Why Comedy?

While I was babysitting my four year-old niece, she happened to catch sight of my notebook a.k.a. every comic’s best friend. Being an inquisitive child, she asked me what it was, what I use it for, and of course her favorite question: why? Her first two questions were simple enough, but I struggled for a moment to put into words why I write jokes to make people laugh. I went with a simple answer: because it’s fun and thankfully she was appeased enough to go back to eating her string cheese. We spent the rest of the day playing, but in the back of my mind the question of why I find it fun to write jokes and make people laugh was playing on a loop. I thought, “Man, this would make a great topic for a blog entry. I’m going to have to pay this kid royalties. I hope she accepts string cheese.”

Ta daaaaaaaaaa!
Ta daaaaaaaaaa!

My funny was born on July 6, 1982. My due date wasn’t until a week later, but I decided in utero that arriving early would be the first of many pranks I would play on my parents. The way my mother tells it, I entered the world with a “Ta daaaaaaaaaa!,” instead of with the standard loud baby cry. I was a very entertaining child. I was involved in the choir all through school and involved with the school plays in high school.

My grandparents: the genetic origin of my snark
My grandparents: the genetic origin of my snark

My genetic line lends itself to comedy. Sarcasm is hereditary in my family. My grandfather would teach me naughty limericks and have me recite them at holiday dinners much to my mother’s chagrin and his amusement. My grandmother had absolutely no filter. A typical conversation with her would go something like this:

Me: Grammy, what do you think of how the Phillies are playing this year?

Grammy: They’re playing like a bunch of girls.

-End Scene-

There’s an excellent chance that I’ve survived to adulthood or a reasonable facsimile thereof due in large part to my sense of humor. I’ve always been able to use humor to cope with nearly any situation. My adult height is 5’1 and I’ve always been the smallest among my peers. Combine that with my choir involvement, braces, glasses, and honor student status and you can guess who the easy target for bullying was. Spoiler alert: it was me. I decided that it was inefficient to let others make fun of me, so I began making fun of myself not just to decrease the bullies’ workload, but to take back control. If I was the one making the joke, then I had ownership of it. I took away their power to hurt me.

Dad + Me grad
“If you’re proud of what you do and you’re happy it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks of you.” Thanks, Dad.

I’ve always been an extrovert, which is a nice way of saying I have no shame. Even though I’ve been the butt of a lot of people’s jokes, my dad taught me early on that I shouldn’t let others define me. It may have taken a while to sink in, but I’ve reached a point where and I’m finally comfortable enough in my own skin to live authentically and unapologetically. Pro tip: Your struggle can be funny. We all wade through the same crap in life. If I can come out the other side okay, anybody can.

There isn’t a lot that I take too seriously including myself. Look at the size of me. If I took myself too seriously I’d just get ridiculous. Look what happened to Napoleon! The dude had zero chill and ended up getting himself exiled to Elba. That’s not to say that I don’t take things seriously when I should. I’m not a complete ass after all (Seriously I’m not. Stop laughing), but I do tend to see humor in situations where it’s not exactly jumping out at you. To me life is one big joke and I think it’s damned funny.

Napoleon Bonapart: Dude with zero chill
Napoleon Bonapart: Dude with zero chill

I love what comedy does for me and for others. Working in a business environment can be a challenge. Comedy gives me a way to say all the funny stuff I want to say at work but can’t. I’m entertaining myself as much as I’m entertaining others. Something magical happens when people laugh together. I’ve witnessed two people who absolutely can’t stand each other start to feel differently when they laugh together. Comedy breaks down barriers by giving a room full of strangers something that they all relate to and laugh at together. I love being a part of that process.

One could easily say that everything in my life has led me to comedy, but here’s where the rubber meets the road. Last year a coworker or as I call her, my homegirl (Shout out to Caress. Yes that’s her real name and yes, she’s awesome. Recognize.) asked if I did stand up and said I’d be good at it. She’s a very entertaining individual herself, so I took that as pretty high praise. I thought and talked about it for a while but never took any action.Then Robin Williams died and that changed everything.

Because of this man I will never lose my little spark of madness.Thank you, Robin.
Because of this man I will never lose my little spark of madness.Thank you, Robin.

I grew up laughing at him in Mork and Mindy reruns, his movies, and his stand-up specials. The way he brought the Genie in Aladdin to life gave him a special place in my heart. I wanted to put myself out there as a positive influence. I needed to pay it forward. I talked to a friend of mine who does stand up (Kurt Zimmerman. Check out his stuff. He’s funny) and he invited me out to a show at Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ and he threw me up on stage without much warning. I took hold of the mic and just ran with it. I got solid laughs and the rest is a history I’m still writing and yes, it will be funny. Now I must purchase large quantities of string cheese. I’ve got royalties to pay, after all.

Why Cecil the Lion Matters

A lion was killed in Zimbabwe and a lot of people are asking, “Why does this matter?” They are most likely the same people who didn’t shed a single tear at the end of Marley and Me. If you’re one of these people, I suggest you invest in a full-length mirror, strip naked, and check your body for the Skynet logo stamped somewhere on it because if you didn’t cry at the end of Marley and Me you’re not human and are most likely a robot. If you find out you are a robot, avoid Philadelphia, but alas I digress.


Little me playing veterinarian with my stuffed animals.

Cecil the Lion matters and by the time you’re finished reading this you’ll understand why. He matters to me because from a very young age I’ve had nothing but love and respect for animals. As a toddler I had a doctor play-set that I always used on my stuffed animals. I listened to their hearts and lungs with the toy stethoscope, gave them shots with the toy syringe, tested their reflexes with the toy um…hammer doohickey, and made them all better. It never even occurred to me to use it on my dolls. In retrospect, this was probably a clear indication that I have always liked animals better than people.


Trina, ever vigilant, guarding me on Christmas morning

Our family dog, Trina (pictured above) was my first babysitter and constant childhood companion. Her distinctive Husky howl saved my parents the expense and hassle of getting a baby monitor. When I was older, my parents involved me in 4-H where I learned how to properly care for animals and other things that have made me successful like the importance of having a good work ethic and taking pride in what you do and how to set a good example for others to follow. Now that you understand where I’m coming from, I’m sure it’s easy to understand why I find the idea of killing an animal for one’s own entertainment and calling it “sport” completely abhorrent. I am both heartbroken and disgusted by what this event says about our society, but please understand that this is much bigger than me.



Me with my 4-H fair ribbon-winning rabbit

The Dalai Lama once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Consider the facts of how Cecil was killed: shot with a crossbow bolt, then tracked for 40 hours as he bled and suffered from his wound, and then finally killed with a rifle round. After he was killed he was skinned and decapitated and both his head and skin were taken and the rest of his remains (i.e. his bones, muscle, organs) were left to rot out in the elements. Does anything about any of the above say “greatness,” or “moral progress”? I think not.

When the time finally came for us to help Trina across the Rainbow Bridge, I wasn’t allowed in the room because as both my father and the vet pointed out I was 7. However, I was assured that our 14 year-old ailing dog would be put down humanely. The vet said that to my childhood best friend, death would be just like falling asleep. I know I didn’t actually witness the event but I am fairly certain that her euthanasia did not involve a crossbow, 40 hours of tracking, and a bullet from a rifle. I’m pretty sure she was sedated and once she fell asleep, injected with a euthanasia drug that stopped her heart. Why? Because if you asked your vet to put down any animal in precisely the same way that Cecil was killed he or she would shout something along the lines of “Are you out of your mind?! That’s completely inhumane and highly unethical!!!”

While we’re on the topic of ethics, let’s talk about the legal aspect of Cecil’s killing. See, folks like it or not we live in a society of laws and we have to follow them. I can’t go 40 mph in an area where the posted speed limit is 25 mph without the risk that I’ll have to deal with consequences. Even though I think it’s a load of crap that the speed limit is 25 mph and one could easily go 40 mph safely, if I choose to ignore the law and get caught, I’ll get a ticket, points on my license, incur legal fees, and my car insurance premiums will increase because laws, actions, consequences, accountability. We can’t just go around doing whatever the hell we want!


Cheers to the fine folks at E-surance for this gem

Lions are an endangered species and it is illegal in pretty much every country to hunt and intentionally kill an endangered species. Cecil’s killer, a Minnesota dentist (as if we needed another reason to dislike dentists) was fully aware that his actions were illegal and there would be consequences should he be caught and he still chose to kill him. One has to wonder what other laws he’s willing to break. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want this guy poking around in MY mouth.

If you’re still not concerned, read the short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connell. Seriously it’s a great read. If you don’t have time, here’s a synopsis. A rich, entitled bastard who’s obsessed with trophy hunting has done it so much that he’s become bored with tracking animals, so he decides to start trapping people on his island to hunt them for sport because humans with our ability to reason offer a bigger challenge. If this rich, entitled bastard of a dentist isn’t held accountable for his actions and brought to justice I promise you some richer, more entitled, even bigger bastard is going to take the idea from Connell’s story and run with it. If that idea doesn’t deeply disturb you, check again for the Skynet logo somewhere on your person.

Now let’s look at the bigger picture. This is so much bigger than Cecil. Elephants, tigers, leopards, and rhinoceroses are only some of the endangered species being hunted as trophies or killed by poachers every day. They’re being killed for their skins, horns, tusks, etc. for their uses in fake medicines. It’s 2015 and we’re killing endangered animals illegally because people think that they can cure diseases. Isn’t this supposed to be the so-called Information Age? Sorry to burst your bubble, but it would appear that we’re not as evolved as we’d like to believe we are.

But wait! We’re not done yet because it’s bigger than just endangered species. Parrots, lizards, primates, and other species of wild animals are routinely captured to be sold or bred as part of the pet trade. Stringent laws surrounding the exportation of native wildlife are routinely broken because some moron just HAS to have a freakin’ lemur for a pet despite all common sense. Newsflash! If it wasn’t bred in captivity, it’s a wild animal and that animal could turn on you any time. That adorable little lemur won’t be so adorable when it scratches out your eyes while you sleep.


A lemur in the wild WHERE IT FREAKIN’ BELONGS!!!!

Hold on now, because it’s bigger than just wild animals.  Domestic animals are being abused every single day. Don’t believe me? Google factory farms and prepare to be horrified. It doesn’t stop at farm animals either. According to Dr. Jeff Young, aka the Rocky Mountain Vet on Animal Planet, the number one killer of dogs and cats in America is overpopulation.  Everybody wants that cute little kitten or that adorable puppy, but they don’t spay or neuter and most of the resulting offspring end up in already overwhelmed shelters where they often end up being euthanized. One cat or dog is euthanized in a shelter every 13 seconds. In the time it’s taken you to read up to this point, I conservatively estimate that 46 healthy animals have died in US shelters.

Not a licensed/certified breeder? Spay or neuter. Want to do the right thing by your pet? Spay or neuter. Want an animal that’s easier to train and manage? Spay or neuter. Can’t afford it? Talk to local rescues or your local shelter about low-cost spay/neuter programs, then spay or neuter. Most shelters or rescues won’t release the animal to you until he/she has been spayed/neutered and ask only for a nominal fee to adopt. However, I would urge you to be aware of the cost of owning an animal responsibly before you just decide to bring one home. What’s that? You can afford to spay or neuter but just don’t want to? Picture your animal as one of the 46 healthy ones that were put down as you were reading and if that doesn’t motivate you, please contact your local rescue group or find a low to no-kill shelter and surrender your animal immediately because if you can’t be bothered to do the responsible thing, you don’t deserve the PRIVILEGE of having an animal. SPAY OR NEUTER!

Now let me jump off my spay/neuter soapbox and hop onto my puppy mill soapbox. These places are horrible and contribute to the overpopulation problem. These dogs are irresponsibly bred and the adult breeding dogs are kept in deplorable conditions. These places are illegal for a reason. Don’t shop, adopt! There are thousands of animals that deserve a loving home and buying a puppy just perpetuates the need for puppy mills. If you really must insist upon buying a puppy, do your homework and find a responsible breeder. Ask to see their credentials, insist that you tour their facilities, and insist upon meeting the bitch (Technical term! Minds out of the gutter, people!) and the sire. This way, you can be certain that you’re not contributing to the suffering of innocent animals.

I’ll climb off of my puppy mill soapbox now and hop onto my dogfighting soapbox. As a human society we outgrew gladiator fights of ancient Rome. Why is this still a thing?!It’s nothing but despicable cowards who feel a need to show how macho they are by sending an animal to die for them. Nothing says you’re tough like making an innocent dog do your fighting for you. Of course, there’s money involved, too. I guess getting a legitimate job that doesn’t involve animal torture is just too much to ask for from these sorry…never mind I won’t finish that thought since I can’t do so without swearing and I’d like to keep this a high-brow blog.

Let me hop off my various soapboxes and get to the point. Cecil’s only part of the bigger picture that we as a society are painting of ourselves and based on our treatment of the world’s animals, that picture is ugly and shameful. That’s why Cecil the Lion matters. Yes, I know there are bigger problems in the world. The treatment of animals may be a small thing, but if we can’t even get a small thing right how can we ever expect to get the big things right? Maybe our problems wouldn’t be so big if we were gentler to our animals because maybe just maybe being gentler with our animals would make us gentler with each other. It’s a thought.