I disagree. Am I allowed to disagree with Bill Hicks? How close in levels of success, ability, or [former] bank balance must one be to his opposition to be heard or taken seriously? Is it possible I’ve taken this statement of law too literally and in so doing have misunderstood what the great one meant? In which case I should probably find me a smart woman to translate. But for argument’s sake I’d like to address the obtuse perspective, which I do believe since it came from a man, is to be taken at face value. In the practical realm I’m sure Bill would fire back with a storm of rationale that might humble and humiliate me, though from where he sits presently I’d surmise him to love and appreciate the contention and debate.
I think more than just a performance art, or in addition to being a performance art, stand up comedy is an art of communication. It is also one of many artforms of courage. It is “a courageous performance artform of communication” (copyright!). Surely from a broader perspective all arts are forms of courage, but ours is the only one where even in the microcosm of the act is courage superficially apparent in determining the quality of the ability of the performer. I digress. It is inarguably a communicative art.
Because of this I feel it is unfair to neglect or dismiss the importance of writing or even the subsequent recital of lines. Whether the sculpted delivery of Seinfeld or the beautifully stammering chaos of Louie, constant decisions are being made as to the best verbal and non-verbal communicative choices to best tickle the world’s (yes the world’s) mental funnybone while most effectively illustrating a story, conveying a thought, or arguing a perspective. Choices on stage and in life are good indicators of a person’s wisdom. I realize that obviously choices are being made whether with or without a script, but whereas the latter is a performance, and incredibly impressive no doubt, the former has an intellectual project functioning at the roots of a performance, then allowing it to stand up and branch out in all different ways depending on the message, as well as minds of its receivers. It is equally as gorgeous, and most often better in my opinion.
We can say we are unaffected by the response of the crowd, and in the pedestrian sense of the ego and/or laypersons’ definition of insecurity most veteran comics are mostly not. Though on another level we are always affected by the crowd with every breath, word, laugh, and beat of silence… were we not then we would not be sensitive, aware, or intuitive enough to become great comics in the first place. It would mean we do not know people – we do not speak Energy. But we do know people, and even the most cynical of us – conscious of it or not – speak Energy with wonderful fluency. It is the first prerequisite for the job.
I don’t believe that performance and preparation have to shine mutually exclusively at all. I think Louie proves so every time he grabs the mic. I am a big fan of Bill Hicks in spite of not being a huge Bill Hicks fan, but don’t really agree with the idea that a real comic should mostly have something of consequence to say to a room full of strangers in the impromptu moment of their arrival on stage. Such an approach in my opinion, neglects nearly half of the craft and frankly, is impractical. “The act” is the set and the set is our portfolio – our biography – our voice and message to the world. It is our calling card, our identification, and the verbal revelation of our insides to our listeners. It is the real you coming out in a contrived calculation of whose intention is to sound impromptu to most accurately portray your organic reality. Ha! It’s a beautiful paradox of consistency. It is as much what separates us from the herd as anything else. It’s what landed future stars of generations past on Carson, and stars of generations future on Conan. I think the opposite. I believe if you have something to say then say it, fine… then work on your act.
March 6, 2014
My brother never calls. He texts me some funnies and check-ins, once-in-a-while-crazies or jams – just the other day I randomly got: “Charles S. Dutton once killed a man in the 70’s.” Great! Hilarious… but he never calls. I realize the phone conversation has become somewhat of a lost art (more of a tragedy, in my opinion, than those captured isolated moments of everyone checking out their phone at the restaurant), but he and I are incredibly close and both over 30, so I still regard it as far from weird when I do call him and we actually speak to each other with our mouths and voices. But I am always the initiator.
Doesn’t he love me? Respect me? If I didn’t call him would our relationship fade? Is the one-sided weight of phone call initiations indicative of some deeper truth that he actually doesn’t like me very much, and is selfishly allowing me to “put all the effort” into this relationship? Should I say something? Should I teach him a lesson by not calling him anymore, or punish him by not responding to his texts? Should I mentally deliberate and obsess over it more? Definitely. Maybe I should devote twice as much time and mental energy each day in measuring out and comparing the efforts between myself, him, and all of the people in my life, then calculate whether I more often have the upper or lower hand in my dynamics, and if the latter then definitely consider therapy to address the issue. Maybe I should write it all down. Maybe I could write it all down and translate it into some kind of graph, then paste it into the body of my suicide note. After all, it is clear that there is someone that I love who does not love me as much as I love them, which makes me the loser and he the winner, me worthless and he the definer of that worth, and the infinite unforeseeable future entirely pointless, right?
My brother loves me more than anyone else in the world. How do I know? Because he’s told me so. How do I really know? Because I already fuckin’ knew, because I fuckin’ know these things because he’s my brother and we’re soulmates and that’s it, nigga. And no, we’re not soulmates because we’re brothers. There are many pairs and triangles, squares, and hexagons of brothers out there who are no soulmates, and soulmates who are not brothers, but we are. We’re soulmates because we’re soulmates and it helps that we’re brothers, or vice versa either way you prefer it. In any case, we’re lucky. In every case, I know that he loves me, whether he calls once a day, once a month, or never again for the rest of this wonderful incarnation of our connection.
Relationships are never equal, and they are always equal. They’re equal in that both parties are involved in some capacity and guaranteed to always get what they need out of them. They are never equal in that no two people are alike. No two people are having the exact same day, exact same moment, or passing through the same psycho-spiritual phase, and no two people function identically in relationships. Some prefer the phone, others don’t. Some like to text, and others prefer face-to-face contact. Some will compromise and meet you halfway at times. Some will compromise and meet you halfway some of the times, but other times those times will be the times that you’re busy or closed to communication, and then it seems as though they never ever want to talk to you, when really you’ve just been playing “energetic phone tag,” and/or literal phone tag (if tha’s a thing). Sometimes – or maybe 99.9% of the time, one party in any relationship needs the other party anywhere from .1-99.9% more than he/she needs them. So what? Unless it becomes one party needing the other 100% more, 100% of the time, then who gives a shit? Life is short, but life is long. There are a lot of years, days, and moments left for those percentages to shift. Stop keeping track, for there are too many immeasurable human factors at work to ever get an accurate or factual diagnosis.
Eight years ago I went uptown and bought an ounce of weed for two of the three most influential people in my life. One of them was a bad ass bitch that I was in love with – the other a bad ass nigga I was heterosexually in love with. The girlfriend was at my crib waiting. I started splitting it up on a digital scale I had at home (don’t ask). I measured and measured. She grew impatient. I didn’t understand why. I kept measuring. I was breaking up buds, comparing the two, getting the grams right, navigating familiar terrain. She grew more impatient. I told her to chill. I’d forgotten that nobody told that chick to chill. She lost her temper, grabbed her “half,” and cut my lab session short. Beef ensued. I was a pussy-whipped bitch at the time, but still a man in the sense that I couldn’t not defend logic. Unfortunately logic had no position in this ballgame. Logic was a catcher looking for somewhere to squat around the 50-yard line, and her reality a linebacker twice its size wielding heavy equipment and power that drove easily through my chest protector of reasonable argument (trust and loyalty issues). An temperamental woman who left our relationship mightily heartbroken (as did I), but undefeated in the micro-battles. I ran away from her our of my own house, spent the night at my friend’s crib – brought him his “half.” One year later, for separate reasons of course, I became estranged from both of these wonderful loved ones.
Don’t measure. It is nearly impossible for a real person going through the human condition to always feel the same way about you that you feel about them. That’s okay. Just do whatever it is your heart wants to do, regardless of some count being kept by your mind, and don’t take it so personal when they do the same. If you want to reach out to someone do it. Do it again and again and then again, whenever you want to do it - unless of course there is something pathologically stagnating about the dynamic where the lesson is to cut free and move on – and unless they are ignoring you and/or not responding, clearly sending a message to slow your roll and you’re beginning to qualify for “Stalker.” Other than that I recommend mindlessly allowing every dynamic be whatever it is. She doesn’t want to talk to you as much as you do her. Okay. Now what? I’d bet 90 of the last 100 phone conversations between my brother and I were initiated by me, and I would never think twice about calling him 90 more times before he does me once.
March 1, 2014
The symptoms of these maniacs show themselves everywhere. Dents and scratches, shattered bumpers, broken tail lights, glass all over the street – they drive out of their minds in this place. Just the other day my friends and I saw the archetype post-screech collision while eating lunch at a restaurant in Venice. Some BMW (of course) smashed into an SUV that had been turning back towards the BMW. Bang! Sorry SUV, no more bumper for you. Germany wins. Everyone in the restaurant ooh’d and ahh’d as if we were all enjoying the same Hollywood picture’s climax, but then went non-chalantly about our meals a la the earthquake scene in L.A. Story. Just another California crash.
I’ve never been tailgated like this before, nor have I ever been blinded by as many brights in my mirror (which is now uselessly angled down towards the passenger seat). Dickheads incessantly up my butt like those of drunk douche bags on their female counterparts at any given night club past 2am (well, past 12 in L.A.). It’s funny what the engine of the vehicle, gas pedal, and some terrible tunes does to these animals. It’s like they’re programmed robots, little kids, or Bernie’s corpse, as the music comes on and they turn the sudden 180 from laid back, well-mannered suburbanite to sexually frustrated New York cab driver, speeding, tailgating, shifting back into my lane before they’ve fully passed my car, inexplicably hellbent on getting to Whole Foods in a certain amount of time. Have they all agreed on some collective mission to disprove the perception that this is the most inconveniently designed city on the planet? “See, got there in 5 minutes!” Yeah, but you killed everyone on the way.
I don’t drive like a grandmother – maybe a Hispanic grandmother, which is to say I drive like an adult (ha, bad joke). I’ve leased a teeny tiny, adorable little Smart car, and admittedly am now probably fueled more by my half-Jewish neuroses behind the wheel than my Wu-Tang-loving angst that sent me into more than one tree as an adolescent. I’m careful. I don’t think I’m a bitch. I think I’m a level-headed grown-up, mostly 5-15mph over the speed limit in either the right or second to right lane. My choices of movement are perfect; though it seems once per trip at least one shit-for-brains Angelino would adamantly disagree. Ironically, as I blast Protect Ya Neck in my quaint little mobile, rocking a nice button-up my mom bought for me, en route to some audition, I am passed at 80mph and 80 centimeters by some douche bag [who in any other context would be on my dick like a recently single groupy], blasting Bruno Mars in his ‘98 pickup truck and looking back at me, shaking his head like I’m some pretentious white faggot from the country who has no idea what he’s doing at only 10mph over the limit. It’s like a room full of morons telling the comedian he sucks, when really it is their brains that suck at my life[force].
Sure, New Yorkers drive crazy too, and call me biased if you like, but it’s different back home. While many NYC drivers move with an insanely untempered sense of urgency, it is at least one that is consistent with all the pedestrian movement around them. There also seems to be more discernment to it in New York; like most drivers know when and how to rush or be aggressive, as opposed to spontaneously adopting some role in an Action/Adventure movie and shifting into a panic gear relegated only for humanity’s most dangerous form of travel.
Maybe it’s the built up angst from the other worldly rush hour traffic exploding into speed once actually given 100 open feet to move through. Maybe if these invisible creatures walked around a bit more they could blow off some of that energy that’s going into their gas pedals. Maybe not. Maybe they’re just like real human beings, and it’s simply more highlighted by the landscape being less metropolitan. In any case I can’t recall ever being so frequently sped by and cut off just 200 yards short of an obvious red light and stand still traffic up ahead. This is a daily occurrence. Are you crazy? Aren’t you that same person who was just sincerely smiling, offering manners not short of southern hospitality, gladly letting some pedestrian take 45 seconds to cross by your stop sign? The paradox is baffling.
When a pedestrian is spotted actually crossing the street at a light or stop sign, drivers stop and wait as if it were Jesus himself, holding a bald eagle in one hand and a crystal ball with all of the told future in the other. The patience is unbelievable – cartoonish even. All insanity of urgency goes out the window for the poor soul relegated to use of their legs, and once we’ve watched them safely and soundly arrive up on the curb like a Jewish mother watching her 5-year old son get on the bus for the first time we’re back on track for Lap 62. Bang!
Finally, DUI’s are like dishwashers here: Everyone’s got one. Of course they do. It’s a major city. People wanna go out – party – go nuts… but they designed this major city like a suburb, still keeping the cost of living as pricey as that of the former, so who can afford a cab? Plenty, sure, but most of us can’t. We’ve done it! We’ve created the perfect situational storm to entrap them into drunk driving.
In my first month here, while riding the bus I noticed a pretty girl whose eyes seemed to be giving me the green, or at least yellow light. Aside from the typical shy-guy mental battle of whether and how to talk to her I wondered what the hell she was doing on the bus. Of course I’d only been here a month, but had rode the antiquated orange hell on wheels enough times to get a grasp on the demo: homeless and psychos, that skinny-60 year old black dude who’s either super angry and serious or jovially charismatic, broke, young white people who are either struggling artists (yo!), failed artists (yo?), or just drug-induced artistic expressions of the divine there to shine the proverbial mirror on how not to live; and of course all Mexicans. This chick didn’t fit the bill.
Faking like I had any balls or game whatsoever, I approached shorty like, “What’s a girl like you doin’ in this…?” No I didn’t. But we spoke. She was sweet (like everyone). I didn’t get her number but I did get an answer to my curiosity: DUI. Still something so seemingly paradoxical about a fly chick in handcuffs – well… under arrest that is. But in spite of her pretty face and pleasant demeanor, she’d been an inebriated animal, just like the rest of them.
The main complaint I hear from out-of-towners, especially New Yorkers, is that “Angelinos” don’t use turn signals. When I first heard this I thought it weird, as in my 35 years living in New York, the latter half all in Manhattan, my observation was the same. Many drivers on “the grid,” myself often included, sacrifice the turn signal in exchange for efficient and shiftier moves. And while appearing dangerously radical to the untrained eye, is actually sometimes a much safer way of moving in such a climate. That’s the difference! It isn’t that Angelinos use turn signals any less than New Yorkers do – as a matter of fact I’d probably suggest the opposite, at least in respect to Manhattan, specifically. The abomination lies in the fact that Los Angeles’ landscape, outside of a few small, isolated ‘hoods, is that of a suburb – not a congested grid - and suburbanites everywhere else in the world use fucking turn signals. Couple this issue with the other of this “suburb” being as over-populated as NYC and equal disaster. Logically, we have as many accidents and “almosts” as Manhattan’s sidewalks have Excuse me’s, Sorry’s, Fuck you’s, and Stupid asshole’s. It’s nobody’s fault. We just need better birth control.
February 26, 2014
We’ve all noticed a particular suffering elder person and thought, “I pray I never become like that.” Well I sometimes observe the behaviors of certain thriving celebrity comics and have the same thought. The hate, the ego, narcissism, and occasionally apparent amnesia of how to converse without a stage, microphone, and room full of strangers. I don’t believe we’re all crazy or all angry as the exhausted cliche gets passed around by the drones and muggles - I’ve known too many wonderfuls and grounded angels to subscribe. Negative traits and emotions lurk inside all of us - not just comics, but all people. It seems the trouble in Tinseltown comes when we get stuck in a gear that feeds itself into a vicious cycle that nearly and/or eventually causes all other gears to fade into a likely happier past, leaving everyone in our present and future to the matter of fact misperception: “He’s just like that,” when really he just got stuck.
The other night, while watching one of the head writers for Conan O’Brian kill at the world famous Comedy Store, I became embarrassed for him as his terribly transparent insecurity dribbled out in the all too typical form of juvenile bravado, no doubt convincing only the most naïve of pedestrian players in the pantheon. It was poor and pathetic, really depressing, reinforcing the question in my mind as to whether there is any hope for humanity in regards to the ego.
He’d been crushing effortlessly, taking his time, breathing, slow dancing with the crowd for about 15 minutes - already longer than any of the other comics on the show spent on stage - but hey, he writes for Conan. He’s got the pass, plus the crowd loved him of course. Talk about comfortable and confident - It was like watching a pro athlete make it look easy, and per usual, it created the ambivalent experience for fellow comics in the room, of enjoying a master but coveting a master. The difference between him and them is percentages: While they might be at that frequency half, some, or most of the time, he is always there, maybe save some rare anomalies.
Somewhere in and around the second third of his set a punch line missed, or at least moreso than the rest of the bits had, and whether for the benefit of the crowd, fellow comics in back, or everyone in the room, the insecure little boy inside him (and to some degree in all of us) came uncontrollably raging out, but of course with the same smooth and calculated delivery we’d been hearing the entire time:
Okay, you guys didn’t like that one. Hmm, another crowd liked it the other night, so now I’m not sure. Gotta try again tomorrow for the tiebreak… Translation: “You guys got it wrong on that one. That’s your fault for not getting it.”
I’ve been there, though triggered by a far worse context. I understand telling the crowd they’re wrong in response to their lack of response basically just having told me I was wrong, especially with fellow comics in the room, potentially judging and ranking my ability. But my instances were always following great, proven material missing by a mile for a room of morons who hadn’t liked any of my jokes; not to mention the fact that my career is yet to come to fruition in the same way a head writer for Conan’s has. All this to say that my insecure inner little boy is just not damaged to the same degree. He continued on.
I’m just here to work out some new stuff, man. Translation: “I’m a great comic, and if I wanted to, at any time I could turn on the jets and have a perfect set, but I choose not to try my absolute hardest right now.”
I’ve often heard comics pontificate resentment for comics breaking one version of the fourth wall by providing transparency into their creative agenda. “You don’t tell the crowd you just tried a new joke,” I’ve heard. “It’s not professional. Don’t make excuses up there. Just do your jokes. If one doesn’t work, move on.” I disagree.
Firstly, two of the comics I’ve heard this from were both notorious for never trying new material, thus obviously pontificating with an agenda. Secondly it isn’t so black and white to be labeled as a wrong thing to do. I think there is a way to offer full disclosure tactfully in these instances, where it isn’t necessarily about the comic’s ego as much as it is being honest, acknowledging the elephant in the room (very much our job in comedy). It isn’t inorganic as the aforementioned hacks suggest in their perspective. Instead, it’s: Whoa, we all heard that one fall flat, and the fact that my experimentation just failed is my mind’s immediate thought, and so that’s what will follow out of my mouth. Honest. Understandable. Endearing, even. There can be a fine line between unprofessionally breaking the fourth wall for pathological reasons and poking a relevant hole in it that can potentially add to the crowd’s enjoyment. Though what Conan’s writer did next definitely transcended deep under the heading of the former.
Another bit missed, mind you during a set that was still 95% perfect from any onlooker’s perspective, and after once again acknowledging it as a new trial he chose to press pause on the entire show and completely divert from his set, so that everyone in the room would know how talented and confident he is (ironically).
You see, this here’s a workout room. You don’t come here to do your best stuff or kill or be a superstar and get carried out on peoples’ shoulder. Comedians come here to try their new shit, and work stuff out (then obviously realizing he was protecting his ego at the expense of the show producers’ reputation and potential business). And these rooms are great. Comedians need these rooms to work stuff out. This here’s a great room – a great show – and you should support it, but I’m just sayin’…
It’s one thing to acknowledge the elephant in the room for sake of full disclosure, and often incidentally, good comedy. It’s another thing to shine a light on the tiny cockroach in the corner that no one ever would have noticed were it not for your inability to temper your childhood issues while in a position of power not one other individual in the room is capable of experiencing in that moment. This guy was murdering everyone in the building when a mere punch to the shoulder caused him to break the fourth wall in a way that indirectly bit the hand that was nourishing said power. Unacceptable. And so embarrassing.
February 22, 2014
Why does a comedian kill? Good material, as many laypeople tend to think? Good crowd, as most comedians prefer to think? Charisma? Experience? Delivery? Is it the size of the penis or the sensitivity of the vagina that makes things good? An ex-girlfriend of mine is a disciple of the Shaolin Temple in New York, and we found it was both the size of the penis and the sensitivity of… ha - no, wait, I digress.
At times it used to bother me how often she’d echo the philosophical teachings of her Shifu. Express your beautiful life. Flatten your heart. Love everyone, even when they don’t love you back. One can understand how such negative garbage can be irritating. Why did it bother me? I don’t know. Maybe I was jealous of her deification of her teacher, though I don’t think so. I was fortunate, my parents loved me a lot. Maybe the negative story of the world I’d etched in the proverbial stone of my mind at the time didn’t like holes being poked in it by some flowery angel shining recycled lights of logical positivity. Maybe my ego had fallen victim to the typical trap of defining my worth or value by the thoughts and opinions of my partner, and while I liked the idea of dating a “disciple of the Shaolin Temple,” no one likes the idea of dating a Kool-Aid guzzling, Scientologist-type drone who lived by the words of her leader no matter what the cost of logic, without any discernment at all. Fortunately I came to realize this was not the case at all. She is awesome and special and we remain good friends.
Once in discussion of her struggle in training and my own in comedy, she of course had one of Shifu’s cliches handy and ready to go: Confidence is everything. Whether with women, in a fight, shooting a basketball, or on stage, it is everything. It allows us to express our truest self fully, and whenever that happens we shine, no matter what. I liked it. May I have some Kool-Aid?
Laypeople often pontificate about “delivery” in a way that makes it sound like a particular skill set of conscious choices throughout each bit. From one perspective, it’s true, there are technically choices happening. But a truly great comedian is so because he is wholly unobstructed on stage. He is uninhibited – which does not necessarily mean loud or wild and crazy, unless that’s who he is – but just that he is his truest self, entirely and with each breath and syllable, the same way we are hanging out with our best friends or laying in bed next to our soul mate at night. Delivery is never compromised in those dynamics, and is more a byproduct of comfort than some skill certain comics have and others do not. Sure we make choices as all performers do, but the most brilliant comics, in my opinion, have just finally intuitied and learned how to express choices that were already made for them on the day they were born. I think nearly everyone (at least all comics), when void of fear, possesses the potential for the perfect delivery.
Most of the Self-Aware know exactly when and around whom we feel free, and when and around whom we feel guarded or hesitant, in our heads, calculating, worried about what they think of us, then logically wielding an agenda to prove something, which depending on our acting skills may or may not come out as organic, and even at best can only earn us a B- approval when delivered without the free energy provided by confidence.
Confidence is not necessarily about not caring, but instead about unattachment – disidentification from results. Full knowledge that the outcome of any one situation or incident cannot define us or our place in the world, or any microcosm of it. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to explain where it comes from or how to hone it. Experience and repetition help in regards to any pursuit, but even after we’ve all had that there is a great disparity between the comic on stage who appears to be effortlessly obliterating the room and the one who’s energetically checking in from time to time to see if they still like him. It’s fascinating. I feel at any given time there may be only a subtle difference underlying the best comedian in the world and Cycloid B, struggling, mediocre Comic, though it ironically does not express itself subtly at all in the finished product. It’s like that spiritual lesson’s analogy on how to make a huge change in your life: If you turn the steering wheel of your car just one inch to either side, you will eventually end up in a destination many miles from where you were headed.
I’ve watched tapes of myself bombing with confidence for a shitty crowd and been proud, laughing at my set, knowing I was funny, that the crowd just sucked. I’ve also watched tapes of myself destroying without confidence, just riding the wave of my material and a great crowd, and been so embarrassed I had to turn it off. I was awful. Thank God for the frequently fantastic, forgiving crowds.
Most new comedians are terrified of bombing, understandably. Their intention when getting on stage is not to “work out” some new bit, play with a different energy, or really “grow” as a comic. They just want to not die. Don’t bomb. Don’t suck. Don’t fuck up, or it might mean you’re not good at this. Obviously creative expression suffers when forced to project from such a foundation, though as is the human condition, this stage is unavoidable. We realize of course in hindsight how unnecessarily silly were our fears, in realization of how insignificant those early sets are, in terms of the destination of our careers or reflection of our abilities. Someone must have told Joe Derosa this secret, because I’d never seen a new comedian so courageous and fearless of going down on stage for the sake of his own growth and creative agenda.
Whereas most of us were obviously reciting chapters at a time of a monologue at a level of delivery just above that of the old timers’ rim shot one-liners, Joe seemed to go on stage and simply rant and whine and complain about whatever happened to be on his mind, like a fearless veteran, patient and confident that he’d surely illicit laughter eventually so long as he kept going as his true self. Most of the time he was right, and successful. Sometimes he wasn’t, and he didn’t seem to have the convenient cushion of short, orchestrated bits that myself and most other newbies did to bail out and cowardly change directions with. He was hung out naked to dry, vulnerably personifying the perfect microcosm of what this craft is all about: Balls.
Thank God it paid off for him – always nice when justice is served. I watched Joe’s career take off pretty quickly from local nobody to touring internationally, and I don’t know if I was more jealous of his success or of what he was then able to do on stage that I had not yet intuited in myself. Joe was not afraid to die, and that was what why he killed so often.
February 19, 2014
I miss walking down the street listening to joints on my headphones, rapping (or sometimes singing) aloud not quite to the point of obnoxious or out of my mind, but enough that anyone walking by knows I’m not at all embarrassed to be rapping out loud… maybe occasionally lowering the volume on “niggas” when it comes up while walking past particular folk (shhh….). I miss my peeps.
I miss fifteen minute walks that feel like five ‘cuz they’re so fuckin’ fun.
I miss 15-minute sets at clubs and 12 minutes at bars. I miss 10 spots a week.
I miss really dope food for $8 always being within 8-minutes.
I miss knowing the best and fastest way to get everywhere by any means at any time of day, then quietly resenting every minute of every trip.
I miss my peeps.
I miss good bagels, bagels even sliced in half, or getting more than literally one layer of some mediocre insult to spread in the middle. I miss good pizza, good Chinese food that costs $7, good everything really. I miss accessability. I miss nearly everything I could ever need in the world being within a 15 minute journey from me, no matter where I am. I miss “getting a drink from the store”/”a snack from the store”/”something from the store,” and everyone knowing I’ll be right back, never without “something,” probably in addition to some new revelation about humanity ascertained as a result of some uniquely fascinating personal interaction or observation I just had for the first time in my life at 11:47pm on a Tuesday night (that’s why we know more).
I miss the Dominicans; the Puerto Ricans; the West Indians; the Indians. I miss everyone. I miss seeing people on the block, walking by them, watching them (mostly the female “them,” but all of them really), feeling their energy, judging them, defining myself as better than them, then remembering that we’re all connected, all one, all perfect exactly where we are, and that I too was probably once in the same… “Wait a minute, look at that guy… fuckin’ asshole.”
I miss my peeps.
I miss reading books on the train - getting more enlightened concurrent with deciding whether this homeless guy is talented and/or sober enough for my dollar. I miss getting on the train and thinking, “Fuck reading – I’m too tired/hyped to read right now. Suck it, book!” and leaving on my headphones for the inception of the most perfect soundtrack to define both this commute and my present state of mind going through it.
I miss synchronized traffic lights and not knowing anything about car insurance or down payments.
I miss jaywalking. Wtf? Like, seriously…
I miss cars just fuckin goin’ when you give them the half beat to do so. Why’s everbody so fuckin’ nice?! “You go.” “No please, you go.” “No, no, no, I couldn’t. Please do go right ahead.” AHHHHHHH! (I do actually like how nice everyone is).
But I miss my peeeeeeeeeps.
I miss the attitude, the crowds, the vibe, that palpable fucking human vibe I doubt any geographic location has or will ever duplicate – the irritability, pleasantries, anger, suspicion, anxiety, more pedestrian worry, jealousy, desperation, misery, and elation, all interacting with each other in the same 100 square feet. What kind of quantum result would such an emotional orgy in such a small space create? That one, that you feel right now if you’re there, and exposed and educated, sensitive, and intuitive.
I miss seeing cool people all the time. I know, I know, I’m sure there are pleeeenty of cool people in L.A. – let’s not re-hash the war – but whether they’re here or not, or I just need to get out more and stay longer of course, what I‘m saying is I miss seeing them incidentally at 10am in the middle of the week. There is a brilliance in “cool people” - whether they are cerebral, or left-brained intelligent, as our society judges to be “smart,” or academically anything at all – I believe there is something they (we) get and subsequently emanate, that the Uncool do not.
I miss Chinatown… like for real!
I miss seeing fly girls. Once again, I know they’re here. I believe they are present, hidden, in vehicles moving unopportunistically fast or mood-killingly slow en route to being hidden by dimmed lights, hearing dim-minded tunes behind walls I am presently unable to pass through, nor do I necessarily care to. Or walls which I would be able to pass through if I knew where they were and we’d met before and they got to know me and gave permission to cross said walls; in hopes of it leading to permission to pass her proverbial walls, putting pressure on my performance, then potentially leading to pain on her part, or for her parts, but most probably emotionally is what I am suggesting in this sudden stretch for satire. I look forward to running into these fly people some time soon. Though considering no one runs into anyone [without their cars] here, my optimism for the near future remains tempered.
I miss Harlem. That’s weird. I didn’t even live there, but that just came to me: I miss Harlem! I love Harlem. I miss regularly holding some door for some 57-year old, ghetto-as-fuck, overweight black mother of six and she giving the sweetest, most sincere: Thank you, baby, a human being could ever ask for.
I miss my PCOM peeps, my NY comedy peeps, my family, and Uptown peeps. I miss my downtown, midtown, Rockland, Jersey, and Brooklyn peeps. I even miss my Queens and Bronx peeps, but not my Staten Island peeps as I do not have those peeps… do I? I do not miss the noise or hustle, nor the undying competitive grind. I don’t miss the “change of seasons” one iota. Fuck snow in the concrete jungle and fuck single digits, ever. I’m tan in February, bitch. Eat it. But I miss the warmth from the gigantic amount of love that I left. I miss my peeps, and choose to make them my silent-cyber-uninformed Valentine. 1<3
February 15, 2014
Take New York, spread it out over twenty times as much land and give it one tenth the modes of public transportation. Also give it about ¾ as many people. Make all the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans Mexican, turn the yellow cabs into Beemers and Benzes pushed by only the most brutal of bro’s and bitches, and turn the douche bags on Citi bikes into dope ass motherfuckers on skateboards (seriously, they’re everywhere). Eliminate 99% of the delis and bodegas, and for the remaining 1% of the latter, transform them into barely glorified liquor stores that happen to sell snacks and drinks only as bottom shelf as that of the tiniest, most ghetto spots in the Bronx. Eliminate all the trash cans on street corners, but magically, eliminate all the trash from the sidewalks. Logically, eliminate 95% of the people walking down the streets. Make marijuana practically legal, but jaywalking a strictly enforced crime, to the point that when we commit it we look both ways like a teenager about to shoplift. Make half of the homeless people white. Make none of them Hispanic. Keep the black teenagers selling their rap cd’s on the street and candy in the subway. Finally, for the forecast it’s always June or September, and the people are as good mannered and pleasant as if you were down south or in the Midwest (minus the racism) – and you’ve got L.A.
So, why 40 “chilly” days? It’s sunny California, right? 70 and beautiful every day, right? Well, yes and no. It’s true, 9 out of 10 days are gorgeous to the point of surreal, but we are still in December, and the climate is well known to be wonkier than ever all over the world these days. Not to mention the fact that my arrival was on the heels of another humid New York summer, thus making my blood as thin as it ever is; as well as my 12th year as a struggling artist, 34th as a struggling human, and the completion of nearly five years of a medical grad school program not designed for the meek or weak. I also came out here with no money and no car, initially no place to live but my good friend’s couch, so yes, uncharacteristic to most transplant New Yorkers, I’ve spent many nights on “the block” (there really is no “block”) relatively bundled up with my hood pulled over head… cold and exhausted. Warrior shit, bro.
In the month preceding my departure I probably grew as sick of hearing how I would need a car as a person with a sudden injury and cast on their limb gets of being asked: “What happened?!” It got to the point where people seemed more intent on providing me with what quickly became this most mundane and obvious advice than they were on asking why I was going, what were my plans, or anything of any substance at all. I even spoke to my spiritual guide/quasi-life coach in the week before I left, expecting to receive words of wisdom regarding my mental frequency and the attitude I should intend on holding towards my pursuit out here, and all I got was a 20 minute monologue on how important it was to get a ride. Ha!
What’s more interesting, now in hindsight, were those few interesting souls who went against the grain, reassuring me that L.A. “can be done without a car.” “Everyone says ‘x, y, z,’ but you can do it.” Ever the optimist, and ever the broke ass nigga, I greatly appreciated this counter-opinion of the minority. I’ve never fallen into the majority in any other aspect of life or philosophical perspective, so naively began to think, “How bad could it be? I’m a fuckin’ native New Yorker – as savvy as they come – an incidental navigation expert, with walking shoes practically born onto my feet at Mt. Sinai.” Yeah, ummm… no.
The public transportation here is not “worse than New York’s.” It’s not terrible relative to other places. It’s just terrible. It’s unbelievable. It’s a piece of shit packed tightly into a crack pipe forced down the throat of any poor soul (and I mean “poor”) who either hasn’t quite gotten their shit together (yo!) or was careless enough to get hit with what seems to be out here, the remarkably ubiquitous DUI or DWI (seriously, any time you seem someone on the bus who doesn’t look like they belong there, it’s a DUI – drive carefully!).
You know how everyone knows “the bus sucks” in New York? How much of a pain in the ass it is when you have to travel from the upper west to upper east, or the deal breaker it is when you discover a social gathering involves such a transfer? Well, the buses here suck twice that much, run half as frequently, and still manage to assume the role of first choice that the subway does in New York. Why? Because this “city” of 800 square miles boasts only about six train lines that journey through equi-distant sects of the hexagon, and most often leave you in only some vague geographic area of your destination… and then you get on a bus.
I’m not someone who gets nauseus, ever. I’ve got the iron stomach. I can overeat, eat bad food, foreign food, probably undercooked meat, and I’m fine. That’s just my physiological constitution. I tend towards insomnia, skin issues, and gout disease, but I have the digestive system of a god. On the buses in L.A. I’ve gotten at least a little nauseus during every ride. I’m not sure if the drivers are just the worst in the world (in spite of being 1000 times more personally pleasant than the kindest MTA worker in New York), or whether they’re in cahoots with the auto industry, attempting to brutalize us all into finally getting cars, but it seems impossible for them to not stop short. Whether going 30mph or 5, traveling ten miles or ten feet, every hit of the brakes has jerked my grown up body at least 12 inches forward. One has to be especially aware not to fall, as the seats seem to be designed specifically for the anti-human body. Ha! In spite of New York’s transit system’s overpriced fares, filthy cars and platforms, and irritable assholes draped front to back on them, I’ll say that my spine loves the structure of the seats: An intelligent S-shaped curvature culminating in the perfect sized butt basket (perfect for Caucasians at least), admittedly with the hips left below the knees, but nevertheless comfortable, and friendly to those of us trying to avoid an elderly existence of herniated discs and “type 2 Scoliosis.” On these buses the seats are just about as opposite as is the lifestyle and landscape: A downward-sloped L-shape pointed to the floor that makes it impossible, at least for me, to ever be physically comfortable for more than 60 seconds. Public transportation “characters” make up a much bigger percentage of the riding population than do their New York counterparts, as the mode is relegated mostly for only the lowest socio-economic cross section of the city. On one of my first rides I sat immediately next to a bantering psycho who spent 20 minutes antagonizing a drunk, white douchey transplant, no doubt, until they almost came to blows (once there arrived another drunk, white douchey transplant who had his brethren’s back). I missed home like Tom Hanks in his first night in the hotel in Big – minus the tears, yo’. Anyone who claims that L.A. “can be done without a car” is either out of their fuckin’ mind or lived a very simple, “point A to point B,” lifestyle in a “convenient” (whatever that means out here) part of town.
At the risk of sounding like a typical New Yorker, this is no city! Ha! Of course I’ve said that in the past about places like Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but to humble myself in hindsight and legitimize credibilty, I now fully recognize all of the aforementioned as “real cities” – inferior real cities, but “cities” nonetheless. Obviously I wouldn’t call L.A. a “suburb.” Of course it’s closer to being urban than not, but only barely. Like other cities “lesser” to New York, it’s mostly short buildings, super wide streets, and when you want some decent snacks or supplies it’s a short drive to CVS or 7-11. Ugh…
During my third week here I was spoiled by a friend who lent me his car while he visited back home. It was glorious. Wonderful. What a pleasant, easy-going, nourishing life! First week of December, cruising down the 405, 101, and whatever the fuck else, on a perfectly gorgeous day with the windows down and no A/C necessary. Sure, I hit the L.A. traffic a few times, but anyone who complains about that definitely never put in enough time in New York subway rush hours. Stagnantly sitting for a few minutes in the cozy comfort of your own car while listening to the tunes of your choice is a blowjob compared to standing practically in a yoga pose on the stalled F train, packed in like sardines with 80 miserable fucks [of every demographic], all with the same sense of entitlement and impatience, wrongly stereotyping you while your shoulders incidentally give shitty massages to one another. The traffic is a pleasure. This is just a tiny part of the reason why I still have as much of a formed opinion of L.A. as I did the day before I left N.Y.
I left a wonderful group of friends, my own crib, a sex life, accessibility to everything I need, and a respected status on the comedy circuit for none of the above. As a native New Yorker I’ve always taken exception to the judgements and analyses of transplants who have been there for 40 months, let alone 40 days. Our experience of anywhere is what we make of it, as a result of goals, priorities, lifestyle, and good or bad fortune. If you’re an idiot or an asshole your experience is gonna be the same in Bombay as it would be in Houston. Here’s hoping I’m neither…
I’ll say this. In addition to the weather, which gets as annoying to hear about as the necessity of a car, I love the people. I’m yet to make any real friends just yet, and yes, I’m aware of the Hollywood “fakeness” I’m sure to encounter. But in the meantime, every superficial interaction, whether with the store clerk, barista, stranger I need directions from, or shitty fuckin’ bus driver, has been an orgasm compared to each of its New York counterparts. It’s a non-stop orgy of “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “have a great day,” and “sorry bro.” Very appreciated. Obviously New Yorkers are just human beings, and not inherently mean people, but there is an omnipresent irritability, impatience, and inconsideration apparently perpetuated by its lifestyle that I do not miss at all. All that said, it’s been 40 “daze,” and I know nothing about L.A.
December 21, 2013
Dichotomies. Fine lines and gray areas are tough, especially for someone like myself who desperately wants to, as much as I think I can, always objectively prove my truth. But here lies a challenge. Sexism is surely real as it is ubiquitous, but are there not roles better suited for each gender, respectively? Many black people have been oppressed and/or disadvantaged in our country, but every black person I know has mocked members of their race who overly scapegoat this truth for all of their individual misfortunes. And while it’s true that part of the beauty of comedy, stand-up especially, is in its unapologetic freedom of expression, where does the line unblur between uncensored brilliance and lazy shock effect only temporarily dressed in the cloak of “comedy?”
My mom loves to praise Cosby and Seinfeld for their cleanliness (she’s a mom), but inaccurately paints too broad a stroke over those of us less squeaky, as “needing to curse” to be funny. Here is where I side with the masses… or at least my fellow mass of comics. To be honest I think Pryor and Louie are both superior to the former, and while neither could get a PG-13 rating even if they chopped half their material, they’re obviously too brilliant to “need” any suggested crutch or gimmick. Some comics are just more emotionally charged than others, and cursing logically carries with it a very well known energy – a specificity in character and individualism that if omitted would be inorganic to them; and anything that is inorganic is definitely not funny. Neither Pryor, Chris Rock, or Louie would likely be as funny if they didn’t curse, but it isn’t because they “need” to curse. It’s because they need to be Pryor, Chris Rock, or Louie… and those people curse. Many comics like Carlin, Bruce, etc. were preachers of forward thinking, counter culture philosophy (totally consistent with the existence of any artist). They bore their greatness by unapologetically shitting on the masses and status quo with innovative ideas expressed in humor. Wonderful! But much like what we speculate was an eventual mistranslation [and perversion] by later generations of the original message of the major religions, or how the many talentless bastards of Biggie Smalls’ rap style of exploiting materialism have ruined hip hop with their rhythm-less imitations for years now, I wonder has the modern comedy world inaccurately painted too broad a stroke over some “rule” in defense of something it was not originally in place for? I understand that “times change” and “rules are meant to be broken.” I also understand that cliches often get lazily used as defenses when there is no really sound argument for a particular action. Ha.
We’ve all had the experience of being on stage not getting laughs at material we know is good or smart or just something that consistently kills for intelligent crowds. Cut to a minute later, we throw out a dick joke, or “fuck” and/or “pussy” makes its first appearance and the crowd goes nuts (no pun int.). This is where my mom’s aformentioned perspective is applicable. Invariably we all deduce the same conclusion here: “They’re morons.” Yet none of us would ever accuse Louie or Chris Rock of doing “cheap, dick jokes” because we know there is a line, and although it is near impossible to define, we all frequently intuit is location.
Shock is an acute widespread reduction in effective tissue perfusion that invokes an imbalance of oxygen supply and demand. Why is it funny when someone says something racist or “overly sexual” on stage? Was anything ironic or extraordinary brought to light? Was a hypocrisy exposed? Did the punch surprise us with an analytic absurdity that none of the rest of us ever thought of? Or has the modern audience just learned to cut and paste the conditioned response of laughter in place of what would be offense in any different time or setting? How much longer can this last? How much longer can we think: Yo, I can’t believe she just said that, before everyone on the planet was totally expecting her to say that (because someone else just said basically the same thing 20 minutes ago)? There is a huge difference between the quirky, observational kid in the lunch room, the silly goofball, and the mean, bully. All three of their respective friends laugh incessantly at everything they do and say, but the latter group are usually morons, and their leader has no future in comedy… or does he?
Don’t get me wrong. I love my freedom of speech, especially artistically, and in a vacuum think it’s great that we live in a society where white and black comedians can get on stage on the same show and make fun of each others’ races. it doesn’t offend me or any of my friends, but is it funny? Isn’t the reason our bodies are sent into the relatively convulsive state of laughter a result of being caught off guard and impressed by this wonderfully surprising punch? Well, how many times can the same punch get thrown at the same speed and angle and still catch us off guard? I guess only the dumbest of fighters…
I don’t think I’m a pussy. I absolutely love all the grimiest and grittiest hip hop of all time (please don’t pontificate that it’s the same thing!), and do place Pryor and Louie over Cosby and Jerry on my list. But like Jerry hilariously told the priest on Seinfeld many years ago: “I’m not offended as a Jew. I’m offended as a comedian.”
Besides facebook posts, I also heard in person several comedians do jokes about Paul Walker just days after his tragic death. I don’t know anything about the poor guy. I’d honestly never heard of him. I don’t know if these shots might have been prompted partially by his wealth or fame, good looks, or all three - or maybe these mediocre comedians just thought him to be a hugely inferior talent proportionate to his success, ironically. I don’t know. I just feel it’s as tasteless and insensitive as it is creatively sub-par to make what sounds at best like an R-Rated late night monologue joke about the biggest tragedy in the world: premature death.
“Is there a line?” Yes, I think there is, but it isn’t one artificially drawn to censor free expression as these shitty shock (or part-time shock) comics would love to holler about in a self-fulfilling plea to justify their desperate graspings for material. Instead it should be a natural line that exists as a result of the perfect combination of more widespread empathy and mental discernment of good comedy. And we wouldn’t not make the jokes out of fear of offending someone or getting in trouble, but simply because we’re nicer and smarter. Evolution will be evident when we look back on Comedy Central roasts the way we presently do upon 80’s sitcoms. RIP Paul.
December 5, 2013
I worked the black (“urban”/“chitlin”) comedy circuit almost exclusively, save a few open mics, during my first four years in stand-up. Their bookers were more generous with stage time than were the mainstream clubs’, and being an early 90’s hip hop kid from New York it was a scene that attracted me and an acceptance I coveted. I’m not gonna lie: It was fun and easy and I was quick to succeed on it. During my past four years (after a few in between there) I’ve worked the “alt rooms,” less monogomously but often enough to get the pulse, speak the language, and diagnose their good, bad, and ugly as well.
“Alt rooms” are bar shows set up by comics, mostly white but the lineups and crowds have grown exponentially more diverse in recent years. Their crowds are most often an ethnic mix of 20-30 year old, well educated, super liberal, very pop culture savvy, hipster or quasi-hipster metropolitans, who are as attentive and well-behaved as they are responsive to very dry, understated, or reference-heavy humor; in stark contrast to the black crowds of the hood. While the prototypical chitlin circuit comic is a 35-year old black guy who looks like he took three showers before the show, then a bath in cologne just before putting on the perfect colored sneakers to match his shirt and jeans, the “alt guy” looks like he just fell out of bed and forgot to shave. No, no, he doesn’t look like he chose not to shave. He looks like he forgot to shave. 25 years old, a skinny, pale white frame, nerdy glasses, definitely a plaid button shirt that fits perfectly but hangs off him almost as if by accident, and jeans that fit either hipster tight or are the more innocuous type that he’s worn every day for seven years.
I don’t know if any comic has ever had great success in both the urban and alt comedy circuits, and I am no exception. For while I’ve had plenty of micro-successes in the form of great sets on the latter, I am as of yet to earn my first TV credit via its industry. And aside from the very rare phone call from an old friend with a big pay-day offer, I haven’t worked the black rooms in almost seven years. Except for a few really cool friends I met there I don’t miss it at all.
People think the black rooms are “scarier” or somehow “tougher” than the clubs or “white rooms” (which really usually boast a mix that more accurately reflects the population) but this is sort of a misunderstanding as a result of an errant definition of tough. “Tough,” in my opinion, should imply an intelligent, comedy-savvy crowd that doesn’t laugh at typical, hacky humor, and could maybe be classified as comedy snobs even. This does not describe most urban rooms. When an urban room is “tough” it is usually suggestive of the absolute shittiest cross section of the circuit. The crowd is unruly and inattentive and only responds well to being made fun of or the most explicit jokes about sex and race (typical, hacky humor). A lot of great comedians would bomb here because they are much better “teachers” than they are “babysitters.” There are some great babysitters who will shine in these awful situations, but ask them to explain the first chapter of calculus when a room full of thinkers are actually paying attention and watch them stumble, fumble, and fail. Get it?
Don’t get me wrong: There have been some fantastic black comedy rooms around the city, and when they are good they’re fuckin’ amazing! For over ten years Wil Sylvince and Talent hosted a Sunday night show at the Boston Comedy Club on W. 3rd St. that was sold out with the coolest and most fun black people in New York every single week. The crowd was smart, attentive, and as energetic as that of any of the hood crowds, but savvier with more flexible minds. They were fantastic. It seemed every comedian in the city was there every Sunday night craving and begging for a piece of the stage. Unfortunately that show is long since defunct and none like it have since popped up.
My ultimate gripes with the hood were its inattentive crowds (hearing every word of the joke is key in recognizing good comedy) and one dimensional mind sets. On top of that, instead of having the discernment to recognize actual confidence they often ignorantly and strictly bought into the “confidence uniform:” A guy on stage yelling and screaming and unapologetically cursing and spewing whatever filth, flarn filth that popped into his mind. That meant confident. Anyone with any awareness of ghetto culture can see the consistency between this perception and the social politics of the streets. It is low frequency shit – immature and frankly, incorrect.
When I started writing more original material and stopped shouting so much as a result of my new-comic nervous energy I was having shittier sets in urban rooms. Of course many black individual audience members in the comedy clubs or alt rooms I worked were still receptive, but in the more one dimensional environments of the ghetto rooms with mostly ghetto comics on the show I was suddenly bombing. My growth felt stagnated, and I quickly left without a second thought. In recent years I’ve observed similar frustrations at times in certain alt rooms, but it obviously comes from a different place… or does it?
Over-compensation in perspective is a symptom of immaturity, that lands its thinker equally as far away from Intelligent, just simply on the opposite side of it. People often philosophically define themselves in distance to who they think is wrong instead of actually thinking about what might be right. Many atheists, overly bleeding heart liberals, male feminists, holistic medicine worshippers who wouldn’t go to the hospital with a gun shot wound, etc.
In the times that I’ve had bad sets in alt rooms I’ve felt like I was being judged as a “hood comic.” In spite of years of mainstream acceptance and having established myself in the clubs, for some reason while on stage, looking out at a room full of unamused 25-year old, hipstered-nerd style whites from the midwest who came to the big city to be cultured and progressive, I felt stupid. I knew my material was smart and original but it sounded to my heart like the non-laughers were saying: “No, dummie. Not funny.” Why?
What I came to realize is that a bad alt crowd, via over compensation, suffers from a similar mental one-dimesionality and definition of confidence as does a bad hood crowd. Instead of loud, boisterous aggressiveness, the bad alt room responds only to a dry, understated, unenthused if not apathetic delivery from its comics, where even the slightest symptom of performance is misunderstood and judged as a lack of confidence or inexperience. Faith in appearance replaces capacity for thought and variety in styles suffers. I do love how this is as reflective of the hipster culture that geographically surrounds most alt rooms as does the black rooms’ attitude is to its environment. Also fascinating to see how other aforementioned examples of over-compensation – atheism, liberalism, feminism – are more ubiquitious on the alt circuit than any other.
Again, don’t get me wrong: Great alt rooms are fantastic, as are great hood rooms (though the latter are fewer and further between due mostly to the attention span issue), and I look forward to doing much more alt shows in the near future. This truth alone shows that at my present stage I have a much greater affinity for them than their urban counterpart, but their ironic similarities in mental inflexibility and faith in contrasting uniforms by each group at their worst cannot go unnoticed. There is a place for Sam Kinison and Katt Williams and a place for Mitch Hedburg and Demetri Martin as well; but there are also millions of places in between those poles where most of the greats actually came from. We have to nourish those places.
Can’t we all just get along? Ha…
November 7, 2013
What I’ve come to realize is that often times people aren’t actually as dumb as they sound. When listening to the pontifications of apparent morons one has to consider what personality and psychological issues might be at the root, overpowering the speaker’s actual intellect. A personal bias, a need to sound different and go against the grain (“pretentiousness”), an inordinate amount of emotion attached to an issue that catalyzes an inaccurate exaggeration or blanket statement that refuses to acknowledge exceptions to the rule: There are NO smart Republicans! ALL white people love that shit! ALL independent films are so much better than Hollywood, etc. (that last one might actually be true in regards to the past 5-10 years actually).
Once in a while comes an asshole who feels the need to suggest that Mariano Rivera is only “arguably” the greatest closer of all time. Obviously our first suspicion is that this would come from a Red Sox or Mets fan fueled by the aforementioned power of bias, though I’ve heard others express the same sentiment, deducing that it could only come from the terribly transparent agenda of wanting to sound unique – to offer something different and/or stir things up, as maybe said person has grown frustrated with people being consistently bored with their customarily ordinary and pedestrian opinions.
Mariano has the lowest ERA of any pitcher all time [with 1000 innings or more]. He has the most regular season saves and most post-season saves [by more than double]. My devil’s advocate would argue that the reason for the latter is because he was fortunate enough to be on the Yankees, and thus played in more post season games than anyone else. I’d argue back that a huge part of the reason the Yankees made it to so many playoff games is because of Mariano (see first part: “lowest ERA” and “most regular season saves” all time – duh).
Sure, people like Goose Gossage, Eckersley, and Sutter pitched more innings per game than Mo, but Sutter only did it for 12 years and the other two have only about half as many saves; not to mention the fact that it’s difficult, if not unfair, to compare players from such different eras. Was Mariano more dominant and head and shoulders above his peers in his prime than any one of them were in theirs? Yes. Also, the closer is deified for performing under pressure and Rivera pitched in the highly pressurized media frenzy of the 90’s and 2000’s, where players are much more scrutinized than they were 30 and 40 years ago. He pitched throughout the “steroid era,” when batters boasted much bigger arms and the stats to match; and much more often than not Mo shut ‘em down. He’s the best. And you’re the worst. Go jerk off to the subtle symbolisms and sad endings of some shitty independent film.
Why not take this opportunity to also poke holes in the awfully transparent pretentiousness of those who say they “like Citi Field better than Yankee Stadium.”
I’m not saying you don’t personally feel that way, but to imply that one is somehow “better” than the other is just wrong – if for no other reason simply because this is classic “apples and oranges.” To lazily fail to acknowledge so shows an obvious combination of agenda to go against the grain and excessive emotion propagating inaccurate blanket statements. People who hate the Yankees detest the Yankees! Everyone knows they are the huge corporate monster – the popular choice, the Goliath to the David that is the Mets. For their new stadium they fittingly built a one billion dollar cathedral. The Mets built a more intimate “ballpark,” a la Fenway, no doubt with the very understandable idea of doing something different from their crosstown rivals instead of trying to compete with them, since history has shown that to be obviously impossible. It was a smart move. So for any fan to suggest that one is somehow “better” than the other actually negates what was surely part of the original motive behind building it. You cannot say that some hole in the wall comedy club is “better” than Carolines on Broadway. You can say you prefer the former, which is fine, but this speaks more to your personal taste than the quality of the latter. All this not to mention the fact that, achem… the Yankees didn’t have to fix their stadium after it was “finished.” Haha! I mean, if you look back at track records it would seem hilariously fishy to think that the Mets did something inherently “better” than the Yankees did.
Reader might suggest that mine is the voice of a biased Yankee fan. Ridiculous. Unlike the Jets in football I actually like the Mets and genuinely root for them to improve (how could anyone with a good heart not?). And you won’t hear me defend people like A-Rod, places like Met Life Stadium, or track records like that of the Knicks. I know, we suck. And it sucks. But Mariano Rivera is not “arguably” the best closer of all time to any of the experts, pundits, peers, or journalists, and the numbers don’t suggest such ambivalence either. Give it up, dude.
I’ve learned to be careful of calling people stupid. I want to call them stupid because pretentiousness makes me angry, but I must be careful not to then fall into the trap of making an exaggerated diagnosis based on my own heigtened emotion. They’re not always stupid. Some are just relatively immature. An accusation of “immaturity,” because of the masses’ understanding of it, sounds to imply it as a temporary condition that will inevitably be transcended. Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case. There are tons of immature 89 year olds, and some very mature 19 year olds who know you cannot compare Citi Field to Yankee Stadium.
Intelligent people sometimes “wear the uniform of intelligence” as part of their personality. This doesn’t necessarily make them unintelligent; but probably pretty immature and insecure (redundant). Most of the time it is relatively unintelligent people who wear the uniform of intelligence. These are who we call “pseudo-intellectuals.” Most of the masses do wear the uniform of maturity: Their behavior is reserved if not soulless and miserable; their attire is never shocking, and their profession is a valued one that promises security. This is conformity; not maturity. I believe there can be mature conformists, though they are rare. The only example of pasting an evolutionary quality into one’s personality that is paradoxical is that of confidence. Anyone wearing the uniform of confidence in his/her persona cannot truly be confident. Unfortunately, what I find to be interesting is that only the truly intelligent can consistently identify the difference.
September 27, 2013
Some people believe if you’re not making a living off comedy by the time you’re 30 or when you have ten years of experience under your belt then you should probably quit – that were it going to happen for you, it would have by now/then/whenever. Others feel the only time to quit is when you feel yourself either no longer progressing or no longer loving the craft. Mentally I surely subscribe much more to the latter, though emotionally my stress levels admittedly often reflect the former.
Everyone wants success – even outside the world of show business, in the more straight forward occupational paths of promised financial security and guarantees of position people worry constantly about their futures and present. It seems everyone just wants to relax, and yet most are stuck on capitalism’s brilliantly designed hamster wheel where they are constantly working their asses off ironically in hopes of eventually no longer having to work at all. For a seemingly small minority of the population this works. For the rest it perpetuates a constant struggle colored by fear and moved by adrenalin, and is arguably as responsible as poor diets for most of the world’s diseases and unhappiness.
My favorite comic ever, Louie Ck, smartly makes fun of “white problems,” pointing out that we worry about attaining a certain size apartment or house or making a certain amount payment on our cars and mortgages while others all over the world have no idea whether or not they’re going to starve to death tomorrow. On one hand I agree with him – it’s an obviously intelligent perspective. On the other hand I believe the human experience of suffering is unanimous, and the undying feeling of want, in spite of it not being the same as “need,” transcends color, social class, and geographic situation.
Most of us cannot escape our conditionings. Hacky pseudo-intellectual comedians often pontificate on stage in jest of certain suburban white kids whose anger or depression are a result of their not feeling loved – as if this is an illegitimate reason for misery, especially in contrast to kids from the ghetto whose parents could afford nothing but rice for dinner and hand-me-down jackets. The spectator morons usually laugh at the expense of said examples, easily recognizing the comical point, but the philosophy is actually quite dumb and elementary. It is based on the idea that money and material gain equal happiness and that more subtle feelings of unfulfillment or voids of love are unacceptable explanations for negative feelings.
I’m not so dumb as to be ungrateful for all that I have, nor even to not know deep down that none of my desires for material gain or tangible success really matter in the grand scheme of things. I can intellectualize this concept, and once in a while when the right song is playing or I’m engrossed in one of those special chilling sessions with friends I can feel it. But I also cannot (or at least have not) escape my conditonings. Neither have over 99% of the world’s population, and so I think we have every right, to some degree some of the time, to complain and feel the stress of our “white problems.”
I wish you and Dad didn’t have to work so hard at your age. I wish Dad’s company didn’t completely fuck him over in retirement the way they did (I don’t even know how the main individual who makes a decision like that can live with himself). I wish my success in comedy could pay your mortgage for you, and free you of your worrisome thoughts and unwanted work obligations. I wish I could free Dad from his stressful and unpredictable job as well. I wish I could pay for him to get acupuncture treatments from the best acupuncturists in the world – so they might help his arthritis, loss of vision, and other ailments more than I’ve been able to with my still minimal experience. I haven’t given up of course – not by a very long shot – but I’d hoped and prayed and visualized in my admittedly inconsistent medititation practice that it would have happened for me/us sooner… here… in our home in New York. It so far has not, and at the risk of looking naïve, desperate, and/or impatient, this is why I’ve chosen to “take my talents” to Venice Beach. Ha!
It is so important to me that you know three things. One is that I’ve worked hard. I’ve done just about everything I could in pursuit of my dreams, and never got lazy in spite of long periods of discouragement and rejection. Two is that you did not raise a failure – that I am not one of those self-unaware, talentless, wanna-be artists motivated more by hope or delusion than an intelligently founded belief in self. I’ve been given no reason to not think I won’t succeed; but instead only the opposite. Shitty comedians don’t often land on HBO, MTV, and Showtime, win three comedy competitions, and get constantly praised by their most respected peers for their abilities (which is not at all to suggest any comic who is lacking in the aforementioned should quit…). Aside from the superficial evidence of my bank statements in the latter 75% of my career I’ve been given no reason to quit, slow down, or lose belief in my goals. This brings me to number three:
I don’t want you to fear that I’m screwing up my life by not prioritizing financial security or stability. Mom, I know you are more of a “materialist” than I am. I also know that it is impossible to ask a mother (especially a Jewish Cancer – yikes!) to not worry about her kids, but I hope for the sake of your peace of mind, and mine when I’m around you, that you will make an effort to have faith in my intelligence and common sense. Yes, I am more or less “risking everything” for my dreams in comedy, but you have to understand that this is usually the prerequisite for success. Sure it is often the formula for many enormously disappointing failures as well, but again, I’ve never been given ample reason to think that is my fate.
I know it is difficult for a person of your belief system and conditionings to continue to exercise patience as she watches most of her friends’ kids buy homes and cars and get married and have kids. I’m sure you’ve wondered why you’ve been so forsaken. You did a near impeccable job of loving and raising smart kids who worked hard and got into good schools too. Where’s your mortgage? Where are the damn grandkids?! Ha! I’m sorry. There is a small part of me that wishes I could already have given you more happiness and peace of mind by having those things too. But I always knew that most of the paths that correspond with more promised security could not make me happy, and deep down that it wouldn’t make you happy either. Remember when Dr. Tsao sang The Gambler at my graduation? That’s me, and it is also all my wonderfully brilliant, fascinating, and talented friends (we’re not as small of a minority as you think). I promise you I’ve always known when to hold them and when to fold them; and that the best things come to those who wait.
I guarantee you I’ll never be homeless or starving, and I will never allow you to be either… so long as you minimize your instinct to nag. Ha! I guarantee you I will never allow my mind or gifts to go to waste. And I’ll never forget how much you’ve supported me.
September 22, 2013
This is my final entry for Cottonelle’s wet wipes bloggers campaign, #LetsTalkAboutBums! It is yet another story of an instance in which Cottonelle’s product would have come in quite handy, no pun intended.
I suffer from Gout disease, as well as “A.S.S.” (Aspiring to Succeed in Show business). Both conditions teamed up to be culpable in the only time I ever shit my pants as an adult… so far.
It was the Spring of 2007. I was in the beginning of an intense, year long acting class, and our teacher, Joanna Beckson, was unforgiving of students who did not know their lines. Presently in the 2-3 day, pharmaceutically addressed recovery process of an acute gout attack I chose to spend the day before class at home, resting and memorizing and running lines.
As repetition got as old as the day outside was beautiful I decided to limp my arthritic ass (well, foot to be accurate) outside. I lived about a five block walk from Riverside Park and thought it would be nice to embody the ultimate cliché: the young, white, urban, struggling artist memorizing lines for his acting class on a pretty day in the park. All I was missing was a tall skim latte, a fresh squeezed kale juice, and jeans tight enough for an insecure high school chick. But I was chillin’…
Unfortunately it wasn’t long after I arrived that human physiology shocked my entire being with its impatient demand. I had to shit… bad! I knew I had to get home fast but as an unfortunate result of my genetic disorder I could not. Instead I had to just limp as quickly as possible, dragging my gouty toe, all the while asking more of my sphincter muscle maybe than I ever had before. Multi-tasking!
I was doing okay. I was at approximately 168th St. and Riverside Dr., limping under the underpass of the offramp from the GW Bridge, halfway home. I was terribly uncomfortable from head to toe, if not at least stomach to toe, but could see success was in my near future. The pain and intestinal demands were unforgiving but totally manageable. And that’s when it happened. My bad toe suddenly bumped into an elevated, uneven sidewalk block and anyone who knows anything about Gout knows that it shot terrible pain receptors surging up through my body. Had I not been in such inflammatory pain there is obviously no way this very common hiccup in gait would have disrupted my sphincter’s present responsibility. But I was… and it did.
The pain from my toe’s collision distracted my anus just enough that I lost the battle. Not the entire battle thank God, but more of it than I ever had as an adult prior, and more than I hope to ever again. I’d shit my pants. I felt “it” between my cheeks and a little bit on the posterior medial aspect of my thigh. Sorry. I was disgusted as you are.
They are so fascinating, those moments in adulthood when we revert back to being a child, if not our primate ancestors, where nothing is being intellectualized or pondered over and we are trying only to salvage our physical well-being in the moment. There is that brief moment of panic in my mind: Oh fuck, now what?! What do I do now?! I shit my pants. I fuckin’ shit my pants! What should I do? And then reason sets in: Nothing dickhead. Do the same thing you already were. As a matter of fact, if it was possible, that same plan has become even more important than it already was 30 seconds ago. Get home. The only thing that’s changed is the added extra step of a shower.
I got home and cleaned up; did an immediate laundry wash; though was disappointed to feel not long after, that chafing sensation in my ass, bearing a negative nostalgia from a handful of childhood memories. I had a show to go to that night, but hours later, as I left my crib for it I made it only halfway to the train before I called the show producer and canceled, apologizing that I just wasn’t “feeling good.” Not untrue. After some topical application and a good night’s sleep things were back to normal, but who could help but wonder how the whole situation might have been alleviated by Cottonelle’s new wet wipes? It might have been one extra performance experience under my belt instead of the moist shit that had plagued me on that limp up Riverside.
September 17, 2013
I have no idea how many times I’ve peed in public. It’s got to be in the thousands, no exaggeration, honestly. I’ve peed in tons of pay phones, train stations, parks, nooks, crannies, crevices, and sometimes just out in the open, prioritizing the well-being of my kidneys over my penis-ego or clean criminal record (in adulthood). I say this not to brag or throw it in the face of our world’s wonderful women who are unable to enjoy such a luxury, or avoid a menstrual cycle, ignore their biological clock, all the while living in a society that values mostly male traits; but instead to acknowledge its contrast to the amount of times I’ve defecated in public. Before 2003 the number was zero. Since 2003… phew, let’s see… No, no, just kidding… but it is no longer zero. It’s one. And please believe, it was unavoidable.
In the spring of 2003 I was well into my second year of comedy, working almost exclusively the black comedy circuit. It was easier to get stage time in the hood, and my hip hop style fit well in spite of my racial handicap. On Thursday nights I used to love performing at Jimmy’s Uptown on 131st st. and 7th Ave. Hosted by Capone, “The Gangsta of Comedy,” the crowd was typically very tough but not unfair (some hood crowds were downright unfair, but I had some great sets at Jimmy’s), and on this particular night I’d had a really good set. My boy’s girlfriend was bartending at a bar on 110th and Amsterdam the same night, so I thought it a good idea to perpetuate my set high with a drink at her spot, utilizing the set high to propel me through the mile and half walk.
I was two years off cigarettes at the time and had developed the replacement vice of at least twice daily, 12 oz. Heinekens (is that like saying I became an alcoholic?). Figured I should get one to maximize enjoyment of my evening stroll, though what it apparently did instead was maximize the sudden downbearing of peristalsis somewhere around 119th St. on the east side of Morningside Park.
Again, it was about 11pm on a Thursday. Harlem, 2003. Sure, it wasn’t the danger zone of 1993, but it wasn’t the frenetically gentrified, white-Midwesterners-are-now-more-commonplace-than-crackheads-2013 either. The streets were dark and quiet and I’m pretty sure it had been minutes since I’d walked by anyone. My beer was still unfinished, but I could feel the beast in my stomach growing more powerful by the second. Familiar sensation quickly turned to discomfort which quickly turned to pain. That sharp and achey downbearing pressure of expansion, absolutely demanding its victim’s attention. I tried stopping in my tracks to temper it. I took a deep breath, hoping it would “go back up” or something. Momentary relief was given, but as soon as I started walking again it came back with an avengeance amused by my ignorant, weak attempt. Realizing I could not outsmart or manipulate the monster I tried instead to outrun it, walking faster. The pain just got worse. I was 24 years old and for the first time in my life I was out of options (in this regard).
I looked around me. There was nothing. No restaurants, no stores, no Starbucks (which were a lot less ubiquitious in 2003), and nobody. I was familiar enough with the immediate neighborhood to know that there was probably no accessible bathroom within a five minute walk; and I’d become familiar enough with the present acute situation to know that even five minutes could be a stretch. I looked at the edge of the damp, dark park my path had been hugging and the brown paper bag that was concealing the Heineken in my hand. I swigged the rest of the beer (why not at this point?), split the bag in three pieces, and did what a man sometimes has to do (well, some men I guess). I’ll spare you the details.
Thank God it’s been over 20 years since I’ve worn anything but boxers. There have been few times in life that I’ve experienced an ambivalence in emotion greater than during that walk from “my spot” to the bar. Of course I’d cleaned what I could with the miniature brown bodega bag, but my physical disgust was matched and probably trumped only by the tremendous physical relief I felt… and I really felt it.
Shamelessly I walked the remaining 10 blocks in a subtle horse stance, torn between wanting to get to the bar as quickly as possible but not wanting to chafe my cheek skins together as much as I would had I walked at a quick pace. A delicate balance.
I’ve never been so happy to arrive at a bar. I waved to my friend behind the bar before physically greeting her and B-lined it to the bathroom, where I made myself at home, and was gratefully uninterrupted by any other patrons. To this day, walking out of that bathroom is one of the finest feelings I’ve ever had in my life. Nothing was on my mind. There were no internal questions or struggles or conflicts or troubles. All was clean in my anus and right with the world.
However, being a self-proclaimed cultured New Yorker I am rarely without my backpack. I say this because a New Yorker most likely is traveling without a car, and a cultured one needs something with which to carry his/her books to read and some kind of container to carry water to avoid plastic bottles as much as possible. Also in my bag is always my umbrella, extra pens, and dietary supplements (the urban boyscout if you will). I would have have loved if Cottonelle’s Cleansing Cloths had existed back then, as I surely would have had them in my bag right next to book and umbrella to make the whole experience of my bum in a Harlem park a lot more tolerable.
September 12, 2013
Who are these IDIOTS that are not buying and using Cottonelle wet wipes on their bums?! Do these people derobe in the bathroom, step into the shower, and chafe their skin with dry soap as they attempt to clean their dry bodies of its daily acquired filth? Then pour a palm of shampoo onto a dry scalp? Do they spill tomato sauce, soy sauce, or hot sauce (ethnicity dependant) on their kitchen floor and wipe it up with a dry paper towel? When their cats cough up hair balls (not necessarily calling all cat owners idiots) on the carpet do they just take a napkin in one full swipe to it? Did they get a high school education? Have they suffered some kind of severe brain trauma? I’m quite concerned about these folk - if not of their mental stability and intellectual inferiority, at least their anal cleanliness. Who along the line gave the impression to the masses that plain old toilet paper was ample ammunition for the residual trail left by what is arguably the most disgusting substance in the world as it exits what is probably the smallest orifice on the body? Sick.
I suppose if your diet consists of nothing but bland flavored fiber, steamed vegetables like kale, broccoli, asparagus, and spinach, fruits like berries, pineapple, apple, and avocado (for some amount of fat to boost metabolism), then you experience a pretty darn clean break each time on the bowl. This of course in exchange for a complete lack of indulgence in the more comforting and stimulating foods required by those of us whose psyches are still falling a hair short of spiritual enlightenment and the peace of mind that allows for no vices whatsoever. I surely fall into the majority in this aspect of life, as I adore bacon. Although bacon has been known to get quite lonely when left outside of a plate of fried eggs with hashbrowns, or say, a huge medium-rare cheeseburger with lettuce, chipotle mayo, tomatos, and fried onions… french fries on the side of course to be occasionally wrapped in one of the less crispy strips as a delectable “homemade” “potato pork fajita.” Delicious. Clean breaks are rare after such religious culinary experiences.
The truth is I do try to eat very healthy. I love sweet potatoes and avocado and definitely am able to incorporate fruits and/or vegetables into my diet each day. I eat salmon and sardines, brown rice, black beans, kale and spinach, and I use ghee or coconut oil for cooking. I actually have learned to really enjoy healthy foods and it’s forced me to become a slightly better home chef. But we must have balance. A nice cliché general rule I’ve heard is the “80/20 rule:” 80% of one’s diet should absolutely be health conscious; and while 20% should not necessarily be candy bars and McDonald’s it is okay to designate it for relatively full indulgence: Bacon cheeseburgers, french fries, and wonderful beer. Sausages, rich Mexican food, spicy jerk chicken, flavorful Indian stews, beef pad thai, and sure, the occasional pastrami or corned beef sandwich from Katz’s on Houston St. Maybe some Marlboros, cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin if that’s your thing. Just kidding - that surely falls outside the scope of the 20%.
My observation is that it is only the most enormously disciplined of humans who can even abide by the “80/20 rule,” and so even their bums will require some moisture at least 20% of the time. For the majority of us living closer to “60/40” or probably “20/80,” our bums absolutely need the Cottonelle wet wipes, if not 100% of the time, then damn near close to it. We can be such idiots so much of the time in this society of stupidity. Let’s be smarter in the sh#tter.
September 6, 2013
Did you know that you’re not supposed to move your bowels while sitting on the toilet bowl? Of course you also should not move them while sitting on the couch, squatting in the park, sitting faced indoors on a window sill with an enemy walking the street below, or while skipping down the street. As a matter of fact, when you think about it (and one should probably not think about it too often) nearly all physical positions and locations in life are inappropriate for moving one’s bowels. In a vacuum, the toilet bowl as a location for excretory deposit is fine (a vacuum is not fine – this is simply a figure of speech), but it is the design of the modern bowl and the sitting position it encourages that do not support maximum well-being.
Supposedly our aborigine ancestors, who lived just a tad slightly more in accord with nature than we do (no iphones, processed foods, emails, staying up past sundown pounding ice cream, or online advertising campaign blogs) used to squat to move their bowels and suffered a great deal less intestinal issues, constipation, and hemorrhoids because of it. Granted, their lives free of captialistic stressors and inorganic foods played a role as well, but many doctors will confirm that for optimum movement your feet should be on the seat with thighs against your chest for each purge. It’s not as conducive to newspaper reading or playing on one’s cell phone, though also not as conducive to sh#tty health – no pun intended.
How do I know this?
Besides being a comedian for the past 11 years, which did not contribute to this knowledge at all, I was also a graduate student for four years, studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is just one of the many experiences that has given me more information than the majority of the people reading this blog, and subsequently makes me superior. Ha! Did you know that it’s healthier to eat mostly cooked foods instead of raw, especially first thing in the morning and/or during cold weather months? Did you know vegetarianism is most often not beneficial? Did you know excessive exercise can be even more unhealthy than no exercise at all?
I was given many gems of wisdom by my school that poke holes in some of the most ubiquitous ignorances in modern society. Sometimes they are lessons that we can’t imagine being effective or practical, like the former of uncomfortably squatting on our toilet bowls while imminently waiting for a louder landing with a much greater splash more likely to hit cheeks. But others have sort of confirmed something our intuition may already have known and thus put into practice long before we ever applied to Traditional Chinese Medical school. Under this heading is the lesson to never wipe completely dry – that at least one wipe should feature H2O to prevent, at the risk of getting overly graphic, excess feces flakes from residing in crevices we’d prefer to keep clean.
Why am I tell you this?
I was flattered to learn that Cottonelle chose me to be one of the ambassadors of their new campaign: “Be kind to your behind.” They knew me as a comical writer, but had no idea I was also a holistic healer, and hence thrilled to help promote anything as progressively minded as moist paper gliding smoothly up our butts for maximum cleanliness, as opposed to the very short-sighted, rough dryness of plain old paper… which is sooo 1980’s.
Obviously I am not the only genius with the intuitive wisdom of what is necessary in self maintenance, as Cherry Healey explains her discovery as a new mother.
September 4, 2013