I wish everyone shared my perspective, but then would my perspective be special? Would I be unique? Would I have anything to say, vent, or create? Could I still be original in this hypothetical utopia where everyone agrees with me, and always nods, “Yes, I too have thought exactly that the entire time.”
I wish I were better looking. Of course I am not bad-looking, but couldn’t we all be a bit better looking? Couldn’t I come closer to having that face, that hair, and pearly white smile that twice as many girls who are twice as good looking would double take at twice as often and consider partaking in their second ever double team with? I wish all women wanted me, but then would “she” be special? She might not exist in the moment, though she has existed several times in the past, and is sure to exist again in the future. Could I appropriately appreciate her if all the other “hers” felt the same about me, the same to me, always responding in the same affirmative way? How could I even practically navigate through such a supposedly blissful gluttony of stimulation? Life as an ongoing orgy, unable to ever get to work, see friends, enjoy time alone, get an apparently unneeded haircut, or go for a likely much needed visit to the doctor. Would I have time for my craft, or has that become an obsolete obligation anyway, as a result of all my ideas and philosophy now having been cloned 5 billion times over for peace and perfection on Earth?
I wish I wasn’t broke. I wish I slept better and didn’t have gout or hair loss, eczema, or some nagging Goddamn knee pain from neglectful instruction in the first yoga class I ever took six years ago. Moreso I wish my parents weren’t broke. I wish my dad hadn’t got fucked over in retirement by the company he’d given his life to, and Mom didn’t have to work more than full time at a restaurant job that burns her out to pay bills that quickly burn through her wallet. I wish I was more successful – that I could just finally win the proverbial lottery that is the ongoing grind of show business and resolve all of life’s problems with one grandiose swoop of deposit and withdrawal. I wish not being able to do this didn’t make me so angry, and if it must that said anger didn’t perpetuate my insomnia, eczema, and hair loss. Life would be easier. Maybe my conditioned anger and frustration could be less conditioned within me, and I would just be always happy, or at least at peace with whatever obstacles seemed to be in my way. I could sing and dance and laugh freely, without thought of obligation, failed efforts, deadlines, hurt feelings, both internalized or delivered out to others. I wouldn’t have to wish so hard or so often anymore, as my wishes failing to actualize would no longer provoke the same anger supposedly so ingrained in my DNA.
Before my family went bankrupt my mother never had to work. I dare not accuse such a wonderful woman of being a bitch, but do have more than a few vague childhood memories of instances in restaurants where had I been our server she would have surely ingested my mucus with her food. For the past decade that she’s worked in customer service Mom’s been nothing short of Ghandi with every waiter, counterperson, and busboy she’s come into contact with. She also used to pass negative judgement on anyone with tattoos, but since apparently expanding her circle of friends to the more diverse demographic found in the food industry her mind is more opened. Without her “pain-in-the-fucking-ass job” Mom probably would have never said ten words in her life to any black teenagers or 30-year old Mexicans. She’s now attracted good friends in the form of each, both of whom she is so fond of that I know them by first name without having met them once.
Without any chronic ailments I never would have had to explore alternative medicine. I never would have realized its efficacy and been fascinated enough to entertain studying it in graduate school. Had my comedy career continued to elevate on the same trajectory it started from in the beginning I neither would have had the time or interest in going to graduate school. I would have been too busy, with too much money, too many women who all wanted to be with me at all times in some caricature of a sex life that could probably end my career, ironically. Instead I became a much better comedian in graduate school. I worked hard on stage concurrently, but actually “found my [comedic] voice” in the classroom: “Yin and yang” as it applies to the entirety of existence, “mind, body, spirit,” and “Motherfuck the system” even moreso than hip hop recommended throughout my adolescence.For six years leading up to the middle of grad school I was broken-hearted without a girlfriend or circle of friends to speak of. I often surfed through facebook photo albums of social crews having fun, enjoying life, with the envious desperation of a young man in a dry spell watching porn. In school I fell genuinely in love again, both romantically and platonically about ten times over, totally unexpectedly rediscovering the most important thing in life: Love. Chinese Medicine healed me, and Chinese Medical students healed me that much deeper.
Wish, sure, but don’t wish so hard. Buddha taught that all suffering is created by desire. Buddha was pretty smart. Unfortunately the frustration for me around his teachings is that they always feel so far away – so unattainable for someone like myself. Conditionings so ingrained, an ego-mind and pain-body so colossal, goals so lofty, a career environment so illogical, unpredictable, and stressful, and eczema so fuckin’ itchy. Like most of us I probably will not reach “Enlightenment” this go around; so instead I try to employ tools in the form of logical, factual reminders to accommodate the destructively over-powering left side of my freaky brain. Every wish that has ever gone ungranted has ultimately bestowed upon me a such greater gift than one I could have even had the clarity to imagine through the thick, musty clouds of my desires’ suffering. I keep this fact in mind in my more successful journeys through adversity.
How many times I have dreamt about and craved a Big Mac but missed the exit and immediately realized a U-turn is impossible. Fuck! I slam the steering wheel, furious with myself for being unaware, furious with the engineers for not properly designing the highway and the Goddamn bureaucratic government for not allowing a measely U-turn. I feel my stomach growl. My hunger makes me angrier, and the energy of my anger makes me hungrier. My blood sugar is dropping. I grow more irritable, and my tension transforms to panic. Manically I scan the sides of the highway for a McDonald’s. I’ll settle for Burger King, Wendy’s, any form of meat to keep me alive and from passing out! I can feel my stomach beginning to eat itself. Is that what’s happening? I feel my foot grow heavier as the odometer creeps quickly up past the permissable 10-15mph over the limit. I’m not even looking at the road anymore. Instead my focus is on the shoulder, the off ramps and exits, the rest stations, scanning for salvation. I need food! A bright light! Any Goddamn colorful sign symbolic of a dead animal cooked for my face. There is nothing. Just trees and cliffs and fields and some annoying gorgeous sunset in the distance. Beautiful animals grazing just yards away without a care in the world. Should I kill them? No, that’s stupid. How the hell would I cook ‘em? My foot grows heavier as the odometer reaches triple digits. I can see it getting darker outside, but I dare not put on my headlights as some insane ambivalence of desperate optimism has me convinced a McDonald’s must be so close in the distance that lights are unneeded. It’s been hours since I passed that McDonald’s. Days now, months, nine years I’ve been starving to death (though somehow haven’t died). The road is pitch black and I can’t see a thing, unsure whether I’m even still going in the right direction. I hit something. A deer! I killed it for sure. A moment later I hit another thing - a raccoon, now two people, a little kid, 14 babies are dead in my path. Suddenly the street is bright again. Is it morning? No, those are police sirens. I am wanted for murder on top of facing probably the most expensive speeding ticket of my life. I’m really not a bad guy at all. I would honestly love to pull over, face up to my crimes, apologize to the families, serve my time, but I’m really, really hungry. I need to eat. I keep speeding, and the cop grows faster on my tail. Minutes later there are two cops, then three, then 74 police cars surrounding me in a totally honest pursuit of a good meal. I try running them off the road, but am obviously outnumbered. They ram me from every angle… all 74 angles I’m being rammed from. These motherfucking cocksuckers are trying to stand between me and my dinner! I slam the steering wheel again, and my anger distracts me just enough to allow the one on my left tail to get the perfect angled hit to run me off the road. I smash the divider at 160mph, and my car double kickflips for a quarter mile in the air. I’m near heart attack before I hit the ground, devastated now that I won’t at least get a last meal. I’m angry that I’m about to die angry. What a shitty way to die. My car explodes into flames along as I expire, right in the parking lot of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, for which an 80% off coupon burns in my glove compartment.
Wish, but don’t wish so hard, ‘lest you grow more resistant, self-centered, single-minded, oblivious of all the beauty, only to fall just short of a much better destination that patiently awaited you the entire time.
July 27, 2014
I am usually the only guy in my yoga class. Placing my mat in the front of the room is generally most conducive to maintaining any semblance of focus, except of course during downward dog when there are many inverted views more enticing than my own belly button.
Within circles of comedians I am usually the only devout yoga student. Whether or not I am the funniest or least funny in the circle I can always be sure that my perspective is at least unique. In the same circle I am almost always the only student of astrology (often creating a social handicap), and might be the only stand-up comic on the planet with a Masters degree in Chinese Medicine.
In Chinese Medicine school I was the only comedian. I was the only one walking the hallways listening to M.O.P. on my ipod, the only one who still wearing baggy clothes discussing our ancient physiological perspective in slang Ebonics at a clinic table full of old Chinese men. All of this made what could have otherwise been a more stereotypically mundane, “New Age” environment a lot more interesting.
I’ve been the only one in the Buddhist dharma meeting rocking a crooked Yankee cap, the only one in the same meetings who says “rocking,” the only one on a subway car, the only one home, the only one on a street skateboarding past my age past that time of night, the only one high, the only one who doesn’t get high anymore, the only one at the table in love, and the only one with a seemingly irreparable broken heart. I’ve been alone while alone, alone in a crowd, felt crowded by myself, and like I would die of suffocation while surrounded by others. I’m not the only white person to adopt non-derogatory usage of the “n-word,” but to my knowledge I’m the only one who succeeded in publishing an article about ironically how racist it is to suggest I shouldn’t. This perspective is a wonderful gift in its incidental bar-setting of who is eligible for close friendship.
In high school my Dominican girlfriend was from the hood. While chilling with her and her friends or family I was the only non-Dominican. I became about 90% fluent in Spanish in that relationship, while everyone else in my honors Spanish class boasted closer to a 40% which without practice most likely deteriorated shortly thereafter.
I was the only honors student in my high school to get expelled from school. In her graduation speech, our class Valedictorian courageously denounced the faculty for reacting so harshly to who was an otherwise good kid. She was the only one, standing alone at the podium, bravely in her voice and decision to share it. Admittedly guilty of prejudgment, I think I was the only honors student who’d had a Bar-Mitzvah finding himself waiting in the hallway once a month to see my Probation Officer. I wished I was alone, but most often my wonderful mother sat by my side, annoyed, disappointed, embarrassed that she was the only one of her friends who had a felon for a son. I felt bad. Nevertheless, this experience was part of what gave me the gift of great comfort in later being the only white comedian, and often only white person in the room, for most of my shows on the black comedy circuit. I was the only white performer on my episode of HBO’s Bad Boys of Comedy, and my set went perfectly. It was one of the proudest days of my life. I rode home from the taping on cloud nine, all alone, one of the only people in the world who had done what I just did.
I highly recommend being the only one. Recently finding myself for the first time “the new guy,” in a new town on the other side of the country, voluntarily self-deprived of my occupational comfort zone and loving friends, I feel again in a less definable way, like the only one. And while it has been a time of great challenge, it has also gifted me with a surplus of self-reflection, internal awareness, and external perspective that the beautifully enjoyable distraction of friendly company can potentially attenuate.
Being the only one, in any capacity, is one of the greatest sources of education – one I honestly feel trumps anything Harvard, or any book or travel to “see other countries” can offer the human spirit. For when we cannot meditate or be at peace, or even flirt with a bad imitation of enlightenment, the Universe has conveniently bestowed upon us infinite opportunities by which to still experience our divinity. One of them, albeit ironic, is the feeling of being an outsider. Besides information it serves as a reminder, whether consciously in the moment or not, that you are the only one. You are the only you that has ever existed or ever will exist. It is important to know this, because honestly, with all maternal-type patronizing smoke up your butt aside, it means that you must be perfect.
July 16, 2014
Why does it bother me when people disagree that Biggie was the best, or at least one of the few best of all time? Is it a bias to my generation’s music and/or New York hip hop over others (which is kind of like being biased to New England seafood or New Orleans’ jazz)? Is it my ego? My obtuse egocentricity in denial of the subjective nature of music and maybe all art forms? Probably not. Instead I believe it is the consistent flip side of the same frustration I feel when I hear people praise poor or average movies or shows as being “great” when their holes and flaws are so painfully obvious that I couldn’t enjoy them if I tried. Those same fans willing to swallow complete bullshit as quality logically often fail to see and appreciate the subtle ingenuities of other artists when they aren’t properly dressed up in the most palatable uniform for their minds to digest. Biggie fit into no box, all the while fitting into every box, because like any great artist, he was willing and able to express all the layers of the human condition through the vessel of what happened to be his craft this go around. And he did it all before the age of 25. Unbelievable.
- 1. Mostly the voice: I guess Guru said it understandably first, as his voice was so great and distinct, but the same compliment might be paid ten-fold to Biggie, who sounded like if born in another era could easily have been a beautiful soul or blues singer as well. While fans most often debate over beats versus lyrics, the latter of which comes usually from a transparent agenda of self-definition reminiscent of Atheists versus Catholics, I feel the importance of rappers’ voices does get overlooked in the argument. Whether one’s narrow-minded perspective wishes to acknowledge it as such or not, rap is still music (people are dancing to it, right?), so no matter how clever of a writer someone is or how attractive their tune, if the voice doesn’t subjectively fancy your ears/soul he is not going to be your favorite rapper. While I’ve liked a few of his songs and respect his ability I’ve never been a big Eminem fan, mostly because I simply don’t like his voice very much. I don’t allow it to collude my judgement of his technical skills, though don’t really download his tracks either. This is obviously a matter of opinion, but within that subjectivity one of the most unanimously appreciated voices ever was Biggie’s - deep and beyond fluid with a pronounced presence and distinct individuality that sat easily in our memory, and seemed to malleably fit perfectly into any beat. You could give 30 other great rappers the same production and lyrics and be sure it wouldn’t sound half as good.
- 2. Degree of difficulty: It is much harder for a comedian to get strong and steady laughs on stage while spending 10 or 15 minutes uniquely dissecting a topic not commonly addressed in the comedy world than it is to throw out a few one-liners and/or discuss more expected topics with less detailed body. Louie does it successfully, which is why he’s the best. Relative to production in the era it came out in, the beat on Things Done Changed is not especially good. It’s a bit slow and overly-redundant, which obviously makes the rapper’s job more challenging to manifest a great song. BIG, whether consciously or not, chose on the track to magnify the degree of difficulty by not for even one line taking a break from his thesis. Whereas most rappers will complacently ignore their story for a line or two (if there even is one) in exchange for a convenient sounding rhyme, BIG remained fully committed to his premises, and it cannot go unnoticed (also exceptionally well on Dreams and Ten Crack Commandments). In the first verse here he reminisces on a more simple, peaceful past, until: “Turn your pagers to 1993, niggaz is gettin’ smoked G, believe me.” First of all, he could have more mindlessly deferred to any number of more cliche references to time passing, but chose to “turn our pagers,” as pagers were such a sign of that time, of things changing, as well as a symptomatic accessory of the hood character catalysts of said change. Very thoughtful. The second verse mimics the first in plot, though he takes the story deeper by personalizing it, confessing: “and I’m down with the shit too!” finally finishing with an organic incline of emotion: “My momma got Cancer in her breast, Don’t ask me why I’m motherfuckin’ stressed, Things done changed!” Premise complete. Actually, his best example of this knack for closure, and possibly my favorite verse ever, was the last on You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You, after spending the first two presenting a thesis, then 30-seconds supporting it with an example, he closes with realized proof of said thesis: “What’s his name? Dark-skinned Jermaine. See what I mean?”
- 3. Range and Creativity: Oh, what’s that? I’m not allowed to put two reasons under one number? Well, rappers mostly rap as only one man on their songs, but whether it was Puff’s idea, BIG’s, or a collaborative brainchild of both, Biggie did on this track what I don’t think had ever been done before (or if so, surely never nearly as well). A 1-2, back and forth with himself, having a dialogue in different voices, playing different characters; both apparently friends, thieves, thugs, but just as in a movie, one more in control and maniacal than the other. Back and forth “they” go through the entire song, alternatively addressing each other and their victims… innovative and perfectly executed. Immediately following the slow pace and reminiscent tone of Things Done Changed, Gimme The Loot has to be up there with Ante Up and Bring The Ruckus as one of the hardest, angriest, most thugged out tracks of all time. Appropriately, and showing his saaviness and knack for quick mental turnaround, BIG references: “You grab the fuckin’ C.R.E.AM.,” which had to be only months after the song, C.R.E.AM. had come out. And what sounds like just noisy yelling to the non-discerning minds of non-hip hop fans becomes ironically that much more impressive, as BIG is able to marry such an aggressive delivery to the melody enough to maintain musical integrity and create a great song (much like what M.O.P. also did at their best).
- 4. BIG was a bro: You can’t box a genius in to any one dimensional label of perception of how they appear in uniform or demeanor on the outside. Idiots consistently attempt to, but that is both because their idiotic minds can do no better, and because it is logical to their egocentricity that everyone must be as simple and straightforward as they are. BIG did not appear to me as “a lover” in contrast to “a fighter,” nor vice versa, nor a typical “thug” or “nerd,” nor as you nauseating pontificaters love to recycle, some kind of “undercover nerd dressed up as a thug” (ugh, throw up in my mouth at your brains). BIG was all of those and more, which is always the [non]-formula for greatness. BIG seemed to be a lover, hustler, thug, nerd, momma’s boy, loyal friend, as well as a simple bro’d out pop culture geek just like any glued-to-the-TV suburban white kid of the same generation. He could nearly go a whole song without some kind of reference to a movie, show, or musical peer, as he cites in Machine Gun Funk: “Beatin’ motherfuckers like Ike beat Tina,” then takes himself un-seriously with an ironically poor singing voice: “What’s love got to do?” One line later referencing Strapped, a not at all well known HBO original movie from the early 90’s: “Strapped like Bamboo, but I don’t sling guns.” It became such a pleasure to realize that while BIG was this drug hustling lyrical genius, he was just as much everyone’s best friend sitting next to us on the couch quoting movies, chuckling, and mimicking characters from our favorite show.
- 5. Literary knack: What so-called “lyric lovers” often fail to realize is how verbally intuitive Biggie was, and how superior was his ability of expression over other “cerebral rappers” who relied heavily on big words with many syllables and/or incessant metaphors in order to sound smart. Biggie didn’t have to try to sound smart because he was smart without trying at all. On Warning he didn’t tell us: “If niggas break in my crib I’m gonna kill ‘em,” but instead practically sang in his fluidly signature flow where the listener can barely tell where one line ends and the next begins: “There’s gonna be a lotta slow singin’, and flower bringin’, if my burglar alarm starts ringin’.” No matter how tired I ever get of that song I could listen to that line on loop to the end of time. Love it! He also gives us an enjoyable “alliteration of theme” if you will, in verse two as he repeatedly references geographic locations in illustration of the story. The discerning mind can see this was not unintentional, and by naming state after state after city and place it added a rhythm to the delivery that would have been otherwise not as enjoyable. Why did he know it was the right choice to rap: “Damn, niggas wanna stick me for my paper” four times in a row? Was it the hook, as some web sites suggest, but if so why does it only appear once? I don’t at all think it was the hook, but instead just another example of perfect musical execution that still gets yelled out with glee in any bar when it plays.
- 6. Crossing lines: What’s that? How can a rapper ever be considered to have been “crossing lines” or pushing any kind of envelope? Isn’t that like commending a contemporary comedian on taking chances with obscenity or addressing sensitive topics? Is it possible to be more offensive or uncensored than “fucking bitches,” “killing niggas,” and “sellin’ drugs?” Of course not. I think by now we’re all plenty numb to every four-letter word and no topic being sacred or off limits. Biggie crossed the lines people less think of in his ability to show us a darker autobiographical transparency than most rappers do or ever did. On Ready to Die: “Fuck the world, fuck my moms, and my girl…” Did he really mean that? Did BIG hate his mom?! No, I don’t think any of us thought, nor think while watching any documentary footage that he hated his Mom, but he was willing to offer a window into a more desperate, angst-ridden sentiment that has likely been in all of us at one time or another. We’ve all felt, “fuck the world.” We’ve all hated our mothers, but to explicitly express it in song is something we’d expect much more from the likes of a Nine Inch Nails or Nirvana (who came out just a year before BIG), as opposed to some black guy from the hood, who should fall into the common stereotype of fearlessness of enemies, shameless womanizing, and a hypocritically unbridled protectiveness of Mom. BIG didn’t cross any cliché line of censorship here, but instead a true one of artistic expression, unique to the majority of rappers he was so head and shoulders above.
- 7. Has any musical artist ever remixed a song to three different beats with two entirely separate sets of lyrics, let alone have all three result in three separate hit songs, as done with One More Chance? Even The Godfather 3 was awful.
- 8. Puffy: As the album takes a break to listen to BIG fuck the shit out of some girl (Kim on the vocals), let us take a break to give enormous credit to Puffy for somehow manifesting a sex symbol dimension to the self-proclaimed “fat, black, and ugly as ever,” Biggie. Echo cliché sentiments or say what you will about Puff, we all know this was not his only touch of brilliance in bringing us the best rapper and one of the best rap albums of all time. In a society and climate of show business where we know the best talent is not always recognized and/or nourished into fruition, an undeniable props due goes to Puffy for insight and creative decisions as well.
- 9. Musical expert: On The What with Meth I think BIG just reinforces his ability to impeccably ride any beat to perfection, understanding exactly how to execute the perfect yin/yang balance of adapting to a tune but still owning it, this time giving us a great 1-2 with an actual other human being. Biggie knew what every song needed and how best to contribute, as his career became a creative tear of incidentally embarrassing other artists by how much he outshined them, either on songs or beats that were previously theirs (Flava in ya Ear, Real Niggaz Do Real Things) or even styles that they’d spent an entire career honing and cultivating, then watched as BIG stopped in for an hour and did it better than they ever had, as on Notorious with Bone Thugs. God, I miss that dude.
10. Pop star: Today it is easy for awful rappers to be pop stars. Why? Because of Juicy. First, you have to love how BIG gives a taste of his inner sweetheart as he sets the track off by dedicating it to everyone who’d perpetuated his struggle in the past, forgiving them: “It’s all good, baby, baby.” His extraordinary versatility of vocals and delivery took being a rapper pop star to a new level and opened the door, fortunately but unfortunately, for so many talentless hacks mindlessly copying the materialistic rags to riches theme he’d highlighted more brightly than anyone before him. Sure, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice were huge stars, but they weren’t respected by the rap community like BIG was. Run DMC were stars, though of the more limited context of the 1980’s. Biggie was the perfect artist to come at the perfect time in both mass-media and hip hop production, the latter of which was still embryonic when Run DMC was at their peak. Juicy was so popular and transcendent that I can’t even hear it anymore as a rap song, or frankly, really even enjoy it. Unfortunately it now sounds to me like The Star Spangled Banner or Happy Birthday, though anyone who knows anything knows how important it was.
11. Wisdom in simplicity: While we’d accurately criticize most rappers who appear to be lazily rhyming a word with itself in the next breath, we know just by looking at his track record and body of work that BIG couldn’t be guilty of such a crime. In the story he so vividly depicts for us in Everday Struggle he spits: “With my man, Two-Tecs, to take over the projects - They call him ‘Two-Tecs,’ he tote two tecs…” Instead of being a product of laziness that leaves us missing something, when BIG did this it was artfully intentional and conversely, added more to the rap than different words would have. Of course the most popular example of this being on Brooklyn’s Finest, where he so cleverly winked at the public: “If Faith had twins she’d probably have two Pacs… Get it? Tu-Pacs?” And not to dare divert from Everyday’s tale or neglect full artistic closure, the “struggle” continues at the end of the verse when BIG “heard Tec got murdered in a town I never heard of.”
12. The Magician: First of all, how could any black rapper from the early 90’s get away with saying: “You look so good, I’d suck on your daddy’s dick,” and have no one bat an eyelash? Not a peep. No, “Did he just say he’d suck a dick?” No question or joke on BIG’s sexuality. Nothing. Before I Need Love we never thought there could be a rap song about love. Almost predictably, LL did it, with his handsome face, chiseled body, and smooth intonation of sincerity semi-borrowed from the R&B culture. Several years later Meth and Mary topped the charts with the grittier, more hybrid sound with You’re All I Need, but somehow “fat, black, and ugly as ever” managed to successfully make love his own with Me and My Bitch.
13. The great talent equalizer: Have you ever heard a song like Big Poppa, ever? Listen to the beat – just the beat, carefully. There isn’t much there. It’s fine and good and comes from a classic, sure, but is ultimately rather unremarkable and insignificant in the finished track. There are many instances where a great beat can carry a mediocre rapper into making a great song. Less common are the inverse examples of the rapper carrying the beat and making it better than it was without his vocals. Big Poppa once again showed Biggie’s range, as he made what is as close to an actual R&B song as a rapper could possibly make, again almost singing in his verses, then scripting one of the most complete, “anthemic,” and classic hooks we ever heard. Of course thousands of songs have since mixed hip hop and R&B with some singer on the hook, but this was not that. Instead it was just a flow unique to anything we’d heard before and probably never will again. With all due respect, I do believe it was Jay-Z’s intention on the original Excuse Me Miss to do something similar, and it came out as complete garbage. Jay happens to be a super talented rapper (beyond all celebrity image and pop star story stuff), which is why examples like these best illustrate the disparity between the greats and the god. Biggie did it successfully again on What’s Beef on the second album, this time addressing the guys he wanted to kill instead of girls he wanted to fuck. I honestly don’t think it’s possible for another rapper to ever make a song that sounds like that.
14. The storyteller: Okay, fair enough, we can all agree that Respect isn’t his best work, but it does offer a yet another example of how complete and committed of a storyteller BIG was, never diverting from intention, never compromising chronology, never taking a bar off from his theses. Obviously better examples are I Got a Story to Tell and Niggaz Bleed, but lyrically he is just as complete here, admittedly without the best production or flow.
15. Charm and charisma: Acknowledging this as subjective; also that Friend of Mine is the second and final hiccup on the album, song-wise; but Biggie had this wonderful gift for naturally dancing in between rapping to us and then breaking the fourth wall to share with us some parenthetical, without need for any warning or segue at all. “It was me, D, the MPV, the blunts and brew thang, knockin some Wu-Tang,” as if we were suddenly outside the song, just hangin’ with him, hearing what he did last night. Biggie had a way of taking a break from the song without actually taking a break from the song, to impart some piece of matter-of-fact information that said so much more than what just the literal words were saying (probably why women did love him so much). He had a knack for inflection and delivery that truly painted pictures of 1000 words using only a few. Ie. “Like Kwame, and those fuckin’ polka dots!” so we could all for a moment roll our eyes together, sigh, and criticize for volumes in our minds the silly wardrobe the ex-pop star used to wear.
16. Just God-given-damn talent: Can’t really address Unbelievable without first relaying the unbelievable story many of us have heard of its production. They sat smoking blunts in the studio listening over and over again to this wonderful beat imparted to them by the brilliant, DJ Premiere. Biggie sat there for hours, listening, smoking, talking to friends, and smoking some more. No notebook or pen in sight, nothing written down or rehearsed aloud, until like some kind of idiot savant, he gets up, walks into the booth, and tells the engineer to record. The beat started and out came the entire first verse of Unbelievable. And only BIG could have the confidence of skill to know he could get away with starting the second verse over such a strong beat with something as slow and elementary as “B.I.G.G.I.E. aka B.I.G., get it? Biggie!” (I love how often the genius would ask the listener, “Get it?” Because he knows they don’t).
- 17. Originality! “Wait, you’re gonna do what? You’re gonna end your album with a suicide note?” “Yeah, the album’s called Ready to Die, it starts with an instrumental skit of my birth, so its story should only logically find closure in my death, right?” First of all, I again don’t know whether it was Puff’s, BIG’s, or a collaborative decision to structure the LP as an ultimately tragic autobiography with a great story arc of achievement, but it is fantastic, and I don’t know that it had ever been done before. On top of its providing the perfect closure to a body of 17 microscopic closures, Suicidal Thoughts happens to be just a really dope song unto itself. Biggie’s delivery is impeccable, the beat appropriately dark and even a bit trance-inducing. Once again he breaks barriers, expressing a life hopelessness and self-deprecation, in contrast to both rappers’ typical standards and the otherwise arrogant self-confidence and celebration of the rest of the album. I see this not at all as some contradiction or “hole in the story,” but instead a fully polished window over the soul of a self aware human being – a multi-layered man in touch with every person and perspective of self inside himself, able to communicate in a voice and literal voice the likes of which we’ll never hear again. “I’m sick of talkin’.”
May 20, 2014
Contrary to what I told my new boss in my most recent and successful job interview I have never worked as a waiter a day in my life before two months ago. I am a native New Yorker, food snob with an extensive knowledge [relative to laypeople] of the profound medicinal properties of nearly all Chinese herbs, but don’t know the first thing about even one kind of wine, and my only experience in customer service was actually ten years prior to when my resume says it was. But I spent my entire adolescence lying to cops, all of adulthood as an actor, and an entire life lying to my parents [for all different reasons], so successfully bullshitting my new employer really should not reflect poorly on him at all. As a matter of fact we might even commend his intuition, as since the 10-20 day learning curve of some understandable mis-haps by even an experienced worker in a new environment, I’d say I’ve been pretty much killin’ it. After all, my brain works fine and I’ve been on the receiving end of service for over 30 years. So in spite of the brimming arrogance some high scale restaurant servers carry themselves around their fine dining rooms with, it does appear that almost any shit-for-brains pedestrian could easily half-ass his way through this position. All you have to do is be the Buddha.
I take orders, pass them along, and apologize to people for their food taking too long. I’m sorry. I then go back and apologize to the exhausted chef for relaying the inquiry of the status of said food, as he “immigrant-slaves” over what are ironically not enough stoves during rush hours. Lo siento. I get in coworkers’ ways and apologize. Customers get in my way and I apologize. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Excuse me, I’m sorry. I cost the owner a dollar – maybe five dollars once in a blue, and become suddenly soberingly sorry. I look into his eyes and apologize with sincerity, though I’m not really actually sorry. What my desperate look non-vebally attempts to communicate is: Please don’t consider firing me and sending my life into utter despair. I go back to the kitchen. I thank the chef as he angrily slams the finally finished plate(s) down on the counter. I smile. He stares back at me, his fat fuckin’ face lathered in sweat, straight-faced, muted with resentment re-directed at me. I’m not “welcome.” This is my fault. I did this to him. I didn’t just pass along another order of food per my requirement, but instead I ordered this food. I personally brought him over in chains from Guatemala after raping his wife, strapped him to this oven, invited all my friends over for dinner, and volunteered to spend most of my waking hours serving them in exchange for minimum wage, plus tips. I get off on this. It is my ideal existence of choice, of course wholly dependent on his suffering. He hates me. The feeling is mutual. It turns inward and I hate myself. I apologize to myself as I cry sitting alone, fully clothed on the shitter in what is thankfully a private bathroom. I’m sorry.
My ex-girlfriend used to say at least one customer service job should be mandatory pre-requisite for all human beings to graduate high school and/or college. Brilliant! Besides being a useful skill, her typically sweet [Piscean] inspiration for the idea surely comes from the desire to instill empathy in those of us who grew up too spoiled or ignorant to intuit it naturally. In the meantime I’m glad we’re still drilling home the details of the French Revolution and Pythagorean Theorom while making people as bilingual as my dick with those verb conjugation lessons. America!
5% of the population of restaurant patrons truly go out of their way to express their appreciation for your efforts. Happy, sensitive, and intelligent people all in one. God bless ‘em! I hope they know how special they are. Another 90% of the population are as civilized, polite, and pleasant as one can reasonably expect in what has to be the most fast-paced, self-absorbed society that has ever walked the planet. Finally, a small 5% of the population suffer from this apparently perfect recipe of self-absorption with their own misery, a dash of detachment from reality, and a healthy serving of enough stupidity to drown out any potential empathy for others to create the cuntiest piece of human shit anyone might have the displeasure of waiting on or humiliation of eating with.
We all want our food. Everyone’s id wants their food from the moment before they enter any establishment, but we all to varying degrees understand that this is impossible, even in fast food spots. We’ve created call-ahead pick-up orders in order to best satiate our most infantile inner beast, but to enjoy the dining experience we have mostly accepted that there is a proverbial line we must wait on and no telepathic ordering system between ourselves and the chef. We have a system. We sub-consciously refer back to one of the first lessons we learned back in Kindergarten: Wait your turn. Unfortunately, there are some of us who then unconsciously refer emotionally back to Kindergarten on the rare occasion that their wait is longer than expected or God forbid they should be skipped in line. I was here first, but she got hers before me! A dire injustice has occurred, and out explodes the tantrum of an engraged 6-year old from the face, lips, and mind of someone who’s been here half a century. Brutally pussy-whipped by the fiscal demands of society I spit on my own integrity, swallow my pride, and turn the other cheek to the scoldings of half-wits, much like so many of our muted fathers in response to she who wears the pants that clothe the legs that haven’t opened in years. I’m very sorry, ma’am. I smile, as would the Buddha to a schizophrenic homeless man attempting to start a fight with him on the subway: You’re absolutely right. I’ll see what I can do. They are absolutely wrong, and I see what I can do.
Where does all the rage come from? Why is “the customer always right?” Money, of course. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think money is the root of all evil or anything like that, but it definitely causes some unfortunate glitches in the utopian reality from time to time. She is spending her money here. It is her heart, her soul, her entire incarnation being poured into our account in perfect accord with our manipulative plan to drain her of as many resources as possible. This not only absolves her of any obligation to forgive imperfection, but provides her with a license to mildly abuse should she desire. It is the perceived anti-perfect relationship of take and take, each party systematically scrambling to give as little to get as much as possible. It’s Kindergarten.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to open a nice restaurant with incredible food and microphoned cameras all over the dining room that would allow management to refer to “instant replay” in review of customer and/or employee complaints and disputes? Manager comes over to the table, brings this bitch in the back to watch the tape, and: I’m sorry ma’am, but what you said right there was inappropriate and poor mannered. And look at that expression on your face! What is that? I’m not sure if you’re a bitch or just in a bitchy mood tonight but we don’t tolerate that here, so you’re gonna have to get the fuck out. Here is your refund, and please take this card. He’s a wonderful therapist friend of mine who might be able to help you with what is obviously a quite abrasive emotional imbalance. Have a good night. I’m sorry!
P.S. Our standard 15-20% gratuity translates as 15% minimum to qualify you as being one notch higher than the cheapest piece of shit in the world. The fact that this standard is common knowledge then makes it highly transparent when someone leaves exactly that, as their hand having been sort of literally forced by the desire to be not perceived as the cheapest piece of shit in the world. No, this is not the newly hired server in me talking, because I’ve tipped 20% [after tax and everything] for my entire life, in spite of having never been far above the poverty line. Why? Because I’m the perfect enough combination of empathetic and intelligent enough to realize that while the extra 5% towards gratuity makes very little difference in what I spend (no matter how much it is, if you consider mathematically), it helps the Professional Apologizer greatly – especially if added up with all other patrons doing the same. FYI, if you’re a “15%’er,” your company is old, crusty white ladies, super ghetto black folk, and the hokiest of midwestern rednecks. How dare you…
May 20, 2014
We’ve all seen those dumb “article” lists on dumb web sites that generically express the painfully mundane but invitingly concise top 10 or 12, 8 or 14 alleged objective differences between New York and L.A. You can get good pizza there, but an amazing salad here… Everyone over here is so fake while they are so real… So hard to date… People eat kale, blah blah fuckin’ “why do you have a keyboard and opposable thumbs?”
First of all, how did L.A. get a reputation for being especially New Age in contrast to New York? It obviously is in relation to the rest of the world, but Manhattan is definitely not at all short on yoga studios or kale recipes, and anyone who thinks you can’t get a good salad in New York is quite apparently struggling to get out much. L.A. is as ridden with donut shops and hamburger stands as it is juice stands, and New York surely boasts as many fake douche bags as L.A. does genuinely nice people. Ugh! Broad stroked over-simplifications really are the best argument against maintaining the First Amendment.
The fascinating fundamental difference between New York and L.A. is the dichotomy of them being complete structural and environmental opposites in spite of existing mentally as nearly identical twins in relation to the rest of the country. Sure, L.A. has more plastic surgery clients and Mercedes Benz pushers, and seems to lack as much blue-collared, tank top-rocking, domestic-beer-guzzling bro’ culture, but for the most part I find the people to be very similar. It reminds me of my best friend and brother with whom I share an extremely similar perspective, intellectual capacity, and personality, but thus far polar opposite life experiences, journeys, and social circles. So instead of suggesting that a particular leafy green is nearly unheard of in one place and held as religion in the other let’s instead dismantle a few erroneous stereotypes about each town as they parallel one another. Here, I’ll put numbers on this shit in hopes that someone actually fuckin’ reads it.
- 1. New Yorkers are not rude, and Angelinos are not bad drivers. We’re all such sensitive, bitch-ass little kids, crying with generalizations when one member of a group of 100 offends or upsets us in any way. It’s obvious we seek catharsis in expressing a rule about some flaw in said group, while in spite of there being a pattern to note is much more the exception to said rule. Same exact principle as racism: Inabilitly to look closer or go deeper. Walk around Manhattan for an hour and tell me how many people you pass by. Now tell me how many people were rude. One? Two or three out of 3000 maybe? New Yorkers, due to environmental conditioning are probably the most polite, people savvy people on the planet, but the law of probability would dictate that one sardine per day out of the ten million in the can is bound to be an asshole. It’s the same with LA drivers. In this incredible “suburb” of millions where nearly every person is constantly on the road it is a near miracle there aren’t ten times as many accidents. Drive around L.A. for an hour and tell me how many cars you pass. Now how many were driving poorly? This ironic stereotype that the necessary mechanical skills to operate a car are deficient in people living in a particular geographic area where most of the citizens are not even natively from that area is absolutely retarded. Most Angelinos are probably some of the best drivers in the world, but at least once a day we’re sure to be tailgated or cut off by some accidental product of an awful marriage, and the sensitive little bitch inside us all feels the need to exclaim some negative law about the group as a whole.
- 2. People are from New York and L.A. Yeah, believe it or not, in the two largest, most populated cities in the continent there are natives. But birds of a feather flock together and egocentricity is rampant amongst the dumb, so when you’re a 25-40 year old white person who just moved to the big city to pursue career dreams [and you’re probably not that cool or down] you’re bound to incessantly meet other 25-40 year old white people of similar elks, then of course draw the very pedestrian conclusion that “Oh my God, like no one is from here.” If no one is from New York or L.A. how do you explain each city having more elementary schools than any other place in the country? Did all those 10-year olds just move here to pursue Social Studies and Recess in an environment they could really grow and advance in? How do you explain the fact that most of my friends grew up in New York, and now that I’m in L.A. most of my new friends… also grew up in New York. The truth is there are probably much more people originally from New York and L.A. respectively than there are from wherever it is these wonderful transplant philosophers come from. And it is actually the natives who are responsible for building and nurturing our towns into these climates of opportunity while other towns stay stuck spinning their wheels on a stagnant identity that attracts nearly no visitors or transplants at all. L.A. and New York weren’t just born as business epi-centers of infinite possibility anymore than the Yankees one time long ago won the lottery or robbed a bank. The Yankees played by the rules starting at ground zero like every other team in the league and just did it much better, so get off their/our/my dick.
- 3. “This city” doesn’t “suck.” People who say they “hate” New York or L.A. – especially those who are not from either – really need to get the fuck out. Oh, but I have to be here for my job. No, you don’t. First, you don’t “have to” do anything. If you don’t absolutely love your job then fuckin’ bounce, pussy. Easy. If you do absolutely love your job and this location has bestowed such a rare and amazing gift to you then by law of transitive property you don’t hate this place. You’re just having a bad day. Every place on the planet has shortcomings, because we are human beings, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, moody, in constant change, so how can we expect to be constantly at peace with our surroundings when its general energy and conditions remains relatively constant? Duh. Some days the traffic in L.A. will eat at your soul and others the filth of New York will do the same. 24 hours later you have great sex and sleep like a baby and you’re fine with either one, so let’s try to flirt with some open-minded self-awareness before we continue to perpetuate these ignorant broad strokes of the drones.
It seems to me as a result of their being such ironically similar opposites it is impossible to really compare or say that one city is “better” than the other in general. One is the greatest city in the world – the other may be the greatest suburb (so great that we call it a city!). One is hot, the other cold, one is huge and spread out, the other tiny and condensed. If you love being around people more than you detest overcrowdedness then you know where to go. If you can’t stand the cold go back. If you hate driving go back again, but if you can’t stand being one more time packed tightly into the iron horse with Misery standing next to Exhaustion standing next to Rage next to Incredibly Sexy next to Pathologically Horny then go back again. The fact of the matter is if you’re attracting financial, social, and romantic success you’ll be happy, whether it is in NY, LA, or Boise, Idaho - said trifecta of successes being admittedly most challenging to manifest in the latter, but we can bet there’s at least one human there who has, right?
May 3, 2014
I’ve always been a selective snob about my choices of slang. Growing up in New York with early 90’s hip hop amongst a racially diverse crew of educated natives we were not short on arrogance around how cool we were. Anyone who said phat without a hint of sarcasm was a herb, and anyone who thought it was funny to say herb grew up on shitty hip hop. Mark-ass buster always sounded like a joke, but I can give it an open-minded pass for Californians. Anyone who thought there was some difference between calling a girl’s ass phat or fat didn’t understand phat [or ass] at all, and if you used mad as a synonym for awesome or crazy you were clueless. If you called a dope girl hot you were functioning only a notch above smokin’, and the dope girls I rolled with would not have rolled with you. Weed, trees, smoke, and L’s were cool, but buddha got lame pretty quickly (as did tight); and boom and izm were acceptable for about two months during which two rappers said them in two dope songs around ’92. Reefer was for hippies or rastas, and bud was just not for us. Obviously mad, yo, dope, nigga, wack, and ill are like blue jeans, and I’d reckon any of their sudden absences from one’s dialect to be a sure red flag for falling off. Fakin’ jacks, swing an ep’, and bust it in my opinion, are tragic losses.
I never liked no-homo when it popped up. I thought it was corny. Neither its phonetics nor placement in the sentence flowed with any rhythm, and its terribly insecure intention was a bit too immature for me at the time. I realize this could be a result of generational egocentricity, but I do love my dude, my G, and What’s crackulatin’?, all of which came out after producers stopped sampling for beats, thus refuting my bias as the cause. No homo is what [no intelligent] someone says after saying something to another man that is either affectionate or potentially interpretable as some sexual innuendo. It’s just dumb. It is the hip hop equivalent of That’s what she said, which might be my least favorite joke on the planet - but worse yet, no homo carries with it the low frequency of an incredibly dated heterosexual male insecurity and homophobia. Anyone who grows up and older and wiser does observe pretty quickly that one of the major flaws in our society is how much more repressed men are with their emotions and affection for each other than are women. Fortunately I think it to be no unintentional happenstance that many straight guys in my age group and peripheral sub-culture are now greeting each other more often with hugs than the old, white collar, sexually limp handshake, no doubt in an admirable attempt to undo our dysfunctional conditioning. I’d like to think it is more than just the age and place I specifically happen to be at as to why I hear more I love you’s between guys than I ever did before. It’s a dope example of a contrived inception of progress, which can always lead to organic progress. It’s uncomfortable initially, but so is yoga.
On top of my awareness rejecting that which rejects evolution and my inner Ebonics snob that never liked it in the first place, no homo sort of offends me personally, as one of my best friends in the world is gay. I’m coming out… as a gay-lover. Not a gay lover of course, but a gay-lover, like nigger-lover in its derogatory sense of the users disidentification with such an unpopular attitude. I digress: If you would have told me five years ago that one of my best friends in the world would be a gay dude I’d have thought you were crazy. As a staunch Liberal who grew up in New York I never pre-judged it as a possibility, but even in my five years living in Chelsea and 12 years in show business I never came across one who I quite socially connected with in the way we do with the people we know will become “family.” I knew and worked with, and occasionally hung out with some gay dudes, but never in the same way I did with crew. Then a few years ago while in school, amongst a few other gays I became quite fond of, I met who is now one of my favorite people in the world; one of the finest minds I’ve ever known, and someone whom when I see on the street my knee-jerk thought is merely: Oh yeah, there’s my fuckin’ nigga right there (and until that sentence doesn’t sound funny [and health insurance covers yoga classes] I remain disappointed with the world). So how can I ever say faggot or call something gay as an insult, even if I am a self-proclaimed “Liberal” who obviously doesn’t ever use or mean it in the derogatory way?
Old habits die hard, but due to no behest from any of my gay friends who couldn’t ever give two shits what I say, I am working on eliminating these two intentions from my vocabulary. Interestingly, what has happened with faggot and/or calling something gay is somewhat the exact opposite to what happened with nigga/nigger. Whereas the latter had its definition broadened to apply to other groups that robbed it of its negative connotation and racist definition, faggot has just expanded its same negativity to being applicable to anyone looking or behaving in a way reminiscent of what the derogatory word was originally referring to, thus retaining its integrity as being hateful. So regardless of its speaker’s claimed socio-political stance it is indisputably at the least rather careless and irresponsible.
I see great hypocrisy, limited thought, and frankly, hacky humor in the very ubiquitous urban “bro frequency” of my generation (which I admittedly was once a part of). It is ironic to make fun of homophobic rednecks and Christian fundamentalists who oppose gay marriage as being lesser than oneself, but to then use gay as a punch line or faggot as an insult towards anyone, regardless of who they are. It is too convenient to one’s conditioning as well as inconsistent, and inconsistent is always unintelligent, which highlights more irony, as metropolitan Liberals mostly pride themselves on few things more than their wonderful intellects. It has become uncool in most of these bunches to be racist against blacks or sexist against women, but gay is still a go-to joke, which logically dictates its perception as negative. It is reminiscent of a more senior generations’ typical Boston, Jersey, or Philadelphia white guys who label racism as bad and “red states” as dumb, but simultaneously rap music as stupid and people like myself as wiggers. Classic drawing of “the line” wheresoever is most convenient for said individuals’ conditioning and perspective. So while my favorite ever, Louie Ck, had a typically wonderful bit defending the word, I respectfully disagree, and intend to omit it going forward.
April 24, 2014
Guys can be pussies. We can be bitches and douche bags, dicks, and even bitches, but ironically cannot be cunts. Girls can be cunts and bitches, though ironically are never dicks or pussies, douche bags, or anything to do with their own genitalia. Nobody is a breast, tit, or titty, in spite of its sexual association. Why not? I’d venture that titties are just too unanimously beloved to be associated with anything negative but pussy and cunt obviously immediately refute that. Cunt and dick respectively, get to exist as both society’s highest insults and desired commodities. Fascinating! If a girl is considered a bitch it has a nearly 180 degree significance to that of a guy with the same label, and nobody insults any girls by calling her dude, guy, man, or boy. Ghetto slang has desensitized bitch to a nearly neutral connotation and some chicks who would be best described as douche bags even take great pride in the label, though this is still in contrast to the same culture’s expansion of nigger, which can now refer to a group it previously did not, whereas bitch is still insensitively for only females in its allegedly non-insulting context. Guys seem to hold a monopoly on asshole, dickhead, and faggot, while their female counterparts get tightly boxed into only the two over-simplifications of bitch or cunt, possibly with an additionally insulting adjective thrown in front. No one is a box. Why? Why has faggot [sort of] expanded beyond its derision of only literally gay men to a way of emasculating any man [in a transparently homophobic irony], but dyke has not made the same leaps and bounds by affronting girls who fail to show their femininity? Why isn’t a masculine woman a dick? Isn’t that sexist? Isn’t it sexist to not call a woman a pussy when she is afraid to do something, or it just accepted that women are timid cowards expected to always act out of fear, yet ironically are permitted more masculine behavior than men are feminine? And with the increasing ubiquitousness of douche bag we have to be surprised that tampon hasn’t made any headway. Asswipe’s been on the scene for generations, and even ballbag had a decent cult following during its time, so it is not unremarkable that the rag hasn’t earned its place in society’s verbal assault. Dick and cunt surely share intentions at their respective genders, and dick and prick seem to be synonymous, though rarely is anyone a cock. More popular are cocksuckers, which ironically rarely comes from the same place or with the same intention as faggot. I don’t know about you, but when I hear cocksucker I feel the same as when I hear dick, which is not at all what I feel when I hear faggot. Bitch-ass nigga is a wonderful compound from hip hop, and my friend Eric and I had great fun back in the day in our attempts to popularize nigga-ass bitch with the definition your logic would anticipate; though clearly it did not catch on. This brings us back to the question of the double standard inside this world of beautifully awful obscenities. What is the etiology of the inconsistency? Is the narrow mind of the immature, alpha-male ego too unaccepting of androgyny in fellow men, or the modern feminist too rejecting of its own femininity, thus on the surface looking more open-minded of its genders’ androgyny, but for pathological reasons of over-compensation for an oppressed past? Is it ironic that an apparent pattern between the lines of the feminist movement is a rejection of femininity? Or is that just my dickhead chauvinistic mind conditioned by asshole men as to what femininity really is? Is it any coincidence that the Catholic Church scorns us for speaking these words just as it does for exploring and enjoying the same parts they’re referring to? Is it ironic then that in our desperate explosion from repression with obscenities, that we’ve accidentally reflected our religious conditionings by making every God-given sexual tool into an insult? You’re a dick. You’re a pussy. He’s an asshole. She’s a pussy. We are all these incredible sources of pleasure, release, and miraculous procreation. And we turn and say to the person we hate most the same thing we say to whom we love most: Fuck you, suck my dick! Wait, what?
April 11, 2014
Has there ever been a good interview with a rapper? Has an MC ever been able to relay the etiology of his creative process with enough vulnerability to enlighten any discerning mind? I recently watched Ice-T’s documentary, The Art of Rap; and by recently I mean I’m in the process of watching it on Netflix right now. Presently paused about two thirds of the way through with no promise of being completed, it is one of the most boring broken record of disappointingly “high school-ism” pontifications (from middle-aged men) I’ve ever seen. I’m trying to think back to what age and degree of unawareness I’d have to be at to appreciate, or at least not mentally vomit in my brain at such an awful exploration of one of the most dynamic cultures and artforms of my generation, if not all time. It would have to be 19, heavily down with drugs, at latest. This documentary sucks. It sucks balls and hits walls/on its face flat it falls/as it shatters my hope it might be dope/but nope/somebody throw it a rope/this film can’t even float/just the dumbest of the dumb/what a waste of my time/it got stale fast like gum/and now it’s done like this rhyme…
That was how Ice-T introduced each interviewee rap legend throughout the piece: A quick acapela verse delivered to camera, of course to display their unique voice and delivery of the art of rap. Not a bad idea in a vacuum, but the unfortunate and ironic result of how he executed was from both the microcosmic experience of watching the film and macrocosmic perspective of rap it wanted to offer, most of the rappers began to sound as similar as all hip hop songs do to the typical old, white untrained ear. Part of this was their own fault, but most of the blame definitely lies with the director. To use a rap lyric analogy [to documentary-making], it is always a good idea to alter pacing and structure of delivery [without warning] to keep your listener excited and highlight the rhythm of the song. To fail to do this is downright lazy, thoughtless, and symptomatic of most creative products in the modern world. It’s little kid mentality: I got a good idea for how I’m going to do x, y, z! Now I mindlessly run with it without any consideration of its potential flaws or how it might have to shift as the story progresses so as to avoid becoming at best, just boring. Every [good] rapper is unique, and obviously interviewees here were mostly legends, if not at least hugely successful MC’s who have surely spent many years honing and constructing a voice of their own. Sadly, with the exception of a few who may even have been aware enough of this potential pitfall to go consciously out of their way to counter it, the rappers sounded monotonously like what I know was the opposite of the director’s intention in making the film. Vulgar, angry thugs sort of talking with some vague melody about how tough they are, what they’re gonna do to you [for some reason], and how talented they are at what they’re doing right now. The redundant unoriginality of their intro’s was appropriately followed by cookie-cutter answers to questions as juvenile in their generic triteness as that of a ballplayer after a regular season game. Ice-T has pretty much the personality of an insecure 17-year old white kid mentally calculating in awkward attempts to be down with the older black guys. Regardless of whatever pop culture’s perception is of his street credibility or how accurate that perception might be, any existing actual “coolness” in that man is buried deeply beneath his obviously adolescent insecurities hidden by the copy-and-paste persona of “cool, tough, street-wise, urban black guy.” It fuckin’ sucks.
I think one of the first steps in maturity is recognizing when our socially conditioned ego is functioning as a primary catalyst for a behavior; and the second learning how to monitor and edit its expression. Next is recognizing the absence of mutual exclusivity in regards to all human traits. Ie. Being intelligent, self-aware, or even sensitive can, should, and quite often do coincide with being cool, tough, or masculine, and no one can resist the concurrent highlighting of this entire spectrum in the same vessel.
I can recall, even as a little kid listening to Run DMC, mentally noting how incorrigibly boastful and arrogant rap lyrics were in contrast to those on my Guns N Roses or Poison albums. Why? I thought. As I’d neither experienced or known anything in life at that time, still yet to reach my milestone first decade, I left it at a neutral observation and healthy curiosity. Now older and learned I realize that every rose has its thorn, and while many rappers might be brilliant musicians or writers, watching them do anything else in the world can be as mundane and disappointing as an interview with Derek Jeter. As an avid fan of hip hop, always thirsty for the most profound dissection of the craft by its artists, I’ve grown incredibly fed up with the frontin-ass cliches, faking communicative jacks so many of these geniuses still consistently employ in conversation to make themselves sound like morons. As an adult I’ve grown increasingly disappointed and impatient with the apparent inability of too many black men to be vulnerable. It subsequently robs them of the ability to communicate oh so many beautiful thoughts and feelings, and usually makes them sound much dumber than they really are. The educated, integrated, open-minded few of us recognize the etiology of this product for what it is, as opposed to actual Unintelligence, though it unfortunately perpetuates negative stereotypes in the perception of the [white] masses and robs fans like myself of an even deeper appreciation for them and their art.
I realize this is often an incidental byproduct of fatherless hood culture. Obviously unfair for someone like myself to judge the effects of the absence of a male figure at home coupled with the environmental pressure to never look weak or uncool. However, while it may not be to the same degree, all men in our society have had to deal with and transcend similar pressures, and at some point it is up to the individual to break the cycle of his environmental and/or childhood conditionings. Don’t get me wrong: White suburban drones show the same pattern in their limited, tunnel-vision perception of the definitions of smart, mature, successful, etc. But I am not addressing them here, as most of them have much less to offer me than a brilliant artist.
I’m sorry, but anyone who wrote Illmatic when he was 20 years old should absolutely captivate and enthrall me during any interview with him about hip hop to the point that the thought of how cool or tough he seems or looks never enters my mind. Even Eminem, known for his thoughtful lyrics and stand-out originality in the game (beyond skin color) just oozed some seemingly contrived persona of coolness, leaving him uncharacteristically frugal with words and elementary in his responses. I suppose this at least served to disprove any potentially racist perception of such an attitude being exclusive to a skin color, but it was nauseatingly juvenile and just fuckin’ boring. This immaturely terrified compulsion to always appear to the public as the one human dimension portrayed in the first music video you ever shot is as tired as it is transparent, as it is selfish and such a Goddamn shame.
April 6, 2014
Got my Masters degree in Chinese Medicine and studied a gang of martial arts and forms of Qi Gong and this is what I think: Everyone should get a massage once a week – sesame oil, the scalp, butt muscles, the whole 9 (is that a baseball reference?) Everyone should be having sex at least once a week… or twice, or bi-weekly depending on your age. Sex and the massage should be separate occurrences, however if the latter leads to the former once ample attention has first been given to physiological healing I think it’s okay, so long as the former happens at least once again on its own within the same week. Head! Once head stops there’s a problem in the relationship. Sure, maybe that “problem” is the exhaustion of caring for a new baby or kid, but if that isn’t the problem, you should choose for the first time in your life to not live as a completely repressed suburban American, mindlessly accepting the miserably low standards of the status quo, and examine what is the issue so you can get your genitals sucked, because… it rules, and its absence is the true definition of a quality of life crime.
You should have no more than one cup of coffee a day, followed by plenty of water to counteract the dryness of caffeine. "But I’ll be peeing all morning!" Oh, word? Temporary frequent urination > chronic autoimmune disease. Get drunk no more than once a week, but definitely get drunk on occasion… unless you’re recovering or really don’t need that, but I do. Didn’t do it for a long time and life sucked and I sucked. Shit improved dramatically when I went back to the bottle, part time.
You should have some water once an hour and vegetables once per meal. Americans don’t drink water. It’s unbelievable. They don’t believe in it, and I don’t believe them. Even some of the most health conscious people I’ve met say they “prefer tea” or anything else, but water’s “too plain.” What are you, 8? Too plain?! Tea is great, sure, but the body needs clear, plain, room temperature water all day, every day. And to clarify, no one’s saying become vegetarian. Just eat some vegetables with every meal, ya fuckin’ American. Not lettuce on your sandwich or the tomatoes in your pizza. Vegetables! Kale, mushrooms, spinach, chard, broccoli, etc. I don’t know how or why masculinity or intelligence got somehow equated with ignorantly shifting into the left lane towards disease or a miserably painful old age, but get over it. Kale is not gay. Kale does not have a penis, nor does it have sex with other kale or fight for its rights to marry in the kinds of backwards ass states heavily populated by alcoholics who think kale is gay and Biggie Smalls was a dumb nigger. Having no discipline does not make you tough. Being entirely uninformed does not make you smart. Ironically, you are what you think you are the opposite of: A follower. A spoke on the wheel of capitalist’s society takeover of our food, mindlessly consuming the shittiest quality products that could possibly pass as food towards maximizing the corporations’ profits and minimizing your well-being, just like they want you to do… pussy.
Chill with friends once a day, and if you can’t – I know you can’t if you have goals and dreams, hopes and bills – then chill with them once a week. Muy importante. Exercise once a day, vigorously only once a week (maybe 2-3x, depending). I think “no strain, no gain,” can be intelligent. “No pain, no gain” is as ignorant as the dietary no fat movement of the 80’s. Calm down. What are you, a triathlete? If you are a triathlete then retire. That’s probably as bad for the body as being a couch potato. Get off the American flag and learn some balance - figuratively and literally. Maybe yoga? And breathe deep. We don’t breathe in this country. We don’t breathe and we don’t sit properly, and we wonder why we spend our first 80 years dumb as a rock and our last 10 with some kind of neurological disorder. The brain needs oxygen.
"Good fat" is not "good." It’s imperative. Avocado, organic butter, olive oil or coconut oil, and bone marrow soup stock (google it). Everyday if not every meal. "Low fat foods" are about as good for you as Diet Coke.
Minimize sugar as much as possible. It’s hard, I know. You’re a heroin addict. We all are. That delicacy on the supermarket checkout line is not something you “just really like.” You don’t have some kind of congenitally insatiable “sweet tooth.” You’re depressed, temporarily and subjectively of course - not necessarily clinically, and you’re much better off with some daily chocolate than Prozac, but nevertheless… it’s quite apparent that the degree to which one indulges in vices is in direct correlation with their degree of sadness at the time. There’s no such thing as some evil, chemically dependent tooth that has people sprinting for the donut shop every morning. Cigarette addiction is not caused by “a dry lung.” Sex addiction is not caused by “a vaginal penis” or vice versa. You get it.
Dedicate one day a week to not working at all. Okay, I know you can’t do this either, so just dedicate a chunk of time. Dedicate one day a month to working only for others in exchange for nothing.
Say “I love you” once a day. Say it. Don’t text it.
Shower once a day, shit once a day, wash your hair once a week, and floss after every meal.
Don’t wear jeans that are tight enough to potentially be harmful to your sperm count or vaginal situation. As a matter of fact don’t wear jeans even one level looser than that. Keep it two sizes plus. You may risk losing some of the most pretentious, cookie-cutter members of your inner circle, but one door closes and another opens, right? And it’ll be much easier to get through that door without denim wrapped around your nuts or lips like a gymnasts tights.
Don’t ever let your t-shirt be darker than your button-up. I mean dude, I know you “don’t care about fashion,” but your brain still is making a choice while in the process of ensuring to not leave the house naked. At least make a decent choice.
Don’t ever judge someone by how they dress, unless their t-shirt is darker than their button-up.
Don’t ever not talk dirty during sex if you have something to say. If you’re too shy, get unshy. Break that unconscious Catholic conditioning.
Stretch and meditate every day. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do both for 8 years, but from what I hear from people I respect it’s great. I look forward to one day not being such a failure at it.
Don’t ever call yourself a failure.
April 2, 2014
Remember that first time in adolescence you felt yourself as socially comfortable in a situation that a million times previously was uncomfortable? A particular person or type of person whom you wanted to impress or be sure to show some side of yourself to affected you that much less if at all. A dynamic that had always been awkward; or a relatively maliscious person whose energy or demeanor always felt overpowering in the past, but suddenly for whatever reason, did not… you were out of your calculating head – less concerned or self-monitoring – emotionally light and free to initiate, respond, or simply be however came organically in the moment. That is the experience of first starting to become comfortable on stage. We think we’ve arrived. We think we’ve reached the pinnacle: “Confidence,” then only to realize one, three, six or seven months later that we’ve grown yet again, even more comfortable. As in life off stage with all people, maturity continues subjectively along with self-confidence (or so we hope for most people). Fueled by experience, courageous choices, expanding by exploring, increased empathy via awareness, awareness of self, and discovery of the endless layers of every aspect of life, we are able to become infinitely more comfortable in our skin and hence on our stage.
I think for ten years I was naïve and stupid enough to believe every time I felt more comfortable on stage that I’d arrived. There was no more growing left to do. Sure, I could become a better comedian by expanding the quantity and quality of my material but I had obviously reached the peak of confidence on stage, now fully void of inhibitions. Only to learn one or three or six months later that I’d fucking grown yet again. A few years ago I finally conceded that I might never reach this psycho-emotional point of perfection I thought I’d been striving for, as it does not exist in this proverbial room with no ceiling. And thank God, right? What a gift! What if you could come home and sit down on your favorite couch in your favorite spot, enjoy comfort for a few moments only to realize that you could take your shoes off and feel even better. You take your shoes off and lay down on the couch, sinking into its yielding but nourishing confines only to find yourself twice as comfortable as you’d previously been. Then you realize it’s a bit warm in the room, and as it is your house and your couch you decide to take your shirt and socks off. The material feels perfectly fine against your skin, without any grating or roughness, itching or dust. It’s great. You’re in heaven. You’re now three times more comfortable than you’d been with all your clothes on and ten times more than when you’d started. Magically the couch then expands to twice its size, somehow maintaining the same integrity of shape and design, texture, and proportioned pillow arrangement. Your girl appears wearing nothing but a silk gown, comes over, and lays down next to you, her perfect head of hair nuzzled against your chest, wonderful breasts resting on your stomach, warm hand cupped under your balls. She smiles as you inhale and exhale together. Everything you’ve ever been stressed or worried about leaves your body. And six months later it gets twice as good. That’s why comedy’s so fucking dope.
March 26, 2014
What came first? The crowd work comic or the heckler? Chicken or the egg? Murderer or the gun?
That last one is obviously not a social cliché that I’m aware of, but I think it’s appropriate, primarily because of stand-up comedy’s logical affinity for violent metaphors. Also because it implies my distaste for the “sub-craft” (which is rather “sub” in my opinion). Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to obtusely paint a broad stroke, as broad strokes are always emotionally reactive and mentally lazy (though that is a broad stroke I’m painting them with). The metaphor is also quite logical in suggestion of such laziness, better qualifying them to be simple comments or tweets, as opposed to the full-bodied scripture I prefer in my prose.
I’ll never forget the feeling of being a young comic watching veterans successfully work the crowd. I thought it was amazing. I was so impressed. It felt the same as when I’d watch skate videos as a kid and some professional would bust some ridiculous flip trick onto a 10-stair handrail, slide down, and smoothly land to ride away better than I could a flat surfaced 3-inch ollie. How the fuck…? I’d hear my new jack comedian peers express interest in what we perceived to be some kind of graduation: “I wanna start practicing my crowd work,” and then watch their pathetically contrived attempts at duplicating something that really can only manifest well from a foundation of true comfort in the moment – not some pubescent creative agenda.
I tampered, myself. Maybe instead of attempting to snowball a seemless 30-second dialogue into a 10-minute rant that illicited uproarius laughter as the supposed masters were doing, we’d start slow, just aiming to complete the aforementioned 30 seconds with one laugh. “I did it!” the voice in our head would rejoice. “I spoke to that guy, with no idea of what he’d say back to me, and got a laugh in response!” It felt great, but ultimately I never felt like I was really honing or nourishing anything in these exchanges. What I observed fairly quickly, both from a third and first person perspective, is that many comics (especially new ones) lean on the crutch of shock or taboo to appear quick witted, feel empowered, and “unearn their laughs.” A socially permissable race joke, a sexual allusion that would get you slapped on the street, an uncomfortable inquiry into a couple’s romantic dynamic – new and poor comedians quickly and unconsciously adopt the laughter formula and employ the necessary ingredients most times they’re on stage. And the discerning mind eventually realizes that while it appears to be impressive and impromptu to the laypeople in the crowd, it is actually quite often as redundant as it is unoriginal.
I don’t believe crowd work is something you necessarily practice, but instead something that eventually happens organically as a result of confidence. “False confidence-true insecurity” shows itself in painfully simple X-rated punch lines that have been stapled parts of bad comedians’ mental arseanls for generations. True confidence can create those wonderfully unique exchanges between comic and crowd that albeit not part of the script, still do a good job of relating the performer’s voice. But we’ve all been talking to other people our entire lives, and if we chose comedy as a profession then being received as funny by people we speak to has probably been the regular experience for many of us. The only reason we’re not “good at crowd work” as soon as we start is because we’re so preoccupied with the terror of bombing bouncing around in our heads that we’re unable to be calmly present enough to employ the quick wit we’d been carrying around our entire lifetime that lead us to the fuckin’ stage in the first place. Once the terror (blanket) is removed, there we are, and finding the humor in simple dialogue isn’t very hard at all. The subsequent degree to which it then becomes a part of our act is then likely determined by how lazy we are about writing and/or just how little we have to say as a human being.
In my decade-plus of between 5-10,000 shows I’ve come to the unquestionable conclusion that it is almost always the less intelligent crowds that prefer crowd work comics. Logical, right? Crowd work creates the perfect storm of pander to low frequency thought. First of all, we are addressing something or someone set right in front of everyone’s eyes. No need to follow an idea or train of thought, people. No need to visually translate in your mind the picture I am painting with my words. It can be just like the cozy conditioning of the good ol’ TV as the words are completely consistent with what’s right in front of your stupid face. Secondly is the always present to some degree, element of taboo. It’s embarrassing or awkward or offensive of something. Someone’s been put on the spot by the comedian! It’s been fetishized more with every generation, thus perpetuating a snowball that now feeds off itself each time it happens. Anticipation is created. Everyone wants to witness the climax where the comedian “gets them,” just like school kids gathering around to watch the fight. People perk up and pay attention, much moreso than they do listening to you draw the analogy between modern politics and ancient romance. Comedians get laughs for saying things to people from the stage that wouldn’t sound funny or clever at all on the street. The illustration is obvious and the nature is taboo. A perfect formula for the idiot’s mind to digest.
It is also nearly always the less intelligent comedians that excel and employ crowd work most. You don’t see much crowd work featured in any of Louie’s specials, or Seinfeld’s, Chris Rock’s, Eddie’s, or Chappelle’s. Pryor did it a bit, but it mostly in the form of his charismatically signature, Fuck you or Shut the fuck up, in hopes of being permitted to transition back into what he really wanted to be talking about. The greats are all well-versed and quite capable of crowd work, but it is never what makes them great. Why? Because by its nature, crowd work is generic, and generic is the antithesis of creative. It possesses only so much potential for depth, as an exchange between two strangers. It’s the difference between small talk with a guy on the elevator and a philosophical debate on Friday night amongst best friends – which is not to say the two skills must be mutually exlusive, but does explain why most thought provoking comedians hate the job of hosting. The intelligent mind can only organically inquire about strangers’ race, jobs, hometown and romantic situations for so long before it has to voice something of greater substance, and segue into prepared material. I think the difference between a great crowd work comic and an actually great comic might be the difference between a guy that’s great at landing pussy from the bar and the guy every woman wishes she could marry.
Name a great “crowd work comic.”
March 17, 2014
I took my first hot yoga class today, and if only I could mash all the parts of my collective junk into a flat piece of human genitalia spanning over however many square inches or feet, yards or gallons – then divide it into the tiniest necessary equal parts to later be shoved down the throats of every pretentious Bikram teacher whose soles (and souls) have ever grazed a studio floor, mat, or teaching platform in this spiritual punch line of a country – then I could feel vindicated for the two hours of my life I just lost.
I think if ancient Indian yogis came back and saw what we silly, stupid, superficial Anglos were doing in these studios it would look to them sort of how it would to us if we went back to their time and introduced them to the automobile, only to later see four of them trying to push the huge mass of steel, engine running, gear in neutral, one of them carrying a boom box on his shoulder, getting yelled at by the others to change the station, then calling up the F.C.C. on the cell phone we gave him to ask if they would please change the station presently being played on his radio.
First off, why did I decide to try my first hot yoga class ever just three months into my arrival to L.A.? Coincidence? Actually yes, asshole, so stop trying to box me in or presume anything ever about my past, present, or future! I am not now “doing the California thing” or “getting all Cali” or “going back to Cali” or trying sauteed kaley for the first time… dick. I’ve been doing yoga off and on for five years, and made the conscious decision to never try Bikram for the same reason I’ve never felt the need to try investment banking or homosexuality – we just know what’s not for us. But I am financially broke. I have no money, no job, no prospects for anything on the horizon but anxiety of more debt, bankruptcy, personal failure, and existential crisis… so I’m job hunting to address Priority 1. I had a pleasant job interview a few days ago with the owner of a yoga studio, who asked as sort of a “follow up interview” that I come in for a free trial class and meet the rest of the staff so that they might assess my character and our compatibility within the brief dialogue exchange normally possible in a first meeting with people working at their job. Strange? Of course, but hey, it’s a Los Angeles yoga teacher, and I’m in no place to say no to any money offer that doesn’t involve homosexuality or investment banking. What I didn’t realize until I got to the studio was that it was hot yoga, and this would be the most I’ve ever sweated in a job interview in my entire life.
I felt like I did very little actual yoga in the 60 or 90, 300 or 1000 minutes we were in that God-forsaken room. I mean sure, we busted out some doggies, downward and up, fucked around with some Warrior 2, and flirted with an embarrassment of a Warrior 1, but most stances were terribly compromised by the salty Slip-and-Slide I was trying to dig my heels and outsoles into to maintain posture. At one point my mat became so slippery that I couldn’t jump back anymore lest risking the most embarrassing broken nose of all time: “Yo, what happened? You got in a fight?” “Nah, yoga, nigga.”
My eyes didn’t really roll with disgusted amusement until the teacher started with what were basically deep knee bends and crunches. Haha! Dude, what are we, fuckin’ workin’ out here?! I mean I know, obviously we’re working out, but are we “working out” or doing yoga? Are we squeezing an aerobics class into this allegedly spiritual exercise in a sauna? Is this not ironically the double bacon cheeseburger with onion rings and french fries mashed into the middle of workout routines?
There were moments I thought I was going to have a heart attack – moments I thought I’d pass out, but thankfully didn’t, because I’m a secure grown-up with no ego invested in how diligently I dance to the drums of the dumbest yoga class I’ve ever seen or been to; and so I took the appropriate breaks when necessary. I looked at the poor souls who pushed forward – faces red, as soaked as if they’d jumped into a pool (as was I), seemingly moments from death, and saw them as I saw Hitler’s Nazis or the victims of Jim Jones: Brutally mindless followers of some highly inadvisable activity.
What happened to Yoga? What happened to holding postures and deepening the breath and stretching, or even being able to stretch without feet sliding us into at best some mild humiliation - at worst a crippling injury? Bikram is unfortunately fascinating – sort of an “anti-yoga” – a wonderful oasis in which we can get away from our exhausting jobs to miserably overwork our bodies and drain out all those pesky, nourishing body fluids that always think they’re being so helpful by feeding our organs and tissues and tendons and shit. Haha!
I’m in good shape. I exercise, in moderation, like you’re supposed to… mostly martial arts related stuff. I have a Masters degree in Science and Traditional Oriental Medicine. I know my shit, so just bacdafucup…
Sweating is healthy, yes, just like is drinking water. Drinking four gallons of water in a day is not healthy, and neither is losing that much. In Chinese Medicine sweat is “the fluid of the heart channel.” Every organ has its “yin and yang,” and when we excessively sweat we burn out the heart’s “yin,” generating too much heat in the body (yes, that’s possible, America). http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6013/Hot-or-Not-Untangling-Fact-From-Fiction-in-Hot-Yoga.html
I think people who feel good after hot yoga are the same who feel good when they try juicing for a week or two: The former being such out of shape schlubs that of course any kind of exercise and movement is going to initially feel good, but eventually may hurt you more than help if done in excess. The latter often being such pizza and sandwich guzzling hicks that of course any kind of vegetable intake is going to initially feel good, but… you get it. I could see how Bikram in moderation, for certain people with “cold” physiological constitutions might be helpful, but since this is not at all discussed, nor how it is advertised by Bikram studios trying to run a successful American business, I can’t help but diagnose the whole thing as ignorant and irresponsible.
I approached the owner, jokingly after the class: “Did I get the job?” He was about as amused as I was sold on his form. He said something about the guy he’d wanted me to meet not being there as expected and some other guy being too busy to talk. I took it all as a big fat “no.” I skeptically wondered if his invite for the follow-up interview was really just an agenda-filled business move a la what D.A.R.E. teachers once warned us of how drug dealers would do to get us “hooked” [on weed]. I wondered if maybe my class performance did actually have anything to do with his decision, and should I have been less scared of risking death, or tried harder to find traction on that musky lubricant of a mat? I then realized that the experience and this blog are worth 1000 times what any job he could ever offer me, and that I’d probably gladly never see this “man” again.
PS. The chicks in the class were not fly. Sure red flag in a yoga class, my dude.
March 13, 2014
Be humble but confident, persistent but not annoying, motivated without bitterness. Get in where you fit in, but get out of your comfort zone. Know what level you’re at. Never limit yourself to being stuck at any level. Know what kind of comic you are. Don’t box yourself into being one particular kind of comic. Work smarter, not harder. Work your fuckin’ ass off! Don’t burn out – take breaks. “Real comics don’t take nights off.” Take care of yourself, or this business will kill you. You’re going home already? It’s only 2am! Get another drink with us (we might be guys who can vouch for you to club bookers or agents). Fine, one more drink.Rack your brain for unique, intelligent material. Then get out of your head. Don’t think so much. Have fun on stage. What? “Have fun.” My entire future and fate of whether I’ll be a famous millionaire or a failed artist with a shitty day job is dependant on the outcome of these next 5 minutes and your advice is “have fun?!” Fuck off. Seriously though, always have fun.
Don’t listen to anything anyone tells you. Just do you. Be sure to take constructive criticism well and heed intelligent advice. Sometimes a layperson will give you the wisest gem. Watch the veterans and how they work. Now be original. Don’t be like other comics. Know your audience, but don’t pander to the crowd. Pay attention to what’s going on around you, but never stop paying attention to the words coming out of your mouth. Don’t lose the emotional attachment to your material. Definitely lose the emotional attachment to success. Now, strive for success. Keep your eye on the prize. Enjoy the ride.
Tape your sets. Don’t tape all your sets - it’s too nerveracking. It distracts your focus from comic to comic/producer. Go slow on stage. Don’t rush. Don’t wait for laughter either. If something doesn’t work, keep it moving… but not too fast. Ignore the people who aren’t laughing. Ignore the people who are laughing. Don’t ignore people. Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted by inconsiderate table conversation going on in the back. Now control your room. Murder hecklers. Take it easy – don’t lose your cool. But murder any insecure, piece of shit, attention-seeking hecklers. Don’t ever censor yourself, but don’t use vulgarity as a crutch. Don’t ever censor yourself, but don’t whine about “art” when a booker asks you to work clean. This is a job. You’re an employee. Don’t ever censor yourself. Don’t neglect to nourish your ability to work clean. You’re a comedian. You do want to be on The Tonight Show, no matter what kind of comic you think you are (see “don’t box yourself in”).
Do the clubs. The clubs are where it’s at. Clubs are dead, man. It ain’t the 80’s anymore. Do the bar shows. That’s where you meet the people who can eventually get you in the clubs. Do the road. You gotta work the road. Well, the road is fine to make some scratch, but nobody every met anybody who made them into a somebody at some bar in Topeka, Kansas. Don’t lose your presence on the scene, lost out in the wildnerness pandering to Republicans who want to hear the kind of material that’ll get you quickly ignored by any respectable festival.
Don’t fuck fans, groupies, waitresses, etc. Have fun. Enjoy the ride. It’s a long one. Lonely abstinence is rarely an ingredient in the mindstate that attracts success, so fuck whoever you want. Just be respectful. Be a renegade, you’re a comic for Christ’s sake! Now respect club rules, always. Have boundaries: Don’t take any garbage spot for shit money at trash clubs with dickhead managers. Remember, sometimes you have to compromise. The rent has to get paid and new material has to be worked out. Take the job. Write all the time. But you can’t force art! Fuck you, force art. It’s great when you don’t have to, but sometimes you do. Work on new material, but don’t neglect to perfect old material. No need in completing two hypothetical two-hour specials before you’ve crafted five minutes that get approved by Late Night.
Focus on the craft and getting better at it. But focus on marketing yourself - your online presence, your networking at the clubs presence. Your headshot, your web site, its graphic design. Is it updated? Does it keep people engaged? Is your media updated? Now go get on stage – do it , do comedy! Are you producing your own projects? You really should produce your own shit. Write jokes. No wait, write scripts. Noooo, write a show. Shows are where it’s at. Shows with skits – do you write skits? You really should write a blog – maybe a blog that becomes a book! Do you have a podcast? How do you not have a podcast? Get on stage all the time.
Don’t go insane… but don’t be all plain and vanilla and “normal.” We’re not in finance here.
You want to succeed? Pray to God. Silly… comics don’t believe in God.
March 11, 2014
I recently caught myself in a waiting room, sitting amongst several other robotic pods of the 21st century, as mentally locked into my iphone as the rest of them, as oblivious to the existence of one another as would be four dogs in a room with four plates of steak spaced equidistant apart… until of course one dog finishes his plate, at which time his awareness of the other dogs would spike dramatically.
I thought of all those pictures and articles we see online about technology and phones and how they’re ruining society and human interaction. Four people out to dinner together at a table, all of them on their phone instead of talking to one another; And thought, Oh shit, am I one that? Have I become the mindless drone that myself and all my spiritually aware friends judge and criticize and define ourselves as separate from (ironically)?
No, of course I hadn’t. First of all I wasn’t at a restaurant with friends. I was in a waiting room with strangers, and at no point during the 1990’s or even before beepers in the 70’s and 80’s was it customary for a room full of strangers in any urban environment to strike up a brutally trite conversation that some suburbanites might regard as friendly fodder with other fellas, but that we better recognize as insubstantial, mundane bullshit, too mentally unrewarding to pursue.
Plus, I wasn’t “looking at my phone.” I mean, of course technically, I was looking at my phone, but I wasn’t texting or playing some mindless video game [hoping to fill as many moments as possible with distraction en route to the grave]. I was reading an article online. So was I just another asshole, obsessed with his “phone,” or a potentially misleading contemporary stereotype, who was actually immersed in what is largely considered more respectable activity?
We may always call them “phones,” like we call black people “black,” me “white,” and Puerto Ricans “Spanish,” but we know that what we now hold in our pocket are just computers that incidentally can also make phone calls. They’ve melded into one. Like everything else, except for humans, they’ve gotten smaller and smaller, and now fit in our teeny tiny hipster pockets.
We get mad at people for walking down the street not looking up from their “stupid phones,” not realizing that they’re just people looking at a map, or some “written down” information they need about their destination, same as they would have been 20 years ago. It doesn’t mean we’ve no right to get annoyed with their unaware lack of focus, the same we would with any tourist, frantic freak, or scatter-brained mishap; but just that it is wise to reserve judgement of the why of the situation.
I’m not suggesting that phones haven’t invaded many facets of life and/or certain peoples’ interpersonal exchanges and experiences to certain degrees. Yes, there are some people more obliviously walking down streets or unfortunately, driving while preoccupied with an external communication that has nothing to do with their immediate environment or the beauty all around them, occasionally robbing them of the potential fruition of a wonderful impromptu development; but I tend to believe since this behavior is obviously not unanimous that these are the same idiots who have always been distracted, searching for something to escape them from a reality in which they fail to see the depth, fascination, and intricacies of every moment.
We’re all guilty of this at times, but there is a definite line drawn between the part time transgressors and the bitch that rear ended you at the red light, bumped into you in the train station, or didn’t hear what her best friend said at the bar because she’s busy non-talking to some dude who’s just trying to hit it. I’d like to think the former are not as adversely affected by this incredible revolution, much like we all listened to those same heavy metal and gangster rap songs back in the day as those few homicidal or suicidal maniacs, but we just rocked out and had a good time to them, right?
I love facebook and texting, and having recently moved to a new city, originally with no money, car, job, or place to live, I doubt I would have lasted two weeks without my GPS and the world at my fingertips. I’ve observed texting to be a great way to conserve the energy it takes to deal with the often present, extraneous bullshit that comes with spoken dialogue. And we need as much energy as we can get in our now over-productive society. I may now technically speak to certain loved ones less often, but feel like I “speak” to other loved ones much more than I otherwise would. We are busy. Lord knows how insufferably busy we all are, and there just isn’t time to call everyone you care about every week or even every month. But with a 30 second text, a two line comment, or even a “like,” we get to connect, “say hi,” and remind one another that we’re always here, just a click away. It’s nice. I think much like online dating, this form of “less personal communication” is not a bad thing, but a logical response to the new climate of the world, just offering more avenues to supplement the connection that our schedules and lifestyles compromise. We can choose to view them as a remedy, rather than a symptom.
I have observed myself crossing the line at times, where continuing to text begins to demand more than a simple conversation would, and realized that is the divide between healthy and pathological response to our time. I do still regularly talk on the phone, as do the people I am speaking to, obviously. Maybe those who have omitted phone chat from their social repertoire were never phone people to begin with. Maybe prior to texting they only called out of necessity and societal expectation, and prior to phones they were the ones writing the least amount of letters or most at peace home alone. Maybe not. Maybe the option to text has just exposed and highlighted a discomfort and fear of deep connection that was already present in many people. An ex-best friend of mine who I’ll always love has a chemical dependancy problem, that in spite of his infinite charm and intelligence, has long since attenuated his ability to personally exchange and connect with others. He’s texted with me many times in recent years, but like our present archetype 14-year old girl, avoidingly lead me to his voicemail whenever I’ve tried calling. Did the phone do this?
I don’t agree that we’re going towards the movie, Her, any more than I agree that it was a very good flick. Sure, I’ve heard certain things about the deterioration of romance and the dating scene in certain parts of Japan, but since when do they define the forecast for social direction? One of the cool antidotes to keep in the mental arsenal for our fear of technology’s “takeover” is that we are still human beings. This is one of the many things I take great pride in doing stand up comedy. It will never be obsolete. No matter how high-flying, fast-paced, explosively colorful movies or shows become, or what kind of insanely computerized and “inventive” music drops, people will always want to come and hear that one guy on stage tell stories, provide insight, and expose himself in a way that no medium could ever duplicate.
There is unseen energy in the world (quantum physics proves it, cynics) and most of it comes off of us. I don’t believe we’ll ever accept its absence. I don’t believe we’ll ever be okay not hugging our friends, holding our lover, giving pounds, kissing people, fucking them, or sucking whatever it is you prefer to suck on. I don’t believe phones are ruining our lives, nor that phones are even phones anymore. 20 years ago it wouldn’t have set off red flags or alarms to see two people having coffee together, one looking at a map, the other at a newspaper. Might be helpful to keep in mind that those isolated captured moments posted online and portrayed in a particular context are the same situation now just differently dressed.
March 8, 2014
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