In Praise of Nothing Personal

My brother, John Scheck, has e-published his collection of humor essays, called Nothing Personal, and it’s available on Amazon.

Nothing Personal by John Scheck

A long time ago I printed a bunch of John Scheck’s funniest essays from his blog and put this printout in my bathroom for people to read while relieving themselves. I’d have guests over and they’d disappear for way longer than anyone needs to finish his or her business, and meanwhile the other guests and I could hear loud laughter echoing from the bathroom. I couldn’t tell you how many times people emerged from their potty break praising that they’d just read the funniest shit ever. “When is this coming out as a book?” they’d inquire.

Well, here it is in all its glory, a collection of John’s funniest essays that once appeared on his blog back when blogging was popular.

Scheck’s book is wickedly funny, sure, but what I really enjoy is that beneath the biting humor is some truly poignant social criticism. We are, for all intents and purposes, a fucking horrible society, truly demented and awful, and Scheck cuts through the niceties to point out what a pile of ridiculous piffle we’ve become. Moreover, most of us are batshit crazy and narcissistic nitwits, and Scheck reminds us that we have to seriously laugh at ourselves if we truly want to make sense of where we’ve gone wrong.

Here’s a sampler from the book, some of Scheck’s ideas for a 78-word short story to enter into a competition held by Esquire Magazine.

Esquire Magazine sponsored a short story competition in which all entries had to be exactly 78 words (in honor of their 78th birthday, clever huh?). The brevity thing was in tribute to the Hemingway ultra-short “For sale, baby shoes; never worn” which is supposed to be such a masterpiece. I find that horribly maudlin but that’s just me. Here’s my slightly longer version.

Say No to Drugs
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. Why’re we selling the shoes you may be asking? The baby’s dead, that’s why. Are you happy now, you intrusive, heartless pricks? Your next question—if I know your type, and I think I do—is to ask how the baby died. Ever heard of crystal meth? Not exactly anyone’s idea of pre-natal care but the old lady is totally hooked on the stuff. Me too. Want the damn shoes or not?

Or this one:

Talbot’s Dream
For as long as they could remember Talbot had told his friends and family that his big dream was to live in Paris. He studied French and received the highest marks. He said he would go after he graduated from the university. He got married, bought a house, and fathered two children. He taught them French.

He never made it to the city of light, as you may have guessed. He died suddenly and tragically of old age.

The best humor is really like a form of excision surgery where something has to be cut off to save the body from infection. Scheck’s book excises the inflated egos of the truly stupid and monumentally inept, all the while making us laugh out loud as he hacks away at these diseased parts. He rarely pulls punches and offends with an almost indifferent cruelty, and yet the honesty of his satire is what makes his humor so goddamned appealing.

The great Marty Feldman said it best about comedy: “Comedy, like sodomy, is an unnatural act.” Amen, brother. Scheck brilliantly exemplifies Feldman’s simple premise in every one of these humor essays. Whether brief or long, each essay bites through the polite, boring veneer of dishonesty and delusion that prevents people from seeing how utterly ridiculous they really are. Look in a mirror, folks, then read Scheck’s humorous take on everything worth mocking. All great philosophies worth knowing begin with criticism and doubt about the nature of everything, and Scheck’s philosophy, like his humor, shines brightly like an exploding star.

You must be warned: you might crap yourself laughing. That’s why I planted a copy in my bathroom all those years ago; it seemed the appropriate place for people to read this collection and not embarrass themselves.

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