Friday night I hosted at Leatherhead Pub and it was as always a great show. The crowd was lively, the comics were funny, my friends came out, and it was awesome. I even discovered a new beer. People, if you have the opportunity to come out to one of these shows, do it!
So not too long ago I lost (hopefully temporarily) my room and comedy home, Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ. Not long after that, I found out that I got rejected from a comedy festival I registered for. I was pissed because it was something I really wanted. I was bummed out, but I did what I always do when I experience adversity: I made a joke out of it. And yes, I will be debuting it and posting the video shortly and yes, dammit it’s funny.
Now I say all that to say this: Yes, I absolutely thought about quitting comedy and just accepting my life as a desk pilot in Corporate America…for exactly three seconds until I remembered that I am my father’s child and a stubborn, obstinate bitch and I swear I heard his voice calling to me from the Ether and telling me that if I give up he’s going to jam his foot up my ass. And yes, anyone who knew my father would tell you that is absolutely something he would say.
I remembered that a dear comedy friend had contacted me about doing a show in South Jersey the weekend the festival was supposed to be and I let him know that I couldn’t commit to it. I messaged him and let him know that if he still needed someone I’d be glad to come out. It was a shot in the dark but I took it anyway because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I needed to prove to myself that I could stand back up after getting knocked on my ass. I was fortunate enough to hear back from him and that he had a spot for me.
So my comedy life handed me a couple comedy lemons and I turned them into comedy lemonade. Now all I need is to find some comedy vodka.
When I was five years old, my dad sat me down in front of the TV and introduced me to a little-known film called Star Wars. I won’t bore you with the details since I already did here, but he started a love affair with a franchise that has lasted for the past thirty years and will continue to last and he also introduced me to my childhood hero, Carrie Fisher.
She was my favorite childhood princess and is now my favorite general. She bravely shared her struggles with addiction and mental illness and shared a candid picture of her experience filming the original Star Wars film. She was brilliant, funny, honest, and brave. I grew up idolizing her. The Gryffindor in me recognized the Gryffindor in her. It was like a namaste moment only with house alignment. It was Gryffmaste!
But alas and as usual I digress. A few weeks ago, I received the biggest compliment on my comedy from a teacher from my grade school days. She said that my humor reminded her of Carrie Fisher. I wasn’t crying. The room was dusty and someone was chopping onions. She was a huge fan of body glitter and now to honor her, I wear some form of glitter for every show. As she has passed the torch of the Star Wars franchise to a new generation, I now see it as my duty to pass her memory on to a new generation also known as my niece and nephew. I’ll apologize to my sister now.
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.
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.
I’ve been asked how I come up with and write my jokes. The truth is, it’s really hard to explain this process without sounding like I’m being a smartass. Some of my jokes just come to me as I go about my day. That’s why the notebook in the featured image above looks like it’s seen a war. I never know when a joke is going to come to me, so my notebook is with me at all times.
Then there are the jokes that took a bit of work. For example, after sitting in a business meeting I thought to myself there’s a joke here, yet try as I might the joke didn’t come. So I brainstormed and wrote down reasons why people don’t really like going to business meetings and from that list, the joke was born.
Some of the jokes that have come easy to me only appeared that way. Sometimes it took a bit of trial and error and some were more error. There’s a lot of crossing out and scribbling in my notebook from jokes I started writing before deciding to take them in a completely different direction.
There are a few that pages where jokes may appear unfinished, but they’re not. While writing the beginning of the joke I may have stopped to Google something, gotten sidetracked, got distracted by a shiny object, or I may have been drunk while writing and fallen asleep. However, I always go back and finish it. I just do so on a different page.
Some comics will tell you that you need to follow a formula to write your jokes.
Premise + Act-out + punchline = joke
I tried following that formula and I just felt like it didn’t work for me. My writing felt forced like I was trying to be funny instead of just being funny. There’s a passage in the Tao Te Ching that tells us the more we sharpen a knife the duller it will become. We get so caught up in the rat race we call life that we forget how to just be. The same applied to me with my joke writing. I got so caught up in a formula that my writing came across as hackneyed and contrived, so I tossed the formula and just allowed myself to be funny. I’m not knocking the formula. If you use it and it works for you, great! The point is to find what works for you and keep writing.
Almost any time you have a group of stand-up comics talking the subject of the weirdest place you’ve performed comes up. There are more comics than there are stages, so if you offer us minutes, there’s a decent chance that we’ll say yes without sparing a second thought to logistics. We comics don’t tend to be terribly logical beings.
I’ve performed at a banquet hall near Bridgewater, a coffee shop in Robbinsville, a restaurant in East Windsor, a hotel on Roosevelt Blvd in Northeast Philly, the basement of the Hyatt Regency on Route 1 in Princeton, a grill and bar in Naples, Florida, and a barn in Basking Ridge. I spend Wednesday evenings on the second floor of an insurance agent’s office broadcasting on The Robbinsville Trainwreck.
The New Jersey Turnpike and I have a love-hate relationship and I’m actively contemplating installing a dash cam in my car to capture what I’m told are my funny road rage-fueled rants and my ridiculous facial expressions while parallel parking. Until recently I had only parallel parked successfully once: when I was 17 and taking my drivers test. I grew up in rural South Jersey, so being a country bumpkin I had no real use for fancy city parallel parking until after college. Road rage and parallel parking challenges aside, if you offer me minutes and a mic there’s a good chance you’ll probably get me there. No matter how bad the ride there was, I’ll forget all about it the second that mic’s in my hand.
Friday night I returned to the English Barn at the Farmstead Arts Center to host the graduation show of my comedy Mr. Miyagi Kurt Zimmerman’s stand up comedy class. I affectionately refer to it as the barn my mother raised me in and the birthplace of the horse I rode in on.
I learned my lesson from last year and came prepared with a crapton of water and my cooling towel. Thankfully, it wasn’t on the hottest freakin’ day of the year like it was last year. I got up and did 10 minutes of my best material to warm up the crowd then before I got the show really started, I told the graduates how I got my start.
Kurt invited me to a comedy show at Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ. I thought I was going to be watching the show, but he offered me time, handed me the mic, and said have at it. I got laughs and applause, fell in love with it and never looked back.
I watched three brand new comics get their feet wet for the first time and had a blast doing it. When you think graduation, you think pomp and circumstance, but this was not that kind of party. Everyone did a phenomenal job and the crowd was very supportive and into it. It was a great show and I can’t wait to watch the video.