Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories

Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories

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by Alan Zweibel

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“Garry, it’s Alan. Look, I’m calling because I just felt the need to tell someone that I’m forty-four years old, and about an hour ago, for the first time in my life, I put suntan lotion on my ass. I’ll explain later. Bye.”

In Clothing Optional, Alan Zweibel offers a collection of laugh-out-loud personal narratives,


“Garry, it’s Alan. Look, I’m calling because I just felt the need to tell someone that I’m forty-four years old, and about an hour ago, for the first time in my life, I put suntan lotion on my ass. I’ll explain later. Bye.”

In Clothing Optional, Alan Zweibel offers a collection of laugh-out-loud personal narratives, essays, short fiction, dialogues, and even a few whimsical drawings. Zweibel first made a name for himself as one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live, but his career’s humble beginnings included creating one-liners for Catskill comedians at seven dollars a pop. That experience is only one of the hysterically inspired anecdotes (“Comic Dialogue”) in this quirky compilation.

Zweibel confesses his first love, as a young Hebrew school student, for Abraham’s wife, Sarah (“At this point, Sarah’s husband had been dead for more than three thousand years–so, really, who would I be hurting?”); recounts the time he was sent to a nudist resort to write an article (“The fact that I brought luggage is, in itself, worthy of some discussion”); offers a touching tribute to Saturday Night Live writer and mentor Herb Sargent (“Herb was New York. But an older, more romantic New York that took place in black and white like the kind of TV I grew up on and wanted to be a part of someday”); and imagines a scenario in which Sergeant Joe Friday, the stiff, monotoned character from Dragnet, is inexplicably partnered with Snoop Dogg (“Damn, Friday. You gotta learn to chill. Take some free time and kick it with your boys”)

Every piece is punctuated with the same wit and insight that have come to define Zweibel’s humor.

Unhinged and hilarious, Clothing Optional is an unguided tour through the uniquely peculiar life and mind of a man who The New York Times said “has earned a place in the pantheon of American pop culture.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Saturday Night Live writing alum and Thurber Prize winner Zweibel (The Other Shulman) returns with a collection of essays, short stories and ephemera that should solidify his place among American satirists. The books starts off strong with "Letters From an Annoying Man," a fictional tete-a-tete between Zweibel and a misguided fan that quickly escalates (with shades of Curb Your Enthusiasm, another show Zweibel has written for); the title essay, detailing Zweibel's trip to a nudist resort; and "Herb Sargent," a meditation on the mercurial qualities of friendship. At its best, Zweibel's work has depth and a respect for his subjects commiserate with his self-deprecating sense of humor; instead of laughing at nudists, readers laugh at Zweibel as he struggles with an erection in the swimming pool, or suffers the indignity of being beaten in the New York City Marathon by a runner dressed as a polar bear, or the litany of abuse he endures as a Little League commissioner. Though some pieces run long ("Comic Dialogue," "Happy"), comedy fans will appreciate Zweibel's range, as well as his ability to convey tender moments. Many humor books are consumed and forgotten; this is one to read and revisit.
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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

A husband gets into bed at night. His wife speaks first.

–You okay?
–Not really.
–Want to talk about it?
–Not really.
–Honey, what’s wrong?
–Can’t say.
–It’s too weird.
–What’s too weird?
–I’d rather not say.
–Now you’re scaring me.
–Because we’ve been married a long time and I’ve never seen you this color before.
–Can’t help it.
–Can’t say.
–Please tell me.
– ...Well?
–I saw your mother’s ass.
–What are you saying?
–That I saw your seventy-seven-year-old mother’s seventy-seven-year-old ass.
–I was on my way to the bathroom, a door was open, and there it was in all its horrifying glory.
–God, she must’ve been embarrassed.
–Why not?
–Because she didn’t see me.
–How’s it possible that you walk in on someone in the bathroom and they don’t see you?
–Because she wasn’t in the bathroom.
–But you just said . . .
–I said that I was on my way to the bathroom.
–And I passed the gym, innocently looked in, and saw your mother on my stationary bike.
–Like a seventy-seven-year-old jaybird.
–From behind?
–Yes. That’s where her ass is. In the back.
–Yeah. Wow.
–I think you’ll get over it.
–I’m not so sure about that. In fact, I’m wondering how I can ever look at her again. In fact, I’m wondering if you and I should separate and get back together after she dies.
–You wouldn’t be overreacting, would you?
–Trust me, any normal man would be mortified.
–Come on, you’ve seen her in a bathing suit. I’m sure there were no surprises.
–Not so.
–What do you mean, “not so”?
–I can’t talk about it.
–What can’t you talk about?
–I can’t tell you. Now let me go to sleep, okay?
–Good night.
–Good night.

He turns off the light for about six seconds, then turns on the light and speaks.

–Did you know your mother has a tattoo?
–She does?
–On her ass.
–She does not.
–I’m telling you . . .
–Oh, please . . .
–If you don’t believe me, go downstairs and see for yourself.
–No, thanks.
–You’re right–I should be the only one in this bed who’s scarred for life.
–She really does?
–Why would I make this up? Why would I possibly want this conversation to go any longer than it already has?
–May I ask what it’s a tattoo of?
–You sure you want to know?
–No. But tell me anyway.
–My seventy-seven-year-old mother has a tattoo of Adolf Hitler on her ass?
–That’s right. And I must say that the führer looks less than thrilled to be there.
–Hard to blame him . . .
–Yeah, I feel bad for Hitler, too.
–And you’re sure that you’re not making this up?
–I’m not. ..
–Or mistook, let’s say, a mole, for Hitler?
–A mole for Hitler? No. And I didn’t mistake cellulite for Goebbels, either. This is a tattoo and it’s Hitler, and if you don’t believe me, go down and take a look for yourself.
–I think I will.

She gets out of bed, leaves the bedroom, and returns about a minute later.

–You’re right. It’s Hitler.
–Told you.
–Yes, but what you didn’t tell me was that every time my mother pedals, Hitler’s arm comes up in one of those Third Reich salutes.
–I thought I’d spare you.
–So, what do we do now?
–What do you mean?
–Well, we’ve solved the mystery of who the tattoo is. Aren’t you at all curious as to why it’s there? As to why your seventy-seven-year-old Jewish mother, who’s been a registered Democrat since Truman was president, has a picture of the man who thought of the Final Solution on her butt?
–Yeah . ..
–Did she ever date Hitler?
–You know, they were young, impulsive, had too much to drink one night, took a cab downtown and got tattoos of each other before she realized he wasn’t such a great guy.
–That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard.
–How so?
–Because according to that scenario, Hitler, who was arguably the worst human being who ever lived, had a tattoo of my mother on his butt.
–Well . ..
–You’re saying that in all those newsreels when he was giving those speeches and goose-stepping in those parades and invading Poland he may have had a picture of my mother on his ass.
–Anything’s possible.
–Jesus, could we please end this conversation?
–I’d love to.
–Fine. Good night.
–Good night, honey.

They turn off their lights. About a minute later, he speaks.

–I can’t sleep.
–Neither can I.
–I keep thinking about your mother’s ass.
–I keep thinking about Hitler’s ass.
–And I keep thinking I’ll need a new seat for my stationary bike.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

An original Saturday Night Live writer, Alan Zweibel has won numerous Emmy and Writers Guild of America awards for his work in television which also includes It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He is the author of the Thurber Prize-winning novel The Other Shulman; Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner–A Sort of Love Story; and the popular children’s book Our Tree Named Steve. He also collaborated with Billy Crystal on his Tony Award-winning Broadway show, 700 Sundays. Alan and his wife, Robin, live in New Jersey and have three children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Clothing Optional 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago