Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hey gang, it's the "every other" in my "every other Wednesday" deadline for TV Squad, so my blogging energies went in that direction last night. I'm pretty proud of this column; both my wife AND my editor thinks it's the best thing I've written in a long time. If you want to check it out, click here: TV 101: The true meaning of TV Christmas specials.

Hope you enjoy it!

Also, I hope all of you have a happy and healthy holiday. I, for one, will be having a traditional holiday: wake up early to do Christmas with my son, then drive to Atlantic City to headline a week and a half worth of shows at the Tropicana. Yep, it's a Christmas miracle!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why sometimes it's OK to keep the Christ out of Christmas

I saw a sign today that said "Remember: Jesus is the reason for the season."

I've been seeing variations of this kind of thing since I was a little kid. There are two kind of people who put these signs up:

1. Normal, every day Christians who treat Christmas like the rest of us do (a Caligula-style orgy of naked consumerism and fatty-foods), but who still want get a little holy karma thrown their way in case Jesus is in the habit of reading lawn-signs.

2. Truly committed Christians who reject outright all the pagan trappings of Christmas (and who probably think that the Three Wise Men were perverting things by distracting the baby Jesus from Himself with all that myrrh.)

For 32 years, I understood where both of these people were coming from. After all, Christmas started life as a religious holiday; it only makes sense to want to remind people of that fact. I'm sure if, for some reason, Ramadan all of a sudden became a hip holiday with all sorts of wacky traditions grafted onto it (Achmed the Ramadan monkey brings the most obedient little girls trampolines or whatever), Muslims would justifiably try to steer the holiday to its original purpose.

But something occurred to me today:

Maybe the most Christ-like approach to keeping the Christ in Christmas is to remove him from the occasion altogether.

See, Christmas is teetering on the verge of becoming a secular holiday in much the same way that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July already are. Christmas is so profitable that it's already been put through the capitalist ringer: it's been buffed and polished by Hollywood and Wall Street to be the most appealing holiday on the calendar. As a consequence of this, there isn't a little boy or girl -- of any faith! -- that doesn't want to celebrate it.

Parents of different faiths worry that Christmas is therefore a sinister missionary, spreading not just good cheer, but Christianity as well. There is understandable resistance, then, to embracing Christmas.

This is sad, because the atmosphere at Christmas -- the lights, the gifts, the super-awesome pagan traditions -- does actually make a difference in how people view the world. There's a happiness possible at Christmas that is separate and distinct from anything to do with religion. People sometimes just want to have an excuse to decorate their house, put on reindeer sweaters, and got sloshed on eggnog.

The world is a much better place at Christmas, and it would be even better if we could get more people celebrating it. Christians make up a majority of the country, but they don't make up a super-majority (sorry Sarah Palin). All the best parts of Christmas, the ones that make us light up happily every December, could easily be exported to those non-Christians without any mention of the Notorious J.H.C. Further, thanks to the aforementioned polishing of Christmas by corporate America, it would only take just the littlest of pushes to make Christmas a universal, secular holiday.

Imagine if the holiday cut across religious boundaries the same way Thanksgiving did! Imagine if all your Jewish friends were able to stop pretending that the socks they got on the fourth day of Hanukkah were just as good as the minibike you got for Christmas. Imagine if the son of the neck-bearded atheist associate professor of philosophy was able to get the same GI Joe figure as you.

What a wonderful world that would be, eh? In fact, I would say that the philosophy of Christ -- namely, the goodwill toward your neighbor stuff -- would be more alive in a world like that, even as we diminish, just a bit, the worship of Him.

I would humbly suggest that the Jesus of the New Testament wouldn't care how it was done, just so long as it was done.

(Now, his pissed-off father from the Old Testament is another story. The only person who wailed on his children more than Yaweh did was Bing Crosby.)

We could make the world a place that emulates Christ if we could just get him the Hell out of Christmas.


On a side note, my wife and I put in an offer -- and it was accepted! -- on a house last week, which is part of the reason why this blog has been so inconsistent. We're gearing up for the new place now (assuming that the deal doesn't fall apart on its way from contract to settlement). We bought at what we hope is the bottom of the current market, so it's either up from here or that house is where we make our final stand against the Zombies. Either way, I'm deliriously happy and can't wait to share with you all the news of the move (hopefully, with some entertainment value attached).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cracker Barrel Cheese and Diet Pepsi

Cracker Barrel actually sells a sack of individually wrapped logs of cheese. Now, I'm not a huge cheese fan, but I am a fan of convenient late night snacking. And, for that, nothing works better than individually wrapped cheese. Is it a good idea to eat anything that can be referred to as a "log" mere seconds before you go to sleep? Probably not, but it's as close as I get to being a daredevil.

I've found that the sharp taste of this particular cheese is offset quite nicely by Diet Pepsi. Maybe the unholy swill of evil chemicals in each item offset each other --sorta like how Chelsea Clinton turned out okay -- or maybe it's just dumb luck, but there's no better post-midnight snack than a log of Cracker Barrel cheese and a swig of Diet Pepsi.

Something occurred to me tonight that made it taste even better: if a person from France were to have seen me eating Cracker Barrel cheese and drinking Diet Pepsi they very well could have exploded.

To most Americans this is just some common sense snacking. Americans don't savor -- we're descended from frontiersmen who spent all day long taming a new land (and, uh, killing its indigenous people) -- our people don't have time to savor!

Europeans, on the other hand, descend from all the people too scared to leave for America. Their ancestors spent their afternoons powdering wigs and polishing snuff-boxes. They might have time to savor things, but so what? Unemployed people have time to do a lot of things.

Of course, I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek here. In a weird way, though, the fact that I've been raised to eat shitty food in the worst circumstances in order to make things more convenient and efficient actually made me a little proud. Eating Cracker Barrel cheese and drinking Diet Pepsi is a good representation of both the best and worst of what it means to be an American.

So let me suggest this the next time Old Europe gets mad at the US of A, instead of declaring things "Freedom Fries" or "Victory Gardens", I'd like for every American to grab a lump of Cracker Barrel cheese and a bottle of Diet Pepsi and have a good ole American wine and cheese party standing up right there in their kitchen.

USA! USA! (Oh, is no one else chanting? Well okay then...)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I'm very busy lately with a couple of projects that I hope I'll be able to share some news about soon, but I wanted to drop in tonight and give you a joke that I've been sitting on since yesterday:

I haven't seen Bush dodge something that well since the Vietnam draft!

That is all. More tomorrow!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is there no explanation of irony in the Koran?

Just a quick post; my wife and I are headed out with the spud in a few minutes.

I wanted to share this article about Iran being offended by the new movie "The Wrestler." They're mad because one of the wrestlers that Mickey Rourke fights is called "The Ayatollah". During the climax of the movie, the two use the Iranian flag as a prop in their fighting. This is obviously done with an ironic nod towards mid-80s wrestling and how being foreign -- especially Arab -- was seen then as being evil.

I've seen this movie and I'm dumbfounded that the Iranians would be upset about it; Iran is apparently unable to understand that anti-Islamic xenophobia is being mocked by the movie. "The Wrester" is actually on their side!

What is it about fundamentalism that precludes it from accepting humor? Surely, if the Koran (or the Bible or the Torah or Dianetics) covers the full spectrum of human experience, it should probably have something in there about irony, right? Shouldn't there be at least one passage that reads something like this:

"God (or Allah or Yahweh or L. Ron Hubbard) has given us massive brains that can be used for all sorts of really awesome things. One of those awesome things is the ability to say one thing but mean another. So, you know, don't always look at the surface statement; try looking at the deeper meaning of what's said. You might find the friction between the two to be delightful!"

Instead all the Koran seems to say is "grow a beard and get angry."

Maybe there's a connection between being being bearded and being humorless? Science should probably look into this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In which our hero has a date...

My wife and I went on a date tonight. It's only the second time in the sixteen months since the birth of our son that we've been able to go out together. The reasons for this shortage of alone time is as follows:

1. My mom is dead, which is a serious blow to our babysitter situation. I have a dad left, but you know, dads really aren't clamoring for some Friday night alone time with a baby. Mostly, my dad just wants to smoke and watch hockey, two things I suspect will be boring to my son until at least his fourth birthday.

2. My mother-in-law is our day care provider. She loves my son, but after approximately 35-40 hours each week of watching him during the day, I'm sure the idea of another four or five hours so that my wife and I can practice making another baby isn't high on her list of priorities.

3. I'm a comedian, which means most Friday and Saturday nights are spent entertaining our nation's drunkards and malcontents.

Tonight, though, the stars aligned perfectly. My comedy club date was cancelled, my wife's sister had the night free, and my wife actually wanted to spend some time with me (as our marriage has been argument free for almost the entire week!) This simply does not happen. This is like the Perfect Storm, except that in this version of the movie, Clooney and Wahlberg went to an Italian place for dinner, then made out in a car.

It was a nice reminder of why we wound up married with a kid in the first place. I suspect our next date, tentatively scheduled for June 22, 2010, will be just as hot.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So, things are back to normal (I hope)

I think we're all set with my website being virus free, so it's back to blogging as usual!

I'll have new content up later in the day. In the meantime, please check out my latest column for AOL. I think it's one of the better ones (and not just because it has a wicked cool Star Wars reference in it).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why you're seeing this page!

So, this is my blog. If you clicked on, you were redirected here, temporarily, because the main site has been infested with a virus. Not sure what happened, exactly. Perhaps my web site connected to a website in Amsterdam and made some bad choices about how to spend its time there.

Or, maybe a bit more realistically, I'm maintaining my own site and don't know what the hell I'm doing.

I've sent an email to the web hosting people, so the problem should hopefully be taken care of shortly. In the meantime, feel free to explore this blog.

If you're looking for a free CD, just comment on this post and I'll get it to you ASAP!

Thanks much.

(PS to my regular blog readers -- both of you -- we'll be back to normal soon. Maybe this temporary redirect will lead to hundreds of new readers. Or, uh, not. Hope is, of course, the thing with wings.)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Taco Bell "Supreme"

I ate breakfast this afternoon at 1 PM at a Taco Bell. This kind of eating is not uncommon among comedians; it's probably why the average comic rarely lives past his mid 30s.

After I ordered, the person waiting on me asked "regular" or "supreme". I asked what the difference was, she said: "Supreme is the same taco except with sour cream."

I'm sure you already knew this, but I want you to think about it: according to the people who run Taco Bell, the only difference between an ordinary something and a supreme something is sour cream.

Here's what Webster's has to say about the word supreme:

"Supreme (adjective)

1. highest in rank, power, authority, etc.; dominant
2. highest in quality, achievement, performance, etc.; most excellent
3. highest in degree; utmost
4. final; ultimate"

Or... sour cream.

I realize that it's just some stupid sour cream, but I think this might be a big reason why our country has been slipping a bit in recent decades; the devaluation of our superlatives. For instance, "awesome" used to be a word that was once reserved for acts of god; now it's routinely used to describe pizza.

Advertising plays a large part in this. When you're trying to sell, you can't be reasonable. You can't say: "Mop and Glo: it'll make your floors temporarily less dirty." You have to say "Mop and Glo: It's so unbelievably awesome and astounding, it will literally knock the shit right out of your colon" or some such.

Eventually, all the good words get co-opted for silly things. You do this enough and the good words don't mean anything anymore. How can you give someone a compliment that has any kind of real resonance?

"Dr. Jonas Salk will forever be remembered for his supreme accomplishment: curing Polio."

It's not unreasonable for the average kid to think that all Salk did was take Polio and pour some sour cream on it.

God hates me...

Well, maybe not hates me, but He's certainly in a mood.

Let's pick up the story Thursday morning. I woke up at 3 AM because I went to bed the night before at 5 PM (due to my skinned-knee cornea and all).

I had a gig at 9 PM that night in upstate Vermont (like, really upstate, near where Superman keeps his Fortress of Solitude), but I couldn't leave extra early because I had 10 AM follow-up to make sure that I wouldn't be going blind any time soon. No biggie; even if I left at 10:30, I'd be in VT by 5:30 and be able to squeeze in two or three hours worth of nap time.

At 11:30, I was at exit 11 of the New Jersey Turnpike, making good time. Then, every single "you're car is about to die" light came on at once. My Jetta did everything except shout angrily in German at me. On top of that, the car wouldn't go faster than 40 MPH without making all sorts of scary noises.

I briefly considered pulling into oncoming traffic, but figured I wasn't going fast enough to ensure instant death.

I pulled over and consulted my GPS. There was a Volkswagen dealership in Linden, at exit 12, four miles away. I limped up there and explained to them my situation.

See, I needed to know right away whether I ought to get the car fixed right then or if I should get a rental car and pick the car up later. Comedians only get paid when they show up at a place at the agreed upon time (actually being funny is less important than being punctual). I had a three hour window.

The dude -- Billy, one of the nicer humans on the planet -- jumped me to the front of the line and had one of his guys look at the problem. The guy told me that my issue was one where 99.9% of the time, it was just a dirty valve. .1% of the time, there was a need to replace the entire valve, but let's not think about that until we have to.

He cleaned my valve (and yes, I realize how gay that sounds), and we test drove the car. After about 15 miles this is the exact conversation we had:

Me: "What do you think?"

Him: "It's looking pretty good. I want to do one more spin around the block."

Me (checking my watch): "Okay."

Him: "It was nice being able to help you. I was worried that we were gonna have to replace the valve. I think you're gonna be oka ---"

It was at this point that all the lights came back on again.

Him: "Shit."

(To understand that "Okay", imagine that the first syllable, the Ohhhhhhhh, came out in slow mo over the course of like twenty minutes. That really adds to the drama).

So, I needed a rental car and had already blew an hour and a half watching another man clean my valves. By the time the rental car got there, I had seven hours to drive the six hours to Vermont, made worse, of course, by the now heavy New York City traffic.

By the time I got above the traffic, I had exactly 5 hours to drive... 5 hours. That's right, no stops allowed if I was going to get there on time. Five straight hours later, I arrived at the college -- 8:57 for a 9:00 show -- and did my time. Luckily, the kids at Lyndon State College were awesome and made my job easier, but still, one day removed from a missing cornea, it was a less-than-fun experience.

Okay, enough of my rambling. I'll get back to trenchant observations about the universe tomorrow. I just had to vent today.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Too tired to post...

Hey gang, no new post today because I'm very tired. Like, Jenny from Forest Gump tired. I'll explain in a detailed post tomorrow (I've already got a title: "God hates me"), but for right now, if you need some new content, I urge you to go to head over to TV Squad, where my brand new Office review will be posting any minute now.

Hope you enjoy and more tomorrow!

(PS Thanks so much for all the kind comments, Meg and Tony. Sometimes a blog can feel like an echo chamber; it's good to know that all this stuff is actually being enjoyed by some people. If I could, I'd sing "Wind Beneath My Wings" right now, loudly, to you both!)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Apparently, you need your cornea

Remember how I was bragging about what a great juggler of OTC medicine I was? I believe I called myself the "Elvis of Advil". I was particularly proud of that phrase because it combined three of my favorite things (apt metaphor, pop culture reference, and assonance; had it also contained peanut butter and no-guilt orgasm, it might have been my favorite thing of all time!)

I didn't quite think through my metaphor: did you know Elvis died!? From drugs!? Well, he did.

And, though I didn't die, there was about an hour last night where I wished I would.

Here's what happened, in order:

1. I got sick on Saturday.

2. To reduce the amount of snot in my sinuses -- at one point enough that Michael Phelps could have used them as a training facility -- I took OTC drying agents like Sudafed.

3. On Monday, due to a particularly rough game of Baby Wrestling, my son knocked off my glasses, snapping one of the lenses out of its frame.

4. Because of this, I took to wearing my contacts.

5. Due to my laziness, I didn't get a chance to head over to the eye-glasses place to get my frames fixed. Also, due to my laziness, I have yet to clean out the attic, write or even begin to write a novel, learn how to cook, finish learning sign language, or any other number of things that I'm sure I'll regret on my deathbed one day.

6. The combination of drying agents and continued contact usage led to a severe drying of my contact. That led to it kind of, well, fusing to my cornea.

7. Because I didn't know that the phrase "fusing to your cornea" could possibly exist in any kind of reasonable universe. I took my contact out at a 1 PM yesterday.

And holy shit. Holy. Shit.

It hurt so bad that I started giving away state secrets in the hope/fear that I was being interrogated and this was all a Vanilla Sky type creation of my brain in order to better deal with the torture. No such luck.

I went to the eye doctor and he told me that I had taken off the top layer of my cornea. With a smile: "Like skinning your knee! Except in your eye!"

He said it would stop hurting after I went to sleep because the cornea can regenerate itself in about 24 hours.

That seemed like a very optimistic assessment to me. How could something as complicated (and as goddamn painful) as your cornea regenerate after 24 hours? I can't even get a cable guy to my house in less than a week. But my eye doctor looks very smart (he has glasses and a white coat), so I trusted him.

He prescribed an antibacterial cream and sent me on my way. He mentioned that maybe I'd want to take some sleep medication to help speed along the process. Well, you don't need to tell me twice to take OTC sleep aids.

Here I am, 12 hours later. My cornea still feels a little raw, but on a pain level, it's at a 1. Before I went to sleep, it was, without hyperbole, a 313,179,993.

Take my advice kids: drying agents and round-the-clock contact use don't mix. Friends don't let friends take Sudafed while also wearing contacts.

(This all begs the question: why did the school system waste my time with an anti-marijuana curriculum when it could have been teaching me real-life skills like not wearing contacts while also taking cold and flu medication?)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No real update today...

But I added a bunch of stuff that should make the blog a) look better and b) actually help people to find it. Let me know what you think of the changes!

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Pick Up Artist

Have you seen the show "The Pick-Up Artist?" If not, it stars Mystery as a guy who wears a funny hat and is somehow able to magically make women want to have sex with him. He takes a group of nerds and then teaches them the mystic art of seduction. The nerd who proves himself to be most adept at learning the routines Mystery gives him is crowned "The Pick Up Artist."

I became interested in this show last year because it had the kind of "so bad it's good" vibe that you can't get from a lot of other reality TV. For as mind-blowingly retarded as, say, Flava Flav might act, on some level I think he's in on the joke. Whenever self-awareness creeps into my ironic viewing, it's time to change the channel.

Mystery, though, actually believes that his collection of magic tricks, mind reading gimmicks, cold openers, and sociobiology crib notes will somehow take these nerds to a better emotional place. It's self-help via vagina.

It's that sincerity that I find delightful in a show I want to mock. Thus, I watched last season and all this season. Curious, I bought "The Game", a book by Neil Strauss about his time with Mystery. I even went a little further and listened to a few podcasts by some self proclaimed PUAs. This is what I've learned:

1. We are all a slave to our biology. PUAs trick women into being interested in them the same way Venus Fly Traps kill bugs.

1(a). No matter how much a woman protests that those approaches "would never work on her", she's lying. The lines work because they've been brutally beta-tested by hundreds of horny men. Even my wife admitted recently that Mystery's ridiculous hat and/or boa would catch her interest if she were in a club.

"I'd ask him why he was wearing that," she said. I died a little inside.

2. Men evaluate themselves solely on how attractive they are to women. Everything a man does on some level or another is, however misguided, an attempt to attract women to them. What this show does is make naked this fact.

3. Silly hats are somehow sexy. I haven't quite been able to figure this out, but that's probably why I went dateless through four years of high school and a freshman year of college.

4. I hate clubs.

That last point is something that I didn't really need the PUA to explain to me. It's something I've known for a long time - clubs are Kryptonite for someone like me, who, if he is to have any chance with a woman, it has to come from his wit. The loud, brain-rattling thump of your average nightclub dulls all but the most routine of observation. Anything more complicated than "nice boobs!" runs the risk of being lost in the music.

Because of that, women tend to rely on sight first, thought second in those kind of scenarios. I am therefore forever second best to the silly hat and square chin brigade. Lucky I'm married (or at least, WILL be married, until my wife falls for some PUA's dumb line!)

For some reason all of these things make me depressed even as I know that they're true. It's kind of like a fat person being upset at the realities of gravity.


A note to my Cleveland fans (well, fan): I'll be back in your hometown (at Hilarities) the week leading up to Memorial Day. I'll be headlining Tuesday and Wednesday of that week, and then middling for a celebrity act (TBD) Thursday through Sunday. If you're inclined to get a group together and come on out, please let management know that you came for me. That's the kind of thing that gets me invited back!

And... I'm trying to get more readers. Honest!