On Self-Deprecation


On Halloween I posted my article on Big Money Rustlas, Insane Clown Posse’s comedy western, on the Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place Patreon page as October’s patron-exclusive Control Nathan Rabin entry. I ended it thusly: “I got a whole lot more out of Big Money Rustlas in 2017 than I did the first time around. It looks like all I needed to do was immerse myself in the world of Insane Clown Posse, become a full-on Juggalo, write multiple books about Insane Clown Posse and their world, become unemployable in multiple fields, lose many of my friends and professional colleagues and stumble into a never-ending professional free-fall in order to properly enjoy this dumb movie the way it was meant to be enjoyed.”

One of the kindly souls who contributes to the page replied, “Dude, I'm all for self-deprecating humor, but given what we know of your history with depression, I get scared when I see you writing things like this.” It was a very considerate, very kind comment, and I assured him that I am, for the most part, doing well and that I was indeed engaging in comic exaggeration and self-deprecation in depicting my career as a never-ending professional free fall. 

Here’s the thing, though: I was kidding but there’s also an unmistakable element of truth to it as well, because while I do feel like a success in many ways, I also feel like a failure, and I want this website to be personal and honest and intimate, a true reflection of who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going. 

Getting fired by The Dissolve made me feel like a pariah as well as a failure. Getting dropped by my publisher made me feel like a failure. Having The A.V Club cancel its longest running column (My World of Flops) via an impersonally worded email two decades into my time there made me feel like a failure. 

Caring so much about this site’s Patreon amount, and being dependent upon that money to survive makes me feel like a failure. Every time I pitch something to a potential freelance outlet and they either ignore me or say no those intense, free-floating, crazy-making feelings of failure and anxiety and rejection bubble up to the surface again. 


I am super fucking proud of what we’ve created here at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place makes me feel like a success. It makes me feel like all of the stress and hassle and rejection of my years with The A.V Club and The Dissolve paid off because it allowed me to build upon my decades in the business and create something new, something personal, something that cannot be taken away from me, or changed into something I do not recognize or connect to emotionally on any level.

I am deeply invested in Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. And that kind of scares me because I was deeply invested in The A.V Club and then it became something that broke my heart. The same with The Dissolve. The big difference here is that I have control, but it's still hard to fight that bone-deep fear that if you love something you will lose it.

When I write about myself as a weary old has-been just barely hanging on, it’s partially self-deprecating shtick, but it’s also honest. There’s something cathartic about owning your failure and rejection and misfortune instead of letting it control you. I’m more self-deprecating here because I genuinely feel like a failure in a lot of ways. 

Self-deprecation has long been a staple of my writing, as well as a crutch at times, but I have abandoned it at times in my life when I felt successful and in control, like the first year at The Dissolve, or when I was a staff writer at The A.V Club with one or more book contracts. It seemed dishonest, disingenuous and fake to write about myself as a put-upon schmuck when I was living a lot of writer’s dreams. 

I am fundamentally happy, happier now than I would have been had I never quit The A.V Club or managed to stay on at The Dissolve to the very end. But I’ve lost so much through the decades that it’s hard not to feel like a failure on some level, even when you’re doing what it feels like the good Lord put you on earth to do. 


There are definitely times when I feel like a big old failure. I’m kind of feeling that way right now, but there are also times when I feel like a fiasco and a secret success. My writing here reflects those fluctuations. I write about struggling and depression and anxiety because I deal with those constantly but I also write about good things that happen in my life, because that is also my reality, thank god. 

I know how unbelievably lucky I am to have lived the kind of life I’ve had and had the kinds of experiences that come with it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have to struggle every goddamn day for the rest of my life. Or at least, that’s how it feels sometimes. 

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