Monday, December 17, 2007

Coast Guard Gig

The Coast Guard is definitely a part of the U.S. Military.
Thats what I learned at the Red Lion in Eureka,CA Saturday night. That, and it's a long drive on the redwood highway. Beautiful, but long.
I left San Francisco at noon and pulled into the parking lot of the hotel right at 7PM. I could of made better time, but the fog slowed me down to a crawl.
Private gigs make me nervous. Always have. Always will. I am the outsider coming into their house. I have to watch the language and it has to work. You can't write off a bad performance at a private. You only have this one chance to give them a great show. Before everyone of these gigs I always entertain the idea of just not showing up. How about that? A 7 hour drive just to turn around. Money has already changed hands though. I am committed. Besides, what sort of a pussy would I be?

There use to be a gig at a Sweetwater restaurant in a mall up here. I remember driving hours for less than a hundred bucks and the knowledge that I had to turn around right after the show. Back then, it didn't suck. It just felt like paying dues.
After you pass the little town of Wilits, the road goes from a well lit multi lane highway, to a two lane road that twists threw the Redwoods.
I have been in the city too long.
Thats what I keep thinking as I pass small houses with smoke drifting from stone chimneys. I always wonder if I could be happy in such a place. I wonder what the kids do for fun and how I would make a living.
Eureka is another town I use to come to for gigs or pass threw on my way to other ones. As I drove in, I no longer needed the directions. I remembered from years of driving exactly where the Red Lion was. I never performed at this one, but I am no stranger to doing a gig in a Red Lion Lounge.

There are only a few one nighter Booker's in the country. Sure, there are a few small time guys throwing together gigs here and there, but there really are only a handful of people who have decided that booking comics across the Greater Pacific Northwest in dive bars and red neck hang outs is the way to go.
One of these guys is a dude named Tribble. He's still doing it. The big joke use to be the more you work for him, the less you make. Sad thing is, it was true. If you were doing four shows in a week, you earned $175 as the headliner per show. If it was 5 shows, it was $150. The joke was, you could end up owing him money on these runs.
Last time I was doing "Tribble Runs" Alanis Moreset was huge and everyone dressed as a lumber jack. They still are dressing that way in Eureka by the way. In fact, a guy like me with a 70's hair cut fits in pretty well in Northern Cal.
I like that. I like that it feels like 1974 up here. Normally that might be something I would mock. Thats what I do after all. But this time, on this trip, it was comforting. I really have come a long way since those days. For one thing, my car is insured. I have no outstanding tickets either. Best of all, I am making a nice chunk of change on this gig.
In other words, it's not a Tribble gig.
I remember always passing through this town. I remember sitting at a cafe writing in my journal about being broke and more than a little nervous about the condition of my car.
I remember walking from a little motel to a Greyhound bus stop with my life savings in the jacket of my coat.
Course, after the Bus ticket home and cheap sandwiches, my net worth dropped a bit more. Thats how it was back then. I was eternally broke. New comics ask me advice about the road all the time. The more removed I get from it, the less valuable those experiences seem to me. On the face of it, that statement might sound negative, but when I really look back at those times I can see how badly I treated myself all in the name of getting stage time.
Thats really the only way to say it too. I treated myself badly when I made the choice to accept 5 hour drives and pay that was unbelievably low.
Now days, I sometimes get a raised eye brow when I quote people a price for a show. If it's too high, then fair enough. But trust me, I have earned that price and you will have a great show.

The thing about these gigs that also makes me nervous is the physical set up. Often times they just want you to stand in the corner of a room with no microphone.
They had a Mic set up for me with an additional sound system. But when I was introduced, I was standing behind a table podium. Not very stand up.
I walk around to the front.
When I did this, the people who were very stiffly seated at the traditional round banquet tables in front, actually pull back a little. There is now nothing between them and I. A man in a suit and tie is sitting less than 6 inches from me. The thing I find funny and continue to find funny during the show, is how uncomfortable this makes him!
He is a helicopter pilot that use to be in the Navy. Carer military man. When I ask his wife where they had moved from, she names a island of the coast of Washington State.
"Whats the biggest difference living here?" I ask.
With a bit of steel in her eyes she says, "Liberals and Hippies."
That makes me laugh.
I ask the man if this is as close as he has ever been to a guy with long hair.
He stutters a bit and just says yes.
I find this all hilarious! They are genuinely freaked out to be next to a "liberal."

If we were in a comedy club, it would of been a very different show. But, this is a private gig, so I play nice. The show goes well too. There are a few young guys at the table on my left. I don't know exactly what it is they do in the coast Guard, but the one guy is very happy about getting out in two months. He is the designated driver for a few other guys at the table. But I see him sipping from a pint glass of beer. WTF? When I ask him how is it that a designated driver can be drinking, he simply responds, "I am drinking it slow."
Well there you go.
He has already told me that when he gets out he is going to be a Sheriff.
"I can't wait to get pulled over by you for drunk driving. Have you been drinking tonight? Yes. But it's OK. I drank it slow officer."

The show is going into over time. Always a good thing. It means they are a good crowd and I am having fun. Thats when a woman from the back of the room pipes up.
"Is this your only line? The coast guard?"

She had spoke up earlier. We found out she is a dental assistant. At first I think she says Dental Hygienist, but this is taken as some sort of an insult by her. I guess The dentist does the tough stuff, the hygienist cleans teeth and she hands him stuff. So really, shes just a caddy. Besides, in a town where teeth are as rare as conservatives, how hard could her job be?
When she asks that question, is this your only line, I find it so preposterous I almost go into full comedy club mode on her ass.
"Well this is a party for the coast guard. Not dental assistants who can't shut their big mouths!"
There is always someone. Always a drunk person or a moron with a head full of a drink that wants to get into it. I don't mind. But really? Why are all the jokes about coast guard people? You can't figure out a theme going on here darling?

At one point, a drunk guy just walks up to me and puts his hand around me. Its a funny moment and he doesn't mean it in any aggressive way, but thats the thing with these gig. It always feels like it could turn bad in a heart beat. Thats also the exciting part too. I think the crowd gets that. I think they enjoy the verbal tight rope act of a man riffing with a crowd. it's funny and I am good, but just like a tight rope walker, seeing me fall would also be kinda cool to them.

Another guy also surprises me when I turn and he is standing there with a beer in his hand.
"I bet my friend that you are David Spades brother. Are you?" He manges to slur with a beer in his hand.
"Yes. David Spade is my brother. Thats why I am at a Red Lion in the middle of no where."
That gets a big laugh. Thats also when big mouth dental chick shouts out again. I don't know what it is she says, but my response sort of finishes the exchange for the evening.
"That girl has more warning flags than the coast guard."

During the show, I ask people if they were ever in the military. It is only when I ask that of a guy who looks like George Lopez do I get the answer, "You know. I always considered the Coast Guard part of the Military."
He said it with a smile, but what he really said was, fuck you hippie! We are in the military!
I mentioned this. Without the fuck you part of course. I looked back at the uncomfortable helicopter pilot and his wife and thats when it hit me; this is how I would be in church.
I think the crowd liked the show. The dude who booked me tipped me generously. But it was only when I was back in my car did it really occur to me what different worlds were in that room. Stiff backed career military dudes trained for combat, but freaked out by me.
You have to love that. They gave an oath to fight for their country and uphold the Constitution. Well, when I am standing in front of a crowd with a microphone, I am the living breathing beating heart of the first amendment.
Thanks for keeping it safe for me Coast Guard.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Drive Way is Lava

A fan asking for more blogs. Even the cynic inside me can see that as a compliment. Thanks.
Comics always freak out when they feel like they haven't come up with something new in a while. I sure feel that right now. I have almost become split in two. The stage Joe riffs. There is rarely anymore written pieces. A few. At the start. Then, it's all "whats your name?"
Blogger Joe, plays with an idea or two. He rants away about the politics of the day and attempts to put into words what he really hopes other will recognize as the truth too. Right now, it's all so grim. I guess it is a little overwhelming. The news feels so overly processed to me lately. They are talking about torture in the same easy tones they tell you about tomorrows weather. Something wrong.
Conservatives constantly screamed that because of Clinton's blow job in the White House, they had to explain what oral sex was to their children because it was said on the news so much.
First off, you guys were the ones who told the news casters! If you didn't want to have to explain something you find disgusting to your kid's, then you shouldn't of spent millions of dollars and 4 years to find out he had one.
But now, with a President who ran on the slogan of restoring integrity to the Oval Office, we have to explain to kids what torture is.
You tell me what is more disgusting?
Once upon a time I asked a friend if he thought I had a "problem with pot?"
He didn't even pause. He just smiled and said, "People who don't have a problem with pot don't ask if they have a problem with pot."
Point taken.
Countries that have to ask what is torture and what is interrogation already have a very big problem.

Then, there are the attempts to "support the troops." Honestly, I know some very hardcore lefties out there, but I have never once heard anyone say anything negative about the troops. On the other hand, when ever the Democrats insinuate they will cut off funding for this war and bring the troops home, they are called American haters while their patriotism is questioned.
You tell me who has the troops best interest at heart. The people who sent them there with little or no plan, or the people who want this war of choice to end?
At Starbucks the other morning, I noticed a new sign at the counter. "Support our troops. Send them coffee."
I don't know about you, but if I was regularly waking up to 120 degree heat, wearing a minimum of 50 pounds worth of field equipment while being shot at by people, I don't know if coffee would be the first thing I would wish for.
How about a Popsicle? Maybe a snowcone or just a cup of ice.

They actually taped some of the first enhanced interrogations.
Were not talking about the directors cut of a DVD here, were talking about making people think their drowning to get information out of them. It's called Water Boarding. Sounds like a sport that stonners are into. Maybe that information saved American lives. Maybe. But this is the same administration that tried to make heroic posters out of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.
They lie.
They lie about everything. It is their first natural response to any question.
Lie Lie Lie!
A judge specifically told the CIA, the NSA and the Bush White House not to destroy any evidence pertaining to mistreatment of prisoners being held in Cuba. They destroyed the tapes -you will love this-because the men were not questioned at the Naval base in Cuba. They were being held in a network of secret CIA run prisons in Europe.
Get it.
It's a big game to them. You said only people held in Cuba.
It's such a kid's answer! It's like playing a game with your friends in the neighborhood. There is a safe zone, like the driveway. There are danger zones, like the row of hedges are lava. You can only walk on the grass to get to the secret place where you grab the flag.
Thats what there saying.
So as long as America doesn't torture on American soil, were not a country that engages in secret torture in secret prisons. It happens someplace else so were safe!
The people held in Guantanamo Naval base in Cuba, are classified as enemy combatants. This is a new term created by the Bush White House.
They have no right to look at the evidence against them.
They have no right to legal council and if they do get a lawyer, the Government tapes the conversation.
They have no right to a trial.
In other words, Bush is saying that these people can be picked up any where in the world and held indefinitely with no rights to a lawyer, a trial or knowledge of why they have been detained.
And were sending people to their death in Iraq for what reason now?
We can do all this to them because according to the way the CIA plays the game, Guantanamo is not American soil.
But it is!
Any American base is considered part of America.
Were the only country in the world who feels it necessary to change the rules on this.

Maybe we should make them sit in the middle of down town Baghdad and drink a big steaming cup of coffee. Oh wait, thats how we support our troops.

Stuck in the toliet

A man spent four days trapped in a toilet after the door handle broke.

David Leggat, 55, was unable to raise the alarm after becoming stuck in the toilets at Kittybrewster and Woodside Bowling Club in Aberdeen. (I found this story on the BBC. You know these are English names)
Mr Leggat had no mobile phone or food, and used tap water for refreshment and for heat.
He was only released when cleaner Cathy Scollay arrived and heard his cries for help. She told BBC Scotland: "He said, 'I have been locked in for four days.'"
Mrs Scollay added: "I went in to work as normal and a voice shouted out. I could not take it in.
"The handle had broken. He was a bit shaky, and was as white as a sheet."

So many questions? How sad is it that no one even missed the guy?
"Hey, wheres David?"
"Last I saw him he was going to the bathroom."
Even worse, they clean the bathroom every four days!
Must be a delightful establishment.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Transgressive Language

This is a new one. I got paid last night to not perform. Instead, I was part of a panel discussion on transgressive language at Standford. I was on stage with a professor, a artist in residence, a spoken word artist and the man who created the sound track for the interpretive dance.
Thats right, I said interpretive dance.
When the Booker called me about this gig I said yes right away. All you have to do, he explained, is sit on this panel and talk about transgressive language.
Sounds like easy money.
When I find the theater on the sprawling Standford campus, the performance has already begun.
Along with other late arrivals, I stand in the lobby watching the performance on one of the two giant flat screen TV's they have set up. All I know is that I am going to be the comic in this discussion group. When I get handed a program and see a group of people on stage dancing to music I cannot define, I started wonder what I had agreed too.
The last piece of the evening is titled, Jokes like that can get you killed.
It's a modern dance piece that explores sensitive subject matter from the perspective of an individual speaking a rarely spoken consensus. Thats what it says in the program anyway. What I saw and heard was this.
The lights came up on the stage and the first thing you heard was a girl moaning off the sound track of any porn. Projected behind the dancers was a giant set of legs that "walked" their way like scissors might walk from one side of the stage to the other. All the while, a group of dancers gyrated and moved in complex rhythms to the music. In other words, I didn't have a clue what was going on or how this explored transgressive language. That word kept coming up but truly I don't know how a dance, no matter how well executed, deals with that subject. Thats where the Audio & Visuals came in I suppose. The moaning porn girl began to be replaced with clips of comics telling profanity laced jokes and recent celebrities that were in the news for saying the N-word or using other such language. You know, Don Imus and his Nappy headed hoe's comment. Things like that.
Visually, it was kinda cool. The scissor legs were replaced with a montage of religious symbols and political figures. Their heads appeared on paper cut out bodies 30 feet above the dancers. All these images would float across the giant back drop of the stage as more and more people came out from the wings and danced. Over the soundtrack were audio clips of various comics doing bits. Bits, I might add that were now being used out of context to demonstrate how vulgar our culture had become.
Out of context, Dave Chappelles bit about fucking a monkey sounds dirty. Well, to be honest even in context it sounds dirty. But presented like this, in a theater with people who undoubtedly think of themselves as patrons of the finer arts, it was used as shock value.
There were clips of Bill Maher, Wanda Sykes and other famous comics. Just quick snippets of jokes set against the back drop of larger than life images, new age music and well toned dancers.
At this point, I found myself watching the performance and wondering what the hell I was doing there. I was fighting my urge to mock it. Thats not easy! But I couldn't help but think how much money and effort went into something that I bet no one really understood.
After the show, about 70 or so people gathered in a smaller theater. On stage, there were 5 chairs. The musician who did the soundtrack sat on one side of me and Robert, the guy who created the event, sat on the other side of me. I apologize for not remembering any other names, but we were also joined by a spoken word artist and a professor. Easily, I was the least educated person sitting on that stage. But as I listened to everyone speak about the context of meaning and how the n-word had been belched in our culture and that a voice is more important than what you are really saying, I wanted to role my eyes. At one point, the spoken word artist said he had more leeway from an audience to be didactic.
It was a dissection of the artistic piece we had all just watched and it was a discussion on what is and what is not socially acceptable speech. The thing is, and if anyone who was there reads this I apologize, it was all bullshit.
The issues of race and what can and what should not be said in public is a complex enough issue to deal with without adding another incomprehensible layer of "art" to it. Modern dance might not be the best venue to take on this subject matter. Thats just my thought. What do I know. I only use transgressive language every day in my art.
I nodded my head a lot and tried to look interested. A lot of the time, I really just felt like everyone was using large vocabulary words to out do the last person. A sort of intellectual version of yo mama jokes.
I don't know that I am qualified to speak on the issues of racism and the black community, but there I was on stage with a professor who wrote a book and a guy being paid by a world renowned college to dream up dances about relevant issues in our culture.
The more he explained the piece to the audience, the less I thought I understood it. When the professor spoke about the white washing of the word nigger in everyday language, I was totally lost. Eventually, Robert turned to me and simply said, As a comic, whats your perspective?
I said I didn't get it but some of the dancers were hot.
That got a laugh.
I think it got a laugh because most of the people didn't get it either. But it was fun. I mostly spoke about language being an imprecise tool. How crowds have a hard time telling the difference between a comic using a word for shock value and a comic using a shocking word to make fun of the ignorance behind such words.
To me, thats the giant blind spot with liberals that prevents them from truly understanding some things. Sometimes you have to use the hurtful words in order to make fun of them. But the second they hear such words, they shut down. They don't listen to the word in the context it is being used in, they only register the bad word being spoken.
Irony, sarcasm and satire are just not comedic tools a lot of crowds understand anymore.
It also struck me as yet one more reason why liberals cant get anything done. All this discussion about a dance that was meant to shed light on something that even it's creator was having a difficult time explaining all seemed silly to me. In the desire to be polite with everyone, the conversation first gets unnaturally warped by side stepping anything that might offend anyone. Then, it gets pushed further from what the real topic is by the sound of intellectuals enjoying their voices.
I don't mean to sound harsh and yes, I do have some class issues around anyone creating socially minded art in a college for money. If the point is to start a discussion on language and it's effects on society, then I guess mission accomplished. But if 5 guys had not sat down with each other and talked about transgressive language in art and culture, I never would of watched that dance and thought thats what it was about. I don't know. People dancing while a girl moans off a porn soundtrack seems shocking for shocking sake. Not to shed light on anything. Using clips of comics doing bits seems unfair to me too. Unfair because I doubt the clips were paid for and unfair because after all the discussion about putting things in their own context, these clips were clearly not in their proper context.
I would not stand up during a modern dance performance and presume they would be receptive to my comedy.
Agenda driven art drives me crazy. It's never that good. The art, becomes second to the meaning. But when Robert spoke about the piece, he said he didn't like being preached to from the stage. Maybe so, but your original intention has been so buried under so much other meaning that whatever it is you wanted this to be about requires an hour long discussion with the audience after the performance. I think that means it fails on the meaning part. Artistically, I am not in a position to judge the dancing. It looked great! Visually the whole thing was cool, but it was less about the dancing I think and more about being a really cool multi media presentation. I don't know. I know that I sometimes take my comedy way to serious for my own good too. Thats what I think happened here. Nothing bad or wrong, just seems that people with a grant from a college who take everything way too seriously used the artistic skills they had to comment on an art they know nothing of. I think thats what bothered me about the whole thing. When ever they talked about the "piece" they would say how difficult it was to hear some of the shocking words and material.
On the drive home I thought of at least a hundred other things I wish I said. I wish I had brought up Lenny Bruce, the great great grandfather of modern stand-up comedy as we know it. He died a martyr for wanting to talk about the real issues of the day in the way real people talked. Real people swear. Real people use shit & fuck as adjectives. Real people flocked to his shows when the establishment rightful saw him as a challenge to all that 1950's conformity he showed us was hypocrisy.
I thought Mark Twain. When his books, Huckleberry fin and Tom Sawyer came out, they were greeted with critical disdain. He broke an unspoken rule by writing dialogue as people actually spoke it back then. Writing anything required that the author use that overly flowery and dramatic style of the day. He broke with convention and as a result his books became hugely popular.
Lenny Bruce and mark Twain didn't call attention to themselves by saying, hey look what I am doing! I am using transgressive language to show how it erodes society and the meaning behind everything we say. No. They just told what they heard in a matter of fact way. And people got it.
I am going to write Standford and ask if they have ever had a stand-up comic as an artist in residence. What the hell. if a comedy club will pay me to tell jokes why wont a college pay me to explain them? Apparently thats what we need these days, explanations.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On Fire at the Purple Onion

If an audience member catches on fire, as one did last night at the Purple Onion, you might want to stop the raffle at the end of the show and at least acknowledge it. Just a thought.

I had just finished my set and was walking to the back of the room. Another comic was speaking in my ear when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash. When we both turned, we saw the flame from a candle shoot up the back of a girls head. Her long black hair was like a fuse. The people closest to her started patting her head. In seconds, everyone was around her hitting the back of her head with their open palms. I got there a heart beat after everyone else did. The girl, Ell seemed confused as to why a group of people spontaneously began hitting her. All I could think to do was just say, "Your heads on fire."
You know, to explain. Wouldn't you wonder why at the end of a comedy show complete strangers went all Ike Turner on you? I thought I was being helpful.
I am the guy you want in an emergency folks. The guy who can show up just a bit too late to be of any real use but will then plainly state a fact you are probably painfully aware of already. You know, like CNN.
For my comment, "Your heads on fire" I was rewarded with the greatest no shit look ever! Heres the thing I find second funniest in all this.
While a group of 5 or more people composed of comics, door man and assorted other patrons rushing over to the table to help, our host kept on plugging future shows and doing a raffle oblivious to what was happening. How that is possible is beyond me, but it happened!
A chours of, "are you alright?" was drowned out by the sound of a comic handing out prizes for the person who drank the most. How about a prize for the person got the best jokes? WTF!
Do we really need to encourage the idea that stand-up comedy can best be enjoyed while drunk?
It only came to his attention that an audience member had recently been on fire when he went silent and then asked the crowd,
"What is that smell? "
What is that smell? Dude, it's the chic whose head was JUST on fire!
less than 10 feet directly in front of you!
The crowd all pointed in the direction of the now very drunk and pissed off woman who was just on fire a second ago. His response, "Oh. Thats why I smell burning hair."
Now I could give the no shit look.
After confirming that she was now indeed, put out, he then resumed the sales pitch much to the astonishment of the crowd.
It was awesome!
He had prizes to give damn it, and nothing was going to stop him! OK, you lost a crowd before, but never to fire!
It was like watching some mad general march on to battle in the face of grim odds. Could be a brave man adhering to his own code of conduct, or a fool.
But it was damn funny!
There are very few rules to comedy. That is it's eternal curse and astonishing beauty. But I do know this; When a member of the crowd is burning, the shows over.

Here is what I think is the funniest thing.
As we all patted her head and offered condolences, the cocktail waitress quietly walked over to all this commotion and nonchalantly blew the candle out before walking away without a word.
Oh yeah! That might be a good idea too!
That made me laugh. You have to love that though. The host is going on at the mic hawking his CD and telling everyone about up coming shows, "...Your alright then? Well then, Mark Pita will be here next week followed by..."
In the middle of all this the waitress just blows it out and walks away as if this happens all the time. The group that had gathered around her all just sorta looked at each other as if to say, I was about to do that.
Sure you were.
At least I was attempting to be informative with out providing any real help.
Like FEMA.

Shes fine by the way. A bit pissed of course and more than a little drunk, but OK. She was drunk. In fact she won the contest for having the most drinks that night.
I don't know about you, but if a person in your show catches on fire, chances are they were the one who drank the most. There is our lesson in this latest adventure friends, if you are ever handing out prizes for the audience member who drank the most and a girls head suddenly goes up in flames, just give the prize to that person.
Trust me. It's her.
Oh and the show, it was OK. I have to be honest though, I was pretty depressed at the small turn out. It was an Onion sponsored event! I had my own add in the paper to promote the show along with the Booker's separate add and we still only had 20 people. It is so discouraging. When I complained to the crowd about this a woman said, "Maybe people don't think it's a real add."
Oh my God! That is the most logical heckle ever!
It makes sense too. The Onion is fake news so it stands to reason that people might see any add and think it was fake too.
Like statistics on FOX News.
I don't know about you, but that was worth the $15.00 cover and two and a half hours of show on a Wednesday night!
"How was the show last night?"
"A ladies fuckin' head caught on fire! It was pretty awesome. Oh, the comics were OK I guess, I don't know."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Working Blue in Tahoe

North Shore Tahoe,
Ever been? It is beautiful. Where you least expect it, there are 3 little casinos just across the state line high up in the Mountains on a twisting little two lane highway. Across the street is the Tahoe Biltmore. I don't know when it was built, but the many black and white photos that lined the walls in our little casino seems to indicate they had been there for sometime. Our little Casino is called Crystal Bay. Thats all it is too, a casino. No hotel rooms or restaurant, just a few sparsely attended tables, bars at opposite ends of the place and a parking structure that seems more wishful thinking than anything else.
The rooms they put us in were nice. Even elegant. They were there just for the talent. However, they lacked doors on the bathroom and an Internet connection. Also, no Bible in the nightstand. OK, I am 99% sure I am going to be alone so the missing bathroom door didn't bother me as much as feeling cut off from the rest of the world. My phone couldn't get a clear signal either. Not having a Bible didn't really bother me.
Oh well. I am alone in Tahoe for a few days with nothing but my head.
We got up there on a Monday for a Tuesday night show. The thinking was, we wouldn't have to travel and perform on the same day. Glad we did it too. The show it's self was a major let down. It was one of those gigs where everything about it was great. The location, the room, the friendly people, everything but the show.
I still did an hour twenty though.
Tuesday morning I got up early. I just couldn't sleep and decided to look around North Shore Tahoe. I went for a drive and found two very beautiful things quickly; Starbucks and the lake front. That is the order I would put them in too. Sorry to sound like a yuppie, but starting a day without my regular cup of a coffee from the worlds biggest drug supplier is not a pretty thing to consider. They also had a wireless hot spot.
This is what I like most when I am on the road. These tiny moments where you find something familiar in a place that is anything but. I like sitting there drinking my coffee till the last few gulps are cold and surfing the Internet with the idea that there is this brand new place to go and explore. Also, having my connection to the outside world limited isn't such a bad thing. Being alone with my head is not easy either, but it is always important to listen without distraction.
And so it was that I found myself standing at the edge of another clear blue mountain lake contemplating what it is I should be contemplating. This time, there was no closed gate to enforce personal reflection. There was just that other worldly sparkle of sun light on the lakes surface and rocks that looked more like eggs just beneath the clear water. The mountains were green and silent, the sky was high and blue, and every breath tasted clean. I am always in these places because of comedy but I am never thinking about comedy when I am in these places. When it comes to stand-up lately, I feel so distracted, disinterested and wooden on stage. I hope it is a phase. Being a comic for this long is like being in a relationship; some years are better than others. What it all comes down to for me, is the creative end. I am not a good business man when it comes to my career. Self promotion is something I begrudgingly do with mixed results. What I love the most is being onstage playing with the crowd and ideas. But even that feels old these last few months. New ideas get written down, but I don't want to take the risk of trying them out. I feel old on stage. Not just in age, but in delivery, in material, in spirit.
There are nights when I am driving to a gig and a phone call from the Booker saying it's canceled would be welcomed. I hate that. I use to love going to do comedy. Nervous, sure, but excited and grateful for the work. This last year has been a bitch. No other way to describe it really. I just keep waiting for something to kick in or some spark to return. The gigs I have been doing have all gone well to great for me, but each one I come away from thinking there is another level I should be operating at but cannot seem to reach. I think thats whats bugging me lately.
Every comic has moments of growth. You can feel them. Sudden understandings or a jump in the ability to finally say what you want inside a bit. The level of your performance is just better. People notice it and you feel it. It is a great high to revel in during those all to brief moments in your life.
I have not had one of those for a long time now.
I don't practice what I preach either. So much that happened this year is intensely painful and private, yet I tell younger comics all the time thats where the best stuff comes from. What I want to do, what I wish I had the balls to do, is to start going up on stage with the barest of jokes and just talk all this shit out. When your being paid to entertain a crowd and you want to be re booked, you don't experiment; you kill. You kill with what has proven it's self over and over again. Thats the problem now. The over and over and over part. When I set up a bit that is at least 8 years old, a bit I really have no emotional connection to anymore, it gets harder and harder to sell it. Thats what being a pro and an artist is, that back and forth between making the buck and pleasing the creative process. All that baggage from Samantha is piling up and needs a way to come out. It's one thing to do it here in a blog, but the stage is where I live. Without fresh blood, it becomes a less interesting place to live.

The night of the show there are less than ten people in the audience a quarter to show time. The other comics and I each look at each other with that familiar look. When you get into comedy, you never imagine these times. You never think about the gigs you drove 5 hours to to be in front of a handful of people spread out inside an ark. Thats what this place looks like too, an ark. All the wood and tables set up like the last supper give it that feeling. The Booker is a nice enough guy, he just keeps asking us about other comics who would work well up here. We don't know yet what up here really is so it's hard to say exactly.
We start the show a quarter after with about 60 people spread threw the room. Not bad. The host goes up. He is relatively new, but a smart writer. As an opener, he lacks that sort of energy you want someone to have, but if the crowd is half way decent, they will come together and start listening. Once that happens, they will hear some really fresh really funny jokes. There might not be a better joke writer right now than this guy.
This crowd never really came together however.
Crowds are curious things. Like an individual, they have their own personality and unique challenges. This crowds main challenge was Tina.
After the show, the Booker told me, "Yeah, thats Tina. She usually comes and sits in back talking too loud. This time they wanted to sit up front."
Of course the did.
Rule number 4,028: When putting together my dream room, I will have hosts seat the crowd, not let them sit down where ever they want. This accomplishes two very important things to insure the success of a show before it even starts.
1. The crowd is distributed evenly in the room. No empty pockets or concentrations of crowd in any one spot.
2. If you know someone is coming in drunk, loud or demonstrates anything that appears problematic, you can seat them in an area of the room where they will cause the least amount of negative impact on the show.
Thats just Tina?
Thats what we want, a Booker who is co-dependant with the audience.
Tina, cannot shut the fuck up. Every joke requires her comments. Every set up is greeted with a hardy drunk girl "WHOOOOOOO!" You can see the faces of the people around her. They are more than a little fed up with the constant and annoying interruptions this drunk girl creates on the order of every 30 seconds.
Of course there is no bouncer or manager or any staff to go over to her and ask her to quiet down.
The opener is not really a guy who engages the crowd, so he respectfully ignores the distraction and plows forward. Most of the time the person gets the hint and shuts up after a while.
Not Tina.
Ah drunk people. What a loud world they must live in. To communicate with the rest of us, they have to yell.
Next up is an old friend of mine. Maybe the booze has really kicked in, but Tina becomes such a distraction toward the end of his set that at one point he looks down at the three other guys around her table and says, "Will someone please stick a dick in her to shut her up."
Almost an hour into a show, that gets the nights first round of applause from a crowd that hasn't come together yet. As a result of that, his closing bit just sorta sits there and he is left with no other option than to just say, "Well, thats been my time."
Every comic hates that moment. You have done all you can and still they are just looking at you when every other crowd that ever heard that joke laughed and then applauded.
Not these guys.

Off to one side of the stage is a large curtain. It is the only thing between us and the crowd. When my friend comes off stage, he is standing there fuming.
"That fucking cunt in the front row will not shut the fuck up! Have fun."
Now it's my turn.
Before I get on stage, I already have my work cut out for me. The Booker, getting drunker on wine and then switching to shots of Jaggermister, tells me to do as much time as I want. Ordinarily I would greet that sentence with a smile. Tonight, not so much.
When I get up there, I ignore the drunk bitch directly in front of me and stay on course with material. My heart is not entirely in the delivery, but it gets the laughs I need and the crowd is close to reaching that critical mass when they stop being a bunch of people at tables and become a solid thing unto it's self and give in to the show.
It's hard to tell sometimes if it is something happening in the crowd or something happening inside myself. But this show has that blah feeling. There just sitting there because it's the day before Thanksgiving and they have nothing to do and I'm just up there with a Microphone telling them jokes my heart is not really in. It's these shows where I feel like I could tip it closer to a better show if I was a little more on my game.
Who knows. I know I still care though. I know I want them to have a great show so I pull out every trick I can think of. That includes engaging Tina.
I stuck with material longer than I normally would of, but once I start riffing, that fills an hour.
You get the feeling from the crowd when you have chosen the right target.
Tina was the right target.
I only get off stage when the TV's that line the walls in the place suddenly come on. No sound, but all of the sudden we are all treated to various helpings of sports, news and interviews. I take that as the signal to get off stage. I am informed when I come off that that was in fact not the signal to come off and no one knows why that happened. An hour and twenty minuets in front of a crowd that is less than stellar is enough. I gave them their moneys worth.
Now comes the time honored tradition of waiting around after the show wondering if you should respectfully bring up the fact that you haven't been paid yet, or start getting drunk with the locals.
I just want to get my check and jack-off in my little room to the thought of already being in the car and headed home.
Really, it wasn't such an awful gig. It's just that I feel kinda dirty for having done it. Thats all.
There are just too many of these gigs. The Booker, drunk and a little stumbly now, does the post show review. He tells me that I did great and he would love to have me back in February. And you know what, I will do it too. I will do it because I know I am better than any one night at any one room.
When he breaks down the other two guys acts, it almost makes me laugh out loud for the accidental compliment he gives them. "Tonight, we had thoughtful comics you had to listen too."
I think you have to listen to them all.
What he is saying is that their jokes were smart. This crowd was not.
All in all, beautiful location and a good time with friends, but this is like so many other one nighters where the crowd is not half as cool as they think they are and the Booker says he wants quality when what he really needs for this room is road dogs with hours of easily digestible dick jokes.
Thats what makes me wonder about my set.
Sure, I pulled out some old stuff that relied heavily on that part of the body for laughs. It was the right thing to do. As an old friend in comedy once told me after a intense debate about doing what you want verses giving a crowd what they want, he simply said, "You don't bring Sushi to a Barbecue."
True that!
As a comic, you want to reach a point where you can raise the crowd to the level you want to work at. I have had some of the best shows with religion and politics in places you wouldn't think it would fly. I always give them the benefit of the doubt. I will throw some bits out there and see how they do. If they don't bite, I can try to sell it a little harder. If they still don't hit, well hello dirty stuff! After all, as much as I want this to be about me, it is after all about the crowd. As the headliner, I feel a certain obligation to be able to get them to laugh. Thats my job on a show, to be the best. After watching two extremely talented and funny comics battle a crowd that seems largely disinterested or dim, what am I suppose to do? I am suppose to go up there and kill. Thats what. They don't care about my personal struggle to write smart heart felt material about love and loss and all the phases of grief you go through. They just want to laugh.
We all forget that sometimes. The crowd shows up with an expectation of hearing jokes. A comic shows up with the expectation of the crowd being great. When we say great, we mean smart, hip and greeting the jokes our hearts are in with thunderous applause.
A lot of the time, thats exactly what happens. But more often than not on these types of gigs, they don't want to hear your tightly written and genius joke about whats wrong with Government. They could care less that you finally got that bit about your heart being broken to work at the last gig you did. They want jokes.
When I was young the term working blue confused me. I thought it meant going to work when you were sad.
On this show, it meant what it has always meant and it also meant what I thought it was too. I cant speak for any other comic, but on nights like these you hit a moment on stage that is almost like an out of body experience. You see yourself on stage and you see the faces of those in the audience. Your saying jokes correctly, I mean the words are coming out right, but it makes no difference. The laughter just isn't coming. Thats when you hit that curious moment inside yourself when you can either shut down and phone it in, or find the will to push forward with what is required.
Plan B, for me anyway, is always the riff gun.

Standing in back of the Punch Line last night, I am talking to a friend of mine. We are talking about riffing and getting more new stuff out there. The pressure to kill has never been greater. I think everyone feels it. Where do you take the chances needed to grow that new stuff? Where is it OK to have a quiet set while your hammering out something new?
The truth is, I am a very lucky comic. With the degree of respect and trust this town has given me, I should be able to start using some of that stock to take bigger risks on stage.
I will tell you something I honestly believe, I am a very good comic. If I could find that last missing little piece, I could be a great comic. It's just that one little thing I need to find. Something in delivery or subject matter or what?
I remember watching Jim Short at the old Cobb's. Man, there was a golden time. Virtually unlimited stage time in a club with a paid audience. What a gift those years were to all of us back then. Jim was always a funny guy. Always stuck out. But at some point, he made the choice to start doing what he wanted the way he wanted. So, on those 3 showcase nights, he went up and for 6 months he bombed. I mean he just ate it up there in silence.
I remember the "water cooler" talk about it at that time. Is he funny? What is he thinking? That sort of thing.
For 6 months, 3 nights a week in 15 minuets bursts, he went on stage and performed in silence. No matter what had worked before or what his instincts must of been telling him in the moment, he shut all that out in the hope of perfecting his voice.
If you have ever watched Jim Short, then you know he is a force of nature on stage. Relentless tightly written smart bits just keep coming. But that only happened because he decided he was going to use whatever stage time he would be given to learn how to do what he wanted.
Obviously it worked.
I remember being outside one night and hearing laughter like thunder threw the walls.
"Whose on right now?" I asked someone.
"I think it's Short!"
And that was that. After 6 months of nothing, it fell into place. His gamble paid off. I think it is time to follow that example.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Yesterday, 3 Iraqi kids were killed and 20 injured when a bomb went off as U.S. troops were handing out toys. 2 U.S. Marines were also killed. The reason I tell you this and show you this photo is to make clear a simple point; no matter how much better we are being told things are in Iraq, if any one of the acts of violence that still occurs across that country happened here, it would be major news for months.
Imagine a bomb going off as firemen handed Gameboys to 5th graders. There would be round the clock news coverage for weeks. Daily updates on the police search would continue for months. But 3 kids killed in Iraq is considered a sign that things are getting better.
Saying only 3 children were killed is not a success. All it manges to demonstrate is how jaded we all have become.
Democrats are also starting to say that leaving might be worse than if we stay. The thinking goes that once we pull out, all the key players will be at each others throats.
Unlike now I guess.
In other words, you think it looks bad now, wait and see what would happen if our stabilizing forces are suddenly gone.
Think about this argument for a moment. Having created the disaster in Iraq, it would cause even greater destruction if we left now. So we can't ever leave. Better to keep the constant stream of blood running into the sand down to a slow trickle over the next decade rather than the orgy of violence that would be released in one big bang if we leave.
Is that why Bush recently used Vietnam as a reason for us to stay?
Where else could you get a way with this sort of logic in life?
Having run over the pedestrian, we should park the car on top of him.
After rushing into the bank and killing several people, we should now take the remaining people inside hostage until our demands are met. For peace.
Seriously, are these examples that far fetched? I don't think so. Fact is, we have set up a situation that cannot be won no matter what we do now. Of course, the longer we remain in such a situation, the more unstable the entire region becomes. That means the price of oil will continue to rise earning a very small minority of people in the world, a group I might add that includes the President, his father and his close personal friends, millions of dollars a day in profit.
According to recent evidence gained in a military raid on a home in Baghdad, 60% of the foreign fighters in Iraq come from two countries; Lybia and Saudi Arabia.
And those are our friends! The other 40% are coming from countries that openly hate us.
Is Iran sending men and weapons into Iraq?
Just like we sent weapons and expertise to Iraq during the 8 year war on Iran.
Just like we spent millions of dollars outfitting and training Al Quedia in Afghanistan to drive out the soviets.
Just like Saudi Arabia sends men to fight for fellow Sunnis in Baghdad.
If you want an honest look at the situation over there you first have to stop thinking we have never done what all the countries surrounding Iraq are doing now.
When we did it, it was called protecting our interests.
When they do it, it's called helping the enemy.
It's worth remembering what meddling in other countries wars gets you; Al Quedia. A fully functional terrorist organization we trained and supplied weapons to for a couple of hundred million dollars.
This is the same organization we have now spent one trillion dollars fighting in a global war.
A war we say must continue. A war where they make bombs with the knowledge we gave them.
They are just doing what we trained them to do. Something we were very pleased with when they used that expertise to blow up soviet tanks and kill Russians.
Now we fight them in Iraq. A place Saddam did not allow Al Quedia to operate in. Ironic, but he hated them because he didn't want religious extremists inside his country undermining his secular authority. Al Quedia didn't show up in Iraq until we did. It wasn't difficult for them. All they had to do was come over from Afghanistan. A war we sorta pulled out of to go fight Saddam. The one guy over there who actually agreed with us what a menace religious extremists are.
Salute the flag.
Get ready to shop at the sales.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Dear Loyal Readers & Fans,
I am thinking about trying the Google Add Sense thing on my blog. Here is how it works. A computer program looks at the content of my site and then determines what the best adds might be for my blog. When a person clicks on one of the adds, I get something like a penny deposited into a paypall account.
Who knows, there might be some money to be made.
But here's the thing.
If I am raging against the system and the corrosive effect of placing a monetary value on everything, would it not be a huge hypocritical action to have commercials embeded along side my texts proclaiming these dangers?
Comments please=)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Zealand's Fat Policy

A British woman planning to start a new life with her husband in New Zealand has been banned from entering the country - because she is too fat.
Rowan Trezise, 33, has been left behind in England while her husband Richie, 35, has already made the move down under leaving her desperately trying to lose weight.
When the couple first tried to gain entry to the country they were told that they were both overweight and were a potential burden on the health care system.
Were not talking about rides at Disney Land here people, were talking about an entire country!
When you get to New Zealand is there something like the carry on luggage warnings at airports?
If your bad cannot fit into this space you cannot take it on board the plane.
Except in this case it would something like a pair of cut-offs. If you can't get into them, you don't get to eat fresh Kiwi tonight.
Even if the woman manages to loose the weight, she is definitely going to require mental health care from their system now.
It's one thing to be a little winded walking up a hill, but when a whole country tells you your simply too fat to enter, thats going to leave lasting emotional damage.
If that was me, I would of ran back onto the plane in tears screaming, "I am so fat their afraid I will sink the island!"
I thought America was cruel. Who knew the Kiwis could be so anti-fat? On the other hand though, I understand it to a certain degree. Employers in this country can legally tell unhealthy employees to shape up or they will be terminated. Sounds unfair, but every scientific study ever done proves that an employee who is 10 pounds or more over weight, takes more sick days and ends up costing the company more in the long run in insurance payments.
So from the cold hard cash perspective, I get it.
Too bad our immigration debate is centred around Mexicans crossing the border. It would make it all so much more hilarious and absurd if politicians were standing at podiums scare mongering Americans with speeches about Fat people illegally crossing the border! "They can hide potential weapons in their fat and they will eat food that would otherwise go to a hungry American! Don't you see? Fat people are coming into this country with no regard to our ways! The culture is being destroyed by these Fat people! They refuse to learn our menus for God sakes! To them, the great American melting pot is a cheese fondue!"
Your telling me that wouldn't make you suddenly pay more attention to the ongoing debate over immigration?
If you have seen any of the news reports about the minuet man brigades who watch the border with guns in hand, you know their not the fittest bunch on the planet either. You ever see these fat white guys? In fact, most of these guys would be denied entry into New Zealand.
No what I mean?
They are always telling us how much illegal immigrants cost our health care system. First of all, what system? Second of all, how much are these fat morons costing us?
While their keeping us safe from a work force willing to be paid slave wages for jobs most Americans wont do, they are eating their weight in beef jerky. Eventually, this will catch up to them and it wont be cheap to reverse a life time of Beer, pork rinds and ignorance.

A little side comment on the whole thing before we go back to the easy laughs at the expense of larger Americans.
The big question I never hear asked by either side is why. Why are people from south of the border coming here in unprecedented numbers? The answer is surprisingly simple. America went into every one of those countries and decimated their economies. Central and South America should be wealthy nations. They are, in natural resources. They actually have more timber, oil, coal and precious metals than we do. So why aren't they rich? We gamed the system of international financial markets. Basically, we tell the leaders of those countries that if they want U.S. help, they have drop any restrictions to outside investors coming in and controlling everything. Countries like Bolivia took the bate. Bechtel bought all of Bolivia's public water facilities. As soon as they did, water rates went up 400%!
At one time, it was against the law to even capture rain water in a bucket.
We destroy the infrastructure, economy and spirit of a country to make money for the wealthy elite. In turn, those poor people come here because even minimum wage is a high rate of pay to people use to living on less than a dollar a day.
They come here seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
Kinda like your ancestors did.

What is the connection between a closed mind and a constantly open mouth anyway?
Don't get all politically correct on me. You have noticed it too.
New Zealand determines if someone is fat with the Body Mass index. What is your height compared to your waist line. That sort of thing.
Maybe New Zealand is on to something. Obesity is described as an epidemic in this country. But it's not like the polio epidemic where mothers kept kids out of public pools for fear of catching it. It is the first epidemic in the history of the world to be self made and self sustained for no other reason other than we love to eat shit. You don't catch fat like you would Ebola or AID's. You have to work at it. I realize a lot of people are genetically predisposed to being heavier than other people. The fact remains however, we are a large nation. When it comes to the size of our people anyway we really are the largest nation on the face of the earth.

The other night, I was switching back and forth between two stations on T.V. On Spike, they were showing clips of an upcoming competitive eating championship to be held on Thanksgiving. On the history channel, they were showing the extreme conditions of poverty that the majority of people live in on this planet.
Same planet, different worlds.
Ours is a culture of plenty. Ours is a culture of no impulse control. Our society is all about the individual who wants more now!
The vast amount of people who we share this world with go to bed hungry every night. They always say, go to bed, but most of these people don't have a bed or even a roof.
Why are people coming here again?
Because we did too well at selling the American dream to the rest of the world. Everyone all over the world knows America. Even now, in the middle of a war, refuges come to our shores because they too want the luxury of throwing away what is left on their plastic trays at any McDonald's when they find themselves full.
Be careful though. If you get too fat you can forget about ever going on the super geeks tour of places where The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Sail Boat Trick

St. Mary's college in Moraga.
A quiet little Catholic College only accessible by poorly marked dark roads threw million dollar homes and hills. I don't know what the Mapquest directions would tell you, but you take the off ramp by the Orinda BART station and drive down a long dark road. When you think you have passed it, take a left and drive down another road with no lights, swerve to miss the deer and go right. Drive till you start questioning if this gig is even real and then drive 10 more minuets past where you think your career should be.
Thats how you get there.
I complain a lot. These gigs can be either nightmares or amazing. For me, this one fell somewhere in between. In other words, I did OK. Not exactly the set I wanted to have, but fun for all it's preceding awkwardness. Oh, and it was a night for awkwardness.
I drove out with one of the other comics. When we arrived at the campus, I felt like I was on a movie set after dark. The buildings of the campus are all in that early California mission style. An architectural nod to the golden era for the church. If you couldn't convert the natives, you could kill them.
There was no one walking around though. It was just fog and dim lights casting wild shadows across the brick walk ways.
Maybe the Rapture happened.
It makes sense that if it did happen a Catholic school would be empty. Right?
We found the location of the hall it was going to be in. There are no other ways to describe the interior of this building than to just say, Hogwarts. Thats what it looked like. Long wooden tables with high back wooden chairs. If candles had been floating in the air, I would not have been surprised.
The place was beautiful. But really not a place to do a show in. They set up a stage at one end of the hall, but there was no light on the performers. With the high ceilings, the sound echoed. Oh, and the tables nearest the stage were all giant round ones. Not exactly conducive for everyone getting a good view of the show. That is, if you even knew there was a show. It was one room in the giant Gothic cafeteria, so kids were spilling in from doors all around the hall with trays of food and on going conversations.
You don't have a little theater or self contained room somewhere?
OK, so it's not the best set of circumstances. So what if the guard at the front gate said to another comic on the show who is Persian, "I didn't know there were any blacks on the show tonight."
Make of that what you will.
These gigs make good comics better and bad comics nervous. Truth is, we were all nervous for the obvious reason; what can we get away with saying here?
The Booker was very clear about not dropping any "F" bombs and lets be mindful of any anti-religious jokes.
There goes my act.
Actually, not having an act seems to be my greatest assets these days. Riffing is adapting to whatever restrictions or special needs a crowd has. Obviously, a show at a private religious school is going to have to be different than a show at a club. The great thing with my lack of an act is, there is no going over material in my head before the show editing. Point me at the stage and lets see what happens. Thats my way of working and this night, it served me well once again.
I know all the comics on the show. There are four of us. All of them are good comics and all of them were determined to talk themselves out of having good sets.
The opener for this show is not someone who likes to open. So, in one of the more self destructive sets I have seen in a while, he told the crowd that. With plenty of "F" bombs thrown in for good measure.
The next guy up was not only loosing his voice, but brought a large note pad up with him. He got them to laugh though. No small feat on this night. Here is the thing with college crowds these days. If it's a private school, they are way more prone to go "OHHH" rather than laugh. This disturbs me a bit.
Think for yourself! Don't start moaning the joke because someone else did. I swear, it was like a fart being passed around the room. Someone in the room would moan and set off a wave of it. I seriously doubt if most of them knew why they were even moaning. But as each comic went up and there jokes were greeted with either indifference, a moan or the very rare laugh, we all got increasingly worried before our sets.
The next guy up was hoping to work out a set for a big audition. No such luck on that. Jokes I have always seen do from well to kill got no reaction. He was a pro though. It didn't seem to really throw him.
I sat in back of the room watching all this unfocused energy. It's not the first time I have gone up at a gig more than a little concerned. Strange thing these days. I still get those butterflies, but lately I don't care. Thats not the right way to say it. In this last year I have finally learned to detach from the outcome before my set.
What ever will happen will happen and I will let it happen.
Thats pretty much riffing described in a nut shell I suppose. Whatever is going to happen will happen and I will let it happen.
I wish I could live my life like that rather than in 30 minuet increments on stage.
When I am introduced we are already an hour into this show. The crowd seems tired and I have noticed there are less people in the room now than when we started. It's one of those situations where the crowd feels like this never really came together, but they are sticking around to see how it all ends.
Sorta how I felt in any of the new Star Wars movies.
I am about 10 minuets into my set getting respectable laughs when it occurs to me, it's a wireless mic. I can leave the stage.
And that was my set. Wandering around the room talking to kids and making jokes where I could. As soon as I was in the crowd though, they came together. Suddenly it wasn't a bunch of people scattered around a room, it was a crowd focused as I moved threw it asking them what they were studying.
At one point, a kid came in talking on his iPhone, hood up and holding a churro. You know, a long thin Mexican pastry covered in brown sugar. If ever there was a poster child for the modern American stonner, he was it. I just walked over to him microphone in hand and this kid started freaking out. At no time did I really think I would get my ass kicked, but I am always amazed at how thin the skin is of some people. Look, I am just a smart ass. Thats all. A professional class clown who will make fun of you, but never insult you. It is always in good fun. Unless your a straight up ass hole who deserves to be made fun of.
He was a straight up ass hole who deserved to be made fun of.
When he left, and of course he had to go because his ego had now been publicly bruised, he threw his cafeteria tray and stormed out.
How can you be so angry when you have 18 inches of sugary goodness in your hand?
Luckily, the crowd was with me the whole time. In fact, this is a situation I am sometimes grateful for.
Let me explain.
I saw an old world war two movie once. I can't remember the name of it. The movie takes places aboard an old battle ship. They have been at sea for a long time now. Their last enemy encounter left them with a lot of damage to the ship and to the crews confidence.
Stay with me here, I am getting to the point.
In deep water with nothing but time on their hands, the Captain orders his engineers to build him a sail boat.
Thats exactly what the crew said too. First they were shocked, then they were pissed. But a funny thing happened. Everyone aboard that ship was united. First they hated the Captain, but as the small sail boat came together, it became a point of pride for the entire crew. And an object to focus them all.
I remember thinking as a kid, what a smart thing that dude pulled off! At one point, one of his junior officers even comes to him and in confidence tells the Captain that everyone in the crew is pretty angry at him. The Captain just smiles and says, "Then they are all together."
This angry stonner was this shows sail boat.
Now the crowd had a point to draw them together on. When ever I referenced the kid latter in the show as an ass hole, the crowd would always applaud loudly.
We had something in common, something shared and experienced together. Thats what I always hope to achieve in my show; to create a common experience with strangers.
OK, in some ways it is manipulation, but thats all performance is about anyway. A show that is just sitting there can sometimes be saved with one ass hole saying something.
I hate to admit that, but every comic knows this is true. A heckler yells something out and you reply with a perfectly timed on the spot comeback and suddenly everyone is behind you.
I have had passionate debates about this with other comics. There is always that group that looks down on riffing and thinks if your material cant grab them, then the problem is you.
Sure. Sometimes sticking with your act is the way to go. I actually do have a lot of good jokes by the way. But what I have that they do not have is a well honed plan B. Because what do you do if your well rehearsed and tightly written act is getting nothing?
Whatever is going to happen is going to happen and I will just let it happen.
If I had just a touch more evil in me, I would of been a con-man.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Virtual Theft

A Dutch Teenager has been arrested for stealing virtual furniture from a virtual room in a 3D on line social networking site. The furniture was purchased with real money, so the removal of the furniture constitutes theft. It's still in the same Virtual hotel, he just moved it to a different room.
Oh how I love this story!
Somebody spent "real" money too. About $8,000 American! The 17 year old kid accused of stealing the virtual furniture used a fake site to get access codes and passwords from people and then helped himself to furniture he liked for his own room.
It's a virtual hotel named Habbo. Think of it as Myspace with a view.
If you are going to steal something, don't leave it in the same "virtual" building you stole it from.
It's hard to say who is more dumb, the guy who stole eight grand worth of virtual furniture or the guy who spent eight grand on virtual furniture.

What is the value of an object that you can never touch and does not exist in our world? I guess it's whatever a majority of people says it's worth. Do you put the kid in a virtual jail now?
I think the person who has more to answer for is the person who spent so much money on something thats completely useless. You couldn't find a better use for eight grand?
I wonder if they thought of opening a virtual homeless shelter? Do we need those yet? How sad is that, your not even real and your homeless?

I think I just figured out who the biggest looser in all this is, the people who ran the site and called the cops. If you know the fake furniture is still inside the fake hotel, then can't you just move the fake shit back? I know the money is real. That seems funny to say, because I bet no cash really changed hands. It was all just ones and zeros floating threw the ether on a stream of electrons. Ones and zeros in the bank and ones and zeros that made the furniture.
Hard to know who I should be pulling for on this one. All I know is, if your room got jacked for eight grand worth of stuff and it's fake, you have real troubles.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dear Democrats. Fucking do something!

"The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it's acting like a teenager with a new credit card."
President Bush, on vetoing a spending measure for labor and health programs.

Dear Democrats,
Please stop acting like uninformed fools that are afraid to disagree passionately with the stuttering born again monkey currently in the White House. Either the Republicans have photographs of every Democrat in bed with a goat, or Democrats are being condescending if they think an intelligent argument will not be understood by the people who put them in office. Oh and by the way, you were not put into Congress to watch over the bottom line. You were elected for one reason; stop the Iraq war.
I know the president is out of touch, but if you do not understand this, you too will be replaced.
You don't have to fall to the White Houses level of public discourse, but if one of you will not get off your ass and reply intelligently and compassionately why everything in this latest quote is wrong, I swear to God my head is going to pop off!
Here's what you do.
Take this down to your nearest Kinko's and have it blown up on a giant poster board.
Call a press conference on the gates just outside the White House.
Hold that sentence up for all to see and then break it down.
Look, I will even write the speech for you.

"Mr. President. You vetoed a program for uninsured children in America and called that fiscally responsible. At the same time you ask us for 30 Billion dollars more to keep a war going that was started with a lie, grossly mismanaged and seems designed to never end.
A majority of Iraqi citizens do not want us there.
A majority of Americans do not want us there.
It was that majority that elected us to congress. The majority of Americans that want us to stop this war of choice.
You are the first president in history to not raise taxes during war to pay for it.
You are also the first president in history to give a tax cut during war time.
The wealthiest 1% of Americans now pays less taxes under your administration and the middle class pays more! That is why we want to extend coverage to the millions of uninsured kids whose parents both work and still cannot afford basic health care.
Today we learned this war will cost America one trillion dollars.
For a war where Osama hides in a country you call an ally.
For a war started under false pretenses and fear.
For a war that seems designed to make your friends rich.
Mr. President, to call a majority of Americans fiscally irresponsible for wanting to take care of their kids when you ask for more money that this country will have to borrow is insane.
That is the only fair word to use in response to your words today; insane.
Every dollar that is used to fund this war is borrowed from another country. Not only has 7 years of war made us less safe in the future, but it has made the value of the once mighty American dollar weak.
You sir, are the one using the countries credit card to fund a failed strategy at the expense of our children's health.
Let no one take these words and twist there meaning. No one wants a terrorist attack in this country again. Of the trillion dollars spent on your war against terrorism, only 2% has gone for security upgrades recommended by Homeland Security.
Even less than that has been set aside to help with the veterans of this war. In fact, last year you cut the budget for veterans programs.
I do not know about you, but I believe a majority of Americans wants to continue to support our troops when they return home, not with hollow words, but with real help and real services. What do we tell a 22 year old man who lost a limb in service of his country? It is not fiscally responsible for us to pay for your surgeries?
Either continue to make war on an enemy that can never hold ground in this country or set up bases, or deprive our people of the most basic things promised to us in the constitution; Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Thank You.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I arrived at the San Francisco Airport by 8AM for a noon flight to Tokyo, and then onto the island of Okinawa. Well, the check engine light came on and the plane we were suppose to take wont be here till 5PM. You ever try to kill time in an airport? There is not much to do and even less you can afford. I ended up going back into the city where I saw an afternoon showing of the Simpson's Movie. I was the only one in the theater. It made me oddly self-consciences about laughing out loud. Like someone was going to walk in and look at me. "Really? That's what you found funny?"
Luckily, I down loaded the entire season of the short lived 70's Sci-Fi series, Logan's Run. Based on the movie of the same name, it was the classic story of a society gone horribly wrong after a world wide war with ray guns and feathered hair. Even by 70's standards the special effects were awful and most of the stories revolved around pretty standard ideas. Yet, I love it. I love to see what the 1970's thought the future might look like. Turns out, they thought it would look pretty much like a modern home of that era; lots of shinny formed plastic chairs, shag carpeting and modular furniture. Computers were still large ungainly things covered with lots of lights that blink in random patterns. It's the clothes that are always the funniest. At some point in our future history, almost every movie of the future assumes we will all shed our blue jeans and tennis shoes in favor of shimmering robes. Gaudy, bright and oddly lacking in sexuality, these seem to be the uniform of someday. It will take a world wide holocaust to get us into these things.
So, I spent a few hours with my MacBook on my knees watching bad 70's Sci-Fi.
Eventually, we board the plane. The first hint that I was leaving America came at this time. When they called out for us to board, people got up and rushed for the front of the line. Because of the way the chairs in the waiting area are situated, it was impossible to form a single line at the gate. We all sorta bunched together near the velvet ropes. I assumed we would all stand there jossling for position to get on the plane. Nope. Most of these passengers were Japanese. Quietly and with an invisible efficiently, one by one we walked threw the opening and onto the plane. Amazing!
When we land, there is a young man waiting for me. I know this cause I can identify my name on the large printed card he is holding among all the other words written in Blade Runner font. He apologizes for the delay and explains what they have done to get me onto my final destination. He is cordial to the extreme. What they have done is get me a room at the other airport in Tokyo. I just have to ride a bus for an hour to get there and then leave from that airport in the morning. I am tired. Yet the idea of riding a bus now is kind of cool. I feel like I will get to see the country a little bit at the street level.
Everything is the same but different. Guard rails, light poles, the color of the road signs; it is all familiar. I can't read anything or understand the conversations around me, but I can identify what things are. As we get onto the highway, I feel this odd sensation that I should be more excited. I am in Japan, after all! Yet, I am tired and need to peel off my clothes and shower. It is 5 in the AM by my time, but just before 9 at night by local time. My head is a little spun. I start watching the brightly lit neon names of hotels go by in the bus window. I can see cars passing us and all seems mundane. That's when I get my first little rush of appreciation for where I am. This is Japan! A whole other country. All I have to guide me onto my evenings rest in a ticket stub with a hand written name of where to get off. It's oddly exciting! I don't have a clue where I am or even where I am going. But I am some place else. Some place distant and exotic just by the fact that this is not America.
Eventually we come into the outskirts of Tokyo. On both sides of the highway, huge apartment buildings rise like massive blocks riddled with windows and lights. The scale of these buildings dwarf any single city block in New York. These structures are giant uniform living quarters for the millions of people who live here. There is not one or two of these buildings either, there every where! Lit up like slices of space ships from Star Wars, they are the landscape. Even though everything is familiar, I start to notice the lack of general disorder. No graffiti on the over head bridges. No broken down cars on the side of the road. No dirt on the floors of the airport. Not a single light burned out. The whole country starts to remind me of Logan's Run. That utopia of a perfect city under domes.
There is an order to things here. It makes me wonder if all this politeness masks something darker. My good old fashioned American cynicism is showing.
I spend a wrestles night tossing and turning worried if I will actually get to this gig. When morning comes, I am anything but rested, but eager to be on my way. Maybe it's the lack of sleep or the worry that I am not going to get there on time, but standing in line at the airport in Tokyo, it suddenly hits me; this is farther away from anything and everything I have ever been in my life. There is a quick sense of panic that swims up from the back of my mind and does a belly flop in the center of my chest. I take a few deep breaths but the realization coalesces into the knowledge that here; I am an alien. I am alone on the other side of the globe. One day out of the states and I am feeling more different that at any other time in my life. For all the times I felt isolated, America was still a place I understood. There is no wi-fi access in the Airport. My cell phone is useless too. I am out of reach from anything familiar. It's scary. I have felt alone in life before, but this is real.
I take a few more deep breaths and remind myself that so far the Japanese have demonstrated an amazing politeness that has gotten me this far. Yet, I am struck by how absolutely alone I really am. Me being me, the floor falls out on these thoughts and what was a mildly uneasy feeling swiftly becomes something of a panic attack right there in line among a thousand Japanese. The only thing that prevents this from happening is something the Japanese culture can appreciate; embarrassment. I have this fear of being the ugly American in any way. Surely falling to the ground and clutching my chest as I wet myself would do nothing to improve our image abroad. On the flight from SF, there was an American guy behind me. When the smiling flight attendant ask him to put the empty seat beside him back in the upright position, he said, "Whats the difference? I'm not using it."
She smiled again and he eventually complied. But I sat there thinking, just for once in your life, do what your asked like you have been asked a million times before on a million other flights and don't be a dick!
Part of my anxiety attack, and that's what were calling it now, is fueled by my lack of fuel; coffee. I would pay anything for a tall Starbucks coffee right now. I hate to admit that. Where are you corporate America when I need you most? Logos, brands, images; I know they are all signs, but for what? This is becoming a little like that Twilight Zone episode where the guy suddenly loses the ability to understand English. He cant read it or speak it or understand it spoken to him. That's what I am going through right now. A lot of the loneliness I felt as a kid was self induced. That's what finally made the anxiety attack subside. This knowledge that even here, I could make contact with my eyes and smile. In America, there was much I didn't agree with or like, but it was my culture. I spoke the language and knew the ways. Why couldn't I reach out to people? And with this thought came a series of others. The whole thing about back packing across a foreign land to find yourself, it made sense now. I use to think it was silly. But finding yourself by placing yourself in an alien culture to find out what is you and what is the environment you grew up with is valuable to know. Maybe there is no other way to get that information too. This is all great, but I also know that tonight I will have to stand in front of an audience and tell jokes I am really not connected to anymore. It's a shame, cause if I could stick with what is going on inside me right now, I might be able to go farther away than ever. Even on the plane, it was such a humbling feeling to look out the window and see nothing but miles of unbroken sea scratching the horizon. When I look out the windows on the other side of the plane, nothing but bright blue ovals. It is terrifying and strangely calming to realize the scale of the planet in relation to yourself. I could be swallowed whole out here and no one would ever know. The sea is so bright that even threw sun glasses I have to squint when I look at it.

I should be embracing the unique experience of coming to Okinawa, Japan. Instead, I am pissed off in my hotel room on base because I cant get on line. I tried to go for a walk off base, but 5 minutes after leaving the building I got caught in a down pour. I don't mean a nice summer shower, I mean I heard what sounded like a freight train behind me. When I turned to look I could see a thick dark curtain rushing up to me. In a second, I was drenched. My clothes felt like concrete against my skin. I turned around and started heading back to the hotel. My biggest fear at the moment was getting my passport and travel orders wet. We were told to have them with us at all times. The travel orders gave us access to the various bases spread around the island. Its basically just a piece of paper with a lot of bureaucratic nonsense on them. If I lost those or damaged them in any way, I was screwed. So I rushed back my room content with the idea of wasting time on the Internet till the sun broke threw again and I would be daring enough to attempt another solo excursion. I cant see coming all the way to this place and staying inside the whole time. But I am starting to fear exactly that. I am also starting to think this was a huge disaster. Allow me to explain.
I was met at the airport by a guy about my age whose eyes are set to far a part in his head and has a slight Tennessee twang in his words. Nice enough and charming in a really creepy way, he gave me the "Rules we need to cover" as we walked toward the van.
"Do you make fun of Bush in your act at all?"
Well, yes, but on this trip no. I am not a moron. I am not going to be on a base with 20 year old drunk guys who have been trained in combat. But that wasn't the most interesting question he had for me.
"Do you use the N-word much in your act?"
What an odd question.
"Much? How about never. I think one time might be to many."
"You cant drink on stage either."
"Well, I don't drink and I am not a racist, so I guess it will work out then."
At this I laughed hoping to lighten the mood. Who the hell has been out here on these trips? Michael Richard's?
I ask him how long he has been out here.
"1o years."
Wow! That's amazing. To be an American so far from home that long has to be interesting. I pepper him with questions about cultural and emotional differences that he largely shrugs off. However, when I ask him if he missed America in anyway, he says, "What, crime ignorant people and bad schools for my daughter? Not at all."
I nod my head in agreement. Then he follows up with this statement as he eye balls a girl waiting to the cross the street.
"I'll tell you this, the women over here are built for fun."
It's not that he says this in any particular creepy way, it's the way he is looking at the young girl. Hey, I like girls to. Young and hot and Asian, hell yes! But there is a special way he looks at this girl that makes a light go off in the back of my mind somewhere. A perv alert is blinking red. Far be it for me to judge any man and his kinks. God knows I have more than my share of them. But this isn't just looking. I know instantly that he is making that statement from experience.
I think he catches me judging him a little and drops it.
The drive threw the city is fascinating to me. Again, everything is familiar; sidewalks are sidewalks, street lights are street lights, cars are cars. But I know I am else where. Not just because the signs are in another language, but there is a subtle difference to everything. The smell of the air and the flavors of even familiar foods are different. The architecture is of course different too. Everything is made out of concert. I would think that would be ugly, but there is a weathered almost pleasant charm to the square buildings. Later when we drive around the island, you can see how rural it still is. The narrow streets wind around the low hills and past squat buildings with lanterns hung outside. I am almost embarrassed to say this, but my first thought is how much it reminds me of the anime I have seen. There are also vending machines everywhere. Bright square boxes that are clean and in perfect repair are on almost every corner in front of buildings that sometimes look abandoned. I wonder where these machines are plugged in or why they are not damaged in anyway.
Then there is graffiti. The farther away you get the more things are the same. Just like in the states, as everyone calls America here, I cant read this graffiti either. Mostly what gets me is that I am someplace else. There is something in knowing that. Something I find profoundly cool. No matter that I don't understand much or that my guide is a little strange, I am not in America and I find this incredible. Not in a fuck the states sort of way, but in a curious way. What is the rest of the planet about? Sadly, the more I see and experience out here, I realize just how much of an empire we are. Its not just the fast food places we drag with us into seemingly every corner of the globe, its the attitude that comes with it. We expect to be welcomed. We expect for them to know English. We expect them to do the work of cleaning up after us.
When we drive to the base where the show where will be, I meet the other comic, Dean and the event coordinator, Jasmine who I will be seeing all this week. Dean's act consists mostly of setting up jokes with old phrases like, Guys, let me give you some advice on women. Or, the ever present and eternally hacky; Ladies, you know that's true! Then its all about farting during sex or him humping the air in front of him to make his point. But they also laugh hard at this shit. I mean hard. The club we are performing in might as well be a Fridays back home. We are in the middle of the deep blue Pacific where plants blossom from rocks and the humidity is perfect to keep things a live. But here, we are surrounded by plastic plants. Faded, burnt and dust covered plastic plants. When I got off the plane here, the glass walk way from plane to lobby was lined with rows of orchids. It makes for a perfect hot house. There are little plants everywhere in Japan. It is a nice touch. But once your on base, its pure America baby! Fake plastic leaves, and beat up chairs around a small dance floor and a stage carpeted with a oatmeal colored rug that bares all the scars of every dropped cigarette and spilled beer it has ever had to absorb. It is a supremely depressing moment to see the venue. I am told it will be one of the better venues on this tour.
God help me.
I go first. Still jet lagged and now with a full meal in my belly, I am less than ready to stand on stage for 45 minutes and scream jokes. But, it is what I signed up to do. As soon as say I am from San Francisco, a guy shouts out fag. I so don't want to deal with this. And of course, when I go up there, that's exactly what it is. I might as well be in fucking Modesto. The crowd is nothing but young drunk idiots whose patriotic beliefs are about as well thought out as the common pick up truck commercial. They are all so young too! It catches me a little off guard. I realize I am almost 40 now, but every single guy in the place has a baby face. Its striking to consider that this is also what the men in Iraq must look like. But we are not in Iraq. We are on a Pacific island paradise and this is a group of young, dumb drunk kids that I might deal with at any shitty one nighter back in the states. I go into material but anything that requires them to logically make the jump to the punch line or has any bit of subtly to it is completely lost on them. I try to talk to them but for military men, they are amazingly thin skinned. So much for being playful. Its about 25 minutes in when I realize, I am dead in the water. I really don't have that many dick jokes and frankly this is a bad crowd any way you look at it. I ask them what I should see before I leave Okinawa. This is always a fascinating question for me. The response some people will give you is the boring, depends on what you want to see. Or, you get the list of attractions or in this case, you get the entire room shouting, "Banana lady!"
I was ready for this.
Earlier in the day, the Banana lady was explained to me. She is an older woman who takes a banana up her vagina and cuts it. She can also make change with it and shoot ping pong balls across the room. You know, authentic island stuff.
This is the crowd I am now telling jokes to. Its not like I was doing philosophy 101 up there, but I might as well have been. So, I talk about the banana lady and get my first big round of laughter. And this is when it occurs to me that at the end of this week I am going to hate myself for what I will need to do on stage to survive.
Tonight, I go second. That worries me, because I have to follow farting while you fuck jokes. I am good, but it doesn't seem that good is what you need to make this work out here. It also strikes me as embarrassing. Walking threw the club picking up empty glasses and keeping things clean are locals. This is what they base their judgment of America on. Not the constitution or some vague idea of freedom that in the presidents mouth sounds dirty as he stumbles through another lame speech, its this; Drunk 20 year old's yelling about the banana lady. We are latter day Romans stationing our legions in the far flung regions of the globe for all those just in case scenarios that makes us so unpopular with the world. And these are our ambassadors. These kids yelling about a woman who takes fruit up her snatch.
I am being paid pretty good money to be here. Your tax dollars have been spent so I can travel to a distant base in our crumbling empire to tell dick jokes to troops so they know we respect the difficult job they are doing in defending our freedom. It says that in my travel orders packet so I know what my job is. The whole thing strikes me as utterly preposterous. I crossed an ocean, several time zones, and had what amounted to a minor existential break down in one airport and now, whatever artistic integrity I thought I still might have will have to be thrown out the window if I don't want to be booed off stage or worse.
At one point a guy in complete dessert camo yells out that northern California sucks. Were half way across the planet and your still holding onto that? I thought we were all American anyway? Its the self destruct mechanism in the human condition. That need to define ones self in a smaller and smaller ever more exclusive group. There is something else too. The lack of curiosity in your surroundings. When I ask about the islands religion, they tell me you can go to any kind of church here. But that's not what I mean. What about the local beliefs? I am met with blank stares. It only takes me 5 minutes of reading in the welcome to Okinawa in room magazine to learn a little about the ancestors worship and shinto beliefs. You can see tombs all over the island. Some of them are just off base or scattered in the most unlikely of locations, But you cant miss them. When I ask about them, it's the same awkward pause in conversation before someone proudly says, I dont know. I find this amazing. I ask our sound man for the week and creepy dude, about a temple we pass. He shrugs his shoulders. He has lived here ten years. Ten years and he never once thought about these tiny structures and what they mean? More than anything, this is what dooms our empire. Even the Romans knew to respect the local customs. It was an insurance policy against uprising. But here in the far flung island of okinawa, the American troops dont seem much interested in knowing anything about the island.
We revel in our ignorance too. There is a traditional dance festival here called eisa. Pronounced almost exactly as it seems, e-sa. To commemorate the local festival, the armed forces get involved to build community support by sponsoring events. Its an outreach to the community that eyes the military with skepticism. The headline in the Local Stars and stripes magazine reads, Eisa Small World After All.
You can almost hear the sound of a gong in the back ground as you read the play on words headline.
Since the internet is down, I watch TV. It is the official armed forces network. Truly bizarre in its programing choices, you can see the ABC evening news followed by Sesame Street episodes. Then theres the commercials. Aparently, your not suppose to shake a baby. Its a mixture of public services announcements and propaganda.
Anyway, we have to leave early for the show tonight because we have to stop at a store and pick up supplies. A typhoon is coming and if the wind blows above 50 MPH, the base gets locked down. Sweet! I crossed the globe to be stuck in a room with no connection to the outside world as the sea tries to smash its way threw my window! After last nights show, I wouldnt mind that actually.

A completely diffrent expcience. The show its self was OK. Not a performnce I would brag about, but I did good and they had fun. They came up to me afterwards and told me so. One after the other lined up and said they had fun and that I was funny. I have a tendcy to blow of comlmients or to just drain them of any real sincearity. These guys meant it. Talking to the mager of the club afterwards, he said how good it was to see these guys happy. A lot of them had just come back from Iraq. The people on base who didnt go, were working double shifts. I never realy thought about it. I dont like the war or agree with anything associated with it, but I can clearly see that these guys enjoy what they do. I get that. I get that they are serious when they need to be and when I see them, they are blowing off steam. Tonight, I didnt worry so much about me having fun. It was more about them having fun. I did OK following fart jokes when you fuck. Better than OK. A young mexican guy kept shaking my hand and telling me I was the first white guy they laughed at.
I told him I will take word back to my people.
He was very grateful for the laughs. He couldnt stop shaking my hands. All of these guys were like that tonight. The manager of the club kept telling me how important this is for moral. It turns out, I am not just telling dirity jokes to drunk guys; I am boosting moral for people who have a very hard job. The more I thought about it, the more I felt bad about the first night. It's not like that show went bad really, its just that I delt with them more like I would in any shitty one nighter gig. These are diffrent. I now know that. Like a lot of things in life; it's not about me.
It has been raining off and on tonight. The wind has picked up. No matter what, I am taking a cab down town tomorow and see some of this place before it's gone.
I wake up around 9AM local time each day and switch on my computer to see if I can get on line. 9AM Okinawa, is 5PM back home. It is very disorienting to see the time in the upper right hand corner of my computer screen and reconcile it with the fact that I just woke up.
Getting on line is problamatic. The computer in the room works, but the connection to the base line is spotty at best. My computer has built in Wi-Fi, but the only way I can get it is if I place my computer near a corner of my bed. I dont know why it picks up a signal there, but it does. It fades in and out and I lose it on a regular basies, but I can read e-mails and occasionaly it holds long enough for me to send one out. I went walking in the town yesterday and seriously thought about buying a bike for 5,000 yen. Thats about $45.00. It might be worth it to ride around the island for the last few days.
I am tired. Not in the usual way, just tired of the shows. Last night was another great example of the conflicting nature of this tour. In front of me last night were 3 long tables of audience. One table listend and got the jokes. One table sat with arms folded and in my mind, refused to even try to have fun. Directly in front of me were the young guys. Drunk, loud and largely out of control, I spent 45 minutes fucking with them back. It gets old. As much as I enjoy being on stage and playing with the crowd, I feel like I am talking over idoits at times. But heres the thing and it repeated its self all week; after each show, these guys came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the show. Its classic. Often times hecklers will aproch you after shows completely ignorant of how disruptive they were to tell you how good you were. Its a little like the grafitti artist complmenting the builder on his wall. But this is diffrent. These guys are so ernest in their appreiation. They are truly happy that you came out here and they respect you all the more for giving them shit back. I spend another 20 minutes after each show just talking with these guys and listen to them. Its an odd feeling for me. Over and over every rank tells me how good the show was and how much they really like having us come on out and make them laugh. Then, the conversation shifts into the serious side. They explain to me how everyone is on edge about deployment. I feel odd cause, I dont get it. I dont undersatnd why anyone would join the millitary. I really dont. But I understand the need to test yourself and have pride in your life. That I get. And the more I listen to these guys one on one, The more I understand their motivation for joinging up. Its just about me telling dirity jokes to drunk crowds, its about giving some comfort to these guys. I can not pretend to agree with the war or completly get why someone would chose this life; but its not for me to get. It is their life and I am here to make it a little easier.
Saturday Nights show is the best one of the week. The crowd is large and rowdy, but they actually listen. I also figured out the best aproch for these shows as I watch Dean, destroy. I am the most nervous tonight than on any other night cause Dean is absoultly killing with his ussual brand of shit. His riffing is really good too. That worries me cause he is burning every member of the crowd close to the stage. Thats what makes me nervous. There is a competitve nature to being a comic too. He knows he is killing on stage right now and he knows I have to try and follow this. At the end of his set he closes on something I havent heard him do yet. Ussualy, he will end by saying something like "Dont do it for me, do it for your children cause they are the future." This craks me up cause he just spent 45 minutes calling people retards and doing jokes about farting while you fuck a chick. He never swears though. I imagine he takes some pride in this too, yet everything in his act is about sex or women. It strikes me as completely disingeniuos, but the crowd never fails to give him a huge round of appluse. Well, tonight he ends by telling them to call home cause the people they care about want to know their safe. He knows how important this is cause he lost his mother a year ago.
A second ago you were screaming a joke into the mic about men not being able to go all night. Whatever. Its calculated audience manipulation. More importantly, its designed to make it imposible for me to follow. That is exactly what I am thinking as I take the stage, but tonight, I am taking a diffrent approch. Tonight, I go up gun's blazing and open up on every pot joe I ever wrote. I end up killing every bit as hard as Dean, and I end up working the crowd deeper. That is always the thing I have. Where most comics have their canned resposnes, I am in the moment. When people yell out stuff, and they do, I give fast answers that kill. About half way threw my set I actually feel myself relax for the first time on stage since I got here.
We have been co-headlinning this tour. That means one night I go first and one night he goes first. It is impossible to forget this argangement. All you have to do is remember who went last the previous night. As the two of us climb back into the van, he says to me, "you know you go first tomorow night?"
Ah yes.
The Tour coridnators are two young girls who confess to me that as they are expossed to more and more comedy, they prefer the smarter stuff. I tell them that the danger in working these gigs is that they can posion you. Dean has been almost exclusivly working these military gigs. A mostly young male rowdy crowd that is drinking is not going to want to hear anything with subtluety. If you do any type of gig like these on a regular bassis, its going to ruin your act. Its discourageing. Truth is, the money is better than what you would make for a week in a club, but at the same time, these are some of the worse crowds to stand in front of. I feel guilty saying that, but it has nothing to do with my patriotism or the respect I have for these guys individualy; it's just a fact. It's frustrating. I wonder if I will ever get the exprcience of standing before a crowd that really gets me.
I am not eager to get home. And yet, I am done with all this new. When I get home, it is back to having to deal with all that needs to be delt with.
I could fall backwards or slump forward into middle age. I feel the weight ever more acutely as another birthday comes. A weight not of practical experience, but of regrets for a thousand little things and a precious few that all have names to match the eyes I can still recall. This is not growing up. This is growing old.
The missed chances, the bank account that is small, the places yet to visit; at some point all those things that still shimmered in the minds eye as someday, become a silent weight known only to yourself. That is both the source of their great weight and my only way to deal with it; silence. What ever secrets I thought only I would someday discover turned out to just be the residue of wishful thinking placed there by 38 years of summer movies. Day dreams. Thats what most of my life has been composed of. Quotes from movies and boyhood longings to have powers. These are the places I drew meaning from. Not the world around me or the people in it. Escape, imagination; these were the ways I avoided what came naturally to everyone else. When Yoda, stands in his little hut and answers the disembodied voice of Obi-wan-Konobie with the words, "...all his life looking at the horizon. Never his mind on where he was..." I felt those words deeply. It stung. Even then, I understood that whatever image I had of myself as fooling the system, it first required me to fool myself. Now when I think of those movies, I feel ashamed that whatever spiritual ideas I had back then came from a summer blockbuster. Such was the way for my generation though. I do not think that story is so uncommon. After all, the strict theology of being christian in the midwest offered none of the compassion nor adventure like the world I could almost will myself into. But all of that, all of the special effects wonder lust provided no practical training for what the world would place before me. I managed to survive as long as I did with unrealistic thinking so long because of the worlds enduring quality; indifference. It's not that people didn't care or couldn't see I needed something, it's just that I could not find the words to ask for their help.
My God, I have just looked back at this paragraph and it reads to me like a suicide note! All of this stuff, this great weight I refer to lays directly infront of me NOW. I can slump forward into middle age like a frog falling of a stump into a black water pond. Thats how it seems. The energy to resist this seems so impossible to muster. I guess first of all, I would have to care. And right now, even though I write these words while I am in Okinawa, Japan, my life seems incredibly empty. It seems as if no matter what I learn and how far forward I might come, in the end, I always fall back to this state. It wears me out. I have been broke, in love, happy, suicidal, depressed, exhilarated, sober, homeless and lonely. All in the space of this year. Tonight is the last night here and while I recognize it as one of the most amazing opportunities of my life; I feel removed from it by all those regrets I spoke of earlier. This is the weight that pulls me forward with all the grace of gravity acting on a bag of sand. I could spend the rest of my days slowly loosing myself in memories of what might have been. I have seen my genaration dissolve into drugs and DVD's till they are shells that answer to names. I have also seen others rise to places I so want to be and yet even they will not call themselves successful. So what is it? what is the big secret to this life of mine. Cause thats all I want. Perhaps that is selfish, but truth be told; I dont want the secret to life, I just want the secret to mine. Thats how I feel! Like I should know it by now. That desire to be special should have long ago left me as other childish things have. It feels very ironic to be mourning my youth at the same time I am realizing how much I have never grown up. But thats me. A middle age man with a middle aged man''s waist line and a heart that can no longer be entered. I cant be alone in this. Can I? I think it is a plague of our time. I think this longing for meaning and hope for some as of yet unknown thing only I can do, is the secret and great sadness of our time. Plato said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Maybe. But how do you turn it off? Sit-Com's have turned being to aware of yourself into entertainment. Lines from movies become the phrases we utter back and forth to each other cause we dont have any of our own thoughts to express. Has pop culture always been this intrusive? I dont know. I dont know if all of this rambling is even connected.
As I sit in my hotel room on base, I hear music outside. Like a mandolin or ukulele. I can hear a drum slow and deep over the sound of chanting too. When I look out the window, I can see a narrow road that winds up a hill. Hanging from poles every few feet are red lanterns. They weren't there the other day. Somethings going on. Some sort of festival. I walk outside and move toward it. I am curious about the lanterns, the music, the beauty of the scene. I'm curious, but you know what keeps me from walking over to the hill? Fear. I crossed the international date line, spent 13 hours in flight, made fun of marines back from Iraq, but it is my fear of somehow getting in trouble cause I dont know the language or the customs or the ettique that keeps me from walking up that hill. It didn't matter how far I came, that fear came with me. I recognize it. It was the reason I didn't tell girls things I desperately wanted to. It was the reason I didn't pick up the phone and speak to people who could help me with my career. Its the same brand of fear that lead directly to the weight of those regrets. In an instant, I see the whole God damn circle. All because of some Japanese laterns and weird music that got me out of my room before a show. But there it is; a stuningly simple little truth well worth the shitty crowds.