Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Stretch, Part Two

It happened again.

You may recall that a few months ago, a couple of my comedy colleagues got big breaks-- one won a contest, and another got paid work from a prestigious club. Now it has happened again.

Another one of my comrades in arms got a really good paid gig. And good for him. I like him, I'm glad he got it. And yet...jealous, table for one.

I have also finally seen a comedian at early stages about whom I would say, "yes, he's going to be a star. He's going to be big." This guy is young, just starting out, but man! He's already very, very good. I've seen more seasoned vets look at him and just shake their heads. It's exciting, but at the same time, discouraging. You work hard to get good, and then you see it come so effortlessly to someone else. It's inspiring, but it can be hard.

And my friend got a paid gig that I want. And you know what? I'm good enough to get it. I know that. But it's hard - no-- it's impossible not to let at least a little jealousy seep in.

I understand a few things. For one, these things wouldn't bother me if I didn't want to be good and I didn't have the desire to succeed. For another, I know that this type of thing happens to everyone, and it happens at all stops along the way. Who knows? A year from now I could be whining because one of my friends got Premium Blend and I didn't.

I also realize that each time I have a breakthrough, there will be someone who feels the same way about me. Happy for me, sure, but envious too.

It's also a reminder that I can't take anything for granted-- I need to use everything I have to be successful. I don't want to wonder, "what if I had pushed myself?"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Going Postal

I'm just back from the post office. Which is always fun, and never more so than when you're up against the deadline for mailing stuff to the IRS.

So not only did I have to write a check to the government (those phones don't tap themselves you know!), but I get to stand in a long line and contemplate that fact for about 20 minutes.

What I find mind-boggling, though, is this: the post office is open...what? 300 days a year? And there are maybe 5 other days of the year when there's a real time-crunch at the post office.

So why is it so much MORE likely that that's the day that complete idiots come to the post office for no apparent reason?

I don't know how postal workers do it. I really don't. They have an amazing amount of patience, when you realize what they have to deal with. I'm just surprised that they don't "go postal" more often.

I would not be long for that job.

Here is a dramatic reenactment of a random 2 minute sampling of the post office I was in on Tuesday, at about 4:15pm.

Postal Worker: Next!

Customer #1: Hello, I would like to mail this package please.

Postal Worker: What are the contents of your package?

Customer #1: A jar of pickled beets, 2 sticks of dynamite and a dead bird.

Postal Worker: Uh huh. What were you planning to send them in?

Customer #1: Oh, just this grocery bag here. I wrote my name on this side, and my brother's over here on the other side.

Postal Worker: Yeah, no, we can't accept that. You will need proper packing materials for the beets to minimize the chance of breakage, it's illegal to send explosives and you can't send a dead bird through the mail.

Customer#1: Why can't I send the bird?

Postal Worker: You just can't, sir.

Customer# 1: But I never had this problem with the other dead birds!

Postal Worker: Sorry sir, post office regulations. Next!

Customer #2: Hi, I'd like to send this.

Postal Worker: This envelope is completely covered with one cent stamps. Where's the address? How will the carrier know where to deliver it?

Customer #2: See I thought you might say that, so I wrote it on this card, and I thought I'd just tape it to the bottom of the envelope here.

Postal Worker: I'm sorry ma'am, but the address has to be clearly visible on the piece of mail, not attached to it. Otherwise the automated sorters won't be able to process it, and the address my get torn off, and then your letter wouldn't be delivered.

Customer #2: Why do you have to make it SO HARD for a NORMAL PERSON such as MYSELF to mail a SIMPLE LETTER? The post office USED to provide GOOD SERVICE! I will complain to the Postmaster General! My congressman is going to hear about this! Good day to you, sir!

Postal Worker: Next?


Now then: here's what it would have sounded like had I been the postal worker, and why I am not a postal worker.

Me as Postal Worker (MaPW): Next?

Customer #3:
I would like to peruse the Great Merchant Marine Vessels commemorative stamps collection, please.

(Sigh.) Okay. Here you are.

(2 minutes later.)

Customer #3: Okay, I believe I have come to a decision.

MaPW: Excellent.

Customer #3: Yes... I would like 20, please.

MaPW: They come in sheets of 25. That's how many vessels they honored. 25.

Customer #3: Oh. But I don't want all 25. I only want 20.

MaPW: Right you only want 20. Buying all 25 would be too simple.

Customer #3: What?

MaPW: Nothing.

Customer #3: Let's see... maybe you could remove five of the stamps from the book and put them somewhere else.

MaPW: Well, I guess I could do that, if it will help me to get to the other 20 people who are trying to mail their tax returns.

Customer #3: Now let me just decide which five I want to remove.

MaPW (twitching): Here's what I'll do, sir. I'll tear off the bottom row here, okay?

Customer #3: Oh, heaven's no! I definitely want the S.S. Terre Haute! She was a beautiful ship. She used to come into San Francisco about every six wee--

MaPW: --That is utterly fascinating! Wow! Is there any way, any way at all, you could be a bigger pain in the ass right now? Because I'm guessing not, but hey, you've already surprised me.

Customer #3: Maybe you could take an X-acto knife and just cut out the five that I don't want.

MaPW: Oh, I really don't think giving me a knife right now would be a good idea. Hey, I have an idea! Maybe you could come back at 5.

Customer #3: Don't you close at 5?

MaPW: Yes. Yes, we do. Next!

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Cheapy

This is going to be a cheapy entry, mostly because I feel obliged to write something, and yet I don't have that much time or inspiration.

So here's where I am at:

Stand-up: I have two shows tonight, the second of which is a kind of "Tough Crowd"-type show on which I will be a guest panelist, cracking wise about the latest headlines. I'm doing an audition on Monday to a giant room full of empty chairs and desperation. Good times indeed. I have stuff Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, too. (See below.) But other than that, I'm wide open!

Improv: I have been taking a class, I auditioned for a group, and I was invited/co-opted into another group. Something's got to give-- as much as I like it, I can't keep up with all of them. The group I auditioned for is meeting on Saturday-- I'll try to get a sense of that before I make any decisions.

Writing: I have a couple of other top-secret writing projects that are going okay. The main reason they are top-secret is to minimize my accountability to you, internet. It's so that I don't have to answer questions like, "so what ever happened to that thing you were writing?" Because I might not like the answer.

Here's a typical week, comedy schedule-wise.

Monday: improv class
Tuesday: show (hopefully)
Wednesday: stalk bookers at 2 clubs; also supposed to meet with other improv group
Thursday: stand-up class
Friday: Show
Saturday: Improv (afternoon)
Sunday: stalk booker at local club (evening)

"So when," you may well ask, "do you find time to write?" Ah. Good question. That why I have to pare down this schedule. It's too hectic as is, so I'm waiting for a couple of things to shake loose, and then we will reevaluate.

Otherwise, two double ought six is off to a promising start.

Monday, January 02, 2006


In the 1960s, a Stanford professor came up with classifications for the people who help spread technological innovations. There are the "early adopters," people who buy new gadgets as soon as they come out. There are the "late adopters," who wait until a technology is well established.

Then there is my dad. On the technology spectrum, my dad falls somewhere between "late adopter" and "Amish."

Not that he shuns technology completely, he just doesn't exactly cuddle up in its warm embrace, either. Take the cellular phone.

See, my dad does own a cell phone. It’s just never turned on. He seems to get that cell phones are an important modern convenience, he just maybe doesn’t get why.

I mean, he's already on his second cell phone. Why? Because he threw the first one away. Why did he throw it away? Because the battery was dead.

"You know, they're rechargeable, Dad."

"Really? That must have been that thing that came with it."

"Yeah, that was probably the charger. What did you think it was?"

“I don’t know. Some kind of holder-thing that plugged in.”

So now even though he seems to understand the rechargeable nature of cell phones, I’m still not convinced he’s totally on board. His policy on using his cell phone is a little bit like other people might have for using, say, a flare gun.

"Dad, you spent the night in the car in a snow bank! Why didn't you call?"

"Oh, I was all ready to! If it had gotten bad."


And even when he does decide to actually use his cell phone, it’s still pretty clear he doesn’t quite get it. He thinks that cell phones are like walkie-talkies, and you have to talk like Mission Control calling Apollo 13. It’s like he thinks he’s being charged by the word: “Ish, Dad. Lunch? 12:30? Okay, see you.”

All my cell phone voicemails from him sound like this: "Ish, Dad. If you can hear me, pick up. Pick up!"

At least he's less subject to the cell phone peer pressure than I am.

Like at work, whenever there’s a break in a meeting and everyone immediately jumps on their cell phone, I have to, too. I mean, I’m hip! I’m popular! I have someone to call too, probably! Usually I just check my messages. And usually, there is just that one from my dad asking me to pick up.

But it’s true. I'm not exactly an early adopter myself. I always have the least cool phone of any of my friends. They all have these great Inspector Gadget-y things that do everything.

(During break in meeting.)

Me: Hey man. Whatcha doin?

Friend: Oh, just paying a bill, taking some pictures, sending an e-mail. Taking a picture of my bill, and then e-mailing it. How about you?

Me: Me? Haha! I just spelled the word "boobs" upside down. See? Yeah, it's 5-8-0-0-8. You should try it some time. You can do "boobies" too. Use the one for an "I" and the three for an "E."

There is a simple reason why I always have a crap phone, and it is this: I am cheap.

I mean, we all have phones, we all need phones, so I find the prices that Nokia and Motorola want to charge for their latest gizmos a tad offensive. And frankly, since I can be endlessly entertained by spelling the word “boobies,” I am happy to settle for older technology. (Though I prefer to think of it as "seasoned" technology.)

This is how I shop for a phone:

Me: Hi, I need a new phone.

Sales Guy working on commission: I can help you with that. We've got this new one here, it's a PDA, it's web-compatible and comes with Java and Blue Tooth. It only weighs 2 ounces. It's $399.

Me, nodding knowingly: Yeah, I don't think I need that java tooth thing. What do you have that's like, free? I don't want to pay anything at all.

Sales Guy, now oozing contempt: (Sigh.) Okay, let's step down to the other counter.

So now we're at the Island of Misfit Toys. It's all the old phones, and the ideas that never caught on. (Apparently the market for a combination cell phone/commuter mug never really materialized.)

Me, pointing to large grey brick of what appears to be space junk: Hey, how about this one?

Sales Guy who wishes he was on break: That’ll work. You'll probably want to get the steel reinforced shoulder harness. And by signing up, you'll automatically become a party to the class action lawsuit over the tumors. Just sign right there, where it says "plaintiff."

So sure, I get what I pay for. The phone’s menu is all in Croatian, but that's okay since it has so few functions. And it still does most of the same stuff the fancy phones do: it drops calls, it dies without warning, and it’s got the same annoying ring tones.

I try not to take my space junk phone out around other people’s cool phones. Plus, by the time I get it set up on the tripod and crank the dyno, the break is over anyway.

It was probably just a message from my dad.