Wednesday, December 27, 2006

$15 Please, Officer

Headed down to Florida for the big day, to see my little sister and her family. I drove it. A bit of a hike from Chi-Town, but standup made driving long distances a snap long ago. Why drive? I can't stand the holiday rush at airports, not to mention the risk of being stuck in one for Christmas.

I've been pulled over roughly 15-20 times since starting comedy in '90. I have yet to get a ticket, although I have gotten some great "getting-pulled-over" stories. Today's goes down in the books as my second favorite.

I was making great time, leaving Orlando this morning and hitting Tennessee before rush hour. I was zipping along at 75 when I saw the flashing lights in my mirror. Damn! Does this cop have any idea how much faster I'm going to have to drive to make up for lost time after he lets me go? He's creating an unsafe situation by pulling me over...

I pulled over and waited. (Of course, I could have outrun him but I wasn't in the mood, so I decided to let him pull me over.) He got out of his patrol car. You can always spot the troopers right away because of the hat and height. The hat has the wide brim and every trooper has to be at least 6'3" to get the job.

He walked up to my window and began the usual drill.

"Afternoon, sir. In a hurry today?"
"Not really."
"You know the speed limit here?"
"Actually, it changes to fifty-five a few miles back."
"Oh, I missed that."
"Where you headed?"
"Ohio? From Illinois? You're taking the long route."
"I'm coming from Florida."
"Where in Florida?"
"Down there for the holidays?"
"Yes, sir, seeing my sister."
"And you're on your way to Michigan?"
"No, sir, Ohio."
"That's right--Ohio. And you're coming from Georgia, correct, sir?"
"No, Florida."

These are typical tactics. The trooper goes on a fishing expedition. He's looking for inconsistencies, trying to trip up the driver. If he finds one, it might serve as probable cause for a search of the car. Perhaps the driver is drunk or high; changing stories can be signs of these conditions.

The questioning continued.

"I'd fly to Florida from Chicago."
"I'm used to driving. I was a standup comedian for a long time."

All right, now he'll ask for some jokes. Should I go dirty or clean?

"Is that what you were doing in Florida; comedy?"

Huh? No jokes? Uh-oh, I might be getting this ticket. Fuck, that'll screw up my insurance.

"No, sir, I was seeing my sister in Orlando."
"That's right. Mind if I look in the trunk of your car?"
"I prefer you don't."
"Any particular reason?"
"Just got a lot of stuff in there for the holidays and don't want it all moved around."

He nodded thoughtfully. A lot of people think you have to let a cop search your car if he asks. The truth is, he can only search your car if he asks and you agree, unless he has a warrant or probable cause. Still, even when people know this, they will let a cop search their car, fearful that if they don't, they cop will make things hard on them. Again, not so. Cops are professionals; they won't get upset if you don't let them search your car.

"Why didn't you fly to Orlando?"
"I have a book coming out of my funny dating disasters as a comedian. I have to carry them with me when I travel, to mail out any that are special ordered. I can't carry them easily on a plane."
"'Coming out?' How can you carry books around if they're not out yet?"
"Well, the official big release is Valentine's Day. A lot of times you do a small release first, though; to get reviews to print on the back of the book and to see what the public thinks."
"And what do they think?"
"So far, so good. Everyone seems to like it, even women that are offended by it."
"Why would they be offended?"
"It gets graphic here and there."
"Pfft. Please. The women I pull over are a lot more graphic than the men. I could tell you stories."
"I bet."
"So the women like it even though it offends them?"
"Not all of 'em were offended but the ones that were said they still loved it."
"Huh. You said you have copies for sale?"

This guy was good. I wouldn't let him look in my trunk and he knew how to get me to change my mind. He knew I'd pop the trunk for a potential sale. He might see something that would warrant a search.

"Yeah, I have copies."
"I'd like to see one."
"No problem."

I popped the trunk and got out. I had to pull almost everything out to get to the books. I noticed Starsky searching the pile with his eyes.

"Here ya go."

I pulled out a book and handed it to him. He started to flip through it.

"The idea is that God is a woman and she's screwing me and all men over when it comes to dating."

The trooper chuckled, "Sounds about right."

I checked his finger. No ring. I decided to push.

"The stories are hysterical. Then I use what I learned as advice."

He wasn't listening; he was reading the intro. He laughed. He flipped through, skimming a few stories and chuckling. He closed the book and looked at the back cover.

"Naw, $15."
"Wait here."

He handed me the book and went to his patrol car. He returned with his wallet.

"Here ya go."

He reached inside and pulled out fifteen dollars, which he handed to me.


He then helped me reload the trunk!

"Have a safe trip, sir and please keep it below the speed limit."
"Yes, sir, thank you. Feel free to let me know what you think about the book. My email's in the back."
"Will do. I look forward to reading it."

I got back in my car and started it. Well, this was definitely one for the books. Or perhaps a book. A book of getting-pulled-over stories. So, what's my favorite getting-pulled-over story? Another time; I have to hit the hay. Still have more driving to do tomorrow. And more books to sell. I'll crank it up to 85 to make sure I get some customers...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Almost One Last Laugh

This is a story I submitted this week to Chicken Soup for the Soul. We all have a little bit of George Bailey in us; I found that out...

What the hell was I doing? I really didn't know. I was twenty-four and I was a standup comedian. Like I said, I didn't know what I was doing. I mean, what was the point? Was I having any impact on anything? Sure, I was having a lot of fun making people laugh, but so what? I wasn't really contributing to society or people. I was just making patrons laugh so that a bar could peddle a few more drinks.

Such were the thoughts harassing my mind back in 1996. I was seriously considering quitting standup, a job I had started at age eighteen while in college, and maintained as full-time work once I graduated.

I didn't mind that my friends were starting to make real money in real careers. I didn't mind tirelessly driving across the continent. I didn't mind the loneliness (back then there wasn't email and I didn't have a cell). I didn't mind not being in one place long enough to date. I even didn't mind living out of a suitcase.

What bothered me was the fact that I wasn't doing anything of any real value. I didn't contribute to society. I didn't affect peoples' lives or make a difference. I just made people laugh like crazy. I was good at it, there was no doubt about that, but "that" didn't mean squat. It was time to quit.

I was seriously thinking about it; quitting. I didn't know what else I would do, but I knew I needed to find something that contributed to society. I was bummed because I loved doing standup but it wasn't enough.

I pulled into the hotel parking lot in Columbus, Nebraska, several hundred miles away from my home in Chicago. I was near the end of a twenty week tour, tired and depressed that I would be quitting standup soon.

It was a Saturday night and I headed down to the hotel bar, where I had two shows to do. After the first show, a bunch of audience members asked to buy me drinks. (This is quite common for audience members to do when they like an act. Between ages nineteen and thirty, I never once paid for a drink. I was later shocked to learn how expensive alcohol was at a bar!)

When people buy a comedian a drink, they want the comedian to drink it with them. That night, an unusually large number of people bought me booze. Normally, in such a situation, I would simply drink two of the drinks and explain to the patrons that while I appreciated their generosity, I had a second show to do and I would be hammered, unable to perform, if I drank all the drinks.

But I was tired and depressed and didn't care. So I downed seven pint beers along with several shots. I was far more depressed than I was when I started. Sure, everyone was telling me how great I was and how much they loved my comedy, but I didn't care. They could have carried me around on their shoulders and I wouldn't have cared. Comedy was an empty gig in an empty life.

Somehow I got through the second show. I don't remember anything about it, I was so groggily drunk. Fortunately, I had done enough shows to operate on autopilot when needed. Afterwards, I collapsed in a booth in the back of the club, unable to work up enough strength to head up to my room. People filed out the other side of the bar, glancing back at me. They knew I didn't want to talk (a rarity for me; I always chatted it up with audiences after shows, grateful to them for coming out to support live comedy).

One guy remained in his seat. He just stared at me. He was a year younger than me, maybe two. He sat in his seat until everyone else left the bar. When the waitress approached and told him he had to leave, that the club was closing, he whispered something to her. She nodded her head and walked over to me.

"Ian, this guy wants to talk to you. He says it will only take a second. Do you mind?"

"Sure, whatever." I couldn't go anywhere in my current state, so why not? I just hoped he didn't want to buy me a beer...

The waitress summoned him, then walked away to wipe-down tables. He came over.


"How ya doing?"

"Um... I just wanted to tell you that you will really funny. I loved your show."

"Thanks, I appreciate that."

"I almost didn't come out tonight."

"I'm glad you did."


I could see something was on his mind but he was struggling with it.

"What's up, man? Seems like something's on your mind."

"You'll think it's weird."

"The last time I was in Nebraska, I was in North Platte. After the show, two guys spent the entire night telling me stories about how they go raccoon hunting once a week and how the coons outsmart them every time. Some trips they shot themselves in the foot, others they drove their truck into a lake or ravine. I spent hours listening to the stories. So tell me whatever you want. Believe me, it won't sound weird."

He smiled, then became deathly serious. "I was going to kill myself tonight."

I was stunned. I had nothing to say.

"I had it all figured out, everything in place by this afternoon. Then I heard on the radio that you were in town tonight. The last time you were here, a guy at work saw you and told me you were hilarious. I figured I'd come out for one last laugh, then go home and do it."

I still had nothing. He could see it and kept going.

"But in your show, you talked about so many of the things that were bothering me, things that I wanted to... end things over. But you laughed at them. You laughed at them all. You made jokes about the things that upset me so much."

Tears started to swell up in his eyes and roll down his cheeks.

"You made me so mad. How could you take these things so lightly? They weren't funny. My life is not a joke. But you kept at it. And as I listened, I couldn't help but laugh. By the end, I forgot why I was so upset. I couldn't be further from wanting to end things now. Thank you."

I just nodded once.

"Well, I should go."

He turned to walk away.

"You didn't tell me your name."

He turned back.

"You really want to know?"


He told me while I signaled the waitress for some comped drinks. We sat in the bar for the next two hours, him laughing and me listening. Before he left, after swallowing my last swig of beer, I looked at him.

"Thank you."

"What for?"

I told him how I had been thinking about quitting, that I wasn't doing anything of value. He vehemently shook his head.

"Oh no, don't do that. You do a lot of good. Making people laugh... it's big... it's real big. People need it, believe me. They need it. You have a real gift."

Remarkably, on two other occasions after that I had someone tell me after a show that they had decided to commit suicide and that my comedy stopped them.

I still don't know what to think about that. I don't analyze, I don't feel important because of it. I'm just glad I could help and that I stayed in comedy, where I was able to make a difference; able to affect people.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Jargon Chicago Article

An article I wrote for Jargon Chicago that was recently posted. or

I'll be doing more of these for Jargon, other sites, and magazines. I write 'em because I love writing, want to help, and to help let people know about the book. I'll keep you posted. Thanks for reading and spreading the word.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Apple's Lame Mac Commercials

I have grown tired off Apple's commercials with the two guys pretending to be computers. One is a young, attractive man, intended to lure us in to buying a Mac. Ooh. Yes, I suddenly want a Mac. The other man is older, wears glasses, and is dorky. He represents PC. Boo! BOO! I smashed my PC after seeing this clever commercial and went out to by a Mac. Unfortunately, none of the four stores I went to carry Macs.

What a clever marketing plan. Yes, it is very clever to compete in this manner. It is not at all the lamest form of advertising to attack the competition. It doesn't look at all desperate. And, the smartest thing in the world a company can do in its advertising, is to mention the name of the competition, oftentimes more than mentioning their own name. Yeah, that's what you should do in an ad. Attack the competition, mention their name a bunch of times, and then don't do anything to stock the most frequented stores with your brand. This way, when people who see the commercial run out to buy a Mac and can't find one in convenient stores, they will just stand there, staring at a bunch of machines put out by the competition that you mentioned a bunch of times. Yup, get them eager to buy computers, then out to the stores to just stand there and stare at your competition's machines. It would not even occur to these eager customers to buy a PC . . .

What a great ad for PC's--er, I mean Macs. Great ad.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Italian Stallion

Ah, what a relaxing night. Actually, I have a lot of work to do. Got a writing gig (I'll fill you in when it's done) and information on how to apply to freelance for a local popular paper, so need to get on that, too.

But I just needed to relax, you know? Jumped into a nice hot bath (which I rarely do). Yes, guys take baths, even though most are too wussy to admit it. Of course, it's a little messy in my tub. I play volleyball on the beach all weekend long, every weekend, throughout the summer. I've been so busy with book stuff, I still haven't had time to clean the sand left from those summer days. There's about 8 lbs. of sand in my tub. So it was a real manly bath.

I left the TV on and heard the commercial for Rocky Balboa. Ah, yes, another Rocky film. The best thing about Rocky isn't Rocky; it's the story behind it. Surprisingly, a lot of people don't know it. Here it is.

Sylvester Stallone wanted to act. He wanted to be known, to get the roles he wanted. He had a few no-one's-going-to-remember-this-character roles which, yeah, pretty much no one remembers. To make ends meet he stared in soft porns, where he earned a nickname--the Italian Stallion.

Stallone thought hard about how he could make it. On March 24, 1975, Stallone saw the Ali-Chuck Wepner fight which inspired the foundation idea of Rocky. That weekend Stallone went home and pulled his blinds, so there wouldn't even be the distraction of daylight. In three days he had written the script for Rocky.

Stallone tried to sell the script with the intention of playing the lead role. He was offered several hundred thousand dollars for the script by different studios but he didn't accept, holding out to play the lead himself. Word is, studios wanted Burt Reynolds for the role. They leaned on Stallone. No dice.

Finally, a studio reluctantly acquiesced. In 1976 Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture. Rocky used Stallone's nickname "the Italian Stallion" in the film, a reminder of where he started. A great inspirational story for us all.

Learn one of the most

Romantic Languages
in the world when you
Learn To
Speak Italian
. The
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influenced the so many languages and cultures, when you
you may find many words and sayings surprisingly familiar.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Did You Notice...

Before I get started, had a nice treat today. Stopped off at a bookstore to see about getting a copy of I Killed: True Stories of the Road, a new book out that's a collage of road stories from some of the most well-known comedians of today. Didn't find the book anywhere, but did see my book on the shelf! Two copies of God is a Woman: Dating Disasters were sitting on the shelf. Pretty cool considering that the "official" release is in Feb. 07, which means we will do our first big print run for bookstores then, which will include reviews on the back cover. This means that the store must have been getting enough requests about the book that they decided to stock it early. Sweet! Lots of marketing to do; this gives me a burst of energy, though.

Any rate, did you notice:

How many arabs and Iraqis were on the study group analyzing the U.S. strategy in Iraq?

That you can't buy lawn darts because some kids got killed by them years ago? (We played lawn darts as kids almost every day; great game and good for eye-hand coordination.)

You can't buy this horse racing game I had when I was a kid because some group complained that it taught kids to gamble? (It was the best game. The horses, eight of them, raced out of the gates. You never knew who was going to win and you just watched as they moved to the finish. It operated on batteries.)

A group wants to change cars, charging car companies millions (and thus consumers thousands each) because cars don't have safety features with keys in the ignition. Kids turn the keys in the ignition and shift the cars into gear, tragically rolling over a smaller sibling. Um... isn't the fact that you have to HAVE keys in the ignition THE safety feature? Why the hell would you put a key in the ignition then leave the car unattended with children around? Some new law takes effect in 2010 requiring cars to have some key-safety feature. Not a clean air feature but a safety feature, which cars already have.

That U.S. national parks are overrun with the construction of fences and barricades on cliffs and rises to provide safety and easy access to visitors, while the rest of the world leaves their parks as unfringed upon as possible? (It is ironic to build on protected land people are supposed to visit for its natural beauty.)

That dodgeball and tag are illegal in some areas because they are unfair to some children who aren't as skilled in the aspects of the game? (In which case they will soon have to outlaw baseball because it is an unfair sport to the Chicago Cubs for the same reason.)

Perhaps we should stop fighting for freedom and democracy in Iraq and start fighting for it here...

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Letters in Bra Sizes

Did you ever stop to think...

What the letters in bra sizes stand for?

D- "Damn, Dynomight!"
C- "Caramba!"
B- "Bummer."
A- "...Ah ha! There they are."

In case you're guessing, yeah that's a bit I used in the act. Fits here, too, though. Don't worry A-ladies, I make plenty of fun of myself and it's just a joke. You can catch a short comedy clip of me making fun of myself here:

Feel free to cut, paste, and forward. It makes me feel good to know people will be getting a laugh at work, hopefully when they need it most.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Be Approachable

I promised to post a piece of dating advice for women and had two different articles ready to go, but unfortunately/fortunately both got picked up by two different dating sites for women. I'll post the link and let you know when they get published. In order to keep my promise, I have pasted this excerpt from God is a Woman: Dating Disasters. It's a "quickie"--a short piece of dating advice in between chapters of the book, geared toward either women or men. This one is also on

I HAVE A LOT OF WOMEN FRIENDS. MANY OF THEM COMPLAIN THAT GUYS don't approach them, whether they're at a bar, sporting event, party, or so forth. Contrary to popular opinion, when we guys are on the prowl, we're not looking for pretty women with great bodies; we're looking for approachable women.

When a woman catches a guy's eye, he watches her for a moment before deciding whether to approach. Is she smiling? Laughing? Does she look like she's having a good time? Is she drinking? Are her arms crossed? Is she arguing or debating with anyone? The guy is trying to determine if she's approachable, if she wants to meet someone. Women with crossed arms or who are debating a serious topic, tend to be much harder to approach. Women who aren't drinking tend to be out because their friends dragged them out, not because they want to be, at least as far as guys are concerned.

Women that don't catch a guy's eye when he originally surveys the room often will catch it later with lots of smiling and laughter. Their demeanor makes them attractive. Look around. Are the guys hitting on the smiling, laughing women, or the sourpusses? Among friends, who gets hit on the most--the smiling, laughing ones or the frowning ones with crossed arms?

A lot of my women friends don't look approachable. They're great women, but they're not sending out a welcoming vibe. Want to meet more men? Smile. Laugh. Have fun. The guys will come.