Friday, January 29, 2010

They always come in threes

First off, here's the best JD Salinger obit out there, period.
I had a joke in my act when I first started out, it was a closer.
"Do you like impressions?" (crowd typically yells yeah, I pretend they do regardless)
"Here's my impression of JD Salinger"
Then I'd walk off the stage.

It was OK. Its biggest weakness was the only way it works is a closer, and if you don't get it, I walk off leaving the audience that doesn't get it sort of stunned and awkward.
Which isn't the feeling you want them to leave with. You want to close on a high. Pete Holmes appeared on John Oliver's new Comedy Central show recently, and at the end of his set he says, "you know what? I'm gonna audible" and says good night. He'd just gotten an applause break, and said "fuck it, I have a closer but look how much they love me RIGHT NOW."*
It's the 100% right move and the crux of why the JD Salinger bit stunk; it limited your options and didn't leave the crowd feeling good. Maybe some of them feel clever but it's a world of difference.

Sign of a comedian: somebody dies and he figures out a way to talk about his self-centered ass**.

Anyhow. Salinger was effectively dead to me for the last three decades; he touched my heart but he didn't want to meet me or the people who loved his writing. For him, he just had to get it on paper. It's really beautiful, in a way; my antithesis. I hope my creative output is beautiful, but I think deep down I want the recognition more than creating the art.
He was the opposite.
We could use more like him.

We also lost Howard Zinn. Initially I thought I'd write a piece comparing him to Salinger, but it eventually felt ghoulish and forced. Zinn was/is inspiring in his perspective.
It's all said better by people who knew more, so I'll tip my hat to his insight and let you read obits that have something to say.

Finally, the little midget lady from Poltergeist died. Zelda Rubinstein died this week. I'm not sure which of the three creeped me out the most; I think I'd go with Zinn.

Valhalla awaits!

* all speculation but I do practice the craft that is comedy.
** or just some sort of egotist. I could have just as easily gone into acting

Monday, January 25, 2010

Four legs Good. Some Two Legs Good.

My conservative friends like to make the argument that property rights are paramount to a stable society, and that one of the major downfalls of socialism is the lack of respect to property rights*.

What amuses me is the same adamant defenders of the property rights, and typically the ever-expanding powers of law-enforcement to battle ideologies (War on Drugs/Terrorism)are also accomplices to the grossest violation of due process in America today (if you don't look Arabic):
Asset Forfeiture.
One Great Article.

Your car, house, cashola - all potentially forfeit. Not yours. The State's. The illusion that you own it is to ensure you remain a productive member of society, but don't ever forget this: The State Will Take Your Shit.

The case above was actually found via another article on BoingBoing on another asset forfeiture law.

Due Process: It's just for the rich now. (although be really careful if you're rich, maybe Your Shit could run a police department!)

I'd like to point out that in neither of these two cases were there any sort of actual drugs.

Of course, who gives a shit, right? Habeas Corpus, around as a fundamental right since the fucking magna carta(signed in 1215) was suspended when the terrorists defeated us in 2001.


Also, I realize 2 weeks ago I said everything is going to be ok. I'm complicated and poorly thought out.

*I know I've simplified it a bit and lack of incentive is cited as often as property rights but I'm not interested in that at the moment. Let's agree that the argument pro vs con socialism is complicated.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The best part about this blog

There's very little I horribly regret writing from when I started it.
This is because it's under a year old I'd imagine.

The one consistent thing in my life since my twenties is near-crippling shame of the me from two years ago. "I'm better now, honest!"

Life is a learning process and most of the time I feel like I'm working really hard to catch up at basic stuff. Why do pit stains disqualify a shirt from service? It's not like I was shitting out of my armpits, it's just sweat that's crystallized and turned into something More Than Sweat. Sure, if it kills again you throw the shirt away. But the first one should be considered a mistake.

I sort of wonder where I was a year ago when I was writing here. I felt like I'd channeled this "Voice" for a while. It was interesting and I thought as a writer I was going somewhere that now feels like a dead end.
Not genuine I guess. It wasn't bad, I think... it was just unsustainable.
Most of my writing seems to derive from who I was reading when I wrote it.
You can find Cormac, Michael Ian Black, Klosterman, Palianhukczckh, and Sedaris streaked through my writing.
It's embarrassing, actually; often I feel I am style-less myself and merely aping that which I find fashionable.

I think the best part about kids is untarnished idealism.
"It's not fair!" seems like a completely viable argument to a kid.
That's how I feel about work tomorrow.
"It's not fair!"

That is the most depressing thing about my current job. It's basically the dream job - I'm paid well, 10 minutes from home, can work remote, am in a position as an expert. . . it should be great.
But there is still an obligation. I need to be at work tomorrow morning.
Not because I want to, because I have to.
And I've found even when you want to a lot, it's cold comfort when you don't.
But that's what being a grown-up is all about right? We get obligated into shit we don't want to do.
Now excuse me while I go make a baby.


(Babies do terrify me)
It is frustrating, though. A job I should love and yet I'm dissatisfied because it's on Their Terms.
An obligatory link outlining my deficiency.

I'm not sure what would make me happier - the despair dissipates when the weather changes, or it remains.
Technically, I guess if the despair dissipates I am, by definition, happier.
Curses, logic.

I just blamed it on the rain.
Good night!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Because I'm an asshole

I actually am very tickled about the Massachusetts race.
Part of it is the impotent outrage of the internet youth; their wails reverberate through the 'sphere and fill my schadenfreude quotient to the brim.

Part of me likes it because it's the perfect fodder for conspiracy theories. While I'm an atheist, I still want an orgiastic faith journey every once in a while. Conspiracy theories feed that need.

A big part of me is just excited for what happens.Will dems get ballsy and start using parliamentary trickery to slip stuff through?
Or will we go on the offensive and attack the de facto "No" vote as political chicanery?
Don't know.

The whole year though, I've just thought one thing.
If Barack Obama's favorite movie is not Blazing Saddles, then he needs to watch it again and lie some more.
Because fuck all if he ain't living it!

Quick edited post-script - recorded tonight. Set felt like it went decent. Will watch and probably hate it but I will be able to note what I hate.
Unfortunately the answer is probably, myself.

Mea Culpa

Since the cold light of the morning gives me some lucidity, I'd like to clarify my thoughts.
First off, if I sucked it wasn't the emcee's fault.
What I did wrong last night was:
  1. Didn't record it. No record shows me nothing of why I couldn't win the audience. Even if it TOTALLY WAS the emcee's fault (it wasn't) I'd have that on tape.
  2. Didn't feel connected at the get-go. Not sure how to correct this; maybe acknowledging the disconnect or something. . . maybe just powering through it and not worrying so much. Fake it till you make it sort of thing.
  3. Complained on stage the whole fucking time, and not "bit" complaining. Whining sarcastically about how much fun I was having - mature. Gee, why didn't anybody love me?
So yeah. My things I need to improve upon from last night.
The step towards improving isn't blogging about emcees or building thought palaces in my head where everybody hates me unjustly. Well, those are the easiest steps. The effective step:
Start taping this. If it fills me with shame to watch, maybe I need to see that.

And maybe, just maybe, this will all turn out to be the emcee's fault.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Because I like Burning Bridges

Hey Mister MC, I don't know you and you probably don't know me.
We're stuck here at an open mic together and, hey, I know I'm not a feature or headliner that is your ticket to easy street so I understand if you don't want to socialize.

And hey, we're at an open mic so really who gives a shit who bombs, right?

But work on your fucking intros, please. "Hey this guy's hilarious" is always always always better than "I've never seen this guy, let's hope he doesn't suck!" (paraphrased)
If you're really interested in comedy, chances are you'll work with a lot of people you've never seen before. Your job, as host, is to pump the crowd up to see them, not be an arbiter of truth.
You're fucking sales, not legal.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conan the Destroyer

Conan vs Jay. Lots of people watch one of these shows or the other it seems; they're all commenting and that's bullshit because every single one of you is biased.
Since I watch neither, I am not biased.
Therefore my opinion is more qualified as it is neutral.
Both Jay and Conan are right. Jay's tanking at 10 PM, he doesn't want to quit, but NBC's not going to leave him at 10 PM as some sort of pillow smothering grandma murderer via television. They need to lively that slot up.
Jay does not want to quit, therefore he talks to network. Zucker has to choose: screw Jay or screw Conan? He chooses to screw Conan.
However you feel about his choice, there really was no compromise. One of them was going down.
Conan pulls the shortest straw. His reaction is perfectly reasonable and smart: resign immediately. This salvages what pride he can, he leaves on his terms, and Zucker looks like the fucking asshole he was doomed to look like.

I feel for Conan mostly; he moved across country for this. Starting over sucks, and I can't imagine having millions of dollars doesn't complicate trying to build real relationships to rival the 20 years of ties severed less than a year ago.

I've started over multiple times; it's something you survive. Sometimes it's wonderful, but a lot of times it sucks. Mostly, it reminds me of LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends.


This morning I woke up, took a shower, then pulled on the jeans I wore yesterday.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We Live In A Police State!

I've been following the news about the blogger who leaked TSA security documents and was subsequently visited by TSA Agents posing as Federalis.
There's the follow-up tweet that was probably one of the Feds, and Frischling's inability/fear/complicity to own up to what happened there . . . it's gross.

My gut reaction is "OMG! Police State!" My fear and anger increases, and I almost click a link to Prison Planet. That'll get you lost in the weeds, but it's all faith based. Alex will run you around in circles with really fancy circular logic and "well that's what They're stopping us from knowing!" and he's basically a believer in Intelligent Design but God's an enormous prick.

Back to the headline - are we living in a police state? I don't think so.
What I think/hope this case is is just an ineffectual organization clumsily wielding power to protect/hide its own ineptitude. Which is exactly what we need protecting from, frankly, and I hope TSA people are fired for this.

The bottom line of this case is the same tired argument - security through obscurity. The TSA's methods NEED to be secret, because otherwise the terrorists will find ways to thwart them!
This is a flawed argument. The only time this is true is if the security system is flawed in the first place, and exposing the system exposes that flaw. The correct response isn't to cover the fact that there's a flaw in the system, you need to fix the system!

NPR recently aired a piece about "locksport" - lock picking contests that kids have. In it they interview a sheriff who is naturally appalled at such a social activity. May as well be mugging old ladies to him; lionizing an ability that can be used for evil is itself evil in his value system.

He may be right. Maybe locksport is a gateway drug to safe-cracking, which leads to home invasions, which leads to bank robbery, which leads to the Nakatomi Plaza heist.
Maybe that's how Hans got his start.

But I doubt it. It's just a hobby, like painting miniatures or sniffing glue.

I think the TSA and the locksport haters don't get is the same thing: if knowledge is all it takes to beat your system, then your system is flawed in the first place.
And it leads to bullies wielding power inappropriately, which is where laws come in to protect the private citizen.

This has begun to break down since the War on Drugs, and accelerated with the War on Terror.
Fortunately, Obama is backing off on calling it the War on Terror, and has stated that fighting a war on an ideology is unsound. (this is true)
This is why I doubt the police state is in our future. While examples abound of police corruption and over-reaches of power at every level from attorneys-general to beat officers, this is because people are flawed, not because our system has been overtaken.

I think there's still hope.

And hey, at least we're not North Korea. They were eating fucking bark.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve show

Last night's show reinvigorated me for comedy in a manner that I didn't expect.

It was a great show, put on by a bunch of Illini alums (I think). First of, kudos to them - they organized a helluva party. Mike Trainor and I were treated like talent, paid timely, and given mad amounts of alcohol for us and our significant others.
Sound was right, lighting was right, pizza was good, and everyone had a great time.

Show highlights (for me):
The Imp of the Perverse took over. I'd said to myself the day before "Just don't mention you went to Michigan State and you'll do fine."
So rather than mention I went to MSU, I lied and told a crowd full of Illini alum that I went to Indiana.
Which got seriously booed. I mean, hatred.
It was great.
Of course, I don't WANT them to hate me, so I then backpedal with "no no, I'm kidding, I went to Michigan State."
Booed again.
Next 30-45 seconds felt incredibly long as I floundered about trying to find a saving line to win them back. I did, but I lost some of them forever.
(My wife said I did two sets: Pre MSU and Post MSU)

The other fun moment was when I was wrapping up. Here's a nightmare: try plugging a website with a made-up word from a book about rabbits. I'd better find a way to make that shit funny and maybe spell the fucking word. I'm a marketing zilch.
So I'm muddling through this to a disinterested audience (hard fast bits they liked, anything more story-form they rapidly started table talking) and the noisemaker blows out when I'm saying something, really loud.
I smile and say, "I get it. Fuck you too."
Huge laugh, and I make that the end and bring up Mike.

Afterwards it was a pretty crazy party. Lots of people shaking my hand, some saying "hey you were really funny" and others saying "I really appreciated some of that stuff, but I don't think the crowd got it. I did though!"
Which is cool - my act is at times like a very annoying quiz show, "Do You Get The Reference?" I can't help myself, sometimes a joke is awesome for four people. I'm not dumbing it down if it's perfect as a Hamlet reference. Sorry, should have read more books.

I only had one person get their picture with me; she was maybe 25 with a great body. She draped herself over me and said "Pretend that you like me."
No pretending necessary; I'll just remind myself over and over that I'm happily married.

I honestly forgot how awesome a good show is; that's why in 2002/2003 I went up 5 times a week if I could.
2010 will have me fully committed to comedy in a way I haven't been in a while; it will be nice to see what comes of it.