Every comedian I know does jokes about their family. However not very many do jokes about their family in front of their family. Kurt, Mr. Miyagi himself does jokes about his wife and daughter with them in the crowd and I’ve been present for many a joke from Dawn or Katelyn at Kurt’s expense.
I have had the pleasure of making jokes about my mom in front of her. She was amused, but not nearly as amused as my aunt was. Last week, I did a joke about my phone conversations with my sister since she had the kids and they’re very different. She said that the act out I did sounded like a transcript of an actual conversation, that is when my niece doesn’t jack the phone because she wants to talk to Aunt Lynne.
Some comics think “Oh crap my family’s here. There goes half my act.” I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not one of them. They’ve seen me in states much worse than standing on a stage with a mic so I’m pretty sure they can hang. Besides it’s a lot more fun to do the jokes they inspire when they’re there to appreciate them.
I’ve been told by other comics that a groan is as good as a laugh, but this seems to be a subject of debate in the stand-up community. Some say that a groan is as good as a laugh because you’re getting a reaction. Others feel that audiences don’t come out to shows to groan, they come out to laugh. I can honestly go either way on this one, so I’m going to let this one be a debate for the ages. If you have an opinion, feel free to share it. In the meantime I’ll keep writing the jokes and bringing the laughs.
A friend of mine and I were having a conversation about dirty humor and whether or not a dirty joke could still be tasteful. My opinion on the matter is that it’s easy to use bathroom humor and while a little bathroom humor never hurt anybody, it’s also an indication of a certain lack of creativity and refinement of craft on the part of the comic.
Bathroom humor is easy. Doing it tastefully? That’s a challenge. Part of the fun of the joke writing process for me is to make a clean (well relatively anyway) joke out of dirty subject matter.
Not only do I think it can be done, but I think it must be done. Comedy is a craft and it needs to be kept sharp. Your comedy needs a challenge just like a blade needs a whetstone, so stay sharp friends.
So a friend of mine who’s also a comic got trolled recently. Apparently someone dedicated the time and energy into making a Facebook page dedicated to their hatred of him. My first thought was, why? I mean all the pressing issues life has to offer and you choose to go after a stand-up comedian that you’ve probably saw exactly once in your life? Seriously?
My second thought was raucous laughter because see the thing about stand-up comics is a) that they make jokes for a living and b) that they also hang out with other stand-up comics who also make jokes for a living. Given that tidbit of knowledge why would anyone ever think that trolling a stand-up comedian would end in anything other than their complete humiliation? I mean, duh! Right?
Now that’s not to say we comics are mean-spirited folk, far from it. We are however a community. That means we have no problem coming to the aid of one of our own when the situation calls for it. That’s why it’s not really a good idea for trolls to come for one of us. You know, so maybe follow Wil Wheaton’s rule and don’t be a dick.
I sometimes joke that every time I go home to South Jersey I’m reminded of why I left in the first place usually when I’m stuck in traffic in or around Cherry Hill. Traffic makes me punchy and sarcastic because I’m my mother’s child. Anyway, it’s all in good road rage-induced fun and I have nothing against where I came from. After all, if I didn’t come from South Jersey, I wouldn’t have this outrageous accent, so when my friend asked me to come do some comedy at a fundraiser for the Atlantic City Arts Foundation of course I said yes. Besides, the opportunity to see her was reason enough to hop on the Expressway and venture down.
The event was at Little Water Distillery. Yes, there’s a distillery in Atlantic City. They make vodka, rum, and whiskey. The drinks were good, but the company was better. It was an open mic contest. I’d met two of the other comics and I know the headliner, LaTice Klapa who is awesome. I did some catching up with people I went to school with; two of whom are opening a coffee house called Hayday and I suggest you check them out. I expected to have fun. I did not expect to WIN THE CONTEST!!!! That’s right, kids I won my first comedy contest and it was the cherry on top of an awesome evening.
I know this topic has been done to death and I thought briefly of not adding my voice to this conversation, but all I can think about is my niece, my nephew, and my friends’ kids and it’s for them that I’m opening my big mouth. Several articles have come out saying that “Grace” and by extension all women was just being oversensitive and claiming she should have left if she was so uncomfortable. Several articles have cited the fact that women have been socialized to “let him down easy,” and actual statistics on intimate partner violence to explain her actions. I’m not comparing Aziz Ansari to predators like Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar. Ansari ins’t a predator and doesn’t deserve to lose his career. He is however a product of our deeply broken culture around dating and intimacy. When a young woman can get shot to death for asking a guy to please stop grinding on her we have a serious problem.
Now enough of the negatives of this story, because I want to talk about the positives. The silver lining here is that in homes and offices across the country a conversation has started between men and women about what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. By opening a dialogue we can make this a teachable moment for everyone. I’ve actually had a few opportunities to educate men about male privilege and make them aware that there are simple things they take for granted, like crossing a dark parking lot alone or telling someone to take their hands off you, that they can do that women simply can’t without a certain level of risk. It was rough and there was a lot of mansplaining, but miraculously I maintained my patience long enough to explain why they should care if they make someone uncomfortable.
Maybe from here we can move forward to a better culture around dating and intimacy. And also if we can go ahead and do this quickly before my friends’ kids go to college and my niece and nephew reach dating age, that’d be great! Because so help me if anyone behaves the way that Aziz Ansari did towards any one of them, you’re going to see me on the news and my nephew is going to learn how to be a kind, considerate young man or his aunt is going to be after him. Let’s be better, everyone. Let’s as Bill and Ted said be excellent to each other.
Stand up comedy is supposed to be a conversation between you and the audience. Sometimes, a conversation can go in an unexpected direction especially when that conversation is with me. Before a show, I throw together a set list, memorize, and rehearse at least once, but I also know that I don’t have to stick to it. New Years Eve Eve I did a show at City Streets and I started with the set list I picked out but the audience took me in a different direction and I went with it. This was admittedly a bit nerve-wracking but ultimately I’m glad I did it because I connected with this room full of people so much better than I would have otherwise. I do it for the laughs, not the blank stares so connecting with the audience is important. I went rogue like Jyn Erso and I don’t regret it and if you’re also a comic neither should you.
If like me, you were deeply disappointed by the prequels to the point where you threw up your hands and gave up on Star Wars, now is not the time to allow that to make you bitter. Do yourself a favor and watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, then re-watch the originals and by that I mean the non-remastered originals. You know the films as they were meant to be; before Stephen Spielberg screwed with them.
Rogue One bridges the gap between the travesty that was Revenge of the Sith and the holy trilogy. You might just fall back in love with the franchise. If that doesn’t work, remember who you were the first time you saw the films. If you were like me, you were a sweet summer child uncorrupted by adulthood. You still believed in miracles and Donald Trump wasn’t yet elected so you still believed in the power of good triumphing over evil. Remember that child. Now watch The Force Awakens.
Are you caught up? Good. Now GO SEE THE LAST JEDI. RUN, DON’T WALK. This film has everything. It has our space mom Carrie Fisher and yes for the record I cried. I can’t begin to describe how much I miss that woman. She was smart and honest and fierce and beautiful. It’s got Mark Hammill and it’s got jokes. It’s got BB-8 being a total badass. It’s got Captain Phasma, Finn, Supreme Leader Snoke, and the ginger general, General Huks. Kylo Ren finally takes off that ridiculous helmet and Rey starts coming into her own.
And I haven’t even gone into the creatures!!! There are racing creatures on a casino planet called Fathiers. I mean come on, look at this thing. Don’t you just want to pet it? I totally do. I want to give it treats of…um…whatever the hell they would eat as a treat.
Then there are the crystal foxes. They look incredibly cool and I can’t imagine how many hours went into creating them. I would pet it, but I’d want some type of protective gloves because it just looks…prickly.
Chewbacca came back again and I’m happy to report that nothing happened to him. If God forbid something did, you’d already know it because you’d already have seen me on the news taking to the streets and rioting. I LOVE that Wookie. If I had been born and raised in the Rebellion, Chewy would’ve been my favorite babysitter. If you’re still not sold on the new films, picture little me putting ribbons in Chewy’s fur and the look on Han’s face when he witnessed my handiwork. I mean come on, guys. Give it chance. It has porgs. PORGS!!!! They’re so cute Chewy couldn’t bring himself to eat them and come on Chewy eats pretty much everything. How stinkin’ cute are they? I defy you to look at the picture above and not at least quietly to yourself say awwww.
In all seriousness if you really want to have a good time at the movies, go see The Last Jedi. I highly recommend a theater with recliner seats. They’ve basically ruined all other movie theaters for me.
During my recent performance, I did a joke about creeps. I asked the ladies in the audience how many of them have had an experience with a creepy guy, you know the kind of guy that doesn’t know when to leave a woman alone. Nearly every woman in the audience clapped or raised her hand. If you’re looking for a percentage I would conservatively estimate 98% of the female audience members had an experience with a creeper. That’s just sad.
If you read the news today, it looks like practically every man in the media and the entertainment industry has been accused of sexual harassment. Now as comedians, we have a certain responsibility to make timely jokes about what’s in the news. However we also still have a responsibility to our audience, that being to make them laugh. So, fellow comics while I get that you may feel compelled to make jokes about how so many men are being accused of sexual harassment, let’s not forget that sexual harassment is not funny to people who have experienced it.
Think about my audience from a few weeks back. Nearly every one of the women in that audience experienced unwanted attention from a creepy guy. That’s pretty much the definition of sexual harassment. Now think about all of the #MeToo stories you’re reading in your social media news feeds from the female members of your social media circle. I have multiple #MeToo stories of my own. So, be mindful that there’s a pretty good chance that most of your female audience members aren’t going to think your timely joke about sexual harassment is funny. You’re also perpetuating the problem by making victims feel uncomfortable and, yes guys that’s why we don’t come forward right away if we ever come forward at all.
Women will continue to come forward. We all decided during one our super-secret underground meetings that we have all had enough. The women who came out against Harvey Weinstein, Lou C.K., Matt Lauer, and others have emboldened the rest of us to stop being nice about it when we’re harassed; you know much like a known sexual predator being elected president has emboldened all of you to openly harass women. If you’re feeling defensive, I’m probably talking to you. Continuing this behavior may result in direct harm to your testicles. You’ve been warned.
This time last week, I was enjoying my first full day in Florida visiting one of my favorite hecklers: my mother. I flew home yesterday and woke up to howling wind and it reminded me of the Stark house words: Winter is Coming. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with my mother’s adopted words which are Screw the Cold and the Snow!
The journey there was about as good as any air travel adventure could be. I’m starting to think that we as a species are way overthinking the process of getting onto and off of a plane. It is my firm belief that the absolute worst time to have to pee is when the plane is in its final descent and you’re not allowed to leave your seat.
Once we successfully de-planed and I relieved myself, we made our way to the curb where my mother was going to pick us up or so I thought. She parked and met us inside the airport. We napped, went to Saturday church service and met some of her church ladies and had some church chat then hit Rib City which is a bangin’ BBQ joint.
Our adventures included a trip to Target, the shooting range, Bass Pro Shop, Ron Jon Surf Shop, a visit to the Naples Zoo and Tin City, walks to the beach, skim boarding, a dolphin boat tour, and a Friday night showing of Justice League.
My mom found my love of Target entertaining. I found the groupings on her shooting range target unsettling. She talked about getting the license to carry concealed until I reminded her that she lived in Naples, not Compton. She eyed up Sig Sauers at the Bass Pro Shop. I suppose I should cool it on the nursing home jokes.
Our visit to the zoo was educational. There were some penguins visiting. I know the last thing one expects to see in sunny southwest Florida is penguins, but there they were. There are also two black bears who were rescued from a private owner who wasn’t equipped to properly care for them. They regularly test bear-proof trash cans and one manufacturer discovered the hard way that they needed to upgrade their plastic when one of the bears sat on their prototype and broke it.
There’s also a Florida Panther who was shot in the face with a shotgun and lost one of its eyes and is blind in the other. Uno was found on the side of the road emaciated after his injuries left him unable to hunt and living on roadkill for weeks. Veterinarians treated him and the zoo rehabilitated him and gave him a permanent home since he’s not able to return to the wild. My mom is now even more astounded that I survived to adulthood when I approached the coyote enclosure and exclaimed, “Puppy!”
We visited Tin City and the Naples Winery because wine. We got up early the next day and went out on a boat tour to see if we could see some dolphins. We weren’t disappointed. In fact, there was a full on dolphin playdate going on in the water and we were invited. Sadly I could not jump into the water with them because of some “They’re wild animals with cone-shaped teeth and a rostrum made of solid bone,” nonsense. Still, it was really awesome to see a thriving marine habitat despite the Republican party’s best efforts.
My mom had to go and pick up her Pastor from the airport so we needed something to do Friday evening so we decided to go see Justice League. Recliner theaters are awesome but in Florida they’re pretty funny because you’ll undoubtedly hear at least one senior citizen snoring. The movie was actually pretty good. I enjoyed it. I’m still a Marvel fan fo’ life but well played, DC. Well played.
I might’ve taken a vacation, but my comedy didn’t. I wrote some new material and yes my mom is just thrilled.