Monday, December 27, 2010


I recently got some disturbing news; I discovered that I have MC1R.

Not that anyone can easily tell by looking at me, since I shave my head.  I did not start shaving my head to hide my MC1R, I did so because a TV talk-show paid me to shave it on the air; I went from long locks tied in a ponytail to my current chrome-dome look in only seconds, but it took quite some time for me to adjust to the transition.  For example, the first time I got caught in the rain it seemed really, really, LOUD! And the first time I went camping, I never thought to spray bug repellant on my shaved head and the mosquitoes saw me as a cranial buffet; so the next shaving cut off all the bumps and for weeks I looked like the victim of a woodpecker attack.

Before I go any further I suppose I should explain, for those unfamiliar with advanced genetic study, what MC1R entails.  In 1995, Professor Jonathan Rees, of Edinburgh University, identified the melanocortin 1 receptor found on the 16th chromosome (MC1R for short) as the “gene for red hair.”  Although news of this discovery took over a dozen years to reach me, it was still quite unsettling to learn that as a redhead – I am a genetic mutation.

There are not many of us mutants out there, only 4% of the world’s population sports natural red hair, and only 2% of the United States.  Although it may appear there is more; the majority of women who dye their hair do so at home, and the majority of those choose to be redheads (30% red, 27% brunette, and 26% blonde).  Of the natural hair colors, red is the rarest, even on the same head; the average human has 120,000 strands of hair, brunettes have the most, blondes less, and us poor downtrodden redheads have the very least.

This is but one of the many negative effects of MC1R.  Others include: being prone to industrial deafness, the favorite target for bees to sting, and being more susceptible to sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkles.  My research also disclosed that redheads are harder to sedate, requiring 20% more anesthesia to obtain the desired effect (I suspect this unusual tolerance may be due to centuries of over-consumption of Irish whiskey).

As a child I despised having red hair, frequently begging my parents for permission to dye it any other color, which they persistently denied, forcing me to endure the constant taunts of classmates, such as, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head!” Can you imagine a childhood burdened with the knowledge that others would rather be deceased than to look like you?  My parents believed the ridicule I received was a small price to pay for being so “cute.”  But as any adolescent boy will tell you, “cute” is not an adjective he desires; he longs for “hunky” or “handsome.” 

Any person born below the Mason Dixon Line (myself included) is familiar with the phrase “I’ll beat you like a redheaded stepchild” (which dates back to the South’s darker days and refers to the illegitimate offspring created by master and slave).  This phrase alone always made me grateful I was never adopted (but perhaps my adoptive parents might have let me dye my hair… after they finished beating me).  Looking back, I’m surprised my MC1R was not treated with weekly sessions with a therapist.

Having red hair is a feature that has historically been looked upon with an unkind eye.  Throughout time artists traditionally depict Judas Iscariot with red hair because of their common belief that redheads are untrustworthy.  In the 16th century, the fat of a redheaded man was an essential ingredient for poison.  The Egyptians had a ceremony in which they burned redheaded maidens in an attempt to eliminate any future redheads, because they were considered unlucky.  In Greek mythology redheads turn into Vampires when they die, and Aristotle proclaimed that redheads were “emotionally unhousebroken.”  Romans kept red-haired slaves (at a higher price).  Brahmins were forbidden to marry redheads.  And Adolph Hitler banned the marriage of two redheads because their children would be “deviant offspring.”  But Germanic persecution of redheads is nothing new; from 1483-1784 thousands of suspected witches were tortured and murdered for having the abnormality of red hair or freckles, which were considered “marks of the devil.”  During the Spanish Inquisition having red hair was proof the owner had “stolen the fires of hell” and should be burned as a witch.  In light of the MC1R history of persecution, if I hear one more fair-haired person complain about having to listen to dumb blonde jokes, I just might slap them upside their golden locks!

Sadly mankind has still not evolved to ending prejudice against redheads.  Currently in Corsica, if you pass a redhead in the street superstition dictates you should spit and turn around.  In Liverpool, folklore states that meeting a redhead at the beginning of a journey is a bad omen of terrible trouble to come.  In Africa, the UN is investigating allegations of ritual murders of Cameroon’s redheaded albinos.  A popular French proverb states that “Redheaded women are either violent or false, and usually both.”  The Russians have their own proverb: “There never was a saint with red hair” because of a common Russian belief that a person with red hair is crazy and has a fiery temper.  In fact, I am certain that some of you reading these words also still associate red hair with a crazy temper.  An Irish judge, as recently as 2001, fined a man for disorderly conduct stating “I am a firm believer that hair color has an effect on temper and your coloring suggests you have a temper.”  Why shouldn’t we have a temper?  Redheads have 50,000 years of oppression to be mad about!

There are countless reasons to be angry.  Although some may consider redheaded females to be sexy, the same rarely holds true for redheaded men.  My redheaded friend, Phil Palisol, described his only visit to a nude beach, “I have red pubic hair; I looked like Bozo with a double chin.”  An opinion echoed by the very funny Patty Rosborough, who says, “Red hair is just not a good setting for a penis.  You keep expecting it to jump up and start singing ‘The sun will come up tomorrow.’”

It is very frustrating as a redheaded man to have so few redheaded icons to look up to, since the most well-known are usually female cartoons: Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone, Jessica Rabbit, Pippi Longstocking, Raggedy Ann, The Little Mermaid, Princess Fiona, Peppermint Patty, and of course, Little Orphan Annie (singing “the sun will come up tomorrow”).  What male redheaded role models do I have?  Well, there’s Winston Churchill (fat), Vincent van Gogh (crazy), Henry VIII (fat & crazy), and Ronald McDonald (neither fat nor crazy, just money-crazed enough to make the rest of the world fat). As for Conan O’Brien, all I can say is, “Damn you Jay Leno!” (Or as I call him, “Grey-Lo.”) And as for Carrot Top, he is as embarrassing to redheads as Uncle Tom is to African-Americans.

But this story has a happy ending; I’m thrilled to report I am a MC1R survivor.  Over the years I’ve come to appreciate being unique.  And as I age I take comfort I’ll never need Grecian Formula because redheads don’t turn gray (we turn sandy, then white) so if I ever grow my hair back out it might be described as “salt and (cayenne) pepper.”  I’ve already reached an age where I’ll eagerly accept anything close to a compliment, so now “cute” is no longer disappointing.  I’ve finally learned to live with the genetic cards that I’ve been dealt, even MC1R, because in truth, sometimes it’s kind of fun to be an emotionally unhousebroken mutant.

“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:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa Laws

It is less than a week until the most anticlimactic day of the year: December 26th.  I’m reminded of how my Father often joked that the day after Christmas is the day the world goes from “jingle bells” to “juggle bills.”

I always associate Christmas with my family, and can accurately predict their reactions as next December 26th approaches, because every year at the end of the day every member of my family always sighs and says “This was the best Christmas ever.” Rather than nod in agreement, this year I plan to remind them that honor probably goes to the very first one (and the fact that our family has a severe shortage of wise men and virgins).

I’ve always found holiday traditions a little strange.  The word “holiday” originates from “holy day.”  But I have trouble associating our customs with the event we are celebrating.   
For example;
On Easter, Jesus rose from the dead – so I’ll decorate chicken embryos and chew the ears off chocolate bunnies? 
On February 14th in the year 237 A.D., Saint Valentine was clubbed and beheaded by an angry mob – so I’ll give my girlfriend red panties?
On March 17th Saint Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland – so I’ll drink green beer till I puke?
On December 25th Jesus was born – so a fat man comes down my chimney? 

Ah, the fat man, the most famous of holiday figures.  If you live in Turkey, you know that St. Nicholas was born in Patara, and went on to become a famous Turkish Archbishop known for his kindness to children.  Of course if you live in Persia, you’ve never even heard of Santa and you don’t get gifts from him (which totally sucks for little Persian dudes).  And if you grew up in Belgium, you had two Santa figures; St. Nicholas for kids who speak the Waloon language, and another for children who speak French called “Pere Noel.”  I think the two-Santa concept should be used at stores in America, one for regular kids, and one for kids who want ten items or less.

While some little boys grew up wanting to be policemen, or firemen, or rock stars, I grew up wanting to be Santa.  After all, he “knows when you are sleeping,” how cool is that?  I longed for the ability to enter homes with locked doors with ease (almost as much as I longed for that list of which girls are naughty).

The main drawback to being Santa would be living at the North Pole, since I find cold weather very disagreeable.  In Brazil they believe “Father Noel” lives in Greenland, which is just a tiny bit warmer.  And in Holland they believe St. Nick lives in sunny Spain, which has a wonderful climate.  Kids in Czechoslovakia believe “Suaty Mikalas” resides in Almost Heaven (presumably the one that is not West Virginia) climbing down to Earth each year on a golden rope.  In Sweden, “Tomte” lives underneath the floorboards in your house, and rides a straw goat, (thus I would never want to be Santa in Sweden because I couldn’t handle straw burns on my thighs).

Since December 22nd is the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere, Santa is known to arrive on Australian beaches riding a surfboard.  Cool!  The Aussies are not the only ones with a seagoing Santa.  In Greece, St. Nicholas is also the Patron Saint of Sailors, so his beard drips seawater.  No Greek ship ever leaves port without a St. Nicholas icon on board.  In Spain, the traditional Christmas figure, “Balthazar,” rides a donkey, so kids leave their shoes in windowsills filled with straw, carrots, and barley in hopes the donkey stops there.  Like Spain, in Venezuela they also look forward to a visit from “Balthazar, King of Ethiopians.”  And since most Ethiopians are black, children wake Christmas morning and race to the mirror looking for a black smudge on their cheek indicating “Balthazar” has kissed them in their sleep. (How ridiculous, if a kiss from a black person left a black smudge, then Thomas Jefferson would look like Al Jolson.)

The Netherlands also has some very politically incorrect Christmas traditions.  They believe that instead of elves, Santa hangs out with “Black Petes,” mean men with black skin and afros who carry switches and put naughty children in bags to ship them away.  St. Nick is not the kind jolly man Americans have come to love, but a strict disciplinarian who carries a Birch rod to beat little ones.  Parents use him to threaten their offspring, as in “You better clean your room or St. Nicholas will beat you and the Black Petes will ship you away.” This is the closest the Dutch get to racial profiling.

The Netherlands is certainly not the only place Santa has questionable associates.  In Austria he is accompanied by the Devil himself, who demands children give him a list of their deeds over the past year.  In Hungary, Santa not only travels with the Devil, the Devil has a switch.  And in the Czech Republic, St. Nick hangs with a Devil that carries a whip!  That certainly makes our American elves look better, even the one that wants to be a dentist.

In some cultures there is no Santa at all.  In Japan they believe in a priest named “Hoteiosha” who has eyes in the back of his head.  In Italy and Sicily the Christmas presents are delivered by a female, “Bafana,” an ugly witch who was told by the wise men that Jesus was born, but she was busy cleaning her house (another politically incorrect concept).  She later lost the Star and has been flying around on her broomstick ever since, leaving gifts at houses with children, just in case Baby Jesus is there.  In the part of the world formerly known as Russia, they share a similar belief, except their “Babushika” refused to travel with the wise men because the weather was cold.  Duh?!  It’s December.  It’s Russia.  You don’t have to be Al Roker to know it will be cold?

With all these witches and devils flying around, Christmas can be scary.  In Scotland they are afraid of the elves.  It’s considered bad luck to let your fire go out on Christmas Eve because a bad elf might fly down your chimney.  (But after seeing the dental work in Scotland, or lack thereof, I can understand how they might fear that elf that wanted to be a dentist.) 

In Denmark an elf does all the work, his name is “Nisse.”  In Norway an elf is also the central Christmas figure, “Julebukk,” which translates into “Christmas Buck.”  (I’m sure many American merchants share the Norwegians anticipation of the annual visit of the “Christmas Buck.”)  With both “Nisse” and “Julebukk” children are taught that if they don’t leave a bowl of food out, the elf will play a mean trick on them.  This reminds me of the American tradition of Halloween, where we teach our children extortion.  In the part of the world formerly known as Yugoslavia, the Christmas tradition involves children creeping into the room and tying their mother to a chair, then shouting “Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, what will you pay to get away?”  She must trade gifts for her freedom.  The following week the little gangsters lean on their father.  I think the message here is “kidnapping pays.”

I’ll close with one of my favorite Christmas stories. My friend, Evelyn, had a grandfather that was getting senile and the more things he forgot the more irritated his wife would get. While Evelyn was driving them to their family Christmas party, her forgetful grandfather asked, “Whose birthday party are we going to?” Her grandmother snapped and shouted, “I think his name is Jesus!”

So, no matter where you are, or how you do it, I wish you all very “Happy Birthday Jesus.”

“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:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stop Me If You’ve Reword This Before


“Thou shalt not steal”
Exodus 20:15

I have a new comedy hero.  What’s so unusual about that?  I’ve never had the opportunity to see his act.  I was already a fan from his work as commentator for the UFC (and you may know him as the host of Fear Factor and The Man Show), but now I’ll forever admire and respect his bravery to stand up and speak out.  His name is Joe Rogan, and he appears to be on a one-man campaign to let the world know about the lowest of the low in the comedy industry – comedians that steal. 

Comics who steal have been around as long as there have been comics.  The most notorious was perhaps Milton Berle, who embraced his derogatory title of “The Thief of Bad Gag.”  His peers joked that Berle did not have an act – he had everybody’s act.  I know this to be true, because early in my career Milton attended one of my shows in Vegas and afterward told me, “If you hear a joke you like take it.” Which I thought was about the worst advice a young comedian could get.  It is rumored that Bob Hope once said something funny and Berle told him, “I wish I had said that.” And Hope replied, “Don’t worry… you will.”

It is not easy to become a successful comedian; you must have both something funny to say and the ability to say it funny.  By stealing material, half the work has been done for you; it is the equivalent of entering a marathon race then hopping on the bus.  The worst part is these cheaters still get rewarded at the finish line, because the only people that know they cheated are the other contestants and not the people who give out the prizes.  You may be shocked to learn that some of America’s best-loved comedians are also the most despised by other comedians.  (My resentment for these performers runs so deep that I refuse to pay one cent to see any movie they appear in, or raise the ratings of their television shows, for fear I might be remotely rewarding them and their thievery in any measure.)  Each comedian must face this moral dilemma then decide if he values his own honor and the respect of his peers more than the trappings of fame and fortune.  The temptation of a shortcut to stardom is so strong many choose the latter, and unfortunately the public remains largely unaware of their misdeeds.

I can’t stress enough how valuable jokes are to a comedian, especially if he is not a household name.  When a comic first starts out he may only have a couple good lines to serve as the foundation for his career. So, when performer on the level of say, Robin Williams, attends the local comedy club then does a starting comic’s joke on television, the next time that young comic does his own material the audience will assume he stole it from Robin, thus derailing his career.  It’s a sad fact, but the public will always believe the more famous comic wrote the bit; that is why this form of thievery is so devastating to the victim.  Since humor is considered in public domain there is very little legal recourse for this type of crime; that is why the comics themselves have to self-police the industry since the club owners, agents, and television producers, are more concerned with someone just getting the laughs as opposed to where the laughs originated.  I thank God that Joe Rogan has the courage to step forward to serve as our Comedy Police Commissioner.

Here is a list of the accused perpetrators of repeated unrepentant plagiarism:


Perhaps the most notorious contemporary joke thief in the industry, he is known as “the comedic Wynona Ryder.”  One of the first lessons I learned in comedy was to never perform if Robin is in the club; the world famous Improvisation Comedy Club in Hollywood even devised a warning system with lights to alert the comic on stage that Robin is present.

Radar Magazine quoted Scott LaRose, a veteran stand-up, saying Williams knows he has a problem but is virtually helpless to stop it. "Everybody knows he's a genius, but he's like SpongeRobin SquarePants," says LaRose. "He's just a big sponge."  Another comedian reported, "I remember watching Letterman last year and Ray Romano was on. Ray did a bit that he has been doing for a while about implanting phones in your head to make them more convenient. The next night Robin Williams was on the show and did the same bit word for word. Dave looked like Robin had dropped a turd into his coffee cup (Letterman produces Ray's show)."

Naturally comedians tend to address disturbing issues with humor; there is a joke making the rounds about a deli in New York that had a sandwich named after him, “the Robin Williams,” they give you a bun, but you have to steal the meat.


Joe Rogan appeared on syndicated radio’s Opie and Anthony Show and accused Dane of stealing his, and other comedian’s material.  He then backed up his claim by playing clips from Louis CK’s cd, “Live In Houston,” followed by Cook doing almost the same bits on his cd, “Retaliation.”  I encourage you to decide for yourself; these clips can be found by doing a YouTube search for: “Dane Cook Steals Jokes – Proof.”

In fairness to all the comedians accused of stealing, there are four possibilities to consider before you find them guilty:
One: the joke is so old or in such widespread use it is considered “stock.” (I’m not proud to admit it, but there have been a few times I have told a joke so old that if Adam and Eve returned it might be the only thing they would recognize.)
Two: it is a matter of parallel thought and each comic came up with the joke independently.
Three: they paid an unethical comedy writer to create material and unknowingly bought recycled jokes.
Four: (the truly shameful option) it is just outright larceny.

According to Larry Getlen, of Radar Magazine, “Rogan isn’t the only one who has accused Cook of lifting material. Another veteran comic recalls seeing Cook performing one of his very physical routines at the same club. “I go, ‘Don’t do that bit,’” says the comic, “and [Cook] goes, ‘Oh, sorry man. I won’t do that bit.’ But he did it plenty of times after that.”  Dane Cook’s reputation for supposedly being a thief has become so widespread that even a mainstream publication, Mad Magazine, put him on the cover and made light of it.


During a national radio appearance Rogan also accused Leary of stealing.  This led to a war of words that played out for days in the newspaper in which Denis responded with something to the effect that if Rogan would worry more about his career than mine then he wouldn’t have to be on a show watching bartenders eat worms (Fear Factor).  However, to the best of my knowledge, he did not deny that he had stolen material, which would be difficult to do since there is so much evidence to the contrary.  In his book, “One Consciousness: An Analysis of Bill Hicks' Comedy,” Paul Outhwaite devotes an entire chapter to word-for-word examples of Leary lifting jokes.  This controversy is also mentioned in Cynthia True’s book, “American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story.”

Before he died from pancreatic cancer, Hicks was asked about Leary stealing his material and stage persona, Bill responded sarcastically, “I have a scoop for you.  I stole his act.  I camouflaged it with punchlines, and to really throw people off, I did it before he did.”

Comedian Lenny Clark reported that during a televised roast for Leary a carton of cigarettes was left backstage with a note reading: “Wish I had gotten these to you sooner. (signed) Bill Hicks.”  The joke was cut from the final broadcast.

I had heard that one of Leary’s final retorts to Rogan was, “I’d like to see him say that to my face.”  Well, so would thousands of Bill Hicks’ fans, because Joe happens to be a full-contact Tae Kwon Do champion.


On February 10th, 2007, Rogan gained national admiration amongst comics when he confronted Carlos Mencia on stage at LA’s Comedy Store.  The event was captured on tape for Rogan’s internet reality broadcast, “JoeShow.” (You can see it by searching You Tube for: “Joe Rogan Carlos Mencia.”)  The clip also features testimony of Mencia’s thievery from comedians: Ari Shaffir, Bobby Lee, and George Lopez, who told Howard Stern last year that Mencia stole 13 minutes of his act for an HBO special, inspiring him to pay Mencia a personal visit. "I just had enough," Lopez recalled. “So one night at the Laugh Factory, I just picked him up and slammed him against the wall.”

Radar Magazine reported Nick Di Paolo claims the Comedy Central star also swiped material from him, and notes that “every Latino comic wants to kill him.”  According to Rogan, the famed Comedy Store in Los Angeles has even instituted a Mencia early-detection signal similar to the Improv's for Williams, though considerably less high-tech. "Every time he walks in, the guys in the cover booth just start yelling 'Mencia's here!'"

I’m sorry to report that Rogan had to pay a price for making the public aware that there are unethical comedians that build their careers on the creativity of others.  The Comedy Store banned Joe on the grounds that he violated club policy by filming his show there.  Wikipedia states “Furthermore, according to Rogan, his agent and publicity firm (who also represents Mencia) forced him to either apologize to Mencia or be dropped from the agency. Rogan claims he chose to leave the agency rather than apologize.”

My new hero was left to lament, “People take plagiarism so seriously in all other forms of media, whether its music, newspapers, books, but with comedy, it's like, 'You're on your own, fucker.”

Well, Joe Rogan is not entirely on his own, this heroic comedian has my full support.

“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:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Scatology 101

A CEO might want “to do one's business.”  Racecar drivers prefer to “make a pit stop.”  A Hippie would “answer nature’s call.”  And a mathematician would determine whether to “go number one” or “go number two.”  No matter if you “tinkle, whiz, squat, piddle, pooh-pooh, leak, dump,” or simply “go,” you'll need a “john, can, head, pot, crapper, library,” or some sort of “facilities.”

In Italy, you would go to the “cabinetto.”  In France, the “pissoir.”  In Russia, the “ubornaya” (the adornment place).  In Germany, the “plumpsklo” (the plop closet).  In Australia, the “toot.”  And in jolly old England, you visit the “loo” (unless you lived in the 18th-century and then you would go to the “cackatorium”).  Whatever term you use to describe it and no matter where you might reside, the toilet is a common and essential part of life—but one that remains curiously unmentionable in polite society.

Some of you are probably already feeling a tiny bit uncomfortable just reading the euphemisms above, despite the fact that they apply to such a universal experience.  No matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, male or female—the expulsion of bodily wastes is a daily activity for all.  So why is it so difficult to talk about?

As a rule, any mention of the toilet and the activities that take place within, will almost always illicit nervous juvenile giggles.  But perhaps we're making some progress in the ability to discuss such common practices above hushed tones.  For example, when toilet paper was first manufactured in the 1850’s the advertising industry was forced to refer to it as “curl papers for hairdressing.”  Today however, television ads tout toilet paper with advertising slogans like Angel Soft’s: “Comfort Where You Want It.” And in Australia, the Bouquets brand claims to be “The Toilet Tissue That Really Cares For Downunder.”

In 1960, one of the early hosts of the Tonight Show, Jack Parr, walked off the show because he was outraged when the network censored him for using a term as tame as “water closet” on the air. By 2001, one episode of Southpark used the word “shit” 200 times, (roughly once every eight seconds).

If there is one thing I've learned in comedy, it’s that repression breeds fascination.  Tour guides at NASA headquarters report the most common question they field has nothing to do with space exploration, but rather, “How do astronauts urinate and defecate?”  (FYI: Buzz Aldren was the first man to poop on the moon.) 

So in the interest of relieving scatological repression (and a few cheap laughs) I feel I should lower my high journalistic standards and become a bit of a potty-mouth… literally.  Although I could easily fill an entire volume with the study of the wit and wisdom of the literary works produced in restrooms (from common graffiti to “Sometimes A Great Notion,” the novel written while Ken Kesey was perched upon porcelain) I will use the space below to share my here before silenced observations and collected kernels of knowledge of the “necessarium.”

Perhaps the reason we find it embarrassing to discuss toilets is because embarrassing things often happen there.  As a child, one of my earliest memories was stealing that cakes of watercolors from my kindergarten class and watching in wonder as the colors mixed in the boy’s room urinal. Picasso might have approved, but I’m somewhat embarrassed by my young life of crime.  Even today, some of my favorite embarrassing movie moments have been set in a lavatory; from the disgusting toilet dive in “Trainspotting,” to the hilarious “beans and frank” mix up in “Something About Mary.” 

One of my family's most repeated stories centers on a distant cousin from a rural background regrettably using a display toilet at Sears.  The first time my dear mother saw a bidet, she thought it was a machine provided to clean her socks.  And one of my own recent embarrassing moments was when I mistook a circular freestanding sink for a urinal (which I suppose is much better than mistaking a urinal for a sink).

When you travel as much as I do, avoiding embarrassment is always a concern, because using the toilet in a strange place can prove to be very risky.  First, you must determine your proper destination, and that is not always easy.  For example, restroom doors in Hawaii are often labeled either “kane” or “wahine.” Do you know which one applies to you? An Old-English themed restaurant I patronized had restroom doors marked “Kings” and “Queens.”  I could not resist asking my waiter “Where do us peasants go?”

The traditional toilets in Japan consist of little more than a hole in the floor.  When you do find a western-style toilet, it is often accompanied by a poster nearby, providing instructions on how to properly use it (the diagrams made me laugh so hard I almost ruined a pair of shoes).

 In Sweden, one men's room I visited had replaced the urinal on the wall with just a metal grate covering the entire floor—you simply went where you stood. 

The Dutch, on the other hand, do not place the same heavy emphasis on privy privacy that we do here in the States. Their sidewalk Port-A-Pottys have no walls, so anyone passing by can see men relieving themselves. 

 Furthermore, their indoor men's rooms are staffed by a “WC Woman,” who mops around you while you are fully exposed, and expects you to tip her 50 cents for this service.

That Holland experience brought back memories of going to a nightclub in Milwaukee that had installed one-way mirrors in front of the urinals, which made it unnerving to attempt to urinate while a room full of women was in clear sight.  I also stayed at a hotel in California that had a men's room with a wall made of stones and an “electric eye” that was triggered by a stream of urine, resulting in water flowing down the wall like a waterfall.  It made every restroom trip a pure delight.  Any future architects might want to make note of the psychological effects: waterfalls – good, one-way mirrors – bad.

My all-time favorite bathroom accessory is a bathmat produced by a radio station in Memphis. It was dark blue with the chalk outline of Elvis.  (I've always loved the irony that “the King” died on “the throne.”)  Mr. Presley was in very good company, however, joining Judy Garland, Lenny Bruce, and a long list of royalty who passed while passing. King George II fell off his toilet and fatally smashed his noggin. Norway's King Haaken VII slipped on soap in the bathroom and fractured his skull, and Russia's Catherine the Great died of heart failure while straining to overcome constipation.  Foul play met foul odor when Roman Emperor Heliogabalus was hacked to death while sitting on a toilet in 222 AD.  And Saxon King Edmund Ironside was killed by an assassin that hid in the cesspool below and thrust his sword upward into the King's backside.  Ouch!

Hollywood actress Lupe Velez attempted suicide with sleeping pills, but her plans when awry when the pills not only made her sleepy, they also made her vomit.  The next day her maid found poor Lupe with her head in the toilet.  She had drowned. I read of a man who attempted suicide by jumping into an outhouse, only to spend two days in three feet of raw sewage before being rescued.  The police report stated his attempt might have been successful if he had only jumped headfirst.  And who can forget George Michael, who chose a public restroom as the perfect location—not to kill himself—but to kill his career.

Since you’ve read all the above scatological musings, I’ll reward you by sharing a trick I learned from a flight attendant.  It’s a discrete way to join the “Mile High Club.”  (If you don’t know what the “Mile High Club” is, then you’re probably not a candidate for membership.)  First, you pretend to have something stuck in your eye, then, you and your partner go to the airplane lavatory to pretend to get a better look.  Once behind closed doors—join the club.  For those who value a good laugh over discretion, as your partner emerges from the toilet, it is very funny to yell out “Next!”

“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: