comedy

SNL Gets Surprisingly Sweet for Christmas

There were two moments that really stood out from this week’s Saturday Night Live. The show got surprisingly sweet. They were able to embrace the warmth and beauty of Christmas without losing laughs.

I think that’s a pretty common fear: you can’t be earnest and still be funny. You’ll sacrifice the jokes if you try to say something meaningful. And that’s not what people want from a comedy show!

But that' doesn’t have to be true! You can laugh at your cake and cry while eating it too.

Obviously I think the pendulum can swing too far in the other direction and you CAN get so wrapped up in making something important that you forget to also make it funny. But this week’s SNL found the perfect mix. It’s not too much. Just two small moments: Matt Damon’s monologue and the end of the Best Christmas digital short.

Stand-up Comedy at the Birth of Your Baby

 
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This was a joke I made in my newsletter a few weeks ago but the more I think about it, the funnier it is. I’d really like to do this one day.

Here’s how it would work:

The week you’re expected to give birth I do a house show for you and your friends. A camera crew is traveling with me and they’re filming the whole thing. I’ll also try to book a few other shows and services in the area so I can hang around. That baby could come out at any moment! I’d do comedy in the car with you on the way to hospital (or one of those places where you give birth in a hot tub or where ever you plan on doing this), I’d do comedy while standing in the corner of the delivery room while you’re giving birth (preferably in a corner where I can’t see much), and then I’d do a little bit more when the baby is out.

I think it would be a lot funnier if during the whole birthing process, from the car ride to the end, if I’m mostly just ignored. I’m holding a mic. I’m telling jokes to the camera. All the chaos and drama of child birth is happening in the background as if I’m not there. I think that would be really funny footage.

In one of the videos I made explaining the goals for my Patreon, I talk about comedy specials I’d love to film. I describe two of them and mention a third that I’m not ready to share. This is that idea. I don’t know why I tried to keep it a secret. I feel like if I really want this to happen I need to put it out into the world.

Let me do comedy at the birth of your baby.

Please Respect the Genius of Kenan Thompson

Yesterday I listened to an interview with Kenan Thompson and his long time writing partner at SNL, Bryan Tucker about how they create characters together.

Throughout the interview they played clips from Kenan’s sketches on SNL and I found myself constantly looking like a fool for laughing out loud at Wal-Mart.

Side note: One time I had to leave a Planet Fitness because Grown Ups 2 was playing on one of the tvs and I scream-laughed at some dumb joke. Everyone stared at me and so I had to run away.

When I finished the interview I started watching a ton of old SNL videos and it reminded me how good Kenan Thompson is. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one of the most solid and reliable performers on SNL. Bryan Tucker thinks so too. He wrote a LOVELY tribute to Kenan on Slate that opens like this:

 

“Here’s a secret. If you’re a Saturday Night Live writer, and you want to get an extra laugh in your script, just add this line: “KENAN REACTS.” Sure, it’s sort of cheating. But we still do it sometimes. Because it works.”

 

I feel like this sketch captures that perfectly.

Talking to Strangers is Cool Now (please?)

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When was the last time you had a conversation with a stranger?

Waiters don’t count. Nothing where either one of you is getting paid to have the conversation counts.

The other day I was on Craigslist looking for a wife (not really) and I found a listing entitled “Need a Friend? Why Not Rent One?” Yes. Yes. Let it sink in. Rent a friend. Yes. I bookmarked the ad and tried to go back to it yesterday but it’s been removed. The guy was 27 and charging $25 to hang out with shy people or anyone who didn’t have a friend. I wonder if he got any work. I wonder if anyone rented him for an hour just to convert him to Christianity. People are weird.

When was the last time you had a conversation with a stranger? Rent-a-friends don’t count.

I think some of my favorite conversations have been with people I know nothing about and probably will never see again.

I’m sorry, Mom. I can’t say something about how great it is to talk to complete strangers without apologizing to you for the way I acted my entire childhood. I was wrong.

My mom loves talking to anyone and everyone when we’re out in public. We’re in line at Six Flags when my eavesdropping mom hears someone say the word “Missouri” and all of a sudden she’s talking for 45 minutes because she’s from Missouri. It doesn’t matter in what context Missouri was said. She just hears the keyword and jumps in. My mom is Google. My mom will be a stranger’s auto complete.

Talking to strangers --MY MOM

I’d go to the bathroom at a Chili’s and come back to my mom holding a random baby. What?! Whose baby is that? Where did it come from?! Do I have a new brother? I know the process takes some time and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in the bathroom for 9 months. Turns out it belonged to that booth over there and now my mom is a babysitter.

Growing up my mom really embarrassed me. I would get so mad when she would try and do this. Once in a restaurant I LUNGED at her and dragged her back to our table because PLEASE STOP TALKING TO STRANGERS!

Now that I’m older (and finally going through puberty) I’ve completely turned around on this. I occasionally eavesdrop and join conversations myself. Recently I was at a restaurant with my family when I overheard a lady talking. Something about a doctor and how he came to his diagnosis. She was saying how rude he was and how he never liked talking to the patients. I turned to her and said “Excuse me, ma’am. Are you talking about House?” She was. I recognized the episode and knew what season it was from BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND AND I HAVE A LOT OF TIME ON MY HANDS. I talked to this lady for a minute and returned my focus to my parents. My mom looked at me like I just levitated. She was shocked. I had changed.

Binge watching this show is like going to medical school. When I finished season 5 I got a medical license in the mail. I can perform surgery because I watched this show.

Friday night I ended up at Denny’s at 4 am sitting with a street preacher,and two atheists. It was a surreal night.

I was in Austin, Texas to see one of my favorite comedians. The show got out around 10:45 pm. I didn’t feel like heading home so I walked over to 6th Street. For anyone who doesn’t know, 6th Street is where all the bars, clubs, drunks, college partiers are late at night. It’s a whole different world that I’m not involved in but it’s entertaining to watch.

Talking to strangers can open your eyes to all sorts of things. These people are outside of your life, and some are WAY outside the culture you’re used to. It offers a new perspective.

That night there was an older guy standing alone observing just like me. I walked over and asked him for advice on how to talk to girls. Why? I mostly just wanted to hear what he’d say. Part of me was hoping for something crazy. “Tell her she smells like spaghetti! Girls love that!” But he actually had some nice insight. “They’ll talk to you and they’ll let you know if they’re interested. All you can do is keep trying.”

At one point I approached a “college bro” after watching him get turned down by a girl. He offered to be my wingman and told me about a website that teaches you how to pick up chicks. I was pretty creeped out but agreed to tag along because why not? It didn’t take long for me to discover he was just as bad at talking to girls as I was except he didn’t know it yet. This guy was oozing confidence. I didn’t participate in the picking up of chicks as much as I just watched and laughed.

Then I found a guy standing quietly with a sign in the middle of the drunken craziness. The sign said “What if?” When someone approached him wondering what the sign meant he asked them “What if Jesus is the only way to God?” He was a street preacher. Kind of. He didn’t stand on a box and yell. He waited for people to come up to him and let them do most of the talking. He stayed calm and never got angry. Everyone else sure did, though. Holy cow.

I spent a lot of time watching this scene. It was so crazy to watch all of the different reactions. Mostly anger and guilt. One girl walked up to me because she thought I was with the preacher. She got up in my face and talked like she was defending herself. “Hey! I go to church every Sunday!” Ok. Cool. No one said you didn’t. Why did you just yell that at me?

There was one guy standing next to the preacher who just crying. No one was talking to him. He just cried. I walked up to see if he was ok. He was a Christian. He told me how sad he was to see how angry everyone was at the guy with the sign. He tried asking me my religious views but I didn’t want to tell him because I wanted to see what he’d do.

He tried to share the gospel with me. And it broke my heart. Because he didn’t know how. He spoke in circles and never actually made any points.

I asked why he believed in Jesus. He said it was better to “believe in something than to not believe in anything.” I pushed him a little. “Ok,” I said, “but why Jesus? You just said it’s good to believe in something. Why not Islam? Why not Buddha? Why did you pick Jesus?” His response was “because I don’t know about those religions.” That’s it?! That’s your only reason?! What if he had said that to an atheist? They would have ripped him to shreds.

Stepping outside your comfort by talking to strangers makes you think. It makes you question yourself.

I had to ask myself “What would I have said if I was the crying guy? Do I have a good reason for following Jesus?”

That night I had no schedule and no agenda. I was completely free to go where the wind took me. In American culture it’s almost impossible to be that way 24/7. We’ve got doctor’s appointments and set times when we have to be at work. But what if you tried to be open just once this week? No looking at your watch and nowhere to be. Start a conversation with a stranger and see where it leads.

My Friday night with no schedule or agendas led me to Denny’s. After all the bars had closed I was still talking to passerby's who stopped at the street preacher with the sign. The street preacher was talking to one guy and I was talking to his very drunk friend. We decided we should just take the conversation to somewhere we could sit down and eat so we did. Denny’s. Not my favorite but who cares. At least it wasn’t Waffle House.

It was a little difficult to have a decent conversation at Denny’s because one of the guys was a little too drunk. But it was still pleasant and interesting.

Toward the end of our meal an older guy sat down close by and sketched us. Kind of a weird sentence. We didn’t ask him to or anything. He just did it. Before he started sketching he wrote on the paper “Time & The Good Lord Permitting.” He showed it to us and let me keep it.

Talking to Strangers a portrait

When was the last time you opened yourself up to talk to a stranger and see where it goes? Have you let yourself be free and taken where the wind (or the guidance of the Holy Spirit) takes you?

It’s easy.

You don’t have to be a weirdo and try to force a conversation. Look for organic reasons to talk to someone. Maybe you both observed something odd happen. Walk over and say “did you just hear that old lady fart, too?” Simple.

It could start an adventure. You might hear about a new band or movie that’s going to blow you away. They could really change the way you think/talk about something. Or you might do that for them. What if the conversation turns to religion and they share their thoughts on Christianity? You could respond to that. You could share what the Bible actually says about this or that and fix the damage a church or a “Christian” had done in this person’s life.

Talking to strangers. It’s worth it.

Again, I’m sorry mom.

Robin Williams, Depression, and All of Us

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Robin Williams passed away yesterday and it broke everyone's heart. I follow a lot of comedians on Twitter and there were tons of really sweet stories and sentiments shared about Robin Williams. There was consensus among the comedy community that not only was he one of the greatest performers but he was also one of the greatest men offstage. Comedian Dana Gould shared this story on his tumblr.

Two years ago, I was performing at The Punchline in San Francisco, and Robin came to the show with our mutual friend, Dan Spencer.

This particular batch of material was the first time I had touched upon my then still-fresh divorce wounds, and big chunks of it were pretty dark. The next day, I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize. Whoever it was had obviously been to the show and knew my number, so I figured they would reveal themselves at some point and save me the embarrassment of asking who they were.

The Mystery Texter asked how I was REALLY doing. “You can’t fool me. Some of those ‘jokes’ aren’t ‘jokes.” By now I knew that whoever this was had been through what I was enduring, as no one else would know to ask, “What time of day is the hardest?”

He wanted to know how my kids were handling it, all the while assuring me that the storm, as bleak as it was, would one day pass and that I was not, as I was then convinced, a terrible father for visiting a broken home upon my children.

I am not rewriting this story in retrospect to make it dramatic. I did not know who I was texting with. Finally, my phone blipped, and I saw, in a little green square, “Okay, pal. You got my number. Call me. I’ve been there. You’re going to be okay. - Robin.”

That is what you call a human being.

Paul F. Tompkins, another great comedian, shared his feelings about Robin Williams. You can read the whole thing here but I really identify with this paragraph:

Robin Williams made me laugh so many times. So many times. When I was a kid, having problems of my own, feeling unpleasantly different from the people who populated my world, I found sanctuary watching this guy on TV who was celebrated for being a weirdo, for being an oddball, for being silly. He was praised for having a mind that produced delightful absurdities with great speed. No one told him to be quiet. No one tried to make him act like everyone else.

This is just a small sample of a million posts that echo these same thoughts.

Robin Williams took his own life yesterday and the world was devastated. Not only was there an outpouring of love for the comedian but there was also a great deal being said about suicide, depression, and mental illness.

We can’t forget about the ones we’ve lost but we must never lose focus on the ones we’re going to lose unless things change.

When it comes to issues like suicide and depression we're not the best at handling them. We’re like a group of grown men standing around and it’s not until one of them poops their pants that everyone says “gee, I better go to the bathroom.” We can't wait until the next life is taken from us before we deal with depression and mental illness again.

If you’re experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, you’re not alone. You can get help. There are people all around you who will love and support you. Don’t keep it bottled up inside. Don’t ignore it.

If Robin Williams, one of the funniest/joyful/kindest men, can be affected by it, anyone can.

We were all so shocked when we heard the news yesterday. You never know what someone else is going through. Let that influence how we treat everyone we come in contact with in our lives.

We can’t let this issue only come up when it takes another life.

 

Nanu nanu

All About Eating Too Much

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For the last seven days I was on the road. Texas to Arkansas to Mississippi back to Arkansas and now I’m home in Texas. It was for ministry. I wasn’t on the run from the law or anything like that. I was doing stand-up and preaching. And when I wasn’t doing that I was eating too much.

This last week I ate like Jabba the Hutt.

When something traumatic happens in a person’s life their mind might decide to block the memory out. It’s easier to not remember that horrible thing at all. Yesterday I tried to write out an inventory of the meals I ate while on the road and there a few lunches and dinners I can’t recall at all. Did I block them out? What did I eat? What happened?!

“Please let this be rock bottom,” I said to myself. It was on the third slice of leftover pizza I snuck in at 2 am. I was pacing my hotel room in my underwear trying to chew as fast as I could so I could get back into bed and watch more Frasier on the Hallmark Channel. I wouldn’t eat in bed because I don’t want crumbs and I have standards!

Whenever you feel bad about something in your life do you ever try to find someone worse than you to make you feel better? “I got this terrible hair cut but at least it’s not as bad as that guy’s hair.” “My girlfriend is mean and blew up my car but at least I didn’t marry a serial killer like that person I saw on TV.” “I eat too much but at least I’m not like Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

I have two videos that make me feel better about eating too much.

Laughing Guy Who Loves Food Goes Nuts!

I was shown this video last week and I can’t stop watching it. This guy is so excited for his disgusting looking take out. Why is he filming himself? Who is he talking to? I’ve never filmed myself eating. I’ve never reacted to food like an old prospector who found buried treasure in an abandoned mine shaft. And I’ve never eaten gross looking soup from a bag! What is that?! WHY is that?! Horrible. Horrible.

 

Woman Eats Two 72 oz Steaks in 15 Minutes

People always tell me I eat too fast. I just need to show them all this lady and then they’ll appreciate my meal intake more! Everyone is impressed by this, right? It’s really incredible. But at the same time it does make me feel better about how I eat. I’ve never eaten a salad in three bites with my hands. The one thing that’s kind of a bummer is that it doesn’t look like she’s having any fun. There’s no joy in this extreme challenge. She looks like she’s having to do this or the kidnappers will kill her whole family. Like this is a scene from a new food challenge sequel to Taken.

 

The moral of the story is I'm eating too much and I need to stop. Today is a new beginning!

Yesterday I decided my last horribly irresponsible meal would be at Cici’s Pizza Buffet. Every time I want to eat healthy I have one last meal at Cici’s. This happens every month or so. The last time I went to Cici’s I live tweeted my experience.

Everything about my decision to eat here is bad bag, Leeroy Brown. I just worked out. I walked here. I’m alone. I’m in a prom dress.

Saw a guy at another table do one of those burps that turns into a dry heave. Aw yeah. He had a good meal.

First plate done. Leave the crust and leave your dignity.

There’s always at least one guy in a baseball jersey eating at Cici’s. No matter what time of day you go. It’s a rule.

If you’re eating at Cici’s on a regular basis and you’re still able to participate in sports, you’re doing it wrong.

All great romances begin at Cici’s.

“We met at Cici’s. She was the janitor who found me passed out on the toilet.”

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go eat a fruit or green plant thing. Or maybe I'll eat ten of them. Covered in chocolate. Wrapped in a pizza. I'll probably end up eating too much.