I’ve been doing stand-up comedy once a month for the past 5 months. It’s something I always wanted to try, and now I’m doing it! I don’t want to do it for any reason other than as a creative outlet. Now that I’ve done it a few times, the challenge isn’t getting up there in front of a crowd and forgetting my routine. The challenge is finding enough material to keep it fresh and new every time I go up there! I get only five minutes, so I don’t need a lot of material. Still, it takes discipline and a deadline to keep me writing and revising my routine. That might explain why I don’t update this blog on a regular basis – no deadline!
A friend asked me recently which comics influenced me or were my favorites. I told him I grew up listening to Bill Cosby and George Carlin when I was a kid. I also listened to Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor as a teen. I watched every episode of the early days of Saturday Night Live and as many episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus as I could find. Later, my taste for comedy added Mitch Hedberg, Stephen Wright, Jim Gaffigan, and lately, Louis C.K. My taste in TV shows gravitates to the weird/abnormal comedies, like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Archer, Frisky Dingo, and Robot Chicken. Apparently, I like cartoon humor. When I was a kid, I sat in front of the TV every Saturday morning watching Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, Tom & Jerry, Hong Kong Phooey, and Fat Albert.
The first thing I do every morning, after I grab a cup of coffee, is to go online looking for something that makes me laugh. I share most of it on Facebook, but not everyone likes it. I think there are things that are funny in general, and things that are funny to small groups who have something in common, and things that are funny to just me. My only rule before posting something is that it has to make me really laugh!
Which brings me to my central question – What is your sense of humor? Do you have a sense of humor? Of course you do! Everyone has a sense of what is funny to them. Knowing that not everything will be funny to everyone makes it easier to try being funny. When I didn’t have enough material to have a fresh five minutes, I repeated a portion of my previous routine. The first time I did it, I got some hearty laughter. The second time was just mild chuckling. The only difference was the audience. As long as the humor can’t be mistaken for bullying (mean spirited comedy), then someone somewhere will find it funny. You might be a horrible joke teller, but you can tell a true story that will make people laugh. I’m sure something funny has happened to you recently!
Laughter really is the best medicine. Research has shown that regular laughter can help improve your immune system and help you live longer. I never get sick. Next time you have a sick day, break out the funny! Better yet, look for the funny in your everyday life and don’t get sick in the first place. Humor is everywhere – you just have to know how to see it when it’s happening. If all else fails, you can laugh about it later.
I have three sons, the youngest of whom just turned 18. They are all now legal adults! Their mother and I divorced 16 years ago. They didn’t live with me but when we had time together, I did my best to help guide them to this point in their lives. I knew I had limited time with them, so I’ve often wondered how much influence I could have had over them. So I’m writing them this letter to give them my rules for living so they can improve upon my successes, avoid my mistakes, and live a life that will make their kids proud. I don’t know if my kids are proud of me, but I’m very proud of them!
When your mother and I divorced, I had a few well-meaning people warn me that children of divorce will have an extremely challenging life. They told me you would have trouble in school, trouble with relationships, have psychological and anger issues. Instead, you turned into very resilient children. You never became a “child of divorce.” Your school work was exemplary, you were active in sports, and when you found jobs, you exhibited the work ethic I hoped I would see from you. I want to believe I had something to do with that, but I want you to know I give your mother credit for the majority of it.
Now that you’re adults, I want to give you my rules for living a happy, productive life:
Laughter is the best medicine. When you learn to laugh at yourself, you can get through anything life throws your way. You’ve heard the saying, “you’ll look back on this and laugh one day.” Laugh today instead! Laugh so much that people wonder about your sanity. I gave the eulogy for my mother and I had my brothers and sisters and friends of the family laughing during the service. Sure we cried before, during and after the service, but if you can laugh through your tears you’ll be okay.
Be kind to everyone. whether they deserve it or not. I learned this rule a long time ago and I’m still trying to perfect it. One day, I was driving to work. The guy in front of me at the light would not turn right on red even though there was clearly no traffic. I honked at him and got him to go. I turned right and followed him into the parking lot at work. He was the CEO of the company! I now gently tap the horn only when necessary. Be kind to everyone you know or don’t know, because that person you don’t know now could be someone very important in your life later. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
Don’t let pride get in your way. There will be many times where swallowing your pride is the best way to resolve a situation. Swallow hard and do the right thing. Be proud, but not prideful.
Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Honesty really is the best policy. When you lie to people, you create a divide between you and them. That lie will always keep you from closing that divide and prevent you from being close to them ever again. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” is not true. What they don’t know hurts you. Cheating is a form of lying to yourself. If you think you can win by cheating, you have already lost. Stealing is wrong. I have no pearls of wisdom about that – it’s just wrong.
Love women just the way they are. I love women! I have more female friends than male friends! Don’t expect your logical mind to ever figure out women because they aren’t ruled by logic. You will drive yourself crazy if you question a woman’s motivation for doing something. It makes sense to them, so it doesn’t need to make sense to you! Don’t fight with a woman, because you will lose! Even if you win, you lose. Go with the flow, enjoy their company, treat them with respect, and always open the door for them (even if they could bench press the building).
Learn how to work a room. At any social gathering, it’s important to learn how to enter and exit conversations. If you’re at a cocktail party and you see someone nursing their drink and standing off to the side, talk to that person. Ask questions to find some common ground and talk the shit out of that topic. Don’t look around the room while you are talking to them just to see if there is someone else you’d rather talk to. When you are ready to move on, do it gracefully. Give them a firm handshake, look them in the eye and say, “It was great talking to you.”
Handle your finances wisely. Don’t use credit for consumer goods. If it’s something that will last longer than the payments use credit. This means you buy houses and cars with credit. You might have to use credit to furnish the house. You should never use credit for impulse purchase or for groceries. If you need to use credit to buy groceries, it’s because you are paying so much on your credit card bills that now you have to charge everything. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. Don’t do it!
Love yourself. There will be many times in your life where you will not be proud of yourself. You will do something you’re ashamed of. You are not alone – this is human nature. As hard as we try, we can’t live a perfect life. When you mess up, learn from it and never do it again. Then, you have to forgive yourself and let it go. You can do this only if you love yourself and respect and value who your are. Loving yourself opens up your ability to love someone else and accepting them as they are. Then, when they fail to be their very best, you can be there to help them rather than scold them. Loving yourself lets you love others freely.
Friend quality is better than friend quantity. Having a few close friends who know you as well as you know them, and they love you anyway, is better than having a bunch of “friends.” Your best friends should be your spouse, your brothers, and a few other close friends you would trust with your life.
You aren’t the only one. There will come a time when you are surrounded by people who appear happy and successful and who seem to have it all figured out. When they are alone, they have doubts, fears and frustrations and they question why all those other people seem to have it all figured out. No one has it all figured out all the time. Everyone has doubts, fears and frustrations. You’re not alone.
If all else fails, follow your instincts. You have been given the gift of intelligence and good looks, thanks to yours truly, and you’ve proven that you’re moral, ethical, and caring individuals. But there will be times where you don’t know what to do. Your conscience will never lead you astray. If what you’re considering feels wrong, don’t do it.
Finally, if you could just do one thing, it should be “enjoy life.” If you use the above tools, you should be well on your way to enjoying life to the fullest. We are on this earth for a mere blink of an eye. I hope to live long enough to read what you want to pass on to your children.
Show of hands – who here has gone on a date with someone they met online? That’s what I thought, I’m not alone! Ten years ago, I met many women through my Wednesday night karaoke routine. Every Wednesday night (and some Mondays/Fridays/Saturdays), I would close the karaoke bar. My confidence was through the roof during this phase of my life! I mastered the art of meeting people, not just women, and striking up a conversation as if we had known each other for years. I still count a few of those people as my friends even though I don’t get out much anymore. But I learned that chicks dig a guy who can sing and who approaches them with confidence while making them laugh at the same time. I learned much about the art of conversation because I met so many people each week.
I tell you all this so you can understand how unbelievably horrible my date from hell came to be. In the Spring of 2011, I became single again. It took me until the fall to begin looking around at all the dating sites available online. I created a dating profile on a couple of sites and sent out a few messages. Two things surprised me. One, the women who sent me messages were absolutely not my type! I’ve read that people psychologically choose people who they see as being roughly as attractive as they feel they are. If that’s the case, then I must be extremely overweight and horribly ugly! That was the type of woman responding to me! The messages I would send out to the hot women went unanswered, so I assume they were at their computer saying, “what the fuck is this guy thinking?” The second thing that surprised me was, the profiles people put up were not exactly accurate! Shocker! After having a phone conversation, and after one meeting for coffee, most of the people I met just ended up boring me. I couldn’t make a connection with anyone!
And then, the date from hell entered my world. I will call her “Lucifer” because I can’t remember her name. We agreed to meet at a bar/restaurant about half way between our homes. I arrived slightly early as I always do, and I sat at the bar with a view of the door. She came in and we had the normal chit-chat for about one minute. She then said, “I’m hungry, can we order some food?” Well, I really wasn’t planning on spending that much time with her as I had already made up my mind in that first minute that she wasn’t someone I’m interested in. So I responded politely with, “I hear the chicken wings are good here.” I’m such a wimp! She said, “I think I want some chicken fingers.” Awesome! Maybe we can bond over chicken!
Then things got weird. As we waited for the chicken, she wouldn’t speak unless I asked her a direct question. Once the question was answered, she clammed up again. There was no, “I was born and raised on a turnip farm, and you?” It was just, “I grew up on a turnip farm.” Silence. Awkward pause. ”So, a turnip farm, huh? That must have been interesting.” ”Yeah it was.” Silence. Awkward pause. When the chicken arrived, we had that to talk about, so it was all good. ”So, how are your chicken fingers?” ”They’re good.” Silence. Awkward pause. Om nom nom nom. Then her cell phone rang. She couldn’t find it in her purse before it stopped ringing, but the call was from her son. She sat there staring at her phone for a few minutes obsessing over why he would be calling her. ”Maybe he’ll call back. I’m sure he’ll call back if it’s important. Did he leave a voicemail?” ”No. I don’t know why he called.” Silence. Awkward pause. ”I wonder why he called me.” ”I’m sure he’ll call back.”
At this point, I was wishing someone would call me and tell me my apartment was on fire and I was the only person on earth who was going to be able to save the puppies in all the other apartments. I finally just gave up and said, “Why don’t you just call him back?” ”Oh, do you mind? I really want to find out why he called.” ”Please, go call him. I’m good here.” So she reaches into her purse and pulls out her pack of cigarettes. I’ve dated people who smoked and I lived with a woman who smoked, but this go-around, I was making smoking a deal breaker! ”I thought your profile said you didn’t smoke.” ”Oh no, I smoke all the time – way too much.” Stunned silence on my part as I watched her take her smokes and her phone out to the designated area outside the bar. Roughly 10 minutes later, she comes back in and, without explanation, says “I think I have to go, is that okay?” ”Oh sure, that’s fine.” I was celebrating in my head that this night was mercifully going to end! ”Well it was nice meeting you, thanks for dinner.” And we’re back to stunned silence. ”You’re welcome.” No awkward pause this time – she was out the door! I sat there and started laughing. I’m sure the bartender thought I was crazy, but I was just so happy she was gone! I paid my tab and went home to see if there were any puppies who needed to be saved.
I now had a great story to tell people. One of the people I told was the next person I met online. This one was someone I thought was too hot to respond, but she did. After a week of e-mails and a two hour long phone call, we went on a date. We met at the bar next door to Go Bananas. I sat at the bar with a view to the door. She came in and she was even prettier in person than the one picture she posted online. We chatted for a few minutes, and then we went over to the comedy club. She sat down and picked up the limited food menu they had and said, “I think I want some chicken fingers.” If she could have kept a straight face, I would have believed her. I saw just a hint of a smile as she waited for my response and then it hit me – I told her that story among the many things we talked about on our week of e-mails and two-hour phone call and she remembered it and used it against me! I’m going to marry that woman! No, really, I am! This woman is Alana, and the only way I can get her to read my blog is if I mention her! I put her at the end, so now she has been forced to read a story she’s already heard. It took me a while, but now we’re even for the chicken finger joke!
The people who know me casually see me as someone who would seem quite normal. I don’t throw off this weird vibe (at least I don’t think I do). I tend to blend in and mirror the crowd I’m with. When I’m with people who want to have the usual “hi, how ya doin’” kind of conversation, I can small talk with the best of them. When I’m with a group of friends ready to party, I can party with the best of them. I guess I’m saying that the conversation I’m having in my head can be filtered and used for good, not evil. Sometimes, the evil slips out. I’ve been told that I tend to say whatever is on my mind without filtering it. That’s true now, but that’s not always been the case. I don’t always say everything I’m thinking. That would make my cloak of invisibility fall off and you would see how much of a nut job I really am!
When I was a young boy, I was surrounded by a large, loud family. I’m talking 13 kids, two parents, four cats, one dog kind of large, loud family! My only hope to survive was to observe how the older siblings got into trouble and I tried to do the opposite. That worked out until I was the older brother in the house. I found new ways to get into trouble! I figured out that the less my dad heard, the better off we all were. You could haul off and smack your brother in the head, make him cry, and Dad would come in and yell at the kid crying! I experienced this phenomenon from both sides. It was bizarre being the one making someone cry and then sitting there while Dad yelled at them. He gave a cursory yell at the offender, but the loud one was the one who was really in trouble. So I learned that quiet is good and keeps you out of trouble.
The problem with this is, you really can become invisible in a group if all you do is observe without adding to the conversation. It took me a long time to become more vocal in group settings. Even so, I’m not the most talkative or loudest of the bunch. When I’m with a group of friends, there’s usually one person who dominates the conversation. They can be loud and boisterous and make people laugh at how silly they are. That will never be my style. I will sit there and pay attention and laugh when appropriate. There comes a time in every conversation like this where something pops into my head that may or may not be appropriate to share. When I do share, and it gets a laugh, I learn that sometimes the weird thoughts in my head can be appreciated by others. I’ll never tell a “guy walks into a bar” joke, or clown around in a crowd. There’s too much of the “quiet keeps you safe” in me to be that guy.
At home with Alana, it’s a different story. Here, I have an audience of one and she’s a great audience! She loves the silly! I can be a clown with her. Everything I do that makes her laugh has to be repeated so she can laugh again. After being with her for over a year, I could record a “best of” album of my greatest moments in silly! When the wedding planning began, and we had to go meet professional photographers, DJs, and the Rabbi, she saw my professional persona for the first time. This is the persona I try to maintain at work, though I’m not always successful with that. She was surprised at how “serious” I was in those meetings. I just explained that’s just how I am in those situations. I can’t be myself in every situation. So, she gets to see all the crazy that’s inside my head because she loves that shit.
The battle in my brain is ongoing. If you’ve been lucky enough (cursed enough) to be on the receiving end of a snarky comment on facebook, you’re welcome. You’ve experienced the unfiltered version of me. The other me, the quiet me sitting on the sidelines is having an unbelievable conversation with myself! I really need one of those cartoon thought bubbles hovering over my head. On second thought, that would be really dangerous to your well-being! It’s in your best interest that I not say everything I’m thinking. I’m not really being quiet to protect me, I’m being quiet to protect you!
Everyone says you don’t really get to know someone until after you live with them. You can take that two ways. One, the person you’re dating will reveal her true self after living with her for a while. Two, she’s going to find out about my true self too! That’s kind of scary! Only I know my true self and I’m my worst critic, so how can I let her see that guy? You are always on your best behavior during the dating stage. The gentleman opens the door for the lady, you call if you’re going to be late, you’re always in a good mood, and the most important rule is, NO belching or farting!
Alana and I spent a few dates in that “polite” stage, then we spent some time telling each other our deepest, darkest secrets. I think she was telling me what she thought would scare me away. This just caused me to tell her things I thought would scare her away. I found out rather quickly that she accepted me flaws and all, and I accepted her without judging her. We had this mutual, unspoken, agreement that we were getting and giving a new start to each other. It was like getting a do-over! The funny thing is, this acceptance of each other created a bond very quickly. We entered the “impolite” stage soon thereafter. That’s when I found out that you keep a woman who won’t fart in front of you, yet who laughs at my farts! Her laughter is what has saved her from the dreaded Dutch Oven.
As soon as I moved in, she did everything she could to make me feel at home. She helped set up the Man Cave in the finished basement. Then I found out that she sends me to The Cave so she can watch TV alone! This really is a good thing. I’d rather watch the shows I like and not be forced to watch The Bachelor in order to compromise with her! Every so often, I’ll go upstairs just to say hi. She is genuinely happy to see me every time. Forced togetherness causes resentments. Being able to be home with her while doing what I like to do without her makes me want to be with her more! This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings – “how can I miss you if you won’t go away?” Our “alone” time makes our together time all the better.
There are many things I’ve learned about her since moving in. Whenever I do something that makes her laugh, she makes me do it again. She’s like a little kid saying “do it again, do it again!” So I do it again and she laughs harder than she did the first time. There are things I have repeated for months now just because it makes her laugh! Because she is so competitive about everything, I’ve also learned to let her win most of the time! She has found out that I sometimes need to vent about something that frustrated me. She listens and understands my venting has nothing to do with her – I just need someone to care that I’m frustrated. She makes these faces and says “you’re scaring me, Baby.” I know she’s joking and that helps defuse the situation. She realizes that once the venting is done, I’m happy again.
Life with me can’t be a bed of roses, but it’s been pretty spectacular so far! We have so much respect for each other that when disagreements or misunderstandings occur, we work them out very quickly. She figured out the trick to staying happy with me is to not take me too seriously. I figured out the trick to staying happy with her is to just let Alana be Alana. We fell in love with each other after we allowed each other to just be ourselves. Neither of us wants to change anything about the other. I guess that means no matter what else we learn about each other over the rest of our lives, that’s going to be okay too!
All my life I’ve felt like I operate outside of the “normal” of the rest of the world. In a family of 13 siblings, I was a loner. That upbringing is probably the genesis of my ability and desire to sit back and observe what goes on around me, all while seeing the absurdity and humor no matter how bleak.
After a three year stint in the Army and four years in college, I went to work at a major public accounting firm. None of that would lead you to believe I would be operating outside the norm. You don’t do or say anything in the Army unless you want to clean latrines for a living. My college life consisted of being married and driving from Fairfield to Oxford and back again, followed by studying most of the rest of the day. I was a “serious” student! When you think “accountant,” you don’t think “funny accountant.” That’s an oxymoron if I ever saw one! However, I met quite a few “not-normal” accountants over the next few years. I still tried to fit in as best I could.
I didn’t always speak up. When I was young, I was hesitant to say what I was thinking because I didn’t want people to see how weird I was. Today, I have no such qualms! I have absolutely no filter and I will say what I think as soon as I think it. One nickname I had while working as a loan officer was “The Silent Assassin.” When I asked why, the nickname giver said, “you don’t say much, but when you do you come out of nowhere and say some things that hit the bullseye!.”
Nothing I say is meant to hurt, unless I mean to hurt you (which is rare). Sarcasm mixed with a dry sense of humor are tools I’ve honed to a sharp edge. Writing this blog may help you begin to understand how I see the world. It won’t always be abnormal, but I’ll try.