My roommate in Chicago was a 6’6" prefrontally lobotomized, homophobic, antisemitic, children’s party clown.
Every day was a party.
My roommate in Chicago was a 6’6" prefrontally lobotomized, homophobic, antisemitic, children’s party clown.
Every day was a party.
And I thought I’d had bad roommates!
Oh… Kay. You really can’t drop a teaser like that and not follow up on it.
Here is a draft I wrote of the very first part of that story.
My first roommate was a 6’6” pre-frontally lobotomized, homophobic, anti-Semitic, epileptic, children’s party clown, who by the way is a hoarder, his friends are all gay and I’m jewish
I. Meeting Marko
When I first moved out of my parents house, in the fall of 1993, I had been hired by Joyce Sloan to come to Chicago and work for the Second City. Serendipitously, a room had been found for me, sharing the apartment of a good friend’s older brother. No mention had been made of the surreal clown-hoarder’s paradise I was about to move into.
God, what a fucking mistake I’d made moving to Chicago. I was working at a small theater in Santa Monica, with a whole ton of improvisational comedians, the nucleus of whom were refugees from the recently closed Second City Santa Monica. Through some strange luck and no talent of my own, the ensemble I was in regularly opened for those same alumni players. At some point, the grand dame of the Second City improvisation community, Joyce Sloan, was in Los Angeles, and came to see their show. She was incredibly gracious and somehow decided that I and another performer, Greg, should come to Chicago. She cautioned us that work may be light at first, but she had jobs for us as performers, not to worry, we’d eat. Greg was suspicious, I was blindly trusting. Bewildered something so fun and awesome could possibly happen, I barely listened as Greg asked a lot of questions. We packed up his Toyota Corolla and drove to Chicago. Straight to Marko’s place.
Jeff, and his wife Jane, ran UpFront Comedy in Santa Monica. They’d founded the Second City ETC, moved to Los Angeles as part of the team to open a new satellite theater and had stayed behind when it closed. They remain a brilliant, struggling, warm, loving couple who really get what’s great, and horrible about improv comedy. I assumed, again as my trusting, optimistic 20 year old self, that his brother would be just as much fun, as wise, and as wonderful to spend time with.
I had also grown up on the northside of Santa Monica, in a nice house with a cardiologist father and stay at home mom. I’d never lived as a starving actor in a cold as fuck Midwestern town. Jeff, having known few people in his life who were not starving actors in that very same cold-as-fuck Midwestern town, assumed I knew what I was getting into when renting a room for around $75 a month in the part of Chicago then known as Ukrainian Village. I did not.
As we got out of the car, arriving in a grey and fairly cool fall, I immediately noticed that all the color had been sapped out of the world, except for the parked cars. The trees were grey, the houses were grey, the street was grey and the sky was grey. Welcome to a run down neighborhood in a giant city. My new home.
We walked up to the house, a row house that’d been split into 2 apartments. Marko had the bottom floor. We rang the bell. There was some loud stomping and shuffling, and then the door opened!
Therein stood a giant.
Mark was well over 6 feet tall. Jeff tells me I’ve misremembered a few of details, like Marko’s exact height – but let me tell you, he was a really big 50ish year old dude. He had close cut, dark hair that was slightly plastered to his head, and a bulbous nose. He lumbered. He staggered and moved with no grace. His eyes reflected a different reality than my own, but I suspected I would soon be granted a front row seat. He introduced himself as Marko, said he was a clown and that he didn’t want us spying on him for his brother. He turned and receded into his dwelling, without inviting us in.
Passing through the weird little vestibule that homes in cold places have between the front door and the actual part of the house people can live in, where you freeze as you try to get into your boots to go out into a frozen hell, we entered what would otherwise be a fairly large dining room with a lovely fireplace and wide, light-letting-in front windows. It was haphazardly stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of what is best described as “detritus.” Some opened and half repacked, belching their contents into the debris strewn aisle. Later, we had an entertaining conversation with Marko about the contents of some of these boxes. “I paid for those newspapers.” sheds light on his method…
Passing through the dining room storage area we entered a “living room” of sorts. There was a tiny, grainy tv perched on what I think was a dairy crate. A few random chairs that I hope didn’t just come off the street, and some empty fishtanks,. Several fishtanks were filled with creepy figurines of clowns. The kind that creep out creepy clown figurine lovers. Those.
The lumbering giant showed us two rooms, Greg showing again his wisdom took the room that didn’t have a cut running through it for the upstairs landlords stair. It did turn out, later, that Greg’s room had no heat. It was as cold as the coat room, and he had to essentially spend the winter on one of the hopefully-disinfected- after-being-dragged-straight-off-the-street couches.
Greg having chosen his room, not even having unloaded the car, asked Marko if he could call use his phone to call the Second City. Greg wanted to find out about work right away. As Greg used the phone, Marko took this opportunity to have a little chat with me.
Greg was welcome to use the phone whenever he wanted. Marko wanted me to ask first. This was to ensure I understood my need to pay for all my calls, as well as my fair share of everything. Marko was being generous, and open minded, in accepting a Jewish roommate! He needed to know that I understood, there would be no tricky stuff with money. AND NO SPYING FOR HIS BROTHER.
Then an interesting thing happened. Marko opened up a little. In telling me not to steal any of his drugs.
“Are they any fun?” “No, they are for my epilepsy.” “Epilepsy?” “Yeah, they gave me a…” and here Marko described a medical procedure, that back in the time before we probably understood sterilization, Doctors cut into his brain and left him slightly less able to compute than before. This was to cure his epilepsy. It did not and he still needed a bunch of drugs. Drugs I should not steal. Let me add, I was already clear that a well medicated Marko was in my best interests…
Marko was in no way the vegetative, drooling lobotomy patient of Hollywood, but he was not making the connections one might hope. Certainly not the ones you’d like to see in a children’s party clown. Many of those odd connections appeared to center on his lack of empathy for others, and as I’d later learn, sense of comedic bad timing.
Then Greg re-appeared, whomever he’d spoken with at the Second City was genuinely surprised to hear from him. It may have taken a bit to figure out, and I have no idea what the hell was going on internally with them, but Joyce had sometime in the recent past, had a heart attack and during her hospitalization and recovery I gather some things changed at the theater and they were genuinely surprised to find two young guys from LA expecting jobs. As it stood, we had none.
So, within a few hours of arriving in Chicago I’d found out I had no job, and was living with an anti-Semitic children’s party clown, in his hoarders paradise, who might drop into a seizure at any time. I thought this was the sort of story where people disappear forever, but fuck I’d come to Chicago to get great at improv.
Things had to get better.
And here I thought the alcoholic who – 1) could not find the kitchen trash so threw his beer cans into the oven, 2) could not manage to watch his vhs copy of Independence Day all the way through before passing out, so every day became a Bill Murray-esque Groundhog Day, and 3) vomited on the brand new mattress I bought for the spare bedroom, and flipped it over rather than cleaned it up – was the worst possible roommate.
I think I would like the never ending dread of your situation even less.
Worst. Coolio cover. Ever.
I once had a married couple sublet a downstairs from me and turn it into a meth lab. LAPD did fuck-all, but the other local gang worked for beer.
Still better than an antisemitic homophobic clown-hoarder me thinks. That said, I hope his Clown Name was Lobo or what a missed opportunity.
So, did you ever catch his act?
You will tell me if you ever publish this. This is not a request.
These sound worse than my worst ever situation but i still detested having to live with two awful roommates. The full story is i lived on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex in Reno, the apartments were basically student studio type apartments where the rooms were tiny as fuck… like 200-300sqft. 4 apartments had a shared kitchen, it was the only shared space. This would be a problem. One roommate was a flamboyantly, well off, American-Asian gay guy; there was the young Japanese international student, quiet, low-key a metal head but otherwise fairly unremarkable; and there was the young, promiscuous, street racing 20’s bro that hadn’t learned what responsibility was, you wondered where or how he was making money… maybe his parents were rich but you still wondered if he was doing some shady shit on the side.
Anyway. The Japanese roommate turned out to be a problem because he’d buy giant quantities of chicken, leave them in the fridge where they’d ooze onto the shelving so there was a congealed mess of chicken juice that would regularly need to be cleaned up. He’d also use said chicken to cook a very big pot of chicken cabbage Japanese style soup. This was not inherently a problem with exception of the amount of cabbage being used, which would also stink up the place (besides the chicken juice). And once said soup was done he’d legit leave it on the stove for days and he’d occasionally ladle some soup for himself.
He did not take out his trash, do his dishes or clean his chicken-y mess.
The bro roommate was a klepto and constantly stole food from the gay roommate, as he kept a stock of cereal bars, trail mix, and other goodies. He stole his food every day despite being constantly confronted with this. He did not steal my food or the Japanese roommate’s food because it involved actual cooking, and also i suspect he didn’t want to touch the stagnant chicken cabbage soup.
Bro did not take out the trash or wash his dishes.
The gay guy was actually very sweet. I have no complaints about him, but i presume in a fit of defiance he refused to also take out the trash, or do dishes.
Then there was me. The depressed, lonely, naive, way-over-his-head, barely making it college drop-out. I saw the situation and decided to distance myself from the situation rather than deal with it. I grabbed all of my dishes, pots, pans, silverware, etc and locked everything in my room, and all the trash and dishes i used came with me. Problem solved. Until summer and 90 degree days came, i roll home after a 12hr day of working, i didn’t have a car so getting to and from work involved about an hour walk. I open my apartment door and i am immediately hit with an unbelievable dumpster stench, just the most horrifying smell ever. Confused i go into the kitchen and there’s roaches everywhere, a giant stack of dishes in a pool of scum, and a tower of trash hiding what i can only guess is rotting discarded chicken bits and god knows what else.
In a rage i lock myself back in my room, i wedge a towel under my door and walk to the nearby Walgreens to buy as much Frebreeze as i can afford. The apartment manager calls me a few days later to yell at me, i snap and tell him i have nothing to do with that situation, nothing in the kitchen is mine and that i’ve been isolating myself from everything thats been going down and i’m just trying to get by. I hang up on them and pray for the best. The next day the kitchen was spotless and i never did find out what happened to rectify the situation… i’ve blocked out a lot from that time so i really don’t remember but all i know is that i likely would’ve stayed there longer but they raised my rent so i ended up moving to a different studio apartment complex which was a nicer situation. The kitchen was also shared but the roommates were not a nightmare.
PS: Apologies for the wall of text and stream of consciousness narrative. I don’t typically like to dwell on those years too much.
I look forward to reading more about Marko.
I know you said this was a draft, and I noticed a spot where your mind may have shifted tracks and your fingers didn’t catch it, so I figured I would point it out:
Man, I don’t know… both situations sound horrible, but I think I would rather be living with the clown.
No apology required. It was well told. Also, 20’s bros are the scum of the Earth, particularly of the privileged street-racing variety.
Sounds like a line from a Wesley Willis song.
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