JOE WEBB AND CO. – THE WRITTEN WORLD

LESSON #25: AWESOME HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on October 22, 2008

LESSON #25: AWESOME HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

typewriter8          As I took Harvey Wallbanger for his morning walk through the streets of the Central West End today, my attention was attracted to two recent developments of note.  The first of these phenomena was the overnight explosion of Obama-Biden yard signs in my neighborhood.  It’s as if some crazy Wizard ran around last night at the witching hour with a truck-full of blue cardboard – (wait, are you pointing the finger at me?) – and toilet-papered the houses with a message of “Hope.”  In fact, if the four-block radius around my apartment is a faithful representation of state-wide sentiment, where Obama’s signs outnumbered McCain’s 139 to 3, then it appears the Democratic presidential nominee will garner 98% of Missouri’s votes on November 4.  Unfortunately, because I live in one of the most liberal pockets of a metropolitan center that is large enough to support three professional sports franchises (I’ve written a rockin’ treatise on the relationship between city importance and professional sports, by the way), this sample is probably not representative.  Indeed, I’m pretty sure that if I drove out into rural Missouri I could find a clan of folks in Potosi ready to anoint Sarah Palin “Queen Six-Pack of America.”  But that’s neither here nor there.  What I really want to focus on today is the second spectacle that caught my eye – the equally instantaneous appearance of hundreds of carved pumpkins staring out at us from windows that caused Harvey Wallbanger to go a little ape-shit.  And this occurrence can mean only one thing – Halloween is right around the corner!  So, in the spirit of the season, I give you Lesson #25: Awesome Halloween Costumes.

          Now before I discuss specific ideas for costumes, let’s get a little Halloween theory under our belts.  Question #1: In The Office’s Halloween episode, why is Jim’s costume (the three-hole punch version of Jim) better than Dwight’s (the 129-dollar Sith Lord outfit that comes complete with a plastic light saber)?  Answer: Jim’s costume, even though it is clearly a product of the eleventh hour, is better than Dwight’s because it is more original, and was not purchased from a mail-order catalog.  So, note to the readers: You should not send away for any of the following: a Bat-Suit, a copy of the Iron-Man getup, or a Gorilla costume.  Question #2: Why is it a boring idea to go as the slutty version of a normal professional woman in the workforce?  (Examples of this phenomenon include, but are not limited to, the slutty nurse, the slutty dental-hygienist, and the slutty pharmacist.)  Answer: Choosing to go as a scantily clad version of someone’s real day-job is also unoriginal, even though many men find these costumes attractive.  Again, note to the readers: If you are planning on attending a Halloween party as slutty-Princess Leia, ask yourself this – is my situation really so desperate that I can’t attract a member of the opposite sex in any other way?  Of course not.  Sub-note to the second note to the readers: This theoretical construct also calls into question the validity of slapping on a pair of bunny, cat, or mouse ears and going to a Halloween party as a slutty animal.  Sub-note to the sub-note to the second note to the readers: If you insist on following this model of costume behavior, however, you should at least be original – so show a splash of character and  party it up as either the slutty janitor or the slutty armadillo.

          Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s think about what makes a Halloween costume awesome.  Is it the expense?  Of course not.  The cleavage?  Only to shysters of dubious character and imagination.  No, the truth is this: there are three very distinct factors that lead to Halloween superstardom – a costume’s creativity/cleverness, it’s timeliness, and your commitment to the character.  These factors work in the following ways:

Creativity/Cleverness – While creativity is a major element of any good Halloween costume, cleverness comes most directly into play if you find yourself in a time-crunched, under-the-gun, “Oh, my God, if I can’t think of a costume I’m going to have to be the person who goes to the party as herself” situation.  But fear not, procrastinators.  Here are some tips for throwing together a ghoulishly clever last-minute persona that will make others wish they were you.  Your job at this point of panic is to “think outside the box” (witness Jim Halpert’s brilliance in attaching three round pieces of black construction paper to the right side of his work shirt), and to put together a costume that will prompt people to ask the question, “WTF are you supposed to be?”  Armed with a response that shows you are clever enough to come up with a costume on the fly, even if you are too lazy to do so prior to the last minute, your response will make them say, “Awesome.”

Idea #1.  Borrow or purchase from the Salvation Army a large brown bathrobe with a large imposing hood.  Then go to the grocery store and buy a bag of original Lay’s Potato Chips.  Wear your robe to the party with the hood up, and carry around the bag of chips.  Congratulations, you are now a chipmunk.

Idea #2.  Steal from your little brother or purchase from the Salvation Army a little league baseball bat.  Wear your normal street clothes to the party, but carry around the bat conspicuously.  When some guy in a stupid 99-dollar Bat-Suit asks you who you are supposed to be, answer “I’m Batman, who the fuck are you?”

Idea #3.  If you don’t own one yourself, borrow your neighbor’s cat.  Then rush to the Salvation Army and purchase a curly, silver-blue wig and a sweater embroidered with the picture of a cat and a saying like “Grandma’s Little Kitty.” If the cat you borrow will let you hold it, carry it around the party with you; otherwise, put it on a leash.  PFM! – you are now “that old crazy Cat lady.”

Timeliness: If you’ve been thinking ahead and have left yourself a little more time to prepare, you can take your Halloween costume to the next level by going as a person who’s currently under large-scale media scrutiny.  This has two advantages.  The first is that members of the opposite sex will assume you are an astute student of current events; the second is that these costumes will be unavailable to people who, like Michael Scott, buy their costumes from mail-order catalogs in July. Last year, for example, it would have been a great idea to have gone to a party as Senator Larry Craig.  This year, you can maximize awesomeness by riding the election bandwagon all the way to apple-bobbing heaven.   If this is your game plan, go as either Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin.  Both of these costumes will be cheap and effective – but be warned, they also both come with two-and-a-half hours of drunken bitching by your friends about politics.  Still, there can be a little fun in that – and  you can always play “Pin the Tail on the Democratic Donkey.”  To go as Joe the Plumber, all you’ll need to purchase is a used set of stained work clothes, a plunger, and one of those nametags where you can write in “Joe.”  If Sarah Palin is more your game, you’ll need a business suit, an up-do, librarian glasses, and a Minnesota accent.  When working on the accent, commitment is a big part of the process.  I recommend that you order the movie Fargo from Net-Flix and spend a week learning to talk like Marge. 

Commitment: While both of the elements listed above are important (and going as Sarah Palin does take some commitment in the acquisition of an accent), the real key to achieving Halloween Nirvana is to choose a character with some sort of notable tick – and to not break character ever – all without being pretentious or annoying.  It sounds tricky, I know, but remember that people expect and reward strange behavior on All Hollow’s Eve.  Three years ago, it was funny to go as Napoleon Dynamite.  You got to wear the “Vote for Pedro” shirt, the red wig, and the moon boots.  But it was even funnier if you affected his mannerisms and sporadically busted out his dance moves.  Keep this in mind when reviewing the following ideas, all of which take commitment, and all of which are scientifically proven to be 150% more awesome than any other costume at your party.

          Persona #1) Mose SchruteWhat you’ll need: one used black wig, cut into a 1960’s Beatles bowl-cut; one glue-on Amish beard from a costume supply store or craft-shop; one light brown long-sleeve undershirt; one pair of olive army pants; and four pieces of red felt out of which to cut the letters to spell F.E.A.R.  The required commitment: You must spend the night acting like a semi-retarded Amish beet-farmer, and you must become an exceptional ping-pong player.  Study up by watching the following episodes of The Office – “Initiation,” “Money,” and “The Deposition.”

          Persona #2) Amy WinehouseWhat you’ll need: one enormous, nasty, ratty black-wig; one set of false eyelashes; six tubes of lipstick; one feather boa; one bizarre outfit that looks like you chose it while you were all hopped up on mescaline; and one black magic marker to draw on a number of indecipherable tattoos.  The required commitment: You’re going to have to get DRUNK – use the formula from Lesson #21 (Your Twenty-First Birthday) and subtract two.  Study up by watching You Tube clips of Winehouse performing while intoxicated and being hauled off to Rehab (“No, No, No”).

         Persona #3) Gob Bluth (this is, without a doubt, the greatest Halloween getup of all time – particularly if you are going to a major Halloween Block Party where you can ride around on a Segway).  What you’ll need: one powder blue suit from the Salvation Army; one half-unbuttoned flowered shirt; one deck of cards; six rolls of pennies; one $1.99 ringtone download of “The Final Countdown” to your cellphone; one costume shop plastic dagger; and a Segway (they’re a little expensive to rent, so this is optional, but this is one situation where it’s worth it to spend some money if you’ve got it to spend).  The required commitment: You must occasionally turn on your phone’s playback feature and stage an impromptu magic show to “The Final Countdown.” You must also occasionally explode a roll a pennies from your jacket sleeve, and if you hit someone with one of the pennies, you must be willing to say “Michael, I’ve made a huge mistake.”  Study up by watching all three seasons of Arrested Development.

          And…as the saying goes…Boom goes the Dynamite!  Keep in mind the three factors that lead to Awesome Halloween Costumes, and you’ll be ready to do the Monster Mash like a champion next Friday.

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  1. MS said, on October 22, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Halloween is an interesting holiday. Or, for those religious amongst you, All Hallows Eve is an interesting holy day. Much like every other holiday in the states, it’s become not much more than a sign of Capitalism in full swing. You spend money on a number of unnecessary items including: candy, which you willingly give away; booze, which you willingly share; horror films, which unfailingly disappoint; and costumes, which you wear one night out of the year – and if you’re lucky, maybe not even the entire night. As is probably evidenced by my earlier posts, I was always the type not to willingly share my booze (unless I had already caught a healthy buzz), so it was more than likely that I actually got to enjoy my costume for the entire evening, and usually most of the following day as well. (I realize this goes against my own advice in earlier posts to refrain from being the sloppy drunk at the party. I never said, however, that I didn’t learn from experience).

    Despite my two-day, costume-wearing extravaganza, I often found – as Dr. Wizard points out – it more enjoyable to have a cheap, witty costume, than an expensive slutty one (I, of course, am not now, nor will I ever preach against the slutty costume. But really, you can still show a whole lot of leg and cleavage with a little bit of thought beyond nurse, librarian, or beer wench. And guys, you can show a little bit of man cleavage – however you may define that term will be up to you, but there are all kinds – with costumes that aren’t necessarily guy in toga, guy in boxers and sunglasses a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business, or guy with hard-hat. Think…Elton John instead.

    In case you’re looking for further suggestions, here are my top three for Halloween 2008:

    3. Perve. This one was inspired by an event that occurred about 7 years ago, but I had to let it ferment before it was ready to be released to the costuming public. One day while walking from my dorm room to class I saw a guy strolling around the quad who bore a striking resemblance to my cousin, Adam (not the drummer of the Squirts, this is a completely different Adam). The catch is that Adam didn’t attend my university. In fact, I’m not really sure he ever finished high school, though at the time of this sighting he was approximately 28 years old and harboring an explicit (though imagined) fascination with the actress Rachel McAdams – and anyone that looked remotely like her – which would eventually develop into an unhealthy hankering for the movie Mean Girls, but that’s neither here nor there. As I approached this guy, who was sporting an oddly stuffed backpack (we’re talking Everest Adventure style backpack here), I found to my great astonishment that it was in fact my cousin. “Adam,” I said, “What are you doing here?” His response: “Pervin.” The quizzical look upon my face evoked a further explanation: “My boy Jay and I thought we’d fill up these old book bags [these were not bookbags, remember] with cloths to look like we had lots of books so that we would be smart. [notice that he actually thought carrying around a bookbag, without actual books in it, would not only make him appear smart, but actually increase his intelligence]. Then we were like, where should we go to look at girls? The mall didn’t seem like the best place to carry around a book bag [again, not a bookbag. I cannot stress the ridiculousness of this enough], so we decided to come up here to do a little pervin.’” Now, I’m not even going to attempt to deconstruct the logic or linguistics of that explanation, but I am going to suggest you fill up an old bookbag with dirty cloths and go to the party as my cousin Adam.

    2. Three way (tie that is). White Trash, Mime, Dr. Pepper.

    a White trash. It requires nothing more than a trash bag with head and arm holes. And really, is it such a stretch? The downside to this costume is that many people have already thought of it, and you’ll have to endure the title ‘white-trash’ for the entire evening. On the plus side, if your party is outside and it rains, your title will change from the moron wearing a trash bag, to the guy with the existential fortitude who was previously wearing a trash bag to a Halloween party in case that 15% chance of scattered thunderstorms materialized, but is now wearing the most charming little rain poncho.

    b. Mime. It requires nothing more than keeping your mouth shut the entire evening. For some, this might be the best costume idea, ever. Downside: you can’t answer when someone berates you for not wearing a costume to the costume party (you kind of deserve this). Plus side: get an aesthetically pleasing (in other words, fly) member of the opposite sex to be your voice-box for the evening.

    c. Dr. Pepper. Required: white lab coat, stethoscope, a shaker of paprika. Absolutely not permitted: Dr. Pepper, the soda. I can’t even think of a downside to this costume. I mean, I’m sure there is one, but I can’t tell you what it might be. Upside: You’re Dr. freakin’ Pepper. First, you’re a doctor, a sign of success and the know-how to get the job done that goes along with that success. Second, you are the tastiest soda on the market, one that combines 23 flavors to produce a heavenly concoction every taste bud yearns for. You never have to beg to be savored. Third, now think about 1 and 2, but dirty.

    d. Honorable Mention, ie, my favorite from the above list: Chip Monk. Why? Not only will you have snacks for the entire night, once you’re out, you can still tell people you’re a chip monk, and when you get a confused look, tell him/her that you tucked the last bag of chips inside your robe to be retrieved by a special someone at the end of the night. (note, this will elicit one of two responses: 1. Ew. 2. SCORE! Be weary of the person that responds ‘SCORE!’).

    Honorable mention once removed: Man in the Box: a cardboard box with you inside it (plays well to the Alice in Chains crowd. It is, however, likely that when you gleefully ask people, ‘Quick, what am I?’ you will be greeted with: ‘a jackass’). Now, I wouldn’t normally include this costume except that I saw it one year, was asked that question, and responded with what I posted above.

    1. And the number one Halloween costume for 2008 (which is, in fact, what I will be going as this year) is the 1970s dynamic soul-pop duo Hall and Oates, or as I like to refer to the costume: Haulin’ Oats. That’s right, I’m only down $3.07 for a box of Quaker Oatmeal, which I will carry (or rather haul) around with me everywhere I go on October 31st. When people ask me, ‘where’s your costume,’ or ‘what the hell are you doing,’ I’ll simply respond, “You’re looking at it. I’m haulin’ oats.” And on November 1st, I’ll not only have had a successful Halloween evening (I now gauge ‘success’ by the cleverness of my costume + numbers of beers I am able to consume without getting sick the next morning minus one) And I’ll have a tasty breakfast as well.

  2. Greece Lightning said, on October 23, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Holy shit!!! It’s 2 lessons for the price of 1 at Dr. Wizard’s website today. Ummm, I feel small and inadequate.

    I was all set to ask how one goes about borrowing a robe from the Salvation Army, but I think I’m just actually going to serve as a buffer zone between MS and commenters who aren’t going as Haulin’ Oats for Christmas.

  3. Greece Lightning said, on October 23, 2008 at 1:30 am

    I meant Halloween.

  4. UVA Mike said, on October 23, 2008 at 1:46 am

    All right – let’s talk about that Bert and Ernie photo. Question One – Is it photoshopped? Question Two – Did the parents do the photoshopping? Question Three – Is something wrong with that kid? Look at him. It’s the weirdest part of pic. What normal 5 year old isn’t looking at Bert and Ernie in that situation? And if the kid is retarded, what kind of asshole played the cruel joke of photoshopping in the WTF? All very strange.

  5. UVA Mike said, on October 23, 2008 at 1:49 am

    And just like Greece, I forgot something I wanted to say. MS – way to work, man! And Wiz – you’re telling me you wouldn’t want to be at a party where that nurse takes your (quickly rising) temperature?

  6. funktifiedacoustic said, on October 23, 2008 at 1:52 am

    I was just wondering how a “beat farmer” would look/act/think-

    Look
    A goatee that flirts with being a beard, flannel shirt, and a special wallet to carry peyote

    Act
    A beat farmer would never venture to town but prefer to hang with the mad animals who are full of the vibrancy of real life.

    Think
    The plow would know where it was supposed to go, he would not have to drive it. It would drive itself and the furrows in his fields would be as straight as nature intended for them to be.

  7. MS said, on October 23, 2008 at 2:28 am

    UVA Mike: Your treatise on the Bert and Ernie ‘WTF’ photo was fantastic. I’m going to laugh myself to sleep now. Wiz, good find!

  8. Meghan Jansen said, on October 23, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Funk: There already is a beat farmer, and his name is Bubba Sparxxx.

  9. Brain Games said, on October 23, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Ill take the Sarah Palin costume… Just kidding! I know it is overused but I still want to be Dracula or a vampire. But if I am going to a party, I would want something comfortable and light for me to enjoy the party.

  10. I like my blogs with sugar, gratuitous violence, and Mattoon references said, on October 23, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    What persona would you suggest for a “Gov’t Bailout” costume (american flag sweater pinned with checks written to AIG)?

  11. Ghost Dog said, on October 23, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Well, I was all set to go as James van der Beek for Halloween, but now I think I might borrow MS’s idea and go as the “Perve” who’s trying to pretend to be ten years younger than he really is so that he can pick up high school girls. Wait – maybe those two things can be combined?

  12. Karen said, on October 23, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Hi! I just found the site by tag-surfing “Halloween Costumes” and I’ve already read 8 posts – it’s really funny!!!

    But I have a question. Can somebody tell me if MS is the same person as Dr. Wizard? He always seems to comment first and his comments are almost as long as the posts. Or are they friends? Cowriters?

  13. funktifiedacoustic said, on October 23, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Meghan – touché

    Karen- They are not the same person, they’re just good friends.

  14. Gina Palazzo said, on October 23, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Karen, that’s a good question because we’ve (the marquette 6) been debating for the last week whether or not Dr. Wizard and MS knew each other and we were split 4-2 in favor of the opposite, that they didn’t know each other. Either way, it’s funny when they disagree, which if you keep you keep reading you’ll see that they sometimes do. WE anticipate disagreement on “To Rush or Not to Rush” next week..

    And now my question. Dr. Wizard, what are you going to be for Halloween this year?

  15. Carlin said, on October 23, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    I have an addendum to the aforementioned costume regulations. You are not allowed to dress up as something your peers already identify you as. If you are on the track team, you give up your privilege of dressing up as a runner. If you’re an art major, you can’t throw on a beret and a paint stained shirt and call it a day. This is your one chance a year to pretend to be someone you aren’t. You made a (hopefully) wise decision to be who you are today- so live a little and see what life would have been like if you had indeed tried to forge on to the oval office with your Evangelical ideals and Russia- spotting experience. Find out what it’s like to be half of the Bert and Ernie pair! Just try something new! This is why college girls- especially those who tend to be more modestly dressed in their real lives- should most definitely embrace this opportunity to dress like a skank and enjoy guys oogling you all night without huge repercussions to your reputation. No other day can you be respected for just how daring you are- so go for it while you still can. Word to the wise, though- this trend can vanish quickly after college depending on what circles you run with. So you might want to rethink going for the sexy cheerleader look with a 7th-grader sized uniform they year after you graduate and you show up at a house full of med students and residents. They might not be as keen to that look. Not that I know from experience…. I’m just guessing.

  16. Greece Lightning said, on October 23, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    I’ve been to Potosi recently for a sales call – and let me tell you Wiz – you’re not kidding about the difference.

    “Sugar, Violence, Mattoon”: The downside to going as a concept is that it’s tricky to pull off. The upside is that you get to be a crazy abstract noun like “vice,” or “hedonism,” or “the government bailout.” Good idea. You should also bring a bucket.

  17. drwizard said, on October 23, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    All right, here we go!

    I’m sure that those of you who have been hanging around for awhile have noticed that Dr. Wizard’s Advice is experiencing rapid growth, and things are going to get even crazier in the coming weeks as more of you help spread the word by telling your friends (hopefully!!!). I’ve also reached an awesome arrangement with College Magazine that will be announced in full on the site on Monday, which should further explode traffic/comments.

    But here’s my promise to you: I’m going to do the best I can to keep up with direct questions in the comments section for as long as I can (at least until I get my very own Rob Iracane to moderate).

    Mike: After serious consideration about the Bert and Ernie photo, I’ve decided that I have no good answers – but I know this – I love it.

    Mike: I didn’t say I didn’t find the concept of the slutty nurse attractive. I’m just doing my duty in saying that this costume can lead to trouble if you’re not careful – and is…truthfully…not that original.

    Funktified: +1 on Meghan’s answer.

    I Like my blogs…: Greece makes a good point on the difficulty of going as a concept – good luck on that one.

    Karen: A good question that has come up before. Funk’s answer is true – MS and I are good friends, but we don’t collude. How does he get the comments up first? Well, if you hang around long enough you’ll see there’s a pretty regular MWF 4 o’clock posting schedule. Also, the full list of lessons is already up. I wouldn’t be surprised if he occasionally writes his “response” before he reads my post.

    Gina: Well, in a way, it looks like there’s a good chance I’ll be taking a break for the next year or so from my regular life to be going as “Dr. Wizard” for a 12-month Halloween extravaganza. But specifically, this year, I’m torn between two ideas: Billy Walsh (I haven’t cut my hair or shaved for two months, and since the appendicitis I’ve dropped 20 pounds) and Jim Halpert’s version of Dwight (Beats. Bears. Battlestar Galactica).

    Like Marcy Playground says right after they’re done smelling the sex and candy – dig it. I appreciate it every comment. Let’s keep the ball rolling!

  18. Msskin said, on October 24, 2008 at 4:02 am

    How about a slutty three-hole punch Jim?

  19. Barry H said, on October 24, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Yes, Ms. Skin, now your talking!

    Wiz – bite the bullet, shave your beard off, and go as option 2 – its way more post-modern. Think about it,you’d be going as Jim Halpert who’s played by John Krasinski who’s pretending to be Dwight Schrute who’s based off of the british office’s Gareth.

  20. LU said, on October 28, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Thought I’d throw out another unique addition to Dr. Wizard’s fabulous list. And, if you have all the supplies on hand, it won’t cost you a dime. Take a plain white t-shirt (could even turn one with writing on it that you don’t mind parting with inside out), and write a name and address in the center of the shirtfront with a Sharpie or other black marker (can be as creative as you want with the address). Using the black marker or other colored markers if you have them, draw a stamp in the spot on the shirtfront that is slightly above your heart. Then draw a rectangular box on either the lower left-hand or right-hand side and write the word ‘PRIORITY’ in it. Men, you’re all set. Women, pull your hair back, pencil in a mustache with your eyeliner, and you’re good to go, too. I guarantee you that “Priority Male” will be the talk of your party, and you’ll get lots of attention from the slutty bunnies.


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