Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Starbucks, Christians and Free Speech

Let me start this blog by saying, I love Starbucks. I know, I know, I'm a socially responsible left of Jesus liberal and I am professing my love for a corporation. To be an American who tries to put their ideals into action means you have to live with a certain amount of self hypocrisy. We all have what we politely describe as, guilty pleasures or, I know I shouldn't but I like it, habits. Civilization depends on it. I know friends who wear fur, but since they got it in a second hand store, thats OK. Some still smoke cigarettes, but its American Spirit brand, so somehow that makes it more acceptable to them.

My indulgence happens to be Starbucks. They make a good cup of coffee. More importantly, they allow me to make several minor choices at the cash register while people behind me get exasperated because I am taking my time doing so. In a world I scarcely understand anymore Starbucks gives me two things I desperately need to start my day; a sense that I can control something and caffeine.

When people tell me that supporting a corporation leaves them with a bad taste in their mouths I simply say, then your company doesn't make gingerbread lattes.

Do you know the secret to being a pretty good comic? It's not having a filter. We are trained since birth to not say what we are thinking. Lawyers make a living hiding intentions behind phrases. Poets convey meaning by coming at it sideways and anyone whose ever sat in a cubicle knows how often they have to swallow their words. I don't have a filter. It's what makes me a good comic but a lousy boyfriend. It also produces what can best be described as sit-com moments. I don't know why this stuff happens to me in Starbucks, but it happens to me there a lot. A stranger says something, other people look sheepishly at their feet because it was ignorant, hateful or just wrong, and before I realize what is happening, I’ve blurted something out that is causing some people to slap me on my back as they say, I wish I had said that, and others to look at me with undiluted hate steaming from their eyes. Partly, its just the hyper polarized, political mess of a country we all live in now. That, and as I’ve explained, I have no filter. I like to think of it as an allergic reaction to stupidity, speaking before thinking or, my favorite description, morally outraged turrets. Being in line at Starbucks can be a lot like being on Facebook, too. You interact with people who have different opinions you might not ordinarily interact with and occasionally, they poke you. I poke back.

A few months ago I was in Sacramento, CA. In line, in front of me, two guys were talking loudly. They looked like construction workers. One of them kept repeating a sentence over and over. "Can you believe it? A lazy fucking Mexican took my job!" it didn't matter that most people in the place were nervously avoiding eye contact, they kept looking around for people to agree with them. No one was. Finally, the guy whose been saying this turns to me and repeats it, "a lazy fucking Mexican took my job." I suppose he thought I should say something like, I can’t believe it!

Instead, I said "How good could you have been at your job if a lazy guy could replace you?"

That earned me my first round of applause at a Starbucks at a free coffee from the Hispanic guy working the cash register after they kicked out the two guys.

Score one for me.

Neutralizing ignorant bullies with comedic logic is something I have a black belt in.

Today, this happened to me in line at a Starbucks. Its Sunday before noon so the line is long. There is a large group of people waiting for their drinks as the Christmas music blares down on us all. In front of me are two well dressed woman in their early fifties. Leather boots, expensive hand bags and huge sun glasses on, they talk loudly to themselves. They have just come from church. They are talking about the sermon, Newt Gingrich and who Jesus would endorse if he could.

I am biting my tongue.

It's only when they get to the register that I notice the girl behind it is Muslim. I am presuming this because she is wearing a scarf on her head and she peers out at the two woman with large brown eyes and a dark face. One of the woman orders a drink and then says, " ...can I also get one of those low fat turkey bacon things?" The girl informs her they are out. "Are you just saying that because you don't want to touch bacon?"

Accept for the song, Here Comes Santa Clause, the room goes quiet. The woman laughs one of those socially awkward laughs and says, "I was just joking, dear."

Sure she was.

I haven't had my coffee yet and I am just not going to get into it with two gold plated crucifix wearing cougars. And then, like so many other times, I hear something that causes me to speak before thinking. The two of them are speaking to each other again and I hear "...the republican party IS the party of Jesus."

I can’t help it anymore.

"Sure, the republican party is the party of Jesus if Jesus was a fat white CEO of a company taking government contracts to build bombs preaching about family values with his third wife standing next to him."

Incredulous and stammering, before the woman responds, the Muslim girl leans on the counter and says, "your coffee is free today, sir."

Score another one for me.

Now comes the aftermath. The drama of petty people whose egos have been dented publicly is practically our national entertainment these days. The women demanded to speak to the manager. Other customers rise to my defense. Others shake their heads at me. The woman, composed now and clutching her latte, demand I apologize for Christian bashing. I point out that I am not Christian bashing, I am, in fact, ignorance bashing. That goes over as well as you might think it would go over with them. Their voices raise. I smirk, and like playing their part in a script I’ve read a hundred times before, the woman says something like, you want to love people who will blow up your children and ruin this country, thats fine, but this is a Christian nation! I fire back with something like, its a nation of laws founded by people who made a separation between church and state. If you want to live in a country that has one religion you are welcome to but I doubt they will let you dress like a mermaid in heat or drive!

Now comes laughter, raised eye browns and the intake of shocked breath before they storm out. Mermaids in heat? I don’t know what that meant either but it put them over the top.

Lets review what might of missed your attention and certainly missed the two women’s.

  1. If its Turkey Bacon, its not made of pork. Its made of Turkey. A Muslim can touch it.
  2. At a time when religion and politics were the same thing, Jesus was killed for disagreeing with both. I doubt he would endorse a political party that just raised taxes on the poor but refuses to consider raising taxes on millionaires no matter how many times they invoke his name.
  3. Newt cheated on his wife while trying to get President Clinton fired for doing the same thing. That should be all anyone has to say to end his run for the White House.
  4. OK, he never took government money to build bombs. I was speaking pre-caffeine rhetorically.
  5. Dressing like Lindsay Lohans mother and coming from Church feels a little off to me.
  6. Muslim women are free to be wage slaves in America just like anyone else!

Thus concludes another thrilling adventure in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of coffee with a little bit of conversation. I'm not even going to go into what happened when I posted this on Facebook.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry/Happy Christmas/Holidays~

There is a war against Christmas. It's being waged mostly by the people who claim there is a war against Christmas. The AFA or, American Family Association runs a website, naughty and nice, that helps good Christians buy their Christmas presents from pro-Christmas companies. Companies that say merry Christmas in their ads get a green light. Companies that use Christmas in some of their ads get a yellow light and companies that use the term, happy holidays instead of mentioning Christmas, get a red light. No surprise that the AFA is at the top of the green light list with their on line store.

Isn't this beautiful? This year when you buy a present for the holiday named after a man who forsake all worldly possessions, you can do so at companies completely using his name to sell you stuff! Way to miss your own point that the message of Christmas is being drowned out by commerce.

Then again, maybe it was always this way. Even the three wise man showed up to Jesus's birth with gifts. Two of them had to be pissed when they found out that one of them bought gold when the other two had incense and body oil. Actually, for wise men, I can't think of three worse gifts for a baby. Maybe the term "wise men" was the first instance of the bible trying to be sarcastic. Maybe it's also the answer to Jesus and his selfless ways, too. Of course he could preach love, tolerance and embrace poverty when he had been given gold as a baby. Jesus was just another trust fund kid preaching against capitalism. Dirty hippy!

How did the modern republican party get to claim Jesus anyway? Seriously. How do fat old white dudes on their third marriage and a voting record against any humane public service for the least among us get to say anything as stupid as, there is a war against Christmas, when their entire public service has been a war against any of Jesus's teachings? If you are wearing a two thousand dollar gold cross around your neck, you don't get it.

Rick Perry released a YouTube ad where he starts out saying he isn't embarrassed to be a Christian. Why would anyone? I mean, Jesus was a man who preached love and tolerance. But then Rick follows that statement up with this nugget of compassionate genius "You don't have to be in the pew every Sunday to see that something is wrong with our country when gays can openly serve in the military but our children can't openly celebrate Christmas."
What. The. Fuck?
Singling out people for the way they are is in the Bible, but it was the Romans. I'm pretty sure that Jesus would be totally cool with gay people. Why? Because they are persecuted people. I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't be for the military. Why? Because he was for peace. Why are conservatives so afraid of gays? If gay people are so terrifying to them then we should just have an all gay military. Since the countries we invade seem to be as homophobic as the generals in the military, this should make them surrender before we send the "boys" in. And, we don't have to call it an invasion or regime change. We simply call it redecorating.

By the way, can someone show me the kids who, in their own homes with their own parents, aren't being allowed to openly celebrate Christmas? Is Obama sending secret service agents out to bust kids who were found to have a few ounces of tinsel on them? Give me a break!

Are you telling me FOX NEWS would embrace Jesus if he showed up again? I'm sure they would rush to the side of a long haired, middle eastern guy wearing sandals and giving away free health care as he talks about the evils of money. Are you kidding me? They would charge him for the cost of wood before they crucified him again for being against every single concept their hate filled little world is built upon while telling us how much they love him but not his lifestyle. Its what they say about gays all the time, right?

Happy holidays, merry Christmas and whatever. If you are buying presents on a AFA approved website, you aren't a good Christian. A good capitalist, sure. Part of why happy holidays has become the greeting of choice is the ever changing demographics of America. We are, after all, a melting pot. There are plenty of people who don't celebrate Christmas. As much as FOX NEWS wants you to believe this was a nation founded by Christians on Christians ideals, it's a nation of laws that specifically put in place a separation of church and state. Google it, for Christ sake!

Most of the founding fathers were Deists, too. That's a whole other blog. Point is, happy holidays isn't a war against one religions holiday it is an acknowledgement that other people have other beliefs, too. Then again, what can you expect when most paintings, statues and images of Jesus are of a white guy who looks more at home in a early 90's band?

When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, you would see manger scenes everywhere. In front of banks, DMV's, police stations and movie theaters. They are still very popular in the Midwest. Out here, in California, you don't see them too often. I took a friend who is Indian to a Christmas lights display. These are very common out here. Basically, a park covers every bush, tree and shrub in lights. You drive through with the lights off on your car listening to Christmas music. Its drive through, Christmas!

They have candy canes, elves, Santa clause, reindeer and almost every variation on the Christmas theme you can imagine made with lights. She saw four snowmen, made up of lights wrapped around steel mesh, standing between two trees. "Is that a manger scene?" she asked half joking. How would she know? She has only heard about them. It's now become a running joke between us. We will be driving, she will point to a group of people and ask, "is that a manger scene?" I will look. "ah, no. That's a bus stop."

I have to admit that when I see a news story about a manger scene being removed, it makes me a little sad. Not because of any religious issues, I'm smart enough to know that the founding fathers viewed religion as a corrosive element in any free thinking society, but because it makes me think of being a kid. That's when Christmas had the power to mean something. Not because it was the birth of Jesus or I was going to get presents, it was, for lack of a more cynical description, the holiday cheer. People were nicer, lights hung everywhere and my family was together. If Christmas means anything in our culture right now it means black Sunday, cyber Monday and half off. That, truly is sad. Buying a present on credit for someone you feel you are obligated to buy something for at a pre-approved Christmas friendly website is about as far from holiday cheer as you can get. What modern Christians seem to be confused about most seems obvious to me; you can't chase profits and claim to follow the words of prophets at the same time. Considering the only time your boy Jesus lost his temper was about money, just whose side do you think he's on in this age of protesting?

Merry/Happy Christmas/Holidays~

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Open Mic Over Share

Lately, I've been returning to the open mics and loosely booked showcases to try out new stuff. I have found myself wondering if I have become a prudish old man or have younger comics just confused saying something shocking with being funny. Just to be clear; being dirty on stage is fine. It has to be funny first and then happens to be dirty. Not the other way around. Being dirty will produce a reaction but if laughter isn't in the top five responses, its not a joke; its a cry for help!

I closed a showcase recently where the preceding comics carpet-bombed the audience with jokes about jizz, rape, and pedophile jokes. What makes a comic think that after an audience hears 4 other comics bomb with their jizz, rape and pedophile jokes, he is going to get them with his jizz, rape and pedophile jokes? More to the point, if you are new and trying to get opening work, what club is going to want someone to open a show with that? Comics will say, "Louis C.K. does this kind of stuff!" Yes, he does. He also has 20 plus years of skill and rarely is dirty for the sake of being dirty. If a comic like Louis C.K. makes a jizz joke, it usually serves a wider purpose in some social commentary bit.

Then there is the conversation starter of, "No subject should be off-limits." I agree. However, putting all of the most challenging subjects into one seven minute set doesn't work either. A litany of porn, jacking-off, and "women are bitches" jokes isn't going to produce laughs when you are pushing buttons in the crowd. If the joke is about pushing those buttons, it actually stands a better chance of working than something that simple ends with your yelling, "jizz!"

I really do believe no subject is off limits. I also believe most comics don't approach difficult subjects correctly. A female comic asks me, "even rape?" Even rape. You can make a joke that makes fun of peoples attitudes about rape. You can use the word rape in a set up to something else. What you can't do is make light of rape. Besides, it is a loaded word. Bringing it up is bound to create an emotional reaction in more than a few women in the audience. This is a sad reality of society. Thats why young male comics throwing the word around should never be surprised when the audience doesn't go for their rape jokes.

No one gets into comedy to be told what to do. I'm not telling other comics what to do. The audience however, is. When a joke didn't work last year, last month, or last week, why are you still trying it? If a joke ends in a moan from the audience over and over again stop doing it. If you want to tell the audience about your drinking problem, porn addiction, or masturbation habits, go for it. It's your stage time. You just can't be surprised when the audience responds negatively. Then again, if the audience you're performing in front of is other comics waiting to go on after you at an open mic, this stuff is probably working. At a certain point in any comic's early development, shitty open mics where "anything goes" actually hurt. The goal isn't to get the loudest reaction at an open mic on a Tuesday night, the goal is to make a paid crowd laugh hard and often at a club or theatre that is paying you. Here is where the "sell-out" argument starts.

Selling out and getting work aren't the same things. When I work a club, the audience is coming to my home. I am allowed to do whatever I want. If I am working a private or corporate event, I am going to their home. I have to play by their rules if I want to be paid. Somewhere along the path to whatever career I have, I learned that an audience laughing at jizz jokes isn't usually the audience that will pay my bills. I also learned that what I wanted to talk about at 25 no longer interests me at 43. Besides, all jokes aren't created equal. Dick jokes are easy. They will almost always work. So when they don't work you really have to ask yourself whose fault that is. It's not the audience's.

A stand-up comic's job is to train the audience to see the world through his eyes. Jizz jokes might be part of the personal formula for finding out how to do that, but when so many people around you are shouting the identical punch line, you have to wonder just how unique your view is.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Puppet and a Fist: Open Mic Night

The only difference between people in Greyhound bus stations and people going up at comedy open mics is, the people at open mics want to be discovered. Often times they are just as crazy but they still want to be seen. I'm not going to lie. A bad open mic can be just as enjoyable for everything that goes wrong with at it as an open mic where everyone kills. Standing in back and burning karma by talking shit about what you're witnessing with a few other people can be a lot of fun. I know. I'm a bad person.

Rooster T. Feathers is a club I love. It also runs one of the last truly open Mic nights in a comedy club anywhere. There was a time when most clubs had an open Mic night. Most have stopped, a few do a partial open mic with a few pros in the line up to keep it good and some do one once a month. Roosters keeps the tradition alive by doing one once a week. Its also a pure open mic in the sense that if you sign up you go up. If you bring people you get more time but it remains a pretty democratic system. This means someone without a clue can get on stage for five minutes and try to hold the attention of the crowd. It also means someone with undiagnosed mental illness can get on stage, too. I said crowd but in most cases we are dealing with twenty or so people scattered at the various tables and chairs. Most are friends of one of the performers going on that night. A few are people who wandered in out of curiosity.

On the night I am closing the show, I am in the back burning Karma with Bay Area local legends, Larry "bubbles" Brown and Jimmy Gunn. It is the usual open mic with plenty of poorly constructed jokes on masturbation, pot, porn and rape. I don't know what it is about white guys and jokes about rape, but there are plenty of both of those. Here and there, in random moments, a few jokes pop out of the mouths of the mostly confused people on stage. One after the other they all go up and get a crack at the ten people who make up the "crowd."

Three people are sitting up front at a table. One of them, a woman in her late 40's, heckles the comics. She continues to comment or awkwardly compliment the comics. This wouldn't be all that unusual accept she is suppose to go up too. Quick hint to anyone thinking of trying stand-up comedy out. When you go to your first open mic, don't sit directly upfront and "talk" to the other performers on stage. She isn't being funny or cute, just very annoying. The manager goes over to her and asks her to stop. She does. For a while and starts up again. She is reminded again that this isn't a conversation and once again she stops and then starts up again. The comics, God love them, are all new. Awkward, nervous, attempting to be edgy and coming off creepy; all but a few are pretty grim and none are helped by the heckler. The fact that she is going up and that she is so completely clueless is hilarious.

The night progresses and eventually we are down to the remaining two or three comics. I've lost track. A man in a suit goes up. his timing is impeccable but his jokes are awful. What becomes rapidly hysterical to me is that after each punch line fails to get a laugh he simply says "Thank You" in a forceful baritone. It becomes one of those things that is so ridiculous and you know its not actually funny but you can't help it. He tells a vaudeville type one liner. Thud. "Thank You." All this and the lady up front still hasn't gone up.

Finally, we're down to the woman who won't shut up. Before she is introduced she comes to the back where she has left a plastic pumpkin and some other items. She puts on a Dracula cape. A Dracula Cape! When she is introduced she walks on stage with a swagger ordinarily reserved for people going to the electric chair with crazy smiles. And, wearing a cape. She puts her hand above her eyes because the lights are bright and promptly tells us "I'm so high right now and that's no joke." Awesome! Larry, jimmy and I are all watching in awe. She tells us that she has a surprise. Its hidden under her cape. She pulls it aside to reveal one of those puppets that has its arms wrapped around her. WoW! Just when I thought this couldn't get any stranger, it does! She introduces her puppet as her wife. "we got busy the other night." She explains. Larry, Jimmy and I are observing this with guilty grins. In front of us, sitting at the side of the bar, a man turns around with a business card in his hands. "This is her card." If you believe what the card says, the woman on stage is a massage therapist. "She specializes in prostate massage." All I can say is, Google it. It makes sense, in a weird way, when you look at whats happening on stage. She keeps asking if there are any couples in the audience. Then she asks when was the last time " got busy?" I'm not sure if anyone ever gave her the answer she was looking for but she begins to give what she calls a deep organ massage to the puppet. At this point, Larry leans in between Jimmy and I and says "It's a Lemur, I believe." This makes me laugh so hard. At about the same time she starts to thrust her fist into the butt of the puppet making loud noises in what I'm guessing is her idea of what you would hear when they get busy. Wearing a cape and fisting a puppet does make you stand out at a show. I will give her that.

Then, its my turn. I walk on stage and all I can say is, I've seen some shows but wow. Its great to be here on mental health night. And thats about how it goes for the fifteen minutes I'm up there. Comedy. Its bold and beautiful, wonderful and scary. Those are the good nights, folks. On the bad nights its stunning for all the wrong reasons. I have seen a lot of shows. I've done comedy for twenty years. Until this night though, I hadn't seen anyone fist a puppet on stage.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Good Luck, America! Part 1: The Republican Debates

I just watched the Republican debates. My favorite part was when Rick Perry was asked about Global Warming. He said that all the science on global warming "...wasn't in yet..." and then noted that "Galileo got out voted for a spell too..." Really? You're using Galileo as your example of waiting for all the facts to come in? You mean the guy who figured out the Earth actually went around the Sun and the Catholic Church called a heretic placing him under house arrest till the day he died? That Galileo? You mean the guy the Catholic church apologized to 400 years later because they were wrong? You can't use one of the best examples of someone being punishing for science when you are the one against science. Then again Texas leads the nation in the high school drop out rate at 25%. It's not like education is very important to Rick Perry. In fact, denying the science behind his states record drought and wild fire season is only the start. He cut funding for rural fire fighters, where most of the wild fires originate from, and asked the people of his state to pray for rain.

If that "spell" Rick Perry is talking about is a 400 year long wait before all the facts are in then it's safe to say Texas isn't going to make it. Good luck, America. This is the Republican front runner.

Why are Christians falling all over themselves to claim God is punishing parts of the country with Hurricanes and earthquakes? The state of Texas is on fucking fire! What is God telling them?

At one point in the debate, all the Republicans agreed that what is killing the economy right now is Obamacare. That is hilarious to me! Most of the provisions of "Obamacare" won't take affect until 2014. The parts of the plan that are working now make it a law that HMO's have to spend 85% of every dollar collected on health care. That, and a kid can stay on his parents plan till he is 26 and HMO's can't denny health coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. If this is what is killing the economy then by all means, lets start killing these kids and letting CEO's of HMO's spend money on private jets till all thats left for ICU's are IOU's.

Over and over almost everyone of these followers of Jesus claimed that government and its regulations are what is in the way of people getting quality health care. They would prefer "market based solutions" for dealing with health care.

Market based solutions is a wonderful little term. Instead of the government testing products for safety or making sure a product does what it says, the market can dictate which business makes it and which business goes bankrupt because consumers won't buy an inferior product when they can get something better from a competitor. Maybe, but before people realize a company is selling bad spinach or a car is dangerous, they have to die. A whole lot of people have to die before the market catches on. Does anyone really think market based solutions is the most humane way to help sick people? The best example of what can go wrong when there is zero regulation is THE ECONOMY! You remember that one, right? The banks, investment houses and credit rating companies said they can watch over themselves. After all, if a company screwed up the market would provide a solution. Actually the market collapsed along with billions in pensions and 401k's. Never fear, the American tax payer bailed out the banks. Its funny because when we give government money to struggling people the rich scream socialism but when we do it with companies we say, they were too big to fail.

When it comes to health care, this so called Christian nation is decidedly anti-christian in its approach to helping sick people. And what's with the screaming about socialism? Jesus healed the sick and poor for free. Jesus got mad at money changers in the temple. Jesus said a rich man has as much chance getting in to heaven as a camel does getting through the eye of a needle.

Jesus WAS socialized medicine, America!

I guess in their minds Jesus wasn't put to death. It was simply a market correction by the Roman authorities who were too big to fail.

Never mind, America. Go back to the Jersey Shore.

Last week Mitt Rommney unveiled his economic plan. Its a 150 page booklet you can download from Amazon Kindle. In talking about it he said, "I don't know if it's free or not..." Your campaign manager must of shit hearing that. You're telling the American people you don't know what your plan will cost them? Literally!

I think I finally figured out the Republican plan. Since they are obsessed with security they are going to allow the country to fall into bankruptcy and refuse to fix our crumbling infrastructure so if the terrorists ever return to America they will look around and think someone else already set a bomb off here!

We are spending two billion dollars a week to be in Afghanistan.

If we aren't going to spend money here to educate the next generation to find better solutions that we tried and we aren't going to rebuild the crumbling bridges, roads and tunnels then what are we actually protecting America from?

First of all, Obama has turned out to be a disappointment to everyone who put him into office. So when I start bashing the Republicans who are largely to blame for why we are in the mess we are in right now, please don't fire back that its Obama's fault. The Republicans were wrong about EVERYTHING they said for eight years, folks.

When Bush was handed a CIA memo titled, Bin Laden determined to strike in America, he stayed on vacation. Wrong.

When we were attacked on 9/11 he attacked Iraq. Wrong.

He said they had weapons of mass destruction. Wrong.

They told us the banks needed further deregulation to get people into their own homes. Wrong.

They told us New Orleans had nothing to fear. Wrong.

They told us lowering taxes on the wealthy, something never done in 2,000 years of recorded history during a war, wouldn't hurt the economy. Wrong.

They told us raising taxes on the rich hurts their ability as job creators. Bush lost jobs at a historic rate while the rich were taxed at historically low rates. Wrong.

Blaming Obama for this economic mess was like Bush blaming Iraq for 9/11. Wrong.

You can blame Obama for being a pussy. You can blame Obama for caving in over and over again. You can blame Obama for a lot of things but it seems the biggest problem most conservative minded people have with Obama is Obama is the president.

What is their plan to get rid of him? The Republican tea party plan is to keep things shitty in America so people blame Obama and vote him out. You think I'm kidding? Check this out. The Republican tea party idiots allowed the credit of America to be downgraded by not agreeing to raise the debt limit.

You heard a lot of people screaming about balancing the budget and we have to learn to live within our means during this disaster, right? They are all idiots. The budget is how we agree to spend money in the future. The debt limit is about continuing to pay interest on money we already borrowed. What was that money spent on? It was spent by the Republicans for wars that weren't paid for. While every one of the wannabe Republican president hopefuls demanded the president do a better job to fix the economy, no one seems to remember its a direct result of the Republicans doing exactly what they wanted for eight years. Getting our credit downgraded by refusing to pay for wars you demanded we have is not a solution to fixing the mess. However, it is a great recipe for getting Obama out of the White House.

Do you see their strategy? They gave a black man in public housing bad credit. Its what rich white people love doing only this time its the president and the house isn't the White House, it's America.

Its like they bought the biggest most expensive flat screen 3D wifi ready plasma TV and after making payments for eight years suddenly decided that the best way to get out of this economic mess is to fuck up our credit by not paying for it anymore! This is Obamas fault?

Like I said, Blaming Obama for this economic mess was like Bush blaming Iraq for 9/11. Wrong.

Mitt Rommney, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are the leading contenders for the Republican ticket. The fact that two out of three of them claim God told them to run for president should be a red flag. If you believe an all powerful being registers disapproval with homosexuals wanting marriage by shaking the earth but then takes time out of ruling the universe to say I want you to be the leader of one nation on one planet in one galaxy, you should automatically be disqualified for the office. Besides, if God really talked to Michele Bachmann I think the first thing he would say is, you know your husband is gay, right?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Comedy CD is Finally Here!

It's finally here! It took most of the last four months to finally get it ready, recorded, printed and shipped but my first ever full length comedy CD is ready for you to download! I was seriously starting to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could deal with at the moment. I started planing for the actual show the same day I was laid off from my day job. That was tax day, April 15th of this year! When the night finally came the little theatre, Stage Werx was sold out! It's the same place I do my storytelling show, Previously Secret Information at. I did an hour and a half that night. Not only that, but I did it with almost no riffing! If you've seen me before you know how rare that is. With eight pages of notes on a music stand and the most adoring, incredible, wonderful group of fans I could hope for, the night went about as perfect as you want a night to go when you're recording your first ever comedy CD. The tickets paid for the sound engineer who recorded it and if things keep up the way they seem to be going the first 100 actual copies will be paid for by the end of the week with downloads! I could not be any more proud right now!

Alright, so how do you get yourself a copy? There are three main ways.

1. Download an MP3 directly from iTunes for $9.99

2. Download a copy from CD Baby for $9.99

3. To get an actual CD mailed to you
The cost is slightly higher (it covers the cost of shipping the CD)
and has a few more steps. Visit my website to see how you can do this via PayPal here.

Please leave feedback at whatever site you buy it from!
Thanks and I hope you enjoy it. The second CD is already waiting to be mastered!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Too Good or a Fail?

Is it possible to be in trouble for being too good? I've got to check my ego, take a deep breath and ask myself if I am really seeing the whole picture with that statement. Allow me to explain.
I performed at a club where I was the feature act. A reviewer came to the first show of the week.
I left right after my set so I can't say what exactly the headliner did or didn't do. Long story short, the reviewer didn't like the headliners act. He seemed drunk, the reviewer said. he seemed off his game, the reviewer noted. What the reviewer did like was me. What was suppose to be a review for the headliner that week became a glowing endorsement of the Klocek experience. Hands down, it was the best review I've ever had as a stand-up comic. Not just because I stole the show but they got me. Even reporters who do dig me sometimes fail to explain what I am doing with the crowd. Because I treat the audience like we are friends hanging out, I get to be the smart-ass friend who gets away with making fun of you. I might say fuck you but it's always with a wink and a nod.
This reviewer got that.

It was the next day at the club when the manager brought the article to my attention. He was angry that the headliner and by extension, the club had been given a poor review. he realized it was great for me but in an effort to ingratiate myself I suggested that I too was unhappy with the review because it gave away several of my punch lines. The manager said he was going to complain to the small on line paper and that was that. I didn't think anything more of it until a few weeks later when I was back in the area doing another show and I posted the link to the piece. A few people emailed me asking what did I do. What did I do? the link wasn't just dead it now brought you to a page that said the article had been taken down for illegally being used. What did I do?

I emailed the reporter who had friended me on Facebook. She seemed friendly enough. I asked what happened to the article and thus began a frustrating afternoon of figuring out exactly how good I should be when featuring in clubs. My first shock came when she replied, I thought you had asked for it to be taken down? WTF! Why would I ask to have the best review of my stand-up comedy career removed? She told me her editor had said the manager of the room said I wasn't pleased with the number of punch lines the article contained. Ah oh. Here is where everything suddenly clicked into place. The manager has a job to do. Promote the room. Instead of saying he wasn't pleased with the treatment of the headliners set he went with me being the bad guy to get a review that cast the room in a poor light taken down. End result; the best article written about me as a live stand-up comic cannot be googled, downloaded or seen by anyone.

For a few days I wrestled with going back to the manager of the room and requesting that he contact the editor and have the piece put back. What would this accomplish? More than likely the manager would think I was a dick and I might alienate myself from a good room. That and why the hell did I even say anything bad about a glowing review in the first place? What a mess. I felt like I couldn't win for doing a great job. Like I was being penalized for just doing what I do on stage. Besides, I didn't see the headliners set but the rest of the week it looked like the guy was crushing. Still, the idea that I got in trouble for being too good stayed with me until I convinced myself it was just silly and I was hanging onto it because it made my ego feel good.

Another week in another club came around. I was the feature act again for a headliner with hip TV credits, a podcast following and the added bonus of having worked with him before. Everything seemed fine the first night. The second night I had a fun set too. The only thing I can comment about that second night was that the crowd was a little weird. There were three different tables that were a little vocal. Not drunk or out of control, just a little vocal. I had decided that this week I was going to work on material and keep the riffing to a minimum. I engaged the tables one by one, had some fun and then politely shut them down before moving onto the new stuff. If a comic can't handle drunks in a night club they might not be ready to headline. Period. I didn't watch their set but supposedly they had a little trouble dealing with the more vocal fans. Thats the other thing, they had almost the entire room there to see them. After the show the headliner sold his CD and shirts to adoring fans and I passed out fliers to my storytelling show. Thats when a woman came up to me and in front of the headliner said "You were funnier and should of been the headliner." I'm not a dick. I just smiled, thanked her and hoped the headliner hadn't heard them. Well, he did. The headliner didn't say anything to me about this. In fact, I might never have known anything about the incident but he told the opener who then told me. Ah, thats right. This is pure passive aggressive Hollywood style. Again, I felt like I was getting in trouble for doing great. I didn't think too much about it but then the opener told me they thought I went long on the late show Friday. If I had gone long the Booker, who never hesitates to tell any comic when they went long would of told me and I checked with the manager who also confirmed I did not go long. At this point I am just pissed. Fuck these Hollywood pussies! You have TV credits, fans and the much larger pay check to be here this week. I don't have the luxury of relying on fame, I have to win my audiences over by being a damn good comic. Its the mark of a weak headliner when they start blaming the feature act for their lack luster performances. Besides, if one person says I did better than maybe you should worry about the people lining up to give you an additional $20 for your T-shirts and CD. They seemed to like you just fine. Why take it out on me?
And so it went.

The headliner didn't like my set for some reason, told the opener and then went on stage and had OK sets in front of the audience their name brought out! To my face everything was always, nice set! Good stuff! Thanks for being on the show! I felt like we were divorced and the opener was our child bringing messages between us. Only, I had nothing to say. I hadn't done anything wrong. I wasn't riffing like I usually do. I wasn't going long by anyone elses standards and I started the week as a fan excited to be working with him. In fact, I was hoping to ask the headliner if he would take me on the road. Yeah, that clearly wasn't going to happen.

My problem is this. I can't headline because in this day and age of marketing is everything, I have not appeared on an HBO show. I don't have a well subscribed to podcast. I don't have Comedy Central specials under my belt. I am just a fucking great comic who has to earn his fans joke by joke, show by show. Most of these L.A. wonders developed inside the bubble of L.A. They can act and network but most do not have the skills to keep a live audience of their own fans interested for forty five minutes. If I am in trouble for anything it is for doing my job well. Period. Who am I? I am Joe Klocek. I am funny. If you can't follow me don't invent bull shit like I went over my time to sooth your ego. Hire me to write for you. That way I can finally make some money in this fucked up business and you can give your fans a good show.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Seth Meyers Gig

I live at the edge of America. Directly on the beach, at the end of the Avenues, in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Whatever bit of sunlight the day has, it lands on the balcony window overlooking the sea. I've lived here for two weeks now. I am now as far from my mid-western roots as I can possibly be. Literally. Dark angular shapes- cargo ships- make for the horizon, or set course for the Golden Gate. It's beautiful. Living with a view of the ocean is like having a painting that changes by the hour. In the evening, people will gather at the walls built to hold back drifting sand, and stare out at the sinking sun. They come because they believe there is a green flash right before the sun disappears from view. Others stand alone in front of the waves just looking outward. I imagine some of them are saying private prayers locked in their own sense of deep grief, or solemn wishful thinking. There are also the lovers, holding onto each other, smiling, and bracing against the wind. They look at each other more than at the ocean. Every night, a new collection of people brave the cold to bear witness to the day’s final moments. I'm sure it has different meanings for all who attend.
Yesterday, I watched the sun slowly fall toward a bank of clouds that looked like a throne. As soon as the orange and gold globe hit the clouds, the cotton edges glowed like the tips of ashes in a fireplace. The more the clouds swallowed the sun the more its rays shot out and lit up the distant darker clouds. Crimson, rust, pinks and even a slight green could be seen before the final molten glass piece of the sun disappeared.
I watched as my headphones pumped in the opening to the Pink Floyd Album, “Wish You Were Here”. I can’t think of a better way to end a day by yourself.

The life of a comic. It's always the same. Sort of. Just after 6PM on a Tuesday I get a phone message from the Booker of Cobb's Comedy Club. They are looking for an opener for Seth Meyers this weekend. Am I around and do I have a clean smart clip I can send him to forward to Seth's people? That's the kind of phone message that makes you pull over. I call the Booker back and say “Yes, and yes!” As luck would have it, I've been working with the producers of Craig Ferguson to get on so I have a few clips posted on YouTube that I can forward. There is a lesson here for any young comic. Have a clean, TV-ready set somewhere on line, that you can send to a booker. Not just the local open Mic or another comic, I mean the bookers you want to be working for. That set is worth gold. After I send it, I’m told they’ll watch it. All I can do now is wait, and brag to a few friends about what I might be doing this weekend. The gig isn't at Cobb's. Friday night, it’s at a theater in Napa, CA; Saturday night takes place at the Montbleu Casino in Tahoe, NV. The money is great, the crowd will be hot, and I get a hotel in Tahoe. All in all, it’s pretty awesome.
Wednesday comes around and Tom, The Booker at Cobb's calls. "You got it." Beautiful. That Friday I get a phone call from Seth's manager. He explains that Seth likes to be left alone before a show to prepare, and that he’s a mellow, easygoing guy. If Seth talks to me after the show, then it's cool for me to respond but for the most part he likes his privacy. I tell him I totally understand, and will give him his space. I can only hope to reach a point in my career where someone else calls up the opener to make a passive-aggressive suggestion to leave me alone. I have no idea if Seth Meyers asked his manager to specifically make this call. Most big league managers are over-protective of their clients. But, whatever. As long as I get a crack at his crowd, and the check clears, who cares what he’s like?

I arrive at the theater in Napa three hours early for sound check. The Uptown is a gorgeous palace. It was reopened after remodeling just a year ago. I walk in, taking it all in. Just under 1,000 seats, with art deco paintings on the ceilings, it’s the kind of place every comic imagines playing when they start. There isn't a bad seat in the house. Tonight it’ll be sold out. I have twenty minutes up front, and the excitement is starting to build. I meet the sound guys and they ask if I’m ready for the sound check. Sure. To me a sound check is basically turning the mic on, making sure it stays on, and then waiting to use it. These guys are professionals that leave nothing to chance. They show me a back up wireless mic, and another corded mic, at the base of the monitor directly in front of me. The main mic stand sits by a stool, on top of a well-worn, handsome area rug. It looks like the back of an album cover from the 70's. It's perfect. They turn the mic on and I start speaking. They ask me, is that enough monitor? How is the echo? Do I like the mix? Ah, yeah. That’s good monitor for me. That’s good echo, does it sound good to you guys? I’m bullshitting my way through the sound check. I don't have a clue what they mean by these things. I’m used to small rooms and faulty equipment – usually, the guy running it answers any question about quality by shrugging his shoulders. It suddenly dawns on me that here I am, again, in a big-time situation; and as much as I know I deserve it, I’m a little lost. Still, the sound guys aren’t only pros, they are cool. In fact, everyone I met that night at the Uptown was incredibly accommodating. Killing time in my dressing room, anyone who came by would stop for a second to ask if I needed anything. The fridge was stocked with a sampling of almost every beverage I could think of. They had chocolate and cheez-its, coffee, tea and WiFi. If there was something else I needed, I wasn't aware of it. I kept looking in the mirror, feeling like a girl, thinking, 
“I’m fat - and I hope Seth likes me.” That’s the thing about opening for big names, the fantasy is always that they’ll take a liking to you and ask if you want to hit the road with them. After all, Seth Meyers, hot off the White House Correspondents’ Dinner where he killed Trump, is the head writer for Saturday Night Live. Things lead to things, and as I pace in the small dressing room just off-stage, I keep trying to reign in my expectations. When Seth does show up, I’m afraid to make eye contact. Not out of shyness, I'm just not sure if his manager said it was OK. Seth smiles warmly, extends his hand, and I tell him how thrilled I am to be opening for him. He thanks me for doing it and says his manager has sung my praises. And then, he's gone. He goes to his dressing room to wait till the show that’s still two hours away. His dressing room is directly above mine. I can hear him moving around up there. I wonder what he’s doing/how he’s preparing? At one point he comes downstairs, knocks on my open door and says "Hey, I taped a set list to the floor - I hope that doesn't bug you or anything?"
I smile and just say, "I might start doing some of the jokes by accident."
He laughs a little, saying "You could probably improve them."
It feels like flirting. I mean, it is flirting. Not in a sexual way, more of a, “I have a career crush on you”, sort of way. I watched the Correspondent’s Dinner monologue, and kept thinking, “I’ld like to do that. Man, that guy’s good.” Now, here he is, dressed in a simple hoodie and jeans, being self-deprecating.
He returns to his dressing room, where I can hear him continuing to pace, too. I trade text messages, post excited announcements on Facebook, and look in the mirror for the hundredth time. As showtime draws closer, the place starts to hum with energy. I peek out from the wings and people are filling up the front section. There are still plenty of open seats, but I know we’re sold out. The energy is pulsating, and finally I commit to putting on what I’ll wear, and stand in the wings, waiting. There’s a host to intro me, a sound guy controlling everything, and me. It’s dark backstage, except for a few blinking lights and the buzz of equipment. Finally, the host walks out and, after a moment of welcoming them, introduces me. I walk out onto the large stage, bathed in a follow spot. I stand in front of the mic and begin. A few minutes in, I see the one main theatre door directly in the center of the theatre opening and closing with silhouettes of people coming in. That’s the shitty thing about being the opener - you're killing time for the people to get seated. Still, about ten minutes in, everyone is mostly in their chairs and I-am-killing. God it feels good! Since the room is so large, you have to wait for the laughs from the rear of the place to catch up with the laughs right at your feet. The result is a wave of laughter that rolls over you. You have to take an extra beat before starting the next line. I also understand the importance of the monitor now. Without it, timing that roll of laughter would be harder. Oh, and the echo is just fine.
And just when I get them where I want them, I have to let them go. Warmed up and ready, my job as loosening the peanut butter jar lid is complete.
When Seth steps out there, they love him instantly. I look forward to that day when a majority of the crowd knows who I am and knows I’ll make them laugh. Till then, it’s one crowd at a time, and tonight, I’m reminded, that’s OK.
Saturday’s show is even better! Another beautiful stage and a sold out crowd. I don't get a green room, I get a condo! It has a bar, giant-screen TV, the longest couch I've ever seen, a bathroom/dressing room and a coffee table that I’m betting has never seen coffee, but probably a whole lot of "sugar." There’s even a guy whose job it is to make sure the talent is happy. All in all, it’s a great time. At the end I thank Seth, and ask him to remember me if he should need an opener again.

Life is about balance if it’s about anything. The Seth Meyers gig came along, and a week later my car got booted. It’s OK, because I had more than enough cash to pay off the tickets. Another gig in Sacramento canceled on me the day before, but then a gig I had done at Stanford paid me almost twice what they originally said they would, pay due to a delay of payment. All in all, things tend to work out (when I’m not obsessed with things working out exactly the way I want them to).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Take a Look at These...

Here is a tour of recent weirdness and wonders seen at airports and in city streets. They run the gambit from horrific to weird. Enjoy.

Obama With a Hitler Mustache

It's hard to know exactly where these people thought they were. This was just outside Union Square in San Francisco. Seems like a strange place to get signatures. Here is the truly weird part. They were seeking signatures to bring back an arcane banking law that would of prevented the financial meltdown we had. It was put in place after the great depression and repealed some years ago by Clinton. It's where most economists trace the beginning of our current disaster. That is something a lot of SF people probably know. What they don't like is to see Obama with a Hitler mustache. The woman in the photo looking at me and seeming confused had just been yelled at by an elderly black woman for participating in hate speech images. After hanging around the outskirts for a few minutes it seemed the plan was to excite people, draw them in and then they would find out the kids with the pens and clip boards were on the same side. Fail. Big fail. This became more of a lesson in marketing than politics I think.

Borders Book Store Sign

I saw this at a Borders. Who ever put this sign together either had a sense of humor or this is the best unintentional demonstration of humor and irony. I find it hysterical that recovery is one direction and Self Help the other. The bottom two subjects also seem curiously related. One direction is weight loss and if that doesn't work, Divorce and Separation. For that matter, with the clothes pre-teen girls are wearing, maybe Child Psychology is the opposite of fashion. Erotica or Psychology? Mmmm, I'm not sure.

Free or Free of?

You can throw any piece of shit out on the median lane of a road and it's free. Putting a spray painted sign on a battered and stained sleeper sofa is beating a dead horse. By the way a dead horse is also free.


I saw this in the Phoenix Airport a few weeks ago. It's a store with the look of a cave named, Caved Inn. Get it? What does it sell? Same crap every store barely hanging on in an airport sells and rocks!
I wonder if gift shops at mining camps have stores named Plane Crash?
I want to meet the guy with big enough balls who talked a company into opening a store in an airport that sells gum, newspapers and mining games. Wow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Good News for a Change

Dear Readers,
This has been a good morning. Turns out my storytelling show, Previously Secret Information won the 2011 SF WEEKLY award for BEST NEW STORYTELLING SHOW in San Francisco.
That would be pretty cool but as an added bonus I also won BEST COMEDIAN in the Readers' Poll! What's funny is today I have an interview at the unemployment agency to prove I am excited and eligible to work. Maybe this is the universes way of keeping me humble.
The timing couldn't be better. Wednesday, June 29th I am finally recording my first ever LIVE stand-up comedy CD at StageWerx Theatre in San Francisco. Tickets are just $10. You can get them on line at Brown Paper Tickets HERE.

Thank you to everyone who voted on line=) It means a lot to me.
Joe K.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Wavy Gravy Gig

"Wavy Gravy killed us tonight."

These are the first words spoken to me by one of the producers when I arrive at tonight's gig.

"What?" I ask not sure exactly what she just told me.

"Wavy Gravy is having his 75th birthday party next door, " she says, pointing to the building where all the noise is coming from. "Great," I think to myself, "it's always something."

Wavy Gravy is a counter-culture hero from the 60's. He started out as a clown, was part of the acid-dropping "Merry Pranksters" (Google Ken Kesey for a quick history lesson, kids), and for a short time had the unusual honor of being managed by comedian Lenny Bruce. This entire place is one giant old factory. The warehouse section has been left open for raves, concerts, and tonight, Wavy Gravy's birthday event. People are wandering around wearing everything from capes, to pajama pants. One woman has a giant mushroom hat with light-up sunglasses. Another guy has a big, red, fake clown nose. Most of the people walking around are a little drunk - and a lot high.

I start blinking, as my eyes are stinging slightly. Not from pot smoke drifting in from next door; from the kitchen. The entire place smells of burnt hamburger. White smoke is collecting in the rafters. They've opened the front doors to help with ventilation, but all that's doing is making the place cold - and smoky. About five minutes before the show starts, one of the comics bails out due to all the smoke upsetting her lungs. Another comic, who came to see the show, has agreed to take her place. Between the noise, and the constant foot traffic of burned out hippies and young stoners from the Wavy Gravy birthday show, the place is like a train station; noisy, and full of people who look lost.

Here's something people don't understand about stand-up comedy. It requires the attention of everyone in the place. Shouting over the din of conversation from people who didn't know there was a show happening, or don't care, destroys any subtlety, grace or nuance in a bit. Even if a small handful of people sitting close to the stage are there for comedy, having another 70 people wandering around trying to order beer from a party next door, ruins it. For all its bravado, comedy is actually delicate. It's not a band in the corner. It's conversation. As a comic my job is to go on stage and tell jokes. Those jokes, no matter how funny, won't work if they can't be delivered in a professional environment. As I will learn later, that's apparently pretty much just my opinion - not the opinion of the producers.

This is the second time I've been at this venue. It's damn near impossible to find. I'm not kidding. If you go to the website of the place they have a video you have to watch that helps you find it. As soon as I walk in I suddenly realize what a mistake it was to take this gig seriously. So many things are going wrong, that by the time I'm arguing with the producer about not going on, in the middle of the show, I realize I should have just walked out earlier.

The comic who opened isn't an opener. He is a very funny feature act. While the ten people who paid for a ticket attempted to listen, anyone paying attention to their body language could see they weren't happy. At one point a guy wearing a big red clown nose walked up to the edge of the stage and yelled, "Say something funny!" When the next comic went on, a burned out hippy lady sat down and ate his food. That was bad enough - but when the mic went out, no one seemed to know exactly what to do. (It was later explained that the sound guy didn't show up.) Having a huge room filled with people trying to talk over each other is not conducive to quality stand-up. After 20 years I've paid enough dues. I'm not going to yell at people so I can make them laugh. With the noise, smoke, faulty equipment and poor quality everything, this was not just a bad place for comedy: it was downright toxic.

Eventually it was my turn. I told the producer I didn't want to go on. They flipped out and yelled at me explaining that these people would then go home and tell their friends that they saw a show where they pulled the plug in the middle and that would not only be bad it would make me something less than a professional. No, I explained, these people are going to leave here tonight and tell their friends about the completely horrible show they saw, that the producers didn't have enough sense to stop. At this point, the producer starts yelling at me about all his problems, and how I have to go on stage. This is exactly what every comic needs right before going on: to have the producer complain to them about their problems. Look, unless you're the guy going on in front of this mess, you don't have problems. What you do have, is a shitty show. Sometimes "the show must go on" is a bad idea, especially when most of the people in the place don't even know there's a show going on. It's hard for me to grasp the logic of making a comic go up in front of 100 people because 10 paid. It's hard to find the logic in any of this. Producers/Bookers don't do their job of preparing a room, but then still want you to do your job, expecting you to somehow magically make it all better. Again, yelling at a distracted crowd that wants nothing to do with a comedy show is as effective as yelling at an anorexic to eat.

When I go on the mic is feeding back. It takes another few minutes to figure that problem out. Almost everything else is forgivable. Almost. The one tool we use, the microphone, has to work. That's just common sense. At one point two girls yell "tell a joke." I thought that's what I had been doing. In fact, all of these jokes have worked every time I've done them before. Why? Well, they're good jokes, but the crowd was there to see comedy and paid attention. I ask," why are you here?" The answer: "To get beer and pee!" Ah, my ideal comedy audience. Then, a spotlight that I guess was suppose to be turned on at the start of the show is turned on in the middle of a joke. Nice! Just as I was getting a little bit of traction with them some genius interrupts it by deciding to turn the spot light on. It's kind of hard not to notice when light suddenly blinds you. The audience member directly in front of me is physically shaking from the cold trying to huddle in his jacket. The noise is overwhelming and I can see still more people from the party next door, coming in. This sucks. And really, the person I have to blame for all this is me. I took the gig. I walked in prepared to have fun and do my best, and when I told the booker this was awful, he yelled at me for believing my lying eyes. I'm sick of this shit. This is what killed comedy. People always blame the comics for poor shows, what about the bookers? They picked the talent, found the venue and set up the sound and lights. Why can none of those things be working properly, and it's alright? But the moment I point out how awful it will be for me on stage, I'm unprofessional?

This is what hurts live stand-up comedy. A bad comic in the middle of a good show can be overlooked. Great comics on a bad show gives us all a bad name. Sure, most of the people here don't want to see stand-up, it's smoky, noisy, the mic isn't working properly, the spot light stepped on a punch line just as I was getting somewhere with this crowd - but I'm the asshole for saying I don't want to go on because the conditions are ridiculous? Give me a break!

When I come off stage, I take my money from the guy without saying a word, and keep walking out the door into the rain. I don't feel bad. I'm angry. I'm angry that incompetent people have run stand-up into the ground with poor quality shows. I'm angry that other comics take this work because they think it's all part of paying their dues. I'm mostly angry that a show I was looking forward to playing on turned into a reminder of everything wrong with live stand-up. What's really sad, and what the producers don't seem to care about, is how much these people will remember how awful this show was, and what that does to stand-up as a whole. The next day I look at my calendar and decide three shows are going to be shitty. I cancel them.

The Facebook debate also begins. One of the other comics on the show posts a quick neutral breakdown of events. I chime in, the producer chimes in and once again I am told that what I saw wasn't what I saw. Again, he leaves a long list of things they had no control over and again I remind him that a producer's job is to have control. I am told that the smoke filling up the place wasn't a result of a grease fire and it wasn't that bad. Never mind that the comic who left was coughing up a lung and my eyes were watering. I am told that there was no threat of violence. It doesn't matter that I never said that. I am told that the restaurant didn't honor its agreement to stop serving at nine, that the sound man not showing up isn't their fault, and those ten people sitting in the cold with facial expressions that read as anything but enjoyment, enjoyed the show. We go around and around again and finally I just do what I should have done that night: stop talking and walk away from it.

Now I have to ask myself the big question, the hard question; what is my part in this? Besides saying, "My part was thinking pros would be putting this on," of course I have a part. Sure, I can't blame them for the grease fire that resulted in smoke. I can't blame them for the place not honoring whatever agreement they have in place. And here's the thing; I didn't do anything wrong. I showed up early, first one there, came with a great attitude (because after 20 years I still love being on stage), and all I did was speak a truth that was self-evident to anyone with eyes and ears; asking a comic to go up with everything stacked against him is disrespectful.

Recently, it's become clear to me that no matter what you do as a comic or how many people laugh long and hard at your stuff, it only takes one asshole to ruin it. More and more the person ruining it, though, isn't someone in the audience at all. Unfortunately, it's the bookers and club owners. I was told by the Booker of a club that I was banned because I called an audience member a bitch, and they couldn't afford to have their guests treated that way. Here's a thought: instead of taking the side of someone who got in for free, showed up drunk, and disrupted the show - maybe you should take the side of the comic who did the job of making the people paying attention laugh? After all, if a comic calls someone a bitch and the audience bursts into affirmative applause, chances are they deserved to be called a bitch. After she left, the show went on just fine. For some reason a lot of gigs cater to the lowest common denominator. Not just in the talent they book, but in the "guests" they encourage to come. If a club thinks they are building a quality customer base by encouraging the behavior of out-of-control drunks who didn't pay, good luck with that business approach. I would much rather play in front of a small but appreciative crowd, who paid to get in, than a large, mostly-boisterous crowd that has to be controlled. A lot of places don't see it that way. Like so many other things in America, they pick quantity over quality every time. What most comedy shows are really selling is alcohol, with a side of stand-up. It has undermined the quality of stand-up because we have to pander to a mentality that thinks being drunk is as much a part of stand-up, as the jokes are. Anytime a business goes down that road, it sets itself up to fail sooner, rather than later. I went around and around with this booker too, before I realized, "I don't want to work a room that values drunk morons who got in for free, more than they value me". What have I lost by sticking up for myself? A few shitty gigs that under-pay me, and under-value the art of stand-up, that's what. And maybe, a little shiny-new self-respect.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Go Back to Where You Came From!

The Border Patrol recently discovered smugglers using a new way to get drugs across the Mexican border into America; catapults. That's right! They can get five pound bags of pot almost 500 feet across the U.S. border. Man, you gotta have someone with pretty good aim manning those things or you're liable to make somebody's day on the other side. Then again, maybe that's what's needed to chill Arizona out. Maybe that's Mexico's plan; use medieval weaponry to fire pot into America's litter box and calm all these fat white guys with riffles defending us from the horde of poor people who just want to come here for the chance to make slave wages washing our dishes and cutting our lawns.

Here's my question; how soon before they start using catapults to get people across the border? Conservatives will freak the hell out! "Mexican's can fly now? We don't need a fence, we need a dome!" I think if you're willing to shoot yourself across the border in a drug smuggler’s catapult, to do the work no American wants to do, you get to stay. Especially if you land in this country with a five pound bag of pot. It might not be a green card, but it is green.

America got started, because people looked around and were tired of living in a country where poverty and repression weren't ever going to change. So, they went somewhere else to start a country where opportunities would be normal. We seem to forget that. Of course, people from Mexico are coming here. Besides, if you want to stop people from economically depressed countries from coming here you don't go after the individuals; you make the penalties so stiff for the businesses that hire them that they no longer hire them. Supply and demand, baby! One of the biggest, most-guilty businesses on that score? The agriculture industry. Ironically, they not only don't face massive fines from the government, they receive some of the largest government subsidies. We go after the people picking our fruits and vegetables for crap wages (thereby, keeping the price low), and not only do we not go after the business making a profit on this, we hand them your tax dollars, while rounding up the poorest of the poor people, who will shoot themselves across the border again, first chance they get.

A few years ago the newest Superman movie came out, Superman Returns. Conservatives got angry because in the movie someone asks if Superman is still here to fight for "Truth, justice and all that stuff?" You'll notice it wasn't Truth, justice and the American away. People flipped over this! Why? If I have my Superman facts straight, he wasn't born in America. In fact, he's an actual alien! If anything, conservatives should be more worried about Superman than a Mexican. If you follow their logic, Superman can take the jobs of one hundred Americans.

Here is a little fun-fact that explains why America is in the economic mess that it is, and perfectly highlights either our stupidity or cruelty. All of the uniforms for the United States Border Patrol are made in, wait for it, Mexico! All this bullshit about border security goes out the window. What's to stop anyone at the factory from simply putting on one of the uniforms and stepping across the border? That might confuse an actual U.S. Border Patrol agent. "Wow! There are so many of us out here today! Great. We can use all the help we can get now that they can fly."

Part of why we are screwed is we just don't make anything in this country anymore. That and we send jobs overseas. The Border Patrol uniforms are a perfect example of how we screw ourselves. The American company that got the contract for the uniforms sent the work to a factory in Mexico, because it was cheaper to make them there. Not only does that demonstrate why people come here for better pay, Americans lost out on those jobs because an American company couldn't even wait for illegal aliens to come here, they just sent the jobs over there.

This isn't patriotic. If you wanted to be patriotic those uniforms should be made in the right country: China.

While one part of the U.S. Government is spending tens of millions of dollars to keep human beings we call aliens out of the country, NASA just spent tens of millions of dollars to broadcast a message into space for aliens. I can imagine some super advanced species on their world trying to make sense of our message.

"What does it say?"

"Go back to where you came from!"

Monday, April 18, 2011


Every year the SF WEEKLY asks it's readers to vote on the best things in San Francisco. One of the categories is best stand-up comic. I would really like to have this honor. So please vote for me by following the link bellow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Republicans are Dicks

The Republicans have forbidden schools to purchase fruit and vegetables for lunchrooms. You read that right. In the middle of the budget debates someone took the time to write out a special rider to the budget for school lunch programs. In a display of petty spitefulness, the Republicans decided to give the presidents wife a big fuck you by saying no federal money could be used to buy healthy food. Wow!

What brand of special ass-hole do you have to be to ignore the epidemic of fat kids in the country just to give a finger to Michelle Obama? While FOX has been busy planting the idea in little fear based minds that the government "...wants to tell us what to eat now!" your kids have been eating preservative laden plastic wrapped crap that comes in fifty gallon drums available at their school for purchase with their parents money. Why would anyone want to introduce a selection of fruit and vegetables? Why change the system of churning out intellectually void and physically unfit junior Americans?

Do you get what I am telling you? While the country is going through three fucking wars, the greatest economic melt down in our life times and the hijacking of one political party by crazy Jesus freaks who don't realize they are protesting for corporations best interests and not their own, the Republicans said, sure all that's happening but do you know what we really need right now? We need to send a message to the presidents wife that we don't like her at the expense of this nations kids!

Seriously? What brand of mentally deficient willfully ignorant moron decides to put in black and white language a rule that states no federal lunch program money can be spent on food? Real food, too! Not the powdered add water shit we shovel into kids mouths or the sugar and fat ka-bobs available from vending machines that are there only because schools have been so under funded that they bring in companies that split the cash with them.

Has anyone ever thought that the rise in ADD coincides with the rise of sugar in our kids diets? You know what might be good? Some fruit and vegetables. Nah!

This is what politics has come to. You don't have to like Obama or his wife but you're going to be against fruit and vegetables in schools just because the presidents wife is for it?

Sorry, I just can't wrap my head around this one at all. They put it in writing! They took time from trying to decide what our countries economic priorities should be to come out against fruit and vegetables. FRUIT and VEGETABLES!

Oh well.