Richard Herring on Enough Rope

Richard Herring on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

Men of Australia, my next guest knows more about what's going on in your underpants than you do. And women, please try not to make this look so funny. He's researched on the Internet men and their penises worldwide and used that information to create a one-man show currently featuring at the Melbourne Comedy Festival called 'Talking Cock'. Please welcome Richard Herring.

Andrew Denton: Let's get the difficult stuff out of the way first. There are a million euphemisms for 'penis'.

Richard Herring: Yes.

Andrew Denton: What are some of your favourites?

Richard Herring: Well, new ones come in every day. Um, I quite like Spurt Reynolds. That's quite good. Um, Rumple Foreskin was a good one I saw today. Um, Jack the Dripper...

Andrew Denton: Mmm.

Richard Herring: Quite a rude one I've made up myself.

Andrew Denton: Yes?

Richard Herring: Fuckingham Phallus.

Andrew Denton: You'll be writing for the London 'Sun' with that. Why do penises deserve celebrating?

Richard Herring: Well, I think they do because they're...they've been such a figure... They're either seen as a figure of fun or as a dangerous weapon. We don't ever say, "This thing is good as well." It brings lots of pleasure to lots of people - mainly the owner. But also occasionally other people as well. It has been known.

Andrew Denton: Tell me about the Internet questionnaire. That's basically how you did your research?

Richard Herring: Yeah. There's about 70 questions for men and about 30 for women. I just wrote down everything I could think of, in a, sort of, afternoon. I can't remember why I asked some of the questions. I asked men if they'd ever tried to suck their own cock, for example, which...I don't know why I asked that question. But 70% of men admit to having had a...

Andrew Denton: No! No!

Richard Herring: I mean, it has really been amazing. A lot of it's funny and very heart-warming. Some of it's quite sad. A lot of men are very...have a lot of secret vulnerability about this, which I think the show sort of demonstrates. People never admit this - it's a subject we all laugh about. It is quite interesting to see that there are kind of about 25% of men suffering in silence over issues of size or impotence or erectile dysfunction - all these kind of things.

Andrew Denton: Well, let's get to size. One of the things you're saying in your questionnaire is "Why are there no two-inch pencil-thin dildos?"

Richard Herring: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Does...for women, does size count?

Richard Herring: Um, well, about two-thirds of women and two-thirds of gay men do sort of say size is important in lovemaking. Actually, about a quarter of women say they'd finish with someone over the size of their penis on the survey, which is quite a staggering figure. But then, what you don't realise is half... Often, having a big penis is a bad thing for women, because obviously it can be painful and it can be impossible to make love, which isn't something we ever look at seriously. So it is quite important. But one woman said, "If it's too small, "it's like whisking a toothpick around in a bucket."

(Audience laughs.)

And my response to that is, "Well, you're the one who called it a bucket, darling, not me. I'm telling you, no-one's got a cock as big as a bucket, I'm afraid. You'll be searching a long time for that." So there is that double thing which we don't often look into. But the actual fact is the average penis is about six inches long. And the average vagina is also about six inches long. They're a match. And, obviously, they all vary in size. And I think the 'Kamasutra' sort of compares men and women to three different types of animals of different size. You obviously want to match up with the one that's of similar size. I think all men have this idea that they're small. Actually lots of guys surveyed who think they're smaller are average or above-average in size and they're... Actually, many are worrying - "I'll never be able to date women - my penis is too small." Most guys are worrying about nothing at all. You know, I don't think size is important. It's impossible to tell. Though I have found a way to tell. The best way for girls in the audience to determine the length of a man's penis - get him to show it to you. And then measure it with a ruler. And that works.

Andrew Denton: And we are...?

Richard Herring: That works well. And then you know.

Andrew Denton: The editor of 'Screw Magazine', Al Goldstein, once observed that men would fuck mud.

Richard Herring: Yes.

Andrew Denton: One of the questions you asked is "Where have you put your penis?" Did this startle you?

Richard Herring: Yeah. I wish I hadn't asked that question, with the benefit of hindsight. I mean, it's everywhere you could possibly put a penis, and quite a lot of places you couldn't possibly put a penis, men have put their penis. I mean, in all kinds of bottles, uh, glasses of wine - I believe that's known as coq au vin...

(Audience laughs.)

Meat products. The best, the topper of this is jelly spooned into a toilet roll. Um... Now, what delights me about it that it's very specifically spooned in. You can't... You can't pour it in before it sets. That wouldn't be any good, would it? Clearly, that wouldn't work. You can't scoop it with your fingers. You wouldn't want to get jelly all over your hands - oh, no! You have to spoon it in with a spoon, you know? Yeah, it's not very nice. So there's...

Andrew Denton: Well, I'm just thinking, we have a very famous jingle here - (Sings) I like Aeroplane Jelly Aeroplane... I'll never think of it the same way.

Another question, which I thought was rather sad. You asked some men do they hate their penis.

Richard Herring: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: And some men do. Why is that?

Richard Herring: Well, a lot of it is because we men are... I think our culture makes men define themselves through the appearance of their penis. And I think there's an idea of a norm. I think this has shown me, more than anything... And I didn't know very much about penises before I started. This wasn't me writing what I know.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Richard Herring: And, uh... But they vary so much. And yet we've got this idea of them all being the same, and so guys who think they aren't big enough or that they're an unusual shape or size can get very big complexes about it, to the extent, you know, where they... There's some very sad ones from guys you'd consider perverts, I suppose - quite harmless perverts - but who have sort of, you know, become so obsessed with it they can't ever see themselves with a woman, so they make their own amusement in sort of what would be seen as being perverted ways.

Andrew Denton: They're so obsessed with their own genitalia?

Richard Herring: Yeah. 'Cause I asked, "What would your penis wear, "if your penis could get dressed?" The worst guy who hates himself the most said it would get dressed like a tramp in shabby clothes. It gives you an idea, that question, as well as being funny - an idea of how men identify themselves through their penis. Obviously, that can be size, or to do with race, and religion, obviously, as well, with circumcision.

Andrew Denton: I meant to ask - just a hunch - but has religion had anything at all to do with a warped view of...?

Richard Herring: I think it entirely... Well, again, it is fascinating. I'm writing a book about this subject also. Because there's so much to say. There's more in the book than... The show is about the cultural history, where, embarrassingly, men didn't realise they had anything to do with reproduction till about 14,000 years ago. Up to that point, it was just women and the vagina and the Venus of Willendorf who was...

Andrew Denton: So it just spontaneously...?

Richard Herring: Yeah. But then it sort of turned around. When men realised, we started celebrating. There were gods that created the world by masturbating. There's a Sumerian god called Enki who created life and the rivers of Iraq by masturbating onto the earth.

Andrew Denton: Shouldn't his name have been Wanky?

Richard Herring: It should have been. They didn't think of that - no sense of humour. But then, it's turned around to where men began to believe that they were totally responsible for babies, which is insane. I can't see how... They thought they planted the seed in women and so that's how we got the paternalistic gods of sort of Judaism and Christianity, because they became a paternalistic society. And yeah - that's when it started going mad - when we started feeling ashamed about sex, I think, through religion, whereas the early religions sort of celebrated sex and sexuality and women and men. And then it became...we got religions that suddenly celebrated men and not women. And again, my show is about celebrating men and women together. Genitals are something to be shared with whatever you want to share them with - toilet roll full of jelly, that's fine, as long as you've got the consent of the toilet roll.

Andrew Denton: Has this affected your sex life at all? Does your partner ask you not to bring your work home?

Richard Herring: Well, my girlfriend was a journalist who interviewed me about this show. Possibly took her research a bit too far into the subject. Um, but it did, to begin with. I was, like... Because it's... You know, you spend all day thinking about cocks, reading about cocks, talking to men about their cocks. I wished I'd done a show about really big tits instead. No, but, um... (Laughs) And it did, for a while. There's a bit in the show where I'm talking about erectile dysfunction. There's all anonymous stuff. Then one of the testimonies is, "I'm a stand-up comedian currently performing in a show entirely about penises. There's a questionnaire also. It's taking over my life. When we're about to have sex, I'm thinking about the mechanics of it and can't get it up." Which, uh... There was some truth in that, because...

Andrew Denton: Really?

Richard Herring: If you think about it too much. The thing with an erection, it's a psychosomatic response we have no control over, actually. It's dependent upon all sorts of conditions coming together. So the minute you start thinking about it too much... Everything I was doing with my penis, all the functions - not the jelly, the other things - but I was sort of thinking about it. If you think about it, it starts to affect you in a weird way. But I think, ultimately, it... Just knowing that anything I thought that was weird about myself or anything that I thought know, I had a problem with, you realise there isn't a problem with it. In the end, it's probably made me a lot happier as a man. And to think about the stereotypes of men we all accept. And you think about them for a second, and you realise they're not true of any man you know and yet we all happily, even men, go along with the stereotypes.

Andrew Denton: The big question - have you made your partner happy?

Richard Herring: I hope so.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Well, Richard, on at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It must give you great encouragement to know you're performing in a former penal colony.

(Audience groans.)

And on that sparkling note - Richard Herring, thanks very much.

Richard Herring: Thank you very much.

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War on Drugs

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but the war on drugs is a more frustrating stalemate than a tug-of-war on ice. While DEA seizures are higher than ever, so is anyone who wants to be.

The drug war has apparently worked to some degree, as both casual use and addiction have fallen in recent years. But at what cost? Now, instead of junkies, cokeheads and glue sniffers, we have coffee-addled super-achievers who'd sooner mow you down in the mall parking lot with their sport utility dreadnoughts than drop the speedometer below 70. Say what you will about drug addicts, at least they move slowly. It's time to change our way of thinking and take the war on drugs out of the political hot button campaign topics. There is a percentage of our society that will always be addicted to something. Whether it's cocaine, pills, beer, cigarettes, or that new car smell.

Countries like Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia produce and export drugs because their only other economic alternatives do not bring in nearly enough money. That means if we really want to stem the tide of drugs from south of the border, there is only one painful but necessary course of action: We as a nation must resolve to dramatically increase our consumption of wooden donkey carvings and armadillo-shaped pi?atas.

I don't know what the answer is. But I would like to ask the people of Colombia something. Between marijuana, coffee and cocaine do you think it might be possible to grow a crop that doesn't delude people into believing they actually have something interesting to say?

Drug traffickers are consummate businessmen. They have identified a demand, efficiently routed their infrastructure to fulfill it, and profited by exploiting the gap between cheap production and materials and high retail premiums. Their methodology is indistinguishable from that of a successful U.S. Corporation, except for, in this day and age, being a bit more ethical.

Every generation has had their drugs of choice. In the 60's, it was pot and LSD. In the disco era, it was coke. The 80's had crack and in the 90's we had crystal meth and Ecstasy. And nowadays? Well, now we have pot, LSD, coke, crack, crystal meth and Ecstasy.

And cocaine still plays an enormous part in our culture. Without it, stock traders could not put in 75 hour work weeks, and interstate truckers would deliver a lot more spoiled fruit. More importantly, there would be no second act segment in those E True Hollywood stories.

There are a lot of campaigns out there trying to prevent young people from getting into drugs in the first place. Unfortunately, teens tend to view these groups as uptight Puritans who haven't had fun since they outlawed witch trials. The zero-tolerance people are the same ones who tell you not to listen to hip-hop, play violent video games, and remain a virgin until after you're married. Anyone who believes that the average teenager will sit for that is on better weed than their kids.

The Anti-Drug campaigns have attacked the airwaves with images of frying eggs and terrorist bombings. Everything I need to know about drugs I learned from a poignant, 15-second PSA where the guy from "Yes Dear" pulls up a chair and sits in it, backward style. By the way, that's when you know they're leveling with you, kids. When they turn the chair around.

Hey, here's a thought, maybe you should get someone in on these campaigns who actually understands children. Kids want to be bad. You need Little Jimmy to stop smoking pot? Show him the picture of his 8th grade history teacher prancing around a Dead concert in a tie-dye loincloth. He'll never look at marijuana the same way again. Or the War of 1812, for that matter.

You can make a reasonable case that we shouldn't legalize the most deadly and addictive of the world's narcotics, but how can you possibly justify arresting elderly women smoking marijuana to ease their glaucoma, or even more desperately ill patients smoking it to ease their final days? My wish for the politicians who put their own careers ahead of the quality of life of ill and dying human beings is that some day, when they go to receive their final judgement, the first words out of God's mouth are "Dude, way harsh."

I say if you really want to discourage people from doing drugs, legalize everything for a year and encourage people to experiment. The smart people will sit back and barricade themselves in their homes, while all the drink-the-bongwater burnouts go to town, mixing industrial grade sealant and horse tranquilizers into a hookah and smoking it. I guarantee you, before the year is up, we'll dramatically thin the herd and who knows? Maybe some of the more demented stoners will mix so many weird chemicals, they'll stumble onto a cure for cancer in their pursuit of a buzz that could win the Nobel Peace Pipe.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Our Corporate Culture

Today’s corporate world is more vulnerable than Pee Wee Herman at an adult bookstore; we just don’t know who to put our trust in these days. Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but from Worldcom execs hiding losses like they were frozen Three Musketeer bars in Anna Nicole Smith's house, to Arthur Anderson shredding paper like Captain Hook rolling a joint, Americans are finally putting corporate culture under the microscope and they still can't see their investments.

As our government goes over the books from the past previous years we are learning some new things. We're discovering that not only do good times not last forever, but sometimes they never even existed in the first place.

One reason for the recent corporate scandals is that the late 90s boom years created a culture in which a company's head honchos could basically do whatever they wanted. They were their own moral compass. They could make their own rules, and break their own rules, and go as far outside the box as their restless spirits longed to soar. They were living in one nonstop SUV commercial.

Throughout the 80's and 90's, CEO's were treated like rock stars. Unfortunately, we've now reached the point on Behind The Music where the ominous voice says, "But just then, Enron Board Member Vince Neill decided they needed to go out for more beer..."

The democratization of the stock market in some respects turned many workers into their own executioner. And don't ask me what that means. By having a 401K invested in the company they worked for they ended up rooting for the stock to rise even if it meant having to be laid off in order to accomplish that. Not only did they end up losing their jobs-they had to complement their boss's business acumen for doing it.

You can tell the difference between pre- and post-Enron corporate America. Where previously annual reports were elaborate, richly colored multi-media presentations, today many corporations simply send out a one-page mimeograph of the Fifth Amendment.

Look, I've got no beef with people making money. What baffles me is how shocked everyone seems to be that all these CEOs were carrying on under-the-table deals. These guys are more adept at under-the-table than Julie Christie in "Shampoo." Hey, if you were pulling in ten figures a year, and you started to see your dynasty crumble like a Ritz cracker in Jiminy Glick's back pocket, wouldn't you cook the books at 451 degrees fahrenheit? As a matter of fact, you don't even have to cook the books any more. You just have to simmer them, because in the present-day looking glass world of corporate accounting, red is the new black.

There are exceptions. The antithesis of CEO-as-rock-star has got to be Warren Buffett. Doesn't drive a fancy car, stays away from the hottest trends, invests in boring things like carpeting and insurance, sublimates any eccentric or flashy impulses by building a massive underground lair staffed by genetically engineered meerkats who will one day rule the globe when mankind destroys itself through nuclear war. Come on, I can't be the only one who reads his annual reports all the way through... I put all my money Jimmy Buffet. I don't know how the stock'll do, but the shareholder meetings are a gas.

But unfortunately, as our system stands, the one who always ends up shafted is the little guy, not the billionaire CEO. It's the 50-year-veteran. The guy who started working at the foundry when it was just two steamy, cramped rooms in someone's basement, but slowly inched his way up to assistant foreman through sheer elbow grease. Now he's 30 seconds from retirement, the company's gone bankrupt, and his pension fund is emptier than the stands at a Chumbawamba concert, so he's got to get a second job bussing tables at one of those Panda Shit chinese food joints.

So I don't want to see some CEO going to jail for three years a minimum-security prison that doubles as a community college during the day. I want them to witness the damage they caused up close. I think they should be sentenced to community service sorting the shoe bin at Goodwill in a low-income neighborhood to get a sense of how real people have to get by. Make Kenneth Lay work the drive-thru at Jack In The Boxso I can literally hear that lying bastard's voice coming out of a clown's mouth. Just don't drive away without checking that you got everything you ordered.

What I'd actually like to see is these guys do hard time in hard prison. See how they like it when we let the warden get creative with the books keeping their sentences. You want to make sure this doesn't happen again, put these losers in with the general population who are doing 10-20 for stealing a scintilla of what these guys did. Then make sure there is a live "Big Brother" shower-cam feed into every CEO's office in the country. You are going to think twice about cheating the numbers when you spot your ex-golf partner all lathered up with a windchime hanging from his ass.

Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Free Speech (Freedom of Speech)

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but after September 11th, freedom of speech in America has become a topic that's touchier than a Vatican summer camp.

Our Founding Fathers were supreme champions of freedom of speech. But we should never forget that Alexander Hamilton was shot over something he said. Because in their infinite wisdom our Founding Fathers also gave us the second amendment, the right to bear arms, which is a reminder that while we can pretty much do and say whatever we want-you better watch it, asshole.

The free-speechers always argue the slippery-slope: if you muzzle free speech, before you know it, we're living in 1984 and Big Brother is picking out our ties. Those seeking to control free speech, on the other hand, argue that if we allow Johnny Soulpatch to burn the flag, before you know it, we're living in "Lord of the Flies" and Piggy is fighting for his life. But there is a middle ground between government rule and mob rule. A place where only those who can make obscure references to literature, art and pop culture on their weekly cable show will be allowed to speak freely. A utopia... if you will.

Our enemies see our diversity of opinion as evidence that we are weak and divided, but it is the very presence of a vibrant marketplace of ideas that ensures our continued survival. That, and the high-tech weapons that can lock in on the glint off a scimitar from five thousand miles away.

As much as I believe that our leaders have followed exactly the right course in wiping out the Taliban assholes who gave safe haven to the murderers of my fellow citizens, I recognize that the dissenters to the war and the verbal defenders of our enemies fulfill a vital function in our democracy. Specifically, they give me somebody to hate whose name I can actually pronounce.

As much as we don't like to admit it, you gotta say, the freedom to bash the U.S. government is a unique and beautiful phenomenon...... When done with a certain degree of panache! I've noticed that in the Middle East when they burn the American Flag, they aren't even using real flags. They are just using flags painted onto sheets. This really pisses me off because there are hard working kids in Taiwan who make our flags who can use every penny they can get.

As a matter of fact, at this point, the only thing that galls me about someone burning the American flag is how unoriginal it is. I mean if you're going to pull the Freedom-of-speech card, don't be a hack, come up with something interesting. Fashion Old Glory into a wisecracking puppet and blister the system with a scathing ventriloquism act, or better yet, drape the flag over your head and desecrate it with a large caliber bullet hole.

Once hotbeds of free speech, college campuses across the country have engaged in an arms race to see who can craft the most restrictive speech code. Years of Political Correctness, binge drinking, and dropping bing cherries out of your ass into a shotglass have bred a backlash now, where anyone who dares to stray outside the conventional school of wisdom is ostracized, slapped with the mark of Cain, and, worst of all, made to forfeit their Student Activity Fee discount to see Dave Mathews jam, and, more importantly, inspire, during Spring Fling on the Quad.

Whatever happened to the notion that college was a place where the best minds in the nation vigorously debated all sides of an issue, while the rest of us went back to the dorm and got laid? Usually by ourselves.

I have no problem with people who respond to what they don't agree with. I enjoy the drama of a toppled podium and the sound of microphone feedback as much as the next guy. What I do have a problem with are the people who fail to see the glaring hypocrisy of screaming the words "shut up" into a bullhorn.

Why should even the most repugnant ideas receive the same freedom of expression as more accepted ones? Because the American system is less a "free marketplace" of ideas than it is a playground. And the best way to dispense with unpopular ideas is to let them roam free, so they can have their asses kicked up and down the jungle gym by the cool ideas.

The ability to be critical of our government is what makes this country great. Thanks to these freedoms, we get the hip irreverence of Art Buchwald, the folksy yet politically incisive song stylings of Mark Russell, and the pun-tastic parodies of The Capital Steps. And it is for these reasons alone, we must squash free speech immediately and become a police state.

We need to let those who repulse us have their say alongside those whose speeches make us rise to our feet in applause. How else will the shiny pearl of wisdom stick out against the black velvet of stupidity? It's better to just let the Ku Klux Klan march through your town than it is to waste your time and money trying to stop them. Instead of challenging their right to free speech, use your energy to point out to your children the irony of the fat guys in the pointy hats and the pee-stained bed sheets, spouting forth all sorts of mono-syllabic eugenic claptrap, and all the while, claiming to be the master race.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Truth In Media

Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but, these days, truth in media has been pushed further into the backseat than loose change during a shuttle launch.

I think it's a problem that you can't watch the nightly news without longing for the relative intellectual integrity of those thought bubbles on "Blind Date."

If you're looking for empirical truth on TV, you're watching the wrong kinescope. TV news wants you entertained first, informed maybe. There's more useless eye candy in te n seconds of Headline News than in 24 hours of the Cartoon Network. And don't try to argue that all that shit on the screen is information I need to know. Nobody cares about the temperature in Bozeman, not even the people in Bozeman. That's why they've moved to Bozeman: they've given up.

Look, the truth is that in cost conscious, bottom line America all the major news organizations have been removing key positions like they were editing an Iranian edition of the Kama Sutra. Instead of reporters on the scene gathering facts, what we're left with is an overstuffed, oxygen starved fish farm of opened mouth trout swimming in circles with absolutely no idea what they're talking about. The other night MSNBC had a leading authority on Al Qaeda and it turned out his only credential was that his name was "Al Qaeda."

In today's information economy, the old journalistic mandate of "Get it fast, first, and right" has been downsized to just getting it fast and first. Today's idea of an "investigativ e report" is one they remembered to run a spell-check on. And the line between fact and opinion gets stepped on more frequently than the feet of a circus clown slow-dancing with a scuba diver.

Also I don't trust anything said by a news anchor who doesn't have a believable hairpiece. How am I supposed to take seriously any guy with hair that makes the molded plastic thatch on a G.I. Joe's head look natural? Why should I believe his mouth when his scalp is screaming "liar"? (ANCHOR VOICE:) "This just on..."

And nothing is more skewed than local news during sweeps. The I-Team takes their hidden cameras down to any business that doesn't advertise with the station to ferret out the potential dangers to the consumer. You never see them do a story on used car salesmen because they pump in too much ad revenue. Instead they storm the barely English speaking mechanic who is trying to feed his eight kids , who charged the undercover reporter with a forty-thousand dollar surveillance briefcase an extra nickel for a sparkplug. And it's all hyped with overly dramatic upcoming-story teasers that sound like Adam West reading "War Of The Worlds" to the blind.

Look, we know each of our major newspapers comes with an established point-of-view. T he New York Times' is that of a liberal Northeastern academic. The Wall Street Journal's is that of conservative corporate America. And USA Today's is that of Sean Penn's character in "I Am Sam" after inhaling paint fumes.

But on the whole, the re is no liberal or conservative bias? Come on, does anyone really believe that chick Ashleigh Banfield on MSNBC has an agenda that goes any further than launching her own line of eyewear?

The sad truth is, we don't object to the slanted nature o f our news because being told how to think is easier than figuring it out for ourselves. Media bias is just the latest in a long line of American labor-saving devices that began with the cotton gin and will likely end with us swaddled in our full-sensory La-Z boys, while a holographic Wolf Blitzer gnome dances on your man-breasts and yips, "Bad stuff happened to other people in the world today, but not to you, Pumpkin. That's the news. Have another bear claw."

Let's be honest with ourselves. Yo u want the truth? You can't stay awake for the truth. We want police chases, mudslides, and world leaders caught on tape having sex with their daughter's piano teacher. We don't give an embryonic rat's ass about Enron, the Middle East, or the new Campaign Finance Reform bill because it's way too complicated and depressing. When we come home from a hard day at the office, all we want is to kick our feet up on the coffee table, pop open a cold one, turn on the television, and be reassured that everyone in the world is more fucked up than you are, especially the people reporting on it.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Family Guy

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but America's foreign policy makes about as much sense as Beowulf having sex with Robert Fulton at the first battle of Antietam. I mean, when a neoconservative defenestrates it's like Raskolnikov filibuster deoxymonohydroxinate.

What the hell does rant mean?

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One thing I bet the [Clinton's] book won't say is, "I was wrong. I'm sorry." For eight years, he felt everything... except for guilt. But why should he? In our therapeutic society, "guilt" has become a dirty word.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but guilt is simply God's way of letting you know that you're having too good a time.

In the elaborate wardrobe of human emotions, guilt is the itchy wool turtleneck that's three sizes too small. Guilt may be difficult to articulate, but when it surfaces, it's as unwelcome and distinct as Jethro Bodine in the lobby of an Ian Shraeger hotel.

What is guilt? Guilt is the pledge drive constantly hammering in our heads that keeps us from fully enjoying the show. Guilt is the reason they put the articles in Playboy.

Some experience guilt as the voice of their better natures, while for others, it's the voice of an authority figure like a parent or a teacher. For me, the voice of guilt, interestingly enough, is Jimmie Walker with a slight head cold.

Contributing our recurrent feelings of guilt is the fact that, in our day-to-day lives, we consistently overcommit ourselves, so there is always something we're failing to do. The average American's dayplanner has fewer holes in it than Ray Charles's dartboard. It's gotten to the point where I don't even have time to feel guilty, unless I multi-task by also using that time to feel vaguely lackadaisical and kind of twitchy.

It's harder to hide guilt than it is to hide an order of bananas flambee from Al Roker when he's wearing infrared goggles. And I think the reason is, people secretly want to be caught, chastised and punished, in order to subconsciously prove to themselves that there is indeed an order to the universe that transcends their flawed, limited selves -- or at least, so you can pull down a cool million spouting that line of bullshit in the book you're plugging on "Oprah."

There are many different types of guilt: healthy guilt, unhealthy guilt, Catholic guilt, and, of course, the newest entry, Condit guilt... Representative Gary Condit is a good example of a person who should be racked with guilt about impeding the investigation of a missing woman. But he is somehow able to speed by the photographers with a smile so big, you would think he was attending his movie premiere at Mann's Chinese Theater. Hey, Gary, make sure to keep that smile on down there when Mephistopheles is rammin' that pitchfork handle up your ass for the rest of eternity.

Ironically, guilt is most likely to visit the people who deserve it the least. Trust me, the only thing that keeps Slobodan Milosevic awake at night is puzzlement over why nobody's nominating him for sainthood, but I can't look at my dog Mr. Tingles without cringing at the time two years ago, when I accidentally stepped on his tail just as he was leaping at a Frisbee, and he screamed like a Backstreet Boy taking a polo mallet to the nuts.

There are some people so predisposed to guilt, when they're born, the first thing that comes out of their mouth after being slapped by the doctor is "Harder! Harder!"

I still feel pangs of remorse over an insidious habit I've had since I was a teenager. About three times a week, I attend estate auctions and make insulting, lowball bids for prized heirlooms until I'm asked to leave. Point me to the shower, I'm a baaaaaad man.

Many people feel guilty about masturbating. I celebrate it. I say, "Harder! Harder!" What's there to feel guilty about? It's a natural way to relieve stress. Okay, maybe not when someone cuts in front of you in line at the supermarket, but certainly when you get back out to your car.

I've actually written a book about guilt, entitled "Fuck You, I'm Sorry."

Hey, for a long time, I felt tremendously guilty about things that were not in any way my fault, but with the help of an excellent therapist, I have finally accepted that there are things beyond my control. Now I simply breathe deep, release them into the cosmos, and move on. Poverty in distant lands, injustices that were committed long before I was born, that brand new Mercedes that I rammed repeatedly while trying to wedge my massive, gas-guzzling SUV into a handicapped parking space - Dennis just can't be held responsible for the entire world.

Invented by religion, enforced by the state, and cashed in on by the psychiatric community, guilt is what keeps society from completely unraveling. Yet our culture is rife with politically correct apologists telling us to let go of the shame that binds us, and to treat our mistakes as learning experiences that we have to "heal" from and "put behind us" as quickly as we can. Well, that's just bullshit. If you do something wrong, you should feel guilty about it. Guilt is the pruning shears that society developed to prevent you from growing into an even bigger asshole than you already are. Sorry, I feel bad that I said that.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Sex and Washington, D.C.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but if they didn't want Washington to be a hotbed of sexual activity, they shouldn't have named it after the guy who fathered the entire country. I mean, what else can you expect from a town that's famed for its cherry blossoms?

Sex has served as the you-don't-want-to-know-where-it's-been coin of the realm in American politics, long before the Clintons and Condits came along. Thomas Jefferson is said to have sired a child by one of his slaves, and, like I said, I wouldn't be surprised if the original George W. left a set of those wooden teeth on the wrong nightstand now and then.

Let's face it: there's constant groping going on in our nation's capital even when George Bush isn't trying to find the right word.

Do I think power corrupted Gary Condit? No. You can't blame Congress for turning him into something he already was. Gary Condit is simply a skeevy hound using the illusion of power to get laid. An everyman, as it were. If Condit wasn't a congressman, he'd be working as a car salesman who appears in his own TV commercials somewhere in central California, trying to nail female customers with the same mix of low-rent celebrity and bullshit power by telling them he's John Davidson's half-brother and he can "do something" for them on the undercoating.

Hey, at least if Condit had spent more time in California, he could've gotten some decent plastic surgery. Oedipus Rex had a better eye job. Looks like this guy had his crow's feet dermabraded out by some piercing pagoda flunky in Silver Spring, Maryland, who gave him a great rate but unfortunately ensured that good old Gary would spend the rest of his life looking like Lee Harvey Oswald in the nanosecond he spotted Jack Ruby lurching towards him.

Oh, by the way. I don't think Condit had anything to do with Chandra Levy's disappearance. Because I believe he was too busy at the time arranging for the death of Robert Blake's wife.

You know, it's guys like Condit who make me usually side with the women in these libidinal conflagrations. Everyone criticized Monica Lewinsky for being so indiscreet about blowing the President, but come on: What's the point of blowing the President if you can't tell everyone about it? I mean, there've only been 42 of those cocks and you had one lodged in your noggin. Why not take out an ad in the trades?

Now, I don't believe there's any danger of a sex scandal with our current administration. President Bush not only appears to be deeply in love with his wife, he thinks "fetish" is something you crumble on top of a Greek salad. And as for Dick Cheney, well, his team of doctors has cautioned him to not even look at a Sears bra ad, much less fuck.

More disturbing than the sex scandals that emanate from Washington, DC, is the realization that they are merely the tip of the vice-berg. The elective process in our nation is like a recipe for kink: Take some jagoff in a clip-on tie who, under any other circumstances, couldn't get laid if his penis had its own vagina; send him far away from his bowling-trophy wife for months at a time; stir in a little power and influence, and fold it all into a town that has more over-used escorts than a Budget rent-a-car lot. Add to that thousands of wide-eyed young acolytes flooding into the Below-the-Beltway each year, giving off a heady fer-a-moan brew of ambition and naivete that an aging political billy goat can smell a mile away. Christ, Washington is like Club Med for doughy, old, unattractive white guys. The crew from "Cocoon" would be considered the Rat Pack in DC. You think I'm exaggerating the way it works down there, folks? I don't think so. Let's put it this way: Newt Gingrich was getting laid. OK? Nuff said.

Henry Kissinger once said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." He was right because no one got more primo skirt than Hank Kissinger in the 70's, and this guy looked like a troll doll hanging from the rearview mirror of a Volkswagen Beetle.

What trips up politicians is never the actual sex itself. We know they have sex. We expect them to have sex. What we hate is the arrogance that accompanies the inevitable exposure of the sex as unfailingly as seagulls trailing chum. Somehow, Mr. Smith-Comes-On-Washington starts to assume that the American public is just as gullible as the 20-year-old kid that he's been bending over his desk on alternate Wednesday evenings for the last two years. Full of pry-appic swagger, when the rumors of hanky-panky start percolating, he runs his hand through his blow-dried Bobby Goldsboro helmet-cut coif, then maybe he sprays a shot of Binaca in his mouth, shoots his cuffs, and goes in front of the news cameras and denies everything. Practically insists that Wolf Blitzer hook his nuts up to a polygraph. And he just keeps on smiling that "Fuck you, you can't touch me, I'm bulletproof cause I got my constituents a plow museum built last year" grin. Come on, give us more credit than that. We know you're fucking around. Just cop to it. We read you like the top line of an eye chart. We know why Strom Thurmond keeps going to work everyday. Because of the very good possibility that one day soon, he's gonna get lucky with some hot, young 80-year-old.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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The Institution of Marriage (Married Men)

The White House is looking into a plan that would allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. The plan calls for a million Mexicans to marry a million of our ugliest citizens.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but no matter how much it has changed, marriage is a vital cog in our societal machine. Dating's fine, living together is great, but anyone who's truly in love eventually looks at their partner and thinks, "I want to cut down on having sex with this person and get on their insurance plan."

Are marriages failing, or are people simply living longer and finding that they can't stay with the same person for that long? The answer is, marriages are failing. You know your marriage is in trouble when your wife starts wearing the wedding ring on her middle finger. Here in Hollywood you can actually get a marriage license printed on an etch-a-sketch.

Until recently, television was notorious for romanticizing bachelor-hood, while making vague insinuations about the sexuality of the "unattached woman." Magnum, P.I., got more different ass than a rental car, while Laverne actually had an 'L' sewn onto her sweater.

Seems like every wedding nowadays has to be a "themed" wedding. There's period-costume weddings. Elvis weddings. Fairy Tale weddings. Weddings so unbelievably complicated and elaborate, the only way you can tell who's actually getting married is to find the couple that's fucking in the coatroom and ask them who they're the Best Man and Maid of Honor for.

If you want to truly understand how complex marriage has become, simply ask the people on the front lines: the ones who make up the wedding invitations. They are constantly trying to skirt around the gender, age and parental issues and still get paid: "Mona Johnson and her life partner Brianne invite you to the wedding of their son Lars and his lover Oswaldo, with the blessing of their surrogate daughter Quan, where they will be married by their Shaman, Ali Ben Shapiro, in Carlsbad Caverns on the eve of the Summer Solstice, to be followed by an all-Vegan Luau, featuring the music of two members of Kansas. Dress: Casual Friday meets 80's disco. No furs. The couple is registered at Nordstrom and Zach's House of Knobby Dildoes."

While straight couples have been breaking their vows for years, gay couples are still fighting to gain that right. Gay unions are now legal in a state like Vermont, but they are not having much luck in the South, where there are strict rules, which forbid getting married unless you are heterosexual, fourteen or "kin". Hey, folks, truth be told, gays have been getting married for a long, long time... Just not to each other.

I once went to a lesbian wedding ceremony between my wife's former hair stylist, a lovely thirty-year-old woman, and her partner, a very hot dental hygienist in her mid-twenties. The wedding itself was small and simple. The reception was warm and friendly. And from what I could see from my surveillance hammock in the branches of a tree high outside the third floor of the Laguna Beach Hilton, the wedding night was not nearly kinky enough.

Never ever discount the idea of marriage. Sure, someone might tell you that marriage is just a piece of paper. Well, so is money, and what's more life-affirming than cold, hard cash?

The difficult thing about marriage for men is that they know they shouldn't get married unless they're mature, but they feel they can't become mature unless they get married. I'm not sure I know what the answer is, other than, I would caution you to not fuck the stripper at your bachelor party.

But guys should never whine about marriage, because guys are no prize, especially when we get older. I was at the post office last week, and standing in front of me was some guy in his mid-seventies. He was wearing a powder blue polyester shirt more pilled than a nightstand at Graceland, and dusted with so much dandruff, I was torn between gagging and placing "Christmas Village" figurines on his shoulders. He was also wearing a nylon mesh ball cap with the phrase "Ask Me About My Prostate" on it and off-white slacks with a white belt and a large pee spot somehow near the knee. And you wanna know the most shocking part of his ensemble? He was wearing a wedding ring. The one that I placed on his finger a scant two years ago. I love you, pappy!

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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