On Being Taken Seriously & When Bill Simmons Went Insane

I was thinking recently about my unlikely dream of becoming a comedy writer when I invariably starting thinking about one of my former favorite writers, the Sports Guy Bill Simmons.

Bill Simmons used to be a comedy writer. He smartly started a blog in the early days of the internet and he wrote for AOL while bartending at night. This got him a job at ESPN, where his unabashed Boston fandom and mix of pop culture references were a refreshing and hilarious break from the usual seriousness of sports writing. In fact, he wasn't a sports writer at all - he was a humorist who wrote about sports.

Then the Milwaukee Bucks incident happened.

Around 2007-2008, Bill Simmons started a campaign to become the new GM of the Milwaukee Bucks. Citing the below average results of previous GMs, he asked "What did they have to lose?" A few Bucks fans even supported this campaign. As Simmons wrote in March 2008:

"When I jokingly announced my "campaign" to become the next Bucks GM on ESPN.com, something strange happened: Dozens of e-mails poured in from disgruntled fans pledging support.

Maybe I won them over by describing their plight as "a cross between indifference and hell," or by pointing out that "You couldn't do worse!" Maybe they were inspired by my Obama-like rhetoric ("Vote Simmons in 2008! Yes We Can!") or because I like Milwaukee and have always wanted to live there. These poor Bucks fans were like castaways drawing an SOS in the sand: In their beaten-down minds, a sports columnist who fancies himself the "Picasso of the ESPN.com Trade Machine" was their most appealing alternative in years."

Bill was excited. He believed he was being taken seriously by a large group of people, missing out on the fact the reason they're pretending to take him seriously is to stick it to the Bucks, not to hire a comedian to actually run the team.

But then came the backlash.

Sensing the gravity of their jobs were being diminished, some NBA GMs and coaches actually responded to Simmons. Coach Mike Dunleavy, when asked about the campaign, responded that Simmons was a "joke writer" with "no credibility." He responded honestly and truthfully. Simmons, and several members of the media, misunderstood the intent of phrase "joke writer," and instead of understanding it as "a writer who writes jokes," they thought Mike was telling Bill he was a joke of a writer. Same goes for "no credibility." Dunleavy would absolutely admit Simmons had credibility as a writer, but as far as evaluating NBA talent and negotiating contracts with agents, Bill actually had NO CREDIBILITY.

This is where we lost the old Sports Guy.

Bill was steamed at how the NBA attacked him. He couldn't believe how stupid NBA GMs and coaches thought he was.  Any normal comedian would obviously be hurt by these comments, but they'd turn it into a self-deprecating joke.  Not Bill Simmons. He immediately attempted to transform himself from funny sports fan to SPORTS EXPERT. Advanced sports stats? He knows it better than you do. What should the rules be? Ask him. Eventually Bill's power at ESPN grew so much that he was given his own website. The old Bill would have hired funny writers to fill out that site, the new Bill took his dad to convince Nate Silver to join him. And of course, Nate Silver is the expert of experts.

And Bill Simmons wanted to be his boss.

So as I always ask: what about me?

A few years ago I realized I wasn't even being taken seriously at my improv theater. I realized, "if I'm not being taken seriously here, how will I, a latin man from Queens, ever convince a TV executive that I can write and produce comedy?" I changed a lot of things about myself back then, and it kinda worked. Now instead of being a completely unsuccessful comedian, I am a completely unsuccessful comedian with four TV executives' business cards.

But here's the thing about being taken seriously: it isn't good for comedy. I think about this a lot. I really actually DO NOT want to be taken seriously because I think it's funny and thus better to not be, and yet I need to be taken seriously to navigate the white hegemony that is the comedy world. It's a weird conundrum!

So with that in mind, I've decided to just be serious about three things. Just three. Why? Because not only do I want to make comedy, I want to enjoy it as well. The three things I will taken seriously are as follows:

Getting paid. (Obviously)

Getting laid. (That's what the money's for)

Getting Raid.

raid.jpg

I can't believe you read this whole thing.

On the Ending of The Leftovers

In the final scene of The Leftovers, Nora goes on an Emmy un-nominated monologue about her visit to the other world.

Converse to the present world, there’s a world where 98% of the population disappeared. There’s barely anybody there, and after a bit of a struggle she is able to see the family that she lost, nearly complete and happy. After the departure she could not believe how unlucky she was to have lost her entire family, but now she realizes that in fact her family was lucky that they got to be together. She then tracks down the scientist who built the machine and went over, and she convinced him to send her back.

What a nice story...if only it were true.

 

What we have instead is a lie Nora tells herself to finally find closure with her terrible loss. As the scientists suspected, she chickened out and wasn’t actually interested in seeing what would happen in the machine. Matt carries her secret to the grave, knowing that he’d never see her again.

A few episodes earlier, Kevin calls Laurie in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Laurie later explains to him that he’s in a delusional state, and you’re not supposed to break a delusional person’s reality. However, she points out that Kevin called her, which is him subconsciously asking for help. She thus treats Kevin using her expertise in psychotherapy.

Who does Nora call from a payphone? Who has Nora been talking to every month for the past few years? Why it’s psychoanalyst Laurie! Laurie uses the same techniques she used with Kevin - gently leading Nora out of her own delusion without breaking the reality. She’s letting Nora believe that the 2% who disappeared are all in a mirror world and her family is happy.

Ok so what did happen to the 2%? We’ll never know. And that’s exactly the point. In a sense, as people pass, we are constantly leftovers. And we find stories to help us cope. But what happens when every single story falls short because of a cataclysmic, once-in-a-lifetime event? We have to make new ones to stave off the madness: thus the book of Kevin.

And what is the Book of Kevin? It’s a gospel. And like the gospels, it’s being read hundreds of years from when it actually happened, with some truth, a lot of exaggeration, and millions of fervent believers.
 

Brown Man's Burden

A couple of think-pieces have emerged in the wake of Kumail Nanjani’s hit comedy “The Big Sick.” Tying it to Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” the thesis is that brown men idolize white women, all the while erasing brown women. Conservative websites like The Daily Caller have already jumped on these, asking, “oh who is against race-mixing now?” 

 

As a man of Colombian and Indian descent, I immediately feel empathy for my brown comedian brothers. (These guys don’t know me nor will they ever know me I am a nobody). The pieces ask why there is a pattern of brown men writing about white women, and while they answer this question themselves, I'd like to offer a different perspective.

In my personal life I don't see much interracial marriage. My family in America is all Colombian, and by and large they married Colombians. No they didn’t marry Latinos - they married actual Colombians. And yes, they met here.

Growing up I went to a diverse high school in Queens, but it was pretty much the same. Black kids dated black kids, Indian kids dated Indian kids. Even among white people, the Italian kids stuck with their Italian clique and grew up to make beautiful families off their modest cop salaries.

However, when I started doing theater, I met a whole new group of people - and they were white. In high school, I was the only brown kid in the entire group. In college, it was the same. As the son of an interracial couple, it didn’t seem weird to me to date white people with whom I did theater or comedy. However, my family would often ask me when I was going to marry a Colombian woman. They’d ask me when I was going to start a business and leave the comedy stuff behind. It’s very difficult for immigrants who came to America and immediately moved up a few classes watch their progeny sorta meander around. It was me against what my family fantasized about me and all the while I’m surrounded by the whites. So when I watch Kumail and Aziz go through similar stuff, I empathize.

But something is still missing from the equation, isn't there? Even though I am a brown person who AGAINST THE ODDS became a featured extra on The President Show, I was still a man who got that opportunity through the freedom that comes with being a dude. In the Big Sick, Kumail is offered women, and I mean offered, who are seemingly trapped by their parents. It’s actually a little bit of a nightmare and probably the biggest part of the movie that needed a little bit more unpacking. How tough does Kumail have it living up to his parents' standards? Well at least he’s allowed to wear a t-shirt.

Now we got a couple brown guys with their own shit and they're writing about white women. I actually don't think this is a problem in and of itself, but I think you can make a case that it's endemic of the need to help brown and black women who are grossly underrepresented in the media into these comedy and theater spaces. This shit doesn’t happen overnight. You need rigorous training and years of experience before you can functionally tell your own story, and these women are not getting that. This is a cultural issue and that's plural: a culture that won’t let go of women, and on the other end, a culture that doesn’t embrace them.

Why do Kumail and Aziz write about white people? Because that's probably the only people they really hung out with during their formative years. Mindy Kaling did sketch comedy in Boston. She's not secretly battling Indian patriarchy by only casting white dudes - white dudes are just the only dudes she knows.

But at the end of the day these are brown people with their own shows and movies, and I feel like that is a step in the right direction. We can use them as allies and ask them to help better represent diversity. Labeling them as white idolizers is not only extreme but really doesn't offer a solution. 

There's gotta be a solution, or else you too will be the Master...

of...

NONE...

(Please email all hate-mail to Kumail and Aziz's assistants, thank you.)

A Horrible Product for a Terrible Culture

I was on Facebook today when I happened upon something called a Zenbooth. It's a small booth you can put in your office to give your workers privacy. The ad claimed that open office plans have destroyed productivity, and adding this small box that can fit one person at a time will help. 

Now I personally am not a fan of the open office plan, or any office plan at all, but I never would have imagined standing in a box so co-workers can watch me, but not hear me, scream at my ex-wife. The Zenbooth shown in the ad is not even its basic version.

That's right. What we were looking at was the deluxe $19,000 version, and at that price you may as well just drive a Toyota Camry into your office. Meanwhile the basic version is just a large cabinet.

Upon closer inspection, I found a striking detail.

NO VENTILATION! Better make it a quick phone call.

How To Be A Latin Lover: Barely Latin, Even Less Love

The movie begins with main character, Maximo, narrating that as a boy, his father worked hard but still tried to find time to visit his kids. The dad then falls asleep on the drive home and crashes his truck into their house, which then explodes and kills him.

The movie oddly re-begins with him and his sister homeless, living out the back of a station wagon. This is where the Maximo decides he wants to be a gigolo, pointing to a magazine picture and saying he’d rather be a trophy wife than a rich man.

The movie then has ANOTHER prologue, this time with Maximo as an 18 year old hotel worker on the lookout for a rich trophy wife. He finds her.

Cut to 25 years later. Maximo is now lazy and out of shape, overly pampered by his wife’s staff. She cheats on him though with Michael Cera, who oddly doesn’t care that he’s caught. Neither does the wife. And neither does Maximo. In fact, nobody in this movie cares about anything! However, his wife leaves him IMMEDIATELY, even though she seemed perfectly happy about a minute ago, and even though she bought him millions of dollars worth of gifts and they were married for 25 years and she cheated on him (that must have been SOME pre-nup!), she throws him out on the street with nothing.

Now the problem with lazy logic such as this is that now you have nothing real to build off of. If nobody cares, all you have left is cheesy slapstick and bad improv. And man, is there a lot of that.

Maximo moves back home with his sister, Salma Hayek, who he hasn’t spoken to in 25 years. In fact, we learn he missed his mother’s funeral and never met his nephew, which I’d argue is sociopathic behavior. Also, even though she’s Salma Hayek, she is nerdy and pines for her neighbor, just some guy, but she’s nervous because she hasn’t been able to find a guy to have sex with in 5 years.

I really live in the wrong apartment building.

So Maximo concocts a scheme to teach her 10-year-old son, whose father died by the way, to seduce his classmate so he can seduce her rich grandmother. That is the only time Maximo ever even mentions being a latin lover. The rest of the movie he has to play straightman to Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, and Rob Heubel as they unhilariously banter about shit nobody cares about.

The movie has more monotone, middle-aged white guys than the '53 Yankees.

Not only does this movie suffer from nobody caring about anything and extreme meanness (at one point he tells his nephew, who writes letters to his dead father about his life, “you know he’s not gonna get those, right?” Cue the laughs) but we coulda used a little bit of seduction! Eugenio Derbez is nearly 60 years old, so you won’t really get a young sexy performance out of him. However, it’s as if he’s never seen Julio Iglesias, Raul Julia, Ricardo Montalbon, or any of the other iconic older latin heartthrobs. In fact, the only time he seduces a woman, he’s just polite.

If you want to be a latin lover, Idunno, you gotta do stuff that’s latin! Dancing, talking in Spanish, singing -  something! Let’s see some romance. Let’s see him fail, and succeed, let’s see him care, and let’s see people care about him.

Let’s not see the Robs argue about accidentally ordering a children’s motorcycle followed by Rob Lowe accidentally pulling out a dildo.

The Golden Girls, and Hollywood's New Disease

I’d not seen The Golden Girls before two weeks ago. My girlfriend, who is a comedy writer, made me put the first day it was on Hulu on my calendar. Even though I knew it was a good show, it was way better than I expected. It’s about three older women who live together in Florida. The plot of the first episode is that one of them is getting married and the other two may have to move out. That’s all. Simple. And even though they’re retired senior citizens, it’s barely about that. Each character has depth and a unique perspective.

I then started to wonder, could they make this show today?

I say this because I don’t think I Love Lucy could happen today. A white woman married to a middle class latino? YEAH RIGHT.

 

Maybe they’d make it a drama. I could see an episode where Ricky gets arrested and Lucy has to bail him out, but they don’t believe they’re married. There’d be another episode where Lucy’s family disapproves of Ricky. Then there’d be an episode with a racist neighbor, and so on and so forth.

That’s because every TV show today is about a condition called, “Not-30-Year-Old-Hot-White-Person-Itis.”

If you’re not a 30 year old hot white person, you have this condition. And you have to constantly talk about it.

Look at Big Bang Theory: they’re not hot, so they have to be SUPER nerdy and CONSTANTLY talk about being a NERD. In a show like How I Met Your Mother, where very few if any characters suffer from “Not-30-Year-Old-Hot-Person-Itis,” we have actual characters with depth. In Big Bang Theory, every character is basically an interchangeable nerd.

In the 80s we had The Cosby Show. Today it has to be called Blackish.

Margaret Cho starred in All-American Girl. Today we have Fresh Off The Boat.

1988: Roseanne. 2017: Mom.

Ricky in the aforementioned I Love Lucy has an accent, but he runs a club. In Modern Family, Sofia Vergara can barely speak even though the show has been on the air for 25 years.

That’s not to say that people who suffer from Not-30-Year-Old-Hot-White-Person-Itis shouldn’t talk about what it’s like to suffer from the syndrome, but aren’t non-white comedy writers tired of making being non-white their whole entire schtick? I just want to write funny stuff, and yes, I happen to be a little more tan and a little more first generation American.

I saw recently a pilot pitch competition, and the first line of every pitch had to be you comparing your original pilot to two other sitcoms. “It’s Seinfeld meets Cheers.” BARF! Imagine those two shows being compared to any of their predecessors. In fact, all the great shows are very original and allow for unique, diverse voices to truly live in their world. It’s almost as though now when Hollywood asks for a unique voice, it has to meet their prejudged definition of unique. “We want a Latino show, but the Latino that I, a rich white executive, is already thinking about.”

By doing this, creative momentum dies. Instead of an industry that thrives on new young talent, it just becomes children of rich creatives who have connections writing photocopies of minorities.

And what happens every time you photocopy a photocopy? It just keeps getting shittier and shittier until it looks like nothing at all.

Get Out Wasn't What I Signed Up For

I cried tears when I watched the trailer for Get Out. What a nightmare - this young black man whose wealthy white girlfriend unwittingly brings him to her small town to not only discover they are racist, but they may be re-enslaving African-Americans. I told myself it’d be pretty hard to see this film, but I couldn’t help myself - with a trailer this good, I had to go.

What I got was not that at all.

 

Let’s start with the scene from the trailer: she admits she doesn’t tell her family he is black. That is what I call in the dating world a "red flag." I can somewhat understand her being so “woke” she doesn’t see color, which by the way isn’t woke, but she didn’t even show them a picture? A neurosurgeon and a psychiatrist don’t have Facebook or cell phones? Personally, I’d at least ask my white girlfriend to send them a text, because a three day weekend with white people who are not prepared to find out a brown man is boning their princess is a recipe for disaster. In fact, as any brown man might tell you - no picture/ no description is typically indicative of something else…

That she knows her parents are racist.

However,  her parents are not racist - they love black people, and they want her to have a black boyfriend who comes over. So why drag him and the audience through this canard? Don’t you want him to come without any suspicions?

As we later learn their cockamamie scheme, these are precisely the red flags this community should not be committing so black men let their guard down. But the film is rife with them:

  • Casually slipping into “jive”

  • Asking constant questions about the black experience as if he’s the first black person they met

  • Having two black servants who look like they’ve been drugged

  • Having a 55 year old white woman married to a similarly drugged young black man who dresses like Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird even though he has two clear tattoos and eventually snaps out of his catatonic state and tells him to escape

  • Sitting down to dinner with her Nazi brother who talks about eugenics, what I consider a party foul

And they’ve done this at least 10 times? Team white people better call a timeout and get their shit together.

So then we learn the twist - that they’re capturing black people so they can re-implant old white brains into them so they can live another life as a black person. We learn this because next to his bed is an open closet labeled ‘yikes,’ in which there’s a box labeled, ‘uh oh,’ in which there is one picture of each black boyfriend (and one girlfriend) she has brought to the house.

No.

That is an absolutely lazy reveal. Damning evidence in this kind of thriller can’t just come out of nowhere. How about this? She has a photo album that she looks at throughout the film, and she tells Chris that it’s pictures of special people in her life but she doesn’t want anybody else to see it. He tricks her into leaving her bag unsupervised, and then he looks at the album to discover it’s each of her victims.

“I loved them all. And I love you,” she'd announce from the doorway with her family behind her.

And again, this family has done this at least 10 times - they should be way tighter than this, but Chris is still smarter.

Now, we learn this community is racist, but here’s their racism: they want to be black people because of their superior genes and they want more of them in the community.

What?

I kinda get that the grandpa lost to Jesse Owens and never got over it. But he convinced the whole rest of the old rich white community to become black people? Yeah, that’ll work out, just a whole town of rich old white people suddenly becoming a town full of 28 year old rich black people. I hope none of the white people have kids!

And also, in no way is this indicated in the movie. All the zombie black people barely have a personality. You’d think an old man and old woman in a young nubile body wouldn’t be walking gently and talking softly. In fact, the only time the “grandpa” shows off his body is when he runs passed Chris late at night without stopping to say hello.

Red flag. Red flag.

Finally, from a screenwriting standpoint, the movie should have started on the drive, which was the purpose of the phone call to his friend and is the perfect time for exposition (Also closer to our first scare.) And they could have used this 10 minutes because the movie ended too early! The TSA agent saves the day, but two black men are leaving an affluent white community with several murders and a house that was burned down (HIDING THE EVIDENCE!!!!!).

What a missed opportunity for REAL HORROR.

The fallout would be hard to write, but to me it’d be way more interesting to watch him try to explain any of that.

Anyway, I laughed a few times and didn’t HATE the movie. The cotton move was terrific, and I was locked in after he was tied up in the basement. It was also well-acted, and I was absolutely relieved to see that Josh Lyman from the West Wing is hot again.

I guess I was just disappointed because the movie was about cultural microaggressions and some sort of reverse eugenics. That’s just too satisfying and easy to digest. It wasn’t what was in the trailer, and the real meat of racism:

White discomfort with and disapproval of the other.

Can I Go To La La Land?

The only things I knew about La La Land when I walked into the theater were that it starred dreamboat Ryan Gosling, it had the record for most Oscar nominations, and it was a movie about white people saving jazz.

When I walked out, I understood everything.

Firstly, let me tell you how bad this script is. There’s a part where Gosling talks about “a shady man” who screwed him. He then runs into John Legend, who offers him a spot in his band. Gosling is uncomfortable, and I immediately thought, “oh this is the guy who screwed him.”

It isn’t! Instead, Legend is an up-and-coming jazz musician who is about to go on tour and offers Gosling $1000 a week and a share of the record and merchandise sales.

And he’s the bad guy.

Because...he’s...famous?

At times cell phones exist, like when they need to walk and talk. But at two key moments, cell phones don’t exist. Moments in which the invention of cell phones would save them a hell of a lot of trouble. Also, at two points in the film, segregation exists.

But I digress. It’s a musical, which means Gosling is supposed to sing. Instead, he emits something I could only describe as a soft car horn. The other actors, including Whiplash’s JK Simmons, are so one-dimensional you could tip them over and lay them flat on the floor. Stone works at a cafe for a boss who doesn’t understand why she needs off for an audition, even though the cafe is LITERALLY in the heart of a movie studio.

Now, the movie is gorgeously shot. I also could stare at Emma Stone’s eyes and Ryan Gosling’s furrowed brow all day. And some of the songs are catchy, even though the lyrics to the main theme are “It’s another day of sun, the day has just begun,” which reads more like a suicide note.

AND????

This movie is a lock for at least 10 Oscars and it’s one of the most honest things I’ve seen in a long time.

I am of the belief that Hollywood has gone completely insane. It was always rich and white, but now they’ve reached a level of privilege that has completely isolated them from the common person. Homogeneity destroys the human brain and boy was it ever clear that these folks are out of their damn minds. A couple of mildly talented "broke" white people with unlimited budgets running around LA saving jazz FROM A BLACK GUY!

YAAAAAAASSSSSSSSS!

There's nothing outwardly "pernicious" about the intentions in this film. This is what the people want (it made 10 times its modest $30mil budget) and this is what Hollywood wants (record for most nominations). And even though the film was about everything I'm not about, I want to know what the other side sees. I want to see their world through their eyes. I was openly sobbing at the end because their world is a world I want to be in.

They’re in la la land.

And I am thankful that for $15 bucks, I got to live there for a couple hours.

For the Wealthy, It's Now Put Up or Shut Up

 

If you're rich, it’s about to be a fucking party.

 

Tax Policy Center, a center-left think tank, explains Trump’s tax cuts thusly:

“ ... the highest-income 0.1 percent of taxpayers (those with incomes over $3.7 million in 2015 dollars) would experience an average tax cut of more than $1.3 million in 2017, nearly 19 percent of after-tax income.”

Now, most wealthy people actually don’t make much income. Romney famously paid very little taxes because most of his money was in stocks. Trump says he is worth around $10 billion, but his biggest single income stream is $22mil a year from real estate in NY. The money he gets from everything else isn’t taxed nearly as much, if at all, because he doesn’t work for anybody.

Except for Putin.

In fact, wealthy people don’t really pay taxes. You get taxed if you have a business, but what exactly is the Koch Brothers business when they got $88mil in government subsidies? Meanwhile, your local NY bodega is probably paying taxes up its asshole.

Just below these untouchably wealthy people are wealthy people who get taxed a LOT because they do get salaries. While the bottom 50% of Americans provide about $34 billion in tax revenue (3% on average), the top 5% paid $720 billion (an average of 23%).

Now, to pay for these tax cuts, Trump is planning to reduce government spending, including completely eliminating the $150 million National Endowment of the Arts.  Here’s where I get to my point:

With huge tax cuts for the wealthy and government subsidies that pay the salaries and livelihoods of thousands of Americans gone, it’s put up or shut up time from the rich. I’ll even arbitrarily set the bar at TPC’s $3.7 a year. If you’re pulling in that kind of dough and not donating or providing jobs with the extra tax cut you’re getting (you know, actually helping) - then you’re useless.

I hope people turn a much more critical eye towards the wealthy and stop listening to their rah rah words and just pay attention to their actions. Reading somebody “nail” liberal causes is of little value when you have no healthcare so somebody can buy a second villa in Italy.

A Martin O'Malley Supporter Looks Back

I met up for a drink with  a friend of mine recently. An unflinching feminist and outspoken Clinton supporter, we had a heated debate a year ago over our preferred candidates for the Democratic Nomination. For her, it was Bernie Sanders. For me, it was Martin O'Malley.

You may laugh out loud here.

A year ago we both didn't think Hillary could win because she had too much baggage, something we laughed about at our recent rendezvous. I eventually came around to her side about Bernie right around the time she became Team Hillary. But in the interest of wrongness, people should know that for a few months, I argued passionately for Marty O'Malley.

My arguments for O'Malley were pretty simple: he was a young governor who supported the Dream Act. That was two-fold for me: you can tout his executive experience and the fact that he actually stuck his neck out for something. This to me meant he could win. 

However, his campaign fell apart almost as soon as it began. Sure there were there were some pro O'Malley stories, like "Why Martin O'Malley could be the future of the Democratic Party." But the energy of the party was absorbed by the other two candidates. Even his home state wasn't digging him, a death-knell. One woman I spoke to told me that everybody in Maryland knows that O'Malley has a secret family.

When the debates began, I felt like Homer Simpson when he bet on Santa's Little Helper. Hillary was masterful against the Democrats, and because she and Bernie needed each other's supporters, they safely ignored the handsome man who whistles when he speaks. His staff went unpaid during the final stretch at Iowa, where he received zero delegates and quickly quit. I voted for Bernie in the primary well after Hillary wrapped it up, but I gave Martin one final shoutout.

I spoke to a journalist about it and told her that I voted Bernie because I hoped the party would take on more of his policies, and she replied, "holy shit! So did I!"

I then told her I would have voted for O'Malley had he still been on the ballot, and the conversation quickly died down.

Eh well, that's politics for ya.

Hacks

Speaking of hacks, it always makes me sad when people confuse my usage of the word hack with someone who has no talent. Just because you can't write an original introspective joke doesn't mean you're not a great performer. However, there are three main features of hacks you should be aware of so you don't get tripped up.

1. They do comedy you've seen before.

This is the most conspicuous part of the hack. Maybe it's a joke, maybe it's a premise. But they are very cognizant of what's popular and pretend they don't pay attention.

2. They are primarily business people.

Most comedians are ignorant towards the business side of comedy. Hacks see this as an opportunity. Whereas comedians are writing, hacks are collecting and “networking.” It's always good to meet people, but rather than talk about the art they want to make, they talk about the “success” they want to attain and think about how you can help them get there.

3. They protect themselves at all costs.

We all make things about ourselves, but a hack will always surprise you with their tenacity. “Damn, he said he cared about people like me” you'll find yourself thinking. They're very observant performers, so they mimic powerful “I support the little guy” language. But as soon as a little guy gets out of line in a way that doesn't behoove them, look the fuck out. A comedian is able to find humor in any situation but a hack will hit hard without a shred of irony.

I've been doing comedy in NYC for about 14 years. It's a rough business. I once had a booker at Broadway Comedy Club threaten to end my career in front of several comics (lol wait maybe she did?). Oh and she once did 10 minutes on Comedy Central in the '90s and that not only remains her only credit but also her entire 10 minutes of material. I see her in a lot of other people who work in this business. However, I’ve been able to navigate it more easily by staying away from hacks and just concentrating on Facebook.

The Optics Era is Over

Donald Trump’s major beef has always been optics. I remember very clearly when he gave a policy speech on the children of undocumented immigrants, he was freely calling them “anchor babies.” A reporter then asked him to stop using that pejorative term, to which he just answered, “oh you want me to be PC. We don’t have time for PC folks.”

By the way, I am the child of undocumented immigrants, and I am one of the finest people you’ll ever meet.

Optics are exhausting to the “anti-PC” crowd, “oh I have to think about how EVERYBODY feels?” They want simplicity, “like the old days.”

They’re not racist - they claim - they just don’t have the energy to care about theory.

It’d be one thing if this were just on the right. But over the course of the past year I noticed something:

The left is exhausted too.

Never mind how freely and cowardly people disparage or ignore the poor. I once got incensed when a multi-millionaire said, “I can still put food on my plate” - an insulting and depraved way to describe having 200 million dollars.

Nobody really thinks about the poor and Republicans are about to bull-in-china-shop their money and their food. Fuck them.

No, I’m talking about powerful people on the left just not giving a shit. Charlamagne claiming black and latina women don’t work as hard as Tomi Lahren. Lena Dunham’s comments about Odell Beckham. An all-white male panel on diversity and women in Hollywood, which by the way, happened YESTERDAY.

People are stunned, but believe me, under President Man of the Year, it’ll only get worse.

Whenever my friends and I talk about racism in Hollywood, I tell them that in the 1950s the most popular TV show in America starred a Cuban-American man who could barely speak English and his white wife. That would NEVER happen today. Why do I think that? Well take a look at this:

 

By the way, I have offered Amy a sketch starring me where she falls in love with a mechanic as an olive branch to the latino community through my manager, Mort McGovern. Still waiting, Amy!

Now honestly, I don't really give that much a fuck about this. This is probably what she believes about straight latino men and while I am again the finest man you'll meet, I don't know how women feel about this. But it was definitely a moment in my life where I thought, "damn."

We’ll probably see more of that in the Trump era. People are tired. The goals of the left are unclear, if we have any. But I think optics is done. In fact, that was Hillary Clinton’s final campaign commercial: a minute of Trump’s horrible rhetoric.

And we lost.

And I would agree with all defenses of every "un-PC, punching down" statement made by someone on the left: people make mistakes, there’s some truth there, they were tired, it was off the cuff, they actually care, and so on and so forth.

Just remember the big orange man who defended himself the same way.

Did You Hear the New Smiths?

Around January of this year, I started to realize that the movement was in trouble.

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who are collectively worth around $200mil, threw the biggest temper tantrum in history by sitting out the Academy Awards because Will was not nominated for Concussion. It even inspired the hashtag #oscarssowhite. While I too was surprised at the snub since Hollywood is made up of Concussion’s key demographic, people who act and sound like they just had a concussion, I was increasingly disturbed by the language the Smiths were using.

“This is so deeply NOT about me,” Will Smith lied, “This is about the children who are going to sit down and watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented.”

Not only is this so insulting to poor and minority children who a. Probably don’t watch the Academy Awards and b. Aren’t stupid enough to think that a couple rich folks getting gold is representative of them, but never does he mention real issues with minorities getting in the door in Hollywood. Like, unpaid internships for example.

While the mega-rich hem and haw about an award that will add 15% to their net worth, unpaid internships, which are often full time, and 6 months to a year long, ensure that those coming up in the ranks remain white and rich. And then who do white and rich people cast? White and rich people. And then who do white and rich people vote for? You get it.

The media rarely if ever points this out because they function the same way. Vox recently opened up a full time job in NYC for a ‘race and identities writer.’ This writer will work full time, 50 hours a week, writing about race while living in midtown NYC.

And it pays $30,000 a year.

No exaggeration. Vox raised $300mil, and they want to pay a presumably PoC writer $30k a year.

Now, I’m friends with many journalists, and they’d say that they wished they got 30k when they first started out. But you know who else knows this? Vox. And trust me, while Vox wants a R&I writer, they definitely don’t want someone who isn’t somewhat independently wealthy because of their parents or their spouse. It’s almost as if they don’t want … a certain … class?

But thankfully Will Smith said he would be contributing money to the problem. He and his wife now have a program to educate other actors and directors in Hollywood about diversity.

How much for 500 copies of Crash?

You might ask why is Will and Jada fighting “racism” a problem. Well, you see, the problem is that they become the most vocal leaders of the left. And politicians, who think they’re cool, want people to associate these celebrities with liberal causes. But it backfires. Instead of thinking liberal causes are “cool,” which sure, a few vocal and influential liberal publications will claim, they start thinking leftist causes are just for the mega-rich.

Consider this John Leguizamo lie in the NY Times:

A well-intentioned producer once said to me, “John, you’re so talented, but too bad you’re Latin — otherwise you’d be so much further along.”

You see this a lot - the anonymous racist and sexist producer. 99% of Hollywood has run into him and yet he’s still chugging along. But imagine somebody being so stupid as to say that John Leguizamo, a character actor who gets a ton of roles mostly because he is Latino, would be “further along” if he were ‘not latin.’ You mean like Fernando Lamas, Anthony Quinn, Raul Julia, and Desi Arnaz? If John weren’t Latin, what would he be? Ryan Gosling? What’s the endgame here?

All this is to say we need to cut out the rich, “what about me?” liberals. If you’re rich, you have something nobody else can buy: freedom. So if you willfully participate in Hollywood’s disgusting racism and sexism after making 500, 100, or 25 million dollars, then guess what? You are not a hero! You are what is called “an accomplice.” Don’t insult people’s intelligence by looking up racism stats on Wikipedia and saying, “oh yeah, I get that too.”

People enjoy watching celebrities on TV, but they’re smart enough to know that no celebrity is going to help them get healthcare, a living wage, or a college education. Hillary Clinton played a 2-on-2 basketball game with Lebron James against Beyonce and her husband, and she still got crushed in Ohio.

When everyday people face racism and sexism, when a young black man’s job application is denied because of his name or a woman is sexually harassed at work, they are fighting FOR THEIR LIVES. You can’t associate people fighting for their livelihood with people fighting for their lives. They’re two completely different things. Until mega-rich celebrities, and I’m not even talking about the 9th lead on Chicago Fire here, make their entire platform about how sexism and racism can make you poor and how they don’t want anybody else to go through to make $25k what they had to go through to become millionaires, then people will just ignore them and ignore the politician high-fiving him at a rally.

Hollywood leans left, it’s everywhere, and because of how hard they’ve co-opted the movement from the people it actually matters to, nobody gives a fuck.

Can Comedy Rise from the Ashes of Centrist Democrat Pandering?

I’d like to begin this week by sharing a time capsule of sorts. I advise you to watch only the first minute, but here is 25 minutes of Norm MacDonald on SNL’s Weekend Update insulting Hillary Clinton:

 

Brutal, and not “a brutal takedown” as in the modern parlance, but barbaric in a way I had not seen or heard for years against one of the leading Democrats from the leading voice of comedy at the time. It’s also a sobering reminder that for many years before the Monica scandal, Bill’s affairs were common knowledge and Hillary was nearly indicted for Whitewater.

Now comedy is basically all Centrist Democrat. The now toothless Daily Show has spawned a hyperactive, hyper-smug copycat in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Daily Show-lite segments on The Late Show and Late Night. All these shows are not even leftist. They’re centrist, which is a philosophy espoused by their white writing staffs. Notice there’s never any mention of Hillary’s neo-conservative “No Fly Zone” promise or her support from Bush’s entire administration. (This was not a red flag?) SNL opened its post-election show with a funeral song, which, according to my journalist friend in the midwest, was the hardest Republicans had laughed at SNL in years.

This is not to say that there isn’t racist, sexist and homophobic TV everywhere else. I have a feeling CBS’s Monday Night block is just gay joke followed wife joke followed by latino joke ad infinitum. But the problem is these centrist TV shows who once sprayed cannon fodder at all politicians have now started speaking like America does not.

Donald Trump even called it out, saying SNL was one-sided. The answer from the left (or center) was that conservative comedy sucked. (And it does.) But this misses the entire point. There’s not supposed to be conservative or liberal comedy. There’s supposed to just be “comedy.” How soon we forget that both Gore and Bush watched SNL episodes of their debate where they each got eviscerated and made adjustments accordingly? Followed by SNL making fun of their adjustments.  

Is it comedy's fault that Hillary lost? Every single show will say no, which is a hip answer. Go ahead and read this in John Oliver's English brogue: "Oh no, of course not, we are a comedy show on the same network as naked barbarians hurling swords at scaly dragons."

But they could have helped. Most people thought "I'm With Her" was a horrible slogan. How do I know this? Because somebody in the DNC told me that everybody was pissed at her staff about it. "I'm With Her" is like saying, "I'm With Pepsi." And how stupid do you have to be to come up with a slogan that your candidate is not allowed to say? That's the point of a slogan. 

All this isn't to say that people shouldn't be allowed a point of view. We need MORE feminism, we need MORE diversity.  But comedy can't just be centrist Democrat white guys saying they're smarter than half of America and ignoring things they care about.

Because at the very least, they'll turn you off and watch someone else.

The Dash Button

There's something that exists on Amazon called the Dash button. If you've not heard of it, I'll let Google explain:

Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected during the set-up process. When you're running low, simply press Dash Button—ensuring you never run out of your essentials again.

Maybe I'm an idiot, but whenever I think about the implications of this dash button, my brain makes a noise like somebody put their tie into the disc changer. 

Firstly, can you imagine needing something so quickly that you just wanted to press a button? A single button. The only thing I can imagine is maybe sex, though that's at best a sexist fantasy and at worst illegal. And it still would take two days on Amazon Prime's delivery schedule.

"Damn, I'd like sex, fuck it, next day delivery."

Not to mention all the packages I miss because they only deliver when I work. Can you imagine coming home to a note that says, "You missed out on some sex. Will try again another time."?

I already get that note every Sunday morning.

But seriously, if you run of Tide, and instead of logging into your laptop and ordering it like an adult, you just want to press a button, please sit down and reconsider your entire life. The credit card era has already limited us to certain stores and erased our perception of cost. An era where people just press buttons and it all gets paid by a mythical account means you'll a. go broke without knowing it, and b. be chained to a specific brand for no reason other than convenience.

And if you have a dog, get ready to come home one day to 300 boxes of Folgers coffee.

The Latino Voting Bloc Is Falling Apart

According to CNN exit polls, Donald Trump won 30% of the Latino vote, more than the last two Republican candidates. This was after he kicked off his candidacy by hastily quoting a magazine he read backstage and saying that Mexico was willfully sending murderers and rapists to America, and that he assumed some were good people, as though he had never seen a brown person in his life.

Just before the election, I read on a news crawl that Trump reached out to Venezuelan-Americans to tell them he would be tough on Nicolas Maduro. It scared me.

Because he just won a few more votes.

Latinos in America are an eclectic group. First of all, contrary to popular right wing belief, undocumented immigrants cannot and do not vote. Unless Trump inserts a grandfather clause into the Constitution and incites World War III within the United States, most Latinos who voted did not feel like they were voting for their lives. Could some have been voting for the safety of friends and family? Sure. But again, the Latino voting bloc is a loose confederation that is increasingly starting to wonder what binds it together.

There are Colombian-Americans who are against Colombia’s peace talks with the FARC. The aforementioned Venezuelan-Americans who have seen extreme left-wing ideology plunge Venezuela into chaos. The same goes for Cuban-Americans. These are not easy Democratic pickups.

There are huge generational differences between Latinos on issues like gay marriage, and there are Latinos who are so religious they align completely with white evangelicals. Not to mention that an increasing amount of Latinos are identifying as white, as well as Latinos who have been here for many generations and may not even speak Spanish.

I have a feeling that Trump’s White House Voltron of white nationalists, conservative Republicans, wealthy industrialists, and Silicon Valley technocrats will fall apart after it tries to take its first step. But if Republicans continue to find these wedge issues and tap down the rhetoric, they’ll probably make even more gains, and politicians may stop using the word “Latino” at all.

Finally, since I mentioned undocumented immigrants, I’d like to share an anecdote. I spend a lot of time in rural Pennsylvania, and in a county that voted heavily for Trump, I found one of my favorite diners closed until 1pm on a Sunday morning. I asked the diner owner how could that be, and she said, “the guys who used to work here left, and the kids who work here now don’t wanna wake up that early.”

I had a feeling in my gut what the “guys” looked like and what the “kids” looked like, and I hope people think about that before following through on policies that are least misguided and uninformed, and at most dangerous and un-American.

Praising Moms for "Working Hard" is an Indictment On Our Culture

While listening to Louis CK on Conan the other day, he said that one of the reasons he is voting for Hillary is that she is a mom, and moms get things done. Fathers, on the other hand, can only provide 40% of a child's needs.

Now, I am also voting for Hillary, and it's because women's reproductive rights and gay rights are a non-starter for me. Either you are going to put in Supreme Court justices to protect them, or I can't listen to your tax plan that saves me $20.

So, I'm glad Louis is advocating voting for Hillary. However, I hear these phrases a lot. "Moms know better." "Moms are tireless." "Mars needs moms."

And it's revolting. 

Moms are...human beings. Thus, they deserve the rights and respect offered to all other human beings. However, we actually shit on moms all day. No paid maternity leave. Very few worker's rights. Expensive childcare. The pink tax. I could go on and on. Are most of the mothers I meet wise? Yes. But they're wise in the sense that people who get fucked over their whole lives have to develop extra skills to survive.

It's not something we should celebrate - it's an indictment on our culture.

In the same sense, there is a thread out there that men are bungling buffoons. It's only the plot of every sitcom. And this too is an indictment. Are we really a culture that thinks it's fun when men don't know how hard women work in the home? Or don't understand how to rear a child? That just seems to me like a gross absence of responsibility and yet it is played out over and over again. 

This is also not an indictment on Louis CK, who is a comedian. Artists should be able to do whatever the fuck they want, honestly. However, his routine on Hillary, filled with the benevolent sexism of the liberal left, exposes cracks in our society that I wish weren't there.