Friday, July 02, 2010

Among the Tea Party Faithful

The first sign of strangeness in Oroville was the name of a Taco place I saw on the side of the road. Joe Bob’s Taco’s. Joe Bob? That is not the name of someone I think of to make a good taco. A noose yes, but not a taco.

I am working the Gold Country Casino in Oroville, CA. it’s the sort of room where subtly goes to die. Actually, it’s the sort of room subtly would be called a fag, beat up and kicked out for starting a fight. Oh, that is the sign of a good show by the way, not having a fight start. Seriously. Afterward the guy who ran it said “Good show. No fights started.” Man, I guess I have higher expectations for shows. That explains why the bouncers outnumbered the “audience” I guess. The audience was composed of caricatures if you called a casting agent and asked for white trash spectators. I felt like the people in front of me kept thinking, this isn’t NASCAR! Now, I am not going for the cheap shot here when I tell you they were fat. It is the only way to reasonably describe them to you. It is the first thing you notice about the people in the casino. You can’t help notice it. They were either morbidly obese or rail thin. Seems like people picked their poisons to be either gravy or Meth. The five people in front of me were not only huge they were also a family. The Mom, smoking a cigarette from the comfort of her electric Lark didn’t so much as sit in the chair as kind of leak all around it. She no longer had a laugh like we might think of one so much as a cough that indicated laughter. Her daughter arrived late. I remember her entrance only because I was stunned at her size and ability to move so fast. A joke I have told for years suddenly took effort to remember because I could not take my eyes off her with the words, she is fucking huge going through my mind like the crawl at the bottom of cable news channels. I wanted to stop and just say those words. Not to be cruel or try to get a cheap laugh but I was so genuinely amazed. In talking to her I learned that her brother, had a bad knee from a childhood incident where they were riding bikes and she said the street was clear thereby leading him into traffic where he was hit by a car. I wasn’t performing in front of an audience. I was performing in front of a reality TV show!

I would say trying to get these people to laugh was like pulling teeth but that would imply they had any teeth left to pull. Everyone’s mouth lived by the same creed as Highlander; there can be only one! Again, I know it’s a cliché but I now know where that cliché went to settle down and raise horribly unfit children. I saw a baby that easily weighed 75 pounds already. It looked like a seal stuffed into a stroller. People would smile and I would notice a few teeth missing here, a dark corner of a mouth there and plenty of jagged grins. I’m sympathetic to this of course because of my own recent dental battles. Being on stage though I thought, there goes those jokes.

The “room” wasn’t separated from the casino either. It was wide open to the sounds of slot machines, ringing phones and even the PA system. I felt like I had to yell everything and when I did talk to them I couldn’t hear them. Being a poster child for ADD on stage in front of slacked jaw hillbillies where I couldn’t say most of the things going through my mind made for a very long 35 minutes. I think my biggest round of applause came from a joke about the evils of tofu. There’s a shocker! You mean you guys don’t like tofu? Another woman, huge said it tasted like a sponge. I couldn’t open my mouth and trust that the right thing would come out.

Here is the sad part. After my set I roamed around the Casino for a while. A few people who were in the show talked to me. What became clear to me was the mentality. This is Tea Party country, folks. Guns for everyone, keep the government out of my healthcare, Obama is going to turn us into Nazi Germany and misspelled protest signs for all! I pointed out to one guy that he has no healthcare now. Making it more affordable to everyone and creating a climate for job growth does not lead to death camps. Besides, it was the republicans who just blocked even taking a vote on extending unemployment benefits. When you state something clearly without shouting do you know what answer you get?
Yeah, oh as in, shit maybe I have been voting, when I actually do vote against my own best interests.
Then there is the gun issue. Over and over I am told Obama wants to take away guns. Again a little fact goes a long way. One of the first bills he signed into law was making it legal for people to bring their guns into federal parks. Why you would need one I don’t really understand. Its not like a lot of drive bys occur in Yosemite. One of the guys says, “what about wild animal attacks?”
“I don’t know how many wild animal attacks happen every year in a place like Yosemite but lets be honest, from the look of most of you you’re not getting out of the car so I wouldn’t worry about that.”
Another one of these guys now gathered around me in a circle and sucking on a cigarette says, “I’ve seen animal planet! Those Black Bears can reach in your car window!”
There was something about the way he said black that was unsettling.
I said. “Dude, the only thing going through your car window you should worry about killing you is the shit you ordered at a drive-thru. You have better chance of dying from a lifetime of Big Mac’s than a bear attack.”
Luckily, they laugh. That’s the beauty of honest comedy. People laugh for two main reasons, it is funny or it’s the truth.

This entire evening was brought to you by melting pot irony. Here I am standing in front of a Indian Casino with out of work poor over weight white people who blame a black guy for all their problems as Mexicans handle all the work, Asians deal cards and a tribe rakes in the cash while they complain to me about not needing wanting to pay high taxes to support lazy people and healthcare they don't need between bouts of coughing fits from all the years of smoking.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life of a Comic part, Whatever

I did a gig in a barn. No really, I headlined a show in a barn. They stacked bales of hay to make bleachers for people to sit on. Before the people came in it looked something like an Aztec pyramid built by hillbillies or a massive white trash game of Tetris. The crowd was all from Point Reyes, Ca. If you know west Marin then you know the people there are neither white trash or Hillbillies but instead some sort of hybrid between farmer, activist, liberal and hick by choice who enjoy their pot and wine. I’m pretty sure that’s what the 20-minute intermission was for, to let the crowd step outside the barn and get high. That’s what it smelled like anyway.

It was a benefit for a benefit for a benefit. Let me explain. They wanted to raise money for schools in the area so they thought, let’s put on a concert! Well, that costs money so they put on a benefit to raise money for that. That’s where the comics enter into this. If you want to know the food chain of artists its right there. The only artists broker than musicians willing to work cheap are comics. I wonder if that means they had a benefit to pay us with poets earlier in the month?

In typical benefit show tradition the show was overbooked. It started at 8PM and I didn’t set foot on stage until 11PM. Actually, I went up after the intermission where everyone got high followed by a 3 women burlesque group with fake mustaches glued onto their faces you might of missed checking out their other attributes, a raffle where the deaf women in the front row won free tickets to the concert, another comic and then finally me. Mind you, this was after the first half of the show with three comics already performing. By the time I got to the crowd they were tired, getting loud and most definitely ready to stumble home. Within 10 minutes of being on stage a woman offered me evening lodging in her truck with a dog, a woman applauded for me being adopted and a man far up in the hay bleachers wanted to inform me of the 4th of July parade in another town. The table of four people up front and at my stage right was faced entirely toward the wall. There were bags of animal feed staked above me and because it is California the “barn” not only had Tibetan prayer flags hanging from the rafters but it also had a café, yoga studio and art gallery attached to it too.

Inside a barn with drunk on wine high off weed well-meaning liberals, ballerina and high heel clad dancers with mustaches I performed because God damn it; it’s for the children.

At the start of June I performed outside at a winery to people either spread out on a lawn or seated in plastic lawn chairs. You would think being June and being in the East Bay it would be warm. Nope. I live by the beach in San Francisco. The beach in San Francisco is not the Bay Watch bikini and babes type of California everyone thinks of who doesn’t live here and knows the truth; it’s cloudy, cold and frequently the last stop anyone needs to be pushed over the edge before going through with their suicide plans. On this day a place that routinely has temperatures 20 to 30 degrees warmer than in the city had worse weather than down by the beach. I ended up going back to my car and getting my emergency change a flat by the side of the road Vietnam style jacket and black North Face beanie. In other words, I looked like the guy you would never pick up hitch hiking. The “green room” for the comics was located in a storeroom for the winery. It held giant casks of wine, boxes of their bottles awaiting shipping on pallets and a few bottles for our enjoyment. At some point for reasons that were never exactly made clear to me a group of underage cheer leaders walked in the room too. I guess they were helping out on this benefit as well. Great, wine and cheerleaders two things I can’t have anymore in life!

When I was in Reno working the Catch a Rising Star comedy club inside the Silver Legacy Casino, I had more than a few nights where I wished I had on film. The week started with the host, a guy who sat behind a piano and his usual gig was performing in an Abba tribute band introduced me instead of the feature act. It was surreal to hear my credits and then a black guy walks on stage. After his set when it was actually my time to be introduced the host prefaced my intro by saying, are you ready for the white portion of the show? I ended up riffing on this for a while and little did I know this would set the tone for the week. When I made fun of Reno and the generally sad condition of the place economically and socially judging from the homeless people, thriving pawnshops and more casinos closed than open a proud citizen in the audience repeatedly said, “I’ve been to Cairo!”

What did this mean? It took me about 15 minuets to figure it out but her logic went something like this, I had said earlier I was from Illinois. Illinois has a town named Cairo that is apparently a shit hole far worse, in her opinion than Reno and since I had insulted her town she was now insulting me with the only bad place she knew of in my home state. Oh, and she was a teacher. Her class must be getting some really messed up geography lessons from her.

So goes the life of a comedian.