Ghostwritten by Michael Botur Illustration Hitesh Nanu
A dying star, collapsing under its own gravity, eventually shrinks toâ€Ś a point of infinite density - Professor Stephen Hawking
The last time I set foot on stage I talked about masturbating, crying and eating cereal. The audience thought I was trying to be a comedian; I was actually talking about what had become my morning routine. I ended on a bit about how I wished that instead of heart transplants they also had foot transplants, so I could replace my girlfriend’s big, misshapen, ugly feet with a sexy pair of more feminine, slender feet like Maria Sharapova’s. Both routines died horribly, with only the most die-hard fans letting out guilty chuckles before covering their mouths. People walked out… mostly girls, as to be expected, and my girlfriend heckled me, which got the biggest laugh of my set. She’d been there for me in almost every audience I ever performed for. I walked off stage feeling kinda okay about it though, because at least I was telling the truth up there. At least I didn’t care anymore about what people thought of me, about the politics of the comedy scene, about my soon to be ex-girlfriend, about anything. I was leaving town anyway. The attraction of being in a big city with a supposedly vibrant comedy culture was gone. I had grown to hate this place with its streets filled with wannabe hipsters dressed like MGMT, drinking overpriced coffee, hanging out in trendy cafes down alleyways, turning ordinary chairs into thrones with their own self-assurance. Everybody in town thought they were an artist. Everyone thought they were a critic. Well guess what? I soon decided, Even bacteria has a culture. Just because you live in a supposed cultural epicentre doesn’t mean that you’re an expert on culture. Just because you copied the look of some flash-inthe-pan indie band doesn’t mean you’re talented.
When comedy authority Brendon Burns came to town for comedy festival he shat all over their smug, delusional sense of authority. It was like seeing a bulletproof version of myself on stage, and when I was later assassinated for talking about crying and masturbating and fucking feet, I wished I was him.
A black hole absorbs all the light that hits it, giving back nothing.
I guess you’ll want to know how come anyone would choose to stand instead of sitting on a throne. The thing is, sitting down is like giving in to gravity, and standing up is like touching heaven. But let’s TiVo this shit and go back a bit…
An observer falling into a collapsing star… is unable to determine exactly when the collapse took place.
I’d been doing comedy for nearly three years and what started out as something to do whilst holding down a well-paid gig writing for radio turned into a full-blown, life changing, obsession, much to the chagrin of my conservative parents and equally conservative girlfriend. They were fine with me doing comedy at night, but once I decided to get fired from a $60,000 p/a gig as a senior creative writer on the top floor of a top radio station in a glossy glass city and do comedy full time, they flipped and started really putting the pressure on me: “Okay then, if you think you can make a living from this comedy game, prove it.” “What’s that –you’ll need to borrow money from us every week???”
“What’s that –you can only work part-time because you need the other twenty hours to write?” Cut to me working a number of jobs for all of two weeks at a time.... Sometimes I was lucky to last half a day. As a comedian – a joker, not a person to be taken seriously – I felt like I couldn’t breathe if I tried to swallow whatever bubbled up out of my voicebox, so I always ended up telling employers exactly what I thought of them. Call centres... door knocking… lunches in sad kitchens, where the only sound was the crisp rustle of newspaper pages folding. It was a long way from the limelight, where people laughed so hard they snorted and choked on their $12 glasses of wine. One call centre gig for an insurance company sums up the misery: They stuck us in a tiny little room with cellphones and a sheet of paper and told us to ring these numbers. There was no music and just a bare brick wall to look at. We were ringing people who’d entered some competition to win a BBQ and this competition was sponsored by the company. We were calling to say, “Guess what: you haven’t won a BBQ, but would you like to have a free half hour consultation with one of our insurance brokers?” It was like taking a wholesome conversation and wringing all the integrity out of it, and my bosses had no idea that, as a speaker, a performer, an entertainer, a STAR, every single word I gave these people the privilege of hearing was worth twenty bucks. Most people had long forgotten entering this competition and either hung up in a fury or asked how I got their number, or they were so confused by the whole thing they thought I was some buddy playing a practical joke. On our very first dinner break I grabbed a hamburger and some chips and kept walking to the train station. I was just a mannequin, birthed from an assembly line. I was called by my IRD number.
By jumping into a black hole, one could ensure that one’s image lasted forever… but the picture would fade very rapidly and grow so dim that no one could see it.
I tried a couple more of these jobs but gradually lost interest and started borrowing more money from my parents, telling them over and over that my comedy ship would come in. I couldn’t sleep at night: spotlights flashed behind my eyelids. Everything was a mirror; every light seemed lit for me. I knew in my heart that it would take years and years before I could become a star through comedy but I just didn’t want to work these humiliating jobs. I was arrogant and delusional enough to think I didn’t need radio advertising gigs anymore either: Someone else could fit the bill, my parents were loaded, they’d be okay. I let them ring me, blessed them with a few minutes of my time then billed them hundreds of bucks for the privilege. Eventually I’d pay them back, I reasoned. I’d be a STAR. My girlfriend had been shoved to the back of my mind, except when her cash came through each week. Some days I forgot her name: I only knew my own. Entropy measures disorder of a system. Disorder tends to increase with time if things are left to themselves. Months went by when I didn’t work. I’d wake up at 11am, watch hardcore porn for an hour of two, grab a slice of pizza from down the road, then relax by the pool reading a novel. Books showed someone going from lame to fame in the six hours it took to read them; this was as good as porn. ONLY SIX HOURS TIL I HIT THE STARS!!! Did I mention I was still living in a city centre apartment? This was an apartment I got when I landed my high-paying advertising
gig. Any decent person would have at least moved into a shared house but I reasoned with my parents and girlfriend that I needed to be close to the city for comedy, and besides, all the moving costs would be a bitch. My gravy train’ll come in eventually, I promise. I’ve got an audition for a TV show next week! Stardom felt like car keys lost in the depths of the couch: If I groped in the dark muck for long enough, I’d find it. I could feel stars brush my skin.
Around a black hole… is the point of no return.
The days became absurd as this: I was lying back on a deck chair in the insanely good weather this city cranked out every day, when my Swedish flatmate of the time walked past in a raging black bikini. She had bubblegum skin and hair the colour of gold, and she had my dart in her flesh. See, she’d gotten wind of me being a comedian and asked to come to a gig. She came and I did well and she stuck around afterwards for drinks and food with the comedy gang. Cut to me leaving with just her to go to some dirty nightclub. This girl was a fucking party animal, had beyond rich parents who had given her an insane amount of cash to party it up for a couple of months. Every night she stayed with me, she was out drinking and my fridge was packed with vodka, wine, whiskey....You name it, I didn’t pay for it, hell no: I was the talent, the STAR. Anyway, that night she was buying round after round of cocktails and shots and my memory became vaporised. I remember pashing and groping on the dance floor, falling through Earth’s atmosphere and landing on the couch and pashing and swooning and collapsing, and a long dark patch in which I reached the apogee of luxury. I awoke in an aperture in the blackness, where there was only room for
me. I worked myself into an orgasm and rained all over her, spattering white fragments of my stardom. I knew who I was really wanking over. She was the audience: she couldn’t say no to me. She awoke with a confused, groaning noise, uttering “What the fuck?” before running out of the bedroom to run the shower. Dragging myself through town the next morning I saw her at a bar with three guys I’d never seen before, drowning herself in cocktails. I spent longer than she did in the shower, trying to wash my own skin off.
An object falling into a black hole appears to slow down as it approaches the event horizon, taking an infinite time to reach it. It is impossible to determine if it will ever arrive at what it is reaching for.
There were more girls and more girls; girls became like rounds of drinks… like I said, I was the talent, I was the courage, and courage is a magnet. Comedy in this town attracted a fair few groupies and I’d be lying if I said I bedded them all with skill. There were some sheet-shredding, vagina-melting, orgasmic nights I’m proud of, but also similar scenes to the aforementioned tale of the Swedish backpacker. Girls had become like bags of speed, bitten open savagely to get to the goodness. All the while I was up there, up on stage, in the stratosphere, I had a girlfriend, but she was hard to see down below on Earth. She was a fan, and fans are fuel, and I’d discarded my fuel when I’d jetted up into the stars. She wasn’t living in the same town, so aside from visits during her university holidays, it was a phone-based relationship, and I tried to break it off many times but she was money, and money was a drug, and everything was a drug when you got down to it, and there was a part of me that dug her loyalty and her willingness to be there as I hurled myself at my goal.
She would be there as my target receded into infinity, stranded with me. So I was starting to get more and more paid gigs and I was getting better and better as a comic. I still had a long way to go but I was getting there and I had good friends, a fun social life, the odd groupie here and there so despite all the guilt of borrowing money from my parents and girlfriend, life was pretty sweet. I mean, come on: Celebrity is Smack. Then, slowly but surely, reality had to creep in... I started realising more and more the actual desperateness of my situation....Sure, comedy was going well but I wasn’t making anywhere near enough from it to get by. I was in my mid twenties and I’d burned up half my youth and I was living in an impossible tower on handouts from my parents and a girlfriend I was cheating on over and over again. I wanted her to abandon me so that I could walk on my own, but I was too dependent on her piggybacking me. I’d become a selfish, hedonistic cunt who put myself above everyone else and I realised: that’s what a stage is. If you want to put yourself on that platform, you’re going to be above every fan, looking down on them, drinking their money. If you want to be up with the stars, you have to abandon Earth. Even a black hole the weight of a man (~10−24 m) would only take a nanosecond to evaporate, during which time it would briefly have a luminosity more than 200 times that of the sun. Cut to me being unable to get up in the mornings. Cut to me randomly crying during the day. Cut to me being unable to even concentrate on the plot of a five minute cartoon without my mind spinning off into a million worries.
Cut to me calling my parents telling them the whole truth. I can’t do this anymore. I’m trapped in a relationship I don’t want to be in but I have no money to get out. I can’t stand the guilt of that. I can’t stand the guilt of taking money from you two every week. I’ve massed up debts, debts and more debts. I can’t stand this fake, plastic comedy scene with its emphasis on mediocre TV-friendly hacks and its marginalisation of interesting, weird, crazy, unique talents. I need to get out of this. I don’t want to come home but I don’t know what to do. I need help. I had to get out before the star collapsed and destroyed me. I had to start afresh somewhere else and break my horrible habits. I’d burnt bridges all over the country and my chances of getting back into advertising writing gigs here were fucking zero. And.....I had also begun to despise comedy and the way it had turned me into a fucking black hole sucking up everybody’s money, time, laughter, sex and love and giving nothing in return. I knew the only option was to go and live with my parents in a tiny tourist town in New Zealand known for its hedonistic youth culture. But I’d stay clear of that, I’d get a job and eventually my own place and stop mooching off the world, throw the towel in with comedy and focus on writing. You can write anywhere and... and, and.....Hey Dad, can I borrow twenty bucks? And where’s your hip flask? Mum, can I take one of your codeines, ahh, ooch, ya see my leg hurts....Yeah, I know I went out the last three nights in a row but I promised three different girls I’d met them in town. I’ll apply for jobs tomorrow and....and....
And here I am. Stop laughing.
Nothing can escape from a collapsing star; a collapsing star cannot escape from itself.