. Innsmouth. Kingsport. The terrors in Lovecraft’s mythos all lived in these secluded worlds waiting for a traveller to have the misfortune of passing through, or appearing on the scene to investigate a rumor or urban legend. Then these tales show that traveller’s descent into madness as the hell of these places is revealed.

Stephen King (towards whom all of my biases lean) is a master of showing how this isolation leads to places where you did not want to book a vacation. Derry, Castle Rock, Haven. King is devoted lover of the the small-town-with-a-secret trope.

In a chapter describing the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, a New England town that eventually becomes ground zero for an outbreak of vampirism, King captures the conceit that outsiders have that leads them to being caught up unawares in small town mayhem. The town has its problems, as it’s impossible to escape the outside world entirely.

“But except for these things, the Lot’s knowledge of the country’s torment was academic. Time went on a different schedule there. Nothing too nasty could happen in such a nice little town. Not there.”

Quaint things can’t kill you, right?

Of course, King gives us a great reason to avoid stopping anywhere other major cities in the book Children of the Corn, where a couple on a cross country drive ends up in a town full of murderous children worshipping an unseen god demanding the blood of adults.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes, The Devil’s Rejects, House of Wax…the list could go on for awhile. Tale after tale, storytellers have shown us what a small group of people, colluding to keep their town free of outside intrusion, or the prying eyes of general public, can do when you wander into their midst. Hell, even the Christian bible’s myth of Sodom and Gomorroh is nothing but an ancient tale of travelers wandering into the wrong town at the wrong time, only to be chased down to be sodomized by the men of the town.

From a childhood full of exposure to these tales, thanks to an adult library card, and monthly weekends with a biological father who didn’t pay attention to my parents’ limits on what I was and wasn’t allowed to watch, comes my irrational fear of small town America.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Only stop in high traffic areas for fuel.
    The drive between St. Louis and Chicago is 300 miles. Luckily, you can do that on one tank of gas in most cars. But if you do have to stop for a fill up, your best bet is Springfield, IL. It’s the state’s capital and has a high enough population to make it impossible to be over run by a cult or single murderous family.
  2. Never trust those signs telling you that exit up ahead, with no lights anywhere to be seen, has a gas station, restaurant, rest area, whatever.
    These signs are easy to make. Let’s say the town of 600 people 10 miles off the highway has a high cannibal contingent. If they’ve been thriving for years, then they have to have their hooks into the police department, the town government, the local newspaper, everything down to the butcher. Making a sign to snare wayward travelers would be a lay-up. They don’t even need to leave it up. They just put it up for a few weeks each year, catch enough meat to feed themselves for the next twelve months, and then take it back down so they can remain unnoticed until the next time.
  3. If your cell service suddenly drops, drive faster.
    Don’t make the mistake of thinking people in small towns are dumb or technologically backwards. They have Amazon now too. They can order all the parts needed to make a signal jammer, and small towns have birthed their fair share of electrical engineers. They’ve had to adjust to this new world where their food supply is put at risk by a visit from the FBI because someone was talking to their girlfriend as they get off the highway, only to never be heard from again.
  4. Never use the shortcut mentioned by that person you met in a diner.
    I can’t believe you even considered it. Did you see that person’s teeth? They were oddly sharp. Do you think he files them to points or was he born that way? Why did everything in that bar taste like almonds.
  5. In fact, why are you eating at that diner in the first place?
    If history teaches you anything about stopping in random small towns, you can’t trust local food. Don’t eat the chili. Don’t eat the local yogurt. Don’t drink milk. Don’t fall asleep next to any gourds. C’mon, this goes back to Homer warning you about eating random flowers.
  6. Watch out for vampires.
    Why are there vampires? What do you think the cannibals do with all of the blood? These are the questions you’ll ask yourself as you’re hanging upside down over a bucket with your wrists sliced open with a man in a butcher’s apron standing in the corner muttering something about this being better than Halal butchering, because at least here you can see the fear in the meat’s eyes.

So yeah, small towns freak me out. I don’t stop in them. And, yeah, you die in a big city. In fact, it’s probably statistically more dangerous in a lot of ways. For the most part, city deaths don’t lead to a fifteen episode podcast about your death. My goal is to not have my death be so entertaining that it’s enjoyed over two glasses of wine every Wednesday night as parents finally exhale because their kids finally fell asleep. This is my plan to avoid that.

The Uvalde Conspiracy : Follow the money

File this under “FOLLOW THE MONEY!”

That’s what I was asked to do.  Not by an employer, or a professor, or even by the drunk guy sitting on the bench at the bus stop in front of the coffeehouse I’m typing this from (He’s yelling something about the Illuminati.).  I was told to FOLLOW THE MONEY by the modern oracle that has risen up in the place of gods and prophets, the authority held above all others.  I was told to FOLLOW THE MONEY by Facebook (Meta?) post that’s been cut and pasted no less than 20 times in my feed by different people.  A cut-and-paste full of numbers and conjecture, yet signifying nothing.

I’m not against a good conspiracy theory.  But, if you’re going to be gullible enough to believe in one, believe in one that makes sense.

The cut-and-paste in question, begging me to just FOLLOW THE MONEY, suggests that the Uvalde shooting is part of a liberal conspiracy to scare the public into passing comprehensive firearms legislation. 

Who, this piece of creative nonfiction asks, would benefit most from sponsoring a school shooting in this country? Liberals clearly paid this person, took advantage of his mental illness, and pointed him towards the nearest schoolhouse, hoping he’d create a panic that results in gun legislation. 

Then the post closes with “Let’s see how long it takes someone to fact check this,” since we know that the mere act of fact checking shows a bias that only proves the thing being fact checked is true.  

I’m not here to fact check this piece though. I, like the people reposting it, want to know the truth about why someone would do something like this. So, I’m here to do exactly what the author implored me to do. I’m going to follow the money. 

If we think about the money first, then we have to accept the notion that a liberal billionaire or group sponsoring a school shooting to effect a major change in gun laws is stupid at its core. Because we have proved as a country, time and again, Americans will never risk placing the slightest of obstacles to owning whatever guns, in whatever quantity, they want. No matter the tragedy, the left’s calls for gun control will go ignored, for the most part. Even if the relatively toothless bipartisan bill in Congress at the time of this writing passes, think of the number of shootings before this that resulted in nothing being done.

Even the most villainous of leftist billionaires would see that this is a poor investment.  So, where, if anywhere, does the money lead?  

In the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, the right has made a full court press to turn schools into protected spaces.  Their version of a protected space involves getting guns in the hands of “good” people, locking down schools tighter than airports, and training kids to expect, and react to, events that would send combat veterans home with therapy-worthy PTSD.

Let’s assume that, for the sake of our precious children, we agree to implement the most popular steps.  And let’s limit our discussion to public schools, since they must enact any policies that are made, regardless of how idiotic or unfunded the mandate is. 

First the proposals

  • Arm all teachers – Even though most are Marxists trying to gay up our young boys, we need them armed.  
  • Outfit teachers in body armor – Definitely don’t let them wear a cloth or paper mask. But bulletproof vests, for sure. 
  • Equip classrooms with bulletproof blankets – According to one of the hairpieces on Fox News, you can get these with really pretty designs on them. That’ll be calming for the kids hiding behind them and distracting for the shooters firing upon them. 
  • Equip students with bulletproof backpacks – I was legit surprised to learn these actually exist and weren’t just the product of an edge-lord standup comedian’s riff at an open mic somewhere in the Midwest. 
  • Equip some staff with rifles – Clearly not the Marxists trying to teach Critical Race Theory to our white babies. But maybe some other staff.  

Some upfront facts

First, using 2019/20 numbers, there are 3.3 million teachers (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28) teaching 49.4 million (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372#PK12-enrollment) k-12 public school students in 98,500 (https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84) public schools in the United States. We’re going to use those numbers in all our calculations.  

Secondly, I’m not a paid journalist or researcher. The extent of my research was Googling things safely behind the keyboard of my MacBook. In order to account for the fact my sources could be incorrect, I erred on the side of caution and used the lowest reasonable cost I could find, in most cases. This also doesn’t consider bulk discounts, group-buy discounts, finding stuff on the side of the road, or anything like that. 

Real World Application

In their defense, Republicans and their friends have suggested the above items, but they haven’t given any suggestions for how they would enact or fund these actions. So this part is my conjecture of what these proposals look like if implemented. That being said, here’s how I see these proposals happening.

Let’s assume that we’re going to issue Glock 19 9mm handguns to each teacher.  It’s a pretty standard and reliable weapon.  Easy to fire and control.  It’s very accurate, and affordable.  We’ll supply two additional magazines and 100 rounds of ammunition each. We’ll also supply training, because we’re not just giving guns to people who don’t know how to use them.  EVERY teacher gets a gun (owned by the school and returned when no longer employed). You can’t have some teachers armed and some not.  You’d be opening yourself up to a lawsuit for putting kids in a classroom with someone who couldn’t protect them. Teachers can definitely bring their own gun if they want. That may even save us some money (though it still represents a gun purchase somewhere). 

We’re going to buy each teacher a bullet proof vest and equip each school with an average 20 “bullet proof” ballistic blankets.  Then we’re encouraging parents to buy their kids special bullet proof backpacks.  Realistically, not every parent is going to do this.  They’re expensive and an affordable one is still pretty pricey.  So, we can only plan on half of the kids getting these. 

Each school limits the rifles to 4 trained staff/guards.  They’ll probably want more, but let’s start small.  And obviously they’ll want AR-15’s.  It’s the most reliable rifle and offers great protection against assailants.  We know that because every talking head on Fox News tells us this every time someone says the general public doesn’t need to own them. They’ll each also need 2 additional magazines and 100 rounds of .556 ammo each. 

This seems like a good start towards the Republican dream of safe fortresses for kids to learn in.   

Finally, the money

But what’s the cost associated with this modest beginning to a comprehensive school safety program that will eventually protect our children from both Marxist ideas and stray bullets? 

Arm the teachers: 

Rifles in Schools: 

Ballistic Blankets: 

Bulletproof Backpacks: 

Total combined cost of all of these items? $11,444,160,000. 

Let’s Ask A Rhetorical Question

What industry or trade organization could possibly benefit from this much money being spent as the result of the tragedies occurring in our schools? If you’re going to be gullible enough to believe in a conspiracy like this, at least believe the most logical version of it. (The answer, if you hadn’t already reached this conclusion, firearm and personal defense industry. It was obvious, right? Like, no misdirection or subtlety at all. Right?)

I’m not saying the NRA is paying school shooters.  I am certain they are not. I just took the advice of a random Facebook cut and paste, and I followed the money. However, while I don’t believe they are actively sponsoring mass shooting events, a dollar amount of this magnitude sheds light on why the response of NRA spokespersons and Republican legislators (pardon the redundancy) is to focus on these types of solutions, rather than some form of common-sense gun regulation. 

Chris Cyr is a writer and nationally touring stand up comedian from St. Louis, Missouri. His album, “Adult Child of Children” will be released on Helium Records in September 2022.

STFU

Any time someone speaks unreasonably loud indoors, I spend way too much time trying to figure out if they’re hard of hearing or just incredibly narcissistic.

My vote is usually narcissim. How self-important do you have to be to think you better make sure every word you say is more important than every other sound in a place? Then to speak at that volumen, not caring if anyone in the place would like to not hear a single thing that comes out of your mouth. It’s a fucked up mentality.

In some peoplle it’s forgivable. Teenagers for example. I don’t blame teenagers for the amount of noise they are skin buckets of raging hormones and exagerrated emotions and they are programmed to be as loud as they can be, and not care about the people around them.

But grown adults with, I assume, fully developed reasoning skills? Why?

Maybe I’m just being a grouch. And possibly a little hypocritical considering that I’m certain I was this guy at some point. But holy fuck, can you get back to a point where people are at least a little embarassed at being heard in public?

This post brought to you by the guy at the table behind me in the Delta Sky Lounge in the Denver Airport. Dude, no one cares how you built a church in El Salvador when you were in high school.

Chris Cyr is a writer and nationally touring stand up comedian from St. Louis, Missouri. His album, “Adult Child of Children” will be released on Helium Records in September 2022.

Politics Are Already A Joke

I don’t talk about politics much on stage. But it’s not because I’m shy about what I believe.

The NyCYRan CreeD (That’s A History/Theology Pun)

As the five people who follow me on Twitter can attest, I’m pretty open about my political views. I think, as a party, Republicans have become the enemy of progress. As a party, Democrats are disappointingly timid in their goals. As a a group, progressives (the group I lean most towards) have perfected the circular firing squad and have no idea how to make gains in a political machine. As a cult, Trump voters are depressingly predictable and nowhere near as fringe as we pretend their brand of lunacy is. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

One of the glories of having zero social media reach is the joy of saying things like that and not hearing people’s idiotic arguments against any of it. We’re not changing minds on Twitter. You think I’m wrong, and have your list of experts you trust to back up your opinion. I think you’re wrong and have my list of experts to back up my opinion. Both of us will blame the other’s priors for discounting the expert opinions we’ve presented. That’s how this works.

Okay, But What Is This Essay Even About, Chris

I’m not typing up a diatribe about how social media has ruined political discourse (because it hasn’t – we’ve always been bad at it on a mass level). I’m just pointing out, that it’s VERY easy to find out what I believe in a few clicks. And that’s surprising to some audience members who look me up after a show. The number of times I’ve heard, “I liked you but I was disappointed to see how you felt about my president” (I’m paraphrasing, because it’s never that polite) is uncountable without assistance at this point.

I don’t do a lot of political jokes, because I don’t see the challenge in it, and at its base level, stand-up is meant to be challenging to me. I want to get laughs, but I want to get laughs based on clever writing, solid timing, unique misdirection, or a well placed facial expression. Political jokes don’t do that, for me. There are great comics who do a lot of political material, and I enjoy that. But when I talk about politics, it gets either angry or preachy, and neither is funny.

The unchallenging part of it is the instant predictable reaction the audience will give me when I make one. For the people who agree with me, it’s just as hacky as standing on stage in rural Missouri and saying “Give it up for the troops!” in the middle of your set. For the people who disagree with me, it’s just as hacky as some edge lord doing edge lord shit in a church basement. So, I stay away from directly political jokes for the most part, though I think my political leanings are fairly obvious when someone sees me.

I do warn the audience not to look me up on Twitter if they don’t want to know for sure who I didn’t vote for. Because I love denying message requests from people mispelling the word “cuck”.

Chris Cyr is a writer and nationally touring stand-up comedian from St. Louis, Missouri. His album, “Adult Child of Children” will be released on Helium Records in September 2022.

The Oldest Child

This spring, I’m recording an hour of comedy. So, I’m working on that hour a little bit every time I’m on stage. The goal is to have a fully formed outline for the material by the end of this month.

A few years back, I worked with Christopher Titus for a weekend, and he was just at the early stages of writing that year’s hour of material. Titus is one of my comedy favorites. His hours work as both stand-up, and a one man show you’d see in a theater. Watching him work the material that weekend, scripting out each line, cutting every word he could spare, and jumping on his laptop immediately after each set to note the crowd’s reaction to certain parts over others, was extremely helpful.

So obviously, I’m stealing his method.

The other thing I got out of that weekend was a lot of good advice about being myself onstage, and writing about what interests/motivates me.

“Don’t let what other people tell you a crowd wants determine the material you do. This is only funny if it’s really you.”

I like this material and it’s coming together nicely. It mostly centers on the fact that I am the product of two teenage parents, who each went on to have children with other partners, but never again with each other. My mom met my dad when I was one, married him, and went on to have two more sons. My biological father has six, I think, other children by different women. I’m each of their oldest child.

Back To The Title of This Post

The phrase “oldest child” is a double entendre. When my mom introduces me as “my oldest child,” it’s a term of endearment. It shows the person she’s introducing me to who I am. It also shows them how much more she loves me than she loves either of my brothers.

But she’d also probably introduce me as “the oldest child I’ve ever seen” because of my tendency to type things like the previous paragraph. She wouldn’t be wrong.

Chris Cyr is a writer and nationally touring stand-up comedian from St. Louis, Missouri. His album, “Adult Child of Children” will be released on Helium Records in September 2022.