THC and the Topical Gag by Anonymous

The author is a 37-year-old comedy writer who finds cannabis useful in his work. From plodding to playful, he retrieves the cosmic jokester from his baggie, and creates ripples of mirth.

I’m a 37-year-old comedy writer from New York City. I’ve been using marijuana off and on for 21 years.

Marijuana is so useful to writers that it’s hard not to think of it as crushed and dried inspiration. People who have never tried it have written brilliantly, and it can’t be used as part of a daily work routine; but a few grains of it from time to time warm up the imagination, and bring the energizing benefits of a fresh perspective.

I use it every few weeks to generate material, usually starting with a problem that has resisted a straight solution. Often the jokes will need reworking the next day, but that’s generally true anyway. And cannabis jokes have a special quality — there’s something oracular and otherworldly about them; I’m almost sheepish about taking the credit. I’ve written or rewritten a lot of useful material on THC, and there’s probably a stench of it on everything else I write.

Gag writers rely on intuition. They’re confronted with a topic from the news, say, and numberless trains of thought that might proceed from it. In some corner of the brain the connection is made instantly; the trick is to distract that plodding little monkey who works the controls.

Here are some recent jokes that may or may not illustrate this principle — but I remember that in each case the dread of the assignment was relieved with marijuana, which restored the requisite psychic playfulness.

“Texas Governor George Bush said this week that he is ‘optimistic’ that none of the 112 people he has executed were innocent. However, he admits he was also optimistic in Juarez, when he paid $300 for eight grams of baking soda.”

“The ‘Today’ show’s Katie Couric announced she is going to broadcast her colonoscopy on nationwide TV, to emphasize the importance of the procedure. Producers are so strongly behind the idea, they plan to introduce it as a new feature after the weather, called ‘Where the Sun Don’t Shine.'”

“Margaret Chaplain, the San Diego woman who claims she was Ronald Reagan’s mistress during his term as governor, said this week that her decision to go public was motivated by anger. ‘I slept with him 60 times,’ she said. ‘Now he acts like he doesn’t know me.'”

When I smoke pot I realize the darkness of the glass through which I’ve been seeing. Pot is face to face. The gauze that shields you from, say, a painting on your wall that you haven’t inspected since August of 1985 is lifted. You’re restored for a few hours to a child’s relationship to outside stimuli, to his own sensorium and nerve endings. Aldous Huxley wrote in the introduction to THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, “As the individual grows up, his knowledge becomes more conceptual and systematic in form, and its factual, utilitarian content is enormously increased. But these gains are offset by a certain deterioration in the quality of immediate apprehension, a blunting and a loss of intuitive power.” Ganja can reverse the process, for a short time. The chronic, low-level disappointment that adults can feel even at the Grand Canyon or a planetarium show is overthrown by intense aesthetic engagement. Stoners don’t leave a fireworks display feeling that anyone had a better seat, or that the whole thing was vaguely over their heads.

Because of this power to strip layers of blubber from the brain and make it more penetrable to stimuli, pot is a strong, parasitic pleasure drug. It enhances sexual, musical and other enjoyments. And since empathy is a product of imagination, it can bridge long-standing gaps between people. It has brought me closer to my friends and family who have happened to drop in while I’m sensitized by the stuff.

Cannabis is not all flower-strewn euphoria. It’s not a narcotic; it doesn’t commandeer one’s responses. Anyone who has experimented with it knows that in addition to grooving enjoyment, it also enhances anxiety, morbid introspection and paranoid thinking. This is native to the beginning of the trip, and after these blocks are worked through (or become boring) one feels free to enjoy the rest of the evening. I don’t use it much around other people, because someone always suggests a restaurant and I’ll think the waitress is judging me. And as I mentioned, it has limits as a writing tool. Everyday use makes one flamboyantly stupid, and dependence on anything is abject. The intricacies of its use have to be learned by diligent experimentation.

There are many other aspects of cannabis intoxication that interest me. Writing about them explicitly makes them leaden and pedantic, and too small. I use it to keep in touch with myself and to get to a higher creative ground. Legalizing it would strip it of a certain speakeasy mystique, but I still look forward to the evolution of our current troglodytic system.

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