The F Word

I would admittedly never pass up an opportunity to say something bad about Kobe Bryant, and his usage of the word “faggot,” which was caught on camera during a Tuesday night basketball game gave me a good opportunity.   It was a heated moment for Bryant who had received a foul call and speaking about a referee said “Fucking faggot.”  On a somewhat related note, Nick DiPaolo once said, “Any white guy who claims to have never said nigger is either lying or never bet $1000 on an NBA game.”  So passion and poor words are not a novel connection in sports or comedy.  In response to the incident Bryant said:

“What I said last night should not be taken literally.  My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.  The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”

Like many a rapper and athlete before him, the common defense was, “I did not mean gay people or to offend gay people.”  But how is that any different than using the word nigger to describe someone’s conduct or appearance or using Jew as a verb to describe someone’s thrifty actions and then claiming that you were not trying to disparage those particular groups of people.  The word faggot is a word of hate.  Even if it is not used to describe a gay person, it is used as an insult because the connotation it carries is that you are less of a person because of what the word references.  Just because we have been comfortable with a particular piece of hate speech does not mean it should be allowed in regular conversation under some sort of grandfathered-in homophobia.  Even Chris Rock, my favorite comedian of all-time, failed on his last HBO special, in my opinion, to make a joke validating the usage of the w
But in our society, there is not the widespread guilt and shame over the word “faggot” as there is with “nigger.”  Therefore, defenses of the F word are what I imagine a defense of the N word would sound like in 1880 or 1960.
My stance on gay rights in this country is simple and has two basic parts.  I don’t believe any institution should be required to accept or acknowledge or conduct gay marriage, except for the government.  In my opinion, the government has no place in marriage.  If I ever get married I want it to be in a Catholic Church and that is where the value for it will be for me, not from a state certificate or tax forms.  BUT if the government feels that certain rights and privileges should be accorded to married people then it is completely absurd to exclude people from that.
Secondly, people may have the Constitutional right to say hurtful, ignorant and insulting things, but we should not tolerate it.  Our society’s general acceptance of the usage of the words “gay” or “fag” and “faggot” is deplorable.  Glee and Modern Family may have people “loving” gays (the same way music and sports have America “loving” black people), but we are still too lenient when it comes to condemning this hate speech.  In fifty years I may have views that make seem like some sort of closed-minded bigot, but fairness from the government and from fellow human beings doesn’t seem to be too much of a leap, except that it still is.  I think the NBA was right to fine Kobe because it was an embarrassing thing to have been observed.  And to those that may say, “Hey, lots of people say hurtful things and don’t get ostracized for it”  that is the price you pay for getting $20 million a year to play a game for your job.
I remember nine years ago getting into a pretty heated discussion with friends of mine.  We were watching a movie and one of my friends called someone a “fag” (for doing something like eating a certain type of sandwich or something mundane like that (and it was not a penis sandwich).  I then made a pretty strong point (thanks in part to Williams College – where I entered as someone who would occasionally use the word “fag” or “gay” to describe things, but left finding those words detestable.) that the word was hateful and I did not want to hear it.  The two responses from my friends were to ask “what the fuck had I learned up at Williams?” and “Was I gay?”  I would never make the claim to be mature, but hopefully at this point my friends have caught up to me at least on this point.  You needn’t be gay or a bleeding-heart liberal to defend decency towards gays.
Kobe would have done better to issue the following statement: “I apologize for the hurtful slur I used.  There is no place in decent society for that word or the sentiments it evokes.  I did not mean to offfend anyone, but I know that even the mere utterance is hateful, even if not said with any literal intention.”
Besides, with the amount of jewelery, fashion-obsession and dougie dancing in the NBA, Kobe may have offended deeply more of his peers than he realizes.

Patrice, Glenn & Walter White: Big Weekend in D.C.

It was a quite eventful weekend for me in Washington, D.C.  I had the honor of emceeing shows for Patrice O’Neal.  Normally I would not be jazzed to be emcceeing, but a comedian of Patrice’s stature generally draws a good and big crowd and all five shows were sold out.  Now I have opened for many headliners of different levels, but Patrice was the like playing in the major leagues after a career in the minors, with all due respect to the people I have opened for.  It was an incredible experience.  The man is so funny, raw and honest with the crowd that it is both intimidating and inspiring.  He does things that I try to do at open mics, but he has the skill, experience and courage to do it in front of 300 paying customers every show.  It is cool when as a comic you can watch the headliner and be turned into a comedy fan instantly, laughing like you’ve never been exposed to comedy before.

We were also fortunate this weekend not to draw too many Glenn Beck fans to the club.  He was holding his white power rallies at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend and I know at least on the Friday late show there was a group of women (white, obviously) who were in town for the “Enhanced Rights For Dumb, White People” event on Saturday.  But I did not see them walk so perhaps they were not as offended as I thought they’d be (perhaps a black headliner is given a little more leeway from the Beck crowd because entertainment is an acceptable job for black men, as opposed to President).

Overall the weekend was a great success.  All shows were great, all my sets went well and I never had direct contact with any of the legion of Beck-and-Palin-loving old white men and white families on the red line (the only train line deemed safe enough for the out-of-towners by the Beck-ers) in.  And then I received a Tweet at 11 pm announcing that Mad Men had won its third straight Best Drama Emmy, beating Breaking Bad for the second consecutive year.

I think the only problem with America greater than its collective stupidity is when they heap awards on shows like Mad Men because it makes them feel smart and cultured.   The show is fu*king boring!  Does no one else recognize this?  I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!  Breaking Bad manages to do what Mad Men has generally failed to do – it creates realistic characters while building tension and interesting plots.  Mad Men’s cache as a glimpse into a bygone time is over – we get it – people were white, women were subservient and they smoked and dressed well.  But into its fourth season now all Mad Men is has pretentious people still boosting it because they are afraid to appear uncultured or stupid for not liking it.  It is The Emperor’s New Show.

Breaking Bad is the best show on television.  End of discussion.  The best shows on television have never won though.  Six Feet Under lost to The Sopranos and The West Wing, worthy opponents for sure, but the brilliance of SFU will outlast those other two shows.  The Wire was never even nominated, but lots of black people obviously scare Emmy voters.  Arrested Development did win best comedy once, but it should still be winning just for repeats it was so good.  But Modern Family has already taken home the award for Best Comedy Series.  It is a funny show, for sure, but it is also as if some television executive pitched it like this:

“Alright, remember that show Arrested Development?  What if we took away 60% of the subtlety, added some cop out heart felt moments and put it before Cougar Town?”

Despite that Modern Family is one of the best comedies on television right now so I cannot hate the player.  But Breaking Bad has been royally fu*ked over.  If you have not watched it you should. And if you watch Mad Men and think it is the best show on television stop fooling yourself.   People, including my mother have asked me if I own stock in Breaking Bad. No, but in the last 15 years, partly because of reality television forcing more talented writers onto fewer original shows (my theory), we have lived in a golden age of television.  But we still seem to settle for second best.  It is as if every year the Emmys give the Oscar to Dances With Wolves instead of Goodfellas or to Forrest Gump instead of The Shawshank Redemption.   You may think I have overreacted, but do yourself a favor and watch Breaking Bad – you’ll see that I am at least right.


Toledo Nights 1: Glee, The Funny Bone & Deposed…

Last night was an interesting night to be performing in Ohio.  The pending “decision” of LeBron James at 9 pm was perfectly preceded by a show at the Toledo Funny Bone.  But the day was just full of perplexing and disappointing news.

Glee was nominated for 19 Emmys.  That number of Emmy nominations is usually reserved for shows like Six Feet Under (what I believe is the best show ever made) or, in an alternate universe where white people are not afraid to nominate shows full of nuanced black characters, The Wire.  But Glee?  Between Twilight and Glee I am starting to think that perhaps teenage girls and gay men should not be having quite the influence on our pop culture as once seemed desirable.  The show had a couple of promising episodes to start the show, but veered so far off into a cheap and campy format (I am not including the outstanding Jane Lynch in this analysis) that it became unbearable.  I feel Glee is sort of like sushi – plenty of people genuinely like it, but many people just like being the type of people who say they like sushi.  The show is not good.  I hope Modern Family (Arrested Development Jr.) wins.

In the drama category Breaking Bad must win or I will be forced to dedicate an entire blog to its greatness.

(My top shows of all time, in no certain order are Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The West Wing, Arrested Development and Breaking Bad).

So with bad news already beginning with Glee’s dominance of the Emmy nominations and the clouds ominously gathering in Ohio (literally and metaphorically) I headed to the Toledo Funny Bone.

I noticed that the audience was about 93% white and suburban, which sometimes (almost always) is a bad omen.  But things started turning around immediately as I was brought on stage to Rick Astley’s “Never gonna give you up.”  The crowd turned out to be excellent.  So with Glee scoring an early win for crap entertainment and me scoring a win for mediocre entertainment it was up to the main event – where would LeBron go?

And LeBron announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach.  Here are the repercussions of this decision:

1) Mass suicide in Cleveland – seriously Cleveland is a nice city with good people that gets dumped on all the time.  Now their own son has spit on them.  It is very sad.


2) Making Me a Kobe Bryant fan versus the Heat.  I never thought I could root for Kobe in any situation, but like a pro wrestling move there has been an instant realignment.

3) A lot of unjustified hatred from Knick and Bulls fans.  You would have been villains lite if he had gone to your team and you had no other claim to him other than an unjustified feeling of entitlement.  Cleveland is the only town with a legitimate gripe here.

4) Pat Riley is now the Suge Knight of the NBA and will be played by Gordon Gecko in a biopic (Michael Douglas is not good enough).  I expect to see Dwyane Wade and LeBron to throw cash at a video camera with Chris Bosh dancing in the background while Pat Riley, a la Suge Knight, calls out Dan Gilbert.

5) Led to a Twitter explosion of creativity by me on possible names for the new Miami trio.  I came up with Miami Pound Machine because a) it is a clever pun; b) this team will crush the competition and c) it captures the homoerotic undertones of this bizarre reality show episode.

6) Miami fans are about to become the worst people on Earth.  LeBron reminds me of private school girls from NYC , though this type exist in lots of places (and I even dated one once).  You take a hot shallow chick (the Miami scene) and add to it a talented, wealthy career driven person that is ugly (LeBron) and they have kids that are not as smart or talented as the Dad because he married a shallow hot chick, but not as attractive as the Mom because she married a wealthy ogre.  Their offspring is demanding, insecure and shallow all at the same time.  And now they will populate the stands of the Miami Heat.  Good luck the rest of the NBA.  49 other states are rooting for you.


Stuff I’ve Been Watching

In keeping with today’s cultural trend I will provide some random and short quips today on television (I have been watching more because the book I am reading on Robert Oppenheimer is sort of heavy – side note – is it possible that if Mel Gibson were sober he might have meant to say “Jews End All The Wars” – based on how many were involved with creating the Atomic Bomb?):

I have seen documentaries on Rwandan genocide that made me laugh more than the debut of Saturday Night Live.  Lorne Michaels needs more black friends because maybe he is looking for their permission to fire Keenan Thompson.  That guy has taken more jobs from deserving black people than segregation and Jim Crow.

Fred Armisen does such a bad Obama impression that Secret Service should arrest him.

Bill Hader of SNL is extremely funny.  His Kieth Morrison alone almost makes watching SNL worth it.

Friday Night Lights is a great show (re-joined Netflix to catch up on some shows that I have heard are great – Breaking Bad is on the list).  So of course it has terrible ratings.   it is odd to me that a show featuring good looking young people and football could not be a success.  It is as if America is collectively saying – give us shallow things, but don’t you dare deliver them to us in anything that could be called high quality.

If Modern Family can keep up the pace from its pilot then it will be the best comedy on television not named Eastbound & Down.

I watched a 5 part mini series on Sundance called Brick City, on Corey Booker and his attempt to change Newark, NJ.  I am now working on a Corey Booker impression and once I have perfected it one of two things will happen: Corey Booker will not get re-elected and will fade into obscurity, or he will gain an even higher national profile and then Fred Armisen will do an impression of Corey Booker that is so bad, it will make his Obama look good.

The Cleveland Show was not good.

Family Guy premier was great.

Glee started strong, but I think it will fade, only bolstered by religious-like support from women and gays.

Cougar Town – see Glee, but eliminate the started strong part.  And the term Cougar is really just a brilliant re-branding of “she’s kind of old, but yeah, I’d probably fu-k her?”

I have only seen 4 episodes of Jay Leno’s show, but only Jim Norton stood out to me as exceptional.

Bored To Death, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm provide a nice HBO Sunday night.

At 4 pm, if not at the gym or sitting at my desk staring at the wall, I prefer Ellen to Oprah.

On Saturday will be the 2 year anniversary of my appearance on Craig Ferguson (my national television debut).  Since then, based on travel expenses, web expenses and gigs I have made about -$450 dollars from comedy.   My comedy career feels like the final third of a Behind The Music special; the downfall part, but without the awesome rise and hedonism that precedes it.

Voice of Behind The Music narrator: October 3, 2007 seemed like comedy was working out, but little did J-L know that was all about to change. Next after commercial.
Voice of Behind The Music narrator: October 3, 2007 seemed like comedy was working out, but little did J-L know that was all about to change. Next after commercial.