Post-Collegiate Life Lessons: Chevy Chase Edition

When I was kid, my mom would take Baby Sister and I to Blockbuster every Friday and let us rent five videos for family viewing over the weekend.  The break down of the rentals usually went something like this – 1.  New Release, generally action or family-friendly comedy, 2.  Children’s Movie, selected by Baby Sister and automatically disdained by me on the mere virtue of being the selection of a younger child, 3.  1930s-1960s Movie Musical, because I was that kind of a kid, and 4/5. Classic Comedies, culled from Blockbuster’s back shelves.  I would spend a significant amount of time going back up and down the aisles, trying to curate the perfect viewing experience.  My mom (or occasionally my dad, when he had the odd Friday off) would casually suggest that Animal House or Blazing Saddles might be a good pick and then I would be instantly hooked, spending the following weekends trying to watch the rest of the Brooks oeuvre or researching in my Maltin guide what other films the original SNL cast had produced.

A Friday in 1998 that stands out to me, even amongst so many nights of picking up movies that would find their way on my best-of lists for years to come, was the night that Post Collegiate Dad suggested we try a Chevy Chase double feature – Fletch and Spies Like Us.  I knew Chevy from the Griswold flicks and had recently seen Caddyshack for the first time, although I was more taken with Bill Murray’s Carl, dropping “it’s in the hole, it’s in the hole!” into most of my casual conversations.  But up to this point in my life, Chevy Chase was Clark Griswold and nothing more.

That Chase double-feature night changed everything.  I’m not sure if anything I had encountered in my life up to that point.  Whether it was Fletch insisting his name was Babar and that he didn’t have any elephant books or the entire “Doctor” exchange that I still reference in my daily interactions with the doctors here, that night made me a Chase devotee.  I was too young and too uninformed to know about the problems with employers, drugs, ego, and on-set difficulties – all I knew was that he was Chevy Chase and we were not and it was hilarious.

Harboring plenty of good will left from his 80’s classics, I was excited when I learned that Chase was going to be part of Community.  Throughout the past three seasons, the character of Pierce Hawthorne has been sometimes difficult to take but the show has provided a seemingly ideal outlet for Chase’s talent – physical comedy, a blissful lack of self-awareness paired with an overstuffed ego, and misguided bantering.  Watching Pierce try to slip in an Eartha Kitt sex story reference into each of the timelines of the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” (it came up organically!), I really felt a glimmer of the old magic that made me want to dust off my Three Amigos VHS.

It saddens me to see the recent rumblings of discord between Chase and creator/executive producer Dan Harmon.  I am not as unaware as I use to be and I know that this is just one in a long line of professional disputes that Chase has been involved in that will likely result in his leaving the show, but I am still just as disappointed.  While I often try to ignore the behind-the-scenes antics and personalities when evaluating my pop culture intake, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to do so as the creative process is shared in real time over social media and spread so quickly over the Internet.

With that said, I also can’t help but feel that hopefully a few lessons can be learned from Chevy Chase’s most recent professional troubles, one that may well-serve those fresh out of college and diving into their first few jobs:

  • Be careful who you say things to.  Part of Chase’s job is promotion – Community has never been a ratings powerhouse, so each cast member has been deployed generously to talk to reporters and journalists ranging from major publications to tiny entertainment blogs to help drive buzz.  This means that even the most casual quip or jibe made about his time on the set has been repeated, circulated, and quoted ad nauseum.  What may have been a careless remark about a gag or joke he didn’t like has now become gospel just by sheer repetition.  This just as true for office gossip, whether or not your office is on-set.
  • Don’t take things at the work place too seriously.  Maybe you and your boss don’t get along great or perhaps one of your coworkers tends to exclude you from lunch outings.  Sometimes it’s best not to let life at work upset your actual life outside of work.  While Chase could take the mature route and ignore what he perceives as slights and attacks from Harmon, he is only adding fuel to the fire by taking things personally.  It’s a paycheck and sometimes, that’s all it has to be, especially if you’re good at what you’re doing.
  • It’s prudent not to bad mouth your boss, especially in public.  And at the end of the day, it’s your boss who makes sure that paycheck keeps coming.  When you do have a problem, it’s always best to go straight to the source and try to have a measured, calm conversation.  Airing your grievances publicly, even after you’ve left your job, only makes you look bad and burns bridges behind you.
  • Try not to make the same mistakes twice.  The most aggravating aspect of this debacle is that Chase has done all of the above multiple times in the past.  This most current conflict, likely exacerbated by Harmon’s own prickly personality, could have been avoided if Chase had tried to learn from his previous mistakes.

What do you think?  Is my affection for the comedy genius clouding my judgement on this one?  Have you ever had some Chase-like moments of unprofessional behavior?  Still not sure what Community is?  Leave it in the comments!


When Do You Stop Being a Post-Grad?

A popular discussion at recent happy hours and potluck dinners has been how to classify yourself in your 20s.  Quarterlifers seems a little optimistic (seriously, if you think at 25, you are only 1/4 of the way through your life span, you are putting more faith in the value of health and exercise than I ever would) and anything with the word “young” attached to it feels a little disingenuous.  While I think the postcollegiate moniker is appropriate for this blog (and where I feel I am in my life), college also seems like it was decades ago.  Hell, I just attended my first [legit] college reunion last month!

It’s only fitting that this timely post from Thought Catalog came across my Twitter feed the other day.  Ryan O’Connell, a fantastic blogger, posits that you have to drop the title somewhere at the year and a half mark, providing you land a real job.  Of course, what is a real job?  Is it your dream job?  Something in your field?  If you’re scraping by on blogging and freelancing and selling plasma, does that count?

It’s a quick piece but a clever one, especially for reminding everyone that there was once a terrible movie about being post-collegiate but also some great ones.

Music Monday: Dolly Parton

I have an unabashed love for Dolly Parton.  Maybe it’s because I’m from Texas, where you learn to have a healthy respect for buxom big-haired women, or maybe it’s from watching Steel Magnolias at least one hundred times (I don’t trust anyone who does their own hair. I don’t think it’s natural.)

Regardless of the reason, I love Dolly – love her music, love her movies, love to drunkenly belt out Jolene at karaoke, love every darn thing about her.  So it feels apropos, on the first day of my new job [details to come tomorrow!] to let my girl Dolly get me in the mood for heading back to work.

Nine to Five – Dolly Parton

[Also, this may be one of the strangest videos I’ve seen for awhile.  Do Minnie Mouse and the princesses have some sort of labor dispute?  Is this some sort of trenchant social commentary on Walt Disney?  Why is Dolly the only person in the world who can pull off so much fringe?  I digress.]

This is a song, that for all its cheesy and slick production, never fails to get me a little excited about working.  It sends me back to my youth, when I thought going to work was going to be like the film Nine to Five or Working Girl – I’d get to wear loud suits and struggle with oppressive male bosses and persevere on pluck and hairspray.  The great thing about Dolly is you always believe what she’s singing – her sincerity isn’t manufactured.

So, although I’m a little nervous for my first day, you can be sure that while I’m doing the crossword on the Metro, I’ll have Dolly piping through my headphones.


Friday Frivolity

Happy Friday!  I’m sure every one is gearing up for a spooky, scary Halloween weekend.  I thought about doing a more traditional pre-Halloween host – costume ideas, favorite Halloween flicks, or perhaps an Andy Rooney-esque rant of how annoying it is for tweeners to roll old folks for candy – but as soon as I read about Slackistan, I knew I had to post about it!

Slackistan is a film about being young, aimless, and underemployed in Islamabad, the city that one character claims “always sleeps.”  The film debuted at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival and received rave reviews for being the international love child of Reality Bites and Swingers.  The story centers on a young filmmaker who is aimlessly living his days with a sort-of girlfriend and posse of friends.  When the characters graduated, democracy had just been introduced in the city and as the film meets up with them five years later, the quarterlive malaise they feel is directly parallel to the stagnated hopes of the entire country.

Based on the reviews and Internet feedback, the film sounds like it’s a great peek at how the post-collegiate experience transcends culture and societal bounds while at the same time examining how difficult it can be to be an artist in a city where the main character can’t get his hands on a copy of Mean Streets and bemoans the lack of 1970s film classic piracy.  Plus, as you can hear in the trailer, the film has a great use of local, indie Pakistani bands and a low-budget retro vibe that film geeks will love.

The film doesn’t have US distribution yet but be sure to check out the website and YouTube clips (trailer below) and keep an eye out for it when it is released!

Friday Frivolity

I have always loved Fridays.  It seems almost silly to say it, because who doesn’t?  In college, I spent hours crafting the perfect schedule so that I could always have Fridays free.  In my first “real-world” job, I rarely took vacations in a chunk, instead preferring to pepper my vacation days on random Fridays, as a little treat to myself.  Even in my current state of semi-employment, I rarely choose to do anything on Fridays that is remotely productive.

In that spirit, I thought I would brighten everyone’s Friday with movie recommendations, courtesy of Paste Magazine, one of my favorite cultural publications.  About a year ago, they ranked the top 8 movies featuring post-collegiate life.  Here’s the list and my thoughts on each:

8.  St. Elmo’s Fire

Being a child of the 1980s, I love this movie.  I spent my first year of college life at a large private college in D.C. and my views of what it meant to be a young adult in the capital were largely informed by my preteen repeat viewings of this film.

7. The Motorcycle Diaries

Gael Garcia Bernal is so good-looking, it’s literally exhausting.  The film takes a unique perspective on the life of Che Guevara but honestly, how many of us have ever wanted to drop out of school/quit our jobs/leave our lives behind and just hop on a motorcycle and go?

6.  Reality Bites

First, how this is not the number one movie on the list is criminal.  Secondly, growing up in Houston means that watching this film is like going home for me – it’s a great slice of a great city.  I have a dear friend who told me that you knew you were a grown-up when you wanted Winona Ryder to choose Ben Stiller over Ethan Hawke.  It makes me smile to know that Hawke’s Troy still gets me every time.

5. Into the Wild

Along the lines of The Motorcycle Diaries, this is a film that taps into the impulse we all have to break away and see the world.  The allure of the American West still drives people into the wilderness and this film [along with its fantastic source material] is an excellent exploration of what can happen.

4. The Big Chill

A classic with an all-star cast and great music, this is a quintessential nostalgia piece that undoubtedly will make your parents tell you stories you wish you hadn’t heard.  I, however, prefer The Lather Effect – a similar film that features a cast of 1980s favorites (Eric Stoltz!  Ione Skye!) and one of my favorite actresses, Connie Britton!

3. Funny Ha Ha

The only film on the list I haven’t seen.  In the last few years, there’s been a rise in mumblecore films such as this that I occasionally enjoy but oftentimes feel are more geared towards man-boys than myself.

2. Kicking and Screaming

More Eric Stoltz!  Apparently Paste Magazine shares my love for that irresistible ginger.  This is a movie that perfectly encapsulates what I wish my first post-collegiate year had been.  It’s a great look at what it feels like to be over-educated yet under-prepared for life after college.

1.  The Graduate

Obviously.  If you haven’t seen it, drop whatever you’re doing and get your hands on a copy.  Although it was released in 1967, the yearning Dustin Hoffman’s character feels for something meaningful and different in his life is timeless.

[Note: St. Elmo’s Fire, The Motorcyle Diaries, and Kicking and Screaming are all available via Netflix Instant.  All others can be found on Netflix DVD.]

Dignity. Always, Dignity.

One of my favorite movies in the entire world is Singin’ in the Rain.  I watched it religiously growing up and to this day, it is my ideal rainy weather movie. I just finished a book about the making of the film, which lead me to rewatching it yet again a few weeks ago.

One scene in particular hit me as I continue to figure out what my mid-20s are supposed to be.  It’s the scene where R.F. Simpson, head of the studio, has come to shut production of The Dueling Cavalier down because of the advent of talking pictures.  Cosmo Brown, played delightfully by Donald O’ Connor, has this great moment:

Cosmo: Talking pictures! That means I’m out of a job. At last I can start suffering and write that symphony.
R.F.: You’re not out of job, we’re putting you in as head of our new music department.
Cosmo: Oh, thanks, R.F.! At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony.

O’ Connor’s delivery of these lines never fails to make me laugh but it also made me think.  We often associate the idea of unemployment with artistic or creative pursuits.  Cosmo essentially says If I have to give up the day to day studio job that pays my bills, I might as well be miserable and try to write my masterpiece.  Of course, the real joke comes next, when Cosmo acknowledges that his promotion will end his suffering, thus making it easier to write that masterpiece.  The joke is so well-played because it acknowledges that, suffering or not, Cosmo is most likely never going to write his symphony.

It seems like most of us want it both ways – we want to have the time and freedom to commit to what we love, whether it’s writing a symphony or pursuing painting or creating our first start-up business or being a stay at home mom.  We see examples every day, in pop culture and real life, of people who sacrifice to pursue their dreams.  On the other hand, it’s often impractical, inconvenient, and seemingly foolish to pursue option A.  It’s generally preferable to be financial secure, emotionally stable, and fulfilled at work in order to be in the physical, mental, and emotional state necessary to pursue our passions.

As noted in my last post, I wouldn’t even know what passion to pursue.  As of today, I have no symphony to write and no art to suffer for.  But at least I have Donald O’ Connor to help me laugh about.

Note:  If anyone can find a YouTube version on this scene, I will be your new best friend and credit you in the post!  Email to postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dot com]