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Don't Shit Where You Eat! ™

To Shit or Get Off the Pot

Comedy Posted on Mon, July 08, 2024 06:11:32

A man, on a quest for Truth, hears of a wise man on a mountain who has discovered the meaning of life. He embarks on a long quest to meet this wise man. The climb is arduous and he nearly dies, again and again, before finally reaching the summit. He stumbles to the wise man’s feet and pleads, “Please.. tell me, what is the meaning of life?”

The wise man smiles benevolently . “Life…. is a fountain.”

“Life is a fountain?!”

The wise man’s smile fades. “…. Isn’t it?”


Ah, summer is here. We’ve already had much better weather than all of last summer and I hope writing this doesn’t jinx it. Our evil fashion overlords have decided that bras are still out, tight and often transparent clothing is still in, as is the early 2000s with midriff-baring tops, low-rise jeans and exposed thongs. I live in Sweden. Several times a day, I’m reminded of Sam Kinison, screaming at God, “You’re CRUEL! YOU’RE A CRUEL BASTARD SOMETIMES!”

I’ve been extremely focused on my job, with the end of my probation only a few weeks away. I live in a constant state of bemusement over the fact that I somehow enjoy working in customer service again. Sure, I’ve met a few assholes, but not enough to bring my mood down. Also, somehow, I often speak Swedish and customers rarely respond in English or even look at me funny. Which is great, except when I meet Norwegians and they assume I can easily understand them. [Editor’s Note: For my American readers, neither Norwegians nor Swedes speak Swiss.]

As per summer usual, my motivation for standup has dropped to near non-existence. I had one gig booked in June but, when choosing between an unpaid set in front of a small crowd or an evening with family at home, which is becoming increasingly rare, I chose the latter. I’ve got a gig in October for which I was very pleased and equally surprised to be offered, otherwise nothing planned at all.

Not there are many clubs open just now, not that they’d have me if they were. I’ve remarked before that my grinding days are long behind me. My social media fast continues, with me signing in just once a week to post blog updates, making me virtually invisible. The idea of grinding again feels just as unappealing as the idea of quitting altogether, which means I’m still in a limbo between states. As my only ambition has been to perform as often as possible in as many clubs as possible, I’m unhappy with my limited opportunities yet unwilling to do anything about it.

I have the same attitude about opening a new club. I told someone recently that, when I moved to Sweden, I put my dog Buddy up for adoption, and I miss that dog but I don’t miss being a dog owner. In much the same way, I miss Power Comedy Club, more from when we were at Brother Tuck, but I don’t miss owning a club. I recently considered opening a club where I pay others to host and then immediately wondered why I would even bother having a club. How I could even mange to run a weekly club when my job schedule isn’t consistent and I have no interest in running a club with partners again.

With my motivation so low, my passion for standup matches it. I see other comics touring Sweden and I wonder why, as, from what I’ve heard, it certainly isn’t lucrative. Feels like the only demand for comic tours are from the comics themselves, who had to endure the pandemic and lack of attention. I see much less of it on social media now, since I’m barely on, but when I do see someone post, “OMG I just hosted a show for forty people and I love my life!” I wonder why they’re so enthusiastic.

I guess what I keep coming back to is being of two minds, having opposite yet equal views again and again. I listen often to Joe Rogan’s podcast, despite turning it off out of disgust and/or boredom just as often. The episodes I enjoy most have comics as guests, though I rarely think those comics are funny on stage. I find it reassuring when they mention some drama or another and I think, oh that’s nice, petty bullshit happens on all levels.

During a recent “Protect Our Parks” episode, Rogan and his comic guests, not one of whom I enjoy, talked about their fellow open micers who didn’t make it. By the way and speaking of being of two minds, while I dislike gossip I can’t help but enjoy knowing shit like, for example, being acquainted with someone who slept with one of those comics. Hey, I’m only human, and I run in weird circles. I know someone who slept with Fabio, for crying out loud. But I digress.

What I was trying to get at was, when they talked about the people who quit while they were still rookies, they said those people were universally happy. I encountered the same when I interviewed people for my podcast, that had either quit completely or had gone from performing several times a week to performing a few times a year. No one missed the grind, no one wondered, what if. Maybe it’s like a relationship when the passion is gone, you might miss the intense early days but have zero regrets about calling it quits.

Again, the idea of quitting entirely doesn’t appeal to me, but I’m so tired of being on the fence. This whole, maybe I’ll start a club again, maybe I’ll try to grind again, maybe I’ll get my pod going again, it’s just as boring to me as it must be to anyone that’s been paying attention to me lately. I have a wealth of topics in my head I’d love to express on stage, but a famine of material; even in my head I feel like a TedTalk lecturer.

The biggest de-motivator for me is the community itself, the whining, the aforementioned drama. I try to ignore them, talk to the Lord, pray for them, because some fools just love to perform. You know the type, loud as a motorbike, but wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight. I want to be Zen and let people get away with nonsense, but that’s always been a challenge for me. Time I could spend thinking of material, I waste on imagined conversations that will never happen.

Or, worse, I’ll think of material I can never use. If I ever quit comedy- and also leave the country- I’ll first do a massive roast. They say you only roast the ones you love, that there needs to be heart in every joke, but I’ve found that purely evil roast jokes make me laugh the hardest. Just frustrating that the best jokes I think of now, I’m the only one that will ever hear them. Unless we’ve had a few beers and you promise not to tell, of course. And then you’ll tell and I’ll get fresh beef.

As I see it, I’ve got three choices. Accept the way things are and have been for nearly, holy shit, five years. Where does the time go? Start grinding again. Go to clubs when I’m not booked and nag club owners and post regularly on social media… I got tired just typing that sentence. Quit. Nope, too spiteful to myself and others for that.

So I’m off to enjoy my summer and think about shitting or getting off the pot. Thanks as always for your support and don’t worry/get your hopes up, because you’ll be hearing from me again. In some form or another.

Ryan the Joykiller

Comedy Posted on Mon, June 24, 2024 06:02:26

A traveling salesman, visiting a small town for the first time, walks into the local bar. The first thing he notices is a strange sound, like muffled sobbing, coming from the back room. Only a few sit inside, all looking miserable, including the bartender. There’s also a bucket overflowing with cash on the bar.

The salesman orders a beer and asks the bartender what’s going on. “A few months ago, I bought my daughter a horse, but it won’t stop crying. I can’t give it to her like that! So I keep it here and people pay five bucks to make it stop. If they succeed, they get the whole bucket.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a shot!” The salesman puts five bucks in the bucket, walks into the back room. A moment later, the crying stops, only to be replaced with a stranger sound, as if the horse was laughing. The salesman walks out, downs the rest of his beer without a word and, smiling, takes the bucket and walks out.

A year later and passing through town again, the salesman drops by the bar. The laughing continues, everyone is just as miserable, and now there are two buckets full of cash on the bar. The bartender notices him and yells, angrily, “You! That damned horse hasn’t stopped laughing since last year! People have paid twenty dollars per chance to make it stop and no success!”

“Alright.” The salesman puts a twenty into a bucket, walks into the back room, and quickly an eerie silence follows. The salesman walks out with a smile, grabs the buckets, but the bartender stops him, demands an explanation. “It was easy,” he replied. “Last year, I told him my cock was bigger than his. This year, I showed him.”


In the film Gattica – underappreciated at release, it’s since become a cult classic- one of the subplots involves a lifelong rivalry between brothers. In their youth, they raced each other to find out which one could swim the farthest out to sea before turning back to shore. The brother who lost held a grudge and trained, apparently for years, for a rematch. But when the day finally came, he lost again, and nearly died in the effort.

His brother told him, “Do you know why I win? Because I don’t save energy for the trip back.”

This is me, except socially. I can’t count the times I’ve put my foot in my mouth thanks to an inappropriate joke or misreading someone or spreading gossip (for which, thankfully, I’ve lost the taste). I just put myself out there, in a figurative sense, with little thought for consequence.

I was reminded of this yesterday when long-term reader and frequent free source of Photoshop support David T. Weaver sent me a screenshot to brag that Shane Gillis liked some comment he’d made on social media. Without hesitation, I replied, “That’s great! Whomever is in charge of his social media (or robot) liked your comment!” It was only after I sent it that I wondered why I do that, why I always do that.

When you give blood in Sweden, a few days later you’ll receive an SMS saying that your blood was just used to help someone. I’m thrilled to tell people that t’s based on statistics, that there’s no way your individual donation is being tracked that carefully. When people in their forties get asked for their ID at the liquor store, I tell them it’s the cashier being nice or just checking randomly, they don’t actually look under twenty.

Back in my first week of college, there was a free event for the Freshman class, with a magician. He performed several illusions, all of which I deemed basic, as, thanks to Penn and Teller, I had a phase around 1990 when I was big into magic. (I’m not making any apologies for phases. Hell, from October to November 1993 I was a Goth kid. Yes, there are pictures and no, you can’t see them.) On the walk back to the dorm, a girl overheard me explaining one of the tricks to my roommate and interrupted, “Oh yeah? Then explain how he did the other thing!” I explained that one, then another, until she’d made me explain all of them. “Gee, thanks, asshole.” She asked!

I don’t know how, at the same time, I want people to have magic (in general, not cheap parlor tricks) in their lives, but also jump at the chance to dispel illusions (again, in general). I want you to enjoy sausage but also tell you how it’s made (especially if it’s Scrapple). I want you to like me, but I jump to playful insults. For fuck’s sake, I told someone recently that his weight loss, which he was happy about, gave him old man skin.

Maybe it’s just the traditional self-destructiveness of comics, maybe or likely it’s insecurity. Maybe it’s affected by my biggest pet peeve- letting people get away with shit. My Lord do I hate that. I believe it’s healthier for me, and also a struggle, and I’ll get into that more next week before taking a summer break. For whatever reason, I have that trigger in me. When you marvel at how the Stockholm subway is carved from natural rock, I can’t let the Stockholm Transit Authority get away with that! I have to tell you that it’s just wire frame covered in plaster, how could it possibly keep from caving in otherwise, and if you look to your left you’ll see a door in the “rock” you fucking moron! Oh, and also enjoy magic in life, because I want that for you, too. Sigh.

Game Recognize Game

Comedy Posted on Tue, June 11, 2024 13:14:02

”Jeez, Allison, you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
“No, I eat her pussy with it.”

Sometime in June of 1993, with only days remaining before graduation, and under unremembered circumstances, I sat in the cafeteria with a bunch of girls I’d never sat with before nor would again. Among them, a girl named Allison Crist, whom I barely knew despite us both being on the Track team and six years in the same school (no, we weren’t equally dumb, needing six years to complete four years of High School; Junior High was in the same building). Summer was already upon us and one of the guys working on a construction project outside walked in to use a vending machine. Topless, cut, maybe 22, ponytail because of course. I don’t remember her actual reaction, but Allison made some sort of verbal grunt, just like I’d heard guys do a million times when seeing hot girls. I was 18 and realized for the first time, “Wait… women can get horny?”

She then made some off-color remark that I also don’t remember, but something very on brand for her. I didn’t know her well, but well enough to know she wasn’t particularly lady-like. To which one of the other girls asked her the above question, to which Allison gave the single greatest comeback that I have ever heard. Thirty years on, it remains the undisputed champion. It was fast, natural, shocking, hilarious, perfect.

A month or so later, I visited the house in Ocean City where she was living with a bunch of other girls for the summer. They were doing some work in the attic, accessed by a hatch in the ceiling, and I was asked to help them down. As Allison’s legs swung through the hatch, I could see straight up the leg of her shorts and, well, straight Up, as she wasn’t wearing any underwear. I had a choice to make- keep my mouth shut, enjoy the view but also not embarrass her, though risk her realizing later what I must’ve seen, or be a gentleman and let her know she was on full display. “Thanks for not wearing underwear today,” was my gentlemanly salutation, and with a yelp she vanished back through the hatch with a speed I can only describe as unworldly. To her credit, she didn’t punch me square in the face later.

Anyway, this week’s entry is not about fond memories of teenage upskirts. I like that I’ve been including old jokes here and that particular comeback of hers, I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought of it over the past three decades. It still makes me smile.

No, today I want court controversary by making a shocking confession- I love parmesan cheese. I was pretty late to the game. It was a staple in my household, but so shredded it’s virtually powdered. That’s common in the US where we don’t really do cheese, but I never liked the consistency. Later, I would find I liked it when it was properly shredded, but it wasn’t until I went to a restaurant in Verona, Italy, and it was served in small chunks as an appetizer, that I would truly come to love it. I was in my forties and realized for the first time, “Wait… you can just eat cheese?”

And so it was, a few weeks ago, that I found myself drawn to a stand outside my local liquor store that was there to sell, and only sell, two kinds of cheese. I couldn’t tell you what the other cheese was as I only had eyes for the massive wheel of parmesan. There was one person ahead of me in line and I listened with a smile while the salesman went through his pitch. Although it has never been my intention, I have been in Sales practically my entire professional life. I’m certainly not the type who can sell anything to anyone, but I’ve met many who can. True Salesmen. Not to be sexist as I’ve met women in Sales as well, and while I’m certain they exist, I’ve never met a woman who burns for sales the way I’ve known many men to do. The kind of guy who reads books about sales techniques while on the beach.

This cheese salesman was clearly one of those guys. When he told the guy in front of me that, included for free with purchase, was a special bag, worth fifty crowns ($5), that would help prevent mold in the refrigerator, I nearly laughed out loud. It was a paper bag with a slight coating of wax.

When it was my turn, I got a free sample and immediately made up my mind to buy, now it was just a question of how much. I liked the guy but his enthusiasm to make a sale clearly affected his judgment, since looking at me he’d decided I must be the type willing and able to drop thousands on cheese. I declined his first offer of half the wheel (and I mean wheel; this thing wouldn’t have looked out of place as a spare tire) and, using his giant blade, he marked a slice half as big as the last. Still way too big, I shook my head no, and he marked a new slice, this time a quarter smaller than the last. Still too big, I shook my head, so he lifted the blade to mark a smaller slice… and brought it down exactly where it had been. I chuckled and said okay, spending too much money on too much cheese.

One might think that being able to see the tricks behind sales would make me less likely to fall for them, but it’s the opposite. Well, it’s not that I fall for tricks. I know what’s going on and they make me laugh when I see them in practice, making me say yes as if in appreciation of a trick done well. It’s like when my first marriage came to an end. I hate money (or at least I hate worrying about money, never wanting too little nor too much) and I hate things (as in the acquisition of things and brands), putting me in existential conflict with my first wife, and when it came to an end I didn’t want to fight about either. I told her I didn’t care about our stuff and she could have it all. Then I realized I was about to live alone for the first time in my life, with no possessions, no savings, in a foreign land with no family and no friends. I said, “Wait, I’ll need some stuff,” to which she replied, “Too late, you already said I could have everything.” Ah well, I ended up with our TV stand, a new TV and some old plates we never used.

The only thing I wanted to replace was our Hästens bed. I loved that bed. They are wicked expensive, though, and while I didn’t want to be stingy- I spend a third of my life in bed, after all- I wasn’t sure I was prepared to drop that much cash on a bed for myself. I made a plan to visit a few different places, shop around, decide which bed was best for me. I started with Hästens. The salesman showed me a few models, asked which kind of mattress I preferred, I said firm. He checked his computer and damn, wouldn’t you just know it, they only had one firm mattress in stock, I’d better decide fast if I wanted to order. I chuckled and ordered immediately. “Yeah, it’s expensive, but the good news is, you only buy one,” he said. Again, I laughed, and said no, this would be my second. And my last. Took several years to pay the damn thing off.

What does all of this have to do with comedy, you ask? There’s a great deal of salesmanship in standup as well. Jokes are often not good enough simply on their own, they need to be sold. Did you have a hard time coming up with a comedy topic this week, you ask? First of all, bite me, you’re not right. But you’re not not right, either. I hadn’t intended to take a break but I’ve been so focused on work I only have one gig in June and I’m not sure when I’ll be on stage again. My mind isn’t in much of a standup mode, but I do want to keep writing.

Still, there is something to be said of my appreciation of sales in comedy, too. I like seeing the tricks in action, particularly during crowd work when it’s done well. Those jokes that the crowd thinks are spontaneous but have been worked on for years. The body language used to punctuate a punchline. The way a comic will laugh at their own joke the same way during each and every set.

A rookie once asked Colin Quinn, “If I believe in a joke, should I need to sell it?” He replied, “There’s only one comic I know who doesn’t need to sell his jokes, and that’s Todd Barry. If you’re not Todd Barry and you believe in your jokes, why would you not want to sell them?” It’s good advice from one of those comics I like very much off stage and not at all on. Quinn is like Norm Macdonald to me, who in turn is like Frank Zappa to me. People I should love, in theory, but never enjoyed in practice. Although my latest wife will never stop trying to sell Zappa to me.

The Tom Brady Roast was so Gay Dude

Comedy Posted on Mon, June 03, 2024 11:52:57

Guy walks into a bar, sees a piano being played by a man who couldn’t be more than a foot tall. Finds a magic lamp on the bar, rubs it, a genie appears. “What is your wish, master?”
“I’d like a million bucks.”
“A million what?”
“A million bucks.”
“You wish is granted.” As the genie vanishes with a poof! a million ducks fill the bar.
“That’s not what I wanted!” The bartender looks at him and says, “Do you think I wished for a 12-inch pianist?”

I’ve mentioned before that standup may be like music for me in that, the older I get, the less new stuff I discover and enjoy. The only difference being, while I can listen to old band albums over and over, it’s rare that I listen to old standup albums or watch old standup specials. Although many releases hold up, standup tends to age like milk.

Shane Gillis is a Big Deal and I gave his Netflix special a shot. I turned it off after five minutes. A Shane Gillis punchline could be, “Huh huh, that’s so gay dude.” I wasn’t offended, just bored.

I watched the Roast of Tom Brady this past weekend and while Gillis wasn’t on the dias, he was shown in the audience several times, and his spirit was certainly a part of the show. The special is three and a half hours long… the word “indulgent” comes to mind. Originally broadcast live, the version I saw had edited out the boos that drowned out Kim Kardashian at the start of her set. I’m also pretty sure they added laughs to Bert Kresicher and Tom Segura’s joint set as, not only was it terrible, everyone involved has acknowledged how badly they bombed.

I introduced my kid to the Comedy Central roasts a year or so ago and she was a big fan, so we all watched this roast as a family. After I’d heard several gay jokes, I turned to her and said, “Huh huh, that’s so gay dude,” after the next one had been said. Then I shortened it down to, “Huh huh, gay retard gay,” then, “gaytard,” then I stopped saying it because even I got tired of it. There were so. Many. Gay jokes. At one point, Rob Gronkowski, former Patriot tight end (and now a wide receiver! Wocka Wocka!) went on such a long and passionate string of gay jokes that host Kevin Hart looked into the camera and said, “Jesus Christ!” and I was right there with him.

I’ve noticed, between the rise of Joe Rogan’s comic friends and what the kids find funny these days (even Borat made a comeback) that the pendulum is clearly swinging away from political correctness. And thank goodness for that. Not so much because I think there should be no limits in standup, but more because I am so bored with predominately older white dudes whining that no one can say anything anymore.

I often say that your time on stage is your opportunity to say whatever you want, be whomever you want. It’s your opportunity to do literally anything, which is why I get disappointed when rookies spend their three minutes on anal sex. I feel the same way about political correctness going away. If taking the power back from SJWs means the best we can do is, “Huh huh, gay retard tard gay,” then goddamn, wake me up when woke is back.

All that being said, Nikki Glaser knocked it out of the park, to use a football metaphor. (I was able to appreciate the roast on a different level than my family because I am a sports guy.) If you have a chance to catch her set, do so. I would recommend to Netflix to edit the rest of show down to just her.

Truly Tasteless Jokes

Comedy Posted on Mon, May 27, 2024 12:55:32

Q; Why did little Jimmy get kicked out of the Cub Scouts?

A: He got caught eating a Brownie.

Growing up, even without the Internet, I had way too much access to adult material, explicit and otherwise. My parents, I wouldn’t say they encouraged this, but they were pretty laissez-faire about it. I’d watch R-rated movies on VHS at home, they took me to see them in theaters. When I was three years old, my mom took me and her mom to see Animal House on the big screen. I have no memory of this, just heard the story of us leaving the movie theater at the end, me singing the theme song, my mother mortified. It’s one of those movies you see on TV so many times in the edited format that you forget all the full-frontal nudity of the original release. It’s like seeing National Lampoon’s Vacation uncut and remembering there was an incest subplot.

Sometimes, my dad would take me to the movies on a Sunday and we’d see whatever was playing. One time, we saw A Christmas Story. Another time, we saw Night Patrol, which was a complete rip-off of Police Academy, and somehow worse. He took me to see Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. Warhol had simply attached his name to an Italian adaptation of the classic tale, which was, at once, soft-core porn and graphically violent. It was in 3-D. At midnight. I was four. I remember it very clearly.

This is not to say my parents were bad people, or even irresponsible. I think they were just blissfully unaware, or wonderfully ignorant. It’s also weird to think, back when I was four, my dad was 27. It’s hard to imagine them as anything other than older than me now.

When I was seven years old and having already shown an interest in standup, someone in the family (not sure who) gave me a copy of Truly Tasteless Jokes. Published the form of a Little Black Book [EDITOR’S NOTE: For those of you born after 1990- back in the day, men who were single and ready to mingle would keep the phone numbers of their prospects written in a little black book] it was quite a collection of dirty and decidedly non-PC jokes, organized by category. There was a chapter of dead baby jokes. A chapter for blondes. A chapter for Poles. I don’t know what Poland did to deserve being thought of as complete morons, but I am grateful I can repeat those old jokes in Sweden, just replacing Poles with Norwegians.

The joke I wrote at the start of today’s entry comes from that book. I remember not completely understanding it at the time. I knew what Cub Scouts were (what you join when you’re too young for Boy Scouts) and Brownies (when you’re too young for Girl Scouts) but didn’t appreciate what eating referred to. I remember figuring it out and then, when retelling it again and again to my peers, I said licking instead of eating. Still works.

That book was popular enough to spawn a few sequels and a ton of knockoffs. If I dug around my old house long enough I’d likely be able to produce a few dog-eared copies. Of all the categories, I think the dead baby jokes stuck with me the longest. Perhaps they’ll lead off future entries.

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered, “Why is Bussell the way he is?” I recommend finding a copy of Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. Fast-forward to the scene when – SPOILERS – a very horny Mrs. Frankenstein takes the Creature to bed and he quite literally fucks her to death.

No Good Deed…

Comedy Posted on Thu, May 23, 2024 11:43:02

A man walks into a confessional. “Hi Father. Last Friday night, I was at a bar, and this girl half my age walks up to me, says it’s her 21st birthday, do I want to buy her a drink? So I do and we hit it off, suddenly I’m hanging out with her and her two girlfriends who are about the same age, one thing leads to another, the four of us end up in a hotel. The next two days, we barely stop to do anything other than have sex. It was a 48-hour fuckfest, if you’ll pardon my French!”
“I see. Are you prepared to repent for your sins?”
“What? No, I’m not Catholic.”
“…. then why are you telling me this?
“Oh, I’m not just telling you. I’m telling fucking EVERYBODY!”


”I don’t understand how you got this job,” said my co-worker to me after I told her I was likely too honest during my interview. I’d said, flat-out, that a) I am not a car guy and b) while I am capable of doing hard selling, I have no interest in doing so. This being an interview for a car rental agency. I told her I probably got the job because I have been working literally longer than she’s been alive.

I’ve said forever that I’m long past the point of aiming for a job I love. I had that with Nintendo, back before I moved to Sweden, when my professional life and personal interests coincided perfectly. It was a wonderful time. If I didn’t have standup, I might be more inclined to find another job like that, but since I have another outlet to express myself within (read: care about) I just wanted a simple, reliable job that would pay the bills.

It’s nice to finally have that. I suppose I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch, as I’m on probation until August, but I have no reason to worry. Not that I don’t worry any time my boss asks to speak to me for a moment; I’m so used to getting bad news, it always makes me flinch.

Normally, when someone arrives to pick up a car, we hand them their keys, tell them where to find it, and wish them bon voyage. Operating often as a skeleton crew, we don’t have the option of bringing every car to every customer. We’ll make exceptions under extreme circumstances.

Now that Spring has sprung in spectacular fashion (May began with snow in the air and a few weeks later I went for a swim; it’s like someone forgot to toggle the change between seasons and just flipped a switch a few weeks late), my standard for what qualifies as extreme circumstances has sunk dramatically. It’s hotter inside the building (air conditioning is all too rare here, as it’s needed all too infrequently) and busier with more tourists arriving, so I welcome any excuse to go outside, even for a few moments.

Taylor Swift playing three nights in town last week led to many fun interactions with customers, particularly Americans visiting Sweden for the first time. I met a family of four from a Philadelphia suburb and the dad told me, “We could’ve bought tickets to see her in Philly. Or spend less to fly the whole family to Sweden for a week, rent a car and stay in a hotel and buy tickets to see her here.” I heard a similar story again and again. I wouldn’t be surprised if Swedes were in the minority at those three sold-out shows.

Despite my oft repeated remarks about social awkwardness and one of my new co-workers calling me shy (feels weird to ascribe the word shy to a fifty-year-old man; seems more appropriate to say “loner” or “kept to himself” or “we didn’t see it coming”), I’m a veritable Chatty Cathy with customers. It was fun to meet so many Americans and see them smile when, after asking me what brought me to Sweden, I answered, “Love.” This, of course, is a lie- my ex-wife being the reason I’m here, the answer is closer to spite. Kidding! Kinda.

Anyway, as much as I dreaded the thought of getting back into customer service, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience so far. Sure, there have been a few assholes, and some consistent behavior amongst people of certain cultures that makes my inner Pop-Pop say, “See? What did I tell you about those people?” but not enough to make me feel negative about it. I’m not leaping out of bed at 5 AM with excitement, “Oh boy! Time for work!” but I’m also not wrestling with the alarm clock, trying to find any excuse to call out lazy.

Customers have given a lot of positive feedback, both in-person and online, and that’s been nice for my self-esteem. Not to mention my ego. I brought a car to two American Swifties, a forty-something mom and her twenty-something daughter, and as I walked away I heard the mom say, “He’s such a gentleman!” and the daughter respond, “And cute, too!” I hope Taylor Swift announces more dates here soon. Or maybe a residency.

Well, yesterday, two women came in to pick up a Tesla, one of them walking with crutches. It was gorgeous outside, it wasn’t particularly busy, I’m a nice guy, and also poor enough that my only opportunity to drive a Tesla is forty feet (twelve meters) at a time, so I brought the car closer for them. It was one of those low-slung sedans, so climbing into the car felt like climbing into bed.

Going on break almost an hour later, I discovered my phone was missing. I was 99% sure it must’ve fallen out of my pocket in the Tesla, but I couldn’t be sure. I’ll just use Apple’s Find My Device online…oh, but I can’t remember my password. As a safeguard against my forgetfulness, I knew I written my password on a note… on my phone. Oh well, I’ll just reset my password. To do that, simply confirm on your Apple device. Don’t have one? That’s okay, borrow a friend’s Apple device.

Android is much more popular here but I don’t have interest in learning anything new, so I stick with Apple. Fortunately, the one other person in the office had an iPhone, so we used his, only to get a warning message that resetting the Apple ID can take several days. Abort. Okay, I’m reasonably sure I have my password saved in my gmail, though it took me several tries to get my gmail password right. Finally, success! Except, this being the first time I was opening my gmail on that device, there’s 2-factor authentication. Open YouTube on your mobile device.

I realize I’m not going to break any new ground with material about passwords. That’s why I say this without irony- implant several devices, cut into bone, tattoo a barcode on me, whatever it takes so I don’t need to remember any more fucking passwords. The phone is locked, so I’m not worried about security, and while it sucks to not have immediate access to Candy Crush, at least I can play on my laptop at home. No, the problem is that my phone has my monthly train ticket on it. The only way to access my bank, other than finding an ATM, which are going the way of the pay phone. I literally cannot work without it, as, after being the victim of a massive hack some years ago, the login procedure on work computers involves jumping through several hoops, including needing one’s phone, fairly often each day.

I went home early to go on gmail there, remembering on the way that my kid could see where my phone was, and she verified within minutes that my phone was exactly where I thought it was. Ironically, after finding my Apple ID in my gmail, the app couldn’t Find My Device. The good news is that my phone is simply stuck between seats in a car that will return to my office. The bad news is that will be four days from now. The good news is, I have the next three days off. The bad news is, I start early on Sunday, and the car isn’t scheduled to arrive until five hours later- and that doesn’t mean it will actually arrive on time- meaning I’m still screwed.

I can’t say I blame them for not wanting to drive back to the office just to give me back my phone. The place they’re staying at is over an hour away. But I can’t help but think of that old, cynical expression: no good deed goes unpunished. I am glad that I helped them because one of the women was older and on crutches, and not because they were hot.

Speaking of which, I did fall for that trap last week with a French girl who’d booked a car. She said hadn’t driven that type of vehicle before- it being one of the most basic automatic cars in our fleet- so could someone please show her how it works? As usual, it was quite warm in the office that day, and as she asked she fanned herself with her own shirt, exposing her midriff, and I said, “Duuuhhh, oh-kay.” I brought the car to her and she asked if R means Drive (I’m not kidding) and I was happy I don’t have a car of my own at the moment.

Again, I know I’m not charting new territory by commenting on our increasing reliance on mobile devices, but it’s a big deal to me right now and I’ve got nothing but time to kill. I’ve thought for many years that the rise of the smartphone gave the lie to all Buddhists, wannabe and otherwise, who claim we are all one, maaaaaaaaan. The internet and smartphones in particular show, at once, both that we aren’t naturally connected and that we are desperate to be so.

On a final note, being without a phone made me break my Facebook Fast, since Messenger is my best option for communication for the time being. I’ve been sorely tempted to scroll but managed to avoid that, so far. As it’s quite prominent on the front page, however, I couldn’t help but notice today the first of FB’s “People You May Know” friend suggestions was a guy I’ve known, disliked, yet previously been connected to for over a decade, until recently, I guess. They should combine “People You Many Know” and “Memories” into “Here are Some Ex-Friends and Dead People.”

Why So Serious?

Comedy Posted on Tue, May 21, 2024 16:40:21

A tourist in NYC gets lost and asks several people for directions. Finally, he walks up to a cop and says, “Hi, can you tell me how to get to Times Square, or should I just go fuck myself?”

(Lately I’ve had a bunch of old jokes running through my mind and I think I’ll open each blog post with one, until I get bored or forget.)

So, last weekend, four of my new co-workers saw me perform for the first time, for what turned out to be, once again, a thoroughly okay gig. The weather is just too nice for crowds to spend time in basements. They had a blast anyway, possibly due more with their pre-gaming and staying out after, doing shots until 3 AM. Hopefully they’ll spread the word and I can get more of them to come on an even better night.

There is video, though I haven’t seen it yet. Maybe I should cut together clips from several of these recent gigs for my next special, “Ryan Bussell: Thoroughly Okay”.

A few weeks ago, after I’d told another co-worker that I do standup as a somewhat professional hobby (I tell people this as easily and as often as I would if I was a vegan or did cross-fit; other than being an American in Sweden it’s the only interesting thing about me), she asked me why I don’t simply make my living doing standup.

Oh, you sweet summer child, I thought, if you’d seen my act you’d never ask that. Out loud, I said it is very difficult to achieve a level of fame high enough to make a consistent living as a comic, particularly in Sweden.

“That’s not true!” she said. “My favorite comic comes from the south of Sweden, he’s so funny, his name is…. uh…. he’s blonde….”

“You’re kinda proving my point here.”

“Wait,” she said, turning to Google. “Oh yeah, Johan Glans!”

Right, arguably the single most famous and successful Swedish comic in this country’s history. Why can’t I just do what he’s doing? Well, where to begin?

I’ve heard it said that no comic ever became successful by keeping their day job and grinding at night. That they had to abandon financial safety and focus all their attention on gigging and writing and so on. I bet that’s true. I also bet that, for every comic that found success that way, there are a hundred who failed and limped back to civilian life. In my case, pushing fifty with a family and a not inconsiderable amount of debt already, I don’t really have the standing to say, “You know what? I’m not going to work anymore, just pursue my art of dick jokes and Down Syndrome punchlines, because I am an artist.” Not particularly responsible. Besides, I’ve already exhausted my unemployment benefits.

On the other hand, being a starving artist would be a motivator. As it is now, I have a hard time maintaining enough discipline to put this blog out on time each week (in fact, this entry is late), or putting out any other content at all, because of the inner voice that whines that few will see it and less care. With no safety net, I couldn’t afford to surrender to self-pity. I’d have to keep generating content regardless, with the hope that something would hit, someday I’d be in the right place at the right time.

On the other, other hand, that would mean I’d have to take this shit seriously, and I really don’t want to do that. It’s counter-intuitive to think you have to take standup seriously anyway. Over the years, I’ve seen many comics start after me and then whiz past me like I’m on a skateboard on the highway and they’re in a Tesla. Setting aside the argument of talent level, not one of them matches my level of slackitude. Even those who don’t put out a lot of content, at least they rub elbows and make an effort to get gigs, not just wait for opportunities to come out of nowhere.

A slacker I may be, but I am a slacker with a remarkable amount of mileage. I’ve done a lot and I can say one thing that many I’ve met over the years can’t claim- I’m still around. I know many who quit after three years, five years, felt like they were getting nowhere and what was the point of continuing? I think that’s the inherent risk of taking this seriously: if you go all-in and it still doesn’t work and you see people constantly pass you, it’s no wonder why so many of my peers end up wallowing in anger and resentment.

Me, I’ll just keep trudging along, perfoming as often as I can, in as many places as I can. That was always my one and only ambition anyway. Those opportunities may be few these days, but I appreciate them. Who knows what the future holds?

A year or so ago I met a former comic I hadn’t seen since the pandemic and he asked me flat out why I still perform. My answer was simple. Spite.

Okay is Bombing

Comedy Posted on Mon, May 13, 2024 01:13:00

Having a new job with varying shifts has thrown a monkey wrench into my standup schedule. Not that my gig frequency was exactly setting the world on fire before, almost exclusively hosting Maffia Comedy on Fridays and Saturdays. Work means cutting back even on those gigs.

Although I was available both nights this past weekend, someone else was booked to host, which is understandable; for more than two years it’s been me nearly every damn time, and I miss just doing spots. You know, being a real comic. Problem is, those rare nights I just do a spot at a club, it’s fun to dick around and try new stuff, but when a crowd pays about $40 bucks each for the show, I want to give them my best.

I could’ve gone in to do a spot on Friday but, it being my first day off in several days, I thought it was time better spent with my wife at home. I booked myself for a spot on Saturday but, as the day approached, my desire to not go increased. I even had an offer from work to go into the office for one hour Saturday night and make $40 (interesting symmetry there) and I was very tempted to take it.

In the end, I shamed myself out of the door. Didn’t take the job offer because, is my night really worth $40, even if it’s easy money? I moan about not being a real comic but, when I have the gig, I’m tempted to toss it away? There are still plenty of comics who want to gig at Maffia but can’t, so I shouldn’t take it for granted. Lastly, I’m still feeling the effects of the pandemic in that I’m entirely too happy to cancel plans and stay home. And so it was that I found myself on the 45-minute train commute for a thoroughly okay 10-min gig at Maffia and then the 45-minute train commute home.

For me, thoroughly okay is bombing.

To clarify, lest I come across as pompous (even more than just as a person who writes a weekly blog about standup), I don’t mean to say that what may count as a good gig to others is a bomb to me. Or I guess I am saying that, actually. I remember many times in my first year that I saw a veteran walk off stage after a set I would’ve killed for, shaking their head like, “Well, that sucked.”

Part of that is just how a comic’s mind works. Performing in front of a hundred people, ninety-nine pissing themselves with laughter, we’re laser-focused on the one that isn’t laughing. Go up with ten new jokes and nine kill, you walk away grumbling about the one that didn’t fly.

Mostly, though, it’s that our own standards for what is considered a good gig increase over time. Or at least they should; I could name some veterans that walk away from mediocre gigs, at best, looking like the cat that ate the canary, “Nailed another one!” Honestly, I’d rather bomb than do okay.

That being said, yes, bombing still sucks, just not as bad as in the early days. My first real, solid bomb, it was on a Thursday night and I felt like shit until Monday. It doesn’t hit the same way anymore, probably because I developed calluses on my soul. Feels more of a bummer due to time wasted. On the other hand, it could make for a fun story to tell.

Okay gigs aren’t fun to talk about. I should know, I’ve dedicated this week’s blog on the topic. The other night, some people liked me, some didn’t, so I ignored the latter and focused on the former. I tried a new joke that absolutely no one enjoyed (some jokes you can hear hit the ground like a cast-iron skillet) so I bailed on it halfway and moved on to something more reliable. I could’ve gone on longer, but figured ten minutes of an average performance was more than enough for both the crowd and myself, so I just wrapped it up. Good timing, too, as running straight out the door immediately after meant catching an earlier train home and laughing at Eurovision with my wife.

What makes it easier to deal with bombing is knowing it happens to everyone at some time or another, there’s really no way to avoid it, nothing you could’ve done to salvage it. Conversely, the worst part of an okay gig is knowing you could’ve done better. Been more engaged, more prepared, quicker on your feet. Been more likeable. Been funnier. The part of my brain that encouraged me to stay home has been gloating for the past twenty-four hours, that I put in so much effort just to feel lousy about myself. Hell, I don’t have to leave the house to feel lousy.

Well, the bad, or just okay, gigs help us appreciate the good ones. In other news, I have a fun habit- I start at a new job, tell my co-workers I do standup as a somewhat professional hobby, and then while I’m still in the probation period of employment, a bunch of them come see me and then I lose the job. This Saturday, I’ve got a gig at Laugh House and a bunch of my new co-workers are coming along and I suppose I’ll be looking for a new job this time next week.

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