This may come as a surprise to some of you, but during my senior year of college, I did some drinking from time to time. Once the party was over, though, I had a very strictly regimented post-drinking ritual: I would walk back to my house, fill a metal water bottle with tapwater, and drink it (and several other subsequent bottles) while listening to music through my headphones on my computer.
I don’t know what it was about drinking that immediately gave me a powerful urge to listen to music – maybe it had something to do with the fact that the bar I frequented had karaoke, and after listening to drunks literally murdering music all night I wanted to listen to those songs as they were recorded by the original artists (who, given my preference for classic rock from the 1970s, were probably under the influence of way more than just alcohol in the studio).
My playlist was different every time thanks largely to my mood, but the one song I listened to (and, occasionally, sang along with) every night, without fail was Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury.
Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury and its accompanying music video are largely the work of Los Angeles-based improv comedian/actress Rachel Bloom, who parlayed an NYU theater degree into a viral video about her wanting to get nailed by a 91 year old science fiction icon. It’s catchy as all hell and hilarious to boot, and if I were to recommend you watch any Internet video, it’d probably be this one. (If I were to recommend you watch any Internet video not at work, it’d also be this one, followed by most porn.)
Last week, she mentioned on her Twitter feed that she’d be doing standup with a bunch of other comedians at The Improv on Monday, and, based on the strength of her music video, I bought tickets for me and my friends Dylan and Holly.
I feel like there’s a pretty thin line between ‘fan’ and ‘stalker’ – in both cases your ultimate goal is to get closer to a personality you like who doesn’t necessarily know you exist; the only difference is that stalkers are generally way better at it because they play to win. Think about it: Margaret Ray broke into David Letterman’s house and stole his Porsche; John Hinckley Jr. tried to kill the president to impress Jodie Foster. If you wouldn’t do that for Lady Gaga, then you probably shouldn’t call yourself her biggest fan.
The line is even thinner, though, with Internet personalities like Rachel Bloom, because by and large they’re everyday people whose fame is less high profile and who may not even have an established fanbase. It’s one thing to eagerly follow Tom Hanks’ career and go to events he’s at, because thousands of other people do the same thing; it’s a little weirder if you go to all of your bus driver’s intramural softball games and create a fanpage for him on Facebook, because you’re the only one doing it.
I mean, yeah, she publicized her appearance at The Improv on Twitter, but as I drove to the show I had trouble shaking the knowledge that at its most basic, what I was doing was driving to a location because I had used the Internet to figure out that a girl was going to be there.
It was a small venue and by no means a full house – there were probably 20 people or less in the audience. The comedians – Rachel Bloom included – all turned in solid performances, and overall I’d say the show was well worth the price of admission (admission was five dollars.)
Afterwards, the comedians were all gathered at the back of the room, chatting with one another as people filed out. Holly nudged me and pointed at Rachel, who was talking to two of her friends.
“You should say hi to her.” Holly suggested.
“I don’t think that’s such a hot idea,” I said, glancing toward the exit. “It’d just be weird, and I already feel weirder than normal just being here, and I usually feel pretty weird anyway.”
“Oh, c’mon. Just tell her about how you listen to her Ray Bradbury song when you’re drunk. I bet she’ll get a kick out of it.”
Her logic was sound enough – after all, I like it when people tell me they’ve read my blog (thanks again, Dad!). Dylan and Holly departed and then I wound up standing a few feet away from Rachel Bloom for several minutes, trying to look nonchalant as she talked to her friends.
I’m not good at a lot of things, but I’m really not good at blending into the background and not looking awkward. I spent ten minutes standing there, pointedly not looking at her, Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ playing at full blast in the back of my head, and contemplating whether I should just interrupt her, say my piece, and run like hell. I eventually opted to wait, because the only thing more awkward than what I was already doing would be interrupting a genuine interaction she was having with her friends. (Plus, previous experience has proven that it's sort of a dick move.)
Presently, she finished talking to her friends and I caught her eye. She stepped closer and I realized, now that I had her full attention, that talking to her was probably the least creepy option at this point, compared to running away or perhaps vomiting.
“Hi,” I said. “You don’t know me, but I just wanted to let you know that when I was in college I watched ‘Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury’ and sang along every time I came home drunk.”
Immediately I realized what I’d said basically translated to:
”Hi, I’m an alcoholic stranger, and I just wanted to let you know that when I’m drunk I frequently watch the music video where you dance in a low-cut nightie.”
Rachel Bloom, God bless her, threw her head back and laughed, presumably getting a kick out of what I’d said, as Holly had promised. She seemed appreciative that I was both a fan and that I’d come out to see her perform, and in the course of our subsequent conversation she gave me some career advice and encouragement.
What is it that compels us to idolize and seek out famous people – that makes it so important to us that we force them to pose for pictures or write their name down for us as proof to our friends that we actually met them? Is it part of some greater urge to prove to ourselves that they’re actually real people who don’t just live in our televisions and computers? Or do we all just secretly fantasize about being best friends with Will Smith? (Protip: It's the last one.)
Driving home from The Improv afterwards, I felt surprisingly good. For somebody like me who spends so much time with his head firmly jammed up pop culture’s ass, it’s good to be able to say thank you every once and awhile – and I didn’t even have to shoot Ronald Reagan, so in your face, Hinckley.
Truman Capps will not retain any semblance of composure if he ever meets Nick Offerman.