Well, we're a mere two weeks into the new year and I've already hit my first full-fledged blue funk. Yeesh...the last blog was so full of gusto...with the expectations and the goals and whatnot. I'm still planning on fosberry flopping over the bar I set for myself, but I seemed to have stubbed my toe on the approach. I celebrated my 6 year shitcanniversary from DC101 last week...that never fails to get me thinking about what the future might hold when I get comfy and complacent in the ass groove on the couch of life. The screenplay I was yammering about in the last installment has been roughly outlined and I was happily surprised when I googled the name of my evil villain and got absolutely no results...that's as sure a test as any that you have an original idea these days. It's becoming a fun, if slightly aggravating, exercise to squeeze the lump of nerf in my noggin to come up with character names and establish the rules that will govern the little universe that the story takes place in. Now comes the part where I get off my ass and actually write a scene. It's taking entirely too long to fire up the rocket-bike and jump the Snake River Canyon between visualizing a scene and putting it on paper. So, there's that to deal with, plus I've been beating my head against a brick wall trying to come up with some new material. Anyone on the DC circuit can recite my act, complete with the I-uh's, so since I've polished that 30 minute turd to a streak-free shine, it's time to pepper in a couple new yucks for '08. Oh, and I have a mustache. I was sick for the better part of a week, and I didn't shave for awhile. When I finally got around to grooming the Teen Wolf sequel on my face, I decided to give the 'stache a shot. It'll either be gone by the next installment or I'll grow it to Wilford Brimley proportions...rides are a dollar. So, how are you?
I bring news that you've already seen, heard, and don't care about from the land of not much else besides Punxutawney Phil, the world's foremost immortal prognosticating rodent (suck it, Chuck E. Cheese). I braved the bitter cold, a sleepless night, and some shitty pancakes to bear witness to the furry oracle declare that six more weeks of winter are nigh (he also said to take the Giants and the under). Contained within this groundblog are the details of my journey. This is the story of how my plucky band of pals and I made the trek to stand in the cold and dark for 5 hours with 30,000 other goofy white people to watch some shmuck in a top hat yank a groundhog out of a stump at daybreak and tell us that Spring is going to start in March. I hope I'm not overselling this...
So, you may be asking yourself, "Why bother?" A couple reasons. Primarily, to indulge the whimsy of a friend, whose birthday is on Groundhog Day. The other reason was why the hell not? It's a fun thing to do once, cross it off your bucket list, and take a fun roadtrip. So, the group of us piled into a couple cars and left DC on Friday afternoon in the only kind of weather that would make northern Pennsylvania seem cheerier by comparison, torrential rain. Since Punxutawney proper was occupado, we stayed at a campground in DuBois (which is pronounced doo-boys, because PA is classy), about 30 minutes away. None of us had much of a clue as to the timetable of the blessed event, but we planned on getting up around 5am, since Phil was due to appear around 7:30. It wasn't until we dined at the local Ruby Tuesday that we found out that we overshot our estimate just a smidge. Our waiter let us know that in order to beat the inevitable crush of people and get a decent view, we'd have to get to Gobbler's Knob around the time it opened at 3am. So, we went back to the cabin, set our alarms for 1:45, and tried to grab some shut-eye. Waking up early wasn't going to be much of a problem for me, since the couch I was sleeping on conveniently folded out into a medieval torture device. Nothing like a spring in your spleen to give you a spring in your step when you wake up. We got up at the crack of night and bundled up for the kind of cold that makes you want to crawl inside a dead animal for warmth.
I had the pleasure of working with two cool guys from the west coast, Ian Bagg and Reggie Steele. It was alot of fun to watch Ian work. His style is predicated on great crowd work interwoven with his written material. Essentially, he does a different show every time. I'm horrible at talking to the crowd, which is a pisser because I like to think I'm a decent conversationalist. On stage, my brain likes to stick to the script and rejects crowd interaction like a bad kidney. I don't know if you read the other comedy blogs, I appreciate the brand loyalty if you don't, but you should give them a looksee. Anyway, Erin Jackson had a link to a Bill Burr interview in one of her recent blogs. In it, he talked about how it felt like he was "reading from a teleprompter" when he was starting out. That pretty much crystallizes the gear that I've been stuck in. If I read from a teleprompter, Ian Bagg is the on the scene investigative reporter. A long way to go for the metaphor, but it's an accurate comparison.
A word on proper audience etiquette when at a show like Ian's, that contains crowd work. Let the show come to you. Don't try to interject yourself. Speak when spoken to. I mention this because I encountered a putz who may well be coming soon to an open mic near you. About a third of the way into Ian's set on Thursday night, a guy sitting toward the back of the club leaves his seat and introduces himself to me. He says he's a former "teaser writer" for CBS and that he wants to start telling the jokes he's been writing all these years. He seems nice enough. I give him my card and point him toward DCStandup.com for open mic opportunities. Then he eyes an empty seat on the right side of the stage and asks me, "What do you think he'd do if I sat down over there?" I shrug, "He'd probably keep going with his show." He nods and waddles over to the spot he picked out. Sure enough, Ian acknowledges him. Everyone in the front couple of rows has had a piece of the action. Then this guy starts loudly piping up while Ian is talking to other patrons, acting as a giant sweaty impediment to comedy. This goes on for the rest of the show. Every time any comedic momentum is built up, this guy throws a handful of rusty nails on the road and blows out the tires. After the show is over, he comes back to where I'm sitting, looking for a high five. Normally, when a heckler comes up to me after a show, I nod and smile to keep the encounter as short as possible. But this guy, who planned on being on a stage at some point, needed to know how many pages of the comedy rulebook he had just wiped his ass with. "You weren't helping," I started. This stopped him in his tracks and he looked at me like a dog who just rolled over but was refused a snausage, "Wha?" "You contributed nothing to the show and you tried to be the show," I continued. At this point he was too drunk to process what I was saying to him or coherently defend himself. "If you're planning on doing stand-up, just know that what you did tonight is not cool. I'm not trying to be a douche. I'm just letting you know." Then I awkwardly started talking to someone else and he shuffled out of the showroom.
People always complain about getting cut off in traffic. Yeah, it's annoying, but can someone explain to me why the car that always cuts me off is the one with the Jesus fish on the bumper? I know you're looking forward to life in the hereafter, but let's stop trying to take me with you. They figure they've already been forgiven, so they treat it like a blank check for being an asshole. If you're born again, that's great, but I think you should have to wait 16 more years to get your driver's license...
We live in an age when everything can kill us. Phones, cigarettes, old age...life is a Star Trek episode, and we're the ensign with the red uniform on the away team with the bridge crew. There's one particular hazard that I think will be mankind's undoing. We created this monster for our enjoyment and it's only a matter of time before it destroys us. Diet Chocolate Cherry Dr. Pepper. This isn't a beverage, it's a run-on sentence. I hope Dr. Pepper is an oncologist, because this chemical cocktail is enough to grow tumors in sand.
The economy is pretty bad right now, but it can get much worse. I can't wait to see a show like The Price Is Right in a couple years. There's one of your leading economic indicators. It's already a great way to track unemployment. Just look at the ratings. The more people out of work, the more people at home at 11:00 cheering the price of dish soap. But the real fun starts when the economy truly collapses. You'll see Drew Carey up there, "What's the bid on this $100 bill?" A peso and ten yen, Drew. Or, "What's the bid on this BRAND NEW CAR?" TWO CANS OF SOUP!! Instead of new cars, they'll just wheel out the full gas tanks.
And now, Vegas. On Friday night I packed my bags and met up with Jon and Amy Mumma, Jay Hastings, Sean Gabbert, and Justin Schlegel to pre-game for our 6am flight to Vegas the next morning. After dinner, we settled in at the Mumma's to watch a movie that would set the tone for the entire trip. Casino? No. Ocean's Eleven? Pshaw. Vegas Vacation? Three strikes, my friend. We watched a documentary. The inspirational story of Jesco White, The Dancing Outlaw. Here's a small snippet of the wisdom we were basking in...
Basically, if the classic scene in Deliverance had tap dancing instead of banjo picking, you'd have the story of this back woods gene pool skimming. Do yourself a favor, put it in your Netflix queue, then when you get done watching it, we'll all go ball vaultin'. After we got done with that AND the sequel, we realized that we would have to leave the house by a little after 3am to time everything out right. So, we went to bed...with visions of Asian handjobs dancing in a couple of our heads.
We made it to BWI without incident and boarded the plane for beautiful, luxurious Newark, New Jersey. Yeah, we had a connecting flight and Continental didn't have the good taste to put their hub in a real city. I think we went through a toll booth while taxiing down the runway. It was a short flight from BWI to NJ, so the plane they put us on was essentially a toothpaste tube with wings. Tiny, cramped, and when you get off, you're in New Jersey. We already felt like winners. We had a short layover at Tony Soprano International Airport, then we hopped on the flight to Sin City. We landed in Vegas at 10am. It was a balmy 105 degrees. But it's a dry heat, right? I'll never rationalize that again. Dry heat can suck it. The wind blew hot. If that was dry heat, then Hell must serve saltines. We had a couple hours before our rooms were ready, so we checked our bags and surveyed the blinking and beeping landscape of the MGM Grand where we were staying. There were six of us on the trip and we had two rooms booked. Mom and Dad (Amy and Jon) got one room and the rambunctious kids (me, Jay, Sean, and Justin) got the other. Two beds in our room. Care to do some math with homo-erotic overtones? Luckily, there was a body pillow on the bed that was used as a buffer zone. The primary reason for our trip was to check out UFC 86 which was happening that night...the other four days was just gravy...and in that heat, we made our own. Once we got showered up, we headed over to Mandalay Bay for the bloody festivities.
How 'bout them 'lympics, huh? Riveting human drama. I, like many, had an olympic-themed party...I ordered Chinese food and chain smoked with the windows closed. Michael Phelps is essentially Aquaman. He's breaking world records like plates at a Greek wedding. Those records are tainted, I think. All of these swimmers are wearing these high tech suits that have microscopic dolphins sewn into them. Mark Spitz wore a speedo and a 'stache that produced more drag than a Bosom Buddies reunion special. I think Phelps should have to wear his medals in the pool to even things out a little.
I turned 33 last week and have just recently finished the whirlwind celebration. Unlike previous birthdays in my thirties, I don't feel much older this time around. For 31 and 32 I expected to look in the mirror and see Lance Henrikson staring back at me. Not this time...it was just another day with cake. By the way, there needs to be some kind of federal regulation on the sugar content of birthday cake frosting. I nearly went into a diabetic coma from a single whiff of the stuff. The cake should've come with an epi-pen. I'm just saying, I'd like to enjoy my 33rd without risking my shot at the 34th, to stick a fork in it without having to stick one in me, to have my cake and not eat it too...ok, I'm done.
I'm not a big issue guy. When it comes to picking a presidential candidate, I'm like a girl on Match.com...sense of humor is, like, sooo important. I think it shows a capability for abstract thought that is important in a leader. Besides, in order to be effective, you have to be, at the very least, charismatic. I have some problems with McCain, which are purely superficial, but that's how I roll. First, he says "Warshington". Learn to pronounce it first, then maybe we'll let you live there. Also, he whistles his esses when he talks...irks the everloving crap out of me. When I close my eyes, Obama sounds presidential...McCain sounds like a cartoon squirrel. And have you seen Cindy McCain? She creeps me right the fuck out. She looks like someone spackled the Crypt Keeper...
I just got back from the bris for my buddy Seth's new little munchkin, Ethan Perry...who will eventually be a member of the cast of the 2028 (when our already insipid retro ironic self-referential pop culture is hip again, ripping a hole in time...get all that?) revival of 90210, with a name like that. This was the second winky snipping that I've witnessed. Only slightly less cringe-inducing than the last one. The kid put up a bit of a fight, when he peed on the mohel right before the circumsnippage (look it up) occurred. For some reason, the mohel had a bluetooth in his ear the whole time, I guess in case of a last minute pardon from the governor.
And that pretty much completes the self-indulgent circle. Yeah, I know I left out a few months, but the year did zoom by just that fast. 2008 was a pretty stagnant year for me comedically, but a stellar year for my life off-stage. In '09, I will continue the quest for the perfect balance of the two. Let's not be so easily distracted in '09. When in doubt, let's get off our ass and on a stage. And, finally...let's stop procrastinating.
Here's to George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Gary Gygax, Eartha Kitt, Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Bettie Page, Robert Prosky, Levi Stubbs, Don LaFontaine, Isaac Hayes, and Speedy.
Thanks for taking a couple minutes out of your year to pelt your eyeballs with my typed tripe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy doing it...to you.
See you next year...