In honor of St. Patrick’s Day (or as it’s also known, “Happy Discovering Your Favorite ‘Fun’ Uncle Was Actually Just Drunk All the Time Day”), below is the concluding track from my album, Comedian,which you can learn all about here. I have a few bits about Ireland on it.
Yesterday, I thought it might be fun to do the Lion King “naming” thing. So I grabbed her by her belly and lifted her up. And then she threw up on my head. So I guess we don’t do that in this house.
Also, I went to a show last night, the graduation show for my friend’s pole-dancing class, and this lady in front of me using her laptop as a video camera might be the worst person on Earth:
When I was seventeen or eighteen, I had dropped out of high school and was working nights as a telemarketer for the New York Theater Workshop. As far as these gigs go, it certainly wasn’t the worst. It was the year Rent was being workshopped in preparation for its Broadway run, and I can still tell you it’s “the rock opera version of La Boheme by the late Jonathan Larson.”
Thursdays we would get our paychecks, and I would take mine to the check cashing place and spend the evening at the Comedy Cellar. This was well before the Cellar was cool, and more times than not the woman at the door would let me in for free, especially if I got there late enough after the show started. I was an early fan of Dave Attell, Wanda Sykes, I saw Chappelle do a couple of drop-ins. I always meant to bring a tape recorder and bootleg a show so I could listen to it at home; this was well before YouTube, when nobody did this at comedy shows and so who would give a fuck. It never happened, though.
Anyway, I saw th same comics over and over but never really got tired of it. And if I did, I’d go to the Boston Comedy Club and watch Red Johnny and the Round Guy or whoever the hell was appearing there. But the Cellar was my favorite.
Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is there’s a few moments I still have burned in my memory, and one of those was the night some poor nameless comedian (and there were many of those, who I still only remember as “The Guy With The Bobbit Bit That I Recognized Back Then Was Hack But Which Also Always Killed,” or “That Fella With the Bit About Relationships Being Like A Game of Chess and Not Much Else.”
Anyway, there was this comedian who was not doing so well, and he decided to go into the audience and pick on people. And he started fucking with this one guy in a suit on a date. And he said, “What do you do?” And the guy said, “I’m a talent agent.”
And everybody laughed.
And then the comic said, “No really.” But, you could tell, with less bravado. And the guy said, “No, seriously.”
“What kind of agent?” “I book comedians for tours.”
And that was the end of it. The comedian did more time and got offstage, but he was a beaten man walking out of the ring. Like I said, I don’t remember that comedian’s name, but as a mental exercise when I’m walking down the street, I still sometimes go through that exchange and try to figure out how I would have handled it if it were me. It keeps me sharp for when I do have difficult crowd work.
More on an example of difficult crowd work this week, I think.
Many years ago, when I was but a wee babe in the woods, I wrote full time for a dot-com called The Humor Network; a series of “joke of the day” sites that sent out daily e-mails with street jokes and Internet jokes and funny lists and all the junk your parents forward you in a desperate attempt to keep you remembering they exist. The e-mails would have ads on the tops and bottoms, and the idea was that since all these jokes were great, they would get forwarded and “go viral” and so every subscriber you paid to reach, you would also be reaching all their friends.
Our only advertiser was 2-4-1 Inkjets.
The company went the way of most of these companies, which was too bad. We had a suite of offices off of Times Square, and my job was so simple that I would generally be done within the first half-hour of working there. And while I wouldn’t say it was my best work, this stuff still, all these years later, continues to pop up in my Google Alerts. The following is something I wrote my first week there that is still getting passed around:
Welcome aboard! You are one of our most valued new employees. Enclosed please find some helpful guidelines to company policy.
OVERTIME: The Company has an optional overtime policy — you have the option of working forty hours of overtime or eighty hours of overtime.
PROMOTION: The Company rewards hard work and devotion. We like to think that if you work hard and devote enough time and energy to the company, you will be rewarded by being allowed to train the CEO’s son when he is promoted to Vice President over you.
STOCK OPTIONS: You may buy shares in the company when it goes public. So named because you’ll be working in the stock room at Wal-Mart when the company goes belly-up due to your incompetence.
401K: This is how much money you’ll lose under your “Stock Option” plan.
HELLTH PLAN: No, that isn’t a misprint; you now belong to an H.M.O. That stands for “Hell’s Medical Organization.” It was organized by some of Hell’s finest minds; Hitler, Genghis Khan, and Josef Stalin worked night and day to create a 162-page manual documenting the exact terms of your coverage, but it all boils down to three points:
1) You belong to the HMO. We mean that literally — as of now, the HMO owns you. To insure that you don’t forget your subscriber number, we will tattoo it to your forehead.
2) You have been assigned a primary care physician. You will not be told your physician’s name. You may never see your physician. Your physician is imaginary. If you see any doctor without express written permission of your imaginary primary care physician, you will be forced to pay full price, plus eat your weight in lard.
3) You are not covered under this plan.
TERMINATION: All employees will be given two weeks notice upon being fired. We like to feel that this gives an employee a “grace period” to steal all of the office supplies that he or she may have forgotten to take during his or her period of employment.
COMPLAINTS: May be made anonymously in the box marked “Complaints” in the employee break room. All complaints will be reviewed, processed, and fed to an angry Rottweiler named Frankie.
As one who spends most of his time in this glamorous world of business we call “show,” I find it easy to forget that religion is a serious topic. Most performers don’t really adhere to any one particular faith. I ascribe this to ego; there’s simply no room in their world for a being greater than themselves.
To every person who are raised to believe, there are two kinds of people:
1. The completely reasonable religion *I* was raised in, that makes total sense sense.
2. The ranting lunatics in those *other* religions.
Most rational human beings, whether raised as a snake-handler or atheist, will have a crisis of faith. And this person, no matter what nationality, race, or creed, will inevitably ask him or herself: “What if those religious nuts I grew up hating are right, and I’m going to end up in hell? Am I, in effect, partying with the right crowd? Or, when I die, will I try to get into the Great VIP Room in the Sky, only to be told by an angelic bouncer that I’m ‘not on the list’?”
Indeed, it’s not easy to know whether or not you’ve chosen the right religion. Luckily, I have my bases covered: My mother is Jewish, my father is Irish Catholic, and I was raised Buddhist. So I’m either eligible for every Heaven, or the hells of several religions are going to have to bid on me. Either way, I’m covered.
But not everyone can be so lucky. Don’t despair, though, for today I bring you good news: It’s not too late! You can still change faiths out of a deep and abiding belief in making a cynical last-minute bid to get out of going to hell. But which one is the right fit for you? Let’s do some comparison-shopping:
A true smorgasbord of religious possibilities. The basic tenet of Christian belief is that God sent his only son down to Earth, where he gave a message of peace and love to all mankind. Naturally, this is a point of great contention and the cause of much fighting among the different sects of people who all believe the same thing:
Catholicism: Do you love Jesus but hate the feel of condoms? You can tell your significant other, “Baby, I’d love to, but God says we shouldn’t.”
Protestantism: For those who feel that traditional Catholicism isn’t oppressive enough.
Baptism: For people who like the oppressive nature of Protestantism, but like a little more show biz in their sermons.
Big bonus: The Bible is so big, and filled with so many contradictory things, that it’s possible to believe one thing while behaving completely differently.
Big drawback: Premarital sex is out, as is excessive drinking. So be prepared to cut out all the things that make life worth living. Just kidding! But seriously, be prepared to feel very guilty.
More than a religion, Judaism is a lifestyle. It has many special dietary rules and arcane rituals dictating that, for instance, you can’t eat cheeseburgers and you’re not allowed to do anything other than sit in a dark apartment all day Saturday. The good news, though, is that most Jews only follow those rules when they feel like it. That’s called being a “Reformed Jew.” They aren’t Jewish so much as Jew-ish. The bad news is that if you’re a guy, they will want a “piece of you.”
Big bonus: Progressives who weren’t lucky enough to be born black can still join an oppressed minority.
Big drawback: Everyone else in the world will hate you.
Boy, oh boy, if there’s one thing thing we’ve learned, it’s that Muslims traditionally have a very good sense of humor about their faith.
Big bonus: If you’re a Muslim in America, you don’t have to worry about bringing a camera to take pictures of family events; the FBI’s got you covered.
Big drawback: What am I, a hero?
The cool “alternative” religion. Remember, though, that this means that any college sophomoron with a Tibetan tattoo will think you are equals. Hell, odds are good you are a college sophomoron with a Tibetan tattoo. However, you should be warned that saffron robes are good for “Autumns,” but not for “Winters” or “Springs.”
Big bonus: When it comes to picking up 19 year-old college students, it beats doing kegstands.
Big drawback: In three years, you’ll be a Catholic.
The other religion of Hollywood celebrities. Your friends will all think you’re in a cult; worse, they’ll be right. The German government hates Scientology, and if there’s one thing the German government is famous for, it’s having a good sense about which religions to persecute.
Big bonus: You will join a religion with a team of attorneys on call.
Big drawback: Scientology’s tenets are encapsulated in “Battlefield: Earth.”
Hey, you’ve already lost your mind, why not your circle of friends too? The only people who want to hear about Wicca are other Wiccans. It’s based on the worship of Earth and Nature; this is another way of saying, “prepare to be dirty.” Its followers are mostly female, so if you’re a dude who can nod convincingly while sitting cross-legged, you’re in like Flynn.
Big bonus: Learn Earth magic and wreak havoc on those snotty cheerleaders from high school who all laughed at you.
Big drawback: The rest of us are now laughing at you, too.
Atheism and agnosticism
Atheism is the declaration that there is no God. Agnosticism is the same thing, but with the caveat that if there turns out to be a God, you believed in Him the whole time. Be warned: For people who don’t believe in anything, atheists sure spend a lot of time talking about it.
Big bonus: No beliefs equals no rituals, holidays, or ancient laws to follow.
Big drawback: Atheists are even preachier than hard-core born-agains.