American Splendor Movie Review

Major Characters

Harvey PekarPaul Giamatti A frustrated and somewhat depressed twice-divorced man who works as a file clerk in a Cleveland, Ohio hospital. He discovers he has a real talent for writing, and with the help of some artist friends, he becomes well known for writing a comic book called American Splendor, which is about the struggles of his own ordinary life.Joyce Brabner.Hope Davis A politically active and often clinically-depressed young woman from the state of Delaware who is a fan of Harvey’s comic book, who comes out to Cleveland to meet him, and who soon becomes his 3rd wife.Robert CrumbJames Urbaniak A semi-famous comic book writer who is a good friend of Harvey’s (In real life, Crumb is best known for making the first X-rated cartoon, Fritz the Cat, in the early 1970s).Toby RadloffJudah Friedlander A friend of Harvey’s who works at the same hospital, who is a classic “nerd,” and a socially awkward young man who may also be autistic.Mr. BoatsEarl Billings Another co-worker and friend of Harvey’s at the hospital.FredJames McCaffrey One of the artists who helps draw Harvey’s comic book.DanielleMadylin Sweeten Fred’s 10 year old daughter.David LettermanDavid Letterman A famous TV talk show host who had the real Harvey Pekar on his show several times in the 1980s.

Plot Summary

This film is a true story, based on the life of the comic book writer Harvey Pekar,who became well-known by writing American Splendor. This is a comic book that followsPekar’s own life as a struggling file clerk in a Cleveland hospital, and because thereal Harvey Pekar is seen discussing the making of this very film within the movie,in some ways this is a movie about a writer within a comic book within a movie. Thismakes it occasionally confusing, but it’s always interesting and an excellent look atthose Americans who are constantly trying to balance their boring but necessary jobswith their desires to do something more creative and exciting with their lives.It follows Pekar’s life from his childhood in Cleveland after World War 2 untilthe 1960s, when he becomes a file clerk and occasional jazz record collector andreviewer, and then on to the 1970s, 80s and beyond. Eventually, he marries twice,divorces twice, and then finally settles down with his third and final wife, Joyce,who was one of his early fans and read American Splendor faithfully (“Splendor” is agood word for elegance, grace or magnificence). Along the way, he becomes friends with the comic book writer Bob Crumb, who wouldgo on to become one of the most famous comic book writers ever, and he appears frequentlyon the Late Night TV show with David Letterman, which makes Harvey a bit more famousthan he would have been. Of course, life is still always a struggle for Harvey, his jobremains as boring as ever, he faces a bad year of fighting against cancer, and thereis always something difficult because “ordinary life is complex stuff.” Still, with Joyce’slove and help, he manages to survive, at least until the making of this very movie.

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Some Words and Expressions that You May not Know

Harvey faces life without his second wife.and without his voice. Trick or treat! The words used by children who go door to door for candy on Halloween night (October 31st). A “trick” is something designed to fool a person, and a “treat” is something delicious to eat (or possibly a gift). All the superheroes on our porch! Ain’t that cute! A superhero is an idealized comic book character like Superman. A porch is the covered outdoor entrance to a house (Never say ain’t!).Superman, Batman and his sidekick Robin. A sidekick is a person closely associated with a better known or more powerful partner (Batman and Robin are famous comic book characters who also had a well known TV show in the 1960s).I’m a character in a celebrated underground comic book. [written] If a piece of art is celebrated, it is widely praised or admired. If art is underground, it is enjoyed by a small subculture of people and not by the great majority.If you’re wondering how a nobody guy like me ended up with so many incarnations, pay attention. To end up in a certain way is to finish that way. Incarnations are different forms or states of being or existence, often associated with different characteristics such as goodness or evil.Although he’s a pretty scholarly cat, he never got much of a formal education.

Scholarly refers to academic or serious book studying or research. A cat is a ridiculously slangy way of referring to a person and formal education refers to schooling, especially at the university level. For the most part, he lived in shit neighborhoods, held shit jobs, and is now knee deep in a disastrous second marriage. Note that shit can be used as a vulgar adjective meaning very bad or lousy. If someone is knee deep in something, they are deeply involved in it. Disastrous is a powerful adjective meaning catastrophic or totally horrible, often to the point where something is destroyed or ruined.If you’re the kind of person looking for romance or escapism, or some fantasy figure to save the day, guess what! Escapism is any kind of entertainment that lets you escape the hardships of everyday life, such as a comic book or science fiction movie. A fantasy figure is a character that is greater than possible in real life, such as the superheroes from the comics, like Superman or Batman.OK, you got four takes.

You ought to be able to patch one together from there. In the movie business, a take is an attempt to put a scene on film (often it requires several takes to film a scene that can be used). To patch together two or more things is to put them together in a way that will work well (A patch is a piece of cloth that is sewn over a hole).Let’s go to the next sequence.

A sequence is any part of a greater series of events. Here, a sequence in a film is one of many scenes that form a part of the larger story. Orange soda is alright.

Soda is a common word for a soft drink, such as coke. As an adjective, alright means fine or OK.Did you actually read the script? A script refers to the words that are said in a movie, usually memorized by the actors before filming starts.Do you feel weird saying this stuff? Weird is an excellent adjective meaning strange, odd or bizarre. Stuff is another word for things in general, or in this case, words. I don’t know how well my voice is going to hold out.

In this context, to hold out means to last or survive.Doc, you gotta help me, man.

Doc is a slangy way of addressing a doctor. Note that in rapid speech, have got to—&gt “gotta,” and that “man” is a very slangy and common filler word that’s used to express emotions such as frustration.My old lady’s dumping me because I can’t talk. Old lady is a slangy and dated expression for a wife (or possibly mom). To dump a person is to break up with them or leave them after having been involved with them romantically. (It literally means to throw away).Now that she’s got a Ph.D.

, she’s some hot shit academic star. A Ph.D. is the highest degree offered by a university. As an adjective, hot shit is a crude and colloquial way of saying excellent or impressive. Academic refers to school, and more specifically, a university.My being a file clerk was fine when I was signing the damn checks for her tuition.

A file clerk is one who helps organize papers in an office (A file is a group of related papers or documents). Tuition is the cost of classes at a college or university.First I got marital problems, and now you’re telling me I got cancer. For Christ’s sake, man. Marital is an adjective that refers to anything related to marriage. For Christ’s sake is a common way of expressing emotion such as anger or frustration (It’s used by all types of people, including the non-religious). You’ve got a nodule in your vocal chords, probably from screaming and yelling so much. A nodule is a small bump, and a person’s vocal chords are the organs that produce sound. To scream and yell both mean to shout.His vow of silence begins. [written] A vow of silence is a sacred promise to not speak or make any sounds,Hey come on, what is this? The most versatile phrasal verb in all of English, here meaning be serious, or stop being silly.This plebian lifestyle just isn’t working for me anymore. Plebian is a sad adjective which means poor and struggling (It is named after the Plebes who lived during the Roman empire). Lifestyle is an important word that refers to the general way a person lives their life, or possibly to how they follow their basic values or beliefs.So, it’s a few months later and I’m working my funky file clerk gig at the VA hospital. Flunky means poor, trivial or unimportant. A gig is a very slangy word for a job or a concert for a musician. The VA refers to the Veterans Administration, which is the government division which takes care of former soldiers. Lesbian? Where the hell did she get that shit, man? A lesbian’ is a female homosexual. Note that the hell is added to WH questions to show emotion such as anger or surprise. In this case, shit is a vulgar noun that refers to lies or other nonsense.Shun the polluted flock, live like that stoic bird. To shun a person is to avoid or stay away from them. A flock is the name for a group of birds. If a person is stoic, they are able to survive well without material comforts like a nice place to live or good food.It means stay away from the crowds of ordinary people and do your own thing.

A colloquial way of saying do what you like (or want).It means don’t compromise yourself for women. To compromise yourself is to do something that is against your own values or beliefs, just to get something you want.Probably listening to all that loud rock stuff. It’s all junk.

Another word for trash or garbage.Mr. Boats didn’t like any blues or anything like that. A type of music about life’s struggles, first created by African-Americans.Prior to that, I collected comic books. Prior to means before (in time).I was always a collector I admit having an obsessive-compulsive quality in me. If a person is obsessive-compulsive, they have an uncontrollable psychological need to do something, usually over and over again. With the encouragement of Crumb, Harvey becomes a comic book writer.You go to thrift shops and garage sales because youthink you’re going to find something really rare. A thrift shop sells used clothes and other goods for poor people. A garage sale is the sale of various goods that a person has collected in their own house over the years, such as furniture and books. Once in a while you’ll come up with something that will whet your appetite.

To come up with something is to think of it for the first time. To whet a person’s appetite is to give them just a little bit of something so that they’ll soon want more of it.I was with some buddies at a junk sale looking for some choice sides, when I met this sly retiring cat from Philadelphia named Bob Crumb. A buddy is a friend. A junk sale is a rarely used term for a garage sale. Choice sides refers to old records with jazz music. If a person is sly, they are clever in a subtle way, and if they’re retiring, they’re shy, though this is rarely used. A cat is silly and dated word for a guy. You know the guy, Fritz the Cat.

A famous movie that is considered the first pornographic or X-rated cartoon, created by Bob Crumb. It came out in the early 1970s.You are a cheap bastard, Harvey. — I know I’m tight, man, I live on a government wage.

A cheap bastard is a crude and insulting way of referring to a person who doesn’t like to spend money. Tight is another way of saying cheap or stingy with money. A wage is another word for salary (Government workers have a lot of job security but they are usually not paid well). Most of my records are back in Philly.

A slangy way of referring to the city of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania.That’s cool.

A very common colloquial word for good, excellent, fine, etc.You should see his comics, Harvey. They’re out of sight.

A dated but fun way of saying excellent, or more colloquially, totally cool.I’m into comics myself. To be into something is to be really interested in it.This is terrific.

I really dig your work, man. Terrific is a good alternative to excellent or great. To dig something is to really like it, though this is very old-fashioned slang.Can I get good bread for it? — Not yet. A dated slang word for money. Common in this film, but no longer in real life.It’s more than just an exercise.

It’s breakingground, man! There’s some wild shit in here, Bob! In this case, an exercise is the practice of something that is common and well known. To break ground is to do something different, that has not been done before. Some wild shit is a vulgar and slangy way of referring to something that is crazy and different.Crumb and I hung out a lot back then. To hang out with a person is to pass time with them.Check it out, man. One way of telling a person to look at something carefully.Pretty scary. — You don’t know the half of it.

A way of telling a person they don’t realize how amazing (or good or bad) something is that they’re discussing. Eventually, people got hip to Crumb’s art work, and he started hanging out with the Bohemian crowd.

To get hip to a person is to start to appreciate and like them (though this is dated). A Bohemian crowd referred to hippies, beatniks and other members of society who hung out in cafes and discussed philosophy and listened to jazz while avoiding mainstream American life.He got sick of greeting cards and moved to San Francisco, where he got the whole underground comic scene off the ground.

Greeting cards are cards for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. The underground comic scene refers to the subculture of young people who were very interested in comic books. To get a social movement off the ground is to get it started so that it grows and becomes more popular.It’s not like I tried to keep her captive.

To keep a person captive is to hold them physically against their will, as if they were in a prison.Don’t think I’m buying any of this growth crap.

In this case, to buy something means to believe it, and here, growth refers to spiritual growth, or perhaps the process of becoming more mature through experience. Crap is an excellent and vulgar word for lies, nonsense or bullshit.Everybody is always talking how bad experiences can help you to grow and all that clichd stuff. If something is clich, it is said so often that it becomes tiresome.I got to see this chick in New York. A dated but still used slang word for a young woman or teen girl.I’m just getting sick of the whole scene.

Here, the scene refers to the subculture of comic books and their fans. When you croak, man, you’re going to leave something behind. To croak is a slangy way of saying to die (It is also the sound a frog makes). Harvey is telling his friend Crumb that his comics will still be read after he is no longer alive.It sure beats a gig like mine, being a nobody flunky and selling records on the side for a buck.

In this context, to beat means to be better than. A gig is very slangy for a job, and a nobody flunky is Harvey’s way of referring to an unimportant person. A buck is a common colloquial word for a dollar.Picking the right check-out line is an art.

The check-out line is the line of people waiting to pay for food at a grocery story. Note people often debate weather something is an art (a form of expression) or a science (an act of critical observation).Frank, I need a price-check.

A common noun at stores when a cashier needs to find out the price of a product before selling it.I’m a yid myself, and women in my family are like that, but I never get used to it.

Yid is a racist word to describe Jewish people. To get used to something is to become comfortable with it after experiencing it a lot.I may be cheap, but I got limits, man. A person who is cheap does not like to spend money.Wake up! You’re whole life is being eaten away by this kind of crap! Again, a vulgar but good alternative to bullshit, lies or nonsense.Is this all a working stiff like you can expect? A working stiff’ is a working class person who struggles to make enough money (Stiff means rigid or not easily bent).Are you going to suffer in silence.or are you going to make a move? Here, to make a move means to do something dramatic that will change life fundamentally.I figure the guy’s who are doing animal comicsand superhero stuff, they’re really limited. To figure means to think (or possibly to guess). This is Harvey’s way of saying the more traditional comic book writers are not very imaginative.Underground stuff like yours has been really subversive, and it’s opened up things politically. If something is subversive, it works to weaken or even overthrow the dominant or powerful classes or forces in society. To open up something is to change it in such a way that lots of people begin to talk about it, or think about it in a different way.Stuff that the everyman has gotta deal with. One way of referring to everyday, common people.You’ve turned yourself into a comic hero. — Sort of, but there’s no idealized shit. If something is idealized, it is made to look better or more impressive than it really is. This is Harvey’s way of saying that the way he describes himself in his comics is realistic or true.There’s no phony bullshit.

This is the real thing, man. If something is phony, it is fake or intended to deceive or mislead. Bullshit refers to lies, half-truths or nonsense. Crude but very useful! The real thing refers to that which is totally true or genuine.Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.

If something is ordinary, it is commonplace, and if it is complex, it is complicated. Stuff of course, refers to things in general. This is one of the great lines in this movie.Can I take them home and illustrate them? To illustrate a scene is to draw or paint it.What’s up with your voice? All of a sudden you sound fine. — I guess you conned me. What’s up with is a common and colloquial way of asking what is going on with a particular situation, especially if surprising or unexpected things are happening. To con a person is to fool or trick them.Dishwashing has always been my Achilles heel.

[written] A person’s Achilles heel is their weakest point or feature. It is based on a myth from ancient Greek mythology, in which the God Achilles was covered all in gold except for his heel, on the bottom of his foot. A little glue should get the coat through one more winter. [written] Glue is a sticky white liquid that keeps two things stuck together, and to get through a winter is to be able to survive it.I’m desperately lonely and horny as hell.

Horny is a useful colloquial word for a person who strongly desires to have sex, and as hell is slangy filler that adds emphasis (and thus it means very, although it comes after the adjective).Now there’s a reliable disappointment.

[written] If something is a disappointment, it is not as good as expected (This is a clever line since Harvey’s looking in the mirror when he says it). I guess he’s about average. — Average is dumb.

An important word meaning commonplace or typical.Fuck that.

— That’s my stories by yours truly.

Note that fuck can be used as a transitive verb to express disgust or anger. Yours truly is a interesting and colloquial way of saying myself.’Hot off the presses! A well known line that refers to newspapers that are published with new and exciting news (A press is the machine a newspaper is printed on).We have a regular Hemingway here. Ernst Hemingway is considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.I don’t go in for any of that macho crap. To go in for something is to really enjoy or like it. Macho is a Spanish word that means super manly, or perhaps strong and muscular. You’re in there. Take it easy, for Christ’s sake.

If you tell a person to take it easy, you’re telling them to relax. For Christ’s sake is a way of expressing emotion such as anger or frustration.A buddy of mine and some of his friends did the art work. Another word for friend or pal.It’s not polite to grab things. Polite means considerate, friendly and well behaved. To grab something is to take or seize it quickly or with great force.They love it. They can’t get enough of it.

If you can’t get enough of something, you always want more of it. Harvey looks to other women, and Toby offers some spiritual advice.A brand new decade, same old bullshit. A decade is a period of 10 years, such as the 1960s, 1990s, etcSure, he gets lots of recognition for his writing now. Recognition is formal acknowledgment or even admiration for having done or accomplished something, usually which is positive.His comics are praised by all the important media types telling people what to think, but so what? To praise a book is to express a positive or favorable opinion of it. In this case, media types refers to writers for newspapers and magazines. Asking so what? is a way of suggesting something is not important.He can’t go and quit his day job or nothing. The regular job of a person which pays expenses, while they try to become successful as an artist or working on some other type of goal.Who am I kidding? Truth is, I’d be lost without my work routine.

To kid a person is to fool or mislead them (If a person is kidding, they’re joking around or not talking seriously). A routine is the act of doing the same thing day after day, such as going to work, which can give emotional stability to many people.Want three gourmet jellybeans? — I gave up sweets for lent.

If a food is gourmet, it is of a very high quality and delicious. Jellybeans are a type of candy. To give up a food is to decide to no longer eat it, often for health reasons. Lent refers to a period of 40 days when some Christians fast, or do not eat any food, at least during the day.I recommend the pina colodas.

They’re excellent and very authentic tasting.

Pina colada is a drink made with pineapple and coconut and rum. If something is authentic tasting, it tastes like the real food (fresh pineapples), as opposed to artificial flavors.Can you eat lentils during lent? Lentils’ are a type of popular bean.Sister Mary Fred? She sounds kind of mannish,but who the hell am I to be picky? Mannish means masculine, or resembling a man, but this word is rarely used. The hell is added to Wh questions to express emotions such as anger, or in this case, skepticism (non-belief). If a person is picky, they are not easily satisfied and only like certain specific foods, clothes, etc.She became a nun because she had a higher calling.

A nun is a Catholic woman who chooses to devote her life to God. If a person says they have a higher calling, they mean they are doing something because they believe God wants them to do it.Higher calling?! What a crock of shit! An excellent alternative way of referring to nonsense or bullshit (A crock is a large container, pot or jar, usually made of clay).I enjoy the ritual and I’m a very spiritual person. A ritual is a ceremony such as a wedding or funeral, or any type of spiritual act that has been done for many generations, or by one person for a long time, such as sleeping under the stars on the longest day of the year. If a person is spiritual, they value things beyond the physical world, such as religion, or perhaps nature or even the greater community.You should try believing in something bigger than yourself It might cheer you up.

To cheer up a person is to make them happy. This is Toby’s way of telling Harvey to be more spiritual.One is cherry and one is cinnamon.

— You can tell that just by looking at them? Cinnamon is a type of sweet spice or flavoring. Note that to tell can mean to see, or here, to see the difference between two similar things. How do you cope with loneliness, Harvey? To cope with a problem is to learn to live or deal with it or to survive it.You read, you write, you draw your stick figures.

Drawings of people that are made with simple lines, the way little children often draw people.The short weekend begins with longing.

two crullers, a jelly donut with powdered sugar. Got any of that day-old bread? Longing is a strong desire for what you do not have. A cruller is a type of donut, and day-old bread is bread that is sold super cheap. Yeah, we had a couple of lit classes together. You disappeared after two semesters.

In universities, lit is short for literature. A semester is a period of instruction for classes, often lasting for two to four months. There was that required math class hanging over my head.

Eventually, the pressure got to be too much. If something is hanging over your head, it is constantly bothering you because you have to deal with it but you’re not sure how.Meanwhile, I got my degree and I’m just a plain old wife and mother. A degree is a certificate from a university, such as a B.A. or Ph.D. In this case, plain old means typical or average.My second wife divorced me and I work a dead-end job as a file clerk. A dead-end job is usually a low-paying job with no real future.Sometimes I hang out with the guys, but most of the time I just stay at home by myself and read. To hang out with people is to pass time with them. Between my husband and my kids, it’s impossible for me to curl up with a good book. To curl up is to get into the position of a baby in your mother’s womb, lying on your side with your knees close to your chest.I hope that book don’t end up like so many of those novels, with somebody getting crushed to death by forces they can’t control. If a person is crushed to death, they are killed by being squeezed so tightly that they are overwhelmed by physical weight or pressure.Can I give you a lift somewhere? A lift is the act of being transported in a car. One way of saying a ride.Sure, Lester, the main character, croaks in the end, but at least he’s old and dies a natural, dignified death. To croak is a slangy word meaning to die. If a person’s death is dignified, it takes place without horrible pain or destruction of the body.In my sleep, I’d feel a body next to me, like an amputee feels a phantom limb.

An amputee is a person whose arm or leg has been removed. A phantom limb is the false feeling that an amputees sometimes has, that they can still feel the limb that is no longer there (A phantom is a ghost and a limb is an arm of leg).Just keep on working and something is bound to turn up.

In this case, to turn up is to appear by surprise, or unexpectedly.I put one aside for myself next to the register.

The register is the machine that adds up the price of goods that have been bought.I’m going to hustle before the vibe in here gets any worse. You can just hang.

The words of a person who speaks only in slang! To hustle is to work hard, or in this case, to move quickly. A vibe is a vibration, or a word that refers to the general emotional feeling between two or more people (In physics, a vibration is a wave that travels through the air). To hang is short for hang out, or to pass time doing nothing in particular. Joyce enters Harvey’ s life and soon they are married, and Toby reveals the pride of being a nerd.Greetings from the second smallest state in the union. An endless plasticsand nylon plantation controlled by giant chemical corporations. Greetings is another way of saying hello. Note that Delaware is both the second smallest state and the official home of many big corporations. Nylon is the material used to make women’s leg stockings.To make matters more dismal, there are no decent comic book storesin my town, which is why my partner and I opened one ourselves. Here, matters means the situation. Dismal is an excellent word for dark and depressing. Decent means satisfactory or OK, but not great. Despite our steadily faltering business, my partner managed to sell the last copy of American Splendor number eight, out from under me.

If a business is faltering, it is struggling just to survive. If a person sells a book out from under you, they sell it without your permission and without you even knowing about it.Man, she’s got good-looking handwriting. An excellent word for pretty, sexy or physically attractive, but note here it’s used to describe hand-writing and not a person.Anybody in the room ever done any creative writing of any sort? Creative writing can refer to poetry, short stories, novels, etc. Of any sort is another way of saying of any type.I’m a sometimes activist and I teach writing to prisoners. An activist is a person who becomes politically involved in various causes, such as fighting against poverty, war or racism. I try to help them build an interior life, and make art out of their monotonous, suffocating routine. A person’s interior life is Joyce’s way of referring to a person’s emotional or spiritual well-being. If a job is monotonous, it is boring because it involves the same thing, over and over. A suffocating routine is a boring and even destructive way of living that involves doing the same thing over and over.Despite the way my comics read, I got a lot of redeeming characteristics.

If a person has redeeming characteristics, they have admirable or positive qualities, such as kindness or great intelligence.Don’t worry, I’m not gonna put no moves on you.

To put the moves on a person is to try and attract or seduce them into a romantic or sexual relationship.The way Crumb draws you, you look like a hairy ape,with all those wavy, stinky lines, undulating off you body. If a line is wavy, it is curved, or rising and falling, like a wave. If a wave is undulating, it is moving in a wavy, rising and falling motion.I’ll try to be anyone you want me to be. — That’s a dangerous offer. I’m a notorious reformer.

If a person is notorious, they are famous in a negative way for having done something bad or having bad or irritating characteristics. A reformer is a person who tries to change people or improve society.Look, before we get started with any of this, you might as well know right off the bat.

I had a vasectomy.

To learn something right off the bat is to learn about it immediately or right away. A vasectomy is an operation that makes men infertile or unable to be a father, by cutting off the tube that carries sperm.What difference does it make? One way of asking Why is this important?I support and identify with groups like PETA, but unfortunately, I’m a self-diagnosed anemic.

PETA is an animal rights organization (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). If a disease is self-diagnosed, a person studies their own body and concludes they have it, without going to a doctor. If a person is anemic, they are often weak or without vitality because they don’t have enough red blood cells.I have all these food allergies to vegetables which give me serious intestinal distress.

An allergy is a condition in which people get easily sick if they are exposed to certain foods, animals or other things. A person’s intestines are the part of the stomach where food is stored and eliminated from the body. Distress is another word for pain and suffering.I guess I have a lot of borderline health disordersthat limit me politically when it comes to eating. If a condition is borderline, it is not completely that way, but almost (A person with borderline diabetes has a very weak case of diabetes, but it could get worse). A disorder is an abnormal physical or mental condition. This is Joyce’s way of saying she supports animal rights, but her fragile health means she is dependent on the use of animals for food.Everyone in my family has some sort of degenerative illness.

A degenerative illness is a disease that slowly but steadily weakens and then destroys the body over time.I was going to clean up, but why should I give you any false notions? A notion is another word for an idea or belief.I’m sorry if my dating skills are a little rusty.

Dating is the act of going out with somebody you might be romantically interested in, perhaps to a movie or dinner. If a person’s skills are rusty, they are a bit weak or slow from not having practiced in a long time (If a nail is rusty, it has turned a red-orange color).That last one turned out to be a real nasty bitch.

Nasty means mean or abusive, and a bitch is a strong insult word for a mean, abusive or extremely disagreeable woman.Don’t make people repeat themselves. That’s annoying.

A good alternative word for irritating.I think that yuppie food did me in.

A yuppie is a slang word for a young professional person who makes a lot of money. If food does you in, it makes you sick.Chamomile tea?.I thought you drink soda pop for breakfast. Chamomile is a popular herb, and soda pop is a soft drink, like coke.The girl at the food coop&#151She picked me out all kinds of herbal stuff. A food coop is a market that is owned by the people who work there, or perhaps by the customers. An herb is a plant that can act as medicine.I think we should skip the whole courtship thing and just get married. To skip something is to pass by or over it, without notice or mention. Courtship is the act of dating and getting to know each other romantically over a period of time.I’m glad I talked you into coming up here. Glad means happy or pleased, and to talk a person into doing something is to convince or persuade them to do it.Any more time alone, I really might have lost it.

In this context, to lose it means to become very upset emotionally, or perhaps to have a nervous breakdown.Can I have a fry? A reference to a single French fry (French fries are almost always plural).I’m not going to be eating dinner until late, and this has got to hold me over.

If food has to hold you over until a certain time, it has to help you survive until then, since you won’t be getting any more food before then.What have you got? A church function? A social event, such as a party or breakfast, held at, or by, a church.The chick I’m marrying is from Washington, plus I got to help her move her stuff back here. A dated but still used slang word for a young woman or teen girl.What movie could possibly be worth driving 260 miles roundtrip for? — It’s a new film called Revenge of the Nerds. Revenge is the act of hurting a person after they have hurt you. A nerd is an unfashionable, unattractive or socially awkward person, especially one who is devoted to school subjects such as math. It’s about a group of nerd college studentswho are being picked on all the time by jocks.

To pick on a person is to constantly threaten, annoy or harass them. A jock is a very athletic and usually muscular young man.So what you’re saying is that you identify with these nerds. To identify with a person is to feel as if you’re just like them.I consider myself a nerd and this movie has uplifted me. To uplift a person is to make them feel good or inspired.There’s this one scene where a nerd grabs a microphone during a pep rally and announces that he is a nerd and proud of it. A microphone is a device that makes one’s voice louder when speaking to a crowd. A pep rally is a meeting of a large crowd to get them excited for a particular cause, such as a sports team or political candidate..and he stands up for the rights of other nerds. — Right on! To stand up for a person is to speak for them or in support of them. Right on is a very old-fashioned way of expressing energetic approval.You got this movie and I’m getting hitched.

We both had a good month. To get hitched is a slangy way of saying to get married (To hitch one thing to another is to hook them together).Is it a good flick? — Depends on the girl What kind of girl is your new bride? A flick is a movie. A person’s bride is the woman they’re marrying.I think I portray her fairly.

To portray a person is to describe, draw or present them in a certain way. Fairly means with fairness, justly, or in an unbiased manner (Note that the noun form of the verb is a portrayal, with an &#145al’ at the end).You always say misery loves company.

A famous expression which means that people who are unhappy prefer to be with other unhappy or miserable people rather than be alone.I’m such a gloomy guy. That’s all. If a person is gloomy, they have a dark, sad and depressing view of life. It’s my perspective Gloom and doom.

A person’s perspective is the way they view things in general. If a person is doomed, they’re in danger of being killed or seriously hurt, so a gloom and doom perspective is an outlook filled with darkness and fear. I guess I fooled you. To fool a person is to trick or mislead them.You missed the whole point of the movie! The point of a movie or book refers to what exactly it is trying to say.I think it’s a story about hope and tolerance.

— Yes, it’s about time the people who get picked on get to be all the heroes. Tolerance is acceptance of people who are different from oneself or opinions that are different from one’s own. To be picked on is to be harassed or even threatened by others, usually who are stronger.They live with their parents in a big house in the suburbs.

The outer part of a city, often filled with middle class houses. Use your inner voice, please. A Buddhist or perhaps hippie’s way of referring to what you really feel inside.They’re not 28 year old file clerks who livewith their grandmother in an ethnic ghetto.

An ethnic ghetto is usually a poor part of a city where most people are of the same background, such as African-Americans or Irish-Americans.They didn’t get their computers the way you did, by trading in a bunch of box tops and $49.95 at a supermarket. A box top is literally the top of a box of food that is sometimes shown as proof of having bought that food, in order to get a reward or prize.It’s Hollywood bullshit, Toby! This is Harvey’s way of saying real life is very different from what happens in the movies.I was transported to another time in my life. To be transported somewhere is to be physically taken there, though here it means to be powerfully reminded of a different time in one’s life. It’s the same as the I have a Dream speech.

A very famous speech by Martin Luther King Jr., made in 1963, in which he calls out for racial equality and justice.Maybe I was being so harsh on Toby on account of my own problems. Harsh is a strong adjective meaning overly critical or disagreeable. On account of is another way of saying because of I wasn’t even married a month and my old lady was already showing signs of trouble. A ridiculous way of referring to one’s wife. Don’t use it!Granted, I tend to get married fast because I’ll take any woman that will have me. Granted is an interesting way of saying I admit that If a person tends to do something, they generally do it a lot over time. In this case, to have a person means to accept them as a husband or life partner.By this time, I really met my match.

If a person meets their match, they have met somebody who will be a real challenge for them, or equal to them in some area, such as a particular skill or talent like baseball or painting.I ain’t getting rid of my 78s. To get rid of something is to eliminate it, throw it away, or in this case, to sell it (A ’78’ is a type of musical record that was made until the 1960s).I don’t want to hear that psycho-babble crap! A fun expression that refers to words that are popular in modern psychology but don’t make any sense, or sound ridiculous to normal people who haven’t studied it.You are the poster child for DSM III.

A poster child for a disease is someone who is completely associated or linked with that illness by the general public. The DSM III is a famous book for psychologists on the various mental diseases.I’ll have you know that I came from a very dysfunctional family, Harvey. I can spot a personality disorder miles away. A dysfunctional family is one that can not function normally, usually because so many of the members within it have such bad or unhealthy relationships with each other. To spot a problem is to see it or notice it. A personality disorder is another way of referring to a psychological problem, such as extreme shyness or uncontrolled anger.Borderline autistic. Autism is a psychological state in which people have trouble forming normal relationships or communicating with others, and if a person is borderline autistic, they have a weak or subtle form of this condition.Paranoid personality disorder. If a person is paranoid, they are convinced the world in general, or other people in particular, are trying to always hurt or kill them. Polymorphously perverse. An expression invented by the psychologist Sigmund Freud to refer to uncontrolled sexual desire (If a person is perverted, or a pervert, they are considered sexually sick by most of society).Delusions of grandeur. A psychological term for a person who believes that they are much greater or more important than they really are (Delusions are misperceptions, and grandeur refers to greatness).God only knows how I’ll feel when I see this movie. One possible way of saying nobody knowsVariety called me The Blue Collar Mark Twain, and Doubleday was interested in publishing an anthology of American Splendor. Variety is a well known magazine for the film industry. A blue collar person usually works doing physical labor, or perhaps doing boring work in an office. Mark Twain was a great and funny 19th century American writer. Doubleday is a big book publisher and an anthology is a collection of stories that is put together in one book.I’ve got to shell out 30 bucks for a command. To shell out money is to spend it. Very slangy. A buck is a very common way of saying a dollar.[It] figures.

That lucky yuppie is going to get to the bus in time. It figures is an interesting way of expressing the opinion that what just happened is wrong, but not unexpected. A yuppie is a young professional who makes a lot of money. Goddamn yuppies get everything. A crude filler term that’s used to express emotion such as anger.I said vasectomies are reversible.

If an operation is reversible, the body could be put back the way it was before (So in this case, a man would still be able to father a child).I came clean about my vasectomy the first time I set eyes on you. To come clean about something is to be totally honest about it.I got a review due tomorrow. A review of a film, play or record is a piece of writing in which a person explains why they did or did not like it.It happens to be Saturday, you selfish son of a bitch.

It happens to be is used as a stylistic way of emphasizing what is being said. Son of a bitch is a vulgar insult word for a mean or abusive person. It’s your whole screwed up life The least youcan do is allow me to live here in my own way. If something is screwed up, it isn’t working well, and if a person’s entire life is screwed up, they are probably very unhappy how things are going.Joyce diagnosed herself as clinically depressed.

To diagnose a medical condition is to determine what it is. Clinical depression is a psychological term for a person who is so sad or depressed that they can’t function normally in life. I didn’t know what the hell she is going through, but it was sure taking its toll on me. If a person is going through something difficult, they are experiencing it over time. If a situation takes its toll on somebody, it makes them weak or even sick because it is so tiring or harmful. Harvey becomes a star on the Letterman show, but he still has to keep his job as a file clerk.I’m a producer with Late Night with David Letterman.

The name of Letterman’s talk show in the 1980s, which was broadcast around midnight.I’d like to talk to you about you coming on the show to plug your comics. To plug a book is a colloquial way of saying to talk about it in public so that it will become better known and sell more copies.Joyce finally got off the futon.

A type of couch with a metal frame that can also function as a bed.Come on, who the hell cares?! Jesus Christ! Who the hell cares? is one way of saying nobody cares! Remember that Jesus Christ is used to express emotion such as frustration or anger, by both religious and non-religious people of all ages.What the hell are you doing?! — Merchandizing.

As a verb, to merchandise means to promote or get publicity for the products and goods you are trying to sell.Late Night Thrill Cam.

[written] If something is a thrill, it is very exciting and unusual, and a cam is a small movie camera, which is popular today for making home movies.You got something to eat, because my stomach is growling.

If your stomach is growling, it is making a deep low noise, like a lion makes when it opens its mouth wide. What do you mean calling me &#145curious’? In this context, curious means a bit strange, odd or different than most. I meant &#145curious’ in a fascinating way. A man who has the presence of one who is quite fascinating. A person’s presence is the way they behave or seem around others. This is Letterman’s way of trying to be diplomatic or polite to Harvey, by telling him he meant to say Harvey was more interesting than strange.I thought I might be nursing a viper in my bosom.

To nurse is to breast feed milk, a viper is a snake or perhaps a bad or evil person, and a woman’s bosom are her breasts, though some people use it poetically to refer to a person’s chest (male or female).You’re a little defensive about this. — Yeah, I am. I’m waiting for those Cleveland jokes. To be defensive about something is to be overly sensitive about it, or easily hurt by people’s comments about it. Settle down, Harvey, settle down. An alternative way of telling a person to calm down or be quiet.You could probably get by on what you make selling your work. To get by on a certain amount of money is to be able to survive and live on it.People are after you to write other things. — Whatpeople? Where the hell do you get this stuff? If a person is after you to do something, they are trying to convince you to do it. The last sentence is a slangy way of saying You do not know what you are talking about! I’m no show-biz phony! I’m telling the truth! Show-biz is a common abbreviation for show business, which refers to the movie and music industries. A phony is a person who acts in a way that is not truly what they are like, or claims to be things that are not true.At least he’s keeping up with Letterman. — Pandering is more like it. To keep up with a person is to stay equal to them in some way, in this case by being as funny and pleasing to the audience. To pander to a person is to do and say things that you know will please them.I’m trying to get some news. There’s a big story about to break about the US selling arms to Iran and the Contras. If a news story is about to break, it is about to become known to the general public. Arms is another word for weapons, such as guns and missiles (The Contras were rebels who fought in Nicaragua in the 1980s). Am I giving you a hard time? To give someone a hard time is to strongly criticize them, or make their life difficult.What do these go for? — 34 bucks. If a book goes for 34 dollars, that’s how much it costs.Such brilliant repartee.

A repartee (pronounced re-par-tay) is a French word used in English to mean a clever response to something that was just said.What do you think? — Megalomaniac.

A megalomaniac is a person who thinks they are extremely important and great and that all the world spins around them.Letterman was an OK guy Let him take potshots at me. To take potshots at somebody is to make a series of perhaps funny but critical or harsh remarks about them. You look like every police artist sketch I have ever seen. A police artist sketch is a drawing of a criminal that is made from the descriptions of people who saw the person commit the crime. Funny thing is, something about me and Letterman clicked for the viewers. If a person clicks with an audience, they like or feel comfortable with them (To click is to also make the sound of a switch turning on and off).It’s slow going I still have the same job. If a situation is slow going, it is evolving or changing very slowly.But see Harvey, you’re the embodiment of the American dream.

If a person is the embodiment of something, they are the very symbol of it, or their lives have come to be associated with it in the public mind. The American dream is the idea that any American can become rich, or at least own a home and be comfortably middle class, if they work hard.As a result of my appearance on Letterman, my buddy Toby Randolff landed a gig extolling the virtues of MTV.

A buddy is a friend, and to land a gig is to get a good or fun job. To extol the virtues of something means to talk very positively about its good qualities (A virtue can be anything that is considered of high moral or ethical standards). MTV is a TV station which plays music videos.Yo! Watch where you’re going.

— All right, you fucking yuppie freak.

Yo is a Spanish word, used in English to mean pay attention. Watch where you’re going is what you can say to a person who has just accidentally run into you. Note that fucking can be used a vulgar adverb, and a freak is any very strange or bizarre person.Who the fuck is this on my set? The fuck is added to Wh questions to express emotion such as anger, but note that this is much more vulgar then the hell! The set of a TV show or movie is where it is filmed.This is my new do for the MTV generation. Do can be short for hairdo, which is a person’s hair style.Toby’s a genuine nerd and he doesn’t care if you have a problem with that. Genuine is a good word for true, real or authentic. A nerd is an unfashionable, unattractive or socially awkward person, especially one who is devoted to school subjects such as math and science. To have a problem with something is to not like it.As you know, many hip people, including a lot of collegestudents, are going to be heading for spring break.

If a person is hip, they are considered fashionable, socially talented, or more colloquially, cool, by their friends and others. Spring break refers to the one week stopping of school when many college students go to places like Florida beaches to have lots of parties and drink lots of beer.That day, I had an epiphany.

It seemed like real salt-of-the-earth peoplelike Toby and me were being co-opted by these huge corporations. An epiphany is a sudden realization or important idea. People who are salt-of-the-earth are generally poor and struggle to survive. If a person has been co-opted by big companies, they have had their art, which may have been very politically radical or critical, repackaged and sold by those companies in such a way that the art just becomes part of the system that it had been criticizing.We were being held up and ridiculed as losers in the system. If a person is held up and ridiculed, they are made fun of in front of lots of other people, perhaps because of things they say or believe.This is Toby Randall, genuine Spring Break party nerd, signing off.

If a person signs off, they are saying goodbye to the audience.That’s so excellent. You and stupid pet tricks are a riot.

Stupid pet tricks was a popular part of the Letterman show in which Dave got cats, dogs and other animals to do ridiculous things. In this context, if a person is a riot, they are extremely funny. Later, Harvey Pekar. — What an asshole.

Later is a way of saying goodbye. Asshole is a very crude but common insult word.I don’t give a damn about the Letterman show. To not give a damn about something is to not care about it.You know I only go on the show for the extra bread.

Bread is a very old-fashioned word for money.Maybe if you got your lazy ass up and got yourselfa job, I could do something that matters, too! This is Harvey’s angry way of telling Joyce he wants her to make some money so that he can do the artistic things that he wants to do.Sure I was happy for her, but I was still upset for me. If a person is upset, they are worried, angry or agitated. Harvey faces cancer, and Joyce concludes that the best way to deal with it is to turn it into a comic book.It was later that night when I first found the lump.

A small piece of bodily tissue, which is often round and feels abnormal (A lump can be a sign of cancer).I was determined to put it out of my mind until Joyce got back. Easier said than done.

To put something out of your mind is to not think about it. Easier said than done is a widely used expression which means that it is sometimes easier to say you’re going to do something than it is to actually do it.How often do we have to go through the same shit? How often do we have to talk about the same disagreeable subject? Just give me the fucking charts! In a medical context, charts refer to the print out or drawings of a person’s bodily functions, such as their blood pressure or heart rate. Are you all set? In this context, to be set means to be ready. Very common.I was starting to lose it.

Between the lump, the loneliness, I felt like everything was starting to close in on me. To lose it means to become very emotionally upset or overwhelmed, perhaps even to the point of a nervous breakdown. If things start to close in on a person, they start to make him feel trapped or caged.And with Joyce over there saving the world, I never felt more like a sell-out hack in my life. If an artist is a sell out, they decide to do work that is popular and sells well, even though they’d prefer to be doing something closer to the type of art they really believe in. A hack is a very negative word for an artist who works only to make money, and not for artistic reasons.You know folks, if it really is true that misery loves company, our next guess must always have a full house of people. Folks is another word for parents, or more generally, people. Misery loves company means very unhappy people like to be with other people who are miserable and unhappy.OK asshole, you’re gonna pay for that one. This is Harvey’s vulgar way of saying that Dave will be hurt or punished for treating people so badly on his show.Harvey, this is not the forum.

This is not Meet the Press.

A forum is a place where views of public issues of are discussed. Meet the Press is a famous TV talk show where politicians are interviewed.You just want to talk about simple-minded bullshit, David, but I ain’t co-opted like you. I have things to say. Simple-minded bullshit is a crude way of referring to subjects that are silly and unimportant. If a person has been co-opted, they have been paid to create art that is conservative and doesn’t challenge the most powerful people in society.For instance, I want to talk to you about a conflict of interest situation. You know, like GE owning this network, NBC.

A conflict of interest is a situation where a person or company is expected to act in a way that could be against their own interests or desires. GE is the General Electric Company, and NBC is the National Broadcasting Corporation, which is a big TV network. In the 1980s, GE bought NBC.Can we get the singing Schizu back here? A funny looking type of small dog.You think NBC news is gonna cover what they do fairly? Note that going to—&gt “gonna” in rapid speech. If the press covers a story, they investigate and report on it.Just shut up man, don’t push me. I’m doing my own thing.

To do your own thing is a slangy way of saying that you are doing exactly what you want to, even if other disapprove of it.It’s not what you’re saying Harvey. It’s about your choice of venue.

A venue is another word for forum, or a place where meetings for the discussion of public issues is discussed (such as a TV talk show).Joe, come check this out.

To check out a TV show is to take a look at it or watch it.You sulk and complain and promote your comic book, and you really haven’t been very appreciative. To sulk is to stay quiet while angry and upset, like a bitter young child. To promote a book is to try and get publicity for it so it will sell more.I’ve always been a file clerk, and it’s no thanks to you or your goddamn pathetic audience, man. A very negative adjective which means pitiful, or so bad, weak, ridiculous, etc. that people show a mix of sympathy and contempt.And the show winds up in chaos.

[written] If a show winds up, it finishes. Chaos is an excellent word for extreme disorder, anarchy and perhaps uncontrolled violence.If you go away again, I &#145m going to lose it.

— Harvey, this is not up for discussion.

Here, to lose it is to become extremely upset or even have a nervous breakdown. If something is not up for discussion, it can no longer be discussed or debated.Does tumor mean the same as cancer? — We know the growth is malignant.

A tumor is a lump or growth in the body. If it is malignant it is cancerous, if it is benign, it is not dangerous.What we don’t know is how far it may have spread.

— Once we have the results, we can make more informed decisions about treatment.

If cancer spreads, it grows outward from one part of the body to another. Treatment refers to the actions that are taken to stop or even cure a person who is suffering from a disease.My cousin Norman died of lymphoma.

He was a brilliant oncologist.

Lymphoma is a type of very dangerous cancer that spreads throughout the body. An oncologist is a doctor who treats cancer patients.Look at me and focus! We’re going to get through this. To focus is to concentrate on one particular thing. To get through a difficult period is to survive it.I understand illness! I know how to handle these things! Illness is another word for disease. To handle a difficult situation is to deal with it, or learn to effectively fight against it.You’ll document every detail.

And that way you’llremove yourself from the experience until it’s over. To document an experience is to write down everything about it. A detail is a small part of a whole, or generally, any fact, big or small.He’s going to work until next week, when he starts chemo.

Short for chemotherapy, which is a very serious way to treat cancer, in which radiation is used on the body in hopes of killing the cancer cells.Once he’s stuck here, I know he’ll take over.

If a person is stuck in a place, they can’t physically leave. To take over a house is to become the dominant and most powerful person within it.Fucking idiot! A common and excellent word for a stupid person, moron or jerk.Here’s some of the ideas we’ve been batting around.

To bat around an idea is to talk about it from different points of view.There’s too many words in these frames.

In a comic strip, a frame is one square in the series of drawings.My ex-wife is supposed to take her, but I don’t have much faith in her showing up.

To show up is a very common phrasal verb meaning to arrive.Am I a guy who writes about himself in a comic book, or am I just a character in that book? An interesting question by Harvey on the meaning of his life.If I die, will that character keep going, or will he just fade away? If a person fades away, they slowly become less and less visible until they are no longer around and nobody sees them.This filled me with curiosity How can there be three peoplewith such an unusual name in the world, let alone in one city? Let alone is an interesting expression that emphasizes the fact that what is being discussed is even more specific than the general statement.She pointed out an obituary notice in thenewspaper for a man named Harvey Pekar. An obituary notice is an official announcement of the death of a person, which usually has a brief biography and list of surviving family members.Somehow I made it through the treatment and the doctors are optimistic. To make it through medical treatment is to survive it. We published the thing as a graphic novel, our first collection, and ended up with rave reviews.

A graphic novel is a book that is told with drawings or pictures. A rave review of a book is a very enthusiastic and positive essay or critique.We even won a couple national book awards. Go figure.

A funny little expression which basically means unexpected, but true. Harvey and Joyce survive his disease and grow as a real family, but life, as always, remains a struggle.That was the doctor. He says it’s all clear.

If a condition is all clear, there is no longer a threat or problem, which in this case means Harvey’s cancer appears to be completely gone.The weirdest thing that came out of my illness was Danielle. Weird is an excellent adjective that means strange or bizarre, though in this case it also seems to mean totally unexpected.With her real mother running around God knows where and seeing howwell Joyce and Danielle got on, Fred decided she’d have a better life with us. God knows where is a way of saying nobody knows where. If two people get on, they get along well (this is more British than American).I thought, what the hell, she’s a good kid. So we ended up taking her and raising her as our own. In this context, what the hell is a way of expressing acceptance of the situation. To raise a child is to take care of them until they are an adult.I know I’m not as interesting as The Little Mermaid and all that magical crap. A well known children’s story (A mermaid is usually a very pretty young woman with the body of a fish).No Harvey, it’s just when you hold my hand, you squeeze it too hard. To squeeze something is to press on it tightly from opposite sides.Joyce is right You are obsessive-compulsive.

A person who has an uncontrollable need to do something, over and over again (such as taking a bath ten times a day).The kid’s got A.D.D. and is a real handful.

A.D.D. stands for attention deficit disorder, which is a psychological condition that became much discussed in the 1990s, in which children are unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. If a child is a real handful, it takes a lot of time and energy to take care of them since they’re so often getting into trouble.My life is total chaos.

An excellent word for total disorder and lack of organization.The golden years, right? An expression that refers to the years after a person retires (i.e.old age!).Between my pension and the chunk of change I get for this film, I should be able to swing something.

A pension is the monthly amount of money that an employee receives from their employer after they retire. A chunk of change is Harvey’s way of referring to a relatively large amount of money (A chunk is a thick piece or lump). Here, to swing something is a slangy way of saying to do or accomplish something interesting.Sure, I’ll lose the war eventually, but the goal is to win a few skirmishes along the way, right? A skirmish is a small gun fight or battle in a bigger war.For he’s a jolly good fellow which nobody can deny! [song] A jolly good fellow is very old English for a good guy. To deny something is to claim it isn’t true.