I’m Sick and Tired of All This White Bullshit

The snow!!  Oops, I meant to post a pic of a snowflake.  Eh, too lazy to change it.  I swear I’m not racist, I’d hate snow if it were any color (except whatever color my skin is).  It’s just that I’m sitting out here in New England, where, historically, olivey-brownish guys like me get held down by the Man… That’s right, Frosty the Snow Man!  I’m begging him to give me the D… The vitamin, but he keeps making it snow to the point where it’s seeping into my ears and brain and now I can’t even focus on writing my revolutionary submission piece for Buzzfeed called “19 Things I Hate About White People, Because 19 Is Where I Ran Out Of Ideas.”  So this post will just have to be about snow. :/ But I pulled some strings and got my own blog to publish it!

Last Tuesday I was supposed to fly into Boston for a week of college shows on the friendly Eastern seaboard, but apparently God (who I hate in any color) had Tuesday set aside for what the Weather Channel called THE MOST HISTORIC BLIZZARD SINCE 2013!  Yes, two years of history!  Just like every relationship I’ve been in, haha!  Ugh, I just got really sad.

So Monday night I finish packing my suitcase full of the snuggliest stuff I have, scarves, warm kittens, etc., and then *buzz* I get the text that my Southwest flight to Boston is cancelled.  Dammit.  Okay, no worries, I booked a contingency flight to Queens!  That’s the beauty of Southwest, you can book as many flights as you want and cancel at any time for a full credit refund.  It’s like they don’t even care you stood them up.  I’ve been doing this for years and have a system to beat the syst– *buzz* Flight to Queens cancelled too.  DAMMIT!  Okay, all good, I still got one to Jersey too! *buzz*  MOTHERF– No wait, that’s just my sister texting me!  She says “Hey Sam, wanna get lunch?  Also, I work for Southwest now and this is a courtesy text letting you know Jersey is cancelled too.  Give up.”  AARGH!

This storm must be the worst ever, and you can’t even call out global warming, because it’s cold, so you just have to say “climate change” which sounds like a pussy-ass PC euphemism.  Like “Global warming?  What are you living in the 50’s?  The climate has the right to go both ways now.  And P.S., women can vote now, you chauvinist pig.”  I call my East Coast friend, Tom, to make sure he’s okay, expecting to hear fierce winds blowing into the phone and shrieking fire alarms (I just assume they use those for snow too), but Tom answers with a cheery “Hey!!  What’s up?”

… What’s up??  Are you alive?  “Eh, it’s not so bad over here, we’re just drinking hot cocoa hehe.”  Hot cocoa??! In a time like this??  During a storm that Fox News calls “LIFE THREATENING.  YOU WILL DIE, ALL OF YOU WILL F@#KING DIE (but don’t worry, climate change is not real).”  Tom, you better save some hot cocoa to splash on your gangrened hands after you’re pounced on by a roving avalanche!  I’m not coming out there, no way.  You can’t trust a storm that forecasters named “Juno,” the pleasant month of June’s evil ethnic twin brother.  Ooh, ethnic storm names, that could be reason #20!

So a day passes, and I’m still sitting half naked in one of California’s hottest summer-winters next to a suitcase of screaming kitties, trying to decide if I should cancel this trip completely and lose a year of eating or fly to the East coast to salvage the rest of my lunch money at shows in Maine, New Hampshire, and upstate New York; a.k.a. the area that the weather updates show with a skull and crossbones over it (but the skull has a cute snow cap). To make things trickier, forecasts say the area could get as much 2 feet of snow to as little as negative 2 feet because the sun could come out and everyone might go swimming in the snowmelt instead.  Damn your freedom of choice, climate change!  I ask my agent if she thinks the colleges will reschedule and she tells me that chances are slim, ranging from 2 feet of Probably Not to a record-setting They’ve Already Forgotten About You.  Oh hell no, I refuse to be forgotten so fast!  It usually takes my exes 2 years hahahaha! Ugh, sad again.

I throw some extra cats into the suitcase and fly to Manchester where I meet my comic buddy Lyall, who’s gonna open for me on this run.  You’d think I’d be using him to help with the 30 hours of driving, but he actually doesn’t have a driver’s license, which just proves that I’m a better person than you thought.  So with me behind the wheel and Lyall as our car’s designated ice-scraper, we embark on a four state Juno tour, occasionally stopping to let the kitties get some cocoa as we frolick in the NY snow (#blizzardboyfriends). But Lyall is black, so no snowball fights for us.  Hey, reason #21!

Don’t get me wrong, I love our law enforcement just as much as I love our founding fathers (about 3/5ths of a full love), but I can see now why the Declaration of Independence was signed in July…  If they’d waited until winter, they would’ve had second thoughts.  “I mean, what’s so bad about dependence anyway??  Could we get that hot tea back out of the harbor??”  *scraping ice from their horses*

Long story still pretty long, God hates me (or the Patriots for the ball deflating fiasco), I hate the snow, climate change is real, and I’m not capable of loving anyone for more than two years.  But who can I blame?  Of course, the only possible suspect, as usual: white people.

The Chooser

Several weeks ago, I was walking down the street and I passed a homeless man panhandling. I took in his pitiful situation and thought to myself “what if I…. Helped him?”

Anyway, here’s the result of that one-off thought experiment: a sketch starring and put together by some of my comic friends. It’s the season of giving, so give it your undivided attention. Bring the family. Merry winter.

When Someone Tells You “You Suck” :/

I’ve been doing comedy for seven heart-wrenching years, but been doing the human being thing for a soul-crowbarring 30.  And yet, I still have no clever response to a meanie dropping a “you suck” bomb on me.  And I hear it all the time, whether it’s an attack on my comedy while on stage or an ex telling me off for not picking up her calls.  Unfortunately, I can’t just delete every “you suck” from my voicemail; it often permeates the brain and lingers for years.  And the “you suck,” no matter what shape it takes (“you smell weird,” or  “stop calling me and hanging up, you sad, sad clown,” etc.), is the basis of all hatred in this world, responsible for wars, every case of suicide, and, most depressing of all: “mean people suck” bumper stickers.

But c’mon! There’s got to be a better way of coming back at such a simple expression without resorting to anger, violence, or a hack phrase to make yourself feel better.  In his last days, Jesus Christ had a whole town heckling him, telling him he sucked, but did he fight back? Or try and make a point by screaming, “I don’t come to your job and slap the d*ck out of your mouth!” No, he just did his thing unto others and let them do unto theirs.  And now he’s dead.

Bad example?  Not at all, because he’s currently more famous, timeless, and influential than any of us will ever will be.  And that’s the goal, isn’t it?  That J-fame.  In fact, you handle your next verbal crucifixion like a messiah, people might turn the words “you suck, Donny” into an icon and wear it as a necklace.  Assuming your name is Donny.  For most of us, it’s not.

Comedians in particular tend to resort to anger, since it’s easy and it’s the cooler-looking option of our primal Fight-or-Flight instinct.  Nature has designed us to hear “you suck,” and either pop back with a “no, YOU suck!” (Fight) or to drop the mic and run off stage, screaming for help while dialing our therapist (Flight).  I personally find Flight funnier to watch, but most audiences expect a comedian to stand their ground.  In fact some crowds are so bloodthirsty they’ll applaud a comic tearing into a heckler’s raw heart, cheering as blood splatters all over their faces. (Literally, I saw Gallagher do it once.  It may have been a melon, not a heart, but definitely something you tap to listen for a hollow sound before consuming.)  Still, if a comic chooses Fight over Flight, they must make sure to keep their cool.  We all know that a heckler confrontation escalating into a Youtube-ready meltdown is one of the most painful things to watch, forcing the audience into their own Flight, out the venue door.

I’m not a particularly mean person, so fighting back doesn’t fit my character as much as surrender.   In fact when I get angry, I look “scary” and “threatening” as I’ve been told by many women in my life.   I think it’s because I have big eyes, and when I get angry they dilate to twice the size, making people uncomfortable.  I don’t even hurt bugs! And yet my bug-eyes make people think I hurt people. I mean, sometimes my wit stings, but still, ain’t that a bee?  A heckler can threaten to kill my family in front of a packed room, but if monster-eyed psychopath Sammy Obeid snaps back at him, the crowd turns on me to console him with a protective “aww” and loads of hugs.  So, to keep laughter at optimal levels and the threat level at business-casual, I treat comedy like customer service: “the heckler is always right.”  Because, let’s face it, they are.  They’re heckling for a reason, and most of the time it’s something I’ve said.  Sure the person can be inebriated, bigoted, or just dumb, but writing that off as the reason that the conflict came about is just a tangential way of dealing with the real issue: that nobody is perfect. I’m going to share with you my way of dealing with the “you suck,” and you have the right to stop me at any time and yell drunken slurs…

 

1.  Accept that you do, in some way, suck.

Everyone sucks at something, whether it’s dancing cool or spellng words corractly.  Therefore, if someone tells you that you suck, it’s always true.  Why fight the truth?  And if you think you don’t suck at anything, please stop reading my blogs.  Because you don’t need to.

Earlier this year I’m bombing at an open mic at a bar in San Jose, no one is laughing at my jokes except one guy in the front with his back to me. I check in with him to make sure he’s laughing at me and he turns around to tell me I suck.  But he has a Mexican accent, so it sounds like “jew suck,” which is not something customer service is trained to agree with. I publicly diagnose his alcoholism and go on with my set, but he keeps saying “jew suck” over and over, like Hitler propaganda, and I keep telling him to shut up, raising my voice each time. Of course no one else is helping, similar to the beginning of World War II.  That’s the thing about bar open mics: no bouncer, no club staff, no spectators who prefer your uninterrupted comedy to a bar fight.  It’s like performing for drunk warmongers.  After struggling to silence this man for a few minutes, I take a deep breath and say, “Okay, you know what?  You’re right. I suck.  And I’m sorry.”  Because I did suck; I was drawing from the bottom of my joke barrel (e.g. “How does a cat like his steak cooked?  Rawr.”) 

He turns around, sees my pitiful surrender, and says, “Eh… Jew not so bad.” Then he shuts up for the rest of the show.  Wow, did I just stop Anti-Semitism?   No wonder my Jewish friends are so good at self-deprecation.

 

2. Locate the aggressor’s pain

A good customer service rep knows that behind any complaint, there’s pain.  Good comedians know that behind our jokes, there’s pain. There’s basically pain everywhere.  In fact, the only time people are 100% happy is when we’re asleep, or laughing in that exact moment, or dead.  So to heal pain we must make someone laugh, put them to sleep, or… Let’s stick with those two.

A few months ago, I’m performing at my favorite show in the world: Tourette’s Without Regrets in Oakland.  I’m very familiar with Oakland’s PC vibe and sensitivity towards racial dialogue, so I’m doing a careful job of not sh*tting on anyone’s culture (which is hard because cultures are so easy to sh*t on am I right?).  The set is proceeding regretless, but in the middle of a big peal of laughter, I hear a young man in the front yell, “You suck! Stop picking on people and tell some real jokes!”  I pause, in a state of cognitive dissonance from hearing both loud laughter and “you suck” at the same time.  Maybe he has a personal problem with my material, or, oh no, does he actually have Tourette’s?!  The rare kind where he just disapproves of everyone?  I ask him what it was that he felt was unfair of me to say, and he refers to my last joke, about Israel/Palestine.  The joke went, “It’s tricky, because the Jews were in Israel first, a very long time ago.  But then they left… It’s like leaving your towel on the bench press at the gym, and then you leave the gym for a few hundred years… Someone’s gonna grab that towel… And wrap it around their head.”   I’m hoping he shouts, “Are you that d*ckhole from 24 Hour Fitness last week who took my towel!?”   But no, he’s mad about something else, as he asks me, almost on the verge of tears, “Did you ever wear a turban as a kid like I did?  No?  Then don’t talk shit.”

Instantly I soften and get that human feeling thingy in my heart (is it called “sadness?”) as I feel his pain wrap around me like a headpiece.   For years this poor kid grew up, following in his family’s tradition of wearing a turban while facing adversity, and this particular “you suck” he threw me was a reflection of hundreds of misplaced “you sucks” from ignorant, uncultured, sh*thead kids.  I want him to know that I’m on his side, so I say, “Brother, I feel your pain.” He relaxes right away, allowing himself to listen to my response.  You can see it here, but basically I admit that, although I don’t know the pain of getting made fun of for wearing a turban, I do know the pain of constantly being mistaken for Indian.  Which is just as bad, if not worse, because I’m Palestinian, and the headpieces are different.  A keffiyeh is not a turban, kid.  Not all towel-heads are created equal.  Stop being racist.

 

3.  Find the greater good

It’s okay to be emotional after a verbal attack, but once you transcend your own pain, you will find a prize in the cereal box.  Yes, “You Suck-O’s,” the breakfast of bronze-medalists.   

A couple weeks ago, I’m hosting the finals of the San Francisco International Comedy Competition. The contestants have already performed, so now it’s my job to tell jokes while the judges tabulate votes and the servers drop checks at the tables (also known as the “We Can’t Listen And Do Math” Zone).  I’m not getting many laughs, and a girl in the front gets on her cell phone and starts texting right in front of me like I don’t exist.   I ask who she’s texting, and without hesitation, the guy at her table yells, “You suck!” Which I assume is the full name of her friend, Yu Suk from Thailand. But then he gives me two deliberate thumbs downs, raised high so the crowd can see. Oh, okay, I get it now, he really doesn’t like me.  The audience, super quiet until now, immediately comes together in an “awwwwww.”  I do a double take to make sure they’re not aww-ing him, and for once it’s in my favor!  Even though they didn’t think I was too funny, they did like me, maybe because I kept my eyes squinted.  Then, in beautiful synchronicity, they all start booing the man.  After I pause, flustered for a moment (because I’m not quick with comebacks), I take my time to say, “Sir, I’d like to thank you.  I was eating a d*ck up here, trying to get this audience on board, and you, with just two words, got them all to come together for the simple fact that they like me better than you.”  The audience cheers and applauds. I’ve won them back, and I credit him with the assist.

To which he responds, “I’m from Brooklyn, do you think I give a fuck?” and the crowd quiets again.  I’m both surprised by his quick comeback and impressed that he simply doesn’t mind being disliked. And furthermore, he projects his viewpoint onto the world, assuming that others shouldn’t mind not being liked, because he doesn’t.   If he doesn’t mind being told he sucks, why should I, right?  Good logic, sir!   I pause a moment to take in his pain, the pain of being bombarded with hefty Brooklyn “you suck”s all his life.  Then I realize, if I simply absorb his worldview, stop giving a fuck myself, then I can proceed to do exactly what I want… Mocking his Brooklyn accent!  So I balls up, do the most condescending guido I can and the crowd explodes, along with dude’s emotional watermelon.  Brooklyn just got Gallagher’d.

So I guess that’s the moral.  If someone tells you that you suck, you can take the common approach and fight.  OR you can take the high road… Surrender, feel their pain, and make fun of their accent.

Keep suckin, y’all.  Suck it dry.

3 Secrets I Used To Go Viral

So I’ve gone viral AGAIN! (The first time being when I got infected in May, see last post).

More recently, a video of mine went viral on one of the highest-trafficked websites in the world (arguably the universe), World Star Hip Hop! For those unfamiliar with the self-dubbed “#1 urban outlet,” CBS News describes the site as “infamous for posting videos of violent fights and public sexual acts.”  My video was neither AND YET still yielded over 200,000 views. Let’s see what users are saying:

Okay Trillest Ever, it’s been over ten days and I haven’t forgotten, so looks like you aren’t as trill as your verification suggests! And yes Greg4422, white people love it!

Now, if you’re still reading you’re probably thinking, “DAMN I REALLY WANT TO SEE THIS GUY’S VIDEO, I’VE NEVER SEEN A VIDEO BEFORE, THIS SOUNDS SO INTERESTING.”  I sense some sarcasm in your tone, but first I want to share my secrets to success. Yes, take my hand and YOU can go viral too (see diagram).

Secret 1: Make A Video

This seems like the easiest part, but it’s not. You need to have a smart phone or know someone who has one. If you have money or are good at manipulating people, you can get a camera and crew, but you’ll feel like a jackass when your $2k project is outshined by the iPhone video of a cat eating its own p*ssy.

But that’s the cool part, even the poor can go viral. One night in 2012, I was at the dinner table with my roommate, fellow comedian Toby Muresianu, both of us eating stale chips and refusing to laugh at each others’ jokes, when we were struck with the stunning realization that he’s Jewish and I’m Palestinian.  We’d lived together for a year at this point and always wondered why we could never agree on whose cupboard was whose!

So we wrote a sketch about an escalating fight over the apartment.  Admittedly a simple premise–so simple a gorilla could’ve thought of it (A gorilla who’s well-read on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which is rare, but still more common than a human who’s read up on it).

After arguing over whose name should go first in the writing credit, we put together a cast and crew for no pay (what unites the Semitic people–Arabs and Jews: thriftiness). Well I did buy some burritos and cut them into thirds, and Toby passed out Dixie Cups half-full of Walgreens Cola for lunch. We had a tolerable shoot day at our apartment, and we didn’t even have to change out of our pajamas! I now see why so many comedians write sketches about roommates; our people lack motivation. Not Semites, the comedians. Which brings me to…

Secret 2: Post the Video

We wrote the sketch in 2012, but we didn’t post it until 2014. Why the delay? After we shot and edited, we showed it to some of our friends (or dream poachers, as I call them). They said things like, “umm… This is biased,” or “it moves too slow,” or “the acting is over the top.” Sadly, they were all right. It is biased toward the Palestinian side (reflecting Toby and I’s political views, or lack thereof), it’s not cut like an action movie, and we made it a little corny to lighten the mood of a dark topic. But, even though I know the poachers can’t distinguish art from a cat video, they’re still my friends, so I took their shots to heart and let them capture and skin my dream alive, when it should’ve been the p*ssy-eating cat. I considered re-doing the sketch and pumping some money into a big production, but, really, what producer in Hollywood is going to get behind a pro-Palestinian film? That’s right, Mel Gibson. Talk about career jihad.

I decide against posting the film, and then time passes and I realize…Wait, I hardly even have a career to jihad. I’m not on any type of comics-to-watch list, festivals and networks are passing on me, I can’t even book any FEG roles (Funny Ethnic Guy) that I audition for, all three of my retirement home shows get their plugs pulled, I go viral in my hands, feet, and mouth (how you can prevent this), and finally, I get to witness my distant relatives in Gaza, who’ve been dying off for years, get their worst shelling yet.

So why not post the stupid video? No Hollywood producer is calling my phone, I’m sitting at home with skin peeling off my hands and feet, as if in solidarity with my relatives overseas, and if there’s an appropriate time to post a pro-Palestinian piece it’s when America is sympathy hashtagging #Gaza. I go into Toby’s room for the first time in years (I was never denied entry, we just usually text). I say, “Post it?” He says, “I thought you’d never ask!” We cry. I click “upload.” No, wait, I have my assistant do it (there’s all these buttons you have to press). Now, we change the world…

Secret 3: Wait

At this point, you’ve pretty much done all you need to. Sit back, relax, and watch the view count rocket over the Red Sea. I got tired of watching it over and over myself, so I went on Facebook and shared it. A comic friend saw the post and shared the video on Reddit, where it was seen by a guy named Abdul, who submitted it to World Star Hip Hop. So, another tip: make videos that guys named Abdul would like.

It’s clear that the video is atypical for World Star Hip Hop, which I guess makes it even edgier? Or less edgy since WSHH probably isn’t a Zionist enclave.  No matter what, it definitely caught users off-guard, garnering reviews like:

Again, ALL TRUE! I assure you poachers and your families that when I do my multi-million dollar revamp of this sketch, it will have two black guys as lead, some hot Israeli bitches, and exclusively albino producers. Honestly, I think THAT alone would solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But before I send the pitch to Mel, all we’ve got to show is this simple sketch, which I made on a budget of three burritos while wearing my favorite pair of sweatpants:

I’m Palestinian, My Roommate is Jewish

P.S. My roommate Toby will tell you that it’s his video, but I assure you it was on my channel first.

Doctor Tells Me I Have HIV

Some of you are expecting a joke here.  Like HIV stands for “Hilarious Internet Vegetarian” or something stupid like that.  No, this time there’s no joke.  Last week at a Kaiser in West Covina, I was told that I have HIV.

It’s not easy for me to put this into words, and it all happened so fast.  Just over a week ago, things were going better than ever.  I was finally back home after weeks on the road, had just won a $1,000 comedy competition, and was feeling, physically, in the best shape of my life.  I even thought to myself, “Man, this is like the best my life has ever been. I’m… Happy.”   My advice to you all is never have this thought.  Or else you’ll soon find out you have HIV.

I’m at the gym on a pleasant Sunday, when I feel some eerie chills.  I decide not to push it and return home, noticing a sore throat brewing.  So I think, “Oh, I must have the flu.”  My advice to you is to never think this thought.  Unless you want to have AIDS.

I take it easy that night, and the next day I wake up to find some strange bumps on my fingers.  I think, “Weird, I must have been bitten by a mosquito.”  If you ever think this, you’re a dead man.

Over a few hours the bumps spread, covering my hands, and soon I notice some around my mouth.  My girlfriend says, “I think you should go to the doctor.”  Yikes!  My least favorite word.  (Doctor. Not girlfriend. Love you!)  If you read my blogs last year (you probably did not because I suck and nobody cares about me) you’ll know I don’t trust doctors, because they prescribe you acne medication that makes all of your hair fall out and then they blame you for it, as if you need that when you’re already all stressed out from doing 1,000 days of comedy.   So I tell my girlfriend “I think I’ll be okay,” and then she notices, “Sammy it’s on your feet now.  And… Oh god, no… Your butt.”   My butt?? I grab the phone, sobbing, screaming to Kaiser: “PLEASE HELP!”

She drives me to West Covina Kaiser, where I wait two hours while they try to connect with the Northern California database to get my ID.  Advice to Kaiser patients: if you are a NorCal member, don’t get sick in SoCal.  It’s not worth it; you will die in the time it takes for them to search your name.  It’s like SoCal Kaiser still has beef with NorCal Kaiser over the word “hella.”  So, hella hours later, the rash now covering my body, the nurse takes me to the doctor’s room, while asking advice for her niece trying to get into stand up comedy.  I give her the good ol’ “hit the open mics and work hard!” while she stares at my mouth covered in lesions and decides to tell her niece to go into improv.

The doctor enters, takes a look all around my body and gasps like something has gone horribly wrong.  I ask as she stands behind me, “Is it a rash?”

She hesitates. “No… I think it’s syphilis… And HIV.”

I’m thinking, “Wait, did you say syphilis???”

She hurries out, “I’m going to get a second opinion.”

“Thank you God!”   I’m going to pretend like she was spelling out ‘hives’ and got distracted midway through.

She leaves and another doctor enters, examines me and gasps, like she chose the wrong door in a haunted house.  She leaves and the first doctor slips back in.  “So, we both talked, and agreed… It’s syphilis and HIV.”   WHAT??  Case closed?   No blood test?  No goodbye to my family, no chance for a “Doctor Tells Me I Have HIV” blog post?

“Do you have sex with women or men?  Or both?”

I don’t get it, why is she changing the subject now?  I’m not interested in her.  Well, I’m going to die anyway, and I’ve never been with a doctor: “Women.”

“When was the last time you got tested?”

I sigh, embarrassed.  “A few weeks ago, but I don’t get my results until tomorrow.  It’s one of the free clinics where you have to call in.”

She’s unimpressed. “Have you been getting sick a lot recently?”

I sigh again.  Ugh.  “Yes, five times this year already.”

She shivers like we are on CSI. “Oh my.  I’m sorry, Sammy.  I’m really sad to see this.  This must be HIV.  I’m going to get one more doctor to confirm.”  She leaves and I sit in the room for what seems like a day, trying to figure out who gave me HIV.  Why I haven’t noticed anyone dying on Facebook.  Wondering how I’m going to tell my girlfriend.  Unless she gave it to me, in which case she may have already died in the waiting room!

A new doctor comes in, and I’m ready for him to finish me off and send me home with full-blown AIDS.  He takes a look and says, “I don’t think this is syphilis.”  Whew! So it’s just HIV! What a relief.

“This looks like hand, foot and mouth disease.”  What the?  I’ve never heard of that, it sounds horrible.   If I didn’t know anything about diseases and someone offered me HIV or hand-foot-and-mouth disease, I’m choosing HIV in a heartbeat.   He continues,  “A lot of toddlers get HFMD, but adults with compromised immune systems can as well.  I’m going to give you a blood test for HIV.”  Argh, never late.   Bless Kaiser, their motto is “Thrive”, and apparently you can’t spell ‘thrive’ without H-I-V.

I limp to the lab, as my feet have graduated from pimples to blisters (that reminds me: congratulations to you recent grads! This is what real life is like). They draw a bottle of blood from my arm, as if I need to lose any more t-cells. I walk out to tell my girlfriend their HIV verdict, and she snaps “Who the fuck have you been cheating on me with!?”  Guess it’s not her.

I do my show as normal that night, knowing it could be one of my last, so I really push my mailing list sign-ups. I stay up at night, trying to think of what I did earlier in life to deserve this, and the only thing I could think of was: comedy.  The next day I call in for my STD test results from a few weeks before. The lady answers, “So you were tested for gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, and HIV.  Here are your results.  Gonorrhea… Negative.”

Whew.  Wait, does this mean the other 3 are positive??

“Herpes… … … Negative.”

Why is she pausing for so long between results?   Is she just a slow reader?  Probably not the best for this job.

“Syphilis…*sigh*… Negative.”

Ugh, just tell me already!  I’m so panicked about HIV I feel like the 1980’s over here!!

“HIV… … … ………………..”

Yes?  Hello? Are you asleep? Did you die of AIDS? TELL ME!!

“… Negative.  Thank you for calling, goodbye.”

I drop the phone and throw my fists in the air like I just beat a life-long battle with AIDS (By the way, if you’re upset by the misleading title of this blog, take it in literally and then realize that it’s a little f*cked up you’re disappointed I don’t have HIV.  You’re angry that for three minutes you thought I had HIV?  I thought I had it for 24 hours!)  I’ll tell you, I’ve never been happier to find out that I have hand, foot and mouth disease.   Having found out that I wasn’t cheating, my girlfriend stayed with me and took care of me all week.   I was itching, burning, oozing puss from sores all over my body, but I loved every minute of it, sharing my progress in gross Instagram pics.  I learned that the best way to cope with HFMD, or any disease, is to first think it’s HIV.   Kaiser will help you with that.

I want to make it clear that I have no idea what it’s like to really have HIV, and I don’t think HIV is a joke at all.  If you take anything from my story (other than that doctors are evil aliens sent from another planet to destroy us and you must remain vigilant), it should be this: stay strong!  We all get sick, and it sucks.  HFMD was the worst virus I’ve ever caught, and I still don’t know how I caught it, but I know I survived it.  This whole experience made me realize how much more powerful I am than a virus.  It helped me remember that without my body, a virus doesn’t even have a place to live.  It’s like my child, it should be thanking me for feeding it and staying up with it late at night.  And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let my child scare me from living my life in my own home or going out drinking with the boys to forget it exists.  No way.   Viruses need hosts.  And I’m a national feature.

3 Simple Steps to Find Love

I am no more of an expert on love than Dr. Drew, though I definitely talk less about molestation.  My background is not in psychology or biology, but If there is a mathematical formula for love, I could teach the proof to children.  My credentials: UC Berkeley Applied Math’06,  3.91.  That’s GPA, not inches.

I may not have the best track record with love relationships, but then again, who does?  That’s right, your old high school friends Dave and Suzie, who dated at 16, went to prom together, got married at 22, and now they live on a farm somewhere.  Or their house feels like a farm because of all the kids and animals.   Look, not everyone can be Dave and Suzie.  But there’s a valuable lesson we can learn from them: they simply gave up early.  There’s a fine line between committing to someone and just giving up on trying to find other stuff.  Dave and Suzie are still together, because they let their respective egos die a long time ago.  They didn’t bother wondering what else is out there or setting crazy high standards that they impose on one another.  They just love each other deeply and sincerely.  And it makes all of the rest of us sick.

That said, everyone wants to find their own Dave or Suzie.  But how do we know?  How do we know if it’s the real Dave or the real Suzie?  There has to be some test we can put them through.  Some convoluted, selfish, idiotic test of love.  Hence, the way we date in today’s society:   Games and tests that we put our ”partner” through to see if they really love us. But there is no solid test of love.  Those who pass your tests may not really love you.   Those who don’t may actually love you, but your painful tests make them realize they can do better.  “If I break up with Danny, and start seeing Thomas, will he fight for me?” Hell no, Danny, run!

I believe that a test of true love has nothing to do with what another person does for you, but everything to do with how you feel about them.  A simple test to know if you truly love someone is if you play the game ‘f*ck, marry, kill’ and you can’t decide, because would put that person in each of those categories equally.  Lust, longevity, insanity.  That’s true love.

Okay, enough preaching.  I really don’t know sh*t.  But, the other night, I looked like I did,  at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton (where I was booed off the stage a few weeks ago… Yeah, I came back for more).  I’m stopping by to do a guest set on my buddy Ric James’s show.  Ric has just gone through a terrible break up, with the girl he was with for seven years… She was his Suzie, and now it’s over.  Just entering the room, you can feel a sentiment of deep heartbreak in the air.  He picks at his chicken tenders, unable to eat, and then goes up to host the show, just talking about how much it sucks and how sad he is. “I f*@kin hate this”, he keeps saying.  And the crowd just reflects the sad energy back.  As if everyone in the room is going through it too and can’t help.  However, I am not heartbroken, so while he’s on stage I ponder what is going on while eating his chicken tenders (why let them go to waste?)

After a few more comics, I go up, and at the beginning of my set, I ask a girl in the crowd, who looks troubled– like she’s not having fun– what she’s learned so far tonight from the comedians before me.  She says, “nothing”.  I say, “Well that’s too bad!  Surely you’ve learned something!  At least some stuff about d*@k and p*@@y, you feel me!”   The crowd laughs. And then I go on to do my jokes, starting with sex puns to get these animals on board, but then moving to deeper stuff.  I do genuinely want her to feel like she’s learned something.  Why else should she leave the house?  To hear stuff she already knew?  The set is going well, but at the end she still looks wanting , so I ask, “Okay, what do you want me to teach you?  I’ll teach you about anything you want.  Anything. I used to be a teacher you know”.

She looks at me blankly for a second, then looks down, and looks up, and says, “Okay… Love.  Teach me about love.”  We lock eyes for a moment, and I understand completely.  She’s recently been heartbroken, and now she’s trying to understand love, and how to find it again.  “Okay, great.  I’ll teach you how to find love,” I say.  She looks pleased, and eager to hear.  The crowd looks at me like “there’s no way he’s going to pull this off.”

I start riffing on love, using parts of jokes I’ve already written that have the word ‘love’ in them.  They get a few laughs, but people can see I’m not really going straight for the heart of the topic; more just falling back on jokes.  So then I really try to dig.  I start thinking out loud.  “Love is a four letter word.”  The audience stares, silent.  I continue, “If you rearrange the letters in the word love, you get ‘velo.’  Which means ‘veil’ in Italian and Spanish.  Note that veils are worn at weddings.  And funerals.  So love is both uniting, and parting.  Happy and sad.  White and black.  Spanish and Italian.”

The audience can tell I’m struggling to find something with this.  I try again, “If you rearrange the letters in the word love… You can spell… Evolve.. If you add some more letters.”   The crowd chuckles at this ridiculousness.  I’ll ride with this.  “That’s right, if you add an extra v and an e to love, and rearrange a little, you get ‘evolve’.  Because real love makes you evolve as a human being!”  The crowd is on board now.

“So, to find love, you have to first evolve, then give up the extra v and e.”  People are laughing… But mostly because it doesn’t make sense yet.  I press on: “That’s right.   “If you’re a young lady looking for love, first focus on evolving yourself. You can only find love when you first evolve, and then… Give up the V… Which stands for… Vagina! And E, which stands for… Expectations.”  The crowd is laughing now, because I got them with their favorite topic… Genitalia! But they’re also still asking “what the f*@ck?”

I’m like “Right ladies? First, evolve, and then all you gotta do is give up the p*@@y a little bit, and relinquish your expectations, and THEN you’ll find love!”  And suddenly it all made sense.   All the dudes in the room are clapping.  The women are laughing, because it’s true.   I still have a few minutes on stage, but I get off at that pulse, because I’m not gonna top that.  The crowd cheers, and I can see her smiling.  I just helped some fella in Pleasanton get lucky tonight. 🙂

Okay, you may not think what I did there was funny, but I guess you just had to be there. More importantly, one week after this night Ric actually ended up getting back with his girl, and they are now getting married on Valentine’s Day, 2/14/14.  Crazy, right?  I’d like to credit my moment on stage for him calling her and saying the right things to get her back (though it was probably just loneliness).  But the point is, even guys have to evolve, let go of expectations, and then give up the p*@@y of their minds to find love. Yeah, the p*@@y of your mind.  Believe it, y’all.  True love.  Dave and Suzie.

Now, get out there and find someone to die slowly with.

Day 998: Conan…A dream come true…Kind of

1000daysofcomedy, bear joke, buddies, Burbank, conan, Conan O'Brien, critical eye, dream, dry mouth, facing my fears, fantastic, friends, funny, humor, kidnap, likeable, lucid dream, massage chair, meditate, omen, open mic, Seth Green, tbs, television, Warner Brothers, yoga

About 4 months ago I had a dream that I was on Conan (see Day 885). It was an eerie, lucid dream, and I bombed horrifically. This was before I knew I would be on Conan, but it was so real, it made me wonder if it was an omen. I just remember being on the stage, frozen, unable to tell a joke. And then the sound and lighting people just telling me to get off stage. It was a huge disappointment.

2 months later, after a really rough summer and deciding I’m going to quit comedy, I get booked on Conan. I think, wow this could be good. Or this could be that dream come true. In reality, how could I bomb that hard? I would literally have to be paralyzed with fear. More likely I should be really good, as I’ve been practicing for almost 1,000 days. Either way, I don’t want to think about it too much. I just want to do it.

The day comes, and I have a few things on my agenda before I get picked up at 2 pm. Sleep in, exercise, yoga, meditate, massage, shower, and open mic. I knock them out one by one. I have 6 of my good comic buddies come over for an open mic. I host, they all do a few minutes, and then I run my set 3 times. Now, they’ve all seen my jokes so I’m not just gonna do it and expect them to laugh, so we do 3 takes. The first one, I tell them to boo the whole time. The second, I tell them to be completely silent (this would be the same as just running my set for them). And then the third I tell them to laugh uncontrollably and walk over my lines with their laughter. This one was incredibly fun. Even though it was a gag, and they weren’t really laughing at me, it felt like they were. That’s the incredible thing about comedy…any laughter will make you feel stronger, even if it’s not directed at you.

At 2 pm the TBS SUV picks us up and we roll over there entourage style. I’m realizing how thankful I am that I brought my friends, because we are all laughing and having a good time. Even the driver was cracking jokes with us. We get to Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, where they escort us in to my dressing room. The place is laced with fruit platters and hors d’oeuvres. They keep asking me if I need anything, and I’m thinking, ‘Yes! give me every free amenity you have!’ They pick out my wardrobe and we do a sound test. Then I order a 5 course meal (salmon, prawns scampi, ahi salad, chips and guac…brain food) and go sit in the awesome massage chair that they have. Next, they have to put makeup on me, which I’m not a fan of. I know I’m not beautiful, but makeup never looks good on my skin town (and trust me I’ve worn makeup before). My natural brown works better I think, but they insist.

Seth Green does his segment then comes back, gets his stuff and leaves right away. I think about asking him for a picture, but why? I didn’t even talk to him, so I don’t. It’s really cold in the building so I start running around to warm up. They tell me I’m up next, and then what always happens, happens…I start to get dry mouth. This is the one thing my body knows to do when I’m in an important situation. Never during normal sets, just the ones that matter. What is it? My brain is sucking the moisture out of my mouth? I fill a bag with 5 different fruits, watermelon, pineapple, grapes, orange, and apple, but none of them can get rid of the dry. So finally, I’m just like eff it, I’ll have dry mouth.

They bring me to the curtain, and as soon as Conan says my intro, I have to walk out to the grey tape. I hear my name, ‘Sammy Obeid!’ The crowd cheers and I walk out comfortably. I stop at the tape, and in my head I go back to the dream. Where I was staring at the crowd and the bright lights and just didn’t know what to say. Meanwhile, my body is already going into my set. And it’s doing fine, but I’m not there, I’m still in the dream. And then I realize what is happening. That dream was my biggest fear. That I’d work so hard at something for 1,000 days and then fail. And me having that dream was a way of facing my fear so that I could do the right thing in real life. As soon as I realize this, I come to consciousness and I’m already in my fourth joke, but the moment I come back to my body, right as I say ‘Wranglers extra small!’ the crowd starts to applaud, and Conan throws back his arms with a huge laugh. Typical Sammy Obeid, get em with a corny pun.

The rest of the set goes great as I fully start to be there. I realize, what I’ve learned from my dream, and the times that I taped AGT, is that the time flashes before your eyes when you are on TV, but you only have that one chance, so you have to fully be there. That’s why I meditated, that’s why I did yoga, to fully be present in that short times slot I had. I close the set well, and Conan says, ‘That was great! Really, that was hilarious, so well done.’ I did my research to see what he tells people after their sets, and it’s often either ‘great or fantastic or nice job’ I didn’t get ‘fantastic’ but, ‘so well done’ was all just for me. Yup, like a steak.

He calls me to the couch, which I didn’t expect. And we just film the end of the show where we talk some more. He says to me, ‘I like that you are both likable and have great jokes, it’s usually one or the other.’ And then he said ‘I’m going to kidnap you on your day 999 so you cant make 1000’, and I said, ‘Go for it!’ as that would be way more interesting than anything I’m going to do already. This all seemed so cool. Almost too cool. And I finally got my bear joke on TV…well, that is, if they air it. I did my bear joke on AGT and they cut it from the program. Is that going to happen again? Spoiler alert, it makes it on TV!

After my set, I didn’t know how I felt about it. I know I didn’t bomb like the dream, so I was thankful for that. But I didn’t absolutely crush, like I know I could have if I was at my best. But everyone I talked to after, including the booker, said I killed. It’s hard to give an evaluation of yourself through other people in these situations, because no one in your circle is going to tell you you sucked if you only did so-so . But people are biased, and they want you to feel good, which is great, it’s just hard to know how you did in the critical eye.

I should make it clear that doing comedy 998 days in a row doesn’t mean you are going to hit a home run every time. It does mean that you will be more likely to though, and you will be better and more consistent, but most importantly you will know where you stand. Self-awareness is something that a lot of us comedians lack. We think we killed it when we didn’t or vice versa. I’m happy with my Conan set, but I know where it stands, it was a 7/10. For me, at least. But my experience doing the show, having a good time with my buddies, actually getting on TV without my segment being cut, and right at the end of my 1,000 days, seeing a real dream come true without the bad parts, facing my fears head on and conquering them all while in front of a studio audience for national television….10/10.

Day 984: Life is Good

I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve climbed out from the biggest depression I’ve ever faced.  If you’ve read my blogs, you know that the last few months I pretty much went insane, from intense anxiety attacks, to physical pain from outbreaks of stress, intense self loathing, wanting to quit comedy, and even thoughts of suicide.  We can’t completely blame the comedy, because there were other things going on with me, including bad prescription drugs.  But we can agree that it was bad, and not how I should live.  For a while, I wondered if it would last forever.  And that was the most frightening part.

But just like happiness, depression is fleeting as well!  And I guess I just grew out of it.  With the the help of some revelations, good friends, and the timing of the universe, I am now feeling better, right in the last 2 weeks before I make the finish to this streak.  Weird how the world works.  And it’s one of those feelings, where it’s like a switch has been flicked and I see everything differently.  Like the same things that would depress me before and bury me in a vicious cycle, can’t even phase me anymore.  It just passes right through me.  I always knew I’m a good human being worthy of happiness, but know I actually know how to live it.

I don’t mean for this to sound cheesy or fake, but after what I’ve been through, I’m happy that there is/was a light at the end of that tunnel.  Sure, there may be more tunnels.  But after what I’ve gone through, I feel stronger than ever.  And the only thing I can do, other than continue to live happily, is used what I learned to help others.  To make up for the months where I was the worst person to be around, I now may actually make you happy with my positivity.  Either that or annoy the sh*t out of you.

Day 976: Samerica Tour Day 8: Philly to Albuquerque, My Head Hurts

1000daysofcomedy, albuquerque, blackbird, Blackbird Bouve, casino, comedy, headache, humor, ibuprofen, jersey, migrane, native americans, new jersey, new mexico, Nexus Brewery, no spoons, open mic, papaya, philadelphia, philly, Pinkberry, resort, SAMerica, Whole Foods, Workaholics

*In this final stretch of my 1,000 days I’m taking a 12 day tour of America, across 8 states, and 12 cities. It is the most complicated travel schedule I’ve ever attempted and the final major hurdle of accomplishing this 1,000 days. Here is my itinerary: San Jose to Lubbock, TX to Dallas, TX to Detroit MI, to Urbana, IL to St. Louis, MO to Carbondale, IL to Philadelphia PA to Albuquerque, NM to Portales, NM to Scorro, NM to Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, PA, back to San Jose, CA. All night to night, no missing a day..*

I awake to the sun shining in my face. There’s no blinds in this room and at 8 am the sun is already in full force. Having been recently allergic to the sun, I flee, hopping off the bed. I jog the Jersey neighborhood for a few blocks, seeing a sign that says, “handicapped children here’ for a bus stop. Oh, Jersey.

I don’t know why, but my head won’t stop hurting today. Really intense, maybe the worst yet. It’s a constant throbbing, feeling like my head is going to pop. After what was an almost pain free day yesterday. I get some Pinkberry at the airport, and close my eyes on the plane. Flight to Dallas, then to Albuquerque. Layover in Dallas is a few hours. I buy some ibuprofen like a normal person would, and then get some work done with the fickle internet in the lounge. The flight is delayed because they say they need to ‘tow’ the aircraft from the yard. Wow, way to nicely qualify the plane that is supposed to fly us somewhere.

I get to Albuquerque and it’s surprisingly not that hot! I wait for my friend to get me at the airport, while looking up my symptoms on the web. It’s not looking promising. I get picked up in a rental mustang and we go to the hotel, which is a resort/casino. I decided to treat myself, and found a good deal on hotel.com. I freshen up and then we go to Whole Foods to get some food. Note that I’ve been all over America for 8 days now, and have been able to go to a Whole Foods 5 out of 8 of those days. Not bad, America!

I hit the open mic at Nexus Brewery, performing for about 6 local Albuquerque comics, and then go to Blackbird Bouve and do a real set of 20 minutes for a wonderful outdoor bar patio crowd. Albuquerque is a really cool town. It looks like you would think, and the people all look very Native Americanish. They are also very intelligent and attentive, from what I noticed. I want to come back, when my head can enjoy it.

Back at the hotel, I notice they don’t give you a fridge. Really? At a resort? I call the front desk and ask for a fridge and spoons so I can eat my papaya, the guy comes up with a fridge 20 minutes later and says he couldn’t find any spoons. I said, what? He’s like, yea that’s not really a front desk thing…that’s more like those people who bring you food…umm what are they called. Me: room service? Him: Yes! Room service. Me: do you work here?

I eat my papaya manually, and kick back and watch Workaholics on tv. It’s the first time I have a real good laugh in such a long time. Instantly my head feels better. The thought occurs to me, that I never do this enough. Just sit back, relax, and laugh. And yet, that’s what I’ve expected from everyone else for 976 days..

Day 974: Samerica Tour Day 6: The St. Louis Zoo

1000daysofcomedy, carbondale, comedy, humor, Illinois, motivational speaking, open mic, Saint Louis, st louis zoo, st. louis, STL, success, the life of comedians, zoo, SAMerica, tour

*In this final stretch of my 1,000 days I’m taking a 12 day tour of America, across 8 states, and 12 cities. It is the most complicated travel schedule I’ve ever attempted and the final major hurdle of accomplishing this 1,000 days. Here is my itinerary: San Jose to Lubbock, TX to Dallas, TX to Detroit MI, to Urbana, IL to St. Louis, MO to Carbondale, IL to Philadelphia PA to Albuquerque, NM to Portales, NM to Scorro, NM to Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, PA, back to San Jose, CA. All night to night, no missing a day..*

Today I wanted to do something fun. Amber, comic from last night, says she works at the St. Louis Zoo and it’s the best zoo in America, even beating San Diego. Well I have to check this out! Marquees and I walk over in the burning noon heat. I buy a hat that says ‘Zoo’ on it, and we check out the animals, one by one, who are not enthusiastic at all. Turns out Amber was just joking. Oh… Well, we saw zebras, giraffes, lions, porpoises, and apes. Zoo’s are actually depressing. Why are we still getting off on taking animals captive? We don’t kidnap other people’s children and put them in cages so we can look at how cute they are.

We go back home, get ready and head to Carbondale, IL for our show tonight. It’s a 2 hour drive and we get there to a crowd of 0. So the 6 of us comics make it an open mic, and I go up at the end and do my motivational speaking act…helping people sort through their problems. We sorted through physical appearance insecurities to financial problems to finding lasting happiness. It was a success. It’s just that we could have done it without the 2 hour drive. The life of comedians..