Hobocamp? Fandango?

hobocamp (hō’·bō·kămp) n. 1 a makeshift ramshackle settlement for indigents  2 what V-I-C-T-O-R-Y spells

fandango (făn·dāng’·ō) n. 1 a lively Spanish dance in rhythm varying from slow to quick 3/4 time  2 music for this  3 a foolish act  4 what V-I-C-T-O-R-Y spells


There are a few things that I have seen that I could watch a thousand times, probably a million times and still not be tired of them. Off the top of my head, these things include: Mommie Dearest, the trailer for Kinectimals, The Producers on Broadway, and the episode of Strangers With Candy entitled “The Blank Page. In this episode, it is revealed that Jerri, who is magnificently portrayed by Amy Sedaris, is illiterate and has no idea what V-I-C-T-O-R-Y spells. I realize that typing it out saps the humor from this comedic gem, so you simply must see this clip. It is in the second season of Strangers With Candy. Buy them or log on to Netflix, they’re available for instant streaming, or you can watch this clip I found!


You’ll have to click it, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to embed it.

About a month ago, I forgot when or how, I discovered that Amy Sedaris was coming to Ames for a lecture. I didn’t know what it was going to be about, nor did I care, all I knew was that I was going. And I did.

All day long, I was excited to go and see her, over breakfast I reviewed clips of Strangers With Candy and spewed my Cheerios across the table and frightened the cat out of his sleep with my loud guffaws. As I pruned the lilac bush, transplanted flowers, scrubbed the oven top, read my book, and walked on the treadmill, all I could focus on was my excitement and prayers that she would say hobocamp. There was no real reason she should say this. Amy Sedaris has done a lot more than portray the druggie, ex-convict, Jerri Blank, but still I prayed and hoped she would.

Impatiently, I ate dinner with my Mother and Jessica at Hickory Park. I had a side order of french fries and macaroni and cheese, both rather vile and I should have known better. For dessert, I had ice cream with creme de menthe syrup on top, which I have never had and have fallen deeply in love with. I want to drink it up. After the meal was over and I had admired the wrought-iron fence outside the restaurant, we headed to Iowa State University.

As I entered the building where the lecture would be held, I walked right over a horoscope engraving in the floor, which I am told is bad luck. I think that is a whole bunch of nonsense, you can’t get bad luck from walking, you only get it if you think you will have bad luck. Everything is self-inflicted one way or the other and you can’t be cursed for stepping on the signs of the horoscope. Silly peasant superstitions.

With about 45 minutes before the show was set to start, Jessica and I found two rather nice seats in the upper third of the hall and settled in. I went for a little walk to look around and fell in love with the details of the building. I wanted to whip out a screwdriver and steal the handles from the doors. I don’t carry a screwdriver, but I think I should in the future.


For the remaining time, I looked around at the assembled crowd. There were many older people who didn’t seem like they would enjoy the kind of humor that would surely be said during the evening, but after the talk was over, they all seemed to have enjoyed it. I also noticed a rather large number of what I call dirty people, but they surely call themselves hippies or something ridiculous like that. I’ve never liked hippies and never well. I mean, really, wash your hair, shave, and buy yourself a new pair of shoes. I just want to walk up to people and say, “Honey, no, let me help you.” Really, the state of these people is pitiable. I don’t think there is a hippy chic. It isn’t bohemian, it’s just lazy. Then there was a guy who looked like my twin, it was unsettling.

Sitting in front of us was an older woman who we were convinced was Amy Sedaris for a time — in profile it could have been her twin. It wasn’t, of course, but Jessica and I were delirious with excitement as we flipped the pages of Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, Amy’s book, and muttered “hobocamp…hobocamp…hobocamp.” About five minutes before the spectacle was set to begin, a decrepit, old man sat down in front of us and read an exceedingly dull looking book about medicine and whom Jessica claims smelled of feces.

The introductory committee came out and they were simply dreadful. They were the head of the comedy committee or something, but they weren’t funny, the only laughs they got were from the synopsis of the book Amy would be talking about this evening that they read off a sheet of paper. They also claimed that the event was sponsored in part by the Gun Committee, but I may have misheard, I hope that I did. I don’t support firearms under any circumstances, but I will not get into that now. I wrote committee a lot.

Then, amidst rapturous applause, Amy stepped out into the spotlight…followed by the host. He is the movie critic for the Ames newspaper, if my memory serves me right, and he was dreadful, barely funny, barely sensible, barely intriguing. He mumbled and stuttered and asked lame questions. I’m not entirely sure why a movie critic was the host of an event about comedic crafting, but, I didn’t enjoy him. Amy seemed to have to work to make a joke out of the things he said.

She talked about her love of handicapped people. She loves that they garden in raised beds and wear socks without heels and fingerless gloves so that they can move their wheelchairs in the Winter.

Crafters are generally an uglier crowd, she told us.

She would like to do a Jerri Blank Christmas special, she announced to whoops and cheers.

When asked if she still likes to craft, she responded, “No.”


To make all the craft projects in her book to be photographed, Amy detailed how she used child labor, random strangers, and various vague acquaintances to acquire a collection of crafts. Their talent or lack of talent was irrelevant.

She showed off a collection of crafts that included: potholders, wire hanger covers, bonnets, and more, all for $5! I was pissed that I had no cash with me as I would love me some potholders. I really should carry cash more often, but I dislike it so much. It is dirty, confuses me, and I don’t like the smell, nor the bulk it adds to my wallet. I much prefer living in a world of swipes and beeps and emailed receipts.

Amy revealed that her imaginary boyfriend, Ricky, had been murdered. She now lives with his ghost, which, to be honest, is really no different.

The two of them got up and did a few demonstrations from the book. Amy taught us how to make a twisty-tie with electric tape and floral wire. She cut the wire with Martha Stewart scissors, whom she then called a man, which was funny, but mildly offended me as I love Martha to pieces. After this, she made a penny bookmark, which was simply pennies sandwiched between two pieces of clear packing tape. She claims that this is a very difficult craft because you have to line up the two pieces of tape, which is next to impossible because once you put the tape on the table, it disappears. The penny bookmark is great for cookbooks, she said, because it weighs the pages down.

She had the host assemble the Crafty Candle Salad which was wonderfully inappropriate and hilarious. It consisted of shoving a peeled banana into a pineapple ring and then topping it with whipped cream. You can make your own joke. Amy suggested using the top of the pineapple tin as a mirror in a dollhouse or part of a mobile for a baby.

It was now time to take questions from the audience. It became silent, nobody seemed brave enough to ask a question, or didn’t know what to say. After a time there were a few brave souls who asked lame questions like:

Q: What advice do you have for people wanting to write, act, and produce television. I mean, we already have our own television show, but what advice do you have?

A: Just do it.

Q: What do you suggest I do to make my boyfriend craft with me, he doesn’t like to.

A: Don’t.

I was frustrated, the humor had drained from the place, and it was impossible for her to make jokes from these serious, boring people. I told Jessica to go up there and ask a question. She responded with a look of abject terror and shook her head to the negative. Now, I’m not a shy person, not cowardly in the least, but it is unlike me to get up in front of a crowd, as much as I want to do so. I don’t fear people, I could probably talk to a stadium without fear, I just worry about looking silly or dumb. So, I gave Jessica the camera and walked towards the microphone. I know, badass, right?

As I stood in line, I began to shake slightly, I never get nervous, but I was at that moment. I thought quickly of the cleverest way to get my question across, and having it settled in my mind, I began to worry about how I would sound amplified in the hall. Would I sound stupid to these hundreds of people, would my hilarious question fail me and get me booed out of the University? Would I misspell my question?

And then, there I was, in front of the microphone. I adjusted it to my height, looked up and said, “Hi.”

She said, “Hello,” quite happily back at me, and I began to speak.

“I started watching Strangers With Candy probably long before it was appropriate for me to do so, and I always loved it, and ever since then I always wanted to ask you, what does V-I-C-T-O-R-Y spell?”

She quickly said, “Victory,” to uproarious laughter. Then, “You want me to say fandango. Fandango. Hobocamp.”

I died. I walked off and waved at her, she waved back and crinkled her nose with a friendly smile. It was easily one of the best moments of my life. You can even watch it!

Upon reviewing the film, I was delighted and relieved that I had parts of the audience laughing twice by myself. After I single-handedly brought humor back to the lecture, a series of mildly-funny questions were asked and one girl even had the audacity to ask her to do a Jerri Blank impression. I can’t even imagine her shame.

After the questions, Jessica and I ran, dashed, and darted through the crowd to the spot where the book signing was to be held. I sent Jessica off to get a few treats that the school had kindly provided while I found the line. The queue formed quickly, but I got a decent enough spot in the upper middle. Jessica came back with a lemon square that was very unpleasant to look at, but remarkably delicious to eat.

It seemed that everybody in the hall thought that the only place to get through the line to the free food was through me and Jessica, which quickly became annoying. Some bitches didn’t even ask! Irritated, we tried various techniques to keep people from shoving through us, and finally discovered that it was best to keep our backs to the outside and give a slight glare to anybody who came close. Nobody tried to get through anymore and we felt very successful.


The line began to move quickly and Jessica had what I can only describe as a celebrity induced panic attack. She stopped breathing, began hyperventilating, found herself unable to blink, spouting meaningless nonsense, and freaked out about speaking to Amy. I was nervous, too, she was hardly the first celebrity I have met, but I respect and idolize her so much that it was a bit intimidating to be so close to her.

And then, there she was. I handed her my book. She looked at my name, and said, “Ben,” in a delighted way that I didn’t really understand. She really seemed taken with my name for some reason. We hurried around the table to get a picture.


She was wonderfully charming and signed my book very politely.


The three of us laughed at her inscription. She said, “I love putting that in books, I keep doing it tonight. Must be something about the name, Ben.” Very mysterious all that, but I love it. We thanked her, she said some pleasantry that I have since forgotten and Jessica and I floated away from our new best friend into the hallway. I am almost positive that Jessica is in a lesbian crush with her, I wouldn’t mind having her in the family, not at all.

Exceptionally contented, we went to Walmart to pick up some nibbles and headed home where we discovered that our new cat, appropriately named New Cat was having kittens! I love me some kittens.

It was a truly wonderful day. In all my life, I never thought I would come across Amy Sedaris, let alone speak to her twice in the same day. She seems very private, so I will always think back on this night as one of the most memorable of my life. Though, I am certain that there will be many more memorable days in nights in a life I am determined to lead in an exceptionally memorable way.

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