Do something crazy

I did something crazy this week. I’m not going to tell you what it was — at least, not yet. I’ll just say that it was something that I was afraid of, and it was stupid, and it was wrong, and it was not good by the definition of most people in this little world of ours. But I did it anyway. And you know what? It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing ever.

So let me tell you a little tale about doing something crazy, and why you should try it for yourself.

I grew up a pretty straightlaced, whitebread kid. But during my junior year in high school, I met some kids who were fun in a totally different way than I was used to. Specifically, they were weird.

One of them once wore a pink women’s nightgown to school. Some had hair that was green, or blue, or multicolored. They were all curiously polite; we always shook hands and for some reason referred to each other as “Mr.” at a time before I shook hands with anyone. They formed a club dedicated to toaster appreciation — the Toaster Lovers’ Association, or TLA — and created a number of shitty film and audio projects culminating in The Flame Squad, a documentary about a gay policeman who licked windshield wipers.

One of these people — we’ll call him Robert Charles Stuart the Third to preserve his anonymity — was the guy who introduced me to punk rock. He had a cassette with Bad Religion’s No Control album on one side and Alien Sex Fiend’s Open Head Surgery on the other, and we listened to it during a drive to Cedar Point (that’s an Ohio amusement park, for you heathens) one summer day. And I fell in love — with punk, with the ideas behind it, with the notion of nonconformity and the fact that there was a totally “wrong” way to do things that nonetheless worked somehow.

So during all of this punk rock listening and filmmaking (we made a series of shorts involving a 96 oz. can of Vanee brand barbecued beef from Gordon Food Service), we, as teenagers who of course were the most profound thinkers ever, decided to have some retarded personalized items made up.

A tip: If you go to a keepsakes shop like Things Remembered, they’ll engrave pretty much anything with anything as long as you ask with a straight face and pay in advance.

So one guy got a plain white nametag that said, “I Like to Romance Fish.”

And here’s one that I still have:

But when you got past the tomfoolery and just being dumb, what really mattered to us was the spirit of punk rock. So we also had things made like a beat-up money clip sporting a line from the Jawbreaker song “Boxcar” (the lyric “you’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone” was too long).

I still use it today:

… and of course, the dandy at the very top of this post: the “Do Something Crazy” nametag that was kind of where the idea for this post came from:

I had that nametag made after listening repeatedly to a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song by the same name. (And by the way, if the only MMB song you know is “The Impression that I Get,” that’s kind of like judging Stevie Wonder on “I Just Called to Say I Love You” – so do yourself a huge favor and check out the deeper archives.)

At the time, I liked the idea of “doing something crazy,” because it was fun and interesting. In my teen years, “doing something crazy ” meant taking that 96 oz. can of Vanee into (and getting kicked out of) the GNC sports nutrition shop in the mall, or listening loudly to Rob and Rick’s we’re-not-even-trying band LMNOP, which released the hit albums My Ass is Welded Shut and Mouth to Buddha Recessitation (sic). (The master of Nate Makes a Good Ham and Cheese Sandwich with his Hands Tied Behind His Back was accidentally erased when one day, Rob taped over it with Poetry Rodeo.)

But now that I’m an adult, the idea of “doing something crazy” is more profound, more elusive, and much harder than it used to be.

Doing something crazy is quitting your job and having nothing but a dream to fall back on.

Doing something crazy is taking up gymnastics when you’re a 30-year old, 205-lb man, just because you want to try it.

Doing something crazy is not following through on an obligation that, in retrospect, was fucking retarded to have ever made.

Doing something crazy is knowing you’re a good person — yet doing something that society suggests makes you a bad person because you know that society is wrong.

Doing something crazy is doing what you want, no matter how many people laugh.

Most people can’t actually do something crazy once they hit a certain age. They may think they can, but taking barbecued beef into stores is for teenagers. It’s young-person crazy. Doing teen crazy as adult is a cop-out; it’s not truly crazy anymore. It’s not far enough outside the lines. It’s not stretching your comfort zone, challenging the walls that we and other people put around us to make us fall into line and behave.

So I keep that nametag, and when something that I want to do feels like a stretch, I’ll ask, “Is it truly stupid and wrong? Or is it just crazy?” If it’s the latter, I’ll usually give it a shot, and damn the reactions I get. And frankly, it’s made all the difference in the world for me.

Try it some time. Normality is boring and redundant. The juice and freedom of life is found when you’re out with the wackos, doing what’s not quite right.


  1. Eric Normand says:

    Yes, Johnny, you are crazy!

    I’m crazy, too. I just quit my job. I’m going to produce a movie with my friend.

    Then I’m traveling the world!

    We need a little more crazy in the world.

    Keep up the crazy.

  2. Milo says:

    I reckon there’s a screenplay somewhere in there Johnny (for a low budget indie flick obviously). The tales of your ultra-polite punk gang could be the anti-Clockwork Orange for the new decade.

  3. Lira Vaughan says:

    I’ve met Crazy. She’s fun but usually ends up kicking my ass after 24hours. Her sister on the other hand, whose name is Totally F**king nUts but prefers to go by ToFU, taught me to how to party for months and months and months. The last time I hung out with ToFU, I got into a huge fight with my boss, quit my job, broke my glasses, and woke up with red hair and a dragon tattooed on my shoulder. Best Year Ever. 🙂

  4. Johnny says:

    Sweet, some crazy motherfuckers in the hiz-ouse here!

  5. Hells yes!

  6. Dave Doolin says:

    I’ll see you at Burning Man. Then we discuss crazy in an appropriate venue.

  7. Exactly what aspiring online entrepreneurs need to hear Johnny! This is what separates the haves from the have not’s in today’s social media driven world.

    This is actually rule #6 on my 2010 Social Media Blueprint, I call it Act Like A Celebrity! Standing out from the crowd is what makes or breaks your online business. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries, be fun, be spontaneous, let go of all that crap that you were taught to act appropriately. One of the most terrible things that happens to us when we grow up is to curb our child like instinct to have fun and do something stupid to get attention!

    Celebrities do it all the time, it’s what makes them celebrities. Sure being in a movie helps, but that can only get you in front of your audience once or twice a year. Doing stupid stuff keeps them in front of the audience every day.

    Do yourself a favor, be different, be the class clown, do something stupid and get noticed for it!

  8. Johnny says:

    Andrew, that’s funny… my coach, Mr. Tim Brownson, suggested a while back that I write an e-book called “How to become an internet celebrity in six months” or something similar. I never got around to writing it and may never, but I had in mind that the intro would explain that maybe it was cheeky to call myself an internet celebrity… but that the willingness to do so was EXACTLY what made the difference. If you want to be an internet celeb, you have to have the balls-out cheek to declare that you are one!

  9. Andrew Gay says:

    Yes, but more importantly, you have to have the balls-out cheek to act like one! If Paris Hilton would have told a reporter that she was a whore she would have gotten a little press. Instead she had several home videos “leaked” and acted like one in front of the press all the time, which made her a celebrity. Getting noticed is one thing, being talked about is truly another.

    I like your style Johnny!

  10. Fabian says:

    Yay, I’m all into that movie Milo proposes. Maybe Eric could film it? I’d like a cameo as a friendly anarchist getting hit by a car or something. And at the end, people would know how to become internet famous. Or broke. Or both things.

  11. lol, ok ok, all sarcasm aside (perhaps the wrong analogy… lol), seriously though the web is a vast space and though I wouldn’t suggest getting hit by a car (may be funny to watch though) being different and doing something different is essential. Just make sure it’s something you wouldn’t mind being known for… Remember the kid on YouTube with the light saber? That went viral like crazy, but not sure what he could use it for when he grows up, maybe comedy! 🙂

  12. Very enlightening piece Johnny…

    I totally agree with this post. Not that I’m living it completely but I agree. I have 6 year old twins and when we’re together I find myself doing stupid things all the time. Also, now that I’m 40 I care a lot less what other people think about me and more about what I want to do, regardless.

    Maybe I should apply some of this to my blog and how I create….


  13. Caleb says:

    On the strength of:
    “Doing something crazy is knowing you’re a good person — yet doing something that society suggests makes you a bad person because you know that society is wrong.”

    I did two crazy things on the day after New Years:
    *1) went to a club(something I’ve sworn against over the years)..
    *2) and tickled a flirtatious woman’s hot spot at the bar..

    The weird thing is that I was not embarrassed and still have no regrets although ppl who saw it now think I am some sort of fallen angel!

  14. Amy Harrison says:

    But we all really want to know what the crazy thing was… 🙂

  15. Thor says:

    Best feedback I ever had as a so called “Professional”

    “Thor exudes a touch of crazy, but seems to know what he’s talking about – the fine line between crazy and genius… Anon.

    Johnny, came accross your cool stuff the other day surfing while being shown a fuck off TV in costco (fckn tedious)

  16. LisaNewton says:

    Does crazy relate to Seth Godin’s Remarkable? It’s a question worth pondering.

  17. Jess says:

    Holy crap. You like Jawbreaker? Dude… I was going easy on you…

    And as for the crazy? When I saw the title, I thought you were quoting Happy Harry Hard-on from “Pump Up The Volume.”

    You can’t please all the people all the time, and craziness is a subjective definition. I wish you congrats on whatever you’ve done because it’s obviously made you happy. If that’s crazy, so be it…

    Keep on rockin’…

  18. Johnny says:

    I can’t tell from that comment whether liking Jawbreaker is a good thing or a bad thing.

    During the height of my punk rockery, when I was at school in Columbus, Ohio, I’d travel to Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo if applicable when bands I liked went on tour in the area. After enough shows, Jason Beebout of Samiam started comping me because I guess he felt bad about this college kid spending all his money on punk shows.

    I look back on those days and honestly wonder how I afforded it and how I found the time, since most of the shows were on week nights. I do know that I got to know the late night parking shuttle guy at OSU pretty well.

  19. Johnny says:

    BTW, my life is now complete, now that I have a person named “Thor” reading my blog.

  20. Deren Monday says:

    This site is like detox for safe-choice attics..

    Keep it comin’…

  21. Johnny,

    “Do Something Crazy” is usually a prompt from our souls when they grow tired and restless. Energy and inspiration are the perfect remedies to go out and live again.


  22. When I gave up my well paying job at a large company, to go freelance, everyone thought I was crazy. Not least my wife and my family. 2 years on and it’s the best thing I ever did. Not saying that’s all been easy but I’ve had a great time and met some really great people.

  23. Johnny says:

    Hey, everyone… assure Matthew that he’ll be in good company.

    The world of the unemployed is full of some seriously crazy motherfuckers.

  24. Troyboy says:

    You know your alive when you wished you was dead…


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