Gawker is has published some of what was revealed after former President and Happiest Retiree Ever George W Bush was hacked by some dude who likes being investigated. Among the many files taken were images of these two self-portraits, which the piece reports Bush sent to his sister. *SLAPS FOREHEAD*
Wow. I mean, just, wow.
Assuming these are real, it is clear that the man missed his calling. Why did he waste all that time leadering the free world? His use of lighting, perspective and grout demonstrate the kind of talent that can’t be taught. The composition, the brushstrokes, other artsy words– He does them all so beautifully. Bush captures the joy of a gushing faucet that only a fourteen-year-old girl can appreciate. Or a sixty-six-year-old man.
I can’t help but want to jump in that tub with him and do some platonic man-scissoring, water-board rubber ducks for “quackformation”, be regaled between playful splashing about his adventures in that kickass helicopter and how he performed massages on female foreign heads-of-state who didn’t even know they wanted one. That’s how good these paintings are. It’s the kind of skill that makes even the greats jealous. Salvador Dali must be melting in his grave.
Anyway, the one on the left reminded me of something. Notice the face in the mirror? I, too, have a self-portrait (to be fair- mine is merely a photo) that features my face peering out of a circular mirror. Here, I put them side-by-side:
Obviously the former Big Sword and I share more in common than mere skin color and inability to eat pretzels without choking. It’s a similarity I’m not proud of but hey, as the saying goes, great men and war criminals think alike.
I use that picture for my facebook profile because I want people to feel welcomed and comforted when they visit my page. It’s inspired comments such as “This looks like a POV shot from a woman you’re about to murder” and “HAHAHAHA.”
But the people who have enjoyed seeing my disembodied head looming from around a dark corner are few compared to the millions throughout the world who, thanks to an intrepid hacker, now get a glimpse of an aging scion during his most intimate and most naked moments.
The difference is he has the bravery to act on the exact same quiet reflection we all do in the privacy of the bathroom: we get naked and think, “I should paint this.”
While driving to see my mother in a nursing home, I was approaching a busy intersection at about 35mph when I was forced to slow down and wait for a woman, in casual defiance of what was a mature green light, diagonally crossing the street across the middle of the intersection. Concern for my car and day prevented me from hitting her. As I slowed to around 5mph I expressed my frustration by shrugging my shoulders and outstretching my hands. What Gives, lady? Her reaction, sadly, didn’t astonish me.
She gestured back similarly, as if somehow I was in the wrong, swinging her thick ankles at the exact same speed as before. How else am I supposed to cross the street, buddy?
“It’s a road! There’s traffic! There’s traffic!” I shouted at my windshield, karate chopping my hands back and forth.
She raised her arm in disgust and gave me the finger. “Yeah, fuck you, too!” I yelled at my passenger window as I drove past her, extending my bird at full salute, belching as much sound and smoke as my 8-year-old 4-cylinder Subaru can muster.
I’d encountered one of Planet Earth’s great abundances: assholes. An asshole is a person whose disposition invites strife, unease, argument and stress. They’re alive and well and the worse things get the more they’ll flourish.
Here’s the thing about assholes: assholes think the world is filled with assholes. Let that sink in. To them, it’s a dog-cheat-dog world out there, a whole planet of unhappy jerks. This is because a majority of their interactions with people are negative. It’s a terrible way of life, surrounded by a poisonous fog that causes constant meaningless conflict with strangers provoked into participating in your sad manner of existence.
I caught the poison. I went straight to her level. I became an asshole.
To her, I was yet another sonofabitch she’s forced to share the planet with until she dies, proof that the human hive is full of jerks. She didn’t know my form of it was temporary. (though the stress wasn’t; I was mildly upset for hours.)
Here’s the recipe for instant assholes: Add one asshole. Done.
Fortunately, there are more of us than there are of them, however occasionally assholes (let’s call ‘em ‘fuckheads’ for short) get a platform they do not deserve and they use it to do what they do: bring the world down to their level.
Two such assholes did that on Jan 3rd in the Chicago Tribune. Their names are Nina Metz and Chris Borelli. Their only credit is in the sub-heading, “The Tribune’s…” Shrug.
Appearing in the Arts & Entertainment section, the piece is titled “A field guide to hecklers” but the browser tab calls it “A defense of heckling.” It’s a conversation between the two in which they outright encourage disruptive audience participation at stand up comedy shows. I don’t know anything about either of them but after reading the article I know they are simply bad people. Like, really bad. Unflavored oatmeal bad.
A better title would be “Ruin Fun: Because We Are Evil and Have No Soul”
Right off the bat these two numnuts (sp?) make clear that it’s all about them. During Nina’s intro she writes:
“Heckling is the scourge of comedy clubs, ruining everybody’s good time. Right? Not in my book.”
Oh, aren’t you adorable? Allow me to translate: “I’m conscious that most people hate it but it’s all about me me me me! Me! Also, I’m a stupid bitch!”
(Don’t worry, Nina, Chris is also a stupid bitch. I’m actually quite fond of your gender.)
Then the “conversation” begins. It’s a back and forth of inane, self-indulgent bullshit in which our proud antagonists reveal their secret affection for hecklers.
During Chris’s first chime he states:
“On the other hand, as someone who wants an event to be memorable, yes, I’m pro-heckling. Who isn’t? I have seen countless comedians and forgotten most of them. But I remember each and every time I have witnessed a performer get into it with an obnoxious audience.”
I’ll tell you who isn’t, Chris, you stupid bitch: The performer, the rest of the audience, the venue owner and staff. ALL DECENT PEOPLE. EVERYBODY ELSE.
I’ve forgotten a lot of movies I’ve seen but I’m not going to set fire to the theatre so that I remember the event.
To defend public assholery. In fact, to call for increased fuckheadism– it’s irresponsible and it’s weak. Cowardly. You’re unable to remember fun so you’re actively advocating ruining other people’s fun so you can get a shot of memory juice?
“Yes! As journalists and critics, we’re trained to stand and back observe, so I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me to heckle. But I am always secretly thrilled (and nervous!) when someone else does it.”
Yes, tension can be great. It’s why jokes work, why flirting is fun and why divorce is hilarious. But it’s not up to an [often inebriated] audience member to decide when and how tension is invoked. That’s the performer’s right and privilege. That’s why we go out and practice night after night and claw our way up the ladder– for the opportunity to say words into microphones. We earn it. Not hecklers. Here, have my drink tickets.
In the next paragraph she shows a little bit of her coal heart:
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it is miserable for the comic.”
Well, aren’t you Mother Fucking Theresa?
The conversation turns to how heckling separates the men from the boys, how it’s useful in determining who is truly funny, how it lets the audience see what the comedian does when his “back is against the wall”. Chris completely agrees!
“You and I have spoken to enough comics to know, there are funny-funny comics and funny-unfunny comics, and the paradox is, both can very funny. But the heckler pulls back the curtain and reveals which kind of funny we’re looking at: The one who can write a joke and tell it well, or the one who doesn’t need carefully considered material in his head to generate a laugh. I am not judging one over the other.”
Yes, you are, Chris! Funny-funny? Funny-unfunny? You make it seem as if the funny after the dash is the important one, the one where loud, obnoxious people are now part of the show. Three words: FUCK YOU. AGAIN. To be fair, you did use the word “paradox” so your argument clearly is brimming with intelligence. I suspect that’s just how you hide the fact that your brain is made of cake, and by that I mean the gross yellow kind.
Paradox. See? I’m so smart. Somebody blow me!
Some comedians are better at dealing with hecklers than others. That’s true. It doesn’t make the one who struggles a bad comedian or not funny. Thanks to people like you (assholes), though, we all get plenty of practice. Good work.
Nina, three words for you as well: Fuck you, too.
We’re not rats in an experiment. The idea of live stand up isn’t to bully the performer into revealing his or her true self, testing our emotional limits, seeking breaking points, challenging our stage persona so you can slice our bellies open and root around with a butter knife in search of whatever pound of flesh you feel you have the right to extract.
I’ll break it down for you. It’s actually quite simple: Stand up comedy is an exchange between an audience and a performer with an inherent agreement that the audience listens and the performer speaks. If what’s said provokes/induces laughter, then it’s good. If it doesn’t, then it’s bad. We train and practice to maximize the good and minimize the bad.
Me? Who am I to speak with authority on defining stand up? I’m a stand up. I’ve been doing it a little over three-and-a-half years, mostly here in Chicago. I’ve performed around 900 times. I’ve watched thousands of sets. I’m fully aware that in the Laughter Industry I’m a certified nobody but even though I might be a toddler comedian I’m smart enough to wipe the finger paint off my hands before I diddle myself. Take that!
Here’s what heckling is: It’s theft. Stealing. Robbery. People pay to see a comedy show and they deserve the best the performer can deliver. When a person heckles he or she is taking value away from people who paid to see a person tell jokes, not see someone be an asshole.
A comedy show is a swirl of intricate psychological exchanges between the audience and the performer that ebbs and flows as the night gets on. Many complex factors are in play that only people who do it are aware of. Part of the design is that it’s a casual, take-a-load-off-and-have-fun kind of thing, and it should be exactly that for the audience. For the performer it is anything but.
Some of those factors? Sure, I’ll try and be quick. Expectation is everything. People are more invested if it’s not free. A full room is better because it increases the likelihood of laugh-leaders (people who laugh easy and vocally), which helps the anonymity effect and leads to a group-mind, a positive collective experience. Sound checked. Phones off. Seats forward. Attention focused. The performer should be elevated and illuminated. Comedians introduce themselves (the opener), generate laughs, sustain interest and build to a strong finish (the closer). Bookers make choices on room design, hosting, as well as constructing the show based on the various flavors each comedian offers. There are numerous others. I hope to learn them all some day.
What it comes down to is distraction. The best comedy venues are designed to minimize distraction. Minimize, not eliminate. Elimination is impossible. Unlike music, listening to a stand up show requires the same focus and concentration as reading. You can go to a concert and scream your bloody fuckin’ head off the whole time and walk away happy. Do that at a stand up show and it’s a quick escort to the door. A single syllable can be missed and the entire joke can be ruined. That glance down at your phone to see if your ex-boyfriend is horny can be a deal-breaker. The question to your friend about how much you owe for half the vodka fishbowl and suddenly you’re offended by the second half of a comedian’s joke. You missed the part where he said, “Here’s what you shouldn’t say about baby seals.”
All forms of heckling serve the evil of distraction. It distracts not only the performer, but also everybody who’s trying to enjoy the show. Even the lightest talking is noise-pollution. A cellphone light is universally irritating in a dark room where people are trying to focus. I don’t have to list ‘em all.
Here’s another suggestion for you two misery sluts. Try it. Do stand up. Do it for 3 months. A week. Once. You won’t.
Try it. You won’t.
Cowards. Shit shadows. (At least shit has substance.)
There’s a reason people fear public speaking more than death or snakes or death snakes (see: Australia). The truth is people don’t fear public speaking. People fear public judgment. Stand up comedy is the ultimate form of public judgment. I will stand alone on stage and make you laugh for x amount of minutes and you will pay me for the privilege. What utter lunacy!
But when it works, it’s beautiful. It’s one of the most wonderful things in the world. Laughter. Joy. Happiness.
And you pieces of shit want to take that away from other people simply because you have a bad memory? Because tension is exciting? You strike me as the kind of people who bought those DVDs of alcoholic bums fighting that those assholes were selling awhile back. What happened? Did your parents have a shouting match the first time you masturbated? Is that what locked it in? You sick fucks.
The good news is there’s a much better alternative to heckling: Silence. Been there, heard that. Or… not heard that, as it were.
You’re both writers (“The Tribunes…,” right?). That’s a form of expression that invites public feedback, but unlike from behind the safety of a keyboard you haven’t the slightest idea what it’s like doing stand up. Does someone you can’t see yell, “Wrong!” when you press Q instead of W? Do you have to interrupt your train of thought because a drunk is arguing with a waitress in your office? Does your boss shine a light at you to let you know you have 60 seconds to finish your article?
The feedback stand up comedians receive is both its greatest asset and worst feature. Failure (what we call a joke bombing) is instant, personal and public. And you’re expected to shrug it off and move on, which we learn to do.
Along with Jazz, stand up comedy is one of two truly American forms of art. Because they’re the only two in which we pretend we didn’t practice. Well, it’s not easy. And we do practice.
We do it because the joy of getting a laugh slightly outweighs the pain of not. More than just having a sense of humor it requires a unique psychosis, a blend of delusion, drive and durability, especially to survive the first years which are filled with embarrassment, isolation and failure. I’ve sucked my pride dry countless times, gone home angry, drank away the anguish, stood on stage staring into the maw of all-consuming silence after a joked bombed. I couldn’t tell you how many people I’ve seen start comedy and are gone in three months. I couldn’t, because their names aren’t worth learning.
Most who try quit. Most who don’t quit fail. Stand up comedy is why I get up every day. My depression would have long ago sucked me down if I didn’t discover the joy of other people’s laughter. Fuck you.
Back to the “article.” When not name-dropping (Oh really? You spoke to Zach Galfianakas? Nick Kroll? Your journalism professors must be so proud! Fuckheads.), the two take turns name-creating. They define the various types of hecklers they’ve observed, ascribing cute names such as The Happy Heckler, The Drunk, The Serial Antagonist, The Casual Discusser. Good ones! I’ve got another name for a very specific type of heckler. Ready?
The Irresponsible Journalist.
Here’s another one: The Lazy Reporter (Really? A conversation? You got paid for this?)
Mina and whatshisface’s argument is this: “Let’s take what is regarded as one of the most, if not THE most difficult performance arts and make it even harder. It is our right to control the stage because we are incapable of genuine fun and require the discomfort of others for something to be worth remembering.”
Oh, why don’t you both go heckle each other in the pants!? I don’t know what that means but do it where no one can hear your ugly moaning. You make my teeth hurt. Or better yet, jam a tampon down your throats so you’re the only ones who have to choke on your bullshit.
What a couple of cunts. Yes, you’re both bitches and assholes. Motherfuckers. Fatherfuckers. Get out of here!
I feel sorry for you both. I’ve been a complete asshole this whole time but for me it’s a temporary condition.
You’re stuck with it.
Hank Thompson, Comedian and defender of happiness.
Of course Louis CK says it and shows it way better than me.
My favorite news and politics show is The Young Turks. If you haven’t heard of them by now it’s time you did. Their YouTube channel has close to 700 million hits. That’s not a typo. That’s more grains of sand than in a jar of sand! For a show of substance and not one based on cleavage or auto-tuned bullshit it’s an astonishing feat.
They posted an image of the host, Cenk Uygur, on their Facebook page and asked for captions. I had a different idea:
Not bad. A proper graphic designer could pick it apart, I’m sure, but I’m self-taught at this kind of thing. Kind of a pain in the ass, if I’m to be honest. I should have been asleep well over an hour ago. But the machinery started so here we are.
I’m a huge fan of The Young Turks. They’re a vital part of my daily podcasting rotation.
It’s a letter written in 1865 by a former slave, Jourdon Anderson, to his old master in response to being asked to return to the farm to keep working. The guy’s writing is deft and skillful. Very smart and easy to read. Take a few minutes and read it. You’ll be glad you did.
Watching stand up comedy as an audience member is an experience I’ll never get to enjoy. Not once for the rest of my life will I enter a comedy venue as a person simply hoping to be entertained. As a nobody open-mic’er/showcaser I can’t watch a comedy performance, any comedy performance, and not dissect, distill and dismember each moment and interaction, seeking the slightest crumb of wisdom. I’m a glean machine. What can I learn? What can I do better? Simply listening and laughing is a treat only non-comedians get to enjoy.
It’s a treat I watched a room of people enjoy this past Sunday night as New York-based headliner Nick Griffin (@TheNickGriffin) performed at the Up Comedy Club, which is part of Second City here in Chicago.
Bring out the Monkey - Nick's recently released album
It’s a beautiful venue. A wide room with rows of comfortable unblemished chairs paying penitence to a big stage in the middle. Good lighting. Nice curtains. Lots of black paint. Two big bright flatscreens flanking the stage display the venue’s logo. I woulda turned the TVs off during the show, but that’s just me.
A fellow comic and I got comped because the evening’s host is a friend of ours. As late arrivals we entered to the sound of strangers laughing as one, the sweetest non-sexual sound in the world. We sat at a table in the back of the room on a raised bench against the wall, the perfect perch from which to study, learn and envy.
Wannabes watching a be.
Nick is a hard guy to dislike. Not that I was trying to. He’s been on my radar for at least a couple years. I’d seen his numerous late night TV appearances and heard him interviewed on the occasional podcast or two. In it for life, Nick is a well-respected comic amongst his peers and deserves to be better known and better paid and better blow jobbed wherever he goes. I knew going in I would be seeing someone at the top of his game.
He’s a pro. There’s a calm, unhurried demeanor about him that puts the audience at ease. When not distracted by my idiot friends talking across me I fell right into his rhythm and came as close as I can to being one of the crowd, a rare gift. I hesitate to use the word “relaxed” but that’s exactly how I felt while watching him perform. Relaxed, in capable hands, safe. Like a baby in the arms of a loving but very depressed father.
The cellophane from Nick's album. Not pictured: Nick's album, Bring out the Monkey
While doing the least depressing thing in the world, creating happiness, he doesn’t shy from the depression he’s faced and faces. It isn’t just another bit. It’s a lens that shades his worldview. It flavors his material like cumin. You don’t know you’re tasting it but it wouldn’t be good chili if it wasn’t there. I’ve waded in and out of the waters of depression, and have at times been submerged in it, so I related on a deep level, one that more people than should can also connect with. I get it. It sucks. But I embrace it and I’ve chosen to fight it off the only way that’s ever worked: by turning and facing it and smashing skulls. Because fuck depression. You can never outrun it but you can be funnier than it. I fight dire with laughter and I hope to someday do so as well as Nick does.
It’s important to understand this: He’s not depressing. Life is. He’s just stuck in it. And because of his talents as a writer and performer we’re all better off.
There’s a struggling everyman sensibility to the way he crafts and delivers his material, an undertone of “When am I gonna catch a break? When do I get mine?” Willy Loman with better hair. You know, empty briefcase, loosened tie, a chair instead of a couch in a top floor New York walk up, a can of beans warming directly on the stove, using old wallpaper as a blanket, no roof, etc. Except he makes it funny, not bitter. He doesn’t use too much cumin.
His jokes are delivered with the word efficiency he’s known for. It’s not blunt force trauma that gets you. No, Nick Griffin kills with a thousand precise cut-ups. He’s the opposite of clumsy.
This is a trait of his that, probably above all others, I am most jealous of and I almost told him so afterwards when I shook his hand and introduced myself as a fellow comic. I was going to buy one of his cds. They were laid out, six of them, on a table in the corner of the room. 10 bucks. A pittance, considering. I watched him talk with some people and observed a humble and gentlemanly demeanor. These suspicions were confirmed when I offered to buy a cd – they’d been put away by this point – but because I was a comic he waved my money away and gave me one, even after I explained I got in for free. He didn’t have to do that. What a good fucking guy.
The inside of Nick's album: Bring out the Monkey. And me checking to see what's wrong with the camera.
As a joke I offered to give him a #FollowFriday on twitter in lieu of payment but I quickly realized I did a bad job making it clear I was kidding, so I probably looked a real dope because #FollowFriday is a bunch of bullshit. Whenever I meet the big national guys, and I’ve only met a few so far, I always feel like apologizing for bothering them. Since it would be weird to outright apologize I muttered something about how he probably meets new comics everywhere he goes, as if that’s what he wants to talk about: whether or not he meets new guys. Then I blubbered something about liking a joke he did on the Ferguson show. Eventually I said thanks and my friend and I departed as a gaggle of Columbian or Venezuelan babes seemed to magically form around him. It was as if I was suddenly watching a scene from the South American version of The Bachelor. I hope he picked them all.
I left feeling good about the night. Just shaking hands and being looked at as a fellow mud-squatter by someone I highly respect was enough to fill my comedy sails with a gust of wind, at least it was enough until a couple hours later when I ate miserable shit in front of drunk strangers at an open mic.
Still learning. Thanks, Nick.
Keep up-to-date with Nick and see him if he’s ever in a town near you at his webset: NickGriffin.net
What started as a simple trip to the grocery store turned into an embarrassing turn on national television. I was on NBC’s Today Show. Have a watch. (SFW):
Here’s a screenshot from the website:
If you’re too uninterested to watch but for some reason are still reading I can be seen in the segment declaring my undying love for Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs and all other Hostess products.
You know Hostess, right? The company that makes diabetes for kids? Yeah, that one. Turns out they declared bankruptcy recently, which is surely an unnerving sign for the economy. When American consumers can’t afford to keep a snack food company in the black then you know then you know belts are being tightened, and not for the reason belts usually get tight, which is snack food. As a famous economist once said: Empty calories require full wallets.
Anyway, I was in that part of the store to buy salad dressing. Earlier I’d spotted the camera guy and producer lady in the aisle, right in front of my brand and creed (Hidden Valley®, Lite) of dressing. It wasn’t clear what they were up to. The tripod looked expensive, that much I knew. It certainly wasn’t one of these Best Buy tripods, which is the kind I own. Not wanting to disturb them I decided to circle around and return to the aisle after I’d selected a Kraft® shredded cheese and read the nutrition contents of Dannon’s® fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts and maybe impulse-bought some Philadelphia® flavored cream cheese. They’d be gone by then.
They weren’t. I guess I don’t need salad dressing, I told myself. I’ll do without. I’ve been meaning to go dry, anyway. But then my sense of pride kicked in. Go get your fucking salad dressing, you pussy, I thought-screamed. They’re not going to care. They’re in YOUR way, not the other way around. Also, do some more pushups! Let’s get those nipples pointing forward, you jiggle monster!
Yeah, I agreed. You’re right, self. I will do more pushups, but first I’m going to go get that salad dressing.
I approached the pair and was about to grab the bottle of squirty flavored cream when the woman interrupted me.
“Excuse me, sorry. Do you eat Hostess products?”
“No.” I told her.
“Do you avoid them?”
“Would you like to talk about that on camera?”
That’s roughly how it started and before I knew it I was being filmed having a pleasant chitchat with a lady I just met.
Click through the others that were chosen. They’re more deserving than me.
Or just move on with your day. I assure you you have much more important things to do, unlike some of the commentors on that post. People who write negative comments on meaningless gimcrack like this must be the boredest and saddest and uncreativest people in the world.
There’s so many better ways to spend one’s time: Learn a new knot, organize a drawer, look at pretty girls on tumblr or facebook or at the coffee shop, yank out a nose hair, delint a big toe, clean your phone screen, close your eyes and reminisce about the varying skin tones, temperatures and finger lengths of ex-girlfriends. Anything!
The Internet is a global bathroom wall and the world will never run out of ink.
Last night I had the honor of being the special out-of-town guest introducer of the 1-Year Anniversary Birthday show of SpeakEasy Comedy at Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap (Mondays, 8pm, $5). That means I was the guy who brought up the host, and without my pitch-perfect introduction the night might not have been the rousing success it was. Also, they had these cupcakes. Man, so round and delicious! Nom Nom Nom LOLz haha dawg.
Here are a couple pictures I took using an app on my phone called Pano. What it does should be obvious. Click on the picture, zoom in to full size and scroll side to side. It’s like you’re there!
That’s the night’s headliner, Adam Burke, on stage in the first one. And you might recognize the three people on the left who acted in my short film, as well as that fella on the right. In the second picture you get a decent angle on an uncanny painting of Adam, which the producers found collecting dust the first time they investigated the basement as a potential performance space. It’s not actually him. Yet it is.
It’s no small feat to keep a comedy show alive past the first three months, let alone the first year. The comedy highway is littered with the crumbling forgotten corpses of failed showcases, each a husk of wasted effort and unrealized dreams tearfully abandoned by its creator, the project and its attendant posters, handouts, unfilled raffles, tealight candles, booking schedules and facebook invites dumped roadside to rot in the shallow cold puddle which slowly dissolves the humiliating failure after explaining to an annoyed bar manager why no one showed up and that next week we’ll put even MORE fliers on the wall above the urinals. All too often, there is no next week, there are no more urinals. Flush.
But that isn’t the case here.
Due to the tireful work of producers Kenny DeForest, Jeff Steinbrunner, Jeannie Doogan, Saurin Choksi, John McBride, Derek Smith and John Ming, SpeakEasy Comedy is one of the best showcases in the city. They bust ass and the world is a laughier place. Performing on the show is a feather in the cap* of any local performer.
As one of these tortured chuckle-hunters it’s comforting to know audiences still turn out to support live comedy. We need their laughs more than they do and rooms like SpeakEasy provide a venue for it to be sought and found. An audience’s patronage is both earned and rewarded with quality and consistency, week after week, flush after flush.