By Rob Rodems
October 31, 1999 the ridiculously sour candy called “Warheads” were popular, Bill Clinton was president, I was in the sixth grade, and felt alive. I all but secured my place in the category of “Not Like the Other Boys” when I told my mom that I wanted to go dressed as Patch Adams from the movie of the same name for Halloween. I could have gone as Neo from The Matrix, as so many did since it was a pretty easy costume to throw together (wear all black and talk about red and blue pills) but, nope! Let’s go out and find some damn clown shoes to go with this bowl cut, mom and dad! My mom, who graduated “clown laude” at Clown College (you read that right), was more than happy to oblige me. Dad was too, he just didn’t have, well, the resume to back it up. All this to say, my fascination with humor and how it relates to our communication beyond “feeling good” has been around since the days of Y2K. Thank you, Patch Adams.
Flash forward to 2017, I get an email from fellow ginger, ivory-tickler extraordinaire Jasper Grant with the idea of creating a recurring column/blog/internet space as part of B-Side Community and asking me to fill said space with words from my heart and brain. As one who hesitates to identify as a “writer” since I did not make the cut for the competitive creative writing team “Power of the Pen” in seventh grade (we have those in Ohio, look it up) but knows that if it makes me uncomfortable that it means I should probably do it, I said yes.
So. Like Gloria Estefan once sang and Debbie Reynolds once said about Sunset Boulevard and Camden Drive: here we are.
My aim here is to illuminate the moments of actual kindness and humanity that we inevitably experience as we share our city with eight and a half million people. At the worst, you may read this and do the now standard, self-contained “lol”. At best, New York or whichever city you happen to live, will feel that much less lonely. This space will be one for humor, heart, and fun. God, maybe one posting will have a graph! There will be no spreadsheets, of this I can promise.
Heads up: I was born with a tattoo on my forehead that says “TALK TO ME”* so I’ll be pulling from much of what happens when I take the subway and strangers tend to open up to me.
I could probably write for days on why I believe humor to be at the heart of effective communication. It levels the playing field between people. It connects us to each other here and now and in turn highlights what we have in common at this moment (hence the success, in my opinion, of Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer). It’s this unifying characteristic of humor that I, frankly, feel is most important now. There is no lack of the shockingly terrible, awful shit going on right now at what feels like both a snail’s pace and the speed of light. In the interest of our collective sanity, we must find a moment to laugh at ourselves otherwise, what are we doing here? Refreshing our Twitter feeds until we die?
Oh! Why the name “Artisanal Horseradish”? Because once I went to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg with a dear friend and saw a man with better facial hair than I selling “artisanal horseradish” for far too much money and it stuck with me as a gussied-up way of saying, “FANCY BULLSHIT!”. Hopefully you’ll have some artisanal-quality laughs when you visit this space. If not, I hope to clear your (emotional) sinuses just the way any old horseradish would.
That was truly a disgusting analogy, for which I only apologize to a point.
I’m feeling very Jessie Spano about all of this. Let’s do it!
*No actual tattoo. I just have what a well-intentioned friend once called “Midwest Face” meaning you all want to tell me your secrets upon meeting me.
Rob Rodems is a native of Cleveland, Ohio living in Astoria, NY. In addition to being an actor, he is (not) Jesse Tyler Ferguson's younger brother but he did graduate from The Boston Conservatory. He enjoys not taking things too seriously in addition to a good well-roasted Brussels sprout/head of broccoli. If he appears distressed, give him coffee and/or a cake pop and wait twenty minutes. You can follow him on Twitter @RobRodems, and on the Instas @RRobems.