Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sara Barron's "People Are Unappealing"

Sara Barron's work has appeared on Showtime’s This American Life, National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, and the Today show, and at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, People Are Unappealing: True Stories of Our Collective Capacity to Irritate and Annoy, and reported the following:
My book, People Are Unappealing: True Stories of Our Collective Capacity to Irritate and Annoy, chronicles my Midwestern adolescent misadventures in its first half: writing a 50-page porn by age eleven (“He humped me wildly with his wiener!”), masturbating my way into a wrist brace, appearing on The Jerry Springer Show. Also, there’s a bit about how in 1992 I sprouted a faint but discernable mustache. The second half details my move to New York City and subsequent failure at many, many things: actor, singer, dancer, retailer, less chronic masturbator. And poet. And spoken word poet.

Page 99 of People Are Unappealing is part of a larger chapter called “Non-Equity” about the aforementioned failures at acting: it’s August of 2001, my wonderfully supportive, wonderfully naïve parents have written the last check to pay for my six-figure B.F.A., and the job I score – not that there’s anything wrong with this – is that of Professional Shirt-Folder and Occasional Windex-er at Banana Republic. I work the late shift, four to eleven, so I can be free to audition during the day.

I studied acting for four years at the university level and received a B.F.A.. That stands for Bachelors of Fine Arts to most, but my mother’s favorite joke was that it stood instead for Big Fucking Actor. “Look who it is!” she’d say when I’d fly home to Chicago to visit, “my Big Fucking Actor of a daughter!” My stock response was ‘very funny,’ to which she’d reply, “Well, I thought we ought to laugh instead of cry about it.”

‘It’ was the hour of reckoning: I had my B.F.A., my memorized monologue. I’d re-soled my jazz shoes and purchased a beret. It was time to scrap the ‘student’ portion from my title and graduate to ‘Actor.’

Ever watch TV or see a movie? If so, perhaps you’ve noticed acting as a career path for the physically attractive. Some of the beauties can act to boot, but first and foremost they’re oddly and unfairly pretty. On the attractiveness scale from 1 to 10, these girls are 10s. Conversely, I was not. I’m not gratuitously self-deprecating, I’m just being realistic. Sporting a F.U.P.A. and faint wisps of back hair, I hung just left of center: a 4. Stilettos, a hint of rouge, a nicely tailored dress – these devices inched me towards a 5; a 6 at best. But you wouldn’t stop me on the street to say, “You ought to be in pictures!”

For those not in the know, FUPA is an acronym for Fat Upper Pussy Area.

Pass it around.

Besides that: I’ll hop on board with Ford’s hypothesis; I think my page 99 works well as an appropriate measure of the book as a whole. The strongest jokes might not be here, but my preoccupation with the idea that someone’s lack of self-awareness is a key component to his/her downfall – that a sad hilarity results when deluded expectations get a smack-down – this, I think, gets touched upon.
Learn more about the book and author at Sara Barron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue