Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Hate Debate

“I know that there are people who 
do not love their fellow man,
and I hate people like that!”
Tom Lehrer

In the world of stand-up comedy, I think most people would agree that you would be hard-pressed to find a performer that strives to provide a more positive message than myself. While many of today’s cast of current comics are busy bashing others, I devote my time on stage to humorously promoting racial harmony, religious tolerance, and gender understanding. I am not a total Pollyanna, but I am definitely a glass-half-full kind of guy; that being said, I should also mention that, unfortunately, I am not totally unfamiliar with being stuck holding an empty glass.

I hold the opinion that in order to appreciate life one must accept the full spectrum of the human condition and acknowledge there are undeniable diametric aspects: birth and death, light and dark, joy and sadness, good and evil, etc. These complimentary opposites within a greater whole are both independent and interdependent. Pain does not exist in the absence of pleasure nor pleasure in the absence of pain; they co-exist in our minds as a balance of sanity.

Lately I have been giving some thought to love and hate. You might think a humor columnist, and self-proclaimed optimist, would be drawn to write about love (since laughter can be the sound of love) however, I plan to lead you down a darker path littered with hate. More surprising still, I’ll go so far as to admit: I am a hater.

I think hate has gotten a bad rap, because as I’ve said before, the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is fear. We end up hating what we are afraid of, and we are afraid of things that are different: different race, different religion, different sexual orientation, even different gender. So, if you hate someone for one of those reasons, that means, on some level, you are afraid of them. Thus, I hate fear, and that is a good-hate.

I know you are probably unaccustomed to seeing the word “good” next to the word “hate” in the same sentence, but hear me out. Good-hate can be fun. I had this revelation while on my way to a Super Bowl party when I realized I was very excited about the game, despite the team I love not participating. I was juiced because the game featured a team I hate. The Yin-Yang of sports: the next best thing to rooting for the team you love is rooting for the opponent of the team you hate.

Good-hate also provides great motivation. I believe if necessity is the mother of invention, then hate may be the father. As a comedian, the things I hate often inspire me to invent a funny way of looking at them, and I think the same holds true for all professions. Here are some examples:

If Karl Benz didn’t hate the smell of horse poo, then he would have never invented the automobile.

If Mark Zuckerberg didn’t hate Tom from Myspace, then he never would have invented Facebook.

If the Scots didn’t hate good music, they never would have invented the bagpipe.

If someone didn’t hate safe driving, they never would have invented texting.

If someone didn’t hate sobriety, they never would have invented the ATM.

I was discussing my theory of good-hate with my friend, and he suggested that if God didn’t hate mobile homes, He never would have invented tornadoes. I corrected him by pointing out that man invents – God creates. I also cautioned him that his statement borders on blasphemy, because I believe it is okay to speak to God, but not for Him. I pretty sure God has a rule: Speak for yourself.

I once saw a protester at the Pride Parade carrying a sign that read: “God created AIDS because He hates homosexuals.” Obviously this person was not a very deep thinker, because if he thought it through, his logic would make lesbians God’s chosen people, and I’m fairly certain that is not the message this guy hoped to promote. (Besides, if God hates homosexuals, why did He make so many of them so cute?)

Political spin has become such a prevalent practice that it is not uncommon to see the same story spun in opposite directions. With a good public relation firm virtually any cause can be twisted to invoke Divine support. For example, the folks at NORMAL could say, “If God didn’t hate violence He never would have created marijuana.” Or the American Beef Council could say, “If God didn’t hate vegetables He never would have created vegetarians.” (Which leads to the question: if meat is murder, does that mean eggs are rape?)

I have difficulty associating God with hate, but I am aware this has been done throughout the holy books of various faiths. I’m not suggesting we should question God’s word, but I am suggesting we should question a person who claims they speak for God, because who among us truly has that capability? I suppose it is permissible to do so in the name of humor, like if I was to say, “If God didn’t hate dentists He never would have created England.” But when you encounter people who try to speak for God to advance a personal agenda, I suggest you plug your ears.

As I reread the above, I see that perhaps my sharing my opinion that you should not put faith in another’s opinion is somewhat counterproductive. Sorry to have wasted your time, but my only agenda is to leave the world with some gentle laughter and a tiny bit more understanding in my wake. Hope none of my silly jokes offended anyone, such as Scots, vegetarians, or Tom from Myspace…

I would hate that.

“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I’ll Leave The Blight On For You

“I once stayed in a hotel that was such a dump,
on the postcards the bed wasn’t made.”
Mickey Freeman

Let me start by stating how grateful I am to have a job in the entertainment industry; I am truly blessed to live the life of my dreams. Not to brag, but I have nibbled caviar with movie stars, done shots of tequila with rock stars, celebrated pagan holidays with European royalty, and shaken the hands of Presidents. That being said, I am currently writing this in a motel that has a number in its name. (And you know what you never hear a guest of a motel with number name say? “Guess who I just met on the elevator?”) I can attest that living the life of your dreams is not always a dream-life.

One of the greatest misconceptions about show business is the notion that it is eternally glamorous. TV programs like Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous and MTV Cribs have people believing that just because one stands in front of a microphone or camera for a living they live in continuous luxury.

The stereotypical lifestyle of a “star” may hold true for a select few, but for the vast majority of comedians who spend the vast majority of their time performing on the road, we are at the mercy of the person who provides our accommodations. I can speak for all comics when I say our life is a roller coaster ride spanning the entire economic spectrum of housing, from the mansions to the slave quarters. There has been much talk of late about the gap between the rich and poor; my occupation requires leaping that chasm with regularity.

True, there have been times when I’ve been lucky enough to receive the royal treatment, literally; I once stayed in a palatial suite in the luxurious Adolphus Hotel that had previously been occupied by the Queen of England, and in Vegas, I stayed in a room fit for a King (AKA Elvis Presley). But these experiences are exceptions to the rule, and that rule is: the person who hires me wants to spend as little as possible putting me up.

There are three forms of accommodations that my employers use: rental properties (commonly called comedy condos), hotels, and my least favorite, staying on-site.

I’ve performed at some colleges offering degrees in hospitality whose students maintain a one or two unit “hotel” on campus. I always feel odd when they give me a key to my room and then another key to the front door of the Student Center it is located in. Worse than that is when they expect me to stay in a dorm room, usually without a television or private bath; sure, dorm rooms look comfortable in movies and TV, but in real life they are closer to prison. Worse still is being stuck in the dreaded Alumni Guest House, which I invariably have to share with the caretaker, usually an older woman (actually, the mother of an older woman) who can’t understand my resistance to spend the evening sitting next to her watching the Lawrence Welk Show. I have learned to always pack a book so I can entertain myself in privacy (no, not that kind of book!)

The comedy club equivalent to the Alumni Guest House is when you are expected to live at the club owner’s house. Thankfully this is rare, but when it happens I always feel a flashback to my teenage years when I was living with my parents, only this time we are the same age. Ask yourself, how comfortable would you feel if your roommate was also the person that signed your paycheck?

Comedy condos are like living with the owner once removed, since they are always furnished with their hand-me-downs; when the owner gets a new couch the condo gets the old one, so you feel as if you have traveled back in time, because you reside in a decor that was popular about the time you were born. I can say in all honesty I have shared sheets with some of the hottest female comedians in the world, from Sarah Silverman to Chelsea Handler, unfortunately, not at the same time. To give you an idea of how often condos get new sheets, I once had the son of the club owner visit the condo and comment “Oh wow, those were my sheets when I was in third grade.” At the time he was thirty-five. These condos are frequently lacking what most would consider modern necessities; these days, I don’t know anyone, even a five-year-old, which does not have cable or internet connection. But in condos, you consider yourself lucky if you’re provided toilet paper.

If fairness to the owners I have witnessed some comedians realize they will not be asked back to the club and trash the condo in their wake. This barbarous behavior runs the gamut of tossing baked beans on the ceiling to defecating in dresser drawers. This happened at a condo in Oklahoma City the week before I arrived. The owner was so incensed he removed almost all of the furniture; my bedroom had nothing left but a mattress on the floor, I felt like I was on the set of Roots.

I’ve also encountered a handful of lonely club owners that impose a “no guest” policy in their condo; if they are not getting lucky they don’t want you too either. Sometimes this policy is limited to the club’s staff. I worked a club in Houston that was so concerned about the waitresses visiting the condo the manager would get drunk and raid the place in the middle of the night, reminiscent of a Gestapo Storm Trooper bursting through the door while screaming “Vere are da Jews?”

One of my strangest experiences was when a club mailed me a map to their condo with my airline ticket. I arrived to find the door unlocked and walked in with my luggage to see a large man holding a butcher knife while making a sandwich. I assumed he was the other comedian, so I introduced myself and asked him which bedroom was mine. I walked down the hall with my bags exploring the place as he followed stammering “What the f…” After a few very awkward moments I discovered that the club had moved their condo and had not bothered to tell me; I had just tried to move in to a stranger’s apartment.

Hotels offer a vast range in quality, from Plaza to Bates, and I’ve stayed at every kind, from the ones that make you wonder what the peasants are doing to the ones that make you fear for your life.

My biggest complaint with hotels involves the people I have to share them with. Living on the road is lonely enough without having to hear the couple next door on their honeymoon. If the unmistakable sound of sex gets too much for me to bear I resort to dialing room to room and saying, “This is hotel security, we’ve had reports of screams coming from your room, is everything okay?” A panting voice then assures me everything is fine and promises to keep it down.

The hotel employees are usually no more considerate than the guests. It is common comedy fodder that to get a job as a hotel maid you must prove you are unable to comprehend the words “Do Not Disturb.” (For the funniest take on this, seek out the late, great, Bill Hicks’ routine on hotel maids.) Too get even, before I check out, I unroll about twenty feet of toilet paper and write “Help! I’ve been kidnapped by the maids! Call 911!” Then I roll it back up neatly for the next guest to find.

Hotels offer more scares than a Halloween Haunted House, from two-legged lunatics to six-legged bedbugs. You just never know what malady is lurking. For example, while performing in Saint Croix, my opening act, a comedian named Martha Jane, had the rudest awakening ever. During the night, a drain underneath her hotel bed backed up... raw sewage! The moisture seeped up the linens and woke her. Still half-asleep, she stepped barefoot into the ankle-deep mess to see her luggage floating in it (without a paddle).
My comic friend, Al Ducharme, was shaving in his hotel bathroom. In the mirror he caught the reflection of a large rat crawling in his luggage. He was forced to ponder whether it was from his present hotel, or if he had packed the rat from the seedy hotel he was in the previous night.

At a Super 8 in Wise, Virginia, I was locked in a bathroom for over an hour with no one to hear my screams, before I turned into MacGuiver and finally took the lock apart with a fingernail clipper, a Q-tip, and a box of Kleenex. But being locked in is better than being locked out, as I learned at the Salisbury Hotel in the heart of New York City. At the time I was married to a woman who had been tremendously over-served by a bartender that evening, resulting in her vomiting in the hotel room trash can, before passing out. The rancid smell soon became such a problem, I decided to place the trash can out into the hallway... without a stitch of clothing (I had the same bartender). No sooner out the door, than I heard it click behind me. Locked out of my room with nothing to hide my shame but a bucket of barf! And she was too unconscious to hear my pounding on the door. As fate would have it, at this very moment, the elevator opposite my room opened. I'm not sure who had the more shocked expression, me or the dozen people, who upon seeing a nude man holding a small trash can at waist level, chose to stay in the elevator.

Ooops, I’ve got to go get some clothes on; the maid just barged in…

“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit:

Monday, November 15, 2010

When 1+1=1

“You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature.  You look beyond the veil of form and separation.  This is the realization of oneness.  This is love.”
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

I started my morning in typical fashion, waking up in yet another heartless hotel room and swilling stale coffee on my way to the airport.  I had spent 54 of the last 64 days on the road; slept in 31 cities, an amount the average person would not experience in a lifetime, but for me, it was just another comedy tour.  The toil of travel was weighing me down and the fatigue had my usually sunny spirits sagging.  My Mother always said the there are two types: the people that tear your heart out and those that put it back, and I always strive to be the latter, but today it was a struggle.  Sadly, when I boarded the aircraft for my cross-country flight my emotional state really took a nosedive.

When I reached my assigned seat I was disgusted to find a sizable portion of it missing, or more accurately, invaded by the man in the seat next to mine.  To say he was a person of considerable girth would be to flirt with understatement, and a substantial amount of it was now spilling into my lap as he was too big to lower his armrests (or trey table).  By my calculations, 15% of his body was in constant contact with about 50% of mine. 

His head rested on his chin, and that chin rested on the next chin, and the next chin followed suite, until the last chin rested atop his blubbery man-breasts; in fashioned terms he wears a “layered look”… when naked.  The last time I saw a figure like this it was being milked.

The wheels of the plane had not lifted off the ground when he reached in his shirt pocket and produced – of all things – a ham sandwich.  Much to my dismay his mouth gaped open and lunged rapidly forward devouring the entire sandwich in three quick bites; I felt like I had witnessed the cross between a human and a Hungry Hungry Hippo.  And the fact he was eating ham struck me as damn close to cannibalism, as each of his fingers appeared suitable to make a football with.

The thought of spending the next five hours with his clammy body draped across mine was depressing.  The only silver lining to the clouds we were flying through was that I could remain grateful I will not have to be a pall bearer when this colossal man keels over with a heart attack in the undoubtedly near future, for it was apparent that he was digging his own grave… with his teeth. 

In my comic mind I soon found myself silently replaying many of the cruel fat jokes I always try to avoid:
He is so fat he gets in his own way!
He is so fat he has to stick his arm out to see if he is walking or rolling!
He is so fat when he gets his shoes shined he has to take the man’s word for it!
He is so fat he puts mayonnaise on aspirin!

It was at this moment I noticed the man reading a newspaper clipping with misty eyes.  Upon closer examination I discovered it was the obituary of a woman about twenty years older than him; in her photo I noticed similar features to his, and in a moment of ego-puncturing clarity I realized this man was probably returning from burying his mother.  Suddenly I was transported by memory to the passing of my own parents and the tremendous loss I felt.  I was able to recognize that although physically different, this man and I are essentially the same.  I was reminded of what my friend, Kinky Friedman, said, “If you look deeply enough into yourself, you’ll soon discover you can see everybody else.”

I was filled with shame.  Only moments before, I was guilty of finding self-righteous pleasure in this poor man annoying me; his unfortunate defect was actually bringing me a perverse sense of superiority. 

I suppose it is a sad tendency of human nature to fail to hunt for our hidden similarities, and to feel that we are separate or alone.  We live in divisive times, where most are quick to label others based on differences (blue-red, hawk-dove, conservative-liberal, black-white, Christian-Muslim, ad infinitum) and in doing so, we do ourselves, and others, a disservice.  As my mentor in comedy, Bill Hicks, pointed out, “It is only our illusion that we are separate from God, or that we are alone.  We are all one and the minute you call yourself one thing you immediately separate yourself from all the other things.”

This profound wisdom was echoed by Peter Finch: “We’re like one soul in billions of separate bodies, caged or separated, constantly craving communication – to share, to express, to experience each other.  In a good and growing relationship of any kind, we move toward oneness.”

Even if you do not personally believe, as I do, that we share one soul physically divided by prisons of skin, then you still must recognize we share a common ancestor, which at the very least means we are all related.  The ancient people of the Cherokee Nation had a saying, “ea nigada qusdi idadadvhn” which translates to: "all my relations in creation."  If you prescribe to the theory of evolution, then that ancestor would be that first fish that decided to crawl out on land and eventually sprout arms and legs.  If you believe in the Bible, then we all descended from Adam and Eve.

On a purely humorous note, perhaps this is the reason that humans so frequently act so foolish toward each other.  I read that scientists have proven that the children produced from incest are often brain damaged.  So if Adam and Eve had kids, and their kids had kids, then it stands to reason that we are all descendants of brain damaged people.

Five hours later I got off that airplane happy to be feeling a little less brain damaged than when I got on. My irritation with the man had transcended into compassion and condolences.  I love him (despite there being so much of him to love).

And I love you too.  It is not that difficult if I only think about it.  By believing that, on some level, you and I are one, makes it easy for me to love you, because as Terrell Owens says, “I loves me some me.”

“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit: