Last September, I performed a short story titled, “Here comes Peter Cottontail,” for the storytelling show I co-produce (That Time of the Month). The piece touched on my Victoria’s Secret days, and specifically one conversation I had between two of my co-workers. This was where the anal bleaching came in.
A student was in the audience that night, as well as my parents. He, like some other people, wanted to know more about the story and how my mom felt about it. This was the interview that followed.
Belmont Student: What made you want to become a writer?
Me: I wanted to become a country music singer, but that didn’t work out. I wanted to become a plastic surgeon, but that didn’t work out. I wanted to become a dentist, but that didn’t work out. I wanted to become a lawyer, but that didn’t work out. I wanted to become an engineer, but that didn’t work out. At that point, I ran out of ideas, so I became a writer.
Belmont Student: What led you to mix comedy with writing?
Me: Two things: An unhealthy desire to be accepted and the inability to take anything seriously.
Belmont Student: Do you perform a lot?
Me: Yes and no. I’ve only performed for That Time of the Month three times so far, but I always feel like I’m on stage. I’m on stage even when it’s just me and my dog chilling, watching football.
Belmont Student: September happened to be guy night at Bongo Java. What reasons implied that?
Me: Well, it started with the idea that I was going to have my own spin-off storytelling show. That Time of the Month is five female storytellers and one token dude. So this was going to be the kind of Yin to the Yang, five guys and one girl, or something that resembles a very cruel porn. We weren’t sure if that’d work, though, so we decided to test it out.
Belmont Student: Were you in charge?
Me: I was in charge.
Belmont Student: Did you want to be the host?
Me: No. There is a reason I write and don’t do improv. I’ve never been a great talker. My mind goes blank. I actually told people who I wanted to continue respecting me not to go to the show. “You don’t want to see it,” I said. “Trust me, you don’t.” They didn’t listen.
Belmont Student: Did you and some of the other performers share and critique each others writing before a show?
Me: Melanie and I co-produce the show. We both look over submissions and co-edit. I usually run my story by her and vice versa. But I finished that piece an hour before show time. She had no time to look it over. It definitely needs some work.
Belmont Student: What inspired you to talk about “bleached assholes” more than anything else?
Me: What inspired me to talk about bleached assholes? I often think about what I’d like to have written on my tombstone. Add that to the list of possible candidates.
I was originally going to write a story about how I’m often asked if I’m gay, and segue into a story about playing Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress in an elementary school play. Aside from any time I’ve purchased condoms, or the moment in the job interview I realized Victoria’s Secret was now going to call all the people I’d listed as contacts, this was perhaps the most embarrassing. You have a reputation to uphold on the playground as a 10-year-old boy. And I was really down on myself because I was getting taunted, but then my social studies teacher, who was congratulating the class on a great performance, turned to me and said, “I have to hand it to you. You had the toughest part in that play and you killed it. You are, by far, the biggest man in this room.” That stuck with me all these years, and I was going to talk about what manliness is, yada yada, but it seemed every other performer was playing upon that theme. So I told a story about bleached buttholes. Partially because I’ve been meaning to tell it for two years now, and partially because my mother was in it and she was going to be in the audience.
Belmont Student: What did the other performers think about that night?
Me: They enjoyed it. Want to do it again.
Belmont Student: That night your mother was in the crowd. What were her thoughts on the performance?
Me: That was the number one thing people said to me after the show: “YOU READ THAT STORY WITH YOUR MOTHER IN THE AUDIENCE!! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??” I’ll admit, I was nervous about it. But after the show, she told Melanie, “Oh yeah, that’s just Chris. We’ve seen a lot worse,trust me.”
Belmont Student: Did you receive any other comments or reactions from the audience after the show?
Me: Most of the comments were related to the butthole bleaching. “I had no idea that was a thing,” was pretty common. One person had previously known about it. He was from L.A. Apparently it’s big out there. The best comment was probably from Cottontail herself, who was in the audience for the show. She came up to me afterwards and said, “If you want me to come up on stage and show everyone next time, just let me know.” She was joking, obviously, but not really. Funny girl, that one.
Belmont Student: Where will your next performance be?
Me: My next performance is actually tomorrow (Oct. 26). I’m recording the first That Time of the Month podcast with Melanie and another writer named Emily Sandberg-Gold. We’ll be broadcasting from Frothy Monkey.
Belmont Student: Any new material?
Me: Material is never-ending. I always hear something, or see something, and have to write about it. I think David Sedaris put it best: I’m like a little garbageman who goes around and picks up bits and pieces, then goes home and builds a car out of them. I’ll often have things happen, like the other day when I met this elderly lady who is going to help me with voiceover work. We’ve been emailing back and forth, but then one night I received an email from her that said:
Clifton listened to your demo and she agreed with me and all those who respond to your voice that you have very good pipes!
Clifton suggested you
And that was it. So it left me wondering, This woman either sent half of this message by accident, or she died mid-sentence and somehow still managed to hit the send button.Which made me really sad because, if the latter was true, I was never going to find what Clifton had suggested.
Moments like this happen every day. I have no idea when or how I’ll use them; I just know I will. It’s a form of hoarding in a way. You could put me on that show.