My Dad: Also my first heckler

I don’t really include a lot of jokes about my dad in my act. He died on December 12, 2012. Yes, that’s correct 12/12/12 in case I ever wanted to try to forget the worst day of my life. Regardless of the date I assure you that every second of it would be firmly burned into my mind like a brand from a hot iron. When I started doing stand up at the end of 2015, almost three years to the day later, I initially shied away from writing material about him, not because I don’t have positive things to say about him but more because I felt disrespectful poking fun at him. However, I’ve learned that in comedy nothing is sacred and limiting yourself in terms of material is a mistake, so I started slowly but surely adding jokes about my dad into my act. After all comedy is in part telling my story and the man isn’t just 50% of my DNA he’s also a massive character in my story.

Before he became my father, he was first a son who tried to smuggle a puppy into his parents’ house. His friend at school had a bulldog and she had puppies and her parents wouldn’t let her keep them all, so he took a young male who has brown in color and named him Rusty. The game was up when my grandfather heard Rusty crying in the basement, but he couldn’t bring himself to make my dad give the dog back. In exchange for this, the dog was solely my dad’s responsibility and one that he shouldered well. My dad was a sucker for animals and I clearly inherited this trait from him. Fast forward a few decades and long car trips involved many stops for our husky Trina but my sister and I had to hold it, “We’re not getting a damn cat,” turned into “Who’s Daddy’s kitty?,” and there are more pictures of Bob the Pug in the house than there are of his children or stepchildren. Just saying.

IMG_0882After successfully smuggling a dog into his parents’ house, he went on to high school then enlisted in the United States Army. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne. That means he jumped out of a fully operational aircraft consensually. He didn’t fall. Nobody pushed him. All the respect in the world to our service people, but HOLY CRAP ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! God bless y’all because there’s no way in hell I’d do that. He also crawled under barbed wire while being shot at by machine guns with every third round being a tracer round. Nothing says keep your butt down like watching a tracer round go whizzing by less than an inch above it. I think about that every time I do push-ups. The first joke I wrote about him had to do with this very topic because if I jumped out of a plane you’d have to shove me out and do it far from the ears of the enemy because my screaming would surely give away our position.

After his Honorable Discharge, he went to college and became a teacher. As it turns out, my dad liked kids as much as he liked animals and he helped lots of them and ended up having two of his own.

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I’m going to apologize to my sister now and politely ask her not to punch me in the face for including this photo.

My father was a stubborn man and at some point in his life, my grandfather told him that he hoped he had a kid who was just like him. He thought he dodged that bullet with my sister. Four years later, ta-daaaaaaaaaa! My paternal grandfather died before my sister and I were born, but on July 6, 1982 somewhere in Heaven he was laughing his ass off and he laughed even harder when I became a teenager. There were many times in my childhood when I’m sure my grandfather’s words came back to haunt him. I remember more than once seeing him look at me and just knowing that he wanted so badly to be mad but he couldn’t be because he saw so much of himself in me. That may very well be the only reason I survived to adulthood. I’m actually terrified of having children because my father said the very same thing to me and I’m like the Highlander. In the end there can be only one.

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Yes, those are honor cords and yes he pushed me so that I would earn them.

On his honeymoon with my mom, Dad had a few too many Mai Tais at a Don Ho concert and proceeded to heckle him. Were my father still around to watch me perform, I absolutely believe that he would heckle the crap out of me, no Mai Tais required. Why do I say this? Because every B I brought home should’ve been an A and would’ve been if I had just put my mind to it and studied harder. If I got a C I failed the class. It may have taught me to be hard on myself and hold myself to a high standard and reach for perfection that I know damn right well is not attainable in everything I do, but it also gave me more drive, ambition, and a strong work ethic.

As a high school softball pitcher I heard “Throw strikes!!!,” being shouted from the stands. The second joke I wrote about him had to do with his efforts to teach me how to play golf. I maintain that there are certain things that no father should ever attempt to teach his daughter and golf is most definitely on that list. If it’s not item #1, it’s definitely in the top 5. His sage advice included gems like “Hit the ball straight.” Thank God he pointed that out to me BECAUSE I HAD NO IDEA!!!! It truly is a small miracle that neither of us came home with golf club-shaped bruises.

Dad + Me age 5My first words to him when he was in the hospital were “I’m sorry, Dad. I should’ve been a better kid.” Yes, the Girl Scout, the honor student, the choir girl, the quintessential high school nerd that every teacher loved stood there and wished she’d been a better kid. My sister also pointed out how ridiculous that sounds. Sure, we drove each other crazy. Every kid drives their parents a bit crazy. Every parent drives their kids a bit crazy. My dad pushed my buttons so well because he installed half of them. He also made me driven, stubborn, hard-working, and funny.

 

Rejected NJ Puppy Mill Law: Proof that Chris Christie Would in Fact Kick Your Puppy

 

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Do NOT let this man near your pets!

Chris Christie rejected a law that would have banned the sale of animals from puppy or kitten mills in the state of New Jersey and proposed stricter penalties for breeders cited for USDA violations. He stated that the proposed law “goes too far.” I have a little message for Mr. Christie:

 

Mr. Governor, since you tend to use blunt language that matches your wit I’m going to put this in a way you’ll be sure to understand. Are you fucking kidding me? How can you say that a law to protect defenseless animals from over-breeding, inadequate care, and abuse goes too far?

 

 

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Does this photo go too far?

You claimed that the “three strikes” provision which would have revoked a pet shop or breeder’s license upon being cited for three USDA violations would punish responsible breeders. Mr. Governor, any responsible breeder will tell you that a breeder who has been cited three times for USDA violations is anything but responsible.

 

 

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What about this one?

Puppy mills are illegal in New Jersey, but there are more than 8,000 out of state puppy mills that do business with consumers in the state of New Jersey. You see, Mr. Governor it’s 2017. We have this thing called the Internet and irresponsible breeders use it to conduct their business with consumers in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

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Look at this dog and tell me you were justified, sir!

How you can support rejecting this bill in a country where overpopulation is the number one killer of animals is beyond me. Every 11 seconds, a healthy animal is put down in an American animal shelter. In the three minutes it took you to read this far, 16 animals have died. By the time you finish reading this entry in its entirety, assuming you even bother to read it since Lord knows your Party doesn’t have the best track record of actually reading the laws it makes decisions on, an additional 22 animals will be dead. Let that sink in for a moment and that will bring the number of animals killed to 39.

 

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Tell me this cat deserved to suffer so consumers can have access to pets.

Your claim that this bill would have “the unintended consequence of restricting consumer access to pets,” is completely unfounded and downright asinine. Consumers can go to their local animal shelter or rescue organization and adopt a pet for an adoption fee that would be much lower than the cost of purchasing from a breeder or pet store. They can then spend the remainder of what they would’ve spent to purchase an animal on appropriate licensing, food, beds, treats, toys, a session with a certified trainer, and a vet visit.

 

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This is not necessary for New Jersey’s economic growth

This spending will stimulate the state’s economy and help eliminate the need for puppy and kitten mills. The state gets revenue and no animals have to be over-bred, abused, or die. It’s a win-win. Adoption would also have the added benefits of freeing up space in overwhelmed shelters and rescues and removing stray animals from the streets of New Jersey making them safer for animals and humans alike.

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Nor is this

I suspect that you might not understand what it is to love and care for animals since you have no pets. I knew there was a reason I didn’t trust you other than your attacks on education funding and your support of Donald Trump. Honestly, sir you are a married man and you have daughters and you still supported Mr. Grab ‘em by the pussy? I guess party politics are more important to you than respect for women. Close any more bridges lately? What? Too soon?

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Or this!

I understand you’re pro-business. You might as well walk around with corporate sponsor badges on your suit like a Nascar driver. I don’t harbor any delusions about the Democratic Party either. Frankly I think you should all wear your special interest sponsor badges. At least then we would know exactly what you stand for. However, when being pro-business also means being pro-animal cruelty that, to use your own words, goes too far. I’d hire the actress from Game of Thrones to follow you around ringing a bell and shouting “Shame!,” but I’d rather save that money to donate to my local animal shelters, rescues, and your political opponents. The day you leave office will be a good day for New Jersey.

Sincerely,

Lynne Emonds

Animal lover, rescue volunteer, stand-up comedian who makes fun of you, and your dissatisfied constituent

Transphobia: I don’t get it

There seems to be a lot of controversy around transgender people and their use of public bathrooms. There are some (read: bigots) who seem to think that if transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom assigned to the gender they feel comfortable in rather than the one they were assigned at birth, perverts the world over will get the idea that if they throw on a wig and some make up, they’ll be free to hang out in ladies rooms and molest women of all ages. This logic makes no sense to me because the very same people who think this way put a pervert who wears a wig and make up and openly brags about sexually assaulting women in the White House.

Let me go ahead and break this down for you piece by piece and using small words so that your tiny pea-sized brains will understand: TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE TOO! That means like all people they go potty. It also means that they should have the same basic rights you and I do.

But what about our daughters? Don’t they have the right to potty in relative safety? What if some pervert pretends to be transgender and tries to molest them?

Fact: More Republican lawmakers have been arrested for sexual misconduct in public restrooms than transgender people. It’s true. Google it. I’ll wait. But more importantly, if you’re so concerned for your daughters’ safety why exactly are you not escorting them into the public restroom?

She’s a teenager. What if she’s out with her friends?

Seriously? Have you ever seen a teenage girl out with her friends go into a bathroom alone? That’s what I thought.

But what if she’s on a date with her boyfriend?

Then the boyfriend is the one you should be worried about because I promise you he’s the one who’s trying the hardest to get at your daughter’s bits below the belt. But if you’re really that concerned about her using a public restroom by herself, teach her how to defend herself. Hint: the answer is almost always kick the groin.

Well I still think there ought to be a law requiring people to use the bathroom assigned to the gender they were born with.

Of course you do, but let me ask you this: How exactly would we go about enforcing such a law? I don’t know about you, but if someone walked up to me in a public restroom and asked me to show my genitals, I’d punch that person in the throat. You complain about how high taxes are now. Imagine how high they’ll be when we have to allocate public funds to enforce a ridiculous law on who uses which bathroom.

Why don’t we talk about the real issue here, that being your obvious transphobia, hmm? I get it. People fear that which they do not understand. You’ve always felt comfortable in your gender and don’t understand how anyone possibly couldn’t feel the same way. Okay think about why people dye their hair. Let’s say you were born with blonde hair, but as you age, you start to feel like your hair color just doesn’t fit you. You try everything. You try styling it differently, different cuts, etc and you still just don’t feel comfortable in your own skin as a blonde and you think you’d rather have brown hair, so you dye it. No big deal right? Sure some people may hate on you, but you’re happy and that’s what matters. At its very core, this gender issue is basically the same. Admittedly comparing changing gender to dying one’s hair is perhaps oversimplifying it and doesn’t entirely do it justice. After all, it’s not very likely that your parents will disown you for dying your hair. However for the purposes of explaining something big and complicated to people whose minds are small and closed, oversimplification can be a useful tool.

But what if my kid turns out to be one of those freaks?

Come on. Really? Transgender people are people just like you and me. They’re not freaks. We talked about this. A chance meeting with a transgender person in a public restroom is not going to turn your non-trans child trans. It doesn’t work that way. Frankly the fact that you think it does makes you a very special kind of stupid. If your child is going to be trans, it’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it at this point because you see, your child has already been born and oh my God I can’t believe I have to say this in 2017.

When you were expecting your child before you knew what his/her gender was going to be, you didn’t care right? When people asked you said you just wanted a healthy, happy baby. So um…what exactly has changed? Why would you feel any differently now? Do you not love your child? Seriously what the hell is wrong with you? If you disown your transgender child, there’s a very special place in hell for you. I’m also going to need you to take that Jesus fish off the back of your car because anyone with your lack of compassion and tolerance has no right to call themselves a Christian.

Fine but they should have to use a separate bathroom from the rest of us.

Oh sure and while we’re at it, maybe we should make them use separate water fountains, make them sit in the back of city busses, and go to “separate but equal” schools. See, that’s how legal precedent works. First it’s a separate bathroom and then down the slippery slope we go until we bring back segregation. But here’s another fun fact about legal precedent: When the Supreme Court rules something unconstitutional, it’s pretty much game over for that law. Newsflash! In case you missed it, Brown v. Board of Education ruled state-sponsored segregation illegal in 1954.

I have a novel idea for you! JUST PEE OR POO AND MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS! If the person in the restroom looks like a female from the waist up, assume she’s female. If the person looks like a male from the waist up, assume he’s a male. What goes on in the stall is between you and your deity of choice, so why should it be any different for them? What’s below your waist is none of their business so why is what’s below their waists any of yours? Seriously how old are we? Grow up! Just do your business and mind your own.

Why I’m Refusing to Shut Up

I’m going to post this entry now before the current fascist dictatorship…I mean Presidential administration in the US repeals the First Amendment. From the moment Lord Commander Marmalade entered the presidential race I have wholeheartedly opposed him. Every single thing about him offends me from his racism, xenophobia, bigotry, ableism, and misogyny right down to his God-awful comb-over, orange skin, and tiny hands. I am absolutely baffled at how such a disrespectful, sorry excuse for a human being even made it to the Republican National Convention, let alone got elected to the highest office in the United States. On November 9th I woke up and asked, “How the f*ck could we let this happen?” Then I remembered the sheeple who supported him. Well I hope you’re pleased with yourselves because you got what you wanted. An orange reality TV star is the president and you have a Repugnant…I mean Republican majority in Congress.

Oh and by the way, for all of you moderate Republicans who are watching your party get hijacked by the Tea Party and alt-right, I don’t feel the least bit sorry for you. This is your circus and they are your monkeys. You could’ve stopped them and taken your party back. You could’ve said to hell with the legal quagmire that would result and run a contested convention. You had a chance to stand up, but you chose to go along with the insanity and now you have a misogynist in the White House. Your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers must be so proud.

You can say “sour grapes” all you want. You can call me a snowflake and tell me to stop whining and just accept the fact that Hillary lost and he’s our president now and I should respect that and respect him. That’s fine. Freedom of speech is great! However I’m going to respectfully disagree. Sour grapes, my ass.

This isn’t about who won or lost. It’s about standing up for what we believe is right and that is as American as apple pie and baseball. Say what you want about the women who marched on January 21st. No matter what Il Douché tells you, more people mobilized in support of the Women’s March than the Inauguration. Criticize the airport protests all you want, but the public outcry got the attention of a Federal judge. Gosh! I gotta tell you I feel so safe now that those terrifying five year olds are being put in cuffs and dealt with! I can now walk the streets at night safely knowing that I won’t be attacked by a crayon-wielding terrorist! Oh wait, I should explain that last statement in case anyone from Cheeto face’s base is reading assuming that any of them are even literate. That statement about a crayon-wielding terrorist is what’s called sarcasm. I don’t feel any safer and I damn sure don’t walk the streets at night because I’m a woman and we can’t do that. (see previous entry)

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I can’t un-see this

We’re resisting because we refuse to normalize hate. We’re resisting because we see what’s really happening and refuse to have the wool pulled over our eyes and surprise! It’s working. The phone lines of Republican Senators have been blowing up with untold thousands of calls. The repeal of the ACA has caused Republican Representatives to have to duck out of back doors to avoid their angry constituents who want to know why they’re trying to take away their health insurance.

Even scientists are standing against the “alternative facts” and the gag order that was placed on them. Organizations like the National Park Service and NASA now have alternate Twitter accounts where they can speak freely. Even the Pope is resisting. Pope Francis is departing from the traditional Papal role of silent observer of all things political and openly criticizing the administration’s treatment of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims and calling for all Catholics to do the same.

We’ve seen this before and we don’t want to see it again. This administration is taking pages right out of Hitler’s playbook, but Hitler was much more dangerous because unlike this dream team of geniuses (<=sarcasm) he was smart. Hitler promised a better world, a German world. Trump promised to Make America Great Again. Hitler rose to power by criticizing the government. Trump criticized the government and promised to “drain the swamp.” Hitler reached out to frustrated Germans. Trump reached out to frustrated Americans. Hitler criticized the press and told people where to get their news. Trump won’t even entertain questions from CNN reporters and has told people to get their news from Fox or Breitbart since other outlets report “fake news.” Hitler maligned Jews in Germany and used them as scapegoats. Replace Jews with Muslims or immigrants or women or LGBTQ or any other group he’s attacked and you have Trump.

Those of us who learned history don’t wish to be doomed to repeat it. In 1939 we turned away Jewish refugees at our shore. Over 250 of them were then murdered in concentration camps. The Diary of Anne Frank is a popular reading choice in American schools. The strict immigration laws leading up to World War II caused us to deny entry to her family. Anne Frank could be an 88 year old woman living in Boston. Instead we allowed her to be murdered in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 16. Still think this is about an election?

We’re not fighting over politics. We’re fighting for our rights. We’re fighting for our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and families. We’re fighting for the future, ours and yours.  I will not shut up. I will not be complicit. I will not obey. I will resist because I love my country and it’s the right thing to do.

Being a Godparent

Last week my nephew, affectionately called my neff (as in Hey yo, Neff!) because it annoys my sister, was baptized into the Catholic Church and in addition to the privilege of being his aunt I have the honor of being his godmother and his sister’s aunt and godmother. This may be a surprise to some people, especially those who have seen my act. Yes there are things about the Church that I don’t agree with like a woman’s right to choose, its treatment of the LGBTQ community, its mishandling of the clergy molestation scandal, and let’s not forget its silent consent of the slave trade, its platform of non-involvement in the Holocaust, and the Spanish Inquisition. And yes, I poke fun at the Church in my act.

On the flip side of this coin, I think there are a lot of things that the Church gets right. I agree with Jesus’ message of love and tolerance. I believe that the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are a good framework for anybody to lead an upright life. I believe that principles like honesty, fair dealing, and respect for others regardless of their race, nationality, social status, etc. are important. I believe in having a personal relationship with God. I also believe that going to church every week and giving your tithes doesn’t make you a good person. Your character does.

See, that’s what I plan to teach my niece and nephew. You can sit in that pew every week… well religiously and still not be a good person. There are people who go to Church every Sunday but tell the homeless person they see on the street to get a job, kick the stray cats that cross their paths, and then go home and beat their kids, their spouse, and their dog. Then again there are people who don’t go to Church who buy a cup of coffee and give it to the homeless person they see on the street, leave food and clean water out for the stray cat population, play with their kids no matter how tired they are, treat their spouse like gold, and spoil their rescue dog. The difference is character, not how much time you spend sitting in a pew.

My godchildren are going to learn as they grow up that I belong to a charitable organization, that I donate my time to an animal rescue, that I would never ignore a crying child, and that I would never stand idly by and watch someone be abused or bullied. They’re going to learn that I will raise my voice and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves because someone has to do the right thing. I am someone. I can sit and teach them with words, but as they say in Game of Thrones, words are wind. Kids don’t really learn from your words. They learn from your actions. That’s why when my niece was three one of her favorite toys was an old washcloth that she would use to play clean up. My sister cleans a lot and often. My niece was imitating my sister’s actions through her play. Incidentally when she got her play kitchen, she used it only for washing the play dishes until she was four. Then she cooked a little and made hot beverages before playing wash the dishes. What can I say? She’s my sister’s child.

A godparent’s responsibility is to assist a child’s parents in their religious upbringing. I understand that and all jokes about the Church aside, I take it very seriously. The most important thing I can teach them is to be kind and the best way to teach them is by showing kindness. However I also think it’s important that they learn that God has a sense of humor and if all else fails you can do a deathbed retraction. It worked for Chaucer. If they grow into kind, caring individuals I’ll call that a win and anyone who messes with them better pray really hard that I don’t find out. I’m not just their godmother. I’m also their crazy aunt that you may have been warned about.

Krautmas in Peril!

Story time! I warn you this one is not for the faint of heart or stomach, but I’m posting it here anyway because I figure a little bathroom humor never hurt anyone. If you’re good with poo jokes please enjoy having a laugh at my expense.

My sister decided that Christmas Day is only for immediate family (i.e. husband and kids) and not extended family (i.e. aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.). There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s different from what we grew up with, but it’s not wrong. It’s just different. It has however left a gaping hole in my holiday schedule and those of my mom and my aunt in the form of Christmas Day. So, we decided to start our own tradition which we refer to as Krautmas.

My mom and aunt come over and are served a German dinner of sauerbraten, sauerkraut, schpeitzle, noodles because my mom isn’t a fan of schpeitzle, a nice glass of Riesling, and apple strudel for dessert. With the exception of the apple strudel, all the recipes are ones I learned at the feet of my German grandmother in her kitchen which is incidentally the same place I learned what “scheisse” means. In case you’re wondering the apple strudel recipe I use is courtesy of the fine folks at Google.

Krautmas begins on the 20th with placing the meat for the sauerbraten in a brine made of vinegar and other ingredients which remain a highly classified secret of House Barton. It also involves cleaning my entire apartment from top to bottom to pass my mother’s white glove inspection which for some odd reason includes opening closets and drawers. Apparently in my mother’s mind this is a totally normal thing to do in someone else’s home. My sister and I have made a game out of leaving items in certain places to mess with her. She’s not nearly as amused as we are.

This year, events conspired that put Krautmas in grave peril. Twas the Monday before Krautmas and all through the house I spent 36 hours on the porcelain telephone talking to Ralph. In other words, I contracted what I can only describe as the most hellacious of stomach viruses. You know it’s bad when you’re sitting on the porcelain throne with a bucket in your lap. I was unable to make the brine and place the meat to soak it for the customary 5 days of Krautmas both for fear of infecting my loved ones with a sickness I wouldn’t wish on the cockroaches that infest my worst enemy’s place of dwelling and also because I couldn’t lift my head without feeling nauseous and no, children the secret ingredient of the House Barton sauerbraten is not vomit. Sorry to disappoint.

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The Knight Bus

Nevertheless, my polite requests for someone to shoot me were denied, and the following evening things began to look up and I found myself able to stand and even speak coherently. It was wonderful! I used these abilities to talk my significant other through making the brine and placing the meat into it since he dodged the viral bullet, the bastard. Krautmas was still on! However it would face its biggest challenges the following night which proved that the virus was not done with me. Oh no! Not yet! I still had to endure hours of going to the bathroom every twenty minutes to expel liquid fire. You know it’s bad when you reach a point where you go and there’s nothing except poo dust. It was like my backdoor coughed and sputtered its last breath.

Naturally I was a bit concerned so I called the doctor in the morning. When I told them my symptoms they said that what I had was the Sydney norovirus. It’s called that because it originated in Sydney, Australia which is further proof that everything that can kill you comes from Australia. I was told not to come into the office since there’s really nothing they could do, let it run its course, drink fluids, don’t be alarmed if I don’t bounce back right away, and call back if it gets any worse. They also told me to eat bland foods. I hung up with my gurgling guts feeling like lead. Bland food? That would eliminate like ½ of my Krautmas menu! Noooooo!!!

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The Burrow, aka the Weasley house because Dickens Villages are for normal people.

However undaunted and because I was desperate for relief I drank unknown amounts of water and Gatorade and rested at home instead of getting up to my normal evening activities like the radio show and martial arts training and woke the next day to the sudden realization that my guts were not gurgling, I had no pain, and I had slept an entire night without once getting up to expel something truly awful. I didn’t celebrate yet. I kept my composure until around mid-morning. I took a constitutional and *gasp* IT WAS SOLID!!!! I wanted to dance, but feared that my sanity would be questioned or someone would be convinced that I was having a seizure and call 911. However, I couldn’t contain my joy entirely so I texted my mother in all caps “I HAD A SOLID BOWEL MOVEMENT!” I don’t know what was funnier, the fact that I actually sent a text to my mother describing a bowel movement or her response which was “Praise the Lord!”

And so it came to pass that the virus from hell returned whence it came from and there was much eating of German food and rejoicing. It was a Krautmas miracle!

Harry Potter and Christianity

Being a fan of Harry Potter I’ve heard it said by a number of fellow Christians that they feel the series is inappropriate due to its ties to witchcraft and/or wizardry. Now your faith is your faith and your opinion is your opinion, however I feel that anyone who feels that Harry Potter isn’t appropriate for Christian readers has completely missed the entire message of the story.

The Harry Potter series can be studied as an epic and that means that we’re presented with a larger than life hero who faces nearly insurmountable odds to defeat a larger than life villain.  Love and the absence thereof is a continuous theme throughout the series. You have an arrogant villain who has never known love and you have a humble hero who was so loved by his parents that they gave their lives to protect him and his friends who risked everything for him time and time again.

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Our villian, Voldemort is a wizard with both extraordinary power and extraordinary ambition. He is also extraordinarily arrogant which in the end becomes his undoing. Voldemort wasn’t born evil. No one is. He also wasn’t born Voldemort. Tom Marvolo Riddle was born to Merope Gaunt, a witch and direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin one of the four founders of Hogwarts and a muggle aristocrat by the name of Tom Riddle. His father left his mother while she was still pregnant with him and his mother died shortly after giving birth to him. He never knew the love of either of his parents. Being rejected by his father and losing his mother at such a young age is ultimately what turned Tom Marvolo Riddle into the evil Lord Voldemort. The old English epic poem Beowulf has a similar villain in Grendel. Grendel is a hideous monster because of his choice to separate himself from God’s love. We see a similar transformation as Tom Riddle changes from an attractive young man who looks like his father to an ugly, snakelike man as he destroys his soul by murdering innocent people so that he can become immortal.

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Our hero, Harry Potter, is also an orphan thanks to Voldemort who murdered Harry’s parents when he was only a year old. Harry was born to James Potter and Lily Evans. Lily sacrificed her life to save Harry and by doing so sealed a powerful magic in his blood that caused Voldemort’s killing curse to rebound off of Harry and hit him. Lily Potter’s final act was one of love and it saved our hero’s life when he was only a baby. This will be the first of many times that our hero is saved by someone’s love for him.

Voldemort didn’t have friends during his time at Hogwarts. He had followers and hangers on, but didn’t have anyone he could really consider a true friend that loved him. Harry on the other hand, had Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger and have couldn’t asked for two truer friends than them. He even had the love of Ron’s sister Ginny. They all risked their lives and made sacrifices for him. Everything they did for Harry was done for love. Everything that Voldemort’s followers did for him was out of fear of what he would do if they didn’t do what he asked.

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About to turn tail and run in 5…4…3…2…

The final battle of Hogwarts could be considered a show of love conquering evil. Harry Potter fought an army and then freely gave his own life to save those he loved then destroyed Voldemort once and for all with the help of his friends and all those who loved him. Voldemort may have had an army but not one of his followers stayed loyal to him in the end. Just look at the Malfoys who turned tail and ran as soon as they could.

Just because a story involves magic doesn’t mean that it’s not appropriate for Christian readers, especially when the entire message of the story is that love is the most powerful magic, more powerful than any spell including or Unforgivable Curse

. The Bible teaches us time and again that love is more powerful than any evil in the world and that God is love. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to consider Harry Potter anything other than a good story with a positive message.

Comedy Show Etiquette

One of the things I love about my country is the value we place on freedom of speech. It makes being a stand-up comedian not just easy but possible. In recent years, however there has been a movement toward a kinder, gentler, more politically correct culture and this is by no means a bad thing. However at times it seems as if our love of free speech and our desire to not offend people are at odds with each other. One need only to attend a comedy show to witness this first hand.

Margaret Cho bravely tried new material about the subject of rape at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick and most of the crowd either walked out, demanded a refund, or loudly booed and heckled her. The same happened to Amy Schumer when she made jokes about Donald Trump in the south before the recent presidential election. As if that wasn’t enough, people continued the heckling by taking to Twitter after both shows and bashing both comedians. I’ve had people walk out of a show after making jokes about church and I’ve been approached after a show for making fun of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. To ease the conflict between our love of free speech and the move we’ve made toward political correctness I’ve come up with a few guidelines for people who’d like to attend a comedy show.

  1. Bring your sense of humor with you.

Some don’t understand that the nature of humor is critical. What are you doing when you make a joke? You’re poking fun at something and when you poke fun at something in a way you’re criticizing it. The intent behind a joke isn’t malicious. The intent is to give you, the audience what you came for, a laugh. Try to remember to assume best intent.

2. Don’t take it personally.

We don’t expect you to like every single joke we make, but if we make one that you find offensive or one that makes you uncomfortable, please don’t take it as a personal attack because it isn’t. It’s only a joke and we only want to make you laugh, but at the same time if you don’t laugh we don’t get offended. We know going in that not every single joke we make is going to get a laugh and we’re okay with that. Honestly there’s no reason to get upset. It’s all in good fun.

3. If you can’t hang, leave.

If you want to leave the show, that’s fine and you’re well within your rights to do so, but please don’t disrupt the show or be rude to the other audience members who are only there to enjoy themselves. Just discretely exit and leave everyone else including the comic in peace.

4. No matter how it may look to you, understand that it’s not easy.

Stand up comedy is one of the hardest performance arts to do. It may look like all we do is walk on stage, pick up the mic, and spout whatever’s on our minds, but there’s a lot more to it than that. We’re told to perform a certain number of minutes. This isn’t a polite suggestion. Going over your time is the quickest way to never be invited to perform in that room ever again. It’s disruptive to the show and it’s disrespectful to the other comics who are going up after you. Make no mistake, the clock is ticking and the pressure is on. For every minute I perform I conservatively estimate that an hour’s worth of work has gone into it. There’s the time it took to write the joke, then the time it took to memorize and rehearse it, then any re-writing I’ve done, and then the time that goes into perfecting the delivery. It doesn’t look like work, but it is. I don’t come to your job and disrespect it, so please don’t disrespect mine.

5. Don’t insult us

If you don’t like our jokes, you don’t and that’s fine. If you want to leave, you’re certainly free to do that but you don’t get to insult my character just because I said something you disagree with. However if you really must insult me please understand that when I tell you to have a nice night, what I really mean is go f*ck yourself.

How Saving Them Saves Me

If you follow this blog you will become aware of two things: that I am a female stand-up comic and that I’m a lover of animals. I decided within the past year to put my love of animals into action and begin volunteering with a rescue and I have not regretted it.

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Proud alum Porkchop

Now here’s something not so obvious about me: I’ve struggled my entire life with low self-esteem. It’s kind of what happens when you grow up the scrawny nerd and you’re raised to be a perfectionist. It can’t be helped when you get your share of bullying and constantly hear about how nothing you do is ever good enough. I consider myself fortunate because I know there are so many people out there that have it worse, but this is my story so I’m telling it.

Being a perfectionist works to my advantage in a lot of ways, but sometimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help. In my own mind, I’m too short, I’m hard to look at, and my personality kind of sucks. I always have to make a joke, I accidentally interrupt people because I have a thought and get too excited to keep it in, and everybody tells me my voice carries which, and don’t lie to me, is a nice way of saying I’m obnoxiously loud. Really, it’s okay. I’ve come to accept this. Besides if you have the perfect life, stand-up comedy is not for you so if nothing else, it makes me funny. There’s my silver lining.

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Eligible bachelor Jake

However, I have good news for anybody who thinks badly of themselves like I used to and in fact still do sometimes. None of that shit matters. No, I’m serious. It really doesn’t matter. You know what does? Your character. Do you do your best every day to be a kind person? Are you kind to everybody and not just people who are like you? Then you’re a person of good character. None of that stuff you don’t like about yourself is important. I’m telling you this because I had to figure it out the hard way and I want to make it easier for others. If I help even one person then I’ll be happy.

Two groups tend to sense kindness in people: children and animals.I seem to be very popular among my friends’ children. Even kids who don’t really know me tend to smile at me. Now that may be because they sense that I’m an aunt who spoils the crap out of her niece and nephew, but you never know so the true test for me was when I started volunteering and working with rescue animals.

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Eligible bachelor Tazzy

After new volunteer orientation, I mingled with my fellow volunteers and the cats before visiting with more of my fellow volunteers and the dogs. When I rounded the corner, this female hound/pit mix made eye contact with me and surprised her handler by bee-lining for me. She was a shy dog and she’d never actually approached anyone like that before. So of course, I found myself unable to resist my urge to pet her and I saw a past in her eyes. We may never know the full extent of it, but it was clear that her life in rescue was the start of a new and better chapter. Shy dogs are often overlooked at adoption events, so I gave her as much attention as I could. A young woman came up and took to her right away. That woman adopted her within a few weeks. I felt like I witnessed and was even a part of the moment when that dog learned to trust again. Needless to say I was hooked and haven’t looked back. I didn’t choose the rescue life. The rescue life chose me.

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I regret nothing

 

Now what does this have to do with self-esteem? Well that’s simple. That dog didn’t care that I’m short. She didn’t even care what I looked like. She didn’t care about my jokes or any of my weird social quirks. She saw something in me. She knew just by sight and scent that I cared about her and wanted to help her. She’s not the only one, either. A notoriously picky male Chihuahua-Jack Russel mix approached me and jumped into my arms when I knelt down to pet him. My lap has also been jumped into. I’ve been leaned upon by dogs of all sizes. Leaning is a dog’s way of saying “I trust you. I feel safe with you.” I’ve had cats paw at me for attention which of course I gave to them. Look, all I’m saying is there must be something good about me. All these kids and animals can’t be wrong. So all that stuff I didn’t and well still kind of don’t like about me is eclipsed by their love.

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Proud alum Rocky

St. Theresa of Calcutta once said “Do small things with great love.” Giving my time and attention to rescue animals probably seems like a pretty small thing, but it makes a difference. Showing people their personalities helps them get adopted into loving forever homes and makes room for us to save another. Nothing builds self-esteem quite like knowing that you’re making a positive impact on someone’s life and that’s how saving them saves me. I only hope now that reading this helps someone else.

Another Friday Night @ Take 5

Friday night’s show at Take 5 was pretty special. It was on Veterans Day and we were lucky enough to have a veteran in the crowd who we thanked for protecting our right to entertain people with our jokes.

The very nature of comedy and humor is critical. You’re poking fun at someone or something. Nothing is sacred. Yet, I noticed that even though the result of our election was the elephant in the room we were all a little tentative about making our Trump jokes. As host I purposely put one out there just to test the waters in case the other comics wanted to blow off some steam. Thankfully it did not go over like a fart in church.

Our line-up included Chris Kiley, Tom Mongelli, James Camacho, Chris Sicoli, and Steve Schwartz. Everyone was outstanding and the crowd really enjoyed themselves. I ran the show to fill in for Kurt since he was out of town and I’m pleased to say that since Take 5 is still standing, his sound equipment is still intact, and nobody was killed or injured it went well. If you’d like to see my set, you can watch it here.