Posted by Steven Alan Green
One of the finer things of moving from city to city is that you get to reinvent yourself. Nobody from your past life knows you, except maybe your other personalities. For all strangers know, you could be a serial killer, or worse, a comedian. I’ve been playing this role as your faithful comedy review blogger for three months now and it’s been truly fun, oddly fulfilling and incredibly difficult at times. Difficult because I’m known in the comedy community as a comedian myself, and suddenly I’m thrust into reviewing a comedy show, that only a month previous, I was unsuccessfully trying to get on. And, not that in a hundred years, I would ever think that someone should have to put me on their stage! That's not me. The truth is that some people have been just downright rude. I’ve had one comedy promoter, whose response to a simple post-show email with a handful of pertinent and relevant questions, such as, “When did you first come up with the idea for this great show?,” was a plain and simple, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?” Perhaps he thought I was being sarcastic. I don’t know. I’ve had comedy producers at major and well-known venues actually charge me to get in to their show that I am there to review. And, I’ve had comedians invite me to shows that have been cancelled, but they somehow conveniently forgot to notify me of this minor little set-back. Never mind that I’m on a bicycle and a bus. I’ve had it all basically. I have to say, out of full and honest disclosure, as well as public appreciation, that most of the comedy promoters, comedians and comedy clubs have been super nice to me. I don’t ask for much. Just a seat in the back, preferably next to a cocktail table, with a little light and perhaps my prerequisite Diet Coke with lemon. I’ve long ago dropped my request for an evening with one of the waitresses, especially since they’ve started hiring male. Like I say, I don’t ask for much. Well, this morning, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I received an email from a comedian I’ve never heard of; a comedian who had some rather harsh things to say to me about me and how I run my insignificant little blog. Below is the entire contents of that email, followed by my response: (and he spells my name wrong!)
Dear Mr. Allen-Green:
I am a 50-year comedy veteran from the British Isles. I’ve been on all sides of all Show Biz media. And, I must say, although I truly enjoy your little insignificant blog at The Jewish Journal online, Enjoy the Veal, I am a bit disappointed that you haven’t highlighted any British comedians up until now. I say, “up until now” because, I’m hoping, after reading my letter, the winds of unfairness swirling ‘round your obviously hollow head will soon change direction. I did see your piece on London comedy promoter Peter Grahame. I know his club. It’s great. I think he’s a git. Didn’t like my heckling other comedians “so uncleverly,” as he put it. Anyway, by happenstance, I find myself delightfully stuck in in the fair city of San Francisco and I would very much like you to come down and see my act some time. In England, I once reached the glory of fame, sharing the limelight with the likes of such British comedy greats as Jeremy Picklesworth, Mondo & Minnie, and one memorable evening with Francis Bavier, who is best known for her enduring and memorable role as “Ain’t Bea” on The Andy Griffith Show. (I always thought, by the by, if she wasn’t Bea, then who was she?! Lol. I just love that joke. Anyway, carry on.) Bavier happened to do an hilarious impression of a drunken accordion player on the wavering deck of the Titanic, which almost always brought down the house, as well as the boat itself. But, I digress.
The purpose of this letter is two things. One, I’d like to ask you a favour. Two, I would like to take you to task for your continued unfair treatment of Jerry Lewis. I’ve been a huge fan of Mr. Lewis for decades. Perhaps more than any other living Subject of Her Majesty’s Empire, I am completely well-versed in all aspects of Jerry Lewis and his incredible accomplishments and I must take exception to your “Open Letter to Jerry Lewis” published on Sept 26 of this year and I am hereby challenging you to a formal and public apology to Mr. Lewis. What you say about him and his past actions have no bearing whatsoever on the man’s truly incredible accomplishments, both in the fine art of comedy and in the world of philanthropy. You should be fully ashamed of yourself and in my humble opinion, should be banned from ever writing another syllable again.
Having said all that….
If you can, Mr. Green, please, please, please, come down and see my act, just once, let me buy you a drink (a Diet Coke, if you prefer) and then perhaps I can begin my mighty climb back up the imaginary ladder of success, all the way upwards to the floating cloud of glorious fame, of which I obviously and forever belong, but not necessarily in that particular order. Whichever way you like, is fine with me, sir.
Thank you for your time and kind consideration. And, please. Leave Jerry Lewis alone. You git!
Nigel Arrisson, Comedian, Capitalist and Theatre Critic for The London Fogg
Here’s my simply response back to Mr. Arrisson:
Dear Mr. Arrisson:
Thank you for your passionate inquiry. Consider yourself ‘on’. I’ll be there at the next show and very much look forward to sharing a drink with your kind self, sir; after, and only after, I watch you bring down a San Francisco comedy house down like the 1906 quake with your aforementioned and intimated incredible arsenal of mirth and frivolity. And, as far as Jerry Lewis is concerned, if, and only if, I think you’re intellectually capable of understanding the complexities of the situation, will I even engage in casual conversation about said subject. It’s very complex. Jerry cost me quite a bit, and yet, he still is, and shall forever remain, my childhood hero. In short, if you impress me enough with your comedy (as you’ve certainly done with your email) then I’ll give you the privilege of grilling me hands-free about said French-worshiped comedian and comedy god, free and clear. In fact, there’s nothing I look forward to more, except maybe Princess Kate.
Steven Alan Green, Enjoy the Veal, The Jewish Journal online.
So, I’m gonna check Mr. Nigel Arrisson out; see if he’s for real and report back to you when I do. And, of course I will inform him exactly how it works. I charge $500 for a good review, $250 for bribing me not to write a bad review and $1,000 for a quote. JOKING!!!!!! Oh, I crack myself up sometimes.... In the meantime, there’s a lot to present to you this week. A lot going on and I want to get to the main meaty event straight away.
Steven Pearl is a total nut job. But, he’s also one of the most dedicated and funniest nut-jobs truly “out there”. Pearl is a hybrid comedian. He’s one half super-fast, super-imaginative, super-prolific rapid-fire comedy manufacturer and distributor; who is counter-balanced by another half of himself: a to-the-book traditionalist and rationalist, who – were he suddenly magically transported to Grossingers in the Borst Belt in 1958, would quickly excuse himself to the bathroom, comb his hair the other way, put on the stolen bow-tie he just grabbed from the Maître d' like Groucho, and as soon as the band fired up, he’d adjust his posture like a goodfella, then casually stroll into the basking smoke-filled ghost-white spotlight, which shields and filters the audience into black and white Holocaust snaps. Steven Pearl is truly one of those left behind treasures the Pirates of Hollywood either forgot to pilfer or didn’t understand what is value for money to begin with. Besides, WTF do they know? They’re from Cornwall. Steven is not. He’s from Far Rockaway, NY by way of Long Island, the little bit of dry-land (well, not these days!) by coincidence, your not-so-humble comedy reporter hails from. My parents left Long Island, moving across country to Beverly Hills when I was 3. I found them six months later…
Conjuring excitement in audiences’ faces like they were on an out of control downward Coney Island roller-coaster car since 1979, Pearl burst onto the New York Comedy Scene when it was still white hot. Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Lewis, Larry David, Carol Leifer, Paul Reiser, Paul Provenza, Rick Overton, Andy Kaufman were just about to be plucked by such early comedy sherpas as Chris Albrecht, who himself, started as one half of a double-act, co-anchored by Andy Kaufman’s writer Bob Zmuda. “Albrecht and Zmuda, Comedy from A to Z”. Once opportunity hit, Albrecht dropped the mic, picked up the phone and took over management of the Improv on 44th and 9th, turning it into roller-skating waitress heaven, whilst some of the greatest comedy minds of the time graced Budd Friedman’s well-controlled stage, in what was to be the main emerging ripple-making cultural revolution river, with tributaries running from San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and New York, all culminating and feeding into the dangerous rapids known as Hollywood. Albrecht went on the represent the likes of Eddie Murphy and a skinny and goofy unknown Toronton, Jim Carrey. From there he went on to create one of the greatest media empires, HBO. Then he supposedly hit his woman outside the fights in Vegas. HBO fired him. But, I thought HBO stood for “Hit the Bitch Outside”. Now THAT’S a joke, folks. Not advocacy for domestic (or even foreign) violence. Anyway, my whole point about Albrecht and New York and the original Improv is that Steven Pearl was an emerging part of that incredibly creative scene, out of two of the main and important New York comedy clubs, Catch a Rising Star and The Improv. But, it was in San Francisco, during the Comedy Big Bang, where Steven Pearl was to find comedy atmosphere he could breathe and where the audience, who by nature of their locale, were genetically altered, predisposed, and indeed proudly possessed positive predilection towards not just new, but indeed incomprehensibly new ideas, and that, my friends, is the pearl of Steven Pearl.
A late Eighties gig opening for Sam Kinison brought Steve to The Comedy Store in LA, holding his own as a writer and performer amongst Richard Pryor, Kinison and Roseanne. Subsequent TV appearances on Evening at the Improv and Caroline’s Comedy Hour, led to more road work, but it was writing for and working alongside such comedic legends as Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Rodney Dangerfield, that was the true highlight for Steven, a true unabashed fan of the greats. These days, in addition to doing gigs, Pearl co-hosts and co-produces a very popular podcast on the subject of comedy. They interview comedians. How simple of a great idea is that! The other half of "RIFF-erendum" is another San Franciscan comedy stalwart, Al Clethan, a veteran incredibly youthful funnyman and great writer, whose multiple appearances across the universe of comedy broadcasting (Showtime, HBO, Comedy Central, A&E, MTV) have cemented Al as one of the dependable and established names on the comedy club scene. The two of them go together like ebony and ivory, broadcasting their blatant enthusiasm for comedy and other comedians, which is something so close to my heart, it could turn your blogger into a girly man. I not only had the recent fascinating pleasure of interviewing Steven Pearl for ETV, but also had the chance to catch his act, as he performed to another sold-out house in Oakland. For me, watching Steven Pearl perform is like watching a prize fighter, but it’s never a championship. No, it’s a sweaty gym sparring session; and I’m loving every stinky minute of it.
SAG: Steve, How would you describe your act?
SP: Now, wait a minute, didn’t you just see it?
SAG: Well, no not really. I was planning on it, but on the way out to Oakland, I found out that the BART train stops at midnight and your show started at 10. So, no. I didn’t make it I’m sorry. Was worried about getting back home.
SP: That’s okay.
SAG: Yeah, I’ll catch you next time. I promise!
SP: No problem.
PEARL & COMEDY LEGEND SHELLEY BERMAN
SAG: You know, Steve, I've been in the room numerous times over the years when you're on stage and have always enjoyed your amazing comedy stylings. Tell you what…Why don’t you tell me specifically what you did on stage last night?
SP: I can do that. Well, I did my "Dis Must Be the Place!" song and squirting flower opener that's been slaying them since 1948 and then I went into a few "Hey, how about these gas prices?" jokes to get 'em on my side. Then I did an impression of Lorne Greene and Vic Tayback in a gay bar which slays 'em every time! From there I went into my "What if the Civil War was fought with pies?" recital which got them thinking, and then I finished with my musical "Tribute to cobalt" bit that requires 112 dancing dwarves, 16 purple spotlights, a 73 piece kazoo and Jew's harp band and never fails to get the crowd on it's feet cheering for more!
SAG: Sounds like I missed genius.
SP: Actually, I think of myself more of a savant. I'm also an excellent driver. An excellent driver.
SAG: So, how did you and Al meet?
SP: We met on a teen tour in Zanzibar. No, actually we met at a little dive called the Holy City Zoo on Clement Street, a smelly little rotting cabin that had comedy every night. It held maybe 70 people and was packed with a great audience every night. It was the first place I checked out for comedy when I came out here from NY in early '79 for a few months to see if I wanted to move here permanantly. I met Al and a whole mess of my other whacky comedy friends there. A lot of comedy magic happened at the Zoo back then. It's now called the Dirty Trix Saloon and they're doing comedy there again a couple of times a week. I went on a couple of months ago and it was a wild feeling performing for a bunch of people who weren't born when I first played there! Coincidentally Robin (Williams) was there the same night and also went on. It was the first time we’d both been in that room since 1987!
SAG: Is there one guy in control of production and how do you share your production duties?
SP: What production? We bring the digital recorder and we talk to whomever we're interviewing. Later on, I record an intro to the interview, I take it to my webmaster Waitman Gobble's house and he splices the intros to the interviews, uploads (or downloads or whatever) it onto our "RIFF-erendum" page and the iTunes page and that's that. If anyone is in charge of the production I guess it would be Waitman since he's the electronic genius and knows how to do all that stuff. I'm an electronic water-head on the computer. The last time I tried to download something I accidentally burned a Synagogue to the ground.
SAG: I'm sure our readers will find that a bit horrifying. Moving on... How and when did you come up with the idea of a podcast interviewing comedians?
SP: Michael Pritchard, an old friend and a long time Bay Area comedian, actor and motivational speaker, mentioned that I'd be good doing a podcast show, but I didn't think much about it since everyone and their brother has one and a lot of 'em suck. On the first day of 2012 I was at a New Years' Day get together at my friend Becky and Dan Spencer's place and Rick Overton was there and also mentioned that I should do one. In fact he came up with the name "RIFF-erendum". I was gonna call it "Riff-O-Rama" which I wasn't crazy about since it sounds like the name of a ride at the county fair. Rick came up with the much better "RIFF-erendum name and I used it. Al was there when I talked about it with Rick and he said "Lemme do it with you!" and I said "Sure! I don't wanna do this shit alone! I'm not responsible enough!" Robin was there that day too and said that he'd love to be on one of our shows and that alone was enough to get me interested in getting it done! We started doing interviews in April and got the show up and running online in late July.
SAG: Is there a discernible difference between interviewing comedians young vs. old, famous vs. anonymous?
AL CLETHEN, RIFF-ERENDUM'S PARTNER IN COMEDY
SP: Well, famous people may have more stories about other famous people, but there are many famous people that are very dull; and unknowns who are kickass funny and amazing storytellers. It all depends on the person. So far the only household names we've talked to are Robin and blues legend and guitar shredder Johnny Winter and they both told a ton of great stories! Johnny's brother Edgar also said he wanted to do one and whenever I get to L.A. I'll try to get an interview with him. As for young vs. old comedians, the older ones may have more stories to tell since they've been on the planet for more years, but once again, it all depends on the individual.
SAG: What’s the one question comedians almost always get wrong?
SP: Who would win a naked celery eating contest between Fabian and Bobby Rydell? They always say Fabian! Silly mislead losers!
SAG: Do you validate? I mean, you guys seem incredibly encouraging to other performers. Why do you think comedians (at least within the ranks) seem to feel that other comedians are all selfish bastards who wouldn’t help an old lady cross the street unless she had some great material to steal?
Steven Pearl with Rock n Roll legends Edgar and Johnny Winter.
SP: We're not L.A. comics, bubbie! We encourage other talent if they're good. Very few backstabbers, users and fair weather friends up here. As in any other profession there are good people and azzholes. There are some lowlife thieves and slimeballs out there, but there are also some very good hearted people who won't hesitate to help another comic (or generally another human being) out.
SAG: I can personally attest that both you and Al have been super nice and accommodating to me. And, I appreciate that.
SP: No problem. And welcome to San Francisco!
SAG: Thanks! So, how did your life get so low that you’re actually wasting your valuable time doing an interview with me?
SP: I lost a bet with Pat Cooper.
SAG: You guys could be called “San Francisco Comedy Veterans,” I think that’s a fair statement without calling you old, war-weary comedy soldiers. And, you’re both also still working the comedy boards. Tell our Enjoy the Veal readership how the San Francisco comedy scene has changed – for you, as working comedians -- in the 25 years since the Stand-Up Comedy Big Bang?
SP: You forgot to say "battle fatigued shell shocked has-beens".
SAG: Oh, sorry!
SP: When I started here there was a great comedy scene starting to grow. I always thought San Francisco and Boston were the capitals for the Comedy Boom of the 80s. I don't think anyone set out to make a big comedy wave. It just happened, and in my humble nickel and dime opinion, San Francisco and Boston were the creative hub of the action. In fact, we kind of had an exchange program with Boston then. Some of them would come out here and work and we'd go there and work. It was wonderful! A guy named Alex Bennett, a long time NY radio personality came out here in '80 and he started having comics on his show in the morning. Luckily I was one of the comics who was a regular and you could riff to your heart's content on that show. He was a great straight man for many of the comics. Doing his show helped make many of us local stars and people turned out in good numbers to see our gigs. There were also many brilliantly funny original comics, who each had their own style and always brought the goods to the table. There was Al, Michael Pritchard, Dr. Gonzo (John Means), Jeremy Kramer, Kevin Meaney, Will Durst, Dana Carvey (although he was in L.A. a lot by the time the scene was really developing here), Sue Murphy, Dan St. Paul, Bobby Slayton, Rob Schneider, Kevin Pollak, Rob Becker (who wrote and starred in the longest running one man show on Broadway history), Dana Gould, Tom Kenny, Paula Poundstone (who all came out from Boston), Ellen DeGeneres, Evan Davis, later on Larry "Bubbles" Brown and Michael Meehan and some others I can't think of at the moment. There was a small army of us and we were fairly supportive of each other and most of us were good friends. A real family atmosphere.
SAG: Nice. Sounds great. Both you and Al did your time in the penal colony known as Los Angeles. I know you, Steve, were incarcerated at The Comedy Store (I was in Cell Block B - the Belly Room). Tell us about some of your LA experiences. And, please give us an anecdote which symbolizes it completely. A good ole Hollywood story.
SP: For me, L.A. was fun the first 6 years or so, then it wasn't so much fun and then it was a living Hell. When I first moved to L.A. in June of '87 the Comedy Store was still a happening place and it was fun to go there. I was friends with Sam Kinison, whom I'd worked with in the Bay Area before he got real famous, and Sam was the hot guy there at the time so no one really fucked with me as the new guy since they knew we were friends. The Comedy Store and the scene in general coincidentally started going downhill around the time Sam died in '92. It just wasn't fun to go there anymore and gigs were getting far and few in between. I was just playing these shitty free rooms for 6 drunks and hardly going on any auditions. I just got sick of being there. If I had a good Hollywood story it might be the time I was stopped at a red light and I saw George Hamilton in all his tanned glory standing on the corner. It just cracked me up seeing Mr. Almost Lynda Bird Johnson standing there, so as the light turned green I rolled down the window , said to him "So how's that facist c**t Imelda Marcos doing?" and tore off into the sunset seeing a disapproving look on his bronzed Hollywood face in my rearview mirror. I also remember doing a set late one night at the Comedy Store when there were about 11 people in the audience and I heard this hoarse drunk laughter and a weird kazoo sound coming from the back. When I was done I went back there and it was Christopher Walken with a date, drunk as all fuck and blowing into a kazoo that looked like a small white saxophone. He told me I was great and I asked him to autograph a napkin. He drunkenly scrawled his name and it looked like a cross eyed monkey wrote it. He was a nice guy, tipsy as he was.
SAG: I lived in London, England for twenty years as a stand-up comedian and I made a pretty good living, working local comedy clubs. And, it wasn’t because I was such a genius or anything. There are a lot of clubs and most of them pay a decent comedy wage. I know things in San Francisco changed. Seems the only comedians making any good local money these days are either the local legends or the comedians delegated to corporate work.
SP: Back in the 80s there was a major comedy scene here (and comedy clubs were also opening all over the country and Canada) and a lot of excellent comics. There were the clubs in the city and a zillion one nighters all over the place, Marin, the East Bay, everywhere. Even hacks were working! I was doing Alex Bennett's radio show pretty regularly and was getting pretty well known here and so were some other comics. I was a star in 3 area codes! There was so much work here, I only went on the road once a year, because I wanted to. In L.A. comics were getting sitcoms, HBO specials and becoming huge stars. One shot on the Carson Show could make you. That doesn't happen anymore. These days you kick ass on Letterman and the next night you're playing Spunky Puddle, Ohio for $200 and a plate of candied squid. Comics are outdated surplus now. It's like trying to sell stagecoaches! How many sitcoms are on now that feature comedians? I can only think of two and one of 'em isn't very good. It's all about reality stars now and dopey contests with manufactured talent dancing and singing cardboard songs devoid of any soul. Very sad. Most comics today who are making a living at it are doing so on the road, and who wants to do that when you're over 50? Not me! Not unless you're a big star making the Don Rickles bucks anyway. I'm sick of planes and hotels and I like waking up in my own bed at home next to my lady. No more road for this wandering Jew! I don't really see a strong comedy scene like we once had anywhere now, but there are young people doing it at various places. When I did that set at the Dirty Trix Saloon I told you about, it was packed with a lot of young people doing stand-up like I was doing there in the '70s and 80s. They're trying to make something happen and I think it’s great. I’ll help in ‘em any way I can.
SAG: How are the audiences these days? Are they smart? Are they paying? Are they coming in?
SP: Depends where you go. Whenever I play in Oakland it's always packed. There's the Punchline in the Financial District and they've been having consistent full houses since 1978. Mark Pitta has a Tuesday night comedy show at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley and I've never seen that place less than full. I usually find the crowds to be great. They dig my groove, Daddyo!
SAG: There seems to be camaraderie amongst San Francisco comedians. I sense a duty of mutual support across the board on all levels. Is this true? Or have I drunk the Kool-Aid?
SP: I don't know exactly what's going on with the younger comics here, but back in the good old days when I was a lad we treated each other with respect and supported each other. A lot of us also hung out a lot together and helped each other with material. That's why I'm still friends with a lot of the people I knew then and I'm so glad to be living back here!
SAG: Who is the new “undiscovered comedy genius”? Is there one?
SP: Tommy Smegmetti the Clown Prince of Canarsie. He has a brilliant bit about Dutch Elm Disease and he does a gut-busting impression of Roy Cohn as a fry cook. Actually, I haven't really seen anything in a while that's blown me away like Robin, Carlin, Klein, Pryor, early Kinison, Hicks, Hedberg, etc. If there's a genius in that caliber out there I sure haven't heard of him/her. I doubt these days they'd get any press if they were that good! There are some very talented younger comics I've seen here that could go places. Ben Feldman and Coree Spencer both come to mind. They're both very funny and original.
SAG: Do stand-ups still feel they need to “go to LA” for completion of their comedy mating ritual? Or can a comedian be successful and content here in the Bay Area?
SP: L.A. and N.Y. are still the places to go if you want to "make it". That's where the cameras are! Of course, with the invention of the internet anyone anywhere in the world can make a video or do a podcast show or videotape their stand up set and post it for anyone anywhere to see, but you'll still eventually have to end up in L.A. or N.Y. if you want to get known. However, things have changed drastically since I started and nowadays. The odds of becoming a star from stand-up comedy are extremely minuscule. I'd tell most people trying to make it in show bidnizz to forget about stand up. Either write a script and try to sell it, take acting lessons and go out on auditions, make a sex tape and get a reality show out of it or make a sex tape with a poodle and get a reality show on Animal Planet.
SAG: If you could advise comedy club owners, promoters, agents and managers one thing, what would it be?
SP: Don’t ask me to do a third show on Saturday.
SAG: If you could advise comedians one thing, what would it be?
SP: Say no to drugs and olive loaf.
SAG: If you could advise audiences one thing, what would it be?
SP: Laugh, titter and guffaw like you never have before!
SAG: Where do you see yourselves in Comedy History?
SP: I see myself as a small, but well respected hair on a pimple on the comedy ass of life. Is that so wrong?
SAG: Depends on where the chair is. Is it possible for an audience to laugh uproariously at an unfunny comedian?
SP: Sure. Haven’t you heard of Pauly Shore and Dane Cook?
SAG: No comment. And good point. Though my personal theory is that if the audience is laughing, it must be funny to them?
SP: That didn’t work so well with the Nazi’s.
SAG: Another good point. Uh, one more question.
SP: Sure! Anything!
SAG: Can you please stop stepping on my air hose?
SP: Never my love.
Steven Pearl, the Edgar Allan Poe of Stand-Up Comedy, has been back and living happily ever after in the Bay Area since 2009 and is engaged to the woman of his dreams. Steven continues to work locally and only uses the finest homegrown organic jokes. And, Steven Pearl keeps proving at every show that several decades of doing stand-up hasn't slowed him down at all. A true journeyman comic, Steven Pearl continues to push the envelope of both good taste, sanity and propriety. More profoundly, Steven and Al fill a void. A deep void in within the San Francisco Comedy Scene. Back in the day, the early 80’s, what helped facilitate the Comedy Big Bang was local radio DJ, the legendary and left-wing politico Alex Bennett. Bennett brought to life the comedy movement by bringing on the likes of then emerging comedians Bob Goldthwait, Whoopi Goldberg, Dana Carvey, Ray Romano, Margaret Cho, and Jay Leno. The RIFF-erendum does just that. They fill the void. And, long may they reign doing so…..! Here!! Here!! Where?? Where? San Francisco, baby. San Francisco.
Tune in, turn on and get high on that comedy laughter with RIFF-erendum, hosted by Steven Pearl and Al Clethen.
The good news for me is that I haven’t had an attack of Clinical Depression since I left LA. It makes sense. Living in a city, a great city, with a world-class public transportation system, makes all the difference. I’m no long an isolated pathetic soul, unless being an isolated pathetic soul suddenly becomes trendy again, then I wanna be at all costs. I’m reviewing comedy up here for The Jewish Journal online and really having a great time, soaking up a new and exciting scene. Taking a street car to Chinatown or walking uphill to a park. NOT pedaling my bicycle up to the armpit of Western Civilization: Melrose. (And, when I say “armpit,” I mean the “fulcrumatic endpoint between the mind and the fingers”.) I’m still looking for work and this week I have an interview at a Funeral Home to be a “Family Counselor.” Which is really a salesman in the Death Business. Whatever; should be a day’s laugh. And I found a really good temporary home. A hostel on Geary that is $27/night, including breakfast. I’ve even got a better deal. And, Kim, the Korean hostel owner, runs a Korean Opera charity and will spontaneously burst out into Rigoletto when you inquire why there’s still no heat. I’ll be okay, and I’ve begun to hit the streets with street campaigning. Amazingly, people are donating to the cause. In the meantime, I’ve begun planning and producing a big night up here for The Laughter Foundation. It’s going to be at a fairly sizable famous theatre and it’s going to be an evening for COMEC and The Heckler Fund, which will go a long ways in helping local comedian Doug Ferrari. I’m assembling a great panel for an open town-hall meeting to discuss political correctness and censorship in Comedy. “Comedy: The New C-Word”. It’s gonna be great and I’m hoping it will all happen early next year. Doug, one of the Bay Area’s original kings of comedy, is infirm and The Laughter Foundation wants to help him. He’s a good guy and helped build this city, not on Rock n Roll, but on Comedy. Doug, we love ya’, baby! Hang in. We haven’t forgotten you!
As for my readers in France, England, Australia and of course, right here in the "US of...
Steven Pearl, SAG & Al Clethen
Ehhhhh….!, What’s your problem?", I’ve linked-up for download, our new Laughter Foundation FA-Q (get it?) sheet. Take a read and if you can, make a donation. You can contact me for any writing work too. I’ve just been hired to help write an iPhone ap and I have money coming in from a commercial I did in the UK. They’re renewing it. Here it is. I play “the obnoxious American”. It was easy, thank you. I can write anything for you. Just contact me. I’m really inexpensive right now. But, frankly folks, the way things are going? Who knows... Thanks so much for supporting Enjoy the Veal and The Laughter Foundation. It means a lot to me. A lot more than standing on the edge of the twenty-story Century City tower rooftop, looking down into the abyss, as I nearly did over two years ago. I honestly never thought I’d be alive to write this blog. Thank you to all my fans and supporters and please get the word out to “the sleeping audience”. They must be awoken and make their zombie-like way back into the comedy clubs.
That’s the only way we can make real change. See a live show. Nothing like it. You, the audience, after all, is what all comedians live for.
I asked Steven Pearl to say a few words of support to our friend and colleague Doug Ferrari, who (as I mentioned) is a bit under the weather these days. Here’s what Steven Pearl said about/to our good friend Doug:
“Tell the big lug I send him my best. He's a true citizen. Tell him to hang in there otherwise there won't ever be a High Wire Radio Choir reunion and the dream will be over. He'll know what it means.”
My dream is The Laughter Foundation. An entity that is A) There for comedians in need and B) The Comedy Museum & Institute. I'm gonna get us there. Some have said it’s a pipedream created by a deluded man. Others have called it an inspirational idea. For me, here’s what inspiration is: 99% ignoring reality and 1% alcohol. And in the mean time, I'm going to check out this mysterious British comedian, Nigel Arrisson and report back to you, my faithful readership.
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
I predict President Obama will retire next year and go out as a free agent.
Romney woulda sent in Seal Team Five.
From now on President Obama will hereby be known henceforth as "Prez-O2".
I wish people would stop using Medical Marijuana and just stick with weed. It's nearly as effective, less expensive and easier to Tweet.
I need a gay experience like I need a head in my hole.
Main Street USA business, although now on the mend, really got pretty bleak for a while. It got so bad at one point, storefronts and restaurants had signs which read, "Sorry We're Open".
There's no such thing as an "extramarital affair". Either its an affair or its marital.
When I make love to a woman, I'm like the little kid in the back seat. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
Today being Tuesday, May 22nd, I'm vowing to get a better grasp of reality.
Tonight's Special at Havana Negila, the Jewish Deli & Medical Marijuana Dispensary: Pot Roast.
Borsht Belt Comic: "Same Sex Marriage? I was married for 42 years to the same woman. The sex never changed. Talk about same sex!"
Please ignore all previous posts.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Tonight, Nov 15, Kelly Carlin in "A Carlin Home Companion" @ Santa Monica Playhouse - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Tonight, Nov 15, Beth Lapides's Say the Word: The New America @ Skirball Cultural Center - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Tonight, Nov 15, Set-List Returns to NerdMelt - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Tonight, Nov 15, Jeff Garcia & Jay Phillips @ Irvine Improv - (free tickets)
Tonight, Nov 15, The Naughty Show's Final Countdown @ The Comedy Store Mainroom
Saturday, Nov 17, Top Tale @ The Fanatic Salon - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Sunday, Nov 18, Uncabaret @ First & Hope - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Sunday, Nov 25, Rick Overton & Friends @ The Improv Main Room - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Next edition of Enjoy the Veal! includes reviews of Will Durst @ The San Francisco Jewish Community Center & Lisa Geduldig Comedy Show @ The El Rio in The Mission District
Enjoy the Veal is proud to announce the addition of a great writer Tamsin Hollo. Tamsin will be covering LA live comedy in my absense, while I'm up here in San Francisco. If you have a live comedy show in LA you want reviewed, please contact Tamsin directly: email@example.com
To have your comedy show reviewed or hire your humble and always incredibly charming comedy writer or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Never take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive!!"
11/15/12, San Francisco
5.23.13 at 2:31 pm | Your humble comedian, blogger and radio show. . .
5.16.13 at 12:22 pm | A great new opportunity for our favourite. . .
4.7.13 at 5:32 pm | It seemed like an impossibility before, but I am. . .
2.20.13 at 2:09 pm | My long-awaited review of Nato Green @ The. . .
1.15.13 at 10:49 am | My public appeal to the director of Duel, 1941. . .
12.25.12 at 10:47 pm | ETV Interview with big time comedy and comedian. . .
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5.16.13 at 12:22 pm | A great new opportunity for our favourite. . . (18)
9.26.12 at 3:32 pm | I hereby call upon the powers that be in. . . (17)
October 30, 2012 | 3:18 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
So far, San Francisco’s been great. Unlike Los Angeles, it’s a real city. And, it’s beautiful without make-up or fake tits. The local city government communicates with its citizenry, in the same friendly paternalistic way London does with its own. A great public transportation no less, that actually lets you know to the second, when the next bus, train or street car is due. Bus drivers who speak with you and strangers on the street who not only don’t run away, but actually know of what they speak. I saw a fire truck roll by Market Street today, full on sirens, heading to some sort of mid-town emergency, but what struck me were the two giant San Francisco Giants flags flanking the emergency vehicle. And apparently – I haven’t checked this out yet – but apparently there are flanks of naked men walking around the Castro District under some local self-expression ordinance. Let the truth hang out! Haight Ashbury (where I start working on this week’s blog at “Coffee to the People”) is like the Grove during the day and Falluja at night. Long-lensed touristas swarm the holy corner of Ashbury as if they were hypnotically visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, but instead of leaving paper written prayers in its fissures, they write little notes on rolling papers as they unconsciously pass by where Jimi Hendrix lived and breathed his first cup of vomit. I drove up here two weeks ago with comedian/filmmaker Dave Sirus, who is directing me in his mockumentary about the world’s worst comedian, Archie Black. Dave never stops talking. Even when he’s dead, Dave will still talk. In fact, he’s the Talking Dead. But, I love Dave and he’s really a whiz kid comedy genius filmmaker and I’m very lucky to work with him. (Does that cover it?) Dave’s the passionate sort and the thing which raises his cockles more than anything is stupidity, especially bad drivers. He would rail against this driver or that driver and yet, I would try and point out to him that to make himself so upset over people you’ll never see again in your life is the definition of insanity. It’s like me going on and on about Jerry Lewis. And, everyone knows, I would never ever do that. Besides, I don't drive. Remember?
I spent the first week at the lovely home of Doug Ferrari. Doug was one of the local comedy all-stars back in the day when the San Francisco comedy scene included pre-national/international famed local heroes Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGenerous and Robin Williams, and was to be the citadel of American stand-up comedy where The Comedy Big Bang occurred, at least according to comedy historians, astrophysics and the eponymous Big Bang herself, Snooki. These days Doug spends his time in semi-seclusion, working on writing projects in his high-tower security building. Doug is a bit infirmed with a bad leg and doesn’t go out much. I’ve never met anyone more passionate and knowledgeable about local history of the San Francisco comedy and he’s been an absolute Sherpa guide. Another alumnus from that era, Rick Right (real name Brian Seff) was up here last week and we drove out to see him perform at The Throckmorton Theater, where Rick dazzled them with his amazing Flamingo Guitar (it looks like a flamingo) and his never-ending knowledge of not just how to play any rock and roll song every written, but in making it originally funny. Rick was on my first High On Laughter Show at the 2,000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and eventually settled in, got married and lives to this day in England. Rick was part of Rick and Ruby, a famous San Francisco comedy rock duo in the 80’s and made several appearances on both Mork and Mindy and was Robin’s opening act at concerts. Last Saturday, my new friend, comedian and radio show host Howard Stone and I went to his place of employ, the Encore Karaoke Bar in Polk Gulch, where I sang “Danny’s Song,” enjoined in dance and harmony by a random sexy young lady, as the entire place sang-a-long, “Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey….” It was truly a great moment for me. And, for “my audience,” of course. I cannot deny them their feeble pleasure of enjoying my vast array of talents. Howard likes to eat. Maybe that’s why he’s fat. I mean let’s face it. He’s a big round ball of hairy Jewish flesh. At the same time, one of the smartest and nicest persons I’ve had the pleasure of urinating on quite a long time. (I’m kidding. It wasn’t so pleasurable.)
Continuing on our little “We never know when you’re kidding” tour, I moved out of Doug’s and found a nice respite from constant random information at the San Francisco Guest House, a very nice, clean and quiet hostel on Geary, run by a Chinese woman named Kim; a place where you are required to take off your shoes. Sleeping in a bunk bed again brought the bed-wetting child back in me, but the creaking of the contraption made me feel macho like Dragline from Cool Hand Luke. I’ve met some very nice interesting world-travelers and twice now, I’ve overslept and somebody ate my eggs. Oh well. Toast with jam will do. I’ve gotta get a job, things are getting very tight. I’ve walked into every store with a Help Wanted sign and have been trawling Craigslist like prospecting desperado. No luck. I filled out one application in a used clothing store and in previous experience, I wrote: “Bereaved Fashion Consultant”. I dropped off my voice-over CD to an agent whom I spoke with months ago. We’ll see. I don’t have much faith in voice agents in America. The ones have had in London have been pretty straight forward. The ones I experienced in LA have run the gamut from boring to insane. The first best time here was at Cobb’s Comedy Club’s 30th anniversary show. Hanging out backstage with my good buddy Rick Overton, there was also San Francisco’s local boy makes good, comedy star Greg Proops (also extremely popular in England) and comedian extraordinaire and Letterman warm-up guy, Eddie Brill. Eddie’s comedy is kind of like if Robert Klein and George Carlin had a baby and then told it not to curse. He’s a very funny man, who’s got that old showbiz thing about wanting nothing more than to make the audience happy-er. I really felt at home, hanging out, playing guitar, talking with Cobb’s retiring manager Tom Sawyer, and doing it all with none of the baggage I usually bring with me, like Pigpen’s swirling stench. I even had a nice heart to heart with Eddie, telling him about my nervous breakdown and my founding The Laughter Foundation and COMEC, the Comedy Museum Exploratory Committee. Eddie said he’d help in any way he could. What a sweet guy. It’s such a shame we both got each other so wrong so many years ago. Oh, well, what’s past is past. What’s present is politics like it’s nobody’s business.
Will Durst is one of the best and most respected political comedians in this or any other country in the Western Hemisphere. Hell. The Eastern Hemisphere too! The New York Times calls him “possibly the best political comic in the county” and he currently writes a nationally syndicated humor column and his writings have appeared in Esquire, The San Francisco Chronicle, National Lampoon and The New York Times. Durst (a San Franciscan stand-up stalwart) recently sat down with your humble ETV comedy blogger precariously balanced atop Coit Tower, to perhaps answer a few of the myriad of vexing questions surrounding the national election. The rest of the interview took place in jail, where I was doing time for TUI (Typing Under the Influence) while Will was making a celebrity visit to a few home-challenged poets who, by lot, won the office pool….. (again, I have no idea what that last sentence even means, but I love the way it sounds)
SAG: This is obviously the dirtiest campaign since Meshulam Riklis wined and dined the Foreign Press Association to secure his trophy wife Pia Zadora a much undeserved Golden Globe for the 1982 film Butterfly. How has this nasty presidential campaign affected your confidence in the integrity in the US Electoral System?
WD: Hasn’t. I actually think we're headed in the right direction. Moving our political process from confrontational to gladiatorial. Mano a mano. Full body contact debate. Looking forward to 2016. “2 go in. 1 comes out.” Thunderdome Politics.
SAG: If Romney wins, do you predict he'd be as dangerous as he sounds or will he be all toast and no jelly?
WD: Slippery toast. Over-buttered toast. Float like a butterfly, sting like a jelly-fish toast. He will be the most limber of all our Presidents. The Human Etch A Sketch has flipped and is shaking so hard the fillings in his back teeth are starting to rattle and cascade like some great crumbling Utah Butte. His ads should end with “I’m Mitt Romney and I both approve and disapprove of this ad.”
SAG: The great Senator George McGovern just passed. A great loss for our country. Do you think a true liberal can ever be president? And, why not?
WD: My answer can best be defined by the great Adlai Stevenson who once was told, “You’re going to get the vote of every thinking American.” And he rejoined, “The problem is, I need a majority.”
SAG: Why are Liberal Leaders (unless they are a Kennedy) less funny in terms of being a target?
WD: Conservatives tend to be funnier because they see the world in terms of us vs. them. Black vs. white. Make themselves easier targets. So I hit them where they hurt the funniest.
SAG: Maureen Dowd has suggested that Obama doesn't really want to serve a second term, which is why (according to Dowd) he may be taking a dive. Care to comment?
WD: Think mayhaps Maureen might just be loitering at the bottomless margarita bar a little long. Again.
SAG: In England, it's the party (not the candidate) that wins or loses. They have three "major" parties, not counting the Monster Loony Party. And their entire national campaign only lasts about 3 weeks; each candidate restricted to spending no more than around $150,000 on advertising. Do you think the Brits have a better election system than America does and, aside from driving on the wrong side of the road, what could we learn from them?
WD: Nah. Three weeks isn’t enough time for Americans. We have the attention span of high speed lint. But, there is stuff we could learn from the world. In Australia, voting is compulsory. Failure to vote results in a $25 fine. Of course, that’s $25 Australian.
SAG: What is America's role in world affairs? Is the Monroe Doctrine dead or just Mr. Monroe himself?
WD: The only Monroe Doctrine Americans care about is the one Marilyn and JFK wrote.
SAG: Compared to 30 years ago, how well do you think today's American youth are fully educated and engaged in national politics?
WD: Kids today aren’t being plucked from the suburbs and shoved into a war. Also they have 30,000 different streams of information shooting at them. Surprised they aren’t collectively shaking like a shaved poodle nailed to the foul pole of Wrigley Field during a night game in April.
SAG: Can government create jobs, other than governmental jobs?
WD: And, what’s wrong with governmental jobs? Maybe that’s what we need. A fedocracy. Where we all work for the government. What did they used to say in Russia? “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”
SAG: Other than Mitt Romney winning, what is the number one threat to our democracy?
WD: Paul Ryan being one chicken bone away from the Presidency.
SAG: Aside from instant news awareness, how has the Internet affected national politics?
WD: Makes suspect polls more accessible.
SAG: Should an American even expect financial security from his country?
WD: It’s called a safety net. Not a safety blanket.
SAG: If North Dakota invaded South Dakota, as President, would you intervene?
WD: Of course, but I sure wouldn’t want to stick my fingers anywhere between Vermont and New Hampshire.
SAG: Do you think a Romney Presidency could reinvigorate Comedy?
WD: Dubyah was the Golden Age for political comedy. He may have sucked for the country, the hemisphere, the planet, the solar system and the universe but for me, he was pure gold. Romney shows great promise along those lines.
SAG: Do you believe, come November 6, Americans will make the right decision? And, why not?
WD: My prediction is Romney wins the popular vote and Obama wins the Electoral vote, and try explaining that to the Tea Party members. “Yeah, he won. But, not really. Better luck next time. Not really.”
SAG: Other than the price of bagels and other forms of fuel, do you think the average American cares much about what goes on in the Middle East?
WD: Unfortunately, most Americans think the Middle East crisis is a late November football game between Ohio State and Michigan.
SAG: How come there are no (or known and respected) right wing political stand-up comedians?
WD: There are, but they’re not funny. Just angry and mean.
JANN KARAM’S RECLINGING NUDE ON LA CIENEGA - October 6, 2012
I knew I was in for a real treat when I arrived at the Elephant Stages in Hollywood to review Jann Karam’s, “Reclining Nude on La Cienega”. The semi-in-the-round feel of the 99-seat Lillian Theatre audience poised itself in zoo-like view of a huge art loft/gallery. Three pillar canvases, two canvases on easels and nearly random Sergio Mendez music lets us all know we’re more than welcome; as creator, writer and star of “Reclining Nude on La Cienega,” stand-up Jann Karam (Letterman, HBO) invades “our” space, dancing and stretching and being a girl, all as if we were secretly invited guests into her private sanctuary. This was good, as I was still nervously reeling from trying to remember that the theatre was not actually on La Cienega: the concept was, foretelling the disappointment there may not be any nudity involved either, unless I felt too hot in the theatre, then who knows. I’ve been known. Karam fearlessly flies up and down ladders and flitters like a semi-buff butterfly holding a paintbrush, as she expresses something or other (we know not yet) with large brush strokes and drippy colourful real paint to happy Broadway music. Stopping to admire her own creation…
“That’s superior!,” referring to one of the paintings, making one think, “Hey! We’ll be the judge of that, thank you!!” But, no. We’ve been fooled, tricked and set up. Jann was impressionistically painting her home town, Superior, Arizona, where there are “beige horses, mountains and different shades of brown, scorpions and earthtones.” “Thanks a lot, Cosmos!...Don’t you know who I am???” Karam asks as if each and every one of us in Hollywood don’t already ask ourselves that same question every single second of every hour, waking or otherwise. “There’s no doubt, in my mind, I would move onto greener pastures!” informs us that this story we’re about to hear, doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. The ending seems pending. Unlike all the other “A funny thing happened to me on my way to the forum” showbiz struggle autobiographical one person shows I’ve seen both here in the States and in the UK (Scotland included, even though they’d rather not be!), Reclining Nude on La Cienega is the only one I’ve ever seen that constantly feeds you pure hope, in the literal form of newly splatters of fresh coloured paint, fueled and guided by the perfect balance of romantic (almost gothic-like) dreams, both of the true romantic and of the true artist: two inner-equal-sides of omni-talented Karam, whom – with imaginary long stem rose ‘tween her chompers – metaphorically tangos forth and back on the open-gallery stage, nary to pick who leads, in a show choreographed to mirror her inner-thoughts and well thought out oft-tortured feelings. Her father took over his parents business (a clothing store) and helped the local miners with donations, discounts and deals, allowing him to build a house in the better part of town, and unfortunately cementing Jann’s biggest obstacle: that of breaking free. “It’s not possible!” (to find a better part of town). Living in a house with drawn blinds was “Living in lockdown”, keeping the air-conditioning bill down, “Thanks a lot, Vampira!” and conversations with her mother, are all postcard perfect shorthand for a life too well known to be fully appreciated. Feeling trapped, not comforted, is how we all feel at times in our lives, especially when others can’t seem to understand why you are being so unappreciative. This is what I call the “house pet dilemma”. We think little Sparky is full of love and joy, wagging his tail, but he just needs to get out and pee and he might kill you if he has to. Realizing she holds her own jail cell keys, Karam ventures out into the outlying desert, escorted by her two loyal dogs to the Magical Cactus Forrest. “Needles everywhere!....Now I avoid those pricks!” is not so secret code to her lonely sisters in arms, who have all experienced God’s punishment of dating jerks; the men in the audience thinking they being the sole exception. Our hearts are further broken as “me, Mom, brother Johnny, sister Charlene, travel in a car up to Roosevelt Lake; but Dad was not there,” he was too busy playing local politics, spreading goodwill throughout the local community to spend any time with his kids. Then Jann sees water. Jumping into the lake, she cries, “Heaven is here!” as she splashes bright blue paint on the canvas. “All I had to do was grow up and become an artist” was her perceived calling, as she unceremoniously painted butterflies on old furniture. “The more I engaged in artistic pursuits, the less alone I felt and accepted by my parents,” as proved by a much appreciated and demo’d sock puppet show behind the couch on stage; and in reminiscing her father overhearing her play piano and then the next day, delivering an upright to his talented daughter, only to shout at her, “Goddam it, Jann!” as she played “Nocturne” for din-din.
JANN KARAM'S COLOURFUL POV
Karam dreams forever and repeatedly for an artist colony, her earthly version of nirvana in this life. “We all understood that art was constant and beauty was everything” is the up of the see-saw. “That was my dream. Here’s what happened…” is the down. Literally reclining on the couch, Karam quotes Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, “Life and mortality do not allow us to be true to the guileless unrealism of our youth"; then her shrink throws her out of the office, but a new one suggests finding like-minded people, “So, thanks for coming…” Her Achilles Heel was lover Jack, her downfall, whose, “I’ve been drinking” red-flag remained ignored as she equally was by her own too-busy father. But, she clung to familiarity rather than love, and thus remains the enduring theme of this saga of intertwining odyssey in an oscillating search for a compromise between opposing twins of love and artistic freedom of expression. A criticizing mother who ignores her amazing accomplishment of a Letterman appearance with a simple critique of her hairdo, metaphorically sums up Jann Karam’s lot in life: Nothing she does or tries to be free and happy will ever please her family, which is all she ever really wanted, mostly as sign-posts to self-identity. Nonetheless, she loves them anyway and would never trade them in for the world; but know this about her: She will “make a left on Orlando,” regardless if it’s okay. And, if you don’t like it, then there’s something vapid in your mindless soul.
Director Sabrina Lloyd (NOT the actress of “Sliders” fame!) is the master zookeeper who feeds and trains her dancing and dreaming endangered multi-talented and radiantly gorgeous species with the subtle and clever finesse of the bestest friend a performer ever had; never getting in the way and always encouraging and inspiring. Whatever becomes of Jann Karam’s unfulfilled romantic and artistic dreams, are more than fulfilled during this show, maybe not for her, but for us, the audience; which is the textbook definition of bravery in performance. What a gift to us this show is. Perchance to dream whence you’re awake is the bliss we all seek; and only the blessed few will ever find; and if they do, it’s only because they already put in the prerequisite eternal internal work; the external fading to dull grays, unsure blacks and shy whites, drying on the canvas of life and we, the freshly splattered red paint, are merely the honored drips on Karam’s painters smock of love and acceptance. Running away from the crazy family took Karam to the forest of stars in the desert sky. And she thought, “THAT’S where my artist colony is!” True enough. Because Jann Karam is truly a glowing star in the desolate night sky known as Los Angeles, the city of ignored, forgotten, misunderstood and, yes, broken dreams, ever illuminated and eclipsed by sparkling new ones, and even brighter and more meaningful than ever before. (AND, she’s hot!) Kudos to Adam Hunter for brilliant Set Design and Matthew Richter for equally brilliant Lighting Design. Catch Reclining Nude on La Cienega when (and if) it reclines once again. Nothing beige about it whatsoever.
I give Jann Karam’s Reclining Nude on La Cienega 8 out of 8 Menorahs!
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green
SPECIAL NOTE: For RNLC to return to LA, it’s a matter of production money. Any producers or investors out there interested? Contact: email@example.com
BILL BRONNER'S FREE SPEECH SHOW @ THE LAB - October 8, 2012
Comedian and promoter Bill Bronner explains to us, his “Facebook friends,” he created the Free Speech Show because he was “bored with everything on television”. The packed house at the Improv Lab couldn’t agree more, which is why I suspect they were waiting tooth and nail for this rare comedy show to begin. And for a about ten minutes, nobody could find the manager of the venue to get the air conditioner going; it was like being on the A-Train at Shavuot rush hour! Sardines had more leg room. Okay. Having said all that, the show? The show made me feel utterly miserable. Miserable only because I WISH I could produce a show this good, this funny, this free spirited and this entertaining. Of all the live comedy shows I’ve seen in my first three months or so as your venerable comedy reviewer/reporter/bitter guy, Bill Bronner’s Free Speech Show is up in the top ranks. What makes it good is the same thing Tony Conrad’s and Paul Provenza’s Set-List has. Simplicity. The idea here is that stand-ups go up one by one and all of them deal with the same talking point. It’s almost like improv in reverse. Then, when they’re all done, everyone in the cast comes on stage and there’s a group discussion. What makes this idea genius is that, as the viewer, you kinda know in advance what the talking show points are gonna be for each individual comedian because they already expressed their point of view in their stand-up slot. And as the conversation floats over to various subjects, hither and dither, the audience gets to enjoy how good the comedians truly are because now they have to be true to themselves. No act to hide behind. They are actually speaking their mind. It’s very interesting! Bill Bronner – a middle aged better looking Captain Kangaroo by way of David Lynch – is a former bakery worker with a law degree (there’s a yeast joke there somewhere….), who fought the power back in the day to insure he and his co-workers got their “fair share of the pie.” He’s a good egg and low in cholesterol. He’s also one of the most affable hosts on the comedy circuit in Los Angeles, where most comedy hosts tend to be snarky pimpled punks who think they know so much just ‘cause they live in an age when the cost of a gallon of gas will soon catch up to the minimum wage.
Tonight’s topic: “Advice for the Candidates”
“He needs some enthusiasm. Barack, grow some! They elected you to make change, not to say you can’t make a deal!” Okay, true but not particularly hilarious. Ah..But, that’s where the genius comes in. Bronner is secretly setting this up as the challenge. To make the passion of his life (Social Injustice) the talking point for the other comedians to work off of! NOT a competition….a seminar! I mean yes, Bill is funny. No doubt. Romney taking Ecstasy for example. Great concept. For sure. But, what was most funniest about Bill tonight was how some of the acts made fun of his introductions of them. Bill Bronner is the Joe Biden of Comedy Hosts.
Carrie Snow is one of my favourites, if you have been following Enjoy the Veal! religiously, you should already know that. So, ignore what I say about her. I’m biased. And, when I say “religiously,” I mean, on your knees, facing a hanging icon. And, when I say “hanging,”….
“I couldn’t be crankier about this election….!”
An audience cell phone rings.
“It’s my ex-husband, nobody listens to me. I told Sarah Palin: nobody wants to see your unfortunately named children in public!”
Then she gives advice about Trader Joes & it’s “Nobody listens to me: Part II”…. Explaining how politically active she is, “I gave away registration forms to people and felt like Eleanor Roosevelt.” HUGE laugh. Snow is just warming up, but you can’t tell. Explaining to “this kid” who works at her Medical Marijuana dispensary and is complaining why they simply don’t legalize marijuana, she says, “Listen, if the other guy wins, then your girlfriend will die of an illegal abortion and you won’t be able to get high.” As for her direct advice for Romney, “I'm a woman and he wouldn't listen to me anyway, so why bother?” Not much of advice for the candidates; more like advice for the electorate. Carrie Snow, once again, disproved that American stand-up comedy by women has to be vulgar, insinuating, sarcastic, dead-on and cleverly hilarious. But, she does it anyway and the loyal followers at The Lab this night were ready to take torches to the streets; but first, the rest of the comedy show.
Patrick Devine has the cred. His one-man show “Breaking Down in America” is a bravado work of a car’s final road trip and the people he meets along the way. “As a single guy, not married, no kids, nobody cares about my voice” is the only way to open this type of discussion. (Like Rick Overton said, we’re all part of the “Demographic Party”.) Devine’s advice to the Dems is “to go to the CDC, get something percolating in the lab, and then give it to Joe Biden. Give him laryngitis.” Explaining that The Gap clothing store knows Americans better than Democrats, because they know Americans love to be lied to, Devine cuts to the heart of the matter and provides the predilection that Romney’s next card has to be a Christian conversion, but then Devine drops the comedy like a lose mic chord and explains the value of each Swing State, turning it on its head with a Tim Tibow joke. This “ducking and diving” sharp-minded comedy nefro should be heard more often; his comedy thoughts and conclusions could swing the election. Commenting on Bill Bronner’s lame intro, Carol Ann Leif tells the tale of the worst introduction she ever got was from Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander, who unfortunately compared her to Emmy winner Carol Leifer. For her, Mitt is a family matter. Romney reminded her of her first husband; her grandfather’s perennial habit of giving a family speech, then rounding the room, addressing each member one by one, saying to the member of the family who didn’t do much,“Hey! Keep doin’ what you’re doin’! THAT would be my advice to Mitt Romney.” Painting Mitt as a “little brother”; and that Barack never had that and should “live with a 5 year old boy,” Leif advises us when we watch TV to broaden our horizon. Realizing she was an idiot “because Ed Schultz had a poll – Will the Republicans ever stop lying about Health Care?,” she pounds in the notion that Rush Limbaugh (and his ridiculous accusations) would chill out with a little brother.
Host Bill returns with the out of place announcement that Rick Shapiro couldn’t make it due to illness, and with that deep hole, comedian and blogger James Tripp was next! Tripp’s advice to the candidates? “Shut up!” Advice for Mitt consists of, “Keep lying! It works!” (I was starting to get the inkling that perhaps – I can’t say for sure – but just perhaps, this comedy show was put on by Liberals. I’m just sayin’.) Getting all Poe in our face, Tripp fantasizes that they should dig up Ted Kennedy, and tells Romney to “keep wearin’ that underwear: ‘cause it works!” Oddly, his advice to Obama? “I’ve got nothing to say to him.” (hmmmm….) Then he closes with, “James Tripp for President!” And, why not. At least, unlike our two contenders, Tripp is a trip on purpose! The crowd nearly carried him off on their shoulders. Bronner: “Our next performer is delightful and hates Romney!” God, this is getting a little embarrassing, Captain! Lighten it up a little, will ya? I looked around and several Dust Bowl farmers standing in the back of the room, holding pitchforks and with the stern look of Merrill Streep.
Cathy Ladman reminds us, “Those intro’s are getting better!” (I like it when the performers actually review the show for me! Talk about a time-saver!) “I’m really tired and I think I have cancer” is a comedy ice-breaker deluxe and the crowd laps it up. Admitting her husband is not really “informed about this stuff,” but that she’s learned a lot, and still wonders if she’s actually qualified in giving political advice to the candidates, Cathy then did what any good Jew does. She brought her mother into the picture.
“I’ll just say, my mother, when she gave people advice, it never mattered if she knew anything. So, my mother should give advice to Barack Obama.”
Cathy’s mom: “As long as you’re friends with Israel, then okay!”
Cathy’s mom: “You should have a little sucking candy to give you energy.”
Cathy’s mom: “You need to speak your mind!”
But Cathy’s channeling skills were somewhat limited tonight and had to channel Ann Romney, rather than the Mittster himself: “Mitt! You were so great! Just keep lying!” Cathy Ladman is one of the freshest veteran stand-ups on the circuit. Team her up with Rick Overton as they star in their own sitcom. He’s the hard-boiled 91st President of The Federation of Radioactively Safe States of America and she, his Secretary of Sector 9. Executive Odor! This Friday on FX! Cathy got a well-deserved standing-ovation from the entire room.
Michael O’Connell’s opening line carried on the “night of continuous bad intros” with a sad remark about Cathy Ladman’s passing. Hell-arious! His advice to the candidates? “I resent both of you, because you’re vacationing more than I do!” and he advises them to vacation in The States. “If your financial records read like a John Grisham novel, it’s not a good thing!...I think the debates suck because it’s just two guys at a podium. I think they should magically saw Michelle in thirds! Mitt can explain Trickle Down Economics by levitation.” I gotta catch my breath, folks. One original idea after another! On Presidential Fashion, the photo of Barack Obama on a bicycle, eating ice cream, well, let’s just say this is one smart Liberal comedian who agrees with Ann Coulter on this point. (the “R-word”?)
Steve Tatham (“The Ointment”) finally decides to address the elephant in the room. Remarking on the nearly overly sold-out show, Tatham boasts, “67 million watching the debate, not nearly as many people watching this show!” Steven then addresses Bronner’s kid spending way too much time watching his computer.
“I’ve become an advice columnist in a small town newspaper…..
‘Dear Steve…,’” as he reads a letter from Mitt Romney.
“Dear Steve, although I have excellent hair, no one seems to like me. Young people need a little push. I do care about people as much as required by law. So, my question is – what can I buy so people will like me?”
And, now a letter from Ann Romney.
“My Dressage horse competed in the Olympics and though he didn’t perform the way I wanted him to, I think I might let him live. The poor people don’t understand -- My question: Are there no decent restricted country clubs anywhere?”
There’s no need to comment on just how funny Steve Tatham is. It’s all on the page.
It was now time for the last part of the show: the group discussion. The entire audience gave a reverse walking ovation as all the comedians (not the audience) returned to the stage, grabbing chairs and truly relieved that Bill Bronner will not have to introduce them again tonight. A hearty political and funny discussion ensued, Q&A participants from the audience and crew and by the end of the night, I was exhausted. Like a really really good shag with a tranny dressed as Alberta Einstein, I felt smart and satisfied. Brill Bronner’s Free Speech Show is somewhat of town meeting on Mars and Bill, although extremely affable, is nearly the worst at introductions I’ve ever seen, but what saves the night and makes it truly memorable is that Bill, like all great artistic puppeteers, stands away from the spotlight, slightly behind the curtain; because after all, isn’t that what we all really want to know? Who is behind the guy who says he’s on our side?
I give Bill Bronner’s Free Speech Show 7 out of 8 menorahs!
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green
Last Tuesday, Brian Seff (Rick Right) drove me out to the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, where he was performing. Mill Valley is the place “where the rich hippies live” and where the elite smart and the overly-relaxed just give up. The “Throck” is a very old theatre, where Charlie Chaplin played and seats around 350. Tuesday comedy night and this is the place to be.
I splurged most of the night hanging in the green room with political comedian Scott Blakeman from New York, whom I haven’t seen since Edinburgh ’04, and introduced my toe-stepping self to comedian and comedy producer Mark Pitta, who runs the Tuesday night comedy shows with the flair and aplom of an affable baseball coach. And two other guys, one I met long ago. Robin Williams and the great Mort Sahl.
Backstage @ The Throck with Mork, Dork, and Mort!
Robin loved my Eric Douglas story (read the Rick Overton review) and I swear, when I was telling Robin, face to face about The Laughter Foundation and my dream for The Comedy Museum? I swear I could detect just a whiff of “wow” in his eyes, though to be honest, I couldn't tell if it was just night-blindness. And, I loved meeting and talking with the great Mort Sahl and meant to tell him my theory on who really killed JFK. You see, the 1960 campaign song to elect Kennedy was “High Hopes”, as re-written and sung by Frank Sinatra. The original song was from a 1959 Frank Capra movie, starring Frank. The film?
“A Hole in the Head”. You cannot make this shit up, folks.
Besides, the Giants won the World Series. Yeah, right!
Enjoy the veal, folks. I'm having a great time up here in San Francisco. Sue me.
Have a Happy Halloween, everyone. And, Mitt? Take off the rubber mask.
Your humble comedy reviewer, Steven Alan "SAG" Green
Enjoy the fuckin' veal, already...will ya?
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
6.5 million Americans desperately in need of power. Well, 6.5 million + 1, if you count Mitt Romney.
Hurricane Sandy has left hundreds of thousands of undecided voters in the dark. So, no change there!
Letterman's show is funnier without the damn audience!!
Don't know which material I'm gonna do tonight....I KNOW!! I'll do what Mitt would do. I'll make it up as I go along, and hopefully everyone with a brain will laugh at me.
You're the last person I'd ever call upon. Then again, I like to start at the bottom of my list and work my way backwards.
I have the complete collection of Hoarders. I have them on DVD, Blu Ray, Betamax, VHS, Analogue sound tracks on reel to reel, cassette and 8-track; I have the complete written transcriptions of all the narration and dialog (in two separate categories, of course!), plus complete profiles on all the crew (including recent photos) and an accounting of all the officers of the production and distribution companies and a mailing list of all their subscribers.........What?
It's the story of a dyslexic policeman who wears a unicorn.
Prop 46 wants to "protect Californians from dangerous and violent criminals". Thank god for that. I can put up with dangerous criminals, but violent?
When I was a kid I wanted to direct traffic. Now I just want to produce.
To me, being an artist is like being the manager of a baseball team, with the opposing team being reality.
I'm a Nano-Sexual. I like having sex with tiny electronic devices.
Signed up with J-Date. Leno's picking me up at 8.
Romney is a devout Moron.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Uncabaret, Sun, Nov 4. Great line up!
Henry Phillips, @ Molly Malones, Monday Nov 5
Veterans Day Comedy Benefit @ Flappers in Burbank, Sunday, Nov 11.
INTERVIEWS & PODCASTS:
Interview with Steven Alan Green on The Frankie Pace Show.
Interview with Steven Alan Green with The Apartist.
Steve Pearl & Al Clethen's Riff-erendum interview with Robin Williams!
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
A quick shout-out to our friend, George Wendt, who is on the mend! Hang in there, Norm! We love ya', George!!
Special thanks to All Clethen, Maggie, Bean and Steve Pearl!!!
And to all our comedy friends on the East Coast, please stay, dry, warm and safe.
To have your comedy show reviewed or hire your humble and almost always broke (but always incredibly charming) comedy writer or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Never take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive!!"
10/30/12, San Francisco
October 16, 2012 | 2:01 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
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:
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: email@example.com.
"Never take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive!!"
September 26, 2012 | 3:32 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
It was great "working" with you once again. Yes, that was me: the second person in the audience with a question in the post-show Q&A in the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at The Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills two weeks ago. They were honoring you for all your very well deserved technological achievements in film. I was the funny Englishman. Remember my question? I asked you (in a phony British accent) the following:
“So, Jerry. …”
You then started asking your co-panelists what part of the audience my voice was coming from, as you had with the first questioner. Once you found me, I continued in full British flair.
“Yes, Jerry. Ahem. I think it a wonderful thing that the Academy has honoured you tonight for all of your incredible revolutionary accomplishments in the technological side of Film, including the Video-Assist; and it was certainly a great thing that, in 2009, the Academy honoured you for all your incredible philanthropic achievements. I know how great that evening was. I had the privilege of being a part of that audience as well. However…"
I could feel the tension in my own row. I could take this anywhere. My friends know how unpredictable I can be. But, I just stayed in character.
“However; were it me, and as you Americans say, 'I’m just sayin’,'….If it were me, Jerry Lewis, I would kinda feel a little…uh, how can I can I put this…..I would be feeling a little miffed…”
Just like ten years ago, you cut me off in mid-sentence.
“Niffed?” You turned to the panel, “What did he say….Tiffed?”
“Miffed, Jerry. Miffed,” I repeated into the mic.
“Iffed?...Did he say, ‘Iffed’?”
“No, ‘Miffed,’ Jerry. Miffed. I said miffed.”
“Oh, I see….you mean ‘miffed’! Why didn’t you say so!”
I was about to pull off the mask, revealing myself as your old friend and perceived nemesis, the one and only Steven Alan Green. Steven Alan Green, the stand-up comedian who brought you over to London September 2002 to be honoured at a big charity event I created and produced three years running, for a drug and alcohol charity launched by England’s Princess Diana. A giant and important comedy gala, all filmed for television broadcast, to take place at the legendary London Palladium, where Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis performed and where The Beatles played for the Queen. Few people know what really happened that night, but you and I do; that’s for sure. But, I didn’t say any of that in front of a room full of Hollywood dignitaries and lovers of Jerry Lewis. Instead, as they say in Hollywood, “we went another way.”
“….Yes, Jerry, if it were me, I would be feeling a little miffed that the Academy has never honored my comedic accomplishments in the world of Comedy Film. And, I think I speak for everyone here with that very true sentiment. Thank you."
I handed back the mic to the usher to a full house agreeing with that sentiment as they applauded. All the citizens of JerryLewisVille seemed pleased, relieved and gratified. I ignored the proverbial elephant in the room in my head. You know, Jerilla, I felt good about what I did and how I did it. Just like that night at the London Palladium ten years ago, I have absolutely no regrets. Why should I disrupt everyone’s evening? It’s not my style. This was your night and besides, I really enjoyed the presentation. It was well deserved. You are a genius. No question. One night in front of 1,000 people out for a good time to honor someone very special and very loved -- that wasn’t my forum. But, this blog is my forum. So, let me crack my knuckles, stretch my back and clear my throat, because I think it’s time for setting the record straight. Later, at a bar that night, some of my friends challenged me – what I did and how I did it. Just like that night ten years ago when you suddenly got ill and collapsed last minute during my show at the London Palladium; I had my detractors, “side-liners,” Monday-morning-quarterbacking out of the woodwork, analyzing every one of my moves at the Academy. You know what’s wrong with most people, Jerry? They never see the bigger picture. What some my friends wanted me to have done – and were expressing through downright forthright and hurtful criticism of me, was that I didn’t just stand up to you then and there and say into the mic, the one thing that stand-ups are supposed to say: The Truth. Instead, like a coward, I hid behind a phony comical character, spewing forth never-ending lauding contextual compliments for Jerry Lewis. And, why did I do that? Was I trying to kiss your ass? No. I tried that many times. Never worked. Besides, the only thing you only ever responded with immediate respect to me was when I showed you strength. Remember when less than two weeks before the show, I told you I was holding a press conference in London and wanted to know exactly why you were pulling out of the show (for the second time) and not doing any of the press you had solemnly promised to do? I lied. There was no press-conference. But, boy did it make you jump. Whereas you had previously flowered and romanced me with empty platitudes such, “You know, Steven. Nobody knows how hard it is to produce a big show like I do; I’m gonna be there 100% for you, I'll give you two weeks for press interviews, after the Telethon,” when it came time for just an hour and a half of phone interviews, you nastily said, “I’m not doing any press,” pulled out of the show for the second time, screaming down the phone at me, “I EAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR BREAKFAST!” I threatened the aforementioned press conference through Max Alexander and you got back to me in seconds, all kissy-kiss and nice. So, it’s not that I fear dealing with you. Then what was it? Why didn’t I just simply say to you that night two weeks ago: “Jerry. My name is Steven Alan Green. I have a question for you. Come to think of it, I have a million questions for you! Why did you renege on your solemn promise to do publicity for the show I brought you to London for? A show in which I was honoring you with a lifetime achievement award. Why did you treat me so badly and try to have me thrown out my own threatre!? Not that it should matter now, but I thought we were friends. (besides, I was giving you an award?) Why did you yell at me, when it was you or your staff forgetting the music charts for the very expensive orchestra? However, I would repeat the one question every comedian from London to New York to LA all continued to ask me, literally for years to come, and still do to this very day...
Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse?"
With my own eyes, I watched in utter horror, as you laid on the stage-floor, breathing very heavily into an oxygen mask and oxygen tank, you had coincidentally demanded last minute before you'd get on the plane from Vegas. Jerry. And, you must believe this. I was truly scared to death. You're not that good an actor. Nobody is. I know that by publishing this letter in my blog, I’m risking a few people in this town labeling me a nutter. I don’t care. In the same way Hannibal Lecter would never go after Clarice Starling, an open letter kinda violates your “rules of manners,” but frankly Jerry; I just can’t seem to help myself. I’ve got a severe case of Jerry Lewis-Itus. The last time you actually came to the phone to talk with me was August 2010, when I rang you from The Paramount Lot, the hallowed historic filming ground of some of the greatest comedy films of all time, including and especially yours in that amazing never to be topped pantheon. I told you then, that I had created The Laughter Foundation and was producing a giant comedy gala at The Hollywood Bowl and that I wanted to send you your preferred mode of communication: a fax. Excitedly, you said, “Great, Steven Alan Green! I can’t wait to read it!” I then spent the next two weeks crafting what I thought was a positive, calm, friendly and coherent letter, explaining my own true feelings about what went on between us in London, the loss of my home, my dangerous nervous breakdown, and my redemption by therapy and bicycle and my founding of The Laughter Foundation; an organization set up to help get Comedians Health Care. I explained very clearly to you in that letter that although I’m sure I didn’t do everything exactly right, I know, in my heart, that I tried my best to honour you at The London Palladium, ten years ago, September 8, 2002. I also explained to you, in explicit unemotional honesty, how your continual combative behavior ended up literally costing me big time. How a casual four-day vacation to London for you and a few of your friends was really a very risky financial investment for me. This was all on the back of money I’ve earned in Showbiz, money I got from remortgaging my property and money from one very special investor; Gloria Green. My mother. How “High On Laughter” (the comedy show I created and produced in the UK to benefit Turning Point Scotland, a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana) in its third successful year running, and featuring the very best of British and American comedians, was supposed to be an annual international television broadcast,. And, how HOL was a business. My business. Not yours. You see Jerry, sure I was being altruistic by trying to help young teenagers, who by no fault of their own, grew up and lived in one of the most intense drug capitals in the world, Glasgow, Scotland; and how I was trying to be poetic by connecting those teen and young adult heroin addicts with my “comedy addiction,” born of my stand-up comedy act and of a true belief that addictions can be cured by comedy. Norman Cousins, Steve Allen, Alan King and many others backed me up on this theory in an unpublished book, "Confessions of a Show-Biz Junkie," so I wasn’t just spitting in the wind. But, beyond all that; I was building a business. I was producing an annual international comedy charity show featuring British and American comedians; to be broadcast back annually to America and in the UK. A show that would bring me, this producer, some small, but assured annual income, and help establish me in the world of film and television production. That was my dream. But, you and your friends just walked all over it and me like you were giants. I’m going to be writing more about Max Alexander and his part in this in future blogs, by the way.
You see, Jerry, I saw the dark end of my own stand-up career. The limitations of being a unknown free-lancer, working gig to gig; never really gaining a true and long-lasting financial foothold beyond the comedy club scene; and yet making the audiences laugh; ‘cause that’s what it was really all about anyway. As brilliant as I’ve nearly sometimes have been as a comedian, fame’s golden ring always seemed to elude me, and frankly, I got tired of playing everyone else’s game; I wanted to finally “own” something. Something where people came to me, not the other way around. Something where I couldn’t literally get banned from a comedy club because some self-important comedy club owner has absolutely no sense of humor to begin with. Something where I didn’t have to do blow with a comedy booker just to stay on his books. Something where I wouldn’t have to sleep with the corpse of the owner of the comedy club, just to get stage time. Before you entered my world, Jerry Lewis, I was doing just fine, thank you. I had at least three viable cash earning careers going. I was a paid stand-up comedian and actor living and working in England. I had a pretty happy life. I had a budding commercial and film actor career going there too. And, to top it off, I had a very busy voice-over career going in England. Yes, I can see the common thread here. Me. All I was trying to do, Jerry Lewis, was to share my new found treasure of the English audience with my American colleagues. To bring some of my American friends who USED to be working comedians, but through bad luck, bad decisions and that old devil Time, found themselves with careers in the dust, spending half their life at the Improv bar, blindly staring into an empty glass, trying to pretend all was still all good. Having hilarious daily conversations with you that often morphed into tears of sorrow and intimacy on both ends of the line, I actually came to believe you and I weren’t just friends. We were old friends. Why wouldn’t I trust you? When I look back at that 3 month “friendship” leading up to the show at the London Palladium, it feels now like I’d been sucker-punched in the gut for no reason; once again made a fool of, but this time by one of the greatest comedians of all time, who also happened to have been my real childhood idol. A year before the darkest moment in my life, in the summer of ’09, I called you up and started a new dialog. With the exception of every single night I performed my one-man show in Edinburgh, London, New York and LA, we hadn’t communicated in seven years, not since that fateful night, the very subject of said one-man show. I spoke to you from my small stage, under a tube spotlight like Hamlet to his dead father. But, how in hell to break the real ice after so many years of not talking with the actual you and having several emotional violations on my record for my one-man show, which by the way, shows both our scars? I made it silly; that’s how. I became a clown.
I asked you to come to my birthday party; knowing full well you wouldn’t; but I had to ask. In a way, it was like I knew I would get a “no,” and I guess I was just rehearsing for bigger questions I hadn’t even thought of yet. I just wanted to hear your actual voice, not the Mobius strip version of Jerry Lewis in my head. We had two more phone conversations hence. But it was when I called you up the fourth time and said to you, “Jerry we have to talk about the elephant in the room,” when I saw who you really were. A comedian. You replied, “What elephant?” I said, “High On Laughter.” You said, “How long ago was that? Four years ago?” “Seven years ago, Jerry.” Your response? “Even funnier.” And, as I then explained in that phone conversation from my point of view what happened, not just that night at The London Palladium, but the three months of pre-production leading up to it (there was actually 8 months pre-production, 5 of those months before you “came on board”) you seemed to think it was all somehow funny. In fact, to my surprise, I was relieved, as well as amazed. I told you embarrassing things, such as I had no idea British comedian Daniel Kitson was going to open his set with, “It’s always been a dream of mine to play a third full Palladium for people here to see a dying man,” and how I desperately tried to see if you were okay, but couldn’t get near you because you somehow commandeered the bodyguards in my employ, which you initially had me provide for your protection. Little did I know that when you meant, “protection,” you meant protection from me. But, what you didn’t find funny was when I switched gears and got real. I asked you for a little help to save my home. Suddenly, in your mind, Steven Alan Green is just like all those other out-of-the-woodwork parasites asking for another handout. But, I didn’t see it that way. I explained very carefully to you that I had to come up with $25,000 within three weeks or I was going to lose my home. $25,000. As much as you spend on socks in one day and exactly as much as I spent on the wasted orchestra. I calculated that to be about one fifth of what I spent just on “expenses” for you and your friends to come and dance around London for four days; add another 50grand to produce the live event, 50grand to film it for broadcast and 35grand for advertising, we're talking quite a bit of money. And this is not even counting the money I spent and work I and others (including Tamsin) did for the two years previous producing High On Laughter I and II. I was building an international comedy brand. As you know, I never sued you. We had no contract. I was counting on your word. Sincere sounding pledges such as, “You know, Steven, you and I stand on the same part of the stage,” assured me that no matter what, you had my back. But, your answer on the phone to me about helping me save my home was that you "lost all your money on Enron." Not, “Let me see what I can do.” What stuck out to me mostly was who the hell writes your material? “Enron,” Jerry? Gee, Jerry…. And Warren Harding stole your monkey. The moment which should’ve been a big red flag for me back in the summer of 2002, was when you told me the story of how you and Dean did a charity gig for an independent producer “such as myself,” and how it was badly promoted, causing a low turn-out and how they (the producers) demanded their expense money back from you and Dean. The cost of the flight and hotels, etc. How you then said to me, “You’re not gonna do that to me, are you, Steven? You’re not gonna ask me for any money back?”
“Of course not, Jerry, I love you. I would never do that, anyway!”
What a set up…for a great story.
The one question which haunts and taunts me like nobody’s business is why on earth would I ever go back now and ask for help from a person whom I sincerely thought was my friend, but never actually was? The intimate conversations and tears we shared in concert, remain, at least for me, clear forensic proof of a deep commitment (however temporal) between two men of comedy; one incredibly multi-talented; the other, you. (L-Oh-Fucking-L, Jerry!) I told you the following in person on your boat (and I meant it), it was your comedy that literally saved the child version of me from feeling the pain of being tossed aside in a very bitter parental divorce. Forcing me to change schools every few months, and choosing sides between two adults whom I thought were supposed to love each other, became the subconscious template of my chaotic life and undisciplined comedy. It was you, Jerry Lewis who helped me get through that very rough time. You making friends with the magical puppet in the storeroom in The Errand Boy? That puppet had life because you made me believe it was real. You made me feel as if I was alive too. In a stretched metaphor, as the star of The Errand Boy, you were Geppetto to my Pinocchio. But, decades later, as the “star” on my show, the roles were reversed. And, maybe that’s where we both got into trouble. Because, in the same kind of incredible arrogance you’re famous for, I too thought myself to be god-like; that like Dr. Frankenstein, I could bring back to life the great wave of love and success to my childhood hero in return. Ten years ago, September 8, 2002, my life was permanently changed, when my soul was kidnapped by Jerry Lewis (the fictional character you created) and was to be taken hostage by me; myself at the wheel of the getaway car. I believe in God. At least I do now. Before the night of “The Palladium Incident,” like most Jewish boys, I was convinced by my mother, I was God. God with low self-esteem. Maybe I was Icarus. A boy with a dream, warned by his father, who flew too close to the Comedy Sun on melted waxed wings, only to fall, atrophy and drown in my own Narcissistic ocean of self-absorption. And, if this were my sworn testimony, I would tell the court that my fascination and obsession with Jerry Lewis has much less to do with his accomplishments than it does with the man himself. Personally. Jerry, don’t take this the wrong way, but Jerry Lewis was not my true main childhood hero. Groucho Marx was. Jerry Lewis was my future. But, both of you have something historically in common. Groucho broke the fourth wall of television audibly; Ernie Kovacs did the same visually, but you, Jerry Lewis, you did both at the same time. Jerry Lewis stood on the shoulders of The Little Tramp and jumped into Dean’s awaiting arms. You guys had the world at your feet and I get Goosebumps just thinking about it.
After you collapsed on my show (and nearly dying), causing me to say the stage-prayer heard round the world, I realized I too was Jerry Lewis; and have always been. Have I, Steven Alan Green, ever yelled at a comedy club owner or walked offstage in a hissy fit because I was unhappy with my “working conditions”? Have I ever been self-deluded enough to think of myself as a misunderstood comedy genius; having to go to a European country for artistic validation? Have I ever done the one thing, which destroys the soul without notice: narcissistic self-image worshiping? Guilty on all counts, your honor. So, who the hell was I, an unfamous comedy club comic, to judge the great Jerry Lewis? When you collapsed backstage at the London Palladium, it was like my own personal 9/11. More than two and a half years ago, through a set of bizarre circumstances, I found myself literally on the brink of suicide; which when considering for years I did a stand-up routine with a fake-gun to my head finisher, is quite fitting. It started when I lost my home; my home in London; my only home. August ’09, they changed the locks. You remember Peter Grahame? Peter was my show-runner whom you allowed into your dressing room. It was Peter who relayed to me that you wished me to leave my own theatre before you’d even consider coming out on stage to accept my personal gift to you: “The Jerry Lewis Award.” Two weeks after I lost my Notting Hill multi-level flat, I was down at Peter’s club, Downstairs at the Kings Head, doing a brilliant tear on how losing your home to repossession is like breaking up with a girlfriend. I take you to Downstairs at the Kings Head, the best comedy club in London…
“It’s like, you know it’s gonna happen, right? It’s not overnight. Meanwhile, you’re living there, a place where you have fun with friends, casual business meetings, and sex with your girlfriend (or whosever girlfriend you can find at the time; if the proper alcohol to shameless ratio is achieved). Owning a home is fantastic! Rent? Fuck YOU. I pay MYSELF! But, just like when my girlfriend left me, it was like I somehow already knew. Walking out the front door of my 3-story Notting Hill massionette for the very last time, was like making love to my girlfriend for the very last time. Once I pulled out, and exited the flat through the front door for the last time, I knew it was over… She changed her lock."
When I suddenly had no place to stay in London, I had friends galore, offering me their couch for a week or girlfriends, their bed. Comedy booking agents offered me road work, where I could stay in hotels and not worry about where I was going to sleep or eat. But when I came back to LA (mostly to take care of my sick mother) and I lost my car and my right to drive? That’s when I found out what LA is all about. Asking someone to see if they can pick you up and drop you somewhere was like asking your best friend if you can sleep with his wife. No fucking way. This is LA. And after months and months of trying to find paid work of any kind and just running face first into hoards of freshly laid-off day job workers coming the other way, I was starting to get concerned. But, it was when I tried to ply my comedy crafts here, and got such an overwhelming lukewarm (and sometimes hostile) reception from the current carnies running the comedy game, I got a bit “miffed.” It wasn’t like, “Don’t they know who I am?!!” No. I was more like a polite British gent, quietly and carefully approaching agents, managers, comedy clubs, who then dismissively told me sign up and audition like some beginner. Audition, moi? Are they kidding me? Not only was I one of the most working emcee’s at The Comedy Store in its heyday (bringing up Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Rodney Dangerfield on a nightly basis) I was an across the board success in England, a much harder place for most of the comedians from any American circuit to play. I was on television over there (several times), co-starred in a TV pilot and, most importantly, created and produced three giant and important comedy galas, bringing over and putting up on the British stage for the first time, American comedians: the likes of Zach Galifiniakis, George Wendt, Jim Gaffigan, Rick Overton, Emo Philips and god love you, you. I played The London Palladium, for godsakes! And, I couldn’t get a 5-minute spot at my old home club The Comedy Store? And, as I looked around me, I found out why. It wasn’t me. It was my age. Unlike the British comedy scene, which has had comedians in their seventies on the circuit (and plenty of comedians spanning the entire work-force age and life experience spectrum), Hollywood insatiably craves youth and it wants nothing else. (The beast will rub lotion on itself.) They don’t want no experienced smart guy. It’s like when I recently tried to get a job with Starbucks or Taco Bell. What, you don’t think I could handle a register with a stupid smile? Of course, I can. Maybe they’re afraid I will do what I did last time: give all their bean dip to you. Nobody in LA recognized or cared what my past credentials were. I was that newly immigrant New York cabbie, who, six months previous, was a respected surgeon or president of Ghana. So, there I was. Stuck on the balcony of a high-rise Century City condo, watching my mother die in the next room and completely disconnected from the rest of a very disinterested and hostile world. Having no internet, I read as much as I could. From Deepak Chopra to John Lennon to existential philosopher Alan Watts to Bible passages, including Jeremiah 33:3, ironically recommended to me by a radio DJ friend. I was dangerously in psychological trouble and so I called my old Beverly Hills therapist, the one I used to see on a weekly basis when I had Blue Cross. Instead of calling me back, my ex-therapist sent me an unpaid bill from two years previous. That’s when I told my family, that, “in four days, I’m jumping off the building”. I was serious at the time. Why I needed four days, I’ll never know. Maybe I wanted time to find an opening act; collaborate with a friend on my suicide note, make it a Kickstarter project.
For three straight years, I've pedaled my way to therapy. And being 30 pounds overweight from many years of fine dining, it wasn’t easy. But, I did it. I got my fat ass on an old bicycle, held an umbrella in one hand and pedaled in the rain. I made it a point of pride to pedal everywhere. From Beverly Hills to North Hollywood and back. I did it. And, it gave me the one thing I really needed: a sense of purpose. Bicycling and therapy literally saved my life. And, so one day I was thinking, “You know, producing got me into this trouble, maybe producing will get me out!” So, I asked a bunch of my friends if they would do a benefit that I would produce; all in an effort to get my car out of hock. All of them agreed, but I needed a big name. One very well-known British A-List comedian, who has a very well-known love affair with cars, apparently said, “I can see doing a benefit for a kidney, but for a car?” So, back to the drawing board.
In November 2010, I created The Laughter Foundation. The initial idea was to get comedians health care. As a Resident of the UK, I have National Health Care “from my Queen”. But, as an American, I got squat from my president. (Well, maybe now that will change hopefully.) I started to organize a huge charity benefit and reserved The Hollywood Bowl for April 1, 2011. Roseanne was the first on board. Following her were Margaret Cho, Bill Maher, Penn & Teller, Tim Allen, Dane Cook, Robin Williams and Conan O’Brien – for starters. I was gonna bring over Russell Brand, whom I worked with, and Eddie Izzard whom I knew and Rickie Gervais, who personally told me he happened to be in the audience that fateful night at the London Palladium along with Stephen Merchant, his co-creator of "The Office". I would then dip into some local color and get the best of urban and comedians of all colors and styles, all levels of fame, and have a great big night, that would culminate with the entire cast and audience singing Monty Python’s, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. The opener was going to be the “Execution of Michael Richards,” with Pee Wee Herman as the hooded executioner. Alas, it never happened. No production money; no sponsor. So, back to the drawing board. I produced four little local benefits at places like The Jewish Community Center and The Comedy Store. All of them, money losers, putting me more in the hole than I was before. But, we did accomplish some pretty good stuff with the foundation. We supplied one comedian cancer meds for a couple of weeks and actually saved another comedienne (a single mom with a cute kid) from eviction. I am most proud of that. And we got a little press. This was, and still is, The Heckler Fund. An emergency grant program for comedians in trouble. If the Heckler Fund had been there for me when my car was towed away, I believe I would never have been driven (as it were) to the brink. But, then I created something else. Something that really got the interest of people with vision and money.
COMEC is The Comedy Museum Exploratory Committee. The idea is to form a committee of experts in the fields of philanthropy, comedy and museum building, and look into how to build a world-class museum to study and exhibit the art, history and science of comedy. Target city: San Francisco, the birthplace of American stand-up comedy. Then, I got a great idea. How to publicize it all. I would pedal my bicycle 305 miles from LA, through the desert, to Las Vegas. I reserved the brand new 2,000 seat Smith Center for the Performing Arts. But, alas, once again there was no money to produce and not enough big enough stars on board to sell tickets. So, it had to be cancelled. Sure, if it was the Hollywood Bowl, yes, I could get almost any comedy star. But, maybe, I mean what if I could get my old friend Jerry Lewis to give me that performance he still owes me? After all, I think it’s fair to say, I paid in full for a performance I never got. Once again, you turned me down and frankly, I’m not surprised.
Through all of this, Jerry, I think I may have finally settled on a nice little raft in this massive lost-at-sea nightmare. My blog. Enjoy the Veal has been going 15 weeks and I really love writing it. It’s sometimes a bit difficult to get to gigs I wanna review in LA on a bicycle and bus, but I usually get there and on time, and a little sweaty. It’s a great learning tool for someone who still considers himself to be a stand-up comedian himself, but also a student of the art form. I am very grateful to The Jewish Journal for giving me this wonderful opportunity. When I started writing this open-letter, I was thinking, “What’s the one thing that Jerry can’t argue with?” What’s the one clear mistake he (or his staff) made? The answer was simple. Jerry, one of your requests/demands was that I provide you with an orchestra. Remember? We talked about the orchestra a million times. What songs you were gonna do, when you were gonna do them. You even said to me, “As long as they’re good enough to play Ronnie Scotts,” the famous London jazz club. Well, I went well beyond that and assembled for you 18 of the best musicians in London. Some of them having just played with Sting and George Harrison. And, what happened? Peter Grahame informed me you or someone in your staff forgot to bring your musical charts to London. I didn’t think it was a big deal and told Peter to see what the orchestra could play without music. Peter explained to me it doesn’t work that way. There are 18 of them. They can’t just jam. When I gingerly approached you – just two hours before show time – as soon as I found out there was no music for the orchestra to play – you decided to ream me a new one. And this time, not privately over the phone. No. This time in front of the entire television and stage crew and the assembled orchestra. The sweet and innocent comedy legend, turning once again into a monster…
“I’LL GIVE YOU A SHOW AND YOU’LL LIKE IT!” Everyone froze like an E.F. Hutton commercial. Zombie-like, I turned my back to you to leave you alone to stew in your own anger. But, no. You had to humiliate me even more. This time with a full audience.
“DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME NOW!...YOU HUNG UP ON ME ONCE!”
Yeah, I hung up on you, Jerry Lewis, because when I tried to follow up on some press interviews you promised you do, you not only pulled out of the show for the second time, but you screamed at me, “I EAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR BREAKFAST!” THAT’S when I snapped! Anyone would have. You turned me into Robert DeNiro as Rupert Pupkin. “You know what, Jerry? I don’t WANT you on my show….!” Your feeble response? “Whad I say?” I hung up on you. That orchestra that sat on its ass the entire show because they had no musical charts, cost me over $25,000. But, it’s the embarrassment you caused me in front of the entire London comedy scene, the irreparable damage to my reputation as a comedy producer and of course, to my big dream for High On Laughter IV, V, VI, etc., which will take me a long time to forgive and forget.
Jerry, I’m glad I didn’t say all this the other night at the ceremony. I didn’t want to interrupt the flow, pollute the evening and make it all about me. It was an evening full of sincere love and true respect for one of the greatest comedians of all time. Aw, Heck, Jerry. Let’s just say, “The Greatest Living” comedian. And, for my money (I hate that phrase), I hope you’re around for a long time more. I really do. You’re certainly (as the Brits would say) a “See You Next Tuesday,” but you’re also a great genius. Just do me and the rest of the world one favour. Try and accomplish the one thing you’ve never been able to consistently achieve: Humility and complete respect for others, especially those you work with, regardless of their status. Once you learn that? THEN, I’ll then think of you as a grown up. How dare you forget me, sir. No. Not on my watch. What do you think I am? Your Patsy? Your Errand Boy? No, Jerry. I am the new King of Comedy and you’re not even a subject. You’re an article. In fact, you’re a book. Stop pretending I don’t exist! I’m not Fatal Attraction. I’m Comical Attraction and I’m not gonna be heckled! (LOL!) Jerry, you became super-famous because of the incredible magic that Dean and yourself had. It was like what The Beatles had. What Morton Downey Jr. had. It’s inexplicable. You couldn’t recreate it because you didn’t create it. It was created by something beyond our mortal comprehension. For whatever reason, our star-crossed paths were meant to cross. I truly believe that. And, even if you dismiss me as a “stalker with a blog” and ignore all the above at the advice of your close friends, business associates and staff of attorneys, please remember one thing: Martin and Lewis made it so big because they were the perfect artists to express the new medium of live television. Martin kept the women watching, but Lewis did something incredibly more special. Lewis watched us. Jerry Lewis of The Colgate Comedy Hour literally pushed his head through the television screen, looked around our family living room and then talked with ya'. Jerry Lewis broke the Fourth Wall. If you wanna give Jerry Lewis an award? It’s for scientifically breaking through the Fourth Wall of Comedy. Jerry Lewis is the Stephen Hawking of Comedy, who lives in a wheelchair, so how appropriate. I just can’t imagine Jerry Lewis as Stephen Hawking.
Ya’ know, Jerry, of all the things I have dreamed of getting from you (everything from a damn explanation as to why you were so pissed off with me in the first place), I guess the one thing I would love the most is to just get you stoned. You’re from the Cocktail Gen and that’s cool. I love Martini’s myself. But, maybe if you found a new younger partner who will be not Dean Martin, but Kush Martian; your joint holdin’ smooth singing guy; you might just get back on your feet. I think I just figured out why all the anger. When Dean left you. That’s it; isn’t it? Don’t worry ‘about him. You need another partner. Someone, like Dean, who can sing and is better looking than you. I hereby publicly offer my services.
Martin and Lewis defined live television. Bloggers around the world are doing same in this new medium called The Internet. With much smaller portions of effect, but with a worldwide reach. It’s an amazing world in here, Jerry. My entire being can only come to life with regular maintenanced ordered button pushing, or “typing.” I read you got ill again in Australia, missing an appearance. I sincerely hope you’re okay. But, one question: When you go down the drain down there, do the swirling rumours flow in the opposite direction? (FLOY-BEEN-HAVEN! WOE DEAN!) Jerry, for two years, I’ve needed a root-canal, but can’t afford it. In less than ten days I’m literally going to be homeless once again, couch-surfing my way around LA. I've been without a car in LA for three years now. Jimmy crack corn and, I don’t care. I’ve got my bicycle, my laptop and my wicked sense of humour. I’ll be good. I was just at Factors Deli, meeting with a TV producer. Somehow, I have no idea how, suddenly my audition wasn’t the focal point of the meeting anymore. This producer said to me, “So, what’s this Jerry Lewis story I hear about?” And when I got to the part of seeing you lying there on the Palladium stage, with an oxygen mask over your face and your friends standing around trying to help you, I unexpectedly choked up and had to run to the bathroom like a crying little girl. Jerry. This letter stands testament to the fact that no matter what happened in the past and no matter what happens in the future, you were, and will always be, my childhood hero. You cannot take the puppet away from me.
I hereby call upon the powers that be in Hollywood to finally honour the one and only Jerry Lewis for all his incredible film work, both comedy and drama. Giving Jerry awards for his technological and philanthropic achievements, but ignoring his film achievements, is an insult to comedians everywhere.
I realised, in the end, that it's not a matter of whether it's a good idea or not to end my life. That's a dumb question. And to have previously thought that to be a reasonable question is the definition of mental illness. And realising that is the cure. So, we're good here. I'll reserve most of my dying for the stage. Jerry, you want to make it all up to me? Why don’t you come down this Friday, the 28th to The Improv Lab. Rick Overton and Friends. On Melrose, just next door to the Improv. I’m gonna be doing a few minutes in a great show with great comedians and actors. I’ll leave your name plus one at the door. Tell the doorman you’re “Steven Alan Green’s new comedy partner”. And, Jerry? Please be nice. C.O. (collapsing optional)
Enjoy the veal, Jerry Lewis.
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Romney couldn't debate a chair.
When Buddy Holly performed stand-up, he heard crickets.
If The Beatles got back together as Jews, would they be Reformed?
Everybody in LA stares atcha until they realize you're not Brad Pitt; then when they realize you're Lindsay Lohan, they quickly turn their heads away in disgust.
Clint Eastwood is just another old man talking to his stool. (attrib: K. "Moondog" Crites)
Bill Clinton is all about Arithmetic. Romney is all about Division.
Nobody can really make ends meet. You can invite them to the same bar, but that's about it, really.
There are two ways to get on television in LA. One is to be in a high-speed chase; the other is to be near a high-speed chase.
Life is just a stage I'm going through.
A true Mormon President would have several First Ladies.
Bob Dylan is the only person who can wear sunglasses indoors, and to whom you can't say, "Who do you think you are, Bob Dylan?"
You just know Romney is gonna screw up his concession speech.
"What time is it?" is the only question whose answer keeps changing.
GUEST FACEBOOK TWEET OF THE WEEK:
I just rented 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Netanyahu'. Israel gets younger and younger till it's 1947 and it disappears altogether. Al Jazeera raved, "The Feel Good Hit of the Year!" - Comedian and Emmy Award winning writer Mike Dugan
THIS WEEK'S ETV COMEDY VIDEO PICKS:
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
TUESDAY SEPT 25TH, THURSDAY SEPT 27TH, & SATURDAY SEPT 29: Set-List is taping episodes for British television. Read my review of Set-List.
TUESDAY SEPT 25TH: The Crispy Comedy Show - Variety and funny equals comedy value for money. This edition includes Perry Kurtz and Rick Shapiro!
TUESDAY SEPT 25TH: I'll be performing as comedian Archie Black in a mockumentary being filmed. @ Big Fish, 5230 San Fernando Road, Glendale, 9 pm.
THURSDAY SEPT 27TH: Guts Will Be Bustin' in Burbank - Dangerously funny Karen Kilgariff and downright funny Mike Uryga are included in this comedy show at Flappers.
FRIDAY SEPT 28TH: Rick Overton & Friends at The Improv lab. - This is gonna be a great show, with Friends: Ed Crasnick, Paul Dooley, Robert Dubac, Steven Alan Green, Cathy Ladman, Will Ryan (music), Rick Shapiro, Hosted by Chris Pina. Read my review of Rick Overton & Friends.
SATURDAY SEPT 29TH: Yukaholics 2012 - A great LA hidden comedy tradition.
SUNDAY SEPT 30TH: Uncabaret. Join Beth Lapides and special guests: Greg Behrendt, Jake Johanssen, Beth Grant, Kira Soltanovich, in what will clearly be one of the better comedy shows in LA this week. Read my review of Uncabaret.
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Next week's Enjoy the Veal! includes my reviews of Erin Foley & Friends at The Improv Lab and Tammy Jo Deering's Comedy Show in the Belly Room of The Comedy Store.
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!!"
September 2, 2012 | 11:01 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
The new hit comedy reality TV show, The Republican Convention, has been nothing less than the comedy event of the season. No wonder MTV cancelled Snooki.
The only good thing about this extremely dirty campaign is that you know how good Jon Stewart on The Daily Show is gonna be. It’s total madness and when one side fights too dirty, it’s not a fair fight. Sure, the Republicans are the Religious & Economic We’re Right and You’re Wrong, but Obama has a secret weapon. Something so powerful, it’ll blow the Romney Supporters outta the water. The Obama campaign has Joe Biden. A comedian. And so, while Romney and Ryan lay out their heckles from a safe dark distance with innocuous patriotic platitudes, Obama is up on stage, sweating it out, holding the mic steady and sticking to his well-thought out and brilliant material, warming up for headliner Joe “The Closer” Biden, who will roll up his tux sleeves and will do his Don Rickles to Obama’s Bobby Darin. And, the rest of us? We’re in the audience licking it all up.
It seems to me, that the big problem we Americans face, and have always faced, is ourselves. The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution are not God’s law. They are manmade documents, a collective of ideas, put together in search of an ideal society. And, yet, some of us in the boat want to put down proven sociological and economic paradigms, such as European Health Care, without even trying them. Who do they think our Forefathers (and Foremothers/they never tell us) were in fact declaring Independence from? England. And yet, we felt no compunction to “borrow” (then modify) their democratic system; their sitcom ideas (from All in the Family to The Office) and do same with the English language, something they literally invented and we bastardized, and continue to do so today. America is the rebellious teenager who gets on his motorcycle, built by the hard-working hands and minds of his parent’s generation, then flips his parents the byrd, as he buzzes down the road, disappearing round the corner. Why can’t we Americans seem to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time? Proven tradition mixed with unproven innovation? Like Reformed Judaism. Why can’t we solve our problems the scientific way? Experimenting with borrowed ideas. We import French Wine, Cheese and Fries, why not borrow the European health care model, spruce it up and make it work here? I mean, I think it’s fair to say that Mitt Romney is of two minds about health care. Come to think of it, the Mitt-ster is of two minds about anything and everything. I don’t know. He scares me. His face has the perpetual look as if he’s about to blow his brains out. Health Care would cover that, Mitt.
Most of my life I’ve suffered from manic depression and creative madness. A deep desire to get to the real truth of myself and explore what motivates my mind and emotions. Therapy is my favourite hour of my week. It’s truly The Steven Alan Green Show, but with a sort of a nicer version of Judge Judy; a sensible non-partisan professional, making sure I don’t just drown in my own bullshit. I don’t know why I have this quest in me. It’s not like I am confused or lost. I’m not. I’m just curious. I can’t help it. And, frankly, I shouldn’t have to. I want to know who I am and why I am. In early 1995, my dad, the late Harold Green, implored me to leave America and go back to London, England, where I had once played to great acclaim. Talk about being heckled! He wanted me to leave the country. I was getting nowhere in either LA or New York and like many of my comedian friends, had somehow become an invisible part of the comedy furniture. The two or three comedy powers out here, had either never liked me or had learned not to. In 1986, after 5 years as a Comedy Store Regular and house emcee (bringing up everyone from Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison) through a connection through my father, I met Chris Albrecht. Chris was the new hot agent in town, Head of Comedy at ICM, whose two big clients were Eddie Murphy and a young Jim Carrey. Chris, who was innocently sent a cassette tape of my 1981 Comedy Store audition (where I got 27 laughs in 4.5 minutes) was immediately impressed and came to see me at The Store. But, by 1986, after five years of being thrown into a world of great up and coming comedians (The Garry Shandling Generation) I was dried out then spit out. I had spent all that time, trying to figure out what kind of comedian I was. What my style was.
There were the orthodox stand-ups, who felt that unless it was just you and a mic, doing pre-written material (no props, no guitars, no costumes, no tapes, no characters) you weren’t a real comedian. The Comedy Store had (and still has) plenty of those guys. And, I am a huge fan of that style. If I had developed that style myself (which I tried and tried) I would’a probably have been okay, getting on The Tonight Show, Letterman, etc. Instead, I was like the other comedy sect. The Convention Breakers. Now, wait a minute. I’m not artistically patting myself on the back. I’m talking about who I admired. Whether it was “I’m a movie” Harry Basil, a Comedy Store favourite who flew around on stage, magically changing costumes to the instruction of famous current hit movie soundtracks, or the masonry screams of the downright demonic destructive Sam Kinison; How I defined a good comedian, was like any artist: Those more than proficient in the art form, and able to transmute the art by breaking convention. One of everybody’s favourites at the time was Jimmy Brogan, considered by many to be the nicest inquirer this side of Joseph McCarthy. Jimmy’s entire act was “Where ya from?”; and then he’d brilliantly riff from there. Managed by Rollins and Joffe (who at the time had Robin Williams, Woody Allen and David Letterman in their very exclusive stable), Brogan, relying completely on prompted from the crowd quips, made all those other scripted stand-up club comedians look somewhat lame. And since my dad was always knocked out by my extemporania and I couldn’t remember material very well anyway (even taking notes on stage, then immediately losing interest), talking with the crowd worked for me. It became my staple. My comedy therapy, if you will. Even though I was able to write and sell jokes to the likes of Leno and Arsenio, I was never able to write material for myself. You see, basically I knew who they were, what their acts were like. What “character” they were playing. Leno, the Everyman. Arsenio, the Assimilator. Jimmy Walker, the Knave. I was like a tailor. Vatever they needed? I got. For myself? How could I possibly write for Steven Alan Green? I not only didn’t know what my act was, at the route of it all, I had no idea who I was.
When Albrecht came to see me, I was done, dusted and dull. I was nervous. I bombed. And yet, to his credit, Chris saw something and allowed me the privilege of being able to call him up or even drop by on occasion. Admiral Albrecht set sail the SS Original Improv back east, in the day when Richard Lewis was discovering how sexy neurosis can be and Larry David was insulting the audience for being a buncha stupid lugs, then walking off stage in a huff. In a new world where I felt nobody understood me, Chris seemed to. He understood comedians. He had been one himself. In 1986, when Mitzi at The Comedy Store decided to re-audition a bunch of us “Regular” comedians and clean house of the comedy deadwood, she demoted me from “Paid Regular” to “Non-Paid Regular”. It was like, “You can keep your job, we’re just not gonna pay ya’ anymore!” I was depressed and needed a change. Chris arranged an audition with Mitzi’s arch rival Budd Friedman at the Improv. I was scheduled very early: 7:45pm at what they called a “Pre-Show”. The small handful people in the early evening “crowd” (more like an uptight police line-up) who were still finding their seats, looking at menus ordering drinks and nachos and barely listening to the emcee on stage, who was doing his best to say, “Hello? We got a show over here!” I was understandably nervous, considering I was sneaking behind Mitzi’s back: she couldn’t find out or I was a dead duck at The Store, which I kinda already wuz. The Comedy Store and Improv had a long-standing feud, which was the result of the famous Comedy Store Strike in 1977 and the rule was, if you were a Comedy Store Regular and even played The Improv just once, rumour was that Mitzi would ban you from her club for life. Budd wasn’t so fussy. He didn’t care where else you worked; he just wanted you to show up on time and if you were late, it better not be because you were playing The Store.
As I stood off stage in the dark, watching the audience (what little there were of them), they seemed foreign to me. They were somehow much more uptight and business-like than the big party atmosphere Comedy Store audiences I was used to. Besides, and I realized it too late, both Chris and Budd are gonna wanna see pre-written material, not my crowd work, which the emcee had tried and failed with. My first three bits pre-written regular material fell flatter than Twiggy under a steamroller, and by the time I got to my audience as material as backup, it was way too late. I got the light. Even though I said as I exited, “Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the show,” in their minds, the show hadn’t started yet. I laid a big comedy fart on Melrose, which still stinks to this day. And, yet Chris remained supportive; he saw something in me and remembered the laughs I got on the tape. After that disastrous night, I called Chris, every day, sometimes twice a day at his prompting, checking in on any progress with that second chance with Budd’s audience, perhaps a bigger, more settled-in crowd, which I could then bounce off of. Scared to death, I would have to leave LA for greener pastures, leaving Hollywood and my unresolved relationship with my father behind, I begged Chris to get Budd to give me a second chance. Chris repeatedly told me he hadn’t been able to reach Budd, but he would continue to try; and to keep calling him to check. To me, that was proof Chris still believed in me. Meanwhile, I was having massive differences with my father; loud shouting matches, arguments culminating in dramatic shortness of breath, near chest-grabbing moments; where he’d grab a pill, regain composure, then tell me to leave him alone. After one of these scary but pointless battles with him down at the Commerce Casino one night, (and once I saw he was okay) I tearfully drove to the Improv to have a drink with strangers and forget my troubles. But, this time, they wouldn’t let me in. Told me they were full up. I looked and saw they weren’t; the place was virtually empty. Then I saw Chris, sitting with Budd and someone else, laughing it up. I thunk to myself, “Oh, well. The game’s fixed. At least I am a Non-Paid Regular at The Comedy Store.” I drove home. But, when I returned to my Hollywood apartment, I stopped the car, and thought for a minute. A light bulb went on. Cut to: me standing on the sidewalk in front of the Improv, playing and singing my guitar as loudly as I could. “Kum Bah Yah, my Lord, Kum Bah Yah” They would get the joke! They would see that I’m satirizing my own impetuousness! That I’m a performance artist! I’m Andy Kaufman!!! Chris finally came outside and introduced me to his friend, Bob Zmuda, Kaufman’s writing partner, founder of Comic Relief and rumoured to be Tony Clifton today. We all laughed it up, Chris giving me an arm-noogie for being such a wild and crazy guy. “You nut job! Call me in the morning,” Chris said and left. I did. The next morning, Chris informed me Budd Friedman had banned me from The Improv for life.
When I started flying across the pond in the early 90’s from New York to London, I was looking for one thing: A fresh start. After all, I had conveniently pissed off one half of the two Comedy Generals in the Los Angeles Comedy Army; and I was circling the drain. I was unhappy. Eight years in New York City proved no better for my type of humor. I did great when the Original Improv was still up and running, but when that hallowed Off Broadway institution closed, I was out of work. A few gigs there, a few there, but nothing to whet my whistle. My dad, knowing he was on his last legs, implored me to leave the country. To try London; after all, I had played The Comedy Store there in 1982 and brought the house down. So, I kissed my girlfriend Kathrine goodbye and grabbed a taxi to Kennedy just outside our residence: Apartment 507 of The Chelsea Hotel, the legendary haven for artists, whackos, star-fuckers, drug-addicts and the former home of Mark Twain, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan, Andy Warhol, Mick and Keith, Jimi Hendrix, Dee Dee Ramone and George Kleinsinger, who with Paul Tripp, created Tubby the Tuba. I didn’t know much from London, but I wanted to prove my father wrong. Well, within a biblical week, I was headlining almost every club, doing comedy reports for the BBC, small roles in film and television (always playing “The American”), television appearances with my stand-up (something I never did in America), “Comedian of the Week” in Time Out Magazine, being represented by one of the two main comedy management companies, and well on the way to a flourishing voice-over career. Needless to say, I was a little less glum. Then, I see Eddie Brill’s name in Time Out Magazine, the “weekly entertainment bible,” as they call it. Eddie (now the warm up guy for Letterman) was a New York comedian playing The Comedy Store (in London, no affiliation) and I’d been to Eddie’s house on the Lower East Side for a poker game once and knew him casually round the comedy clubs. All I wanted to do was to welcome Eddie to London. American to American. So, I walk into the Comedy Store, now in its third Soho location (I played the first two), but this time it was eerily empty, the show was over and now a very big and tall doorman comes up to me and tells me, “You’re not welcome here. You’ll have to leave now please.” Completely astonished, I politely asked him what on earth he was talking about, but he told me to keep movin’ and we’d talk outside, where he then accused me of stalking. “You’re the guy who has been bothering Paul Merton with a script.” I told him that I didn’t know what on earth he was talking about, that I had a literary agent thank you, and had no idea who Paul Merton was. (I do now. He’s great. Really.) Just then, the other doorman (the one with the freckles) hears what’s going on and shouts out to his co-worker, “You’ve got the wrong guy!” The first doorman looked at me like the RCA Dog.
For years, I was always dressed in costume. Big black baggy trousers with suspenders (“braces” for the Brits), white shirt, funny tie, slicked back hair, big comical mustache and red high top sneakers. But, when my father passed away, he left us a little money. You see, the “look” worked for me on stage. I was seen as a character to the audience. Off stage? I was stared at left and right throughout London’s real world. It was pretty brutal. And trying to pick up a beautiful British female type? Forget it. British society dictates everyone’s physical appearance trumps their manners. So, I joined a gym, took off 30 lbs., bought a new Paul Smith suit, cut my hair New Laddish style, chopping off the mustache and traded in my big black round glasses in for a pair of barely visible Air Titaniums.
END FREEZE FRAME
So, the Freckle doorman suggest we go back down in the underground dungeon known as The Comedy Store and settle this obvious mix-up out with the manager. Wendy comes out. A very short, very old and very mean woman, who, when I called her from New York months earlier, was so nice and helpful. “What are YOU doing here! Don’t you know you’re not welcome here?! You’re always bothering comedians backstage!” As confused as I was, I tried to defend myself as politely as I could, trying to clarify who or what she was talking about, but you have to imagine, as I’m looking down on the dwarf, two giant footballers are looming over each shoulder. No matter what I said, she just got meaner and meaner. I finally left, shouting down to them, “This isn’t even the real Comedy Store!” I ran to a pay phone dialed a friend. He wasn’t home, but his lovely wife was. “Is there something wrong, Steven? I can hear it in your voice.” There was something wrong, terribly wrong indeed. I left America in search of a new life, to start over fresh, and yet my past bad luck seemed to travel with me, hiding in the overhead and sneaking past customs like a bad virus. Something in Sarah’s voice made me break down like a baby. Crying my eyes out, right there, just off Piccadilly Circus, thousands of young clubbers, theatre goers and petrified tourists, passing by my Dr. Phil phone-box. But, it’s Sarah’s husband (the person I called that night) I’d like to introduce you to. The man who gave me my comedy mojo back.
If there ever was an artist in the field of comedy promotion, Peter Grahame would win hands down, for production acuity (running a tight but friendly ship) combined with curated talent vetting with keen, subtle and effective promotion. The loyalty of the Downstairs at the Kings Head audiences are as fervent as the comedians who work there. Peter himself is the ultimate comedy auteur amateur, in the original Latin meaning of the word: a lover of comedy. And, he’s funny as fuck. He loves a good gag and he treats everybody with respect, even the occasional drunken front row heckler. Peter keeps a keen eye on everybody’s behavior and once quiet negotiation won’t even work, I’ve personally witnessed gentle Peter Grahame bodily remove troublemakers without creating a whiff of disturbance, as if he were trained by MI5. Downstairs at the Kings Head is the place where comedians like to hang out, maybe get a midnight curry after the show with a few of the boys down the street in Crouch End, “N8” (postal code & nickname). Just a knickers throw from Muswell Hill, birthplace of The Kinks and around the corner from the deconsecrated church bitched up as Eurythmic’s Dave Stewart’s recording studio (now owned by David Gray), Crouch End is the hipper and smarter version of any other media village in London, including Soho and Chelsea. Located literally downstairs at The Kings Head Pub (not to be confused with The Kings Head Theatre in Islington -- home of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’s, the late Douglas Adams – The Kings Head Theatre boasts very young and good-looking Clive Owen and Hugh Grant as alumni), “Downstairs at the Kings Head” is the oldest continuous comedy club in London (perhaps England) and boasts a steeped history born of Eddie Izzard, Russell Brand and Bob Dylan. Peter also runs a great jazz night there and often has an 18-piece jazz jam called Gillespiana, which when heard in the intimate atmosphere of Downstairs, has all the energetic realism of travelling back in time, to the spilled beer smell of the Swinging Sixties. And on the last Friday of every month, Club Senseless. Run by Ronnie Golden (aka Tony De Meur, the former front man for 1980’s hitmaker The Fabulous Poodles), himself a wonderful solo comedian and singer/songwriter musician, Club Senseless is one third music concert, comedy show and dance party. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine called Ronnie and the Rex, "The best party band in England," a title well-deserved if only for their ability to turn every night into New Years Eve.
The secret to Peter’s success are two things. The showroom’s very low ceiling (makes for extreme natural audio visual focus – both from the stage and back again from the audience’s laughter) and a mad Welshman named Huw (pronounced like “Hugh”) Thomas, the longtime original guitar bearing Medieval partner, patron saint and spirit of the club.
The alchemic mixture of creative comedians, fully vetted musicians and a bunker-like atmosphere make Downstairs at the Kings Head, as British comedian Sean Lock said, “In my view the best comedy club ever”. With stand-up comedy as his main course, and story-telling, jazz and even magician nights as side-dishes, you always know what you’re gonna find at Peter’s club. Variety and quality. Along with being a busy father, master chef (and rumoured secret lover of Lionel Blair) Peter Grahame, who lives in the pastoral village of Braughing (sounds like “Laughing”- postal code “HA”), writes and produces the local “Panto” every other year, and yet still finds time to run the best comedy scene I’ve ever seen, experienced, and having been invited to play and hang out on a regular basis. Peter Grahame is the Brian Epstein of London Comedy and if he likes you; you’ve got a pretty good chance of being accepted by the London Comedy Industry as a real and viable player, not to mention the pure joy of playing the smartest, most finely tuned comedy-literate audiences in the entire solar system. Peter is co-founder of the Cat’s Laugh Comedy Festival in Kilkenny, Ireland and was my show runner for High On Laughter III, the one at the London Palladium, in which I had Jerry Lewis making it all about himself. He’s a very busy, yet relaxed man. I don’t know how he does it; It’s astonishing. I was able to grab Peter between road trips to stock up on cheap wine in France, and his daily ballet lesson, where he was able to take a casual break, as we met over pints at his village “local” (The Axe and Compass pub) and talk with Enjoy the Veal.
SAG: Hi Peter. How are you?
PG: I’m fine. Where are the girls?
SAG: How did Downstairs at the Kings Head start?
PG: October 1981. A friend of mine, Huw Thomas, who had been performing on the folk circuit in the 60s and 70s, had appeared a few times at the Gong nights in the early days of the Comedy Store in London. Compered by Alexei Sayle, they were notoriously raucous – with the audience deciding the length of your set. He wanted to create a space for the nascent “Alternative Comedy” scene that was a little more welcoming and supportive. Both of us lived in Crouch End at that point and the then landlord of the King’s Head Pub offered us the downstairs room (then a shabby restaurant space). We did a few one-off shows before Huw realized that he was not a born administrator – so I took on that role and he became resident MC. Over the first year we transmuted into regular shows every Sunday. 5 years later we were running seven nights a week with a variety of shows from comedy to music to magic to spoken word, etc. I still don’t know what went right.
SAG: Tell our readers a little about your family showbiz history.
PG: My father is a jazz musician, my mother a dancer. They met doing the (live) Benny Hill show in the late 50s at the Bristol Hippodrome. If my mother’s age is what she tells people now, that would have made her about 8 years old at the time. My father’s parents ran a Pierrot show around the South west of England during summer months and my mother’s father was a comic between the wars. I have two sisters, one of whom is a fine saxophonist, currently with Jools Holland. I was for many years a professional musician and composer, and have also worked as an actor and circus tumbler. I hope to break even one day.
SAG: "Downstairs" is the oldest comedy club in London and certainly one of the most respected and the favourite of many. Why do you think so many comedians love the room and the audiences keep coming back?
PG: The audience, over the years, has become comedy literate. They are very tolerant of the new. The room takes 120 people and works in spite of its odd layout. The low ceiling always benefits comedy. I always seek to put on a varied bill and keep the prices low. I stay in my sound room and don’t frighten the public.
SAG: Tell Enjoy the Veal how the potluck (or new act) night works and what do you look for in a new comedian?
PG: We see up to 16 new acts every Thursday night – each doing 5 minutes. I keep notes on every performance on these nights, just for myself. I tend not to listen to material as much as I watch how people work the room. Many performers do not understand the medium of stand-up as opposed to theatrical presentation. I also look for substantial bribes. And cock.
SAG: Who are some of the "greats" who have passed through the club? (I understand its right near a famous recording studio?)
PG: Nearly everyone who is now an established comic in the UK has passed through our doors on the way up. We see them again on the way down. We also have music nights and have had a lot of famous musos in the same way. The recording studio you mention used to be owned by Dave Stewart (now David Gray). Many of the guys recording there would pop in and have a play on Wednesday nights. You want some random names? Eddie Izzard, Omid Djalili, Rich Hall, Lee Evans, Russell Brand, Bill Wyman, Jon Stewart, Harry Dean Stanton, Steven Alan Green, Dave Chappelle, Barry Cryer, Spunky the Clown and Fisty the glove puppet.
SAG: What's the one mistake American comedians make when they play the UK?
PG: Lie about how popular they are in the States. Attempt an UK accent. They’re awkward when I suggest sexual favours, and ask for a receipt when bribing me. That’s four.
SAG: How has London comedy evolved over the last 20 years?
PG: It’s come full circle. It started as the antithesis of lame misogyny and racism. When the old guard comics felt challenged by the newer generation and started being edged out of primetime TV slots, many complained that the new guard swore too much and didn’t play golf. I knew we were back to square one when I overheard two well-known current comics discussing their swing in the dressing room. Rape gags are back, as is borderline racism. I don’t tolerate either in my club – so we’re back to being left-field.
SAG: What makes a good performer?
SAG: What's the strangest, oddest or most memorable night and why?
PG: The night the dinosaurs ruined the bar. Boy, can they drink. Those tiny coloured sweets in foil wrappers were nice too.
SAG: How does running music nights affect the comedy?
PG: Not at all. They’re separate animals. One you pay attention to, don’t talk and hope for a few laughs. The other is Comedy.
SAG: Where's the loo?
PG: We can’t pump shit against gravity. It’s upstairs.
SAG: What about my act?
PG: Good point.
SAG: Any advice for visiting American comedians?
PG: Seriously? We book a long way ahead in the UK. Plan early. Don’t feel you have to change your act. We are inured to US culture and will understand the references. Enjoy. The UK Comedy scene is still vibrant. And don’t try the veal.
“DING, DING, DING! DING! DING!” We hear the closing bell. Time to drink up. I strolled with Peter back along “The Street” and stood with him outside his house. Peter pointed up to the full moon, which illuminated the village church and graveyard in an eerie neon yellow.
“You know, Steven. That church has been here over 800 years. And, when you think about it, America is a very young country, still trying to find its feet.”
“Yeah, Peter, that is pretty amazing,” I replied as best as I could through my four or five pints of Guinness.
Peter finished his thought.
“Try and not to be so American.”
Inexplicably, he turned about face, entered and locked his front door, leaving me outside freezing my ass off.
“PETER! I THOUGHT I WAS STAYING OVER AGAIN! WHAT AM I GONNA DO!”
After a beat, the second story bedroom light shut. “For fuck sake!...Oh well…” I picked up my overnight bag, strapped my guitar on my back and started to make the long way back to the Bishop Stafford train station by foot, hoping by time I got there, it was not too late to get the last trains back home to my flat in Notting Hill.
Suddenly, the door to Peter’s house opens. It’s Sarah.
“Steven, what are you doing here? It’s freezing! Do you want to come in and have a nice cuppa tea? Maybe stay in the guest bedroom for the night?”
I barely noticed Peter spying down on me from that second story window, grinning the hidden laugh of the devilish prankster he was born to be.
I was home.
Enjoy the veal!
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Okay, here's my grand bargain. We Democrats will acknowledge that Gitmo, Homeland Security and Bush/Cheney saved us from dozens of Terrorist attacks, that we never heard of, simply because they didn't happen --- IF the loud-mouths in the GOP will acknowledge that President Obama saved this country from falling off a financial cliff 3 years ago. And for killing Osama Bin Laden. I'm just sayin'....
TODAY'S MANTRA: "I will not let social networking get the better of me....I will not let social networking get the better of me....I will not let social networking get the better of me...." Okay, now to Tweet that.
Uh, I'll have the Meat Romney, over a side of Condoleezza Rice.
e.e. cummings was not much of a Capitalist.
Eastwood shoulda been the headliner.
The Republicans keep saying they "want their country back". Oh, I see.... They think it's THEIR country!
Do you think after Polonius said, "Neither a borrower or a lender be", Hamlet said, "Hey, mate, you gonna use that?"
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Next Sunday Andy dick will be hosting Crazee Cindy's Comedy Show in The Comedy Store Main Room Sept 9th 8pm
Beth Lapides's Uncabaret - Great show line-up this week: Brian Finkelstein, Jackie Kashian, Lianna Carrera, & The Fuxedos. Uncabaret
Starting September 9th: The Improv is proud to present Rick Overton & Friends to perform EVERY Sunday in the main room! First show is SEPTEMBER 9th with Rick Overton, Frank Conniff, David Feldman and Jimmy Dore! Hosted by Chris Pina. The following week (9/16) they have Dana Gould! 8pm.
And, this Saturday, September 8 @ 7:30pm, I'll be doing my first music gig in 30 years. (of course I'll be doing some comedy and story-telling too!). Gig is @ The Unurban Cafe, @ Pico Blvd. & 32nd. Unurban Cafe I think its free to get in (and probably free to get out). Come down, order a cappuccino, hang out and listen to 4 other singer/songwriters and me. Mr. Comedian. Should be fun!
THIS WEEK'S PODCAST RECOMMENDATIONS:
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
To hire your humble comedy writer (Steven Alan Green Writing Services: Writing Wrongs for Over 50 Years!) or to complain about anything: email@example.com To submit a piece on comedy or show listings, same email. Thanks, Sag
Follow The Laughter Foundation and on Facebook.
"Never take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive!!"
August 26, 2012 | 10:55 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
So, what’s with all the shootings? It’s becoming a regular thing; a new randomly scheduled reality show. Instead of The Apprentice, it’s The Assassin. Six contestants are hired at six companies. Then, a co-worker stabs them in the back somehow. The psycho who commits the most creative public massacre (as voted by Simon Cow-elle, as well as the home audience) and achieves the highest kill count wins. Their prize? Execution by firing squad. I mean WTF!! Maybe when companies hire, or universities accept, shouldn’t there be a little box you have to tick, indicating that, “In the event of a life-crisis, you promise not to return and shoot everyone up”? I lived in England for nearly 20 years (a land where “madness” is an accepted form of socialism and where there are comparatively few privately owned fire-arms); and in all that time, there was only one major shoot-up I can remember, in Dunblane, Scotland, when in 1996, 43-year old Thomas Hamilton, entered a school, shooting and killing sixteen children and one adult before committing suicide. Why can’t these guys just commit suicide
Gun violence and horrific massacres are not funny. Don’t email me. I’m talking about logic. More specifically, illogic. We have to treat everyone better from the get-go. In 2004, at the Edinburgh Fringe, I debuted my one-man show, “Service Not Included,” about how rudeness and cultural confusion led to 9-11. The point was that what really matters the most is how we are with each other on a day to day basis. England – a very small island - has the built-in manners system. You can’t just go up to a stranger on the street and say, “Got the time?” He’ll look at you as if you are incredibly rude and potentially dangerous, then go running looking for a Bobbie. Instead, you have to say, “Oh, sorry….” (Then the man will look up from his paper) “Is it possible – I mean if it’s not too much trouble; and I know this is quite an awkward situation – but is there a likelihood that – and again, I could be completely mistaken, so please forgive me up front – but, do you think you might possess a watch (no, that didn’t sound right) and then assuming that watch is running on time (oh, dear), do you think you might be able to impart to me – a complete stranger, who has obviously accosted you, interrupted the flow of your day and even perhaps put you in mind of a little potential random street danger – do you happen to know what time it is?” By the time you’ve asked your question, both time and the man have moved on. And, you can’t really be direct with anyone either in regards to their honesty. In America, we’d say, “Bob, you’re full a shit!” You can’t do that in England. There, you have to say, “You know, Bob. If one didn’t know you any better, one might think you were playing with the truth.” Much more icy. Leaves Bob with a stiff whiff of paranoia, not mention a potential “stiffy” (an English term; don’t worry about it now).
For many years, I carried with me, and passed through airport security all over these United States and Canada with a fake handgun. A theatrical prop I purchased at Joe Berg’s, the old magic and prop store on Hollywood Blvd, which by the way, both prop-gun and store have since mysteriously vanished. I initially wanted one of those guns that shoots out a flag with the writing, “BANG!” on it, the one that Ernie Kovac’s used? But, the ones they have these days are designed not to look real on purpose, and I wanted an emotional effect of my audience. I wanted them to “feel it”. I wanted the audience to believe I was serious. I wanted to be taken seriously. The reason for the gun prop was that in October ’86, after five years of making the audiences at The Comedy Store laugh their guts out, I was fed up. I was broke, sleeping in my car and just plain frustrated. So, I went up one night and told the audience as casually as possible, “Tonight is my last show, I’m leaving the business.” I was completely and totally sincere. I just had to share that with the only true friend I had, the audience. I was done with the game. I was Spartacus. But, to my complete surprise, two magical things happened; things I didn’t expect in a million years. One, the audience paid attention. (You can imagine.) But, more importantly, suddenly, I didn’t care anymore. I was no longer worried about Mitzi walking into the showroom, seeing me have a 5 second lapse of laughter and fire me. I was tired of all the politicking, which often boiled down to if you did coke with Sam Kinison or not. I was tired of making some rich club owner’s audience laugh for little or no pay. I was tired of not being famous. So, I quit. Plain and simple. But, by performing my farewell performance, I unwittingly magically lifted all the heavy, but invisible pressures off me. And because the pressures weren’t there anymore, I had fun, resulting in one of the funniest and most risk-taking comedy sets of my life. At the end, the audience was cheering, “More!!” I found my niche. An act which completely was the mirror opposite of the reputation I had easily built for myself 25 years ago in this town; that of a desperate crazy comedian. Though some called it a safety net, my farewell performance literally became my creative therapy; and thank god for people like Beth Lapides and Greg Miller, by the way. Go back later and read my review of Uncabaret. That show didn’t just happen by accident. Uncabaret is exactly the kind of creative camaraderie nurturing I want to see more of on the Island of Los Angeles, scratch that; I mean Hollywood, the evil incestuous rapist of young and innocent LA.
At the end of my comedy set that fateful night at The Comedy Store, I told the audience that I had such a great time, that, “If it’s okay with them, I will be performing another farewell performance tomorrow night, thank you and goodnight!” They gave me a standing ovation. I made the audience save me. After a few weeks of this mad Kabuki farewell performance, audience members started to shout out during my set (when I’d announce it was my last show), things like, “You said you were gonna quit last week!” or “Why are you quitting?” All of these public inquiries forced me to create a paradigm. I, the comedian, was the “addict”. I was literally “addicted to the laughter” and had to quit. The audience was the co-dependent and the club owners, the pushers of the drug I so desperately needed:Stage Time
. I wrote a book, Confessions of a Show-Biz Junkie, in which I interviewed comedians, asking them to seriously compare their getting high on cocaine, alcohol and heroin, with “getting high on stage.” All of them, from Steve Kravitz to Alan King to the great namesake of mine, Steve Allen: all of them agreed there was no difference in “the high”. King personally telling me the reason he carried Bourbon on the rocks on stage was, “I never drink alone.” I used to watch Richard Pryor greeted by his gaggle of insider-followers with a newly cut line of the finest cocaine Hollywood has to offer, just so he can “not come down” from the stage high. But, it was when I met and interviewed Norman Cousins, that I knew I was onto something. Cousins was Editor-In-Chief of the Saturday Review for 30 years and also served as Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities for the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he did research on the biochemistry of human emotions, which he long believed were the key to human beings’ success in fighting illness. In his seminal book, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived By the Patient, Cousins told of how he healed himself back from a crippling arthritic condition with what he called, “Laughter Therapy” (watching Marx Brothers films) coupled with “large doses of Vitamin C”, the combination increasing the levels of the body’s natural healing pharmaceuticals: serotonin and encephalin, both of which have a funny side-affect. They make you deliriously happier. Cousins was also a man of great humor, and his biggest and most appreciative joke was his answer to my question: “If a person does anything that makes them happy, be it eating chocolate cake, running, having sex, doing stand-up comedy; and as you postulate in your book, all those activities make us ‘naturally high’; is it possible that those same brain hormones serotonin and encephalin, can also become addictive; thus making my postulated addiction to stand-up comedy a potential actual malady?” His answer? Like Curly from The Three Stooges: “SOY-ten-ly!” He then poked me in the eye.
Steve Allen (the creator and first host of The Tonight Show) was a known skeptic, but he wasn’t a conspiratorialist. In fact, Allen was as skeptical of those guys. I was born in 1956, the year NBC offered Allen a new prime-time Sunday night variety hour, The Steve Allen Show, aimed at dethroning CBS’s top-rated Ed Sullivan Show. My parents (both secretly frustrated comedy actor-comedians) named me, not after the established King “Ed”; no, they named me after an innovative rebel. Good thing there are no known time machines (trust me, I checked Craigslist) or you can call me Conan O’Green. The Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood is situated in the back of The Center for Inquiry, the Los Angeles branch of CFI-Transnational, an educational nonprofit organization that explores and advances critical thinking, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values through education, outreach, and social services. Comedian Ron Lynch’s mad scientific comedy science experiment, “TOMORROW!”, a comedy and music cabaret review, replete with séanced Vaudevillian Tradition, tempered by cutting-edge humor technology, and populated by omni-creatives: comedians, musicians and actors, whose main goal seems to be: “To chop down the forest of comedy convention right before your very eyes – be careful, there may be blood,” happens every Saturday night, starting at midnight at The Steve Allen Theatre. A perfect evening? Grab some cheap and delicious traditional Italian at Palermo (the cops dine there; it’s good), do a nice walk up and down Vermont quietly sneering at all the Faux-Hipsters, grab an after dinner cappuccino at Figaro Café to keep your ass up, then breeze over to The Steve Allen Theatre – get there by 11:30 (@ only $8, it often sells out) and treat yourself to the most memorable and original comedy show in town, second only to the shitty Los Angeles public transportation system.
At exactly 12:05, Ron Lynch, who is the luckiest man in Hollywood (“Mr. Lynch” in basically every role he’s played – from Home Movies to The Sarah Silverman Show to Bob’s Burgers) enters the stage to authentic (not perfunctory) applause. You can tell straight away, we’re at midnight comedy mass. “TOMORROW!” was created in 2003 by Lynch, Brendon Small and Craig Anton, debuting the same year at the same theatre. A handlebar mustache magically holds up the silent film star’s marionetted corpse, as we zoom into extreme close-up of Lynch’s mysterious peepers. If ever there was a real show going on tonight, it was behind those eyes. Lynch is up to something. Always. And like a master travelling carnival showman, he immediately welcomes us to his world, directing stage right to a completely unexpected treat, in the form of Ketchup Soup, an Americana-Punk-Brechtian musical trio, including not one, but a pair of accordionists, backing up one of the most enchanting and sultry singers since Madeleine Peyroux. As much as I’ve been whining about missing London, suddenly I felt like I was back home, travelling on the Eurostar, sleep-heading to the smarter cultural edge of Europe, down in Le St. Germaine, staying at the Odeon Hotel and slurping a very expensive café latte at the Café de Flores. I was blissfully swept away by Ketchup Soup’s opening gambit, an original, “Brothers and Sisters, this is not real. Love is what’s real.” “Mrs. Hobbs,” as she’s known, sung her next number, a sexy 1920’s Vamp, “Don’t Care to be Misunderstood” through a megaphone, the instrumental through a drinking straw, as accompanied by tambourine. “Magic 8-Ball” (“This song is not about drugs- you’ll probably figure out what it is”) was a Mississippi Blues on two accordions and guitar; followed by classic Bessie Smith, “I Need a Little Sugar in my Bowl” whiplashingly culture-counter-pointed by kazoo solo. “I Met the Devil” was next, as Lynch himself returned to stage, accompanying on drums (I almost typed: “accompanying on drugs”) and closing out this substantial upfront set with “Rising Sun Blues”, a Porgy and Bess soliloquy and dialog, banked off the House of the Rising Sun, with Hobbs speaking all French, sad and sexy. I came to realize, the idea of having an extended musical set as a comedy show’s opener was reverse traditionalism, when a comedian would normally open for a musical act.
Then, from an off-stage mic, “And now, please welcome the guy who’s talking now…Ron Lynch!”
Ron returns, spawning a Southern white evening jacket, like Fitzgerald after a 3 day binge, yet much tidier. (I’m sorry. I just can’t help but stare at Lynch.) Ron introduces to thunderous applause his co-host for the evening, the one and only Emo Philips, whose standup comedy stems from the use of paraprosdokians and garden path sentences spoken in a wandering falsetto tone of voice and a confused, childlike delivery of his material to produce the intended comic timing in a manner invoking the ‘wisdom of children’ or the idiot savant (at least that what Wikipedia says and incidentally, I called Bradley Cooper, who also confirmed this, then asked me how I got his number and why I was calling him in the first place). The audience cheered seeing not one, but two of their favourite comedy geniuses, one specializing in mental gymnastics, the other having the advantage of extraneous funny facial hair. “Speech separates us from the animals, and amplified speech separates us from the Amish…or the audience”. Thank you, Emo. I needed that. And the Glimmer Twins are off on a sort of random Waiting for Godot Comedy Land Travel Guide, as they appetize in semi-cruel onstage banter about blind people. “Harpocracy”, Emo explains, “is when you have to change your seat at a Marx Brothers film because a homeless person sits next to you.” He then introduces his “acting coach,” Kipley Brown (a non-Jamaican actress/comedienne pretending to be a Jamaican), who then “reveals” she isn’t, staying in character as the imperious snobby acting teacher, launching into a virtual infomercial for how you can fool a traffic cop “in real life” (remember, we’re already at least two “real life” layers up) by making believe you have a child in the back seat. Emo gives her “scriptures” to read, Brown demonstrates to Lynch “how” to do sarcasm, finally winding up with a brilliantly physical 3-varient demo on “How to Bow”: 1) the “I don’t deserve it” bow, 2) the “I’m exhausted” bow, and the, 3) “I’m Done” bow; exiting the stage to thunderous farting. I mean applause. Lynch and Emo back up on stage at the near 50-minute mark, so it must’ve been ironically, when Ron says, “Are you guys ready for the show?” Up next was comedian Matty Goldberg.
Set against the chaotic otherworld we’re already travelling through, Matty is a nerdy New Yorker and stand-up who immediately breaks our sour hearts as the conductor of the Too Much Information Train. The Goldberg variable was specificity: “I never put lotion on a girl’s back. But, I did get a hand-job on a Greyhound bus,” makes us all cringe, were it not for the quick save, the reconfirming obvious admission, “Yeah, I’m a weird guy.” Revealing he feels “like I arrived,” he writes and reads a love-letter to a random girl in the audience. In spite of lack of restraining order, it was brilliantly funny and I was terminally relieved when it was over and lotion-free. Ron & Emo come back. (No, I mean, Ron and Emo returned to the stage, not, “Ron and Emo, please come back!”) Emo expounds on the personal annoyance of having the same name as the eponymous musical genre, “Emo”, and that his father, Be-Bop Philips, had a very similar problem; then Ron-Emo stage-reminisced where they met eons ago at Detroit’s Comedy Castle. Next act was Sean Conroy, a big bearded guy (big guy, not big beard) football jersey-wearin’ UCB grad (Upright Citizen’s Brigade), who takes his time with words…. and… other …words. His routine about getting carded, thus forcing him to use the voice of a Civil War General to explain what he really looks like is anything but (routine). Conroy’s rhyming “Drinking Rules” are unparalleled in their ability to mix monotony with the mundane: “Whiskey, then beer; all is clear. Beer before whiskey, you’re getting frisky” is the well-known template for drinking slogans gone so wild, I can’t repeat them here. Confronting the illogic of a billboard spouting a photograph of two very attractive young men with their arms around each other, the caption reading “We didn’t come out just to die of lung cancer”, caused Conroy to speculate about other billboards expressing two completely different ideas (like the Romney/Ryan ticket) such as “I didn’t join the Klan just so you could leave empty bottles lying around”; and wishing doctors, upon examination, would stop saying the word “YIKES!,” Conroy was clearly the audience favourite—at this point. Ahmed Bharoocha was next, and I don’t mean kazoontite.
Ahmed (of the current Comedy Store crop) opened with how we eat veal (the babies of cows) as well as putting our missing children on milk cartons of baby food, i.e. milk. Frankly, I don’t think we do that anymore, but I get it; Mobius strip logic. “Killing Goliath” - putting giants on the endangered species list; how in war, the disparity of distance between the strangers we kill and the presidents who want us to kill for them; were all thoroughly thought out comedy paradigms, doing what all comedians should be doing: creating and demonstrating our own “Comedy Logic”, more commonly known as comedy style. This guy’s good. Keep a veal eye out for him. Ron-Emo return, but then some asshole in the audience answers his phone! This jerk actually continues in growing conversation, shouting out, “I can’t hear you; there’s a guy on stage!” In the meantime, ignoring this incredible lapse in manners, Emo brings out his clarinet, but the guy’s phone rings again! Soon enough, a second guy enters the theatre, he too on his cell phone, the other half of the conversation, the lost guy looking for the theatre. Rather than hang up and shut up, the two of them carry on, maybe 15 feet apart, continuing to annoy us as they talk cell phone to cell phone in the same friggin’ room! In spite of this incredibly rude show interruption, it’s now time for the Emo Philips Film Festival part of the evening. Projection screen down (or theatre up) Emo narrates two short films, starring none other than Emo Philips; but he narrates them, not with his voice, but with his clarinet. Film one was Emo grabbing a fake leg in a bar, accidentally knocking the leg’s former owner into a cake and all the random hilarity which ensued. Film two was “Can Man”, a guy on the street (Emo), riffling through a garbage can, dealing with a kid, a juggler and an assortment of characters, coincidences and hilarious physical and ironical outcomes. Both films are exactly what Buster Keaton would make, had he still been alive, and not murdered by Edward G. Robinson on the set of Paint Your Wagon (at least that’s what I heard).
At the end of the film, the two “Cell Phone Guys” were now on stage, revealing them to be – all along (I had a hunch) the brilliant Walsh Brothers, of UCB and “The Walsh Brothers Show” (How’d they get that gig?!) Next up was Marianne Sierk of “World’s Dumbest Criminals,” who was a breath of fresh air from all this comedy. The 36-year old perky actress was the perfect poison for an evening of great entertainment. Other than her imminent need for motherhood, for my money (okay, I got in free), big positive energy Marianne might’ve been served better going up a bit earlier on the show. By the 1:45am point, it was hard, not just for me, but I think for many in the crowd, a bit late for by the book (albeit very good) stand-up. And to be fair to Marianne, my weak bladder was beckoning me to the loo, and once unstrapped from my seat, I went and had a smoke. So, in personal flagellation, I hereby invite Marianne to invite me when she’s performing again, and hopefully in an easier and earlier spot. Maybe if she smokes and has a urinary infection, it’s meant to be. This particular late night is really a psycho boys club and even though Marianne’s a funny chick and all, oh, I don’t know what I’m saying. Letters, I’m gonna get letters…. I fucked up.
At this point, Lynch not only opens the barn door completely, but unhinges it, as The Walsh Brothers return, portraying smart retards, half-finishing and interrupting one another, talking like one brain, rambling as if they were on Judge Judy Judy starring Jim Carrey Grant. While all that was going on, big Sean randomly comes back out, launching into a piece on going on a haunted house ride; and before I knew it, Ron-Emo returned to their job as Frick ‘n Frack of Bizzaro-World, navigating this powerful psychedelic jumbo in for a soft-landing. I made it. Whew! What a ride. You gotta give it to Ron Lynch. He not only knows how to create a mad house, he creates a whole new one every single week, Saturday night, midnight at the Steve Allen Theatre, and unlike the next public shooting, I don’t recommend you miss the next one.
I give Ron Lynch’s “TOMORROW!” show 8 outta 8 menorahs!
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
Now they’re saying Neil Armstrong was on dope when he went to Mars.
Thanks and have a mediocre day. That way, if its a GREAT day, you won’t be disappointed! (always trying to help)
Does anyone have God’s email address? I have a question.
Call me overly optimistic, but I think Tony Scott is gonna bounce back.
Phyllis Diller was to Fashion what Ralph Lauren is to Comedy.
Well, I guess we won’t be seeing that long anticipated Tony Scott/Phyllis Diller action-packed blockbuster any time soon.
This week’s What To Joke About: The Mars Rover, Mitt Romney and those hilarious fires.
THIS WEEK’S GUEST FACEBOOK TWEETER: The Daily Show and Air America writer Jim Earl
Lance Armstrong cheats at racing, raises millions for cancer research, and is banned from his profession. Mitt Romney cheats on his taxes, raises millions for a campaign urging cuts to cancer care, and is given the Republican presidential nomination.
Who wants to bet hurricane Isaac hits the GOP Convention just in time for Mike Huckabee’s “Loving Tribute to Climate-Change Deniers?
I remember back in the old days when “Pussy Riot” called themselves “Uncontrolled Vaginal Revelry.”
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
ETV WEEKLY COMEDY VIDEO RECOMMENDATION:
SPECIAL FEATURE: TRIBUTES TO PHYLLIS DILLER:
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Next week’s Enjoy the Veal features an interview with British comedy impresario Peter Grahame, who will enlighten and entertain us all with his wit and wisdom regarding American comedians playing the London Comedy Scene.
Coming Soon: My exclusive interview with the legendary Vegas Headliner Tony Clifton, whom I’m told, doesn’t like interviews, but has granted me one because he hates me.
To hire your humble comedy writer (Steven Alan Green Writing Services: Writing Wrongs for Over 50 Years!) or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org
To submit a piece on comedy or show listings, same email. Thanks, Sag
August 20, 2012 | 12:28 am
Posted by Steven Alan Green
The Roman Senator Gaius Cassius Longinus is best known for being the lead investigator into the assassination of Julius Caesar. The fact that Ole Cash was also one of the main plotting assassins bears no relevance. It’s like Washington trying to clean itself up. Or Jefferson, trying not to look smug on the two dollar bill. At the end of the day, what makes good comedy is the conflict between expectation and result. America is a Branding-Led Society. Maybe if we simply got a corporate sponsor for the Recession, we could solve all our problems at once. “The Recession….Brought to you by your good friends at Wall Street! Wall Street, When greed just isn’t enough….” A lot of people are still suffering quite badly; that’s right: I’m talkin’ about an audience having to sit through a horrible comedian, the bang opposite of the subject of this review. Believe me, there’s nothing like it; unless, of course you count being tied to a chair Clockwork Orange style, your eyes clipped open, as you’re forced to watch hour upon hour of QVC starring Joan Rivers. If that’s your situation, you have my complete sympathy. Where I don’t carry much sympathy is for the awful comedian who is in complete stage denial. Lissen, it’s hard to be a comedian. Trust me, I know. You have great shows where you’re a god carried out on the shoulders of the audience; or, cut-to: you are reading your own eulogy to the creepy sound of organ music. It happens to the best of us, especially when we’re starting out, literally embryonically forming on stage, trying things out, seeing what works, what doesn’t, and basically keeping the one mantra ahead down the road at all times: “Gee, I hope the audience likes me!”
Jongleurs was the largest comedy chain in the UK. Large in amount of clubs, large in audience size, large in attitude. If you were a comedian working Jongleurs, it was enough of a credit to get you booked at almost all of the other comedy clubs in the UK. It’s all about the huge Christmas office party comedy show every night of the year. It’s not a place known for its subtle thought provoking comedians, but it’s also not a circus house. It’s somewhere in the middle. Imagine Jerry Seinfeld meets Bob Hoskins with Steve Martin on banjo thrown in. It’s your working-class meat ‘n potatoes comedy. Your, “Come on mate, we’re ‘ere for a good time!” comedy. It’s also the true testing ground to see if you’re really tough. When I lived in London, I played Jongleurs quite regularly for a short while. (I’m going to tell my complete personal Jongleurs saga in future blogs.) I always “stormed it” (the British version of “Killed”), brought the house down, had them begging for more. Though, to be perfectly honest, upon reflection, there was one time, the third Saturday night show, I ate it big time. I think that’s because I hadn’t known up and to that point, there were actually two Jongleurs’ audiences: The “Nice Respectable Office Worker Not Too Drunk Out for a Good Time Jongleurs” and the “Downright Evil after Midnight on a Saturday Night in Drunken London Camden Town Yobbish Kill the American” late show.” I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing both, so who am I to judge. Having said that, the late Eric Douglas was a whole other kettle of comedy fish entirely.
The youngest son of the great Kirk Douglas (and Michael’s younger brother), Eric had personal problems. Mental illness, drugs. The perfect qualifications to be a professional stand-up comedian I would’ve thought. I witnessed Eric’s show once at the Original Improv in New York ages ago, but I left before the police arrived asking me for a statement. Having built quite a reputation for myself in LA as the village idiot at one of the two important comedy clubs, I not only had crazy-man empathy for Eric, but drew a very sharp line in my head with the mantra of the non-fabulous, “Well, at least I’m not that guy!” Regardless of judgment, there is an apocryphal story of when Eric Douglas played Jongleurs, or at least, tried to.
“And now…please welcome….all the way over from America, Eric Douglas!” The South London Lavender Hill audience applauds with marched enthusiasm. After all, they didn’t know who Eric Douglas was, perhaps he was a big comedy star in America. Let’s give him a chance and we hope he gives us a chance. So, Eric comes out on stage and immediately dies. He just doesn’t connect and has quickly morphed into a self-babbling segue artist. The London audience simply didn’t know what to make of it. Where there were, just moments earlier, laughs and frivolity at one of the coolest south of the river comedy clubs, were now the uncomfortable sounds of glasses clinking and mild discussion groups on football and darts. The audience, perhaps second guessing themselves, thinking that maybe they didn’t get the American sense of humor, gave Douglas a chance to find his footing. After all, perhaps he’s jetlagged. Oh-uh. Wot’s that? A heckler? Oh dear. Things are about to get very London.
“Tell us a joke!” arrives in the form of a “Souf London” accent (think Michael Caine with a sock in his mouth) like a welcomed grenade lob into an already hostaged crowd. Not since 1939, when Hitler bombed “The East End” (the Jewish working-class section of London) has a London neighborhood rallied so well around each other in the face of immediate misery.
“Yeah, tell us a joke, mate!” comes from another anonymous source from the other side of the cavernous comedy room. And pretty soon, like a gaggle of startled drinking geese, the entire room of 500 “punters” (paying customers) starts chirping up a cacophony of heckles, ranging from, “Next!” to (my all-time favorite) “Go back to America!” At some point, Eric cracks. Attempting to seize control, he grabs the mic, leans in and delivers with similar bravado (but none of the wit Father Kirk sported in “Paths of Glory” when he told Adolphe Menjou, “You can go to HELL!”) Eric says challengingly, “Do you know who I am?”
“No, mate, Who are you?” says one lone heckler with the disinterest of a nail-filing gangster.
“I’m Kirk Douglas’s son! That’s who I am! I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!”
Well, just to show you that the Jongleurs audiences aren’t as dumb as some of the London comedians think, a man in the crowd stands up, puts his hand over his heart and recites solemnly, “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!” Then another man stands up: “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!” Then another and another, until the entire male population in the audience is on their feet, reciting, “I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!,” reenacting that iconic scene at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, when the Romans confront Spartacus and his fellow slaves, asking “Who is this Spartacus?” with the sole intention of imprisoning and executing. Each fellow slave, believing in their hero, stands forth, pronouncing that it is indeed they who are Spartacus, creating solidarity not seen since the entire cast of Happy Days sued somebody. Eric Douglas retreated backstage and a great time was had by one and all, all except for poor Eric of course. Sadly, years later, in July 2004, Eric Douglas was found by his housekeeper, lying on the floor of his Manhattan apartment dead from acute intoxication from drugs and alcohol. Eric, for all the great cultural heroes in his family, just wasn’t a survivor. But, like the rebellious fighter against the status quo, Spartacus; and the split-morality plotter/investigator Cassius, comedian Rick Overton stands atop the radioactive rubble of modern America like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes; our last hope for well thought out deep comedic truth and its twin cousins: spiritual & intellectual freedom; and Rick does it with all the acuity of a RADA trained Shakespearian actor, the kaleidoscoping mad mondo-vision of a post-modernist underground apocalyptic philosopher, and the satirical smirk of a cast unto Hell Comedia del Arte street clown.
The “Lab” is the annex of The Improv on Melrose. A small to medium-ish size showroom with red velvet proscenium canopy and a professional soundboard in the back. Its street address is one digit off from its next door parental neighbor, the legendary Improv itself, but since they couldn’t extend their liquor license, the Lab remains as dry as its comedy. A room that filled up pretty quickly as a few notable and catchy tunes (including Cocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On”) played in the background of a show that started relatively on time; I was impressed from the git-go. Rick Overton and Friends is just that. Rick Overton and some of his friends. Kicking off the night was our inimitable host Chris Pina, a comedian, comedy actor and one of the most prolific independent alternative comedy producers working the boards. Chris has been responsible for some of the best “smart comedy shows” both in LA and San Francisco; and yet, ironically, Chris himself seems to value the silly over the intellect. Lip-syncing Bobby Darren’s “Beyond the Sea” was an interesting way to open what was I assumed was a political comedy show. Pina is a deep-throated, rubber-faced cross between Jerry Lewis and Mort Sahl. His frenetic “welcome to the island” Dennis Hopper’s photographer to Overton’s Col. Kurtz. It’s always fascinating to see great comedy minds crumble and Pina did a great impersonation of one as he attempted, fumbled and self-aborts an apparently respectable Paul Ryan joke set-up, turning it around with an endorsement of the show itself, “I don’t want to talk about it anyway, because these guys on the show are a lot better and funnier than me,”which isn’t true: Chris is hilarious unto himself, proving it again and again with Kim Jong-un looking like a cigarette smoking man-child who needs shoulder belching or standing on a chair like Jack Black, impersonating over six foot King Rick Over-Kong. (Special note to all comedians out there: I am the critic. I’ll tell you when you’re not funny. Stop doing my job. Thank you.)
Time to bring on the first act.
Frank Conniff is about as good as you get. This Mystery Science Theatre 3,000 “TV’s Frank”, “Cinematic Titanic” and KPFK’s The David Feldman Show contributing regular looks like a beleaguered Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a 1970’s cheap cop show detective, who drinks too much ‘cause he knows too much and is one payday away from retirement or a bullet between the eyes. Explaining to us that he “loves doing this” (live performance) and that he was just pulled over by a cop and given a warning: “Don’t see Total Recall,” Conniff lets us know he’s not above a good gag. “The Valley has a great film community, the Criterion Collection of Porn”; “Paul Ryan Fever: He wants to make sick and poor people pay for the Bush Debt….(it was funnier when I Tweeted it)” and “The South should get rape whistles for farm animals; the highest grade they ever got was Hepatitis C”, were just three warm-up samplers to one of the most brilliant comedy routines ever written and performed and witnessed by this critic: Conniff’s Letters to his younger self. Frank Conniff’s “Dear Young Frank” routine is something so intellectually mind-bendingly original, intricately crafted and just downright funny, I thought, why the hell is this brilliant mind wasting his time with comedy? I mean to actually have your “older self” challenging your “younger self” to just commit suicide is not only Einsteinian impossible, but self-esteem deprivation at its extreme. Conniff should be employed by a death panel. Lighten things up a little.
Following Frank, like a western posse looking for the point of it all, was modern legendary cowboy singer and songwriter, the one and only Will Ryan (“The Official Singing Cowboy of Hollywood”) who was here to save the day, even though it didn’t need being saved. (Isn’t it just like a country singer? There’s never one when you need one.) Ryan, front man for contemporary pop-country swing band, “Will Ryan and the Cactus County Cowboys,” is as affable as Tigger, the Winnie the Pooh character Ryan most notably voiced. Ryan’s original tunes are slick, clever and remind one of Steve Allen, Dan Hicks and Victor Borge by way of Gene Autry and Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. He’s Tom Lehrer meets Hank Williams, by way of country charm school. Abandoned by the Cactus County Cowboys, who were abound the territories in other temporal musical employment, Ryan rounded up four originals solo, including “Two Thousand Head of Cattle,” and the infectious sing-along, protest song “Barbed Wire”. Ryan (Will, not Paul) was a welcome antidote to “too much thinkin’,” as was guaranteed for the evening; though for my money, it would’ve been much better to have him do two songs here, two there, instead of the extended set of four songs and then another two later on. Having said that, Will Ryan is an immensely talented cowboy and if I were tied to the tracks, I’d want him to rescue me, ‘cause I know he’d write a song about it.
Next up was comedian Scott LaRose, a single dad from Rhode Island, who seemed completely miscast on this night. From his truly clever one-liners (“I’m colorblind – I saw Blue Man Group – not funny”) to his physical routine of Spiderman building his “ass web”; Scott is one of the best comedians out there. But, tonight, the money was on Wilson. Scott just never seemed to really connect with this particular audience, who seemed focused on their expected political ideas, not Seinfeldian sophistry. An enthusiastic talented observant comedian, talking about anything but politics (and in Scott’s case: being a single dad with a kid) seemed completely out of place for this supreme evening. I think, frankly, this is where the audience maybe got a bit snotty, not wanting to lower themselves, simply because it required switching to their other brain hemisphere. This is what I have to say to all live comedy audiences: Drop expectations and have a good time. We all eat it every once in a while and LaRose, with all the heavy lifting he had to do, kept a smile and kept it pro and for that alone, my toupee is off to him. And, now….The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The man of the hour. The man who once made God himself laugh so much, volcano lava came outta his nose, the one, the only….
Okay, I admit it. I’m a Rick Overton fan, and have been for nearly three decades. But, so are many people in this town. Rick Overton has become that new cheap Thai restaurant that cooks great Pad Thai, is incredibly affordable, open all hours, and was always there. Here’s a man who has done it all and yet, beyond the current comedy cognoscenti, has received relatively little notice of late from the established Hollywood stand-up media. Forget the fact that Rick’s ingenious comedy produced two of the finest HBO comedy specials of all time; and that Rick has maintained what everybody wants out here: a respectable film acting career, Overton is our Time Travelling Master Comedy Shaman. Combining the scary truth with the imaginary mundane is Overton’s métier, as exampled in his comment on the recent heat, “like someone dropping a wet futon on you” and coupling it with a quick reality check, “Is there anyone still denying global warming?” “I don’t want to say Romney is stiff, but compared to him, Siri sounds robotic” grabs us like a fish hook as we’re involuntarily glided along to considering Paul Ryan as assassination insurance, finally dumping his idea collective with the absurdly practical paragon of all of us being part of “the Demographic Party”.
But then, he switches up and gets real. “I don’t always agree with everything Obama does, but I hate everyone who hates him, so the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” opening the door to Fox News digital vote rigging and “assholes with money” being the real problem, which turns out to be set-up for his real point: the narrowing gap between church and state, “which you could barely throw a Frisbee through.” Overton’s Mafioso Jesus killers (“Dis is Rome, muddah-fuckah!”) is safely offset by incredible zoom out self-commentary, “I don’t think God who created the universe gives a shit what the bald guy is saying on Melrose.” Hilarious “Drunken Step-God”, the Religious Right against Gay Marriage (“because it stops the production line”), the Republican Party clown car jammed with closeted gay guys, America’s ancestral fashion heritage of Puritans wearing a buckle on their closed-minded hats, to dead on impressions of what Nick Nolte’s dog hears, Morgan Freeman bragging about his voice-over career and Overton’s classic, Sean Connery, this time the Scottish hero enjoying a dog’s chew toy, imploding his guttural grunts like Bowser grabbing a gym sock in your hand. Overton’s mantra seems to be quite apocalyptically inspired: “Never get out of the boat.” Rick Overton is the Comedian of Our Age. There is none better and there never could be. He’s that good. Wake up, America and anoint this Prince of Comedic Enlightenment, whom every successful comedian or Hollywood director with a brain (from Robin Williams to Steven Soderbergh) already recognizes as just plain great. Rick Overton’s time as Industry Secret must end now.
Returning to great sentimental applause was Will Ryan, who after experiencing omni-leveled Rick Overton, seemed like soothing Sam Elliot’s cowboy at the bowling alley bar in the Coen Brother’s classic, “The Big Lebowski”, as Ryan sang and led the delightful classic sing-a-long, “Happy Days Are Here Again”. Closing the evening was Jimmy Dore, star of several Comedy Central specials, a writer performer for the Off-Broadway hit “The Marijuana-Logues”, and the host of his own weekly radio show in Los Angeles on KPFK. Dore represents the 99% of comedians. He’s a guy who speaks for the everyman, but as an intellectual. A story of meeting swingers at a comedy gig whom he partook with, “after all; they bought a CD”; compounding logic arguing with a near car accident victim who took exception to Dore’s “Sorry” with the classically stupid, “Yeah, you’re sorry now!”; getting high and watching Christian television, being qualified on advising parents because he doesn’t have kids, food trucks as restaurants on wheels, his dog having a cardiologist (but not dental), Dore charms us with homespun regular guy super funny stuff.
But then he gets serious. “Obama is the luckiest politician; nobody good ever runs against him,” “They gave Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, then he ups the war in Afghanistan and kills Osama Bin Laden,” and the explains it all, “Mitt Romney gave a speech at the NAACP, gets booed and his wife taught a horse to dance…I’m so confident, I’m not voting” are Dore’s road signs there’s a tight curve ahead, as he fishtails to downright sarcastic outrage: “Where did our money go?....Teachers! They
took it!”, Jimmy Dore isn’t a peanut gallery comedian commentator; He’s a full-fledged knowledgeable pundit with actual new ideas and solutions, and who instinctively knows and boldly states, “Americans vote against their own interests” and yet, Dore himself knows how it all acquiescently sadly ends, sold-out like “the African American owned cloth and sheet manufacture who supplies the KKK with sheets because it’s good business.”
Recalling the soothing sweet smelling desert wind, Cowboy Will Ryan’s “Barbed Wire”, codifies the beginning of the end; the ruthless, inhumane fencing in of the West, the subdivision of holy Home on the Range: “Whatever happened to our freedom? Where did it ever up an go? What are we lookin’ at tomorrow? An’ do we really wanna know? Whoa!” What a great evening out. This could’ve been Rick Overton and Relatives, or…Rick Overton and Strangers, it was all the same. Overton’s entire point is that it’s all random anyway. We just think we have an influence. Just like our dear friend Spartacus, sometimes that’s all you need in these very confusing times:
I give Rick Overton & Friends @ The Lab eight out of eight menorahs!
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
The Jewish version of dumb whitey is matzoh.
Ordering coffee in LA is like proposing to a woman. You have to know exactly what you’re gonna say and if you get it wrong, the deal’s off.
Stalking is the sincerest form of flattery.
I just purchased a balloon online. Now I have monthly balloon payments. Enjoy the veal.
My post is your post.
Vice President Joe Biden said Romney wants to put us in chains. If that’s true, Romney’s assured the Castro district, West Hollywood and Christopher Street.
What do you call a boozy lounge singer from another planet?
Every time I see Mitt Romney on TV I wish it said, “You can skip this video in 5,4,3,2,1…”
I love an accept my penis for what it is. Warts and all.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Beth Lapides’ Uncabaret upcoming shows: Sunday Aug 19: Casey Wilson, The Sklars, Rory Scovel, Selene Luna, Sunday Aug 26: Mary Birsong, Michelle Lee, Carlos Kotkin
Crazee Cindy’s Comedy Show in The Belly Room @ The Comedy Store, Tuesday August 21, 7:45pm start.
Comedy Store LIVE Saturday Night - Weekly Saturday Night Show 8pm Belly Room. This week: Tamara Garfield, Mary Patterson Broome, Marco Assante, Michael Lenoci, Erin Hart, Tammy Jo Dearen, Adam Barnhardt
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Next week is my review of Ron Lynch’s Tomorrow Show at The Steve Allen Theatre and the week after that is my interview with British comedy maven Peter Grahame. Peter runs the oldest comedy club in London, was co-founder of the Cat’s Laugh Comedy Festival in Kilkenny, Ireland and was twice voted Time Out Comedy Promoter of the Year.
It’s been a busy week for this writer. Enjoy the Veal is becoming rather popular and I wrote a political speech for Roseanne, which she really liked.
Also, my foundation, The Laughter Foundation is planning something very special for Caleb Medley, the Aurora, Colorado comedian severely injured in the so-called “Batman Massacre”. Please, if you can, the Medley family has a huge hospital bill. Donate directly to the Caleb Medley fund set up by his family. Thank you.
Help Caleb Medley
To hire a comedy writer or to complain about anything: email@example.com
August 12, 2012 | 2:34 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
A lot has been said about my life-changing experience in working with Jerry Lewis; and primarily by yours truly. Truth is, actions speak much louder than words. And no action speaks louder than sex. It was a lovely London Sunday morning. The last of the drunks had waddled home from the pub and were neatly tucked away into their own warm blankets of vomit hours earlier. A horse-drawn hearse clip-clopped across the cobble-stone by my Notting Hill multi-level flat, taking some lucky English soul to that big pub in the sky. The electric milk truck quietly spun its rounds, dropping off fresh milk and cream to my new neighbours, Madonna and her Brit-Gangster flick director husband, Guy Richie. My lovely girlfriend of five years, Emma, had just given me the greatest “wind-employment” since Hurricane Katrina herself, as a prelude for some foreboding news she was about to impart my way. Sitting down on the couch next to me, as if she was about to announce she was secretly pregnant with Prince Harry’s child, Emma let me know, in no uncertain terms, she was leaving me. The reason was Jerry Lewis. Emma was sick of hearing my Jerry Lewis story. She was sick of my talking about it, writing about it, performing a one-man show about it, and most of all: Emma was sick to death of hearing of a “film I was developing with an Oscar winning producer based on my historical life-changing misadventure with Jerry Lewis.” She could care less and thought my obsession with Jerry Lewis was well beyond the pale of normal comedian madness and suggested I immediately seek psychiatric help, which I did, but my psychiatrist then left me for the same reason (he was a Dean Martin fan), but there was no “wind-employment” there, and why should there be, that would be just wrong, let me continue. You see, for me it was all business. Jerry Lewis was the biggest thing to ever happen to my career. When Jerry Lewis collapsed at the London Palladium, September 8, 2002, it made international news. Go ahead, Google it. We’ll wait. Ladies and Gentlemen, while the skeptics can’t wait, let me thank you, my loyal readers, who will politely wait until I’m done. Oh, they’re back. Was I right? ‘Nuff said. When Jerry Lewis collapsed at the London Palladium it created a flurry of questions hurled at me from all ends of the comedy industries in London, New York and LA; all repeating the same mysterious and annoying mantra, as if I, a “still-trying-to-figure-it-all-out-comedian” had somehow possessed the answer to the meaning of life itself:
“Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse?”
1a Mortimer Square was a multi-level “maisonette” with a loft office under a skylight, a very high open gallery living room, and an indoor BBQ in the kitchen. I loved my home. It was the first bit of property I ever owned. But, I got carried away (or should have been!). Notting Hill had been a very low-rent district for 30 years. But, in the ‘90’s (much like New York’s Soho district in the 80’s) it became hip and prices went through the roof. There are two modern historical periods for Notting Hill, the former home and subject matter of George Orwell, Thomas Hardy and G.K.Chesterton. Before and after the eponymous film starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Lissen up Hollywood moguls: One. Buy as much property as you can in the worst section of LA. Two. Package a romantic comedy set in that section of town. Three. Collect your money. I had bankers coming round my flat every six to eight months offering me 100,000 Pounds just to live there. Of course I stupidly signed on the dotted line. After losing my home in London three years ago, I came back to LA to take care of my sick mother, to resume dating a woman I was newly in love with (in other words: she really didn’t know me that well yet) and to try and co-produce the film based on my experience with Jerry Lewis, alongside and under the mentor-ship of a very well respected and accomplished Oscar winning producer who looked like Danny DeVito and talked like Joe Pesci. Steven Alan Green and Julian Krainin’s “How I Nearly Killed Jerry Lewis” or “Why Dean Drank” had the buzz of top Hollywood actors and directors; as it was/is a great story of Shakespearian proportions. A very dysfunctional comedian is saved by his childhood hero, who ultimately befriends him, then lets him down, nearly dying in his arms, causing the comedian to reconcile with his dead father. Hilarious right? In real life: Jerry Lewis was both my best friend and worst enemy. And, thus that became the pervasive narrative in my head: Was Jerry Lewis ever really my friend? And in the end, who in Hollywood is EVER our “friend”? And, I thought I had it all categorized and sorted. But, when I started to lose my mind…Scratch that. I don’t think you ever can notice when you “start” to lose your mind. I think its more like suddenly noticing the cat licking itself. Maybe I better not talk too much about my own sometimes questionable mental health. The best way people can get to know me, and to trust me, is to simply be me for one day. Be the man who nearly and accidentally killed Jerry Lewis.
Lisa Coburn, a great lady, good friend and daughter of the late great James Coburn, called me up, inviting me to her Christmas party. Lisa says to me, “Steven, I would love to have you come to my Christmas party…..but you have to promise me you will leave Jerry Lewis at home.” What on earth was she talking about? I don’t live with Jerry Lewis? Lisa explained to me that apparently (I have no proof of this unfathomable fantasy one way or the other) I had gained a reputation of constantly talking to anyone and everyone about what Jerry Lewis did to me, my life, my show, my business, etc, etc and that I had been boring her friends to tears, almost as badly as if I were indeed Jerry Lewis himself showing up uninvited for breakfast, fast-talking about film theory, when you’re just trying to chew, swallow and transport. Once I realized Lisa was right, that I must have engendered said reputation, I fessed up and said, “You know what, Lisa…I can do that. No problem!” So, I gets (not a typo) to Lisa Coburn’s and it’s a full party. John Barrymore, Mellissa Torme March, Stephen Hawking: all sorts of interesting showbiz and literary people and plenty of traif. What more could a nice non-practicing Jew want. (oy, I’m gonna get emails!) I sit down on the couch, biting my lip until it nearly bleeds, thinking of Willie Mays, as I repeat over and over in my head: “Do not say the words: Jerry Lewis”. Rick Overton sits down next to me and talks with another comedian. “Did you see that comedian on HBO last night? I’m telling you, man, he was amazing! His physical movements…just like Jerry Lewis!” I slowly get up and zombie walk (continuing to repeat my mantra) to the other side of the living room where there was the entrance to the video lounge. I went in for shelter. They were playing blues videos. Guess who was on. Jerry Lee Lewis. I about faced it like Bilko getting busted and who should coming running after me, but none other than Lisa Glucksman, daughter of the late Ernie Glucksman, who directed Jerry on the ground-breaking Colgate Comedy Hour. “Steven! Let me tell you what Jerry did to my father! You know my father blah, blah, blah, and Jerry blah blah blah blah” I picked up my coat, left Lisa’s party very quietly and proud that I fulfilled Lisa’s wishes of my not mentioning Jerry Lewis to anyone. I didn’t have to; everyone else did it for me. And that would continue to happen again and again and again and in more bizarre ways.
In 2009, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was honoring Jerry Lewis with the Jean Hersholtz Award for Philanthropy, for all the great things Jerry Lewis has done to help bring awareness, and most importantly money (which buys invaluable life-saving and life-improving research) to his life-long pet cause, that of finding a cure for Muscular Dystrophy. Jerry Lewis has saved and bettered tens of thousands of lives; make no mistake about that. I’m sure Jerry was fully appreciative and humbled of receiving recognition for his massive philanthropic achievement, but I betcha, inside, Jerry was secretly a little miffed, as I know I would be. The Academy has never honored him artistically for his incredible worthy life’s body of film work. I mean, the comedian who broke the modern forth wall? Or the comedian who appealed to all ages at once? The comedian who has run the gauntlet of the critics, whom he all proved wrong? The comedian who succeeded in all areas of ShowBiz?
. Or the irrefutable fact that Jerry Lewis remains the only person to ever dominate both movies and television at the same time. Jim Carrey never did that. He was one, then the other. Jerry Lewis was number one in television and movies
at the same time
. Forget the Video-Assist. Jerry invented the Comedy-Assist. Jerry Lewis, for all his faults; for all his flaws: Vanity, compulsiveness, erratic and condescending behavior, are really only minor blips (if not indicators of) of one of the greatest comedic science minds of all time. If the Oscars had a comedy category, Jerry would dominate, but they don’t and Jerry would agree with me that the reason they don’t is that they don’t understand comedy and how it works. I got news for you all. Nobody does. Pure Comedy as a value unto itself sometimes gets lost in Hollywood, in the very same odd way the MDA spookily erased the patron saint of sick children Jerry Lewis from their future branding. What numbskulls. That’s just dumb business. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno is a completely different show than The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Johnny was the star. Jay is just “with”. Maybe that’s ‘cause Jay is more of a regular guy than Johnny and Jay’s tip of the hat to his hero. Be that as it may, beyond a doubt, Jerry Lewis is living proof, that just like nuclear power, you have to accept the bad with the good with everybody. Jerry just happens to be better at both than most. That’s his sin. My sin was yet to be revealed. As my friend and oft personal guru, Beano says, “I like people. It’s their behavior I sometimes have trouble with.” And Hitler was an excellent dancer.
Here I was, in the third balcony of the Kodak Theatre, peering down upon the man who was both the greatest and worst thing to ever happen to me. The man who helped me create a disaster. The man who broke my dream in two. The man, whom I seriously thought was the bestest friend I ever had. Imagine being a kid getting drunk with Santa Claus. That’s what being friends with Jerry Lewis was like. A nobody comedian of no time, connecting on a very deep level with the greatest comedian of all times. As I watched Robert DeNiro extol his appreciation for and to Sean Penn, I flashed back seven years ago, to when I was happy and hopeful and frankly, building a business. Like all the horrible events in life (war, funerals, marriage) things usually begin with a formal invitation. My misadventure with self-proclaimed “Super Jew” himself, a former skinny kid from Jersey not known as Joseph Levitch, the man who brought laughter and salvation to the once tear-stained cheeks of a little boy lost in the middle of an horrific divorce, the great Jerry Lewis was no different than a Christmas party, and too required a formal invitation.
……and so in closing, in honor of your great accomplishments in Comedy and Charity, I hereby invite you to come to London (First Class travel and accommodations) to perform at The London Palladium and receive the first ever High On Laughter Award. I thank you for your kind consideration and very much look forward to hearing from you.
Steven Alan Green
As I drove down to meet my childhood hero, little did I know, I would be drafted and braced to go down in Show Biz History, as the man who inadvertently nearly killed Jerry Lewis.
September 8th, 2002
Sunday night at the London Palladium
The audience had been enthralled by twelve great comedians from the US and the UK, including Zach Galifiniakis, Bobcat Goldthwait, Emo Philips, Paul Provenza, Rick Overton, Boothby Graffoe, Earl Okin, Rick Right, Jim Gaffigan, Shelagh Martin, and the pretty-great yours truly. All of us went up on that great plank of wood still scuffed by the shoe tattoos of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Judy Garland; and of course, Martin & Lewis. This was my show now, not Budd Friedman’s or Mitzi Shore’s. I was the producer. The man in charge. Over eight months of prep-work, investing my life savings by re-mortgaging my Notting Hill multi-level flat along with the hardened experience of two previous years’ High On Laughter shows, made this show the biggest of my career. Career? Who was I kidding. I was a mid-forties comedy refuge and this was just another pathetic —albeit, very expensive—showcase. High on Laughter is a comedy-charity show I created that benefits Turning Point Scotland, a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana. I had gained a small buzz, doing my infamous “farewell performances only” stand-up act, where I told every audience I was “addicted to the laughter and had to quit” and every show was my last. I performed over 5,000 “farewell performances” in 16 years, and now I wanted to help real addicts as a poetic gesture of goodwill. Plus, the charity endorsed me. Peter Grahame, one of my best mates, who runs the oldest and best comedy club in London (Downstairs at The Kings Head) slowly makes his way over to me backstage that Sunday night of “The Palladium Incident.” I could see the look in his face. It wasn’t good.
“Steven, Jerry won’t come out of his dressing room until you leave the theatre.” I looked Peter in the eye; he was dead serious. One of the most jovial and trusted movers and shakers on the British Comedy Scene was now telling me something I just couldn’t believe I was hearing. My star (and one-time childhood idol) the one and only Jerry Lewis, the man whom I was giving a lifetime achievement award to for all his contributions to Comedy and Charity, had told my show-runner, that before he’d come out of his dressing room to accept the award I was giving him, I, the producer of this show, the financier of this show, the creator of the show, would have to immediately leave my own theatre. I can still feel my own eyeballs popping out of my head like a Tex Avery cartoon character. This was my baby, my pride and joy! Not his! This one I was filming for television. But after three months of working with Jerry Lewis I was at the end of my rope. Jerry had pulled out of the show one too many times. He would call me up daily, either in tears over the state of his career (“What am I gonna do, sell men’s shoes?”) OR frothing at the mouth angry with me for what reason I never knew (“I eat people like you for breakfast!... or lunch!…depending on when I wake up!”) OR as the most gentle, professional and courteous collaborator I ever worked with (“Steven, you and I stand on the same part of the stage.”). But, I managed to survive the inconsistencies in Mr. Lewis’s personality. I finessed my way around; I cajoled Jerry by reminding him how “They’re gonna love you in London!” or by laughing at his truly funny banter. He was a handful, for sure. But, I think that’s exactly what he liked about me. I too was a handful. A handful of piss and vinegar and for once in his lifetime and career-time, he was not dealing with the usual types: sycophants that stars – legendary stars – surround themselves with. The biggest, most obnoxious ShowBiz ego of all time had finally met his match. A short-tempered, unappreciated in his own country comedy loser, who found respectability, fame, and a fleeting fortune in a European country. Jerry Lewis was dealing with Steven Alan Green. God save his clownish soul. I camouflaged myself amongst the bizarre Tim Burton-like sets and props from the West End production of “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang,” and what I was about to see was one of the saddest things I’d ever witness in my entire life.
Driving down to San Diego to meet Jerry three months earlier, I was starving. Jerry had told me to “Bring a big appetite!,” and so I inhaled a muffin, washed it down with some instant and got on the 405. My heart was doing 90 in the slow lane. Time was beginning to change all around me. I’m going to meet the great Jerry Lewis! On his yacht! Wow, Steven, how far you’ve come! (Oh, no. I haven’t even passed through Irvine.) I get to the big hotel, I ask for “Jerry Lewis’s yacht” and was pointed where to go. I went to a gate where I was met by Jack, one of Jerry’s assistants, who walked me to a beautiful classically appointed boat, representing the world-class accomplishments of a great man. I go on board, down the stairs to the cabin. And, right there, sitting at his computer, was Jerry Lewis. Now bloated beyond belief like some surreal Thanksgiving Day parade balloon (the result of him taking Prednisone, a steroid that saved his life), Jerry pointed a camera at me and shouted, “Say cheese!” A flash went off and I was now, and forever, in Jerry’s World.
The first story Jerry told me was about Steven Spielberg. How after E.T. premiered in Cannes, the Jaws-dropping director got an incredible standing-O, which just wouldn’t stop. Spielberg, as if he were merely an actor who had just performed Richard III for The Queen, directs the audience to a royal box and elegantly bows. King Jerry stands up and waves graciously to his loyal subjects. I snap out of it. Where’s this flippin’ lunch? Jerry asks me if I’d like another Popsicle. A what? Two-and-a-half hours of Jerry telling me this story and that story. How he got drunk with Peter Sellers, partied hard with Jack & Bobby Kennedy, Peter Lawford and, of course, Marilyn. He was handing me loose chapters of his upcoming book, “Dean and Me,” assistants were giving me more and more popsicles, so much so, that I had to excuse myself several times to pish, and once in his bathroom, I couldn’t help but notice the multitudes of antibacterial hand sanitizers. When I came back to the main cabin, Jerry does what Jerry does best. He takes over. Jerry Lewis listed – as if I was his Errand Boy – what he needed from me. Seven people traveling with him, First Class, Five-Star accommodations, 24-hour limo & security, a giant video screen, plus a 36-piece orchestra. On exit, I told him I was filming the entire thing. He said, “Fine! But I charge $150,000 for 12-month worldwide rights!” I was okay with that. I had Jerry Lewis. What was I worried about? I left in search of a burger and drove back to LA. The next morning, he calls me up, his voice all nasty-like.
“Steven Alan Green? This is Jerry Lewis.I’m not doing your show!
And without missing a beat, I said, “Good! Who the hell needsyou
Jerry laughed and we became instant friends. Scratch that…we became partners. Scratch that too. He became my boss. He’d be calling me up every day. I was going on Buffy auditions, the phone was ringing off the hook, I was praying it wasn’t Jerry Lewis. The High On Laughter Award? Jerry wanted me to call it The Charlie Chaplin Award, but when I checked with The Chaplin Estate in Paris, and they said “No way, nes pas?” Jerry harrumphed and said, “That’s Okay. We’ll call it The Jerry Lewis Award!” (“And the nominees are: Jerry Lewis…Jerry Lewis….Jerry Lewis…Jerry Lewis….and Myron Pickleman.”) I was actually giving Jerry Lewis, the first ever Jerry Lewis Award. (Can you see why my last psychiatrist actually fired me as a patient?) Meanwhile, my publicist in London never even heard of Jerry Lewis and thought I was bringing over Jerry LEE Lewis! And it turns out most of modern day Britain never heard of him either. After all, England is another world; they never even heard of Jay Leno or Dennis Miller. Why? They don’t get HBO or NBC over in England. I needed a film star. A legend. And because Jerry had reneged on his very important promise to give me two weeks for press interviews, to be there for me, even though he said: “Steven, nobody knows what it’s like to produce a big show like I do, I’m gonna be there every step of the way,” on the word of our publicist, just for insurance, I booked a gifted British comedian sight unseen, who had just won the prestigious Perrier Award up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Daniel Kitson’s opening line, as Jerry had locked himself in the dressing room with my wife Tamsin, telling her he was upset with me for making the advertising say: “Starring Jerry Lewis” but he wanted “Honoring Jerry Lewis” (which he never told me) the two bodyguards in my employ were now telling me, “We work for Mr. Lewis now” and not allowing me access to my star…The British dysfunctional comedic genius Daniel Kitson’s opening line was: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play a third-full Palladium to people who’ve come to see a dying man
.” And indeed, it seemed as if that little joke was all about to sadly come true…
The stage was set. The 18-piece orchestra sat in front of a giant projected “High On Laughter” logo, instruments in their laps, no musical charts because someone in Jerry’s crew forgot them and when I asked Jerry about them at rehearsal, he screamed at me again, but this time in front of the entire crew: “I’ve been in Show Business for 50 years! I’ll give you a show and you’ll like it!” Bobcat Goldthwait (whose earlier set stole the show) returned to the stage to the mass approval of the audience. You could just feel the anticipation. Showing sincere appreciation for his chaotic comedic soul-mate, Bobcat introduced the clips, explaining that, “Jerry Lewis didn’t just pave the comedy road we’ve all conveniently travelled on; he pretty much invented it.” The giant video screen descends and my heart literally stopped, as I realized that this was a huge moment, not just for me, but for my friend Jerry. Black and White Buster Keaton Jerry, Vegas Nightclub Jerry, Telethon Jerry, Errand Boy Jerry, Cinderfella Jerry; all of them, sparkling like comedic Rushmore moments in time; Dean Martin mysteriously absent from them all. The live audience at the Palladium laughed alongside the relatively ancient audiences recorded in some of the video. I was seeing my dream come true. That I, Steven Alan Green, once considered the worst thing you could call a comedian: unfunny; having discovered the ugly duckling truth that another country – a much smarter and older country’s culture, would appreciate even a lowly wretch like me for what they saw as, “Brilliant!”—was now sharing my archeological find (the great British comedians and audiences) with the world. I believed that, indeed I was in fact resuscitating the fallen career of my childhood hero. Looking back at it now, I must’ve been crazy, and if you can add all that up and hold it in your mind’s breath for just a moment, then let the reality of the following situation become your exhale.
As I hid in the wings, watching the comedy genius who turned my childhood tears to laughter, stand on the opposite end of the Palladium stage, staring up at the video clips on the giant screen, of himself fifty years previous, thin, young and at the top of his game…then watching The King of Comedy wistfully look out at the less than sold-out house, and then…and then….heCOLLAPSES! Boom
! To the floor! I literally said out loud to myself: “I’ve just killed Jerry Lewis.” Oxygen (which he conveniently had demanded last minute before he’d get on the plane from Vegas) was rushed to his side. I had to go out on stage and announce that “Unfortunately, Jerry Lewis was taken ill and taken to hospital…pray for Jerry,” that announcement getting on the AP and reported worldwide. Jerry was stretchered out to an ambulance, briefly smiling while removing the oxygen mask, simply to whisper to his filmmaking friend Pierre Etaix (whom I flew in from Paris at Jerry’s request) “I’m okay, Pierre!” But, I wasn’t so sure my friend was okay.
The bodyguards (still on my payroll and yet mysteriously now in Jerry’s control) were now guarding the ambulance at the back of the Palladium as if it was a mobile Rat Pack wet-bar and I was Jack Carter. They wouldn’t let me near King Tut. The ambulance screeched off down Oxford Circus, slowly strobed by a pathetically small flutter of paparazzi flash, which magically seemed like Medieval fireflies as seen through the prism of light English drizzle. The official report from the London Ambulance service was, “a man whom we cannot name, was picked up at the stage door at the London Palladium on or about 11pm on the 8th of September, 2002, was treated on site for minor exhaustion and taken directly back to the Dorchester Hotel.” I can’t prove it, but my guess is that passenger was probably Jerry Lewis. My announcement made international news as The King of the Pratfalls flew back across the pond home the next day on my dime, without so much as a “would you like my autograph?” I later heard he told Gareth Valentine, the orchestra leader, moments before, “If I fall, just leave me there.” And the endless repeating question began, as every comedian, every comedy agent, and every club owner asked me the same exact goddam question. A question, which, to this day – nearly 10 years later – I still cannot begin to answer. “Did Jerry Lewis – the King of the Pratfalls – fake his collapse
?” My answer to everyone was always, “Jerry Lewis is the greatest comedian to have ever lived. Jerry Lewis is my friend,” and then I’d walk away wondering if they bought any of it. After all, although every contemporary comedian is completely fascinated with Jerry Lewis himself, few of them will ever admit he indeed is their secret comedy pleasure.
Tamsin and I sent the award to Jerry’s address in Vegas, but we never heard from our friend again. As I stood on Chelsea Bridge, watching the London sunset vaguely illuminate Big Ben in eerie orange, I thought to myself: “Now I know why Dean drank.” I smiled and laughed to myself then walked down to the nearest pub for a nice cold glass of Guinness and a Cuban cigar. Little did I know that my future would so be forged of these events. But, that’s Life, isn’t it. Just when you think you’re on top…You’re reminded, that just like the rest of us schmucks, you’re always gonna be somebody’s patsy, sometime.
Enjoy the Veal,
Steven Alan Green
Part Two of “Jerry Lewis: The Devil’s Genius” to be published next month.
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
It’s Barton Fink hot!
Until this country accepts mental illness as a real illness and offers unabashed treatment for those who think they might be mentally ill, there will continue to be crazy public massacres, as well as Romney supporters.
Gun violence, over-medication, mental illness, financial strife, bitter politics…America. The greatest country on the planet! Well, at least we have Montel Williams. And some Olympic gold. And Betty White. And Burning Man. And Taco Bell. As I was saying, This is the greatest country on the planet!
I’m tired of all these so-called “Hate Groups” here in America. From the KKK to the Tea Party. How ‘bout a “Love Group”? We can organize and we can….You know what? Let’s just have Group Love.
Everything’s like midget porn out here in LA. Nobody wants to give an inch.
LATE BREAKING NEWS: The Mars Rover Curiosity has discovered Mitt Romney’s tax returns!
One of the primary missions of the Mars Observer is to see how dim Mitt Romney is from outer space.
THIS WEEK’S COMEDY RECOMMENDATIONS:
Beth Lapides’ Uncabaret upcoming shows:Sunday Aug 12: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Rick Overton, Christian Shirm, Karen Kilgariff, We Govern We, Sunday Aug 19: Casey Wilson, The Sklars, Rory Scovel, Selene Luna, Sunday Aug 26
: Mary Birsong, Michelle Lee, Carlos Kotkin
Perry Kurtz @ The LA Comedy Awards @ The Hard Rock Cafe,This Friday, August 17
. The Hard Rock Cafe, 6801 Hollywood Blvd #105, Hollywood. Red Carpet at 7pm. Showtime 10pm. No Cover. Parking: You’re on your own.
Read the ETV Interview with Perry Kurtz
ODDZ ‘N ENZ:
Regarding Caleb Medley, the local Aurora, Colorado stand-up who was severely wounded in the so-called “Batman Massacre,” I’ve spoken with some of his friends and he’s hanging in there. Please, if you can, the Medley family has a huge hospital bill. Donate directly to the Caleb Medley fund set up by his family. Thank you.
Help Caleb Medley
To hire a comedy writer or to complain about anything: firstname.lastname@example.org