Monday, March 18, 2013
Some people quietly get things done.
They're the quiet, friendly type that you don't pay much attention to. They're kind when kindness is needed and when it isn't.
They blend in the background with the rest of the volunteers at your homeless shelter. They're almost faceless. They stop to help you change your tire, they help push you to the gas station when you run out, they read to children in the pediatric wing, they show up when you need help, they offer the postman a glass of ice water on a hot day, they volunteer at the local fire station, and they take lunch outside to the guys working to restore your electricity when the power goes out.
They're the last to complain. In fact, they're usually the ones listening to you complain. They're quiet. They're good listeners. They're usually patient.
There's almost never any fanfare or celebration when they step up. They're not comfortable with it. They don't self promote. They'd prefer to just do something nice because in their mind, "that's what comes naturally", "it's what people are supposed to do".
Often their ideas are swallowed up and taken as their own by others who desperately need approval of peers or parents or employers. And still other times they're generally so modest that their ideas are even attributed to others in their organization because no one remembers who really birthed them. And while it irks them a little, it's not enough to make them stop being who they are. They "need" to do good things. It's almost like it's part of their DNA. They're problem solvers, they love doing good things. They can't help themselves.
Without them, no one would be coaching your little league team while you're too busy. Without them, your kids might not have the school supplies they need.
They are people at your road race cheering you on, that don't even know you. They are the people in the car in front of you who pay your toll. They are the people struggling to gather resources (asking for donations) for an underfunded event at your school, or military base. They're doing a career day at your school. They're cleaning the highway you drive to work everyday. They're in the nursing home holding the hands of the elderly with no family left. These people are doing things. Maybe we all should be.
And while this note may compel you to want to thank them, it should not be all you do. And if that's all you can do. You should not. If you feel compelled to do anything, carve out time from your busy schedule, and do something for someone on a regular basis. You can do it.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Outrage is the new Significance
People are so devoid of significance in their lives these days that they will look for it anywhere they can find some semblance of it. Today's flavor of "significance" comes in the form of outrage (often faux outrage). You find people outraged about all kinds of things these days. We're commenting on social networking sites, talking in coffee shops, school parking lots, at work, at school, about all the stuff that we should be outraged by.
"Can you believe this!"
We share the memes about things we should be outraged by, we TYPE IN ALL CAPS, to show our outrage. It's everywhere!
And I suppose there are a lot of things that you CAN be outraged by, but isn't it uselessly expended energy?
It gets you almost no results and doesn't add any significance to your life. I suppose we think that it somehow it might make us socially or politically conscious when we spout off... But we're really not. Our actions prove otherwise... And still no real significance.
If we really measure all the outcomes of the fashionable outrage in this quest for significance, we'll likely find negative ones (With the exception of our friends in Northern Africa, where Internet outrage led to revolution and removal of dictators). It may, in fact, give you a momentary level of faux significance, but because it doesn't last long, you find yourself soon looking for the next thing to show outrage over.
We find that most of our actual outrage results in offending friends, losing friends, being avoided on social networking sites, and nothing really good.
I can't blame people for using the expansive number of methods of communication available to them. I suppose the outrage, helps people feel like they're not sitting idly by as bad things happen. But really you are. In actuality, you're doing worse. Rather than pull people together to combat the negative things you see, you unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) separate.
What's worse is that this momentary feeling of social or political consciousness is so short that you need to find something else to show outrage over. So now you're looking for it....or maybe your FBBFF (Facebook BFF), is posting it and you're joining the party. So instead of looking for good things in life, and things that actually add significance like being involved in the community, volunteering, being active in your kid's school, you're looking for the negative in everything. What a life!
It's hard to be too bothered by this. There are big problems facing us in 2013. And maybe we just feel like there's nothing that we can really do about them. Maybe our social and political impotence, has us so desperate that we think this is "doing something". I also know that many people say "I just don't know what "I can do". I'm so busy with work, and kids, and life.... I get it, me too.
I'm just telling you, this isn't the way.
Outrage should exist, but only as fuel for you to do good things. Otherwise, it just makes you look angry.
There are lots of ways to feel significant, mostly by showing love, not hate. Show kindness, not anger. Show compassion, not judgement. Show your joy in things to celebrate, not outrage. Let's save outrage for outrageous things.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Humor is good for the Economy
A couple of years ago, Thursday nights at the Cinema Cafe (local movie theater in Virginia Beach) were somewhat quiet.
The staff consisted of a guy or two in the kitchen, the manager, and a waitress or two, and they took home $30-$40 bucks in tips.
Fast forward to today, and the wait staff takes home three to four times that amount every Thursday... What happened?
This blog entry is attempting to discover the impact of a simple, but well executed, effective stand up comedy open mic.
I have been performing stand up comedy for more than 20 years. However, while I take my comedy seriously, I chose a different path to make a living rather than take on the road and comedy full time. I stay local, performing at the occasional theater or comedy club, charity benefit, or comedy festival, and take care of my family and business. I enjoy the stage time and spend a good deal of time at local clubs and the occasional open mic. I am fortunate to be able to do that.
I had heard that there was an open mic close by at a movie theater that had table service. I figured, it was close, provided a stage to tell jokes, and people would be eating and drinking like a comedy club, so why not give it a try?
My first experience at the Cinema Cafe was good but not so good. There were about 7 people in the audience, and 9 guys telling jokes. I am hesitant to call them comics because, well...they weren't. The material was mostly blue, but not funny blue...just dirty for the sake of being dirty, and these guys would just go on and on forever with no light to signal them to end their set.
When it was my turn to go up, the "emcee" said, "do as much time as you like, 10-15 minutes, whatever."
I told him I was doing 6-7 minutes and that would be all I need. I was shocked to find that the previously comatose crowd (of 7) was actually very receptive. I got great reaction and thanked them. On the way out, the manager stopped me and asked if we could talk about how to make it better in there. I reluctantly offered a few ideas, but wasn't sure he would be able or willing to do the things I mentioned. With the help of my buddy, comedian Hatton Jordan, we convinced him to make the tough choices.
We made a few changes. We changed the structure of the show, found a local headliner (Dan Ellison) who happens to be the best comedy open mic/workshop host (and luckily was willing to run the show), limited the roster to people with mostly the best talent, and did a little bit of legwork to promote the show.
These are not trade secrets in business, but they are rarely seen in comedy club open mics. You need talent, promotion, and professionalism to be effective. My buddy Dan Ellison added a good bit of that....and credit the Cinema Cafe for being open to change.
Dan, Hatton and I have been friends for a very long time, and we all credit former owner of the Thoroughgood Inn Comedy Club, Dean Speerhas, for the blueprint to be successful.
We began promoting the show with myself and my good friend Hatton visiting the businesses within a 1-2 mile radius and sharing with them that we have a free comedy show with funny local talent and inviting them over to enjoy it.
Unlike most clubs and open mics, we chose not to keep bugging our friends to come to the shows, but instead to get a real audience, who wanted to see comedy, not just their office buddy who they think is hilarious around the copy machine.
Our first effort netted us 25-30 audience members. In a 150 seat theater, that still doesn't look like much, but it was 4 times the usual audience. It was our bet that if we brought them in, thanked them for coming, gave them a good show and asked them to tell friends, we might have more audience in coming weeks. It worked. Now there are an average of 80-100 people at the shows, 12 comedians and occasionally a drop in from a well known headliner who has "heard about" the room.
The most intriguing part and frankly, gratifying part, for me is that a handful of guys with their notebooks full of ideas, jokes (some not funny) along with a willing partner (the Cinema Cafe) have created a space where people can get away from life and laugh every Thursday for free. That alone is a positive impact on society. Laughter heals the soul, they say.
But even more is that there is a small but profound economic impact of our joke telling efforts.
Out of thin air, the imaginations of aspiring comedians, and an enthusiastic crowd, people are able to provide better for their families.
The waitresses are able to more easily provide better Christmases for their families, pay phone bills, electric bills, rent, groceries, you name it. Out of thin air there is up to $600 a month more in some waitresses' households. That's up to $7200 a year!
Also don't forget that there is more food and drink purchased, so somewhere in some building where this food is produced or some farm where it's grown, there is a need to produce more. It may not be a ton more, but it requires a man or woman to produce it, package it, deliver it to the theater, and cook it. There is a small economic impact.
After the show, many of the comics, including myself, CB Wilkins, Brendan Kennedy and others head out to make fun of each other, talk about comedy, the show, and life at a local restaurant. And again, at 11:20pm on a Thursday night a waitress who's just likely finishing up a slow Thursday now has anywhere from 4 people to 12 people show up. Which means she's likely taking an extra $20-$50 bucks extra home in tip money. Once again, for many of you this may not sound like much, but it's gas for their car, a phone bill, groceries, it helps.
So, if you don't mind sharing with your friends about the local open mic, do so. There is one in your town where they play music, tell jokes, tell short stories, read poetry, etc. Give them a shot, you might find your local talent is pretty amazing. You might find that you have a great time. And you might be able to be part of making a difference by simply enjoying yourself.
Ours is at the Cinema Cafe in Pembroke Meadows Shopping Center in Virginia Beach at 9pm on Thursdays. Come see us, but arrive early, sometimes we run out of seats.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
When tragedy strikes, we don't get it...
Instead when the tragedy is of a domestic nature like Sandy Hook, we too often resort to the same things that never work to find solutions. We point fingers, focus on difference of politics, differences in faith....differences.... Maybe if we pay attention first to our common concerns, common fears, and common hopes, we will realize that we're more alike than different, and we'll keep an eye on solutions that help us realize those common concerns and hopes.... Why not? So far the other crap isn't working...
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Love is ....
choosing to perform specific actions that give way to intensely wonderful feelings...
It's a great many things, and it can be quite confusing at times....
Sometimes love is Tough
Sometimes love is doing good things for others
Sometimes love is simple kindness
Sometimes love is letting someone fail, but consoling them in their misery
Sometimes love is keeping someone from failing, because you know it is too much for them to bear
Sometimes love is giving someone a place to stay
Sometimes love is making someone tough it out and make their own way
Sometimes love is holding on
Sometimes love is letting go
Sometimes love is a sweet note from the heart
Sometimes love is in a song
Sometimes love is praying for you
Sometimes love is a bowl of soup
Sometimes love is a warm blanket
Sometimes love is the perfect hug
Sometimes love is a kiss
Sometimes love is walking away
Sometimes love is walking home
Sometimes love is lying together on the sofa
Sometimes love is lying about her weight, her hair, her friends, her shoes, her outfit....
Sometimes love is simply acceptance, without judgement
Sometimes love is telling the truth and being honest
Sometimes love is not telling the truth
Sometimes love is laughing at his dumb jokes
Sometimes love is forgiving
Sometimes love is sacrifice
Sometimes love is defending
Sometimes love is keeping a secret
Sometimes love is a pint of Ben and Jerry's Karmel Sutra
Sometimes love is hiding that pint of Ben and Jerry's Karmel Sutra
Sometimes love is in a box of chocolate
Sometimes love is a hot cup of coffee
Sometimes love is doing the dishes
Sometimes love is cooking the dinner
Sometimes love is a soft hand scratching your head
Sometimes love is holding that hand
Sometimes love is washing the car
Sometimes love is cleaning the house
Sometimes love is advice
Sometimes love is complete silence...listening
Sometimes love is a strong shoulder
Sometimes love is a foot massage
Sometimes love is caring for you when you're sick
Sometimes love is doing something you hate because you love me more than you hate it
Sometimes love is a kind word
Sometimes love is time alone
Sometimes love is time away
Sometimes love is a sweet awkward first kiss on a date
Sometimes love is in the first card she gives you
Sometimes love is the first cake he bakes for you even if its not that good
Sometimes love is him believing in you when no one else does, even yourself
Sometimes love is found between miles 13.1 and 26.2
Sometimes love is found in the subway
Sometimes love makes you laugh
Sometimes love is so strong it makes you cry
Sometimes love is over email
Sometimes love is at first sight
Sometimes love grows over time
Sometimes love is endless conversation about life, our fears, our dreams, our insecurities, our shames, our hopes, and our desires...
Love is a lot of things...
But mostly love is action, it's things we do for someone else to get that amazing feeling.....only after that is it feelings we have to make us do crazy sweet things....
I wish you love in all forms... A full love that always gives you that feeling to make you do crazy things....
Monday, February 6, 2012
Winning is the new losing for Presidents
In November we will either vote for a new President of the United States or we will re-elect our current President. Either way, supporters of the winner will experience a temporary euphoria, similar to the fans of the most recent Super Bowl winners, The New York Giants. And it will be almost as great.
In the case of the Super Bowl winner, it's great to be a fan. You get to wear the jersey, sweatshirt or hat and all of the fans of the other NFL teams have to go along with the idea that this was your year. You are the champions. You can wear the title proudly. No one will accuse you of being un-American. No one will accuse you of hating poor people. No one will openly discuss how being a NY Giants fan makes you philosophically or intellectually inferior. There will not be any character assassination. You will get to enjoy it. And next year, you get to try to do it all over again.
In the case of the next Presidential Election, it's not great to win. It's not great to be a fan of the winner either. And worst of all it's not great for the country, no matter who wins. Your euphoria will last about a week or two (if that long) before political opponents will begin to wear down your joy. As new President, anything and everything that goes on during your administration will be your fault. You will immediately become the butt of jokes. There will be personal attacks on the you. People will spend countless hours exaggerating your smallest flaws in an effort to make you appear stupid, un-American, racist, or just bent on the destruction of the country if your the "winner" or simply supported the winner.
There are entire television networks dedicated to this activity.
We Americans are funny people. All it takes for most of us to dislike you is for you to become President or a member of Congress. It's an American tradition to tear down our leaders. Now I will agree that in many cases it's our duty to be critical. It makes sense to question authority. It makes a lot of sense to hold people accountable.
However, we have taken things to a bit of an extreme. These days you don't even really have to do anything wrong or controversial to be ripped to shreds politically. You can just have a different view of things. That's usually enough. It's enough to verbally ripped with unwarranted attacks, unwarranted accusations, and blatant lies. We do it with all of them.
It's also enough to get you labeled, which is another American tradition. Keep life simple by slapping a label on someone. We throw around labels all the time. Fascist, Communist, Socialist, Liberal, bigot, tree-hugger. Yeah we're good at labeling, even if we're wrong. We like to label. That way we don't have to do the tough work of thinking. If I label you, I no longer have to consider you or your ideas as legitimate.
What's even worse is that many people might read this and think, "Well, that's just politics. That's how it is.."
Well, that's just another sign that we're losing. When we simply accept inappropriate behaviors in politics and life because "that's just what they do," and neglect to hold them accountable, we lose.
Why in the world do we suspend values and decency in matters of such importance? Is "that's just what they do" really good enough?
It is true what they say, people do get the government they deserve.
Winning isn't great, anymore.....unless you're a Giants fan.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Politicians Stink at Comedy
Politicians are not funny. I wish this was enough to stop them from trying to be funny, but sadly it is not. These people regularly fail at telling jokes and often end up offending others while doing themselves significant damage politically. Sometimes they simply tell poor jokes, other times they come across as racially insensitive and stupid. Sometimes they say something or do something because of a human failing and then claim it was a "joke".
Note: If you have to inform us that something you did or said in the past was a joke, you suck at jokes, stop it.
Recently, the Mayor of East Haven Connecticut, Joseph Maturo, got himself in a little bit of hot water doing this. When asked what he would do for the Hispanic community in light of allegations of police discrimination against the Hispanic community he said, "I might have tacos" for dinner. Okay, first of all, that's not even funny to racists. I asked one. It's just bad politics and bad comedy all rolled into one. So in an attempt to be funny, this guy now is railed on as racially dense and it made his police situation worse. Seriously Joe Joe, stop trying to be funny (and you might want to steer clear of Mexican Restaurants for a while)!
Herman Cain famously said before dropping out of the race for GOP nomination that, "I would bring a sense of humor to the White House. America's too uptight!"... Well Hermanator, you have to be funny first, and even then, we already have comedians for that. Keep your lame jokes to yourself.
As we approach a November 2012, you will see and hear many more feeble attempts by candidates to be funny. I suppose one of the reasons they do it, is to get you to like them as "one of the guys" or as so many people said about George W. Bush, "as someone you could have a beer with".
These are both dumb ideas. I don't want "one of the guys" running the country, trying to fix the economy, speaking on my behalf with foreign heads of state or being commander-in-chief.
"One of the guys" responsibilities should be reserved for "wing-man", picking up the beer, or finding a designated driver.
Guys described in this way typically do really stupid things. As for the economy, "One of the guys", will probably "forget his wallet" again when you go out. I don't want him at the controls with our money. He'll be selling our plasma to buy a six-pack.
"One of the guys", might not shower in the morning. "One of the guys" is definitely "going commando" right now. "One of the guys" might pick a fight with someone just to prove his manliness (Iran here we come). You might find "one of the guys" peeing on a tree in your back yard...and your front yard... and probably your closet. "One of the guys" will definitely light a fart on fire. The list is endless..."One of the guys" should not be President of the United States.
So candidates and other politicians, spare us your horrible sense of humor. We do not need you to be "one of the guys". Very few of you have the ability to really be funny, anyway.
Leave it to comedians, please!
Below I give you some samples of comedic WINNERS and the LOSERS:
The former Mayor of Los Alamitos, Dean Grose, sent an e-mail "as a joke" that depicts the White House lawn planted with watermelons, under the title "No Easter egg hunt this year."
|Classless and Stupid|
Orange County, California, Republican party official Marilyn Davenport sort-of apologized for sending out a racist picture of President Obama depicting him as a chimp being held by his chimp parents: “I’m sorry if my email offended anyone. I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth.”
|More Classless and Even more stupid|
Ronald Reagan definitely had some funny moments, but he also had a couple of bad ones.
This one may have been a bit of a mistake---but mostly Reagan got good reaction to jokes
Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden both have told horrible jokes, that are racially or culturally offensive
Joe Biden is virtual treasure trove of wacky and inappropriate stuff.
This was just poor... and who were the idiots laughing?
George W. Bush
As a matter of style, David Letterman pointed out how "W" had an odd joke telling style...
Also, as part of a bizarre comedy skit at the 2004 Radio & TV Correspondents' Association dinner, Bush showed a series of photos depicting him searching for those elusive WMD's in the White House. Probably not a wise on such a hot subject.
Romney actually believes that he has the "gift of telling jokes". Really?
"He could never tell a joke. My mom was an aspiring actress and an English major ... so I picked up her gift of telling jokes and I love humor, which I get from her." - Mitt Romney 2005
This guy is so dull, he could combine forces with Al Gore to bore Al Qaeda into submission.
Really Mitt? Really?
John McCain made this joke about Chelsea Clinton at a Republican Dinner back in '98. It might be good to leave kids out of the equation, Big John. This just makes you look like a jerk.
Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
President Obama really blew it when he made this really dumb remark on the Tonight Show... WEAK
----Special Olympics joke and video
A FEW WINNERS
"If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?"
“I hope you’re all Republicans.” – Speaking to surgeons as he entered the operating room following a 1981 assassination attempt
"I don't want to be invited to the family hunting party." --on revelations that he and Dick Cheney are eighth cousins
"I know I am getting better at golf because I am hitting fewer spectators."