I wanted to be a comedy writer. Like the guys who wrote Animal House, and the lucky bastards working for Letterman. And this is what I finally admitted to the interviewer, after he prodded me to tell him what I really wanted to do with my life.
I not only didn’t get the job, but it was obvious the man could barely keep a straight face. And it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said I wanted to make people laugh…
He thought I was an immature dumbass and, of course he was right. I now know I should’ve just stuck to my original story: to pursue a career in the field of newspaper circulation, and advance through the ranks via hard work and the development of loyalty and respect from all paperboys I manage. But he broke me down and I told him the truth.
I was thoroughly humiliated, and set out to prove the sumbitch wrong. I started cranking out submissions to the National Lampoon, Mad, David Letterman, Johnny Carson, etc., brazenly rejecting the concept of working my way up from the bottom.
Predictably, they all figured out I was an immature dumbass as well, undoubtedly adding untalented to the profile for good measure. I did “sell” a couple of scripts to a local comedy show called Dick’s Half Hour. But it went off the air after about three weeks, due to manifest shittiness, and the fifty bucks they owed me must have gotten lost in the mail. I started to become discouraged.
Then I discovered zines.
I used to drive to Columbus, Ohio to buy records every few months, and a hipster guy I sorta knew asked me to pick him up a copy of The Offense Newsletter during one of my journeys.
I had no idea what he was talking about, but tracked it down and bought an extra copy for myself. The Offense turned out to be a crudely typed, photocopied, and stapled-in-the corner fanzine about the artists who recorded for the British record label 4AD. I had little interest in the subject, but the writing was good and passionate, and the whole idea of self-publishing was incredibly exciting.
Hell, I’d do it too. I’d show all those dream-crushers I didn’t need them. I’d just do it myself!
And I did. That is to say, I did it myself — I’m still trying to show them. But, after coming dangerously close to calling my new publication Cancer: Pro and Con, I pumped out the first issue of The West Virginia Surf Report during a single sleepless night in 1984, or ‘85 — who the hell knows?
The name was inspired by an absurd little book called Trout Fishing in America, which had little to do with trout fishing, in America or anywhere else. Absurdity has always been very appealing to me.
I sent copies to everyone on the Offense zine contact list and, to my surprise, people actually seemed to like it. My little humor sheet was met with a degree of respect and contemplation I hadn’t anticipated. I received copies of other cool homemade publications in trade, along with friendly, encouraging letters from interesting people all over the country — and I was hooked.
After all the cold rejection, it was like a shot of heroin to me. And I’m still messing around with the stuff, to this day.
The zine eventually morphed into this website, I adopted a more personal, daily journal-type approach to things, and all of it has kept me from losing my marbles. In the grand scheme of things, of course, TheWVSR is but a tiny fleck of fly shit on the dashboard of life. But it’s been mighty important to me.
I hope you enjoy the site, as much as I love doing it.