Steven Wright—My Idol

A number of years ago, I created about 100 ATCs, also known as artist trading cards. Each one is the size of a playing card and mine were little collages that illustrated funny quotes.

One of my favorite sources for these usually absurd observations was the comedian Steven Wright. Woody Allen was another. Woody’s style was the nebbishy guy who angsted about sex and death a lot. Steven was just plain off the wall. That’s why I love him.

Today I came across an interview with him about his joke writing style on New York Magazine’s website.  The interviewer asked him if he had a favorite joke.

This is what he said:

I do have a favorite, but it’s not the general public’s favorite. It’s kind of long. It had to do with: I’m going to my grandfather’s wake. I kneeled down at the casket, and I’m looking at him in the casket, and I started thinking about the batteries in my flashlight. Then I said to my aunt, “Maybe he’s not dead, maybe he’s just in the wrong way.”

That’s my actual favorite one, but usually, when people ask me if I have a favorite one, I just say no. I don’t know why, it’s almost like a private thing.

I wish I had heard that one when I was creating my ATCs. That would have been a fun one to do.  *Dang*

Here’s a ten minute video of Steven’s comedy routine. I was pleased to recognize several of the jokes that I incorporated in my ATCs.

And below that are some of my Steven Wright inspired ATCs.  Enjoy!







Playing Poker With Tarot Cards


Ironically, I did do Tarot card readings for awhile on eBay, so this ATC with a quote from Steven Wright is a favorite of mine.


If you’ve read my previous post on the Bible Belt and Orthodox Agnosticism, you would understand that this wasn’t something that I trumpeted about to the local citizenry.   

My mother is the one who passed along the ESP gene to me, but it just scared her so she never wanted to acknowledge it much, except for when the phone rang and she knew who was calling.  One thing she did relate to me was that she has a vivid memory of being next to her paternal grandfather’s deathbed.  She can describe what he looked like, with his long mustaches, etc.  The only problem is, she hadn’t been born yet when her grandfather died.  However, her mother was pregnant with her at the time.  My take on it is her soul was there observing the scene.  I tried to delve further into this fascinating “memory” but it freaked her out too much and she didn’t want to discuss it.  She has also awakened from naps on the couch and seen people (often a little girl, sometimes a woman in a hat, once or twice a cat) standing next to her, observing her.  My daughter has dealt with the whole “I see dead people” thing throughout her life and has no interest in developing any talents she has in that realm.

Personally, I have always been interested in stuff like this.  When I was a child there was a program on t.v. called “The Dunninger”—a “mentalist”, if you will,— who used to do feats of ESP every week.  Once he had a card with the name of a tree on it, upon which he concentrated and sent out his thoughts to the folks in the t.v. audience—me included.  My Mom, Dad, and my older brother each gave silly answers.  I closed my eyes and there on the back of my lids was the word “Elm.”  So that’s what I blurted out.  I didn’t even know what an Elm was at the age of eight or nine, but I said it anyway.  Turns out the tree was the Elm.  Everyone looked at me with new regard.  Except my brother, who continued to pound me whenever I came close to the threshold of his room.

I had another encounter with a mentalist in the 1970’s.  This time it was up close and personal.  I was with friends at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California—it was an old mansion in the Hollywood Hills that had been converted into a restaurant and a place for magicians to showcase their talents.  The main room in the basement was like a movie theater with plush seats and a stage.  The headliner was the Amazing Kreskin.  He came out and said he needed a volunteer.  We were sitting in the front row since my friends had been there before and knew it was a prime spot.  I sort of put my head down and kept saying to myself “Don’t pick me, oh please, don’t pick me.”  Having read Kreskin’s memoirs in the years since, this was the worst thing I could have done.  He had to have “heard” me, because I was picked.

I went up on the stage and, to make a long story fairly short, Kreskin wrote a number on a piece of paper and showed it to the audience, but not to me, and then put the paper into a safe which was on the stage.  He then proceeded to mentally project to me a series of numbers which I then wrote down on a slate, the surface of which he couldn’t see.  After I had a long column of numbers written down (which I saw in my mind much the same as I’d perceived “Elm”) Kreskin then asked me to add them up.  Oh, no!  I’m horrible with math and told him he’d picked the wrong person to be doing this.  But I did it (trying not to count on my fingers) and gave him the slate with the sum of all those numbers.  He went to the safe, opened it and took out his piece of paper.  He showed it and the slate to the audience.  The sum was the same on both of them.  I left the stage to riotous applause and when we were walking out I was approached by Morrie Amsterdam (the sidekick on the old Dick Van Dyke Show) who had been in the audience.  He told me how much he enjoyed what had just transpired.  I was hooked.

The Tarot cards I used in my readings were quite lighthearted.  They depicted retro images of housewives and images of food and appliances from the 1950’s rather than the somewhat inscrutable esoteric designs usually found on cards of that type.  For example, the card for the Tower was a towering Jello mold and the one for the Chariot was a station wagon.  The cards themselves don’t have any “power”—they just serve as a vehicle to jump start the psychic process.  You put the question at hand out there and, kind of like using a search engine similar to Google, the answers come to you.  At least that’s how it worked for me.

I did approximately 100 readings before I took my clairvoyant shingle down.  I enjoyed doing them and liked helping people figure out in what direction their lives were headed.  My readings weren’t about a future that was set in stone.  Rather, they were more like little “snap-shots” of what was going in the client’s life and what the possibilities were for the future so they could make some informed decisions. 

My “fee” for each reading was less than five dollars, and sometimes even as little as ninety-nine cents.  (Such a deal!)  I had several repeat clients, and therein lies the rub.  After the initial reading (where I quite often was being tested for veracity) they would come back and want more information and advice; usually love-life questions—although there was one client who came back numerous times to determine which house she and her husband should rent.  I came to the realization that some of these folks were becoming a bit too dependent on me. 

Furthermore, they weren’t listening to the advice that was coming to me from the cards.  One gal was in a lose/lose relationship with an older guy who had a child from his former marriage.  Every reading said that this was going nowhere and she was going to get hurt, but mainly it was her pride and arrogance that stood in the way.  She wouldn’t believe it and kept coming back to find out when he was going to marry her. 

I finally realized that I didn’t have enough detachment from these situations and was allowing myself to become frustrated by the clients’ apparent inattention to what was right under their noses.  Being a reader requires having some emotional distance from the client, kind of like a psychologist.  I shouldn’t have let it bother me whether they accepted the cards’ advice or not, since life is about free will.  The choice was theirs to make.

But it drained the foo out of me.   So I quit.

Maybe I’ll get back into it again sometime, but I doubt that it’ll be any time soon.   Although, I did see a nice refurbished crystal ball on eBay…..