Watch for my set on Comedy Central at some point this Fall.
30 seconds in to the United States’ first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, American Clint Dempsey had already dribbled around a Ghanian defender and then ricocheted the ball perfectly into the net. Just like that, the U.S. was up 1-0 on their Group of Death competitor. And I went nuts. Alone in my apartment. I even texted the three or four of the other people I thought might have been watching. Sure, my celebration paled in comparison to the amount I screamed watching Kerry Wood of the Cubs hit a home run in the second inning of Game 7 in the 2003 NLCS to tie the game against the Marlins. Or when I absolutely lost my mind with Drew Tate’s no-time-left heave to Warren Holloway in the 2005 Capitol One Bowl. Or the 2009 Ricky Stanzi touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt against Michigan State to remain undefeated… when I took part in a doggy pile in the middle of an ESPN Zone in Los Angeles. But those are the three craziest reactions I’ve ever had to sporting events in my life. And they should be. Because, unlike soccer, football and baseball are real sports. Zing! Right, everyone?
The only difference is that most of the rest of the world doesn’t agree with that sentiment. We all know that soccer, er, football is the most popular sport in the world. And we know that most Americans couldn’t care less. That’s the hack line, anyway. Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher opened with him mocking World Cup ‘fever’ and saying how exciting it must be to watch Paraguay play in a scoreless tie against some Eastern Bloc nation you’ve never heard of. It sounded like a joke that had been found in a drawer from Dennis Miller’s old HBO show. And they just edited out the part where he calls someone ‘Habib’ or something. A Tonight Show clip I saw after that showed Jimmy Fallon asking Chris Rock if he was watching the World Cup, with Rock responding, “I don’t care!” in his Chris Rock-y cadence while the audience applauded in approval. I get it. It’s cool to make fun of soccer. Or at least it is if you’re a club comedian age 49 or older.
Or if you’re just an American. Because for all the why-don’t-Americans-like-soccer things I’ve seen on TV or the Internet over the years, the most obvious answer is that soccer feels super foreign to everybody. Never mind that Paraguay isn’t even in the World Cup and the former Eastern Bloc countries in it are ones you’ve heard of. That joke sounded true! Because Paraguay and the former Eastern Bloc sound super foreign. That’s not America, it’s foreign! Like a Mentos commercial. Or believing in evolution. And who wants those things? There are other reasons (which I’ll get to) that Americans say they don’t like soccer, but the base argument of soccer’s foreign-ness makes it the most okay to dismiss. There’s nothing unpatriotic about not watching. And there’s apparently nothing more patriotic to Americans than hating it. But it’s been 20 years since America hosted that one World Cup and I’ve been hearing the same shit over and over and over again since then. And if I heard an onslaught of 1994-era OJ Simpson jokes for a whole month every four years, I’d get sick of those too. So let’s get the tired arguments out of the way…
Tired Argument #1: Soccer is Boring.
I’m not easily bored. But if I DID get bored, you know who would bore me? Tim Duncan. And I’ve never once in my life heard anybody say the NBA is boring. You might see the NBA Finals as this epic battle of last-second shots and athletic dunks. But I see it as Tim Duncan’s stupid owl-eyed face doing some fundamentally-sound but charisma-less layup on his way to his fifth title for the lame-ass Spurs. But who could forget the finger-on-the-pulse-of-America hotness of every elementary school kid’s favorite player, Manu Ginóbili. That’s pure NBA excitement! He’s why 5th graders across the country are shaving bald spots into their hair to be cool and fighting over who gets to be Manu Ginobili when they play outside at recess.
If Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili played in the 1960’s, everyone would say, “They’re lucky they never had to play against LeBron because he would kill them.” Except they play now, they stink, and their team beat LeBron by about 15-20 points every game. I guess I don’t necessarily know what’s considered boring to everyone else in their precious lives, but I just don’t think a sporting event that takes place every four years, where every game matters so much TO EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD should be one of them. Here’s the difference: I hear screaming coming out of apartment buildings all around me in Echo Park every time someone from a Latin country scores. On Sunday, somebody at a show said that the Spurs had just won the Finals and everyone shrugged.
Tired Argument #2: There Are Ties!
Skip to the next one if you’re the easily-bored, must-have-the-red-hotness-of-Tim-Duncan type. Because I explain some things.
This one is going to be technical, but if you’re complaining about ties, it just means you don’t understand what’s happening. This will help you to not sound as dumb. So far in this World Cup, there have been 14 games and there’s only been one tie. Yes, it was a not-so-great 0-0 tie between Iran and Nigeria. But that’s been the exception, rather than the rule. And ties only happen in the round robin group portion, anyway. And since ties matter to a team’s overall ranking within their group (as well as point differential and wins), there’s nothing at all unimportant about a tie. Here, this is what the United States’ Group G looks like right now…
Earlier in the day, Germany beat Portugal 4-0. And then the U.S. ended up beating Ghana 2-1. So Germany and the U.S. got 3 points for their wins, but Germany is actually ahead since they have a goal differential of 4 (4-0) and the U.S. has a goal differential of 1 (2-1). Ghana and Portugal have 0 points for their losses and the opposite goal differentials as the teams they lost to. You get it. But a tie also gets 1 point. So if the U.S. can avoid a loss to Portugal in their next game, or at least avoid losing by 6 goals, they’d still probably be in second place in their group. And two teams from this group will advance to the knockout (single-elimination tournament) stage. It all gets more and more clear as the group stage progresses. Everything matters. Even the ties. Plus, the U.S. has a better chance of tying Portugal and Germany than they do beating them outright or winning a shootout. You do want America to win, don’t you?
Tired Argument #3: There Are No Breaks.
I don’t get this complaint. Get a DVR and hit pause, butt fuck. There are no breaks in movie theaters either, but you still waddle out to poop during X-Men and then waddle back and ask what you missed.
Tired Argument #4: We Don’t Understand the Clock.
It’s 45 minutes a half. And they don’t stop for anything, so time just gets added on at the end for injuries and whatnot. You count up instead of down. It’s really not that hard. It’s not that much different than what you’re used to. And it adds a nerve wracking element at the end of a close game - like when 5 minutes got added on to the end of the too-close-for-comfort U.S. - Ghana game. Just that short amount of time seemed like an eternity for us to survive. But then when the whistle blew, the release was an even better feeling than if I’d seen a clock counting down like it was my safety blanky. I mean, watch the end of the Switzerland - Ecuador game from Sunday and try to tell me it wasn’t awesome. Unless you’re from Ecuador, in which case, lo siento.
Tired Argument #5: There’s Not Enough Scoring.
In the first 14 games of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, there were 44 goals. That’s over 3 goals per game. If an NFL game ended 14-7, you wouldn’t cry about it. But alas, there is still the NBA, where there’s a ton more scoring. And maybe you’ve been conditioned by the hot hand of America’s sweetheart, Manu Ginobili from the great San Antonio Spurs dynasty. I can’t help you. It’s almost as if they’re two completely different sports.
Tired Argument #6: America Sucks at Soccer.
There you have it. The World Cup is the pretty girl we asked out, but when she said no we called her a lesbian. Would America care if we won the whole tournament? Are you nuts? Of course we would. We still put that goofball Michael Phelps in Subway commercials even though everybody in the country gives zero shits about competitive swimming. But he was the best, so we pretend their bread isn’t made out of yoga mats or whatever. And don’t get me started on Lance Armstrong. We just like the best. You might not remember, but we cared when the U.S. Women’s team won it all in 1999. Remember Brandi Chastain and her sports bra? That was a thing. We even pretended we thought it was hot and everything. And U.S. women’s soccer is still a thing. It’s just not on the level of men’s sports. Because they’re not exciting like Tim Duncan.
So are we any good this year? We beat Ghana, didn’t we? And as announcer, Ian Darke, reminded everyone, it’s also called the Group of Death because we’re in it. Our best athletes may still play other sports, but we have a population of over 300 million people. Some of those people have to be good at soccer. Portugal is like, the size of Ohio. And tons of students at the Ohio State can out-douche Cristiano Ronaldo. So maybe we can out play him too.
You don’t have to love soccer. Or even watch another game until the 2018 World Cup in crazy ass Russia. I’m probably not going to. L.A. Galaxy games are in Carson. Who the fuck would ever go to Carson??? But since the NBA and NHL seasons are done, and baseball is gonna go until October, the World Cup is like an extra playoff season given to us in our down time for free from foreigners in Brazil. It’s got Brazil’s young superstar Neymar trying to win it for the host nation. The Netherlands shocking the world by destroying the reigning champions, Spain, in revenge for their loss in the 2010 finals. Costa Rica shocking Uruguay. That Switzerland goal I talked about earlier. Karim Benzema being awesome. Lionel Messi looking like a goddamn dribbling wizard before scoring against Bosnia. Thomas Muller looking like a goddamn scarecrow and scoring a hat trick against Portugal, while Ronaldo did nothing. And the fucking Clint Dempsey goal in the first 30 seconds of the game against Ghana. Plus the game winner by 21-year-old substitute, John Brooks at 86 minutes - four minutes after Ghana’s equalizer. And we’re only 14 games in. We got like, 60 something to go. So get on board. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon. It’s not like you have a valid excuse to not get in to it. And maybe in four years, comedians will have to write a different joke about soccer.
Last night I posted this on Facebook….
“It’s almost as if the NRA represents multimilllion dollar gun manufacturers instead of the best interests of the country…
But that can’t possibly be true because they’d have to do something like 1. Pretend the Second Amendment isn’t about state militias from the 1700s. And 2. Scare Americans into thinking they should own a lot of guns.
They’d never do either of those things. Because 1. Duh, we all know the history of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights like the back of our hands. Like, we could all take a test right now and get perfect scores. Blah blah… Anti-Federalists, James Madison, we got it. And 2. We’re way too analytical and use way too much critical thinking to be fooled by simple scare tactics.
I mean, why would anyone pretend that drug cartels, drug dealers, terrorists and/or a tyrannical government were coming after me if it wasn’t true??? So what if having a gun significantly increases the chances of there being a homicide or suicide in my own home? It’s not like I could just get a big dog or something. There are terrorists coming to my house! They’d just use the ‘throw some meat in another direction’ trick that all terrorists use. I need to have 30 guns. To shoot all of them at the terrorist drug cartels.
Plus, you’ve got all these hunters that need huge machine guns to kill pheasants and salmons and stuff. You can’t stop hunters. They don’t know that some stores sell food!
So don’t try me with any of your anti-gun stuff, Liberal lame stream media! Next thing you’re gonna do is try to tell me that oil companies would want to make us believe climate change isn’t happening because it would hurt THEIR profits! Or that ‘smokers rights’ companies aren’t grassroots libertarian guys and are actually led by tobacco companies. I mean, as if.
Pew pew pew pew pew
It was basically just a dumb reaction to being frustrated with seeing all of the gun arguments on Facebook after the most, most recent spree of shootings. Not the 6 gun sprees you’re thinking of, the newest new 6. So this is me throwing up my hands. Anyway, the fun really begins in the comments. That’s when I began giggling and reading aloud to people in the room.
Apparently you can just say anything to gun fanatics and they think you’re serious.
Click here and enjoy the trolling. Also, as of right now, it’s still happening.
And I’m not making light of the victims of gun violence. I’m on their side. And I have like, zero power to take anyone’s gun away. So don’t come after me with either thing. This is purely for entertainment purposes.
But seriously, it’s almost as if the NRA represents multimilllion dollar gun manufacturers instead of the best interests of the country…
Way back in May, I decided to take a trip overseas with my special lady friend. If you are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen (and gotten sick of) some of the photos already. But I decided to write about the trip anyway. At first it was just me looking up some of the things I saw so I could remember what happened at a later date. I’d taken trips to foreign countries before and regretted not doing the same thing. Then I decided to share it with the lady friend. And now I decided to let everyone see. If they want to.
I decided to go to Italy (specifically to Rome, Florence and Venice) because I’ve been a long time nerd for history (specifically, but not exclusively the Roman Empire, its fall, early Christianity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance), as well as for art (specifically, but not exclusively the Florentine High Renaissance). And I don’t know if I saw Gladiator one too many times in college. And I don’t know if the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles swayed my preferences in sculpture and painting one way or the other. But just know that these three Italian cities were always on top of my list of places I wanted to visit. I just never thought I’d ever go. And why would I? I grew up in a small town in Iowa. I never had any money. And I didn’t even travel on an airplane until I was 13. But the opportunity came up (people have heartburn and need an adorable family to tell them which antacid to purchase) and instead of drinking the money away, this time I decided to leave home and travel (for the first time ever) without it having to do with work or as a prepaid trip with my family.
Listen, I’m not Mark Twain and this isn’t The Innocents Abroad. And I’m not Anthony Bourdain, am not a foodie, don’t refer to food as ‘dishes’ and wouldn’t know the first thing about fancy pants food or the fancy pants wine to pair it with to make it extra fancy in the pants. I’m just a dude. Except this time I’m a dude who has totally been to Italy. I’m already practicing saying, “You’ve never been to Italy? Oh you simply must go.” So, all that being said, here’s what we did. It’s the stuff I found interesting along the way. And I hope you enjoy.
In 1991, a famous baseball player named Fred McGriff appeared in a commercial for Tom Emanski’s instructional baseball videos. And he’s horrible. I mean, just hawrrible. It’s so bad that it seems like someone came back from the future to do a parody of how hawribble Fred McGriff is in the Tom Emanski instructional video commercial. Except it’s actually just 1991 Fred McGriff being super hawribble.
I need to explain this better.
Have you seen Office Space? Okay. Remember Orlando Jones’ character? “Good evening sir, my name is Steve. I come from a rough area. I used to be addicted to crack, but now I’m off and trying to stay clean. That is why I’m selling magazine subscriptions and I was hoping you would help me out.” If you do remember him, now just dial him back a few notches, put him in a two-sizes-too-big foam Baseball World cap and make him say, “I’m so impressed by the instructional videos by Coach Emanski that I’ve given them my full endorsement.” He’s like the Office Space Crack Head Steve of acting.
Here’s something I just learned: Baseball player Fred McGriff is exponentially better at acting than most actors are at baseball.
If it sounds like I’m making that up, I assure you I am not. Just as a throw-away example, I’ll use famous actor Tom Cruise from the famous 1992 movie, A Few Good Men.
In one scene, famous actress Demi Moore confronts Tom Cruise about two imprisoned Marines while he’s supposed to look like he’s taking batting practice.
Oh man. It’s just so bad.
And I know he’s playing a U.S. Navy lawyer and not a professional baseball player, but whoever he’s playing has definitely never swung or held a baseball bat before in his life. Tom Cruise was more believable saying he was in love with a human woman on Oprah’s couch in 2005 than he was awkwardly dropping his hands and shoving the bat through the strike zone in this movie. It’s so bad, they can’t even really show it on camera. Through Hollywood trickery, most of his no-wristed, little kid swings are hidden away. If Jack Nicholson really wanted to burn him later in the movie, he could have just said, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH… and by ‘the truth’ I mean a youth sized baseball bat and an underhand lob down the middle.” I mean, why not just change the scene to have Tom Cruise’s character on a basketball court so we can see him hold the ball at his chest and shove it as hard as he can at the backboard with both hands every time he shoots? Why not just have him at a lap pool flailing around in the deep end and drowning? At least with Fred McGriff they could SHOW him saying words on the screen.
I’m getting to my point…
This week I began shooting a no budget independent movie about baseball. For the record, I just want to say that it’s been a lot of fun, I’ve met a lot of great people and I think it’s going to be really good. With that out of the way, let me just say that I was AMAZED at how bad everyone was at baseball. And listen, I’m no athlete. In my most recent commercial, my character ‘forgot to work out’ because he’s average. And ‘average’ is a gigantic upgrade for me. Anyone who knows me has heard me complain about the roles I have to audition for. Some are flat out humiliating. Of the first ten commercial auditions I went on in L.A., I want to say nine of them were just me having to take my shirt off because that was supposed to be the humor. I once shot a non-union Heineken Light commercial in Spain where my character’s name was ‘Frat Boy’… but since they don’t know the word ‘Frat’ in Spain, everything they had for me (my call time, my trailer, my script, etc.) just said, “Fat Boy” on it. There are a thousand other examples, but you get the picture. Plus, I already look like I humble bragged about 20 times in this paragraph as it is.
Anyway, my character in this no budget independent movie is really no different. Without spoiling any of the plot (safety first), just know that there’s a team with stud athletes playing a team of garbage schlubs. And you can probably guess which team I was cast to play for. So why IN THE WORLD am I one of the best baseball players on the field in real life? It’s amazing. I played in high school, but I hit .195 the last year I played [READ THIS NEXT]. And, unlike me, these guys look like real athletes. The best real-life player in the cast is a guy whose character is also supposed to be amazing at baseball. And turns out, he really is. He played D3 baseball and he looks like he could lift a gym over his head and then ride off on a horse. Then there’s me and maybe three other guys who played high school baseball and look passable (most of whom were not cast to play the stud athletes). Then there’s a cavernous gap in ability until you get to everyone else who throws like they’re shot putting, with the accuracy of 50 Cent doing a publicity stunt at that Mets game. And the swings? Don’t get me started on the swings. They make Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men look like Ken Griffey Jr. It’s as if they got a high school team high and told them to go play a game with their opposite hands. Except they’re sober adults playing the role of ‘really good baseball player.’
Since I feel like a dick for saying all of the above (because everyone is nice and talented and blameless), I do have a solution. Ready?
Every theater school in the country and every acting coach charging more than a dime for their classes - I want you to listen to me - has to teach its male students how to throw a baseball and swing a baseball bat. I’m being completely serious. Baseball movies are part of the fabric of our country. That’s not hyperbole. That’s a fucking fact. And we need to keep making them, but Kevin Costner (apparently the only actor in Hollywood with the skill set to throw a ball 60 feet 6 inches) is 59 years old and can’t do this shit forever. And I’ll be damned if I live in an America where my baseball movies look like the scene in A Few Good Men or the scene in the last season of House of Cards where Frank Underwood is playing catch with Meechum from 10 fucking feet away with the same throwing motion as a darts player or someone playing mini hoop. PEOPLE MAKE SPORTS MOVIES, THEATER KIDS. WHY DOES STAGE COMBAT CLASS EXIST AND NOT ‘STAGE THROW A BASEBALL LIKE A GODDAMN MAN’ CLASS?
Again, I want to say that everyone in the cast is super nice and really talented. And the fact that I know they’re helplessly terrible at baseball is not their fault. It’s their acting coach’s fault. To be fair, it’s their dad’s fault. But it’s their acting coach’s fault and we need to do something about that. What we really need… more than ever… is Tom Emanski.
I drew some stuff. First real attempt at drawing in 11 years. #artminor
If you’re like me, the biggest news story of 2014 (so far) isn’t Bridgegate, or the Polar Vortex or legalized weed in Colorado (although we do have an all-weed state Super Bowl) it’s when Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks did this on Sunday…
"I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the results you gon’ get! Don’t you ever talk about me!"
I had people over at my apartment to watch and we probably rewound the DVR 15 times. Giddily. Not the actual play - where Sherman stopped the 49ers’ winning drive to win the NFC Championship by amazingly deflecting a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone with 30 seconds left (we only rewound that four or five times) - but him TALKING about it after the game. And that’s what most of American sports fans were talking about too. Conservative types and uptight sports analysts talked about how Sherman had no class and was unsportsmanlike. Actually, if you watch Fox Sports interviewer, Erin Andrews’ face during Sherman’s tirade, she looks like she’s just smelled a really bad fart. Then she indignantly asks, “Who was talking about you?” And Sherman responds with, “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best. Or I’ma shut it for you real quick. L.O.B.!” You know, in reference to the Legion of Boom, Seattle’s secondary. And then they cut away. Sorry, conservative types. And sorry, Erin Andrews. This may not be one of your precious TruBiotics commercials. But Richard Sherman just moved more products than you ever will. And nobody seems to get it. Let me help you…
Richard Sherman just made the league, and more importantly, himself millions of dollars. Because isn’t that was this is all about anyway? I’m not an NFL fan and I didn’t even know who Sherman was before he gave that interview, and I’m technically in a Nike commercial with him. But now most of America knows who he is. And people will be more invested in the Super Bowl - to see him back up his statements or to see Peyton Manning make him eat his words. Endorsements are going to come falling from the sky. He’ll probably even be an analyst when his career is over. Nothing but good is going to come from this. But I also understand all of that because I understand professional wrestling. And, more specifically, I understand the art of cutting a promo.
With the advent of television in the late 40’s and early 50’s, professional wrestling entered its first Golden Age. And the new medium also added another dimension to the sport - the promotional interview. It’s known in the wrestling business as “cutting a promo,” and its use is designed to advance wrestling’s storylines, feuds and gimmicks. Basically, talking shit on television has been a staple of American sports and culture since its inception. And it can also sell a lot of merchandise. In 1996, a little known wrestler who had previously been going by the awful name of ‘The Ringmaster’ won the the WWF’s King of the RIng tournament by defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Roberts had been using a new Born Again Christian gimmick. And the Ringmaster was now going by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And after defeating Roberts, Austin strutted down to an announcer for his coronation interview. Austin berated Roberts for being a has been before proclaiming, “You sit there, and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers and it didn’t get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” The promo was designed to make the crowd hate Austin even more. It didn’t work. It launched him into superstardom and his ‘Austin 3:16’ t-shirt is one of (if not the) most popular and highest selling t-shirts of all time.
The art of the promo is also the difference between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Frazier was every bit Ali’s equal in the ring and has 41 heavyweight rounds of boxing with Ali to prove it. But in 2006, Muhammad Ali sold 80% of the rights to his name and likeness for $50 million. And when an HBO documentary crew interviewed Joe Frazier in 2009, he was living in a small room in the back of his Philadelphia boxing gym. What’s that got to do with wrestling? Well, when a young Cassius Clay met a wrestler named Gorgeous George (or it might have been “Classy” Freddie Blassie, he’s not sure) in 1961, George told him, “A lot of people will pay to see someone shut your mouth. So keep bragging, keep on sassing and always be outrageous.” Georgeous George was one of the first television stars in wrestling history. And after that, Clay/Ali was inspired to say things like that he would “float like a butterfly [and] sting like a bee,” before his title fight with Sonny Liston in 1964. After he defeated the heavily-favored Liston for the first of his three heavyweight titles, the ‘Louisville Lip’ repeatedly shouted, “I shook up the world,” and “I am the greatest,” while reporters (who looked like they just smelled a bad fart) struggled to for an interview. Look familiar, Erin Andrews? Oh, I should also mention that supposedly 97% of Americans over the age of 12 can recognize Muhammad Ali. 0% of Mike Bridenstines could have recognized Richard Sherman before Sunday. But that’s before Sherman 3:16 said he just whipped your ass.
The most recent Sports Illustrated even said that Sherman was “impersonating a WWE villain in his post game interview.” Exactly. What did you want him to say? That his team played hard and he gives thanks to God, first and foremost? That’s boring. You can keep your classy. I’ll keep my “Classy” Freddie Blassie. And I’m rooting for Sherman in the frozen tundra of MetLife Stadium at Super Bowl XLVII on February 2nd. And that’s the bottom line.
Always look on the bright side of life…
As Eric Idle’s song from Monty Python’s Life of Brian closed the show, you knew it was time to gather your friends and coworkers and head across the back parking lot to Resi’s Bierstube to close the night. But the song has always kind of made me feel sad. It meant the show was over and that the make-shift wooden stage, the projection screen and the curtain would be broken down and the back of the waffle house in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago that got be be the longest-running independent comedy show in the country would have to turn back into a mediocre restaurant with surprisingly-good waffle fries and gigantic steins of Moose Head. The Lincoln Lodge at the Lincoln Restaurant was my favorite show while I lived in Chicago from 2004-2007 and it was my favorite show to return to after I’d moved to Los Angeles. I was guaranteed to see old friends from my old sales job, high school friends from Iowa who were now living in Chicago, the local comedians who hadn’t left yet (or might never leave), Susan the loud, but friendly waitress and Mary, the grandmotherly Irish bartender, who was somehow louder than Susan.
I found out yesterday that the Lincoln Restaurant is officially closing at the end of December after hosting 14 years of comedy. And I wanted to give it a proper farewell. Chicago comedy has already seen its share of semi-emotional show closings and movings - the legendary Lyon’s Den open mic closed in 2004 and Chicago Underground Comedy moved from Gunther Murphy’s (which I deemed to be the perfect comedy venue) to the Beat Kitchen in 2006 or ‘07. But I just always kind of assumed the Lodge would be there forever. It’d had been there before my time and I just assumed that’s where it would remain… until the show’s runner and co-creator, Mark Geary, finally made good on his yearly threats and shut it down himself.
Before ChUC started in 2005, stand-up on the North Side of Chicago was relegated to open mics, Dave Odd shows and the death throws of the Elevated at Cherry Red, the first independent show in the city. Zanies was around on North and Wells, but the local comics on the scene were, for the most part, too green or too weird to work there. So the Lincoln Lodge was king. At least in my mind. The first time I performed there was November 12, 2004. And it was also the first time my parents had ever seen me do comedy. I didn’t have headshots yet, so I used my first grade class photo. I overheard people saying they came to see the little kid perform. So I’m guessing that stunt kinda backfired. But I spent most Fridays after that, until I moved to L.A., parked with other comics at the back bar watching my peers become rock stars for the night. So there are a lot of very fond memories.
There was my surprise birthday roast in 2006. My first Dwight Nights the same year. Montreal auditions. The first time I ever performed “Every Eminem Song Ever” live with Mike Holmes. Him doing “Our God is an Awesome God” or “G-Carlo.” The woman from the HBO Aspen festival telling a room full of New York-bound comedians to move to L.A. instead. The drunken St. Patrick’s Day disaster show, where I met Jordan Vogt-Roberts and he began to make videos for Blerds. Brady Novak with a joke-sized sundae, T.J. Miller chugging a giant stein of milk and making a drunk guy puke in the front row. JFL Chicago shows, sets by ‘up-and-comers’ like Kumail Nanjiani, Hannibal Buress, Mike Burns, Jared Logan, Pete Holmes, Nick Vatterott, Kyle Kinane, CJ Sullivan and Mike O’Connell. The old cast - Josh Cheney, Bill Cruz, Steve O. Harvey, Dan Winter, Ken Barnard, TJ, the Drury Brothers. The man on the street segments. The Jesus clocks. The fez hats. Anytime I got to see Sean Cole. Anytime I got to see Pat Brice. There’re almost too many names and memories to mention because, at the time, the show was the centerpiece of my experience as a comedian in Chicago - the centerpiece of my identity as a comic.
Mark Geary, the grouchy British man who has continued to run the show for all 14 years was once somebody I was afraid of. I now count him as a good friend. He once sent me money in the mail, all the way to L.A., because a table of my old coworkers came in to see a show one weekend, after I’d moved. He asked them who they were there to see and they said, “We don’t know. But Mike Bridenstine used to perform here and we always liked the show.” If you’re in the Chicagoland area, go see the final shows (Kinane is headlining) and support Geary wherever he decides to take the show. I came back to do shows in May with Mike Holmes and Sean Patton, including Sean Flannery’s Blackout Diaries Show. And I had an amazing time. And I knew I would. I just didn’t know it’d be the last time I performed there. Change is inevitable. But I just wished I’d gotten to say goodbye.
Always look on the bright side of life…
Here’s a short clip from the Mike and Brady podcast with Andrew DeWitt. He’s telling us about the time Oprah had a show about analingus. Enjoy.