When Chadwick Boseman died (R.I.P. to a true icon), people decided it was time to break out their best “UUUGGGGGhGHHHHhhh, could 2020 GET ANY WORSE?” all over social media.

I’m done with this way of framing bad news. And before I go on, let me say I don’t actually blame anyone for the way they express grief. We’re all just trying our best, and my problem is with the “worst year EVER!” mindset, not any individual person.

But here’s why I hate the mindset.

  1. It’s unoriginal. People say it like clockwork every year since 2016 (hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm). Is every single year…

The agony and the apathy of Jerrod Carmichael in ‘8’

Jerrod Carmichael starts the trickery in his new HBO special with the title, 8. I’ve spun into obsession trying to decode the meaning of this single symbol. 8 is Carmichael’s second stand-up special. As far as I know, he doesn’t have a vault somewhere with six more hiding, which rules out reading the title as a Zeppelinesque chronological milepost. It’s also not a pull from his material, in the mode of so many stand-up specials. None of his set-ups, punchlines, premises, tags or ad libs even casually reference the number. So what is “8?” Why is 8? …

Ines Vuckovic/Dose

Would sustained eye contact give us both a natural high?

On Thanksgiving Day, my father and I picked a room, dimmed the lights and stared at each other for 10 minutes straight. This was not my induction into a cult. It was not some creepy holiday ritual for us, nor was it the way my family resolves arguments.

I was doing this for the ultimate natural high. I had read the results of a recent study by Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo that such a stare can induce “dissociative symptoms, dysmorphic face perceptions and hallucination-like strange-face apparitions.” I wanted to trip by looking into my dad’s eyeballs.

Caputo’s study was conducted…

Using pen and ink, he skewered bigots and Nazis.

Before he put a cat in a hat, let Horton hear a Who or made Sam-I-Am literature’s most persistent pusher of green eggs and ham, Dr. Seuss was at war.

Many are familiar with the environmentalist message in “The Lorax,” but Seuss’ political cartoons for left-leaning New York City newspaper PM from 1941–1943 reveal how directly he was willing to challenge the evils of his time. Using pen and ink, he made enemies of bigots, Nazis and myopic American attitudes toward war and foreign policy. These cartoons blaze a path for activists and artists today.

Ol’ Theodor Geisel took a…

A former addict finds peace in Sade’s sensual R&B.

Sade’s pulsating R&B hits a button on the back of my neck that lights up my whole brain. I told my current partner this the night I met her—that my musical tastes coincide with other people’s sex music. I am slightly ashamed to say this was a line I’ve used before and entirely ashamed that I thought it was a good line in the first place.

But it’s true. I’m not above playing Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” — with its persistent extended metaphor (“rock the boat, work the middle, change positions”) — while doing something mundane, like driving to Chipotle.

Dave Maher/Dose

As a performer, almost dying was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Two years ago, comedian Dave Maher woke from a monthlong coma. This is his story, told in ten installments.

I’m a doughy, bearded, straight, white, male stand-up comedian in his early 30s, so my coma provided color to my comedy career distinct from my beige demographic backdrop. “Finally, something interesting!” I said during one of my first shows back in Chicago. Afterward, a fellow comedian complimented me in the ball-busting way stand-ups consider affectionate: “Fuck you for finding an angle.”

I’m Charlie Bucket with a golden ticket to the Storytelling Factory. No artist would volunteer for the hell of poisoned…

Design: Antonio Manaligod for Dose

I woke up from a coma and fell in love with Hope.

Two years ago, comedian Dave Maher woke from a monthlong coma. This is his story, told in ten installments.

I’m a self-absorbed person. As a comedian and writer, I tell myself this comes with the territory. But even my own stories aren’t all about me. Some of them are about my mother, and one of the best is about a woman named Hope.

Hope is the female lead in the love story that grew out of my coma. That’s right: In addition to physical resurrection and the opportunity to read eulogies about myself, I also gained a love story with…

Ines Vuckovic/Dose

I often long for the release of self-destruction.

Two years ago, comedian Dave Maher woke from a monthlong coma. This is his story, told in ten installments.

I’m not always grateful for surviving a coma. Sure, I can walk, I have no brain damage and my butt is bedsore-free. But like a man saved from drowning who sneaks out to stare longingly at the ocean, I often long for the release of self-destruction.

Cheating death didn’t magically rid me of my clinical anxiety, my panic disorder, my dysthymia. Instead, I woke up with a whole new battle: my addiction. I’ve been completely sober for almost two years, but…

Here we see the author in his natural comedy habitat, relaxing after a performance as The Devil Himself. | photo: Reena Calm/design: Antonio Manaligod for Dose

A former evangelical Christian wrestles with faith after his own resurrection.

Two years ago, comedian Dave Maher woke from a monthlong coma. This is his story, told in ten installments.

Hollywood and the New York Times Bestseller list would have you believe there’s only one type of coma: the dramatic, out-of-body variety. When you’re trying to sell movie tickets or books, white light and near-death experiences are handy weapons to have in your arsenal.

Unfortunately, my own monthlong coma was more of the garden variety. I didn’t meet Jesus. I don’t remember hearing the voices of my loved ones. …

I woke up from a coma with a literal second asshole.

Two years ago, comedian Dave Maher woke from a monthlong coma. This is his story, told in ten installments.

When I woke from a coma after a month, my body was different in many ways. There was a 40-pound weight loss. There were tremors that left my hands shaky, unable to craft even a simple text message. There were weeks of dried, unpicked boogers waiting to be excavated. Lovely, I know.

However, part of the miracle of my story is just how quickly most of my functions recovered. I suffered no brain damage. My kidneys, previously shot, returned to full…

Dave Maher

Writer-performer-comedian. Coma guy from This American Life. My podcast is This Is Your Afterlife. thisisdavemaher.com

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