Thursday, July 14, 2005

I don't know what's happening with the PDF link at the LA Journal site. So for those of you interested in reading the article recently published by the Journal, here it is:

But is it Contagious?
By Cindy St. Onge

A visit to the doctor’s office isn’t necessary; I’ve made the diagnosis myself. I won’t seek a second opinion or a cure in Mexico. There isn’t one.

I realized, as I watched HBO’s Real Time the other night, that I have a neurological condition, its symptoms resembling something between AHDD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Encepharreah is the medical term for this chronic and socially debilitating affliction, but it is more commonly known as Robin Williams’ Disease.

Williams certainly isn’t the first person diagnosed with the disorder, but he’s the most famous sufferer of Encepharreah, which means excessive brain discharge.

Humor is how I relate to people. I’m accustomed to being the life of the party, counted upon for witty retorts and bad impressions. I assumed that interrupting discourse between friends to insert sarcasm and wild gestures was welcome and amusing. My friends have always laughed, encouraging me on and on. Now I understand, I finally understand, that my compulsion toward hyper-amusement isn’t a personality perk. It’s a sickness.

I watched Robin Williams ‘contribute’ as one of the celebrity panel on Bill Maher’s left-of-center talk show. By the time the ‘New Rules’ segment was underway, and a multitude of outbursts and sound effects later, I wanted to kill Williams. Not quickly with a gun or a cross bow. Not even with gas pellets. I wanted to beat him to death, so that with every crack of his skull, he’d know why the bludgeoning had come upon him.

I wanted him to understand that he’s no longer funny or cute or engaging. That his banter is disruptive and annoying. That life isn’t one long Disney voice over. In my rage, I understood that in fact, I wanted to bust my own head open for subjecting my friends to the very same obnoxious acting out.

The disease, as I’ve observed its ravages of Williams’ career and persona, progresses gradually, and early on, appears to be nothing more that charming wit. But as years go by, a noticeable decline in relevance occurs. And what were once hilarious characterizations of bosses, politicians, celebrities, and other objects of ridicule, have become frightening outbursts—screams and grunts, contorted expressions, nonsensical fits of noisemaking; vocal incontinence.

I’ve watched Williams devolve from a brilliant comedic talent into a poster boy for adulthood behavioral disorders. He used to be the man who never missed a beat, firing off punch lines like a satirist machine gun. Now, he resembles the fidgety boy in my third grade class who transferred to a special school. Not a private school, or an institution for the gifted, but a place with syringes full of Halodol and Thorazine.

I’m still in the mildly sardonic stage of the disease, but I agonize, watching the once adorable Mork, now in the advanced stages, as he struggles and gasps for small scraps of attention. I watch, cringing, knowing this is my future. I might have five or ten years left, maybe a good 15 years left of apropos witticisms and impeccably timed deadpan, but the day will come when I won’t be funny anymore.

Oh, I’ll still crave attention, and if I have to make animal noises and armpit farts to get it, I will. But I’ll have no idea how ridiculous I look. When the invitations to happy hour and cocktail parties dwindle into a metallic silence, and the once easy and raucous laughter is dampened by embarrassed sighs and eye-rolling, I won’t get it. That’s the insidious nature of the disease.

RWD creeps to a painful and humbling end, death resulting in most cases from either blunt force trauma or prolonged Taser shock. Defendants, brought to trial for having silenced the class clown, have avoided conviction, pleading self-defense. They’ve convinced juries that their lives were in immediate peril, because just minutes before the attack, all the air was being sucked out of the room.

I’ve directed my friends to intervene when the time comes. They are to saturate me with any paralytic or sedative they can get their hands on. Something, anything to deaden the urge to entertain. I am not to be encouraged to parody or satirize, and coffee and alcohol will be off limits. Under no circumstances am I to emit commentary of any kind, that means no sarcasm, no mockery, no scrunched faces or shadow puppets. I am not to impersonate either sentient beings or machinery, including my favorite—the touch tone medley, which sometimes morphs into a fax signal.

I am to be restrained at all costs, until that is, I’m close to the end. At that time, I wish to be permitted one last remark, an old joke—off color naturally, or a flippant observation as I leave this world. My voice trailing off, a film will draw over my eyes like a stage curtain, the last sound I’ll hear is my friends’ laughter. And I will know they’re laughing for the right reasons.

Published in The Los Angeles Journal, Premiere Issue # 3, July 2005


Blogger KlevaBich said...

When I read this last night, I had a semi-hysterical conniption. Not because you dissed RW.

Because you have described me right down to the last lameass detail.

I THINK you made up the term "Encepharreah," but it so aptly fits this condition that I think you should submit it to the NE Journal of Med. Now I see myself through my tormented coworkers' eyes. Oh, the horror, the horror...

Is there a 12 step program yet?

11:53 AM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Oh no, not you too!
There's a reason a 12-step hasn't manifested. Who would want to be in a room full of people like us, giving us carte blanche to open up and spill our guts? Are you kidding?

It's nice to know there are others who suffer from RWD. And yes, I made up Encepharreah. Thank you for your support, and more importantly, your attention:-)

1:36 PM  
Blogger Cranky Bastard said...

Way to go, Cindy! Not only have you been published, but you did it by rightfully dissing the tedious, worn, 30 year old non-act of a comedian in search of material. Williams is a reincarnation of Jerry Lewis, but he forgot to wait until Jerry was dead.

I wonder if HBO would pay a handsome sum to film my OCD rituals. They must be funny to someone.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

And why, if there is a god in heaven, isn't Jerry Lewis dead?

8:32 PM  

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