Article: 19840701054

Title: RICHARD BELZER

19840701054
198407010054
HighTimes_19840701_0011_107_0054.xml
RICHARD BELZER
For years touted by the cognoscenti as the comedian's comedian and the country's funniest white man, Richard Belzer is finally poised to break over the consciousness of mainstream USA. So what took him so long? An uncompromising sense of integrity for one thing, and a semisociopathic personality for another.
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INTERVIEW
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It ain't easy being a stand-up comic. Just you and a stool and a mike, frozen in the spotlight, onstage before (hopefully) an audience full of people who spent good money to get in the damn door and now are getting hustled for even better money for watered-down drinks and, as likely as not, are probably paying more cash for the babysitter back home.
George Barkin
Larry Sloman
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Peter Hudson
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RICHARD BELZER

INTERVIEW

For years touted by the cognoscenti as the comedian's comedian and the country's funniest white man, Richard Belzer is finally poised to break over the consciousness of mainstream USA. So what took him so long? An uncompromising sense of integrity for one thing, and a semisociopathic personality for another,

George Barkin and Larry Sloman

It ain't easy being a stand-up comic. Just you and a stool and a mike, frozen in the spotlight, onstage before (hopefully) an audience full of people who spent good money to get in the damn door and now are getting hustled for even better money for watered-down drinks and, as likely as not, are probably paying more cash for the babysitter back home.

And you gotta make them laugh. You gotta glom on some situation that they all face, whether it's the nuclear bomb or their mothers-in-law, and give it that special little side-zinger so they see it in a way they never saw it before and it touches them, either with a reassuring pat on the back or a sardonic elbow to the ribs, and the resultant emotional catharsis comes out as laughter. It ain't easy.

Of course, the easy way to connect is to paint yourself as some sort of schmuck—the guy who don't get no respect, the henpecked nerd who pleads you to take his wife, the hopelessly neurotic bumbler, the jerk. It's easy for people to laugh at people.

It's harder to elicit laughter when the basic comedic mode is attack—which is the way Richard Belzer operates, and operates brilliantly. All the obligatory comparisons to Lenny have been made by the critics. And in this case, there may actually be something to what they're saying. He's got the same kind of passionate engagement with society that gets clothed in an almost arrogant, cynical coolness. He can talk social issues like a goddamn university professor, spouting Hegelian dialectic one moment, then vomit up a cesspool of Brooklyn street-comer scatology the next.

Of course, his name is not so obscure now as it was, say, a year ago. Though he's been doing his stand-up for almost 14 years, he's beginning to channel his talent into other areas. Like the "Thicke of the Night" show, where Belzer was the street-smart antidote to the Velveeta Canadian. Then there were the film bits, the cameos in Author, Author and Night Shift and Scarf ace.

And now Belzer is poised on the brink of upping his recognition quotient on his HBO/Cinemax show, "Caught in the Act." But what kind of woman is Richard Belzer?

Well, they call him )the comic to the stars. He was the Hollywood/New York hip film and music community's pet comedian, the dangerous, on-the-edge underground legend who either had too much integrity or was too self-destructive to even surface out of the after-hours scene.

Of course, the latter was the interpretation of the cigar-chewing moguls who book the college circuits and the talk shows and the studio projects. For them, Belzer's danger might backfire and freeze their Amex gold-card accounts. But in 1981 Rolling Stone magazine did a feature on Belzer, and in a confession mode, fueled by about 15 sakes, he laid out his whole sordid past. His abused childhood, the suicide of his father, his heroin habit, his broken marriages—the whole sadness that seemed to have permeated his life. Then came the sympathy backlash to the article.

George Carlin insisted he come on the "Tonight Show" the evening he guesthosted. Ron Howard got him for a few bit parts in his movies. And slowly but surely, the agents realized that this guy Belzer wouldn't shit on their rugs if they took a meeting with him.

Today, he's punching 40 in the face and he's traded his coke-dealer leather jackets for nice, sleek Georgio Armani suits (courtesy of the Thicke show wardrobe department, he hastens to add). And it's almost as if he's happy now, and it's certain that he's more mature, and it's wonderful that he's every bit as funny.

HIGH TIMES: HOW did you get hooked up with Alan Thicke, and what in the name of Groucho Marx are you doing on such a patently lame show?

RICHARD BELZER: Those are two good questions. And to answer your first question, Alan used to have a show in Canada: "The Alan Thicke Show." It was an afternoon talk show, which I did about three years ago.

And after the show taped, he invited me to his suite and I hung out with him, and for some weird reason, I was funny that night. I don't know, maybe it was a drug or something. But I made him laugh for seven hours in a row— he was falling off his couch. I was on, and I worked it and he never forgot it, so when he got this show, he called me and wanted me to be on it.

And the way this show was described to me before it went on the air was, we're gonna have Alan Thicke as the host, we'll have five or six repertory people. We're gonna be like "Saturday Night Live" and "SCTV" and the "Tonight Show," and you can be yourself and ba ba bee, and I said, "Fucking great," you know? And we felt like we were the new kid on the block. We're taking on Carson, we're gonna be hip, we're gonna be big, and we started to do two ninety-minute shows a day for three days in a row, which is physically impossible, but we did them.

And the show just fell apart. It became utter chaos. It's like an intelligence test: The more intelligent and hipper people are, the more they hate Alan. And people have all these long diatribes about him—

HIGH TIMES: Well, the entertainers he's gathered around him are, with the exception of yourself, aggressively untalented. Then there's his stable of media circus freaks—a gossip columnist from the National Enquirer, a professional right-wing talk-show asshole and assorted dippy Hollywood soapopera actresses. And people can't understand how someone like Richard Belzer, who prided himself on his "artistic integrity," could sell out to such an actively vulgar and stupid show.

BELZER: When I first did the show,

I honestly felt that we were gonna get great ratings and be totally different. Because on paper it sounded great.

But the center of the show is a disaster, and that's Fred Silverman's fault, because Alan Thicke does not have charisma. And you cannot blame a person if they're not charismatic.

HIGH TIMES: Whose idea was it to add the gossip columnist and the professional right-wing talk-show asshole? BELZER: See, whén you have a sinking ship, you'll try anything. It's like bunker mentality. It's Hitler in the bunker and what do we do now? So first they had tits out on the show. Then they had faggot columnists. So who's the show for? There's a faggot and there's a chick, and then they had rock 'n' roll. I mean, who's gonna watch this fucking show? A schizophrenic on Thorazine, who one minute can be gay and then like tits and then like rock 'ri roll? It's like, they try to please everyone, they please no one. HIGH TIMES: Weren't there a lot of routines you had to do where you said to yourself, "Why am I doing this?" BELZER: I rewrote some of the sketch material that I didn't like. Yeah, there were a few times where I was embarrassed. Not as much as you would think, from the way the show looks, because after a point they got afraid of me and I would take a script and I would go into the producer and say, "Babe, do you want me to do this in front of two million people? You read this line."

HIGH TIMES: It seems we can't get you to bad-mouth Alan Thicke. Who do you want to bad-mouth? How about Lome Michaels?

BELZER: Again? Well, to tell you the truth, I was genuinely thinking of calling my show "The Real New Show," but was voted down. I'd even let him on my show. You can quote me on that. I don't mind that at all. After all, he had me on "Saturday Night."

HIGH TIMES: Well, he seems to have defined comedy for a whole generation. BELZER: And then undefined it.

HIGH TIMES: And then beat it into the ground. All those "Saturday Night" people making a lot of money, doing a lot of great things, killing themselves and becoming instant legends. How do you view that whole phenomenon? BELZER: That's a hard question. Well, the irony to me is that now I'm being hired to do the very thing that terrified everyone for the last ten years. You know, HBO Cinemax said, "We want you to be Richard Belzer." No one had ever asked me to do that before. They hired me to do all the things that lost me all the work that I've lost. Not lost, but didn't even get asked for.

HIGH TIMES: But what do you see as the difference between what you do and the "Saturday Night" crowd? BELZER: See, at the risk of being immodest, or whatever, my theories and feelings about comedy, terms like "don't compromise" come into my mind. And not milking the joke to death. And not doing an obvious joke and steering away from easy laughs.

So I'd rather maintain my integrity than go on and do a really bad, embarrassing, stupid, sexist, drug-laden, fucking sketch unless I wrote it.

It's true, a lot of my friends did become millionaires, some are dead, and I used to say, "Everyone but me." That was my catch phrase. "Everyone made it but me." But now it's my turn, even though it's on a much smaller scale, and will build longer... I'm not sure I know how to answer the question really.

HIGH TIMES: Look at someone like Steve Martin or Chevy Chase—Eddie Murphy, I guess, is the latest example—comedians whose popularity far exceeds the talent they have. How do you keep from falling victim to that— from getting puffed up to the point where you're a walking bag of hot air? BELZER: Exactly. That's the thing I'm terrified of and will never happen to me, and if it does I hope you guys get me in a comer and kick the shit out of me. I saw this happen a lot at Catch when I emceed over the years:

Example, Bill Cosby comes onstage. So the audience already knows it's Bill Cosby because he's Bill Cosby. And he takes the mike stand and says, "I'm gonna put this over here." Big laugh.

Now, if a guy was auditioning on Monday night and you didn't know him, and he said, "I'm gonna put the mike over here," the audience is gonna go, "Yeah, and?" So the most dangerous thing in the world for a comedian is to have the instant recognizability that you are funny and then do anything you want and people will laugh at it because it's supposed to be funny because you're doing it.

"I used to go onstage every night fucked out of my mind on drugs you guys can't even pronounce."

Don Rickies is one of the primary examples of that. Where, you know, in 1965 it was hip to do what he was doing, but now he comes off as a racist, misogynist, fucking jerk loungecomic scumbag. And he'll do a hockeypuck line and the audience will laugh like they're Pavlovian Russian wolfhounds. I'm very cognizant of that. HIGH TIMES: Who would you rather end up like?

BELZER: End up? I'd like to start out first, then I'll end up. I'd like to end up like Jack Benny.

HIGH TIMES: This is like an essay question. Who would you rather end up like? Someone like Lenny Bruce or Chevy Chase?

BELZER: Neither. Right in between. HIGH TIMES: Like who?

BELZER: Richard Pryor, who transcended the live performances, got into film, who can still go back and forth and do both and maintain his integrity and make a lot of money and not sell out. And it cost him every fucking inch of it.

You know, I'll tell you something about all of those "Saturday Night" people. They begrudgingly did a network television show—a few of them, anyway. There was a lot of friction and conflict about this drug-oriented, youth culture being in a network format. I'm sure you guys are well aware of the history and the whole thing, but one of the things that psychologically fucked up John, I know for a fact, and Chevy, also—is that they did sell out. They did in fact sell out, and took huge sums of money and did things that they would have made fun of and had scorned and had been against their whole careers. And I know that John, inparticular, was very troubled, although he didn't articulate it the way I am articulating it now—he was very disturbed about the movies Neighbors and Continental Divide, because John was a fucking, Second City genius, rebel, antiestablishment—he was everything that we thought he was when we first saw him on "Saturday Night Live," that first year. And more. Because that was network television. I mean, have you ever seen him live anywhere? The guy was amazing. Harpo on acid. But then he's

getting a million dollars to make a terrible picture, and then another terrible picture. And then another terrible picture. And then finally he's going to write his own screenplay and that gets rejected. So the rebel in him succumbs. The reason he was doing so many drugs was because he wasn't happy.

He wasn't happy because he wasn't the John Belushi that he set out to be. Chevy has done a 180 degree. He is now like a Republican candidate on Phil Donahue, with a suit, talking like he's running for office. Now he'll talk about his "naughty" days on "Saturday Night Live," like, "Yes, I used to do those things." Everyone got jealous of Chevy because he stole the show the first year and it became the "Chevy Chase Show." And then he left and got a major picture deal. But Chevy had some well-publicized drug problems that I feel were related to the fact that he was making a million dollars to dub Benji's voice. I was over at his house one day and I said, "How the fuck can you do this?" We were medicated, and after a while you say anything, right? I said, "How the fuck can you like dub a dog's voice in a Benji movie?" And he said, "For a million dollars and points." And I said, "Oh."

HIGH TIMES: Wouldn't you have done that?

BELZER: I knew that was your next question. I'll tell you something. I don't know. I don't know.

HIGH TIMES: TWO million dollars. BELZER: I don't know. I don't know.

HIGH TIMES: YOU know who came out really great from "Saturday Night Live"? Bill Murray.

BELZER: He's a little bit smarter about his career than these other people. I mean, even though Chevy makes millions of dollars, he's a fucking pawn of the studios. And now he's trying to play the role of statesman. He's no longer hip and antiestablishment.

Now he is the establishment.

HIGH TIMES: Can you blame him? BELZER: I can because I didn't fucking sell out.

HIGH TIMES: Well, not yet, anyway. BELZER: What?

HIGH TIMES: Who knows what the future may bring?

BELzER That's a good point. But I think the reason that I'm so vehement in securing my integrity is that if I've gone this far, getting my own show on Cinemax, so by the time something happens in a few years that might be so tempting-like a huge sum of money to do some bad picture that I know is bad-I'll turn it down.

HIGH TIMES: Let's talk about drugs and performing. Does the vulnerability of being a comedian make drugs indispensable?

BELZER: I'll tell you something. I used to go onstage every night. I'd be fucked out of my mind on drugs that you guys can't pronounce. Okay? I've done everything. And things have done me. I've gone onstage using every type of drug and I've embarrassed myself; I've been great; I've been okay; I've given every level of performance on drugs.

And then I stopped using drugs. Not totally, but to go onstage with. I was on the road, it was a very cathartic experience for me. I was on the road with Warren Zevon, touring, opening up for him in these clubs all over. And every night before we went on, you know, it was like "Get out the shovel."

He introduced me to Stolichnaya, by the way. So, we'd be drinking Stoli from the bottle and doing coke like, you know, Jimi Hendrix's nephews, and before I went on I had to have that, you know [snorting], and I just felt I had to do it. And one night we were late. The bus was late and for whatever reason, I had to go on straight. God forbid I should go on straight.

And I had this moment: I said,

"Wait a minute. I'm funny. I'm not high. Okay."

So I went on and I fucking killed. And it just taught me a little lesson. Because since I first started doing stand up, I always had to have a couple of drinks, I always had to do something before I went on.

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First it was just drinking. Then it got to be pot. Then it got to be coke. Then there were nights I was onstage on mescaline. There were nights onstage I was on heroin. There were nights onstage on every fucking drug known to man.

HIGH TIMES: 'Ludes. Let's not forget Quaaludes.

BELZER: And Quaaludes.

HIGH TIMES: HOW can you tell a joke on heroin?

BELZER: Slowly. Very slowly.

HIGH TIMES: Which drug made you the funniest?

BELZER: Hands down.

HIGH TIMES: The big C?

BELZER: Yeah. Of course. It's called "the comedian's drug."

Comedian "X," a rich, famous comic, came up to me in the basement of a club—there are many famous "dressing-room" stories—and he said, "Rich,"—I hate when people call me Rich, but I let him do it—"Rich, you know, you're gonna make a lot of money in this business, and you're going to be a very big star."

I'm saying to myself, "What the fuck is this?" We just did coke, and I'm going up the stairs, I gotta go on, and, you know, what is this?

"You're going to be a very big star, you're going to be very rich." He said, "When you got the money, it's so easy to get..."

In other words, he's telling me that he has a coke problem, that I shouldn't have one because I make $35 a night and he's got $400,000 in the bank. "Fuck you. Don't warn me. Get off it yourself. I can't afford to have the habit you have." He's like giving me a thing: "You know, when you make a lot of money, you can get a lot of coke."

I said, "God, I wish I had the money," you know? "That's one habit I'd love to break." If I had so much money, I could buy as much coke as I wanted. [Jewish accent] What a catastrophe that would be. My word. Oh, my God, I got big cans full of coke. What am I gonna do? Maybe I should smoke some of it. Maybe I should give some away. Maybe I should cut it with something else. Who knows what? HIGH TIMES: What comics influenced you?

BELZER: I was always a student of

comedy, as a kid... Lord Buckley, Lenny, Jackie Mason. I loved Jackie Leonard when I was a kid. Jerry Lewis...

But I think the greatest, the single greatest influence on me, if I had to pick one, would be Groucho. Because for twelve years, once a week, I watched him every night on "You Bet Your Life." And I know that some part of him is in me. I'm not doing Groucho, but he's very much a part of me. And so is Jack Benny, but it doesn't show as much.

HIGH TIMES: Apart from Richard Pryor, who do you really admire among your colleagues?

BELZER: Albert Brooks. George Carlin.

HIGH TIMES: What do you think of Eddie Murphy?

BELZER: What do I think of Eddie Murphy? I think that Eddie Murphy is a consummate talent. I think that he's grossly misguided. I think that with all the money that he's making, which I don't begrudge him because the nature of our business is so illogical— I'm not gonna be bitter because some schwartze has five minutes, grabs his dick and gets fifteen million dollars. Far be it for me to be bitter. But they should take some of that money and... HIGH TIMES: ... and give it to you... BELZER: ... and get some good writers. The kid is great. There's no question about it. He was fantastic in 48 Hours. He's real good on the floor, but his material is repetitive.

HIGH TIMES: Well, they all compare him to Pryor.

BELZER: That's absurd.

HIGH TIMES: Why is it absurd? BELZER: Because he's black and he grabs his dick. But he's not a genius. But I'm not bitter that I'm 39 and I'm hiding from my Arab landlord.

HIGH TIMES: There's an amazing comic renaissance now. Why? Do you agree with the socioeconomic theory of comedy: that in bad times people want to laugh?

BELZER: There are more comics now than ever before in history. When I first started there were maybe three clubs. Now there's hundreds of clubs. There's Zanies, and Chuckles and Laugh Up Your Ass and Bagels and Tongues and Jews and Jokes and every fucking street corner in every fucking town has fourteen comedy clubs in it.

See, it used to be every kid got a guitar and got in front of a mirror and

wanted to be Elvis. Now every kid wants to be Eddie Murphy, they want to be Richard Pryor, they want to be Steve Martin, which I think is great. They say people want to laugh in hard times and I think there must be some correlation on that level.

But there's something else at work besides that that I can't quite define. I don't know why there are more comedians than ever before. I know I like it, but I think that it may be some collective unconscious reflex that people are terrified of a nuclear holocaust and of not having any money and living in uncertain times, so they reflexively turn to comedy at some deep level.

I do believe that. That's too Jungian for your magazine.

HIGH TIMES: We have a very Jung audience.

BELZER: But I genuinely believe that there may be something to that, that there's this thing going on on a national psychic level.

HIGH TIMES: Well, I guess if you have a comedian in the White House. BELZER: That's right, [does Reagan] "Well, I never thought of myself as a comedian, but I did know one joke, but I forgot it. I know it was a good one, too." That's a good point: there's a comedian in the White House. I think we have to get political this year, gentlemen. Anyone but Reagan. I'm willing to back either Mondale or... HIGH TIMES: Why don't you describe the Richard Belzer persona?

BELZER: Oh, it's been done so much better than I could. Uh, how do I describe it?

HIGH TIMES: Well, what kind of woman is Richard Belzer?

BELZER: It's an eclectic character.

I don't know. My director, Bruce Gowers, calls me the black Italian Jew because I can lapse in and out of all these different attitudes.

HIGH TIMES: A seething pile of ethnicity.

BELZER: Yeah. I don't know, really. I could get embarrassed if I have to start saying how great I am. I mean, we all know I'm great; that's why we're here, [lapses into Jackie Mason] He's from the street, all of a sudden he's from a university, then next, he's a heroin addict dis day, he's a newspaper reporter dat day, one second he's a poet, next minute he's a pimp. Who does this guy think he is? He's a fuckin' limousine driver; he can fix the car, he can be in the back of the limousine. He could be driving it, he could be fixing it, he has all this, one side to another. So I don't know. Jackie Mason. He's as funny as anyone in the world.

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Richard Pryor, Albert Brooks and Jackie Mason to me are the three funniest men on earth.

HIGH TIMES: Jackie Mason may be a hero to you, because he gave Ed Sullivan the finger on national TV, and as a result was blacklisted from the business.

BELZER: Yeah. I guess on some level he was. I didn't think of it that way. But he hurt himself. We've both recovered from disasters. I did things where I was told I was through in the business.

HIGH TIMES: Well, like what? I mean, how did you get this rep? I mean, you must have done something.

BELZER: I was doing a special in 1978 called "Chevy and Friends," for HBO. And Chevy wanted me to be on it and to cohost with him and introduce new comedians and ba ba bee, ba ba ba. So I was hanging out with Chevy a lot. And it was just towards the end of the Zevon tour. The famous 1978 Zevon tour that's now a legend. Where he took out a .45 and shot a cockroach in his bathtub. Another story.

HIGH TIMES: Those rock stars. BELZER: Urn. Zany, aren't they? "Go ahead, make my day." Um, so I was at Chevy's house. I was supposed to open for Warren Zevon at the Universal Amphitheater. One show; it was a big job for me then. I think it was $1,000 for one show, in those days that was a lot of money for me. Today it's a lot of money for me.

Um, and I was at Chevy's house, doing that white stuff that you put on mirrors—

HIGH TIMES: Windex.

BELZER: And we're doing tons of it, and it was getting right around the time I was supposed to show up at Universal Amphitheater. And I just waited a little bit too long. I got a ride there. I pulled into the back. And I hear, inside the amphitheater, "Richard Belzer will not be here tonight. He called, he's sick," you know, something. You know, oh, no.

So I run back to Warren Zevon's dressing room and he's fixing his tie and I say, "Warren, I'm here and they just said I was sick." You know, he never got mad at me. He was mad at me, but he couldn't show it. He just shrugged.

So, after that incident, my agent at the time said, "I have gotten calls from the whole West Coast office of William Morris, promoters all around the country. You'll never work again. No one will ever book you again. How could you not show up and not have a good reason? What were you doing? Coke with Chevy Chase?''

I said, ''No, no, no." You know, I made up some lame excuse for something about not knowing the way or something. But that, to this day, that's a famous story in certain circles. I found out years later why certain agents wouldn't take a call from me.

As time goes on, I hear what people have thought of me over the years and some of it amazes me. I mean, how people are so terrified of me.

I mean, to this day, it's just a thing that I have to use to my advantage,

I guess.

HIGH TIMES: But terrified?

BELZER: Because they see me onstage and they think, "Well, this guy, he gets me alone in a room or in my office, he's gonna fucking bury me. He's gonna say, 'Fuck you' and 'Suck my cock' and 'How's your wife's cunt?' and 'I see the roots on your wife's hair' and T heard you fucked the maid' and 'I heard your son's on heroin' and 'You're a fucking douche bag and you have tax shelters that aren't legal and you're fucking your secretary and fuck you.' "

And that guy's gonna make a deal with me?

HIGH TIMES: In the Rolling Stone article you talked about going through almost a cathartic period with your comedy and the black side of your soul, you know, living a Lenny Bruce scene. You've obviously transcended that and gone past that. Is Richard Belzer happy?

BELZER: Yeah, I'm much more serene and serious.

I think my time has come and I'm ready for it, I'm not gonna put a bullet in my head or stick a needle in my arm now, whereas I might have five or six years ago. Not a bullet, I would have gone out with drugs no matter how crazy I was.

HIGH TIMES: Does the serenity scare you—I mean in the same sense it seems to have scared Pryor?

BELZER: It's not the kind of serenity where I would be complacent and just go stand up onstage and take the applause because I am who I am.

I mean, I'm not a big star, obviously. People in the business know who I am and I do have a cult following that is kind of going overground now because of the Thicke show and because of the HBO special, and my career has been an accumulative series of events rather than this meteoric rise.

The thing I feel really good about is that I am now in a position to put my art where my mouth is and I've always felt that I've had an obligation to be not just a comedian but to be a journalist and to be a poet and to report things and educate people, and I know that sounds professorial for a comedian to talk like this and I hate when anyone does, but I genuinely believe that I do have something to say and that I can affect people's lives, even if it's just through laughter.

I feel very proud of the way that I handled disagreements with the Thicke people—I didn't go berserk and say, "Fuck them, fuck them, fuck them,'' which I would've a few years ago. But I can't relate to network people with their arbitrary artless bullshit, parroting what they think the audience is gonna like. One thing I've learned in this business, nobody knows anything. And anybody who says or claims they think they know— anything—they're full of shit.

Nobody knows anything because the worst elements in the world have worked and become big hits, and the greatest elements in the world have failed and everything in between. So if I have an idea, why isn't it as good as anybody else's idea? I mean, I'm not stupid. On the Thicke show I had great writers around me; I had intelligent, supportive producers, I had a great director, and if I believed in an idea, it was just as valid as some schmuck's. Who knows how he got it— what are his fucking qualifications, was he on the stage for ten years, no. He was drinking martinis in the boardroom. I've earned the right to say, "I don't want to do this this way." I'm not totally incorrigible, and I do relent on certain things; it's a very diplomatic thing and I've learned to do it... to survive. For the greater good of my work—I mean I want to add that in all seriousness.

HIGH TIMES: Well, were you—essentially what the Rolling Stone article pegged you—a self-destructive genius, afraid of success—

BELZER: NO, that's too psychoanalytical for me. I don't know if that's true. See, I refused to read for certain sitcoms; I was offered certain things and I didn't want to do them and they said, "Oh, he's afraid." Not because I was afraid, but because I don't want to be the dumb fucking neighbor who has five gestures and one inflection that he does for twenty-six weeks for eight years. I don't want to be the guy who comes in and goes—and gets the recognition applause and does the goofy joke and leaves. I mean, fuck you. I'm not Lennie and Squiggy, okay.

It's strange—it always used to be, "Richie, Richie, clean it up." Now they're paying me to be dirty. So HBO now says, "We want Belzer to be dirty, political and intelligent..." That's a direct quote.

HIGH TIMES: What a crazy world— BELZER: And years ago I was like plutonium rods.

HIGH TIMES: SO now they want you to be dirty. What's the dirtiest joke you ever told? Or the sickest?

BELZER: Here's one Chevy told me:

A theatrical agent is in his office. A guy comes in, says, "I have an act."

The agent says, "Okay, what does the act do?" The guy says, "Well, it's a family act. It's me and my family.

First, my son comes out. He pulls down his pants and shits on the stage. Then my wife comes out and she rubs her face in it. Then my little daughter comes out and takes all her Tampax from all her periods and sticks them in the shit. Then I jerk off. Then I take my whole family and we rub our faces in the shit and the come and the blood, then I shit in my son's face while my daughter puts a dildo on and fucks him in the ass, while she's eating her mother. Then my wife shits on my face and then I kiss my daughter on the mouth while my son's fucking my wife in the ass. Then my father comes out—he's a very old man—he comes out and is just barely able to throw up. We mix all the stuff together with that and we start eating it. Then my mother's mother comes out and my father puts a dildo on and fucks her in the ass while she's throwing up, because of the smell of all the shit that's already on the stage. Then we all take off all our clothes and roll around in all this shit and start throwing up because of the smell, how disgusting it is, and then we start fucking and sucking each other and then I fuck my wife in the ass while she's blowing my son while his sister is fucking her in the ass with a dildó while my grandfather and grandmother are going sixty-nine." So the agent says, "Oh yeah? What do you call the act?" And the guy says, "The Aristocrats." □