Dipping Areas

foundational documents / restaurant comedy / dogmatic mind of the child / utopia / slime fetish / relaxing TV / wavy line contest results / media diary by Greg Harvester

Do you guys have a video or a song or something that's so important to you that you have to make sure your friends have seen it? Not like a funny thing you saw that morning but like a foundational document? Mine is this Kids In The Hall sketch, "Dipping Areas":

It's not like I force everyone I meet to watch this, but it's just one of those things that will come up, sooner or later, over the long course of a friendship, and when it does I just take a time out and make sure we're on the same page. There are other bits/jokes/riffs/songs I think about a lot, of course, but there's something special about this one.

The character of the annoying waiter is very well-established in comedy, but it requires an annoyed customer character, someone to take the role of the audience and process our frustrations. You could say that the "point" of the annoying waiter riff is to take a situation we've all encountered (someone is rude to you) and build it up to a high-pressure absurdity that short circuits our emotion and causes us to jump from being mad at an individual direct to laughing at a situation. But "Dipping Areas" barely has any customers in it at all, and their main "I'm annoyed" reaction shot is from a nightmare sequence inside the waiter's mind. The situation the sketch assumes that we've encountered before isn't "someone is oblivious to you" but "you love something that others might find trivial". And even if we've never encountered this feeling before ("I'm new here"), we're warmly supported and welcomed in.

You could say that the soft soothing voices of the waiters and our mousse-eye view of them in many shots is an early precursor to ASMR. But it isn't just the dessert that's being lovingly cared for-- the waiters are thoughtful and attentive to each other, to the customers, and to themselves. Initially I thought it was odd that the other waiters allow Dave to label his own suggestion (to get rid of the chocolate dusting) as "stupid". But now I feel like the waiters allow themselves to call out a bad idea as both a belief in their own judgement and a great faith in their team. They knew that Dave could take the heat, and though he gets a little defensive, he quickly agrees: "it would be a crime to compromise on the chocolate dusting". Kevin's appearance as the customer gets the biggest laugh, and we're primed not to like her via her steely facade. But the writers elide any impropriety by letting her refer to her younger male companion as her "protégé" and to allow this to go unquestioned. Later, they let her alone solve the riddle of the dipping areas, which is a great relief to waiter Mark. You can tell that Mark wants to tell her the whole story of the discussion, but he keeps it to himself, another thoughtful act.

When I first saw this as a teenager it was really shocking. I watched a lot of comedy as a kid and I felt like I had a handle on the rules and customs of the domain. I memorized jokes and catch phrases and formats and references, and I had a child's stupid desire to emulate something perceived as strong-- I assumed that to be funny meant being a little bit mean. Obviously I found Dipping Areas really confusing. It seemed like it was going to go mean, and we're set up to laugh at everyone, but so quickly we turn to "that's me" and then "this is me at my best". I liked it, but it broke my model for how things worked on TV. No one is on top, no one is made to look foolish, it's totally horizontal. The big laugh at the end is shared with every single person on screen! I really couldn't figure it out. Why did I like this even though it was the opposite of everything else I perceived as good?

As years pass I like this more and more. And I think of it as an example of something weird simple slow and nice that was allowed to exist in a landscape of fast mean garbage. We've been in a fast mean garbage holding pattern for a while now, I hope all you dreamweavers out there are taking some of this terrifying time period to disconnect from your hustle and marinate on utopia a little bit. And I'm not talking about re-branding as a finely-tuned spirit warrior or yoga evangelist, I'm talking about allowing yourself to dive in to that which is truly good even if its corny or laughable. Do something nice, allow yourself to be patient, make your friends laugh, a herd of loose blueberries, and finished off with a light chocolate dusting.

Links / Misc

Media Diary

by Greg Harvester

Because I was writing about videos I asked my friend, inspiration, and long time reader of the blog Greg Harvester to keep a media diary for a day and send it to me. Here it is. The day in question was yesterday, April 27, 2020. Thanks Greg!

While I feel very lucky to live where I do and have a stable place to watch our planet shift into a new way of being, some days are still harder than others. The last few have felt particularly hard and I was determined that today would be different, so I awoke and immediately watched Penny Magic Show sing their only(?) known song "The Shrink" AKA "Why Do You Think You Are Nuts?" [youtube]. Anyone who has ever felt lost or alone in this world should be able to find a moment here that is completely life affirming. I decided to follow it up with Incapacitants playing in what looks like the middle of nowhere to almost no one. As one of the comments states, "in this video, everything is perfect". [youtube] I kept the good times rolling with a video of Tem Eyos Ki [youtube] playing an outdoor show at a gazebo by the river in Little Rock. I used to watch a VHS tape of this with Nate Powell (he can be seen losing his mind up front) during the short time where I lived with him as a paying roommate (as opposed to the time when I did not pay). He and I would talk about how this was one of our favorite moments of a band caught completely on top of their game, expelling pure energy, magic, passion and conviction. I can't watch this video without crying. I understand if you don't feel the same way, but please don't talk to me about it. When people say "A better world is possible", they sometimes mean planting vegetables and living communally. I picture dead politicians, this Tem Eyos Ki moment and Hanatarash driving a bulldozer through the wall of a club.

Over coffee, I re-read the Cometbus interview with Al Jaffe from issue 57 where, at the age of 95 (then! He's 99 now!), he comes across as humble, really funny, kind and not-at-all jaded. A truly inspirational human.

Then I read the new issue of Erin Yanke's zine Chasing the Night ($4 ppd to PO Box 1113, Portland, OR 97207). It was written and compiled over the last month to highlight the humor, struggles, prepping and worry that people have been experiencing as this current reality unfolds. It helped to make me feel less alone as this isolation continues and that is a very important feeling.

While trying to organize my massive zine collection, I plowed through Sun Ra records, which has been almost the only records I've listened to for weeks. The ones I keep coming back to are The Magic City and My Brother The Wind. When listening to the latter, I can't help thinking about the Arkestra showing up in en masse to Trumansburg, NY in 1970 in full bonkers regalia to tour the Moog factory, leaving a trail of bounced checks and dropped jaws in town. They left with a then-new Minimoog, which Ra immediately altered and nearly destroyed in order to get the sounds he wanted from it. Other Sun Ra records that I can highly recommend during this time are "The Bad and the Beautiful", "Interstellar Low Ways", "When Sun Comes Out" (a big fave as of late) and "Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow." You can listen to any Sun Ra though because he has hundreds of records and I can't really see going wrong. Also, his movie "Space is the Place" is online for free [youtube], beginning with the line "It's after the end of the world, don't you know that yet?"

Friends have offered me streaming site passwords, but all of those choices make me feel anxious and empty. I haven't heard of anything that floats my boat, so I spend evenings watching old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, reading books (currently Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith) or trying to look at my friends through a computer screen and these moments, while not ideal, are helpful for me. Take care of yourselves out there, my friends.


other posts you may enjoy (chosen at random) :
My Stupid Little Walk
Flan's Guide To Car Camping
Gone Fishin'