Tuesday, July 31, 2007

By Dada Mondo Yippeeeeeee

Die Fotographie ist Dada Tonhöhenschwankung. Ich nahm ihre Seele auf einer kleinen Kamera gefangen. Ich gebe sie zurück zu ihr, wenn sie erlernt, wie man unten vereinbart. Gestern hatten Dadas alle Tonhöhenschwankung, Quiche, Dabo und Ihr wirklich unsere Portraits, die in der Chicago kulturellen Mitte von einem Mann hergestellt wurden, der Jim genannt wurde. Sie ist für unsere Kabarettdarstellung Blinde Essel Hopse. Ich bin unter dem Eindruck, daß diese großen Arbeiten der Schönheit unter die Massen verteilt werden, damit sie an Wände nahe bei anderen Gottheiten, wie Jesus Christ, Vishnu und Vic gehangen werden können Damone. Sie werden durch Gesetz angefordert, diese in Ihr Haus vorstehend einzusetzen. Es befreit Sie, um so zu tun. Als Dada werde ich meistens auf den Parametern der schalen Wiederholungräume und der creaky Stadien begrenzt. Es ist immer eine Festlichkeit, zum unter den Leuten zu erlöschen, die um die Stadt unashamedly in ihren blanken Gesichtern und in sideways flüchtigen Blicken gehen. Wenn sie nur konnten, sie schauten, würden sie sich schnell bedecken und wünschen für Tod. Um mich für den Tag vorzubereiten, aß ich Toast. Zu hören ist auch nützlich, zu den Sachen, die mich erinnern an, wie gesund ich bin und wie geisteskrank die Welt ist. So schalte ich die Nachrichten ein. Ich hörte, daß es ein verpfuschtes exorcism in Phoenix gab. Offenbar die Arbeit der Bewunderer! Präsident Bush versucht, Bericht mit Premierminister-Braun zu errichten. Ich empfehle sie tue dies, indem ich liebevoll in jede andere Augen schaue und ihre Backen streichele, und Sachen wie flüsternd, "Mann, sind Sie so verflixtes nettes! Wo, betonen, Sie dieses adorable zu erhalten! Ich möchte Sie in meine Tasche einsetzen und Sie mit einem Löffel und einem regurgitate essen Sie auf die Frontseite meines icebox und Sie dort halten für immer!" Dann und nur dann, Wille haben wir Weltfrieden. Aber ich würde eher Weltpfirsich essen und uns alle unsere Weise mit nur unseren Öffnungen, zur Grube graben lasse. Ingmar Bergman starb am Alter von 89. Der Nachrichten Mann sagte, daß die Ursache des Todes unbekannt ist. Die Ursache des Todes ist unbekannt? Die Ursache des Todes ist er war 89! 89 Jahre, alle Funktion in enger Zusammenarbeit, getötetes Ingmar Bergman. Dada Mondo Yippeeeeeee! Der größte Detektiv der Welt!

Die englische Übersetzung von diesem ist...

The photograph is Dada Flutter. I captured her soul on a small camera. I will give it back to her when she learns how to settle down.

Yesterday, Dadas Flutter, Quiche, Dabo and yours truly all had our portraits created at the Chicago Cultural Center by a man destined to be named Jim. It is for our cabaret presentation Blinde Essel Hopse. I am under the impression that these great works of beauty will be distributed amongst the masses so that they may be hung on walls next to other deities, such as Jesus Christ, Vishnu and Vic Damone. You will be required by law to put these prominently in your home. It will liberate you to do so.

As a Dada, I am mostly confined to the parameters of musty rehearsal spaces and creaky stages. It is always a treat to go out among the people who walk around the town unashamedly in their naked faces and sideways glances. If they only knew how they looked, they would quickly cover themselves and wish for death.

To prepare for the day, I ate toast.

It is also helpful to listen to things that remind me of how sane I am and how insane the world is. So, I turn on the news.

I heard there was a botched exorcism in Phoenix. Clearly the work of amateurs!

President Bush is trying to build rapport with Prime Minister Brown. I recommend they do this by looking lovingly into each others eyes, caressing their cheeks, and whispering things like, "Gosh, you are so darned cute! Where did you get that adorable accent? I want to put you in my pocket and eat you with a spoon and regurgitate you onto the front of my icebox and keep you there forever!" Then, and only then, will we have world peace. But I would rather have world peach and have us all burrow our way, using only our mouths, to the pit.

Ingmar Bergman died at the age of 89. The news man said the cause of death is unknown. The cause of death is unknown? The cause of death is he was 89! 89 seperate years, all working in close collaboration, killed Ingmar Bergman.

Dada Mondo Yippeeeeeee! The world's greatest detective!

Back to Joe-Joe the dogged-faced boy...


Yesterday, I asked...
"A new company in California called FlexPetz does what with animals?"
Nobody picked what I thought was the perfect answer, "helps them lose weight." It's California. Somebody somewhere has a personal trainer for their pet. I'll put money on it!

Also coming up empty were "trains them to occupy small spaces" -again, one I thought wasn't too far from reality- and "soaks them in oil to make them more pliable" - actually, it's just to make them more tasty.

The correct answer, receiving 100% of the responses, was "rents them out."

Yep. But according to
Marlena Cervantes, the CEO of FlexPets, they don't like to call it that. She refers to it as shared pet ownership. That's right. Man's Best Friend now has an hourly rate. Call it what you like, but when I'm paying for companionship, I'm expecting a little something-something after I buy you some Alpo and clean up your poop.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Robots and Dinosaurs in Wisconsin

I spent the weekend in a small town in Wisconsin outside of Madison with a core group from the Thursday evenings RoboWriters. Pictured above are Joe Linstroth, Nat Topping, Chris Othic and Geoff Crump. Brian Crowley and Greg Wendling were unable to make it.

You might be thinking, "Hey, Joe, that's a lot of sausage for a writer's group." Well, you're right, although it's not as much sausage as you think because we tend to exaggerate the amount. I put this group together by inviting people I knew would be up to the challenge of generating a lot of high quality material on a weekly basis and are available on Thursday nights. There were women invited, unfortunately, Thursday's did not work for them. We are conscientious of it, though, and are writing roles for women and will be relying on the input of the actresses we cast for our show.

The weekend getaway, courtesy of Joe Linstroth's friend Sue Mullen, gave us an opportunity to take a step back from two and a half month's worth of material and see what we have. This is the first time I ever sat down with a group of writers and look for themes and connections in our pieces. If something like that is ever done in a sketch revue, it's usually done after the bulk of the material is selected purely based on how it stands on its own. We took a look at what possible shows could emerge from our big pile of primordial sketch ooze and will start to write and develop for those areas.

Some of the major themes we noticed in our work are:

- Death and dying (lots of death and dying!)
- History and period pieces
- Storytelling
- fruit

Yep. Fruit. For some reason beyond our comprehension, almost everyone had a scene where fruit figured into it. I have no idea what to do with that piece of information.

We have to bring Brian and Greg up to speed on what we did over the weekend, which may affect the list above. Then we'll start working toward putting together our material for a staged reading in the fall.


On Friday, I asked...

"In Florida, an already convicted convict was additionally arrested for doing what while alone in his cell?"

25% of you answered "Threatening to punch the president" and "Trying to join Al-Qaeda" Neither answer is correct, but frighteningly in the realm of possibility.

Nobody answered "flirting with a male guard." Everyone knows convicts and guards don't play such coy games as flirting. "So, is that a nightstick in your pock---ow, my skull!"

50% of you nailed it with, quite simply, "Masturbating." According to The Associated Press, a jury took 45 minutes to return a guilty verdict for indecent exposure brought against Terry Alexander for masturbating while alone in his cell. He was turned in by a female guard watching his cell on a monitor. Alexander is already doing ten years in jail for armed robbery.

Folks, if masturbation is a crime, I'm public enemy number one. My picture should be up in post offices all across this land (I'd do it myself, but I only have one free hand.). My heart goes out to this guy. If I were facing ten years in prison, I'd essentially be doing two things in my cell; masturbating and thinking about masturbating. The only sane thing to come out of this is that his sentence of sixty days runs concurrently with his other sentence, so no extra time to be served. But just so he doesn't become a repeat offender, I recommend he be more discreet. Hopefully, with this and the armed robbery charge, he'll learn to keep his weapon concealed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

Hey, Gang - I'm in a small town near a small lake in Wisconsin and internet access has been sketchy. Here's the Saturday Morning Cartoon. I will update the news quiz on Sunday. Thanks for tuning in! - Joe

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour! (1968-1970)

The Banana Splits was another fictional band that had mad-cap Monkees-like slapstick fun and music. Their main playground was an amusement park. I'm not sure which one, but it was a part of Kings Island's chain. In fact, they all had a Hanna-Barbera Land. I used to love the Scooby-Doo roller coaster and the boat ride through Hanna-Barbera Land (imagine my shock and disgust when I returned to King's Island in the '80's to find the boat ride converted into a celebration of Smurf Land!). Being a kid's show in support of an amusement park wasn't a new idea. It was just a poor man's version of The Wonderful World of Disney.

The show was hosted by the Splits, often terrorized by a disturbing group of go-go girls called The Sour Grapes Bunch, and featured cartoons and live action serial adventures, like "Danger Island."

Richard Donner - yes, THAT Richard Donner - was one of the directors. You can tell by the slapstick in these shows where he gets his flair (or intense lack of) for action sequences and ham-fisted humor.

Here's a sample of the buffoonery, complete with the opening theme song that, if you are not familiar with The 'Nanners, you have probably heard and not known what it was from.

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along...

Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.

One banana, two banana, three banana, four.
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more.
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Comin' on to bring you The Banana Splits Show.

Makin up a mess of fun
Makin up a mess of fun
Lot's of fun for everyone.

Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.

Four banana, three banana, two banana, one.
All bananas playing in the bright warm sun.
Flippin like a pancake, poppin like a cork
Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork.

Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.
Tra la la, la la la la.

Two Banana, four banana, one banana, three
Swinging like a bunch of monkeys hanging from a tree
Hey there everybody won't you come along and see
How much like Banana Splits everyone can be

Making up a mess of fun,
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone

Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la
Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la

Friday, July 27, 2007



Thank you, Chris Othic, for filling in for me last night.

The assignment, very simply, is to write a superhero scene. There are two ways to approach this. Create your own superhero or put a new spin on an old one. These scenes are fun to write, but can also be challenging to make interesting to anyone other than YOU!

In both angles, the characters are in grave danger of coming out two-dimensional. In creating a superhero, you might spend a lot of attention on what their main super power is and not give them any humanity. In the second, you might take that well-known superhero and go the easy dark road. What, he cusses? What, he does drugs? What, he's a slob? What, he wears tights and hangs out with young boys? The tough part is making it something we haven't seen.

One way to start is with the most defining part of a superhero, their power. Make a list of 10 super powers that you've never heard of or that you really wish you had.

Here's Chris's list:

1. Project emotions on other people
2. Read dirty thoughts of others (but only their dirty thoughts)
3. See people naked
4. Find parking spots at will
5. Turn water into Bud Light
6. Turn people into puppies
7. Impregnate women by looking at them
8. Detect when the train is coming
9. Tell weights and measure by sight
10. Sing like anyone you want to

Now pair each item on that list with someone who is most unlikely to have that power.

1. Two year old
2. Nun
3. Blind Man
4. Homeless Guy
5. AA Sponsor
6. A cat lady
7. 16 year old nerd
8. Keanu Reeves
9. Football Coach
10. Preacher

Now pick three of these and give them a cheesy (or not) super hero name.

Chris picked 1) the nun who heard people's dirty thoughts (Big Mother--as in "Big Mother is Watching You"; 2) Cat lady who turned people into puppies (The Puppler); and 3) 16 year old nerd that could impregnate women by looking at them (The Impregnanator)

Now create a villian to go along with your hero. It might be one of your three from above. The villian usually has powers that directly oppose the hero's.

Big Mother vs Pervo - he gives people really dirty thoughts

The Puppler vs Fire Hydrant Man - maybe he distracts all those puppies with his fire hydrants?

Impregnanator vs Captain Abortion - although maybe he would be a better sidekick

Another approach to this scene is to craft your hero first by figuring out who you would like to see have a super power that we you don't normally associate with the Clark Kents and Bruce Waynes of the world. Using something from your own life is a good place to start. For six months, I once temp-ed in the accounting department of a huge real estate conglomerate. I sat next to a woman probably named Mildred. She was probably in her 50's, a little squat and frumpy and I'm pretty sure that thing on her head was either a wig or a Chia pet. She had a little portable radio on her desk always barely audio and barely tuned to a soft rock station. Mildred will be my superhero.

Now, what powers will she have? I've already got her day job and alter ego. I imagine she gets summoned secretly by the Chief of Police via dedications read by dee-jays on the soft rock station. She seemed to spend most of her day typing and licking things (envelopes, mostly), so those will be her two big powers - speedy fingers and projectile moisture. I will call her The Administrator. She multi-tasks justice.

Now, that I have that, I just need to craft a scenario where her super powers will come into play. It could be via her arch enemy, which could be anything from The Merger to The De-Filer.
And, of course, your hero needs someone to save. So, perhaps Billy the temp has been trapped in the records room by The De-Filer and he's already made quite a mess. Etc, etc, etc.

Focus on heightening the scene by exploring their powers and vulnerabilities. The scene can be anything you want and doesn't necessarily have to be "heroic." Maybe The Impregnanator and Captain Abortion work at McDonald's together. You can also choose to forget the villian and just do a scene focusing on your hero and his powers and how they affect his daily life.

Have fun!


Yesterday, I asked...

"This summer, waters off of central California are being invaded by what?"

The popular answer with 57% responding was "Surfing MILFS." If it's not already a website, it should be. Please send me the royalties

14% answered "E. Coli." Nah. Sadly, that's a given at any beach.

No one fell for "Cuddle Shark." While I'm sure even a shark needs a hug once in awhile, those are two words that do not belong together.

The correct answer, which 29% got, is "Giant Squid."

According to the Associated Press, these seven feet long, 110 pound cephalopods have been quite a problem as they have been preying on the anchovy and hake, competing with tuna, sharks and commercial fishermen. They used to only be found near the equater in the Pacific, but have been expanding their operation to as far north as Alaska. Scientists think it might have to do with either the warming of the ocean or a decrease in the population of those that prey on the rather phallic fish, mainly swordfish, large tuna, shark and surfing MILFS.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Almost Almost Famous!

I won my first award for my blog. By the way, I'm not a fan of that word. When it comes out my mouth, it sounds something like "buh-law-GUH."

It's called The Thinking Blogger Award and I received it from Don Hall. You're probably thinking, "Hey, he's your friend. Isn't that sort of like getting an award from your mom?" No. It's not. Don's a bit of a hard ass. And if my mom gave me an award it would be called The That's Nice, Dear Award. Don's also not the originator of it.
The origin of this award is The Thinking Blog.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (you have a choice of a silver version or a gold one).
This award has really gone to my head. I plan on using it to parlay my superstar celebrity as a presence on the Internet. I'm talking big, paparazzi, coke habit, plastic surgery, going outside without my underwear on BIG!

I'm already practicing for when my mugshot gets plastered all over the news.
This is my high out of my mind mugshot.

Check out the veins in the forehead and the intense
anger-to-tears expression. Tabloid gold!

And this is my "incarcerated, but still hot" mugshot.

This just screams, "I'm naughty, but still love me all you little people."
Gee, I hope Don doesn't ask for the award back after this post.

Here are the five bloggers that make me think and I am shining the bright light of this award on them.

1) Pete
Ficht and Paul Custodio at The Graffiti Table.
They dazzle you with a lot of silly stuff while slipping in some smart and
smartass commentary on advertising, music and the state of the nation.

2) Jane Espenson at Jane in Progress.
Jane is one of my favorite television writers. Equally savvy at comedy and drama as evidenced by her work on Buffy, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. She also lets you know what she had for lunch that day and it's gotten to where I would be disappointed if she ever stopped doing that.

3) Ken Levine at
By Ken Levine.
Ken's one of the masters of the situation comedy. He's firmly rooted in history, as with his work on M*A*S*H, but he's not stuck there. He's got a lot of good stuff to say about comedy writing, television, the world and baseball.

4) Mike Gerber at
Mike is one smart, funny cookie. An excellent parodist and novelist. His daily commentaries are like a mint for your brain.

5) Adam
Felber at Fanatical Apathy.
Adam's a regular on "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" and his off-kilter patriotic wit bleeds red, white and blue all over this blog.

I check these blogs every day. They make me think and they make me laugh. Of course, three out the five have never heard of me, but, oh, well. They make me think, I'm giving them an award. That's America!




Yesterday, I asked...

"You're at a nightclub with your friend Billy Bibbet and he has an epileptic fit. According to medical experts, you should..."

No one picked "Call an ambulance, quick!" By the time they get there, the seizure will have passed and you'll be stuck with an ambulance bill, plus their drinks.

16% answered "Pretend he's dancing and join in!" Close, but it only works if you're wearing a toga and shout, "Gator!"

The popular answer with 66% was "Shove your tri-fold velcro wallet in his mouth!" A lot of people think you have to do this to keep the person from swallowing their tongue. Have you ever tried to swallow your tongue, or anyone else's? Unless it's part of a sandwich, it can't be done.

The correct answer, also with 16%, is "Whoa, give the dude some space!"

According to s recent report on the BBC, there are many potentially harmful myths about what to do when someone is having seizure, including the "shove something in their mouth" myth which could block their air passage. The best thing you can do is make sure they are safe and let it run its course, usually less than five minutes.

And yell, "GATOR!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Part(y)-Time, U.S.A.!

I'm not always the sharpest dart hitting the board when it comes to labor laws. Yesterday, I got it all worked up in my head how I was going to write about how Universal Health Care would improve the quality of education in the U.S. My main point was the false assumption that educational institutions rely heavily on part-time employees because once you make people full-time, you have to give them health insurance.
And that's why it's in an employer's best financial interests to keep a bevy of part-time employees in their Rolodex. In fact, I thought that was true for all businesses. Turns out, that's not true. It may be true in some states, but not in Illinois.

It's hard to find data on this. Go ahead and take a peek at the Departments of Labor for the U.S. and for Illinois. I couldn't find anything that says full-time employees must receive even a minimum of health insurance. All I could find is that what distinguishes a part-timer from a full-timer is entirely up to the employer! You can work 40 hours a week or more and still be considered part-time.

There are a whole bunch of variables on what an employer can or will offer for health insurance and it usually boils down to what they are willing to pay to keep you happy. That's why a lot of people are willing to leave jobs they love for suckier jobs with better health plans. Usually, employers begrudgingly offer health insurance if it helps them keep their employees from jumping ship or trying to unionize.

I think I still have a case for my theory, but I've never had such a tough time gathering information on-line. Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

I have two part-time jobs as a teacher - one at a private institution and one that has to follow state regulations on education - and it kind of pisses me off.
I love both my jobs. Absolutely head-over-heels in love with them. I want to marry them in a more-than-one-wife Mormon kind of way. I tout their benefits to anyone and everyone. I'm proud of the work I do. I feel like I make a difference at these jobs, but I can't survive on their income - my girlfriend will attest to that! I'm fine when both are in swing at the same time, but that's the problem with part-time jobs. I only get paid when I work. No vacation days, no sick days, no health insurance, no 401k. And, in my case, no guarantee on the number of classes.

Now, at one of the places, to be fair, there is a union for part-time employees. It ensures us decent wage increases and a few other perks, like a sick day or two, tuition remission, and a 10% discount at Target (on-line only)and $2 off at The Hair Cuttery, but that's about it.

A class can be cancelled at the last minute at either place and the income I planned on for the next few months is gone. Poof! At both places, 80-90% of the faculty is made up of part-time teachers. At one of the places, it looks like they are about to hire more teachers. They take on five to ten new teachers every year anyway as part of a training program, so this is even on top of that.

And this got me thinking... why?

Why not have fewer people work full-time and keep the quality of the education - or whatever the product is - high? Surely, it's easier to ensure the quality if there's only a dozen people on the same page than trying to get sixty or more keeping the bar high. And won't that dozen be happier making a living at what they love more than anything?

Maybe business is that good? Are we going to be overloading our classrooms and going to have to start teaching in the park?

Nope. That's not it. Must be another reason.

I know, it's still about saving money!!!

I can think of two reasons to load up on part-timers in any business.

1) New hires work at a lower wage. More experienced teachers making more per hour end up working less.

2) If a smaller group of people are working more hours - enough to build a decent living on - then guess what? The bastards are going to want more! They'll want superfluous things like health insurance, weekly salaries and vacation days. And they will have more leverage to get it because they're the only ones we've got! Did I hear someone whisper "union"? Yikes! Fire them all! Call Manpower! See if they have any improv teachers!

It's not just where I work. This is happening all over. It's been happening in the restaurant industry since the first burger got flipped (read Fast Food Nation). It all boils down to how much you care about what you are selling. If you care little and people are still buying it, nothing's going to change. If you care, then it's time to invest in people. Nurture the ones you have and watch the quality grow.

Universal Health Care would help education and all employers because it would take off the pressure and expense to deliver something that should be our human right.


Yesterday, I asked...

"Kim Jong-Il's favorite magician injured herself while performing which stunt?"

33% answered The Sharp Blades of Destiny Illusion.

55% answered The Spinning Rabbits of Fire and Self-Reliance Illusion, but I think that was more an expressed desire to see spinning bunnies ablaze.

Everyone wisely avoided The Spoiled Child with Nuclear Weapons Illusion.

The correct answer is The Spike Illusion in the Face of Death.

According to the AFP, Japanese magician Princess Tenko, who often performs for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il at his request,
was supposed to escape from a box on the moment it was spiked with 10 fake swords, but instead they trapped her inside. She broke her right cheek and a few ribs.

In an interview earlier this year, Tenko said she spoke about entertainment with Kim, whose regime has tense relations with Japan.

"He seemed to have thought I was American and he praised me for my success in the US despite being Japanese," Tenko said.

Here she is floating, blissfully thinking about Kim Jong-Il.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Somebody Likes Your Stuff

We started the rehearsal process last week for the WNEP Dada show which means my mind keeps slipping down back alleys and making up poems. Completely without my permission. Here's one. Not very Dada, but I thought it was fun.

Somebody Likes Your Stuff

You think you've got chubby thighs.

Believe me, there's somebody out there who wants to put ice-cream on those chubby thighs.

Freaking out about the freckles on your nose.

There's someone out there who sees nothing but constellations in them.

Moles are nothing but chocolate chips.

As we merrily march towards our inevitable deaths...
Cheer up.

No matter what you've got and no matter how you feel about it.

Somebody likes your stuff.

Sober, even.


On Monday, I asked this question...
"A trucker in England is suing his employer for discrimination ever since they found out what about him?"
33% answered "His middle name is Obama." Nah, they don't care about that sort of ridiculous stuff. It's England, not America!

16% answered "He gives handicapped people rides." Nope. They have to use their own wheels. Or crutches. Or stumps.

50% answered "He can't reach the peddles." Actually, he can. Especially when he wears his CFM pumps.

If you haven't guessed, the correct answer, which nobody got, is "He wears dresses."

According to the UK newspaper
The Daily Mail, Mike was a well-respected top truck driver until he informed his bosses he was a transsexual, changed his name to Vikki-Marie and started wearing dresses to work. They started cancelling her regular shifts and co-workers who were once her friends started to taunt her. Vikki-Marie used to be a soldier, has been married twice and has a teenage daughter. And she really looks tough in a dress. A very difficult look to pull off. You go girl!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Standing Up

From approximately 1986 to 1991, I made my living as a stand-up comedian. There was quite a stand-up comedy boon going on at the time, probably due to the infiltration of cable television into our homes in the '80's and the cheap and easy way stand-up specials filled the airwaves.

My first professional gig was after my first year at college at a club called Giggles just south of Toledo in Perrysburg, Ohio in 1981. They were one of the first chain comedy clubs to emerge that decade. On Sunday nights, they hosted an open mic night. The winner got to come back that week to be the opening act for the headliner plus $50. Even then, club owners knew how to save a buck! For four weeks in a row, I would write material at home, practice it, and come in and do ten minutes. I was disappointed at losing the first few times, but felt good about my sets and my friends encouraged me to keep trying. The fourth time, I won and got to come back to open for Bruce Baum. Bruce Baum was pretty huge at the time. He was a regular on a game show called Me Me Laugh and had just come out with a popular novelty song called Marty Feldman Eyes - a very funny parody of Bette Davis Eyes.

I was in heaven that week and really got a taste of what it's like to perform stand-up every night with an audience. Bruce Baum was a great guy who let me ask a lot of questions about the business. When I went back to college, I found a club in Dayton, Ohio called Wylie's that I developed a relationship with. I became a "go to" guy for them when they needed an emcee or last minute replacement. It was never a huge source of income. Just a creative outlet. I stopped doing it near the end of college because I just needed to focus on having a job and making money. About a year later, my girlfriend at the time who knew about my stand-up past took me to the Red Dog Saloon in Cincinnati for an open mic. I ran into friends I hadn't seen in years and they encouraged me to start coming in and getting back up on stage. And so I did.

Right at this time, stand-up comedy was becoming big all over. Wylie's was selling out every weekend. A Funnybone moved into Cinci. Suddenly, open mic-ers found they could find enough work to start building a career. Once I was able to book a month's worth of work, I quit my job as a nightclub dee-jay.

A lot of people have the misconception that stand-up is a very cut throat-y back-stabby business. I never had that experience nor did most of my friends. If another stand-up liked your work, he or she told you. If they had a suggestion on a way to improve upon a joke or your act, they shared it. If they knew a club or a booker they could help you get in with, they helped.

One of the most generous guys I ever worked with was a Cincinnati home boy named Michael Flannery. Sometimes I would find myself stuck out on the road with a week to kill. Well, that can be a huge financial drain. Michael let me share his hotel room in Detroit once while he was working Chaplin's with Dennis Miller. So, not only did I get a free room for a week, I got to meet Dennis Miller at the height of his SNL popularity. And for the record, he was a really nice guy. He bought us drinks and told us stories about SNL all without us having to beg, which we would have done gladly. Michael helped me get over an unrequited love I had for a waitress in Kalamazoo by sitting up with me playing Wheel of Fortune on a computer and sipping Nyquil (hey - the bars were closed!). The greatest thing Michael ever did for me was get me an Emmy for writing. He hosted an afternoon kid's show in Cinci and asked me to write some character monologues for him, which I gladly did and for free. Unbeknownst to me, he submitted the final product to the Emmy review board. And I won. Pretty cool. Michael has become quite a celebrity in Cinci, even using his gifts to help kids with special needs. Check out this video.
(If you watch this video, you'll be flabbergasted to find out this TV station didn't renew his contract this year. They're fools! He got them tons of community lovin' with his work. One of the other stations in the Ohio Valley would be smart to pick up Mike.)

My stand-up career came to an end for several reasons. One, I was single and pretty lonely on the road. I felt the need to be more grounded and, hopefully, find a girlfriend. Two, my act was becoming something I didn't like. It was becoming more vulgar as I started to go for the lowest common denominator just to get laughs. And three, I was a horrible businessman. I never negotiated for more money, I took gigs that paid shit, I didn't promote myself well with booking agents or the press.

So, here are the lessons I learned from stand-up...

- If you want to be on TV or film, move to LA. Maybe NYC, but really, more likely LA. I opened for several comics that ended up working very lucrative jobs in television. They did that by going to LA.

- Talent doesn't speak for itself. Being good only gets you so far. If you don't know the business side of things, then assemble a team of people, like an agent and a manger, that believe in you and will take care of you.

- Always work on your craft. Always hone your unique perspective. I was not very disciplined in this area. I did what I thought was funny. I read papers and watched the news for material, but I didn't hunt it down. If it came to me, I used it. If it worked, I kept it. My act was a little schizophrenic because of my laziness. Talking about silly family or dating things, surreal one-liners here and there and political humor. But always ending on a dick joke. I even had a couple of prop bits (look out, Carrot Top!).

I cherish my stand-up days and occassionally think of trying it again, but for myself.

Until then, I'll just keep telling you what I think is funny.


On Saturday, I asked this question...

"On Monday (today), crewmen on the International Space Station will be taking a spacewalk for what purpose?"

Nobody fell for "Just going out for a leisurely stroll." Although I hear the stars are lovely this time of year.

33% answered "Just fixing that damn antenna." They really haven't had any problems since they got high-speed cable installed.

Another 33% said "Just checking on the neighbors." Sorry, no one else has moved into their interstellar cul-de-sac.

The correct answer, that 33% of you knew, is "Just taking out the garbage." According to Rueters, nearly 1600 pounds of obsolete gear is going to be hauled out to the curb to ultimately burn up in the atmosphere as it falls to earth. Unfortunately, it takes about 300 days to do that. So, til then, the Vulcans are going to look down their pointy ears at us and our space litter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoons!

The Archie Comedy Hour (1969)

Okay. I wasn't much for comic books when I was a kid. There was only one comic I ever bugged my parents to buy me. I even went on to get a subscription to it. It was The Archies. I thought Jughead was hysterical and Betty and Veronica were HOT!

In 1968, CBS had a big hit with "The Archie Show" based on the comics. They came back the next year with an expanded format, "jumping the shark" before that phrase was even coined. They added a bunch of cute characters, including Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and made the gang a band. Which is kind of weird. Nobody liked Reggie, and yet, there he is, in the band. Guess they were hard up for a rhythm guitarist.

This was the age of bubblegum pop music where music producers would manufacture bands and rapidly release songs trying to score number one hits. I'm sure the success of The Monkees had a little something to do with this. Producer Don Kirschner had a hand in both. The Archies would play a rather disposable piece if candy-coated music every week. One of them became a huge hit. Of course, I'm talking about the appropriately named "Sugar, Sugar." It was number one hit in the United States - knocking The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Woman" out of the spot - and it was a number one hit in the UK, as well.

Other than "The Banana Splits," I can't think of another group of fictional characters who didn't really sing or play instruments fronting an international number one hit (other than Villi Manilli). The promotional machine behind this hit was pretty crazy. You didn't need to go to a record store to find the single. Honey Combs cereal had cheap vinyl versions built in to the back of their cereal boxes!

The actual performers were an anonymous group of session musicians and, during the run of the show, were never seen or interviewed so as not to spoil the magic of The Archies.


Yesterday, I asked,

"A woman entered a library in Fort Smith, Arkansas yesterday (Thursday) and demanded what?"

20% picked "They hand over the new Harry Potter book - nice and easy." (I thought this would be the higher scorer, given its timeliness and all.)

20% said "They stop dating that fancy talking new music teacher." (Thank you for getting The Music Man reference.)

50% thought it was "They stop harassing her for an overdue book." (Must of been a lot of you burned by overzealous librarians.)

The correct answer, that 10% of you got, was "They hand over their moo-la."

That's right, she robbed the joint. According to the Associated Press, she entered the library with her face covered with a bandanna, handed the librarian a note demanding cash and implying she had a weapon. The bandit made off with less than $20 from the petty cash. Maybe this was a starter robbery and she's working her way up to banks. Maybe they should have referred her to "How to Get Rich with Armed Robbery." Any way, I hope they throw the book at her. And not at me for that last line.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bible Action Figures

Ten years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of working for Jellyvision and writing for the popular CD-ROM trivia game You Don't Know Jack. One of the best parts of the job was writing fake audio commercials to go over the closing credits. It really was a treat for me because of my love for Old Time Radio. I really cranked those mothers out. One of my favorites was called Bible Action Figures about a mom trying to get kids excited about going to church. Well, ten years later, there really are Bible Action Figures, as my pal Don Hall points out on his Friday Round-Up.

You can hear my commercial by clicking here. The voices are Ali Davis and Jason Meyer as the kids, Michelle Sobel as the mother, Phil Ridarelli as God, and that's me coming in at the end as the announcer. I don't know who the guy is that put this website together, but thanks, and, um, you're weird.

Hardwiring Nature


The great thing about doing sketch comedy, or any writing, really, is the ability to take two different ideas and mash them together like a mad scientist. Sometimes you get something that meshes together really well, sometimes you get a creature with a few loose bolts and a nose that keeps falling off.

This assignment is a specific version of a Clash of Context scene. A Clash of Context scene takes two different worlds and highlights what they have in common by bringing them together and creating a third new world. Our two worlds will fit into two categories, Nature and Civilization.

To begin, break out pen and paper - or keyboard and screen - for a list of ten. This is a list of ten processes or systems that one finds in nature, science or biology. Here's mine for an example...

1) pollination
2) popcorn popping

3) two male moose locking horns to impress a female

4) cicadas emerging from hibernation

5) post-coital spiders

6) waking up with a hangover

7) monkeys banishing a monkey from their tribe

8) growing old

9) birds flying south for winter

10) snake shedding its skin

Now, you're on the look for things from your own world, your own culture, that can be drafted to the first idea. My list now looks like this...

1) pollination//blind date or matchmaker

2) popcorn popping//high school graduation

3) two male moose locking horns to impress a female//singles bar or pancake house (I don't know why. It just popped into my head)

4) cicadas emerging from hibernation//coming out party

5) post-coital spiders//third date, first time having sex with someone

6) waking up with a hangover//IRS tax audit

7) monkeys banishing a monkey from their tribe//getting kicked out of a club

8) growing old//all the markers we go through in life (birth, first day of school, last day of school, sex, first job, first real job, retirement, death)

9) birds flying south for winter//retired people who migrate to Florida in the winter

10) snake shedding its skin//trying to mask sunburn

Some fit more easily than others. I have no idea what I would do with growing old or hangover. I like the moose fight and can picture two guys fighting over a waitress at an iHop. With pollination I have some images that come to mind, so that's a good sign. I don't know what the hell I would do with growing old.

Now, it's time to test out the ideas by fleshing them out a bit more. The first choice I have to make is picking which world the characters are anchored in. For example, are they animals that act like people or are they people who act like animals?

Let's take pollination. One scenario might be a flower and a bee on a first date, or blind date, getting to know one another. Or maybe they are with a matchmaker or they are further along and are with a relationship counselor. Maybe one of them is tired of the other sticking his stinger into anything that doesn't move. Another might be to have two people interacting with each other like a bee and flower do. So, maybe they're on a dance floor and the "bee" is juking on the "flower" until he's had his fill and then he heads over to another "flower." Our bee's a player.

The assignment is to build a scene that borrows part of it's world from nature and another part from civilization.If you have any questions or want to share your lists of ten, go ahead and post them in the comment section.

Here's a good example from Woody Allen's Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex - a very funny early Allen movie. In this Clash of Context scene, the biological system is what happens to a man internally while on a date and hoping to score and the cultural aspect is that the brain runs the body like it's a command center all the way down to the sperm who are like paratroopers. Enjoy the French subtitles, too. On the house.

The BS News Quiz of the Day Answer

On Thursday, I asked this question...

"Earlier this week, the town officials of Brattleboro, Vermont met to pass an emergency ban on what?"

(No one fell for this one, although it seems quite possible to me.)

Smoking (28% said this one. Not a bad guess.)

Smoking while driving a car full of explosives (14% picked this. While I'm sure it's illegal in most states outside of Tennessee, it's not correct)

57% of you are smart cookies and picked the correct answer... nudity.
Public nudity, in fact. Brattleboro thinks it's just fine and dandy if you go skinny dipping or sun bathing au natural. The problem was too many people extending, so to speak, this privilege beyond the beach. Apparently, the dangling straw that broke the camel's back belonged to an elderly gentleman who walked through the middle of town wearing nothing but his flip-flops and a fanny pack. The fanny pack was large enough to hold his goods, but not conceal them. It is unclear if the "flip-flops" were footwear or a description of the sound his nether regions made when walking unadorned.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Salary Disputed

Funny Pictures

The President of the United States' annual salary is

The Vice-President's annual salary is $186,300.00

U. S. Congressmen receive a yearly salary of $165,200.00

A first year private in the U.S. Army receives around
$12,060.00. There's some variance based on skill and assignment, but it's not going to go much than a thousand or two in either direction. Broken down to an hourly wage, a soldier in Iraq makes about eighty cents more than a burger-flipper.

I don't need to tell you what's wrong with this picture.

It gets worse.

Halliburton CEO David Lesar made at least $12.3 million in 2006. There are some reports on the web that he actually makes twice that. Up siginificantly since the War on Terrorizing America's wallets and purses began. Halliburton has earned over $20 billion from the U.S. military in war-related contracts in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

And I'm sure he has found ways to thank Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney for providing him with the blood and oil needed to line his pockets. Especially Mr. Cheney, who is Halliburton's former CEO and who has stock options in the company worth $10 million.

You want to support the troops, Washington? Bring them home so they're not pimping out their lives for minimum wage in an unnecessary war brought about by the guy wearing the velvet cowboy hat.

Sorry. Not a lot of humor in this one. Must be that War Fatigue Bush says that I have. I'm glad he understands me.


Yesterday, I started a new feature called The BS News Quiz (cue trumpet blast). The "BS" stands for "Bite and Smile," of course, but if you thought something else, that's okay, too.

Wednesday's question was...

"Pagans, upset at Homer Simpson's appearance at the site of Cerne Abbas, have vowed to do what in retaliation?"

40% of you answered "They are going to boycott the movie."

None of you fell for "They are suing Fox."

40% of you answered "Nothing. Pagans don't believe in Homer Simpson."

The correct answer, that 20% of you nailed, is "They are going to perform "rain magic.""

According to the BBC,
Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away." Rain magic, by the way, is not so magical. It involves standing in a circle, drinking several pints of Guinness, and precipitating.


It's Thursday. That means you can meet with me at 6:30pm at the Uptown Writer's Space and get feedback on your written scenes. It's only $5 and if 80,000 of you show up, I'll make as much as the president without nearly as much bloodshed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just a Friendly Reminder, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

You're a busy guy. You probably haven't thought about this much. You've got a lot on your plate, what with Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran and Israel and Palestine and Russia AND the United States all clamoring for your attention. But I just wanted to remind you about your oath.

You know, the one you took when you were inaugurated. Both times, in fact. Same oath. They didn't change anything on you.
Easy to forget, for sure. It's brief. Not very eloquent. Not the best work from those "We the People..." dudes.

The first time you took it, back in 2001, you were probably rushing through it since your limo had just been pelted with eggs. Check out the picture above. Goo
d thing the secret service thought to erect that egg-proof plastic shielding. (And what's up with Mr. Chief Justice's freakish right hand? Looks like all the fingers are the same length. Even the pinky! Well, that's a whole other can of satan-worhsipping worms that I'm not ready to get into.) In 2005, when you took the oath a second time, you didn't have any eggs pelted at you, but you probably felt one pointed at you, much like an animal might sense being in the cross-hairs of a rifle. You probably rushed then, too. And there was certainly no incentive for you to read it in advance or learn it by heart.
Rehnquist fed you all your lines. Bet you wish all your speeches were that easy.

Well, here I am to refresh your memory. You can look it up yourself. It's specified in Article II, Section 1 of our Constitution. Oh, you know what? Apparently you don't have a copy of that. Here's a website that will tell you all about it. It has lots of pictures. There's lots of interesting things about "checks and balances" and "doing the will of the people." Good stuff.

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Mr. President - George, if I may - I strongly recommend you jot this down. Put it on a Post-It note and stick it on your desk where you will see it. Put it on your bathroom mirror so you see it first thing in the morning and at night before you go to bed.

Now, it could be that I am misjudging you. You probably heard about this oath thing and had Harriet Miers go over it with a fine-toothed laser-guided loophole-seeking comb. That "best of my ability" sure is vague, I concede. There's also that minor loophole of not really being elected president. You can probably try that "not a part of the executive branch" tactic Brainy Cheney tries when it's in his favor to claim so.

But if it's a case of you being aware of the oath and having your hand on the Bible really does mean something to you and you really are operating at the best of your ability to defend the Constitution, then all I have to say is... YIKES!


Please move over. Excuse yourself from the grown-up table. Take Cheney with you. We'll take it from here. The people, that is.

Your friend,


P.S. Glen Ford, a commentator over at The Black Agenda Report, has this message for Washington about your blatant disregard for the law of the land...

Impeachment, like all criminal processes, is designed not just to punish current lawbreakers, but to prevent future criminality. George Bush and his gang have been running a massive criminal enterprise for more than six years, effectively nullifying the Constitution. The Constitution does not automatically come back to life after the two top criminals leave. It must be enforced, or it is just an old, moldy piece of paper. The question is not whether there is time to impeach Bush and Cheney, but whether there is time to rescue the rule of law - domestic and international.

You can read the full article HERE.


I love The Simpsons, but sometimes I think it's shameless how far they will go commercially. They seem to simultaneously embrace and chastise selling out in America (Not surprising, considering they are a very subversive liberal show on FOX.)

This is hysterical, though. It looks like Cerne Abbas, the fertility giant, could use a Homer-sized doughnut for his, um, hunger.