Discover more from Michael Ian Black
Here We Are Now, Entertain Us.
Yesterday, I spent eight hours rehearsing with my old sketch comedy group, The State, for a live show we’re doing in a couple nights. I haven’t spent eight straight hours doing anything physical for a very long time and, by the end of it, I felt as though I’d been hit with a Wiffle ball bat. I was exhausted. My legs were sore, my eyes strained, my voice dipping into Demi Moore territory. Is this what being old feels like? If so, no thank you.
We met as college freshmen, and we used to rehearse like this just about every night - after a full day of classes. How did we do that? Did we once possess some magic that provided us with boundless energy? We did. It was called cocaine. Even more than that, though, we had our youth.
If love means never having to say you’re sorry, youth means never having to complain that your knees hurt.
I am often startled when I remember that I am a man in his 50’s. I certainly don’t feel like I would have thought a man of that age would feel. Sometimes I think I feel the same as I did when I was a couple decades younger. Sometimes I think I might actually be a couple decades younger. Yesterday’s work proved otherwise. No, I am actually 52 years old. A handsome 52, no doubt, but 52 nonetheless. Yesterday proved that to my satisfaction
After rehearsal, I canvassed the group to see if I was the only one wrecked. To a man (and woman), they all felt the same. God, they’re losers.
It’s kind of cool growing old with a group of people I’ve known for so long. We’ve seen each other through so much. Some of our kids are now the same age we were when we met, which is sweet. Some of us are the same age our parents were when we met, which is disgusting.
Physicists have long wondered why time only flows in one direction. Growing older teaches us that it does not. Time is, in fact, the most elastic of forces. It moves forwards and backwards. It slows down and speeds up. It can even stand still. For example, it was only minutes ago that we were college freshmen; I can travel back there in an eyeblink. When I’m with my friends, not only can I see them as they used to be, it’s the way I most often do see them. To my eye, we’re all still eighteen. My body disagrees.
One oft-cited advantage of time is that it brings wisdom. Live long enough and you might just learn a thing or two. Sometimes I think that’s just a lie we tell ourselves to compensate for what time steals; if anything, the older I get the dumber I feel. I keep falling further and further behind I fall in terms of knowing stuff. For example, one of our guys was talking about taking his kid to a concert by a rapper named BLP Kosher whose hits include the songs Mazel Tron and Jew on the Canoe. I’m not making this up. Obviously, it’s no surprise for a middle-aged man to not know shit about pop culture, but I also feel like I’m falling behind in every other area of life. The world’s knowledge grows exponentially by the hour and I’m still trying to remember how to spell “restaurant.” Fortunately, that’s not wisdom, which has very little to do with knowing stuff and everything to do with knowing the stuff that isn’t stuff.
Wanna feel old? Hit subscribe.
Wisdom is nothing more than experience put to work. It’s knowing how to listen. How to speak up. When to shut up. It’s gaining a deeper understanding of the human experience and knowing that somebody else’s experiences are probably much closer to my own than might appear on the surface. It’s letting go of that which ought to be discarded and holding onto that which should be preserved – and learning the difference. It’s the beauty of getting into a room with old friends with compassion and love instead of old rivalries and jealousies. Life is like one of those loyalty cards you get at coffee shops. Wisdom is cashing it in. It’s also seeing the long view and knowing that whatever we’ve gained in this lifetime is nothing compared to how much further there is to go. I don’t if reincarnation is real, but it would sure be a waste of a few billion lifetimes if it isn’t.
Sketch comedy is one of the dumbest art forms. By its nature, it’s fleeting. You put on some silly costume, throw on a cheap wig, make a few jokes. Four minutes later, you’re on to the next thing. I wouldn’t have imagined, at 18, that I’d still be doing it at this age. Of course, I wouldn’t have thought then that I’d ever be this age. But here I am. Here we are now… entertain us. And it’s nice. Exhausting, certainly. But nice. And that’s kind of what getting older is like overall, exhausting but nice. The years take their toll but they also give something back. Maybe we’re all Jews in canoes, a bunch of old farts slowly paddling ever-slower towards some freaky-deaky horizon.