* Welcome to The Big Jewel, which is like a finger painting about the art of laughter. This week we welcome our dear friend Phil Austin (yes, that Phil Austin, of the Firesign Theatre), who has an artsy piece all his own. The word picture he paints is not pretty, but then comedy never is.

Art Of The Insane

By: Phil Austin

Well, here you go and there you go. You’re back and I’m still here, week after blessed week. I’m Billy Flamnigan and I’m on TV and today if you’ll stick with me, we’ll find out how to achieve the kind of art on canvas that the truly insane seem to be able to paint with little or no effort or thought.

Haven’t you admired those loony-eyes-on-tramps or Jesus-riding-on-a-locomotive paintings that you used to be able to pick up for pennies but that now you can find selling for astronomically inflated prices in actual galleries in the big cities? Well, none of it is as hard as it seems. I’d like you to go along with me today and try this. Don’t be afraid. It’s just not as hard as it looks to achieve truly insane effects without going through the rigorous training that highly paid insane artists evidently have to pretend to suffer through.

I’m going to show you how to do it standing on your head, although don’t try that. It would be insane.

First, let’s take out a fresh canvas. One of my favorite techniques is to pee all over a new surface before painting on it. It yellows the background and gives the work a smell that will put you in the mood to create some Outsider Art. In fact, you’ll want to step outside every once in a while and perhaps open some windows in your studio. I’m just using my hair dryer on it here…There you go — the odor will put you smack dab in the attic or dungeon or wherever you like to imagine the mad artist painting and scraping and peeing. There, that’s just right.

Now, let’s take some paint…How about this color here? It doesn’t matter what actual color it is, they’re pretty much all the same. Let’s make a clown, everyone knows how to do that, and…let’s have him crying. We’ll use some other color for his tears — this one will probably do. You’ll notice I’m using a brush with a number on it. It really doesn’t matter what number it is, just as long as there is something written on the brush which will give you the authority to just paint away.

Now, I’ve pretty much made a reputation for not painting clowns, as I see those works coming from aging actresses or lounge singers who need desperately to get on midday TV shows, but we’re breaking all the rules today, because the Art of the Insane has its own set of rules. And one of those rules is that your painting should not be just cute or affecting. There’s nothing necessarily insane about a crying clown…unless he’s got a knife.

And speaking of getting on TV, well, take it from someone who already is on TV, it’s a tricky deal to be both insane and famous. Surely you’ve heard of Andy Warhol? That guy is more popular now that he’s dead than he was when he was alive, and people were hoping he would be dead so the prices of his work would be driven up and up. While Andy Warhol was not actually insane, he was so famous that people thought he was, and yet he could never realize the big profits he might have made had he painted Jesus on locomotives or clowns with knives. He wasted his time on detergent boxes and pictures of actors, things a truly insane artist would not look at twice.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Let’s have Clowny grasping a knife, kind of waving it around. There you go. And let’s just put a locomotive under him. Locomotives are dark and to achieve the effect, just mix a bunch of different paints together and, easy as pie, darkness is yours. Let’s put a pie in his other hand. You don’t want to put a Jesus and a clown in the same painting, because then you’re minimizing your potential profits. Spread your art out, don’t pile too much art in any one place.

Just wet the brush like this and roll it…There you go. I think they call this color orange, or something like that. Wipe off the brush on your pants, if you’re wearing pants, and if not, just wipe the brush between your legs, because we’re sure to find a clever use for it later on.

Now for some sky. I like sky because it signifies that we’re outdoors, but to the insane artist it has some deeper meaning that we can never know. Put it on with your trowel…Just kind of slap it back and forth. Let’s use some of these tubes of paint that haven’t been used yet. Let’s put a hat on the scarecrow…some death’s heads and a gardenia. I think that’s a gardenia, but who cares really. By the way, I don’t recommend peeing on the painting again at this point. Enough is enough.

And now, before you know it and coincidental with the end of this program, you’ve got something that will look real nice stacked up with a bunch of pictures of seagulls and sailboats at a yard sale, but will do even better at a fancy New York gallery filled with rich people who are convinced they are not insane and can therefore appreciate insanity from a respectable distance. And it will increase in value the more famous you get. So start dying your hair and getting shot by one of your girlfriends, or better yet, paint on one of your girlfriends in a bathtub as she shoots you and then duplicate everything hundreds of times and before long you’ll be the toast of Toast Island and just as unhappy as you can be, the subject of so much stultifying commentary that children of the future are preparing even now to be bored by you and your wacky antics.

I’ll see you next week, when we’ll discuss the kind of collectible Folk Art made of bottles and slag that you can turn into a drive-in chapel or grotto and sell postcards from and live like a prince in a small Airstream trailer on the grounds. This is Billy Flamnigan, for Art of the Insane.



The Regional American Surrealist Cookbook

By: Phil Austin


This is a strange area of the country, its cuisine matching its clam rivers and mystic flattened foods.


Submitted by: Martha Stewart of New York City, New York

“This is an excellent recipe. Although it requires quite a bit more time than I’d originally bargained for.”

Serves 6

Preparation time: 3 years


1 TV crew

12 dozen chicken eggs, beaten

1 truckload of milk

16 cases of butter

2 stoves

1 contract, drained

3 publicists, crushed

1/2 tsp. salt

6 weeping assistants


1 phone call

Jail time

Preheat one oven to 325 degrees F. Pretend to preheat the other. Attend endless meetings. Grease 15 casserole dishes. Berate assistants.

Place a layer of crushed eggshells in the bottom of 1 garbage can. Layer garbage neatly. Receive phone calls. Make phone calls. Get up early. Be driven.

Get script. Make revisions. Practice smiling. Make assistants cry.

Add butter, 1 tsp.

Go to jail.

Reinvent self. Start another magazine. Receive plaudits of employees. Go to work every day. Try not to be too lonely.

Assistants weep in the hallway.



Submitted by: Gwang Ho of Never, New Jersey

“Not wishing to quite far. So being so. It can be said.”

Serves 200

Preparation time: Not so bad, considering


A whole bunch of chickens

200 little outfits (sailor, ballerina, etc.)

A lot of packaged stuffing mix

A real big plate or platter (platelet will not do)

Small coffins

Dress chickens in little outfits. Prepare stuffing per package instructions.

Boil or fry the chickens, it hardly matters which.

Stuff cavities, including pockets in outfits. Prepare individual coffins, reserving about 20 for ashes later.

Scorch about 20 chickens. Reserve ashes.

Serve with funereal music. Sprinkle ashes on top.



Perhaps the most normal-appearing section of the country, this flat land, with its rivers lower and its cities higher, still manages to produce some of the food we fear most.


Submitted by: R. Popeil of Chicago, Illinois

“But wait, there’s more…”

Preparation time: 1 crazy moment


1 murdered husband

1 remarriage

2 cases of tomatoes

Case of onions

1 tsp. vinegar

1 hands-free microphone

1 amplifier

1 tsp. salt

Red pepper


Whisk microphone and amplifier until fluffed. Combine tomatoes and onions. Invent scalp-dye with vinegar and pepper. Hide. In a medium bowl talk quickly and convincingly. Hope for the best.



Submitted by: Unnamed of Edge of Nowhere, Indiana

“I don’t care what they think! It’s just eat, eat, eat! Disgusting!”


1 small turkey

2 fingers

A toilet bowl

Preparation time: It sneaks up on you…

Leave nothing to the imagination, leave nothing on the tiles, leave nothing that would create a trail back to you. Leave early, claiming some emergency or other.



Submitted by: Tandom Koolzip of Peeorhea, Indianolapolis

“This is a recipe that was tossed to me by someone claiming to be my grandmother.”

Preparation time: Instantaneous



Someone to throw eggs at

That’s all she wrote. In old-fashioned script.



Submitted by: Big “Chief” Tom of Kansas City, Kansas


Cab fare

1 doz. oysters

1 gal. bourbon whiskey

Get oysters drunk on whiskey. Put them in a cab. Give driver cab fare and tell him to take them to Kansas City.



The sound of cars in the night, the long trail of asphalt, writing things down on long rolls of waxed paper on top of small refrigerators…


Submitted by: Dean Moriarty of Denver, Colorado

“Man, I gotta get me some coffee. We gotta stop soon, man. What was that? Did you feel that?”

Preparation time: 10 minutes, at most


Road something

1 cup bread tips

1 lb. tater tots

Weed (Roaster)

2 tsp. pine nuts

2 cans corn niblets

An Unformed Being

Backseat ashes

Throw things around. Add things. Drink alcohol. Smoke. You’ve crossed that intersection for the last time.



Submitted by: Juan Guadalupe of Quitobaquito, Arizona

“Park and Lock it. Not responsible.”


Crate of oranges

1 Javelina

1 gun

Full moon

Do the math.



The perfectly possible is always near. This region, though largely ignored, is full of food.

1955 PIE

Submitted by: Elmer Batters of Hollywood, California

“I’m probably dead, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me.”


2 plastic, see-through, 5-inch tall high heels

Flouncy apron with clever sayings

Pink frilled trim (for apron)

Several pies, lattice-top and otherwise

A garage



A corset

A dim red light

Preparation time: Dreaming and drifting away

Elude capture. Stand for hours in darkrooms with red light. Ignore greenhouse gases. Ignore deposits. Ignore erosion and gross inadequacies, stubbornness and melted polar ice.

Bring ingredients to a boil.

Serve 3 degrees hotter than ever before.



Submitted by: Andrew Wamasake of Gardena, California


One chicken

A lot of water

Large drinking glass

Preparation time: Maybe 5 hours

Run chicken around and take its temperature. Give the chicken a couple of options. Leave chicken alone a lot. Make sure chicken has a lot of water in its bowl.



A puzzling region, given to elaborate eccentricities and bizarre memories. It’s a good place for surreal juxtapositions.


Submitted by: Kenneth Burns of Public, Florida

“I think vignettes are good, are pure and simple. I like fine sound editing.”

Preparation time: Hundreds of years


A Civil War

Blowing clouds

1/4 cup banjo music

Peck of voice-overs

12 t. suspenders

Dark shoes of all sizes

2 cups body makeup

Blood (chocolate syrup may be substituted)

Alligators (crocodiles may be substituted)


Whip clouds to a froth. Reserve 1/3 cup of voice-overs. Spread music over top.



Submitted by: Annie Coulter of Foxnews, Georgia

“I wish nothing but ill on liberals. I loathe them.”


1 tbsp., plus 2 tsp. acerbic acid

1 clove reason, peeled and forced

1/4 teaspoon each dried and finely pursed lips and knees

Grated peel of 1 psyche

2 whole breasts, exposed toward the top

2 paper-thin brain slices

Prepare an herbed compote of confused leanings. Baffle liberal parents. Ignore insufficient boyfriend. Keep it up.





A rabbit


Developmental Valley School District Lunch Menus for This Week

By: Phil Austin


MON: Paper Stack; Boneless Burrito; Paste; Kitten on a Stick; Milkaroni

TUE: White Bread on Toast; Glass of Sugar; See-Through lettuce; Liquid Milk

WED: Sponge; Sugar Sandwich; butter Plate; Cloth Pudding; Milk

THURS: Simple Pie; Banana Split; Sugar Mound; Blanched Cookie; Milk

FRI: Diaper Surprise; Clear Peaches; Steamed Cereal Boxes; Sugar; Milk


MON: Soft Eggs on a Mirror; Hard-boiled Hollow Birds; Handful of Tacos; Milk

TUE: Rack of Clever Hans; Whisked Apple Fly; Coronation Ham; Nylon Bunnies; Big Carton

WED: Mystery Potato; Curd; Slippery Tart; Milk Pie; Leg Salad Sandwich; Clear Liquid

THURS: Oysters Frightened by Chickens; Liver Mounds; Nest of Interesting Spiders; Mai Tai; Pack of Camels

FRI: Breast of Clam a la “Eddie”; Wieners in a Basket under a Blanket; Teacher’s Surprise; Milk


MON: Beef Throats; Smoked Leg; Hind Quarters; Gros Livers; Old-Fashioned Milk; Cigars

TUE: Flat Motor Pies; Fisherman’s Regret; Loin of Fat; Stunned Ducks in Alcohol Sauce; Milk

WED: Tart Bottoms; Slick Fritters; Breasts of Toast; Sweetbreads in Hand; Cuckoo Punch; Cigars; Milk

THURS: Roast Puffins; Revenge Pudding; Pancakes in Water; Baked Salad; Ring of Fire; Milk

FRI: Ducklings a la Moron; Smothered Rodents; Closet Pie; Turbo Skeletons; Champagne; Brandies; Cigars; Milk


MON: Horse Butter Sandwiches; Hot Jello Salad; French Kisses; Curb Cake; Milk

TUE: Toads in Blanket in a Hole; Complicated Salad; Ice Bread; Lomax Pie; Milk Cocktail

WED: Hat with Cheese; Insurance Salad; V6 Bread; Field Surprise; Milk

THURS: Battered Vegetables; Wax Wrappers; Wallet and Raisin Salad; Adult Milkshake

FRI: Fried Chuck; Paper Salad; Responsibility Pie; White Dessert; Retirement Milk


MON: Eco-Veggie Bar; Rainbow Krazy Krunch; Twig Sticks; Turkey Straws; Cow Milk

TUE: Helpless Nuggets with Sour Sauce; Gator Tots; Trial Mix; White Milk

WED: False Rabbit Wedges; Farm Dip; Sloppy Joans; French Acid; Goat Milk

THURS: Meatless Hot Creatures; Sweetened Cherries; Meltdown on a Bun; Squares; Mother’s Milk

FRI: Refried Fries; Early Dismissal Cup; Hemp Wheels; Party on a Bun; Dip; Sheep Milk


From May Contain Nuts by Michael J. Rosen. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.

To order the book, click here: May Contain Nuts at Amazon.com

To see more of Phil Austin’s work, click here: Phil Austin’s Blog

To learn more about the Mirth of a Nation anthologies, click here: Mirth of a Nation