Thursday, January 26, 2012
As much as the iPhone has changed my life for the better it has changed too many lives for the worse. Apple changes lives. Just not the right ones. Apple should be ASHAMED at its cost cutting global manufacturing tactics. They’re running sweatshops in China and other Asian countries. Someone (my parents) gave me the new Steve Jobs biography-- remember him-- Steve Jobs? A living hero. A rich-as-hell visionary that changed all of our lives. We loved him. We waited every year for him to tell us what new products and features we needed. We didn’t know. But Steve did! He made a black turtle neck cool. (Well, as cool as it could be.) Then he died. Partly because of his hubris and refusal to accept Western medicine that many reported could’ve cured him. Ironically he tried Chinese herbs! Those did not work as hard as his employees in China.
I stared at that book on my coffee table for a month. Each day I felt the collection of the world’s consciousness moving away from Steve Jobs. The worship was weaning. All he had fought for in his living fleshy days seemed less and less important. Maybe it is true. Maybe what THEY say… that none of it really matters. Just your family, health, and if you have the latest Apple device. I am a victim of striving for the over-promised and under-delivered American dream. But one thing I gave up on a few years back, and perhaps Jobs didn’t, was caring about my legacy. I realized most legacies are fleeting except for a few lucky ones-- like Elvis, Marilyn and uber-villains like Hitler and the guy who was fortunate enough to be the namesake for the Ponzie scheme. That’s the way to go-- go out and be named for something like a disease. Is Lou Gehrig best known for his baseball or for being the guy who got a disease named after him? Turns out Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease. How is that possible-- it’s his disease? You can’t take away his disease! Everybody else has somebody else’s disease. Lou Gehrig HAD Lou Gehrig’s. They need a new spokesman. I nominate astrogenius Stephen Hawkings.
That book just sat there. I dusted it, just in case I wanted to use the gift receipt and return it to Barnes. Sorry Barnes! I found myself angry at Jobs after he died. His legacy could’ve been so much more. He could’ve really changed the world… for a MUCH BETTER and balanced place. Apple has so much cash sitting around, but according to the New York Times they continue to manufacture in factories in China where employees often “Labor in harsh conditions. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious-- sometimes deadly-- safely problems.” The times reports they work excessive overtime, use underage workers, force employees to stand on their legs forever, and live in crowded dorms (with free high speed I’m sure!) Last year I read about the high suicide rates amongst Apple’s overseas workers. And so the fury started to simmer inside me. And we hold these devices in our privileged, manicured little hands with no consideration for its history at all. Clean up your act Apple. How much larger of a profit margin do you need? We go after school yard bullies but not these corporate bullies? With $46 billion in cash reserves Apple could stand to improve working conditions overseas! That’s right $46 billion. Increase the font size on the apple device you’re reading this on right now-- it reads $46 billion. GIVE THESE WORKERS SOME CHAIRS and money! And maybe, just maybe, bring some jobs back home! Remember us workers in America?
Make shit in America Apple! I’d pay more to have an iPhone stamped “Made in America.” Or “No humans were hurt in the manufacturing of this product.” Now if I was doing my stand up right now I’d say something like, “Not much more. Like 20 bucks more… But any more than 20 bucks keep it in China!” And you’d hear the humor in my voice and you’d break up in laughter relieved at the downturn of seriousness of the moment. But I am not doing stand up right now and right now it’s more important to me to be serious. Make it cool to own a “Made in America” iPad Apple. I can see the nifty ads you would create. How much money do you need to make before you care about the hands that touched the phone before the consumer does? You’re making money. A lot of money.
I don’t know much about Job’s personal philanthropy because I returned the book. Sorry Barnes! Maybe he gave. But to me, being a good, caring, considerate person is more important than making sure the “On/Off” switch is in a better place than the Android. I’m sure he cared some, but from the outside it appears not enough to sacrifice price and profit margins on his products for the well being of fellow humans. It always struck me as odd that a man faced with his own mortality wasn’t more altruistic.
The book went back. I got a $30 gift card to use in the future. I’d like to read about what Bill and Melinda Gates are doing with their money. But I had no desire to read about a man that changed the wrong lives in my opinion. My iPhone might be next to be “returned.” And then this computer I’m typing on. Ok Cook, you’re in the hot seat now. I need to go take a baby aspirin and breath now.
Saturday, October 01, 2011
Thursday, January 07, 2010
(Somebody give that one to Leno.)
(If my mom is reading this, a "wife beater" is slang for those skin tight white tank tops you see a lot of rappers and wife beaters wearing.)
Hanes should've dumped Sheen after that one ad with him begging Michael Jordan to hang out with him. Any actor of his recognizability should never do an ad that ends with him throwing his phone into Jordan's car saying, "Call me." He should know better than to recycle a once popular and overused expression from THE LAST DECADE!
In 2010 I would like to see never said again: Call me. Check please. (Person talking about a person behind their back then they get slightly nervous and say) He/she is right behind me right? I'm sure there are many more, but it's early and my brain is not working yet.
I would like to see the end of beer commercials were the guys love their beer more than their wives. If you have never been married, like me, if you believed beer commercials-- you would think that every guy spends all weekend plotting ways to sneak away from his wife and drink beer with the guys. Is it really like that? None of my friends are like that. They wouldn’t ever dare try and sneak away from their wives.
There is one very clever and funny beer ad-- in my opinion-- the one where the girls are getting a tour of the house and see her huge closet and go nuts screaming. Only to stop because they hear louder screams coming from the guys who discover his beer closet. It’s a great ad and I still couldn’t tell you what beer it’s for.
If you can think of more hacky ad stuff-- post them here. I'm sure I will think of more. And if you disagree with me-- don't call me.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
December 10, 2007
I should be preparing for an audition… and I haven’t slept in two nights. I just can’t seem to come down from my show Tuesday night in Mill Valley at the Throckmorton Theater (12-4-07). I stood before you all naked in heart and soul and at one point actually almost naked… but how did my show disintegrate into a male review with me disrobing onstage? (I’m just bracing for when the scandalous pictures emerge on the internet.) Let’s investigate.
The theater was jammed-- wall to wall-- people standing in the balcony on their tip toes to see the stage. It was quite an inspiring scene for ME. Definition; ME: a guy who has spent years playing to less than (and even less than less than) sold out venues. (I once did a show with NOBODY at a club in New York City, but I’ll save that story for the book.)
Pre-show: The hotel was smack across the street and I could watch the crowd filter in from the far left corner of my balcony. I would go back and forth from doing push ups, sit ups, bastardized versions of stretches and yoga, all the while looking over my notes scattered about the room, to taking breaks to eye the crowd entering the theater. Maybe five months ago I had one of my strongest shows at this place. Such a quick rebooking was soul tantalizing. I was a little bit shocked that they wanted me back so quickly. The gamble paid off-- the place was packed.
With my dark grey Target duffle bag stuffed with DVD/CDs slung over my shoulder, I made for the theater. I love walking in with that thing-- makes me feel like a folky with his guitar. No pretension. I settled into the familiar green room. As most performers do, I surveyed the food offerings (usually a sign of how much they respect us. A great spread equals great love) and then laid out my notes creating a work area for me to continue pounding thoughts into my head. The mood would shortly shift.
The green room door opens:
“What are you doing in my green room,” I thought and hopefully didn’t show on my stoic face? Barely peering over my stash of notes, I gave my best mix of coy, yet respectful, but not overly excited posture, as Robin Williams walked in. It’s hard NOT to be a little enamored by a guy who has done so much. And I had never met him before.
My mind started making millions of calculations: “Well I guess it isn’t my show anymore. But I’m the headliner, what now? Maybe he doesn’t want to go on? Maybe he had somehow heard of me and actually came down to watch my show. Oh, Orny that’s ridiculous. He’s going on. Will he go on before or after me? Maybe they knew Robin was coming and that’s why the food spread is so exceptional.”
My mind continued whizzing at tornado speed and then it started to drift into an odd conversation:
Dear Orny’s Ego,
This is your reality check. Mork from Ork is here to remind you of how little you have done. So just in case you were feeling great about yourself for headlining a sold out show and returning to a theater you played a mere five months earlier, and was excited to show off all your new routines, it’s time to remember you are a very, very, small, small creature in the entertainment world. I would like to further remind you, that the chances of you surpassing this person’s accomplishments are very slim. Now, get your shit together and get on that stage and “pretend” you are prettiest girl in the room… but you’re not.
Dear Mr. Williams,
I am a huge fan of your body of work and all that you have done. You blew me away in “Good Will Hunting.” When I was in college, I remember counting the seconds in between laughs on your record. If my recollection serves me correct, I believe you averaged a laugh once every three seconds. Amazing. But, tonight is Orny’s night. (I don’t know if they forgot to tell you that.) And it is my job to protect and delude Orny as much as possible from the truth. (The truth is just too damning.) Honestly, between us, he’s not quite as funny as he thinks he is… which is great because that means I am doing my job brilliantly. But you coming into the green room right now is an unworkable task for even me to alleviate. How do you suggest we handle this?
SNAP OUT OF IT! The reality sets in. The possibility of working with such a mega talent is somewhat intoxicating. But now I have the added pressure of HIM watching ME on stage. And it was important to ME that HIM like me.
Robin started to pillage the food. He was doing my favorite thing-- mixing carbs. I’ve caught myself dipping bread in mashed potatoes before. He was chasing a piece of pizza with some sort of pastry. I kept to my notes. We exchanged small talk. The energy in the green room felt slightly askew. So when he came out of the bathroom, I decided to break the ice, "Even your piss sounds famous." Robin immediately catapulted head first, without a safety net, into some off the wall thoughts about famous pee. And from that point on, we connected. And the rest of the night we riffed. We all riffed. Other comics there that night, like Mike Pace and Robin Cee, jumping in. Hanging out with comics and just topping each other about nonsensical subjects is a beautiful thing-- I love it.
I had gotten a call earlier in the week that Dana Carvey wanted to stop by and go on the show-- which I more than welcomed. “Do you mind if Dana Carvey stops in and does 10 minutes before you?” I said, “Not at all! And let him know he can do 12 if he is killing.” And I more than welcome a Robin Williams any day of the week too. Now, I have a huge ego (who happens to be an articulate letter writer too), but I went into this line of work because I absolutely LOVE the sound of laughter and even more the roar of a crowd. And I was quite sure Robin would get a huge roar and that would make my ears orgasm. This is why I prefer live band CDs over studio cuts-- a performer feeding off the audience and vice versa-- nothing like it. Must be the same feeling Anthony Bourdain gets when two food items like canapés of duck confit and foie gras paired with some French wine feed off each other. (Don’t think I memorized those dishes, I had to get up and reference one of his books.) I prefer simpler food.
Now, I should take a moment to address the general aura of the Throck. The theater dates way back-- Chaplin played there-- before they had air conditioning. And I played there and they still don’t have air conditioning. It’s rumored that Dylan played there. (He would love the place!) It’s an intimate community theater and it’s probably everything a traditional theater used to feel like-- before we all went global, moved away from our families, our neighborhoods, and into the anonymously cold and congested voids we call cities. For many of us, we live in places that have zero sense of community. I don’t even know my neighbors. My neighbors walk by me without even making eye contact. I try and have thus been labeled as the neighborhood crazy. “Who’s Mr. Wild Eyes?” This is not the way we are hard wired to exist. So it was refreshing to perform in an environment that felt like a home. I sent this email to Lucy, the theater’s owner, the following day, “Thanks again for providing such a wonderful environment to perform in... it is NO secret that what you do there is foster an energy that makes us all superior performers.” Of course everything will change when it gets bought by a corporation and becomes the “Head On, Apply Directly Where it Hurts Theater.”
Most joints I perform in have this assembly line mentality: get the people in, get the people two drinks, get the people’s money and exactly 90 minutes later GET THE PEOPLE OUT! And then get in a whole new set of people. Don’t feel too used. They have the same attitude towards the performers: get us in and get us out. One of the last clubs I played was filthy. Popcorn on the floor (I didn’t even see popcorn being served the entire week-- which led me to believe that the popcorn promotion was probably discontinued and the floor had not been cleaned in a while. It reminded me of this restaurant in Massachusetts called “The Ground Round,” where they encouraged people to throw popcorn on the floor. I still don’t get the encouraging part of it.) On the stage at this particular hellhole was a bottle of water-- an old bottle of water-- had that look of one that had been sitting on the desert floor for a while. My mind kept imagining a human skeleton holding a map laying next to it. The cliché brick wall behind me was crumbling and you could see hunks of drywall on the stage.
How is this supposed to make the comic feel? It is demoralizing to the performer. Would you like working in an office that was not kept clean? In general, these places DO NOT CARE. If you read the “Tipping Point,” then you understand the value of upkeep. One example cited in the book explained that a dramatic drop in crime in poor neighborhoods resulted because they had replaced broken windows in abandoned buildings; Or how New York City tipped crime on the subway in a favorable direction by enforcing and cleaning up graffiti on the cars.
So Sunday night rolls around (water bottle still on stage)-- and for reasons I will not get into or you would know what club I am talking about-- there were only 25 reservations on the books. I get to the club, expecting the show to be cancelled. What I didn’t expect to see was 25 people seated in the back along the perimeter. I asked the workers, “Why aren’t they seated upfront?” One of them chimed in, “Nobody wants to sit too close to the stage.” Well, I don’t know if you realize this-- but you kind of need people up close to have a comedy show. But they don’t care. They just want the night to go by quick, with the least amount of friction, then clock out, probably have a beer or a joint, and forget about it. They are there for a paycheck, not for the love of comedy like some of us. In my mind, I kept hearing the same thought, “Is this the first week you guys are doing comedy? How could you not know to seat people up front first?” They should be trained to walk people to a table close to the stage and say, “This is your table.” If they get any resistance from the patron, “What about back there?,” simply respond, “Oh sorry, that section is closed.” (All this and more will appear in my manual, “The correct way to seat people at a comedy club and why dropping the checks in the middle of a show ruins it for everybody.”)
Most of these comedy clubs need new tables, seats, flooring, bathrooms, mics, backdrops on stage, headshots on the wall, and in general a facelift. It’s not the type of place that feels warm to me. The customers sit there waiting for the show to start, having crappy music jammed into their senses, sitting in a shell of what was once probably a nicer club-- none of which says to me GET READY TO LAUGH. But we comics need these places. It’s where we cut our bones. I will always keep a foot in the club scene. I would not be a fifth of the performer I am today without these joints. I just wish they had more pride in their clubs. To make a living in these clubs, week after week, is a sad existence. I don’t care how impervious you are, how thick your bark is, “the club attitude” gets deep inside you. This does not apply to all the clubs. There are some wonderfully run clubs in this country. But they are rare. And I greatly look forward to working those weeks. They’re clean, the staff is professional and fun. (But all this is something I should discuss later in much greater detail.) So to be at place like the Throck is special.
The Throck is everything these places are not. The warm proprietor greets each patron and is continuously making sure the performers are comfortable. When the green room ran out of food, Lucy ordered more. When the club was way oversold, Lucy gave me a bonus. And this is why stars like Robin Williams and Dana Carvey drop in there and not places that leave old water bottles on the stage.
There is something undeniably magical about this Throckmorten Theater. It’s a comedy hungry audience that actually sits there and listens to the comics spin their words. They care. They laugh. Can you imagine that? They actually listen and respect the performer! I DID NOT SEE ONE CELL PHONE the entire time-- no servers with their arms extended, balancing flying saucer sized trays filled with drinks to make the drunk idiots… drunker drunk idiots. Sorry, but whoever thought alcohol was a necessary component to the comedy experience was WRONG. It’s there for one reason, to act as a little hand to go into your wallet and extract more of your money.
So for the first twenty minutes or so I am trying to find the proper rhythm for performing in front of a respectful audience. Sadly, I have the least amount of experience with this. And it took me that long to slow down and relax. I kept thinking, “It’s OK, they’re listening, don’t try so hard to hold their attention.” But like a rescued dog who’s previous owner abused him-- I kept flinching for twenty or so minutes. Then I trusted them.
Mark Pitta, the weekly host and organizer of the show, commented to me afterwards in the greenroom, “I thought we were having an earthquake at one point. People were stomping their feet and banging the walls.” “You ever see that before,” I asked, as I always have a need to know if my circumstances are special or not (I do this with women too)? “Never,” Pitta confirmed. I had never seen that before either. It was like a European soccer match with all that banging and stomping. It was a dream that I kept waiting to be interrupted by a riot. Minutes into my act relief set in, as I had felt the pressure of Robin watching (I could hear him laughing off to the side behind the curtain) and living up to the standing ovation my previous time at the Throck.
My goal in this type of situation is to do a mix of the old with plenty of new. I want to WOW the people seeing me for both the first and also second time. The old stuff is like a favorite pair of sweatpants-- broken in and very dependable. (By the way, in the above sentence you can substitute for sweatpants: t-shirt, sneakers, shoes, hat, ex-girlfriend, or mom’s meatloaf.) But I feel it is important to insert fresh material; it keeps me energized and satiates those returning or who have seen my DVD/CD “Path of Most Resistance.”
Sometimes a crowd is too good and they don’t even know it. They don’t realize they can’t possibly sustain this soccer stadium level fervor for an hour. This is when I make a calculated move to slow things down a bit-- get introspective-- sing a ballad. It gives me a chance to catch my breath, and in this case, realize I am over heating. Tuesday night I made the mistake of wearing a thick, black, button down shirt and jeans. I prefer t-shirts since I tend to get hot under the lights. I cant stand long sleeves. Even growing up in Boston I wore short sleeves all winter. But I wore a button down to show a modicum of respect for working in a theater. But at heart, I am a short sleever. Why am I wasting finger energy typing all this out??? Oh, that’s right, because beads of my sweat were dropping to the stage joining a puddle started by Charlie Chaplin.
The theater had a solution for this-- a fan. In the middle of my act, they actually plugged in a tornado fan and put it in the corner of the stage. I scoffed initially, but was shortly pleased at it’s effectiveness.
I take a seat on the stool and slow it down-- way down. I unbutton my shirt a bit. I was that hot and that pleased with the current state of my stomach distension. And gauging the reaction of the crowd, I feel safe about unbuttoning one more. And this leads to another, more roars, and I felt so good about myself I got down on the stage and started doing push ups. What does this have to do with comedy you ask? Not much, except for being in the moment and creating laughs for the sake of laughs and building a relationship with the audience. It’s important sometimes to just show that you are human.
Now 30 minutes into the hour, I’ve calmed the room down. I button my shirt up and start the difficult incline back to the place I had them at 10 minutes previous. I know it sounds insane to many of you that I would essentially sabotage my momentum and bring it down-- but it had to be done. Classical musicians do this all the time; they build it up and then bring it way down (bore us with a flute solo) and then go way up again. You have to texture things. I think it was either Mozart or Beethoven or possibly Captain and Tennille that would write symphonies and guess when audience members would start to dose off. And at the moment they figured people would have heavy eyelids, they guy with the cymbals would stand up and CLANG! I could watch people shocked by a good cymbals clang all day-- somebody should Youtube those moments.
Somehow I am now at 45 minutes. As it often does, time leaps on stage. I got lost in the moment, which is an important thing to do and not necessarily so easy (so many distractions). Time flies in the moment. About the only time in my life I am that close to the moment is onstage. Lately, I’ve been listening to Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now.” My mind is so full of noise it’s nearly impossible for me to be in the NOW. Tolle is a German, self help spiritualist who put out these CDs. By listening to his CDs he tries to help you achieve being in the NOW, but his German accent usually puts my someplace around 1942.
I button up my shirt-- but of course am off by a button and my shirt lays lopsided. My face says it all-- I give up. There’s no hope for me.
Offstage, Mark Pitta gives me the light. For those of you that don’t know what this signifies (which means you are not in show business and I am envious that you have escaped the insanity that has plagued my entire adult life), a performer is given the light to signal that he or she has a set amount of time left in their show. You can request a 5 or 10 or even 15 minute light. I usually like a 10 minute one. But Pitta was strobing the thing, making motions like he was slitting his throat with his finger-- in other words, like he needed me off the stage immediately. I looked at him and said, “What does that mean?” Pitta took this interaction as an invitation to walk out onstage. If it isn’t about him for more than half an hour, he gets nervous and tries to redirect the attention back on him. And when I said exactly that, the place broke into applause. Pitta is fun and runs a loose show there. He is adored by the community, rightly so. But they get his character type. The show has been running for 4 years based on his likeability. And as Pitta tried to commandeer my microphone to rebut, I said, “I don’t know how you guys have put up with him for 4 years, I couldn’t even stand him for the drive from Oakland airport. Wish I had known San Francisco airport was 10 minutes closer, I would’ve paid the additional 50 bucks to fly in there.” Actually, Pitta is the exact type of guy you can’t dislike-- his personality is infectious.
Pitta, not having a mic to work with, starts to unbutton his shirt. I take this as a challenge, so I start to unbutton mine again. And as he goes lower, I go lower. He whips off his belt. So I whip off my belt… half expecting that song “Dueling Banjos” to start playing. Then my shoe comes off and I sexily throw a sock. So Pitta starts to lower his pants. I’m thinking, “Is he really gonna do it.” And then out of nowhere, Robin Williams walks out onstage in just his boxers. It was hilarious. The place roared. The audience jumped to it’s feet. It was AS LOUD as I have ever heard an audience when I was onstage. And it wasn’t for me, it was for Robin! But I still loved it. Imagine you’re sitting there and have no idea Robin Williams is even in the country and then he walks out almost naked? Now with Robin in the middle of me and Pitta, the three of us barely clad, start taking stage bows-- like we just wrapped up performing Hamlet. Man, was it a thrill to see an audience react to a star like Robin Williams.
Pretty brave of Robin to strip down to his boxers and walk out there. I wouldn’t do it and I have far less to lose. And later it hit me-- that’s why Robin is a star, he is not hindered by inhibition. Every person that knows Robin, who I’ve told this story to, has said the same thing, “That’s Robin.”
They exit the stage and it’s just me up there again. Now what? “Thank you, I’ll be in the lobby selling my DVD?” It could’ve been worse, Robin could’ve walked out naked covering his phallus with his Oscar. How do you close a show like this? I’m digging deep, trying to process what just happened and how to exit the stage with decorum and dignity. No question I was upstaged, but I still deserved to wrap up my show and get my final applause. I knew I couldn’t do jokes-- any joke would sound stiff as a corpse at that point. My corpse if I did it. The first thing I said, “That was THE BEST Robin Williams impersonator I have ever seen.” At which point, Mike Pace, who had performed earlier and ripped it up, and who is admittedly anything but in shape, walks out shirtless.
And then a moment later Don McMillian, this awkwardly geeky giant, and former engineer, who had done a hilarious power point presentation on the show, walks out in his boxers and lifts me off the stage. It was chaos and the audience was loving every minute of it. And NONE of it was staged. It was all just unraveling. It was one of those nights I wished I was in the audience. (Unfortunately the house photographer was instructed to not take any pictures when Robin was onstage.)
There was no way for me to end the show, but to end it with something sentimental. Pure honesty can salvage almost any situation. (In book, insert story of how I got out of speeding ticket with pure honesty.) So I simply expressed how much I was enjoying the show before the male revue started; “What a thrill to return to the Throck to an oversold crowd. All week I had been looking forward to headlining this show, I felt on top of the world-- and then Robin Williams shows up-- like my ego needed that. I hope to see you again sometime. Good night.” And they leapt to their feet. “I did it,” I thought.
Now, how do you come down from a show like that? I went back stage and just BUZZED. One fly made the unfortunate mistake of landing on me and got zapped. Robin went on after me and did a large hunk of time. The audience ate it up. I needed a martini. And I would’ve chugged the thing in one gulp-- like you see in the movies and think, “Who ever chugs an entire martini?” Well I would’ve at that moment.
My favorite part of most nights is greeting the audience after the show and selling and signing my DVD/CD. For people to buy PATH, essentially wanting to see more of me after having just seen me for an hour-- really means a lot.
When the last of the people left, and I was again alone, packing up my duffle with what remained of what didn’t sell, I ask, “Robin leave.” “Yeah, he took off. He took one of your DVDs and a steak from the greenroom,” Pitta said. “Oh, cool, I told him to take a DVD. Did he really take the steak?,” halfheartedly joking, “I wish he had stuck around I wanted to ask him something about comedy.” (I wanted to know if he was concerned about improving something and then getting the exact wording the next time he did it.)
Pitta said, “Call him if you want,” and dialed Robin’s number on his cell. I was surprised that Robin answered, “Hello.” And I said, “Did you really take my steak? Everybody knows that the headliner gets the steak. How could you do that?” He laughed and in typical Robin fashion he went right into a routine about taking my steak, which led to us riffing about animals and other nonsensical stuff, and finally talking about mutual acquaintances.
The night ended with the rest of us hanging in the green room. We were trying to make sense of what had just happened, while I was stuffing my face with the middle act’s chicken.
Nights like this remind me precisely of why I went into comedy and not a more sensible job like Alaskan King Crab fisherman.
*** How well is your reading comprehension? TAKE THE QUIZ! ***
1. When in college, Orny claims to have counted the seconds in between laughs on Robin Williams’ album. How many seconds did Robin average between laughs?
D. Robin did not get any laughs
2. What famous act was mentioned in the blog as also having appeared at the Throckmorton Theater?
A) Wayne Newton
B) The Cookie Monster opening for Bob Dylan
C) Charlie Chaplin
D) Captain and Tennille
3. Performers “Get the light” because?
A) They suck
B) They need to wrap up their show
C) They suck and need to wrap up their show
D) Performers like to see flashing lights
4. Orny had a horse growing up, what color was the horse?
D. Orny did not have a horse
5. What best defines Orny’s career?
A) He won an Oscar
B) Has been in over 50 movies
C) In 1977 was voted funniest man alive by Entertainment Weekly
D) He still drives a 2001 VW Jetta from the year he moved to Los Angeles
How did you do? Answers: 1: B, 2: C, 3: B or C and sometimes D. Anything but A. 4: D, 5:D
(Please excuse all spelling and grammatically errors-- a man who is
his own editor has a fool for a client.)
© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
July 27, 2007
I would like to publicly say THANK YOU to Michael Moore who could not have been more emotionally generous to me yesterday at the taping for The Tonight Show. I was completely astonished by his gentle, unguarded, human nature. I am lucky to have met him. And I think many of you would feel the same if you had a five minute discussion with him.
There was a burning desire within me to tell Michael how important I feel his work and mission are to the world-- and I got that opportunity. Michael is an everyday man. An everyday man with incredible passion, which I have the utmost respect for. Whether or not you agree with his politics or his views, you have to admit that he is making the world a better place-- he has us talking. I don’t have the energy or the specific type of brain to attack social issues and bring them to the forefront like Moore does. I write jokes. I attack issues with punch lines. I went to Home Depot and bought those energy saving light bulbs and just doing that exhausted me.
I told Michael that after seeing “Sicko” in Boston a few weeks ago with my parents I felt incensed and confounded. I wanted to YELL. I felt powerless by the corrupt and insurmountable system. I felt disgusted that I live in a country with an abundance of resources that frequently turns away gravely sick and injured people at it’s emergency rooms. The movie made me mad. I posted on my webpage the day after I saw the film, “I saw “Sicko” last night and I feel hopeless and powerless about health care. Our system and government seems so corrupt.”
Now, I work almost every night. In fact, I would say I am working almost every minute of the day-- I even work in my sleep. I make regular TV appearances and I have deals for this and for that-- and I told Michael I don’t have health insurance. I’m not ashamed of that. It’s true. I pay a monthly premium and gawd knows what it covers. Who has the energy or time to read 30 pages of very, very small print (Is the print getting smaller?). Well NOBODY does- in fact, I would be shocked if you’ve even read this far!
After the taping, Michael came into my green room and earnestly felt bad for bumping me from the show. Now, in all fairness to Michael, I had been warned that there was a high possibility that I would be bumped. And I was given the option to not accept the booking. I did and I was prepared. He should not feel bad at all. Although, as he exited the stage, I told him, “I was one TV appearance away from qualifying for AFTRA health benefits.” And in a really Michael Moore way he laughingly said, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” (AFTRA is the television union we all pay dues to but very few of us qualify for health benefits from. You have to earn a certain amount of money yearly. So, often you will qualify for a year and then lose benefits the next. And right now, I am in one of those gaps of non-coverage.)
Michael almost missed his plane back to Michigan as he spent a great amount of time talking to me about “Comedian”. It was amazing to get his perspective as a documentarian. He had wanted to talk to me for three years about it. He could not have been more supportive. I was blown away by how opinionated he was and how freely he discussed it. To have the respect of someone you respect is a feeling which I can only describe as indescribable. He had to dash out to the airport, but said we should get a beer sometime and talk. And then this morning, I was shocked to get an email from Moore apologizing again for bumping me and expressing further support. You get it-- he’s a special person? He cares.
I realize he is controversial and polarizing. So many forward thinking people are-- didn’t they jail Galileo for rightly declaring the that the earth circled the sun? Well maybe Galileo had it coming! Maybe people hated Galileo because they stood to lose a lot of money or their jobs if he was right.
Now, you should respect Michael Moore. Be thankful people are out there raising questions. We need and should have greater tolerance for people like Michael Moore on this planet. You can disagree with him, and here’s the good news-- in this country full of shitty health care and guns that kill people (you can’t argue with that), you are more than welcome to go out and make your own documentary countering his views. In fact, this type of discourse is good for all of us. I would like to see it. I don’t have the energy to do the work that Michael does. I barely have the energy to finish this piece. So I am thankful to have Michael Moore fighting the fight for me… and you.
© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2007
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
May 1, 2007
Chris Hanson of Dateline NBC has uncovered India’s dirty little secret-- they are routing a majority of customer service calls to the small, relatively ignored, and severely underdeveloped Republic of Malawi in the densely populated southeastern part of Africa. Agriculturally thriving Malawi won the contract from India, after outbidding it’s neighbors Zambia and Mozambique.
According to a Dateline producer, officials quietly built a call center and installed phone lines, internet access, and a Subway restaurant (soft drink refills are not free at this location). The construction permit, obtained by Dateline NBC, stated the intended use of the building was for “Survivor Malawi.” India has denied it illegally obtained the permit or misled the Malawian government with its intentions. “We had been out all night drinking and thought it would be funny to put ‘Survivor Malawi’ on the permit… the Malawis have quite a sense of humor,” Cultural Minister for India said, off the record. He continued, “Malawians are thrilled to have jobs. They have always looked up to India as a thriving industrial country. And to be honest, Malawians tend to be more compassionate about American problems like, ‘The air conditioner is causing my wireless printer to go slow.’”
Hanson, using hidden cameras, a plate of cookies, and a 19-year-old actress that looks 14, uncovered how far India was willing to go to cover up this multi-tiered outsourcing. Dateline reportedly paid a local Malawian the equivalent of 45 US dollars to infiltrate the outsourced outsourcing. (The value of 45 US dollars to a Malawian was estimated at 10,000 US dollars in 1974. Unfortunately, no new data has been assembled to compare it to the modern day dollar. But according to the anonymous mavens behind Wikipedia, Malawi has a GDP per capita of 596 US dollars.) “What we discovered was absolutely shocking; India was training Malawians to fake an ‘Indian trying-to-sound like an American accent,’” said Hanson, “So what we have now is a Malawian trying to sound like an Indian trying to sound like an American.”
Hanson’s titillating gotcha-investigational reporting has not gone unnoticed by competing mainstream media. Even renowned CBS commentator and all-American curmudgeon Andy Rooney griped, “I knew something fishy was going on.” Rooney’s grousing continued, “I thought I detected a slight dialect change in some of the representatives when I recently called about my broken eyebrow trimmer.”
To secure the secret, Malawians were additionally taught both American and Indian culture, pop references, and English slang. According to the voice over on the clip provided by NBC Television, “After Mugava, who’s name we changed to conceal his identity, completed training, he was fond of saying, ‘What’s up with that? That ain’t right.’”
Companies that outsource customer service calls to India felt a bit betrayed, but when called to complain were sent to a Malawi call center. Many Indians, who after a lifetime of unemployment finally found work as customer service representatives, now fear losing their jobs. “We are on needles and pins here at the center,” said one Indian worker, “We always thought Since November 2006, already over 1,700 Indians working call centers for U.S. companies have been replaced by Malawians. As a result, a chain of support has been formed by unemployed American and Indian call center employees on the newly formed website www.AForeignerTookMyJob.com. The website can be accessed in both English and Hindi.
How the hell did it come to this? “You can’t trust people from India. They suck more than people from any other country,” commented 15-year-old has-done-nothing-but-still-over-opinionated-under-qualified blogger Jim Nathenson. In actuality, India’s biggest call center made the move to Malawi in an attempt to cut costs. In the opinion of Emory university global economics professor Terry Bass, “It was simply trickle down fiscal-nomics. India found a country worse off than itself with a cheaper labor base. I wouldn’t be surprised if Malawi does the same. Remember, there are still 11 countries worse off than Malawi.” Patel Patel the 32nd (whose middle name is also Patel), CEO of “Call Me”, India’s top call center, said in a phone interview, “We just couldn’t afford to keep all the calls in India. And by using Vonage we can save up to 50% on our phone bill while only losing 75% of our calls due to bad connections.”
All of India is affected: Air India, the official airline of India, was reportedly furious to discover that Malawians had replaced Indian inmates answering their calls.
An official statement was given today by White House press secretary Tony Snow, who said, “President Bush sees no problem with India showing some business ingenuity and was proud that he could point to Malawi on a map.”
The Dateline special, “To Catch a Fake Indian,” will air this Friday on NBC and will run for 18 hours straight on MSNBC both Saturday and Sunday. Programming note: Unfortunately nobody was unnecessarily thrown on the ground by law enforcement officials during the taping of this Dateline show.
© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
April 28, 2007
I’m up a ways on the coast of Oregon. Beautiful country-- trees, ocean, wineries. I have a suite right on the water: but no internet access (right now I’m in a bank parking lot stealing wireless), the tap water is caramel brown, and when I leaned on the plywood table in the living room area, the top flipped off and I fell over backwards. I sat on my ass laughing, “So this is my life?” It was a good, healthy laugh.
But it’s still a “suite” nonetheless. Suite is an example of a word that should be regulated by the government. Another word worthy of regulation would be “estate.” I see signs for “Estate Sales” all the time. Then I go by the estate and the estate looks a lot like an apartment. I know we all like to overstate our existence, but come on. An estate has to have assets, holdings, and property. It can’t be a rental. I expect to see original paintings and oriental rugs at an estate sale-- not your broken furniture from IKEA or your ripped Urban Outfitter’s beanbag.
The show last night was in a function room of an Indian casino: Basically, a stage, a spot, a mic, and a tapestry backdrop… and a cash bar in the back of the room. (That was a first. It was like a wedding.) The crowd was old… very old. It was a mix of 50% old and 30% what I would describe as NASCAR people. One table brought their own cooler. NASCAR is a word Yankees like to use to describe a certain group of people. “That is so NASCAR.” It is not derogatory, but rather very on point. Just like the words Yankee or Preppy or Northwest Liberal. Sprinkled amidst the old people that showed up for bingo, and regrettably had to see me for an hour, were the other 20%-- pony tailed, Harley t-shirt, tatted up dudes with their wives. Thank gawd! These people might actually relate to some of my stuff.
I genuinely think most topics are universal, but when I was selling my DVD/CD at the end of the night, more than a few people said they did not own a DVD or CD player. Hence the tepid response I got to my keyboard joke. I look forward to doing the keyboard joke. And as I was doing it to this non-connected crowd, I was thinking, “Did I just do this bit a few weeks ago on The Tonight Show?”
They laughed a lot at times. But maybe they were being polite. I’m sure my over-animated character was jarring to many. They seemed to live a more simple life and would not let something like a poorly positioned CAP LOCK key get them all fired up. Their problems, I would surmise, would include: A buffet with an early closing time, states that would not sell liqour on Sunday, and why is my favorite tank top dirty? I was onstage thinking, “You aren’t supposed to get me.”
After the show, I headed back to my “suite” with my bag of DVD/CDs. It was remarkably close in weight to when I left for the show. I got in the elevator and there was a guy who just looked out of place. It was his energy-- a confidence. And maybe he felt the same about me, because he just looked at me and said, “Man that crowd was old tonight.” And I immediately realized I was talking to one of the Beach Boys-- who were also at the casino performing.
I pointed to an events poster on the elevator wall, “Which one are you?” And he said, “My name’s Bruce, that’s me.” I said, “Well that’s me,” as I pointed to my name printed right under the Beach Boys picture.” “Were you funny tonight?,” he asked. “I tried. You one of the original Beach Boys?” (You’ve got to ask because some of these reunion bands have no original members… maybe a drummer, who wasn’t the original drummer, but still played with some of the original members.) But it turns out he was in the original band. How cool. And what we have here is an amazing moment in time: two performers, a musician and a comedian, heading up in an elevator to their luxurious suites, both complaining about the crowd. That’s what performers do when they are done performing. They size up the crowd. Now, I know some of you doubted me at the beginning of this piece-- maybe I was exaggerating about the part of the demographic of my audience. But if a 65-year-old Beach Boy is complaining that the crowd was old-- then THE CROWD WAS OLD!
We talked for a few moments in the hallway. This was a Beach Boy. These guys influenced the Beatles. I was talking to a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. And I couldn’t resist, I just had to ask him, “Is the tap water a bit brown in your suite too?”
Shouldn't this guy be staying in a nicer place?
© Copyright Orny Adams, Icrushed Productions 2007