Adventures in Writerland: The Ugly Truth About Success in Publishing

Warning: The following contains butt-hurt and the overuse of commas. Viewer discretion is advised. 

I’m not afraid of putting my nose to the grindstone in the name of telling a good story.

I can close my door, cancel plans, wake up early, stay up late, suffer blood-letting editing session after blood-letting editing session.

I can be the Rocky Balboa of writing.

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Yet throughout this Herculean process, I’m taunted relentlessly by the possibility that all of this self-sacrifice could be in vain.

The cold reality is there are people that have been trying to publish for years and have nothing to show for it.

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When I was young and naive, I thought these people simply weren’t talented enough for their work to be in print.

They didn’t try hard enough or refused to take constructive criticism.

They were the faux-intellectuals like the ones in my creative writing classes; self-professed literary geniuses who thought they were deep because they dead-ass copied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing-style (poorly) and gave overlong descriptions about birds singing. Their inability to find an agent was a result of their own hubris and not indicative that the world of publishing is a heartless mistress.

However, I’ve learned a hard lesson watching people with actual talent trying to make it into the writing industry: Success in publishing isn’t necessarily predicated on skill.

There are just as many “bad” writers that receive attention as there are “good” ones.

50 Shades of Grey is the most sold book in history and it is literally a Twilight fanfic that was written on a Blackberry.

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Yep.

Most people know it is total garbage and have mocked it relentlessly since it first burst into popularity. But that doesn’t change the fact that E.L. James currently has more money than both you or I will make in our entire lives courtesy of this skid-mark of a novel.

So I guess she’s the one that got the last laugh.

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In a sense, this should be encouraging.

Surely that means if something as terrible as 50 Shades can find a major publisher willing to back it, your book can too.

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Then, I remember the detective novel JK Rowling wrote under the name Robert Gailbraith made paltry returns even though it was quite good, at least in my opinion. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it became a best-seller until it was revealed who the true author was.

So what is a writer to do?

Sadly, I know the answer.

Basically, you just have to let go and accept that your magnum opus may not be that magnum to some people. That, in spite of your best efforts, it will likely disappear into the ether along with countless other works of fiction.

You may never become a millionaire and, realistically, you’ll be lucky to make a living at all…..

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Buuuuuuuut, who wants to admit that? I would much rather live in my fantasy world where I am a revered authoress who will appear onto the literary scene like an angel from on-high and spread enlightenment upon the masses.

Idealistic image of someone reading my stories:

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More realistic image of someone reading my stories:


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I suppose one can never know what lies in store for their career. They can only cling to the hope that through hard work and dedication, they will rise above the pits of mediocrity and learn to soar amongst the eagles.

In all seriousness, it boils down to whether or not you believe you have a story worth telling. If you do, then you have to tell it regardless if you will receive high-praise for it or not.

Because, at the end of the day, it’s not about money. It’s about creating and sharing your passions with the world.

Or something like that, I don’t know.

Thank you for reading!

Christmas Songs I Hate: UPDATED

What better way to kick off the holiday season than by being a total curmudgeon and discussing Christmas songs I actively despise.

Honestly, I am not creating this list for you. I’m doing it for myself and for the sake of my sanity. I work in an office where Christmas is piped in at all hours of the day and so I can’t merely “turn it off” if I don’t like it. I’m stuck with it.

I’m trapped in a snow-globe of Christmas cheer.

So why not share the pain?

Where are you Christmas?- Faith Hill. 

I think Faith Hill is an amazing vocalist with incredible range and heart, however, I can’t get behind this song. I know a lot of people love it because it’s nostalgic value, but it’s a very meh song when you listen to the actual lyrics and message it’s trying to convey. If anyone besides Faith Hill sang this, it won’t be listenable at all.

“My world is changing/ I’m rearranging/ does that mean Christmas changes too?”

Uh. No? Why would it?

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)-anyone. 

My main gripe with this one is the fact that it sounds like the tail end of a much better song for the entire song. You know what I’m talking about, the point where the song is almost over and the singer is basically just riffing off nonsense to stall for time. Only in this case it’s the entire ballad.

The snow’s comin’ down
(Christmas) I’m watchin’ it fall
(Christmas) lots of people around
(Christmas) baby, please come home

I’ve yet to come across a Christmas song that is as lyrically uninspired as this one. I will say if it weren’t for the backup singers constantly reminding us it’s Christmas, it probably wouldn’t be as annoying, but as it stands, it’s irritating to be told over and over that, oh yeah, this is a Christmas song.

 All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth- Spike Jone & and His City Slickers 

On the whole this song is relatively harmless. But when sung by this guy…it gets stuck in your head like plaque to your arteries. It builds up and builds up until you have a heart attack and you die. Or wish you were dead, whichever comes first.

I know he’s supposed to sound like a kid when he sings this, but it’s not very effective. It’s more grating than anything else. And disturbing.

I think a much better song is I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas. At least the singer in that ditty doesn’t have a creepy Herbert The Pervert lisp.

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time-Paul McCartney

Look, Paul McCartney is a wonderful singer/song-writer…..

This is not a good song.

It’s like someone wrote a song with boring and repetitive lyrics over the sound of a Microsoft Powerpoint dissolving effect. One wonders if they even wanted to sing this song in the first place or if the producers just put the pressure on them to make something holiday related.

All I Want For Christmas Is You- Mariah Carrey. 

I’m going to confess that I have a hard time getting into most couple-related Christmas songs, but I find this ballad particularly unlikeable.

Is it the lyrics? Maybe. Although I think one of the major issues with this particular ear-worm is that the message doesn’t match up with the melody when you really think about it. The lyrics–when you read them rather than listen– are pretty forlorn and earnest.

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas
Is you
You

That’s very sweet. However, the music itself is very upbeat and fun which totally contradicts the emotions the lyrics seem like they are trying to convey. It’s like if you played The Sound of Silence to Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

It doesn’t help matters that it is constantly being piped in at shopping centers and offices around the country either….

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)- Alvin and The Chipmunks 

Hey, what’s better than a Christmas song with sub-par lyrics? A song with sub-par lyrics sung in high-pitched voices. I guess there are worse tunes out there, but lyrically it’s a pretty weak song.

Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys and time for cheer
We’ve been good, but we can’t last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop
Me, I want a hula hoop
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas, don’t be late.

It’s not a unique story either as it’s basically just children whining about wanting Christmas presents. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I prefer my Christmas with a bit less helium.

And the Christmas song I hate the most is……

Last Christmas by Wham! 

Words cannot express how much I hate this song.

But I’ll try anyway.

The lyrics aren’t too bad (certainly not as bad as Christmas; Baby Please Come Home), but the fact that the chorus is repeated over and over and over makes it nigh impossible to enjoy.

We get it, dude. This chick hurt you and now you’ve moved on.

….except you haven’t because you saw it fit to pen a song about how you’ve moved on, which would suggest the exact opposite. Maybe she left you because you write trite lyrics to horrible holiday-pop songs and she wants to hear something original for once in her fleeting existence.

Not to mention the melody is so dead and lifeless it makes me want to fall asleep.

I’ve listened to multiple renditions of this song and none of them could make it work.

I suppose the only solution is to tough it out until January.

If you have any Christmas songs you can’t stand, feel free to share.

I will be posting a list of Christmas ballads I actually do like soon so I don’t come across as a total Scrooge.

Happy Holidays and I will see you soon!

That First Damn Line

If anyone were to look up from their dinner plates at me at this moment they would see someone on the verge of taking a plastic spoon from her empty soup bowl and gouging her own eyes out.

I’m at a restaurant under the false impression that I am going to be doing some writing this afternoon.

I need to leave my house, I thought. There are too many distractions here. Surely if I go out into the world inspiration will just pour out of me.

Instead I ordered my food, sat down, fitfully read over my first draft, got food, and persisted to languish over a blank document for almost an hour.

Now my food is gone but my frustration remains.

The reason being I can’t think of that first line.

Every good story has an amazing opening hook, one that sinks its teeth into a reader and refuses to let go. The line that’s like a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth, refusing to relent. The harder you try to shake free from it, the more it fights back.

I do not have that line.

I’m blocking.

I have a deadline, but I can’t stop resisting.

I type one line.

No, that’s wrong.

Delete.

I type another.

Wrong.

Delete.

Is this story even worth telling?

Type.

Delete.

Would music help?

Delete.

Should I read some more?

Type.

Delete.

Does anyone else care whether or not I finish this?

Delete.

Cliche.

Delete.

Cheesy.

Delete.

Perhaps the problem is not with the sentence. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the work itself but the expectation I’ve placed on myself.

I try to follow the current. To let the voice and tone of the piece speak through me, nevertheless, there’s that wood pecker of a critic, pecking away at my brain as I type.

If I try to escape, to take a break, I will not come back to it. I  will delay and wait for a perfect day that will never come. A day where I will be free of apprehension and self-doubt.

I wait for it.

I wait for it in the florescent lights, swallowed up by the light sound of chatter and the scraping of silverware on porcelain.

Type.

Delete.

How Drake and Josh Are Destroying My Novel

I never thought procrastination would be so simple, but I found a way.

I found a way.

I set out  working on chapter seven of my story and somehow found myself plunging into the ether of pop culture sludge.

For literally no reason at all, I began looking into the Drake and Josh controversy.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Drake Bell found out Josh Peck was getting married via social media instead of through the man himself. Outraged that he wasn’t contacted about it, Drake immediately lapsed into insanity and began berating Josh through Twitter instead of….you know…actually talking to the guy.

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Naturally, the internet led the charge against Josh, decrying him for committing such a treacherous act against his on-screen brother and real life bff. How dare he not invite his “brotha” to such a momentous occasion? Didn’t he realize we’re all watching him?

Memes were created as effigies against the traitor. His Facebook and Twitter feed were bombarded with hateful comments.

Good news: it appears they have since made up as evidenced by a recently posted vlog by Josh Peck.

Bad news: I apparently care about this sh*t.

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I loved Drake and Josh as a kid, but they are real people with real lives that are none of my business. Why did I take it upon myself to do research on this subject? Why do I care so much about people I will never meet and (in spite of giving me a few hours worth of laughs) really didn’t contribute that much to my life?

It’s amazing the mental gymnastics I will do just to avoid a rough writing session. That’s really what it comes down to: Not wanting to write a difficult chapter

And my mind will do anything–question anything—if it gets me off the hook.

I don’t even want to talk about all the WatchMojo videos I’ve watched in an attempt to drain my evening of writing time.

Oh crap, I just spent three hours watching clips from Carrie and analyzing how Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the main character was much better than the one from the 2013 movie. 

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Look at those dead eyes! 

Oh well. Guess I don’t have time to write now. 

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Then I lie awake it bed, feeling hopelessly guilty that I thwarted what few hours I have on this earth watching crappy five minutes videos, caught in my own web of self-defeatism, when I could be contributing to the ever-growing nest of culture that is the arts and humanities.

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It doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I throw back or how much atmospheric music I play, even Enya can’t save me from my bad habits so pervasive in my mind that they have decided to colonize as many lobes as possible.

All I can hope for is that, eventually, I will strike the right cord. The chapter I am currently working on I have rewritten about sixteen times. No hyperbole.

However, I’ve decided (for the fourth week in a row) that this will be my weekend. This will be the week that I finish that damn chapter. This time I won’t be distracted by WatchMojo or watch the Stephen King It trailer for the twentieth time even though I despise remakes and, after closer examination, have almost no desire to see it.

I suppose there is nothing for it.

All I can do is look my story dead in the eye and say…

Eh…maybe next week.

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Annoying Clichés Writers Use (Featuring Adorable Cats)

Women having hair that is waist length. 

Most women I know don’t have hair that is waist length. Do you know how hard it is to brush a monster that long, or keep it from getting caught in everything? Mine only went down to my shoulder blades and I had to chop it all off because I kept getting it stuck in doorways. There’s also the grooming and upkeep you have to take into consideration. Who has the time to blow dry and style that much hair? Not most people.

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Hooman bed is best bed 

People with gray eyes. 

In my twenty plus years of existence, I have met maybe two people that have gray eyes. It’s an even rarer eye color than green. So why do I keep coming across people in books with gray eyes? It seems like every other character in books these days have them. It’s like some writers can’t find a more creative way to describe their characters. I don’t know. Give them a beauty mark or something, a scar, anything else but gray eyes.

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Rawr

People biting their lips/digging their nails into their palm so hard they bleed. 

Out of all the clichés I’ve mentioned thus far, this is one of the most annoying. Particularly because nobody does thisEVER. I’ve even tried to do this myself. Whenever I come across a passage like this, I purposely dig my fingernails (which are long and kind of sharp) into the palm of my hand as hard as I can. It leaves an imprint, but it  has never come close to breaking the skin. Same goes with my lips. Nothing. Even if your lips are the consistency of rice paper, they probably won’t bleed. So why does this cliché even exist?

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I can haz milk, hipster hooman? 

Author/character filibuster. 

What’s more fascinating than a writer/character stopping the novel to tell us what the moral of the story is? Literally anything else. I get that dialogue in a book can’t always sound perfectly natural, but it takes a reader out of the moment when you give a character a speech that goes on forever. Nobody can give a speech that detailed on the fly. It doesn’t flow well with the rest of the story either.

The Suspending of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

I’ve read recently that Accomack County Public Schools are suspending To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for their usage of the N-word.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can see for yourself in this exert from “Classic novels pulled from Accomack County Public Schools” :

Earlier this month, a parent voiced concerns to the school board about racial slurs in both of the novels.

“Right now, we are a nation divided as it is,” the mother is heard saying in an audio recording of the meeting on Nov. 15. She tells the board that her biracial son, a high school student, struggled getting through a page that was riddled with a racial slur.

“So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means,” the parent said.

Me:

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To those that have taken it upon themselves to suspend these novels, I have one question:

You have read these books, right?

The complaint seems to be that reading the N-word makes people feel uncomfortable. Well, here’s the thing: It’s supposed to.

You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable when you see someone being marginalized in these books. You’re supposed to feel indignant when a man who never did anything wrong is convicted for a crime just because he’s black. You’re supposed to feel angry, sad, sick, etc when you read the N-word.

Furthermore, just because a book has something in it, that doesn’t mean the book is in support of that thing.

For instance, The Dovekeepers has genocide in it. Does that mean it’s saying genocide is a good thing? OF COURSE NOT!!!

Tess of D’Urbervilles has rape in it. Is the author saying sexual assault is okay? NO!!

The entire point of both novels, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is that racism is wrong. That it’s morally reprehensible. That no one should subscribe to this way of thinking.

It’s so glaringly obvious that I’m genuinely bewildered as to how anyone could possibly miss that.

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But it seems as if these people don’t want to look at the big picture. They simply want to obsess over details instead.

Apparently if you don’t read about racism, evaluate offensive language, or discuss why it’s wrong to make judgments about others based on skin color, our checkered past will magically go away and we’ll have always been an accepting society.

Who would have thought it?

Maybe we should ban The Diary of Anne Frank and other books about the Holocaust too because those kinds of books could teach people to be Anti-Semitic.

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Can you name one person, one solitary person, who was inspired to become a bigot by reading To Kill a Mockingbird? One single soul? Do you know anyone who has read this book and thought “huh, racism seems pretty cool, now that I think about it.”

I can see a true racist being indifferent to it or claiming it’s propaganda, but I cannot name anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird or Huck Finn and decided to become a member of the KKK.

If you have, send me a photograph of this person. I want to see them. I want to put them on Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I want them to be poked and prodded by scientists in a laboratory because this sort of thing does not happen. 

I wonder if Harper Lee or Mark Twain ever thought that their books would one day be banned by people who are against racism.

Someone please resurrect Mark Twain so he can write another book about how stupid people are in the 21st Century. I would read it so fast I would tear through it like tissue paper.

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Are Fairytale Reimaginings Becoming Unimaginative?

If you have perused a YA section of a bookstore in the last three years, then you’ve likely come across the cover of a fairytale reimagining.

Perhaps one book tells the story of Cinderella, a valiant warrior, who loses her magical boot in the middle of a battle and an infatuated warlord must return it to her. Or maybe another centers around a wolf-hunter named Red who falls in love with a werewolf that killed her father, the huntsman.

Regardless, I once thought reimagining fairytales was a creative thing to do.

I loved Wicked in my tween and teen years and all the interesting questions it posed about how history can be biased towards the victor.

But it seems like there’s been an overload of “new” fairy tales in the last few years and it’s made me question if most of them are even truly necessary.

Are most of these books actually trying to improve upon or modernize great stories, or are they just using fairytale references as a crutch to make a quick buck because they don’t think these novels could stand on their own?

In truth, it depends on the book.

If there are nods to the classics here and there, it’s tolerable. However, if it follows the exact same path as it’s predecessor, just with more feminism and modern sensibilities, then it becomes predictable and a drudgery to get through.

Because we already know what’s going to happen. 

I think the creative drought in pop culture also feeds into this crisis. The publishing and film industry are so paranoid about losing money that they are just rehashing stories that they know work. Fairytales have been around for centuries so, in theory, stories that feature classic characters should turn a profit.

I’m not saying we should completely do away with reimaginings. Maybe we could just take a break from them for a decade or so and come back to them later.

Perhaps writers could create their own warrior princesses that have absolutely nothing to do with any previous fairytale.The princess could have a sentient sword or a best friend that was turned into a battle stallion or something. Maybe she could fight her wicked stepfather for a change.

That’d be cool, right?

Could someone get on that?

Ode to My Lack of Motivation

They say one of the best things about being a writer is that you can do it in your pajamas. I’m inclined to agree (although I very rarely write in my pjs ). But it goes farther than that. One of the greatest things about being a writer is the freedom to express yourself.

However, freedom is a double-edged sword.

If you don’t show up to work with no explanation, you will likely be fired.

If you don’t write for a day, nothing will happen.

Absolutely nothing.

No one is going to phone you and demand to know why your word count is so low. No one is going to call you into their office because you were watching a Youtube video instead of filling in those plot holes you created in the third chapter.

Chances are nobody will care at all.

And that’s one of the reasons why I struggle with writing.

Nothing bad actually happens if I don’t write. I suppose you could consider not finishing a book/blog post/short story bad, but it isn’t really.

When you think about it, there are billions of people on the earth. Not that many of them write books before they kick it. Would the universe really think less of you if you were just another Joe Shmoe that didn’t write a novel? Probably not.

And because nobody else does, it is up to you to do all the caring. And caring is very difficult. Particularly when you’re the only one doing it.

You Are The Ranting Queen

I’ve noticed something a bit startling about myself: I am prone to ranting.

However, I like to think of my rants as well-constructed and justified. More often than not, they spawn from a place of righteous indignation about things of no real consequence. Most of my rants revolve around terrible writing in the plethora of mediums I consume, or books that have let me down as of late because, hey, that’s my area of expertise.

I enjoy writing about things that make me miffed, but it may give people the wrong idea about me.

I am not an angry person. I do have things that make me happy. It’s just easier to go on lengthy diatribes about things that irk me.

All of my friends know this. They even have a look they give each other when they realize they’re in for another trademark Rachael Rant.

It’s what a person must look like after they think they’ve found a metal egg in their backyard only to realize it is actually a hand grenade and the pin just fell out.

Or when you accidentally send a nude to your boss.

Which has never happened to me.

As far as you know.

My friends will try to appease me with a sacrifice, usually a goat, or wine poured in libation, but with very limited success.

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The only true way to stop a Rachael Rant is to hand me the cup of wine and let me drink my fill until I’ve forgotten what I’ve been saying and just start belting out Disney songs or other show tunes.

If wine is unavailable, just prepare the same way you would a nuclear holocaust: hide under a desk and weep bitterly until oblivion wraps its cold arms around you in a suffocating embrace.

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My friends to people who have never experienced my wrath

While my friends, acquaintances, family and others in real life are likely to feel the brunt of my self-indulgent ire when it comes to politics and other such subjects, fear not, fair reader. For the sake of this blog, I will stick to giving my opinion on matters of fiction and the written world only….mostly.

God knows we have enough temperamental millennials with blogs blithering on about other things.

Oh, and don’t get me started on….

Crap.

Run.

RUN!!!!

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Opinion: Comedies Are Terrible Now

A friend of mine recently introduced me to British comedy, Black Books, which stars Irish comedian Dylan Moran. It’s a show about a combative and anti-social bookstore owner in England and the strange adventures he gets into with his posse of misfits.

As a fan of English comedy, I fell head over heels in love with Black Books. How could I not? After all, it had the key ingredient that makes every comedy worthwhile: ridiculousness.

In one of my favorite episodes, “Travel Writer,” Bernard discovers his landlord has died and bequeathed her ownership of the building to her cat (Mr. Benson). Bernard then hires an exterminator to turn hitman so he can put an end to the kitty’s rein of tyranny.

I wish more comedies could be like this. Don’t get me wrong, comedy is stupid nowadays, but it’s not that special kind of stupid.

I miss the shows like Monty Python and Seinfeld. They embraced absurdity in their great hairy arms and didn’t give a crap what the critics thought.

Now it seems like comedy resides in one of three camps:

In one camp, you have the Dude-Bro-Comedy wherein the only jokes that are told apply to the lowest common denominator. These comedies include jokes about boobs, sex, weed or other drugs, and gratuitous amounts of body humor.

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A.KA. every Seth Rogen film ever

In another camp, you have the Safe-Comedy wherein you simply tell jokes and plots that have been done so many times before it’s like trying to wear a pair of 30 year-old underpants and pass them off as new.

Finally, you have Societal-Outrage-Comedy, where every joke you tell has to be a way to stick it to The Man (a.k.a old, white, conservative men) or some other sort of issue that people believe needs addressing. The problem with these sorts of comedies is the shelf-life on them is awful. In a mere three years, most of them will be become dated and forgotten.

What happened to comedy for comedy’s sake?

You know, you can be funny without being wildly offensive or resorting to 5th grade humor. It is possible. We have the technology.

You can laugh at something that has nothing to do with politics or the current state of society. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be relatable. It could be wildly ridiculous like a man paying to have an argument with someone:

While many of the jokes used in these shows and movies are ridiculous, they’re also extremely clever in their own right. Unlike some comedies which think their audience is largely comprised of lobotomized baby seals.

Am I an outlier here? Am I the only one that thinks the viewing public deserves something better? Should I just shut up and drink my diet soda?

All I can say is if Netflix removes this British gem, I may  lose my mind. Dammit, Netflix, You can take Airplane! by don’t you dare touch my Black Books.

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