Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Drawer

Well, another week has gone by. Iraq is exploding. Republican Senators are pledging their allegiance to Jesus. And Shaun Eli is the No. 1 comic on Comedy Soapbox.

So another words, same ol' shit.

A few of you have requested that I resurrect my "Week in Review" column, but frankly, it involves a huge amount of work for very little payoff. And I suspect it amuses nobody outside of the comics who blog on this site (with the possible exception of the sex-crazed Soapbox stalker know only as "Postdoc").

I will, however, say publicly that I was mighty impressed with Morgan Gold's sordid tale of wiping himself with his own sock. (And the title -- "The Sock" -- is genius through simplicity.)

Always the competitive soul (and not to be undone by a toilet tale), I hereby reveal to the universe my most painful and embarrassing childhood memory.

I was about 7 or 8. My mother had furnished my bedroom in what was no doubt the height of latter-70s chic: Everything was butcher block, including my bed -- really just a giant box with a mattress inside it -- and a storage unit that ran the entire length of one wall. The unit consisted of a cabinet, a desktop, and two giant parallel drawers for storing clothing.

In typical 70s minimalist fashion, the drawers had no handles on them. To open them, I had to scrunch down, spread my arms as wide as they would go, grasp the rough butcher block edges of the drawer and apply pressure until the heavy thing rolled out on its metal casters.

Closing the drawers was a much simpler operation; all one had to do was push, and the thing abruptly slammed back into place.

I rarely used the bottom drawer; the top drawer was where I kept the clothing I wore on a daily basis -- t-shirts, jeans, socks, underwear and pajamas. (They were really big drawers.) And I had gotten in the habit, when rushing to get dressed, of using my midsection to close the top drawer. I was just the right height so that one pelvic thrust and boom -- I was done.

Except for one thing I didn't know at the time: Little kids don't stay the same height forever.

One night, I hurriedly went about dressing myself in pajamas. I went through my normal routine: scrunch down, spread arms, apply pressure, reach into drawer, remove PJs and boom -- pelvic thrust. For a moment I was stunned; I had never seen stars appear before my eyes like that. Then I looked down.
The drawer was indeed closed.

And my penis was inside it.

I don't mean to make it sound like I was Bobbited; my little boyhood was still attached to me. But at the same time, it was completely contained inside a closed butcher block drawer. Confused? Picture a balloon animal, and you'll get some sense of the state I was in.


Yup.


It took another few seconds, and then I began screaming. Within moments my entire family -- Mom, Dad and two older sisters -- were in my room to witness this freak accident. I distinctly remember my sisters laughing, God love 'em. My father opened the drawer, freed my mangled meat, swooped me up and carried me down to his office for examination. (He happened to be a pediatrician with a home office.) I assume, too, that somebody peeked inside the drawer to make sure I hadn't left anything crucial behind.

Later, when I finally got the nerve to look down at myself, I saw blood. Then the skin at the base turned black for a few days. And peeing was excruciating for at least a week.

But miraculously, I suffered no serious damage of any kind. Well, except for the fact, I've always suspected, that I would have been far more well endowed had it not been for this unfortunate incident.

And to this day, the sight of butcher block makes me shudder.

Monday, April 18, 2005

There is Nothing Like a Nap

I don't mean the kind of nap your mom makes you take when you're little; those suck. When you're little, you have to go to sleep at 7 p.m. anyway, so why would you want to spend any of your precious daytime hours in bed? Not to mention the fact that if you're going to sleep at 7 p.m., are you really so sleep-deprived that you need to nap?

Nor do I mean the kind of nap that happens when you fall asleep in front of the TV set after dinner, drifting in and out of consciousness, waking every few seconds whenever the television does something loud; those suck, too. The sleep you're getting is in no way restful, yet you're also not getting any quality TV-watching in.

No, I mean the kind of nap I had this afternoon -- planned, deliberate, utterly luxurious. I was exhausted all day because I had woken up at 4 this morning, my warped brain turning over the numerous ways in which I could open my set at Carolines Wednesday night. I tried all my usual tricks to get back to sleep: First, I did nothing. Then I read Entertainment Weekly. Then I turned on the TV. Do you know what's on at 4:30 a.m. on Monday? Buttkiss. Infomercials. Horrible old movies. Dumb ass "Insomniac Music Theater" on MTV. Even TVLand blew; they were showing "Cosby." Not "The Cosby Show," but "Cosby," his horribly lame follow-up show. By the time I figured that out (I kept waiting for Theo and Rudy to pop up, and they never did), I realized I was fully awake.


Once funny. Now, just an old perv.

So I got up. Made a big breakfast. Went to the gym. Worked out hard. Dragged myself to work. By 4 p.m., my eyes were starting to close involuntarily. Plus my head was pounding because it's spring and suddenly I'm allergic to everything and my sinuses killed. So I got the hell out of dodge. Came home. Drew my shades. Fluffed up my pillow. Set my alarm for exactly two hours later. And fell into total, peaceful, delicious slumber.

I awoke about 1/2 hour before my alarm, feeling utterly golden... like I had just smoked the world's finest opium (or so I've heard). Outside my window, a bird cooed softly. The temperature had dropped, and there was a cool breeze blowing on my face. I remained engulfed in a pile of soft sheets and blankets. Now, as I type this, I have that sort of post-dormal groove, where I feel refreshed, yet at any moment I could fall back into a deep sleep if I wanted to. It's better than sex (or so I've heard).

Did Ron Poole's Gay and Lesbian Comedy Fest at Don't Tell Mama Thursday night. Inexplicably, only three audience members showed up, so it was more or less an open mic. Which is good, considering that I did all new material and bombed miserably -- perhaps because I followed a disabled comic and dared myself to open with a joke at his expense. I'm too ashamed to even repeat it here. Let's just say, I'm no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; I should just stick to the nice guy shtick I do and leave the meanness to those who are trained professionals.

Friday night I made my regular stop at Rose's Turn, where a drunk straight guy in the front row was wreaking havoc on all the performers. The usually mellow Michael Isaacs had to keep reprimanding him to shut the hell up, stop dancing in the aisle, stop trying to touch the performers, etc. By the time I got up there, Michael seemed truly frazzled. So I began by saying, "You know, Michael Isaacs is the sweetest, kindest most gentle person on the planet. He makes the Dali Lama look like Mike Tyson. It takes a special kind of asshole to piss him off. Just so everyone realizes that."

Perhaps because of what I said or perhaps because he was too drunk to move at that point, Obnoxious Guy was more or less quiet during my set, which was so-so.

I did, however, meet two people at Rose's who asked if they could be president and vice-president of my fan club. Just my luck -- they're both women.

Saturday night I did Tracy Esposito's show at New York Comedy Club, which attracted a large and welcoming crowd. Tracy put me up first, which is always a thrill. In spite of my prior debacle at Mama's, I forced myself to do an entirely new 5-minute bit about the time I developed a boil on my testicle while producing live coverage of the conflict in Iraq. All in all, I'd give myself a B-. Fortunately, the crowd was very kind; they cheered when I got to the punchline (perhaps as if to say, "Thank God! It's over!").

But what most blew me away about Saturday's showcase was how talented the other performers were. Tracy was no surprise -- she's a pro and always great. But everyone else I saw humbled me and made me realize I still have so much work to do, regardless of any small success I'm currently enjoying.

Most impressive were Kelly Lynn, a larger-than-life female Sam Kinison type who deconstructed song lyrics from the 80s; Kevin Conn, the best physical comic I've seen live in a very long time; and Daniel Becker, who opened with the following X-rated bit: (Parents and other uptight-types, consider yourself warned.)

"I'm so lucky, because not only do I have a lot of friends here tonight, but my grandmother is also here tonight. (Applause.) I love you, Nana. So anyway, I'm fucking this pigeon up the ass, and she starts flapping her wings like she's gonna come first! I'm all, 'No way, bitch. My window ledge, my rules!'"

I love that sort of wildly inappropriate stuff. It's what David Spade does when he's at his best.

I'm very excited about performing in the Hedda Lettuce show at Carolines this Wednesday night, about which HX Magazine wrote the following this week:

Lettuce Laugh
Hedda Lettuce @ Caroline's, 1626 Broadway (49th St)
212-757-4100, hedda.com, 9:30pm, $17
After touring the country, Queen of Comedy Hedda Lettuce is proud to bring her act home to New York's premiere comedy club, Caroline's. Hedda will share the stage with some of her favorite queens, including drag magician Cashetta, impressionist Porsche, plus-size burlesque babe Allison Tilsen and comic cutie Adam Sank.

Woo hoo!

P.S. This is what part of the alphabet would look like if q and r were missing.
--Mitch Hedberg

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Boobs: BUSTED!

Last night I watched the premiere of Pamela Anderson's new sitcom, "Stacked." Mind you, I was not expecting greatness. (I wasn't actually expecting anything; I was doing the dishes while waiting for "American Idol" to begin.) So I'm sort of watching it with one eye and one ear and, as one might expect, the show is terrible. Lame joke followed by screaming laughtrack followed by lame joke and so forth.

The premise is simple: Nerdy, uptight but attractive Gavin (Elon Gold) owns a bookshop populated by wacky characters including Christopher Lloyd, wasted as an unfunny variation of his "Back to the Future" character. In walks Pamela Anderson playing, well, Pamela Anderson -- a surgically enhanced ho-bag who has just discovered her rock star boyfriend in bed with two other women. (Incidentally, I'd like to see the network allow that situation with two men in bed with the rock star instead of two women. Actually, I'd just like to see a rock star in bed with two men, period. But I digress.)

We know before the episode's end that Pamela is going to end up working in the bookshop, which also employs Katrina (Marisa Jaret Winokur from Broadway's "Hairspray), a frumpy, foul-tempered, sad-sack coffee waitress and Stuart (Brian Scolaro), her overweight, wise-cracking coworker.

We also meet Gavin's ex-wife, Charlotte (Paget Brewster), an hyper-intellectual ice queen for whom he still pines. Regardless, there are already less than subtle hints that stick-up-his-butt Gavin and everything-up-her-butt Pam Anderson are going to wind up horizontal before too long.


"I may be cheap, but at least I'm easy!"

Midway through this dreck, I realize that not only is it all terribly unfunny, it's also terribly familiar. Maybe that's because I've already seen this show when it first premiered 20 years ago. It was called "Cheers." And it was funny.

It doesn't take a genius to come up with the near-parallel structure immediately.

Bookshop =
Bar
Pam Anderson = Sam Malone
Gavin = Diane
Katrina = Carla
Stuart = Norm
Christopher Lloyd = Combination of Frasier and Cliff (which clearly doesn't work)
Charlotte = Lilith

Now what I want to know is, with the thousands of TV scripts out there that never get made into pilots, and the thousands of pilots that never make air, is abject plagiarism the best Fox can come up with for a vehicle for Pam Anderson (who is sort of fascinating, in a "can't stop looking at this car wreck" kind of way)?

No wonder reality TV is all we're left with these days.

Come see me tonight at Don't Tell Mama!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Help Me, Joan

I can't stop writing material. I don't mean actually writing, like with a pen or on computer. I mean in my head. I'll be watching TV and a commercial comes on for JetBlue. And I'll think, "JetBlue? Sounds like 'Jet blew.' Great name for an airline. Why don't they come out with a new ocean liner and call it 'Ship Sank?'"

OK, I didn't say it was funny material. The point is, I can't turn it off. I'm having trouble falling asleep at night because I'm churning jokes in my head. I wake up in the morning -- an hour before my alarm goes off -- doing the same thing.

My conversations with my friends and co-workers are becoming more and more like set pieces. Yesterday I acted out CNN's minute-by-minute coverage of the Charles & Camilla wedding for of my entire office.

Doubtless, this is all due to anxiety and stress over my impending headliner set in Mexico. I still can't quite grasp that I'm going to be up there by myself, all alone, for 45 minutes. It just doesn't seem possible. I have felt this way many "first" times in my life:
the first time I ever wrote something for publication; the first time I ever produced a live news broadcast; the first time I ever did standup. Somehow, I always managed to pull it off and, afterwards, thought to myself, "What was I so afraid of?" And yet -- still, I freak out when faced with a new challenge. Am I a hopless neurotic, or do I rely on the anxiety to fuel my adrenaline and thereby my performance? Or both?

Last night, in an effort to try and calm myself, I began reading Joan Rivers's memoir, "Enter Talking." I've been a huge fan of Joan's since I was a child. In fact, growing up I had an autographed photo of her glued to my toilet seat (which, as you can imagine, was of some concern to my parents). I had her "What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most" album memorized by age 10.

I've met her twice -- both times when she was a guest on the show I produced for Fox News. She was a doll -- one of the nicest and most down-to-earth celebrities with whom I ever dealt. The first time she came on the show, I pre-interviewed her first on the phone, which was like talking to an old friend. Then, when she came for the show, she graciously posed for a photo with me.

When she came back a year later, I was no longer booking guests and had no legitimate reason to visit her in the green room before her segment. But an associate producer called me at my desk and said Joan was asking for me. It turns out she just wanted to say hello. Of course, I made her take another photo with me.


"What a nice little fegeleh Adam is."

Anyway, I expected "Enter Talking" to be really dishy and schticky, but it's actually an extrememly personal examination of her life. Most affecting for me so far was the opening passage which says, essentially, that all comics are insane. We walk onto an empty stage alone with no script, no music, no fellow performers, nothing. Once there, we reveal our inner-most thoughts and feelings to a roomful of strangers who are judging us from the moment they see us. They are thinking, "Do I like him? Is he attractive? Is he smart? Is he funny?" When they don't laugh, it is an utter rejection of who we are.

What sane person would possibly do this voluntarily?

She goes on to say that very often, she'll see a young person come on stage to do comedy and know that person will never make it because, "you either have a comic mind, whatever that is, or you don't."

Here's to hoping I do.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Idols on Broadway

Hey, kids.

So I haven't blogged in more than four days, and yet I've moved UP in the Soapbox ratings. People seem to like me better when I remain silent. Ominous.

Shaun Eli remains No. 1 as always. Seriously, Shaun, are you paying people to click on you?

I have spent the last couple weeks trying to pool my "best" material in preparation for Cancun. Jason is offering constructive criticism in helping me get ready, but he seems to think "real" comics just get on stage and "wing it." ("Why are you writing it all out in a script? You should just get up there and say whatever comes to your head at that moment." Uh, yeah, except that would make me a homeless person, not a comic. And this is coming from somebody who used to act on Broadway!)

I forgot how tough it is to determine whether something's funny without an audience in front of me to let me know. Now I understand why most comics try out their new material at open mics, unlike stupid me, who tries it out in front of club crowds. But even if I went to open mics, how the hell would I try out 30 minutes of new material?! You get two -- maybe three minutes at open mics. I'd have to go every single night for the next month!

I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing until Tuesday, when I received my contract in the mail. Then it dawned on me that they're actually paying me. Bombing is not an option, if I ever want to work again. Breathe in. Breathe out.

When I'm not writing material, I worry about Paula Abdul. Seriously -- does anyone besides me realize that the woman is not well?? Her behavior is becoming increasingly erratic. Tuesday night on the Idol tribute to Broadway, she told Constantine she was falling in love with him, and wished she could hug him. Yeah, not at all inappropriate.


"Pucker up, big boy."


"Wow. I'd rather do Ryan Seacrest."

Speaking of that Broadway tribute show, it was pretty horrible, particularly when Anthony Fedorov sang, "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music." Not only did he sound "simply hideous," as Simon put it, but did nobody clue him in beforehand that he was singing a song written specifically for a fat nun?



Fedorov's Inspiration

But my favorite part about the Broadway Idol episode was going to the Broadway chat rooms during the show and watching all those musical theater queens tearing their hair out over what was transpiring. The following is reprinted verbatim from talkinbroadway.com:

Subject: Oh My Lord! is anyone watching Idol?

Posted by: do_re_milla 08:20 pm EDT 04/05/05
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What the heck are they trying to do? & what kind of brainnumbing comments are the "judges" making? So far, a nightmare....
Milla

Subject: Americans will think Broadway is boring!
Posted by: SQ 09:33 pm EDT 04/05/05
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tonight's episode can only but make "middle America" think that Broadway is "boring". I'd think that too if the only exposure I had was what I watched tonight. Also demonstrates how out of the mainstream Broadway and showtune are from current pop culture. Very sad. Sigh. :-(

Subject: re: Oh My Lord! is anyone watching Idol?

Posted by: whyohwhyoh 09:15 pm EDT 04/05/05
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'm still in shock- a huge disappointment. They were all bad!

Subject: re: Oh My Lord! is anyone watching Idol?
Posted by: DivaJ69 09:00 pm EDT 04/05/05
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Agreed. Why oh why oh WHY do they have to do contemporary arrangements and performances of these songs? Did anyone bother to tell any of the contestants that these songs are classics? I shutter to think what it will sound like when and if they ever have "Opera Night" on Idol: "O Mio Babbino Caro" lowered a fourth with an R & B arrangement! Oy vey!
Diva

Posted by: Bradshaw_04 08:56 pm EDT 04/05/05
Subject: In reply to: Oh My Lord! is anyone watching Idol? - do_re_milla 08:20 pm EDT 04/05/05
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What did you guys expect?!?!?! This is NO surprise at all...acting isn't an issue..haha.
Paula is a mess. She really makes me laugh. Her comments, while always encouraging, seem to make her look even more clueless than she is...(I mean, come on, America has come a long way since "Opposites Attract")
And that "E flat" that Barbara didn't go for?!?!?! HAHAHA...I couldn't stop laughing.
Sometimes I think Simon is the only one with any sense.
I understand if acting/subtext aren't considered since this is a POP competition but there is no excuse for the number pitchy performances....
It would have been a wise thing for them to at least try and find out about the shows they were singing from...I wasn't aware that "As Long As He Needs Me" was a sultry piece...

...and so forth for pages and pages. Priceless.

Loving this warm weather. I had dinner tonight with my friend, Jeff Hardy, at 44 Southwest, and we actually ate at an outside table. Fabulous, even though the waiter seemed to forget we were out there.

Nothing more to say -- all creative energy sapped by material-writing and Paula-worrying.

One last thought: It occurs to me that we haven't heard from Cancer Kid in a long, long time. Let us know that you're still with us, dude, and haven't gone Schiavo on us.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

The Pope-Hater in the Back Row

I did the Gay & Lesbo Comedy Fest at Don't Tell Mama last night, and forced myself to do mostly new material. It's all about getting ready for my 45-minute set in Cancun these days, and if I have to bomb in a few showcases along the way, so be it.

Fortunately, I didn't bomb. But it did feel rough to me, despite a nice crowd reaction. It's amazing: I've become so comfortable with my standard material that trying out new stuff feels like I'm back where I started two years ago -- like I forgot everything I've learned about being onstage. (It didn't help that I followed Poppy Kramer, who's always good but was particularly on fire last night.)

The weirdest moment came when I got to the end of my set and tried out some new Pope material. (It was the same stuff I did at Rose's Turn the other night, actually -- about Terri Schiavo's parents releasing a statement saying the Pope should be taken off life support.)

Anyway, I began setting it up -- "So the Pope's not looking too good..." -- and all of the sudden this guy in the back row starts clapping and cheering. I was shocked and, ironically, really offended. Like for that moment, I stopped being a comic and just felt like, "Why are you cheering a frail old man's impending death?"

I don't know exactly what I ad-libbed back to the guy, but it was something along the lines of, "Wow, you're clapping. I'm not sure that's cool. I mean, I know I was about to make a joke about the Pope, but my joke wasn't nearly as mean as your applause." To my amazement, the crowd went crazy at this; it was the biggest roll of my set.

Now, if you're thinking to yourself, "Gee, what Adam said wasn't all that funny," you're not alone. I wasn't even trying to be funny... I was just sort of thinking out loud.

Moral of the story: Crowds love spontaneity. They love knowing that they've just seen you do something unique to that performance. I must remember this and be more off-the-cuff.

(Inappropriate Sidebar: Bill Hemmer is reporting live from Rome on the Pope's condition as I type this, and all I keep thinking is how hot he looks. Hemmer, that is -- not the Pope. I think he got his hair highlighted or something. Hemmer, that is -- not the Pope.)

The image http://archives.cnn.com/2000/ALLPOLITICS/stories/11/29/hemmer.debrief/hemmer.jpg cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
"You're not right, dude."

Anyway, I got home last night and downloaded one of Mitch Hedberg's comedy CDs off the 'net. Listening to it, I was struck by how many jokes he packed into every single minute. It's like BAM! BAM! BAM! One-liner! One-liner! One-liner! And all in that sort of warm, stoned, lazy delivery -- like he's just making it up as he goes along. I think my favorite is the koala bears joke:

My apartment is infested with koala bears. It's the cutest infestation ever. Way better than cockroaches. When I turn on the light, a bunch of koala bears scatter, but I don't want them to. I'm like, "Hey... Hold on fellows... Let me hold one of you, and feed you a leaf." Koala bears are so cute, why do they have to be so far away from me? We need to ship a few over, so I can hold one... and pat it on its head.

Or, this one, which, like so many of his jokes, takes a few moments to get:

Why are there no "during" pictures?

What a lost talent.

On that cheery note, and on this gray, cold, rainy New York day, I bid you adieu.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Mitch Hedberg R.I.P.

The New York Times obituary for Mitch Hedberg:


Mitch Hedberg, a Comedian Who Performed Surreal Routines, Dies at 37

By JESSE McKINLEY

Published: April 1, 2005


Mitch Hedberg, the lackadaisical, longhaired comedian whose surreal routines made him a cult figure on the national comedy circuit, died on Wednesday in Livingston, N.J., said his father, Arnold. He was 37.


The cause was not immediately known, said Michael O'Brien, his publicist. The Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn., his hometown, reported that Mr. Hedberg had a heart attack.


A shy, self-styled outsider, Mr. Hedberg carved a career out of casual observations delivered in a mumbling drawl. "I'm against picketing," he would say with a sly smile. "But I don't know how to show it."


Comedy was not a natural choice for Mr. Hedberg, who battled stage fright, and sometimes closed his eyes as he performed. Alcohol and drugs, however, played a large role in his on- and offstage routines. According to a profile in The Los Angeles Times, he was arrested in 2002 for possession of heroin. "I used to do drugs," went one of his most quoted jokes. "I still do drugs. But I used to, too."


In recent years Mr. Hedberg had shown signs of breaking into the mainstream, thanks to appearances on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and Howard Stern's radio show. Mr. Hedberg started performing comedy in 1989. His first gigs were at open-mike nights, but within two years he was touring comedy outposts across the United States, sometimes sleeping in his car. In 1996 he earned rave reviews for a performance at a comedy festival in Montreal, which led to appearances on Mr. Letterman's show, MTV and several sitcoms. The next year Mr. Hedberg wrote, directed and starred in a film called "Los Enchiladas!," about unhappy employees at a Mexican restaurant in Minnesota. The film played at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. He also released two CD's of his comedy.


Despite his personal struggles, Mr. Hedberg worked regularly, recently as part of a tour for Comedy Central. According to his Web site, he was to have performed last night at the Improv in Baltimore.


In addition to his parents, Arnold and Mary Hedberg of South Maplewood, Minn., Mr. Hedberg is survived by his sisters, Wendy Brown of Woodbury, Minn., and Angie Anderson, of South St. Paul, Minn.; and his wife, the comedian Lynn Shawcroft.


Mr. Hedberg spoke often of his love for the road, on which he lived for nearly half his life. "My theory is not to stop and smell the roses," he told the Wisconsin State Journal in September. "My theory is to find the roses and then go find more roses in another city."
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