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.
2000 years ago a lean Jew with a gift for analogies died for the sins of mankind and reshaped the world in the process. While not nearly as historic or dramatic, two thousand years later at a low point (in this writer’s opinion) for the art of stand up comedy, a lean Jew just turned his suffering into a comedy special that may save comedy-kind from its own downward artistic trajectory. I am speaking, if you missed the title of the blog, of stand up comedian Gary Gulman (full disclosure I am friends with Gulman and have been a huge fan and deep admirer of his comedy for the last 15 years. But the friendship is not of the nature that I would lie if his new special was less than great. I would be silent if I felt like what I saw was mediocre or even merely very good). What I saw Saturday night in Brooklyn (this will contain no spoilers as far as material) was as important a special as there has been in the last decade. But its importance does not merely stem from its deep dive into Gulman’s mental health struggles, which give the framework to The Great Depresh. Rather, it stems from the fact that it is hilarious. In this age of cop out one man shows, mediocre stand ups elevated for their social media followings or podcast metrics and teary confessionals being praised as great comedy, despite the paucity of laughs, Gulman has offered definitive and hilarious proof that stand up comedy can still be used to turn pain into laughter, and not just applause and whispers of “how brave.”
When I arrived at Roulette on Saturday there was a long line (I was attending the second show). As my girlfriend and I (she bought the tickets – I was offered comped tickets, but in this age of “gimme free content” I believe in paying for great musical, comedic and pornographic artists) approached the entrance Judd Apatow exited the building (he is producing Gulman’s special for HBO). I briefly contemplated kidnapping Apatow (he was only surrounded by three women, all of whom I think I could take) and demanding he produce a special for me, but I thought better of it. When we got to our seats (the balcony – we were too late for the lower level) and it was the only time I was disappointed the whole night. The leg room was a tight fit, which felt ironic because Gulman, at 6’6″, is the patron saint of tall comedians (apologies Brad Garrett).
Without discussing any of the specific jokes I can tell you that Gulman’s set, running about 70 minutes, started with an upfront admission of his recent mental health struggles. I actually briefly feared that he was going to do a one man show confessional (I was the Doubting Thomas to Comedy Jesus), but within a minute he was into classic Gulman. It almost played like a comedic biopic, where the movies starts a little before present day to showcase the low point, but then we go back to childhood and work our way forward chronologically. It was all the language and in-depth story telling that are signatures of Gulman’s brilliant comedic style, but applied almost exclusively to autobiographical material (if Apatow is reading this I would like to nominate myself to play Gulman in the biopic or limited series).
So the show was an A. That’s the easy part. When a great comedian takes his game to a more personal level it should not be surprising when it is great. But what made me happiest, as someone who cares about stand up, is that this special will re-set the current standard for personal pain as great stand up. No longer should we have to choose between good comedy and teary confessional spoken word as two branches of stand up – stand up comedy requires laughs and Gulman’s latest proves that a truly great comedian need not sacrifice laughter for truth and depth.
And on another note I think this is exactly the special that HBO needs. They have been in a particularly long drought (with exceptions for Michelle Wolf’s strong special a few years ago), which is painful for a network that gave us Chris Rock, George Carlin, Dave Chappelle and others. Netflix now has a gluttonous chokehold on specials (but seriously Netflix – call me, I’m really good and need the money), but with Amazon inking a deal with Jim Gaffigan and now Gulman delivering a masterclass for HBO perhaps the prestige can return to HBO, or at least loosen the Netflix monopoly.
So hopefully my “Comedy Jesus has come to save comedy and HBO” has not set the expectations too high for Gulman, but on an equally serious note for Judd Apatow, if you don’t want to cast me as Gulman in a limited series (though please consider my tour de force sketch as Gulman in Comedy Academy Episode 3) my other thought is developing a movie with Gulman and Jon Bernthal playing brothers (Gulman is the big sensitive brother, Bernthal is the ex-military jerk who gets kidnapped and requires his large, but gentle and cerebral brother to save the day. Hilarity and life lessons ensue). I think it’s comedy and cinematic gold! But if not, at least Gulman and Apatow are going to give the world a great and needed comedy special.
For anyone following me on social media for the last few months, my usual cycle of Utah Jazz support, entertainment snark and Trump bashing has been superseded by a daily campaign for Governor Jay Inslee for President. I was supposed to attend a private fundraiser for Governor Inslee earlier this week, but given my usual luck it was not completely surprising that bad weather and a helicopter crash (!) in NYC led to a postponement of the event. So I must resort to my blog and social media to get part two of my message out to Inslee and his staff. Governor Inslee can no longer play the role of The Lorax in the 2020 campaign. He cannot play the Eco John the Baptist to whichever savior the Democratic primary voters eventually pick. He needs to get out of the 1% pack and to do so he must start naming names in the Democratic party.
As a quick recap I wrote this about and for Inslee in March and although it took a while he has started to employ some of these things (almost certainly by coincidence, but still).
- He has started to distinguish himself a little bit from the also-rans with his climate change militancy
- He has name checked Joe Biden (at the time that I wrote in March, Bernie was the front runner and Biden had not declared yet, but the logic is the same)
- He has finally started to tout his stellar progressive credentials and accomplishments
At least some of these represent positive and smart steps, even if it took too long to start. But now the Governor has a bigger problem. He is basically headlining the 1% field. His climate debate request has gotten him a little more press, but it has not been able to get him to break into the Biden-Bernie-Warren-Buttigieg-Harris 1st tier. He has not even broken into the Booker-Beto-Klobuchar second tier. Oddly enough, when Seth Myers took a dig at Inslee’s relative anonymity I thought “at least they were mentioning him!” It reminded me of the Jack Sparrow line, when told he was the worst pirate someone had ever heard of… “but you have heard of me.”
And to be clear, my money is where my blog is – I have given so much money to the Inslee campaign that my girlfriend may be starting to think Inslee is a chick from California that I am seeing on the side since some of that money “might be better spent on other things” as she waves her naked ring finger. But the Governor is in real danger of being stuck in the 1% crowd permanently if he doesn’t take some drastic action. That is why he needs to start naming his opponents and not just offering a list of great accomplishments as a legislator and governor (that not enough people are hearing anyway). Because right now, Inslee’s goal must be to get to 3-5%. And to do so he must start going after those above him.
But this is not necessarily a call for attacks and I don’t think from Inslee’s character he is looking to tear down fellow Democrats. Instead here examples of what he should do (in both an ad and in the debate at the end of the month):
- “I think Senator Warren has a great idea for paid family leave. That’s why I already implemented it as Governor.”
- “I think Senator Booker has great ideas on criminal justice reform and gun control. I lost my seat in the House voting for the assault weapons ban and have commuted sentences/pardoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders as governor.”
- “Beto has a cute climate change plan.” (Ok that’s just for me, but you get where I am going)
- “Bernie is a passionate progressive, but my progressive record is second to none and I did it in signing bills and risking my seat in Congress, not just in debates and campaign rallies. My state has the highest minimum wage AND the highest GDP.”
- “Senator Warren has a good plan for college tuition, but I have done that in Washington as well. And as someone who had to leave Stanford after a year for financial reasons I understand this issue on a personal level.”
- “Pete Buttigieg has a great future in this party and is an important voice going forward, but when we get Donald Trump out of office we need someone with the experience and the vision to tackle our probelems on day one. He may be a quick study, but I already know the book.”
- “Joe Biden was a great VP under a great President, but Mitch McConnell needs to be dealt with as the SCOTUS thieving, Trump enabling, corrupt wife-having enemy to our Constitution that he is. WOOOOOO!” (sorry a Ric Flair exclamation seemed appropriate after all the rhyming).
I hope that makes my point clear. Govenror Inslee is at the point where getting to 10 or 20% is something to worry about in the Fall. The immediate mission (for the survivial of his campaign and message) is to get to 5%. And to do that contrasts must be made by name. Most of those are not attacks, especially the Booker and Warren comparisons – but they will make people wonder if maybe Governor Inslee is the best person to make ideas into laws. The message must be “Yes I think climate change is the lens through which we must view most, if not all, issues, but before you brand me some tree hugging, one issue candidate, know that my record as a Congressman and a governor is a progressive powerhouse. Many of the candidates you support now are great people with great ideas. But I have spent the last 25 years turning great ideas into great laws. And when it comes to not just defeating Trump, but governing and leading a great new century of American hope and prosperity there is NO candidate more prepared on day one than me.” They cannot attack Inslee on his record from the left and if the moderates of the party want a Biden – they should be looking at the younger guy with a sterling economic record as governor – where business AND workers have thrived.
Too many people think of Govenror Inslee as a one issue candidate and relegate him to the EPA under an administration of a candidate polling better. That’s like saying Lebron James would make a great 6th man. Yes, it’s true, but the resume, the accomplishments and the experience demand a bigger spotlight and that starts, for Governor Inslee, by naming names and getting to 5%.
This weekend I was making my headlining debut at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, a terrific club in Columbus, Ohio (that’s some Big Ten football rivalry humor). There were two shows Friday and two shows Saturday. The crowds were great, the headliner was greater and the travel atrocious. If you are familiar with my travel stories over the last decade since I started doing road work regularly, you know that Amtrak and despair are my most frequent travel companions. This trip would be the apex of that travel history. Before breaking down the weekend here’s the math: I spent 38 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan and 43.5 hours in Amtrak facilities. To paraphrase Jamie Lannister, “The things I do for self-destruction.” OK – here goes the recap!
Thursday-Friday: Amtrak to Ann Arbor
Hello Darkness my old friend! – it was another trip on the infamous Lake Shore Limited – the Amtrak train that goes from NYC to Chicago by way of Australia. The trip to Toledo (the stop where you get off to get the Amtrak bus to all parts Michigan) is supposed to last 15 hours, ending with a 6am “de-training.” Well, we got stuck in Albany, NY (2.5 hours into the trip on time) for 3 hours. So in the time I was stuck in Albany I could have gotten off the train, gone to Albany airport and flown to Detroit before the train left Albany. So we ended up getting to Toledo at 10am. But, despite the fact that the Amtrak bus ORIGINATES in Toledo, apparently our 4 hour lateness was not quite enough time for the bus THAT ORIGINATES in Toledo to make it to the station on time. It ended up getting there at 10:30 and I was in Ann Arbor at 12:20. I ordered a Lyft and the driver told me that her cousin was Karlous Miller (a finalist on a season of Last Comic Standing). I did not think it was a good sign for the weekend that Lyft drivers in Ann Arbor were able to one-up my career, but so be it.
Since I had managed 3 hours of sleep on the train to Toledo I was full of energy to explore Ann Arbor once I had checked into my hotel. So I walked towards a movie theater to see John Wick 3 (worst of the three Wicks, sorry Keanu) hoping to see some stores or eateries to write in and assess the Tator Thots in the rust belt. But all I walked by for 2 miles were car dealerships. Seriously. But then I found a nice little coffee shop near the movie theater and sat mapping out soon-to-be legendary sets. After a late lunch of popcorn, M&Ms and Wick I headed back to the hotel to shower off the Amtrak Funk for the shows.
The crowds on Friday were not too large, but they were outstanding. I then retired to my hotel to get a very important night of sleep (#Foreshadowing).
Saturday – Models, Abortion Stones and BBQ
I woke up Saturday to a solid complimentary hotel breakfast (Danish, Belgian Waffle, youth sports teams not saying thank you when you show them courtesy at the buffet) and then did my review of the sets from the night before, which conclusively showed that I am great, but could be greater (as Saturday’s game day adjustments would bear out).
Knowing I would be on a train all Sunday I went to Mass on Saturday evening (#PrayerWarrior). I got a Lyft and my driver was a former model (she moved to NYC as a teen and was a model for many years – I believe her is all I’ll say) who moved back to Michigan to have kids and start a life coaching business (that was my confirmation that she definitely had been a model). So I was 2 for 2 in Lyft drivers being able to one up me in success in the art/fame pursuits. Mass was Mass, though from the below picture you can see that these Midwest Churches are not playing second fiddle to the South:
I then ate some delicious food at a local BBQ spot (warning – I am not a food d-bag so if you are some guy who bathes in his own dry rub and wins contests in Texas for best bbq while carrying an AR-15 then you may not judge the food as I did, but I loved it)
Saturday-Sunday-Monday: White Sharon, Black Sharon and the Tornado
The shows Saturday night were awesome. Bigger crowds and even some fans from my appearances on Sirius XM and The Black Guy Who Tips. Sold a lot of albums and then went back to my hotel. My train back to NYC was to depart Toledo at 3:15am, but I decided to not risk a lack of availability of cars later in the night so I called (app’d? Summoned?) a Lyft to take me the 70 miles to the Toledo station. A White Lady named Sharon accepted and then abandoned me 7 minutes later (#AbandonmentAmy), which is when a Black Queen named Sharon (am I doing this right Black Twitter?) accepted. She got me to Toledo 7 minutes faster than the estimate and I gave her a strong gratuity (#ComedyMogul is back!). So at 2am I stepped into the Toledo Amtrak Station. Before continuing to the horror portion of the story here are two new bits/clips from Saturday’s shows:
The station was fairly crowded. As I would learn it was because every train out of Chicago was extremely late. So I sat next to a young woman with blue hair, two tongue studs and a batman t-shirt (ummm are we soul mates or are you just here to star in my Make-A-Wish porn film The Beige Knight?). And that was when the alerts started coming. My train would not arrive until 4:30am (a 90 minute delay). Shit. Then another alert. And another. And another. My train eventually arrived at 7:30am. I got into my room (rooms were cheap from Toledo so I got a sleeper car using points, figuring I would be getting on the train before daylight), which was prepared very nicely for slumber by yet another Black Queen (#TrustBlackWomen) who also got a nice gratuity from me (the world will be a better place if I ever become rich and famous). I managed to sleep for 3 hours and that is when the real adventure began.
We were 4.5 hours late in Toledo and kept losing time city after city. Then we arrived in Rochester. Delay because a man was threatening to jump on the train tracks. Then we got to Syracuse. Delayed due to freight train traffic (America – where freight always gets priority over people, which is the main cause of many delays on our country’s rails). Also delayed because of a tornado. So I took photos and a video. From that video, three different weather services contacted me asking for permission to use the video with credit. Never a good sign for your comedy career when you crush 4 shows as a headliner and your only glimpse of success is from a weather video you shoot on your phone in Syracuse.
We kept getting delayed and at 9pm I turned off my phone for the rest of the night to avoid any Game of Thrones chatter. We finally arrived in Penn Station at 12:15am, but like a horror villain popping up right before the credits to slaughter our hero, the train then had to reverse for over ten minutes to actually go to the right platform. I stepped on the platform in Penn Station at 12:30am. I took a cab home to get my dog Cookie, who peed in the kitchen, but she didn’t spoil GOT for me so I didn’t scold her. I took her out for a walk and then watched the finale of GOT (I liked it – it wasn’t going to be another epic bloodbath folks). I then slept better than I have in a long time – 6 hours. Thanks Ann Arbor!