Loose Ends

Hey there, ‘Redheads… In the last blog or two, I’ve had to stop short due to brainlock or I’ve left out some odds and ends that didn’t fit with whatever I fooled myself into thinking was the theme of that particular installment. So, this one is devoted to cleaning out all of the extra crap that’s currently cluttering my cranium (alliteration, baby). Onward and backward…

Over the weekend, 15 intrepid friends and I braved the intense heat and pushed ourselves to the limits of human endurance and athletic competition. We played three mini-golf courses in one day, in the Second Annual Grand Slam of Mini-Golf

We ventured deep into the clown’s mouth to test our wills and prove we had some semblance of athletic skill. I was the clubhouse leader after the first 18 holes at Rocky Gorge, my hometown course when I was a lad, with an impressive 6 under par. From there, we traveled to Herndon, VA, for the second round at Woody’s Golf, home of Perils of the Lost Jungle, one of the top 5 mini-golf courses in the U.S. What the course lacked in difficulty, it more than made up for in production values…It was a cheeky mix of Robert Trent Jones and Indiana Jones. Despite some sloppy play on the front nine, I was able to extend my lead to seven shots heading into the final round at Hain’s Point in DC. I should mention, if you couldn’t tell already, that I get super competitive and overconfident in games of any kind where I get even a sliver of a lead. I gloat. I bluster. I’m a bit of a dick, which makes it all the more satisfying to everyone else when I eventually crumble under the weight of my own hubris. I tried to remain calm this time around, but I was being egged on by those breathing down my neck on the leader board, rooting for the inevitable. That brings us to the last leg of the day. This was the most difficult of the courses we’d faced all day. The sun had been beating down on us for hours and this was a no-frills course that required the kind of pinpoint short game that we quickly realized none of us had. The strokes piled up as seemingly easy putts lazily rolled past the hole without even saying hello. As prophesied, my lead eroded and I lost my bid for miniature glory by two strokes…well, three if you count the heat stroke.

The weekend before last, my friends and I found another fun way to enjoy heat exhaustion. We hopped in the car and headed down to Natural Bridge, VA. On the way, we saw a couple oddities on the road that I was able to snap some pictures of…Yes, that’s a DeLorean. I guess he was looking to save some time on his commute. I’m pretty sure where he was going, he still needed roads. We also spotted this…She got her hair did and she wanted to keep those curls tight for later on at the bingo hall. We took bets on whether she had a rolling pin in the passenger seat. Ok, enough of this penny ante stuff. I’ve got some pictures of true craziness for you. We checked out three roadside attractions and a natural wonder all in one day. You get a taste of each. First up is the majesty of the Natural Bridge…I’d been pretty jaded about nature since my trip to the Grand Canyon, but this was pretty impressive. We went from being awed by nature to being completely weirded out by the opposite of nature. An installation artist named Mark Cline built a couple roadside attractions to hold tourists’ sway once they got bored with beauty. Behold the twisted history lesson that is Dinosaur Kingdom…Allow me to answer some burning questions. Yes, that is a Union soldier being eaten by a T-Rex and yes, that is a velociraptor snacking on The Gettysburg Address. Basically, this was built around the conceit that an archaeological dig during the Civil War unearthed living dinosaurs that the North planned to use against the South, but things went horribly wrong. It’s Glory meets Jurassic Park. All that was missing was a fiberglass Jeff Goldblum telling Lincoln that using dinosaurs as a weapon was the worst idea in the long sad history of bad ideas (love that line). Mr. Cline also created another awesome spectacle just up the road…FOAMHENGE! Where the demons dwell. Where the banshees live and they do live well. Yep, he created a full scale replica of Stonehenge out of styrofoam…

Well crap. I was hoping to wrap this all up in a neat little package, but it’s getting late, and I’m running out of steam.

To be continued…

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Don’t Have a Title… I Should Join The Heat…

Hey there ‘Redheads… Welcome back to your nearly weekly dose of flim-flammery. I bring you reheated news that’s been piling up whilst I twiddle my thumbs and wait for the other eight fingers to muster up the energy to get typing. For example, did you guys hear that LeBron is joining D-Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami? I know! Why do they keep these things from us? A lot of clever names are being bandied about as the sports world tries to figure out what to call this new power trio: The 3 My-Egos, Miami Thrice, The Yankees. All of them are good tries, but I know what I’ll be calling them. The N.W.O. Check out this video from WCW’s 1996 Bash At The Beach. As my comedy buddy, Ryan Conner, pointed out, it completely parallels the Lebron situation, right down to the fan outrage…

Even if you’re not a fan of wrestling, the similarities are eerie. I’m hoping this new storyline will make next year’s NBA season halfway interesting. And LeBron better smack Kobe upside the head with a steel chair.

Speaking of fan outrage, I’d like to express a little of my own about Predators. I had fooled myself into thinking that my expectations were lower than Verne Troyer looking for a missing contact lens, but in my heart of hearts, I wanted this movie to be good. The Predator franchise deserved a decent sequel. And they got us fanboys all in a lather because the called it Predators, so it’ll be like Aliens was to Alien, right? And they lied to us in the previews by giving us WTF shots like this…Turns out, that bad ass shot isn’t even in the movie. It was just shot for the preview. And all of the action scenes in the last half of the movie are shot in the dark, so you can’t make out what the hell is going on. What should have been a great fight between a Yakuza killer with a samurai sword and a Predator, ended up being so muddled it wouldn’tve made it past the cutting room for Power Rangers. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the premise is basically that the best killers from our world (and Topher Grace) are air dropped onto an alien planet that serves as a Predator hunting ground. My big complaint for the movie as a whole was that the filmmakers took it for granted that we know how the Predators operate and do nothing to establish their tactics or technology. In the first Predator, you got to see Ahnold noodle things through, adapt to his dire situation, and match wits with the Predator. In this one, they just shoehorned in a final confrontation with Adrien Brody spouting lines from the first movie out of context, just to get a rise out of us. There were so many forced call backs, you might as well have just had the cast of this film reminisce about the first one. Also, and this was a major missed opportunity, they did NOTHING to acknowledge the firepower that Adrien Brody was packing. His character had an AA-12. Just watch…

It makes the mini-gun Jesse Ventura was toting look like a super soaker. There are a host of other things wrong with the flick but, long story short, save your money. If you want to see a great character-driven monster movie, go watch Aliens or Pitch Black.

Here’s an item that caught my eye…

Larry Hagman of ‘Dallas’ fame becomes the new face of SolarWorldActor Larry Hagman was all about petroleum when he played oil magnate J.R. Ewing in television’s long running “Dallas” series. These days, he’s pitching solar energy with a new slogan — “Shine, baby, shine,” — soon to air on a television near you. Hagman is the face of a new ad campaign for SolarWorld.

This story struck me because… Larry Hagman is still alive? Forget pushing solar energy, I thought he was pushing daisies five years ago. He’s probably advocating solar energy out of self-preservation, since he could be used as fossil fuel. Also, I think this is the face I’d want selling my product…Use solar energy or Larry Hagman will swallow your soul.

Wow, I haven’t even gotten to my fever dream of a trip to Natural Bridge, VA. It deserves it’s own blog, but I can tease you with this in the meantime…

To be continued…

Independent Thought

Hey there ‘Redheads… I hope everyone got through the 4th of July weekend with all of their extremities intact. Nothing says American freedom like setting off enough Chinese fireworks to have won the goddamn Revolutionary War in the first place. I think it’s kinda poetic, because in 100 years, we’ll declare financial independence from the Chinese by dumping a payload of sparklers into the Yangtze. Oh, the sense that could make. Speaking of the future of our American history textbooks, I hope everyone has set aside the time to watch the big LeBron James one-hour television extravaganza on ESPN tomorrow night. I know I can’t wait to find out where a 25 year-old will be making $100 million. Unless he chooses the winning city by throwing darts at a map, or he says that his Nike puppet will play his away games, or he reveals that he’s signing with the Washington Redskins, there isn’t a pie chart in the world that could accurately display just how little I care. Go where you will, win something, and shut the fuck up. I’m also glad the World Cup is just about done. It’s the wooden shoes and tulips versus empanadas and rain that stays mainly on the plain. Whoever wins, you can be assured their celebrations will be drowned out by the locust mating call of the vuvuzelas…

Over the weekend, I had to settle a small matter of comedy unpleasantness that came to my attention when I was driving home from the show in Maine. That Sunday was the night of the big TBS comedy special that featured the writers of the new Conan O’Brien Show. As it turns out, one of the writers, a comic named Josh Comers, does a joke about removing the analogies from the SATs that is identical to my joke about removing the analogies from the SATs. I went through my old VHS tapes of my early open mic sets and found an instance of me telling the joke from October of 2002…

Obviously, it’s more polished now and I was telling it to a grand total of about 7 people in that clip, but there it is. Unfortunately, the TBS video isn’t embeddable, but here’s the link to the special (skip to part 5, the joke is at the 2:40 mark…sorry about all the Twix commercials). I wanted to get in touch with him, so I did what anyone does these days, I looked him up on Facebook. This was our correspondence…

Hey there Josh…

I’m a comic out of DC who’s been performing about 8 years now in clubs around the country. On my way home from a gig last Sunday night, I get a call from a comedy buddy of mine who tells me to “turn on TBS right now.” I wasn’t able to then, but I’ve looked at the video online and you tell a joke that’s identical to one I’ve been telling since 2003. It’s the joke about taking the analogies out of the SATs. Same delivery. Same punch. I’m not accusing you of anything. I hope it’s just a case of parallel thinking and a good sign I could write for Conan someday. It was just a kick in the teeth hearing one of my favorite jokes being told on TV by someone who isn’t me.

–Jared Stern

Hey Jared. I absolutely cringed reading your message. As a comic, there’s nothing worse than feeling like one of your favorite jokes may have been ripped off.

Jared, I can assure you that this is a case of parallel thinking. I can’t pinpoint the exactly how long I’ve been doing the joke without going back and listening to cassettes, but I’ve been doing it for many years myself. No one has ever come up to me and said, “I heard someone else doing that joke”. If they did, I probably would have kicked the wall then stopped doing the joke, unless I could be certain I came up with it first.

I pride myself on my joke writing and being original. Good jokes are precious. I would never lift a joke one from another comic and have zero respect for anyone that does.

I appreciate your very reasoned tone about this. I hope what I’ve written here allays any suspicions and we can agree that this is one of those cases of parallel thinking.

Okay. So, where do we go from here?

Josh

That is a fine question, Josh… I guess I’ll be the one to give it up. You did it on TV, so anyone who sees me tell it from now on will think I cribbed it from the TBS special. It is on my CD, by the way, which isn’t exactly burning up the charts, but I sell it on the road.

It stinks, but it just confirms that I need to write more. Sorry to bug you about it. Good luck with the show.

–Jared

Jared, this may be ridiculous, but what if we both continued to do it from time to time? The fact is, for now, I’m pretty much anchored here in LA, and you’re on the road. I bet there’s likely a very small cross section of people who will see us both do that joke.

I’d understand if you’re resigned to dropping it, but I don’t know if it’s totally necessary right now. Hell, if we both drop it we may be motivated to write a joke of equal quality. Either way, I’m thinking I probably won’t do it as much given the situation.

I had totally forgotten that a similar thing happened to me once years ago. I was watching an old friend do a set on Letterman and he did a bit I’d been doing for a while. I had to stop doing the bit. While I’m guessing he’d seen me do it at some point, I never confronted him on it because he was a good guy who I didn’t think would never lift anything intentionally. Maybe he just absorbed it? Anyway, it still sucked.

In the mean time, let’s both write more stand up jokes. Just not the same ones.

Happy 4th.

Josh

Long story short, I’m probably going to drop it. Hopefully, the next time I manage to parallel a late night comedy writer, it can be in career trajectory.

To be continued…

Maine Lining

Hey there, ‘Redheads… From time to time I bring you news from the far away lands that I’m paid to bring mirth to. Well, last weekend I hitched the Mild Amusement Express to the tauntaun of the Geek Comedy Tour to trek up to Maine to play PortCon 2010 with geek jesters, Jake Young and Chris Barylick. The GCT specializes in turning the tables on society’s natural instinct to give wedgies to the uber-nerds among us and instead relates to them with professional grade inside jokes. PortCon is an Anime/Sci-fi convention that gives all of the kids that spent most of high school inside their lockers a safe haven to let their geek flags fly with impunity. These are the kind of people who know that Newton’s 1st Law of Motion is, “Do not talk about Newton’s Laws of Motion.” The inside of that hotel looked like a Hot Topic (and in many cases, a Torrid) exploded. It was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas if Hunter S. Thompson played Dungeons & Dragons and Dr. Gonzo watched Pokemon
You may be saying to yourself, “Jared, you’re not a geek. How ever did you manage to blend in?” Surprisingly well…
When it comes to geek world, I’m a daywalker of sorts (which is enough of a dork reference to give me away). It wasn’t so long ago that I attended a convention like this, with my bag of dice and my tattered character sheets. Actually, it pains me just how long ago it was. Back in my day, we flocked to the room full of 386’s to gawk at Castle Wolfenstein. These kids have networked PS3’s for Super Street Fighter 4 tournaments. I entered one of these tourneys to test the myth of my skillz. I was promptly bounced like Mel Gibson at Jay-Z’s BET Awards after-party. I button mashed valiantly, but I was no match for these whippersnappers who could pull off unblockable super combos like you or I check our email. I have a pretty good base knowledge of the geek world, but I was further out of touch than my ironic Star Wars t-shirt let on.

Our show was on Sunday afternoon in the giant outdoor tent that held the techno dance party the night before. What does a techno dance party at a geek convention look like, you ask? A little like this…

We got a huge crowd in there to see us, thanks in part to the impromptu flyers that Jake made up…
Roughly 200 eager geeks poured into the tent to check us out. My one big regret was not taking pictures during the show, but trust me, we were goddamn rock stars. I’ve done one other geek event with these guys, and I can honestly say that geek crowds are my favorite. They’re smart and they like to fill silences with applause. God (or whoever has their back) bless ’em every one.

I’ve got more from this trip, but it’s getting late, so I’ll get back to this soon.

To be continued…