Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nude York, New York

One of the joys of a career in the entertainment industry is that each and every day holds a different adventure.  Some are most enjoyable —like a TV show paying me to portray a patron of a strip club where Jenny McCarthy portrayed the dancer—and some not so enjoyable —like having cans thrown at me because the rapper I was opening for, Petey Pablo, was late.  But even at its worst, I recognize that I am blessed to not have to face the same boring, predictable routine every single day that most working people endure.  Although I like to think I’ve done most everything there is to do as a comedian, I know that is impossible, because you never know what someone will ask a comic to do next, and chances are I will agree to do it.

Remember the episode of “The Brady Bunch” where Jan imagines the audience she is addressing isn’t wearing any clothes?  Well, I can now say I’ve done a show where there was no pretending necessary.  I was hired to perform for a nudist group that had rented out my neighborhood comedy club, Stand Up New York.  Although I do not consider myself a prude, I have never had any desire to participate in any clothing-optional group activities that take place in public.  (I once refused an offer to visit a nude beach because I couldn’t think of any method to apply sunscreen where I needed it most, without appearing like a total pervert.)  However, the members of this free-spirited assembly enjoy a wide variety of fabric-free events such as a Naked Bingo Night and a Naked Reading Night, featuring authors who read in the nude.  Much to my relief, the comedians were not allowed to disrobe, since New York law requires a special license for establishments providing nude entertainment.

I am certainly not morally opposed to nudity.  In fact, I once worked at Chippendale’s.  They fired me, I got drunk and put my g-string on backwards… and it fit (insert rimshot here).  

Back to Naked Comedy Night.  My carnal curiosity led me to arrive at the club two hours before I was scheduled to perform. (A first, I admit.) Being the product of a proper sexually-repressed American upbringing, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered a room filled with naked strangers.  The closest I’ve ever come to that scenario was looking at photographs of Hugh Hefner’s friends lounging around the grotto at the Playboy Mansion.  Basing my expectations on a Playboy pictorial, I made two assumptions: one, these types of events attract people with bodies worthy of showing off (like Hef’s pals did), and two, these people would be trying to sleep with anyone they could get their genitals on (like Hef’s pals did).  So when I agreed to do the show, my biggest fear was that I would be so aroused by the sexually-charged atmosphere, that I would get an embarrassing erection on stage.  Once I got a look at the audience, my biggest fear was that I would never get another erection as long as I lived. 

Much to my surprise (and disappointment) the nudist group was not composed of people who had spent long hours at the gym, or big bucks at the plastic surgeon, sculpting a body close to physical perfection.  In fact, it is safe to say that none of the people baring their assets before me had ever seen the inside of a gym, much less an episode of “Nip/Tuck.”  These were not old people. They were more like the parents of old people. Picture in your mind a porno movie featuring the cast of Cocoon.  (This made me wonder. Why do people say someone looks great for their age, only when they don’t look their age?)

Nudity and sexuality often go hand in hand, but that was not the case with this gathering. And even if it had been, there were five men to every one woman.  I was beginning to question my decision to arrive early, but soon realized I had made the right choice, because the comedy started long before the comedy show did. I overheard one woman tell the waiter, “I’ll have the baked ziti with two meatballs.” Which inspired the naked man sitting across from her jump up and wiggle, while loudly proclaiming “I’ve got your two meatballs right here!”

The actual comedy show commenced with the very funny, Ross Bennett serving as the emcee.  Ross confided, “It's going to be very difficult for my jokes to be effective, because all sense of subtlety is lost.”  I almost fell out of my chair laughing when he mentioned, “I feel like I’m in that scene from Rosemary’s Baby.”

Next up was a member of the nudist group, Carol Pinchefsky, who also is a novice comedian.  She opened with, “Hi, my name is Carol, and maybe you don't recognize me with my clothes on, which is what they told me during my high school graduation.”

My good friend Al Ducharme followed Carol, and explained to the audience why he was there, “I hoped this experience would give me some new material, but I see there’s really not much material here.”  The audience was still howling at the pun when a ringing cell phone interrupted, prompting Al to ask, "Just where are you keeping your cell phones?"  When a member of the nudist group snapped Al’s picture, he protested, “How come you get to take pictures of us, but…”  (Not that he really wanted a nude photograph of this collection, unless he was planning on using it to scare away burglars.)

The evening was a smashing success.  I believe the performers and the nudists all enjoyed themselves immensely, and the only complaint that I’m aware of was lodged by people who were not even in attendance: a Smokers' Rights Advocate Group questioned the New York City law that allows people to take off their clothes in a restaurant but not to light up a cigarette. I found that protest to be just one more thing to laugh about.

Although the audience may not have been as loaded with as many young, attractive nude women as I had fantasized about (actually none) I could not have asked for more appreciative group.  They were intelligent, open minded, quick to laugh and very comfortable in their own skin. 

I guess it is difficult to take life too seriously when you are buck naked in a roomful of nude strangers.  These were people with the wisdom to recognize that the demanding concept of beauty that the media bombards us with is simply not attainable except by a lucky few who are blessed with fortunate genetics.  They have accepted they don’t, and won’t ever look like a Madison Avenue Supermodel, and it doesn’t appear to bother them in the least.  Instead of wasting their time and money trying to hide their physical flaws, they choose to gather and celebrate their inner beauty.  The ego has landed, and it truly was an inspiration.

I found the affair a pure delight and I know it will probably be the last time I can look at an audience and say, “I see some of the men here tonight are not Jewish.”  I also walked away with a couple of valuable kernels of knowledge: one, I should never, ever expect real life to resemble the pages of Playboy Magazine, and two, I will never ever sit in one of the chairs at that comedy club again…

“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: laffguru.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monkey Balls, Witch’s Teats, & Bridge’s Nuts

I once met Mel Torme’s daughter who shared a bit of trivia about her father. While her mother was in labor, Mel was waiting out the birth in a room without air conditioning, in the desert town of Palm Springs, in the middle of a brutal summer. To pass the time and to take his mind off the unbearable heat, Mel began to think of things associated with the winter season; chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, etc. The results of this mental exercise produced “The Christmas Song,” one of the most recognized and recorded songs of all time. The reason I retell this story is that I now find myself in the exact opposite scenario; I am writing these words in the frigid cold of winter, trying to warm myself with thoughts of toasty weather.

Winter’s wrath was a condition I had never truly experienced before I embarked on the “Road Warrior” lifestyle of a touring professional comedian. Growing up with the mild winters of Texas left me ill-prepared for the cruel climates my career would eventually expose me to. For example, the high school I attended did not even have a hockey team for the simple reason there was not an ice rink within a hundred miles (and in Texas walking on water is considered dangerously close to blasphemy).  From Texas I moved to a beach in sunny Southern California, where a ten degree fluctuation from winter to summer made the word “seasons” little more than a rumor (try getting in the Christmas Spirit by hanging tinsel and lights on a Palm tree). When I arrived in Los Angeles I was shocked to find that many of the homes in this tropical climate had fireplaces (which are about as useless as the referees in Professional Wrestling). Eventually Viacom lured me to New York City, where I quickly received a painful education on the harsh realities of winter.

I have concluded that because of my limited early experience with winter conditions, I find it much more fascinating and amusing than the other seasons. I reached this conclusion after discovering I have written more jokes about winter than the remaining seasons combined. Cold is proven to be more conducive to comedy, which is why David Letterman keeps his studio audience in a frosty sixty-two degrees. In cities that have unforgiving winters it is difficult to get the population indoors on a pleasant summer day; the comedy clubs have better attendance in the colder months, often adding more shows and paying more money. These clubs sometimes reverse this trend and offer “summer money,” a term that so angered one comic I know he responded with “Then you are getting my summer act.” (The exception to this rule is locations that see an influx of tourists in the summer and increase the pay, which is why I try to only work Hawaii in the summer).

When I analyze humor by season, it breaks down as follows: cold is a bit funnier than hot, and hot is a lot funnier than comfortable. In fact I find “comfortable” is not very funny at all. The one and only joke I have written about spring addressed the myth that men become more romantic at the start of the spring season and my belief the sudden appearance of these loving tendencies has less to do with the mating season of the natural world and more to do with women suddenly wearing a lot less clothing than they did in winter. And the only thing I have found funny about autumn is that it is the only season that balding men can relate to trees. The above examples clearly illustrate that spring and fall are not all that funny.

Extreme weather conditions generate more laughter, which supports the theory of there being a fine line between comedy and tragedy. I frequently voice my opinion that the license plate in Arizona should read “But It’s A Dry Heat,” (but as another comic pointed out, so is fire). The last time I was in Arizona during the summer months it was such a dry heat—I saw trees following dogs (insert rimshot  here).

As opposed to the bone-chilling weather I’m writing in today, where you could not pet your dog without the risk of his tail breaking off. Let me set the stage; I am in the middle of the Pocono Mountains, in the middle of January, in the middle of a blizzard. The temperature is double-digits below zero, with a wind chill factor that has dogs stuck to fire hydrants. I’ve been cold before, but never this cold. I’ve experienced winters in Alaska where snow banks that lined the roads were so tall your car moved like it was on a giant Hotwheels track, making it unnecessary to touch the steering wheel. I’ve spent wintertime in Montreal, where urine testing involves writing your name in the snow (in English and French). And I’ve made many winter trips to Minnesota, the state where the license plate should read “Nine Months of Winter – Three Months of Crappy Bobsledding.”

But I can honestly say I have never been as cold as I am today. It’s hard for me to envision the Pioneers heading west to settle our country, getting to the Pocono Mountains in January, and saying, “Well, I guess this will do.”  I suspect the people here are all descendants of wagon trouble. For example, this afternoon I was in a phone booth and needed to write down a number, but I didn’t have a pencil, so I just scratched the number in the glass…with my nipple! And that was more painless than my testicles apparent intended migration to become ovaries (however, I am thankful that if they find my frozen body at least they can identify my gender by looking on my driver’s license).

Did I mention I have never been this cold?

And I am not alone. The comedian I’m working with is also apparently not accustomed to such harsh winter conditions. Moments ago, he was so disgusted with how dirty the salt and sand on the highway had left his car, that he decided to go to a self-service car wash. I sat in the car and watched as he sprayed on a layer of soap, which immediately froze, and then he tried to rinse it off, adding another even thicker layer of ice. We are now riding in what must look like the world’s fastest glacier. That’s funny. That’s cold. But… it’s a dry cold.

“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: laffguru.com

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I once heard a story attributed to Mel Gibson (long before the world knew he was bat-shit crazy) recalling his sister’s experience, which illustrates how people have the unfortunate capacity for unjustified hatred.
“My sister was getting her hair done one day. She was sitting in a chair and I came up in conversation, and this lady was slagging off on me. She didn’t like it very much. So my sister is sitting in her chair and the lady doing her hair said, ‘This is his sister.’
And the lady turns to my sister and said, ‘I don’t like your brother.’
So my sister said, ‘Oh, I don’t like your brother.’
And the lady said, ‘You don’t know my brother.’
And my sister said, ‘You don’t know mine.’”

Every now and again I find myself guilty of feeling hatred without proper provocation; I know this is wrong. So, whenever this happens I am faced with an internal conflict between what I feel and what I know. I am ashamed to admit that there are a number of people and places that I have grown to hate for no good reason at all. I can’t point to any specific wrong inflicted on me personally, only some intangible quality that has drawn my intense dislike. Sure, there are some people whose reputation is so notorious that hating them without ever actually meeting them seems justified: Adolph Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Michael Vick, etc. But to hate an entire city that I have never fully explored seems a bit unreasonable.

At the risk of losing work at every college and comedy club in town, I must make a public confession; I hate Newark, New Jersey. There I said it. I’ll be the first to admit I have not given Newark a fair shake; not once have I sought out a reason to like the place. This is because every time I have been in Newark my prevailing thought is how can I get out. I’m sure the city boasts many wonderful attractions and many residents who are a credit to humanity, it’s just I have yet to encountered one. Since my experience of Newark has been limited to it’s exit routes, it’s safe to say I do not base my unabashed loathing on what I found while in Newark, but rather the products of Newark that have found me. I’m looking at one right now.

How do I know the object of my scorn and ridicule originated in Newark? I was privy to her deafening cell phone conversation as our plane was landing (as was everyone else on the aircraft and perhaps a few people on the ground). I am now inspired to jot down my vile impressions of this Newark resident while we are gathered at the baggage claim. She has just been met by her husband, who I hate by default, if for no other reason than his appalling taste in women. I fear they are breeding a litter of annoying offspring in Newark, no doubt in training to master the ability to irritate the rest of the world.

My flight started with the woman in question attempting to board before her row was called and then blocking the passageway for everyone else. It ended with her refusing to allow the passengers seated in front of her to deplane first; she bolted up the aisle before the seat belt sign was off – the aeronautical equivalent of cutting in line.

Good manners prevent me from providing an accurate physical description, but I will say that if she should ever need medical treatment for a fall I would not be surprised if she would be attended by all the King’s horses and all the King’s men. As is often the case with people who obviously never participated in any exercise that did not involve chewing, she is wearing a jogging suit. And as is often the case, she has the hooded top of her athletic outfit tied around her abundant waist in the manner my friend, Ron Morey, refers to as “flying the big butt flag.” I just noticed that the hood of her sweatshirt is hanging down below her rotund buttocks so that it resembles the poop-shoot contraption that is attached behind the horses that pull the carriages through Central Park.

The horse’s ass analogy has me laughing, and now I’m feeling a bit guilty for hating Newark. I remind myself many people I know hate the entire state of New Jersey, so I suppose my unfounded abhorrence is, by comparison, moderate.

Growing up in Texas I was unaware how widespread the bad feelings for New Jersey are along the eastern seaboard; in effect, the closer you get to the Garden State the more critics you will find. I feel sorry for children that grow up in New York City; they are probably in college before they learn that “fucking Jersey” is two words. The contempt for New Jersey is so acknowledged they actually sell t-shirts for Garden State residents that proclaim, “New Jersey – We Hate You Too.”

But I have always felt that New Jersey gets a bad rap, and have been very quick to defend it when I can; an increasingly difficult task thanks to the likes of Snooki and The Situation. For example, when someone ridicules New Jersey for having beaches littered with medical waste and hypodermic needles, I would point out that no one in New Jersey actually goes to the “beach,” they only go to the “shore.” (I think the reason they never call it the "Jersey Beach" is because that sounds too close to what they call their girlfriend.)

I have met my near demise countless times in the streets of Manhattan by almost being rundown by a reckless driver, and despite that the offending vehicle invariably bears telltale yellow plates, I continue to defend New Jersey. Regardless that New Jersey is the only state that I’m aware of that doesn’t trust the residents to pump their own gas without stealing it, I defend it. In spite of New Jersey’s only noticeable contribution to society is providing the setting for the Sopranos and Springsteen, my battle cry has always been “Give Jersey a break, it’s not all bad.”

Here is a little test to determine your inner feelings about the Garden State. Pick the person that was NOT born in New Jersey:
Joe Pesci
Meryl Streep
Danny DeVito
Joe Piscopo
Howard Stern
If you picked Howard Stern you are correct. However, if you are shocked to discover that someone as classy as Meryl Streep hails from New Jersey, then you too have Garden State prejudice.

I’ve always felt sorry for poor little New Jersey, the state that just can’t seem to please. It shares the very same geographic features and climate as its neighboring states, yet Pennsylvania produced the acclaimed city of Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love,” and in its shadows New Jersey produced Trenton, “the most dangerous city in America.” The Empire State produced the best city in the world, New York City, and New Jersey answered with nearby Newark. The different values of these municipalities is best illustrated by the fact that the Lincoln Tunnel runs two directions; to go towards New York costs a whopping eight bucks, but to go towards Newark costs zip, nada, nothing, not one red cent. (Fred Allen said the reason they built the tunnel was so people could go to Jersey without being seen.) When Nevada and New Jersey both relaxed their gambling laws, Nevada created Las Vegas; Jersey countered with Atlantic City, which as impossible as it sounds makes Vegas look tasteful. Try as it might, the Garden State just can’t seem to get it right, but I think we should show pity rather than contempt.

Tell me you hate everything about New Jersey and I will compassionately try to change your mind. But tell me that if it was necessary to give the world an enema, you would insert it in Newark… I will buy you a beer.

“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: laffguru.com