I used to work with the really witty journalist Jay Ruttenberg. In addition to his many other enterprises, he publishes a wry, wonderful zine called The Lowbrow Reader, which focuses on the world of comedy, gleefully mocking everything along the way. For anyone raised on Mad magazine, it’s so up your alley. (You can order back issues here.) And it’s fun knowing that someone is walking around in 2010, completely obsessed with Harpo Marx and the like.
Each cover has a play on the same disgusting theme: someone attempting to relieve himself or herself in a bathroom. But complications often ensue. In the cover on the right, a man dressed as a bear is stuck in his costume when he really needs to use the toilet. When I had my apartment painted a few years back, I walked in on one of the workers, who spoke no English, laughing heartily at this image. A guy in a bear costume trying desperately to take a dump is a universal language.
Inside this issue, you can read an essay from a woman who dated Jackie Mason and a critical consideration of the TV show Wings. (No, seriously.) There’s also a filthy, funny piece about the inner sanctum of Brooklyn rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard (who passed away after this issue was published). The person describing ODB’s home is a talented writer named Margeaux Watson, also a former colleague, who visited the rapper’s lair to interview him in all his dirty, bastardly glory. An excerpt:
“Lowbrow Reader: You’re probably one of the few women who has been inside Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s house and hasn’t returned with a venereal disease.
Margeaux Watson: Or a child.
Lowbrow Reader: Where does he live?
Margeaux Watson: He lives in Brooklyn. It’s an odd location–it’s not ghetto-ish, but it’s also not where you’d expect a star to live. In Brooklyn, most stars live in Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg or Fort Greene. But he’s in more of a working-class, family neighborhood. A lot of brownstones and row houses; it’s not near a subway or an urban center.
Lowbrow Reader: What’s his house like?
Margeaux Watson: He lives in a brownstone. It’s been renovated, so it’s modern on the inside. It’s a narrow apartment, with white walls and hardwood floors. It’s surprisingly well-kept and pretty neat–except for its smell. It smelled bad.
Lowbrow Reader: Can you describe the odor?
Margeaux Watson: It was the smell of Newport cigarettes, feet, ass, food and unbrushed teeth. Just all-around funk. A bouquet of stink.”