Ben Sinclair, co-creator of HBO’s High Maintenance, sparked a joint on his balcony with author Etgar Keret to promote Etgar’s new book of stories Fly Already. They had a funny expansive chat about mistaken identity, stoner labels, plus the funniest and saddest pot stories Etgar has ever experienced.
I Love Your Show HIGH TIMES, Whoever You Are
Ben Sinclair: I guess I’m supposed to ask you some questions for free.
Etgar Keret: I should leverage my answers in a way that will give you ideas for your show.
Ben Sinclair: For my show High Maintenance, which people call High Times all the time. They say, “I love High Times. Can I get a picture?” And I say, “Okay, but what’s my name?” And they don’t know my name.
Etgar Keret: Really?
Ben Sinclair: Yeah. They say, “I’m such a big fan. Can I get your real name?”
Etgar Keret: Your real name. (laughter) Yeah.
Ben Sinclair: This is us smoking a joint together.
FLY ALREADY And Boris Johnson’s Hair
Ben Sinclair: You have four pot stories in your new book Fly Already. Why so many pot stories?
Etgar Keret: When I smoked pot … I don’t function very well, so I outsource everything. Let’s say I have to buy something in the store. I give the guy my wallet and I say, “How much is it?” He says, “Three dollars.” So he takes three dollars (out of my wallet) because I’m too stoned. So far it’s worked.
Ben Sinclair: You let people coddle you.
Etgar Keret: I become very trusting. People are very nice to me when I’m stoned. They’re not as nice when I’m not stoned.
Ben Sinclair: Me too. I sometimes smoke pot to change the way people react to me, not just to change the way I feel about the world, but I know that sometimes I’ll come in reeking of weed, and people have a different expectation of what kind of time we’re about to have.
You know how Boris Johnson messes up his hair before going out there? He wants everyone to think he’s a buffoon. I feel like sometimes pot helps with that. Not to say Boris Johnson is a good politician or anything, but he has gotten far for having such messed-up hair. You know what I mean?
Trippy Dudes & Stoner Labels With Ben Sinclair
Ben Sinclair: My experience has been… people really want to put ‘nonfunctional stoner’ to me. They want to make me seem all tripped out and weird — and I am a trippy guy, and I am weird, but that’s not because I smoke. Smoking sometimes amplifies it, but I was already a tripped-out dude. I think people just like putting people in a box so when you … I have to go get more [weed]. Wait one second.
The Saddest Pot Story By Etgar Keret
Ben Sinclair: What’s your saddest pot story?
Etgar Keret: I had a reading in Montreal, and this guy I know there said, “After the reading, I’ll take you for a drink.” We go to this bar and the guy says, “Is there anything you want?”
I said, “Can you get me a joint?”
The guy is uncomfortable and says, “Wow, you know, me and my girlfriend just split up a few days ago. I moved to another apartment, and I left the pot in her place.” I say, “It’s cool. It’s okay if I don’t have pot.”
After five minutes, he says, “Goddammit, I’m calling her. I’m calling her now.” He calls her, comes back, and you can see he’s really, really depressed. He says, “I called her, and she said that I can’t come pick the pot up because she’s with a guy. “
Ben Sinclair: Uh…
Etgar Keret: So she said she’d leave it for him in the postbox. And this guy is really, really sad now, because he knows his ex girlfriend is with another guy, and he’s going to her home, and it feels kind of awkward, you know? When he gets there he doesn’t know if he wants to go and take it, but then he says, “I have to go take it because if I don’t, and I asked her to put it there, I come off as an asshole.”
So he takes it. He comes to the car and says, “Okay, let’s go to my place.” We drive and he’s really, really sad and I feel really bad. We go into his apartment, and it feels uncomfortable, you know? He rolls the joint, and then he says, “Okay, we have to go down now to smoke it outside, because I can’t smoke in the apartment.”
It’s the fifth floor. We just walked here. I’m not going down five floors. “It’s okay, let’s sit. Let’s not smoke.”
He says, “What do you mean not smoke? I called my girlfriend, and I had to go there in the fucking rain and you have to smoke it now.” And I said, “Yeah, I don’t want to go down five floors.” He said, “I know what to do. We’ll open the window and you smoke from outside of the window.” I said, “Yeah, but the window’s a bit high” So he said, “I’ll hold you from your feet, and you smoke it outside.” I said, “I don’t want the joint.” He said, “You’re going to smoke the joint.”
I said, “Okay.” And in the end, my body is half out the window, and he’s holding my feet, and I’m smoking this joint. And then as I’m smoking it, it begins to hail like somebody throwing stones at you, and this guy holding my legs is so sad, you know? And this was the saddest joint I smoked.
Etgar’s Funniest Pot Story
Ben Sinclair: What’s your happiest pot story?
Etgar Keret: I’ll tell you my funniest pot story. When I published my first book, they started asking me to do readings. I was waiting downstairs, and they came with a van to take me there. We go 200 meters, and (the driver) asks me, “How am I driving?” I say, “You’re really good. From my point of view you’re doing a good job.”
We take a right and he says, “You like how I took the right?” I said, “Yeah, it was fine.” Then, at some stage he says to me, “You know what? I’m stressed, I’m stressed.” And I say, “Why are you stressed?” And he said, “Because it’s my first day on the job, and I don’t want to fuck up.” So I say, “Look, it’s also my first day at the job. It’s my first paying gig, and I also don’t want to fuck up. Everything’s going to be okay.” And he says, “I have an idea. I got some pot. I’ll roll us a joint. We will smoke it, and it will make us more mellow.” I say, “It’s better that I don’t smoke because I’m supposed to speak very soon,” and the guy says, “C’mon, this stuff is really mild. You won’t really feel it.”
I say, “You smoke it all.” He says, “No, I can’t smoke it all. If I smoke it all, I start getting paranoid that you’re a cop.” So I say, “You know what? I’ll just take one puff.” I take one puff, and it feels good so I take a few more puffs. I feel it. I can’t move my body. I’m totally frozen. I can’t move any nerves in my body, and then he stops and he says, “Okay, we reached the venue.” I kind of challenge myself, and am able to move my body to get out of the car.
As I get outside, I see that you have to walk up these very steep stairs and I say to myself, “I can fall, so I’m not taking any risks,” and I go up the stairs on all fours. As I reach the top step this woman who’s the host says, “What are you doing?” She wants to shake my hand, but I feel like if I take it I can fall so I stand up and shake her hand, and it’s kind of beautiful.
She introduces me, and I get on the stage. I open the book. I look at the page, and I can’t read what’s written because I’m stoned. The pages are like oily stains. They get bigger and smaller. It doesn’t make any sense. You really can’t make anything out of it.
Then, I remembered my brother told me that if you eat something very sweet it takes the high down. So I say, “Excuse me, does anybody have a granola bar or some chocolate?” This woman says, “I baked a cheesecake, and I live across the street.” I say, “Would you mind bringing some of this cheesecake?” She said, “sure,” and she went. I waited on the stage until she came back. It was very long. And then she returned with the cake, cut it into pieces, and offered it to other people, but nobody ate it. Then, I took the tray and I sat on the stage and ate all the cake. When I finished eating the cake I opened the book and I could read the letters.
But I don’t feel like [reading it] so I start talking and I give this monologue. I finish talking and everybody’s clapping. I say, “Thank you.” They go to their cars, and this guy says to me, “What are you, crazy? You’re crazy. You’ve been talking for three hours.”
Ben Sinclair: That was like a super stoner story.
Etgar Keret: Yeah.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.