Some Thoughts on Another Shooting

These are just a couple of long-winded Facebook posts I put out, but for those of you not on Facebook here they are:

Post 1:

A year ago I was performing in the middle of Pennsylvania. In my set was a joke about guns. Four white dudes between 25 and 35 came up to me after. They said in the middle of the conversation that they were hunters but then three of them made fun of the one of the four of their group who was an “Obama gonna git my guns… 2nd Amendment is the 3rd part of the Bible” style “thinker.” Seems about right based on polls that a majority of them, though liking hunting, would find that guy absurd.

Free speech has limits that everyone accepts (no threatening the president, no yelling fire in a crowded theater, etc.), but over the last decade stupid people (or disingenuous people interested in selling guns or denigrating the left or both) have convinced enough people and politicians that guns are less dangerous than words and that freedom requires less gun restriction, not more.

It should be surprising to no one that it was Clarence Thomas of all justices who, in a footnote to a late 90s case (US v Lopez I think) started the Supreme Court’s path towards enshrining a ridiculous reading of the 2nd Amendment.

But Obama is black and Newtown was a fake so let’s “wait for all the facts”

Post 2:

Laws are not just about criminalizing an activity immediately and like a magic wand all is right. Laws, for good and bad, can dictate and cultivate changes in culture that may not always materialize over night. And I do believe there is WAY too much violence in our popular culture (exception – John Wick – that dude can’t be violent enough – HE RULES)

So of course for some shootings, laws may not have stopped them, but 20 or 30 or 50 years from now if we are a country that treats guns like dangerous weapons as a last resort (like the way countries view nuclear weapons) instead of accessories or extensions of genitals we may see a shift that cannot be easily quantified by a simple signing of a law.

But the left recently is always stuck having to tell a dumb and increasingly impatient ADHD populace that things like gun violence, universal pre-K, affordable housing, family planning, environmentalism, etc. are for the best, which they are, but they take time and require patience and a little less self-interest and a little more common interest. But for people who will say “laws could not have changed this” think back to legislators around the country that wanted to limit assault weapons or magazine capacities after Sandy Hook. They either failed, or the legislators (in places like Colorado) were voted out., even though if the Sandy Hook killer had not had access to high round magazines (either because of scarcity or illegality), some of those slaughtered kids would be alive.

We have too many guns and are too violent a culture. Everyone should take some responsibility. TV and movies, legislators who limit funding for mental health services, but most of all gun lobbyists who fear monger (the NRA is a gun seller lobbying group masquerading as a gun rights group) and people who oppose sensible legislation. We need to make changes now so that immediate changes take place, but more importantly the culture is given the chance to change long term.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!


Comedy and Weight Loss Across America

When life closes one door, another one opens.  This is very true in my life, but generally when one decent door closes , the new door opening is an elevator door opening yielding an empty and fatal elevator shaft.  For the last couple of months I have been struggling to keep up with my free content empire (blogs and sketch videos have suffered the biggest reduction, the podcast has had more solo episodes while movie reviews remain the most consistent) with some very time consuming daytime legal work.  But no need to worry fan (or possibly I am up to fanS plural now), my day job assignment ended two weeks early so while I will start desperately seeking day time work (I receive replies to 5% of my comedy booking emails, but 75% of my legal work emails so at least I get some positive affirmation on top of actual money from pursuing legal work over comedic work) and experiencing financial related stress I will have more time to reaffirm my status as the King of All Unpaid Media.  Today’s contribution is a series of videos from stand up shows this year that will showcase some solid bits (mostly new from the 2nd half of 2014, or improved if not new bits) and provide an accidental time lapse of some of my weight loss this year.

I considered posting my half hour submission to Comedy Central from the DC Improv, but I would rather keep that product private until I officially don’t get picked. In the unlikely event I get selected then I definitely won’t post it because I think 90% of it would end up being what I would like to showcase on a television taping.  So enjoy this collection of random bits from 2014:

The Fatal Mistake of Quiznos

Dating vs Hooking Up

The Battle of Generations at Panera Bread

The End of Racism and Black Bouncers

The Benefit of Gay Marriage

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!


Keanu, Denzel Or Liam: Who is the King of…

This  year has been a big year in a growing trend in movies – the resurgence of the Angry Homicidal Loner Hero.  Throughout the Clinton and Bush 2.0 years it seemed action movies became more about collaboration and wits and mismatched pairs.  And the individual action hero began to die a slow death. Gone were the days of Reagan when action heroes could show that one American could destroy all the forces of evil in the world, even if that solitary American action hero sounded a lot like an Austrian.  But with the election of Barack Obama there was a rise in two types of films – scared white people being hunted/murdered/threatened in their homes and having to fight back or die and the Angry Homicidal Loner Hero.  Just as the War on Drugs and the Cold War gave America two reasons to crave heroic, angry white dudes in the 1980s, so too did the election of Barack Obama give rise to the need for new heroes to battle frightening scenarios (yes this is all anecdotal evidence).  If a black man is in the White House, just imagine who could be invading YOUR house?!

The undisputed godfather of this new movement is Liam Neeson.  In real life his wife died months before Taken arrived in theaters and with life imitating art he attacked his career with a vengeance after the loss of his wife. Taken set the new standard for action movies.  As I have said recently, not every movie has to be great, but it should try to be great at what it is trying to do.  Taken was a very linear action movie – daughter is kidnapped. Former CIA-type goes on rampage to get daughter back. The End.  It had great action and never tried to be better than it was. It just tried to be great at what it was doing.  From there Neeson has made this his new brand.  Gone are the days of rescuing Jews or fencing with Tim Roth. He is now an action star.  None have reached as high as Taken, though I actually enjoyed The Grey a lot as it was a little higher degree of difficulty than Taken and still delivered a solid film.  But with Taken 3 coming out in 2015, 7 years after Liam Neeson took over has his time as the King of the AHLHs already passed?  In a word… yes.

That is because other movie stars have taken notice and are simply doing it better – like Samsung ripping off Apple and making bigger and better phones. Now perhaps Liam has an Apple 6 movie equivalent in the works, but without it he is already being left behind.  First person to pass him? Denzel Washington.

The Equalizer was a tremendous AHLH movie.  First off Denzel broke the mold by being black.  In an age of Obama you would expect all the loners fighting for our happiness and way of life to be white, but with a black, female republican in Utah being elected to the House, anything is possible (the role was originally considered for Russel Crowe though so I am still sort of right)!  What Denzel does in The Equalizer is just show that he is better than Liam Neeson. No knock on Neeson, but Denzel conveys a lot more with a dead-eyed stare than almost any actor. And for an AHLH silence is key and what you convey with a look is huge.  Plus, The Equalizer was directed by Antoine Fuqua who did a killer job stylizing the action scenes (that last scene in the hardware store is a visual treat).  And they made Denzel’s character more deadly and efficient than Liam Neeson’s.  Lastly, they opened up The Equalizer to more sensible sequels.  A friend of mine once said to me, upon seeing Taken 2 arrive (paraphrasing) “That’s dumb – they shouldn’t have his family being kidnapped again (which is happening in 3 as well). Instead his reputation should get him other jobs around the world helping people.”  And that is precisely what The Equalizer set up with its ending. New plots with new character give you new chances for new stars or big stars to join the franchise.  When Denzel said he should be the new Bond I chuckled. Then I saw The Equalizer and stopped chuckling.

But alas, like George Lazenby’s reign as Bond, it appears Denzel’s reign as King of the AHLHs is short lived because Keanu Reeves just one-upped him in John Wick.  First off it needs to be said that the phrase “Black Don’t Crack” needs to be amended to “Black and Keanu Don’t Crack.” Dude is 50 and along with Tom Cruise clearly has found the way to appear as a 35 year old white man for life (though Keanu has Asian blood, which helps explain his tremendous black hair).  But like Cruise, Keanu has the ability to do physical action still and that sets him apart from Denzel and Liam.  And John Wick is the most straight forward, simple and excellent of the new batch of AHLHs.  The hand to hand combat/MMA style fighting from Keanu is stuff that the other two are incapable of. I found myself very impressed with it on its own merits.  Also, Wick is the most brutally efficient killer of them all.  Everything is finished with a headshot.  Keanu was also born to play these roles.  Liam and Denzel have chops and range, but Keanu appears perfectly suited for a guy whose single minded purpose lurks just beneath the surface of a relatively pleasant, ordinary guy.  He goes into cyborg mode with just a few angry lines and it is perfect.  He wears a suit well and shoots a gun better – why mess with a whole lot else?  To prove the point, Wick is hell bent on revenge because of the death of his beagle puppy.  To give him a greater purpose would render him complicated. Instead he is willing to execute dozens of people to avenge his puppy (to some of you that makes perfect sense and you are scary).  Lastly, the movie is basically filmed like a montage of violence and cool stories about John Wick. When Wick is digging up his old reserves of weapons spliced with his old Russian mob boss explaining why Wick is so dangerous I was getting goosebumps.  If Rocky IV is the greatest sports montage music video then John Wick is maybe the greatest action montage posing as a movie.

So who knows what 2016 will bring? Perhaps a Chris Christie presidency will lead to a spate of fat heroes or villains (Jonah Hill’s agent will be busy either way) or a Hillary Clinton presidency could lead to horror movies about menstrual blood causing a pandemic across America.  But whatever the future holds for action and horror cinema let’s enjoy the AHLHs and see if Keanu can retain the title for the rest of Obama’s presidency.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!


Stand Up Comedy – The Quintessential American Business

No other business in my opinion represents America like stand up comedy. I do not know where or how it exactly originated, but it is clear that America has the lion’s share of the top tier talent.  Comedy has been at the forefront of the 1st Amendment in entertainment.  It has produced cultural icons.  It has opened doors, pushed boundaries and offered Americans of all varieties windows into the worlds of people different than them in ways that social interaction may not have always allowed.  And like the American Dream – comedy was an art form where if you had a dream, a spark of talent and motivation you could become successful, albeit, moderately in many cases, if you just stuck with it and worked hard. People could make careers in stand-up comedy.

But just like the American Dream, which has basically died except for hard core Americans who believe more in the sanctity of platitudes than the reality of life, comedy has undergone a profound shift in recent history.  Just like an America where the rich have rigged the rules so that if you start ahead, you will most likely finish further ahead (while simultaneously lecturing the have-nots on the virtue of hard work and fair play), the comedy business has become an increasingly rigged business where the haves continue to grow in wealth and opportunity while instructing the have-nots (at least those rich in talent, lacking in most other things) of all the new ways they must work hard and build their brand – because their effort and skills are the only things holding them back.


The truth is America is rigged and you need to be an exception to make it by with hard work – the social contract of work hard, contribute to society and stay out of trouble is no longer enough for many people to have a successful life.  We are not all equal and we will not all live equally, but somehow a notion that permeated our country and thrived for decades, the idea that if you “work hard and play by the rules,” to quote Bill Clinton, is now not virtuous anymore.  You are either some wealthy kick ass person worthy of our admiration or someone who has fu*ked up or is not working hard enough – a janitor may not be a glamorous job, but if a guy puts in 40 hours a week cleaning toilets shouldn’t he be OK at least?  Now comedy is an art and by no means as important as basic life necessities.  And talent is necessary (and subjective).  But hard work, talent and staying out of trouble are no longer enough in comedy.  Because the game is increasingly rigged.

The “rich” in comedy have consolidated power by creating a near monopolistic control of the A comedy clubs in America, making it easier for their headlining clients to earn commissions for them.  So if you manage the talent and manage the venues that book the talent to perform, it seems fairly obvious who will perform there.  Now this monopolistic, incestuous booking/management/ownership practice may doom the comedy club business in the long run, but this apocalyptic future is of little consolation to comedians who have spent 10-20 years building a career only to see the equivalent of their factory close down or outsource or downsize in the last couple of years.

Now in many professions, a union used to be the way to even the score between undervalued workers and powerful owners and employers, but many decades removed from some of the worst worker abuses that made unions necessary in the first place, we now live in a society where more and more people belittle and denigrate the purpose of unions.  And a comedy union, which was tried a decade or so ago, has even less likely a chance of coming to fruition today than it did before.  Here is a comment I wrote about comedy unions on Facebook last week:

 It won’t work because only a small minority of comedians would actually benefit from a union. Assuming things like standard rates for showcase sets, emcee, feature and headlining gigs would be what a union would seek it would not work because headliners and stars would have little incentive to join, rising stars (MTV 2 and Comedy Central stables) would not want to harm their ascent, and local comedians around the country would not like it because they might and probably would suffer if more top flight features were sought out and guaranteed room and a decent week’s pay (since clubs abiding by union regulations would be paying more for talent they would be incentivized to guarantee customer satisfaction with the show). So the only people who would benefit would be the top tier feature level talent who would be able to stay afloat to possibly reach headline status and would have more opportunities if clubs no longer had a financial incentive to get emcees and features on the cheap.

In other words, just like in America – the rich workers have no incentive to support unions, employers have incentives NOT to support unions and the poorest and least skilled have little to benefit from joining them (local comedians in many cases being almost the equivalent of government assistance recipients) so the people who get squeezed and lose out on the would-be benefits of a comedy union are the middle class of comedy – hard working people who have the skills, but are no longer offered social mobility in the business.


Also, like in America, where the media has become a slave to the whims of the public and web traffic statistics instead of being solely concerned with valuable information (Lindsey Lohan “news” coverage ring a bell), the most popular sites for comedy news appear to be those dedicated to promoting the established stars and rare do-it-yourself tales of people making it from outside the industry – the kind of stories that are not as likely to enlighten or add weight to comedy criticism or information, but will boost Google Analytics for the provider of the story.  Stories of Bo Burnham are well known, as are Louis CK’s bucking the industry.  But these are exceptions – a kid becoming a star from his bedroom or a performer who spent decades within the industry finally accruing enough power to then buck the system.  However, just like reality television, which provides us with dozens of shows about “real Americans” to make us believe industry and working class people are still thriving and full of entertaining life, these comedic anecdotes are like opiates – making comedians believe that the business is more accessible than ever and not more rigged than ever.  The notion being f you just work hard and come up with something creative you will be rewarded. It was always a tough business, but every time you read a story of do-it-yourself successes in comedy, there are two more clubs being swallowed up into a monopoly that will not hire you unless you have made yourself a star already.  Then they will want your piece of your slice of the pie that you earned.  And the comedy sites will then be there to tell your story.


The brilliance of this new comedy business model is that comedy has never been as accessible and widespread as it is today.  Just as the general public is flooded with more information than ever before, breeding a level of apathy and cynicism in the general public (stories get bigger faster and become irrelevant faster from news fatigue), so too are people inundated with comedy all over their computers, phones and social media.  So it has never been easier to reach an audience, but simultaneously an audience has never had less monetary value.  As soon as YouTube fully grasped the success of YouTube they began promoting certain people and creating their own original content.  Comedy Clubs of the established variety are the last sort of seal of industry approval that audiences recognize.  But they are becoming more and more closed off to a lot of comedians.  And I am not just speaking of people in my position – there are a lot of experienced people beyond me who are feeling this pinch.

I wish I had a solution for this.  And maybe ten or twenty years from now the model will have exploded and things will reverse or get back to a little less Gilded Age approach to the comedy business.  But that won’t help people now – being historical footnotes during a Comedy Club oligarchy as the powers that be decided which headliners would survive and which up and coming acts they would try to make stars out of.

Instead of insuring the life blood of comedy, the powers that be seem like they want to suck it dry so it no longer exists when they leave.  That might explain why there is now Laughstub which is a Ticketmaster for comedy.  Because everyone loves Ticketmaster, right?  Just a few years ago, this did not exist at most clubs, but now people looking for a moderately priced evening of entertainment can tack on service charges that go to who – the employees of the clubs? I doubt it.

But the message sent to comedians – the working class soldiers in the comedy business?  Work harder – that is what is holding you back.  So while the haves keep increasing their share of the pie and inventing new slices to carve up, the blame is placed at the feet of the comedians just trying to work and earn a buck. The stand up comedy business is now so American that Ken Burns should make a documentary about it and Paul Krugman should write a column about how corrosive it is.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday!


Cleveland Part 3: Extremeties

I am currently on the third of three days off in Cleveland.  At this point I am now beginning to over-analyze everything I see.  Fortunately the shows resume tomorrow night, which should prevent me from turning into Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

First off, I am getting a great tan in Cleveland, but it is more a wandering nomad, homeless-guy-in-LA tans, rather than a beach vacation tan.  That means my face, forearms and calves are a dark brown and everything else is relatively pale.  Because the bridge that shortens my walk to Starbucks and the Mall each day (and is a short cut to two strip clubs) is out of commission (for a year now – it was supposed to be fixed using Stimulus money – how ironic the stimulus money is preventing stimulation at the strip clubs – wakka wakka) I have to take the longer walk over the Veterans Memorial Bridge (VMB) every time I want to do anything besides meditate or avoid sneaky spider webs in the comedian condo.

Yesterday, for example, at 6:20pm (plenty of daylight), I observed a party of 5 to 6 raccoons cross the street on my way to the VMB (good sign of rabies).  A day earlier I saw a creature that I did not recognize, despite watching all 11 episodes of Planet Earth, running in a nearby dirt patch.

Of course once I pass the Land of the Lost nature preserve I apparently am living in, I am quickly welcomed onto the set of Breaking Bad.  There is some sort of rehab clinic or shelter midway between the condo and the bridge.  There has never been any trouble and I am sure there is good work going on there, but it is still unnerving to see people walking like they are zombies nearby.  Except, unlike The Walking Dead, the white-black ratio is more 1:1 than a television acceptable 10:1.

Once I get passed the rehab center I can go straight, which leads to the supermarket and what appears, based on a proliferation of newish-looking beer gardens, to be a future yuppie, hipster neighborhood.  But first I have to walk through what feels like a four-to-five block hood.  As in I expect Cuba Gooding Jr. to scream RICKKYYYYYYYYYYY!” as I walk through it.  I have gone this way once to get groceries.  Perhaps I will go that way again today and work on my 40 yr dash time.

The other way, which has been my two to three times per day walk, is over the VMB which leads to food, Starbucks, Mass and the gym.  Of course crossing the bridge has been an adventure.  Usually there are lots of bike riders, but only about 1 in 5 are 10 speed-looking bike riders.  The rest are riding tiny bikes.  I never understood why grown men rode bikes that looked like they belonged to their younger siblings or children, but they immediate convey low level narcotics trafficking to me.  Then of course there are those special moments, like on Saturday, when I was jogging across the bridge and I observed a man without a shirt (hardly uncommon at the cross roads of Jurassic Park nature preserve, hood, and rehab clinic).  However, as I got closer it, became clearer that he had his penis out and was pissing into the wind while walking.   If he was headed to the rehab clinic I am guessing that he is going to need to give back that “two days sober” chip.

My daily ritual has been to read and write in Starbucks for several hours (since I just buy a one green tea I am basically renting the table for fifty cents an hour) before going to the gym.  Naturally this involves a lot of people watching.  Just the same way our economy and capitalism are helping to destroy what was once known as the middle class, the more I travel the country, observing “real Americans” the more I realize that Oscar Wilde was right – life is imitating art.  It seems the smaller the town or city, the more women are either dressing and inked up like porn stars, or just waiting on a 9th piece of chocolate cake.  I guess women have adopted the ,”If I cannot make a sex tape I might as well get on The Biggest Loser.”

When I was doing clubs in the South, before they realized that book-learning and sarcasm did not always translate well to the “free ticket” crowds, I noticed the extremes of women.  They either looked and acted like Vivid video spokeswomen or like cheerleaders for Type II diabetes.   Obviously I am not examining men with the same eye to to detail, but the tattoo craze seems to have afflicted us as well, and I am sure we exhibit the same fitness extremes.   I don’t know if there is a crisis of confidence in America, only because we may be too shallow to actually examine how we feel.  We don’t just export our entertainment abroad -we also export it to the middle of this country, that used to be called upon to produce for us.  The Midwest had the identity of being the muscles of our industries – now they seem like an exaggerated testing ground for Internet and Reality Show trends.   The way a man without a job can turn to crime, it seems that when whole regions of the country have their jobs or identity stripped, a cultural race to the bottom seems to happen.  There are plenty of frauds and fools roaming New York City, but the uniformity of Middle America is starting to make think that the tattooed moron and the obese sad sack are becoming as American as the strip malls and apple pie that they consume.

So if you thought those last couple of paragraphs were funny, I will be at the Cleveland Improv Thursday through Sunday.