I live a charmed life.It wouldn’t work for most people I don’t think, but for me it is a skin tight glove, molded and designed to fit perfectly.My schedule is hectic.There are planes, and hotels, and stages, and radio stations, and studios, and rental cars, and so many different skylines that the whole world begins to bleed together like a chalk drawing in the rain.

I’m actually writing this in the airport waiting on my flight to Atlanta.I’m people watching at 4:00 am, wondering why I haven’t written anything here at TNB since March (and why I booked a flight for 5:00 in the goddamned morning).Even now, sleepless in this terminal, my finger clicks over to the site.I’m comfortable here, amongst friends (I am intentionally mushy-ing some of this up to make Becky nauseous).

My mind hops between ideas frequently.One project can easily derail another.A typical day starts with me opening Photoshop and Cool Edit and Word and Firefox and iTunes and seeing which one waves me over first.I have radio events to attend and jokes to craft.Somewhere in the middle of it all I actually travel and tell them to rooms full of people.And, I write.

My story is no different from hundreds of thousands of others, really.Since high school I’ve written.Old notebooks full of stuff, almost all of it useless, the musings of an easily distracted teenager.I came late to the web with my posts as an adult.I launched my website in 2004, and then very soon thereafter found MySpace.It’s a digital ghost town now of course, where pixelated tumbleweed blows through the profiles of amateur rappers, but it was the Emerald City at one time for a comedian that wanted to try to become a better writer.I never stumbled on Brad Listi’s corner of that sprawling Neverland though.I instead found all those people here.

I got an email from a friend one day suggesting that I submit to write for The Nervous Breakdown.Because I never clear out my account, I actually still have the emails.On January 15, 2008 I sent an inquiry to the posted address here and then totally forgot about it.I got an email back from Brad around mid-August (though he responds to my emails much more quickly these days), welcoming me aboard.I had no idea the impact that moment would have.

Now, three years later, I can’t imagine where I would have landed if TNB had not been gracious enough to embrace me.I am astounded by the talent here.Writing, for me, was for so long just a hobby.I did it as an extension of what I did onstage.It was always a chance to churn out ideas without having to worry about the laughs-per-minute ratio the way I have to onstage.Still, I wrote casually with complete disregard for what was actually coming out.I didn’t get the “art” to it.I didn’t see how crafting the perfect sentence was exactly like painting or sculpture or even joke writing.Economy of words, the RIGHT word, the order, the rhythm, the flow… these things began to matter.

And it wasn’t some divine epiphany; it was the result of consistently seeing it in action.The writers here are fucking good.Watching Rich Ferguson or JM Blaine string together a sentence is like watching the Cirque du Soleil of writing.These people were from another planet.I was making coins disappear for children while people here were vanishing the Statue of Liberty.One cannot help but rise when the people around him are so incredibly gifted.It has by no means made me great, but it has made me better.Watching as author after author gets published has made me write so much more often, and while I haven’t posted here in months, I haven’t been idle either.

I promised myself this past year that I would finish my book.Finishing it, of course, also meant that I would have to begin it.A combination of things posted here and elsewhere – expanded upon, played with, added to, rewritten – and a host of new stories that I have left off the web on purpose, all got piled into one huge document.It may never be read anywhere but on my laptop, but it’s virtually finished.And I wouldn’t have done it had I not been in this insanely gifted (and sometimes just plain insane) little community.  I stand, quite humbly, in the company of giants.

I haven’t met a lot of people from TNB in person despite my travels (LA and NY seem to be the two places I continuously dodge), but I have met a few.Simon Smithson and Zara Potts came to Texas, and Richard Cox and I are good buddies.Megan DiLullo and I talk A&C editor-talk somewhat often.I’ve put Erika Rae in an arm bar and played the bongos while Uche Ogbuji danced.Aaron Snyder and I have shared a beer or four in an Irish pub.

But that’s about it.

The rest of it is never seen – the constant smaller impacts, the little ripple effects.The Walkmen are on my iPod.That’s Duke Haney’s doing.Ben Loory’s new book is in my backpack, to be consumed on my flight this morning.Joe Daly’s rock-your-face-off playlist thumped in my ears while I flew helicopters in Iraq.It’s a huge extended family really.Some of the people make me smile ridiculously and some bore the fuck out of me.I’ve sparred and jabbed, and cut up and acted like an immature child with too many of you to list.I love and hate people here equally.But I’m grateful for all of it.It makes me better.Even when I don’t comment, I’m most likely reading you (yes YOU), and your words inspire me.

So to all of you – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the uglier – I say “thank you”.

And especially to you Helmsman Listi.

I’m thrilled to be a part of it.Happy Fifth!

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SLADE HAM is a stand up comedian. He has performed in 52 countries on six continents, a journey that can be followed in his book, Until All the Dragons Are Dead. One day he hopes to host a travel show and continue to trick the world into paying him to do the things he loves to do. Slade is also an Editor for The Nervous Breakdown's Arts and Culture section. He keeps a very expensive storage unit in Houston, TX.

29 responses to “TNB at 5: In the Company of Giants”

  1. Gloria says:

    Hey! I put “things that make Becky nauseous” as one of my tags on my TNB at 5 piece. 🙂 At the end of the day, all things default to Becky.

    I’m astounded by the talent around here, too. I hope to be half as good one day.

    Good luck with your book, Slade.


    • Slade Ham says:

      Haha, I just saw that. Great minds and whatnot, at least we have established that Becky’s buttons are visible 🙂

      I adore her, especially when she is being feisty.

  2. D.R. Haney says:

    Oh, yes, I remember now; I posted that clip of “The Rat” on Facebook one night, and you really liked it.

    It’s funny to think that I’ve turned a number of people on to the Walkmen, because they’re not at all my usual style in music.

    Thanks for including me in the piece, my friend. We’re going to have to rectify this not-meeting-thing, huh? Soon.

    • Slade Ham says:

      I feel I should apologize for not including you elsewhere in this post, but I feel like I’ve gushed enough about your prose in the past that to do so again would just look like a bit of a man-crush.

      But “The Rat” couldn’t go without mention. Let’s fix this soon for sure. I suppose the burden is on me, so perhaps I should start looking into it. I am due an LA trip. When is the next TNBLA event?

      • D.R. Haney says:

        “The Rat” = Best. Song. Ever.

        Seriously, I love love love love love love love that song. Here’s the clip:

        It’s hard to find that now! Their fucking record company had the sound muted on YouTube. I guess they haven’t learned about this site. But doesn’t it still hold up?

        As for your question:

        • Slade Ham says:

          I’ve never understood why record companies are such bitches about music on YouTube or elsewhere. It’s not like you can actually download it and own it for free. Not a quality version anyway. It’s just sort of free publicity, as evidenced by my viewing of your post that night.

          And I just glanced at tickets to SD, and I could get in Wed night and back out again on Friday for $300 bucks’ish.


          Now I really may have to entertain this. Sort of depends on whether the next few weeks shape up I suppose, but this is now not totally out of the question….

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It would probably make more sense for you to participate in a TNB event, yes? You should try to book a date in LA, tip off TNB that you’re coming, and let us put something together.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Joe Daly turned me onto The Walkman. I woulda never heard of them if not for him.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    I love that you have decided to finish your book which entails having to also start it.
    You always make me laugh, Slade.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Thank you, Irene. I feel like I’ve been absent forever. I still am technically, as this hardly counts as an actual post.

  4. jmblaine says:

    Ah, thanks man.
    I’m going to tell you a secret
    but keep it between you and me.
    Out of all the TNB writers
    past and present.
    I think you’ve got the greatest
    chance to have a hit record.
    By hit record I mean
    best selling book.
    Read Oswald Patton’s last week
    & kept thinking “Man, Slade’s gotta get a book out there….”

    Keep at it til it happens, Slade.
    You got heart brother.

    • Slade Ham says:


      And in complete agreement
      that Patton is hilarious.

      But I meant what I said.

      Your writing is the shit
      that makes life bloom.

      (An old Michael Franti line, but it seemed to fit)

  5. Joe Daly says:

    I’m just super stoked you’re open-minded enough to listen to the sometimes crazy music I send your way. It rocks that you unleashed one of those playlists on a helicopter in Iraq. Absolutely fucking rocks.

    If no one else has mentioned this before, it needs mentioning that as an A&C editor, you do a tremendous amount of work that goes unnoticed here. Not only do you contribute your regular pieces, but you put together A&C features on a monthly basis. Not only that, but you stage, proof, and help out other folks like me with out features, all the while traveling the country (except NY and L.A.) and doing your own deal.

    You’ve been a friend to me on here since the word go, and I’m lucky to have cats like you watching my back. Rock on, man.

    • Slade Ham says:

      Oh, I totally did. That first playlist you sent me – the one with “Mob Rules” on it that was ultimately responsible for me killing Dio – got tons of play in Iraq. Particularly though on the choppers.

      I pretty much tie a soundtrack to everything I do. I have to pick the perfect songs for every moment. That trip has several very specific song/moment correlations for me. “Bittersweet Symphony” is always my airport song now since that trip. Makes me sort of strut through the terminals to my gate. Rise Against had just put out a new album when I went too, or was about to. Either way, I was giving it a listen for the first time and ended up on a C-17 full of soldiers headed in for their tours. I glanced from face to face with “Hero of War” playing… and it may have been one of the most intense emotional moments of my life. If you know the song, you know it’s not necessarily a Toby Kieth kind of soldier song.

      And then there was Jorn. I pre-loaded the playlist and popped in my earbuds in lieu of the plugs we were supposed to wear. Banking fast and hard out over the desert with “Stone Cold Sweat” playing chunky in my ears….. FUCK YEAH.

      And as for me being a (fellow) editor… I’m just a dude playing a dude playing another dude. But I DID give you your first light saber 🙂 Muchas gracias, JD.

  6. What an honor it is to share this home we call TNB with you, brother. You’re one helluva talented mofo, and extremely big-hearted as well. Can’t wait to meet you in 3D one of these days. Speaking of which, stop dodging LA! We don’t bite. If nothing else, the LA TNB posse will take good care of you. Also, thanks for the kind words. They mean the world to me. Especially coming from you. Onward and upward…

    • Slade Ham says:

      3D, my brother. For sure. You’re not going to surface at the San Diego event are you? I am seriously entertaining a trip in that week.

  7. So great that you’re going to start the book in order to finish it! I like the way you think!

  8. Jim Simpson says:

    Yes, finish (and begin) the book, Slade. Great post.

    Kill ’em in Roswell, GA tonight!

    • Slade Ham says:

      Roswell was fun – I always seem to enjoy my time in Georgia (though I am admittedly happy to be back home in Texas today). And begun and finished, mostly anyway, in regard to the book.

  9. Erika Rae says:

    Rumor has it I walked into that armbar…

    YOU, Slade Ham, are an inspiration to me. I’ve had the privilege of watching 2 of your shows now, and will readily agree that you are, indeed, the Grand Poobah Jedi Master of Comedy. You don’t even know – I’ve studied your rhythm and comic punch like a textbook. Fucking brilliant.

    Sorry, Becky. It couldn’t be helped.

  10. Glad to read your tribute here as you’re one of those writers who always offers something inviting in your words. From early on, it tended to make this whole unruly community that much more inviting for me, making TNB a hard place to stay away from, even when I told myself I needed a break from online interactions.

    But like you say, whether I’m commenting or not, I’m most likely reading and getting inspired. So my own small thanks to you (with a side order of mushy).

    • Slade Ham says:

      Double the mush. TNB only turns 5 once. I’m always flattered to be noticed in such a talented pool. Thanks, Nathan. And you’re welcome too, I suppose.

  11. James D. Irwin says:

    Another post I was sure I’d actually commented on. Must be a combination of similar titles i.e. ‘TNB at 5…’ and the glitch thing.

    We haven’t met of course, but Irene’s recent post reminded me of the time we realized we’d been in the same out of the way bar in Amsterdam about a year apart…

  12. Becky Palapala says:

    That was a dirty of me to pull that card so early on that everyone got self-conscious about being gracious.

    What is the matter with me, anyway?

    But no need to pretend you’re feigning mushy, Slade. We already know you have a squishy-sweet, marshmallow creme filling.

    Which sounds kind of gross, but you get what I mean.

    What’s your agent’s number? I’m going to call and bitch that you haven’t made it to the TC yet. It’s summer, Slade! Quickly, before the polar bears return!

  13. Art Edwards says:

    “I was making coins disappear for children while people here were vanishing the Statue of Liberty.”

    I agree. A great community to be a part of, for all the reasons you suggest.

  14. Oooh, a book with stories untold? I’m dying over here. Can’t wait to read it and kudos to you Mr. Ham.

    It’s a pleasure to work with you!

  15. Michelle says:

    I am thrilled to hear that you are going to write the book that people have been begging for. I know that I feel like a junkie looking for my next score if I don’t get to read your style of storytelling and the wonderful adventures that is your life. I have found great humor in your interactions with other humans in the world. I am glad that I found you in what is now the ghost town of My Space.

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