January 15, 2013
An Open Letter to Steven Spielberg, The Comedians with Disabilities Act and Enjoy the Veal Radio!
Dear Steven Spielberg:
First off, congratulations on your Lincoln nominations. Well deserved! Personally, I’m waiting for a Millard Fillmore biopic, and hey, perhaps Richard Dreyfuss is available. No, Mr. Spielberg, we’ve never met, but we have crossed paths in conversation. Jerry Lewis. Remember him? Perhaps the greatest comedian and comedy filmmaker since Chaplin? Oh, sure, you had Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks, but were they creating genius on both sides of the camera after sound came in? Jerry Lewis was. Jerry brought your name up to me in conversation one time. Let me give you some background information. Thank you.
A little over ten years ago, I was invited on board the California docked yacht of “Mr. Smooth” himself, my childhood hero, the one and only original rebel genius of comedy, Jerry Lewis. The invitation was a result of another invitation I sent Mr. Lewis to participate in the third of a new series of a live television stand-up comedy shows I created and produced, benefitting a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana and Jerry invited me to lunch on his yacht. “Bring a big appetite!” he said and I got in my VW Beetle (license: GREW V) and rolled down to meet the man, the magic, the mystery. Jerry wanted to meet me because of the venue. High On Laughter III took place September 8, 2002 at The London Palladium. Where the Beatles rattled their jewelry for The Queen, where Abbott and Costello publicly argued on stage, where Laurel humiliated Hardy, where Judy Garland spun her heart-breaking magic, and where 50 years almost to the date when Martin and Lewis played to sold-out London Palladium houses to great acclaim, Jerry was my star. And, my very close and dear friend. Or so I thought. Well, without getting into the intricacies of what happened that fateful night (or the three months leading up to it) in essence, my world came crashing down around me as a result of September 8, 2002 at The London Palladium. And as a direct result, many years later, I literally lost my home, and I don’t mean, I was drunk in London and couldn’t find my way back home. I lost my home to repossession. Like millions of people around the country, only difference was, I lost my home by breaking the Number One Rule in Show Business: Never use your own money. But, I was naïve and flashed cash like a Lower East Side pimp after a good day. I believed in my friend and star. Eight years later, I found myself in a terrible set of circumstances and eventually in very deep psychological danger, questioning my very existence and purpose in life. Rather dramatic, eh? You bet your shark-bitten ass! Jerry Lewis was not only my star, an investment in a business, Jerry Lewis was my childhood idol.
I grew up in awe how Jerry broke the fourth wall, not just visually like Ernie Kovaks in black and white 1950’s button-down American television, and not just audibly like Groucho blowing comedy smoke through the radio speaker. Jerry broke through both the physical and aural impenetrable and invisible boundaries of Comedy. Like Buckaroo Bonzai, Jerry piloted the Jet car right through the solid mountain of reality. A mountain of national sorrows from the incredible losses of World War Two, which were the manifested price of victory. He and Dean created and delivered hope. They were indeed American Comedy and Entertainment Heroes.
London Palladium, 8 September, 2002, Sunday night 10:43pm.
As I watched Jerry Lewis collapse, just off stage, just as he was about to go on and accept a lifetime achievement award from me, I said to myself, “My god! I just killed Jerry Lewis!” Mr. Spielberg, I was scared to death; I kid you not. But, it did much more than that. Going out on stage and making a speech which would not only get huge national (in the UK) and international coverage, and my name forever linked with Jerry Lewis’s near death, was the moment that changed my life forever. It was simply too much for me to handle. And, yet, Jerry Lewis’s collapse became the literal handle I unabashedly grabbed like the long lost mythical ring of potential success. Since that fateful evening, I’ve been plagued with and by Jerry Lewis. Plagued. The first thing was, after “The Palladium Incident”, everybody (comedians, comedy club owners, friends, agents) wanted to ask me one menacing question and one question alone. “Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse?” Mr. Speilberg, let me rephrase that. “Did Jerry Lewis – The King of the Pratfalls – fake his collapse?” This became the big imponderable. I had my suspicions. Jerry never went to the hospital and everything leading up to his collapse had an eerie feel to it, including him ordering me to get him a tank oxygen last minute and the way he collapsed just at the perfect time. Anecdotal evidence, such as orchestra leader Gareth Valentine (whom also conducted Jerry in Damn Yankees) being told by Jerry, just as he was about to step on stage, “If I fall, just leave me there”. What Jerry ironically never knew was that, for 16 years, up until that point, I had been doing a high-concept stand-up act, where every show was my last and at the end, I’d put a fake prop pistol to my head, telling audiences at home and abroad that I was literally, “addicted to showbiz” and that I got “high on the laughter” and was addicted and therefore “tonight is my last show.” 16 years and over 5,000 “farewell performances” (every one my last) in comedy clubs and theatres across North America and the UK, got me loads of publicity. Because of this, it naturally occurred to me, when Jerry Lewis “collapsed”, he might have been unintentially “stealing my act,” and certainly the spotlight. Nevertheless, my answer to that ever-repeating public mantra of whether Jerry faked his collapse was a simple: “I love Jerry Lewis; Jerry’s my friend.”
Jerry had said to me early on, “Steven, a long time ago, an independent producer, such as yourself, hired Dean and I to do a private charity engagement, such as the one you’re producing, and when we arrived, there weren’t many people in the audience and the promoters then turned around and asked for our expense money back. You know, the airfare and accommodations. You’re not going to do that, are you, Steven Alan Green? You’re not going to ask for money back from me if this show you’re producing doesn’t draw a crowd and do well?” My response to Jerry Lewis was simply, “Jerry, you’re my friend. I love you. Of course I would never do that. They’re gonna love you in London!” Jerry Lewis was my friend and therefore I was his friend. My magical comedy genie, who literally reached through the television screen, grabbed the younger me by the collar, wiped away my childhood tears and made me laugh. He forced me to laugh. Jerry Lewis, whether he knows it or believes it, literally saved my life when I was a child. It was Jerry’s comedy, emanating from the next room’s TV that got me laughing one very sad day, spitting out the half bottle of pills I stupidly nearly swallowed. Running into the living room, the television framing the miraculous multi-physical imaginings of Jerry Lewis, aglow like a halo. I realized what I wanted to be in life. A television repairman. How could I possibly live with myself if I had anything to do with my childhood idol's premature death? Even if he did steal my act.
A year after The Palladium Incident, I met John Dowie through Peter Grahame. Peter runs the oldest and best comedy club in London. Downstairs at the Kings Head is considered my “home club” and boasts a line-up of the best new and established comedians on the London circuit. I’ve worked with an unknown Russell Brand at Peter’s club. Eddie Izzard, Robin Williams and even funnyman Bob Dylan have graced the Kings Head stage. Peter is a family man with showbiz history. His father played percussion in the Benny Hill Orchestra and his sister, Lisa, plays Saxophone with the Jools Holland Band. I came to Peter because I thought (rather than having to continually answer questions about Jerry Lewis) it might be good to talk about it in front of an impartial jury, an audience. Peter put me in touch with John Dowie. Dowie, a collaborator of Neil Innes (The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band & The Rutles) has a keen insightful sense of social justice in his comedy and poetry. Maybe John could help me turn my Jerry Lewis story into some sort of one-man show. But, meeting and listening to Dowie, my goals and agenda took a very deep and unexpected turn. Dowie convinced me my problems with Jerry weren’t really all with Jerry Lewis himself; they were a partial carry-over from my unresolved issues with my dead father. Hello! Alas poor Lewis, I knew him well….LAAAA-DEEEEE…….!!!
Dowie was right. “I Eat People Like You For Breakfast!” premiered at The 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival to high acclaim and at one point, ranking just number two in the entire UK, just behind a live appearance of Rickie Gervais, who by the way, was in the audience that fateful night at the Palladium, along with his co-creator of The Office, Stephen Merchant. Rickie told me he was. I first met Rickie, sharing at pint at the Hen & Chickens in Islington. I know, he’s a dreadful liar, but that’s what we love about him, don’t we? “Breakfast” asked the simple question, “Who was I – a comedy club comic -- to judge the great Jerry Lewis?” And, more importantly, why did Jerry’s collapse and near death ring so deeply within myself? Julian Krainin is an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Emmy winning producer, most noted for his smartest baby, 1994’s “Quiz Show”. I’m confident you are familiar with the film and perhaps the man himself. Julian saw my one-man show, stood up and shouted, “Let’s make a film based on your life, from tough showbiz childhood, your days as a professional comedian, your success in London, as it all led up to your friendship with your childhood hero Jerry Lewis and how you nearly and accidently killed him at the London Palladium, but in the end he didn’t die, and the entire life-changing experience rocked your world to the point where you had to reconsider your relationship with your father, who passed away and with whom you had unresolved issues of self-esteem and anger, but you fall in love with a pretty British woman and find your true comedy voice so all is not lost!!” I replied, “Pass the potato salad please.” I then walked through Julian’s garden, hands in pockets, repeatedly thinking, “Why me….”
“How I Nearly Killed Jerry Lewis” or “Why Dean Drank” is the screenplay of my life, growing up in ShowBiz infested Beverly Hills in the literal middle of a very nasty divorce, my salad days at The Comedy Store, my relocation and success in England, and finally, bringing my childhood idol to a big gala show I created and produced for a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana. This story is so many things. It’s touching, funny, revealing of the world of stand-up comedy and speaks very deeply on the myth of idol worship and our relationships with our fathers. And, of course, it’s a love story too. A love story between an unknown struggling and misunderstood stand-up comedian and one of the most famous comedians of all time. A love story between an overly ambitious young man and a fan of comedy who takes him under her English wing. And, it’s all true. So, why you? Why am I even writing to you in the first place? Good question. Glad you asked. That means you’re paying attention! The answer is simple. It’s of historical obligation.
When I first met with Jerry on his yacht, the very first thing he told me (very enthusiastically, not to mention completely out of context) was how in 1982 in Cannes, after the premier screening of E.T., you, Steven Spielberg, got a standing-ovation. And, in the middle of that standing-O, according to Jerry, you turned to Jerry who was sitting in the royal box and waved the ovation over to him. And as the audience’s enthusiasm continued, King Jerry took a formal bow to his loyal subjects, including your good royal self, sir. Why, Steven Spielberg, was the ET/Cannes story first thing Jerry Lewis insisted on telling me? Me! Not, “So how long you being doing comedy?” Not, “So, what’s it like living in England?” Not, “Did you have a nice drive down?” No, the thing that Jerry couldn’t wait to blurt out to me, like an excited little kid waking up to presents under the Christmas Tree; the first bit of important information about himself Jerry Lewis insisted on telling me (extremely passionately and proudly) was the story of him receiving public tribute from you. Why? That question has plagued me for as many years as to whether Jerry faked his collapse, but I think I now know the answer and maybe kinda always secretly knew. It’s Jerry’s way of feeling connected to the world of great filmmakers, continuing the tradtion of when he was lunch-tutored by Billy Wilder on the Paramount lot and his friendship with Chaplin. But, I think it’s even deeper than that. Jerry Lewis is all about preserving childhood. His childhood. A parentless childhood left to his own imagination, in a world full of wonder, excitement, deep emotional pain and mystery. The self-admitted 9-year old Jerome Levitch was not only saying to me that Steven Spielberg knows who Jerry Lewis really is, Speilberg may be the only one left on the planet who truly gets him. Jerry identifies with you. Or maybe he identifies with E.T. himself. Maybe it’s a Jesus Complex. After all, like Jesus, E.T. was abandoned on Earth, preached love, was persecuted and summarily executed by the secret government, rose from the dead, promising one day to return to Earth, touching Elliot’s chest where a crucifix would be. Maybe Jerry thinks you can bring his filmmaking career, his youth, his impact on the modern world back to life.
Mr. Spielberg, there’s both a real and a surreal story here. When I briefly met J.J. Abrams after a screening of Super 8 on the Paramount Lot, I told him a little about my Jerry Lewis personal story and how I lost my home as a result. He was locked in attention. Julian and I once had an Oscar nominated director attached and he felt only one actor could ever play Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis himself. At one point, we had the possibility of Jack Black to play me. Whether this film ever gets made or not, it doesn’t matter to me. What does matter to me is I would like nothing more than to tell my story and possibly reconcile with my childhood hero and former friend. But, Jerry won’t talk with me anymore, ever since I told him of the loss of my home, my resulting serious nervous breakdown and my founding of The Laughter Foundation. And, writing about him in this very blog probably hasn’t made him too happy with me. I created High On Laughter to help addicts and comedians, but also to help myself. An annual internationally broadcast live comedy show from London. This was my business and Jerry – whether he meant to or not, single-handedly destroyed my business. For the past three years, I have been on the continuum of couch-surfing and near homelessness. How could I not feel emotionally charged when I see Jerry in the news. I doled out more money than I care to think about for literally a 4 day holiday for Jerry and a few of his close friends; and Jerry just used the situation to walk all over and humiliate me. And yet, I see through all that. Jerry Lewis is a comedy genius. He can't help it.
Every day I check the news and hope Jerry stays with us. I can’t emphasize enough to you, that in spite of what I now know about working with Jerry Lewis, that there isn’t a day goes by, that I don’t think of the times we had on the phone together, laughing or crying. My relationship with Jerry Lewis was something so extraordinary; it surely will never be repeated. I understand his genius, in that I know I can never truly understand it. I know he does things accidentally/on purpose. I understand the self-destructive artistic syndrome. I understand the Jekyll and Hyde personality. I even wrote and directed a little film about split personality. (No, I didn’t; yes I did!) And, as a comedian myself, having to go to a European country to achieve real success, I get Jerry’s sense of disenfranchisement and peer rejection. When I first arrived in England, after a stand-up show, somebody would inevitably come up to me, smile and say, “You’re brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!” Then, later on at the pub, one of my comedy mates would pick up a pint and go, “This beer is brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!” Nonetheless… I think, what makes me the fly in the ointment for Jerry, is that I’m probably one of the only people since Dean Martin who not only really got him, but who was strong enough to stand-up to him too and still love and accept him. Maybe that’s an exaggeration or an assumption on my part, but I can tell you this, he liked and respected me for that. Just like the relationship I had with my father, I wasn’t afraid to stand up to him, but incredibly fearful of him never talking with me again. When Jerry refused to talk with me, it reminded me of my relationship with my dad. Jerry Lewis and I laughed together; we cried together, we fought together. Mainly about whose show it was. King Jerry tried to take over and I think know why. He was scared. He saw how well the younger comedians were doing on stage. Jerry locked in the dressing room with my wife-to-be, telling her he was upset with me because the advertising said, “Starring Jerry Lewis”, not “Honoring Jerry Lewis”, a minor adjustment I surely would’ve accommodated my star had I only known. 15 British and American comedians on stage, all doing well, including me. When I initially invited Jerry Lewis to the London Palladium, on the advice of a comedian, I offered Jerry an award. You see, this all started when a friend of Jerry's, comedian Max Alexander, desperately wanted to get on my show. I didn’t want Max. Max was funny, but not a draw. I was literally talking with Mike Myers, for example. I had Mike’s old comedy partner, Neil Mullarkey on the first High On Laughter in 2,000 and I was trying to reunite them. I was talking with Roseanne and even Spinal Tap and many more big name comedians who could sell out The London Palladium. And the funny thing was that all the Hollywood agents and managers were sending me their comedians, most of whom I never heard of; but even Jay Leno or Dennis Miller wouldn’t sell out in London, especially then; because “we” don’t get HBO or NBC in the UK. Against the advice of some very smart people (including the late legendary publicist for Frank Sinatra and family friend, Lee Solters) I stuck with my friend. I understood Jerry’s erratic and histrionic behavior because I was like that too. I was a live wire, 100% of the time on stage and thought telling people off as much as possible (as long as I was funny) was a smart life plan. But, all it did was result in getting banned from comedy clubs and making me more angry. I used to have a joke (well, I still have it somewhere…here it is!): The joke is that I have anger problems because I couldn’t succeed in stand-up comedy. So, I sought anger management. Now, my anger has management and is headlining. (Bah-dah-BING!) How wrong was I and I had to learn my lessons the hard way, especially when I moved to the UK. So much so, that I literally became British in manner and dress.
The High On Laughter Award was offered to self-proclaimed “Super Jew” Jerry Lewis for all his achievements in Comedy & Charity. Jerry (my sudden unexpected and uninvited collaborator/co-producer) suggested we call it The Charlie Chaplin Award instead, as Jerry was always compared to the Little Tramp (as was my first wife!) and knew Charlie personally. I thought it was a wonderful idea. I mean, why not! What Jerry didn’t know is that I knew Chaplin’s granddaughter; she put me in touch with The Chaplin Estate in Paris, I asked them, they said, “no” and I called up Jerry Lewis to tell him. You could hear Jerry harrumph on the other line, “Why did Steven do that!” Jerry says to me, “That’s okay, Steven. Let’s call it 'The Jerry Lewis Award’ and then each year, you can give it to another comedian.” That’s right, Mr. Spielberg, I was giving Jerry Lewis the first ever Jerry Lewis Award. And the nominees are, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lewis and Myron Fincklestein. I don’t know how much money you had to give the Todd Family to secure the rights to Abe’s life, but you don’t have to give a dime to get mine. I’m dying to tell my story. (the screenplay’s another matter entirely, of course) I’ve been somehow locked into fate, star-crossed with one of the seminal cultural figures of the last 100 years. But, make no mistake about any of this, Mr. Speilberg, I am proud of what I built. An international comedy show broadcast on Bravo UK. I did this, in spite of Jerry Lewis. Can you imagine how angry you’d be if the studio financing Jaws suddenly jumped the shark? And, yet, my heart breaks in a million pieces when I consider that very precious short time when I could safely say, in full confidence in pride that the greatest comedian of the second half of the 20th Century (and my childhood hero) was my best buddy. It was like being a kid and having the private cell phone of Santa Claus. Mr. Speilberg, please know I am not crazy and I am not lying. I’m telling the truth. My heart and soul and Julian’s patience and expertise have been poured out in this screenplay, which we call, simply, “Why Dean Drank”. Ask around Hollywood, do a little Google. Sure, you’ll have comedy people in power who will dismiss me. I don’t mind. That’s why I went to England in the first place. That’s why I booked and brought over comedians, like then unknown Zach Galifiniakis to Scotland and London. I was considered by some, one of the worst comedians in LA. The biggest idiot. The biggest trouble-maker. But, in England, they loved me, because they got me. I was just trying to share that bit of comedy gold on Earth with some friends back home. But, no matter what anybody says about me. That I’m obsessive. I’m crazy. I’m deluded. Whatever. I don’t care. I know who I am and what I've accomplished. My therapist thinks I’m rather healthy with some very big burdens. Then again, my therapist doesn’t speak English and I only found this out last week after seeing her for three years. She should speak up more, ya’ know? Here’s my point. I, Steven Alan Green, stand-up comedian, created and produced a TV show at the London Palladium, starring 15 of the best British and American comedians and got it broadcast on British television. I did this. Me. In spite of what Jerry Lewis did to me and my dream – and whether he did it on purpose or was overly medicated on the steroid Prednisone he was taking or whether it’s just his inner duality, whatever. Even the great Jerry Lewis, my childhood idol, cannot take that away from me. I got myself and a handful of other American comedians on British television for the first time. I’m damn proud of that fact. So, please, after you've collected a new batch of golden statuettes; after you've come back from a much needed holiday; after you've had your office vet this very real, news-making story; please allow me and Julian the chance of getting this film done right.
Steven Spielberg, you know a little about comedy. That moment in Close Encounters when the Colonel says they’re gonna need something so scary it will scare every Christian living soul and then you cut to government vehicles retrofitted with Piggly Wiggly signs. Hilarious. Thank you for your time, thank you for your films, and I hope you don’t feel too weird about this public open letter. If it’s any compensation for you, I had to sit through 1941. And, I don’t mean the film. I mean the year and it’s kinda strange considering I wasn’t even born until one and a half scores later. Good luck at the Oscars; not that you'll need it.
Steven Alan Green
CONTACT INFO: Steven Alan Green: email@example.com / Julian Krainin: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE COMEDIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT @ KIMBALLS IN OAKLAND 1/10/13 – “Social Justice Through Dick Jokes”
For most of us getting blind drunk on New Year’s Eve, I once again fell into serendipitous fortune when 10 days later I was invited to see one of the most interesting, diverse, inspirational and downright funny stand-up comedy shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of nearly witnessing. Nina G is the brains and inspiration behind what seems to be an entire underground movement of undernourished comedians with one form of disability or another. Generally, when I review comedy shows, most of the comedians I see perform are funny. Most of them. All comedians – by definition - have one form of disability or another, usually stemming from fucked-up childhoods or just being born with a Lydia Deetz over-abundant handicap of obsessive observational abilities. An odd way of looking at the odd world. That they can’t help. Kinda like being born with Comedy X-Ray Eyes. Not so ironically, this “dis” ability is what makes their comedy to begin with. Chris Rock’s disability is being a black man in a white man’s world and an intelligent African American in a “Wot up, niggah?!” world. George Carlin’s disability was that he was able to see not only the inequities and incongruities of everyday reality as beset by the powers that be, but literally tossed aside the Scrabble board of the American English language, scuppering it for what’s really being said and heard; and more importantly: What’s not being said. Ellen DeGeneres’s disability is not being able to turn off her own self-imposed running-faucet honesty within the not so obvious short-comings of modern day awkward fear driven society. These so-called “disabilities” are in fact, the fulcrumatic dis-ease that foments true comedy genius, which is why, in general, good-looking together people are almost never funny. (on purpose)
Nina G is her name and stuttering is her game. Well, it ain’t no game and Nina G is a very funny stand-up comedian who happens to be a stutterer who happens to be a stand-up comedian who happens to stutter who happens to be a stand-up comedian. And, she makes plenty of very dry bones about it and wants you to know a little bit more than you initially cared to know about what meets the eye and what doesn’t. Nina G is all about self-preservation in a good way, standing up for the individual rights of Stutterers and making you spit out your bevvy, just when you thought you could get away for a second without laughing. Most handicaps go unnoticed. Especially in ourselves. I, myself, have been in and out of therapy many years, trying to figure out why I self-destruct or get in my own way. Is it my OCD or simply an overly-nourished Narcissistic personal habit? I don’t consciously think about that stuff in everyday life. Like being on stage, I’m fully confident in life, or at least, as my Number One Directive dictates: I must at all times appear to be. Nina G and her Cavalcade of physically challenged comedians are a true in fact unabashed Army of Humanity, whose motto could simply be: “And what makes YOU so special, you able-bodied non-stuttering everyday uneventful boring person?” I recently went to review The Comedians With Disabilities Act in Oakland for this here blog. What I never expected is that, I too, would walk away (with a dragging limp) feeling somewhat disabled myself.
Stand-Up Comedy, like any profession, requires the proper tools. Unless you’re presenting a post-modernist take on the art-form of stand-up itself, a properly working sound system is more than merely essential. It’s oxygen onboard the Space Shuttle. Sure, you really want to have proper lighting and nice and comfortable seating and things like not having the bathroom right next to the stage. Hell, I would even see a show in the dark, as long as I could hear it. Ironically, seeing The Comedians With Disabilities Act Jan 10 in Oakland was like being bound and gagged and thrown in the back of a Mafioso getaway vehicle. For the first 90% of the show, aside from the continuous mumble of amplified distortion, I couldn’t hear a fucking thing. Which, when I consider that most of the crowd was laughing, made me feel like I belonged on stage that night. Thus, I became the deaf comedy reviewer. This wasn’t Nina’s fault, it was the venue in Oakland and just towards the end of the show, as the last act was being introduced, the manager of the venue, came by the stage (as another act was already on stage performing), adding/changing a speaker from completely muffled to actually intelligible. But, it was too late. I couldn’t possibly write a review of an entire evening of half a dozen comedians, when I could only hear but one! That would be like judging the entire American Presidential history by merely sampling George Bush; and how unfair and wrong that would be. I would’ve sat in the front row, and certainly would’ve heard better had I done so, but as the reviewer, it’s just too distracting to the performer and the rest of the audience, as I sit scribbling away. I must hide inconspicuously in the back, like some shadowy government official. So, in order to find a solution to this problem, I have decided to introduce you to all the comedians via their bios and YouTube videos. In addition, I’ve included Part One of my exclusive podcast interview with Nina G herself in a new segment of Enjoy the Veal, “Enjoy the Veal Radio!” All recorded with an app through my Droid phone. Finally, I am planning on reviewing Nina’s show “Four Comedians Who Stutter” January 30 here in San Francisco. So, without further ado, please let me introduce you to some really great comedians, great peoples, tough, brave and soulful stand-up comedians, all of whom I believe should be grouped together and slotted in on NBC Thursdays 9pm, in a sitcom or variety show. I can identify with all these particular comedy artists; after all, as it is well known, I am a total retard.
Nina G: Nina G is the world’s only female stuttering stand-up comedian (or at least until she finds another). She is also a storyteller and educator and has presented to countless audiences. Bringing together her humor to help people confront and understand social justice issues such as disability, diversity and equality, when she isn’t performing at comedy clubs like the San Francisco Punchline, the Improv or the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, she’s also a keynote speaker, most recently at Yo! Disables and Prod’s Anti-Bullying Summit for young people with Disabilities. Nina was diagnosed with a Learning Disability and began to stutter while in elementary school. She struggled to deal with teachers who underestimated her abilities, teasing from peers and family members, and issues of self-esteem. Nina was raised in the Oakland area and attended UC Berkeley where the roots of the Disability Movement took place, solidifying her identity as a person with a disability, one she sees with cultural and political empowerment. This coupled with supportive parents has helped Nina not to overcome her disability but to overcome the attitudes about what women and girls with disabilities can achieve.
Steve Lee: A fresh new voice in the San Francisco stand-up scene since 2010. He is the only Asian Disabled Comic in America, performing all over the San Francisco bay area and Asia, receiving high praise on both continents for his off-beat brand of humor. His comedy blends his Chinese roots with his love for all things American. He performed at Cobb's Comedy Club, the Punchline SF, San Jose Improv, Purple Onion, Rooster T. Feathers,Tommy T's, Takeout Comedy Club (Hong Kong), and many different comedy clubs. He also was invited to perform at the Not Your Normal New Years Eve Show 2012 at the Herbst Theater in front of 900 people. (The show headliner - Brent Weinbach, winner of the Andy Kaufman Award at the HBO Comedy Festival.)
Michael O’Connell: An unemployed auto claims adjuster and wheelchair user, Michael O'Connell took a dare from a friend in January of 2010 to try doing five minutes of open mic comedy at a local club. He did so, and ended up winning the competition that night. He's never looked back since, and has gone on to do his special brand of "wheelchair humor" in some of the best-known clubs in the comedy world, had his story covered in print and television and radio, and garnered several Hollywood celebrities as his fans. His business card reads “100% Comedy, 0% Stand-Up”.
Eric Mee: Sacramento native was only eighteen years old when, while protecting a young child, he was stabbed in the chest. Complications resulting from his injury led to the loss of his eyesight. Choosing not to let this drastic life change get him down, he began joking about his condition and giving speeches to groups that were always filled with humor. After many suggestions to do so, he turned his talents to stand-up comedy, and now brings his manic energy and outrageous tales to the stage, both at clubs and college campuses.
Steve Danner: “We’re all comedians first,” said Napa native Steve Danner, the little person comic, “and it’s a comedy show. But who says you can’t make people laugh and send them home with something to think about too?” Danner’s comedy career began as an audience member at a club. The comedian on stage that night decided to have some fun at his expense, and Danner’s skills in heckling back at him led the comic to approach Danner after the show and suggest he give comedy a try. Danner did so, and soon began a career as a prolific comedian and producer, delighting crowds at clubs and comedy rooms all over the west coast with hysterical tales centered heavily on his dwarfism. His comic journey keeps him on the road much of the time, but as Danner is fond of saying, “Shrimpin’ ain’t easy!”.
Aaron Snyder: Aaron Snyder is a comedian from Cheyenne Wyoming with cerebral palsy. He has been doing comedy for three years now. After quitting his job three years ago he thought to himself "well what now?" He thought of his favorite comedian Josh Blue, Last Comic standing winner who also has cerebral palsy. Aaron thought "if he did it why can't I?" Aaron was a semi finalist in Denver's new faces contest in 2011 and 2012 and has opened for Josh Blue. He knows this takes a lot of work and has proving he is willing to do that. Want to book him for a show? Contact him at email@example.com
Loren Kraut: Growing up in New Jersey, Loren has held numerous jobs – birthday party clown, writer, comedian, pastry chef, Off-off Broadway stage manager, special ed teacher, waitress, admin assistant, mortgage consultant, call center operator, and briefly, housekeeper for a high-class brothel in NYC. Loren won “Funniest Person in Downtown Berkeley” at the Berkeley Marsh in January 2011, and was a finalist in the Battle of the Bay Comedy Competition 2007 and 2009. She’s performed at the Punch Line in SF and Sacramento, Cobb’s Comedy Club, Herbst Theatre, and the historic Purple Onion.
THE COMEDIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT VIDEO ARCHIVES:
In all my 30 plus years of hanging around in comedy clubs, up until I saw The Comedians with Disabilities Act, there were only really two comedians I ever felt completely envious of. A young Michael Keaton (yes, Batman was a stand-up!) in the early days of The Comedy Store, and Jim Carrey. Keaton, because I've never seen anyone as natural of a comedian as he. A good looking charismatic light on his feet compelling master comedy story-teller, and Carrey, whose sheer supernatural physical talents simply put my clever mortal efforts completely outta the box. I knew, in my broken heart, I could never be as good as those guys. However, we now have a new winner. With all my complaining, my whinging and moaning of not being appreciated as much as I think I deserve -- the cast of The Comedians with Disabilities Act, has put me to complete shame. I hope I've learned my lesson. These are very funny stellar performers with vision, talent, bravado and heart never seen equalled by this comedian/comedy blogger. I am humbled beyond imagination on my bitter and worn out knees. Thank you, G-D, for showing me the light. Even though you've been shining it in my eyes a bit too long.
Enjoy the veal, Steven Alan Green, 1/20/12, SF
So far, it's been an interesting year. I don't pretend to know anything; I'm just feeling my way in the dark like the rest of us. I've moved out of the San Francisco Guest House. The owner, Kim (the Korean woman who runs the music school), got very melodramatic, showing up at the foot of my bed like a Korean vision of the Madonna at 7am telling me I was a day late or she was closing the school; and then she'd break out into opera. She inexplicably kept moving me from room to room; and I complied, even though I knew she was trying to avoid me gaining tenant's rights. And, although she is a woman of great inspiration, I just couldn't stand the melodrama. For the last ten days I've been living at another hostel on Lombard, just above a former Karaoke bar, now a really good Chinese & Japanese restaurant. Very cramped quarters, 8 of us living in 4 children's bunk beds, phones going off at 3am, smelly feet and farting every ten seconds. But, I've bonded with a few guys there and it's all part of my adventure. I'm getting local comedy gigs and reviewing comedy shows and in fact I plan on reviewing my own next performance. The San Francisco Comedy Scene has really embraced this weirdo and I am very grateful. I'm here to retool my comedy act and just get the fuck out of overly competitive and multi-CULT-ural LA for a while. I'm looking for that elusive day job, I'm meeting with people through Craigslist for writing jobs and finally I got paid for the TV commercial I did in England. I am really kinda falling in love with San Francisco. It's like London on hills. Oh, and I started a new novel. A futuristic political thriller. That's all I can say right now. (And, yes, Noah, I'm working on turning that film idea into a TV show, so bear with me and thank you for believing in me.) I also want to apologize to comedian Nato Green, whose show I saw in December and still have yet to write and publish a review of his show. But, I promise for the next edition of ETV, along with a review of a couple of one-person performance pieces I saw last week down in the Mission. And, a shout out to my new best friend, Mike, one of my roomies. Great guy, smart guy. Thanks, Mike. Folks, whatever happens in life, always remember that success doesn't always depend on you and love is always just around the corner. Missing my mates in London and my friends in LA. And thank you to Mimi for love, support and advice. No greater friend have I. Prayers out to my ex-father-in-law Anselm Hollo and my great friend and philosophical guru Beano. Stay on the mend, boys! To all my readers and comedy fans on Facebook, thank you for "liking". Love to you all (including my former best pal Jerry Lewis) and when you're feeling down, just remember, folks.......
Enjoy the veal....
Steven Alan Green, SF 1/26/13
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
People have been telling me of late, I'm a natural born leader. Ok, I'll accept that as the highest compliment. Now, can anyone tell me what to do next?
According to historians, Abraham Lincoln's actual voice sounded like Daffy Duck, leading a cadre of conspiracialists to believe he was assassinated by Elmer Fudd.
Life is a very strange experience; like nothing I've ever experienced before.
99% of all mistakes result in some sort of progress. The other 32% result in miscalculation.
Life is a roller-coaster. You climb to great and dangerous heights, you take treacherous turns and you fall at great speeds. And, it's all over way too quickly. Then you throw up.
If I could live my life over again, I would not include the part where I consider living my life over again.
If Paul McCartney really died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by a lookalike, and the lookalike is on shows like Letterman today, denying he had anything to do with the Paul is Dead rumours, Here's my question: Who replaced Letterman's hairpiece?
This is exactly how it felt the last time I had Deja Vu.
NEW RESTAURANT IDEA: Spinal Tapas. Little Spanish horderves served under the blaring rock and roll thunder of the worst Heavy Metal band in the world.
Life is strange. One minute you're sitting on top of the world, the next minute you're watching the microwave timer count down from 30 seconds.
Old people's faces often look like they did something wrong. Young people's look like they're about to.
PERSONAL AD: Smelly zombie corpse, with an appreciation of Beethoven, Korean food and Jane Austin novels, seeks intelligent prisoner of war, who likes tickling astronauts, smashing raw eggs on your face, and stuffing Mars Bars into electrical wall sockets, whilst listening to the prerecorded sounds of terrified geese stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits. No weirdos!
ODDZ 'N ENZ: To have your comedy show reviewed or hire Steven as a writer or comedian: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hollywood film & TV writing jobs for Steven Alan Green, contact: Noah Jones @ The Gersh Agency (310) 205-5836. Follow Enjoy the Veal on Facebook, and The Laughter Foundation & on Facebook. Never take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive!!! SAG, SF, 1/26/13 DONATE NOW
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JewishJournal.com is produced by TRIBE Media Corp., a non-profit media company whose mission is to inform, connect and enlighten community