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Episode 8: Graham Elwood
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Paul talks with fellow comedian, long-time friend and alpha male Graham Elwood about depressing fall days from their childhoods in the midwest!  They open up about divorce, unhappy moms, being too competitive and finding a way to be at peace.


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Episode Transcript:
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Paul:  I’m here with long time friend, fellow comedian Graham Elwood, how long have we known each other?

 

Graham:  Oh my goodness, probably since 94, something like that 93, 94…

 

Paul:  Yeah, well, I think I was, I was still living in Chicago—

 

Graham:  Oh yeah, we—

 

Paul:  Sorta like 90-91 would even be my guess, or were you not living in Chicago yet?

 

Graham:  I was living— I moved to Chicago… I graduated and moved back there about 91, 92.  Yeah, I was dong the stand up in Chicago and we met through Pete Moore

 

Paul:  Right.

 

Graham:  Yeah, like all the Chicago comics, I remember we went, we had some dinner parties at Pete Moore’s house and we played – What was that board game that we played?

 

Paul:  Oh, Balderdash?!

 

Graham:  Not Balderdash, no, no, no, no… it was not a board game but it was a party game where you tried to get people to believe your lies or something like that or…

 

Paul:  Isn’t that what Balderdash is?

 

Graham:  Maybe that is Balderdash?

 

Paul:  Yeah, yeah, yeah… somebody would say what a word is and you would make up a fake definition.

 

Graham: Oh yeah, that’s right…

 

Paul:  But we kind of, we didn’t use the actual board, we would just the dictionary and you would uh, and I remember playing with somebody who was so dull that I began to realize that every description they are coming up with are items that are on the table.  It was like… this person was a comedienne, and this does not bode well for your career that you can’t literally imagine something outside your range of vision…

 

Graham:  Yeah, great riffing skills.

 

Paul: Yeah

 

Graham:  From three to six…

 

Paul:  So you and I don’t hang out as much as we used to, but we used to hang out quite a bit, had a lot of fun on the road together.  You’re originally from, uh, I forget what town you’re originally from…

 

Graham:  I’m originally from Madison Wisconsin—

 

Paul:  Right.

 

Graham: … and I moved to Chicago when I was about eleven or twelve and then went to high school there and then went to college in Arizona and then came back and started doing stand up, like full time there in the 90’s and that’s when we all sorta met; that whole Chicago scene.

 

Paul:  Okay and you’ve got a really popular website and podcast and uh, it’s Comedy Film Nerds.

 

Graham: Yeah, yeah, so I host the podcast with Chris Mancini, we’ve been doing that about a year and a half, which has been a blast.

 

Paul:  Chris is a great guy.  I love Chris.

 

Graham:  Working with Chris is great because he’s like, he’s sorta the antithesis of me, in that he’s always, he doesn’t over react, you know what I mean, he doesn’t go like ‘what the fuck!!!???’

 

Paul: Right, he’s a mellow… he’s an easygoing guy.

 

Graham:  Totally easygoing guy and it’s a tremendous balance in terms of, cause  –

 

Paul:  Cause you’re a prick!  Go Fuck Yourself!  How does that sound? Um…

 

Graham:  Yeah, you could call me a little wound up

 

Paul:  You’re an alpha— you’re definitely an alpha.  I have to give the listener a story.  I played hockey my whole life—

 

Graham:  Oh Great…

 

Paul:  And Graham and I used to go rollerblading together and we’d play roller hockey and I wasn’t certainly trying to rub it in or lord the fact that I was a better skater than you, but it just ate at your core that I was skating around you with the puck cause you’re so competitive and I get it.  I recognize it cause I’m the same guy, if we would have switched places I would have done exactly what you did.  But, I vaguely remember, you just couldn’t take that I was beating you anymore and you hooked me or slashed me and called me a faggot.  Something like that, and then we both just started laughing cause we saw how ridiculous it was…

Graham:  Oh my god, that’s… I am very competitive, but in my younger days, it was like out of control.

 

Paul:  Out of control…

 

Graham:  Out of control…

Which is probably, a fitting topic, we’ll get into it on the show… It was, I’m so focused that differently now, To where I’m not, Oh God, I was, I think about like, I remember one time like playing monopoly with a bunch of guys, which I love playing and I consider myself pretty good at it and I remember just like fucking chucking the board across the room just like, what are you, Bobby Knight?  Like just relax!

 

Paul:  But I get it, I understand that, and I have that gene in me where my first instinct is to measure myself by how I compare to other people and it’s just a sick way of going though life, but we’ll get to that later, let’s back up at the beginning, kind of describe your childhood, your home life, was there a history of depression or addiction or anything in your family?

 

Graham:  I think there is definitely some depression in my family, for sure, like it’s you know my parents got divorced when I was like nine, like every kids parents did in the 70’s.

 

Paul:  The (???) Party was just a little too (???)

 

Graham:  It was just too nuts in the 70’s.  So, it you know... my parents are both creative people…

 

Paul:  Your dad was a theater teacher? Or still is?

 

Graham:  He just retired.

 

Paul:  Okay.

 

Graham:  He’s been a theater teacher forever so… I think the, the upside of having very creative parents is that we were encouraged. Like, I never heard “oh, you should get a real job.”  I never heard that like so many other comics and artistic people have heard.  So, we were encouraged to perform which is a great thing, but you know, as you know, someone with a creative brain or a highly creative brain, you are super sensitive.   Like, you’re just this giant, um…

 

Paul:  You absorb a lot—
Graham:  You absorb everything!

 

Paul:  You absorb people’s energy— what you see effects you.  Yeah… It does to everybody, but I think artists in general, are a little more—I think that is why a lot of them tend to be liberal

 

Graham:  Yeah, I think so, I think that because you’re seeing everything, like even Moshe Kasher, who I saw him perform last night and I know he just did one of your shows and he was talking about what comics do is take, look at something that is kind of horrible or whatever and look at the underside and the belly…We sort of delve into like, the reality of some things, some times, you know like lets get into the seedy underbelly.  I saw an interesting interview with Chris Rock and he said if ignorance is bliss, what is the opposite of that? You know, being aware of everything…

 

Paul:  Yeah.

 

Graham:  I know it’s a cliché, the tortured artist, or whatever, but you kind of have to have a different type of brain to want to go into some sort of performing or just say I’m going to be an artist in some capacity for my life, not as a hobby, but as my life.

 

Paul:  At what age did you make that decision where you knew you were all in?

 

Graham:  Oh man, the first time I was on stage, I was four.  I was in a play when I was four.  I did a TV commercial for Famous Footwear in Madison Wisconsin.  I held up a pair of PUMA’s and said ‘I Like These’ when I was like eight.

 

Paul:  And hopefully, you did that exact voice.  Put PUMA out of business for a quarter.

 

Graham:  Sales are down, get rid of that Elwood kid with his bowl cut…

I think, it was just always there.  I did my high school TV station.  I wasn’t in like drama club in high school; I was definitely more of a jock, but um, I, they had a TV station at my high school and I announced some of the football games, er, I played football, I announced some of the basketball games… And I started doing it in college and it was when I was really in college, and this is the best indication, you had to pick a major obviously to enroll in college and I picked Economics to start my freshmen year of college, the reason being—

 

Paul:  I’m laughing so hard picturing you in Economics…

 

Graham:  Oh yeah, this will make you laugh even harder then… The reason I chose it was because that was Michael J. Fox’s character in Family Ties, so you would…

 

Paul:  Oh My God, Oh My God…

 

Graham:  You would think, picking it based on a fictional TV character would give me a little insight…

 

Paul:  Well, I understand, I loved The Honeymooners and I majored in driving buses.  You fucking jackass!

 

Graham:  I know, I was in that for a semester and was taking these like—

 

Paul: But you don’t know at that age!  You have no idea.  I was pre-med for three years and then literally was getting ready to take the MCATS to go to med school and something snapped in me…

 

Graham:  Yeah…

 

Paul:  So, I understand, sometimes I think a lot of life isn’t knowing what you want to do; it’s by process of elimination, knowing what you don’t want to do by going ‘oh, I tried this or I’m done with that’ and I think it’s a great way to go through life actually.

 

Graham:  If you don’t know what you’re going to do, just start eliminating shit.

 

Paul:  Because then you can rest your mind assured and say no, I tried that.

 

Graham:  Yeah…

 

Paul:  Instead of always wondering oh, what if I had done that, so, I think getting into things and saying it’s okay if I fail at this, it’s okay if this doesn’t turn out to be something, I’m going to learn something from this that is going to benefit me because there’s a through line of almost everything and I’m sure you notice this in the arts – there is something that I like about one art that I like about another art. You know, the way a guitarist plays with restraint and taste and chooses his notes and isn’t all over the fret board is what I like in a painter who suggests things or a comedienne like Christopher Guest who doesn’t hit you over the head, who doesn’t condescend to you who makes you actively use your brain, and look for the joke… I don’t know what got me off on that whole tangent there, but lets go back to um, so, your childhood, you had creative parents that encouraged you…?

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah, but there was definitely you know some, there was a lot of emotion…

 

Paul:  Some depression?

 

Graham:  Some depression, yeah…

 

Paul:  Who suffered from the depression you think?

 

Graham:  I’d say probably more my dad, and you know, like…

 

Paul:  And how would that manifest itself?  Would he tune out?  Would he become angry?  Would he become withdrawn?

 

Graham:  Well…there was kind of all of those things.  There would be some anger, there would be some tune out, but then you gotta remember my parents got divorced when he was nine, when I was nine, sorry, so he moved out.  So I really didn’t have that much of an interaction with him, I mean, some, you know.

 

Paul:  What do you remember feeling when your parents told you they were going to get divorced and he moved out?

 

Graham:  Horrible, At the time,  it was horrible, I was nine and it was like everything fell apart.    We lived in this… We lived in this sort of middle class, you know, “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhood in Madison Wisconsin, this area called Tacoma.  I went to Henry David Thoreau Middle School.  You know it was playing and sledding in the summer and I just remember that, I just remember always being outside playing and just like full of energy, young boy, like ‘Ahhhhhh...’

 

Paul: Yeah…

 

Graham:  And then I just sort of remember, things got really dark and so you know, the divorce…

 

Paul:  Like dark in what way, do you remember feeling sad? Angry? Um? What do you remember?

 

Graham:  It was that.  It was both…

 

Paul:  Did you feel that you were responsible for it?  Cause I talked to your parents and they told me you were responsible for it…

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah, it was definitely my fault.

 

Paul:  Yeah, they said Graham drove a wedge between us.

 

Graham: (Laughs) Him and his Big Wheel racing, yeah, I don’t know that I ever felt that, I don’t remember feeling that, maybe I did, cause I’m sure that is a standard response for a kid to have.  I just remember, I literally, one of the reasons why I’m so into making films and is, everything is so visual to me, and I have this visual like, my memories of the house and of the days were like November, cloudy, dark, no leaves, no snow even…

 

Paul:  40 and gray…

 

Graham:  40 and gray that is what I envision.  Pre divorce was sunny and sledding…

 

Paul:  Wow…

 

Graham:  It was sunny, Big Wheel racing.  Every season was something fun!  It was the fall!  Then the spring!
Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham:  And so that is what I literally… I remember, just like this (makes noise of a motor slowing down)… And I’ve had to, you know, I don’t have clinical depression, but depression is something I’ve had to deal with …

 

Paul:  And you’ve dealt with addiction?

 

Graham:  No, I mean, I was, well, I don’t know how to say…

 

Paul:  You went through a period of problem drinking and gave it up.

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah… I don’t have…

 

Paul:  But you don’t consider yourself to be an alcoholic or an addict?

 

Graham:  I don’t have the disease of alcoholism…

 

Paul: Uh-oh, okay

 

Graham:  I remember when I was drinking and it was problematic, I remember saying to myself I’m going to stop and if I can’t I’m going to go to AA.  And it never, it never, as, I’ve been to some open AA meetings and I’ve heard you know, alcoholics say they’re grabbing a drink when they don’t want to and I was never at that, it was more of a social thing and being a comic in L.A. it’s encouraged, like’s it’s saying—

 

Paul:  It’s almost a badge of honor, look how cynical and punk rock I am!

 

Graham:  Or whatever!  I remember being so loud and obnoxious…

 

Paul:  Oh, I remember!  I remember the two of us… listening to… when I had that barbecue, I had just moved into our house and I had a barbecue that spun out of control and you and I remember launching off my couch, playing air guitar to Soundgarden

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah…

 

Paul:  Mind you, we’re over 30!  At this point, someone should have just come by and said, hey guys you realize that you’re 30…

 

Graham: Yeah, but that is the thing.  If it had been a barbecue full of salesmen and doctors—

 

Paul:  We wouldn’t have been doing that…

 

Graham:  Ever! But it’s all comics… SO it’s like people are like ‘who are those loud obnoxious guys’ ‘they’re the comediennes’ ‘oh, oh it’s okay, it’s acceptable’ and when you work in a club and the minute you get off stage it’s free drinks—

 

Paul:  Free Drinks!  Everybody wants to be your pal, you know, you don’t have to get up for 23 hours…

 

Graham:  Yeah! And I remember just like, I remember like, it was fun… I got a million fun stories as anybody who used to drink had, but then its like I’m in my thirties and I was like, I’m starting to have to make some apologetic phone calls the next day…

 

Paul:  Yeah, yeah…

 

Graham:  Where it was like, and I knew when I called a couple of times when I called people and I’d be like ‘dude, last night I got a little crazy’ and there reaction wasn’t ‘hey, worries,’ they were like ‘well, uh actually, yeah, I mean, I’m glad you’re apologizing but were a fucking asshole last night”

 

Paul:  Wow—

 

Graham:  And I was like this isn’t cool.

 

Paul:   Yeah, this needs to be looked at...

 

Graham:  And I was dating a girl at the time and we were having all these fights…

 

Paul:  Was this Danielle?

 

Graham:  No, no, no, this was… this was in Los Angeles.  This was not Danielle.  Um, um… and I remember going ‘every time we have a fight, its cause we’re drinking….’

 

Paul:  Uh-uh…

 

Graham:  And I started to realize— I was like, I don’t drink that much; but then I’d be like, no, a couple drinks with dinner, a couple of drinks after dinner, go get some…

 

Paul:  Yeah, yeah…

 

Graham: That was like eight, nine… six, seven nights a week.

 

Paul:  Yeah

 

Graham:  And you’re just like… And it would get just like… I noticed two things, I noticed that first of all there would be a lot of binge drinking with the ‘fellas or the guys, you know,  whooooo…. Then I couldn’t have, three, it had to be ten, it just had to be—Just push it… push it!  But that’s— I’m an intense sort of person, you know, and its like – Gotta go all the way with it-   And then I remember even like as you get older, you know, even the couple of times I would just go to a barbecue and have a couple of beers even the next day you know I’d just feel kind of foggy …

 

Paul:  Uh-huh.

 

Graham:  And I was like I don’t like this.

 

Paul:  Yeah.
Graham:  I’m sick of this…

 

Paul:  And that hot alcohol breath and you’re kind of tired, and kind of queasy…

 

Graham:   Everything’s just sort of…

 

Paul:  Yeah, greasy… Almost like you’re looking through…

 

Graham:  Yeah.

 

Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham:  Yeah and there is nothing, the image, again going back to visuals, isn’t crisp; it’s just a foggy…

 

Paul:  Weed did that to me, but go ahead…

 

Graham:  But anyway, like and I was just like, I gotta stop— And I did. And I didn’t, I, E, I… I don’t have that disease so I didn’t have to go in to any sort of treatment and after the first couple of weeks, maybe a month or so, it was just a little weird just because it was such a reaction, you know, just like a bowl of peanuts, where you just…
Paul:  Exactly, it gives you something to do with your hands…

 

Graham:  Yeah…

 

Paul:  You feel a little bit more comfortable, yeah…

 

Graham:  It was just such a part of my life, like ‘oh, we’re going go to the beach, we’ll bring some coolers’, you know we’ll barbecue and it was just integrated into every corner of my life and when I got it out I there, then I started going— And then I noticed, when I stopped drinking that I was, like I had to face some demons because you gotta face yourself now… Because there is no …

 

 

Paul:  … stuffin that down, anesthetizing…

 

Graham  There’s no doing that and I also started going to an acupuncturist and she was like, um…

 

Paul:  You were an asshole last night.

 

Graham:  She goes yeah, you called me at 3AM, and um wanted to bang me.  It was really weird, why did you do that?

 

Paul:  You said bring your nerdles, you needles…

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah…

 

Paul:   You dirty, you dirty…

 

Graham:  Yeah, how about you stick needles in my dick, how’s that sound?  Um, and she was really, really detoxifying, she was like ‘you don’t need stimulants.’  She was like, ‘caffeine, sugar…’
Paul:  You gave up caffeine and sugar?!

 

Graham:  I drastically reduced it because up to that point I was drinking, I was never a coffee guy, but I would drink a Big-Gulp of Coca-Cola a day.

 

Paul:  Really???

 

Graham:  Oh Yeah! I mean…

 

Paul: You’ve always been in shape so you must have been active, cause you’ve never been overweight.

 

Graham:  No, no, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always worked out, but that is another thing, like and I noticed as I started like slowly getting these things out of my life, you know, I became a vegetarian and getting alcohol out of my system and then getting Cokes and sodas and high caffeine and sugar out of my system, I was like…. This started explaining a lot, I can’t eat a lot of sugar, I’ll rage. I’ll get crazy, like there’s times I’ll be why am I so fucking angry?  Oh, I had a sundae last night…

 

Paul:  Really?!

 

Graham:  Oh yeah!

 

Paul:  Really!!?

 

Graham:  It’s really, and I really kind of want to touch on it on this show because I, I, I’m very leery of Western Medicines quickness to prescribe stuff…

 

Paul:  Absolutely…

 

Graham:  I’m so leery of it…Especially when it’s the side effects just happen to be— Suicide, but don’t worry about this…

 

Paul:  Bloody Diarrhea.

 

Graham: Yeah.

 

Paul:  And your corneas peel off…

 

Graham:  Suicides.  Yeah.

 

Paul:  While it is a lot of times a minority of people that experience them, just the fact that there are a handful of people that react that way to me shows that, ‘we got to be really careful with this stuff’.  You know, anti-depressants, in a lot of ways, have saved my life but I’m very leery of the fact that a large pharmaceutical company might not be totally on board…and I have gone to alternative medicine places, I have experienced acupuncture, I have taken herbs and a lot of times that stuff can really help and there is not side effects cause that stuffs been organically around for a long time and human beings have become used to that stuff whereas the stuff that was created in a lab last that is NEW into the food chain…

 

Graham:  And the thing about those things is that there were initially created as a last resort—

 

Paul:  Yes.

 

Graham:  For somebody who like, schizophrenia, bi-polar, like serious chemical imbalances, but, but, now they are used as a first response, I...

 

Paul:  I think they are used for people when the issue is environmental or emotional; it doesn’t have a physical component and that’s the problem also because then people say ‘oh, well then all anti-depressants are over-prescribed’, NO, they are over-prescribed, but they are also UNDER-prescribed for people that need them so there’s…

 

Graham:  Yeah.

 

Paul: Yeah, there’s just like a large misdiagnosis…

 

Graham:  And, they don’t look at the whole picture, like, look, I’m not a doctor, I don’t claim to be some kind of expert, I don’t want to sound all like Tom—

 

Paul:  And we don’t do that on this podcast.  People know that this isn’t—

 

Graham:  This is my opinion only.

 

Paul:  Exactly.

 

Graham:  And I’m not…

 

Paul:  Just a couple of jackasses talking about what jackasses they’ve been.

 

Graham:  And I don’t want to sound like some fucking ‘Tom Cruise Idiot.’  But I just, like, from what I went through personally and I know this about, I just know this, like I’m an intense guy, I can’t have a lot of sugar, I can’t really have caffeine, if I do, it’s Green Tea, at best.  I mean, I just can’t do it.  Um, and Green Tea is like this mildest, and I wonder like cause I had, I will never forget this, I had a physician, I had a, uh, um, um, prostatitis when I was like 22.  And the symptoms are like V.D.   So I went to all these doctors and they were like your all fuckin—  And I’m like, no, I’m not…  Danielle who we’re talking about she was still in Arizona when I had just moved to Chicago and I’m not having sex with anybody and they didn’t believe me.   And they kept testing me as though I’d, and I was like… I finally found this doctor, anold school doctor, had pictures of him and Regan, a very republican guy and he goes you got prostatitis  and I said so what are you going to give me, and antibiotic?  He goes, ‘not yet.’

 

Paul:  ‘I’m going to give you a prostitute.’ (Both laugh)

 

Graham:  But, he gave me— He changed my diet.  He goes, no more spicy food, he gave me all these things you shouldn’t eat and drink cranberry juice every day and then he goes, ‘three weeks and if it hasn’t been cured, then I’ll give you the antibiotic’ and in three weeks I was cured.  And if the symptoms came back, he’d just go…‘you been eating spicy foods?’  And, I was like, Yep!  And that to me, was like…and he was so—

 

Paul:  But, th… this was a Western Doctor?!

 

Graham:  Western Medicine.

 

Paul:  That’s Great!

 

Graham:  In Chicago!  This was this a guy, Dr. S(unintelligible)… He was a old school dude, but he was just like let’s let the body fix itself—

 

Paul:  I just love doctors like that because yeah they are so quick to, like prescribe and then that thing brings it own side effects and all of a sudden it’s this whack-a-mole game.

 

Graham:  It’s like, and the thing that is so crazy is like they look at the whole like, okay some one is really battling depression, are they, are they drinking?  Alcohol is a chemical depressant…

Paul: Exactly!

 

Graham:  Are they smoking cigarettes?  Are they drinking like a huge amount, like five cups of coffee a day?

 

Paul:  A bunch of monster energy drinks?

 

Graham:  Yes! Yes!   Fucking Donuts!  I mean like are they spiking themselves?  Like let’s get that evened out first…?

 

Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham:  Let’s get the diet evened out first.

 

Paul: The things we have control over…

 

Graham:  Are you exercising?

 

Paul:  Yes…

 

Graham:  How much sleep are you getting?

 

Paul:  Right…

 

Graham:  And its like and then it’s also like there’s this thing that’s like we’ll I’m going through a breakup or whatever and ‘I’m really depressed!’  Yeah?  It’s okay to feel pain…

 

Paul:  Yep…

 

Graham:  It’s okay, this whole, it’s okay to stuff it down mentality makes me leery, it just, and I’ve had tough things with depression and stuff like that and I work through it in other ways and I’m so glad because I’ve had some therapists who were like you want something?  And I’ve known people who’ve killed themselves?  You and I know someone, who…

 

Paul:  A couple…

 

Graham:  Yeah, yes and it’s always the same story, they were on medication, went off of it and now they’re dead!  So… You know, anyway, that bums me out…

 

Paul: Right, it’s hard to know who needs to be on it, and who doesn’t, but, help is certainly never gonna come if you don’t reach out and don’t talk to somebody about it, if you don’t try seeing a therapist, if you don’t try seeing a psychiatrist, but if, you know, I think one of the best things to do is talk about it to people who have experience.

 

Graham:  Yeah…

 

Paul:  Try different things and the things that you have control over, work on that, and if you can’t control those things, there are twelve step programs, there’s …

 

Graham:  That’s the thing, like a good friend of mine, she was, she’s head to a big one dealing with being bi-polar and she does everything, she exercises, she changed her diet, she does all these things and it’s still … she has this serious issue, and even knowing that and diagnosing that correctly, the shit she’s got to deal with physicians, and whose, man, I just feel like in the pharmaceutical companies, I just don’t trust them, because, they… there is a bottom line for them.  There’s a dollar sign that they need.    And so, you know I’m sure, I know somebody crunched the numbers and said there is an acceptable numbers of suicides that we can handle from a legal and a financial standpoint.

 

Paul:  Yeah.  You know, part of me, is okay with that, because, if some of those pills weren’t out there, I believe that there would be even more suicides.

 

Graham:  Yeah!

 

Paul:  What caused the person to commit suicide?  It’s hard exactly, what I know is that I would most definitely, probably be dead if it weren’t, if I hadn’t found uh, antidepressants.  Now the question is have they made me dependent on them?  So that my brain completely has stopped producing the stuff that they helped me produce if I go off them am I even more fucked than if I’d never took them?  I can’t answer that.  To me, at this point, it doesn’t really— But let’s go back to um, to your family situation…  So, your dad moved out and you stayed with your mom and uh, did, uh, what do you remember other than the November, cloudy kind of uh, and I so get that.  Nothing brings up the emotions of sadness like a, uh, a Fall day in the Midwest and you can hear the little wind kicking down the street and you can hear the leaves rustling and you’re laying on your bed at 4 in the afternoon and staring at the light bulb in the ceiling and literally and hour and a half or two hours go by and you’re still caught, you’re just caught in a cycle of thinking … I remember that at 10 years old!

 

Graham:  There’s no beautiful leaves to play in, there’s no snow to play in, it’s just cold and dark and muddy and… you know I remember, I will say this, just to, going, looking back I’m over my parents divorce now, I’ve been through some stuff, and I have great relationships with my parents now, I really get along with them awesome and that is from, that is from work that I’ve done, myself.  So, that has been really helpful.  I remember, uh, and again, it goes back to what you saying like ‘asking for help’ I had to kind, of, I couldn’t do it all at once, I had to, whatever, I stopped drinking and talked to therapists and make changes in my life and stuff like that, um, but I do remember my dad moving out and my mom always crying.

 

Paul: Hmm…

 

Graham:  Always, like always crying. And I wrote a play about it with a friend of mine,  Mike Barber,  we did this play, like about four or five years ago, called Brothers just a one act, which dealt with a lot of that.  And that was sort helpful, again, going back to the initial topic at the top of the show was, that, being a creative person, like that—

 

Paul:  You felt your mother’s pain, though...

 

Graham: I felt my mother’s pain and, you know at the time, in my twenties and maybe a little bit in my thirties, I had resentment, you know, I’m nine years old, you’re the adult, deal

 

Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham:  Deal with it.  Take care of the kids…

 

Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham: Put that shit, go cry somewhere else, like you know what I mean, be strong for your kids, and I had to get through that, and the play, like this is the wonderful part about being a creative person, is we can just do it, we can write it up and do it…

 

Paul:  As it was, as it happened? You don’t have to disguise it as something else?

 

Graham:  Yeah, me and Mike Barber wrote this play and we performed it at this school I used to study at, Playhouse West.  And we both sort of drew from stuff from our childhood and we both have brothers and the relationships with our brothers and what that’s like, and you know, and the fighting, and just the way brothers are, I know you got a brother, so…so, that play really helped expunge a lot of the demons of the darkness.  I just remember darkness and my mom crying.  You know, like in a bathrobe crying all the time, yeah and kind of like being—

 

Paul:  I gotta do something here…

 

Graham:  what do I do like kind of alone… dad’s gone, mom’s crying…oldest sister was in college, you know, other sister was kind of just whatever, she was in high school, so, and then my brother was three years older than me and, and…you know instead of being there for each other cause how could you at that age, you’re just not emotional—You don’t have the tools, so I’m nine, he’s twelve and he’s resentful at me for whatever, because he’s now been thrust into the position of man of the house and he’s twelve  so he is mad at me cause he has to take care of me and I’m like what are you mad at me?  What did I do?  And he doesn’t know why he’s mad at me…. we’re kids!  So that’s what I just remember just like, walking into the house was like, yeeeech and you walk in and it was like this cloud and this cloud followed me to school and you know then we moved from Madison to Evanston, Illinois.  Evanston is a suburb of Chicago and that move was brutal, it sucked.  But looking back, I’m so glad that we did that move because Evanston and Chicago is so, a much more diverse…

Paul:  There’s a lot of cultural stuff to do in Evanston, there is a College right there and you’re on the outskirts of Chicago and a lot of beautiful houses there.  You’re right there on the lakeshore.  It’s great!

 

Graham:  And I went from this lily white college town of Madison to this very diverse, you know my high school was 40% minority and that was a really great experience of playing football and listening to rap music in the 80’s before white kids were really exposed to it on a mass level which was really cool.  But at the time it was hard man, it was like, it was just every day, was just like God Damnit…

 

Paul:   Did you have to fight?

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah, I got into a lot of fights.  I did get into a lot of fights…

 

Paul:  I’m assuming you were the one getting picked on?

 

Graham:  Yeah, I’d get picked on—

 

Paul:  You were small for your age but you were scrappy—

 

Graham:  Yeah, yeah I was small and—

 

Paul:  Cause weren’t you a linebacker in football?

 

Graham:  Yeah, and that was the other outlet too.  Creatively, and then for me sports... Because my parents were hippie parents it was like no fighting, no guns, no, where I kind needed a man to say if this guys messes with you, you got a right to knock him out.  These little boys need… sort of need to learn that a little bit. You know, and I wish I ‘d studied martial arts when I was a little kid; I didn’t. I started in my thirties.

 

Paul:  Uh-hum?

 

Graham:  Yeah I but I remember it was in high school like around my sophomore year, junior, sophomore/junior year, right where things switched because I was happy I was playing football and football was so great, cause it was like so, wait a minute, you’re telling me I can knock this guy over as hard as I can and it’s cool…

 

Paul:  And you’re gonna pat me on the back for it?

 

Graham:  You’re gonna tell me nice job?!

 

Paul:  Right?!

 

Graham:  I’m In!

 

Paul:  In a way, that is what comedy is, is it’s socially acceptable aggression.

Graham:  Yeah, I can yell at the audience and you’re going to applaud?!

 

Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham:  And then pay me?!
Paul:  (laughs)

 

Graham:  Let’s do it man!  I’m on board!  So, in terms of, going to the total picture of this, what we’re talking about, like asking for help and like doing things… I think you know, first of all I don’t believe there is one magic thing that fixes it all, but like asking for help, taking care of yourself, these are things I just learned in the last couple years, is how to take care of myself…

 

Paul:  Let’s talk about that a little bit, being good to yourself, uh, because I believe there are two kinds of selfish, there is good selfish and there is bad selfish, and I believe that its really hard to sort out which is which especially if you were raised in a house, like we were where the parents are either divorced or in my case, the dad was an alcoholic and so was just not there, and the mom would try to overcompensate and was smothering and would complain about my dad behind his back to me, and confide in me, and would cry and so you kind of become this kid who doesn’t know what you’re supposed to do, you don’t know when and it’s not healthy to go to try and rescue your mom.

 

Graham:  There is a saying about growing up in an alcoholic household:  It’s like, when you’re twelve years old, you’re gotta be forty and when you’re forty you’re gonna be twelve.   You weren’t taught,

 

Paul:  You weren’t allowed to be twelve –

 

Graham:  You weren’t allowed to twelve and you didn’t learn how to be twelve and you didn’t learn all these things and it’s like…

 

Paul:  Also you didn’t learn how to be good selfish…

 

Graham:  No. Yeah, and there is good selfish of you know, I don’t have to say yes to everybody’s demands on me helping them, I don’t have to help them…

 

Paul:  I can’t save anybody…

 

Graham:  Yeah, you know, if I’m not saving myself, I’m like useless.

 

Paul:  Exactly.

 

Graham:  I think that’s something that’s like, that I’ve learned in dealing with that is like, you know, first of all, if you say, the good selfish, it comes out of basic things in everything we’ve been talking about, I gotta make sure first of all, that I’m well rested, I have to make sure I’m eating correctly, I gotta make sure that I’m exercising, I have to make sure I have a creative outlet. You know what I mean?  I have to; I got into surfing and martial arts.  You know, I live right near the beach and when theres some money troubles, people are like why don’t you move away from the beach, its expensive you know, and I’m like no, I will move into a one bedroom because you don’t understand, surfing changed my life…

 

Paul:  Really?

 

Graham:  Yeah, I got back from my second trip going to Afghanistan where it was the first two were very intense and this one was –

 

Paul:  You went and did comedy with the USO?

 

Graham:  Yes, and was on a helicopter, April 27th, 2006 that came under fire, we were in like a 45 to hour long firefight in the air.

 

Paul:  Uh-huh, wow!

 

Graham:  Spent shells hit me in the face, it’s in the, I have this documentary called Laughanistan which I’m doing as a pay what you think is fair download on comedyfilm nerds.com so basically its free if you want it.  I saw flag draped coffins on aircraft, I’ve like you know, I’ve been into surgery rooms where they’ve working on kids who’ve been playing in mine fields, cause you know Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world, so anyway I came back and I flipped out man, I was like, it’s in the documentary, I lost my shit.  Seeing war up close and going back to not having the tools of living in a divorced house and, depression and alcoholism and all and I came back and this buddy said you know, Walker Mule said ‘hey man, you want to take surf lessons?’ and I said let’s do it.    And I just got hooked, and its sort of me, my competitive, addictive nature and focusing it in a good way and I know you’ve done with a lot of things, and I was like alright and I literally, no pun intended submerged myself in surfing, and like all the sports, skiing, all the stuff I’ve ever done, there is nothing like it.

 

Paul:  There’s a spiritual component to surfing, you’re communing with nature…

 

Graham:  You’re riding—

 

Paul:  And it’s such an intimate thing.

 

Graham:  Yeah, you’re riding the energy of the earth, I’ve had times where I’ve caught some waves when I first started to learn, after like a month of just falling around and just coming out of the water just like in tears, like I just had a spiritual experience

 

Paul:  yeah, because you realize there is an energy in the universe that feeds you and loves you if you will let it...

 

Graham:  Yeah, and if you let it.  And if you fight it, that’s—

 

Paul:  You’re gonna—

 

Graham:  You’re gonna get your ass handed to you…

 

Paul:  You’re gonna get your ass handed to you!

 

Graham:  Exactly!

 

Paul:  But it is difficult to begin to figure out what’s gonna fight you and what’s gonna help you and I think unless you are talking to people and dealing with those emotions that you stuffed down as a kid you don’t really have a kind of diving rod to figure out, what’s up stream and what’s downstream, so how do you deal with your feelings when they come up?  Are there people you talk to when you need to unload about stuff?

 

Graham:  Yeah, you know there is a, I have a little handful of people that I call and I know exactly what you mean, if I’m isolating too much, that’s a bad thing cause then I’m—Especially traveling as a road comic, and you’re in a hotel room and I’m bouncing off the walls in some little town where there is nothing to do and it’s like..

 

Paul:  Especially if the turnout isn’t what you think it should be and then all of a sudden you’re feeling like you’re a piece of shit and your career is behind you, you’re going to be 60 and you’re not gonna have any teeth and you’re going to be homeless and trying to nub on some cob of corn…

 

Graham:  …digging through the trash, looking for half cigarettes…  so, yeah, my head just starts spiraling and I know enough now that when my head starts spiraling, I call people, certain people that I trust and feel safe talking with and they basically just talk me down, and also the thing I found—  Someone said to be, be a good friend to yourself and I was like, whatever, that sounds like self-help—

 

Paul:  It’s so important.

 

Graham:  It is.  It’s true.  And this person said, they go, lool I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I look in the mirror every day and I say, I love you.  When I first heard that, I was like ‘Oh My God...’

 

Paul:  I’ve talked about that on this program and it so affirming and it’s so uncomfortable in the beginning.

 

Graham:  Yeah, it’s like “I love you” (in funny voice). Like it just seems so dumb, but you know what and I went alright, and I’m going to start doing…somebody made a point they’re like would you talk to your best friend they way you bad mouth yourself, they way you get down on yourself?  You know what I mean?

 

Paul:  Would you call your best friend a piece of shit?  Would you say you’re lazy?

Would you say all these things? No, you wouldn’t…

 

Graham:  If you came to me, ‘Graham, we’ve known each other for twenty years and I’m having a tough time…’  I wouldn’t go you fucking idiot, what are you loser?

 

Paul:  Why did you blow all your opportunities?

 

Graham:  I would say, no dude, you’re fine! I would.. I personally take pride in myself in trying to be the cheerleader for my friends.  Why wouldn’t I do that for myself?

 

Paul:  Right.

 

Graham:  Like, why is that?  But that is going back to what you’re talking about being raised in crazy households…

 

Paul:  I think these core messages get instilled in us, whether they are true or not, the fact that they’re instilled and they need to be dealt with and we need to see them for the myth that they are, but its so freeing when you realize it’s a lie!  I haven’t blown it, I haven’t wasted my life if anything, yeah, I’ve been through pain but it’s allowed me to become the person that I am, I’ve been though an emotional gym and I’m stronger now.  Would I go through it again?  I don’t know.  But I am glad I’m where I am now.  And I have a feeling I’m going to be even stronger, you know next year, if I keep doing this.

 

Graham:  And I want the listener to know to, I’m past the place of ‘oh man’ angry at my childhood and angry at my parents; it is what it is.

 

Paul:  It is what it is.  They did the best they could with the tools they had.

 

Graham:  Yeah, man God love ‘em.  I mean, because if you do the blame game, where does it… It never….

 

Paul:  Self Pity.  Self-pity is such a dead end street.  I think it’s okay to feel those feelings.  In fact, I think it’s important … I had this moment about a year and a half ago where I really felt the abandonment that I felt from my mom and you know I’m not saying that  she abandoned me, but there was a lot where I felt like I had to be the adult and I didn’t feel like I could go to her because she was already too said about my dad not being there for her so I just kept all my feelings inside and I experienced that and I didn’t try to run from it, I didn’t try to think of something else, I just kind of felt sad for that little kid that just wanted someone to fucking hold him.  I had a fantasy when I was, I remember it started when I was five or six years old that an older girl on the playground would come up and hold me and I would cry and she would…. I never knew what that was about but I suddenly began to realize that this little kid didn’t get what he needed.  I sobbed for like 45 minutes and I felt this tremendous peace on the other side of it.

 

Graham:  I felt a great peace. I had a similar thing like that.  And as I was going through it, oh this little kid, I wish he would of got that.  I then started to empathize with ‘you know, my dad didn’t get that..’

 

Paul:  Yes. Yes, that is the second step.

 

Graham:  And my mom didn’t get that either…

 

Paul:  And then you begin to have empathy for them.

 

Graham:  Yes, and my grandfather was a butcher in the depression, how could you be all try to be all lovey dovey?

 

Paul:  You know they were probably better than their parents were.  It occurred to me when my dad was dying of cancer, I fortunately, had been sober long enough, I had done a lot of work on myself and I was able to work on a lot of my resentments towards him and I was able to genuinely tell him that I loved him and thank him for all the things that he had done for me, and I could see he wasn’t a bad dad, he was the best dad that he had the tools to be and I was lucky he that wasn’t his father cause his father was physically and verbally abusive— my dad never was.  He just ignored me.
Graham:  Right.

 

Paul:  I bet my dad wanted to verbally abuse us.  I bet he had those demons that his father planted in him and that’s the best that he could do was to not rage at me.

 

Graham:  That’s a miracle.

 

Paul:  And to be able to see that and to be grateful.  Because I would have been really fucked up, I probably would have just been him.  You know my father tried to commit suicide when he was 65 years old.  Cuz I imagine the core message in him was ‘those close to you will punish you if you show vulnerability or fear, or pain.’

 

Graham: I’m sure he heard those classic words of “I’ll give you something to cry about.”   Those evil words that come from hell, you know and if you look at it from that point of view, he was an amazing father.

 

Paul:  An amazing father, yeah.

 

Graham:  And if you know it was probably in his head, he wanted to crack you and your brother in the mouth and didn’t.  And just said, my best option is…leave.  Then, that’s great parenting, if the option was ignore or—

 

Paul:  With the tools that he had...

 

Graham:  Well that’s it.  That’s the best he could do and he was fighting the demon of alcoholism.

 

Paul:  I got off pretty lucky, but it took me ten years of therapy and sharing at a group level to get to the point where I could see that.  Um, so what advice, would you give, if any, to somebody who is out there and who is feeling stuck?

 

Graham:  Here’s what I would do.  You have…

 

Paul:  First, go to Graham’s website and buy as much stuff as you can...

 

Graham:  Buy one of my…. t-shirts, they will make you feel a lot better.  I would say first of all, if you’re listening to this show, it means you understand how to work a computer and the internet, and remember the internet is the most amazing communication and resource—

 

Paul:  It’s a series of pipes and tubes, correct?

 

Graham:  Yes, it’s like Brazil, it’s a pneumatic tubes.  Um, it’s the most amazing research tool in the history of mankind, so use it!  You probably google search—

 

Paul:  Are you telling me its better than Reader’s Digest?

 

Graham:  The Farmer’s Almanac?! Are you saying its better than the Farmer’s Almanac?  I mean, there, as we’ve spoken about, there are twelve step programs for everything, for everything, there’s Al-Anon, there’s ACA, which is part of Al-Anon which is Adult Children of Alcoholics, there’s AA, there’s DA…

 

Paul:  There’s CODA, um…

 

Graham:  Co-dependents Annonymous.  There’s Gambler’s Annonoymous…

 

Paul:  There’s a twelve-step program for just about everything.  There is group therapy.  There’s individual therapy.  There are support groups.  There is the chat room of this show, people are starting to share with each other and open up.  Obviously, that in and of itself I don’t think is going to be enough to help anybody, but it’s a start...

 

Graham:  You know what it is Gilmartin?  It’s taking the step.  Not one of the things that we mentioned on their own is going to be this magic wand that is waved, but just start taking the steps.  You know someone said to me, two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward when you add it up.

 

Paul:  And that guy had one leg…

 

Graham:  And that guy was a dick… But you know what I mean like, if you’re just having a tough day and you’re listening to this, and the other thing to someone said to me about suicide was cause I’ve had times when I’ve thought about it, why would you kill someone you barely know?

 

Paul:  Yeah.  Wow.

 

Graham:  And going to be the best friend to yourself.  I’m the most cynical, let’s make fun of it…‘be a best friend to yourself, naa’(funny voice) but, so I don’t look in the mirror and say I love you.  I talk the way I would talk to my best friend, I say dude you’re doing a great job.  You’re great.  I love everything that you’re doing…

 

Paul:  That’s beautiful.

 

Graham:  You’re awesome.  You know, like, I have literally stepped outside myself, when the negative Graham is like this ‘bullshit, everything is going to fail.’ I literally will find a reflective substance, a mirror, a car window and just look at myself…

 

Paul:  The hair of a fifties gang member…

 

Graham:  The hair of a fifties… (laughing) the teeth of a game show host and I just look at myself and I say ‘Dude, you’re doing a great job.’  You’re dong a great job, cause show business is— The biggest fear of humans is not of failure; it’s of unlocking this true greatness within us.  It is scary.  It’s like, oh my god...

 

Paul:  And it’s counter to the messages that we have buried inside us and that conflict, and—

 

Graham:  And the messages of society, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to cut you off …

 

Paul:  The other thing is, I think a lot of addicts and depressed people and people who are stuck would rather stick with what is familiar and bad then risk the unknown that people promise is good.

 

Graham:  Yeah.

 

Paul:  Because they have been let down by people so many times, they think, I’m different than you.  It’s not going to work for me. I’m not like other people.

 

Graham:  I’m here to tell you everyone listening, if you’re having a tough time, you’ve got some goodness in you and just take the first step and don’t worry… You know short-term goal:  midnight.  Long-term goal:  noon.  You know, like somebody said to me, I can dwell on the past, old anger and resentment and I can worry about the future and they said, if it’s not happening now, it’s not happening…

 

Paul:  That’s right.

 

Graham:  Yesterday is over.

 

Paul:  Do you read any Ekhart Tolle?

 

Graham:  No.

 

Paul:  Oh, he’s amazing.  There is this book called, well his first book was called The Power of Now, which is a great book.  I found the middle of it to get a little redundant, and I almost gave up on it.  And then, the end part it really picks up again.  But his second book is called A New Earth and I read it every morning.  It’s part of my morning meditation.  He writes it in such a way, its super dense, it’s so, its such a wise book and there is so much information in there about recognizing when your ego is at play and how to, like we were talking about getting in sync with the universe instead of fighting it and this book is a practical guide to how to become in sync with the universe and recognize when your ego, cause the ego goes against the practical laws of nature and he helps you identify where your ego is at work and how to let go and recognize things you have control over and what you don’t have control over.  It’s a life-changing book for me and I highly recommend it.  His last name is spelled T-O-L-L-E and it’s called A New Earth. I just read like two pages every morning, it takes like five minutes, but what he has to say in those two pages is so, for me, you know when you read something and it resonates deeply and you’re like, oh, yeah, that is the truth.

 

Graham:  Yeah.

 

Paul:  Because that is the other thing, I think the truth is in there and when it gets revealed you know it cause you feel it, it makes sense to you on a level that goes beyond your intellect and that is how his writings do it for me.

 

Graham:  Yeah, I think to, like we’re talking about, there are so many things out there.  I mean, you know, American Society we’re always told, you gotta get bigger, better, buy more, buy…. And, I’m very guilty of that, if we all just sat and went, you know what I got everything I need right now, especially us in show business, we can go, oh that guy, he’s got that show and he’s doing that movie, and he’s got that deal.  I’m still getting paid to do what I love.  I got a roof over my head. I have never gone hungry. I’ve never had to live on the street.

 

Paul:  Yeah.  And 90, or I’d say 60 percent of the world probably is not even food secure—

 

Graham: I’d read a statistic that if you have food, some kind of food in the cupboard, and money, not in the bank, but just in your wallet, a roof over your head and drinkable, running water, you’re better off than 75% of the world.

 

Paul:  Wow.

 

Graham:  So, you know what I mean, I hear that, and I had the benefit of traveling in third world countries and in war zones and stuff and I’ve seen it, and I go, you know, I’m alright.  I was going through a real tough financial time and somebody said to me ‘if money troubles are all you have in your life, that’s your biggest hurdle…

 

Paul:  Yeah…

 

Graham:  You know somebody with a million dollars in the bank and a terminal illness would trade places with me in a heartbeat, in a heartbeat.  And so, you just got to put it in perspective.  That helps me, personally, when I put things in perspective.

 

Paul:  And to me, the biggest gift of sharing with other people, listening to them and helping them is that is gives me perspective.

 

Graham:  Total perspective, man.

 

Paul:  A perspective that is inaccessible to be when I’m isolated.

 

Graham:  Yeah, if you’re isolated and bouncing off the walls and just beating yourself up, you’re not going to get that.  And that’s a higher power, or God or whatever you want to call it, talking, in my opinion.

 

Paul:  Yes, I believe it.

 

Graham:  Talking through these other people and you hear these things that just resonate in you like a laser.

 

Paul:  Yes, or somebody comes to you for help and these words just come out of your mouth that you had never thought before and it’s like wow, something is moving through me, some energy is talking to this person through me and it just reconfirms that there is something out there…

 

Graham:  It’s like being of service to somebody without giving up your whole self…

 

Paul:  Right.

 

Graham:  Like right-sized service and right sized, like—

 

Paul:  Not trying to save the people…

 

Graham:  No, can’t save people.  But just offering up some service when they ask for it is amazing and its reciprocal, when you ask for help, you receive it.  Then people will ask you, and you give it, and in the giving you receive, and I know these all sound like cheesy hallmark slogans, but it’s the truth.

 

Paul:  It really is the truth.  And you give someone the chance to be of service to you when you go for help.  You’re not burdening them.  I’ve never helped somebody through some situation and resented them for it.  I’ve thanked them for it.  Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m in a boy I’m in a funk.  Somebody called me one time for help and I’m all of a sudden, this person was helping me.  We both realized that I was more fucked up than they were and by the end of the phone call I felt so grateful that this person has called me and yeah, its just amazing but none of that stuff would have ever, I cant get to that when I’m just sitting in my lazy boy wishing I were a gazillionaire…

 

Graham:  How come my rocket ship doesn’t work anymore?

 

Paul:  Yeah, well dude I want to thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

 

Graham:  Oh, this is great dude.

 

Paul: It’s good to see you again.  I got to come out to he beach and watch you surf and maybe I’ll take a surf lesson…

 

Graham:  Dude, you got to do it!  You go to do it.  You’ll love it.  And we’ll get you on the Filmnerds podcast.

 

Paul:  I’d love to.  So, go to comedyfilmnerd… nerd or nerds?

 

Graham:  Nerds.  Comedyfilmnerds.com

 

Paul:  Check out his website and listen to his podcast.  If you’re out there and you’re feeling like nobody understands you, you’re probably wrong cause I think we know how you’re feeling, so you’re not alone.

 

Graham:  You are not alone, there is no way you’re alone.

 

Paul:  Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to go to the website:  mentalpod.com.  You could also type in mentalillnesshappyhour.com but you might get writer’s cramp.  So, go check it out, read the message board, post, ask questions, answer questions, take a survey, go crazy… or stare at the wall with your jaw open…

 

 

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