Before I start comparing depression to herpes, I feel I should mention the recent controversy involving the comedian Daniel Tosh. It seems he thought it was funny to say a woman in his audience should be raped. Now, I’m not one take any subject off the table when it comes to making jokes--in fact I came up with a rape joke of my own, and here it is: What’s the least funny thing about rape? Answer: Daniel Tosh--but the whole controversy raises an interesting question: what subjects are OK to makes jokes about and which subjects are taboo?
Some things are obviously fine to make fun of. For example, even though you’re dead, I imagine it’s OK to make fun of certain aspects of your work (Keeping in mind that I respect you a great deal as a writer.) For instance: How about your famous novel, Infinite Jest? I assume it’s OK to make fun of the length of that book, which clocked in at something like 78 million typed pages. I mean, that book was long. I personally checked it out of my local library something like six times before the librarian finally directed me to the Cliff’s Notes version--which was itself almost 5000 pages long.
But is it OK to make fun of depression? Personally, I think it’s OK, because making fun of something is a way to gain control of it. Humor can be a powerful weapon. Ask any kid who's ever been laughed at in the school yard--they're devastated. Wouldn't it better to use that weapon against depression rather than saying, “Oh no, this has to be treated very seriously. Depression is a very serious thing that shouldn’t be made fun of. etc...” All of a sudden I’m starting to feel depressed myself.
It reminds me of that time I wasn’t able to finish the Cliff’s Notes version of Infinite Jest. I felt like such a failure. I couldn’t show my face in that library for months. Of course, I didn’t commit suicide, which brings me to another subject that we probably shouldn’t make jokes about. I can’t think of any good suicide jokes right now, but if anyone else reads this and knows of some, be sure to leave a comment.
It seems to me that since you killed yourself, depression won. It’s sad that you your life felt so unbearable you felt you had to choose death rather than suffer another minute of it. Personally, I wish you would have tried to hold out longer. You had your whole life to be dead.
On a related topic, I wonder how many people commit suicide because of Herpes**. Is that OK to ask? Herpes, I think, is a very funny disease and I’m sure lots of comedians have made a million funny jokes about it without stirring up the slightest bit of controversy even though I bet iherpes is not so funny to the people who have it. Think about it. Between having depression or herpes, which would you choose? I think I might take depression because, with depression, even though you may not think so at the time, there’s always a chance that someday you won’t be depressed. The same can’t be said about herpes. It’s like Eddie Murphy once said: You carry it forever--like luggage. Also, having cold sores is a constant source of anxiety, which goes hand in hand with depression.
Speaking of cold sores, they always seem to pop up at the worst possible time, like right before your big date with the blonde chick you met at the A&P. You know the one. You made that joke about her melons. She giggled. And you thought, “Finally, someone who gets my humor.” Then, all of a sudden, she’s staring at you from across the Wendy’s soup bar, and she notices your lip, and she doesn’t even try to hide her look of disgust. And this time it’s not about that hair she found in her chili. You eat the rest of your dinner in silence, and then, when you offer her a taste of your frosty, she practically gags. Sure, she lets you feel her up on the car ride back to the mall where she parked her truck, but will she give you a kiss goodbye? No, man, she gives you the cheek! Talk about depressing. As she drives off, you can mask your pain by sticking out your tongue like Gene Simmons from Kiss and making the devil horns sign with both hands, like you always do in every picture anyone has taken of you since the sixth grade, but don’t for a minute think that she doesn’t sense that deep down you are hurting.
Anyway, this whole letter is starting to get me down a bit. Plus, my lip is tingling. But you know what, I can’t let my problems get the best of me. Today can still be a good day. I think I might head down to Wendy’s and have a go at their soup bar. I heard they put in a sneeze guard.
Until next time (there’s always hope),
* You may think it’s bad form to write an open letter to David Foster Wallace considering the fact that he committed suicide. You would be right. This letter makes a firm case, I think, for why I deserve to be shot. So, why am I doing it? I really don’t know the answer to that question, other than to tell you that I wanted an opportunity to parody some of his techniques, in particular the abuse of footnotes, and I wasn’t going to let the fact that he was dead stop me. So, I freely admit to being a jerk. Some people may react to this fact by actively wishing that I too would die, and to these people I can only offer assurances that their wishes will indeed be granted—maybe not from suicide, since I find the notion of willfully abandoning consciousness in favor of the infinite void of nothingness scary as crap—but accidents happen every day: I could get hit by a truck, or fall from a ladder and break my neck, and even if I do avoid an accident, all those tacos I regularly put down are bound to catch up with me sooner or later. But regardless of when I finally eat my final taco, be it tomorrow or sixty years from now, let me be clear about one thing—I would love to continue receiving mail. It’s one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer.
**I’m talking about Herpes Simplex 2 here. Not that wussy Herpes Simplex 1. To me, if you can’t catch it through sexual contact, then it’s not a venereal disease. It reminds me of a tennis match I once witnessed between Ingmar Bujornman of
and an American former prep
school standout and habitual abuser of Cannabis, Hector Stevens. Hector, you may remember, lived in constant
fear of Canadian separatists, (Canadian separatists are not to be confused with
separatists. Canadian separatists have
as their goal the literal separation of the country of Quebec Canada from the continent of North
America, most likely through the use of a giant saw. So you can see why a person like Hector, who
summered near the Canadian border, might find this idea frightening. I mean, what if that giant saw blade suddenly
shot up through the floor of his bedroom.
That would be really scary! You
know what else Hector found scary? That
Canadian separatists somehow engineered a video technology capable of spreading
the herpes virus to anyone who watched their secret evil video currently being
passed around the back alleys of all the major provinces. (This would be Herpes Simplex 1, which isn’t
nearly as bad as Herpes Simplex 2, but brother, let me tell you, it ain’t no
picnic.) Anyway, back to the tennis
match. Ingmar was serving for match point,
having broken Hector’s serve the previous round. It looked like this was it for Hector, and it was.
Ingmar reached up and licked his finger the way he always did before a serve, and then dropped his hand to the hairy
yellow ball nestled between his legs (By the way I’m talking about the tennis
ball he had stored there not one of his genitals, which were rather hairy and yellow due to an unrelated medical condition), but--get this--on the way down to grab
the (tennis) ball, his finger brushed against the open cold soar on his lip. (I know.
Yuck!) Anyway, Ingmar served an
ace, won the match, and when the ball bounced off the wall and back to Hector, he
picked it up and put it in his pocket, and then reached up and scratched an
itchy upper lip, and that’s how Ingmar Bujornmann gave Hector Stevens Herpes
Simplex 1. Later that night, they had
sex, and that’s how Ingmar Bujornmann gave Hector Stevens Herpes Simplex
2. Long story short, Hector’s fiancé
found out and called off the marriage.
Hector lost the will to live and eventually committed suicide. And that, I think, is yet another reason why
Herpes is at least as bad as depression.