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StandUp“Just give them a good show, sweetie. You never know who’ll be in the audience.”

Those words are sounding inside me as I stare uncomfortably at the doe-eyed woman I have been conversing with. A petite 5-foot-nothing, she is charmingly pretty, and starting to tear up as she struggles to express herself. Unfortunately, everything has grown awkward quickly, mainly due to my inability to take a hint, be even marginally aware of my surroundings, or have any grace whatsoever when it comes to the verbal ballet necessary when emotions are involved.

I hate being so dense.

*  *  *

July 21, 2011.

I am in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Sault Saint Marie. It’s the tippity-top of America and a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. I am performing at a casino, which is always a crapshoot; when people go out to gamble a comedy show isn’t always on their radar.

REO Speedwagon is playing in the main theater, making me realize I went my whole life without knowing that Northern Michigan is where rock goes to die. I am telling my wife of the competition and she shoots the quote that opened this blurb at me. I smile into the phone and tell her that no matter what happens, I’m OK with it. Hell, the night prior only fourteen people showed up, but they were fourteen attentive, laughter-filled folks who were there to have a good time. Truth be told, I’d much rather have fourteen happy people at my show than 200 in attendance who are pissed off.

As it turns out, the Casino has scheduled the two events back-to-back; comedy is to begin just after the dying echo of Keep on Loving You fades into the summer air. Somewhere in the hotel I picture a clever manager giving himself a shoulder-chuck a la Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club.

That manager deserves one, because he knew what he was doing; a healthy throng of people migrates directly from the theater to the bar, and as the first comic goes up it is standing room only. The crowd is large; they are drinking, relaxing, and most importantly, laughing.

Soon it is my turn upon the stage, and without going into details it’s just one of those nights. Everything works, everything hits. Laughter, applause, more laughter, more applause… When I hit my contracted time I’m tempted to linger and extend the show. I admit my ego is weak and screams for more attention on nights like this. I consider basking in the sun of my personal Sally Field moment a bit longer—I’ve got the material; I could fire off stories for over 90 minutes if I wanted—but decide against doing so. As much fun as I’m having, the major drawback to the world of slot machines and poker-bluffs is: you can still consume cigarettes within their walls. Plumes of blue-gray smoke have been exhaled forth all evening, and over the course of the previous hour I’ve bathed in it. I can feel it infesting my pores and laying cancerous eggs. I want a shower more than anything else.

“Fuck it,” I decide. Better to leave them wanting more than giving too much. With a goodnight wave I leave the stage. In the back of my mind is the niggling little fact that many casinos don’t like shows to run long. Every minute a person isn’t on the gaming floor is, well, another minute they’re not on the gaming floor. The logic behind that should be beyond self-evident even to the most Sarah Palin of people.

I stand behind the table I’ve set my wares upon, and happily enough, folks are coming by with cash in hand. They’re a little intoxicated, they’ve laughed, it’s a perfect combination for me to help them part with a portion of their paycheck.

I begin singing The Banana Splits song to myself; because for some reason my brain registers each sale as a fruit: “One banana, two banana, three banana, four…” Each banana a T-Shirt, walking out the door.

Customers come, customers go; smiles, handshakes, transactions. This is repeated until only one woman remains. She has been waiting patiently at the back of the line, and I turn to acknowledge her.

“Hi,” I smile. “Did you have fun tonight?”

“Yes,” she responds with a sad smile, giving me pause.

She extends her left hand.

I quickly realize my phone is in my right hand, set it down, and extend a “proper” greeting her way.

She extends her right hand, but leaves her left forward.

As I am an idiot, I now take both hands, and shake them heartily. In my mind, I am imagining Buster Keaton and Groucho Marx; this is exactly what they would do in such a situation. I’m being playful, thinking it’s somehow appropriate to the situation.

After a moment, I return her appendages to her and she looks at me, slightly frustrated.

“No…” she explains, and offers her left hand yet again.

Within a span of seconds I say the word “Oh” twice. First, an upbeat, “Oh, I get it now! You’re offering me your left hand for a reason!” exits my mouth. Almost immediately following is an “Oh” of realization. It is the release of air, one combined with a sinking feeling and often accompanied by the words “Shit” or “My God.”

On her wrist is a small, black metallic band; etched upon it is a name.

A name, and a date.

A soldier.

On stage, I am very vocal about my support for the men and women of the United States military. No matter anyone’s feelings on war, government or any political affiliations, behind the uniform is a person. A mother. Father. Wife.

In the case of this woman, husband.

My embarrassed eyes looked away too quickly to remember the name, but I believe the day this woman lost her loved one was in 2009.

She begins thanking me for my tours overseas, telling me how much it means to her they are remembered and supported.

That humans are selfish is no secret; I was in Iraq in 2009. As she speaks I think back to my time there and wonder if against-all-odds I had stumbled across the man. I have shaken thousands of hands while on military bases; was his one of them?

The most difficult part of any war-zone comedy tour is honoring gratitude. I have had shows cancelled due to incoming mortars. I have flown over mountaintops in open-door helicopters, the air so frigid I began to turn numb. I have waited countless hours in airports and on planes, done shows in awkward, improvised locations, and slept in the worst of beds with the most-stinky of sleeping bags. It’s what I sign up for, and is to be expected. But when a man or woman whose life is on the line every single day, who has been stationed far from home for months or years takes hold of my hand, looks me dead in the eye and thanks me for my little dog and pony show, that’s where I stumble.

I do my best to listen to the woman reminding me how important it is to the men and women serving that they are remembered, but am torn. I understand I have to respect her words, but part of me wants to scream at the top of my lungs: “DON’T THANK ME, I DO NOTHING! I FLY IN, STRUT AND FRET MY HOUR UPON THE STAGE AND AM HEARD NO MORE! YOU HAVE SUFFERED! YOU HAVE SACRIFICED!”

I remain silent and feel guilty for feeling guilty. Emotions of self-disgust swirl inside me, making me wish I could accept simple thanks without my mind wandering down a path of world injustices and karmic failure.

Maybe she has been drinking, maybe she is truly overcome with emotions too troubling to hold in, but soon she is reduced to a refrain of “Thank you… your words about supporting our troops meant so much. Thank you… thank you…”

A large part of me wants to give her a hug, draw her tightly to me as if my embrace could somehow give her a moment’s respite from the pain. I refrain for two reasons: one, I don’t know this woman. It would be unfair of me to impose my will upon her in response to the current situation. And therein lay my second reason for not reaching out: when I am overcome with emotion I absolutely do not want to be touched. I prefer being left to my own devices to deal with whatever I’m going through, and physical contact repulses me in the moment. What if she harbors a somewhat similar disposition?

As I do not know her specific kinks, I do not invade her personal space. In the end, all I can do is place a CD in her hands, telling her the material she enjoyed is on the disc.

She leaves me by backing away, repeating over and over how much my words meant. Her eyes are watery, but no actual tears flow.

You never know who will be in your audience.


Read the complete story here.

Live Comedy: Week of May 4th

StandUpYou know the story by now… getting out of the house and supporting live comedy is 1,000x more fun than staying in the house and picking Doritos out of your belly-button.

Laughter is medically proven to make you feel better, so if you’re still upset Floyd Mayweather proved there’s no such thing as karma, go laugh!

(Just like the picture says.)

Here’s a few of who’s playing across the country.

If you’re not near them, go see who’s near you.

(That’s good writin’ right there.)

Cho ohio reeb tigvince

Stand Up Shots: May 6th

Comedy For Charity

StandUpComics can be a bunch of infighting, bitter, “I-can’t-believe-he-got-the-big-break” jerks…

…but they can also unite and support one another like nobody’s business.

Meet Martin.

Martin is an open microphone comedian in Iowa.

A few months ago, his ex moved to South Carolina with their daughter. Neither of them can afford a lawyer, so everything being done is under the guise of handshakes and kept promises. One promise made was that Martin would get to see his daughter again. That promise is being kept… but Martin doesn’t have the financial means to just up and drive to South Carolina and back.

When Martin created his Go Fund Me page, he did so on the small scale; it was for friends and family. His message was short, “So we all know…” He wasn’t reaching out to the world at large to support his cause; he was just hoping a couple friends could throw in a buck or two.

He also wasn’t asking for thousands upon thousands of dollars. The campaign wasn’t designed to fly everyone around the country in first class seats, just enough for gas and lodging at the local Motel 6 along the way.

So how about this?

Help Martin and his daughter stay at a Hampton Inn on the drive back.

If bigots can support Memories Pizza in Indiana to the tune of $800K, then maybe comedy lovers around the world can support Martin to the tune of $1,000.

$1,000 would pay for gas, lodging, meals… and maybe a special day for Martin and his daughter on the way back. Dollywood? Cedar Point? Who knows? Who cares? Just donate because you want to do something good.

If you have $5 that you can spare, that makes a huge difference to a Dad who misses his little girl.

(And you earn karmic brownie points, too)

Donate Here.

Live Comedy: Week of April 27

StandUpHey, you.

Yeah, you.

Sitting at home, on line, watching comedy without the full experience of seeing it live.

First of all, it’s fantastic you’re supporting comedy. Kudos to you for that. Now it’s time to take it one step further. Dust those Cheetos off your crotch (that’s where all the crumbs congregate), stand up tall, and march out the door.

Get to your local comedy venue and witness joke-telling the way it was supposed to be seen: live, in person.

Here are some options, but if you don’t live close to any of these, see what’s near you.


andy dwight greg Scott

Stand Up Shots: April 29

StandUpHump day, when everyone sees the horizon and it somehow looks a little closer than it should.

Either way, the week is half-way over, so enjoy this giggle.

Follow some new comedians.

Unknowns, those who are immensely popular…

Just follow.

See you next week.

Inside The Mind of a Comedian 2.0

StandUpYou do it out of love.

There is no other reason to become a comedian. No other reason to drive the countless hours in your car, a toilet paper “manpon” wedged in your ass crack to catch sweat the best it can.

(Truckers may be the assholes of the highway, but they do hold certain wisdom)

You arrive at the hotel to find there is no reservation in your name. Why? The comedy club has double-booked comedians, meaning they scheduled two comedians for the same week in the same slot. Unfortunately for you, the other one checked in first. You shake your head and roll your eyes, not understanding how double booking happens; ever go to a football game to discover three teams have shown up to play? No. When the NFL sets their schedule, it’s two teams per stadium. Yet somehow, booking two comedians for the same slot happens more than it should in the world of stand up.

Things eventually get worked out—“you’ll share the week!”—and you make your way to your room. Though January weather is pounding the Midwest city you’re in, it is colder in the room than outside the building. Oh well, at least you weren’t sent packing.

Might as well shower, get some steam going. A pungent rusty waterfall exits the faucet as the pipes bleed free a confession of their rarity of use.

Let it run; things will work themselves out.

(Would that it were this easy in life)

Water goes clear, lift the tab to start the shower. An over-calcified nozzle shoots streams everywhere, like a penis with a morning-after-sex cum clot sending hot piss to the floor, not the intended target.

(That’s what happens, ladies, it’s not our fault)

Showtime arrives; the crowd looks nice. You take the stage and wave after wave of smoke hits, chokes you, and gives you images of coal miner’s black lung. Why some Goddamn states still allow spoking makes no sense, but what can you do? It’s either this gig, or an empty date on your calendar.

You inform the audience, “If Madonna can say ‘a cigarette is a disgusting thing to put in your mouth,’ and she’s had Dennis Rodman’s rod in hers, that tells you a thing or two about how awful smoking is.” They laugh, but don’t extinguish their cancer sticks.

For the entire time you’re on stage, you smile a genuine smile. It’s somewhat meditative, empowering and relaxing at the same time; audience laughter sounding like a chant, “Ohm…”

The show ends, so you head to the door and shake hands as the audience shuffles past. Eventually, an overweight white guy with a beard and confederate hat offers a racist joke.

“You can use that in your act!” he suggests, laughing.

You force a smile through gritted teeth and wonder what the hell went so wrong in the person’s life that they thought it appropriate to approach you with such hate.

Head back to the room; it’s still cold, but at least now you smell like an ashtray. Like any drug, the stage is a high that offers little in the way of lasting effect. The alone becomes palpable.

Turn on the television and Queen Latifah is on Letterman, the pinnacle of all talk shows and your dream. A dream growing ever further out of reach with his retirement approaching at breakneck speed.

The Queen says she likes skydiving; your mind immediately spits out a zinger: “That’s brave, trusting a parachute to hold that much weight. Then again, the army drops tanks out of planes.”

Fair, but nowhere near funny enough for an audience.

Oh well.

You do it out of love.


You can read more of nathan’s nonsense on his website.


Live Comedy: Week of April 20

StandUpThe weekend, it’s for giggling.

Get out of the house and support live stand up comedy.

You know you want to.

From Ann Arbor MI to Akron adjacent Cuyahoga Falls OH, there’s something for everyone.

Well, something for everyone near the 5 venues and comedians being promoted this week.

But there’s probably live comedy near you!

Go see it!

BonnerKulow tabari tomJanetimu

Stand Up Shots: April 22

StandUpIt’s Wednesday, which means fast and funny giggles for you.

Spread the wealth, share the word, and follow the funny people on Twitter.

(And check back every Wednesday for more giggles)

(And check here every week for more comedy posts on the Rooftop blog)

The Woodshed

StandUpIt’s amazing how something obvious can take you by complete surprise.

When the Foo Fighters arrived in 1995, I was as stunned as anyone. Here was the drummer from Nirvana fronting a band. Not only was he fronting it, he played all the instruments on the debut album, having written every song. And those songs were pretty fucking awesome.

Jaws were agape; minds were blown.

The. Drummer.

I didn’t give much thought to Dave Grohl’s backstory; most people assumed he watched Cobain write great songs and learned how to write himself.

Which is only partially true.

Nirvana was his university, but his life before that was a 24/7 path to success. Watching the TV series Sonic Highways, a discovery was made: Dave Grohl wasn’t just a drummer. Since childhood, he had been playing guitar and composing. Dave described owning two cassette players; he would hit record on one, and play guitar. He would then rewind the tape, and hit play while simultaneously hitting record on the other. Dave would then sing along to the guitar, creating a two-track recording.

Basically, Dave Grohl has been writing songs his whole life.

While on tour with Nirvana, he would sit in his hotel and work out the melodies and ideas bouncing around his brain. At tour’s end, he would go to a friend’s studio and record those songs, building up an inventory. By the time Nirvana was no more, a backlog of over 40 songs existed. Dave Grohl was constantly putting in his Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours.

As a comedian, I look at success stories like that with crossed fingers, hope, and resolve.

My “career” in stand up comedy began when I was in the neighborhood of six years old, at Interlochen summer camp in the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. For the talent show, I donned a paper bag and did a set as The Unknown Comic. He was someone I had seen on Laugh In and The Gong Show. I was too shy to show my face, and didn’t yet understand the concept of thievery—I probably thought taking his shtick was OK because I was a kid. In my defense, I did perform original material, making fun of the counselors, and camp food. I did well, too, because I was talking about things the other campers could relate to.

From that moment forward, I was interested in comedy. I spent my time listening to George Carlin albums and seeing Richard Pryor stand-up movies. In school, I was a gifted class clown, with smartass remarks rolling off my tongue with ease. Years later, when I started down the path as a professional stand up, I went to the local comedy club every week to watch every person gracing the stage. I went to as many open microphones as possible, and comedy was nothing short of an obsession.

To this day, I hope I’m always learning. I watch every comic I work with. Sometimes I learn, sometimes I judge. It is what it is. But I’m always putting in the effort, always trying to refine and better my act. I’m putting in the hours, and working toward originality and funny.

If—or when, if I’m trying to be positive—I get an opportunity, I want to be able to take hold and not let go. Just like Dave Grohl did.

Do I think I’ll achieve his kind of greatness? I don’t want to answer in the negative, but I’m not cocky enough to answer in the positive.

But either way, I think I’m on the right path.

And I think that’s important.


Nathan Timmel likes to write.

You can read his weekly scribblings on his website.