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My Ten Favorite Things From 2009

No movies made this list (but I have already given you my Top Ten of the Year, so they don’t really need another platform anyway).  Not everything is from this year, but they were read, viewed, worn or observed by me this year.

10. Fred Armisen.  In a year that had some ups and downs, he represented both.  He gave what is the least funny impression ever on Saturday Night Live and he did it week after week.  To quote Forrest Whitaker’s character from The Shield, “It’s like he is pissing in my mouth!”  But the bright side of that is that one year in there is still a void for a decent Obama impression.  If ever there was hope for me in 2010…

You give me hope Fred Armisen.  Hope that SNL will change who does Obama.
You give me hope Fred Armisen. Hope that SNL will change who does Obama.

9. Arrested Development – I know this show is older, but I watched the first three seasons on Netflix this year and it is the funniest multi-season show I have ever seen (important distinction hint hint).  If you have not seen it, you should.

8. Laid Off/Full Time Comedian

According to my biopic script:

I walked out from the law firm that had crushed my soul with a defiant stride knowing that although I was taking a risk pursuing comedy full time I had the confidence of knowing that I would follow my dream and in the end be a success.  I was also touched by the slow clap I received from all my co-workers as I left on my last day.

According to reality:

I planned on going to do comedy full time in 2009 at some point, but given the economic climate and the generally good feeling of a swollen bank account (from a pretty nice place to work as law firms go) I probably needed the push, or shove, of being laid off to pursue comedy full time.  Now my dream still feels attainable, but is starting to resemble a bad acid trip as much as it does a dream on its way to fulfillment.

7. Steeler Super Bowl – This was cool because it was a great game and washed away memories of the only Super Bowl the Steelers had won in my lifetime – Super Bowl XL (40), which was the worst Super Bowl ever played.  I also cannot put the Yankees title on here, because although I like many of the players, something about that victory felt like cheering Goldman Sachs’ bankers when they date rape your daughter and your pension fund.  Of course the Steelers did not help themselves with their “ni-ger” shouting fans this season, but perhaps a poor season will be their punishment for having racist fans.

6. Obama’s Inauguration/Nixonland – Such a cool moment when Obama was inaugurated.  Even cooler was being able to predict how half of America would turn on him as soon as they could and how his young supporters would realize that politics is work and detail and compromise and not a pop culture reality show called For The Love of Obama on VH1.  I always bet on old people in the long term in politics and in 2010 the book Nixonland will prove quite prescient when the Republicans break through the 60 voting block in the Senate and win about 30 seats back in the House.  If you like politics or just want to predict the 2010 election read Nixonland.  But January 20, 2009 was still a great day.  The country was divided on September 10, 2001 and after 9/11 the country rallied around Bush (91% approval, after being dismally low before).  Do you think if the same happened today the country would rally around its President?  I am guessing not.

5. The West Wing – Watched the entire seven seasons on DVD in 5 weeks.  The greatest dramatic series I have ever watched not named The Wire.  Sorry The Sopranos I think you’re great as well, but the detail and the writing of The West Wing was intimidating in its brilliance.

4. New York’s Funniest Comedian – I am still waiting for an e-mail response(to a very politely and respectfully worded e-mail) from a certain comedy club as to why I never got a call back, despite being promised a spot in a showcase and simultaneously being denied a chance to audition because it was unnecessary.  This moment was a low point in my comedy naivete, but also a wake up call that was invaluable.  That is not to say that 40 years from now when I am sitting a lone in a mansion, miserably counting my money in the dark, that I won’t assault, with a bowling pin, some booker or manager or assistant sycophant who shows up to my home.  That reminds me, I think my next CD will be entitled “I’m Finished!”

Sure I will do your show.  But first you have to tell me that bringers and cattle calls are bullsh*t and that you have made false promises.
Sure I will do your show. But first you have to tell me that bringers and cattle calls are bullsh*t and that you have made false promises.

3. The Bonfire of the Vanities – The most enjoyable piece of fiction I have ever read.  Did for novel writing what The West Wing did for me in terms of television.  As Salieri said of Mozart’s music in Amadeus, “Remove one note and there would be diminishment.” That is how I felt about every sentence of this 600+ page novel, which is just as relevant today as it was 22 years ago.  Just don’t see the movie before or after reading it. 

2. Paul Millsap Jersey – I received this gift Christmas 2008, but I did not wear it until this hoops season.  If it’s the thought that counts, then I have never received a better gift in my life.  And I seem to be the only person outside of Utah to possess one, which makes it even more exceptional if you consider things in Utah fashionable. 

The jersey may look ugly to you, but when I got it as a present it made me very happy.
The jersey may look ugly to you, but when I got it as a present it made me very happy.

1. Eastbound and Down – So this is the answer to the question what could be better than great literature, historic national elections, pursuing your dream or seeing your team win a title?  That’s right – a fu-king redneck.  If Eastbound and Down ended after only these 6 episodes it would be like Guns N Roses dying after releasing Appetite For Destruction – a perfect debut to live on forever.  So apologies to my girlfriend, Barack Obama, Tom Wolfe, Jason Bateman, The Steelers, stand up comedy, and everything else that went on this year, but my favorite thing this year was a foul mouthed racist pitcher form Shelby, North Carolina – Mr. Kenny Powers.

And feel free to support Kenny Powers with a Kenny Powers jersey: Kenny Powers Jersey

2009 was your motherfu-kin' year Kenny Powers.
2009 was your motherfu-kin' year Kenny Powers.

Have a Happy New Year readers and fans.  All 6 of you.

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Dear Bronx, The Yankees Just Aren’t That Into You

The New York Times had a couple of interesting comparisons to the Yankees in today’s edition.  One article, in the sports section, compared the Yankees to Goldman Sachs, in that they seem to produce unparalleled wealth and success while seeming to luxuriate in the feelings of unfairness they foster.  The other article, was about today’s parade, which will take place on Wall Street, which according to the article, really needs a good moment like this to help provide some good vibes for the emotionally beleaguered financial district (and the city overall of course).

Does anyone think it might make sense for Manhattan to stop reaping the benefits of the Bronx Bombers at the expense of the Bronx?  Just as the financial collapse was helped along by large firms manipulating and taking advantage of poor and middle class Americans, so too will Manhattan, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Yankees get to parade around Manhattan without a care in the world about the community they’ve left behind.  Again.

Meanwhile local vendors of Yankee Stadium have complained of lost profits this year, due to both the change of foot traffic patterns created by the new Stadium as well as the more gaudy and extensive merchandise opportunities within the House That Greed Built.  Furthermore, children still do not have a completed park to replace the enormous one that was shoved aside by the new Stadium.  It is as if the Yankees have treated the local community with the same cold-hearted competitiveness with which they dispatch rivals when pursuing free agents: we’re richer; we’re bigger; deal with it.

Why would the Grand Concourse not be a fitting place for a parade?  They are still called the Bronx Bombers, but everything about them should be the Madison Avenue Maulers or the Wall Street Warriors.  They are corporate in every way, from the legions of fair-weather fans that follow them (plenty of diehards, but look no further than the New York Knicks to see how much loyalty New York fans provide their teams in time of need), to the parade that will honor them.

The Madison Avenue Maulers?  The Wall Street Warriors?  One thing's for sure - they are not The Bronx Bombers anymore.
The Madison Avenue Maulers? The Wall Street Warriors? One thing's for sure - they are not The Bronx Bombers anymore.

I worked as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx for 3 ½ years.  I remember each year when it was time to select a venue for our individual bureau holiday party, venues in the Bronx were not even discussed.  We were serving the Bronx daily as law enforcement officials, but most of the ADA’s, like many young New Yorkers who would rather have two or three roommates and live in Manhattan than have more space, but (gasp!) live in an outer borough (especially the dreaded Bronx), ever dreamed of setting foot inside a Bronx establishment for a party, as if they all feared that after hours they too could become the next Sherman McCoy.  To District Attorney Robert Johnson’s credit, the annual holiday for the entire office was (and still is) always held at the Marina Del Ray in the Bronx.

Last century the Grand Concourse was just that, grand.  But various things, including racism, helped set in motion the image of the Bronx that still prevails over the collective consciousness of New York City, regardless of whether or not it is actually reality.  Many issues hurt the Bronx, not the least of it was the racism of white flight, which led to The Bonfire of The Vanities mindset that seems to still prevail today on off days or road games for the Yankees more urbane fans.  And because of that sad perception, combined with the corporate mentality of the Yankees and their fans (at this point the demands of Yankee fans, of which I must admit I am one, seem more like the impatient ranting of shareholders, than the charming loyalty of fans) the parade goes on today downtown. 

There is no connection with the Bronx for the Yankees, just as many people felt that Mike Bloomberg had no connection with many working families and just as Wall Street seems to have no connection (not to mention conscience) to the anger and plight of many working Americans.  Having the parade in the Bronx might actually help the South Bronx in a way that a stadium and a shopping mall cannot: it could help to start changing people’s perspectives, so that people could see the Bronx in the daytime and not just under those very expensive lights under which the Yankees play at night.  The Bronx clearly loves the Yankees, but I’m not sure the feeling is mutual.

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Will Work For Distraction

So I have been a “full time comedian” for a little over 4 months.  I have booked some feature spots,dropped 18 lbs (through diet and exercise – cocaine weight loss will be when I become a famous comedian and can’t make as much time for the gym) and was pleased with the one television audition I had (though every day I get increasingly nervous about getting the spot).  I’ve begun acting classes and writing beyond stand up.  The question now is, after e-mails, writing, working out, sleeping and performing, what do I do with the other 14 hours of my day?

One option is reading.  I recently finished The Bonfire of the Vanities, which basically set the bar so high that writing reality-based fiction seems to be too lofty a goal for a comedian and blogger.

Next option is more writing.  As I begin trying to write a script I am also using a lot of my time to watch The West Wing – I have banged out 5 1/2 seasons in approximately 4 weeks, which is the best streak of my career since I did 4 seasons of the Wire (a nerdy pre-Season 5 recap) in two weeks.  This show, more so than The Sopranos and even The Wire, has raised the bar on writing a serious show and has made me think that I should probably stick to shows with the depth of Two and a Half Men.

All work and no play makes J-L very good at watching The West Wing
All work and no play makes J-L very good at watching The West Wing

I have also found moments during this four month stretch where I have had e-mail and Facebook exchanges stretching into two hours in length, and not one was an in depth Twitter exchange on Iranian politics.

So I am pretty sure I can keep this up for another 6-12 months (and financially for 18 months), but the question is what to do with my time before I start hatcheting up a hotel?  And that is scary considering my bench and squat numbers are back to my college level (idle time is apparently the Devil’s creatine as well).

What too much time in the gym and at open mics can lead to without the offsetting of an annoying day job.
What too much time in the gym and at open mics can lead to without the offsetting of an annoying day job.

I guess at some point a job may be needed just to keep my sanity.  But I think I should pick a job that would at least enhance some episodes of my show if based on my life. 

  • One option is working at a Starbucks across the street from my old firm.  A few priceless moments of awkwardness. 
  • Or I could work at the oddly placed porn shop near my apartment – never thought of Turtle Bay as a mecca for seediness.  Those scenes would show my putting down my notepad or a Pulitzer Prize winning biography to ring up Anal Sluts 4.  Seems a little too gimmicky.
  • Try to make money the easy way, by frequenting the OTB across the street from my apartment building – making me the only person there under the age of 50 and not smelling of tobacco. 
  • Get cast in a few commercials as “tall, racially ambiguous male #1”.

Whatever – time to go to the gym.