Annabelle-Gurwitch-Wherever-You-Go-There-They-Are

Now playing on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with Annabelle Gurwitch , author of Wherever You Go, There They Are: Stories About My Family You Might Relate To, available now from Blue Rider Press.

Get the free Otherppl app.

Listen via iTunes.

Get Brad Listi’s sporadic email newsletter.

828-3886. I recognize the number when I see it flash up on the screen. It’s one of the few phone numbers that I know by heart. We’ve been friends for twenty-two years. Hers were the last digits I learned before we all outsourced our memories to our cell phones. All the other numbers from my past have lost relevancy or don’t connect to the living: street addresses for homes we no longer own, birthdays of grandparents, channels of TV stations, pre-pregnancy shoe size, and of all those landlines long abandoned—hers was the last working phone number.

828-3886. I answer the phone. “Hey, Robin, what’s up?” When you’ve been close friends for over two decades, you can hear the bad news in the sound of their breath. “Oh no,” I said, bracing for the news. “I have cancer.” “What kind?” “Pancreatic.” “Pancreatic,” I repeat with a voice I don’t recognize. Or maybe it’s a finality I haven’t heard in my voice until now. It had started as a slight pain in her abdomen earlier in the year. The initial diagnosis was gastritis.

The Dark Knight Rises starts next week, and I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, Hey, I’m kind of missing Michael Keaton, and, where has that guy been anyway?  He’s been hanging out at Amelia’s Espresso and Panini with Daniel Kellison.  That’s where.  And you can the read their whole exchange at Grantland in which the typically media-shy Keaton (Batman, Beetlejuice, Mr. Mom) discusses his new project-in-the-works with Larry David, the one time he watched Quentin Tarantino get sloshed on Jägermeister “like some kind of frat boy,” Night Shift, politics, and working on the set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Really:

Please explain what just happened.

My cat fell into a sink full of water.  And there’s zero proof I pushed her.  And it was totally worth it, even with the mess.

 

What is your earliest memory?

My cat falling into a sink full of a water.  Trying to remember anything prior to that gets dicey.  I blame the weed.

Please explain what just happened.

Rob Mungle: I was wondering how it’s possible that Sbarro Pizza is still in business. I believe this proves the power of the Illuminati.

Slade Ham: I just watched a pair of fat kids ride with their fat parents down a sidewalk on Segways.  They’re probably going to Fuddruckers.  Holy shit.  America is so fat, my spell check recognized “Fuddruckers” as a word.

I am not innately funny. I am, in fact, a very solemn, somber, pensive man trapped in a funny man’s body. In much the same fashion, I am not a fat guy: I’m a little heavy because I am way out of shape, but in reality I am a skinny guy in a plumpish guy’s body. I have the pictures to prove it.

Buried deep in the heart of every comedian lies the barely faded memory of a bygone dead puppy. With the preeminent geniuses of comedy, the likes of Bruce and Pryor and Carlin and Hicks and so on, that puppy didn’t just die, it was tossed into a pot to be boiled up like the pet rabbit in Fatal Attraction, while the young child version of that future funny man was forced to watch. With any given story, comedy is indeed tragedy plus time; a comedic sensibility is born of accumulated incredulousness. One becomes a comedian the day he ceases to wonder why a thing just happened, and instead observes, “Wow, that was fucked up.”

A little over a year ago, I wrote a pretty awful suicide note that, for a variety of reasons, it turned out I couldn’t use. A few days later I wrote a much more eloquent reflection on that note and on the night it was written. I considered how shamefully glib I had been in addressing my closest friends. I recognized that, as I was attempting to put the final touches on what I thought were my soon to be infamous last words, the sun had risen, meaning I had run out of time: I claimed an unwillingness to kill myself during daylight hours, suggesting that two or three in the morning would be the ideal time to do the deed because anyone who might possibly have prevented it would be deep in sleep. I went on to admit that I’ve never been comfortable even hearing about knife wounds, let alone inflicting one on myself, but a knife was all I had. “In the end, I just couldn’t run a sharp blade along my wrist,” I wrote. “I can’t tie a noose, can’t afford drugs, don’t own a gun. And I don’t cook with gas.” Those were my utterly appalling reasons for not killing myself. That night.

A few weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon in November, I spent most of the little money I had on beer and cigarettes, a bag of Munchos and a pound of M&Ms, and I settled in for what turned out to be a thirty-hour drinking-sobbing-loud-music-smashing-shit binge that culminated in me sending an email I don’t remember to one of my best friends, asking him to take care of something for me when I was gone. Sometime later, two best friends arrived, took away the knife, and loaded me into the truck.

I spent the night in the emergency room, primarily because I was still far too drunk to be let loose in a psych ward, but also because it took some time to find an empty bed – as seems to so often be the case, those wards were overflowing. My friends stayed with me the first few hours. They each took a turn in a room down the hall with the crisis worker, telling her all the pertinent stories. They offered me reassuring thoughts, promised this was the right thing for me to do, told me I was going to be okay. They could just as well have been telling me I’d been voted Homecoming Queen: by then I’d taken up semi-permanent residence in the rabbit hole and at that sad hour I was busy contemplating the drapes. I was too desperately sad and too ashamed to absorb anything save the fact that I was in a bad place and it was about to get much worse before there was any hope of it getting even marginally better. They recognized that, my buddies Peaches and Hank. They understand me in a fundamental way, the true me, not the distorted version of me they found in my apartment that night, the version they had watched drag his ass around for months, a version which, looking back, is entirely unrecognizable to me now. Regardless of how hard I had made it for them to be my friends those miserable months, they get me, which is why, when I left the hospital room once to use the bathroom, Hank climbed into my vacated bed and struck a pose, Peaches snapped a picture with his phone, and sometime later Peaches posted the photo to Facebook with the caption, “I don’t think he’s going to make it.” It would be one of the first things I’d see when I flipped open my laptop after I got sprung from the psych ward, and even in my ongoing black fugue I laughed so hard I almost cried. I also noted the one comment accompanying the picture, from my friend Edge: “Uh-oh. Where’s Gary?”

Indeed, where was Gary?

Generally speaking, I was lost. The final straw for me was a girl – and I almost literally mean a girl, she’s seventeen years my junior (don’t worry, I’m easily old enough to be your cool uncle) – but it’s neither fair nor reasonable to say it was because of the girl. She’s not to blame for me ending up in the hospital. Saying any of that was her fault would be the same as if I wrecked my car and blamed it on the telephone pole around which it was wrapped: I was the one in motion, sir, not the pole. She was young and careless, I was old and foolish, but more than that, I had spent the previous two years dropping the ingredients of my life into a stew pot, seasoning the mix with self-pity and a burgeoning sense of worthlessness, and leaving it over a low heat to simmer. This is never a good idea, but in my case, I don’t really even cook – I’m generally hapless in the kitchen unless you need a pickle jar opened or want to have mildly adventuresome sex – so there was no way this could possibly end well.

More specifically, by the time Edge’s question appeared on Facebook, I was strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance that carried me an hour southwest to the nearest hospital with an available bed. My shoes and belt, cigarettes, lighter, a fistful of cash and my down jacket were stuffed in a plastic bag, which one of the ambulance attendants passed to the admitting tech when they deposited me on the business side of a set of doors that locked automatically behind them the instant they departed. I was interviewed and probed and prodded and wrist-banded and, eventually, shown to my room. And then I was watched. I don’t know if it could be called my official status in the first twenty-four hours after I arrived on Ward A3, but it comprised the admitting tech’s parting words to me before she relinquished me to my unadorned room: I was on CVO, “constant visual observation.” It makes a certain kind of sense, considering I’d arrived there on the heels of trying to kill myself, but at the same time, unless I decided to either drown myself in the toilet or brain myself (to death, which I’m not sure is possible) by smacking my head repeatedly against the floor, there was absolutely nothing within reach that matched my imagination’s capacity to do myself the ultimate harm. But I’d brought this on myself, which meant that if they told me I’d have company every time I took a pee, I had no standing to get either bashful or indignant.

We’ve all read this book or seen the movie: it is, to varying degrees, the Cuckoo’s Nest. The nurses and techs were efficient and appropriately solicitous, if at times a bit overbearing as they saw fit. The doctors had slightly less personality than a watermelon rind. There was a smirking, edgy twenty-year old kid with pure psychotic eyes; a woman in her sixties who sobbed nonstop for two days, then proceeded to do laps around the ward in a Thorazine shuffle; a painfully beautiful young woman whose johnny kept sliding off her shoulder, revealing a long, thin neck that would have been lovely without the burn scars; and a very old man, my roommate the first night on the ward, who croaked a chant half the night: “I pray, I pray, I shall return.” The feel and sight and smell of the place can only be described as that of errant but earnest futility, a cluster of adhesive bandages cross-hatched on the scalp in the general vicinity of a brain hemorrhage. If all those aching skulls could simply be cracked and an atlas of maps could be drawn, designating the streets and boulevards and avenues and cul-de-sacs of fear and ecstasy and shame and joy and forgetting and faith and remorse . . . in which case, there would be no need for Ward A3. Instead, there is a tremendous need, and yet they are little more than the sanitary corridors of a place we go to be reminded of the many ways language can and will fail us when we desperately need it to access the very essence of what it is to be human and therefore at least a tiny bit fragile.

The failure of language that intrigued me most was the recurring question that fell from the lips of every staff person there so consistently it was as though they had just stepped out of a pep-rally type meeting in which they were reminded to keep asking: “Do you feel safe?” The first time the question was put to me, I cocked an eyebrow and hesitated for a few extra long beats because, honestly, it puzzled me. I realize it’s intended to be a purely simple, straightforward question, but the potential nuance felt inescapable. I wanted the question rephrased. Do I feel safe? No fucking way. Do I feel like I’m out of options? You bet your ass I do.

I behaved myself from the moment I arrived on the ward, but for the wrong reasons: I didn’t toe the line so I’d get better, I did it because I wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible, and I understood immediately that good boys get to go home and bad boys should have their mail forwarded. As miserable as I’d made my life, as soon as I gave it away I wanted it back, or parts of it, anyway. I wanted cigarettes. I wanted my laptop and my iPod and my idiot-phone, in spite of the fact that it had by then taken to giving me nothing but bad news. I kind of wanted a drink, but that was less a driving impulse than a habitual inclination. I desperately wanted my shoes and my belt. If you’ve never spent any time shuffling around a psych ward in no-slip socks with your pants falling down, I can tell you right now, you’re not missing anything splendid. They did offer me a pair of hospital-issue pajamas, but I’d already made up my mind where I wanted the indignity to taper off, and that point fell just shy of those jammies.

One thing you should know about me is that I’m really bad at getting a haircut. When a hairstylist asks me, “So what are we doing today?” I invariably start to babble, and then I tell her to surprise me. A little crazy, I guess, but if you’ve seen my picture, you’d be right to guess my vanity doesn’t reside in my looks. I am, as it turns out, equally incompetent when dealing with doctors. There’s something about the forced intimacy of strangers for hire that knocks me off balance in an unexpected way – unexpected because I’m not generally shy. I’m not a good patient under any circumstances, but if I have to see a doctor for something below the skin, something that isn’t as glaringly obvious as a broken bone or a steadily bleeding flesh wound, I always feel like I have to talk him into it. Pretty soon I’m talking way too much and even I’m growing less convinced. It turns out actually saying, “I tried to kill myself,” sounds as unconvincing, out of context, as saying, “I love you.” No matter the truth of how you feel, it just sounds lame. So eventually I tried a different tack: I told him I’d given up. That did the trick because there were concrete, meaningful things I’d given up: I’d stopped paying my mortgage, stopped looking for a job, stopped writing, stopped doing pretty much everything except drinking, smoking, listening to loud music and punching holes in my own walls. “Okay,” the doctor said, “let’s get you better.”

Except that wasn’t exactly my plan. My plan was simply to get out of there. While getting better sounded terrific, doing so in that place was incomprehensible to me. It just wasn’t going to happen, and so instead of accepting what those fine professional healers offered, I launched my version of a psych ward charm offensive: in a remarkably short time I became the best behaved, least suicidal person any of them had ever seen inside those four walls. It was shameful and unwise, but what can I say, I’m a great interview.

I wasn’t purely a model citizen. But for one group session, I avoided all gatherings other than meal times. The one group session I did attend began with one of the techs passing out stubby pencils and slips of paper on which there was a line for our names and two more lines for us to write our “Goal for Today.” I’ve attended a lot of corporate team-building programs over the years, and this holdover from first grade has always struck me as the worst sort of condescending bullshit imaginable. In other words, I hate it a lot. But there I was, determined to be a good boy, which meant I had to play the game as it was being presented to me. So I scribbled my “Goal for Today,” and at the end of the session when the tech said, “One more person – Gary, we haven’t heard from you,” I cleared my throat, lowered my eyes and read, “My Goal for Today . . . is to be more goal oriented.” Even as the murmurs spread around me – “Wow. Yeah. That’s good. Good job.” – I felt my scrunched up little heart sing for the first time in what seemed like four days past forever. And I wanted out of there all the more because I’d just rolled out my A-material and, of course, nobody laughed.

And so I conned the doctors, conned the nurses, conned every staff person with whom I came into contact: I conned my way out of the hospital, knowing full well I still wanted to die, and with a faint inkling that what I’d imagined was the hard part – giving in and letting someone take me to the hospital – would in truth prove to be no more difficult than tying my shoes when compared to trying to get my shit together out in the real world.

One supremely good thing did come out of the experience of being there, though. In the hallway outside my room sat the phone on which patients could take calls that were put through from the nurses’ station. I must have listened to the near side of forty or fifty phone calls while I was on Ward A3. With slight variations, every single call went like this: a conventional greeting, followed by predictable responses to what appeared to be small-talk on the other end, and culminating in words separated by sobs before the person gently replaced the receiver and continued to sit there in the hallway, plainly visible from every angle (including where I lay on my bed just twelve feet away), silent tears streaming down his or her cheeks. Honestly, I didn’t want to see or hear any of that, ever. And yet I lay there transfixed. The day you know you’re going to go on living is the day you realize your pain is not only not unique – it is, in fact, the most obvious kind of ordinary – but it is also not the worst thing that ever happened to anyone.

I was up very early my last morning on the ward. The nurse who got my meds from the dispensary asked if I wanted a nicotine patch or if I’d be smoking as soon I left the hospital. “Actually,” I replied, “I’d like a nicotine patch, and I’ll be smoking the second I get out of here.” When she suggested I consider giving them up, I smiled at her and said, “Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure smoking isn’t what’s going to kill me.” Yeah, I said that. My GAF (“Global Assessment of Functioning,” in case you were wondering) at discharge was a 50, meaning I was, as far as they could tell, no more than average super-depressed: I’d managed to share deep thoughts in coherent sentences, which indicated I was as close to high-functioning as I needed to be to walk out of there. Sometime late morning Peaches rolled in, the tech handed me my bag of goodies, and I left without saying goodbye.

There are loads of suicide related statistics available for consumption, but they are mere statistics and we all know those are the most insidious of lies. For instance, what does it tell you that women attempt suicide three times more often than men, but for every suicide attempt men are four times more likely to pull it off than women? Statistics: they sketch the outlines of a picture, but they don’t tell a story. Depending on your perspective, they either confirm or defy what you already thought you knew. The concept and study of statistics evolved, I imagine, from the same impulse that created man’s gods: as a comfort in a too often disconcerting world. I’d call that awfully cold comfort to the friends and loved ones left behind.

In the epigram to his book Gargantua, Rabelais said, “I’d rather write about laughing than crying,/For laughter makes men human, and courageous.” I’m not writing this because I want to share my life story – I’m writing it precisely because it is not my life story, although had things turned out differently it very well may have been, in which case somebody else would be telling it, and that would be very disappointing to me because, under the circumstances, that person might have forgotten to find something to laugh about. That would have been a genuine shame.

I spent a very long time kicking myself for all of it, but especially for what I did to the people who care most about me. I put my two best friends in the position of having to sit in a small room with a relative stranger and tell her in excruciating detail every dark, dangerous, humiliating thing they’d watched me do over the previous few months. To their credit, they stole a moment that terrible night and created an ounce of levity, and for that in particular they’ll always have my unqualified respect. What I put them through is a shitty thing to do to people who love you. But do you know what’s worse than doing that to your friends? Not giving them the option.

 

Man oh man oh man oh man. It’s what, FOUR months until the first primary and the Republican field has been bludgeoning itself like a bunch of  tweens at a razor party listening to My Chemical Emo-mance.

When we last met I thought it was the clash of the titans, more specifically, the clash of the V05 hair Product between Mitt Robotney and Rick Perry. But this was not to be. Rick Perry falls apart in debate!  His iron-clad hair shield has been tainted by the Massachusetts I mean Michigan I mean where does Mitt Romney live now anyway?

*answer: he lives in any one of the following states:  California, New Hampshire, Massachusetts
But he is another wealthy regular man-robot hybrid just like you and me.

I was disappointed by Perry’s recent performance. Sure the guy is dumber than a can of paint but he’s a canny politician with a long winning streak, and he was trounced by a guy who makes the GPS voice in your car sound authentic. And Mitt Romney, the most pretend of all pretend Republicans, attacked him from the right on immigration.

We’ve only lost one candidate so far, rendering the debates crowded and pointless. Nine people yapping on stage isn’t a debate. It’s a Facebook wall. And nine people times fifty-eleven debates is not doing anyone any good.

If Sarah Palin has taught us anything, aside from remembering to keep the receipt when we buy a half a continent sparsely populated by lunatics from Russia, it’s that constant media exposure may actually harm one’s chances for the presidency. The continued debates threaten to turn the candidates to caricature, aside from Newt Gingrich, who is a cartoon, and Ron Paul, who’s actually a character from an Ayn Rand novel.

Can anyone tell me where these audiences come from? Were they stocked entirely by Democrats working to make Republicans look bad? I’d say yes if a) Nixon were still alive and switched parties, b) Democrats were organized or c) James O’Keefe  would return my phone calls. This audience was the real deal. First the Republican pro-lifers cheer “Let ’em die” in a question about health insurance and second the Support Our Troops Pro Military party boos at a gay soldier after he asks about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

You can at least rest knowing that legally married gay partners of veterans are not allowed to receive pensions after their spouses die. As a personal note, I’d like to mention that my mother, who had been divorced from my dad for over twenty years, is still qualified to receive his Naval pension. Because straight divorce is all about American values.

Straw Polls Suck

These straw poles: enough. They cost the candidates a lot of money and time and they’re meaningless. Kind of like baseball’s All-Star game. Or the Move-on.org petition you just sent me.

On the plus side, the straw polls add some fake drama, because they let an unhinged outlier win something, so political journalists can pretend to write serious articles in which they imagine Herman Cain, who won the Florida straw poll, will take over the world until they notice that the Pizzafather has no money or endorsements. He does have a sweet tax plan though, which is abbreviated as 9-9-9, and is something as likely and sensible as the Nine Ringwraiths of Mordor playing Nine innings of baseball against Nine Inch Nails.

Mitt Romney won the Michigan straw poll, because that’s where he’s from. He’s also from Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and the Moon.

Nothing more than a sad seventh place in Florida for my personal fave Jon Huntsman, who has said that he believes in crazy talk like global warming and evolution and at this point to garner any traction in the polls he’s going to have to set fire to Rick Perry.

The essential problem with straw polls is they  waste resources. The candidates owe more favors to party hacks in each state and need more money from new donors. I don’t mind the GOP blowing its cash on these things, and it serves their own brand of social Darwinism, the only Darwin they let into the room. Survival of the richest. But in a larger way these straw polls are bad for democracy. As much as I enjoy cataloging the village idiots who are on the stage, as an engaged citizen I’d like the guy in the Oval Office, regardless of political party, to be competent enough to do the job.

“Mr. President we’ve confirmed that terrorists have stolen nuclear material from Pakistan. The poverty rate hit 25%, bacteria have developed a resistance to TB drugs and a tornado has leveled half of Kentucky.”

“Is this when I get to abolish the Departments of Energy, Education and anything else that starts with E?”

“That’s not going to help. What should we do?”

“Nothin. Government is not the solution.”

“What about the nukes, sir?

“I’ll let the states handle that.”

Next time: Why President Obama needs a primary challenge.

Please explain what just happened.

I spilled my latte all over an old man sitting too close to me at Starbucks.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Tuesday.

 

If you weren’t a comedian, what other profession would you choose?

Chef, or maybe farmer.

Here in Australia, the International Comedy Festival has just passed. The newspaper sponsoring the event made a big push to cover every event, and as a result journalists who didn’t normally cover comedy were recruited to have a go.

It was a bit of a bloody disaster.

A lot of sub-par reviews came out, and in particular, this:

@simonjongreen Herald Sun sexist comments in Jen Brister review removed, angry comments remain. No mention of edit http://t.co/J2DNjB8

Thus was kicked up the stupid old debate of whether women are funny.

I think women are funny. I think it’s stupid to cleave the entire population of the world in two and then say one half aren’t funny. Some men are funny, some women are funny. Some people are funny.

I think women weren’t perceived as funny for a long time because men were in charge of hiring comics, and due to the attitudes of the time they simply didn’t hire women. No exposure means women don’t appear to be funny.

I have a sub-theory that I’d like to share. I think for someone to be funny, they have to have a degree of silliness: an ability to let themselves and their ego go and do what’s necessary to elicit a laugh. I think if someone wants to be seen as pretty or handsome, and that is their driving force, they’ll struggle to be funny, because in order to be pretty or handsome, there’s a requisite dignity and poise. This dignity and poise gets in the way of flopping around or admitting amusing secrets about your hygiene to make the audience laugh.

This isn’t to say funny people can’t be pretty or handsome. I just think someone can be funny if they’re willing to do what needs to be done to be funny: to let the conventional modes of carrying oneself fall away and for humour to emerge. If someone does that, and is also just naturally pretty or handsome, but their driving force is to be funny, then they’ll also have the fortune of being funny and attractive. Humorously boinkable.

Back in the bad old days, the wayward men who were hiring talent were happy to have the handsome and ugly funny men, but were looking mainly for the pretty women. They might hire a girl to be funny, but she’d need to have that main drive of being pretty so the wayward men could check that box. As a result, a lot of those women weren’t funny, and the wayward men could turn around and remark that women simply weren’t funny. A perpetual cycle, unbroken until the angry women of the nineties.

So I Got My Period Today

End of theory.


Most of the time I hate doing stand up comedy.

I hate coming up with jokes.

I hate rehearsing jokes until I can remember them.

I hate the deathly silence or mild indifference most of the jokes in question receive.

Most of the shows I do are comedy nights I run out of the room above a bar in town. They give me free drinks and the room upstairs once a month. All I have to do is advertise the night, get enough acts to fill a two hour show, and enough customers to buy drinks.

It’s a pretty good deal, with an incredible level of creative freedom. I can do whatever I like with the show. I’m writing and directing a play for a festival and I keep having to re-write that to avoid offending people and getting around staging limitations.

With stand up it’s just a mic, a warning about adult content and I’m free to do anything within the boundaries of British law.

I never said I hate stand up as an art form, I just hate doing it.

I blame myself. You see what happened at first is I’d get all my performers from the university. It was strictly amateur night and the playing field was level… There wasn’t anyone who had much more experience than I did. I’m very, very low level in terms of ability and experience but it didn’t show for the first couple of shows.

Then I started getting e-mails from guys on the professional circuit. I wanted to put on the best shows possible, so I let them all in.

Unsurprisingly they pushed the standards up with their fancy pants notebooks and stage presence, and made me look even worse than I am.

I hate doing stand up.

I’ve quit comedy more times than I’ve performed it.

*  *  *  *  *

One of the greatest moments of my life so far was on St. Patrick’s Day. I’d passed out the previous year after drinking around ten pints of Guinness so I decided it’d be safer to just stick to Jameson. I ditched my friends on the dance floor because I was bored and the band kept playing U2 songs. I ended up drinking with an American exchange student who’s playing God in my play, and a professional magician who performs at my comedy night.

As we were drinking a girl came over to us and asked me if I was the guy from the comedy night. When I told her I was she smiled and told me she ‘really enjoyed going…’

That was nice, but it would have been better if the sentence hadn’t ended ‘… with my boyfriend’ and me getting the barmaid to put another double in my half pint glass that had probably forgotten what being empty felt like.

The point to the story is not that I am an awesome bitchin’ rockstar from Mars. No, the point is that however awesome that felt it’s not the reason I do stand up. It’s a feeling that pales in comparison to spending twenty minutes on stage with forty people watching your every move, listening to your every word, and laughing at every joke.

That’s what gets you addicted. I’m no better than a crack addict really, and I certainly don’t dress any better.

Since I performed that routine my life has been an empty and futile battle to come up with anything anywhere near as good. I’ve told jokes that have got laughs since, but it’s not the same.

At one point during the single greatest twenty minutes of my life a girl right by the front of her stage was literally on the edge of her seat and gasping with each twist of the story I was telling.

Power — total control.

For those twenty minutes the darkened lounge was my kingdom, and I was its God. It’s a strange and heady cocktail of power and constant, instant validation… It only feels like two minutes, and it seems like there is nothing else in the world but you and forty faces.

The whole twenty minutes essentially paves the way for the ten second payoff at the end which is met with laughter and applause whilst I thank everyone for coming.

As the room emptied I collapsed down on the stage floating slowly downwards into a perfect cocktail of solitude, validation, adrenaline and free whiskey… And now I feel like a rockstar…

Most of the time I hate doing stand up comedy, but this is why I don’t stop… Why I can’t stop…

For the same reason sports fans cheer their team season after season however bad they might be performing.

For the same reason some people keep doing drugs, however adverse the physical effects might be.


It’s an addiction… and I don’t want a cure.


In the beginning of last year The Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, released a report on offshore tax havens. It was long. I knew it was going to be long because it was a PDF that took nineteen hours to download.

Scientists are baffled by the recent discovery of a disturbing and potentially fatal childhood disorder known as “Suicidal Tikes Under-Utilizing Protective Indicators Dysfunction”, or S.T.U.U.P.I.D.

Diagnosis of S.T.U.U.P.I.D. children is on the rise no one can figure out why. Some experts say it is the result of environmental toxins. Others argue it has been around for years.

Karen Lahey’s daughter was diagnosed as STUUPID last December. “It all happened so fast. At first we noticed she liked to climb up on the kitchen counters then we caught her hanging out the second story window waving at the neighbor’s kitty. She could have killed herself! It was devastating.

” What makes a child STUUPID? We asked Dr. Emily Nolan a prominent pediatrician from Beverly Hills to explain. “Children’s brains work like a game of marbles. Each marble has the ability to tell another marble where to go. What to do. Each marble reacts naturally to another. When a child is STUUPID, they don’t make connections. They don’t see the indicators of danger all around them and their brains don’t trigger the crucial instinct to protect themselves. Essentially, for STUUPID children, some marbles are missing.“

How can you tell if your child is STUUPID? Despite the fact that their parents tell them “no”, STUUPID children feel the need to hurl their bodies through space, across slippery floors and into wall units containing crystal, limoge and other breakable objects. They’re unable to control their impulses and are oblivious to potential risk.

“My grandson, Kyle, could see a wall right in front of him and just keep running. It’s heartbreaking really.” Said a grandmother of a STUUPID child who asked not to be identified.

We interviewed one child who was born STUUPID and asked him “What is it that compels you to jump off the sofa over a glass coffee table and onto a slick hardwood floor right in front of a lit fireplace. The child simply answered, “I want to.” Apparently, total disregard for safety is the most common theme among children who are STUUPID.

“There is still so little we know about this disorder and we’re learning more every day. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between race or religion and children who are STUUPID. In fact, studies show that children of all races are susceptible to being STUUPID.

As of now, there is no known cure. Experts recommend that if you see signs your child is STUUPID, the best way to proceed is find a STUUPID support group in your area, hide sharp objects, and put your local fire department on speed dial.

I have a weird obsession with religious figures. I’m not very well versed in theology, and I’m not even all that interested in it, but time after time I find myself including Jesus, God and Satan as characters in the things I write.

I have to admit, I was not really a Joan fan. In fact, her “can we talk” shrillness used to make my shoulders tense when I would hear it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for brash, uncouth, in-your-face behavior. As a former New Yorker, even her accent didn’t get under my skin. I think it was a quiet desperation that I intoned, something underneath her poking fun at celebrities, bristling at housewives, and most of all, her self-deferential slant that gave me pause. I just really never tuned into her Late Show debacle, or her Joan Rivers Show on television, though it ran for five years. And then, just when I might have given her more credit, she started the heinous mother-daughter alliance for which she has become known since the 1990s: the red carpet pre-award hosts for cable channels like E! Entertainment and TV Guide Channel (yes, imagine that, even they have a channel!). There has also been several guest spots on TV shows I don’t watch, like Nip/Tuck, QVC Shopping Network, and Celebrity Apprentice in which her daughter, Melissa, appeared in the same season and lost. Joan went on to win. During all this time, Joan has had some, shall we say, adjustments, in the surgical arena. Whether you endorse this practice or not, it’s difficult not to judge someone that you only know through a TV image or in a magazine, and they appear so completely altered. Like a puppet, a shard of one’s former self.

A: A Night Together!

Okay, there’s no real joke here. But there is a great event coming to NYC on April 6th, cosponsored by The Rumpus, Tin House Magazine, and Flavorpill. “A Night Together” features authors Sam Lipsyte, Colson Whitehead, and Lorelei Lee (yes, THAT Lorelei Lee),This American Life’s Starlee Kine and comedians Michael Showalter and Dave Hill. It will also have music by Jeffrey Lewis and Alina Simone.

The preorder price for tickets is ten bucks, but if you tweet, blog or post about the event to your Facebook page, you’ll get four dollars off. Now, I’m not great at maths, but I think that’s 6 dollars. Which–again, this is shaky–comes out to a dollar per featured person, not including the musicians. Rock solid, if you ask me.

So you should really think about doing that posting thing. And if you don’t live in NYC, you should post anyway, and like give your discounted ticket to someone you know in the city. Because shit, you totally owe them a favor. To get your discount, post a comment here, linking to your tweet/blog/etc.