A Night In Wilkes-Barre

This weekend I featured on a one night show at Wisecrackers in Wilkes-Barre, PA which felt like Old Detroit in Robocop, but with fewer people.  It was a typical weekend of luxury in the life of a comedian: Martz Trailways round trip bus, fully equipped with stainless steel toilet (unless you count brown streak marks as “stains,”  a night in a double bed at a Best Western (No HBO – but who the fu*k do I think I am anyway) and a show in front of 30 people with a 2×1 sign on stage saying Wisecrackers (broken into two words because the sign was too small to accommodate the name of the club.

This is what Wilkes-Barre looked like (minus Golden Arches)

I arrived at the Wilkes Barre bus terminal at 620 pm, in plenty of time for the 9pm show.  Conveniently, the hotel was one block from the bus terminal so I did not have to walk far. The town had the look of an old west town that had been abandoned because of lack of water or the criminals were running the show.  It may have just been because I was in the municipal part of the town and being that it was Saturday everything was shut down except for the Rite Aid and McDonald’s (and the hotel “bar/nightclub,” which would also be where the continental breakfast would be served so you could get your date rape and french toast all within the same 500 square feet.
So for dinner, given the choice between Rite Aid and McDonald’s I opted for McDonald’s, where my height was greeted by bewildered children and adults alike.  I felt like Indiana Jones arriving in that impoverished town in India in Temple of Doom.  So after answering the question “How tall are you?” three times with the word “very,” I made my way back to the Best Western I noticed a fight at the Salvation Army next door.  I was intrigued because there appeared to be about 65 people getting out of some meeting of some kind and the few people yelling seemed like they were going to come to blows.  It was a white chick being held back by a black chick, while yelling at a black dude (sort of like an uglied up scene from Hustle and Flow).  Here is the conversation I heard:
White Woman: Oh yeah, oh yeah, then why did you fu*k me when you was fu*king her?
Black guy: What? When did I fu*k you?  When did I fu*k you?  When?  I never fu*ked you!
White Woman: You telling me you never fu*ked me!
Just then a woman with a 2 year old in a stroller walked by and we looked at each other smiling and I said, “Put the earmuffs on.”  At the time I assumed it would be the funniest thing I would say in Wilkes-Barre.
Conversation continued and all I heard as I turned the corner was,
Black Guy: Man, you lucky they here…

Appearing next week at the Wilkes-Barre Salvation Army…

So having had the full tour of downtown Wilkes-Barre I was ready for the show.  Turns out that Wilkes-Barre was not ready for the show.  Only about 30 people showed up (which on the plus side was about half capacity for the tiny room).  But they turned out to be a really good crowd.  They laughed, they bought a few CDs and no one threw anything at me so it was a good time.   The only two disturbing things to happen at the club were only comedian related.
The first thing was that the emcee introduced me as having been “on Bill Maher” (which either means I was on Real Time or that I was doing drastic things to make it in comedy), but it was the headliner who had “opened for Bill Maher” (and since she was a woman I guess the same thing could be said for her).  The second thing was that while I was on stage the headliner got into a quiet argument with a young comedian, who was doing a guest spot, who was taking notes during my set.  He claimed to her that he was just working on his own set, and I have no reason to think otherwise,  but if I ever hear one of my jokes coming out of Pennsylvania there will be Clint Eastwood-Unforgiven level style of hell to pay.  But for your enjoyment here is one of the new bits I was working on Saturday night.


Would John Hinckley Have A Reality Show Today?

Just as technology has exponentially increased the rate at which humans achieve scientific advances and breakthroughs (cell phones do not count), it appears that our society’s thirst for fame at all costs is increasing in a similar fashion, only faster.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the White House Crashers, are an especially shameful example of what otherwise is a fairly logical extrapolation from our culture.  Somehow fame has become a goal in and of itself in America.  I feel like fame used to be a by-product of the talented, the accomplished and the insane.  But now a fourth group has muscled its way into this group – the average piece of sh*t.

Anything Is Possible in America: A son of a Kenyan man and a Kansas woman can become the President.  Also possible, a useless couple of social climbers can meet that man and possibly get a television show.
Anything Is Possible in America: A son of a Kenyan man and a Kansas woman can become the President. Also possible, a useless couple of social climbers can meet that man and possibly get a television show.

And we are all accomplices in this culture.  With the exception of one reality series, which I watched during the time period of 2007, during which much of my rational decision making processes were impaired temporarily, I think all of these shows are wretched.  They feature trashy people catering to the trashiest impulses of viewers (basically it took 15 years for Jerry Springer guests to clean themselves up and become celebrities).  Not satisfied with giving these people a platform on television, viewers bolster the bank accounts of these talentless fools by purchasing their “books” and other items they are able to market (for the record I don’t consider shows like American Idol “reality television” since they are just contests).

The White House Crashers have managed to put this process on steroids.  They managed to disrespect the Office (and the man) of the President of the United States, in a way that I think is worse than Joe Wilson screaming “You lie” in Congress.  All in a quest to get on a television show.  There current fame is not a validation of hard work or talent, but a means to itself. 

I have been making the point that in this age, which seems more self-absorbed and concerned with self enlightenment and self-importance, with ever decreasing importance of religion and other formerly potent forces that stressed things other than the self, we are entering a very dangerous era.  We have things like blackberries and Facebook which present the illusion of more inter-connectedness and community, but deep down that is all a joke.  We are now sinking quickly into an era where the self is king and being famous is its commandment. 

My brother came up with a great scenario that could make me ok with what happened at the White House.  Michaele Salahi hopes to be on The Real Housewives of D.C. (The Real Housewives series could have been just called Cu-ts, but Bravo did not want to disrespect cu-ts in America with such a poor portrayal).  Well, Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff is the brother of Ari Emmanuel, the super agent who is also the basis for Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage.  Here is how Ari Emmanuel’s phone call should have gone this weekend (in Piven-esque delivery) to the producer of the Housewives series:

“I am going to make this as clear for you and the trash you work with and employ.  If this Ann Coulter looking skank and her pus-y whipped husband get within 1000 feet of any AIDS infested brothel you call a reality television show, you will no longer work in this town.  You and all the skanks on your shows will be lucky to be hired to clean the lint out of Andy Dick’s taint if they are even mentioned on your entire so-called Network.  Not only have you insulted me, but you have insulted my brother, the President and this country.  Consider yourself warned and not just like that time I told you the condom broke. (Hang up) LLOYD!!”

If Ari Gold were in charge, The Real Housewives would all be dead.  What will Ari Emmanuel do?
If Ari Gold were in charge, The Real Housewives would all be dead. What will Ari Emmanuel do?

In light of how the White House crashers got so close to President Obama, security implications are more than a little frightening.  The last hit on a president was John Hinckley on President Reagan in 1981.  He was motivated by some delusional intent to impress Jodie Foster.  The White House Crashers (I even hate using a name they are probably hoping becomes a brand – have they trademarked it yet?) certainly did not attempt anything like that (which is only partially relevant), but how long before we get to the point where the next John Hinckley takes a shot at a President to get on Bravo or E!?  Sadly, I don’t think it is far-fetched at all.  Let’s just hope he’ll be allowed to Tweet from prison – wouldn’t want to miss all of their insights.


Birmingham Part II

Sequels are often worse than the original, even if excellent (soshut up Godfather II fans).  Last night at the Stardome was no different.  The difficulty is that for Tuesday and Wednesday shows the club sends out like of promotional invites for things like birthdays so that crowds are there for free comedy, not necessarily because they are devotees of the particular comedian(s).  On Tuesday it did not matter – it was a rock solid crowd that laughed their asses off. 

I knowit was you Stardome that didn't laugh at my jokes last night.  You broke my heart! You broke my heart.
I knowit was you Stardome that didn't laugh at my jokes last night. You broke my heart! You broke my heart.

Last night it was a tougher crowd – I kept making segments of the crowd laugh at different things, but only a few times felt like I had the whole crowd.  Some lessons I learned that may be helpful for comedians:

  1. Good anal sex jokes are universally funny in the South, even for a tougher crowd.
  2. If you are a tall, relatively fit comic do not put jokes about obesity close to the front of your set.  It will make the audience that fries their oreos, snickers bars, salads, etc. not like you as much.  The joke that really lost them was when I said: “Big and Tall Stores treat tall and fat like one big group of circus freaks.  The store had jeans with 30 inch inseam and 56 inch waists?  The only thing that should come in that size for humans is a casket because you are not long for this Earth with those dimensions.”  Not appreciated.
  3. In a room of 400+ people, you need a lot of people laughing.  50 people dying of laughter on one joke may seem good, but when 350 people are just smiling or frowning it sounds like silence.

So I would rate the overall feel for myself a C+.  The three comics (myself, headliner Tim Pulnik and emcee Matt Mitchell) then headed to Hooters after.  I continued to amaze them by not drinking, but having a piece of chocolate cake (I have decided my rap name would be German Chocolate), which Hooters should really be publicizing over their wings.  We were then treated to a story by our waitress about the time a fellow waitress attacked her in the bathroom and beat the sh*t out of her because she slept with her man.  I just got up in my chair and started shouting “JERRY, JERRY, JERRY!” 

Tonight I open for Reno Collier, who, among other things, has been the national opener for Larry The Cable Guy.  The good news is that means the crowds will almost definitely be consistent in their tastes.  The bad news is I may have to wear a flannel shirt with no sleeves.

My Dad was one of them there Haitians!
My Dad was one of them there Haitians!

And tonight begins my need to sell at least 15 CDs by Sunday night.  Seriously it will be funny/tragic if I don’t.


Indefensible: The Ascent Of The Adult Gummy Vitamin

I saw an ad recently for One-A-Day (the multi-vitamin seller) Gummy Vitamins.  These vitamins are for adults.  Because after all haven’t you ever been having a multi-vitamin with a glass of juice, coffee or water in the morning and just thought, “God, if only there was a way to get my vitamins and minerals without putting up with all the fu-king bullsh*t that comes with a multi-vitamin!”  Well now, finally, grown adults don’t have to suffer the indignity and hardship of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for 1-3 seconds without enjoying a piece of candy. 

You have six months to live.  I am sorry, if only they had gummy vitamins when you were younger you might have gotten the minerals you needed.  No one could expect you to handle a hard, cumbersome pill every day!
You have six months to live. I am sorry, if only they had gummy vitamins when you were younger you might have gotten the minerals you needed. No one could expect you to handle a hard, cumbersome pill every day!

I thought purchasing condoms, lube and childrens’ toys at the same time at Duane Reade was the most demeaning thing I could do at a pharmacy, but I don’t think it’s anything next to purchasing adult gummy vitamins.  And why are scientists working on this?  Who is not taking a multivitamin because it’s just it’s just too unpleasant an experience?  Chewables already exist for those people with poor gag reflexes or traumatic step father incidents so why are the gummies necessary?  Is there even one person with decades of mineral deficiencies who is treating these vitamins like a Kathy Griffin fan club that just found out a cure for AIDS has been found?

I also just read an article in the NY Times style section about how people in my age group are clinging to their youth (the most offensive example was of colleges, including Princeton and Williams College safety school Middlebury partaking in Quidditch tournaments).

Seriously, just kill yourselves.
Seriously, just kill yourselves.

I have been told that I am too negative sometimes with my blogs and comedy.  First off, fu-k you.  Secondly, if you open your eyes and ears for all our technological advances it keeps looking like we are going backwards.  Adults playing Quidditch and eating candy vitamins may not seem terrible, but it just reminds me of those early 90s Jenny Jones or Jerry Springer episodes where mothers in their 40s would walk out dressed provactively (known today as business casual) their embarrassed daughters would cringe as the mothers did turns shouting things like, “You wish you was as hot as me!  I can have any man in here!  That’s right baby!” and other white trash affirmations. 

Now that we have moved beyond demonizing these trashy people and have given them more respectable terms like “cougars” and “middle school teachers,” we have to continue to compete with youth so we don’t feel older and responsible and like our time has passed.  So we have gummy vitamins for adults only a few months after Flintstones released their gummy vitamins (who the fu-k are these 6 year olds that think they can have all this fun?) and we play Quidditch as college students.  Granted, I am sure these kids are still properly considered losers, but since plastic surgery can only keep you young on the outside while your soul decays underneath I guess now is the time to start acting the age we wish we were.

Time to get back to my Nintendo Wii.


Another Sense Of Decency Bites The Dust

Tonight on Bravo, one of the many channels quickly destroying art, taste and the soiled remnants of American culture will debut a show called NYC Prep.  The show is supposed to be the “real” compliment to the popular show Gossip Girl, which shows what a bunch of horny and spoiled teenagers attend New York City private schools, or at least lets high school kids know that if they aren’t spoiled or having sex they are probably doing something wrong.  As Oscar Wilde said (and I often quote): Life imitates art.

1, 2, 3..6 Yep I got six cases of bad parenting.
1, 2, 3..6 Yep I got six cases of bad parenting.

I have a theory on the degredation of pop culture over the last 10 years.  Much like how Thomas Friedman has written that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the creation of the Internet were two of the main factors in creating a “flat world”, I proposethat the rise of Britney Spears and the cancellation of Sex and the City have created an irreversible and negative trend in television.  Sort of like the force that keeps getting Kal Penn work in Hollywood.

Britney Spears may idolize Madonna, but I think it was her pimp parents who allowed her to have the far more influential role on pop culture and be a sex object for men worldwide at 16 years old.   I may risk sounding like the Christian Right here, but teenagers are the most susceptible group to peer pressure and cultural influence, from smoking to violence to sex.  The question of whether shows are reflecting current behavior or influencing it is not so important when speaking of soda choices , but is important when it comes to other matters like drug use and sexual activity.  The problem is that these shows create an irreversible trend.  Just like guys of my generation could not go back to watching Charles in Charge once they saw Nicole Eggert get railed by the Coreys in Full Blown, you cannot expect young teens to go back to to the days of Happy Days once the kids on WB are getting happy endings.   Parents still have the big responsibility for sure, but I think that experiment has failed. Parenthood, I mean.  Parenthood is like the Robin to Home Ownership’s Batman in the American delusion that has been propagated.  If you can’t afford a home you should not be brainwashed into trying to buy one; if you don’t have the time or desire to raise kids you should try not to have them.  

Then there was the elimination of Sex and the City.  The most popular show not named The Sopranos in cable television history is a landmark.  Regardless of whether you like it or not it is a defining show for modern women.  But then it was off the air and has been followed by Desperate Housewives, Real Housewives, Kardashians, etc.  It is as if Sex and the City was the Saddam Hussein of television – a necessary evil (that I watched) that kept ridiculous show concepts that focused on four to six women, with “really different personalities” on the shelf or in the level of hell they were stored in because there was no market for them.  Now, with Sex and the City leaving a huge void it has been filled by a cornucopia of loud-mouth failed actresses.  Not to mention the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker had to go back to fronting for Twisted Sister.

Damn Matthew Broderick!
Damn Matthew Broderick!

And somehow born of this perfect storm of voyeuristically-exposed, unrestrained teenage libido and talentless skanks is NYC Prep.  Now I went to a New York City private school and attended the school with many wealthy kids (the kind of school where your friend with a Park Avenue apartment marvels at how rich the other kids are), but I don’t think I had an experience akin to NYC Prep.   For one I think my parents had me because they wanted me, not because they needed an accessory to complete their social profile.  As exhibited by one girl on NYC Prep, she and her brother have free reign of their Manhattan apartment because their parents live in the Hamptons and only come into the city one day a week.  Wow – that is the metaphorical equivalent of having your kid at the prom, but leaving the baby in a Gucci bag instead of a trash bag.

But we can’t sterilize people, poor or rich, no matter how terrible they will be as parents, but do we have to put these kids on television?  If my future/possible sons want to act as kids I will let them do school plays, right after I ask them if they are gay.  But they will not be on shows as kids.  End of story.  I mean when is there going to be legislation criminalizing putting your minor kids on reality television?  (Or the death penalty for all of those kids who were on My Super Sweet 16?)  It’s per se bad parenting.  Like a parent who buys their daughter breast implants because her self esteem is low – how can her self esteem improve if her Dad is buying them? 

 “What’s wrong honey?” 

“Well, Dad, with my small boobs guys just don’t want to fu-k me…”

“Well let’s turn that frown upside down sugar tits!”

But I think my main question is why are we watching this stuff?  Are we really that stupid and shallow as a people?  Or have we just lost our sense of shame?  Greg Giraldo has a great bit about people on shows like Jerry Springer having no sense of shame, in fact being proud of having made objectively terrible decisions in life.  But we are predisposed to laugh when the people are white or black trash, but not when they come from the upper crust of society.  Oh well,  I guess I do not have an answers to theses question, so I will leave them open to comment.  But hopefully this trend stops before we get to Bravo’s eventual reality show: My First Period.  And no, it’s not about early classes at school.