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.

Announcing My Retirement From Comedy

Oops, I meant “Home,” not “From.” “Announcing My Retirement Home Comedy” is what it should read.  You are a sly one, auto-correct!!  Ugh, I don’t feel like going back and fixing it, but yeah, I’m still doing comedy.

In fact I’m doing even more of it!  In even more adverse locations!  I’d like to announce a new series of shows that I’m producing at retirement homes in the LA area.  Well, so far just one in Torrance and one in Sherman Oaks, but watch out Glendale!   “Awww, what a proud humanitarian,” is what I hope you’re thinking. Though it’s probably, “Yeah right, he just wants stage time and is trying to make it look noble,” or “I’m still pissed about the title baiting me in.”  Truth is, my friends, it’s all of the above!

Performing at a retirement home isn’t easy, as it requires extra charm, relatable material, and the ability to yell above their hearing aids without seeming angry.  However, unlike most comedy shows in LA, it’s rewarding for both parties involved.  For the residents, it’s therapeutic, like a rare visit from their ungrateful child.  And for comedians the stage time quality is A-1 (bingo reference).  Here’s why it’s so good:

1) Old people will watch you like a hawk.  Do you remember the way your grandma or grandpa looked at you when you were a child at the dinner table?  Studying your every move like you’re about to spill the mujaddara again.  Disgusted with your sloppiness, but still somehow thankful for your existence.  The awe and scrutiny from an old crowd will make you feel like a celebrity, though more like a grandchild.

2) They will rarely walk out on your show.  Walker maybe.  But it’s a lot of effort for them to move around. So you’re guaranteed an audience that stays put until the end.  Or at least until a nurse notices that they hate you and then helps push them out.

3) Their memory isn’t great so you can repeat jokes.  If you only have 15 minutes of material, you can loop back around and stretch it to 30.  Retirement homes turn openers into headliners, baby!  If you’re feeling extra ballsy, you can try just alternating between the same two jokes the whole time. If they complain, just say you’re an alternative comic.

4) Old people have seen some sh*t.  Believe it or not, you can’t offend them.  Sex?  They taught your parents how to do it.  Drugs?  They’re on them right now.  Race?  Old people are more racist than we’ll ever be, as they grew up back when it was a parent’s job to teach their kids that other races suck.  Retirement crowds will cough in laughter at a good racial joke (quite possibly for the wrong reasons), as it reminds them of the good ol’ days.

5) The elders are experienced judges of comedy, as they’ve seen all of the old greats, from Bob Hope to the Marx brothers to Abraham Lincoln or whatever dated acts old folks think are funny.  And they’re not afraid to let you know where you rank in their perceived history of comedy.  Win their hearts and they’ll put you above Louis CK!   Simply because they don’t know who he is.  But still, you essentially have a shot at becoming the iconic comedian of this era in their old minds, and they could potentially leave this life thinking that you’re about to take over the whole industry.  Sounds a lot more fulfilling than winning teenager fans who will ditch you for the next Bieber.

6) Even if they can’t understand what you’re saying, they’ll smile and laugh…  When they like you.  If they don’t, they’ll stare you down with permanent angry face (it’s either happy or angry; too much effort to change faces often).   Either way, what a great way to measure your likeability!

7) Your jokes about rap lyrics and iPhones will bomb. As they should.

8) Retirement shows are early in the day, so you can still do your night shows.  That’s right, you can work twice as hard for the same pay!  (These retirement shows don’t pay, sorry, wasn’t sure where to sneak in this news.)

9) Most importantly, the happy seniors are thankful for you being there.  You’ve succeeded at one of the most challenging good deeds a human being can undertake: you’ve brightened an old person’s day.  Just make sure to leave right after getting your praise, as their mood tends to plummet past 5 pm.

10) FREE HARD CANDIES!

So, I hope I’ve made a convincing argument to come check out one of my retirement home shows. If you’re an interested comic who can perform clean without being mean to an audience or feeling entitled to a payment, please send me a message.  Up next, I’ll be producing shows for veteran’s groups, sober homes, and, get ready for it… Mental patients!  Those’ll be insane.  Performing for people just as crazy as us, but with the decency to withdraw from society.

Some of you may be thinking I’ve gone insane myself, and you’re right!  But such is comedy.   It’s an insane job: to constantly figure out more ways to get people to laugh at you.  The only nearest-to-sane thing that I could do at this point would be to retire from comedy altogether.  And let’s face it, that’s not happening any time soon.

No matter how much my hatin-ass autocorrect wants it.

Booed off the Stage at my Home Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Last joke guys” BOOOOOOO.

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

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

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

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

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

Day 892: Comedy is like Crack

There’s all sorts of similarities between the feeling one gets from performing comedy and hard drugs. Fast heart beating, feelings of power and euphoria, loss of money and friends and family. [Tweet This]   But unlike most drugs, we can only really get our fix at night, when stages are available.  It’s like being hooked on crack but your dealer has a day job.  And you have to wait desperately until he gets home at 7:00.

Tonight I had a set at the Comedy Store, and then on my way to my next set at the Ha Ha Cafe, I stopped to get Thai food right next to Marty’s open mic.  While I’m waiting for the food to be done, I go hang out at Marty’s, not intending to go up.  But right when I get there, Marty sets up a mic in the back patio, where comics are sitting just waiting to hear jokes.  He says, “Come on Sammy, you know you want to.”  It was like a tweaker being tempted with an unexpected hit of the pipe.  I jumped on stage and just plunged right into it.  Then did another set in the other room.  I got two sets in that I did not expect, simply because I was tempted by the highs it brings.

Sadly, doing crack over and over again every day will not facilitate your path to getting your one hour crack-special on HBO. [Tweet This] I mean, if it did that would be awesome, and I’d be so happy for the crack heads finally making it.  Because if there’s any subgroup of people in the world, who have really mastered their 10,000 hours of something, it’s tweakers.  And that’s why I hit the mic tonight, because I want to emulate that level of commitment.  Maybe being hooked on crack isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it sure as hell teaches us what its like to really give your all to something.

Day 814: Comedy Coaching

Do I believe that comedy can be taught? I have two different answers. First of all, no, comedy must be learned on your own. No one can tell you what to do to be funny. You’re funny or you’re not, and that’s on you. My second answer, in the instance that you pay me, is yes! I teach comedy, and can FOR SURE make you funny. I’ll give you a good session for $50! [Tweet Summary]

Since this 1,000 Days thing has gone public (and by public I mean to about 60 people or so), people have been asking me for advice, like I’m some kind of expert! Well, I gladly give it. On one condition, put me behind a mic so I can clock it in as stage time. [Tweet Summary]

Tonight I head to Marty’s open mic in Hollywood after my UCB class. I’m tired as hell since I drove back from the Bay early this morning and went straight to class. I just want to do a quick relaxed set and go home. I’m wearing my athletic clothes and don’t feel like stopping by a real venue. [Tweet Summary]

Marty puts me up right away, and I just go into telling stories about the streak, particularly about last night and the 9/11 joke mishap. Then I go into other stories about how the streak started. Making jokes along the way. And then they start asking me questions about comedy, how I got started, how to get booked, my writing process, etc. I realized now, I’m giving a comedy conference! And I’m making it funny, it’s behind a mic, and people are listening, and I’m slipping in my jokes in between, so it counts as a set! My first ever comedy class that I’m teaching. And since it’s at Marty’s open mic, I’m getting paid -$5. [Tweet Summary]