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10 Favorite Things from 2010

If there was an Oprah of bitter and tall New York City comics who are struggling just to attain the mediocre life of a working comedian, then it probably would not be me, but I might be the Gayle King of that group.  So before embarking on 2011, here are my ten favorite things of 2010 (it should be no shock that Manny from Modern Family and PMSports.com did NOT make the list):

10.  Gilbert Arenas.  The funniest/ballsiest photo of the year (and all due respect to Louis C.K. and his legions of hip fans – this was the ballsiest thing in comedy since Stephen Colbert’s address at the White House Press Corps dinner) was snapped in the first week of January and belongs to the former Washington Wizards guard.  He was facing federal gun charges and a suspension from the NBA, but that did not stop him for orchestrating a mock gunfight during player introductions.  Stupid, insensitive and hilarious.  Great way to kick off 2010

The ballsiest thing in comedy this year.

9.  My Brett Favre Wrangler Commercial.  Thanks to Comedian Nick Cobb and the rest of the cast who helped make this my most viewed clip on the web (5,000 views – not great, but I’m pleased)

8. Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game in Salt Lake City.  I made my first trip to Utah to see the Jazz play and I was treated to a 140-139 overtime win in what was the best game in the NBA last year.  That also capped a year where I saw 5 Jazz games in person and the Jazz went 5-0.  They then promptly went 0-4 in the playoffs.
7.  Inception.  Seriously if you don’t like this movie go fu*k yourself.  It is great and original and hope that Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Tyler Perry and Twilight have not ruined movies.
6.  Two songs – Bad Romance and Jean-Louis Be Goode.
The first of these songs was an absolute beast by Lady Gaga and I am not sure if I should be ashamed to say that.  But because the song is so enjoyable I don’t care (once again I am not against pop music – I own a Hanson album and have 4 backstreet boys songs on my iPod – I have no pride if something sounds good – BUT, I am against crap like Bieber and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” – the worst song ever made that is both pop and unlistenable)
The second song I wrote in an inspired trip to Baton Rouge where I performed in a mist of cigarette smoke for 4 shows in front of 110 people (combined, not per show) sung to the tune of Johnny B. Goode:

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back with people obsessed with LSU’s  football team
There stood a comedy club made of earth and wood
Where telling jokes was a boy named Jean-Louis Be Goode
Who actually learned to read and write very well
But he preferred telling jokes inside a comedy hell

Go go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

He used to carry legal papers in a leather sack
Now he walks aside the roads and the railroad track
Oh, doing shi*ty southern gigs with no car
Since Ferguson wondering how he fell so far
The people watching his act would stop and say
Oh my when is the headliner gonna play

Go go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

His mother told him “Someday you will be a man,
And maybe then you’ll abandon your comedy plan
Dozens of people coming from miles around
To ignore the jokes you tell when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
saying  “Manager on duty tonight.”

Go go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Go J-L go
Go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

5. War.  By Sebastian Junger.  Phenomenal book by Vanity Fair writer who was embedded with a combat division for four months in Afghanistan.  I did not make it through the documentary Restrepo, filmed by Junger at the same time he was reporting, but the book was much more riveting than the hour of the film I watched.

4. The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  During one of my several trips to Cleveland to perform this year I made a visit to this museum.  I spent six hours there.  That is significantly more time than I have ever spent in a museum, including school mandated sessions.  Cleveland may have lost Lebron, but there will always be at least one reason to visit.

3.  Inside Job and Bill Maher.  I have already written how I felt Inside Job is the best movie of the year and should be required viewing in 9th grade classrooms.  But equally valuable to the political discourse has been Bill Maher this past season.  I am not in complete agreement with Bill Maher on everything, but this season he was absolutely brilliant.  Jon Stewart gets a lot of credit, but, ever since his tirade on Crossfire where he basically pulled the bait and switch that he has also pulled on Jim Cramer (hey I’m a comedian, you’re not prepared for me the way you would normally be for a political interviewer and then WHAM!  I crush you on television by coming prepared with ideas from my smarter team of writers while I make you look like a jerk on your own show!).  Now Stweart is often right, but Billl Maher never tricks people – you know where he is coming from and what his agenda is from start to finish. 

2. All the people (especially friends in different cities, but certainly not excluding New York City) who came out to see me perform and also gave me couches and beds to sleep on.  Thanks very much.  You make my meager “career” possible.

and the best thing of 2010….

1) Breaking Bad– Season 3.  That is right, better than my favorite movie of the year, better than anything I made (thus defeating my own high sense of myself) and even outranking friends who have given me a place to stay while on the road is Breaking Bad.  For anyone who prefers Dexter or Modern Family or The Good Wife – shut up.  And I have dedicated too many words already for the pretentious who have elevated Mad Men from a solid period drama into the greatest thing ever filmed.  There is a rumor that AMC has delayed the 4th season of Breaking Bad to allow John Hamm to win best actor for Breaking Bad because Bryan Cranston has won three straight.  So AMC is showing who their favorite child is, but they are also tipping their hand on who the better child is.  Do yourself a favor in 2011 – catch up on Breaking Bad before season 4 begins in July (I think AMC is starting from the beginning next week some time so get the DVR ready).

#1 for 2010
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J-L’s Time Person of the Year

One of the most anticipated magazine issues every year, besides the 114 that discuss whether Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston will get back together, is Time’s Person of the Year issue.  The criteria, according to Wikipedia, is  a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”   Now clearly Time has not always honored that, most notably when Osama bin Laden lost in 2001 (rumor has it he will never attend the awards banquet ever again) to Rudy Giuliani – which was basically the Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas of  Time’s POTY.  But this year I think Time can get it right.

I am so over Time's Person of the Year.

Many people got talking when the finalists were announced – on my Facebook page LeBron James got a lot of attention (ironically people obsessing over him for the last 6 months thought it absurd that he could be a finalist).  But for me the winner should be obvious.

My pick, of the numerous finalists, is Lady Gaga.  Now in 2001 Time clearly feared their choice would be seen as an award, rather than as mere acknowledgment and the fear of appearing a joke may stop Time from naming Gaga, so here’s the argument for her.

Should be TIme's Person of the Year

First off, she won a bunch of MTV video awards and in a year without Kanye West interruptions, that makes her the biggest music story of the year.

Now technically that is basically it for her actual accomplishments this year.  She is a hard working performer who has become a major force in music.  But that alone would just make her a minor irritant.  However, what she represents is basically the direction of  our entire culture.  Here’s why.

1) She has become the dominant figure on the Internet.  All due respect to Mark Zuckerberg, who created the Internet’s most pervasive medium since e-mail, but Gaga dominates all of our pithy forms of communication.  Her video Bad Romance is the most watched video on all of YouTube.  She has the most Twitter followers on Twitter (President Obama is 5th).  In other words, in a society that is increasingly turning information and entertainment into 140 character brain farts and 30 second, seizure-inducing visuals intended to keep the attention of morons, she is the Queen.

2) She takes pithy political stands.  In a country that is increasingly mired in a struggle to choose the less complex answer and choice for increasingly complex problems she took the brave stand of asking for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  It is nice to use your fame and clout for good social issues and I think that is a worthy cause, but for a pop star who is next in line to lead the Kingdom of Gay Dance  Clubs (should Queen Brittney Spears die) I don’t think it is a particularly bold stand.  But that is our politics – does it affect me (Gaga’s dancers and fans)?  Is it already fairly popular or at least popular enough that I will not feel like an outcast if I join?  Then Yes!

3) She could have written the anthem for the anti-Immigration movement.  In a country where many people are anti-Immigrant and come out of the woodwork every election cycle, one of Gaga’s big hits of the last year was “Alejandro.”  The chorus:

Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Alejandro.
I’m not your babe.
I’m not your babe, Fernando.

Don’t wanna kiss, don’t wanna touch.
Just smoke one cigarette and hush.
Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Roberto

We get it Gaga – you don’t like Latinos.  Perhaps you could do a concert for the militias that patrol the border.  Just don’t bring your gay dancers.

4) She is a distraction.  The days of musical artists being relevant beyond the current minute are here.  Unlike Madonna or Michael Jackson or the Rolling Stones or the Beatles artists today are just flashes in the pan, in part because of a lack of creativity and perhaps even more due to our lack of attention span.  Madonna would take years to come out with a new album.  If Lady Gaga took years to release her next album, her next album would not come out because a dozen copycats would have taken her place.  Lady Gaga’s tireless effort is an acknowledgment that she, like the Justin Biebers of the world do not have staying power (at least as musical artists), both because of us, as well as themselves.  Madonna could change her image over a decade. Gaga changes her image every commercial break both because we need it to stay focused and she needs to do it to stay in the spotlight.  She labeled her album the Fame Monster and that is appropriate – because she is a monster and American consuming society is her Dr. Frankenstein.  So her influence is technically our doing, but she should accept the recognition on behalf of our culture.

5) Bad Romance is a pretty good song.  Got to give the devil her due.

Of course – if I were a betting man, I would guess that Time will go for an intellectually safe, discussion-creating choice like…

Time will make the almsot equally valid, but definitely safer choice and probably pick this fu*k for Person of the Year.
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Thankful List

This site is usually saved for gripes, but today is a today for being thankful so after some reflection (family, health, etc. obviously) here are the things I am thankful for in no particular order:

1) My Obama impression.  It is not my favorite bit or part of my stand up, but I like Jimmy Chitwood in Hoosiers I do feel like my Obama impression is what could hit the metaphorical winning shot for me in my comedy career.  Of course even if it makes it big, my comedy career will still be the equivalent of a hick in Indiana.  But like money to an ugly man or big breasts and loose morals to a woman I think Obama will get my stand up going places faster than if I was without it.

Me economic recovery is based solely on how long he stays in office.
Me economic recovery is based solely on how long he stays in office.

2) The New York Knicks.  As readers of this blog know I am one of a handful of Utah Jazz fans (22 years and counting) outside of the state of Utah or the Mormon faith.  The Jazz have been a disappointment this year, but the New York Knicks have been nothing short of a disgrace and thanks to ramifications of the trade for Stephon Marbury 6 years ago the Knicks’ first round pick (most likely a top 5 pick) will go to the Jazz.

Dear NY Knicks, Thanks.  Love, Utah Jazz
Dear NY Knicks, Thanks. Love, Utah Jazz

3) My girlfriend.  If only for buying me Adam Lambert’s new CD (and apparently a point on the Kinsey scale) and saving me from one of the more emasculating purchases I could make.  I made no secret of my enjoyment of his American Idol performances and although the album is way too much Lady Gaga-light and not enough Steven Tyler/Freddie Mercury/David Bowie as it should be, no gift has ranked higher on the “it’s the thought that counts” scale, except for her purchase of a Paul Millsap game jersey for me last Christmas.   And a bonus to her is that if in some alternative universe I pull a Sal from Mad Men, she can say, “Dammit, I should have known when he was singing along to that Adam Lambert song.”

Yes, that Adam Lambert is quite the singer.  Wait, you're firing me Don?  What for? A straight man can't like Adam Lambert?
Yes, that Adam Lambert is quite the singer. Wait, you're firing me Don? What for? A straight man can't like Adam Lambert?

Note – this was all conceived before Lambert dragged men on leashes, face-fu-ked and tongue raped other men on the American Music Awards.  While I appreciate his stance that there is a double standard by the heterosexual world concerning lesbians and gay men making out, it was a bit much.  And it detracts from his considerable talent.  Add another Kinsey point. Fu-k.

4) The people running shi*ty open mics, the people who are not taking advantage of struggling, new, or desperate comics and the people who run decent shows for free in the city.   Like a house of worship, the communal strength of the good people trying to do good things in and with comedy in NYC (and elsewhere) make it easier to keep following a tough dream.  So thanks to all you people as well.  To those who are manipulating or taking advantage of even one comic, go fu-k yourselves.

For all my complaints about the establishment in comedy, there are a lot of funny and hard working people making it tolerable.
For all my complaints about the establishment in comedy, there are a lot of funny and hard working people making it tolerable.
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Another Michael Jackson Is Impossible

Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, The Pope, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton.  This is the group of people’s whose deaths could rival or exceed Michael Jackson’s in terms of worldwide newsworthiness and cultural impact (and Jordan is very iffy).  That is really it in my opinion.  (And it happened a few hours after I was complaining that Farrah Fawcett’s death, though sad for her family and friends of course, did not warrant huge media attention.  Jackson’s did and does. )  And notice there are no music people on the list.  Sorry Justin Timberlake, Usher, Ne-Yo and any other people who they are already trying to figure out who could take the mantle.  That sounds like a bad joke. 

Talent? Absolutely.  About 25% of MJ combined.
Talent? Absolutely. About 25% of MJ combined.

There is no “next” Michael Jackson.  There are a few reasons for this:

The Cultural Gap

Michael Jackson had an incredible talent and an abusive parent willing to beat it out of him (I had parents willing to do the latter, but quickly persuaded them against hitting me a lot with my “I don’t have much talent” defense).   Acrucible this toxic, but which generates such prodigious, one-of-a-kind genius could never occur in today’s over-exposed culture, where every other as-hole can actually become a star.  He’d either be scooped up by a reality show or taken away from his parents (unlikely if he’s famous since we revel in the exploitation of children every day on shows like Jon and Kate plus 8).  So there’s no sense talking about a “next” MJ because it is not really possible given our cultural landscape of low standards and quick fix need for new celebs.

The Innovation Gap

There is nobody with his talent for innovation in the music business.  His closest musical counterpart is Madonna and she’s not really close.  Today there is more imitation than anything else.  Not to draw a comparison, but that is one of the reasons Adam Lambert was so good on American Idol – he seemed to be somewhat original, but still he lived in the shadow of men like Steven Tyler and Freddie Mercury.  The best analogy I can come up with is sports related. The shadow Michael Jordan cast on basketball is so great that players like Kobe and LeBron are trying to be free of it today and cast their own legacy.  Now imagine Michael Jordan were put in a time machine and played in the 1960s instead of the 1980s and 90s.  Now imagine how much more incredible and awe-inspiring he would have been if he was in that era.  That is what Michael Jackson did for music.  And his breaking of major racial barriers goes without saying.

King of Pop
King of Pop

The Class Gap

As ironic as it may sound Michael Jackson is lucky to have lived until 50 with the media pressure and voyeuristic celebrity hunting that now goes on.  He was fortunate enough to be a fully grown man by the time people were really going psycho for him.  Nowadays with this exponentially growing blood lust we have for celebrities wouldn’t he be more likely to suffer a fate like Britney Spears?  Breaking down right before or after Thriller, thus denying the public of several years of quality music afterwards?  I even like You Rock My World, which he released 19 years after Thriller.

The child molestation charges and odd behavior of Michael Jackson will forever be linked to his legacy.  I have a friend who believes child molesters should be castrated.  I am one of those people that hopes that Michael was just strange and never did anything sexual to the children, but that feels unlikely.  But I look at a guy who was abused by his father, and lived a public life for 40 years that no one besides Obama over the last 2 years can even relate to I think.  I feel bad for him.  People feel bad for victims of abuse when it occurs, but when they turn into monsters themselves, no one cares anymore.  This is not a defense for his actions, if he did abuse children, but just maybe a moment of compassion is warranted, even if you do find him despicable.  When you look at pictures of this cute talented kid and then at the recluse alien he became you have to know this was a deeply troubled person not in full control of what he became – his family exploited him and society smothered him.

So I am happy to own a bunch of Michael Jackson records and in a show of class I only told one Michael Jackson joke (it was the entertainment elephant in the room) last night (at one of the most difficult shows of my career – nothing compared to the massacre at Medgar Evers College a few years ago, but bad):

With Ray Charles, James Brown and Michael Jackson dead I’d be scared sh-tless if I was Stevie Wonder.  If diabetes doesn’t get his chubby ass, then apparently the ghost from Final Destination will.

The good money in your legendary black musical figures death pool.
The good money in your legendary black musical figures death pool.

I will write some funnier stuff on Sunday or Monday about my Florida trip (let’s hope the worst is behind me), but I wanted to write something about the biggest entertainer in the world.   And at least “kids these days” can see that there was something just a tad bigger than The Jonas Brothers and Lady Gaga.  After all, even I had a Michael Jackson figure – I believe it was the Billie Jean one (modeled on the 1983 Motown Special).  Music didn’t just lose a giant.  It lost THE giant.