May 07, 2014

Please Everybody, Let's Stop Making Such a Big Deal About Sea Turtles


Sea turtles are great. I’m just going to say that right here at the outset to allay any confusion about my feelings regarding sea turtles. They’re great and we should not hunt them to extinction.

Yes, sea turtles are long-lived and good swimmers. Yes, they make adorable sea turtle babies who dash from the sand to the ocean in a frenzied "Logan’s Run" meets "Hunger Games" survival contest that is both thrilling and heart-rending to watch. Yes, we attribute to sea turtles a certain degree of anthropomorphic wisdom because they gaze out at the world with those half-lidded sea turtle eyes of theirs, eyes that, had they had been at the right place at the right time, might have seen the Wright Brothers take off from Kitty Hawk in 1906, or even Napoleon exiled to St. Helena in 1815.


Let’s stop making such a big deal out of sea turtles. Other animals are just as old or older (one clam was determined to be over 450 years old but nobody’s freaking out about it), many animals are cuter, and most of your run-of-the-mill primates are smarter. In short, there is no compelling reason why I shouldn’t kill a sea turtle or two and use its shell (carapace) to make an attractive and unique snow sled for my children.

Of course, a sea turtle shell (carapace) by itself will not make a satisfactory snow sled without proper lacquering. Googling “What lacquer should I use to make a snow sled out of a sea turtle shell (carapace)” did not return any good results, which leads me to believe I am going to need to experiment with several lacquers on several shells (carapaces), which will obviously necessitate obtaining several sea turtles, as well as an assortment of lacquers. The lacquers should not be a problem, but I am concerned about the turtles because people make such a big deal out of them. Therein lies my problem.

Please everybody, let’s stop making such a big deal out of sea turtles.

And let’s start making a bigger deal out of my children. I have two: Trident and Gossamer. Trident is a precocious, but undersized, twelve-year-old boy who is regularly bullied by his larger, able-bodied classmates. Gossamer is a rather butch eight-year-old girl who has a problem with aggression. Both have self-image problems due to their father’s fame and conspicuous absences from the home. I just know their problems would be solved if they each had a unique, hand-crafted snow sled crafted from an endangered sea turtle shell (carapace).

Ask yourself: are sea turtles more important than my human children?

Obviously I do not think every negligent father can solve his children’s problems by killing sea turtles. That’s ridiculous. But I honestly believe this father can. All I’m asking for is a little support. It’s going to take a lot of sea turtles for me to make things right with my kids, and a lot of lacquer, but I know in my heart it’s what the sea turtles would want.

Let me have this. Let me earn my children's love. Because I'm going to Tampa for two weeks next week and I really don't want them to give me any shit about it.



April 25, 2014

Spring/Summer 2014 Tour Dates

5/27 - Washington D.C.: 9:30 Club
5/28 - Philadelphia, PA: Trocadero
5/30 - Somerville, MA: Johnny D's

5/31 - New York, NY: Subculture

6/6 - Seattle, WA: The Showbox

6/7 - Portland, OR: Hawthorne Theater
6/8 - San Francisco, CA: The Chapel
6/9 - Chicago, IL: UP Comedy Club (2 Shows)
6/10 - Minneapolis, MN: Varsity Theater
6/11 - Milwaukee, WI: Turner Hall
6/12 - Ferndale, MI: The Magic Bag
6/13 - Cleveland Heights, OH: Grog Shop
6/14 - Pittsburgh, PA: Club Cafe
6/15 - Columbus, OH: Woodland's Tavern

March 31, 2014

A Bad Night at the Old Town

“Great set tonight, Paul,” called Anton to the bandleader as the audience in the Ed Sullivan Theater filed out the doors.

“You too, babe,” replied Paul. It was true. Another great set in a lifetime of them. The CBS Orchestra had been smoking tonight. They laid down some killer R&B during the commercial breaks, then transitioned flawlessly into a laid back jazz groove in support of that night’s musical guest, a flash in the pan trio half his age. Yes, the band had been great, he thought, as he exited onto 54th Street.

“Share a cab?” Paul turned to see who was speaking to him. It was the new guy, Aaron Heick. Dude was mean with his saxophone, but a real kitten in real life. “Some of the guys from the CBS Orchestra are getting’ a drink if you’re up for it.”

Paul considered the offer. It had been a while since he’d hung out with the guys after work. And what did he have to go home to, anway? His wife, Cathy Vasapoli was out of town with their daughter Victoria and son, Will. It would be another lonely night back at the apartment with nothing but a glass of chilled Moscato to keep him company. “Sure, Aaron. A drink would be fun.”

They climbed into the back of a yellow taxicab. “Take me to the Old Town Bar & Grill,” called Aaron.

“Sure thing, Mac,” replied the grizzled cabby. As the car started weaving through the Times Square traffic, Paul noticed the cabbie’s eyes darting in the rearview. “Say, ain’t you Paul Shaffer?”

“Yes I am,” replied Paul. Fame could be annoying sometimes, but this old-timer made him feel right at home.

“Big fan,” replied the cabby.

“Thank you,” said Paul.

“What am I, chopped liver?” asked Aaron, and they all had a good laugh.

The cab deposited the two men at the Old Town Bar & Restaurant, per their request. When Paul handed the driver a fifty dollar bill, the old-timer refused to take it. “It’s on me,” said the grizzled vet. “Thanks for the memories.”

“Well the tip is on me,” said Paul, stuffing the fifty into the man’s shirt pocket.

“Thanks, Paul! You’re alright!” The cab beeped twice and pulled off, disappearing into the bright New York night.

“I bet this place brings back some memories,” said Aaron, leading Paul to the front doors.

“It sure does,” said Paul. “We used that sign during the original show credits for ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’”

“I know,” replied Aaron. “That’s why I said it in the first place.”

The two shared a laugh and entered the bar. This should be fun, thought Paul. “Hey gang!” he called out, but was met with silence.

The lights were out. What was this? A surprise party? It’s not my birthday!

Paul felt around for a light switch, found one, and flipped it on. “Oh my God,” whispered Paul. Behind him, he heard Aaron gasp. Scattered around the Old Town Bar and Restaurant was every member of the CBS Orchestra riddled with bullets. There was Felicia Collins, their talented guitarist and vocalist. She’d been shot in the chest. She was dead. Slumped next to her their other guitarist Sid McGinnis, his face a bloody horror mask. Their bassist and good friend Will Lee looked as if he’d tried to stop the murderer, but he’d been killed, too. Tom Malone and Franke Greene had been cut down, too, as if they hadn’t been talented musicians in their own right. Some former band members Bernie Worrell, Bruce Kapler, and Al Chez were also at the bar, and also dead. Paul looked around, dazed. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“I’m going to call 911,” said Aaron, dashing off to the street. Paul was left alone, contemplating the carnage. Who would do this? And why? He didn’t know, but he would find the answers. Somehow, some way, Paul Shaffer would have his revenge. It had been a great set that night. If only he had known it was the final set the CBS Orchestra would ever play. Paul fell to his knees and, for the first time since becoming David Letterman's bandleader in 1982, he wept.

January 17, 2014

I have received many requests from people wondering how they can hear my interview with Howard Stern. Here it is in its entirety.

September 23, 2013

I Do Run Run Run, I Do Run Run

The fact that I run is a source of mild embarrassment to me. It’s not the kind of thing I go around telling people because there’s something a little showoffy about distance running, even if you are as unaccomplished and slow as me. Runners don’t normally go around telling people how far they ran that day because that would be gauche, but a runner knows to the tenth, or even hundredth, of a mile exactly the distance he traveled, and how long it took him to do so. He knows the fastest time he has ever run that same distance. He carries those records like totems. Because its accomplishments are most often achieved in solitude, a runner’s pride can sometimes get the best of him. Pass a runner in your car on a cold early morning and I pretty much guarantee that runner is thinking I am better than you. It’s a terrible thought to have, even though it is correct.

Runners routinely endure suffering for no reason other than to have done so. What other reason is there to run five or fifteen or twenty-six point two miles at a time? Fitness can be achieved at shorter distances. Weight loss can be accomplished with less pain. So why else do it? Why else commit oneself to long slogs through rain and sun? Running is an act of vanity, one that measures itself not by flatterers but by footsteps. After tens of thousands of those footsteps, and miles and miles endured, is it not natural to believe oneself to be at least a little bit better than those who chose to convey themselves through space in more comfortable environs? No runner would ever express that thought out loud, of course. Except for me, because I am kind of an asshole.

Running is a private activity done publicly, usually on roads and trails. A runner puts herself into the world, half-dressed, hair a mess, face red, sweat-soaked and unattractive. She does this in full view of all passersby, showing herself in a more vulnerable state than she would ever do in her workplace or among her friends. In that running space, within the confines of her run, she is free from having to look a certain way or dress a certain way except as it pertains to running, from having to talk at all, from having to engage with anyone she does not wish to engage with, from having to be anything other than a small machine transporting the body from point A to point B. It is simple and beautiful for being simple.

People sometimes equate running with spirituality or meditation. To be out there, alone, in private reverie, can invite the same sorts of wonder and self-discovery as religious contemplation. Suffering, too, is intimately tied to both endeavors. Religion loves its penitents to suffer. Oh boy, does religion love suffering; it is through suffering that we find forgiveness and grace. Never through ice cream. But runners aren’t seeking forgiveness, and the only grace they are searching for is economy of motion. Some runners, like myself, look for clarity in their running, moments of escape from self, as the repetition unbinds mind from thought and allows the body to take control for a little while. But those moments are fleeting and never produce anything like enlightenment. Usually, they just produce a bum knee or an upset stomach. Spirituality is spirituality and running is running. Yes, running can evoke spiritual feelings. But so can watching leaves fall from trees. So can anything.

I run because I run. Which isn’t the reason I started running. I started running because I thought maybe I would find enlightenment. I thought great suffering would produce great knowledge. No. It doesn’t. Or maybe I just haven’t suffered enough. After all, I am still a novice runner. As I write this, I have yet to run my first half marathon, which is coming up in a couple weeks. Yesterday I ran the furthest I have ever run, eleven and a half miles (11.55 to be exact in a time of 1:52:38) fighting a keen desire to poo the entire way. When I got done, I went straight to the toilet. As I sat there, I started to pass out and had to remove myself to the floor, my shorts around my ankles, where I muttered a feeble “help” to an empty house. I broke out in a fresh, cold sweat and after several minutes of lying on the floor, I righted myself, and finished my business on the toilet. It was a bad end to an otherwise good run.

In the shower later, I noticed my bloody nipples and chafed arm. Nipples chafe and bleed from rubbing against shirt fabric. The arm, I think, grew irritated from rubbing against my sleeve hole. Today the redness is crosshatched like a waffle fry and it hurts when I touch it. My nipples are already scabbed over and pain free. But my calves are sore and my stomach still feels a little dicey. Tomorrow I will run again because I run. And also because I am better than you. 

December 15, 2012

The Wilds of Connecticut

There is a place in Newtown called Ferris Acres Creamery, a working dairy farm that serves unbelievable ice cream. There’s no counter at the Creamery, no indoor serving area, just a couple windows where high school kids take your order for Moose Tracks or Elvis’s Dream or, my son’s favorite, vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. In summer, the parking lot is always filled with SUVs and minivans and motorcycles, people coming ] to sit outside in the warm weather, look at the cows, roll down the grassy hill, and eat ice cream with their neighbors.

Last night people gathered in Newtown for a different reason. Like millions of others, I watched portions of the service from St. Rose of Lima, a Roman Catholic church just down the road from the Starbucks. The faces I saw on television are faces I know, faces we all know, faces we have seen so many times over the years. In my case, though, never so close to home.

When the reports first came in yesterday, I was at home, ten miles from Sandy Hook Elementary. I called my wife downstairs to tell her what was going on, and while we were both startled, the initial information was that shots had been fired and that somebody had been transported to the hospital with a foot injury. And then we were told it was going to get a lot worse. How much worse we could not have imagined. Not here.

Emails started arriving from our school district. Classes would be dismissed as usual. Police were arriving at all the schools. No, they hadn’t informed the little ones what happened. They enclosed some tips for how to talk to the kids when they get home.

When the bus finally came, I met my daughter at the driveway. “How was school?” I asked. “Good,” she said. When we got in the house, I gave her a big hug and told her I love her. “Your breath stinks,” she said. That was fine by me.

After my son got home an hour later, I hugged him too and told him I loved him. “Whatever,” he said. And that was fine, too.

We sat the kids down and told them what happened. Something bad. People had been killed, including children. You guys are safe, though. Do you have any questions? No. Okay. We love you. We’ll always love you. Yes, you can play videogames.

For dinner, we had our Friday night regular: pizza. We played Uno. We sat by the fire.

Before she went to bed, my daughter asked my wife if it had been especially windy outside today. “I don’t think so,” my wife said, “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, because it looked really nice out but the teachers said there was a storm so we couldn’t have outdoor recess.”

My wife and I held each other for a long time in bed this morning and after a while, our daughter got in bed with us, too.

It’s a bright, sunny day here in the wilds of Connecticut where I live, a perfect December day. That’s what I call it when people ask me where I live - “the wilds of Connecticut” - because Connecticut, while rural, is a manicured wilderness. The gravest danger any of us normally face is hitting a deer while driving.

The Creamery is closed today. The churches are open.



March 16, 2012

Despicable We


Oh Michael Jackson, musical prophet. You always had the words when words failed us. Wasn’t it you, possible molester of boys, who told us:

    If you want to make the world a better place

    Take a look at yourself and make a... change.

Had I heeded your words all those years ago, perhaps I would not be struggling with my own mixed emotions regarding a column I recently wrote for Vice magazine entitled “Dead Celebrities.” In that column, which was about phony piousness in the wake of a celebrity death (a piousness which reached hysterical highs upon the passing of the aforementioned possible molester of boys Mr. Jackson), I called the recently deceased Internet publisher Andrew Breitbart “a despicable human being.”

This was about twenty-four hours after he died.

Several weeks later, I had occasion to rethink these words for reasons that are unimportant. Upon reflection, I began regretting that exact choice of words because I did not know Mr. Breitbart, only the clown nose he put upon his face when shaking his seltzer bottle and dick pics at Liberals intent on destroying all that is good and holy.

The only Andrew Breitbart I knew was the public one, not the husband and father of four. The public Mr. Breitbart was, in my estimation, indeed despicable. Not for his political ideology, but for his seemingly gleeful destruction of individuals, organizations, and reputations.

Upon the passing of Ted Kennedy (husband, father, grandfather) he said, “Why do you grant a bully special status upon his death?” Which was a similar point I was making in my column. But Mr. Breitbart’s tactics were nothing if not bullying; he did not use the word “despicable” in his obituary to Senator Kennedy, preferring the terms “villain,” “duplicitous prick” and “bastard.”

So the question I had to ask myself was, “Am I also being despicable for expressing my opinion about Andrew Breitbart?” Was I being despicable for writing in a separate tweet that Rick Santorum was going to allow Ricky Martin to cum on his face as an, admittedly crude, point about Santorum’s homophobia? Was I being despicable for calling Rush Limbaugh a cunt? Or for making a joke about admiring Sandra Bullock’s “new dress and face” at the Oscars?

Yes, I suppose I was.

My question to myself: where is the line? Opinions are like Newtonian physics. Every one will have an equal and opposite counter-opinion. So how do you express yourself without offense? The more forcefully you make a point, the more you offend. As entertainers, comedians, radio hosts, pundits, or just ordinary citizens, that’s something we have to accept.

I regret saying that Andrew Breitbart was a despicable human being because I did not know the totality of his humanity. I did not know him as a father or husband or friend. I only knew his public persona, which was indeed despicable. And kind of scummy.

Rarely do we know more about each other than the public faces we present to the world. The private person can be very different. The question I’ve been asking myself, though, is which is the “real” person? It’s a question I’ve been asking about a lot of people during this horrible political season we’re experiencing, in particular myself. 

Like anybody else in my profession, I am trying to use humor to make larger points. Some of them are offensive. Some of them just aren't funny. But that's the risk I take. Every day. In the case of calling of Andrew Breitbart “despicable,” I wasn’t making a joke. It’s what I think. And just as I stand by my jokes, I stand by my opinions. I piss people off sometimes. Words have consequences and I will attempt to accept mine whenever and however merited. Just as possible molester of boys Michael Jackson asked me to do, I am currently looking at the man in the mirror.



March 10, 2012

Slut Bitch Whore

Everybody is outraged – OUTRAGED! – over language hurled against women these last few weeks. First it was Rush Limbaugh. Then Bill Maher. Now Louis C.K. has resigned from hosting the Radio and TV Correspondent’s Dinner after Greta Van Susteren threatened a boycott because during the last election Louis called Sarah Palin a cunt.

From Greta Van Susteren’s blog: “he changed his mind less than 24 hours after I called for a boycott.  I assume many others jumped on the call for the boycott and thus he made the right decision.  We did it together.”

Sincere congratulations to Ms. Van Susteren. You asked for his removal and you got it. The lesson: words have consequences. His words, your words, everybody’s words. Mr. Rogers would be thrilled.

No word yet on Ms. Van Susteren success in her boycott of Rush Limbaugh’s show because no such boycott exists. Why the selective outrage? Because, as always, these things have far less to do with what was said and more to do with who said them. Like the words themselves, they have to be viewed in context.

The difference between what Louis said, and what Rush said is this: in his apology, Rush made a point of saying that his personal attacks on Ms. Fluke, were not intended “as a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”  

In other words, when he specifically called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” “a prostitute,” and encouraged her to post sex videos of herself online so he could watch, it was not personal. It was, therefore, general. Which I, for one, believe because it fits perfectly within the larger context of Rush Limbaugh’s twenty-plus years of ad hominem attacks on “feminazis” and gratuitous comments about all female journalists as “news babes.”

With Louis, his insult was actually the opposite: it was a highly personal attack. The target of his insult, Sarah Palin, so infuriated him that he felt the need to call her the very worst name he could think of. His insult referred to a specific woman at a specific time and place.

Did Louis cross the line? Yeah. Did Bill Maher? Yeah. Have I at times? Yeah. Has Greta Van Susteren ever crossed the line? Have you, in your personal conversations? Yeah. We all have. The difference is context. Do a Google search of the horrible shit Rush Limbaugh has said about women. Then do a search on Louis C.K.  See if it’s comparable.

Louis did use those words, and opted to drop out of an incestuous Washington dinner party rather than make himself the focus of this recurring debate on language. But the reason more people don’t give a shit about what Louis C.K. said is not because of a liberal bias – does anybody even know what Louis C.K.’s politics are, aside from hating Sarah Palin (a sentiment shared by many Republicans)? – but because the charge of misogyny just doesn’t hold a lot of water with Louis. 

With Rush it does. Regular listeners to Rush Limbaugh’s program, as I have been for years, are not surprised when he finds himself lambasted for his petulance, name-calling, and race baiting. It’s what he does. He’s kind of a cunt that way.

February 29, 2012

Shameless Self-Promoting Whore

You are right to be annoyed with me. In fact, nobody is more annoyed with me for using my Twitter account to mercilessly flog my new book than me. But over the last month ("Black: His Story Month"), that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Not because I am some self-aggrandizing douchebag, but because I have worked too hard on this project to let it disappear without doing everything I can to help it succeed.

I’ve been on Twitter for three years. In those three years, I’ve written nearly eleven thousand tweets. Nearly all of them were jokes. That’s a lot of jokes. Until this month, I have rarely used my account for self-promotion for the obvious reason that it’s as irritating as an open fuck sore.

But a good portion of those three years was also spent writing my book. I did it alone, in my home, on airplanes, in coffee shops and hotel rooms. I threw away most of what I wrote. I failed and failed and failed. And eventually, I figured out what I wanted to say and how to say it. I got it to a place where I am proud of the work and want as many people to read it as possible.

The book industry is similar to the movie industry. If you don’t have a hit right out of the gates, everybody forgets about you. So it’s important to get off to a strong start and hope word of mouth takes it from there. That’s what I'm doing.

Yes, I’m being a shameless self-promoting whore. I know it’s annoying. Please bear with me. Or better yet, buy the book. Please RT.



February 26, 2012

To the Inept

Some people emerge into adulthood as fully formed human beings, confident and able. These are people with clear visions of themselves, people who stride into the world with strong handshakes and winning smiles. I was not one of those people. As I entered adulthood, I had some vague idea about the kind of person I would like to become, but my expectations for myself never quite aligned with the reality I lived, the way a door sometimes hangs badly off its hinges.

In my head, I was a suave, debonair man about town, slayer of womanly hearts. In reality, I was a zitty, awkward introvert and a bad kisser who spent most nights alone in his apartment eating Buffalo chicken wings out of a cardboard box. Then one day I found myself living in the suburbs with a wife and two kids, utterly bewildered as to how I found myself in the circumstances of my own life.

So I wrote a book to figure out how I got here and what to do about it. 

The book is called You’re Not Doing It Right, which is a sentence my wife said to me the first time I ever smoked pot, but which I think pretty much describes how I have felt about myself my entire life.

I suspect there are many people out who feel as I used to, that everybody else has their shit figured out, that they are the only ones muddling through life with this intense feeling of incompetence, that any successes that have are accidental and any failures deserved.

But the older I get, the more I realize people like me, the befuddled and inept, are actually the majority. We’re like a massive army of morons. None of us has any idea what we are doing. Yet somehow we remain upright. Somehow we manage to tie our shoes and feed ourselves. Some of us find love. Some of us make babies, and sometimes it’s even on purpose.

And sometimes we fuck it all up.

If writing this book taught me anything, it’s that I cannot figure anything out. Not personally and not professionally. The plans that I make inevitably go awry, the choices I make almost always seem incorrect, and yet somehow here I am, forty years old and happy. Of course, I take a lot of pills, but still.

You’re Not Doing It Right will probably not grant you any wisdom. It will solve none of your problems. It will not give you washboard abs. But if you get anything out of it, I hope it’s this: we are all colossal fuck-ups, every single one of us, and if, by some reason, you are one of the happy few who never takes a false step and always knows exactly what is just around every corner, you’re doing it wrong.