You won’t like Paul Scheer when he’s angry—He doesn’t either

Paul Scheer is primarily known for making people laugh, having spent over two decades as a podcast host and comic for shows like 30 Rock, Veep, League, and police procedural satire NTSF: SD: SUV. But in his new memoir, Happy memories of trauma, Scheer delves into the not-so-funny forces that shaped his sense of humor and outlook on life. In this excerpt, from a chapter titled “Hulk,” Scheer recounts a series of childhood conflicts with his mother’s boyfriend and how he learned to resist the angry impulses that destroyed several adults. raised him.

When I was little, I loved watching it Incredible Hulk, the cheesy ’80s live-action movie in which the Hulk was played by two different people. David Banner—yes, they changed his name from Bruce to David—is played by Bill Bixby, a nice, normal guy. Hulk is played by weightlifting champion Lou Ferrigno, painted green and wearing an ugly black wig. I loved the show except for the moments when David Banner transformed into the Hulk. The camera zooms in on his eyes, and I watch in horror as his pupils contract and then widen, turning into fiery cat eyes. His anger was at its peak and you could see it all in those eyes. This transformation was one of the most horrifying images my five-year-old brain had ever absorbed. I was watching someone literally explode from the inside. The first time I saw it, I ran out of the room crying. That image haunts me every night. My mother tried to help me overcome my fear by painting me green like the Hulk, but it wasn’t the Hulk I was afraid of. I love Hulk. I fear the moment he returns – when humans become monsters.

I don’t remember when the abuse started with Hunter. When I look back at that time, I recall only a chorus of raised voices, insults, broken words and aggressive behavior. As I mentioned before, all the chaos and abuse were so normalized that only in telling it did I realize how unusual it was. Those moments when I was so scared and thought I might die are even more devastating now because I was so glad to be alive. I felt victorious because I outsmarted Hunter and narrowly avoided a worse beating, like the time I outran a pitchfork he threw at my back. I don’t think what would have happened if I had gone a little slower and he had actually caught me. Instead, those moments, while dark, still bring a sense of joy to this day. Those are the spiritual medals I won in the war I fought right in my own home.

Most of the attacks happened without anyone around, but sometimes others had to witness him punishing me. During a second grade birthday party where I “misbehaved,” Hunter took a chair, placed it in the middle of the room, and spanked me in front of all my friends. It was not by his hand; it has a belt. As I lay across his legs, I saw the looks of sympathy and confusion on my friends’ faces, and I tried so hard not to cry, to relax as if this were an everyday occurrence. . Honestly, it is. The only difference is the presence of an audience. When he was done, I mustered all my strength to return to the party, still a little shaken but trying to convince everyone that I was “fine,” when clearly I was not.

As I grew older, I realized more and more how lonely my mother and I were during that time. It’s not that we want to stay; that is we had no help to get out. Over the years, we have asked many people to intervene. They are afraid to interfere or, as one relative put it, “we don’t want to interfere in your family business.”

We tried to get Hunter to go to family counseling for a long time, and when we finally succeeded, the therapist asked me to detail every violent interaction I’d had with him. Hunter is not allowed to interrupt; he just needs to listen. When I told her every story of abuse I could remember, from washing my hands in boiling water until I lost feeling in my fingers, to him frequently slapping me in the face and giving me I the wedges made my eyes water, it was clear the therapist was shocked. In the end she had to leave me out because the list was too long and she had more than enough to prove her point. She challenged Hunter: “Let’s make a deal: if you ever lay a hand on your stepson or wife again, I will call the police.” I believed her. Finally, we have someone who can hold him accountable.

He hit me again. We all went back to see the counselor. I told her exactly what happened, and she took a deep breath and said, “Okay, Hunter, this is your last chance. If it happens again, I will call the police.” She released him! She treats him like she caught a kid stealing Oreos from the pantry. I have never felt more helpless. I knew she would never call the police, and I knew we would never go to family counseling again, because Hunter got lucky, and he wasn’t going to double his luck. We left that office and never came back, and the therapist never followed up with us.

I once anonymously called Child Protective Services to bring a police officer and counselor to our home. They interviewed Mom and Hunter together in the same room. It’s like interviewing a kidnapper and a kidnapped person together: you won’t get the real story. My mother was too scared to say anything. Furthermore, the consultant never talked to me. Suffice it to say, CPS found nothing wrong — again reinforcing the idea that if you make it through and don’t have scars, you’re fine and why complain. I often think, Maybe one day he will break my arm or my leg, then I can finally get real help. But he never did. That’s the hardest thing about his violence: it didn’t leave any permanent physical mark.

But the most shocking thing was that the rest of our family remained neutral towards all acts of violence. My very Italian great-grandmother, who lived with us briefly in her 90s, quickly learned what was going on at our house. I told her that Hunter had beaten me and my mother, and she said, “If nothing is broken, it’s not abuse.” She lived through many wars and emigrated to Ellis Island—I often heard stories about her breaking wooden spoons over her children’s heads when they misbehaved—so the ruler Her empathy meter was probably broken. One time Hunter and I got into a fight, and he threw a tree at my head, while my great-grandmother sat there watching TV, motionless. Her only interjection was, “Boys! Boys! Keep it down! The People’s Court is operating.”

Unlike my great-grandmother, my grandmother (my mother’s mother) is my closest ally. I spent most of my youth with her while my parents were at work. She is one of the only people I can confide in completely. She didn’t like Hunter from the beginning; she joked and taunted him privately with me and always tried to take a whack or two to his face in front of me. She’s the only adult I’ve ever seen do that. When she’s finished, we’ll stand together. She always supported me – until she didn’t. After a particularly bad Christmas dinner, an argument started between my grandmother and Hunter, and it gradually escalated until every adult was screaming. Finally, my grandmother stood up and announced to us: “It’s him or her!” If Hunter continues to treat her nephew and daughter this way, she will never come back. The logic here is difficult to parse: the punishment for his abusive behavior is to eliminate interaction with his mother-in-law. . . someone he doesn’t like? It made no sense and still makes no sense, even though to this day she still stands by her decision: “I had to do what I had to do” – which was nothing. She packed her coat and left, my grandfather following behind. It seemed like we hadn’t seen her in years.

My father’s reaction to Hunter was the most unacceptable. Dad is very present in my life. The extraordinary efforts he makes to juggle his work and fulfill his parental duties continue to amaze me. He is my rock; Even though my parents are divorced and he lives and works over an hour away, he has never missed any of my big events. Not only do I spend every weekend with him, but he also comes to our house after school twice a week just to be with me.

Hunter was jealous of my dad’s relationship with me simply because my dad was my dad and Hunter couldn’t compete. In his twisted brain, Dad is his biggest rival and Hunter needs to take him down. He saw the joy in my eyes when my dad was around, a joy that Hunter couldn’t take away or copy. So, in typical fashion, if he can’t make money, he’ll force it – whether it’s making me call him dad, nagging me to kiss him, or bad-mouthing my dad and sharing things that mom I told him privately about her and my father’s relationship. It doesn’t work. I love my dad and nothing can change that.


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