I had to do some repairs on my condo recently, which means I have three options. 1) Pay someone a ton of money (not going to happen). 2) Lay down and kick and scream and hope someone feels bad for me and fixes the things (more likely than 1). 3) Get my dad or wife to do it and “help.” I “help” by holding things and fading in and out of focus thinking about eagles or beer.
We had to replace a wax ring on a toilet. Easy, right? Well, then I found you have to get all the bacteria laced water out of the bowl. Oh well, just wash up if it splashes on you OH GOD NO THE WATER IS TURNED OFF. I’m either going to die or I’m an actual cockroach. “What’s your mutant power, cockroach man?” “Oh, I can drink from a toilet and run from flashlights.”
I then had to replace a garbage disposal – pretty easy actually. However, did you know they don’t provide electric cords/plugs? That’s right, you have to buy the electrical stuff and do it yourself! That’s way easier than just plugging the plug in the outlet. I need more work to do! The downside is that when you realize the disposal has been broken for years smells like wet, rotting death, you are begging to go back to the toilet job.
I now think plumbers are the most underpaid people on Earth. In summation, it’s all fixed and if I was 7 times better looking, I could get a show on HGTV. At least maybe the white trash contractor who says, “This is gonna cost ya!” That’s more likely.
Over a decade ago, I finally partook in the American Dream. Drowning in a vat of Bud Light? Winning a lifetime supply of deep fried Twinkies? No, I bought a house. Well, actually a condo, which like a house, but for lazy people. It was great, I had a brand new build, with my own furniture and appliances like a big boy. I was ten minutes from work, I didn’t have to mow or shovel snow, and even had a workout center and pool a couple hundred yards from my front door. Me and Stringbean were living high on the hog. Then a little something called the housing crisis came along and condos were harder to sell to Tabasco lube.
It didn’t matter at first, but when I moved into my wife’s place, I had a place “underwater” so I had to perform the Black Sacrament and become (shudders) a landlord. It was at that time I realized all the shit that was falling apart. My first renter was my buddy and his family, just needed a temporary place, so it was cool. Then they moved into their house and the fun began. The first serious renter to be no showed on me for the lease signing, then asked to meet again and no showed again. When she reached out a third time, I told her to kiss all my ass and ta da! She signed with my next door neighbor that night instead, leaving me two more months of mortgage before I found a renter. (Author’s note – she was later evicted for having different gentleman callers make too much noise all night. In other words, she was likely a drug dealer or hooker.)
I finally got renters in and the fridge died, the dishwasher crapped out, the disposal took its own life and the carpet ripped. Did my renters call for most of those, no! They called for the tub not draining…after they were there for almost a year. In other words, it was full of body hair, so they thought that was my job to clean out their drains. Sigh. (I didn’t, by the way.)
Well, after five years of trying, I finally got a buyer and that old hall of memories will be for someone else now. I had a lot of good times there – it was where I lived when I started stand up, most of time I had Bean, and countless parties, from my annual Halloween Hijinx to random nights of Catch Phrase, cards, Insult Jenga and Guitar Hero sessions. I made my washer boards there, proudly displayed copies of America’s founding documents on the walls and used to sit on the balcony deck and BS with buddies who had came into town for one or two nights while we had cigars and beers listening to old music. Of course, I won’t miss neighbors calling the cops if the volume went over three or renters calling me to clean their pub hairs or the crippling fear of carrying two mortgages, but hey, memories, right?
The other day at work a commercial came on between songs that was so unique I had to reassess and make sure it was real. A local strip club was having a commercial – radio commercials on “man” stations are all male performance related, balding treatments or strip clubs. This one, though, was for the ladies…if they were pregnant. They’re hosting a local pregnant lady strip contest. Yes, you read correctly!
The commercial went on and on about the prizes, including car seats, gift cards, etc. Even a $1500 top prize. Ah, yes, how lovely a moment, moms, when you can look at your toddler and tell him or her, “Well, I’m glad you’re having fun on your bouncy chair. Mommy got that when you were in my belly! All I had to do was disrobe while with child, in front of your father and a bunch of other guys I’ve never met, some who probably visited some rather specific and socially unacceptable websites! Glad you enjoy that toy, sweetie!”
I mean, whatever happened to the good ol’ days, when gentlemen’s clubs stuck to jello wrestling? I say that example because I was booked at a bar once in rural Ohio. The owner shook our hands, then proclaimed, “I’ll warn ya, the floor is pretty sticky onstage, we had us some jello wrastlin’ last night and no one cleaned it up yet.” That’s when I knew I had made it. I can’t wait to tell that story at my high school reunion. Take that, Randy! You said I would never make it in show business!
I have a pretty good memory, but I really don’t remember when I started stand-up exactly, but it was some time in May 2007, so I know now it’s been over ten years. I remember I saved the first $40 I got paid and was going to frame it with the show flyer, then I ran out of Busch Light and remembered I am a man, so I don’t or can’t frame stuff, so the money was gone within about two weeks. Oh well. In all that time, I learned a lot and even more importantly, made some mistakes, so here’s some advice for other comics, especially new ones.
1. The harder you work, the faster you get you what you want. Not everybody has the same goals, but I guarantee you, if you have the goal of getting paid and after two years can’t kill 15-20 minutes, you need to write more. If you’re doing the same five minutes at every show for a year and nothing is happening, write more material. If you’re brand new and you do one open mic, especially the same one over and over, once a week, you won’t get better. If you don’t record your set – audio or video – you won’t remember your set well enough to use it and get better. I used to walk around my condo and practice five minute and longer sets with a TV remote in my hand to work on my timing and memorize my material. Now I can wake up from a dead sleep and do 30 minutes. I didn’t say it was good, but I can fill the time. All it took was walking around like a crazy person talking to myself for a couple years!
2. Challenge yourself, but don’t be an idiot. I encourage comics to take on new rooms; it makes you better. I did all women’s shows, college crowds, redneck biker bars, coffee shops and everything in between. Nothing makes you think about your set like the feeling that everyone may hate your guts. That said, if you can’t do five minutes clean, don’t sign up with a booker to do a 25 minute feature set at a church. The crowd will turn on you, the booker won’t use you ever again and the room may be outright cancelled. I’ve seen comics single-handedly kill off rooms more than once. At least don’t kill off the room until I’ve done it and got paid; then you can destroy it.
3. You’re not the last savior of the First Amendment, you’re a comedian. I get infinitely annoyed when a comic bombs and yells, “Oh you guys can’t handle someone speaking the truth!” Yes, I have heard this, or its close cousin – “That crowd was uptight; that’s the only reason I bombed” and “That wasn’t my room.” Quick note: The First Amendment gives you freedom to criticize your government without worrying you’ll be run to the gallows. It doesn’t mean that hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died so you could tell that joke about race or sexual assault that no one has ever laughed at, but hey, I guess every single crowd member ever is just uptight and hates America. In other words, if you’re bombing, don’t think you are Patrick Henry.
4. Get paid and don’t feel bad. I want to smack comedians that want to give back money or take less for shows. Think of how many shitty, godawful rooms you did well in when you started where you got a slap on the back and maybe $5, which didn’t cover your gas. Get your money when you can. Also, if you’re setting a room up, make sure you are getting something. I had a comic I respected come to an open mic I ran. This person was grumbling about a show they ran and hated it – wished it would close down. I said, “Well, at least you have some income on a regular basis.” “Oh, I don’t get paid to run that show.” “Then why do it?” There was a pause. “I’m not sure.” Unless you consider yourself a true artist, then pass the paying rooms to me and keep your integrity.
5. Marketing yourself. I think the most overrated part of stand-up is marketing. So many new comics focus on social media over material these days. If you are a sub-par comic, marketing won’t get you work. I once saw a business card for a brand new comic – no email, no website, but the tag said “Look me up on Facebook!” Sigh.
That said, you really do need a halfway normal headshot (please don’t take one looking like you just sat on a cactus or wearing a jester hat), a good five minute video clip to send to bookers and festivals, and an email you check every other day, at least. No one books comics via Twitter, but it can help spread your name if you have legit credentials. No one gets work off Facebook posts, but they can remind people about shows or booking you for things. I get really annoyed when I book comics who bitch about not getting work, then never promote the show I’m putting them on – so you can put up 34 anti-Trump or Obama posts and talk about your breakfast, but not mention the show you have this weekend? Lastly, have an intro or short bio. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but have something. I booked an out of comic off a recommendation and I have never wanted to punch a human being so bad in my life. “What’s your intro?” “I’m a funny dude.” Staring. “OK, that’s your intro?” “Man, I don’t care.” “I have to say something, just give me something.” “Say he thinks he’s funny. No, don’t use that.” Me, turning purple because I still have to check the mic, move tables and turn off the TV. “Any shows coming up? Anything?” “I don’t care.” He was up next and I walked up, “Your next comic is on now.” I walked off the stage before he got up. Enjoy the intro asshole.
I could give more advice, but that’s all. I can’t reveal all the secrets of being a millionaire comedian at once! (Looks for $40 in old drawers from first paid show at bowling alley)
A story making the rounds recently was the shut down of a burrito restaurant in Portland. It was viciously hounded and attacked online until forced to fold. Why? The owners, two white ladies, were accused of cultural appropriation. One of the owners told an interviewer they went to Mexico and studied the way burritos were made. The article also quoted one owner as saying “we were peeking into the windows of every restaurant” because no one gave them the full authentic recipe, which caused the outrage, since they apparently didn’t pay the native Mexicans. This article has annoyed me to a level beyond my normal “I hate 90% of you idiots” level, which is how I generally wake up. Let’s break this down.
1) Does anyone really think this white lady in Mexico was skulking around, peering in windows, learning secrets? You do? You’re a moron. I can just picture this lady tip toeing like Elmer Fudd trying to sneak up on Bugs Bunny with the piano notes plinking each step in some people’s heads. SHE WAS EXAGGERATING, DUMMIES. If, on the off chance, she wasn’t, did anyone use their brains and ask her to clarify? Rather than shut the place down, did any web shark send them a private message, asking them if they paid the native Mexicans or if they should have? Here’s another thought – DID ANYONE JUST, OH I DON’T KNOW, DECIDE NOT TO EAT THERE INSTEAD OF SHUTTING IT DOWN? The internet bully has as much intellectual merit as a five year old mad about not getting candy before dinner. It’s called logic. Try it out.
2) The part they appropriated was the actual burrito shell, if they did indeed appropriate it. IT’S THE FUCKING BURRITO. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE BURRITO. Has anyone ever eaten Italian food and commented on the noodle? NO ONE EVER. You talk about the sauce, perhaps the garlic bread. NO ONE GIVES A RED SHIT ABOUT THE BURRITO UNLESS IT’S ALL SOGGY, WHICH IS THE FAULT OF THE GOOD STUFF INSIDE.
3) Does anyone think a poor Mexican chef was all set to open a burrito restaurant in Portland, Oregon, and this nefarious white devil stole the one shot they had, because after all, a major American city, can’t possible support two burrito stores? Plus this person or persons in Mexico wasn’t going to open a store in Portland. Ever. Also, no one in Portland was going to drive down to Mexico to grab a quick bite for lunch. The worlds will never meet, excepting these ladies’ burrito vacation.
4) Someone even went a produced a list of “appropriated” restaurants aka ethnic restaurants owned by white people so you can eat guilt free or appropriation free or just shut them down too (in Portland, the nationwide list has yet to come, but it is probably one the way). Remember when sharing ideas was good? “YES CHRIS, BUT THEY STOLE…” I’m sorry, whitey, have you ever served Mexican food at a party? Oh, you have? Then you’re an animal. Actually, to inform everyone, as someone who’s been to Mexico a few times, actual Mexican food isn’t like American Mexican. Like cheese and sour cream? Won’t find it in Mexico! Like green chile sauce? Can’t hardly get it in America. I even saw that the numbers we use have been “appropriated”. That’s right, someone took the time to get upset about the numbers “we” (whatever we means anymore) use being stolen from another culture thousands of years ago. So to some, if you type 1,2,3…you’re part of the problem. Time to write a letter to Sesame Street and ground my toddler! They love using numbers.
5) Does anyone have the list of what races are allowed to open what restaurants? Can an Asian person open a biscuits and gravy breakfast joint? If whitey opens a restaurant, like Greek food, do they have to be Greek or do we just lump all crackers in together? What about minorities “borrowing” or “appropriating” each other? Is there a hierarchy? Who is in charge of this list? Should I yell at my mom for serving me tacos in 1987? My aunt for making sushi once? If I get a waiver form from the supposedly offended or appropriated culture, can I eat food not made by that culture? Is there a certification process to make sure this waiver form is authentic? OH I JUST STARVED TO DEATH TRYING TO FIGURE THIS OUT.
If the burrito ladies really stole a recipe (Grandma always kept hers close to the vest), they’re dicks. If they just observed, picked up a few tips and tried to make it a go making food they love (yes, you don’t have to be a certain skin color to enjoy or make certain foods and if you think so, you’re a racist or you need laid), then every internet tough guy should get bent. Plus, the most important thing in this story…you monsters shut down a burrito shop. What kind of depraved psychos want less burrito stands? I have never once in my life eaten food and said, “WAIT, WHAT RACE OF PERSON MADE THIS?” If you are willing to serve me a burrito, I don’t care if I can see your spaceship outside the window as you slide the plate towards me with a purple tentacle. GIVE ME THE BURRITO AND MOVE ALONG.
Finally, the child slumbered and the Dovahkiin steeled himself for battle. The land was sick and the return of the first Dragonborn was at hand. A great evil set to return and subject the entire isle of Solstheim. The hero had made great sacrifices to enter the realm known as Apocrypha, the dark land of Hermaeus Mora. He readied his dragonbone mace, crafted in the fires of the Skyforge and enchanted with soul gems. His armor had been reinforced with void salts and pure ebony; his magic perfected in the halls of the College of Winterhold and the vile bandit camps of all Skyrim. As the final chapter of the Black Book was read, a voice called out from the abyss – but lo, it was not Miraak, the blasphemer, it was much more powerful. Was it Hermaeus Mora, daedric prince of forbidden knowledge and fate?
“Can you help me hold this board so I can reinforce this stool? I need to put the dowel rod in also.” Curses! It was the Queen of the Amazon Prime tribe. She demanded her shrine be finished and none could resist. Suddenly our hero was transported across time and space to the plane of Earth, where the glory of battle was forgotten and the toils of home improvement ruled the day. These are dark days, truly. The hero put down his weapons and grabbed a level. Perhaps the denizens of Skaal and Raven Rock can hold on to fight another day.