I was disappointed to learn earlier this Summer that the Joke Joint clubs in St Paul, MN and Houston, TX had closed. They were two of three venues to book me as a headliner so I just lost 67% of the rooms that headline me (though I say with no humility, but total honesty that I can probably torch 67% of the comedians headlining A-list rooms today). They were venues that gave some comedians who were strong features, but not well known or well-represented comics a chance to headline, which almost always means more money and better merchandise sales (in St Paul – the policy for years had been if you buy a comedian’s merch he would give you a free pass to a future show – obviously a big help to road comedians). And it allowed real experience in headlining (which requires not just material quantity, but reps doing that length of time). The Houston location came under fire from some comedians for headlining porn star Stormy Daniels, who obviously is not a stand up comedian and drew this response from most comedians:
Now I have made many jokes about A-list comedy clubs booking YouTube stars, actors, Instagram celebs and WWE wrestlers to headline their clubs, but the Daniels booking did not make me feel the same way. Perhaps it was some personal bias, but the Joke Joints were basically C-list clubs. They were not owned by a chain. They were owned by one guy who was giving opportunities to comedians who otherwise would not get that opportunity. So with that goes a need to boost attendance in other ways. If the JJs were booking A-list acts they wouldn’t need to stunt book, but they were giving working/struggling/up and coming/down on their luck comedians opportunities that other clubs couldn’t (and can’t) bother to provide. That should be understood and celebrated. That is why I defended JJ’s specific booking of Daniels.
I emailed the owner of the JJs recently to thank him for his years of bookings and to wish him luck and say that I was sorry the clubs had to close. He thanked me, but then said something that made me sad, but also confirmed a lot of my cynicism of the “comedy community.” He told me that he was sort of surprised at how few people had reached out after the closings. I was sad because this was not a business owned by a some faceless conglomerate – the owner was on site most of the time. He did the bookings for the clubs. In St Paul, before he moved to Houston, the comedy condo was the top floor of his own family’s house (kept very nice with a separate entrance for comedians). You could not have an owner with a more personal connection to the comedians. And the response to the clubs’ closings was mostly silent ingratitude.
For years I have hoped for a groundswell of comedians to push for a guild (Hassan Minhaj’s Netflix show recently highlighted a push by video game developers to unionize – so now gamers are ahead of comedians on labor rights), but said many years ago that you probably cannot organize a work force that already acts with the self-centered desperation of a scab. But this demonstrated to me that comedians are just as big a problem to the comedy bubble that has already burst for the working class. It is an industry littered with a workforce with Boiler Room ethics. I have consistently blamed the management and business classes of stand up for its problems, but it takes two to tango and a stand up community filled with equal parts opportunistic social media and podcast stars and actual comedians is not going to be the place to look for moral or ethical behavior.
I know it’s a small sample size, but there are top tier comedians and nobodies who have made their way through the Joke Joints and the club has been opened for many years. That’s hundreds of comedians who have walked through their doors, many for their first or only headlining opportunities (hopefully local comedians were more thoughtful and appreciative than the headliners). But as my comedy career winds down, to my deep disappointment (though a new doorman at my building found out I did comedy and binge watched my YouTube channel last night with his wife and loved it! #HopeSpringsEternal), I can take a perverse comfort in knowing that, although there are good people at all levels of the stand up comedy world, perhaps it is a community that I will be better off without. I hope the JJ owner is better without it as well if he chooses to be done with the business.
After last night’s Tarantino-length debate in Detroit I am pleased with the performance of my preferred candidate, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state. He had some good lines, only made attacks or corrections on areas well within the bounds of good decorum and stayed true to his message of defeating climate change. He highlighted some of the things he has done as governor and also seem to become a Twitter sex symbol for a few hours (my favorite nickname given him by someone on Twitter was “Plant Daddy”). Now before I go any further I need to make clear I am not an Inslee or Bust person (if those even exist). The eventual Democratic nominee will have my vote and my donations (though likely not to match the month of NYC rent I have thrown Inslee’s way). But I have to say, even for a cynical comedian who just turned 40, I am surprised that Inslee is not doing better in polls. He is literally what polls of Democratic voters claim to want. So what gives?
First off let’s see Inslee on issues – THAT HE HAS DONE AS A GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATOR, NOT JUST AS A CAMPAIGNER:
- Passed the 1st public option for health care in the country. This may not be the Bernie plan or the latest draft of whatever Kamala Harris is trying to do, but it represents the most popular approach according to Democrat polls
- He is THE climate change candidate and along with health care this is a top concern for Democratic candidates. I have read his Evergreen Economy Plan (it was like a text book for a course I was not fully qualified to take) and it is, as he said at a fundraiser, “a governing document,” not just a wish list. The only reason to say climate change is a top issue is if you really believe it is a crisis. And Inslee is the only candidate who actually wants to talk and govern like it is a fu*king crisis!
- Highest teacher pay increase in the country. And STEM education is one of the cornerstones of his climate/economic plan
- Organized labor – I wish he had highlighted his commitment to union labor in last night’s debate, because I was surprised when I read his plans just how central organized labor was to his vision – a group of voters that used to be a pillar of Democratic support
- Criminal Justice – as he said last night, while other candidates were bickering over who has done or not done enough – he has pardoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders, banned the box (which I didn’t even know until last night) and has pushed for more de-escalation training for officers
- Immigration – has encouraged refugee settlement in Washington and was the first to sue Trump on the Muslim ban
- Economy – #1 state GDP, #1 state for employer AND employee satisfaction
- College – passed a law offering free state college to tens of thousands
- And in his nearly 20 years as a Congressman before becoming a governor:
- voted for the assault weapons ban (lost his first Congressional seat doing so)
- voted against Hyde Amendment
- voted against the repeal of Glass-Steagall
- voted against the Iraq War
- voted for Obamacare (duh)
And one thing that is not really a bullet point, but something I have noticed about the way Inslee, a man married to his high school sweetheart for 47 years and who writes children’s books for his grandkids, carries himself with a decency that is uncommon in politics. There appears to be no cynicism in him. He is a fundamentally decent man who knows that climate change is a crisis and will not pander to polls to make his campaign more broad, despite a record that really is second to none in the field. For people looking for the opposite of Trump, there is no one more opposite in their core than Inslee. So a great record, great experience, fundamental decency and honesty and blue eyes that made him a “Plant Daddy” on Twitter. But the problem is that MAGA does not have a monopoly on stupidity.
After the two debates – the names Williamson, Yang and Gabbard were getting much more buzz than Inslee. And I fear all three of those will make the September debates either before, or in place of, Governor Inslee. An anti-vaxxer who voted for Jill Stein and has no experience; a guy who actually seems to have some brains and ideas, but no experience; and a woman who, despite her tremendous 1980s sex-scene chest sweat during the debate and a vibe of “what if young Catherine Zeta-Jones was also a combat vet,” has several issues on her record that would and should disqualify a Democratic candidate; these are people who based on donors and post-debate buzz seem better placed than Inslee to make the September debates. And that is an absolute embarrassment.
There are several top tier candidates that I think would make good presidents. Cory Booker, Elzabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennett have all gotten money from me at some point during their careers (most during this run, but not all). These are all different candidates in demeanor and policy, but I appreciate their different views and think all of them would govern in the right direction (ignoring electability for the moment). But Inslee is a cut above them all when you add up the factors usually desired (experience, policies, values, accomplishments, electability vs Trump). But instead of at least being in the mix, like where Cory Booker is, he is now in danger of falling behind the lower 2nd tier candidates and some 3rd tier candidates!
I hope I am wrong. I hope Inslee sees a polling bump and a fundraising bump, but if Jay Inslee is not on the September debate then there is a lot more stupidity and hypocrisy in the Democratic electorate than we might like to admit. I gave to Bernie in 2016, despite voting for Hillary, because his issues were important and he pushed the nominee to the left. If climate change is not worth $1 donations from hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters then we are already doomed, because as Governor Inslee said last night, there is only one party with a chance to save the country and the planet. If you need a superficial comparison – think of Inslee vs Trump as Aquaman (Seaweed Daddy?) vs Fat Bastard – who would you rather have saving the country?
After the Miami debates I posted a blog on what I believe Governor Jay Inslee had to do in the Detroit debates, which he will be participating in on July 31st. You can read that HERE. For those of you who don’t want to read two blogs today I will sum up the gist of it – Labor. Labor. Labor. Confront rivals by name. Don’t let Kamala Harris steal your lines or ideas. Those all still apply, but this also includes more specifics now that I know who Governor Insee’s specific opponents will be after the CNN Draft Lottery last night (to no one’s surprise the New York Knicks selected Marianne Williamson). Based on my substantial donations to the Inslee campaign and the fact that several people on his communications team are following me on Twitter I have self-appointed myself the poor man’s Sean Hannity For Good – offering a NY comedian/lawyer/political junkie’s insights into how an accomplished politician with big ideas and a good heart can land some more meaningful punches in the debates. Some of my tips were employed, coincidentally or not, in Miami, but some were ignored to the Governor’s detriment in my opinion. No one went after Elizabeth Warren, so like a boxing champion she left the debate with a unanimous decision victory for basically pulling a Floyd Mayweather Jr. in librarian garb. This debate cannot go that way, so first I will give a few general tips (all Labor because I know he needs no push to discuss climate) for the Governor and his staff and then some specific lines and lines of attack against his debate opponents (and if two blogs is not enough for you, here is a speech I offered for Inslee with many usable soundbytes).
I had the honor of interviewing Governor Inslee for Sirius XM on Wednesday and the only thing that gave me pause was Inslee’s potential stubbornness to reframe his climate cause. What I mean by that is one of the big issues in the Midwest has been the loss of jobs and the weakening of organized labor. In Miami, Governor Inslee was the only one to mention it at all in the two debates. And that is because in his state he has been a successful pro-labor AND pro-business governor and in his signature plan, the Evergreen Economy, he devotes pages to the role that organized labor will play. I think saying “I will create 8 million jobs, develop new industries and help transition those in affected industries with a new GI Bill. In growing our middle class and reinvigorating organized labor you will be on the front line of also helping fight climate change. It’s not an either-or; it’s a win win!” will reach more people than “We have to take drastic climate action (which we do)… but I will also create millions of jobs.” One places workers, some of whom may be skeptical, at the center of change and progress, instead of sort of giving them dessert only after they’ve had their rhetorical vegetables. So here are some general things he could say on the debate stage:
- “Not one person on this stage mentioned organized labor in Miami, except me. I didn’t come here to pander to organized labor, who many in this party have forgotten or never really paid attention to. I came to let them know that, as the backbone of our 20th century economy, under my plan they will be the engine of a new 21st century economy. Washington has the best economy in the country because we have embraced workers and the future together. You can look at my record, my results and my Evergreen Economy plan to see that I’m not here to pander, but to promise that the jobs and the growth of a President Inslee economy will go to the middle class, with empowered union workers leading it, not just being thrown promises and talking points.
- (as Inslee has said in some form) “Fossil fuel workers helped build this country. Donald Trump lies and says that coal is their future because to Trump and the GOP the future is a spreadsheet next fiscal quarter and a Rassmussen poll. To me, the future is knowing that your kids and grandkids will be able to grow up in your town and city and find a good job and follow in their family’s footsteps if they want to. My plan calls for a GI Bill for workers in the fossil fuel industry – to help them be part of the transition to a 21st century economy. It’s worked in Washington state and I know it can work for this country. Because for me there are two essential truths relating to our economy and our planet – climate change must be defeated and under an Inslee administration America’s workers will be the ones to win that victory.”
- Please stop saying “wind turbines don’t cause Cancer; they cause jobs” – it’s not a great line. Instead – “Donald Trump says stupid things like THE SOUND of wind turbines causes Cancer (actually what Trump said, which is even dumber). He is that committed to fighting science and new jobs because coal and oil lobbyists pay him compliments. The science of climate change is real, but so is the money that can be made in making America the leader in combatting it. But Donald Trump, through sheer ineptitude and insecurity would rather lie about science and deny working people a great future because coal and oil executives will tell him what a good boy he is. This is no longer a right or left issue. It is a right or wrong issue. Washington State has the best economy in the country because being on the right side of science and on the right side of working people is a win-win, not an either-or (only use this one time, even though I used it twice in these bullet points).
SPECIFIC CANDIDATE TIPS
- Joe Biden – It will be tempting to attack Biden (as I call it to “Beto” him) after Harris drew blood and donations from attacking him. But I could see this being a tiresome, almost hacky theme for the night. Score points on Biden when clear (“middle ground” on climate change is a good and unforced area to exploit), but don’t make him the Governor’s whipping boy.
- Kamala Harris – This is where Governor Inslee cannot be afraid to attack BY NAME if the occasion arises. She is polished and also inconsistent and not too grounded in a lot of her policy positions.
- “She is a sharp and talented politician, but replacing Trump will demand something more than a steep learning curve. This country will need someone ready on Day One. 16 years in Congress and 2 terms as a governor you can bet that I know my position and policy on health care and the other vital issues of our time.”
- (if in a climate change exchange) “I’m glad Senator Harris has embraced climate change and my terminology” – bait her into “Governor, you don’t have a monopoly on the issue of climate change” to reply with “But I do have the gold standard plan to fight it and not just borrowed platitudes.” Boom goes the dynamite. But don’t engage her unless the Governor is prepared to take a knockout punch. It can be a winning moment FOR SURE, but only if going for the final line.
- Andrew Yang
- $1000 a month to everyone is a nice idea, but what’s worked for me as Governor in Washington is to continually look to the future by embracing new industries and focusing on workers’ rights. I find that that has put more than $1000 a month in the accounts of many Washingtonians.”
- Tulsi Gabbard – She’s peaked at 1% – nothing to go after here. At least Yang provides an angle for a good soundbyte
- Bill DeBlasio
- “Perhaps if you interrupted your own governor as much as you interrupt me the NYC subway system would be in better shape”
- “Mayor DeBlasio has done some great things for working class families and everything he’s done as a Mayor from minimum wage to Pre K, etc. I have done and more as a governor (careful though – population of NYC is bigger than the state of Washington – but argue forcefully that Governor Inslee accomplished some things without the convenience of one-party rule in NYC)
- Cory Booker – I like Booker, but don’t see a lot of areas for confrontation, nor really the need to as I think his candidacy will never break into the top tier
- Julian Castro – the candidate most likely to go overboard (he endorsed abortion rights for trans women in the last debate, which seems like something out of a science fiction novel parodying the modern left). He is probably going to try and follow Harris’ tactic of attacking Biden, but then also try to attack Harris on criminal justice issues. Potentially a positive contrast with Castro on issues like immigration to show you have had success with liberal policies and court action, but perhaps look somewhat moderate in comparison (maybe if a Castro-Bennett argument occurs Governor Inslee can look like a moderate success by comparison)
- Michael Bennett – I like Bennett and he will probably act as a moderate attack dog, perhaps as a more energetic alternative for Biden voters. I would leave him be for now.
- Kirsten Gillebrand
- “When I was in a conservative district I voted for the assault weapons ban and lost my seat. My opinions on guns didn’t change based on what district I was representing.”
- “Please stop interrupting”
The goal from Detroit is not to become a front runner. It’s 2% or more – I think that’s possible, but it will require more than a good record and a kind demeanor. Go get it!
From die hard sports fans to casual sports observers, it can truly be said that we live in the best time in history to be watching tennis. I myself was a casual fan who has sort of been forced into a more serious enthusiasm for the sport, based on the sheer historic greatness on display in the last decade. On the women’s side we have witnessed the greatest of all time in Serena Williams (though arguing for a Steffi Graf is certainly a respectable position or I guess Margaret Court, who appears to have won 24 grand slam titles sometime before women’s suffrage I think. But as great as Serena has been, the men’s game has been absurdly historic. We have the three greatest players of all time at the same time. The collective greatness of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokavic has basically snuffed out a later generation of tennis players. There is a generation of tennis players from age 28 to 40 who basically have no idea what winning a grand slam feels like unless they have a hook-up at Dennys. It started with Federer who basically took over men’s tennis from the United States and then repeatedly snuffed out its heir apparent, Andy Roddick, who won the last U.S. men’s title in 2003. Federer won several titles from 2003-2007 basically unimpeded as the clear best player in the world. But then he got company.
Rafael Nadal showed up and has basically called dibs on the French Open since 2006. The only reason Federer ever won in France is because Nadal was eliminated before they could meet (Nadal is currently 40,999,987-2 at Roland Garros). He has been a Spanish brick wall. Some try to pigeonhole him as a one surface star, but he still has 6 non-French Open titles on his record. And that includes the 2008 legendary Wimbledon match that turned me from a casual tennis fan into a more serious tennis fan. Dubbed until yesterday as “The Greatest Match Ever Played” it was an epic that basically took the entirety of my hungover Sunday 11 years ago. It represented Nadal beating the older Federer on his best surface and proving he was not just a clay specialist. It looked like it might have been a passing of the torch, but it turned out to be more of a sharing of the torch. From that day I became a huge Nadal fan. I had wondered why he was always sneering and picking his butt, but that day I watched him exhibit such will and athletic talent that his grimacing and wedgies just seemed like eccentricities of a genius. And I simply took for granted Federer’s talent and effortless excellence.
As the years went by I made sure not to miss any majors and continued to root hard for Nadal in a race to be the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). As he continued to pile up French Opens and the occasional other major, and Federer looked to be aging, I felt confident that Nadal might take the title. He has a winning record against Federer (but to be fair a lot of that is on his clay kingdom – but they do count!). But then Novak Djokavic showed up and the Magic and Larry of tennis may have met their Michael Jordan.
I don’t know when I became aware of Djokavic. To me and many fans he just felt like the dude who kept messing up Nadal and Federer’s title chase. But I know when I became a big fan. The 2015 U.S. Open. The rowdy crowd was, like every crowd in tennis, rooting hard for Federer in the Finals. Djokavic was the world #1 and seemed to take it as disrespect. He dropped the 2nd set, but then proceeded to beat Federer’s ass in the remaining two sets to take the title. I have always liked athletes with bad tempers. Perhaps because I was one. But Djokavic seemed to take the title of “J-L’s favorite angry athlete” from Paul O’Neill (who is now MAGA so fu*k him – how do you win championships with Puerto Ricans and immigrants and then vote and support a racist xenophobe?). I was so impressed with Djokavic’s performance that day and realized that he might be able to run roughshod over men’s tennis for the next decade with Nadal’s physicality taking a toll and Federer getting old.
Except it hasn’t been like that. Djokavic’s entire career has been a fight against immortal Federer and unmovable Nadal. And yet he was won 16 grand slams and counting, without a 4 year solo head start like Federer or a single dominant surface like Nadal. So I think it is safe to say that Djokavic is the best player in the history of tennis. He has at least 3 years of dominance left in him (at least physically) and has a winning record against both Federer and Nadal in his career. And his performance yesterday, while not dominating, was as gutty a performance as I have ever seen. Down two match points to Roger Federer with the whole crowd about to climax for Federer he pushed the game to deuce, won the game, forced a tiebreaker and turned Federer into Swiss Miss en route to another Wimbledon trophy. But then I realized something. Federer is the GOAT.
For background I liked Federer early on, but the grit and range of Nadal made me more awestruck. And later, the “fu*k you, pay me!” attitude of Djokavic seeking his own respect in a sport married to Federer was relatable and enjoyable to me. But the common thread throughout this is the greatness of Federer. He innovates, adapts, augments and enhances his game at every turn. He has no weaknesses and makes the brilliant look routine. No great moment in tennis seems to be able to occur without his presence or shadow. (Full disclosure, for blogger integrity, years ago I dated a woman who was a huge Federer fan. In terms of my life she ranks somewhere between Trump and 9/11 so needless to say I used to take glee in Federer losses. But yesterday I felt like Federer’s performance AT ALMOST 38 YEARS OLD forced me to surrender any resentments (towards Federer)). He is the standard to which every player must measure themselves – numerically and stylistically.
This may be the unfortunate fate that awaits Djokavic. If I had to pick any player in history to win one match (not on clay) I would pick Djokavic. He has incredible, well-rounded talent, has been dubbed by John McEnroe the greatest returned in the history of the sport and has Federer’s 20 titles in his sights. And yet, seeing Federer, even in defeat, I felt like I was watching the man who invented tennis. It’s a weird distinction, to say that the best player ever may not be the greatest, but the most important thing is that we all get to watch the three greatest tennis players of all time play.
On Thursday morning I woke up to read my NY Times and started with the Arts section when I saw a large picture of Dave Chappelle and what I assumed was a review of his current 2 week stint on Broadway. The article was by NY Times comedy writer Jason Zinoman and from the headline I decided I did not want to read it. The vibe I got from the headline and first paragraph was that Chappelle was retreading old ground and punching down. Also I did not want a spoiler for a performance that I had paid an exorbitant amount to attend (doggystyle seating – my girlfriend was sitting in the aisle seat in front of me). My basic assumption was the Zinoman was just following the current, Nanette-infused sensibility of what should be comedy, what is good comedy and how 18 different progressive buzzwords should be dictating what stand up comedians perform. Having enjoyed Chappelle’s recent Netflix efforts and defending that material against accusations of transphobia I just assumed this was more of the same. Well… (*Malcolm Gladwell podcast intro voice*) it turns out… maybe Zinoman had a point (still haven’t read it though).
The show did not start until about 8:25 (8:00pm show) when DJ Trauma (Chappelle’s road DJ, a concept I hate as I type it) began playing his own songs before Chappelle’s opener, Wil Sylvince did a 20-25 minute set. Then DJ Trauma began a medley of hip hop to get us all pumped up for Chappelle. He did something that I found hilarious – you know how bands will stop singing so the audience fills in (Steve Harvey, I believe, mocked this in The Kings of Comedy)? Well DJ Trauma decided to stop playing the records so we would fill in – so I guess in 2019 DJs are tired of doing all the work of playing a song on their MacBook. And then, finally, the man came out.
Chappelle started his set insulting the New York Times, which despite having had two relatives work for the NYT in the past, I laughed at because I assumed he was going to stick it to another progressive (where I lie politically on most things, but not nearly as much within the art of stand up) writer who wants to dictate to a master what is and isn’t OK. I am going to try and not spoil any jokes, but the vibe I got from Chappelle’s set was of a guy who was a little angrier than normal and felt it was his job to be Louis CK’s proxy or defender. What I mean by that is his topics included trans people, the use of the word fa**ot and school shootings – he was almost going through a checklist of what got CK in trouble after one of his first post-hiatus performances. And I will admit I was never a huge fan of CK, but I actually laughed at his material that the comedy police decided was now “hack” and “disgusting.” Now, for most of Chappelle’s set it was A level material on some very touchy subjects. Exactly the type of hilarious tight rope walk a lot of people like me want to see in stand up comedy (his dismissiveness of white opioid addicts, his discussion of getting a gun, his school shooter material, his insulting of the women’s soccer team and many other things were legitimately great comedy and well within what should be allowed for comedians to joke about and risk failing while attempting). But during some of the material, for the first time in my watching Chappelle for decades, I felt like he was veering into Edge-Lord, “Hey Man I’m a fucking comic – this is what we do bro” kind of “own the libs” peacocking. The appeal for me of Chappelle has always been the laid-back genius of what he does and how he does it. This was absent during the bits of the show that were the weakest.
Now there is a chance he was still working on material, but based on the price of the tickets and the high profile of the residency I have to imagine it is close to a finished product. And I must say – two sections of the show actually made me cringe both because of the laziness of the material and the reaction of the crowd.
One bit was about the word fa**ot. He said that Comedy Central did not want him to do a sketch centered on the word. He then asked Comedy Central why he was allowed to say ni**er all day on air, but not fa**ot. The woman’s answer at standards and practices was that he isn’t gay. Chappelle’s answer to that was “But I’m not a ni**er either.” And the crowd, full of a cross section of people who apparently want the freedom to call people fa**ots, cheered like he had just said something profound and brave. He then said that a lesson he (and now Kevin Hart – the other comedian he seemed intent on defending through word and deed) learned is that you cannot make fun of LGBTQ people because “they” run Hollywood. I don’t say this lightly; this moment sucked. First off, the analogy that Chappelle made to defend himself was so lazy and wrong it doesn’t work. Clearly the implication was “you are black, so you can say the N word, but you are straight so you can’t throw around the F word” and he turned it around in a stupid way but that still got Church “mmmhmms” from the Black members of the audience and “whoops” from the NY Post reading White people in the crowd. Then there was the direct claim that a group running Hollywood was stifling only slurs against themselves. And then there was the whooping of the crowd at it. I don’t care if you think this is hyperbole or snowflake shit, but I’ve basically defended everything in comedy that isn’t Kramer’s N word rant and unlike Zinoman, have been a comedian for 16 years, but this felt like being at some Trump rally for a few minutes. Unlike a lot of the great comedy Chappelle shared last night, this did not feel like pushing the envelope to prove a point about comedy and speech. This felt like a white person asking to say the N word (which tellingly a white person did after the show during a Q&A which was resoundingly booed by white and black alike). Except in the case of Chappelle, it was a black man demanding the right to use a slur of a group he doesn’t belong too and then claiming some racism/adjacent white privilege for why he wasn’t allowed to. And the crowd loved it.
The second bit that bothered me was probably the worst joke in the whole show, just on a comedic level. I thought his trans jokes on Netflix were funny. Problematic, but funny and at the end of the day that is my metric for a comedy special. But he starting basically retreading the CK bit (if I identify as a woman, why can’t I identify as an Asian person – CK did it as a tree or something) that got CK into some heat recently. One of the reasons why I think Chappelle was trying to avenge CK in some way with this hour. And the crowd was loving it (he had other LGBTQ jokes that were much more skillful and funny). And then he just started doing an Asian person impersonation that felt like a 1950s stereotype and the crowd ate it up (having worked plenty of black rooms on the road and in DC when I started I do know that for some reason doing basically racist impressions of Asians still seem to kill in a lot of those rooms). Now – maybe he was just doing this to stick his finger in the eye of political correctness. This one felt so simple and offensive that that might actually have been what he was doing. But it was beneath most open micers, let alone a legend.
The rest of the show was great, Chappelle is an all time great, but for the first time I felt like I could see the beginning of the end of Chappelle as an artist at the peak of his powers. At least for me. Our country has shown there is a deep thirst for offensive commentary and someone who will stop sensitivity and political correctness from being used as dual cudgels to hammer people into a future they haven’t signed on for. And maybe I am wrong – Chappelle clearly has lots to say and a lot of talent with which to say it. But he stopped doing Chappelle Show because he felt like he was giving white people too much license to laugh AT black people. But has middle age, millions and the current climate shifted him into a guy who now finds it OK to rally the MAGA folk and his loyal fans into a group that dismisses all political correctness and other marginalized groups? It wasn’t OK for white people to laugh at ni**ers in 2004, but we can all come together and laugh at these politically correct fa**ots in 2019? My credentials and past writings speak for themselves so I don’t need to heed anyone who thinks this is some soft, PC bullshit blog. In those two bits Chappelle was being lazy and worst of all unfunny – maybe to prove a point, but the point to his audience, based on their reaction was not “we need more honesty!” It was “yeah I should be able to say fa**ot!” And I am not against using any language in comedy. I have laughed at entertainers’ usage of the fa**ot in some movies and comedy, but the point of that usage was not to defend the usage of the word.
I don’t normally dissect comedy like this or treat it like a term paper, but I am only doing this because it felt so stark. If I had just listened to a Chappelle album with last night’s set I might have just said “Great album, but tracks 4 and 6 sucked,” but being in a theater with thousands of people applauding not the humor, but the perceived truth of those words, was a lot more uncomfortable than I expected to be at a Chappelle stand up show.
Last night I went to a fundraiser for Governor Jay Inslee – the candidate I think should be and needs to be the next President of the United States. Before I give you the recap, a reminder that if you are a Democrat, Independent or (gulp) Republican reading this and believe that climate change is a huge issue, then go give Governor Inslee $5. It’s not a lot of money, but it counts as an individual donor to reach the 130,000 threshold for the Fall Democratic debates. I think Governor Inslee should be president (I will give my face-to-face impressions shortly), but in 2016 I gave money to Bernie Sanders before voting for Hillary Clinton. I did that because I liked the direction Bernie was pushing the campaign and his discussions of income inequality. Even though I thought Hillary would be the better and more effective president, I thought Bernie’s message and voice was an important driving force (I wish he could have given that same energy to supporting her candidacy in the general election…). Similarly, I think if you believe climate change is an issue of vital importance, giving any amount to Governor Inslee will guarantee that the most prepared and substantive voice on the issue can speak to the nation and make sure that whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2020 will make it a central issue. So if you agree (and especially if you have not yet given) click on the following link to make a donation DONATE TO JAY INSLEE
Now on to the fundraiser!
My girlfriend (when you give a fat check you get to bring a +1… or maybe anyone who gave lesser amounts could, but I am telling myself that what I gave came with extra perks) arrived at the swanky Central Park West address and made our way through the lobby about 20 minutes after the start time (we both took a quick coffee shop break to cool off from the Summer subway sweat puddle we had become) I heard a voice that was very familiar. As we approached the service elevator that was to bring us up to the fundraiser I said to my girlfriend “that’s him.” As we turned into the elevator there were about 5 people in the elevator and a pair of tall blue eyes (I’m talking the Walkers on Game of Thrones blue) looking out from the back of the elevator. My girlfriend and I then stood facing forward and she turned around and mouthed a “that’s him,” at which point I realized she wasn’t really listening to me as we approached the elevator 20 seconds earlier (admittedly dating a comic is probably exhausting on the ears). We exited the elevator and were greeted into the apartment that was (at least) 2 stories. It was already fairly full and fairly hot so we made our way to a less crowded room where I found a small tray of cookies (it’s like they were calling me) – there were snacks of varying level of class around the apartment – the wine was near the shrimp cocktail and sushi, but I had found cooler air and cookies so I had no plans to move.
So first impressions of Governor Inslee can be summed up from the conversation my girlfriend and I had had afterwards:
Me: He’s like a legit 6’4″
GF: He’s kind of got a Kennedy thing going
Me: Minus all the issues and baggage – And those eyes were Blue AF!
GF: It was hot in the apartment, but he was in a full suit and didn’t seem to be sweating.
Me: You think his suit was made of dry-fit?
ME and GF: quick chuckle
(This is the conversation we actually had)
So around 6:45 pm the Governor addressed the crowd. He gave a nice talk, which was probably more to convince the people who attended who are curious about his candidacy than people like me who are like “I don’t have money to invest in curiosities, so if I’m here I am fully on board.” At one point the Governor referenced his Evergreen Ecomony Plan and said (paraphrasing) “It’s not just some wish list; it’s a governing document. And whoever the nominee is can use it.” (Having read it I must say it feels like something that would be on everyone’s desk in Washington D.C. on day one of an Inslee presidency. It may not be a “fun” read, but my God is it deep and comprehensive and honestly, sort of inspiring to see someone put so much depth and care into an important issue. But when the Governor said any nominee could use it a woman “awwwww’d” and I almost laughed out loud. But then the Governor opened it up to questions and comments from the crowd. Here I am at that moment:
So a few questions got asked and then I raised my hand and was called on.
To summarize my comment (though I was more nervous than I think I had ever been since in my mind I was talking to the person I think should be the next President):
- All my friends who are responsive to what I tell them about you seem to want to pigeonhole you as a future EPA administrator
- The Evergreen plan I read it (teacher’s pet – for which the Governor said I should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) and there’s 5 pages dedicated to organized labor’s role in an Inslee economy
- At the Miami debate you were the only one to mention organized labor but in Detroit everyone will fall over themselves to be the candidate of labor – please don’t let them without reminding and informing the viewers that you are the one with it baked into your plan and you were the only one who talked about it in Miami.
Basically in a room full of fairly upper crust liberals I wanted to say face to face what I said in my post-Miami blog, which is basically “you can seize some or a lot of the blue collar Democratic vote not by pandering, but just by showing what you’ve done and what your plan entails (but be sure to brand others as pandering). A few minutes later someone asked “How will you get blue collar Democrats worried about tomorrow when they are worried about today (meaning climate vs paycheck)?” I leaned over to my girlfriend and said “That shit is in the plan! The GI bill for workers in transition!” Now the reason Inslee is running for President and I am sitting in a Starbucks blogging is because he spent the next 5 minutes kindly explaining the things he has done in Washington state and apply that nationally. My response would have been closer to: “What did I spend my life putting together a plan that will save the world if you are going to come to me and ask me that? Get your ass to a Marianne Williamson event before I make climate change out of your (checks donation list) $250 dollar ass!”
I then met Hailee, Governor Inslee’s tri-state finance director and chief target of my Inslee-positive Twitter harassment, who promised me a photo with the Governor. Eventually I got to get a photo with the Governor and also a few minutes to speak with him. A quick shot of our conversation:
Don’t believe me? Here:
In the few minutes I got with him he thanked me for reading his plan and I then told him as quickly as possible that I had not really known of him 8 months ago but because climate change is my #1 issue his candidacy seemed immediately worth supporting. But the more I read about him and his record the more I realized that he was clearly the best candidate and that more people needed to know about his entire record. I then told him that some people (hint – KAMALA HARRIS) were already ripping off some of his lines in debates and that in Detroit he couldn’t play second to anyone on the issue of labor or on his record, when the candidates undoubtedly will try to pander to the Rust Belt. We then said our goodbyes and I left to have dinner with my girlfriend.
Here is my assessment overall. Governor Inslee strikes me as a fundamentally (and uncommonly) good man, with a great record, a great and meaningful platform and if casting a President for a movie I think he would be the first choice. Seriously – imagine a Kennedy with an unblemished moral compass, a strong family man with a strong progressive record of leadership and accomplishment. A TV producer would yell at you and say he was too Norman Rockwell. So as a bonus, after meeting him I am also convinced he could beat the crap out of Donald Trump. Not in a Joe Biden, back in my day way, but in a serious Stone Cold Stunner way if Trump rolls up on in him in a debate:
So after reading his plans, studying his record, watching what feels like at least 50 media appearances and meeting the man I cannot stress enough that if you are not settled on a candidate to give him a real look. And if you are settled on a candidate the way I was with Hillary, keeping Governor Inslee in the debates will only strengthen the party and perhaps allow more people to see his record (and his Blue AF eyes). But just to show my restraint during the meeting here is what I said to my girlfriend before meeting the Governor:
“What I want to say to him is ‘A lot of these candidates have plans. Well you know what Mike Tyson said about plans? Everyone has one until they get punched in the mouth. So in Detroit go METAPHORICALLY punch some of these candidates in the mouth and let them know that you are already beyond the plans phase in Washington State – AND CALL THEM OUT BY NAME.” I thought better of saying it, but I hope after a visit to NYC he brings a little “Take-No-Sh*t attitude to Detroit. And here is me photo bombing (with Hailee’s blessing) the future POTUS before speaking with him:
I am currently off for the first day since May 27th (started writing this on July 4th, published on July 9th). I wish I could report that I was touring the country’s comedy clubs, but I have focused the last 16 years of my comedy career trying to become good at stand up comedy, which is a way of saying “I need to make money.” The pattern basically goes like this:
- Get booked for a bunch of clubs getting paid at 1988 wages for whatever spots have not been claimed for the mediocrities most of today’s “headliners” bring with them to clubs
- Realize that if you have 52 weeks of work at those rates you could survive barely but would have all that free time to work on comedy writing and related endeavors to hopefully improve your work and standing in the business
- Realize 15 seconds later that you only have 17 weeks/weekends of work in a good year
- Find the best work you can for someone who has postponed (and possibly killed) the hope of a real, non-comedy career. Must take work in those 30+ weeks that pays enough (thus requiring heavy work hours that preclude writing and a life) to support the ungrateful, illiterate goth teen of a stand up career that you are still trying to raise.
- Blog about it. Eat cookies.
So I have been sitting in a law firm in midtown for 38 days in a row, unable to do anything comedy related. Or really anything life related. The only breaks for me have been Big Little Lies on Sundays and laundry on Saturday nights (the laundry rom in my building is surprisingly empty on Saturdays at 10pm) Fortunately I have kept my creative side of my brain by pursuing 2020 politics and tweeting speech fragments to myself during breaks in my quioxotic quest to get Governor Jay Inslee of Washington (state) elected president. Maybe its just my affinity for people with undeniable talent and credentials, with J in their name, who America seems to be inexplicably rejecting. Maybe it’s just the idea that if you are going to create great work that will go unappreciated, unheard and/or unread you might as well do it for a great presidential candidate than in comedy clubs for teeming masses of navel gazing, non-reading, culturally ignorant, cell-phone staring dregs who would sell their children to starfu*k a fecal sample from the Kardashians (and that is just the other comedians I am writing about – the audiences can often be worse, with exceptions carved out for every audience member who has bought one or more of my albums).
In this age of convenience (written through the lens of stand up comedy by a brilliant commentator HERE) to paraphrase JFK, “I waste my life trying to write things that matter or make people laugh, not because it is easy, but because it is haaaaaaaahd.” So while I was sitting, making my way through Jay Inslee’s Evergreen Economy plan during work breaks, I started writing the following on my phone, gave it more structure on America’s birthday and finished it on the 9th of July (and my bigger set of tips and strategies for Inslee at the Detroit debates can be read HERE). I have no idea how this speech could be used or given, but I still think it makes a lot of good points with a lot of good lines and rhetoric punches so feel free to use some or all of it Inslee campaign (and then holler at me communications team!). OK – here it is:
THE FOUR PILLARS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Women’s Health. Labor. Civil Rights. The Environment. These are pillars of the modern Democratic Party. In recent years the Democratic party, our party, has paid lip service to some of these pillars. Pillars that for so long have been the heart and soul of our party. Pillars that, if we didn’t know before, certainly know now, require constant vigilance. We are the party that protects women’s health and choice. We are the party that protects the environment. We are the party that stands for union labor, collective bargaining and a higher minimum wage. And we are the party that since Lyndon Johnson has been the party of protecting and expanding civil rights for the people of this country. Make no mistake – that is what our party stands for, however imperfectly at times. But now is the time where we must stand taller than ever for these things. Comparing favorably to Donald Trump, a man whose contempt for our institutions and traditions, is only exceeded by his incompetence as a chief executive, is no great feat. And offering a host of plans and ideas and passionate speeches is good, but this country needs a leader not only with great ideas and consistent, forward-thinking, progressive ideals, but one that has the experience and leadership in implementing those policies to make Americans’ lives better. We know that being better than Trump isn’t even a sufficient moral baseline – we must be the best WE can be and nothing less than that will be enough. And I think to move forward we must take some responsibility for where we are as a country.
We allowed a President in office that, thanks to the rubber stamp of the most amoral and devious Senate Leader in modern memory, has flooded our judiciary from the district courts all the way to the Supreme Court. Some of those judges are woefully unqualified other than their willingness to adhere to Fox News’ version of jurisprudence. Other judges have been academically and professionally qualified, but have demonstrated moral failings that should have stopped them from serving on our highest Court, especially as deciding votes concerning women’s health. The name Merrick Garland may be a sick badge of honor for Mitch McConnell, but it will also remain a stain on the history of the United States Senate. Now we may not have voted for Mitch McConnell or Donald Trump, but does that absolve us completely? Did we vote for a candidate with the best chance to defeat Trump or did we sit on a progressive high horse thinking Hillary Clinton would win anyway? Did we encourage friends and family members to vote or to register to vote? And by the way have we donated to Amy McGrath who wants to make sure Mitch McConnell never sits in the United States Senate again? The threats we face from the Trump-McConnell Devil’s Bargain, from our courts to our communities to the very air we breathe demand a greater collective commitment than we have demonstrated in recent years.
I have been and always will be a defender of a woman’s full autonomy over her health and her choices regarding her body. I understand this is an issue with strong emotions on both sides, but frankly I am embarrassed that at this point in 2019 we are still debating and legislating to what degree a woman in the United States of America can control her own body. I voted against the Hyde Amendment while in Congress because it was the right thing to do. I have not just spoken or fought for gender pay equity – I signed it into law in Washington State as governor. My commitment, as well as our entire party’s commitment, to women’s health and women’s equality must be total and it must be fought for every day. We have many people doing their part to protect and strengthen this legacy, but ask yourself – are we doing enough? Could we do more?
We allowed our commitment to labor to waver, once a bedrock of Democratic support. Are we absolved because Trump outright lies to them about what jobs are coming and going? On our watch we have seen right to work laws, which might as well be called “Right to Kill Union” laws thrive. Time has always shown that the stronger our unions are, the stronger our middle class is. The party of Trump has been waging a war for decades on unions, not because they care about the rights of labor, but because they cared how labor voted. Pitting states against states in a race to the bottom, cutting benefits and fighting against a higher minimum wage – these are the policies of the party that has given us so called “Right to Work” laws. They want you to believe that immigrants are the source of your oppression. So they promise you jobs that are going away, while simultaneously suppressing the jobs of your town’s future. That is because to them the future is a spreadsheet next fiscal quarter. To me the future is whether your son or daughter will have the same opportunity to work in the same town or city as you.
I am the Governor of a state that has the highest minimum wage in the country and I have fought for union labor my whole career. And most importantly, as people brand me the climate candidate, as some token acknowledgement of the importance of the climate crisis at best and a shorthand dismissal of my campaign at worst, know that the centerpiece of my Evergreen Economy Plan is a commitment to, and a reinvigoration of, organized labor. Millions of jobs will be created because they are necessary to reshape our economy and save our planet. Under a Jay Inslee administration labor will not be left behind or given token acknowledgement – it will be the driving force at the head of a new 21st century economy. My state of Washington has been thriving for both businesses and workers and my plans plainly put workers at the center of a new industrial age for America.
We need middle class workers, and union workers to know that we still have their back and are the party to strengthen their future. We have many people doing their part to protect and strengthen this legacy, but ask yourself – are we doing enough? Could we do more?
Over just the last 3 years we have seen some of our front line communities further marginalized as they fight for their survival amidst voter suppression, criminal justice bias, and the stripping of basic rights, even the ability to serve this country in combat based on gender identity. Donald Trump has shown the world our worst side on these issues. And now we confront the issue of uninhibited, partisan gerrymandering at the same time as Donald Trump threatening to defy the Supreme Court and put a question on the census demanding citizenship status. Make no mistake the census question is a hideously perfect triple threat of the Trump regime: use a tactic with racially biased implications, to corrupt the political system, while ignoring the rule of law. The Trump regime has been disdainful at its best and hateful at its worst toward people of color, women, LGTBQ people and, most perniciously of all, to immigrants whether they be Muslims from around the world or children from Central America. Whatever Trump property they choose to turn into a book-less library when his presidency is over should have the quote “Very fine people on both sides” over the doorway and pictures of children in cages filling its hallways, because that is the legacy he will leave this country to confront. Diversity, in all its forms, is one of America’s greatest strengths and what has helped make this country both a leader globally and a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world. We will not just have to resist Trump now, but will have to work hard to restore America as a moral leader when he is gone.
We have many people doing their part to fight this attack on the values of America and the demonization of the people who come here to help themselves, as well as our nation, but ask yourself – are we doing enough? Could we do more?
And yes, I have fought and now hope to lead the fight against the climate crisis which can be America’s latest and possibly greatest opportunity to lead the world, but only if we confront it with the courage, the moral force and most importantly the will that only the people of the United States can muster. There is no longer a debate on the science on this issue. The only debate now is do we confront the issue head on with a plan to make the world healthier and make our economy a leader for the next century or refuse to act because the Republican Party clings to the cash of the Koch brothers while asking its voters to cling to a vision of yesterday and ignore the promise of tomorrow.
We have many people doing their part to protect the environment, but ask yourself – are we doing enough? Could we do more?
The threats to women, to civil rights, to our strong labor class and to the health of our planet are at stake. If there has been one silver lining to the gold-plated presidency of Donald Trump it is that he has shown that the day of Not In My Backyard Progressivism has got to stop. Defeating the problems we face, from a wannabe dictator to the destruction of our environment requires both a resolve and also a sense of unified purpose, that we have not shown as a nation recently, but that I have to believe we still possess. As Governor I have shown how fighting climate change and fighting for the middle class can lead to a thriving economy for businesses and workers, as well as a cleaner environment for all of their children and grandchildren to enjoy. Protecting women’s rights and promoting civil rights are two of the many reasons why Washington state is considered the best state in the country by so many metrics. But this is not just about my record as a legislator and governor. This is deeply personal. My father was a high school biology teacher and coach and from an early age he instilled in me an appreciation of the world entrusted to us. And as I look at my three grandkids, my three favorite people in the world, I believe it is my duty, not as a governor, but as a grandfather to ensure that my grandkids have a country that is healthy, just and prosperous. I’m running for President because I want that for them and believe that with your help and commitment we can make it a reality.
Over the 4th of July weekend I went to see Ain’t Too Proud, the 12 time Tony nominated Broadway musical about The Temptations, featuring the music of the Four Tops (spoiler – I’m just kidding – it features the music of The Temptations). The show is outstanding. Close to as entertaining as Hamilton (though a big difference is the music of Hamilton is original and when you start your musical with a foundation of one of the greatest groups of all time it’s a considerable head start on the way to great show), I was blown away by the depth of talent in the show and gave it an actually earned standing ovation. If Jersey Boys, a beast in its own right and sort of the forefather of the Ain’t Too Proud, is Larry Bird then Ain’t Too Proud is Lebron James. But this post is not about the show, but about the theater.
Aint Too Proud (by the way, apologies if you thought it was a musical about TLC) has its home at the Imperial Theater on West 45th street. It is one of the many old theaters that seats hobbits comfortably, jockeys tightly and everyone else like processed deli meats. At least that is what I thought. By way of background I go to about 4-5 Broadway shows a year and as a theater snob I tend to go for the classics – Harry Potter, SpongeBob, King Kong, Pretty Women, etc. and am always buying aisle seats because in anything but the newest theaters the aisle is the only way for me to sit while allowing for the possibility that I will be able to produce children in the future. So I purchased two orchestra seats for me and my girlfriend, but when I walked to our seat I noticed something – a child would not be able to fit (FYI I was 5’2″ when I was 8 years old so my idea of children’s size may be skewed). I saw a man who could not be any bigger than 5’8″ with barely any leg room. Then I saw a 6’2″ man walk into our row and he basically looked like me on a middle seat on a flight where I could only afford Delta’s “Go fu*k yourself” class of seat. He was wedged in and could not place his feet flat. So here is me trying to sit in my seat (photo credit: girlfriend):
When I realized that I could not fit in the seat (width would have been tight, but I take responsibility for my cookie and brownie habit. I literally could not fit in my seat without doggystyling the elderly woman in front of me, which would be awkward with my girlfriend right there (#TheaterThreesome). So we approached our usher and told her “we got it, we got it bad,” which she (and many of you probably) did not get. She then called her manager, also a woman (and you tell me we don’t need a men’s rights movement???) who offered to take me to one of the boxes on the second level. It was awesome. Plenty of leg room and to many of the riff raff in the mezzanine they probably assumed the giant was probably a VIP (Very Impressive Pituitary). It was a partially obstructed view, but that’s a small price to look cool and have blood circulating to your lower body.
But then I noticed something before the show started – the premium seats were extra roomy (the new invention since Jersey Boys where center orchestra seats close go for a ton of money). So not only is the view great, but you have lots of extra leg room – leg room that I am pretty sure did not exist 10-15 years ago. But since these antebellum theaters have not been updated that means the leg room had to come from somewhere and then I realized: the $120 seats (not exactly a small amount) were getting fu*ked to accommodate the elite of the elite (WHERE IS AOC TO LOBBY FOR THE NEEDS OF THE MERELY SUCCESSFUL AGAINST THE CORRUPT ELITES PLUNDERING THEATER REAL ESTATE???). Here is an aerial shot of the offending seats:
Basically Broadway is becoming an airline. I remember when Southwest used to let me pre-board because I was very tall. They did this so I could get an Emergency Exit row. But then Southwest, which has no business having a “business class” – anyone with a business is on a real airline, and it’s sort of a snobby poke at all the working stiffs who built you up (THIS IS WHY TRUMP WILL WIN IN 2020!) – decided to seell off early access for their flights. Meanwhile, my other preferred airline, Delta, had introduced Comfort Plus, which sounds like my favorite branch of soft core porn, and for a while it was a Godsend. Tons of extra leg room, free snacks and movies – all for a $100 extra. But as those seats became more popular they started adding rows of Comfort Plus. And all of a sudden my soft core porn turned into an airline cuck film because I was being fu*ked out of leg room. After a few years Delta had tripled the amount of Comfort Plus, but since the airplanes (like the theaters) were not getting any bigger or giving up on revenue the extra room had to be squeezed out of existing coach seats AND the room in comfort plus seats. So by my last flight to LA a couple of years ago (career not flame emojis FYI) I had just enough room to not touch the seat in front of me, but had lost a noticeable amount of room.
So congrats Broadway – you are now operating with the same ethical standards and concern for your customers as an airline. Seriously can someone reach out to Attorney General Tish James to see if there is any limit to how much a theater can shrink seat size? But from here on out I will be buying the smallest seat possible for Broadway shows and then demanding a box. But the show was outstanding so cheers to you Ain’t Too Proud with a $45 bottle of Ain’t Too Proud water (I don’t know how much it cost, gf got it for me at intermission so we could keep up appearances that as an A-lister I could not mingle with the common folk at intermission).
Just as Governor Jay Inslee is seeking to transition the United States to a green economy, I continue my transition from unpaid comedic genius to unpaid political strategist (despite loving The Dark Knight like a child I have never quite heeded The Joker’s advice of “If you’re good at something never do it for free”). After watching the first debate I offered the Inslee campaign some reminders and some unsolicited advice on how Governor Inslee should adjust his messaging (right down to word choice) and debate approach. HERE IT IS if interested. But with Kamala Harris taking over the second debate and possibly snatching frontrunner status from Joe Biden (with a combination of charisma, a deft challenge to Biden, a host of platitudes, a major inconsistency, usage of clichés and the lifting of not one, but two winning lines from Governor Inslee) I thought there was no time like 530am on a Tuesday in my underwear to start drafting my next set of tips for the Governor’s team:
- Unions will be a big topic in Detroit at the end of the month. Governor Inslee was the only one to mention them in the first debate. Whether it’s Kamala Harris doing her second backflip on Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan, Julian Castro guaranteeing the right to abortion for trans women or Beto O’Rourke busting out his Spanish, the debates are going to be full of pandering. And with the second debate, union labor and working class American will surely be courted heavily (won’t people find it odd if the economy only gets talked about for 15 minutes in 4 hours in Detroit the way climate change was only talked about for 15 minutes in 4 hours in Miami?) by the candidates. Governor Inslee has made reinvigorating organized labor a centerpiece of his Evergreen Economy plan. And he drew some bipartisan pundit praise for being the only candidate to mention the need (and his plan) to strengthen unions. Well, he will be one of 19 other candidates to do so in Detroit (I cannot guarantee what the hell Marianne Williamson will say). Without appearing to be whining he MUST make sure that the rust belt knows that he made unions a centerpiece of his plan and has not just talked about them while pandering in Detroit (language might seem strong, but so what – use it). “Not one other candidate talked about union labor in the first debate. But don’t trust what I say in Detroit. Look at my state of Washington. Highest minimum wage in the country. #1 in employee satisfaction and in state GDP. And look at my Evergreen Economy Plan. Union labor and strengthening collective bargaining are the centerpieces of my plan to transition our 20th century economy into a 21st century economy. It has a GI Bill to help workers move from fossil fuel industry to clean energy economy. Labor and factory workers will not be left behind in a Jay Inslee economy – they will be out in front leading it. And you don’t have to take my word for it because I’ve already done it in Washington State.” and related to that…
- Make One Page Summaries for The Various Plans. Governor Inslee’s plans are in depth and rigorous. They also don’t make for easy sharing except among the deeply interested and learned. Make one page, bullet-pointed summaries of the plans, especially the Evergreen Economy. Easier to share and digest for the average person and voter. Debates do no play to all of Governor Inslee’s strengths, given the number of candidates and the brevity of answers allowed and 36 single-spaced pages do not allow for easy mass consumption.
- Iowa Cynicism. For much of the year Joe Biden has led in Iowa polls. In second has been Bernie Sanders. They could not be much more opposite as far as Democrats go, but oddly enough, in Iowa, the supporters of each had the other as their second choice. Since we are all adults here, the message in that is clear – an older white man still represents tradition, stability, comfort and “Presidential” to that segment of the electorate. There is no other explanation since their politics are as different as their demographics are similar. That simply means that from a political and, sadly, a demographic stand point, Governor Inslee can probably pick off votes from both of those camps, especially Biden. This does not mean change messaging or pander, but facts are facts and Governor Inslee is a steady, telegenic leader like Biden (but not too old), but with a consistent and progressive record to assuage Bernie Bro concerns. I guess this just means that making a big splash in Iowa in January is not just necessary for Inslee, but also possible.
- Do not let Warren skate and do not let Harris get away with stealing lines. As I wrote last month naming one’s opponents is a clear winner, as those who attacked Beto can attest to. Saying that Warren has good ideas, but that Inslee has actually already made them law is more like a backhanded compliment than an attack and I think could work, at least in terms of making people look at the Governor’s record and give him serious consideration. And Harris claiming “I call it the climate crisis” or using his winning line from the end of the first debate about Donald Trump being the biggest threat proves she is a Pitbull (yes as a prosecutor, but also as someone who samples others’ work and makes it shittier).
- Make Donald Trump’s incompetence a new, main line of attack. I am very proud Governor Inslee has repeatedly, forcefully and unequivocally condemned Donald Trump’s entire political career as a racism-driven movement. From Birtherism on, Governor Inslee has called it as it is. But the cold facts are that some people are numb to the accusations of racism. Others are turned off by it. I don’t agree with or condone that apathy or ignorance, but the goal is to win the nomination and beat Donald Trump. As someone who has plainly called out Trump’s racism and has an impeccable progressive record, the lane that really could work well for Inslee (and yes, while courting some of those Biden and Bernie voters from #3) is to highlight the massive incompetence of Trump and his administration (thanks to Pete Dominick of Sirius XM who got me thinking about this line of attack):
- His diplomatic, ego-driven failures (Saudi, North Korea, Iran, etc)
- That he exited the TPP, but then wanted back in when he realized it was the best way to fight China (but he was more concerned with continuing his attacks on our First Black President – double whammy – incompetent and racist, without saying the R word)
- His tax cut failure – did not help the middle class, but sure helped real estate developers (self-dealing)
- His record turnover of cabinet officials – claiming they are the best people and then within a year trashing them as (insert some of the insults)
- The corruption within his administration
- His lies about coal
- His inability to heal the nation even in the most obvious and painful of tragedies like Charlottesville
I made many other suggestions in my last three political blogs about how Governor Inslee should approach debating and how he should get his message out, so hopefully some people have read them (including a social media ad campaign of 30 second videos on issues where other candidates are scoring rhetorical points for policy, but Governor Inslee has already implemented them as law). The voters are not set in stone as the Harris rise and Biden fall showed this week. But Governor Inslee needs to be more forceful and carve out a unique path that highlights his considerable strengths while not treading the familiar ground of failed candidates past and present.
The good news for Governor Jay Inslee is that no one has him in the “had a bad night” category, and a few people have him in the “had a good night” category. That might be enough for Senator Elizabeth Warren, the front runner of the first debate group, who basically spoke for the first hour and delivered a solid, but overrated performance, and did nothing, almost literally, for the second hour. People gushing over her safe, not memorable performance feels more like confirmation bias of her status than any real analysis of her performance.
However, in my mind there were three winners: Bill DeBlasio, Julian Castro and Cory Booker. They expanded the nation’s awareness of them and all had strong individual moments (word for word I think no one was better than Bill DeBlasio – and my friend John had presciently warned me that he thought DeBlasio might try for the same things I wanted Governor Inslee to do – tout specifics about your leadership, your progressive accomplishments and then attack at least one opponent by name. He did all those with undeniable rhetorical flourish). I was satisfied with Governor Inslee’s performance for sure, but I wanted him to have more of a debate like one of my top three performers.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I believe Governor Inslee needed to name a couple of opponents (with Warren being the obvious) to make a personal distinction between a plan-maker and a lawmaker. He made that point several times (though Amy Klobuchars attempt at a moment, which did get pander-plause was a misguided “I’m a woman so I don’t need a man to tell me about protecting women’s health” when Governor Inslee was simply pointing out the fact that he has passed more laws on the issue as governor than any of the people on the stage. However, the crowd still ate it up so it counts as a point. But DeBlasio, Castro and Booker, in that order, detected the awkward young gazelle named Beto (as I wrote on Twitter – The CW’s idea of what a president is) as a candidate that they could attack personally. And they did and they all scored points for it. Governor Inslee scored many points during the evening and used my strategy (inadvertently or nor… I am starting to think his people may have actually read my blogs and tweets – can I have a job?) of invoking accomplishments over plans. And he got a few strong applause (called by CNN the line of the night “The greatest threat to our national security is Donald Trump.”). But now comes the work (I’ve gotten about 10-15 people to donate to the campaign and at this point that is probably my ceiling as a fundraiser) of adjusting and improving messaging and debating going forward. So here are my tips and ideas for Team Inslee going forward:
- Stop saying “Donald Trump says wind turbines cause Cancer; they cause jobs.” First off, don’t improve Trump’s stupidity. He actually said “they say the noise from win turbines causes Cancer.” That’s actually dumber. So change the line to “Donald Trump, I’m embarrassed to even repeat this, but Donald Trump says that the NOISE from wind turbines causes Cancer. The only things the sound of wind turbines indicate are the presence of clean energy and new jobs.” The line the Governor uses now is not as rhetorically catchy as he/the writers may think and it avoids the full stupidity of Trump.
- The “deathbed” or “with my last breath” talk about climate change and the governor’s grandchildren is powerful, but might also be a little bit of a downer. I would say something more akin to “My father was a biology teacher (humble roots, education – good points) and he instilled in me not only a love of nature, but a respect for it. And as I see my grandkids growing up I want to honor my father, but also honor my grandkids by ensuring that they have a country and a world that is as healthy and beautiful and prosperous as the one my father introduced me to.”
- I must repeat this even though it was the focus of the last blog – NAME. WARREN. (and others who feel applicable). BCD (Booker, Castro, DeBlasio) all attacked Beto and scored big. It showed they could be fighters (for those worried about Trump’s imposing presence) and it showed a willingness to make important issues personal. Governor Inslee obviously cares deeply about a host of progressive issues and it shows, but his game on Wednesday night was like watching a great tennis player play against a wall at the park. You can see some of the skills, but only when blasting forehand winners past an opponent do people really get to see the skill and greatness. Warren was treated like a figurehead at the debate by both the moderators and the other candidates. Governor Inslee said a couple of times that “plans are great, but as governor…” As correct as those comments were, he MUST name an opponent and draw blood. Saying some less condescending version of “I like Senator Warren’s plans so much I already made them into law in my state” and then drawing a distinction between ideas and ideas + executive experience is a legitimate one, one that will score points and the kind of attack that doesn’t feel like an attack, but more like a vicious backhanded compliment.
- Stop being so polite. Bill DeBlasio scored points by basically seizing every moment he could. It wasn’t quite NYC rude, but whenever he saw a parking space he took it without hesitation. I saw Governor Inslee raise his hand at least 4 times and get ingored. And worst of all, as I feared in a pre-debate tweet, Rachael Maddow wouldn’t let Governor Inslee speak on guns (though he did get in a great quick line about the filibuster) but tried to appease him with being first on climate change (DUH – did anyone not think he would get that question first?). And as someone who would like a climate debate, but did not demand it – I must admit the climate change coverage in the debate was appallingly low. I think, at the risk of appearing like The Lorax, the Governor should absolutelty hammer the almost GOP level of time devoted to the issue. Be more like DeBlasio in style – confidently forceful, but not outright rude. As far as content of those comments – email me! I will work for little money!
- Lastly – where to go from here for Governor Inslee. There needs to either be a town hall or speech in front of a large crowd. Even if he needs to do it in his home state (also Van Jones spoke very highly of the Governor’s performance on CNN last night… and he has an hour long show on CNN on Saturdays…). Or there needs to be a big ad buy. He must call out some rivals by name to draw a contrast. He needs a list, but not a boring one of all his accomplishments, laws and progressive consistency through the years. So here, sort of reiterated from a previous blog post, is my vision of an Inslee ad (or maybe even better a series of individual YouTube/Facebook/Twitter ads that in 15-20 second bursts take each of the bullet points I will share below one by one) that is needed now to change the perception of the candidate and set up the next several months of the campaign (if Inslee’s Super PAC is reading this – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?):
- Beto talking about climate change followed by picture of Governor Inslee and graphic of various sources citing Washington State’s plan as the best climate change plan in the country and the Evergeen Economy labeled the gold standard by Greenpeace
- Cory Booker talking about gun violence followed by a picture of a young Rep. Inslee voting for the assault weapons ban and “Vote to ban assault weapons costs Rep. Inslee his seat in Congress” and/or shot of Governor Inslee face to face with Trump about arming teachers in Florida (and I still think the Governor needs a meeting with the Parkland kids – between climate and gun control, the Governor should be THE candidate for young people)
- Julian Castro talking about immigration followed by Governor Inslee’s debate answer of “fighting Muslim ban, protecting dreamers in Washington, etc. (one of his best answers all night)
- Elizabeth Warren discussing free college, etc and (I think you get the pattern now – Governor passing tuition-related laws in WA)
- Joe Biden on “middle ground on climate” followed by climate graphic and quote of the Governor’s choice
- Bernie talking about taking on Wall Street (followed by Rep Inslee voting against the repeal of Glass-Steagall in Congress)
- Lastly Trump talking about war with Iran and Rep Inslee voting against the war in Iraq
“My opponents many of whom have great ideas, do not have the track record of progressive accomplishment that I have as governor and as a congressman. I know I can make it happen as President because while my opponents talk about that they would do; I’ve already made it happen as Governor.”
If Gov Inslee attacks or names so many opponents many will have to come back at him, but the good thing about that is it will reframe his candidacy. If one or two come after you you look like Beto (though the Governor would have a lot more substance to defend himself with), but if 5 or 6 want to show how good they are compared to him it makes him look more like a frontrunner and less like an also-ran.
And one more thing, great Twitter takeover by the Govenror’s wife of 47 years, Trudi. That video of the Governor sledding at Tom Cruise stunt-level speeds with his grandson should be a viral video. Embrace the Governor’s record and experience and also that he looks like a rugged westerner who will be able to save the country and beat (phsycially if need be… kidding) Donald Trump.
Donate to Jay Inslee HERE if you like Governor Inslee’s plans or just want more of a platform given to climate change, which he is prioritizing like no other candidate.