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Following Ryan Reynolds, AKA: The Franklin Factor

Colin Jost is my hero.

I’m not ashamed to tell people this. I mean, the guy is funny – objectively, statistically funny. He’s funny in a smart way and a smart-ass way, as opposed to a dumb-ass way. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, some of the most successful Saturday Night Live alumni have raked in the cash playing dumb-asses.) And he’s the head writer for the hands-down, most successful, most iconic, longest running, most influential comedy juggernaut in US television history, which is to say world history. Anyone who likes to write, and fancies himself the least bit clever, would be silly not to hold Colin Jost in the highest possible esteem.

And I do, but not so much for those reasons.

Yes, they are compelling, obviously. I mean, I came up with them didn’t I? But the line between admiration and hero worship is drawn in the shape of a heart, and inside that heart is Scarlett Johansson, Colin’s fiancee.

Where do I begin? I am happily married, and I was graduating college when Black Widow was born, so I have no illusions. I’m not a stalker, or even a fanboy. I’m a fan of the MCU, and I think Scar has done a superb job developing her character over the last decade. She’s easy on the eyes and she seems humble, genuine, like a nice person. But that’s not what fascinates me.

She was married to Ryan Reynolds.

Can you imagine being engaged to someone who was married to Ryan Reynolds? I mean, she saw him naked, probably more than once. And plus, he’s pretty damn funny. But he’s funny and…Ryan Reynolds.

I believe Colin Jost probably knew she had been married to Ryan Reynolds when he first asked her out, and subsequently popped the question. I’m going to take a flying logical leap and say they have been in bed together, which means he knew – beforehand – that she had been in bed with Ryan Reynolds. And yet he plowed ahead, no pun intended.

This is an extraordinary man.

It’s not just Colin. A long, long, long-time hero of mine is Benjamin Franklin. I am a Philadelphian, and of course if you’re from Philly you’re a Big Ben fan (even though he was born in Baaaahhhhston). But when I say I am a fan, what I mean is, I used to cut classes in middle school with my best friend Tom Moore, and we would take the train into Center City and spend the afternoon in the Ben Franklin Museum on Market Street where you could look through glass at the actual foundation of his house from 1763. That kind of fan.

Ben Franklin is America’s first and most important pundit. He was fluent in speech and writing in a way no one before him could match. He was a master storyteller and could assume any one of a hundred aliases (and did!) and switch voices effortlessly. Just like old Colin, if you fancy yourself a writer and you’re not a big Ben fan, I don’t know what’s up.

But that was never what fascinated me.

Ben Franklin was an overweight, lame, married, balding guy (well, not always, but certainly during the most influential years of his adulthood!) who was so gifted with turn of phrase, had so much confidence and humility, charisma and self-deprecating charm, that the finest ladies in Paris were hot for him. Hot AF. As in: they wanted to jump him and then give him money.

Ben Franklin was a Boss. He was the Colin Jost of his day.

I look at life stories like these and I think. Like the Grinch, I puzzle and puzz ‘til my puzzler is sore. I think, you can be born with money or you can work hard and earn money. You can lead, or you can follow. You can be rich, or you can be famous, or in very rare cases you can be both. But what Colin and Ben have, I don’t think you can GET that. I think you either have it, or you don’t. And obviously, most of us mere mortals don’t.

In Pulp Fiction, John Travolta’s Vincent and Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules are eating breakfast in a coffee shop that’s about to be burgled, and Vincent offers Jules some bacon. Jules declines because he doesn’t eat pigs, they’re “filthy animals” who “root in shit.” Vincent counters with, “How about a dog? Dogs eats its own feces.” And Jules says he doesn’t eat dogs either.

Vincent: Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?

Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.

Vincent: Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal. Is that true?

Jules: Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charmin' motherf***in' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?

I think Vincent’s on to something. I’m not saying Colin Jost is a dog, or Ben Franklin’s a pig. These are accomplished men, talented men. And yet, they are remarkable for playing way above their heads. They are so mother***in’ charmin’ they ignore the rules and limitations the rest of us accept as given.

Here’s my dirty little secret. I feel like a got a tiny bit of whatever “IT” is, somehow. I mean, I haven’t discovered electricity or made a million people laugh at the same time. And I sure haven’t slept with Scarlett Johansson! But I’ve done pretty well in my life, been accepted at least as much as I could reasonably expect; and truth be told, probably more. I look in the mirror, as objectively as I can, the real honest 360-degree mirror, and I feel like I’ve done better than I had a right to expect.

Why? I’m not smarter than anyone else. I’m not Ryan Reynolds. I’m not Alexander Hamilton for that matter. I don’t work the hardest of anyone – I know lots of people who work harder and have way more self-discipline, starting with my son. No, I’m the guy the bell curve was invented for: I can look on either side and feel pretty good about my place in the universe. Only I think I did somewhat better than that. And I don’t know just why. Unless I got a little dropperful of whatever Colin and Ben were born with, whatever drove them to stake their memorable claim in the world.

I’m not complaining. I got a little. It’s better than none at all! But I look at those guys, the charming ones, and I wonder – as purely an academic question, of course – how do I get just a little more?

Excerpt from Pulp Fiction copyright 1994 by Quentin Tarantino


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