American Splendor (2003) Script

( doorbell rings )

All: Trick or treat.

Well, look at this.

All the superheroes on our porch.

Ain't that cute?

We got Superman here.

And Batman. And his sidekick Robin.

( gasps ) The Green Lantern.

And what about you, young man?

What about what?

Who are you supposed to be?

I'm Harvey Pekar.

( murmuring ) "Pecker, Pecker..."

Harvey Pekar?

That doesn't sound like a superhero to me.

( boys murmuring )

I ain't no superhero, lady.

I'm just a kid from the neighborhood, all right?

Oh, forget this.

Why does everybody have to be so stupid?


Harvey Pekar: Okay, this guy here, he's our man.

All grown up and goin' nowhere.

Although he's a pretty scholarly cat, he never got much of a formal education.

For the most part he's lived in shit neighborhoods, held shit jobs, and is now knee-deep into a disastrous second marriage.

So if you're the kind of person looking for romance or escapism or some fantasy figure to save the day, guess what? You got the wrong movie.

Interviewer: That's great.

Okay, so now you got four takes.

You ought to be able to patch one together from there, right?

Let's go to the next one, all right? Interviewer: Hold on a second.

Do you want some water or something?

Nah, I got lots of orange.

Interviewer: Do you like orange soda?

Pekar: Yeah, orange is all right.

Interviewer: All right, so let's go to the next sequence.

Did you actually read the script?

No. A little bit.

Just to check the construction, you know, of how the piece was constructed.

I didn't read it word for word.

Interviewer: Do you feel weird saying that stuff?

No, I don't feel weird saying it.

I don't know how long my voice is gonna hold on, but...

( raspily ) Doc, you gotta help me, man.

My old lady's dumping me 'cause I can't talk.

She says I'm a "social embarrassment."

Now that she's got a PhD, she's some hot-shit academic star and I'm nothin' but a file clerk.

You know, me being a file clerk was fine when I was signing the damn checks for her tuition, man.

Harvey, stop talking, please, and open wide.

I started worrying my voice would never come back, you know?

Say "ah," Mr. Pekar.

I mean, it's torture, I'm telling ya. Shh.

Ah.

Ah-hh...

Doctor: Mm-hmm. What?

Is it bad, Doc?

Not good.

It's cancer.

First I got marital problems, and now you're telling me I got throat cancer?

For Christ's sake, man.

Harvey, calm down. It's not cancer.

You have a nodule on your vocal cords, probably from screaming and yelling so much.

And if you don't give it a rest, you're gonna lose your voice completely.

Okay, okay.

But for how long?

A few months.

( squeaks ) Months?!

Ugh-hh!


( raspily ) Hey. Hey, come on, what is this?

It's exactly what it looks like.

What do you mean? You mean you're dumping me?

( screeches ) For what?

Look, this plebeian lifestyle just isn't working for me anymore, okay?

I gotta get out of here before I kill myself.

( wheezing ) Wait a minute.

( faintly ) Just listen to what I have to say, please.

( coughs )

( wheezes ) Don't go.

( squeaking ) I need you, baby. Please-- please don't go, okay? ( squeaking )

Pekar: Here's our man.

Yeah, all right. Here's me-- or the guy playing me, anyway, though he don't look nothin' like me, but whatever.

So it's a few months later and I'm workin' my flunky, file-clerk gig at the VA hospital.

My voice still ain't back yet.

Thank you, Harvey, dear.

Things seem like they can't get any worse.

( raspily ) "Plebeian"?

Where the hell did she get that shit, man?

( sighs )

Man: "Avoid the reeking herd.

Shun the polluted flock.

Live like that stoic bird, the eagle of the rock."

Hey, Mr. Boats.

You know what that means, son?

Yup, it's from an Elinor Hoyt Wylie poem.

It means-- excuse me. It means stay away from the crowds of common, ordinary people and do your own thing.

No, it means don't compromise yourself for women.

Ain't gonna do you no good.

Get away from 'em as soon as you can.

Yup, well, I ain't got no woman now, so I'm livin' like "the stoic bird," man.

It's the only way to live, son.

( music in headset ) Harvey: Yeah, man.

Mr. Boats: Look at that fool there.

Probably listening to that loud rock stuff.

Junk. Junk. It's all junk.

I don't know. You know, I mean... rock music's got some good qualities.

It isn't jazz or nothin', but, you know.

Say, when you gonna bring me in some of those good records?

Some Nat King Cole with strings?

I don't got any of that, Mr. Boats.

Yeah, you got that. You keep 'em at home, though.

You won't turn loose the good stuff, you just sell the junk.

You know, I... I just-- ( jazz music playing )

I, you know, keep the stuff I want to keep.

I don't-- I sold a lot of good material by people that he didn't like.

And Mr. Boats, he didn't like any blues or anything like that.

And he played classical violin.

I started record collecting when I was 15 or 16 years old.

I started getting interested in jazz.

Prior to that, I had collected comic books.

I was always a collector.

I admit to having an obsessive-compulsive quality in me.

( music stops )

It's like "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" or something.

You go to thrift shops and you go to garage sales

'cause you think you're gonna find something that's real rare and most of the time it's a total waste of time.

But once in a while you'll come up with something and it'll whet your appetite.

Pekar: In the early '60s, I was with some buddies at a junk sale looking for some choice sides when I met this shy, retiring cat from Philadelphia named Bob Crumb. You know the guy.

"Fritz the Cat," "Mr. Natural" and all.

They made a movie about him, too.

Ooh, Jay McShann, man.

Aw, come on, Harv. You gonna buy that or what?

Yeah, I don't know, Marty.

It's got a lamination crack in it.

A quarter.

Maybe I can talk it down.

You are one cheap bastard, Harvey.

Yeah, I know I'm tight, man.

I live on a government wage.

You collect Jay McShann, man?

Yeah, man, how about you? Yeah.

But most of my records are back in Philly.

Hey, Harvey, meet my buddy, Bob Crumb.

He just moved to town. He's an artist with the American Greeting Card Company.

Huh? That's cool.

You should see his comics, Harv.

They're outta sight. Yeah?

Hey, I'm into comics myself. ( thunder rumbles )

( jazz music playing )

Pekar: So Crumb showed me this comic book novel he was working on.

The "Big Yum Yum Book."

I'd never seen anything like it.

This is terrific. I really dig your work, man.

This "Peter Wheat" book is by Walt Kelly.

It's pretty rare. Oh, yeah?

Can I get good bread for it? Not yet.

Oh. Listen, man, let's get back to your book.

What are you gonna do with it?

I haven't really thought about it. It's just an exercise.

No, man, it's more than just an exercise.

It's breaking ground, man.

There's some wild shit in here, Bob.

You're spitting on me, Harvey.

( sighs )

( music playing )

Pekar: Crumb and I hung out a lot back then.

We had records and comics in common.

Check it out, man.

Pretty scary.

Yeah, you don't know the half of it, man.

Pekar: Actually, people got hip to Crumb's artwork and he started hanging out with the bohemian crowd.

After a while he got sick of greeting cards and moved away to San Francisco, where he got the whole underground comic scene off the ground.

( music continues )

He'd come back to Cleveland every few years, and people would treat him like a celebrity.

Singer: ♪ If me my baby ♪

♪ Fuss and fight... ♪ Once he came to visit when I was feelin' real bad.

It was right after my wife left me.

She got so mean to me at the end.

It ain't like I tried to keep her captive or anything like that, you know?

( sighs ) Harvey: I don't know, man.

Yeah, but don't think I buy into any of this "growth" crap, man.

Everybody's always talking about how bad experiences cause you to "grow" and all that clichéd stuff, man.

I've had enough bad experiences and growth to last me plenty.

Right now...

I'd be glad to trade some growth for happiness.

So how long you stayin' in Cleveland, man?

I don't know, I gotta see this chick in New York, and I'm really busy with the comic book stuff.

It's good bread and all. I'm just gettin' sick of the whole scene.

What are you talkin' about?

You make a good livin' doing your art, right?

How many guys get that lucky in their life, huh?

Yeah, I--

No, man, listen, I'll tell you something, people are startin' to know the name Crumb.

When you croak, man, you're gonna leave somethin' behind.

Yeah, I guess. Yeah.

It's not like I'm Blind Lemon Jefferson or Big Mama Thornton or-- Oh, come on, man.

I'll tell you somethin,' it sure beats workin' a gig like mine, being a nobody flunky and selling records on the side for a buck.

Yeah, well, that's true. ♪ It ain't nobody's business ♪

♪ Yeah, yeah, yes, if we do. ♪

( call signal beeps ) Woman on P.A.: Dr. Whitman...

Ahem.

Phew.

( sighs )

( jazz music playing )


( faint siren wails )

( music playing on P.A. )

( can clatters )


Listen, girly, these glasses are six for $2.00 because I couldn't carry 12.

But I wanted 12, so today I'm buying six more.

But you should only charge me $1.50 for them.

It's all right. You can ask the manager.

Frank, I need a price check.

Man, old Jewish ladies will argue forever with a cashier about anything.

These glasses are six... You get behind them in line, and you're gonna wait forever, man.

( cart bangs )

Woman: So today... I mean, I'm a Yid myself and women in my family are like that, but I never got used to it.

I mean, I may be cheap, but I got limits, man.

Let me 'splain one more time.

These glasses are six for $2.00...

Wake up!

Your whole life's getting eaten away with this kind of crap.

What kind of existence is this?

Is this all a working stiff like you can expect?

You gonna suffer in silence for the rest of your life, or are you gonna make a mark, huh?

Huh?

Huh?

Woman: Okay, I have the money right here.

Even money $1.50, you don't even have to open the cash register.

Even change and--

( jazz music playing )

( mutters )

( mutters )

( music continues )


Oh, shit!

Harvey: Ever since I read your stuff, man, I've been thinking I could write comic book stories that are different from anything that's being done.

Mm-hmm.

I figure the guys who are doing animal comics and superhero stuff, they're really limited because they gotta try to appeal to kids.

And underground stuff like yours, have been really subversive, and it's opened things up politically, but there's still plenty more to be done with them, too, you know?

Pass the ketchup.

The words and pictures, they can be more of an art form.

Like those-- like those French movies are.

Or De Sica over in Italy.

( sighs )

So anyway, I just-- I tried--

I tried writing some stuff about real life.

You know, stuff that the everyman's gotta deal with.

These are all about you?

Yeah.

You turned yourself into a comic hero.

( chuckles ) Well, sort of, yeah, but there's no idealized shit.

There's no phony bullshit.

It's the real thing, man.

You know, ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.

These are really... good.

Really? You think so?

Yeah, this is great stuff. I dig it.

( chuckles )

Can I take 'em home and illustrate 'em?

( loudly ) Oh, wow, man!

( coughs )

( squeaking ) You'd really do that for me, man?

Oh, man, that would be great, 'cause I can't even draw a straight line, Bob.

Hey, what's up with your voice, Harv?

All of a sudden you sound fine.

( coughs )

I don't know, man.

I guess you cured me, man.

( R&B music playing )

♪ Ah-ah-ah ♪ ♪ Ah-ah-ah... ♪

♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey... ♪

♪ Ah-ah-ah ♪ ♪ Ah-ah-ah... ♪

♪ Hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey, hey... ♪

♪ Ah-ah-ah-ah ♪ ♪ Ah-ah-ah-ah... ♪

♪ Ah-ah-ah ♪ ♪ Ah-ah-ah... ♪

♪ Whoo... I cried too much ♪

♪ Just like a child that's lost its toy ♪

♪ Maybe, baby, you think these tears I cry ♪

♪ Are tears of joy ♪

♪ A child can cry so much ♪

♪ Until you do everything they say ♪

♪ But unlike a child ♪

♪ My tears don't help me to get my way ♪

♪ I know love can last through years ♪

♪ But how can love last through tears? ♪

♪ Tears, tears, tears tears ♪

♪ Now ain't that peculiar, baby? ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ Peculiar-arity ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ Ain't it peculiar, honey? ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ Peculiar as can be ♪

♪ Said I don't understand it, baby ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ It's so strange sometimes ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ Ain't it peculiar, darling? ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪ Man: I tell you, man, that Bonnie-- legs that go forever.

Man #2: So how smart is she? Man #1: I don't know.

I guess she's about average.

Average? Hey, man, average is dumb.

Man #1: So what if she's dumb?

Man #2: Oh, I don't care. She's not my chick.

Man: "Hey, man, average is dumb."

How about that, man? That's all stories by yours truly.

Hot off the presses. That's right, man.

We have a regular Hemingway here.

No way, man, I don't go in for any of that macho crap.

I didn't know you could draw, Pekar.

No, no, no, no. I don't draw, Doc.

I just-- I write the stories.

Harvey, am I in here? Yeah, Toby, you're in there, all right?

Take it easy, for Christ's sake.

Buddy of mine, some of his friends, they do the artwork. Let me see this.

Mr. Boats, it's not polite to grab things.

Next time-- Ah-ah ah-ah ah-ah.

Mr. Boats: Hmm.

That's not bad.

Son, you done good.

But, you know, I was up in Toronto a few weeks back, and I saw the Red Chinese Ballet. Now, that was beautiful.

The way those people were dancing together.

Those Chinese, they work hard.

I tell you, they work hard.

Where's everybody going?

Mr. Boats: Where are these sickly men rushing off to?

They ain't goin' nowhere for now.

Maybe not for a long time.

But, damn if they not rushin' off to get there.

♪ Ain't it peculiar, honey? ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar ♪

♪ Peculiar as can be ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ Said I don't understand it, baby ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ It's so strange sometimes ♪ ♪ Ain't that peculiar ♪

♪ Ain't it peculiar, darling? ♪ Interviewer: So, Harvey, how do your coworkers and friends feel about you putting them in your comics?

They love it. They can't get enough of it.

They come up to me demanding to know

"why I'm not in the new issue."

Most of them.

What about overhearing what people say?

Are you always listening at work?

Are you listening riding the bus?

Yeah, I listen. Supermarket?

Yeah, I listen.

I fall asleep on people, too, but I listen some.

Pekar: Here's our man eight comics later.

A brand-new decade, same old bullshit.

Yeah, sure, he gets lots of recognition for his writing now.

Sure, his comics are praised by all the important media types telling people what to think. But so what?

It's not like he makes a living at it like Bob Crumb.

He can't go and quit his day job or nothing.

Who am I kidding?

Truth is, I'd be lost without my work routine.

( bangs ) ( panting )

( sighs ) I got a job.

Oh...!

I got a job.

"I got a job."

Hi, Harvey. Do you want these gourmet jelly beans?

I gave up sweets for Lent.

Yeah, sure, I'll take 'em.

I recommend the piña coladas.

They're excellent and very authentic tasting.

It's watermelon. That's pretty good, Tobe.

Wait till you try the piña coladas.

Hey, Tobe, tell me somethin'.

Can you eat lentils during Lent?

Sure, I don't see why not.

You can't eat meat on certain days, but lentils should be acceptable anytime.

Oh, yeah?

Do you think there's any connection between lentils and Lent?

I don't think so, but I'll ask Sister Mary Fred at church on Sunday.

Sister Mary Fred, huh?

Is she cute? She sounds kinda mannish, but who the hell am I to be picky?

Harvey, you're funny. She's a nun.

So what, man? Maybe she became a nun because she couldn't get a guy.

Harvey, she became a nun because she had a higher calling.

Higher calling. What a crock of shit.

Man, you know, I don't even know why you bother praying anyway.

I enjoy the ritual, and I'm a very spiritual person.

You know, you should try believing in something bigger than yourself.

It might cheer you up.

What, do I seem depressed, Toby?

Cut. ( bell rings )

That was great, guys. The bakery scene's next.

Pekar: The bakery scene's next? I don't know of a bakery scene.

Did you ever hear of a bakery scene in the film?

A bakery scene's next.

Bakery's my scene, but not in that way.

Forget the bakery, let's eat some jelly beans.

Toby Radloff: Yeah, I think one might be lime, one might be, like, mint.

Well, what's the difference between this and this?

One's cherry, one's cinnamon.

You can tell that by just looking at 'em?

Not really. I have to put it in my mouth first.

Radloff: Loneliness can feel so bad.

There had been times I felt lonely

'cause a lot of times it was just me and my grandmother.

And I would just be sitting in my room all day watching television or reading books.

That was before I bought a computer, of course.

So how do you cope with loneliness, Harvey?

Did I say I watch television?

Yeah, you mentioned you watch TV.

You listen to your jazz records.

You read. You write.

You do your stick figures so you can plan for your next comic book.

Yeah.

'Cause I've seen many of your stick figures and that seems to be pretty interesting. Hmm.

Yeah. Chocolate jelly beans.

I might have to try one. Go ahead.


( doorbell jingles )

Uh...

Woman: Excuse me, can I help you?

Yeah, um...

Yeah, give me two crullers... a jelly donut with the powdered sugar... Woman #2: Thanks for comin'. and, hey, you got any of that day-old bread?

Woman: I think so. Yeah?

Here you go.

Three dollars.

You're Harvey Pekar.

Yeah.

Alice Quinn from school.

Oh, yeah, yeah.

College, yeah, yeah.

Yeah, we had a couple of lit classes together.

What happened to you?

I mean, you just disappeared after two semesters.

Yeah, I know, man.

And, you know, I got good grades and all, but there was that required math class you know, hanging over my head.

Eventually the pressure got to be too much.

You're doing okay anyway.

I mean, I heard all about your jazz reviews and your comics.

You did? Sure. You're famous.

Ah-hh... Meanwhile, I got my degree and I'm just a plain old wife and mother.

Oh.

Yeah, well...

I'm not doing as great as you think.

My second wife divorced me.

I work a dead-end job as a file clerk, so, you know, sometimes I hang out with the guys on the corner, but most of the time I just stay at home by myself and I read.

Well, you're luckier than you think.

Between my husband and my kids, it's impossible for me to curl up with a good book.

You know, I'm reading this book by Dreiser now, "Jennie Gerhardt." That's one of my favorites.

Yeah?

You know, I hope that book don't end like so many of those naturalist novels with someone getting crushed to earth by forces he can't control.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Yeah?

I mean, it's certainly not your Hollywood happy ending, but it's pretty truthful, which is rare these days. Yeah.

This is me. Oh, all right.

( door opens )

Nice car.

Thanks. I don't have one yet.

Oh! Can I give you a lift somewhere?

Uh... nah, that's all right. It's a nice day.

I'll just-- I'll walk.

It was nice seeing you, Harvey.

Yeah.

( engine starts )

Pekar: And when I got home, I finished reading

"Jennie Gerhardt."

It was real good. That Alice was right.

Sure, Lester, the main character, croaks in the end, but at least he's old and dies a natural, dignified death.

I was more alone that weekend than any.

Sometimes in my sleep, I'd feel a body next to me, like an amputee feels a phantom limb.

All I did was think about "Jennie Gerhardt" and Alice Quinn and all the decades of people I've known.

The more I thought, the more I felt like crying.

Life seems so sweet and so sad and so hard to let go of in the end.

But, hey, man, every day's a brand-new deal, right?

Just keep on working and something's bound to turn up.

♪ Know your rights ♪

♪ Number one ♪

♪ You have the right ♪

♪ Not to be killed ♪

♪ Murder is a crime... ♪ What happened to the new "American Splendor"?

I think we sold 'em, babe.

All of them? Yeah.

Rand, I put one aside for myself next to the register.

I haven't even had time to read it yet.

Oh, sorry, Joyce, I didn't know you were such a Splendor fan.

Next time, take it home.

( sighs )

Well, maybe I'll call the publisher.

But it takes so damn long-- shit!

Why does everything in my life have to be such a complicated disaster?

Okay, well, maybe we can call someone--

What is this? All right, okay.

I'm gonna hustle before the vibe in here gets any worse.

You can just hang.

( clicking pen )

Joyce: "Dear Mr. Pekar,

Greetings from the second smallest state in the union...

an endless plastics and nylon plantation controlled by giant chemical corporations.

To make matters more dismal, there are no decent comic book stores in my town, which is why my partner and I opened one ourselves.

Despite our steadily faltering business, my partner managed to sell the last copy of "American Splendor," number 8, out from under me.

I'm a big fan, and I hate to wait for a new order.

Is there any way I can get it from you direct?

Sincerely, Joyce Brabner."

Man, she's got good-lookin' handwritin'.

Harvey: "Dear Joyce, Thanks for the letter."

"Dear Joyce, Thanks for the letter.

What do you do besides selling comics?"

Anybody in the room ever done any creative writing of any sort?

( signal buzzes ) Joyce: "I'm a sometime activist and I teach writing to prisoners.

I try to help them build an interior life and make art out of their monotonous, suffocating routine."

Harvey: "This sounds familiar.

So are you married or what?"

Joyce: I'm divorced, thank God.

Look, I think you and I got a lot in common, you know?

How am I gonna get you to come visit me in Cleveland?

Cleveland? Yeah.

You think that's a good idea?

Yeah, it's a great idea.

You should meet me because I'm a great guy You know?

Despite the way my comics read, I got a lot of redeeming characteristics.

I don't know. Where would I stay?

I don't know. With me.

Don't worry. I'm not gonna put no moves on ya or anything. I'm not worried about that.

Hold on, I just spilled my chamomile tea all over me. Yeah.

So what are you worried about, then?

Well, it's the way-- I mean, it's the way all the different artists draw you. What?

You know, I don't really know what to expect.

Sometimes you look like a younger Brando, but then the way Crumb draws you, you look like a hairy ape, with all these wavy, stinky lines undulating off your body.

I don't really know what to expect.

No, those are motion lines.

I'm an active guy.

Look, just come out here and I will try to be anyone that you want me to be, okay?

That's a dangerous offer. I'm a notorious reformer.

( train horn blares )

( sighs )

( belches )

( whistles )

Hm...?

Ahem.

Ahem.

( sighs )

Hey, are you Joyce?

Hey, Harvey. Hey.

So we finally meet in person. Yeah.

Ahem.

Look, before we get started with any of this, you might as well know right off the bat, I had a vasectomy.


What's wrong?

Nothing.

Something's wrong. You keep lookin' around everywhere.

I guess I never imagined you'd eat in a place like this.

What? Me? No, I've never been here.

I don't know, I thought you'd like it, but obviously you don't, do you?

No, it's fine. What difference does it make?

( sighs )

I don't know. None, I guess.

They got a lot of meat on this menu.

You're a vegetarian?

Kinda, you know. I mean, ever since I got a pet cat, I've had a lot of trouble eatin' animals.

Hmm.

I support and identify with groups like PETA, but unfortunately I'm a self-diagnosed anemic.

Uh-huh.

Also, I have all these food allergies to vegetables which give me serious intestinal distress.

I guess I have a lot of borderline health disorders that limit me politically when it comes to eating.

Wow, you're a-- you're a sick woman.

Not yet, but I expect to be. Everyone in my family has some sort of degenerative illness.

Good evening.

Look, I was gonna clean up, but why should I give you any false notions?

The truth is I got a serious problem with cleanliness.

Well, I could wash a dish 10 times, it'd still be dirty.

They even kicked me out of the army

'cause I couldn't learn to make a bed.

I've seen worse.

Harvey, would you get me some water and a few aspirin?

What, do you got a headache?

No, but I want to avoid one.

All right, yeah.

Let me tell you somethin', Joyce, it sure is nice to have company.

You know, I mean, despite all your problems, you seem like a great person.

And, hey, I'm sorry if my datin' skills are a little rusty.

It's just I--

I've been through hell and back with women.

The last one turned out to be a real nasty bitch, man.

I had a nice time with you, too.

Yeah? You had a nice time?

Don't make people repeat themselves. That's annoying.

Oh. Sorry.

Come here.

( crackles )

( Harvey moans ) ( sighs )

Uh... Harvey, which way is the bathroom?

Oh, through the kitchen on the right.

( Joyce groaning )

( Joyce retching )

( water gurgling )

Harvey: Joyce, hey--

Joyce, what's wrong? What is it?

Uh, I don't know.

I think that yuppie food did me in.

I feel terrible.

Let me at least do somethin' for ya.

Can I make you somethin'?

Hey, how about some chamomile tea?

Chamomile tea? Yeah.

What's a guy like you doing with that?

I thought you drank soda pop for breakfast.

I don't know, you know, I just noticed you drank a lot of them when we start talkin' on the phone.

You know, the girl at the food co-op, she picked me out all kinds of herbal stuff.

Man, one of these is good for stomachaches.

Here...

"Grandma Bear's Tummy Mint" or something like that.

Hey, are you still there? ( knocking )

Hey.

Harvey...

I think we should skip the whole courtship thing and just get married.

Man, am I glad I talked you into coming up here, you know?

Any more time alone, I really might have lost it.

Mmm, me, too.

You don't have any problems with moving to Cleveland?

Not really. I find most American cities to be depressing in the same way.

And you're okay with a vasectomy, then?

( music playing )

♪ I was tired of my lady ♪

♪ We'd been together too long... ♪ Hey, Toby. No, you can't have any of my White Castle hamburgers, so please don't even ask.

Yeah, can I have a fry?

Okay, but just a couple, Harvey.

I'm not going to be eating dinner until very late and this has got to hold me over.

Yeah, what do you got? A church function?

No, I'm driving to Toledo to see a movie.

Would you like to come?

Well, nah, you know I gotta--

I gotta go to Delaware tonight.

I'm gettin' married. Oh.

Yeah. Why Delaware?

Well, the chick I'm marrying is from Wilmington.

Plus I gotta help her move her stuff back here.

Why are you driving to Toledo to see a movie, Tobe?

It's not playing at the Mapletown. Okay.

I didn't know you had a girlfriend, Harvey.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we met last week.

( music continues )

Tobe, what movie could possibly be worth drivin' 260 miles roundtrip for?

It's a new film called "Revenge of the Nerds."

It's about a group of nerd college students who are being picked on all the time by the jocks.

So they decide to take revenge.

Ah, so what you're saying is you identify with those nerds?

Yes. I consider myself a nerd.

And this movie has uplifted me.

There's this one scene where a nerd grabs the microphone during a pep rally and announces that he is a nerd and that he is proud of it and stands up for the rights of other nerds. Harvey: Right on.

Then he asks all the kids at the pep rally who think they are nerds to come forward.

So-- ( coughs ) so nearly everyone in the place does.

That's the way the movie ends. Uh-huh.

So the nerds won, huh? Yes.

All right.

Wow, you got this movie and I'm gettin' hitched.

We both had a good month, huh?

Right. Yeah.

Harvey! Harvey!

Harvey! What? Yeah?

How long are you gonna be in Delaware because I'd really like to see this movie with you.

Yeah, I don't know, man.

I'm gonna be gone like a week.

But then I'm gonna have a wife, so I'm gonna have to bring her along, too.

Is it a girl flick? Depends on the girl.

What kinda girl is your new bride? Is she a nerd?

( sighs ) I don't know, man.

Maybe, yeah. She's into herbal tea.

♪ If you like making love at midnight ♪

♪ In the dunes on the cape ♪

♪ You're the lady I've looked for ♪

♪ Come with me and escape. ♪ Joyce Brabner: I did end up becoming a character in his comics.

And...

Harvey tends to push the negative or the sour and he can be very depressed, and therefore very depressing.

So, Harvey, do you think you portray Joyce fairly?

Yeah, I think I portray her fairly.

I--

( chuckles ) You know, there's some things that she does that I don't put in there for, you know, obvious reasons.

I don't want to get my head cut off.

But...

I think my portrayal is generally fairly accurate.

There have been stories that I've participated in or things that have happened and I've seen them as a lot more happy things going on and he just doesn't-- he won't put that in because he just doesn't think that sunshine and flowers sell.

Is that right?

You always say "misery loves company."

Well, I mean, I'm just a gloomy guy.

That's all. Yeah.

That's my perspective. Gloom and doom.

And, see, I thought I was marrying somebody with a sense of humor.

I guess I fooled you.

Harvey: What a crock of shit, man.

Joyce: I think you missed the whole point of the movie.

Toby: I like the Pee-wee suit. Where the hell am I supposed to find the point in garbage, Joyce?

I agree with Toby. I think it's a story of hope and tolerance.

Yes, it's about time that the people who get picked on get to be the heroes.

It's an entertaining flick and all and I can see why you like it, Toby, but those people on the screen ain't even supposed to be you, man.

They're-- they're college students who live with their parents in big houses in the suburbs.

They're gonna get degrees, get good jobs, and they're gonna stop being nerds, man.

Remember what I told you about loud talking?

Use your inside voice, please.

Look, Toby, the guys in that movie are not 28-year-old file clerks who live with their grandmother in an ethnic ghetto.

All right, that's enough, Harvey.

They didn't get their computers the way you did, by trading a bunch of box tops and $49.50 at the supermarket, man.

Toby: You're funny, Harvey.

Joyce: Getting in the front.

Sure, Toby, fine. You go to the movies and daydream, but this "Revenge of the Nerds" ain't reality.

It's Hollywood bullshit, Tobe.

Joyce: Harvey, let him alone.

Joyce: The thing that I loved about it is I was transported to another time in my own life.

Toby: I really liked when they took the video camera--

Joyce: If everyone in America could see this film.

It's the same as the "I Have a Dream" speech.

Toby: Very empowering...

Pekar: Maybe I was being so harsh on Toby on account of my own problems.

You see, I wasn't even married a month and my old lady was already showing signs of trouble.

Granted, I tend to get married fast

'cause I'll take any woman that'll have me.

But this time I really met my match.

Joyce? Okay, how about these old 78s, Harvey?

Can't you sell them to one of your collectors?

Are you kidding me, man, no way.

I ain't gettin' rid of my 78s.

It's okay? Forget it, then. I give up.

How can I make more storage space if you won't get rid of anything?

You know what, I'll get rid of stuff, okay?

Just not my good stuff. Everything is your good stuff.

How am I supposed to live here if there's no room for me?

Come on, baby.

Look, I'll make room for you, okay?

You just have to give me time. ( doorbell buzzes )

I'm not so good at these kinds of things.

That's because you're obsessive-compulsive.

Oh, come on!

I don't want to hear that psychobabble crap.

I don't care if you don't want to hear it.

You are the poster child for the DSM-III.

I'll have you know I come from a very dysfunctional family, Harvey.

I can spot a personality disorder miles away.

( knocks at door )

Hello, Joyce. Is Harvey home?

Borderline autistic.

Are you listening to me? I tell you that Toby is a spy.

Paranoid personality disorder.

Polymorphously perverse.

( phone rings )

Recording: Hey, leave a message.

( beeps ) Harvey: It's me. Pick up the phone.

You're not gonna believe this, but some L.A. producer called and wants to do a play about my life.

Call me back. Call me here.

Delusions of grandeur.

♪ And she gave me language lessons ♪

♪ On the beach at Waikiki. ♪

( applause )

See, I think comics can pretty much be an art form, man.

I mean, pictures can be as good as they wanna be, and the words can be as good as they wanna be.

And a man can do pretty much anything he wants to.

That's true, Harvey, but I didn't come all the way from Delaware to talk about comics.


( retches )

♪ Where is my American Splendor ♪

♪ In a world that's cloudy and gray ♪

♪ Where life keeps passing by me ♪

♪ Day by day? ♪

♪ Where is my American Splendor ♪

♪ In a world that's cloudy and gray ♪

♪ Where life keeps passing by me

♪ Day by day? ♪

Pekar: If you think reading comics about your life seems strange, try watching a play about it.

God only knows how I'll feel when I see this movie.

( signal buzzing )

Things were going pretty good for a change.

"Variety" called me the "blue-collar Mark Twain."

And Doubleday was interested in publishing an anthology of "American Splendor."

Harvey: I hate checking bags, man. It always takes forever.

The bus is gonna leave soon.

That means I gotta shell out an extra

30 bucks for a cab, man.

Oh, here we go.

Figures, that lucky yuppie's gonna get in the bus in time.

You know, vasectomies are reversible.

Goddamn yuppies get everything, man.

Are you listening to me? I said vasectomies are reversible.

What?

What are you talkin' about?

I don't want no kids.

And I came clean about my vasectomy the first time I set eyes on ya.

I know, but I think things have changed.

I think we can be a family.

Family? Right.

What kind of family could we possibly be?

I ain't no good with kids.

Christ, I can barely take care of myself.

I can take care of the kid and you.

No way, Joyce.

Forget it.

I can't have no kids.

I can't do it.

( baggage signal buzzes )

Joyce, where the hell is that Ornette Coleman album?

You know, I got a review due tomorrow.

I didn't touch it, Harvey.

Would you please let me sleep?

Come on, it's 1:00.

Come on. How late can a person sleep, man?

Ouch.

It happens to be Saturday, you selfish son of a bitch.

That don't make no difference.

And don't you tell me what to do.

I'm not telling you what to do.

I'm the one who moved into your city, into your home.

Into your vasectomy.

To your whole screwed-up life.

The least you could do is allow me to live here in my own way.

Pekar: I tried everything, but nothing could get this woman out of bed.

I mean, she wouldn't get a job, wouldn't go out, wouldn't make friends.

Nothin'.

( Harvey whistles )

Joyce?

Pekar: Joyce diagnosed herself as clinically depressed.

I don't know what the hell she was going through, but it was sure takin' its toll on me.

Joyce, we got a message here. How come you didn't pi--

Useless, man.

Recording: Hi, this is a message for Harvey Pekar.

My name is Jonathan Green and I'm a producer of "Late Night with David Letterman."

I would like to talk to you about coming on the show to plug your comic.

Please give us a call at 212-555-3333.

Thanks. ( tape whirrs )

Pekar: Joyce finally got off the futon.

( whistles ) ( car horn beeps )

♪ Well, I'm all alone ♪

♪ In the city ♪

♪ Yes, won't someone ♪

♪ Please have a little pity? ♪

♪ Now don't you ee-spiddly-doo ♪

♪ Ee-doo-you-blue ♪

♪ Then I won't siddly-doo-bla-dee-ya-doo ♪

♪ Eel-ya-blue ♪

♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪

♪ Oh, lady, be so good to me ♪

♪ And if you ooh-doo-doo ooh-lee-coo... ♪ Huh? No.

Oh, for Chr-- come on, who the hell cares?

Jesus Christ... Give that to me.

What the hell are you doin' anyway?

Merchandising.

♪ And if you ooh-ool-ya-doo oo-lee-coo... ♪

( audience cheering )

Okay-- Joyce: People like this show?

Harvey: Yeah.

( speaking hoarsely ) I can't believe my voice is going now.

What's the matter with you? You were fine in the car. I don't know.

Do you want something to drink?

No, I'm all right. I'm hungry. Man, aren't you hungry?

They should give you donuts or somethin', you know?

Dave's ready for you now, Mr. Pekar.

Oh, hey-- Joyce: Oh, he is?

Listen, you got somethin' to eat, 'cause my stomach is growlin'.

There's no time to eat now. Oh, come on, man.

Oh, but wait, wait, wait. What about the doll?

He's got it at the desk. Will you relax about that?

Guys, guys, we're in a hurry here.

Okay, man. Which way?

Right over here.

( audience cheers )

Thank you, boys.

Our next guest tonight works as a file clerk at a Cleveland hospital.

He also writes comic books which deal with his day-to-day pains and pleasures.

And this is an anthology of nine of those comics.

It's entitled "American Splendor."

From off the streets of Cleveland, folks, please say hello to Harvey Pekar.

Harvey, come out here. ( audience cheers )

Hi, Harvey.

Thanks for coming out here.

Have a seat.

What do you mean calling me "curious"?

I met you before the show, and--

I meant "curious" in a fascinating way.

All right, I'll buy that. A man who has the presence of one who is quite fascinating.

Okay, 'cause I met you before the show.

I thought you knew I'm a pretty nice guy, you know what I mean?

In fact, I might be nursing a viper in my bosom. Something like that?

A little defensive about this, huh?

Yeah, I am, man. I'm waitin' for those Cleveland jokes.

Go ahead. All right, settle down, Harvey.

Yeah, all right. ( audience laughs )

Letterman: Now let's explain to folks who may not be familiar with your work what it is you do here exactly.

You have comic books about you in your daily life, and you also have a regular job in Cleveland working at a hospital.

That's right, that's right.

You know this guy? I'm beginning to wonder.

Harvey, that if you wanted to, you could probably get by on what you make selling your work, because I know people are after you to write other things and you're publishing this anthology--

What do you mean? Who? What people?

What are you talking about?

Where the hell did you get that stuff? I know that you--

( audience laughing )

I'm no showbiz phony, I'm tellin' the truth.

Go on, man. Now you can't--

Well, at least he's keeping up with Letterman.

Pandering is more like it.

Letterman: You mean to tell me that other people haven't contacted you about writing literary--

( beeps )

( clicks )

Well, I mean-- Damn it.

Letterman: You can make a living as a writer. What you trying to do?

Harvey: How do you know all that stuff?

I'm trying to get some news.

There's a big story about to break about the U.S. selling arms to Iran and the Contras.

Relax, relax. All right, don't worry about it.

I'm not worried about it. Finally something good. Watch this.

I got a job. I'm trying-- I know you've got a job.

I've got a job. We're both very lucky. We both have jobs.

Well, what's the matter?

We gotta go.

Harvey, I like you. I'm on your side. All right, man.

I enjoy the comic books. Okay.

And here, quickly, tell us about the little doll here.

My wife made it. Okay.

( audience laughs )

Harvey: Am I giving you a hard time?

Letterman: No, you're not giving me a hard time.

Do I make you nervous? No, you're not making me nervous.

We have to go now, and I want to mention these are for sale, Yes. They're made out of your old clothing.

That's right. ( audience laughs )

And what do these go for? 34 bucks.

$34?

$34 for this?

Harvey: What, are you cheap? You're cheaper than me?

Would you pay $34 for that?

No, but I'm not asking it. My wife is.

Oh, I see. ( audience laughs )

Such brilliant repartee.

Shit, man.

Letterman on TV: I realized that was probably an ugly thing to have said about your delightful island there, but...

So, what do you think? Letterman: that's what I get paid for.

( laughs ) No, it's not.

Megalomaniac. Letterman: I'm sorry.

Recording: Hi, this is a message for Harvey Pekar.

Letterman: From the streets of Cleveland, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back the one, the only Harvey Pekar.

Harvey, come on out, buddy. ( applause )

Harvey.

Pekar: It became clear pretty fast that I was invited on the show just for laughs.

You look like a lot of guys you see sleeping on buses.

( audience laughs )

Sorry. It's all right, Dave, have a good time.

I know, we're doin' what we can.

It's your world, I'm just livin' in it.

Pekar: What the hell did I care?

Letterman was an okay guy.

Let him take potshots at me so long as I got paid and got to plug my comics.

Letterman on TV: I said to myself, you look like every police artist sketch I've ever seen.

Pekar: Funny thing is, something about me and Letterman clicked for the viewers.

He kept wantin' me back.

You know, Harvey, it was about a year ago this month--

That's right. No, last month, Dave.

A year ago last month you made your first appearance on this show. Right.

What has happened to you since? Not much, David.

It's slow goin'. I still have the same job--

But, see, Harvey, you're the embodiment of the American dream.

Pekar: And it wasn't just me gettin' all the attention.

Director: Action.

Any of these free?

Pekar: As a result of my appearances on Letterman, my buddy, Toby Radloff, landed a gig extolling the virtues of MTV.

Hey, yo, yo!

Watch where you're going.

All right, you fuckin' yuppie freak.

Who the fuck is this on my set?

Look at this. The man of the hour.

This is my new do for the MTV generation.

( whirring )

We came upon Toby Radloff while doing a story in Cleveland last year on his friend, the comic artist Harvey Pekar.

Toby's a genuine nerd and he doesn't care if you have a problem with that.

Hi, my name is Toby Radloff, a genuine nerd from Cleveland, Ohio.

And as you know, many hip people, including a lot of college students, are gonna be heading for spring break, but I have decided to spend my own personal spring break right here in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio.

♪ I'm on fire... ♪ Pekar: That day, I had an epiphany.

It seemed that real salt-of-the-earth people like Toby and me were gettin' co-opted by these huge corporations.

We were gettin' held up and ridiculed as losers in the system.

This is Toby Radloff, the genuine spring break party nerd signing off.

( laughs )

Pekar: What can I say? It was the '80s, man.

Joyce: Harvey, you listening to me?

I've been reading about these kids who grew up in these war zones.

You know, Palestinians, Israelis, El Salvadorians, Cambodians, these kids are amazing. They're totally--

You're the guy from the Letterman show, right?

Yeah, that's me.

That's so excellent.

You and Stupid Pet Tricks are a riot.

Oh, yeah?

Then how about you buy one of my comics, man?

It's the only reason I go on that dumb show anyway.

Right, sure. Later, Harvey Pekar.

So anyway, I want to write a political comic book about these kids.

There's a-- listen to me.

There's a conference in Jerusalem in a couple of weeks.

I'm gonna start by doing some interviews there.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute.

What are you talking about, Jerusalem?

Lately I can barely drag you off the futon to go with me to the Letterman show.

Jerusalem? ( chuckles )

Do you wanna know why? Yeah.

Because I don't give a damn about the Letterman show.

I want to do something important to me.

Something that matters.

Hey, you know I only go on the show for the extra bread.

You know, maybe if you got your lazy ass up and got yourself a job, I could do somethin' that matters, too.

Harvey, you're yelling. You ever think of that?

Don't--

I'm sorry.

Joyce, I'm sorry.

Pekar: I guess it was good to finally see Joyce excited about somethin' of her own.

This is crazy.

Can't you just do somethin' here in Cleveland?

Harvey, you'll survive a couple of weeks by yourself.

All right.

Be careful out there, all right?

I love you, baby.

Pekar: Sure, I was happy for her, but I was still upset for me.

( engine starts )

It was later that night when I first found the lump.

( cat purring )

I was determined to put it out of my mind until Joyce got back.

Easier said than done.

What do I care? Just give me the chart already.

What is your problem today?

Miguel, look, I just don't wanna keep comin' back here for it, okay?

Harvey, that patient's due to be admitted a week from now.

Why do you always have to go picking fights?

How many times do we gotta go through the same shit, man?

Just give me the fuckin' charts.

We'll listen to what the doctor has to say about this.

Fine.

What?

( clatters )

( sighs )

What do you mean another two weeks?

Jesus Chr-- you gotta come home sometime!

Joyce?

Hello?

God damn it.

( handset clatters )

( phone tone echoes )

Letterman: And there you have it, folks, another lightning episode of Stupid Pet Tricks.

Just walk straight out to the desk...

I know, okay, fine, yeah.

You all set? Yeah.

Pekar: I was startin' to lose it.

Between the lump, the loneliness, I felt like everything was closin' in on me.

And with Joyce over there savin' the world, I never felt more like a sellout hack in my life.

Letterman: Okay. ( applause )

You know, folks, if it really is true that misery loves company, our next guest must always have a house full of people.

( chuckles ) Okay, asshole.

Letterman: You can read all about his misery in the latest issue... You're gonna pay for that one, man. of the comic book entitled "American Splendor."

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back Harvey Pekar.

Letterman: Harvey, this is not the forum.

This is not "Meet the Press."

Harvey: You just want me to talk about simpleminded bullshit, David.

But I ain't co-opted like you. Oh, relax, Harvey.

I've got things I wanna say.

For instance, like, I wanna talk about a conflict of interest situation.

Harvey-- Can we do that, David? How about that?

You know, like GE owning this network NBC.

GE has basically become a military, industrial, financial--

Can we get the singing shih tzu back out here, Larry?

Has he left the building yet?

The news is gonna cover what they do fairly?

That's funny, Dave. Harvey.

I got other things I wanna talk about, though.

That's enough, Harvey. Just shut up, man.

Don't push me, man. I'm doin' my own thing.

Harvey on TV: Are you afraid of the truth, David?

Letterman: It's not about what you're saying, Harvey, it's about your choice of venue. The truth will set you free.

Letterman: It may shock you, but this is a comedy show.

Harvey: Not tonight it ain't, okay? Let's mix it up a little.

Come check this out. Letterman: You can take your winning personality, go out and get your own show.

Harvey: I don't want my own goddamn show, David.

It seems to me we've had you on this show many, many times.

You sulk and complain and promote your comic book and you really haven't been very appreciative.

Well, you didn't do me any favors, Dave, okay?

Harvey-- I'm still a file clerk.

I have always been a file clerk. That's enough, Harvey.

And it's no thanks to you or to your goddamn pathetic audience, man.

( audience boos )

Okay, we're gonna take a commercial and when we come back, guess who's not gonna be here?

You want me to leave, David?

Come on, ask me like a man, David.

Don't hide it behind a commercial, man.

Letterman: Are things okay at home, Harvey?

Things are just great at home, Dave, okay?

Goodbye, Dave. Goodbye, America. Thanks for nothin', Dave.

Letterman: Harvey Pekar, ladies and gentlemen. We'll be right back.

( applause )

( Joyce chuckles )

I guess you really did it this time, huh?

Harvey: Yeah, who the hell cares?

That show wasn't helping my sales anyway.

Baby, please don't go away anymore. ( Joyce sighs )

Because I just-- I can't take being alone.

If you met those kids over there and you saw what they went through, you wouldn't ask that of me.

I'm tellin' you somethin'-- if you go away again, I'm gonna lose it.

Harvey, this is not up for discussion.

I need this in my life right now.

I do appreciate the fact that you missed me so much, baby.

Harvey, what is that?

Joyce: I don't understand.

Does tumor mean the same thing as cancer?

We know the growth is malignant, what we don't know is how far it may have spread.

Once we have the results, we can make more informed decisions about treatment.

( voice echoes ) CAT scans... diagnosis...

MRI... Cancer...

How can I have cancer?

I don't feel sick at all.

That's a positive thing.

My cousin Norman died of lymphoma.

He was 29.

And he was a brilliant oncologist. Stop it.

You're not gonna die, Harvey.

You're not.

What's gonna happen to you, baby?

Who's gonna take care of you if I'm not around?

Harvey, look at me and focus.

We are gonna get through this.

I understand illness.

I know how to handle these things.

Yeah, but that's... you, you know? I'm not strong enough.

I don't know how to be positive.

I can't do that. I can't do it.

Yes, you can. No, I can't.

Yes, you can.

I'll tell you how.

You'll make a comic book of the whole thing.

You'll document every detail, and that way you'll remove yourself from the experience until it's over.

I can't do that.

I'm just not strong enough.

Man, I just wanna die.

That's fine, I'll do it without you.

( clock ticking )

( doorbell buzzes )

( buzzes )

Hey, I'm Fred. You called me about the comic book...?

Right, the artist. Come in.

This is my daughter, Danielle.

Had to bring her along. I hope you don't mind.

Well, hi, Danielle.

What's that you're holding?

A pony.

A pony? What's his name?

She's a girl. Clarissa.

Oh, I see.

Well, I'm Joyce, and I'm very pleased to meet both you and Clarissa.

Hey, I'm real sorry to hear about Harvey. Is he here?

No, he's going to work until next week when he starts the chemo.

But that's why I wanna get this project started because once he's stuck here, I know he'll take over.

( sighs ) Aw, shit.

Man. ( doorbell buzzes )

Fuckin' idiot, man.

Hey! Joyce! Open the door!

I forgot my keys again, Joyce.

Hold the door, hold the door.

( music playing )

( knocks )

( thumps ) Joyce?!

Open the fuckin' door, man!

Hey, Harvey.

Fred...?

♪ There was no train station ♪

♪ There was no downtown... ♪ What's goin' on, man?

♪ The town had disappeared... ♪ Fred: Gee, I thought it was a great idea that Joyce had.

We try to just follow you through your treatments.

Guess she thought it was a good idea, too, didn't she?

But here's some of the great ideas we've been battin' around, I mean--

All right.

( sighs )

Jesus, we--

Joyce has no idea what she's doin', man.

There's too many words in these frames.

When are you comin' back, Fred?

Uh... she said somethin' about next Tuesday, which is fine with me.

It's just-- only thing is I might have the kid again.

My ex-wife is supposed to take her, but I don't have much faith in her showin' up.

She's in worse shape than me these days.

( Joyce chuckles )

Next week my treatment begins.

Do me a favor, man, bring the kid, will ya?

Okay.


Joyce: Harvey, what are you doing?

Stop it! ( echoes )

( slaps ) You're doing this on purpose.

Purpose... ( echoes )


( mutters )

Thanks. ( echoes )

I wanna die.

Just wanna die... die... ( echoes )


Joyce?

Joyce? What?

What's wrong, honey?

What are you doing up?

What is it?

Tell me the truth.

Am I a guy who writes about himself in a comic book or am I just-- am I just a character in that book?

What are you talking about? What are you saying?

If I die, will that character keep goin' or will he just fade away?

( groans ) Harvey.

Harvey!

Harvey. Oh, my God.

Harvey, wake up. Wake up, Harvey.

Come on.

Harvey? Oh, no, no.

Come on, wake up.

Harvey, can you hear me?

My name is Harvey Pekar.

Oh, that's an unusual name, Harvey Pekar.

1960 was the year I got my first apartment and my first phone book.

Now imagine my surprise when I looked up my name and saw that in addition to me, another Harvey Pekar was listed.

You know, I was listed as "Harvey L. Pekar."

My middle name is Lawrence. ( phone ringing )

He was listed as "Harvey Pekar."

Therefore his was a purer listing.

Then in the '70s, I noticed that a third Harvey Pekar was listed in the phone book. ( phone ringing )

Now, this filled me with curiosity.

How can there be three people with such an unusual name in the world, let alone in one city?

Then, one day... a person I work with expressed her sympathy to me concerning what she thought was the death of my father.

And she pointed out an obituary notice in the newspaper for a man named Harvey Pekar.

And one of his sons was named Harvey.

Now these were the other Harvey Pekars.

And six months later, Harvey Pekar Jr. died.

Although I'd met neither man, I was filled with sadness.

"What were they like," I thought.

It seemed our lives had been linked in some indefinable way.

But the story does not end there.

For two years later, another Harvey Pekar appeared in the phone book.

( phone rings )

Who are these people?

Where did they come from?

What do they do?

What's in a name?

Who is Harvey Pekar?

You know, we've got the T-shirts for sale upstairs if you're interested. Yeah, come on, man.

Pekar: Here's our man a year later.

Somehow I made it through the treatments, and the doctors are optimistic.

Joyce: Quite a year for us, quite a year.

Pekar: I guess Joyce was right about doing a big comic book.

We published the thing as a graphic novel, our first collaboration, and ended up with rave reviews.

We even won a couple of national book awards.

Go figure.

Mm-hmm. Bye. Joyce: Those are beautiful.

Did you find those in there? Danielle: Mm-hmm.

Joyce: I didn't even see those.

Danielle: ...these flowers. Joyce: Are you finished?

Oh, Danielle, I love it.

Very expressive colors.

( chuckles )

Hey, Joyce. What is it, Harvey?

It was the doctor.

He says I'm all clear.

( jazz music playing )

Pekar: The weirdest thing that came out of my illness was Danielle.

With her real mother runnin' around who knows where and seeing how well her and Joyce got on, Fred decided she'd have a better life with us.

I was scared at first, but then I thought what the hell, she's a good kid. Joyce: Hi, Harvey.

Pekar: So we ended up takin' her and raisin' her as our own.

You keep readin' 'em backwards.

I like reading them backwards.

Is that one you?

I keep telling you, all of 'em's me, man.

You look like a monster.

Yeah? Well, you know, wait till you see what you're gonna look like.

Me? Yeah.

You're part of the story, too, now.

What story?

The story of my life.

Oh.

Yeah, I know I'm not as interesting as "The Little Mermaid" and all that magical crap.

I think I'm gonna write my own comic.

Oh, yeah, what about?

I'm not sure yet, but not about you.

I think you have enough already.

You know, you should write about things in your own life.

You know, like school and... ponies, I don't know. Girl stuff.

Do you have to hold my hand?

What are you, embarrassed of me?

I know, I know, I know, I'm embarrassing.

I felt the same way about my father.

No, Harvey, it's just when you hold my hand, you squeeze it too hard.

Okay, go on.

Joyce is right. You are obsessive-compulsive.

( chuckles ) Go on.

( engine starts )

Pekar: Yeah, so I guess comics brought me a lot.

But don't think this is some sunny happy ending.

Every day is still a major struggle.

Joyce and I fight like crazy, and she barely works.

The kid's got ADD and is a real handful.

My life is total chaos.

With a little luck, I'll get a window of good health between retirin' and dyin'.

"The golden years," right?

Who knows, between my pension and the chunk of change I get for this film, I should be able to swing somethin'.

Sure, I'll lose the war eventually, but the goal is to win a few skirmishes along the way, right?

Group: Surprise!

♪ For he's a jolly good fellow ♪

♪ For he's a jolly good fellow ♪

♪ Which nobody can deny. ♪ Woman: Surprise! Man: Surprise!

Man: Go ahead and make a wish.


( music playing )

♪ You do me wrong ♪

♪ And I'm crazy about you ♪

♪ Stay away too long ♪

♪ And I can't do without you ♪

♪ Every chance you get ♪

♪ You seem to hurt me more and more ♪

♪ Each hurt makes my love ♪

♪ Stronger than before ♪

♪ I know flowers can go through rain ♪

♪ But how can love go through pain? ♪

♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ You tell me lies ♪

♪ That should be obvious to me ♪

♪ I've been so much in love with you ♪

♪ Till I-- I don't wanna see ♪

♪ The things you do and say ♪

♪ Are designed to make me blue ♪

♪ It's such a shame my love ♪

♪ Makes all your lies seem true ♪

♪ And if truth makes love last longer ♪

♪ Why do lies make my love stronger? ♪

♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

( music continues )

♪ A child can cry so much ♪

♪ You do everything that they say ♪

♪ But unlike a child ♪

♪ My tears don't help me ♪

♪ Get my way ♪

♪ I know love can last through tears ♪

♪ But how can love last through years? ♪

♪ Ain't that peculiar? ♪

♪ Peculiar as can be ♪

♪ It's just weird ♪

♪ Strange. ♪