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Weighty (Sorry, Fat Joke) / Benjamin Drevlow

At his heaviest John Candy weighed 300 pounds.

At my heaviest I weighed 325 pounds.

Which is right now.

They talk about how Candy struggled with his weight his whole life and knew he was gonna die if he didn’t fix it.

I mean die early.

His dad had died of heart disease, his family had a history.

They say after Belushi died in 82, the first thing Candy did was get a personal trainer.

Belushi died of a speedball.

Candy died twelve years later of a heart attack.

He was forty-three.

I’m forty-five and still alive.

But weighting.

I mean waiting.

(Is that fat dad joke?)

My grandfather died of a heart attack the year I was born.


He was 61.

He was skinny and sinewy, with a farmer’s tan and farmer’s veins. 

Didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t overeat.

My other grandpa, pretty much the same, died at 72 of a heart attack.

Not young but not old either.

At least from my perspective now as a forty-five-year-old.

He’d survived WWII.

My mother died five years ago.

She was sixty-nine.

Heart attack.

Moms are not supposed to die of heart attacks.

That’s probably sexist but I stand by it.

She wasn’t skinny but she wasn’t fat either, not like me or John Candy.

(My father having thus far avoided the heart attack, having gone straight to the stroke.)

I’ve had three uncles who’ve had heart attacks, one of them surviving.

John Candy’s last film wasn’t Cool Runnings, it was a movie called Wagons East.

He played a grizzled alcoholic wagon master who survived the Donner party by eating everyone else.

There are some closeups of knowing looks from the other characters that clearly underscore the irony of Candy’s character being so fat and surviving the Donner party, but there are no explicit fat jokes at his expense.  

Candy died in the middle of filming and they had to use obese acting doubles and special effects to finish the film. 

It got 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The last movie he actually finished making was Canadian Bacon

The jokes write themselves but all in bad taste (pardon the pun).

It got a 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

I think about that a lot when I fantasize about killing myself so all my rejected writing will get published posthumously and universally praised out of pity.

Kind of like a Confederacy of Dunces–another comedy about an obese man. 

The legend of John Kennedy Toole’s mom begging famous American novelist Walker Percy to publish it. 

The story of John Candy is healthy for me. 

It reminds me that not even pity for a dead man can turn a turd into an unrotten tomato.

Words to live by (or try to convince yourself anyway).

Three years ago I was gonna give life another go. 

I got my shit together, quit drinking, and started training for a marathon.

I lost 70 pounds on sheer sadomasochism alone.

I was running over 80 miles a week.

I never made it to a marathon.

The first one I signed up for I was told at the registration that my online registration had not gone through.

They wouldn’t even let me pay extra to run their race last minute.

Story of my life.

Like even if I left what little money I have left to pay to publish my book posthumously somebody would probably tell my executor no, sorry, it’s too late.

Just kidding. I don’t actually have a will.

And I don’t/won’t have any money left.

I’m not sure who my debts will get passed onto.

I have no mother to convince a great American novelist of her son’s tortured obese genius.

As a kid I always thought fat guys and fat jokes were hilarious.

John Candy. John Belushi. Chris Farley.

My two favorite movies Uncle Buck and Tommy Boy.

Fat man in a little coat.

I still sing that song to myself whenever I have to put on a coat. 

I haven’t bought a new coat in fifteen years.

Depending on the year and my mental health, my coats are always too big or not big enough. 

I was bulimic until after high school.

I weighed 175 pounds when I graduated.

I could puke on command, I didn’t even need to stick my finger down my throat.

I never thought of it as bulimic at the time–would’ve been humiliated if anybody would’ve accused me of having an eating disorder.

Eating disorders were for girls.

I was just doing what needed to be done to not be such a fat lazy piece of crap–a fat male lazy piece of crap.

It’s been two years since my failed marathon.

I have arthritis in my hips, ankles, and knees from all the pounding I put my joints through from training for a marathon while weighing 300 pounds. 

And sadomasochism.

I’ve gained 90 pounds.

And I’m not done yet.

I’m back to drinking, back to the Cheetos and Double-Stuffed Oreos, back to binging and purging, but mostly the former.

They say John Candy hated fat jokes. Thought they were cheap and easy laughs. Was very insecure about his weight in real life.

I often think that every pound I’ve gained since high school is karma for every fat joke I ever laughed at as a kid.

In high school I had this band teacher who looked like he had stuffed a basketball in his shirt to make himself look pregnant.

Looked like he was about to give birth to triplets. 

Or at least that was one of the jokes my friends and I made at his expense.

While directing us in a rollicking rendition of 25 or 6 to 4 by the band Chicago he got so into it, one of his buttons on his shirt popped off and hit a girl in the face while playing oboe in the third row.

Our band director didn’t even notice, kept right on like he was directing Beethoven’s 5th with the New York Philharmonic.

Some people kept playing, some of us couldn’t play for laughing.

If you’re waiting for me to make you feel guilty about laughing at fat jokes, I’m not.

I still make them all the time.

Though these days mostly at my own expense.

I once got so worked up teaching a class about Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal (the one about eating the infant children of poor and starving women) both of my suspenders popped off and flew over my head like bullets in that scene from The Matrix.

I don’t have to try very hard to imagine the jokes my students were telling their friends after that.

Honestly, I encourage it. I deserve it. Bring on the shame and the tittering. 

Every time I teach Swift's satire about those poor nourishing Irish babies, I reenact the whole suspenders scene like I am the Neo of fat college instructors.

When you’re a self-deprecating fat man, it’s a fine line between laughing with you and at you.

Either way it’s not a recipe for self-respect.

By which I mean not a reason to go on living.

But not a reason to shoot yourself either.

But of course there’s more than one way to kill yourself.

Your last will and testament, a public plea to get people to publish the Great American novel nobody wanted to read or publish while you were still alive.

It is the last wish of the deceased to spread the word, post about it on social media, write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Here, I’ll get you started:

Drevlow might’ve idolized John Kennedy Toole, but this ain’t exactly A Confederacy of Dunces.

He might’ve lived his life like John Candy, but this is no Uncle Buck.

Sadly, it’s not even Canadian Bacon.

Tragically, some WIPs are meant to stay RIP.

– The Ghost of the Moviegoer


BENJAMIN DREVLOW is the author of Bend With the Knees and Other Love Advice from My Father, which won the 2006 Many Voices Project from New Rivers Press, and the author of Ina-Baby: A Love Story in Reverse, which was released by Cowboy Jamboree Books in 2019. His latest story collection is A Good Ram Is Hard to Find, released in 2021 by Cowboy Jamboree Books. His novel The Book of Rusty was released in October 2022, also by CJB.

1 Comment

Mark Rogers
Mark Rogers
Apr 01

Hang in there, amigo.

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