Vile Bodies

Antifreeze and Gatorade

January 10, 2012

Multiple Pages
Antifreeze and Gatorade

I occasionally visit The Comic’s Comic to keep up with the thimbleful of contemporary comedians I don’t find unfunny or politically indigestible or both.

Right after Boxing Day, the editors announced the suicide of Joe Bodolai, a former SNL writer who’d been found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room.

I’m a Canadian, a comedy geek, and a Kids in the Hall fan since their pre-TV days when they were still playing Toronto clubs. So when I read that Bodolai had produced KITH for the CBC, I felt embarrassed about not knowing his name. I also experienced that pang of nostalgic melancholy brought on by thoughts of some other guy’s mortality and your own.

Along with that brief death notice, The Comic’s Comic reprinted Bodolai’s final blog entry in full. It was titled, “If this were your last day alive what would you do?” The answer was, apparently, write a really long suicide note and post it on the Internet.

Something told me not to read it.

I read it.

“When you become a virtual parody of someone else–say, a character in The Big Chill–maybe killing yourself is the only option.”

I’m not calibrated for empathy to begin with, but whatever affinity I felt toward Bodolai seeped away when confronted with his anti-Semitic, 9/11 “truther,” “fascist” “FEMA camp” paranoia—all of which he saw fit to place at the top of his final message to the world.

Few individuals have the power to raise my blood pressure like “truthers.” If you really believe 9/11 was an inside job, then you’re obliged to either assassinate those responsible or kill yourself in abject despair. And if, like Bodolai, you sincerely think that “Fascism will be America. It already is,” then either you leave the country on the next flight and burn your passport upon arrival, or you’re only a pretentious poseur and a barroom bore.

I don’t expect a man’s suicide note to sound sane. And it’s no shock when any professional comedian reveals himself to be damaged to some degree, “tears of a clown” style.

Some might even quip that anyone who worked in show business as long as Bodolai could be forgiven his anti-Semitism, although while the Jews may indeed own Hollywood on paper, they’re no longer in charge of the day-to-day operations. The gays and their menopausal fag hags took those over at least ten years ago. (Steven Spielberg summed up this transition when he told another insider around 2003 that “he had decided to hire only gay men” in the future because they “think out of both the left and right sides of their brain.”)

My prejudices are inclusive. They don’t only revolve around ethnicity, but also class and age. As a Gen-Xer raised on punk, I consider it my duty to hate hippies and baby boomers and all their world-destroying pomps (although some of the blame for their sheer toxic awfulness falls squarely on their “Greatest Generation” parents).

Woody Allen’s character in Manhattan (1977) crystallizes a stereotypical baby boomer’s life in a few beautifully observed sentences:

My first wife was a kindergarten teacher, you know. She got into drugs and she…moved to San Francisco. Went into est, became a Moonie.

She’s with the William Morris Agency now.

Bodolai’s last message to the world reads like a far longer, more leaden version of that sparkling Manhattan gem. One day he’s in the Cambridge Footlights with John Cleese, “punting on the Cam.” The next, the Ohio-born Bodolai is in Canada, “a draft resister, not ‘dodger.’...I was wanted by the FBI.” He campaigned for RFK, then became “involved with Parisian students in 1968” and got “hit by a flic’s rubber coated lead baton.”

Joe Bodolai was a true boomer, born in 1948. I’ve heard of show-biz types becoming parodies of themselves, but when you become a virtual parody of someone else—say, a character in The Big Chill—maybe killing yourself is the only option.

His narcissism, boastfulness, and self-pity make for excruciating reading, exquisitely encapsulated in the near-final sentence: “The shelter I am volunteering in will be my new home.”

I lost count of the number of “I”s. Bodolai’s sons and ex-wife merit ten sentences. Otherwise, famous names are dropped like apocalyptic frogs: Andy Warhol, Mike Myers, Bill Murray. He fondly recalls “Ted Kennedy intervening in my case to drop charges due to illegal activities by the FBI and CIA against me. (Long story. Very interesting and relevant today.)”

The atheism. The alcoholism. The rage against “The Man.” The broken relationships. The fury at today’s youth, superficially for not embracing activism and social justice (this, just as the Occupy movement was winding down), but actually for the “crime” of being younger than he is.

The “note” is the last testament of an angry, lonely leftist who’s drunk on nostalgia, utterly oblivious to the part his corrosive “idealism” played in his own downfall.

Speaking of corrosive: While Bodolai’s vaunted comedic talents aren’t displayed at their best in his suicide note—gags about Snooki and Mayan calendars? Really?—his sense of humor clearly hadn’t abandoned him entirely.

I’m talking about his weapon of choice.

He died after downing a lethal combination of “antifreeze and Gatorade.” The syllable count and matching “beats” reveal a word combination perhaps only a professional comic would have chosen. It sounds like the punchline of a dark, and maybe even inspired, joke. Maybe Bodolai had the last laugh after all.

 

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