Chapter 96: “Civilities of Union and of War”
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Traditionalism had never been my forte, whether via my recent marriage or the content we produced in The Guttersnipes. Our comedy troupe had been releasing some solid work and some mediocre work. I could tell that something was missing from these ideas, and I was adamant that it was the lack of a proper script framework. Ideally, to me, I thought if we had better prepared for the shoot, then maybe the quality would have been better.
Others in the group loved the improvisational approach to our comedic voice, and instead, questioned my edits or my contribution to shooting the videos. The improvisation wasn’t the issue for me, I just wanted a stronger framework around it to enable a more efficient workflow with the little time we had. Both arguments wanted the same thing: a better product. We were like the Hatfield and the McCoy’s facing off against one another without actually sitting down to listen to one another. The majority of the members stayed out of the tussle or never voiced their concerns (to me) directly.
I was trying to maintain a certain level of control, and I didn’t know how to let it go. I wanted this to succeed deeply. After having a few false starts with Fort Thomas, this may have been the key to escaping the “Nine to Five.” So in an effort to reach a certain level of monetization, I wanted to increase the output of the channel. Unfortunately, that meant that we would release more mediocre content than great. When I felt that we didn’t have enough content to keep our growing audience interested, I would release a video without really consulting the rest of the group.
“We need more content!” I thought. One of these videos was some quick, silly thing I had shot on my Mac’s Photo Booth. I used the basic keying function to “stand on the moon.” I get that it didn’t really fit into our overall lineup, but it was somewhat funny, and I did it in one take. Wait, did I just contribute to the very issue I had with our videos?
John and I inadvertently ripped into each other in the Drunk-Driving PSA we shot during the Holidays. I think some of our real thoughts came out through the improvised dialogue. It’s good to iron out grievances via heightened versions of your actual personas. But I wished that we had reshot a few lines, only because I fucked up.
There had been other videos with which there were arguments over the filmmaking process. I would happily relinquish directing, writing, and editing duties to John, Brandon or the others (when able), but I always wanted our videos to the best, and so, I would play Devil’s Advocate. I would challenge the decisions made by others because it improved quality, and I wanted the same feedback for my assessments. Maybe they had been giving it to me, and I wasn’t receptive. Perhaps they didn’t want to voice their concerns because I was running the whole channel and they feared I would back out?
Nevertheless, my goal was to carry this Guttersnipes Comedy baby to full term, but it wasn’t the only child that I was attempting to foster…
Deirdre and I purchased a used copy of What to Expect Before You’re Expecting. We had been trying without any special effort, but nothing had happened. So we decided to take this more directed approach to the conception of an offspring.
The book recommended keeping track of Deirdre’s periods and to try to time our “attempts” during a certain window. Thus, on my iCal, I began to track when she would begin her period using the affectionate title “Bloodbath!!” Yeah, I know, sounds terrible, but it was our inside joke.
I thought for certain that this would do the trick, but after a few months of nothing happening, I began to worry again that I had become sterile somehow. Then I had heard something that shook me to my core. One of my long-time favorite Podcast hosts, Greg Miller, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the sister cancer of my Leukemia. During his heart-wrenching reveal of and battle with the disease, I learned something new.
Greg had mentioned that the use of chemotherapy – ALONE – could cause infertility. I had been told that if we had to proceed to a bone marrow transplant, then THAT would be the end all for my chances to be a Father. I was devastated. All this time, I thought it was poor timing or on Deirdre’s shoulders, but really knew it was me. My fears were affirmed, and yet, I didn’t want to tell Deirdre.
We discussed going to a doctor so I could get tested, but it was deemed too expensive. Insurance likely wouldn’t cover the test, and I’d have to pay it all out of pocket. I needed to find a way to make more money.
The Guttersnipes wasn’t just a hopeful source of revenue, but also a way for me to both cope with this failure to conceive, and for an excuse for all of us guys to hang out doing something fun. Perhaps I had been the only one having fun at this point. By March, Brandon had been shooting some of our biggest videos, and I wound up starring in them. There was “Beat It,” and the instant classic, “Cyanide Surprise.”
The real stress between us came from the creation of Dick Move! 6. In this video, we had a delay in shooting, and the process was slow. We didn’t really have a good plan of what to do, and we wound up sitting around crafting new ideas for this scenario. And Shawn wound up relying on the “F” word a little too much.
Tensions rose to uncomfortable levels when we decided to try to release two videos a week. I had so many behind the scenes videos, blooper reels, projects, and line-o-ramas that I thought this release schedule could be feasible. We announced the change in output via a video we called The Release Strategy:
Including the week of that video (and Dick Move! 6), we kept this pace up for ten whole weeks. That’s twenty videos! But during those five fortnights, Kyle and I had exchanged some words. First, I had enjoyed being able to hand off some of the grueling tasks of the process, from editing, shooting, and directing. John and Brandon had been doing more of those and saving me time to work on my school projects again (which sometimes became other Guttersnipes videos).
When we went to shoot Ghost Punchers, I went to help but found myself unable to do so because Brandon’s character was holding the camera, and I wasn’t an on-screen talent, so I was just trying to stay out of the way. Kyle got mad at me because I didn’t do more that night. I never understood what he had wanted me to do.
And at the tail end of the ten-week streak, Kyle and I had a lot of issues with the audio because – let’s face it – I’m not great at capturing audio. Nor was I any good with the photography, but the ideas flowed out of me like wine from Italy. The video that broke the camel’s back was Sex-Ed for the Sexually Immature. This was the epitome of my issue with the standards of our output. This video was rushed, poorly shot, and the audio was terrible. We were planning on shooting another video but had to rethink our strategy once that video fell through.
This video stopped our streak and forced us to take a break from the schedule (and from each other). Luckily, Brandon was working on another project and needed the time. For me, however, the lack of a consistent outlet for my creativity was making me stir crazy. Oh, how to quench this thirst? Brandon had already assembled his crew, consisting of the “New Triplets” and a few others. Where was my place in this world?
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.
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