Booed off the Stage at my Home Club

There’s a story comedians will often tell each other after a bad set, and that is the story of Dave Chappelle getting booed off the stage at the Apollo Theatre, back when he was a teen in the early 90’s. It’s a comforting story to a comic who just bombed, because Chappelle became such a huge success after what sounds like a bombing way worse than anything you or I (until recently) have experienced. Even back then Dave was funny, but he was young in comedy and this Harlem crowd was merciless. He recounts the experience as being one of the defining moments in his career, that shaped him into the comic he became later on. And thus, as a comedian, you hear this story and think, well, “Even if a crowd boo’s me off stage, I just might go on to be the next Dave Chappelle!”

Sadly though, sometimes you just get booed off stage because you…suck. The universe is trying to tell you something. I mean, it takes a lot for a crowd to boo someone off stage. The crowd is not just sitting in silence like a normal bombing; a booing takes effort, moving around, and raised voices. You really do have to anger a whole group of people all at once, which requires a special talent in itself. It’d be really interesting to have a competition, where the crowd doesn’t know, but each comedian on the show’s goal is to get the crowd to boo them offstage. I guarantee that even some of the worst comedians we know could not pull it off! Well, my friends, I pulled it off.

It’s the night after Christmas, and all through the house…no one laughs, not even their spouse. I’m returning to comedy after 2 nights off, which is the most I’ve taken since my 10 day hiatus right after my 1,000 days. I’m the kind of comedian who gets rusty real fast. Even between nights, I rust. If I take a full week off of comedy I’m like a junkyard, ready to trash the whole show and give them tetanus. Why, I’m not sure. But I know it has something to do with me being very antisocial. Whereas some comedians spend their off-time yap yap yapping, I prefer to bask in my own silence. Less noise coming out of me, the better. I often go through whole days without talking to anyone, and so when I hit the stage it’s like I’m coming out of a cave and learning words again. Suddenly, there’s a group of people in front of me expecting me to be some sort of ambassador of communication, and yet they’ve been talking more than me all day! I’ll stutter and jumble words, looking like I just started comedy for the first time. My brain will freeze and I start worrying that people will demand their money back. This is how I feel every time I return to comedy after a night or two off. It’s an icky feeling. And that’s why I did 1,000 days in a row, just to not feel that way for a while.

Maybe I should just start talking during the day? … Naaaaa.

So here I am, at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton, the stage that raised me in my early years, where I learned the art of stage presence, and how to simultaneously get a weird mix of a suburban and urban crowd on my side without being able to use my full vocabulary of words I learned at Berkeley. This is the club that’s closest to my parent’s house in Fremont, the club that called me up to perform every week when I was less than a year in and nobody knew who I was, the first place to headline me on a weekend, and the place where I won a $5,000 competition between 100 comics just less than a year ago. What I’m saying is, I know this stage. If there’s any stage I know, it’s Tommy T’s Pleasanton. I know what pleases them, and also what prickles their pickles (make them angry). I’d never had to resort to using the latter…before this night.

I’m the feature act tonight, and I notice from the opening sets that the crowd is not being very responsive to the comedians. But if anyone shouldn’t bomb, it’s the feature act, since it’s the prime middle spot, where the crowd is warm and not anxious to leave yet. So I go up thinking, “I got this.” Famous last words of a comedian before he/she bombs.

I get on stage and start doing jokes, not my best ones, and my delivery is rusty, but still I feel that I deserve more laughs than what I am yielding. I notice there’s a lot of chatter from a few of the tables. So I talk to them to get them to quiet down. But they don’t. Then I go into a joke about crack and ask if anyone there has ever done crack before, which is a rhetorical question that usually just gets a laugh, but this time, two young women raised their hands, and it was sincere. They really do crack, and one was very proud of it. “Hell yea I do crack!” she exclaimed as she raised her hand. Then, the table next to them started calling them crackheads and laughing, and then a war broke out between the tables, which started to result in an altercation, but then the pissed off members just left. So now the room is now divided, the right hates the left, and the left hates the right. Meanwhile I’m on stage doing a horrible rusty job of choosing the right jokes to keep the rest of the crowd engaged. I start talking to the table in the front that is listening, and it’s this guys first comedy show ever. I say ‘Give it up for this guy, it’s his first show!’ and no one claps. Jeez, this crowd does not want to be controlled.

I continue with jokes, getting a few laughs, but there are tables still talking over me. Finally, I snap, and say, “You know what, let’s get civilized here so I can tell my jokes and you guys can shut up and listen, because we are effectively ruining the show right now, you all by talking, and me by letting it happen” (or something like that). After I say this, I can sense their anger just boiling up. I go on with a few more jokes, and now they are laughing even less, because they, collectively, don’t like me. They already didn’t want to like me, and then when I suggest that they shut up, they liked me less. Except one table in the back is laughing. I say, ‘You guys are the best!’ which makes the rest of the crowd even more hostile because what I said seemed backhanded, even though I was really just trying to bond with the only part of the crowd that likes me.

So now, my show is almost in complete silence, so I just take a break to reshuffle my thoughts, and sigh it out. My brain freezes…. Crickets…You can hear me breathing. And then I say, ‘Well guys, I’ve got about another 10 minutes up here.” Suddenly crowd explodes with a massive “BOO!”. Here we go! It was as if they turned to each other like ‘Holy shit! 10 more minutes of this guy??! No way! We can’t let this happen! We need to boo him off” I was shocked by how the boo came out of nowhere, from complete silence, and furthermore that they were able to coordinate the boo so well with each other, when previously they seemed like a crowd that was not capable of working together to do anything. It was certain they all wanted me off. Part of me is saddened by this deliberate insult to my art, but the other part is surprisingly happy that I emitted a definite reaction from them for once. And now the purpose of this set is at least starting to have meaning.

So now I got a crowd of 100 booing at me, and of course, when all is falling apart, the club gives me the light. I could just get off now. But your boy likes to do his time, and I kinda want to punish this crowd some more. I keep moving forward with jokes, and now it’s like fighting a hail storm. I remember once watching a clip of comedian Bill Burr, where a crowd in Philly was booing him, but he kept going, and ripped on them for his remaining time. I’m not the type to rip on people, so I just keep doing my jokes. I have one guy and his girl laughing in the back and everyone else in silence or boo’s. I look at the guy in the front whose first comedy show it is, and he’s one of the crowd members booing the hardest! Really man? You have no frame of reference, this is your first show! Now I’m really feeling like a piece of sh*t. But I keep going. Now I’m doing jokes that I know they specifically won’t like. Higher brow, jokes about linguistics and religion. I start using words that I know most of them don’t understand, like ‘paradox’. I can feel the hate boiling. People are looking at me like I’m the Satan of comedy who has come to destroy the art form they once knew.

“I’ve got a few more jokes guys”, I say, and the crowd explodes again with an atomic ‘BOOOO!” Well, at least I’m unifying the crowd on something. A crowd that was once fighting each other is now in full harmony with their communal hatred for Sammy Obeid!

So I start going into sex jokes, stuff they would actually like, and it’s all still falling flat to their joke protest. That’s how much they hate me now, that they are hating jokes that they know deep down in their soul that they find funny. And I can sense, after a few of these jokes that they would like, they are starting to realize that I do have value to them, yet we’ve committed so hard to our enmity that we continue to play the game. Well, let’s play then!

“Last joke guys” BOOOOOOO.

Now part of me is feeling bad that I’m doing this at a home club of mine, so I say, “Okay, there’s two things I want you to take home tonight. 1) Keep coming back to Tommy T’s and supporting live comedy. And 2) go fuck yourselves.” The crowd is in shambles, full of “Oh no he didn’t!” and “Get this guy off!” I close with one of my best sex jokes, normally my strongest joke at Tommy T’s, it’s so right for this crowd that it actually has a lot of them laughing against their own will. I can tell the laughs hurt them. It was like I sprayed them with bullets, and then I walk off stage, and I’ve never seen a crowd so excited and rejoicing for my exit.

Walking off stage like that I felt all of embarrassed, failed, yet accomplished, and liberated. I stood my ground and didn’t surrender to them or tell them they were great when they weren’t. I don’t think I could have handled this experience a year ago or before. It would have crushed me. But even if I bomb now, I”m still the guy who did 1,000 days of comedy. I”ve been through worse.

And I didn’t let this experience stop me. I picked myself up and came back to Tommy T’s the next 3 nights in a row and did well on every show. Complete 180. Since the weekend shows at Tommy T’s are normally hot. A few nights later, I”m headlining the Crow’s Nest in Santa Cruz, and a guy and a girl come up after and say, ‘We saw you at Tommy T’s last week’. I was like, “uh-oh, what show?” They said, “The bad one, but we were the couple at the table in the back laughing” I said “You guys! You laughed when no one else did!” They say, “Yea we thought you were so funny that night that we looked you up and came out to this show to see you do a longer set. We’d also like to buy a CD.” I gave them a CD for free, signed with a big heart. Even at my worst, they were fans. And way to not follow the lead of the others that night. That’s what I like to know, that my fans are leaders, not followers or crackheads.

I won’t say that my getting booed of the stage in front of a hundred Pleasantonians was as horrifying of an experience as it was for the young Chappelle in front of thousands of Harlemmers, but I will say that it felt like a defining moment for me as well. One where I learned that I have power over people’s emotions in ways that I didn’t even know I did. And one where I learned that I could take a booing and shrug it off, because I have enough faith in myself as a performer. And I also learned that even when one bombs, there still may be future fans in the room 🙂

Either that or I completely failed to hear the universe trying to tell me to quit.

2013: Worst Year of Life, Best of Career

What can I say about 2013 other than it was a huge mindf*@k. The year that kicked me in the nuts when I was down, but then made my dreams come true. The year that I accomplished the one thing that I put more heart and effort into than anything else in my whole life, was also the year that almost killed me, inside and out. Yet, leaving 2013 I feel nothing less than strength and fearlessness. My whole paradigm has flopped after what this year has put me through, and I now understand what’s most important in life…uhhhhh NUTHIN.

Here’s the highlights:

1/1: Celebrate New Years alone in my car, no phone calls, and one mass text from some Indian dude I don’t really know
1/6: Jump in the Pacific Ocean naked with a bunch of random Europeans
1/14: Get my first commercial ‘on avail’ for role of ‘Brazilian soccer player’
1/16: Start seeing a therapist
1/26: Perform for my Texan grandma at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas where she went as kid in the 1930’s
2/9: Turn 29, 5 people show up to my birthday show
2/18: Book 50 colleges at NACA nationals in Nashville, income suddenly moves up to 6 figures
2/19: Record my first comedy album in SF on 1 hour of sleep
3/17: Walk an angry crowd member in SF after a 9/11 joke
3/24: Graduate the UCB improv program in Hollywood after 2 years of struggling
3/31: Win a $5,000 competition at Tommy Ts on Easter
4/7: Almost die in my car after spinning circles on a slippery freeway
4/25: First time in Hawaii!
5/6: Perform for 2.5 hours at a bar in SF, new personal record
5/9: Rejected by the Montreal festival for the 3rd time
5/24: Told I’m ugly and look like sh*t by 4 people in 24 hours
5/25: Discover that a medication I’ve been on for 2 years is destroying my hair, skin, and liver
5/26: Get off medication, begin 6 months of severe burning pain on my head and sun allergy
5/27: Anxiety attacks begin
5/28: Dream I’m on Conan and bomb so bad that I get booed off the stage
6/5: Headline Comedy & Magic Club for my 6 year anniversary in comedy, and get heckled the whole set
6/23: Bomb at my college buddy’s Punjabi wedding during an anxiety attack
6/24: Start intense detox diet to help lessen the head pain
6/29: Consider suicide in my Arizona hotel
6/30: Decide to postpone suicidal thoughts until after 1,000 days is up
7/9: Zimrider pukes in my car
7/13: OKCupid date from hell
7/31: Bomb at Comedy Juice in Hollywood, decide I’m quitting comedy, for good this time
8/1: Get booked on Conan, back in comedy again
8/8 Secure Largo in LA as the venue for my 1,000th day
8/22: Lose my driver’s license on a 2 week college tour across America, have to bum rides and take busses
9/6: Randomly find my license at the Dallas airport on a layover
9/17: Perform my Conan set for naked women playing with toys on Playboy Radio
9/18: Perform and air on Conan on TBS
9/19: Sign with a manager
9/20: Make the New York Times on my 1,000th day of comedy
9/21: Sell out the SF Punch Line, completing 1,001 nights of comedy, standing ovation
9/22: Discover Netflix
10/4: Start a 2 month long college tour across America
10/8: Hike the Appalachians, high
10/13: Jog the Rocky steps in Philly
10/14: Climb the Statue of Liberty hungover
10/24: Head pain starts to go away after 4 days in cold Chicago
11/7: Recognized for being on TV for the first time, at a cafe in Peoria, IL
11/14: Book 50 more colleges for 2014 at NACA
11/17: Smoke with my old friend from Junior High in Columbus, OH
12/1: Feature at San Jose Improv and Rooster T Feathers in the same night (make South Bay history)
12/11: Hire my assistant, the great Brian Regan
12/17: My one hour of sleep album makes ‘Best of 2013’ on iTunes
12/26: Get booed off the stage at my home club in the East Bay, Tommy T’s
(not always a happy ending)

Hope your 2013 was just as much of a hellof a ride as mine! And wishing you best in 2014! 2014 is OUR year! Yes, all of us! All of us, except Tim. F*@k that guy.

To Find Your Voice, Lose Your Voice

A common tradition in comedy is when older, more veteran comedians scare younger comedians by telling them how horribly long it takes to really get good and be respected. I’ve heard legends of ’15 years in the game’ before you can actually call yourself a comedian, or that don’t even find your comedic voice until at least 10 years in. So who am I up until that point? Just a confused college student trying to figure out my sexuality?

‘Finding your voice’ can be a perplexing, even frustrating idea to grasp. Find my voice? When did I even lose it? Last I checked, people hear me and respond when I talk. Even if I’m talking just like Daniel Tosh.

It’s true that when we begin comedy, we most often emulate others…whether it be one certain comedian, or a synthesis of many. And as time goes on, we tend to think less about phrasing our words in terms of what we’ve heard before and what we know works, and instead we just start saying things straight from our gut, our heart, or our mind. It can be a long process, of letting go, and finding the confidence and individuality within to do this. But to say our voice was never with us in the first place is a fallacy.

Here’s my theory, thanks for not asking. There’s two things going on here. First of all, we always have our own unique voice within. We just get nerves on stage and focus so much on what we have prepared (our act), that we disconnect from our natural voice, which is always there. The more time we put into our craft, the more comfortable we get, and connect with that voice. Seconldy, as time goes on we grow as a person, so our voice actually becomes more mature (in most cases) and distinguished. The voice I had within me at 23 is not the voice I have now at 29. Thus ‘finding your voice’ to me, is a process of continuously getting more and more connected with the voice you already have, while it simultaneously becomes more refined.

That said, every now and then we will go through a stretch time where we feel very disconnected, like we don’t even have a voice. At the time it just seems so hard to connect back to that feeling of ‘knowing’ your own voice. I’ve been having a period like this recently, where I’ve just been going through the motions. Doing my jokes like words on a page. I think I have this problem more than most comedians. I forget that you have to connect with the audience and be a person. Yikes, can I just hook up a usb to usb and deliver the jokes straight to source? I don’t want to think about changing my intonations or for god sakes making any eye contact. I don’t know how I end up here, but I’ll have the realization some time after the fact. Like, wow, I really wasn’t present during that set. Why am I hiding behind these jokes? What is my voice? I don’t even know who I am anymore!

Then, the most wonderful time of the year blessed me with a cold. Each year around this time the viruses come out with a new release in the cold & flu department, stronger than last years. The virus release of 2013 was super strong, and took down a bunch of us humans. I got a sore throat and stubborn cough, which, after one day, stripped my physical voice away from me. I can barely speak audibly, and have to whisper in order to emit any kind of words. But I have an important show tonight. A show that I was told would have a lot of ‘industry’, at the Soho House on Sunset. I’d never been to or heard of the Soho House, so I assumed, because it was an ‘industry’ show, that it would be more of an alternative show, so the venue would be like a bowling alley, or shack that used to be a farm in the 1980’s. But turns out the Soho House is a private member’s club for people in the film and entertainment industry. It literally was a purely industry show. And in I walk with my sweatshirt from Target, a backpack, and no voice.

I look around and all the people look like they bathe in money. How am I going to relate to them? Fortunately the stage is set up nice, so everyone is focused and attentive. I tell them that I have no voice and will have to whisper, and that it might sound creepy. Knowing that I would be quiet, they listened even harder, which gave me more authority, and the space and time to really make my words clear. And the fact that I had no voice forced me use my physical presence more, through motions and facial expressions. I quickly realize there’s so many more dimensions to comedy than just the words of your jokes. I use my face and body to emote things I would normally just ignore. I remember how powerful my silly faces are. And the crowd is on board with it all. Of course they shudder a little when I say my Palestinian bit, but that’s expected in Hollywood film central.

And though I’m doing the same jokes I’ve been doing, I’m expressing them differently, I’m embodying them. And when you become your jokes, you remember that personal connection that you have to them. At every moment I’m thinking, “Oh! I remember how I was feeling when I wrote this!” What a liberating feeling. It’s like I’m not even working anymore, just speaking my mind. And at that point, I’m no longer a joke machine, but a person. A person with a distinct point of view. And what is that point of view, but my voice. The voice inside, that is. I realize that, with or without sound coming out of my mouth, my voice is always there. But I had to lose the noise coming out of my soundbox to really hear that voice within. Deep, right?

So next time you’re having trouble trying to connect with that voice within, don’t panic…just let someone sneeze in your face.

I Just Signed with the Great Brian Regan!

A good name goes a long way in show biz. My name is Sammy Obeid (pronounced ‘Oh-bade’), and phonetically, it’s a complete sentence. The cop yelled ‘put the gun down!’ Sammy obeyed. Yea, that’s right, I carry guns.

There’s a lot of great comics out there, and one of them is Brian Regan. He’s clean, clever, and successful. If you haven’t heard of him, look him up. If you work with him, it’s an honor and a sign that you are doing well. Now, I’ve never met him personally, but I recently hired an assistant with the same exact name. That’s right, Brian Regan is working for ME!

A few months ago I decided I could use an assistant due to both the extra money and responsibilities that the college circuit has granted me. I hate booking flights, rental cars, hotels, etc. It’s so time consuming, and I am an artist…I need my time for creativity. I first hired an assistant in New York and she quit after one week, that’s how annoying these tasks are. It takes a special soul to be a comedian’s assistant. The right amount of sacrifice and tolerance of narcissism and bad humor. I wondered where I could find my assistant soul mate, and then my agent handed me the resume of a young up and coming gentleman who just moved to LA from ATL. His name is Brian Regan, he’s clean, clever, and soon to be successful with all the sh*t we are about to get done! Again, he is not the famous Brian Regan, but you can still find him on twitter/tumbler/instagram as FMchubs.

I know, you’re wondering, ‘Wow Sammy, did you just hire him off of his name alone?’ The answer is, yes! Sure he went to NYU, has extensive experience as an assistant to a comedian, and just loves being involved in the industry, but all I care about is that when I put his name on paper, it’s going to say ‘Created by Sammy Obeid and Brian Regan’. Hell, I may even put his name first. ‘Brian Regan and Sammy Obeid’. People are going to be asking, ‘Wow, who’s this Sammy Obeid that Brian Regan picked up as a partner? He must be a very special person to be chosen by THE Brian Regan!”

I’ve been working with Brian for a week now and I must say he’s amazing. I like him even better than the famous Brian Regan. And most importantly, he’s all mine. This is a full time position, signed in contract. And though some of you may be lucky enough to meet him personally, you will know him through all of the posts he will be making as me on social media, because I hate doing that sh*t too! In an ideal universe, the comedian should simply be doing the creative work, in order to function at optimal levels, and produce the maximum funny content for the world. It’s a greater good thing…it’s really not as selfish as you’re making it out to be…I’m all about efficiency and specialization. And this isn’t just my theory, it’s one of the many laws of economics. The universe created these laws for us. We were given the choice to either obey them or struggle to accept them. And guess what?

Sammy Obeid.

How to Tell if Your Career is Impressive

I’ve tried a lot of new things this year, 2013, from skinny dipping in the ocean to personal training to seeing a therapist. But one that really stuck, is sharing rides with strangers. I’ve met all types of folk this year, driving up and down highway 5 between the Bay and LA. Some of them inspired me, some of them became fans, and one of them even puked in my car.

But today, on my last trip down to LA for the year, I picked up a guy who just came to America two months ago. His name is Alok, and he is from India. Coincidentally, I did a ride share with his sister about exactly six months ago, and now he is going down to visit her. His sister, who is in a medical research program at UCLA, didn’t really consider comedy a real job. “So when are you going to stop?” she asked me. It’s like no matter how many times I mentioned I opened for Russel Peters once, she was not impressed. So my mission today is to convince her brother that comedy is, in fact, a legit profession. The fact that I get a chance to meet her brother 6 months later is a sign from above. A sign that you have to set goals for yourself to measure your effectiveness in your career, in this case, how impressive it is to an outsider. And my metric is Alok. I couldn’t convince his sister 6 months ago, but hopefully today I’ll impress him to the point where he has to tell his sister. And the best tool to prepare for this mission, is for me to get high as f*@k before I pick him up. I’m a much bigger talker when I’m stoned, and also I have to smoke right before I get him because I don’t want to smoke in front of him during the ride, and getting blasted is my only way of staying sane whilst driving down the 5 hour 5.

My car swerves as I cough and cough, choking on the fat hit I just took. I grab out the air freshener and pick up Alok in front of his San Jose apartment, my eyes blood shot red. Immediately, I tell him that due to time constraints we might have to go straight to my show before we drop him off. This is the latest I’ve ever left the Bay, 3 pm, and I’m trying to make my 8 pm show at the Pleasure Chest in Hollywood. I assure him that he will get in for free and that we will have a good time. He agrees, and tells me he’s never been to a comedy show. Alas, another person who is not contributing to our industry. Comedians and the industry as a whole, don’t seem to take this into account…that we just need better marketing. We are too busy following norms and trying to please the people who already find comedy conducive, and we forget that there are billions of people…the majority of the world…that hasn’t set food in a comedy venue, because we haven’t even invited them. And then don’t get me started on the people who came once and we scared them off by making fun of their physical appearance…

Immediately Alok and I start talking about our respective fields. Turns out he is a commerce major who is now doing his second graduate program in IT. He’s maybe a few years younger than me, and already has 2 more grad degrees than I have. Sh*t, I don’t know how easy he will be to impress. I’m already feel like I’m losing the battle. I tell him of my background, Berkeley Haas business admin and applied mathematics, 2006, 3.91 GPA, no big deal! He can see that I’m able to talk shop, and we talk about the current realities of consumerism and internet commerce. I ask him what his area of interest is, and he says database management. For those of you who don’t know, this is the future of marketing. Every click, every site we visit on the web, is stored to a database, so that when suddenly an email pops up saying ‘Sammy do you want to fly from San Jose to LA?” I’m like how did they know that’s where I go! It’s because they are constantly stalking us. And you think those porn sites you visit go unnoticed? Ha! The internet is like an elephant. It’s fat, remembers everything, and is largely made in India. And it’s only growing and becoming more retentive. The more information that is able to be sent to the database, the better they can find ways to sell you on stuff. And Alok and I both agree, as scary as it is, let’s use it to make us some money! Brown guy high five!

I ask Alok if he can take a turn at the wheel. That’s really why I do ride shares. I don’t need the gas money, I just hate driving, and love to be able to nap or get work done. “But I only have an Indian license. Is that okay?” says Alok. Lol. I’m like “C’mon! Roads are roads.” He hops in the drivers seat, saying, “Yea this is a bit confusing since in Bombay the wheel is on the right side.” Luckily I trust his mathematical mind to understand the simple application of reflection. We start driving slowly. I’m like, ‘You can go 80’. He’s like ‘Really? Wait the left lane is the fast one right?’ I’m like “Yes, Alok, just keep drivin!”

Since Alok is in the driver seat, I ask him if he wants to listen to music if he has any. He gladly agrees. And first we start listening to some modern Indian hits, with rap/r&b beats and lyrics in Hindi. But then we get to his American selection, which is essentially, the top 40 charts. We’re talking Miley Cyrus, Avicii, Rhianna…any song a radio station has played ad nauseam. It’s not even Thursday, but we’re throwin back songs from Lil Jon and ‘Tell me Whyyee’ from the Backstreet Boys. And, as much as I hate all of these songs in theory, seeing Alok enjoy them like they were the thing to do just made me bob my head, proud to be an American, harmonizing with him on ‘I waaant it thaat way!” We laugg, we cry, we hav the time of our lives with his i-pod. If only I could bring him with me to every night club I go so I could have the same sentiment. The best part was when I heard him rap along to ‘shots shots shots’…’ladies love us, when we pour shots, they need an excuse, to suck our c*cks’. Yes, Alok!

We enter LA and pull up to my show at the Pleasure Chest, where I’m instantly reminded that this show is at a sex shop! What will Alok think? Does he know what sex is? Has he had it? I mean I did see those rap lyrics. Maybe he secretly a huge sex enthusiast and goes to sex stores all the time. I warn him that it’s a sex shop, and he definitely finds it intriguing. We enter the shop and are surrounded by dildos and lube, listening to comedy which is largely about similar subject matter. I warn him that he might not get all of the jokes because of American references, but he still sits and enjoys the show. A great lineup too, though I’m watching him watch the comedy, and I don’t think he quite gets it. Finally, I go up at the end, and at first he just stares, but soon enough I start talking about China and catch him smiling in the back. Maybe its because he knows me, or because my comedy is all based on mathematical reasoning, but he comes up after and says “Really funny man! I liked your content.” Sweet, he’s impressed! He digs my comedy, and is starting to see that it’s a legitimate profession. Mission almost accomplished! Now if he just tells his sister. I’m feeling victorious. Shots, shots, shots, shots..

We hop back in the car. He asks, “So how much did you get paid tonight?” Shit. Abort mission.

Maquise’s Gap

I look out of my plane window to see a snow covered St. Louis. This is the last day of my 3 month long national college tour, and I’m ending it in the heart of the country, a city I’ve now been to 4 times. I did my America’s Got Talent audition here just last year, where I got a 3,000 person standing ovation and was praised by Howard Stern for choosing the right career. I came back in freezing February of this year to headline a show for 15 people, and then again in the heat of August to headline two packed shows downtown and visit the renowned St. Louis zoo. And now here I am, in the pre-Christmas December, when it’s all winter wonderlandy everywhere, with holiday decor, and people in mittens. It’s kind of sad that this nice Christmasy feel gets wasted on a city like St. Louis. Just saying, we could enjoy some cute holiday snow and mittens in Cali.

I’m greeted at the airport by my good buddy Ben Flug, who rented me a car on his corporate Hertz account. We take a shuttle to the Hertz lot, scrape the snow off of the car and drive to our buddy Marquise Moore’s house. Marquise is a hilarious St. Louis comic, and a great personality. I always urge him to move to LA, but he insists that he is so comfortable living in his mom’s basement. He greets us in his jammies, as he’s watching the game next to a fully decorated Christmas tree. He asks me if he can perform on my college show tonight and I tell him that I contractually cannot put him up, which saddens me too, because I wish I could. It would be an issue with the school and my agent. I see the look on his face, he just wants to perform. That’s how you know he’s a great comic. Looking at me, I’ve flown thousands of miles, driven sh*tty roads, and am just plain old beat. I wouldn’t mind just kicking back and watching Marquis do all of my time. But contracts are contracts. And money overrides what is right in our hearts.

We get in the rental and head to Marysville University, where we meet the students who are taking me out to dinner. They give me two options, Buffalo Wild Wings or St Louis’s own 54 Street Grill. I rule out the first, and we head to 54 where there’s a 20 minute wait. I go off to find a seat and get some work done, cause 20 minutes is a lot to just sit and talk. I take advantage of the fact that Ben and Quise can keep the students company and vice versa. I come back in 20 minutes to find the 4 of them laughing, having the time of their lives. They scold me for not being social, which is nothing new for me. We order our food, and I get the salmon and shrimp, yet again. I have a motto that, when the school pay, it’s a seafood buffet. When I see lobster, I order it. Parents pay good money for their kids to go to school, so why can’t I make the best of it?

At dinner Marquise starts talking about the gap that he has between his two front teeth. It’d definitely big, but quite cute and lovable. That which makes him, him. The girl student says, “Hey I know what it’s like, I once had a gap.” Quise interjects, “Once! You ain’t got a gap no more, so you can’t be talkin like you know what it’s like. I gotta live with this! Once a gap, ain’t a gap!” We all start laughing. Quise has one of those voices you just laugh at regardless of what he’s saying. I’m super envious because I’m the opposite. I can say things that are horrendously funny, but my voice is so monotone and serious it actually makes it less funny. That’s why people more often just tell me ‘you’re a good writer’.

We finish our dinner and head back to the venue, where kids start pouring in. I’m approached by a gentleman who looks older than a student, “Hi, Paul Steensland’ That name sounds familiar, like I’ve seen it in text. He says, ‘We’re friends on facebook.” “Right!” I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen his likes and comments and turns out he lives here and finally is coming to check me out. So now I have to please both students and adult. Classic Obeid juggling. I start the set, and they are a bit quiet and conservative. A security guard walks in, and sees 2 of my racial jokes back to back, shakes his head and walks out. I do a joke with ‘balls’ in it and the students get all weird. Is this a Catholic school or something? After all, their mascot is the Saints. What an intimidating mascot. ‘Oh yea, our football team is gonna tear your’s apart! Just like St. Augustine would. He was a man of great deeds.”

I’m doing decently, and then I go into my portion where I ask for suggestions. One guy yells ‘What’s the difference between pop and soda?’ I’m like, ‘Well they are the same thing I think, do they call it pop here in St Louis?’ He says, “No, they call it soda.” I say, “well where do they call it pop?” He says, “I’m from Omaha.” I’m like, “Well yea, I think Omaha is the only place that would call it pop.” Then the male student who went to dinner with us in the front says “Talk about Marquise’s gap.’ The crowd gets confused. What a weird topic from him to bring up though. I look back at Quis, who is staring at me clueleslsy. A lightbulb goes off in my head. ‘Quise, get up here.’

I bring Marquise on stage, and decide to conduct an interview on him. This way he can get the stage time he wanted, without me violating a contract, and after all, it was the student leader’s wish to talk about this. I start asking Quise questions about his gap and how it affects his life, and this allows him to go into his bits about it. The students start to really warm up, and then Quise goes into his bit about eating p*ssy with the gap. The students go wild. I go, ‘Wow, not so Saintly after all are we??” Marquis leaves the stage with a good applause. Not only did we get him his set, but we cracked open the crowd, so that now I can close with my own eating p*ssy bit, with them nicely warmed up to the concept. I look over and see Paul Steensland dying. Nice job, Quise!

Because that’s what the holidays are all about. Giving to others, bringing different kinds of people together, and eatin p*ssy.

To book me at your college, visit my website, www.sammyko.com.

Happy holidays!

Straight outta Oakland…Michigan

My radio alarm blasts in my left ear. It’s 9 am, and I have to get to my flight. I didn’t get into bed until after 4 am, but surprisingly I don’t feel that bad. I shower and throw my life into one suitcase and backpack, and check out of my Southern Indiana hotel. I get to my rental car in the parking lot, which is covered by a shell of ice. The rental company seemed to forget to give me an ice scraper, so I look in the car to see my options. I see a big empty water bottle, which I grab and start beating my windshield like a caveman trying to take down a wooly mammoth. After 2 minutes of beating, the ice is cracking and separating into country sized pieces like Pangea. I hop in my car, put it into drive, and then notice I forgot to do the back. I put it back in park, grab my club, and start going to work, yelling ‘Pangea in this bitch!’ to keep me sane. People are driving by looking at me like I’m a savage, and I just look back at them like proud Neanderthal.

I get to the Louisville airport, and hop on my Southwest flight. I’m going to Detroit which is a 2 hour flight north of Louisville, and yet I had to get the cheaper, non direct tickets, so I’m flying to Baltimore first. Such an unnecessary, out of the way trip. But for some horrible reason it’s ridiculously expensive to fly into Detroit. Look it up. From any city, it’s just way more costly than others in the area. I guess, even the pilots don’t want to fly there. Ironically, so expensive to fly there, yet when you get there, you see no visible signs of money. Arriving at DTW, I’m picked up by my comic buddy Paul Elia. What a great guy, really funny and charismatic. I met him in LA at Marty’s, the worst of worst open mic’s that I love so dearly. Paul’s family lives nearby and he’s here for the holidays. He happened to see that I was playing at Oakland University, Michigan tonight, so offered to come get me and let me crash with them. We head to Oakland, which I kid you not, makes Oakland, California, the city where I was born, look like a kingdom of hope and prosperity.

I’m starving, as I hadn’t had time to eat all day, but I ask the students if there’s any food around, and all they have is popcorn. Ugh. One of the student coordinators feels really bad so he runs to get me some almonds, which was a kind gesture, and in the interest of my performance. When I perform food deprived, I suck. I’m one of those people who sucks at being a human being when I’m hungry. And even with the almonds I’m still feeling worn from all of this traveling and lack of sleep. The room is starting to get packed in, but I’m thinking that I’m going to bomb this one. Because I just don’t feel enough energy to be funny. Then a student comes up to me and says, ‘Man you are hilarious. We saw you at the NACA college convention, and wanted to book you, but you were already booked here. I’m so looking forward to your set.’ That was really nice, and kind of picked me up. Then another comes up, ‘Man I heard you are super funny, everyone was raving about you, so I had to come. I’m super excited!’ Aww, these kids are making me wanna be funny. F*#k it, I’ll do it for them.

I get on stage and the energy is great. I do about an hour, forgetting that I’m tired and hungry. Best show of the week. I get off stage feeling completely different. Man, maybe comedy is my drug. Euphoric, and makes you lose interest in food. I sell cd’s and take pictures, as Paul hands out cards for me. The students take us out to eat at TGI Friday’s, where I order salmon and shrimp. I have a saying that ‘when the students pay, it’s seafood buffet.’ The waitress just graduated from Oakland with a degree in Japanese and Sociology. I ask if those are prerequisites to work at TGI Friday’s. She took the joke well. Arigato, god!

We go back to Paul’s house in Farmington Hills. Paul’s family is Iraqi and Catholic. His parents, who run a convenient store, come home at midnight, and he takes me to them to be introduced. He had earlier warned me that they are not so supportive of his comedy career, but I’m not really used to that since my parents are. His mom is very warm and welcoming, “Hi Sammy!” I’m wondering what the warning was about because she’s so nice! Then Paul says, ‘Mom, Sammy is a comedian.” Instantly her smile turns to a frown, “You know I don’t like that shit. Stupid. What a stupid thing! It’s no good.” Paul says, ‘But mom, Sammy is good at it.” She says, “What is good? A doctor, is good. You should have been a doctor.” Paul’s dad comes in, “Paul could have gone to law school, but he didn’t. Hahaha. What an idiot!” Paul continues, ‘Sammy tours all around and gets paid, mom!’ HIs mom replies, ‘Oh yea? How much? Do you have a house?” I stand their awkwardly. She goes on, “Sammy, quit that stupid shit. You guys are stupid.” Me: “Okay! Well it was nice to meet you all as well!” as I run back downstairs to the couch I’m crashing on and hide under the blankets. Take me back to the Oakland I know.

To Die in Kentucky

I sprint across the Atlanta airport terminal and jump down the escalator, shoving people out of my way. I have to make it from Concourse C to D in 5 minutes or I’m going to miss my second connecting flight to Louisville. My first flight from Hartford was delayed only 25 minutes, but my layover was only 30 minutes. And for some god awful reason I have to take a tram to another terminal. I jet up the escalator to the D gates, hopping over little children, lugging my suitcase and my one strap backpack that’s falling off of my shoulders. People are staring at me like they don’t know what to think, but they just know they need to get out of the way. My beard isn’t helping. Sometimes my mind wanders to the worst possible thing to do in a certain scenario, and in this one it’s to yell ‘bomb’ or anything in Arabic. I’m dressed for winter in 3 layers, with a heavy jacket that is now drenched in sweat. Why is D2 at the far end?? I keep running, D10, D9, D8…panting…D4, D3, D2! No one is at the gate except an attendant in front of a closed door. I run up, out of breath, ‘Can I still get on??’ She looks at me calmly, ‘Oh…they gone. They left maybe like uhhhh…10 minutes ago.’ I look at my clock it’s 2:26 and the flight is for 2:30. Why would they just leave without me? She’s like, ‘Man, they shoulda told you not to come.’ Yea, or they should have told you to wait motherf*@ker! F*ck Air Tran. You’re not even a real airline anyway. You’re Southwest’s bitch.

‘Of course I don’t say any of that. I just kindly ask, ‘When’s the next flight to Louisville?’ She checks her computer. ‘Not til 6:30′. Dammit. Now I’m going to miss my college gig, and am out 2 grand. All because Air Tran didn’t wait for me! She sees I’m stressing, “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll put you on the next flight, and here’s an $8 meal voucher you can use anywhere in the airport.’ I, a sucker for free food, quickly change my temperament, ‘Ooh thanks!’ At least now, I’m only out $1,992. I call my agent and the school and inform them of Air Tran’s scrweballage, and the university suggests that maybe we can just push the show to tomorrow, when they have a special midnight event for the students. I’d go up at 1 am, for an hour, and then have to go back to my hotel, which I booked in Louisville which is 2 hours away from Eastern Kentucky University. But oh well, I’ll take it. Money, money. I’ve only slept 3 hours a night in the past week, constantly on the go, so this fits right in. Sometimes it’s disillusioning, living the life of a vagabond, wondering if I’ll ever find a home again. I take off my jacket, let the sweat dry out, and start to calm down. Let’s use this voucher!

I get a chicken sandwich and fly to Louisville, which everyone seems to pronounce ‘Luavull’, as if they are saying it while swallowing a mouth full of biscuits. I get into Luavull, and having no gig tonight, I have leisure time to go to Whole Foods on my way to the hotel. Whole Foods might be the only sense of home I’ve had on the road so far, because it’s always the same, no matter what city, and I always leave it feeling restored. Being on the go all the time really takes a toll on your body, and the kale, beets, coconut water, and kombucha that I get at Whole Foods cleans out the jet lag and brings me back to a state of wholeness. At the store I realize that what we call ‘hipsers’ in LA, SF, and NY, are not really hipsters compared to what you have in the middle of the country. Luavull has real hipsters, that look the part and act it, shamelessly. In California, being a hipster is like Fight Club, rule number one is don’t tell anyone you’re a hipster. But here, I’m getting checked out at Whole Foods by a guy with thick ironic glasses a beard and hair longer than Jesus’s, while he sings along to a Black Keys song, saying their new album sucks, as he rings up my $40 order. Yea $40. It’s come to the point where I really don’t use financial restraint when I slab food from the food bar into my container any more. Show me the pocket damage, the cost of nourishing a vagabody.

I’m staying at the Horseshoe Casino of Southern Indiana, which is just 10 minutes outside of Luavull. It’s quite an ugly casino, but the room is decent. I take a bath, talk on the phone, and pass out, waking up at 8 am to a rainy day. I hit the fitness room, which is abandoned, just the way I like it. Spending the day in my room until I get hungry so I can hit the buffet is my plan. The buffet is why I chose to stay at a casino, other than it’s special deal on hotel.com. I like buffets because they are full of options, and you can eat at your leisurely pace. I’m so excited at 4 pm, I haven’t eaten all day. I look it up, it’s called the Paula Deen buffet. Mmm, butter and the n-word, two of the coolest things on the planet, popularized by the south. I call the operator who tells me it’s located right next to the VIP lounge. I head downstairs and don’t see it so I ask a security guard, who looks at me confused and doesn’t know where it is. He asks another security guard who says they don’t even have a buffet, but they have a new one being constructed. No one seems to really know who or why someone told me that it was there. I slowly piece it together that a) they shut down the Paula Deen buffet after the recent racism incident with her and b) the lady I talked to on the operator line was a dead woman answering the phone 10 years ago. This place is haunted!

I head out, hungry as f*ck, to my show at The Bard’s Town, back over in the hipster part of Luavull, Jesus walking around everywhere, which is fitting since it’s Christmas time. It’s a nice venue, restaurant and bar, that I was referred to by a comic buddy. The owner was really cool, and enthused to put me on to headline my own show. We did local press, who interviewed me and published an article telling people to come see the rarity of Lebanese guy in Luavull. It was a well written article, and yet, in the sleeting conditions, only 15 people showed up. I eat my dinner, do an hour and ten minutes for these poor but happy souls, and we all have a great time. They really made me feel at home here. And by comedy standards I’m like a god in Louisville. I get back in my car and drive through the pouring sleet, two hours east to EKU. On the way, the road gets so icy, that when I make an abrupt turn, I start to swerve, left and right…I almost loose control of the wheel and then come to a screeching halt on the ice. Oh my god, I almost died. In Kentucky. My heart pounds as I look up at the sign to see the name of the city I almost died in: Lexington. Cold like steel.

I start driving again, more carefully now, and eventually get to campus where I see a line of students pouring out of an auditorium. Everyone’s lined up for the ‘midnight breakfast’ event. There is at least 500 students…this could be the best or worst college show I ever do. I barge my way in, and see a buffet of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and gravy…mmmm Paula Deen! I find the student coordinators who get me some food and take me down to the lower level where the show will be, as I swallow a biscuit and try to say ‘Luavull.’ The room is empty. I’m competing with the biscuits upstairs and losing. Finally after 20 minutes, one girl shows up. The student coordinators ask, ‘Who sent you? Do you work here?’ She says, “Oh I came to see the comedy show.” Even the coordinators are doubting I’m going to have an audience, nice. The girl sits down in a middle row and I’m thinking, wow, I’m going to have to cater my whole act to her. Hope she likes racial humor.

Suddenly a group of students comes in, and then another, and another, until after a few minutes the room is packed to the brim, 200 people. Now I’m feeling good. I go up, and do a tight 45, because I want to get out of here by 2 am latest. The crowd is hot throughout, and I’m reminded that college shows can be really, really good. I always drop a local city reference in my act when doing my 5 years joke…”I know you guys are looking at me like who the f*#k is this guy, but you never know. 5 years from now you’re gonna be like, ‘we saw that guy at a show in Richmond, Kentucky. Now he’s at a show in..Lexington, good for him'” Well played, as it gets a big laugh. One kid shouts out, “I’m from the Lex!” Ah, it’s called the Lex. You forget, that even in the middle of nowhere, people have city pride that entails nicknames. I go on and do a joke about crack, and ask if any of the students are from cities that have it, and the Lex guy says, ‘O fosho we have that in the Lex.’ I am not surprised at all. After all, crack has found it’s way to most cities. If only my comedy had the same pervasive power.

After the show we take pictures together, shouting ‘the Lex!’ at the flash. I hop in my car and carefully smash through the pouring 3 am sleet back to Louisville. I pass through the Lex on the way back, now knowing the city I almost died in by nickname, making it seem…just a little bit more familiar. To live and die in the Lex. Familiarity is a warm feeling to a vagabond. I stare ahead at the cold empty road. Even though this is a freezing, foreign land to me, it’s somehow starting to feel like home..

The Hearing Aid

I drive to my hotel in Kansas City after my show at Rockhurst University, a Jesuit school. For those of you who don’t know what Jesuit means, it’s basically a Catholic thing, implying the following of Jesus. Like if I started a religion that became a big deal, died, and 2,000 years later people wanted to carry my legacy but slightly violate my principles they’d call themselves ‘Obeiduits’. Hey, I’m not slamming Catholicism. Most of my family was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school, so they did the slamming for me themselves. My cousins are Jesuits and we get high all the time. Either Jesus was an avid stoner, or 2,000 years later we just have to adapt to the times a little. I mean pot is so much better than it was back then (I’m assuming) so it’s fair to think that JC may have liked what the Club offers today. Would he have liked indica or sativa? Edibles or blunts? WWJS? And for the record, I was baptized Christian so I can make fun of Jesus all I want, I did my time in the water.

My set at the school was actually pretty fun. They asked me to be PG-13 and not cuss or talk about sex that much. For those of you who’ve seen me do an hour, half is very clean and intellectual, and the other half is absolute corrupted filth. There’s no middle ground for me. But in these situations, I have to lean more toward the first half, and make that half hour into an hour. But I like it, because it allows me to find other ways of being funny without taking the easy route. This is how the highest faculties of the brain are applied in comedy, in my opinion. Also though, we must note, that most ‘clean’ crowds are actually easier to make giggle. Not all, but most. LIke church crowds, and Catholic schools, they just want to have fun, and cute little silly things–that would never fly in a club or in the hood (always gotta give a shout out to the hood)–will make them giggle like no other, because the shock bar has been set so low. Of course there are degenerate situations, where the booker asks you to be clean, but the crowd is a piece of sh*t that just wants to hear about c*ck. Those situations suck c*ck. But this was not one of those. These kids were gigglers and loved cute, clean stuff.

I tried to stay away from edgy stuff as much as possible in the beginning and it paid off because it earned their trust. After about 20 minutes, I asked them what they wanted to talk about, and one guy yelled ‘Asian jokes’ because (he was white) there were 2 Asian students in the front row. My only Asian joke is my tomato joke, and requires one to understand that Asians tend to turn red when they drink. But I didn’t know if this school knew that, or even drinks. So I said, okay guys, I know this is a Catholic school and you guys don’t drink, but in the outside world people do…and some of these people are Asian. It got a big laugh, and later I realized that this was because they do, in fact, drink, and it was cute that I assumed that, because they are an innocent looking Catholic school, they don’t.

Then I ask where they are all from, and it’s either Kansas, Nebraska, or St. Louis. Not a far reaching school. I find it interesting that Kansas City, what should be Kansas’s biggest city is not even in Kansas, but Missouri. You need other states to make your cities, Kansas? I’ve only had one joke about Kansas, that I hadn’t done in a while, but it fit the occasion. ‘Dating is hard, because whenever I meet a girl I later find out that there’s something wrong with her. It’s like the Wizard of Oz. Either she has no heart…or she’s missing a brain…or she’s from Kansas, it sucks.’

The show is coming to a wrap, as I’ve already gone over an hour. And this is where I’d normally be doing dirty stuff, but have evaded it up to here. I also realize I avoided my religious segment, and that’s probably why they like me so much. So I go ahead and do it, because f*@k it, if you can’t talk about your religious views in front of Catholics, then you are a pussy. I do my religion jokes, and some are well received, but some get that response that I always get for Christian crowds. ‘We listen but we do not like. And neither does Jesus.’ I closed not so strong after this segment, but it was fine, I’d done an hour 20 and it was time to go.

The students got me a hotel at the Hampton Inn and Suites at the Plaza in downtown Kansas City. I already had a place to stay in Lawrence, with my cousin, but this was closer to the airport and I have an early flight. So I drive to the hotel, admiring how nice, but dead this area is. I mean, who’s gonna go party in Missouri? I go to check in and the gentleman at the desk does not see my name in his registry. My phone is dead so I go to my rental to charge it, and when I get some juice I look up the student contact’s number, and then I go to the front desk and have him call them to get the info. The guy working the desk is very weird, it’s as if he doesn’t listen to me. I hand him the phone and say, ‘Here talk to the student’, and then he hangs up the phone right in front of me. And then I say ‘The student will be on his way to bring the card,’ and he asks me to pay, as if he doesn’t believe me. What’s his problem? Why is he being such a c*ck?

I go wait in my rental, and the student comes to settle this, having to make a new reservation. As he makes it, I notice the front desk guy has a hearing aid on. Immediately I feel horrible. Because I thought he was a bad person, just because he couldn’t hear me. And I am notoriously a mumbler, so I should understand. So now I don’t hate him anymore, but rather, I hate myself. This whole night I’ve been a snobby, judgmental bastard, and that’s main problem here. Maybe I wouldn’t be this way if I was a person of faith. Maybe the Jesuits have it right. Not all of them may follow the faith to a t, but they at least have an organized set of beliefs that keeps their thoughts and actions in line. Kind of like a hearing aid, filtering out all of the unnecessary bullsh*t noise that the world makes, so that you can just hear what you want to. And maybe that’s how life is best. Meanwhile, I, the free-hearing, free-thinker, am a prisoner of my own freedom. I’ve heard too much and opened my mind to it all, and so my brain just doesn’t know what to think anymore. Like Nietzsche said, ‘freedom creates anxiety.’ And now, I stand between the man with the hearing aid and the Jesuit student, and just feel hopelessly admiring of both. I smile, and bless them and everyone in Kansas City.

The room gets booked, and I apologize to the Jesuit that he had to come out here for my sake. I go to my room an pass out. I asked the front desk man for a 730 wake up call, but I also set the alarm just in case he didn’t hear me..

Is that Uncle Sam?

I wake up my cousin Karim who’s staying with me at my parent’s house in Fremont. It’s 8 am and he’s driving me to the San Jose airport so I can make my 930 am flight to Austin. I wave bye to my niece who says, ‘Bye, Uncle Sam!’ It’s hard leaving home, where I’m treated like a celebrity. My mom says, ‘You know, Sam, you’re the star of the family.’ I’m like, ‘Well that’s not saying much.’

We head out the door and are off to a slow start, as South Bay morning traffic is always bad. The clock nears 9 am and I start to panic, but we pull up, and I jet out to get my boarding pass and run up to the TSA. I start to take my belt off, and the TSA agent says, ‘No wait! You don’t have to take it off. You can just come right through!’. I was like ‘Really?!’ He’s like ‘Yea! Wait, you are with that woman and child right there, right?’ He points to a woman and child behind me. I say ‘no’. He says ‘Oh, yea, well then take off your belt.’ Ah TSA, always keeping us guessing!

I pass out on my flight and wake up in Austin, hungry for some food trucks. I text my cousin Paul who went to UT and ask him where the best food trucks are. He says, ‘Do you not have a phone with internet?’ Remember back when we used to use other people as Google? I do. He gives me a few suggestions and I head there, but most of the trucks are closed this time of day. Passing through Austin always has some sort of familiarity, even though this is only the second time I’ve been here. I think it’s because my parents both went to UT and this is where they started dating, so the foundations of attraction that formed me on the molecular level were constructed in Austin. I stop by Whole Foods, which was also founded in Austin, no wonder we have a special connection.

I have a 3 hour drive to Texas A&M University, and I have a pounding headache. I was only home for 1 day since my last college tour trip. I need rest. I’m driving alone in a rental car, and my back and head are throbbing. I push closer and closer to the show, and I just don’t feel like performing tonight. I’m hosting their talent show too, which will be rough, going up after each act and smiling. Ugh, I wish I just had a break! I pull up my email to look up the phone contact for the show, as I’m half an hour away. I click on the number but accidentally pull up the address of the college.. The map shows it as being 5 hours away, near Dallas. Wtf? I thought I was half an hour away. There’s got to be a mistake. I map it again and it says 5 hours. Then, I call my agent. Apparently there are two Texas A&M’s. And I booked my flight, rental car, and an extra day in Austin, for the wrong location. This is where asking a real person instead of Googling would have come in handy. The show is in an hour and I’m 5 hours away. There’s no way I will make it. Looks like I actually will have a break tonight…be careful what you wish for.

I sort it out with my agent and the school, who are surprisingly understanding even though I feel like an idiot, and I’m out about 2 grand. Probably shouldn’t have blown $50 at Whole Foods. I could have gone to Dallas, stayed with my grandma and saved even more money. But now I’m in Austin for Halloween, with nothing to do. But somehow, even though I have a 2 hour drive back to Austin, I feel relieved. My headache is gone, and now I feel free, to do whatever I want tonight. So I call up my comic friend Maggie Maye and ask if she can get me on any shows tonight. She gets me on two open mics, which will make up for my lost stage time at the college. It’s pouring rain in Austin, with lightning and thunder going off every few minutes. If you’ve never endured a Texas thunderstorm, it’s a little scary, because Texas even likes it’s thunder bigger, to the point where you think you are about to be struck down at any moment. To die in Texas, what a fate that would be. I navigate my way to the two shows, one which I bomb and the other where I do decently. No new fans, no pay. So this is what I came to Austin for. I thought maybe some of the comics in Austin would have seen me on Conan, and not make me sign up and wait in line. Something to make me feel like I’ve paid my dues, and didn’t just fly out here out of pocket to be at the bottom of the ladder. But alas, no one recognized me.

I’m staying with a Persian family that I’ve never met, but is friends with someone who I’ve also never met, but is a fan of mine online. She put me in touch with a 27 year old named Ali, who lives with his parents. I get to the house, where he shows me to my own room with a bed, and his mom makes me a fruit platter and chicken with the Persian crisped rice (tahdig). Royal treatment. His dad comes and talks to me about life and the flawed politics in the Middle East, and refers to his son as ‘the ugly one’ and talks about how stupid and lazy he is. Only been here an hour and I’m already the favorite child, nice! Back to family celebrity status.

I sleep brilliantly, best sleep I’ve had in months, and wake up a new man. I hang out with Ali for a while then hit the town, get some food, and go to buy a Halloween costume for tonight. I get in the store and there’s just too many options, so I leave for a few hours, and come back, when there’s less stuff left, to just let fate pick for me. I see an opened package with an Uncle Sam hat with a white beard and see that it is reasonably priced. I put it on and head to my show at Cap City Comedy Club, where I promptly take it off, do my set, and then put it back on. Again, no one recognized me from TV at the club. What’s the point of being on TV if only your family recognizes you? I head to the downtown strip with some new friends, where everyone is walking around in costume. I know mine is nothing special, but it’s enough to fit in the herd. And then I realize, I needed to pay $20 just to walk this strip and not feel like I was disappointing others by not being dressed up. And yet my costume is generic, and likely someone else in this town who’s wearing it too. Why am I wearing this stupid costume? And then, as we walk down the strip, a guy looks at me and says, ‘Hey! It’s Uncle Sam!!’ And then it all made sense. I’ll tell you, I know I’m not really Uncle Sam, but it did feel good to finally have my wish, to be recognized.

Life, Liberty, and Left Eye

I wake up in my friend’s New York City apartment to find Nemo, the puppy, above me on my air mattress, licking my face. Not my favorite 8 am wake up call, but Nemo is just so adorable and stupid that it’s lovable. My friend’s on her way out to work, and some of her friends who are staying over as well invite me to go visit Ellis island with them. It’s $24, and we have to get there by noon. We cab it to ground zero where we promptly follow the big crowd that is boarding a ferry. We’re a little fuzzy and hungover from last night, but we get on with ease, and start taking pictures of the views of the city. It’s a beautiful sunny day in October, and this trip is going wonderfully. Then, as we dock, we notice we are nowhere near the Statue of Liberty, and the crew of the ferry each has a shirt that says ‘Staten Island Ferry’. Oh no. We had thought this was the ferry to Ellis island, home of Lady Liberty, but in fact, we accidentally went to Staten Island, home of Method Man.

We quickly exit the ferry and get back on board 10 minutes later to go back to Manhattan. We’ve wasted an hour, 30 minutes each way, and now need to make it to Ellis island before noon to redeem our tour passes. Due to the government shutdown, most of the Ellis island tour is not running, so it’s not that crowded, and we get there in time. Thank you, shutdown! The unenthusiastic employees hand us a pair of headphones with a machine that gives us a talking tour as we walk. I pretty quickly get fed up with the lady’s voice in my ears, and just turn it off. Entering Liberty you have to go through metal detecters and a checkpoint similar to airport security. Just like TSA’s, the kids who run this checkpoint are abrupt and rude. One yells at me for drinking water as I enter. God forbid I take it up the statue and get her even more rusty and water-marked than she already is. Just saying. She looks like sh*t. The view up there is pretty incredible though, and you get to watch all the out of shape people huff and puff at the top of the stairs. There’s got to be some irony in the fact that our country’s spirit of liberty allows us to eat until we are so fat that we can’t climb up the statue that celebrates this liberty. We take our pictures then take the ferry back to ground zero. It felt like a booze cruise without the alcohol and hot young people.

I part with my new friends and hit up the NY marketplace, walking all the way back to midtown just enjoying the views. I need to get to Long Island for my show tonight and don’t know how the transit system to there works, if only someone could explain it to me, I think. But who would I ask? I grab my bags from the doorman at my friend’s apartment. He is a nice guy, who sold us weed last night, and as I talk to him, he’s like ‘Yea man I commute here from Long Island.’ Small world! He laces me with all the info how to take the train as well as the schedule. Isn’t that cool? Just put your intention out in the universe, and a drug dealer with a pony tail and a suit will appear to take care of your needs.

I get to Long Island, high off doorman’s herb, where I’m picked up by two cats I met here last week, Ken Lombardi and Brandon Snell. They own a music studio called the Mix Palace, where talent from Mariah Carey to Naz have recorded some of their work. They give me a tour, and my mind is blown by all the cool stuff there. I jam on the guitar and drums for a bit, and am reminded why music was always my number one passion. It just comes naturally. It makes me sad sometimes, to be reminded me that, for me, it was never standup. I don’t get the same thrill that I do, the way I feel when I’m playing music… just pure flow. Stand up feels like head compression and tedium. Even after 1,000 nights of making it more natural. It’s like I married my third choice, and am always caught dreaming about the one that got away..

We take some pictures in the studio then Snell gives me a ride to my show as we blaze some more of Long Island’s finest and sing along obnoxiously to the 90’s rock on the radio. I’m headlining a bar show here put together by a guy I met online, Robert Sloan. Sloan is an amazing guy, extremely generous and nice to all, so no coincidence he looks just like Jesus. A young Jesus, in his prime, mid/late 20’s. Before things got tough. Sloan went out of his way to set me up in a part of town I had no business being in, just because he liked my stand up. I realize how blessed I am to be finding support and making friends in the end of the country opposite from home. I ask him, ‘How did you find me anyway?’ He says, ‘What do you mean, man, you found me! You liked one of my pictures on Instagram.’ I freeze for a moment. Little does he know I have an intern running my Instagram, but I just smile and say ‘Oh yea! That was a great photo!’. Ah, the magic of the internet.

I’m feeling inspired today after all of the sights I’ve seen, so I decide to do my set differently. I choose not to compress my head to think about what I’m gonna say. Instead, I just sip a glass of wine (that Jesus gave me) and let things flow, just like I do on guitar. And people are digging it! All 15 of them. And then I realize, this is how comedy SHOULD be. It should just flow, naturally, and if it doesn’t, I’m not aligning myself with my life purpose. This realization expands my mind to infinite, or so it feels. I do an hour fifteen, which seemed like infinite for the half filled bar, occasionally getting heckled by a man wearing an eye patch. Not bad heckling, but it’s disruptive. Then I go into my portion where I ask the crowd to tell me about their life problems, and he admits he is an alcoholic, which shocks no one. I tell him, worst case scenario, even if he keeps drinking, he is still a great guy, just like Jesus (as I point to Robert Sloan). The man is touched and says ‘He DOES look like Jesus’, which I point out must be true if it’s coming from a man with one eye. And then I acknowledge that at least he has his left eye, which is the better one, since I’ve never heard of a talented artist named Lisa ‘Right Eye’ Lopes. Positivity, it’s what I do. He comes up to me after and gives me a big hug, as if I saved his life, telling me how he’s really going to work on drinking less and being a better person. And how happy he was that I came to perform that day. Maybe I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I leave the bar feeling like I’ve reached a new era in comedy. And life. One of those nights. And how action packed my day was, and how much fun I had a long the way. Something about this day was quite magical. Either that or this doorman just has some really good weed. dj