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Don't Shit Where You Eat! ™

The Many Saints of Stockholm

Comedy Posted on Mon, April 01, 2024 07:59:42

April Fools’ seems an appropriate day to resume blogging.

I’ve heard that, “May you live in interesting times,” is a curse. Well, this year is interesting so far. Sadly, I’ve neither the ambition nor the talent to live on standup alone, so I needed an actual job. A few real opportunities came and went last December but in January, as my unemployment benefits were dwindling to a close, I was offered a full-time job close to home, to start in February. Great!

Except, one night near the end of January, I went to bed and the room spun around me. Felt drunk, but wasn’t drunk, believe it or not. Felt weird enough to wonder, as I fell asleep, if I’d wake up again. But not so weird it kept me from passing the hell out as usual. Next morning, I sat up and nearly fell over, I was so dizzy. Stumbled into the bathroom, feeling like I was on a boat, and promptly vomited.

Now, I’m closing in on 50, and I learned long ago that weird shit can and will happen to me. And why bother going to a doctor when Google is available? I quickly diagnosed myself. Seems there’s a condition where calcium crystals can loosen in your inner ear, throwing off your balance, and the only treatment is time and literally shaking your head, hoping to knock the crystals back into place. In other words, I needed to fix my head the way I’d fix a TV set back in the Eighties- by slapping the shit out of it. Seeing as I have a hole in my right ear where there shouldn’t be one, this seemed a likely culprit.

I’m assuming I was right, since I am feeling much better, but it didn’t make my first few weeks of work that fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked full-time, not to mention needing to get up at 5 AM, so it would’ve been rough already even without the inexplicable dizziness.

With all this going on, it made it that much more surreal when my phone rang at work and I got the news that someone I was once close to had died.

I have a lot of feelings on the matter, feelings I won’t be sharing. I don’t see a need to be public with grief, although I don’t begrudge others for doing that. In the weeks that followed, I saw others acting well, others not so much. It’s somehow appropriate and makes me chuckle that her death was a catalyst for starting yet another beef with yet another comic, one that I wasn’t looking for. In death, as in life, she could cause drama. She would’ve liked that. I’ll pray for the guy.

I will say that the aftermath was fairly predictable. The social media posts that Anthony Jeselnik rightly labeled, “Don’t forget about me!” The messages I got from others, expressing their condolences and then immediately asking how she died. Some people- probably more than I know- just outright assuming how she died.

There is one thing I liked seeing. All of us are complex. We have our good sides, we have our bad. We hope the good outweighs the bad. She was certainly no exception. In death, though, most only see her for the good. Not just that, but there are people who didn’t know her well that remember a lofty version of her that never actually existed. I like that. Why remember her as anything less?

Anyway. I’ve been all over the place these past few months. I also decided to go on a social media fast, since I found myself falling into old habits. Scrolling through page after page, despite not caring about anything I was looking at. Getting jealous, annoyed, even thinking dark thoughts about people I once considered friends. I don’t like being that way, so I’m staying off except to keep this blog going and to put out the last few episodes of my podcast I have in the can. Although I need to re-edit the episode I’d meant to put out most recently, as it featured a very funny clip about comics dying.

I couldn’t help but smile when, three days without signing in, Facebook sent me an email to let me know someone I don’t care about had posted something I don’t care about. I’m expecting them to send someone to knock on my door to give me updates. Or maybe a John Cusack move where they park outside my apartment and hold up a jukebox.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
– John Donne

Moby Mentality

Comedy Posted on Mon, September 12, 2022 05:23:44

Long, long ago, Moby expressed his concerns over Eminem’s success, noting that his lyrics were misogynistic, homophobic, and even antisemitic. Moby went on to say that, being intelligent and an adult, he understood that Eminem was just playing a character, indulging in shock tactics just to shock. But what of Eminem’s younger, less educated and less cultured fans who didn’t share Moby’s insight?

Eminem replied by threatening to kick his ass. Also rapped, “Nobody listens to techno.”

When I saw Moby make that statement during an interview, my skin crawled. Kids today would call it cringe. At that moment, the phrase “Moby Mentality” sprang into my mind and has been used many times since, to describe people who claim to be smart enough to recognize when a joke is just a joke, but worry about all the dumb people who will accept it on face value.

We had a situation like that here in Sweden a couple of years ago, when a few comics rapped about fucking kids. The song had been out for years without incident and was released purely for the enjoyment of their hardcore fans. It was also, very obviously, a joke. But a small community decided to make an issue of it, leading to clubs receiving death threats when booking the comics. Like all scandals in the comedy world, it burned bright as magnesium and just as briefly.

It did lead to one female comic turning against other female comics who voiced their support for those comics. She accused them of being “daddy pleasers.” Why there hasn’t been a “Daddy Pleaser” tour since is a mystery to me. Talk about a missed opportunity.

Here’s the thing- despite my oft repeated claim that the audience is the least important part of standup, to me anyway, I do believe that they’re smarter than we give them credit for. A civilian in the crowd isn’t going to see the mechanics of a joke clearly – not as clearly as a comic will – but they have good instincts. They’ll feel that a setup is too wordy without actually thinking the exact words, “Hmm, this setup is too wordy.” They’ll feel that a comic is nervous and insecure without actually seeing the comic staring at his or her feet and hanging onto the mic stand like a security blanket.

There’s no such thing as a bad audience, unless you want to call a room willing to laugh at anything and everything good and a room where you have to work for every response bad. I’ve seen comics bomb with bad material and complain the audience just didn’t get it. Oh, they got it. Maybe a crowd where the material had worked before were in a better mood or at just the right level of inebriated for that shit to fly.

On a related note, I always chuckle when I hear female comics complain that they don’t get groupies, but male comics do. (There was one night when a very drunk woman from the crowd was all over me after the show but was quickly discouraged by my lack of engagement and went onto another comic instead. Then another, then another, before finally going home with a comic who hadn’t realized he was eighth in line. I heard later that one wall of her apartment was dominated by “CARPE DIEM.” She certainly seized that day. But I digress.) Anyway, the female comics will claim that men don’t like funny women.

I couldn’t disagree with that more. Show me a man in a heteronormative relationship with a woman who doesn’t make him laugh and I will show you a bored and unhappy man. My wife makes me laugh all the time, even if a lot of her jokes are at my expense. In fact, my daughter makes me laugh all the time as well, even if all her jokes are at my expense… hmm… maybe men don’t like funny women.

No, I’m sticking to my guns- men like funny women, that’s not the issue. Everyone wants to be loved, but not everyone is willing to get up on a stage in front of a room full of drunk strangers and seek approval. The audience may not literally think it, but deep down they know we are special people. And by special, I mean broken.

I believe that the heteronormative instinctual response of a woman confronted by a broken man is, “I can fix him.” While the same response of a man seeing a broken woman is, “RUN.”

A concept that comes up frequently, even in this blog, is the comic holding up a mirror to the audience and revealing uncomfortable truths. When we do that, we do it on purpose. We choose what to say on stage and how to say it. Well, sometimes the audience does the same thing to us. Nine years ago, almost to the day, a guy in Berlin screamed, “GET OFF THE STAGE!” at me, which was pretty purposeful. Normally though, showing a comic whether they’re liked or disliked is a passive, natural thing. I suppose my conclusion is, always trust a crowd’s natural instincts. Like Americans, the crowd isn’t dumb, they’re just ignorant.