Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Stretch

In the past few weeks I have seen a couple of my colleagues in the comedic arts celebrate notable successes. In one case, one of my friends won a fairly prestigious contest. Just like that, he's got a credit he can use to get gigs, at least locally. (Local gigs are good because, well, that's where I live.)

Another one just got his first paid work out of one of the local upscale clubs. (By upscale I mean a place that is in the business of doing comedy shows. Not a bar that sets up karaoke equipment around you during your set.) Also a pretty big credit, to say you got paid at one of these places.

I'm excited for them. It's inspiring. If they can do it, why can't I?

But then comes the other question. They've done it. Why haven't you?

Shut up, annoying italicized inner voice! My life is going quite well, thank you. Okay, so I flamed out of the contest. So? So there haven't been any major breakthroughs. So?


Goddammit, I am so READY for some kind of breakthrough!

I once heard a comedian observe that there were a lot of comedians who had between zero and two years under their belt, a fair number who'd been at it for five, six years or longer, and not many in between. Why?

Well, I guess it's because you hit The Stretch. The "no longer satisfied to be 'good for a beginner,' not yet just plain good" stretch. It's hard to tell how much progress you're making on The Stretch, because there are no landmarks. No mile markers, no signs to tell you how much farther. You only know how far you've come, and you only know it's over when it is.

What if there's another Stretch after that?

I can't think about that right now. This is why you don't get invited to more parties.

Another friend of mine who is a TV producer said that to be successful in Hollywood, tenacity is a more important trait than talent is. I think it's the same principle. Tenacity is what gets you through The Stretch, not talent. Perversely, talent can make it harder. If you're accustomed to success coming quickly and easily, you're less prepared to cope with The Stretch.

Opportunity just knocked at the door to my left, and handed my neighbor a big cardboard check. Then good fortune rang the doorbell on my right, and gave my other neighbor an extreme makeover.

My doorbell works, my phone is working, too. (I checked.) So when will it be my turn? Soon I hope, before I strain something making another analogy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Still living the dream

I performed at a new place in Oakland last night. It was the first time I'd performed in the East Bay. It's a weird room - really more like a theatre crossed with a punk club. Winter Garden meets CBGB.

The audience was comprised of 12 non-comedians, 8 comedians. Technically, of the non-comedians, 2 were venue staff, 2 were related to a comedian, one was a boyfriend, and one was a girlfriend. 2 more were friends of one of the comedians. That leaves, I believe, 4 audience members who came under no obligation. One of them was so drunk he could barely sit upright. He was okay though, just a minor distraction. (Hi, Greg.)

And I'm fine with a small crowd. I'm used to it. I'll do a show for two people. I have done a show for two people. I'm still not able to do the same show for two that I would for 100-- I don't get as energized. This is something I'm getting better at. I want to be able to do a good set whether I come on first for a fresh crowd, or last in front of a room that's dead. I tend to reflect the energy level of the room, instead of bringing my own energy. I take the audience's energy, instead of giving them mine.

I could have done better last night. At one point, I thought about abandoning material and just talking to the audience, but I didn't. I probably should have, since they were dead and my material wasn't doing much. I didn't have anything to lose really. At least they would have known I was in the same room.

It's another show, another venue in the books. I still had fun, plus I got to go to the best barbecue place in the Bay Area.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I hate my handwriting

I hate my handwriting.

I am left-handed. While that is yet more evidence of my genius, it is also a pain in the ass. I don't think I have to tell you all of the ways in which the world caters to right-handed people (or as I call them, "little folk") at the expense of us lefties (or, "winners"). Cars, three-ring binders, guns...all designed for right handed people.

Oh, another thing designed for right-handed people? Writing. At least in English. I blame the English language for my awful handwriting. It's not just that it isn't neat, it isn't cool.

Some people have really cool handwriting, you know? They write letters, or notes, and they look cool. No matter what they say, I tend to think the author is cool if they have cool handwriting. Naturally, the opposite is true. Since my handwriting is crap, what I write has to be twice as cool to counter the perception created by my handwriting that I am a huge doofus.
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I would love to send handwritten notes to people! Isn't it great to get a nice handwritten note? Doesn't it make you feel good? With my handwriting, the coolness is sucked out and taken to a remote undisclosed location. I try to write a note, and it looks like a five year old got into the pens. Handwriting matters! It is the packaging material for your thoughts and ideas! How excited can you be about a gift if it comes wrapped in an air sickness bag? "Thanks, man. I already hate it."

So what I'm saying is this: bad handwriting stands between me and being a better communicator, a better friend, a better human being.

Please, don't ask me to write the number eight. Forget it. I need at least 3 chances at it. If I have to fill out forms, I always try to grab a spare, because chances are, I'll fuck up the first one. I've changed my phone number twice to get rid of eights. Naturally, my social security number has an eight in it. My birthday has two. That's why I didn't write this sooner-- it has eights in it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Reporting Live, On the Scene..."

I understand what a dramatic story Hurricane Katrina has been, and dramatic stories lend themselves to dramatic news coverage.

But CNN et al, why don't we take it down a notch. You are not supposed to be enjoying this. Wolf Blitzer, I can practically see the erection you get during the effects-laden "Hurricane Katrina" special report intro.

There is an awful lot of tragedy and hardship going on right now. And it just strikes me as a tad unseemly when I see Chase Strongjaw and the Action News Team, and I know that they're already thinking about where they will put the daytime Emmy they will surely win for their heroic and gripping coverage.

Is there great coverage? Of course. But I get the sense that the newscasters are hoping things get really bad, and that they're disappointed if somehow disaster and crisis are averted.

So please. Anchormen? Please stop solemnly telling the weatherman to "stay safe." Weathermen? Know when it's time to take off the anorak and come inside with the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back to your desk, Mr. President

From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Sacramento -- Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday he wants President Bush to delay a planned October fundraising visit to California because the governor fears it will siphon off donations he needs to help his Nov. 8 special election measures.

"In the next two months, it would be better if we just do the fundraising," Schwarzenegger said in an interview with The Chronicle. "Then let us go (past) our special election -- and then they can pick it up again, the (Republican) national committee."
Okay, now which is more aggravating? That President Bush can even CONTEMPLATE going out to raise money for the GOP right now? Or that Schwarzenegger's reason for not wanting the President to come is "donor fatigue," or more accurately that he, as a fairly unpopular governor, needs those donors himself to support his special ballot initiatives?

Both awful, but I give the nod to the guy presiding over a ballooning federal deficit, a costly and unnecessary war, and an incompetent response to an unprecedented natural disaster. Well done, Mr. President, well done.

I have to allow for the possibility, however small, that Schwarzenegger really wanted to say, "first off, Mr. President, for you to engage in politicking in the immediate aftermath of the embarrassingly inept federal response to Hurricane Katrina is unseemly. Second of all, I don't want to be seen with you-- I'm unpopular enough already." (You have to imagine Arnold saying that with an Austrian accent to get the full effect. Better yet, picture a hack comedian saying it in his best Ahnuld impression. There you go.)

That the President could even think about making partisan fundraising appearances right now is a little nauseating. I think you've got enough on your plate already, sir.

Taking one for the team

So the Katrina benefit was fun. I ended up being first, which is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you're kicking off the show, which is cool. On the other, you get the audience at their absolute coldest, and nothing has been established as to what kind of audience they are.

It is a point of pride with me to be happy to kick off a show, since some people don't like to do it. Plus, a lot of the first paying gigs I'm likely to get will be as an MC when part of my job will be to take that bullet for the rest of the lineup.

"You're a great looking crowd! Give yourselves a hand for coming out to support live comedy, huh? Huh?"

This venue, which is a bar/restaurant/coffee shop/art gallery, usually has a good crowd, but very few are actually there for the comedy. Most are there for the coffee and the free wi-fi. The crowd is never more than about 1/2 into it anyway, so I don't judge myself too harshly.

So given that, I did well. I got laughs, about what I expected. I got what I might call a near applause break. (It started, but it couldn't overcome the inertia of the rest of the audience. Oh well.) I did one bit that I have done a few times, including in the contest, that didn't work too well. Consequently, it is now on the scrap heap. It happens, you move on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I've been staying very busy lately. The good news is that I'm doing a lot of shows, which can only help me get better.

The contest notwithstanding, things have been going well. I booked a show yesterday, and another one this morning. This is how the last two weeks have looked to me:

Sunday: Show
Monday: comedy class
Tuesday: Show
Wednesday: Hang at club, try to hustle booking
Thursday: class
Friday: show
Saturday: show
Sunday: nothing
Monday: class
Tuesday: nothing
Wednesday: show
Thursday: class
Friday: show
Saturday: show

In two weeks, I had two evenings that weren't given over to the pursuit of comedy.

"Wow, Ish, that's a lot of shows."

I know! Pretty cool, huh?

"Yeah. Say, how much do those shows pay?"

Shut up.

"How much again?"

Nothing. Well, that's not entirely true-- I got a free dinner last night. I got some tip money on Friday night. No, I can't pay rent with my free dinner, and the tip money paid for about enough gas to start the car and reverse it out of the parking lot.


The mantra (which you should know from reading "the Comedy Bible" by Judy Carter, stupid italicized inner voice) is this: get good; get noticed; get paid.

I think I am firmly entrenched in the "get good" phase now. Which is better than being in the "get a book" phase. See? Progress! And I must be making some inroads in the "get noticed" phase as well, or I wouldn't be booking all these gigs. So I'm not losing too much sleep over the "get paid" phase just yet.

Besides-- I like doing this.

Tonight I'm doing a Hurricane Katrina benefit gig at a coffee house. Should be fun.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Bounce

Since my comedy waterloo last week at the comedy contest, I have had two shows.

Friday night, I did a show in a bar that looked suspiciously like the setting for the movie "The Accused." Assuming that, as usual, I've made a pop culture reference that is both irrelevant and obscure, how shall I describe it?

A serious drinker's bar. Fake wood paneling on the wall, adorned with posters that have been there for at least a decade. Adorned with customers who have been there longer.

I saw a few of the comedians before me. One comedian caused the needle on my hack meter to jump almost instantly. I can't remember exactly what tripped it-- it might have been a 2004 election joke, or the number of peanuts they give you on the airplane. Strike one. Later, he dropped a Ross Perot impression on us. Strike two. Finally, he dropped the hammer: an impression of three Looney Tunes characters having a menage-a-trois. Strike three, you're OUTTAHERE!

If only, gentle reader, if only. His real closer (by request from his audience, I should note) was an impression of Donald Duck having an orgasm.

Again, only my opinion, but I think impressions are very hard to pull off, and so many of them are hack. Second, if the references are out of date... it just might be hack. But let me say it again: the guy did "Donald Duck coming" by request. He was definitely a regular, and he had his share of fans in the audience. So we go back to: if the audience likes it, who am I to judge?

More to the point, if they liked that, what were they going to think of me? My material tends to be a little bit more, um...cerebral. I'm not saying I'm Stephen Hawking, but I'm a way's off from being mistaken for Larry the Cable Guy.

I did my set and I didn't really change anything for the audience and, to my great relief, they came along, and I got good solid laughs. Nevermind me thinking my material was too high-brow for these simple suburban folk.

It was good to get back up there and get one show further away from the contest debacle. A comedy palate cleanser.

Saturday night was even better, believe it or not. I had a bunch of people there to see me. I was performing at a place where I'm very comfortable, so I was very relaxed. I had a great set. I owned the stage. I got two applause breaks. It was the kind of show that reminds me why I ever wanted to do this in the first place.

So I am beginning to think maybe I don't suck after all...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Comedy Contest, How I Loathe Thee

I participated in the first round of a multi-round comedy contest last night.

I didn't advance. So many emotions. Anger. Despair. Actually, not that many I guess.

I try to go into it with the "right" attitude, with limited success: this doesn't mean anything (unless it does), just try to have fun (I will if I do well), it's good experience any way you cut it (if losing is good experience I guess that's true).

On one hand I try to keep it in perspective. You are performing in front of an audience that, with the exception of the people who came to see you, wants you to fail (at least in relation to their friends). People have such a wide array of tastes, who can blame them for wanting their friends to advance, maybe I'm just not their style, maybe if I'd brought 50 people, blah blah blah. This is just the nature of contests.

On the other hand, I can't NOT take it personally. Here's the deal: there were eleven comedians, of which five would advance, based on the audience vote. So I only needed to be the fifth best, out of eleven. The weird thing was, as they were announcing the winners, in reverse order, I thought I had a chance, all the way up to first place. The MC said, "in fourth place, we had a tie," and I thought: oh, I know I was at least as good as they were. "In third place," well, he's a good writer. "In second place," okay, good performer, though he's been doing the exact same act for at least a year. I guess it works. "And in first place," oh. Oh...oh.

I wasn't that crestfallen, and not really that surprised. I guess I did allow myself, against my better judgment, to care about it. I was quiet afterwards, searching for reasons to be encouraged. I mean, results notwithstanding, I am much better this year than last, and I know I did a strong set.

It's hard, you know? Getting up and doing this in front of a group of people is hard. I put myself out there, and they either like it or not. The rejection feels very personal. In a non-contest situation, if I don't get big laughs, if I don't have a great set, I can move on. I'll have another show tomorrow or the next day.

But this-- this is different. The MC announced the results, but I heard, "Ish! You're just not that good. And we have data...." That's part of what bothers me: it has this quasi-official veneer, because it's quantifiable. There are records. And you get to sit with the results for a year.

I flamed out of the contest last year, in part because I didn't perform all that well, and in part because the act before me put the audience into a state of shock. (She spent 5 minutes solemnly swearing her undying devotion to anal sex. Yes I'm serious.) So when I was invited to participate again this year, part of me wanted to say, "what? And expose myself to that again? No thank you." Another part of me said, "hey, it's a year later, you're a year better. If you do well, it helps you. If you don't...." That part of me then trailed off. I asked it to speak up.

"If you don't," it repeated, clearing its throat, "you'll have another data point to suggest that you suck." Well, this year, I didn't have the anal sex lady to contend with, I had a good spot in the lineup, and I did a good set. What's my excuse now? NOW how do I avoid coming to the conclusion that the problem

It was just one show, one audience, one night. I would guess I have done about 150 shows of various sorts by now. That's a lot for a beginner, not very much for a vet/pro. Right now I'm slogging through the no man's land where I'm beyond taking much encouragement from being "pretty good for just starting out," and not yet to the land of just being good period. And the morning after flaming out of a contest, it looks like a long trip.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Chris Schenkel: An Appreciation

One of my favorite sportscasters of all time, Chris Schenkel, passed away over the weekend at the age of 82. In case you don't remember Chris Schenkel, he covered a wide variety of sporting events, including the Olympics. He is perhaps most recognized for his coverage of bowling, which is why he was featured in the film Kingpin.

When I was growing up, it seemed like whenever ABC's Wide World of Sports was covering some odd sport, like curling or Acapulco cliff diving, Chris Schenkel was covering it. For marginal sports, Chris was the go-to guy, the original Marginal Sports Broadcaster.

I always enjoyed watching those odd sporting events, and a big part of it was that I enjoyed the broadcasters. There would always be a professional broadcaster, like Schenkel, and then a plucked-out-of-nowhere color commentator.

The color commentators tend to be recruited from the ranks of former participants in the sport. During the 2004 Olympics, one of the sports was trampoline. Yes, trampoline. Is there even one American who can speak with any authority about the competitive sport of Trampoline?

Well as a matter of fact, yes. Well, almost. Trace Worthington was actually a former freestyle skier, but he'd done a lot of stunts on the trampoline, so he brought some knowledge to the table. They sure were lucky he was available! He was so cheerful, I'm sure he was thinking, "I'm getting paid for this, right? This is so much better than detailing cars."

For marginal sport color commentators, the undisputed master is Mr. Dwight Stones. Dwight Stones was a track athlete himself about one million years ago. He's now made a living covering track and field events on TV for over 25 years. The man's body of work is remarkable. I would have to give Dwight Stones the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Color Commentator category.

Evidently, all of the marginal sports color commentators receive the same media training. If you watch just a handful of these guys, you will see that they each have the same basic repertoire of hand gestures, which are to be performed in a notecard-sized square six inches directly in front of the chin. It doesn't matter what sport or what athlete they are talking about. They all use the same hand gestures. Always in the imaginary notecard-sized box.

The professional broadcasters are different. They are pro's who, for whatever reason, find themselves stuck in these tide pools of the broadcasting business. Take, for example Al Trautwig, who for my money, is the rightful heir to Chris Schenkel's mantle. He has covered soccer (both indoor and outdoor), Olympics, Triathlons, Marathons, the Tour De France, and he was Worthington's partner covering the Trampoline. Trautwig has had a distinguished career covering major sports as well, but he has served with distinction covering the "marginals."

Sitting next to Worthington on the trampoline broadcast, Trautwig appeared to have a flash of recognition. Al appeared to realize he really was broadcasting a trampoline competition, that this wasn't just a bad dream.

"Where did it all go wrong?" he appeared to be thinking. "Where did it go so terribly, terribly wrong? I could be broadcasting Monday Night Football."

All the while Worthington blathered on, smiling and folding imaginary origami swans in front of his chin.

Trautwig quickly recovered, though, and made some insightful remark to Worthington that showed he had done his homework. Because Al's a pro. Just like Chris Schenkel was.

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Chris Schenkel, 1923 - 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fake News, Anyone?

I decided to put the fake news all in one place, over here: The Not Real News. Hope you like it!

Friday, September 09, 2005

O Deli! My Deli!

O Deli! My Deli!

One day it's there, the next day, it's gone. So suddenly, leaving me and many others bereft.

The deli closed. My deli closed.

There was no warning. Well, no obvious warning, anyway. Perhaps there were tell-tale signs near the end-- dwindling stocks of chips, a smaller selection of muffins. But it wasn't like there were buzzards circling overhead. No more than usual.

Perhaps it's only natural that I wonder: am I partly to blame? What if I had been a better tipper? What if I had bought some of those crappy little candies they had by the register? What if I had gotten cheese on my sandwiches? Oh, if I could go back in time right now! I'd get cheese on everything!

Once there were charmingly ungrammatical signs (Please: if salad bar 2.00 minimum. Thank you!). Now there is only a stark "Space Available" sign in the window; a kind of real estate death mask.

Never again will I see the smiling Vietnamese ladies making sandwiches. (Unless I go another block, to the other deli. But I think they're Filipinos.)

There was so much I wanted to say to you, Vietnamese sandwich ladies. I appreciate the way you kept the mustard and mayo in proper proportion, and how you knew without me telling you that a pastrami sandwich didn't get mayo. I always wondered what you were talking and laughing about while you made my food. I appreciate the way you let me off the hook when I was a penny or two short. Looking back, I feel so selfish.

I've seen restaurants and stores struggle before. It's sad to recognize that a store or restaurant is struggling, and will soon sink back into the mire. As a dispassionate consumer, I usually spot it well before the owners. "Gary's Big & Tall Costumes, huh? 6 months. Nuts, a vegan sports bar? 3 months." Then I watch them go through the 7 stages of grief.
Shock: "Maybe I ordered too many tofu wings for the Super Bowl Party."
Denial: "Coming soon: size 44-60 Stormtroopers!"
Bargaining: "Special: 2 for 1 tofu dogs!"
Fear: "Maybe I shouldn't have made that deposit on a boat."
Anger: "Why do you hate me and my vegan sports bar? Why, marina girls, why!"
Despair: "What time do we close? Who cares. I will die alone."
Acceptance: "Craig's List for sale: professional stove; tables and chairs; bar stools; 72" big screen. Make an offer. Everything must go."

And then the circle of life turns again. Like the first rays of dawn, the first blooms in spring, hope emerges. The "Space Available" sign comes down. In it's place is a new sign: "Coming Soon: Figurines Unlimited!"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Question About Etiquette

I was running through the city, passing Kenyans like they were standing still (as I do), when I *accidentally* kicked a pigeon. I don't kick pigeons on purpose. I'm not a savage.

The pigeon went flying, struggled to right itself, and ended up hitting a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. It didn't hurt him, but it definitely startled him and made him keel over on his side. (He did not spill his change however. I feel that this is an important mitigating circumstance.) I felt bad for having triggered this course of events, but a) I didn't do it on purpose, and b) how can I be responsible for a kicked pigeon's trajectory? At some point post-kick, the pigeon becomes responsible for its own flight path.

I didn't know how to react. For one thing, I was running, so before I could process all of this, I was a half block away. For another, was it my fault? I mean, I said "sorry!" over my shoulder, but I have been known to apologize to people who step on my foot. You know, for putting my foot where I should have known their foot would soon be. So it's not like I have a problem taking responsibility.

But seriously, was it my fault?

Here's the question: What is the proper response when you are running in the city, and you accidentally kick a pigeon, and it hits a homeless person, and the homeless person falls over?

How has this issue evaded the notice of Emily Post or Miss Manners? There really ought to be a place to go for answers to questions like this. Should I have stopped and helped get the guy back to upright? Should I have offered him money? What if I was running (I was) and didn't have any money (I didn't) so I could not offer monetary compensation? Am I an asshole? (Because of this, I mean.)

What is "hack?"

It's a term you hear a lot in comedy, usually from comedians.

"I dropped that bit two months ago because it felt hack."
"That guy's act is a little hacky."
"Ish? That guy's a complete hack."
Hack comes from "hackneyed," meaning overused or trite. Either that or it comes from someone saying, "if one more comedian talks about the difference between men and women, I will hack his arm off." No comedian wants to be thought of as a hack by other comedians. But what qualifies as hack is highly subjective. Like pornography, I know it when I see it.*

I think comedians tend to be more sensitive to this than audiences, mainly because comedians hear a lot more comedy than the average person, and see a lot more comedians. By the time the average person hears a Viagra joke for the first time, I've heard it 15 times from 6 different comedians. And if I had a Viagra bit that wasn't pretty unique, I'd drop it.

Here's a summary of topics that comedians have nominated as hack on another website:
- airplane food
- white guys can't dance
- "telemarketers are annoying"
- Michael Jackson might be a little strange
- Online dating
- "Why won't men ask for directions?"
- Impressions, especially Robert Deniro, Christopher Walken
- My mom is [one nationality] and my dad is [different nationality] which makes me [a hilarious combination of the two!]
Whose opinion matters? The comedian's, other comedians' or the audience's? If a comedian is killing, getting booked, and making money, who cares if the other comedians think his act is hack?

Example: here in the Golden State, we elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as our governor. This was good fodder for jokes-- for awhile. Then, by and large, comedians got bored with it, and so did audiences. By the time I heard my fifth Ah-nuld impression, the needle on my hack-o-meter was jumping.

Then I went to New York. Comedians in New York were still endlessly amused by our Austrian action star governor, and the audiences lapped it up. I never did any Schwarzenegger jokes. But after months of hearing them in California and then in New York, I wanted to send a cyborg back from the future to kill me. Nevertheless, in New York, the Schwarzenegger stuff was working with the audience. So was it hack? I'd say no. On it's way perhaps, but not yet there.

Sometimes a topic seems hack on its face. Air travel. Dating. Parents. But if you have a unique perspective, and you have something interesting to say, then I don't think it matters that it involves those things. What makes it hack is the lack of anything unique, the lack of any new point of view. Brian Regan's material covers topics that are not new, but his point of view is unique. Like a jazz musician he never performs any bit exactly the same way twice. Year after year, people shout out requests for his old material because each time he does it, it becomes new again.

*The original quotation is credited to Supreme Justice Potter Stewart: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material [pornography] . . . but I know it when I see it." And yes, I'm aware of the irony that this quote itself is hack.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

In the News: Bush Administration Strikes Back at Critics of Disaster Relief Efforts

(Note: I write fake news stories. This is one of them.)

WASHINGTON (September 6)— The Bush Administration has begun to strike back at critics of its handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking aboard Air Force One in Mobile, Alabama yesterday, President Bush voiced his support for the job being done by Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).

“Brownie, you’re doing one heck of a job. Unless I miss my mark, I’d say someone’s bucking for a promotion to Supreme Court Justice.”

Back in Washington, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said he wanted to “set the record straight” on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s actions as the crisis began to unfold last week.

“Some people have said that Secretary of State Rice showed insensitivity by buying shoes and seeing Spamalot during the immediate aftermath of Katrina. But the fact of the matter is, the Secretary had been planning to see Spamalot for weeks. Those tickets are hard to get these days. And Dr. Rice had already been looking for strappy black sandals with a slight heel for at least a month,” said McClellan.

“Keep in mind, too, that Secretary Rice already has a debacle of her own in Iraq,” said McClellan.

McClellan also sought to counter the perception that the President’s response to the disaster lacked empathy.

“The President was touched by what he saw when he visited New Orleans last week. In fact before taking off [to return to Washington], President Bush ordered that all of the pretzels, peanuts and soda be taken off Air Force One and distributed to the needy.”

McClellan then turned to critics of the Administration’s apparent lack of preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. Detractors have criticized the Administration’s lack of leadership in responding, as well FEMA’s inability to act quickly in delivering aid in the aftermath of the hurricane.

“I don’t think there is any way the President could have predicted this disaster without reading or watching the news, which as you know he does not do at the ranch. Likewise, there was no way that the President could have known that FEMA would be a bad place to stick a crony who had been fired from running horse shows.”

“And let’s not forget,” added McClellan, “that the President has been distracted by the enormous effort that has been required to ignore Cindy Sheehan.”

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Back at the gym

As you can probably tell, I work out. You don't get this "comedian's physique" without working at it.

I've heard, and from someone who would know, that Carrot Top is ripped up. I mean seriously strong. It's probably a byproduct of the physical nature of his show-- constantly lifting and holding up props. Still, he must work at it. I'm not saying he's on the juice (Carrot juice?), but you just don't get cut like that from holding up a toilet with training wheels. My friend also said that Top's feminine facial features are oddly mesmerizing. Like I didn't already know that.

Comedians and physical fitness go WAY back. Forget about Joe Piscopo blowing up like Lou Ferrigno in the 80's. Milton Berle was "gifted" in more ways than one. It was said he could do forty fingertip pushups with Jayne Mansfield on his back. Or hers. Speaking of equipment....

I'm at the gym getting my pump on when I notice this piece of equipment I'd never seen before. I hate not knowing how to use a piece of equipment at the gym.

"Why don't you just ask someone how to use it?" Ask someone? Out there on the spandex-covered plains of the Serengeti? Come now.

It would mean the loss of my manhood. It would mark me as the weakest gazelle at the watering hole, no one would want to mate with me and eventually I'd be devoured by a pride of lions coming out of a pilates class.

So I did a couple of fly-by's. I nonchalantly strolled past the mystery machine. (No, not that Mystery Machine. "Zoinks, Scoob! Would it kill you to wipe down the seat after your set?") As I get close, I'm looking for clues as to how it works. Is it for the arms or the legs? Push or pull? Sit or stand?

After a couple of fly-by's, I felt ready to give it a shot. I went over and sat down.

An uncomfortable minute or so passed as I realized I still had no idea how this thing worked. Fuck. Now what?

Well, what else could I do? I sat there and pretended to be resting. What, you think I'm going to ask someone now? Having sat down and failed the gym equipment IQ test? Uh-uh. No, the scenario I was playing out was, "maybe I stop coming to the gym for awhile. Turnover's pretty high here, so in six months or so nobody will be around who remembers me."

Just then a gym employee came over. "Did you want to work in here?" I asked him.

"No," he said. "But I am going to need you to get off the floor polisher."

"Oh right!" I said as I dismounted. "I was just resting between sets."

I went off to find a machine I was more familiar with. I bought a gatorade from it.

Recovery from Hurricane Katrina - the President's Check List

It's posted over yonder on the List List.