082908choke.jpgLeft to right: Chuck Palahniuk, Clark Gregg, Aaron Gell, Sam Rockwell.

Last night Radar Magazine hosted a screening of the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's satirical novel Choke, about a sex-addicted med-school drop-out (played by Sam Rockwell) who works as an Irish indentured servant in a Colonial-era theme park to keep his Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother in an expensive private medical hospital. The movie's creepiness gets under your skin a little bit, but it also has a lot of heart, and it's very funny and full of twisted surprises we won't spoil here. Suffice it to say that the anal bead Choke bookmark (photo after the jump) that came with the gift bags speaks volumes about this "dirty-minded, satirical-psychotic comedy."

After the screening, Radar executive editor Aaron Gell moderated a Q&A with Palahniuk, writer/director/actor Clark Gregg, and Rockwell. To prepare for the role, the actor said he went to some sex addiction rehab meetings, "to respect the condition because it is a serious disorder and we wanted to respect it. We also watched some documentaries. And a couple other things... The sex stuff wasn't hard, just goofy. I remember cumming in the camera at four in the morning, for a close-up of me having an orgasm, and I couldn't stop laughing."

Responding to a question about fans and his cult following, Palahniuk said, "Gee, how long do I have? How about the event where queues and queues of waiters came in with enormous bruises and then vomited clam chowder on my lectern and threw dinner rolls? That was just one kind of smallish thing that's happened. But it's usually a variety of that." Palahniuk also explained how he got the idea for the coded announcements over the P.A. system used in the book:

"To be confirmed in the Catholic Church where I grew up you had to work as candy striper at Our Lady of Lords Hospital. And on the first day Sister St. Charles told me that if you ever hear them page 'Nurse Flamingo' to run because that means there's a fire. They assigned me to the pharmacy, so I was 14 years old dusting pharmacy shelves. All by myself... Those were good days.

"The theme of the book is things not being what they appear to be... When I was writing it, a group of public school teachers told me there was a new announcement to watch out for: 'Recess will be held in the library.' And when you heard that you had to turn out the lights, make the students lie down on the floor, and lock the windows and doors until they announce, 'The lunch special is tuna noodle casserole.' Because 'recess will be held in the library' means that there's a school shooter killing people in the hallways and the all clear is 'tuna noodle casserole.' And I was struck by these fantastically evil, awful things being portrayed in such banal language. And how do we talk about things we can't talk about."


Palahniuk elaborated on his "crackpot theory" about how support groups have replaced church by providing an outlet for people "to tell stories about their absolute worst selves."

"Church used to be that place where people could risk going and presenting their absolute worst self, once a week, and be heard by people who would accept you back, through communion, into the community. Once a week you would have this kind of talk therapy where you told your worst story and you were loved despite your worst self. So you never developed this alienation and isolation that split you so far from your community that you could just walk into a McDonald's and kill everyone.

"Then church became that place where people went just to look good, and you didn't get that release of looking bad once a week. In a way, the support groups and 12 step groups and phone sex chat lines, all these contexts in which people present their worst selves and find a community despite their behavior, these have become the new Church. These are the new escape valves where people go and confess and are redeemed by their peers."

Palahniuk also recommended checking out a website called Colorectal Foreign Body Management, which he said was a great resource when he was writing Choke. (We'll leave the googling to you on that one.) Also, the musical version of Fight Club, with music by Trent Reznor, is still in the works. "Another Trent Reznor musical," he sighed. "It could be a cross between West Side Story and RENT."