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.

Day 949: I’m going to quit comedy and become a motivational speaker

It’s official. I’ve decided that comedy is not for me. Many of you think this is a joke, but it’s not.

I never wanted to be a comedian. Since grade school, people would tell me that I should be one, and I entertained the idea of it in my head, but never thought, “thats my dream, to be a comedian”. No way, even back then I recognized the sadness of living the life of a jester.

But after college and being disillusioned with what I wanted to do in life, I ended up falling into comedy, because it was something I could do, and was good at. People kept saying I should do it, so I did, and it went exceptionally well, so I kept going. But the better I got, it still wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel fulfilled or like I was the best or even as good as I wanted to be. Generally when people meet me they are shocked when they find out I’m a comedian, because I don’t act like one. Off stage, I’m quiet,, shy, composed. And then I see guys who are always on, and always say ‘My dream is to be a stand up. I love it. It’s my passion’, and I’m like THAT’s a comedian. Not me.

I know all comedians are different, and some are introverts, like me. But I still feel like there’s something else out there for me. It’s not that I’ve been wasting my time in comedy, but its the path to take me where I’m supposed to go. I just don’t know where that is.

Before comedy, I was a public speaker, that’s how I got in it. I gave speeches in 6th grade and had the whole class laughing. It wasn’t until my 20’s that I joined a speech and debate team and really refined those skills. Then from speech and debate, I transitioned into comedy and my form became lax. Comedy is a lazy, free-form art, where as public speaking is organized and highly calculated. And that’s how I treat comedy in a lot of ways, with calculation. Which does well, but could be put to greater use in writing and delivering more meaningful things than d*ck jokes. I just feel like there’s something back in public speaking for me, but what?

For almost as long as people have told me I should be a comedian, they have also told me I’d be a great motivational speaker. I like helping people with their problems, and I’m quite good at it, despite my own problems and inability to solve them. Lately I’ve been going to open mics and just trying to solve comedians’ life problems, and believe me, they have a lot of them. It feels good. It feels like I’m doing something I’m good at, something helpful, and something unique. Now, how do I take this and make it into a profession? Get rid of the comedians and replace them with real people?

I don’t want to sound self righteous, but I feel like I have a higher purpose in life. Yes, higher than talking about my sex life to drunk people. Is that a crime? I mean where’s the ceiling in comedy, in terms of helping the world? We can say profound things that influence social thought on a large scale, if we are AMAZING. If we are just decent or good, we change about 30 people’s lives. Is that enough? Or do I need to be doing more?

Does the world need a Lebanese Tony Robbins? Will the comedy world even miss me? This is a serious life problem I have to figure out. If only there were someone I could go see live to help me solve it..

Day 908: Lebanese guy buys 10 of my shirts

Growing up in Fremont, California I was not exposed to any Lebanese people outside of my family, and family friends.  Many ignorant people assume that because Fremont is loaded with Afganis, Indians, Pakistanis, and Persians, that I fit right in, but I did not.  Lebanese is a whole nother ball park.  We are on the Mediterranean.  Lots of us have blonde hair and blue eyes.  We’re mostly Christian, and we love to party.  When I say we, I don’t mean me at all, just Lebanese in general.  I’m pretty much none of the aforementioned.  ‘We’ are also known for being very generous.  Accordingly, tonight in San Diego, a Lebanese guy offered to buy 10 of my Abearica shirts.  At first he said he was going to do it if I would take credit card.  I had to search the place for someone with a swiper.  Finally after finding one, he told me he had cash.   It was a funny joke to him, but I was more thrilled.  10 shirts?  That’s more than I’ve ever sold at one show alone.   to have 10 people walking around with my joke I’ll be honored.  I don’t even know what he’s gonna do with them.  There was only 3 people in his party. But being Lebanese he felt the need to support me, and I’m very grateful for that.  Makes me want to go out and find someone else Lebanese and do something generous for them.  Unfortunately I don’t live around any Lebanese people.  So I found a lesbian and gave her a free Abearica shirt.

Day 672: Arab One-Percenters

I know I’m going to sound like someone who hates their own race here, but my god! This was a painful set. More for them than for me, since I do this all the time. I’m getting cold stares in the beginning from people of the same culture as me. The are finishing up dinner. Silverware is clanking. Servers are asking ‘Are you done with this?,’ Arabs in the crowd some of which not familiar with the concept of an ideal comedy show, chatting with each other–though I had know idea what they were saying, all it sounded like to me was ‘Who is he? Why is he doing this?’ That’s what I was hearing in my head. Why? Why am I doing this? I didn’t have to be here. They payed me pennies for this pain. Surrounded by OC business men in their full blown suits and their wives in their Saturday night’s best, I start by acknowledging that I’m the lowest paid in the room. A few tiny laughs and probably some random coughs. I instantly start to think ‘f#@k it’, and then start grilling them to see if they even understand there was supposed to be comedy, and if they’ve laughed before. Their response was cold and disconnected. I go into jokes. I do an unpolished bit about how a comedian has like 10 jobs in one. They are not convinced, but some are starting to emerge as supportive. And then into A jokes, where I acknowledge I am Lebanese/Palestinian, which is what I do to get them connected to me. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t say it, we have virtually nothing that connects us. It’s like we are from different worlds. They are rich, I am poor. They are old, I am young. Their first language is Arabic, my only language is English. Then I see the American flag on stage and ask them to give it up for that. Suddenly the whole room applauds. Boom. You’re damn right you better clap or you’ll look like a terrorist. Just reinforced my perception of them even more. Did a few more jokes and they are knowing when to clap, but it’s clear they aren’t laughing much. And I’m even more monotone and dry to lament them. And just running the jokes on automatic. NO LAUGHER, NO FUNNY. You’ll get the jokes but with no sauce, you hear me?! NO SAUCE. They are giving the applause breaks, because they know I demand them. But it is clear we are enemies, and I am just invading to get my applause breaks, and some are not cooperating. What an Arab situation. I think maybe the problems in the Middle East would be solved if Arabs weren’t allowed to hang out with other Arabs. Or Arabs like me. I’m probably doing the world justice by not really being in touch with my culture. I would totally be one of those Arab dictators, controlling people’s minds, and having heavy opposition.

So their response is still sub par to me, and a joke I do falls completely flat. I’m now done trying to win them, which I originally thought I would. Dig a hole, and if I’m really great I’ll climb out of it. And then I was reminded that I’ve recently been trying to find me, and stop hiding behind the jokes. So I jump off stage and start walking through the crowd, interviewing a few select people who either looked supportive or dead inside. They all were cooperative and nice, and it was getting a few chuckles. I was suddenly more comfortable getting to know them up close. But as I walked, I could feel the fear of being the one picked on. Because when you are the one in the spotlight suddenly you submit. And this was my invasion. I was getting them to surrender. After a few minutes, people point me to look at the stage. The host is back on urging me to stop. I said ‘What?’ She said ‘We’re running behind’. I said ‘Ohh I’m just getting started’. That gets a big laugh and applause, but most think I”m done. But I’m not. Never surrender in this war. I am the general god dammit! And as she starts to introduce the next act, I say ‘No, No, No! We’re not done. Let me at least finish with a joke. I was contracted for 15 minutes, and I’m doing my time’ I get on stage and she quickly walks off. I do two more jokes that I know will work. And they do. And then I get off, but I’m irritated by how they treated me. Then my buddy Omar goes up and does a fantastic job. He’s way more comfortable with them because he understands Arabs and the language and the culture, which I’ve always been envious of. I was happy for him doing well, but it was punishment for me to see that I was the only one blocking me from doing well, but treating them as enemies. And now I felt like an Arab dictator being overtaken by an endeared fair democratic leader, and crying about the past of my failed dictatorship. Isn’t that crazy??

Day 341: Buried by Jo Koy

Have you ever attended a proper burial? Well over 350 people did tonight at the Irvine Improv. First night of the weekend, featuring for my homegirl Anjelah Johnson. Two shows tonight, both sold out. On the first show, the monstrous Jo Koy stops by to see Anjelah, and might as well do a guest set, but instead of going after the feature, the full on national headliner that he is, why not go before? Yea I love the sound of that. I can already hear the dirt being shoveled over my body.

We are back stage and Jo Koy is already on fire. He’s doing Cosby impressions, making jokes about the bathroom in the green room, he has us all dying. He’s just non stop making us laugh. I’m wondering, is that what it takes to be such a successful headliner? Just use all time as stage time? Granted he can get away with it because he has the status, the likeability, and the high energy. I just drove 2 hours in traffic from NoHo, in my head the whole time, and I still don’t feel like talking to any human being. Joy Koy’s back here doing his hour special, live from the green room.

My buddy Kabeezy goes up and gets the crowd going as the host. Then he brings up Jo. Before he even finishes announcing his name, the crowd is already in cheers and tears of joy they love Jo Koy so much. He starts ripping and ripping, as if there was no time in between his backstage set and his on stage set. He covers Mexicans and Asians so there goes half of my jokes. And then if he already isn’t killing hard enough, he closes with his singing bits. Turns out he has an amazing singing voice too. The crowd is just in flames. I didn’t see but they probably gave him a mental standing O.

Now Kabeezy brings me up, and I have to find out how to use my Lebanese hook to grab them out of Filipino laugh lust. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t bomb, but sold out Irvine Improv feature spot is your boy’s playground. That crowd gives me one of the best reactions of anywhere. And I always give out loads of cards and even sell cds. I did guest sets for Anjelah this same month of December last year in this sweet spot an just annihilated, and kind of buried the guy after me, now karma was repaying me.

But I wasn’t going out without a fight. I pulled out all my stops, bear joke n all. By the end of the set I’m doing well, but oh boy did Koy bury me. After the show I got maybe a handful of ‘you were goods’ and no cds sold. I know this was a burial because the next show, no Jo, I murdered and sold 10 cd’s, for $15 each. So theoretically Jo Koy owes me $150.

Day 314: Marc Maron Finally Talks to Me

After opening for him for for three days…Marc Maron finally opens up to me. He seemed talkative the first night I met him but, he just didn’t really talk to me. It started when I walked in the green room and he was deep in conversation with Nato Green, who was middling. They were talking about Jewish things and the Holocaust and then he asked me my heritage and I said “Lebanese-Palestinian”. Things got quiet. After not knowing what to do, I just walked out of the room.

We don’t talk that night or the night after. Then finally, on the 3rd day, I get off stage, and he says, good job. I say thanks. That made me feel better that he watched and appreciated my set somewhat. And that made me feel the need to say something. So I told him how much I enjoyed his half hour special on Comedy Central and how I watched it a bunch of times it was so great, because it’s true, I did. Still though, I don’t idolize comedians or suck d*@k. Which is probably why nobody has taken me on the road. But suddenly, after complimenting his work, he started to open up to me, which makes sense because him doing that to me is what opened me up. So it turns out we were really just the same person, afraid of being vulnerable to someone we don’t know or know if they like us or not. We talked about politics, and his experience as a comedian, and the podcast, and just life in general. It was such a dramatic turn from the nights before, and I realized it was pretty much all my fault for not being sociable in the first place. It’s funny when you think someone doesn’t like you, but it might just really be that they think you don’t like them.

Anyway, my parents come to the early show the final night, and though they liked Maron, they absolutely love Nato, as I knew they would. I told Marc my parents were there but he didn’t seem to care much. We didn’t really talk that 4th night, and now I wasn’t sure why. I was opened up, what happened to what we had last night. Don’t you remember, Marc? Don’t you? Is the opener given just one night of talk time? If I ever become a national headliner, I can’t promise I’ll be nice to the opener, but I at least promise consistency. I’ll either talk to him/her or not. Because any other way is just messing with their emotions.

Though at the same time, I’ll admit, I didn’t lace him with compliments that 4th night, which may have been the way to start a conversation. Is that why they call it the opener? It’s your job to open up the convo with the headliner. To be open with your emotions so they can theirs? To warm their heart just like you warm their crowd? It’s just so hard. Especially when you only have 10 min. Argh. Either way, thank God I’m middling now.