President Obama shouldn’t blame Bush for the economy any more than I should blame Jerry Lewis for my current financial meltdown. After all, we live in the now. Then again, if you remember, Obama didn’t bring Bush & Cheney to a war crime tribunal either; and, likewise, I never sued Jerry. Last week, I wrote an open letter to my ole friend. That’s how weird my life has become. And, I could go on and on and talk about myself, blah, blah, blah. But, what good would it do? Nadda, my friend. Sometimes I think if I whinge and whine online and yet come out on top, it will inspire other people: people in and out of the arts, who may be struggling, and as unlikely as it may be, in some similar ways as I. Other times, I know exactly why certain very prominent members of The Society of Internet Important People have done everything to isolate me from un-friending me on Facebook, to actually offering me paid writing work. I don’t know which is worse, frankly. You see, although I’m currently “technically” homeless (but sitting at a very cool Interweb café writing this here blog) I’m actually looking down at my very nice (but dusty) natural Maplewood coffee table base because “Katrina,” the housekeeper was fired last week because some dopy local councilman told me he’d donate to my pet charity, “Blackberrys for Assholes” if (and only if) I fired any “questionable employees”. So, no, I’m not homeless by a long stretch. In fact, my life has surprisingly become a naked embarrassment of riches. I’m actually having the time of my life. I’ll give you a quick run-down on what’s happening with me, but in the meantime, I’d like to make a Presidential Endorsement.
Enjoy the Veal hereby publicly endorses Roseanne Barr for President of these United States.
Roseanne is the only candidate to openly support a free Medical Marijuana Marketplace via legalization, the revenue of which could go a long way to paying for Arnold’s divorce settlement with Maria. I knew that guy was a bit off when I saw him bouncing around his pecks at the old Red Onion pick-up jernt in Beverly Hills in the 70’s. Hey, Schmucko….. How many times I gotta tell ya -- Never sleep with the help! Who do you think you are, Bill Clinton? It’s the French Washer Woman syndrome: Lavandiere. The “thrill” of making it with the same person who cleans the skid marks outta your shorts. Fine, that’s your business. Frankly, I kinda wish you woulda kept it your business. And, while you’re at it, Terminator Breath? How ‘bout getting together with Stallone and all those other past middle age tough guys and do “The Expandables”? Nine former tough guys get together and buy Sears Sansabelt slacks. But, I digress. (Actually, digressing is what I do. I remember one time…)
Roseanne Barr would make a great President for the following three reasons:
- She’s a woman. End of story. But, it’s not. Roseanne is the American personification of Mother Nature. She’s Mother Earth and she’s not to be fucked with or she’ll sic a hurricane on yo’ ass. She’s intuitive, knowledgeable and really cares. Cares about the world. One thing you have to admit about Roseanne. She’s never been an attention seeker. She’s not in it for the glamour. She could give George Bush’s limp dick for fame. Besides: Roseanne believes in life on other planets, so being the most famous person on Planet Earth, for her, is merely the preliminaries.
- I’m trying to impress her to hire me as a writer. Not that Roseanne has any shows in development that I know about, but you never know. She already used at least one of my ideas in her speeches – or as she said to me: “Got inspired”. Welcome to Hollywood. Bend over and don’t give me any shit. (Bad visual there. Sorry.)
- I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to have a comedian as president. Now, go ahead, you Hollywood schlockmeisters and take the idea of a comedian becoming president and develop it. It sucks, no matter who plays the role: Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey. Suck, suck, suck! Now, if you act like a transsexual and think outta the box, and cast maybe Carrot Top, that might be good. After all, with the magic trick Cheney performed in Iraq, we’ve already had one prop-act in the White House. (That is, if you don’t count Ron Jeremy.)
- Fuck you. If I want four reasons (even though I said three), then it’s four. It’s my blog. Four. Roseanne would make the best president because with Cindy Sheehan as her running made, we’ll never go to war again. Cindy Sheehan is the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and anti-war activist best known for her protest outside President George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch. Roseanne is the former TV sitcom housewife best known for snarky ball-bustin’ remarks to her illegals on her macadamia nut farm. And by illegals, I mean those without a Medical Marijuana card.
- Vote for Roseanne Barr for President and everyone will end up stoned outta their minds watching themselves on The View. Every week, another dedicated voter. I’m actually ashamed I seem to know what I’m talking about here. Note to self. Get therapist on speed dial. Scratch that. Note to self. Get speed.
- Okay, six. Although Grannie Rosie is running against President O’Bismol and Mickey Rooney, and on the Peace and Freedom Party, she did start out with the Green Party and I can only thank her for the plug. You’re welcome. Mr. Green.
- Because President Obama cannot possibly win with help like this: O.B.A.M.A.
So, a little more than 30 days ago I was given 30 days to vacate the couch of my ex and let her have her space back. If there was one person who really helped me this last year, it was Angie (not of “List” fame). And it wasn’t just the couch or the oft-full fridge, or use of the Internet and cable TV; it was companionship. What I found troubling to deal with was that we were, and still are, friends and collaborators. But, I had to come to grips with the reality. I wasn’t very happy living in Pico Robertson anyway. The very Orthodox/Thai Nail Salon/Medical Marijuana District was just not my scene, man. But, ever since I was evicted from my mother’s condo (which was on a reverse mortgage when she passed on) my HQ had been my local Starbucks and Angie’s couch. Three years before all that, I was living majestically in my multi-level Notting Hill massionette in jolly old England. For months and months, my life consisted of pedaling back and forth to Beverlywood Tobacco, where I would hang out and smoke cigars with Sam and his crew, including my old friend and oft-spiritual advisor, character actor and comedian Beano (He’s got a Snapple running) then over to Starbucks to write. It’s just been way too bloody hot to pedal up to Melrose, where I would hang out with Taz & crew at the V-Cut Cigar Lounge; and I was really starting to worry about the isolation and onset of depression. Where was I gonna live and how was I gonna pay for little things like food? Still not having a car or the right to drive, and having been on more job interviews that yielded nothing but frustration and disappointment, I have been beside myself – so much to the point of questioning my own sanity. And now, Steven Questions His Own Sanity:
STEVEN: Hi, Sanity! How are you!?
SANITY: Fuck off!
I know what I have to do. I can’t be alone too long or I will go nuts. Again. I have to figure out how to make some money. On the other hand, through all this turmoil and uncertainty, the artistic/magical side of my life started to mysteriously come together. As you may know, writing the blog has not only been great fun, it’s been incredibly therapeutic. I mean think about it: What a great forum for Mr. Isolation. And it’s led to some good things, including a temporary writing job fixing up a fellow stand-up comedian’s one-man show. And, comedians and promoters have now started to inquirer when I can come and review their shows. I’ve got two reviews at the end of this blog (which are way overdue) and two more shows I’ve seen and need to review! I’ve been invited to perform on other people’s shows, including Rick Overton and Friends, where I had a great time (comedian translation: I did very well), and was treated like the way I like to be treated: Like family. But, the strangest “job” I’ve had recently is being in a very odd film. A Mockumentary about the world’s worst comedian, Archie Black. Comedian and director Dave Sirus has created the most complex despicable character since Grover Norquist. Before I got on board, all these comedians were talking to camera about this legendary comedian Archie Black. What Archie did, how he always got in trouble and always made it worse. But Dave didn’t have Archie cast yet. Chris Bonno (artist comedian and musician on the very smartest of the LA comedy club scene) outta the blue, recommended me. I met with Dave and we hit it off immediately. We’ve shot scenes all over LA. It’s great fun. In the meantime, I had to vacate Angie’s couch and I didn’t want to sleep on anyone’s couch again. I was fed up with being a leach. I just wanted employment of any kind and a pillow of my own. I wanted to maintain the one thread of dignity I still possessed, my confidence in everyone else’s confidence in my writing. Enter Hank Rosenfeld.
I met Hank a couple of years ago through Angie. Hank is quite a character. A one-time Pirate Radio DJ, an as-told-to ghostwriter for Marx Brother’s films scribe Irv Brecher (“THE WICKED WIT OF THE WEST” – available @ Amazon) and current newswriter for KNX Newsradio, Mr. Rosenfeld is exactly the kind of friend a beleaguered Humphrey Bogart would find up river, running a floating rum and gambling den for useless regulars such as Ernest Hemingway, DB Cooper and Ted Baxter. Hank is an enthusiast. He embraces life with a wicked sense of humor and is about the most well read and politely opinionated person I know, aside from my proctologist, who keeps insisting I return his pet monkey. (“you’ll have to WAIT, doc!”) The day I arrived at the yellow house in Venice Beach, was the day after I had another nervous episode with Angie. I was scared. Not of moving out. I was happy to give her back her space, both literally and figuratively. I think I was afraid of what I do to people I meet in life. Half the population of people I know are simultaneously fascinated by me and completely put off by me, because and especially in this town, failure and being broke is a contagious disease. And with all the Jerry Lewis stuff? Well, you know. Some people don’t get it and that’s always gonna be the case. But, arriving at Hank’s was like stepping through a magical door to another world; a parallel universe to the Pico/Robertson world of Angie.
The Yellow House is a rest home for creative souls. An old turn of the century wooden multi-level house, sectioned off into apartments, big and small. Very dorm like. Massage therapist and all around great guy Giovanni is upstairs, with his houseguest, the wonderful Clive Natterling, King of wax candle distribution, who, in his day, a local northern British legend and just a real interesting guy to listen to as you fall asleep to his highly imaginative conspiracy theories. My Sunday was pedaling my bicycle up and down and all around Venice, looking for the right breakfast, coming back, singing and playing guitar in the yard, as a pretty neighbor renting the guest house, listened in sort of an aware eavesdrop scenario; going back to the café, writing my blog and tightening up my screenplay, and arranging my trip to San Francisco. In fact, Dave Sirus is driving up with me. I’ll be staying with Bay Area comedy legend Doug Ferrari’s gaff and he’s promised to be my Comedy Sherpa Guide. Very much looking forward to meeting with Dan Dion, the great photographer and all around true friend of comedy. Last night I was talking with a mutual friend, Paul Provenza. I’ve known Paul for over 30 years, starting either here or New York. A great stand-up comedian (appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson), the replacement star for Rob Morrow on Northern Exposure and creator of The Aristocrats, The Green Room (on Showtime), Satiristas and co-producer of Set-List, Paul is still not happy. Not until comedy is completely dead. Paul is perhaps the greatest advocate for quality and meaning in Comedy today and was a huge proponent of my one man show about me and Jerry Lewis and was in fact on the London Palladium show that fateful night. It was Paul, who insisted I read the book, King of Comedy, by Shawn Levy. And, in spite of all his accomplishments, Paul is still just not funny. I’ve never seen him get a laugh and he has a tendency to pee his pants in mid-joke. He’s a girly-man and nobody wants to book him. In spite of all those aforementioned absolute lies, I love Paul and who he is and he knows it. He knows I was on the ledge. And, that’s always a problem for someone like me. Someone who once claimed he was committing suicide in four days? I tell ya’, one thing; if you ever decide to let it be known that you were done with life? If you live through it, you’ll always be labeled a liar. But, I can live with that, if it can live with me. Works for Paul Ryan.
When I performed in Rick Overton & Friends at The Improv Lab a couple of weeks ago, it was wonderful. Chris Pina runs a very nice friendly streamlined ship and I get to work with and see great funny story tellers such as the great Robert Altman actor Paul Dooley (Breaking Away) and the amazing multi-level mind of Bob Dubac (Free Range Thinking). Also on the show was Cathy Ladman. How can I describe Cathy…. She’s Jewish. She’s middle aged. She has an adopted Chinese kid. You know. A regular person. But, she is just so fabulously funny. I mean, really really devastatingly funny. Again, I go with the age glass ceiling in LA comedy. It’s wrong. Cathy is so superior and really does her own thing. In any case, after the show, Cathy (whom I really don’t know all that well) gave me a big warm, “we’re glad you’re still around” hug. She didn’t say any of that; but I felt it as she hugged me. (I then double-checked for my wallet. This is L.A. after all.) The next day, I sent her a message, saying, thank you, I guess you heard of my serious health crisis. She said, “No, what crisis?” I told her nearly three years ago I had a good old fashioned life crisis and wanted to end the crisis by ending my life. But, that I found therapy and a bicycle and founded The Laughter Foundation to help other comedians in trouble as well as try and start a world-class Comedy Museum. She didn’t know. Now she does. Awkward.
So my plan is thus. This week, Dave Sirus and I are driving up to San Francisco. I’m gonna meet with Dan Dion and have Doug Ferrari show me the town, as I do “Enjoy the Veal, San Francisco!” I’m hoping to spend a month up there, though I have promised to review a show in LA November 1. I’m also going to be launching a Kickstarter campaign – hopefully this week – for something called “Enjoy the Veal-Ickle,” which is a mobile podcast studio, so that I can interview comedians coming right off the comedy club stage, all hot and sweaty, ready to be interviewed for my podcast and eBook, “Enjoy the Veal, America!”. Venice Beach has given this sorrowful soul a new and fresh look at LA. It is very much inspiring me. So, that’s my life. I’m okay. I’ve got therapy, a bicycle and my blog. Aside from real love, what more does a crazy Jew comic need? Now read these reviews and pay attention, because, well just read ‘em. We’ll talk later…
ERIN FOLEY AND FRIENDS @ The Lab 9-5-12
Erin Foley is the best American stand-up comedian this comedy blogger has seen in a long long time. End of review. Drive safely. (No. Keep reading. Trust me, I stop being cruel in a minute.) Erin Foley is very good. “Full stop,” as we say in England. I don’t know if I’ll be able to bottle it for you, but let me have a bash and see where it goes. Just know, that if you know how much I care and know about comedy, I mean it when I tell you how good Ms. Foley is. Part of what makes a great comedian is stepping out the way of the joke. You know how some comics set themselves up as the target of their own slings and arrows? Erin would never dream of such narcissistic folly, unless and only unless, it informed us about something larger, much larger about society as a whole. A fully-packed Labor Day crowd at the Lab (which is becoming one of my more frequent of review venues) were in for a great night of comedy and they knew it and expressed it. Slinging a non-sequetor at the beginning of an evening of comedy was a new twist for this reviewer as Foley (Comedy Central Presents and Conan O’Brien) slung them like there’s no tomorrow. “Are we doing anything crazy?” is a good way to get the crowd together, but following up with “that’s why my mind wanders and I don’t drink,” and “Where are my lesbos?” informs us of her genetic comedy code: Gay and Lesbian Society (and it is a society) with all the classes and pitfalls of so-called normal normality. Only more so. Gay men’s parties are better, they need two sets of luggage for costumes, and “The challenge” (being that Gay Men are so creative) is to have a party with no theme at all. Brilliant! And, it’s somehow all safe and cozy hearing this stuff from a pro like Foley, who, in particular stage lighting, looks like a young Pat Benatar on her day off with the flu. Topic sub-headings for things like “politics” can be the darkly self-admonishing, “Last week, I wanted to kill myself!,” which given the timing of the frustrating presidential debate, was pin-prick right on.
“We don’t really have a choice,” and the fantastical notion the GOP Convention shoulda been held in historical witch-hunting Salem, Mass, was greeted with huge concurring applause, though to be honest, I swear the man behind me uttered under his breath, “Burn her at the stake!” (I turned around, it was Pat Robertson.) Erin thinks Obama should’ve responded to every Romney sling, lie and accusation of failure to the American people with, “Yeah, but you strapped your dog to your car,” which is exactly the kind of moral simplicity and litmus test all free dog-loving people believe in. (For my money, I just wouldn’t want Fido making doo-doo on the roof of my Lexus; especially on the sun-roof.) And yet, Foley doesn’t stop there. She demonstrates what it would be like to quote, not from The Bible (as the Republicans do), but from Harry Potter, and literally demonstrated said created dialectic logic with the acuity, timing and authenticity to detail, mode and emotion, like some of the greats, in particular the late great Alan King, whose only real difference between him and Erin Foley is that he smoked a cigar and she’s an “open” lesbian. Great stuff, Erin. You are amazing and I would be proud to see you play the United Kingdom, should
you they ever get the opportunity. Erin then turned host and first up was Kevin Hart, who was about to host the Video Music Awards on MTV.
Opening with pixie-like charm and with all the energy of the falsely accused, Hart tells the tale of how he asked MTV for a “little security” and got himself, a short black man. (Hart, himself, is African American.) Hart is all over the place, especially when he gets specific. He’s a man who knows details are important and he expresses his points of view with all three comedy tools: body, face and mind, very much like Jim Carrey in the early days, but with a little more mind. In spite of his subject matter being a little over the gossip head of this reviewer, I got the message he was trying to illustrate about Hollywood and egos. Referring to an apparently famed bottle throwing incident at a club, Hart explains the Chris Brown and Drake bottle-throwing altercation can all be written off to Drake being from Canada, so he recycles. That’s taking violent imagery and literally recycling it into a benign and popular cause. Brilliant. A routine about singer/songwriter Frank Ocean followed with a Doyle-esque deductive examination of how Frank came out of the closet in mid-song. “It’s not about Lisa; it’s about a boy,”; and batting them over the net like Andy Murray, Kevin gave us shattered moving imagery of Snooki giving birth to a Foot-Long at Subway, the politics of the sorted affairs of Kristen Stewart and all of us basically living in the “Stage of Mistakes”. Kevin Hart left with his small entourage, sweeping with him a real “who was that guy?” feel, but not too much as to distract from the entire evening. A real class act that guy.
Claudia Cogan (semifinalist on Last Comic Standing 7) was next up. Claudia’s opening gambit was a very well-received, “It feels weird, because I look like a nutritionally deprived Erin Foley,” followed un-synced with, “I live in a gas chamber, facing an alleyway filled with skunks, I slam the window shut,” is like something out of an early David Lynch film, then moving to her practicing then demonstrating her “Depression Stare,” which is the “exact opposite of what I’m getting with the Community College Stare”. Being turned down by restaurants looking to hire only “hot girls”, and pointing out the absurdity of working as a waitress is what most beautiful women actually want, Claudia cheers up with the possibility of finding a restaurant looking to hire “character waitresses”: “As if the Coen Brothers opened a cafeteria”. Her 81-year old father Googles her. “Typical guy. Wants a lesbo.” ZING! Rounding out her anthropologic lectural on stupid human behavior based on assumptive language, Claudia points out that when the term “Fudge-Packer” was adopted by homophobic bigots to describe gay men, it must’ve really put undue pressure on actual fudge factory workers, some of whom were in fact, paid by the hour fudge-packers. Brilliant stuff and the show was only beginning.
And, outta shoot #3 is Jonny McGovern! Hilariously funny, gay as a spring day and one sexy funny rodeo clown. Looking like Jethro Bodine’s younger bearded clone, Jonny is a rootin-tootin’ straight-shootin’(well…) open 24-7 gay comedian, who fires as soon as the saloon doors swing open. “I’m feelin’ extra faggy tonight! An ass-bandit, I’m a skin-flute player, I’m Abraham Lincoln in drag! I’ve got Homofagititus and never getting a cure! I have to be gay, even on the bus. I will pull out my bible and read it. Vogue.” The Right Reverend McGovern is extremely evangelistic and purposely physical, as he preaches to the overly-converted and attempts (and succeeds) to convert outsiders, such as your humble heterosexual scribe. His sheer joy and commitment to his main cause (that he is funnier than hell) are exemplified through his Miles Davis by way of Harvey Firestein default vocal and yet, he moves like Madonna’s first dancer. “Being gay is a get out of watching sports free card,” “Batman needs to lighten the fuck up,” and snapshots of Gay Pride Parade stalwarts: the Steroid Queens and the general freak show, are all crudité samplers of a mechanized beat-backed rap dedicated to the “Circuit Queen,” with just bizarre non-sequetarian remarks and observations of mundanity such as, “Do you ever have a sandwich with bread?,” always coming back to the chorus: “I got gay questions; and I need gay answers!” Jonny McGovern is not your grandma’s fegala.
I must add at this point, that Erin Foley is a very affable host. Many comedy nights in LA are produced or co-produced by the comedian who is the host. Most comedians suck as host. Erin doesn’t suck. Not by a long-shot. Padding a much needed breather between acts, Erin does a routine on drugs, contact lenses and accidentally scratching your cornea, which was as funny as Woody Allen’s “The bullets go right through” from Broadway Danny Rose. And, in no time, she was able to squeeze in a pastiche on dating a murderous Edgar Allen Poe, which however fanciful, had my blood curdling in the most unusual places. Betsy Salkind was a revelation, as well as up next.
It’s always incredibly inspiring when a physically challenged comedian performs; and often challenging to the audience themselves, but Betsy Salkind handled it like a trooper. “My boyfriend and I broke up, because I never listened to him.” Laugh. (Get it? She’s deaf! Okay, I’ll play.) “What do you call a guy laying at your front door?...Matt.” (Okay, I’ve heard all these, but I like the fact that a deaf comic is doing them.) And, as the audience called out the correct answers, she never hears it of course and repeats the question. What in tarnation is going on? She had a receptionist job. No one ever called. Dating an epileptic put her in the precarious scenario of dealing with a grand mal seizure. They were making love, she wanted to help him, “but I was almost there” is a classic example of a beautifully constructed joke. Then, when we least expected, Salkind pulls off the rubber mask and comes out of the deaf closet by revealing she’s actually a normal hearing person; she just studied Sign Language. From there, she becomes her own opening act, as we move onto Obamacare, Dick Cheney’s refusal to die after multiple heart-attacks and the total absurdity of accusing Obama of being a Nazi. “Hitler would never have a black man in charge.” The GOP as over-crowded clown car, Michelle Bachman having a vaccine to cure mental retardation and paranoid opposition to Gay Marriage because millions of fleeing Gay Mexicans will flood our borders, are all tough topics, acutely and astutely conquered by this master comedy crafts-woman, who proves that comedy is truly a silly art form with her closing “Squirrel Eating Matzo Routine,” which, for my money (and I got in free) had me rolling on the floor, like a man with severe internal bleeding. Whew! What a night and it’s still not over…
James Adomian rips it up in NYC with his debut comedy album “Low Hanging Fruit”. “I grew up with strange food diet restrictions, but then I heard a woman in LA say, “I don’t eat salad. I’m homosexual.” Rolling out a 1930’s melodramatic film explanation, “a low-handed fist shaker” leads to a great George Bush impression, “I want to love you gay people to death!” Growing up in LA, he pretended “we” don’t have an accent, but we do, according to James; and he rightly demonstrates and instructs us to “put your tongue out and speak.” A loose Jerky-Boy character, he advocates urinating on the street, rather than occupying Wall Street; and then gingerly swings to his friend telling him of all the “butt fucking in jail”. “Da queers are movin’ up in the woild,” as he tries to get the jail man to pass his number. Why they never built Disneyland in New York having to do with the monorail being down for schedule maintenance (“I gotta be in Tomorrowland yesterday!”), followed by an explanation why Donald Duck doesn’t have pants and closing with his impression of comedian Louise CK (who was next store in the Improv main stage), James Adomian is a comedian to be watched. Not so much because he’s dangerous and yet, exactly for that very reason.
Topping this fantastic evening of joy, frivolity, and genuine gut-busting laughs was Gloria Bigelow, an openly gay African American comedian, telling us about the subtle difference between being marginalized and ignored, with a painfully funny anecdote of trying to get the attention of a Midwestern woman at Whole Foods. A male friend (whom everybody knows is gay but him), as well as another friend who was shocked to be hit upon in a Gay Bar (“he’d better learn to butter his bread one way or the other”), all add up to a genuine radical, a venerable Angela Davis of Comedy, whom (I’m presuming by her world demeanor) has much larger aspirations beyond the stand-up circuit. This is all contextual assumption on my part, I’ll give you, but I have a pretty good instinct for these things and with radical and individual comedy nights like Erin Foley and Friends (a night of not just great comedy, but of indeed radical revolution by way of friendly and funny acceptance) it serves up as a paradigm for nearly all our socially imbalanced society: not to mention, I don’t think I’ve ever written a more incoherent and pretentious sounding sentence. Closing out the evening, Ms. Bigelow showed us White People what it be like to have a Starbucks in the Hood, Al Sharpton’s voice, getting on Tyler Perry’s mailing list, made up choruses for Booty songs (“Chicken and potato salad”), all leading up to the great object lesson of the evening. When Gloria was a school teacher in the Inner City, she penalized students 25 cents per use of the “N-Word”. “But, Miss Bigelow, What are we gonna call each other?” inquires a representative student. “How about by your names!” Indeed, Miss Bigelow. Indeed. And a great comedy show by any other name would be, would be…just gay!
I give Erin Foley & Friends @ The Improv Lab 8 outta 8 Menorahs!
TAMMY JO DEAREN & FRIENDS @ The Comedy Store Sept. 15, 2012 – The Belly of the Beast
The Belly Room literally lies in the belly of The Comedy Store, the black monolith on Sunset Boulevard, just between Kings Road and Queens Road. I guess, if this were an inside-straight, The Comedy Store would be the joker. Apocryphally, The Belly Room was supposedly where the owners of Ciros would have belly dancers, as a way of entertaining late-niters who refused to go home after seeing Martin and Lewis in the Main Room. It’s where I saw Whoopi Goldberg showcase for Spielberg, Streisand and Nicholson. And, most historically, it’s where Mitzi Shore, created the first comedy space in history, solely devoted to women stand-ups. These days (and as nearly always) the Belly Room is one of the three rooms of The Comedy Store, rotating various shows at almost all times. The other two rooms (The Main Room and The Original Room) both have their own unique vibe. The Belly’s vibe is that of surreal intimacy. Kind of like the little bar in the Upper Class Lounge on a Virgin flight, a booking in the Belly Room sounds conversely like comedy banishment, as well as new beginnings. Tammy Jo Dearen, a comic, impressionist and empowered-female extraordinaire is heavily rooted in the comedy community, as both comedian and booker. Nicknamed the “Comedy Jackhammer,” and having been on Mind of Mencia and Ricki Lake, Tammy Jo is also an occasional comedy co-worker with the likes of the quickest minds with toughest-tongues in Comedy, such as just about everybody worth their salt. Tammy truly cares about comedy, the comedy community, other comedians, and the most important element: the audience – even more than she seems to care about herself. Send this Hollywood Freak packing! Setting a good example ALWAYS makes the rest of us self-serving and self-deluded cry-babies look even worse. Who needs her!
Starting off an evening of never-ending entertainment (like the people mover at the airport) was a West Hollywood City Council sketch, led by the Right Coast’s Jackie Monahan, actress, comedian, cabaret performer and all around nice gay rights supporter. Representin’ Weho, all three (or 4) performers dawned sunglasses as they mocked their campaigns to offer “free Botox until you get high”; this was local city government meets Barbarella.
ANNOUNCER: "Welcome to Comedy Store Live Saturday Night!"
Okay, the syntax was “up fucked”, but I’m down. Jackie returns (sans extras), this time in a blue sparkly dress, and as our host for the evening. “Where does everybody live? Are we from LA? Is there a Comedy Store at the airport? People can be weird in New York, a story of saying “God-bless you” to someone who sneezed, then coughed." Doing a “too soon” (the current comedy meme) after a remark about Jackie O. Just found out its not sarcastic when you say the luck of the Irish; and how people associated with great food are often associated with murder (like the Italians)” was the first routine which fully caught my attention. I don’t know; maybe I’m getting too snobby, but to this reviewer, Jackie seemed like a lot of young and talented comedians I meet in LA who come from complex artistic pedigree (acting, dance, theatre/usually from New York) who view stand-up as an alternate way to get their name out there and have fun. When you add up all the numbers for the night, Jackie Monahan was clearly the most talented of us all, but, perhaps I would’ve liked her a whole hellofa lot more if she didn’t opt for costume changes and spent more time and energy on premise changes. This is stand-up, sweetie. Dirty Tee-Shirt is all that’s required. My favourite line of hers was, “Are you guys ready for a great show?” She then introduces the host for the evening. Yes, I’m as confused as you are. There are more hosts and introductions on this show, than when the Osmonds wife-swapped with the Romney’s.
Tammy Jo Dearen. What can I say. More like, what can’t she say?
“I went to the doctor to find out why I’m a lesbian. Turns out I have a nut-allergy,” as she waves the magic wand of the microphone over her crotch, just in case, we missed the joke the first time. I wanted to slit my wrists until she followed through with a home run with “These are the jokes!,’ MEANING: we have an experienced, well-trained comedy professional at the helm finally thank god for that. TJD is a high-energy communicator, whom if this were pre-war Germany, would certainly be recruited to convince the local villagers to just simply accept The Dish Network as their lord and savior. “Internet Dating… show of hands!” demands and indeed commands this combination of community organizer, veteran pro, and the spirit of the late great Phyllis Diller, and who laughs and giggles like the late great Paul Lynde. She and her girlfriend tried to move into the ‘gay section of San Diego… Camp Pendleton.’; “If you’re quiet enough in Weho, you can hear the dicks slapping; “I’m a Dikey-Dike,”; rants on hoarders and PETA people and a fantastic long stage mime demonstration of an angry lesbian eating raw hot dogs, were comedy point after comedy point of this very well-thought out comedy set from one of the funniest and professional comedians out there, “lesbozo” or otherwise. Tammy Jo never stops firing and nearly almost always hits her mark dead center. She’s all energy and seems to care about us, the audience more than even her most precious of subjects: Balsy out there big-dike in your face lesbians. Who says “they” have no sense of humor? Oh, yeah, it was the random hetero male comedian on the random comedy show who probably couldn’t follow her. Nothing random about the next act at all!
Omar Nava was next and billed as our “first comic” (I am so confused… ) a laid back with reserved energy open immigrant from Mexico. “I’m Mexican. So, I really don’t have goals in life – I have GOOOOOOAAALS!” was very funny and really kicked this show into the kind of gear Tammy knows it can be. Impression of a stand-up comedian from the People’s Republic of China somehow led to Omar’s very brilliant and original “Homeless asking for change” routine, which was built on the interesting premise of paying attention to previously ignored detail of a class of human behavior one would never really consider. “He didn’t look like he would spend it wisely,” is the starting gun of a comedy run of literally interviewing homeless beggar after homeless beggar, until he finds the right qualified one, “Excuse me sir, you don’t look like Barack Obama, but would you like some change?” But, that was only where we THOUGHT he was going. Omar’s penultimate point was that if you saw Lewis Black ranting and raving on the street, you wouldn’t pay him the $35 to see him in concert; so, as with all things: its all context and perception. This crowd favourite works at Toyota during the day, and insists only on cracking inside jokes. Which ultimately, is his ultimate point. The inside joke is the most powerful.
Aiko Tinaka was next up in this sushi bar of exotic and dangerous tastes. Born in Tokyo, this former MTV and Soul Train dancer opens with a cultural comedy of manners, explaining that when “we Japanese take Ecstasy, we bow the shit out of each other”; quickly entering the radioactive field of TMI and total nonsequetor. Tinaka’s name means “Bastard in the rice fields,” she “works in a Chinese Restaurant for Jews” whose customers have odd requests such as “can I suck your dick?” I think it’s funny and I don’t get it. Her See You Next Tuesday sister, her superstitious mother, going to Vegas for the strippers, having to stop drinking and her not being “gay -- I’m Japanese” all worked for this Lucille Ball by way of a cute and sexy Miyoshi Umeki, who needs to lose the self-commenting on jokes that don’t work and concentrate on taking it even further on the mat. If you’re gonna mock Japanese behavior, tradition and mores, you might as well be Pearl Harbor not Pearl Bailey. Criticisms aside, Aiko is cute, funny and available with a USB Port.
Up next was Aaron Marz (though I think it’s Erin Marz and I can’t find anything on the web) a perky big-breasted ex-stripper from Ohio, who informs us she’s just happy to be working a Saturday. This life-transitioner went to Beauty School, which (anthropologically) is the natural progression of a stripper. “What else can you do with glitter?” Taking us into an underworld we’d just as soon not think about, we’re forced to ponder the concept of being a past her prime stripper: “You turn into a Day Stripper.” Cinema verite details such as “watching Judge Judy on the bar TV as you work” are brilliant feathers of a bird, this writer thought was long ago extinct: The Intellectual Sex Pro. Explaining what we probably already knew; that when you start stripping, you choose a name like, “Ruby,” but after 35, you become “Carol”, this real life mom is true testament to turning your life around and making the best of the bad. I like her. But, I need to get the spelling of her name right, so there’s no confusion. Let’s just call her Ruby for now.
Jason Le Cour was next and really surprised me with the opening line, “Cops are useless See You Next Tuesday’s” (That’s a censored paraphrase.) I can’t decide if I’m offended or impressed that not less than three comedians in the same show all felt casual and familiar enough to use the word that begins with “C”, ends in “T” and has the United Nations in the middle somewhere. (I lived and worked as a comedian in England for 20 years, so I’m quite familiar with the word.) Randomly pointing out that nobody ever says, “Sweet! The cops are here!” and that everyone loves fireman because, “they stay the fuck in their station and wait for us to call them”, Le Hart instructs us on updating the Second Amendment to meet modern technology, all brilliantly and mysteriously woven into a treatise on Batman and Gun Control. Turning the current comedy meme “Too Soon?” into a bending point, a veritable fulcrumatic left turn: “You know what else is too soon?..... Going to see a midnight screening of a comic book movie!” More comedians should take a page out of Jason’s book. He knows his stuff and I wouldn’t be surprised if HBO or Comedy Central took notice of him.
Billed as a “Special Appearance” was Mark Valley (known for his role as “Brad Chase” on Boston Legal) who immediately starts in with the insider social comparisons. “I like to hang out with stand-up comedians; actors are all huggy,” and when he’s hugging a guy, he doesn’t want to let go. His dog’s been dragged into this by having to watch him masturbate (which now forces us to picture all that), but in the end, dogs are a great way to meet women in LA. The absurdist picture of a person yelling in the canyons for something lost of ephemeral and relative value, “Integrity!” (“Where ARE you…?”), this Gulf War vet is truly funny and yet, he doesn’t seem to care about all the adulation that other comedians die for. Like all good soldiers, he’s just good at what he does and doesn’t make too much fuss about it.
Liz Wheat goes to so many self-help 12-Step meetings in LA, she’ll go into a meeting, stand up and admit she’s been having sex all day, only to realize she’s in the wrong meeting, giving us the ultimate awkward comedy moments. Highlighting the forgotten obvious, Liz will point out that if you openly tout that you are in AA, you need to drop one of the “A’s”, which leads to the very inventive concept of the “AA Questionnaire,” which includes such delightful queries as, “Do you seek lover companions when drinking?” and “Do you snort cocaine off of toilet seats?” bending the last corner of the evening into a sort of treatise on living the high life in the low life. A story of an actor who appeared in Robert Rodriguez films who was her lover at one point, gives her set a TMZ patina The Comedy Store audience seemed to lap up like free Mojitos. Five years sober contrasts her previous lovers having to hold her hair while she puked into the toilet. Instead of house-flipping, she’s a “Man-Flipper” (“Definitely have to mow that yard!”); and taking us home to obsessively holding onto a broken vibrator like a broken relationship and trying to make them both work nonetheless, all add up to a hard-living life-changer who shows us how to turn the seedy side into the funny side. Just being in the same room as Elizabeth Wheat, is life-changing enough; and in a very good way.
Ari Joffe is a comedian, but also a budding filmmaker, who immediately explains he needs our approval, as he is a “child of divorce” and that he “needs love”. Strangely disclaiming he “doesn’t want to talk about his small penis too much,” instead he does a little rap on the little feller. Ari is a man of modest height who dances the funk. “I’m Poly – I can do it three ways. I’m rock hard and you can tell. Thanks, Rabbi!” Closing with an impression of him masturbating at work, made me wonder – after seeing this show tonight – how much masturbation is actually going on out there and perhaps Tammy Jo shouldn’t just book and produce the show, but maybe do some hook-ups; or at least offer some free lube. An awkward little guy, who has his watch set to his birthday, probably was my favourite. Then again, I’m all for masturbation. As Woody Allen said, “It’s sex with someone I love.” And, I do write this blog singlehandedly.
Returning to our little Roman exhibit before Pharaoh, was our own Jackie Monahan, this time in dark purple outfit (WTF! She got Bob Fucking Mackie backstage?!) and now ready to do her complete comedy set. Frankly, I was a little annoyed that it all seemed a little trixy that when you first see a performer and they give their all, that’s one thing. But, when they return again and again, that’s just asking a bit much from the audience. And that is my one big complaint about this show. I didn’t know whose show it was. Tammy Jo or Jackie M. Having said that, our work-horse comedian had barrels of material, including, “Let’s hear it for the deaf”; approaching strangers in Vegas, desperately pleading if they’d seen her sister, the high rate of dentist suicides, and warning a future employer who inquirers what one word would describe herself, with the answer: “Vindictive”, I really started to warm up to Jackie Monahan. Maybe she’s got it right. Life is a cabaret. And, I’m the one being the heterosexual uptight closeted bitch. In the end…scratch that. I mean, in conclusion, I just wished she would’ve put it all together in one fell swoop and no pointless costume changes. Or at least done some material on the costume changes. Costume acknowledgement. Because after the first couple, I felt like I needed to leave the show for a moment and change out of my fireman’s costume once again.
Up next was Gerrence George, who hits the stage like he’s double-parked, informing us that, “…it’s hotter than a mother-fucker; I’m sweating my ass off!; Somebody call the board of health!” Because “This is America!,” we should have Colt 45 flowing everywhere; “I’m a black man and I don’t go to therapy!”; "Thanks to auto-correct on my phone, does anybody know how to take ‘cock-block’ off my text app on my phone?’; “I haven’t taken a vow of celibacy, but I do drive a PT Cruiser” are all good comedy club premises, set-up and delivered well; but I was starting to lose the plot. Mr. George seemed a little out of place for this evening of Gay and Geek comedy. But, what the heck; it was The Comedy Store. Gerrence was hilariously funny, if not totally out of the subtle web of righteous indignation it seemed the evening was building towards; and that’s because for Gerrence, he seems to not just accept the unbalance of his environment, but indeed barreling through it is exactly what he does in life, as well as on stage. I’d book him.
Nearing the end of this cavalcade of comedy contributors was Tammy Sorenson, who immediately confesses, “I just lost 263 lbs. I’m much happier. His name was Zach” lets us know she was straight and is a comedian. “I’m not a Vegan, but I am annoying,” was a great set-up, with no memorable follow-up. Many of the newer I comedians I see seem to do this. Thinking the set-up is the punchline, when indeed it should be the introduction of a new premise. I would’ve loved to hear why being a Vegan is annoying, but like the joke, there was no meat. Following this was an annoying menu of bodily silliness, including “Yoga Back Farts,” “Vaginal Farts,” and sex advice. Okay, I admit. I was tired. We were well into the three hour point and my writing hand was starting to feel like I’ve been masturbating a corpse. Closing the show was Michael Lenoci, whose act I completely missed because I had to go to the bathroom (not to masturbate) and by the time I got out, was accosted by a fan of the blog who wanted me to introduce her to Jerry Lewis. My apologies, Michael. And, I promise next time you’re performing to try and catch you and write about what you do. In the meantime, please feel free to use this quote: “America’s newest comedy find!”
The headline take away is that Tammy Jo Dearen is The Goddess of West Hollywood Comedy, the heir apparent to a young, vibrant and gay Phyllis Diller. And I want to personally thank TJD for sweating her tits off week after week, putting on comedian after comedian at various venues around LA. The shows are often uneven, but then again, you never find any gold if you don’t shake the sifter. I just wished I knew when Tammy’s show began and The Comedy Store’s show ended. One stage at a time.
I give Tammy Jo Dearen & Friends @ The Belly Room @ The Comedy Store 7 out of 8 Menorahs. (And, I duly expect to see an 8 out 8 from TJD quite soon!!)
And, so I hit the “publish” button on the Jewish Journal online blog upload site and wish you all well. As for me, a few more glorious nights, sleeping on Hank’s porch, fending off the saturated ocean chill and the night bugs, and staring up at the few constellations the Auto Industry still allows us to see. I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Should I not go up to San Francisco and explore the comedy scene up there with “Enjoy the Veal, San Francisco!”? Should I stay here, in LA, seeking out that respectable day job and finding an apartment of my own? Should I just take the money and finally go back to London, forgetting this long nightmare, as well as my American Dream? All I do know is this. As much as I missing England right now? I know I don’t want to find myself in the pub somewhere, telling me mates about the great adventure I created then abandoned: the dream of The Laughter Foundation, Health Care for Comedians, The Comedy Museum, and of course, my weekly duties as your humble crazy man here at The Jewish Journal online and “Enjoy the Veal!” Because then I’d just be another bitter American Ex-Pat. Working, yes. Respected, possibly. Bitter? Only if I turned on the telly and saw Jerry Lewis doing my farewell routine once again. Besides, if I do go back home, we’ll always have, “Enjoy the Veal, London!” Like in G.K. Chesterton’s 1904, “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” when all the intelligent and important men are reduced to eating veal cutlets off the lawn, simply because it was deduced at the time to be the done thing of its day, I will service my country in the most noblest of ways. I will continue to be the prankster. A prankster with a mission. A mission from God, the greatest comedian of all time.
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green
SPECIAL NOTE: The Laughter Foundation supports a good person and a great comedy artist. Tig Nataro. She'll be fine. (xx/oo!)
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
I can't wait for the debate between Mitt Romney and himself.
There once was a candidate named Mitt, Whose positions he’d always make fit, To the IRS he’d be lyin’, While his Vee Pee named Ryan, Looks just like a big eared young twit.
I think I'm gonna take a psychotic break!
The dude a-Bidens.
I've always wanted to be a member of a firing squad; just so when the guy with the sword says, "FIRE!!!," I could say, "What?"
What did one Jewish zombie say to the other Jewish zombie? You're eating my heart out!!!
Whenever I'm in a restaurant, and I hear the order up bell, I always expect to see a prize fighter, boxing his way out of the kitchen.
Being broke isn't my problem. It's my collector's.
You can now say to a corporation, "Now, don't take this personally, but..."
ELEVATOR FILM PITCH: A woman is murdered in the back of the bus, for the continued and meaningless use of the word "like". Local police suspect the driver. "Fatal Liking"
What do you MEAN it's not all about me? – God
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Garfunkel and Oates 4th Anniversary Show @ Largo, Weho this Thursday Oct 18 @ 8:30pm
The Crispy Comedy Show in Silver Lake this Thursday Oct 18 @ 7:00pm
Set-List + Nerdist Showroom @ Meltdown - Saturday Oct 20 @ 9:00pm
Beth Lapides's Uncabaret - Sunday Oct 21 @ 8:00pm.
Lenny Schmidt Live at the Comedy Store Main Room - Sunday Oct 21 @ 8:00pm
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
In next week's Enjoy the Veal!, reviews of Jann Karam's one-woman show Reclining Nude on La Cienega & Bill Bronner's Free Speech Show @ The Improv Lab
To have your comedy show reviewed or hire your humble comedy writer or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Never take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive!!"
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