In the past week I’ve watched both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The World’s End. Both are movies that got me thinking a lot about nostalgia.
Wallflower takes place during the 1991-1992 school year. It was two years after I graduated, but the world was very familiar. I had groups of friends I bounced between back then. I had my closest friends in John and Bill who never overlapped. John was my metal head buddy and together we played video games and went to concerts. We’d drive around late at night and talk about girls. Bill and I went to the community center and shot pool or we’d go to the movies. I also had my own personal Wallflowers.
My Wallflowers were like the Wallflowers in the movie. They were the artsy kids. The creative types. The kids who in retrospect I probably should have been a lot closer with and it makes sense that they’re the ones who I am in fact closest with twenty-three years later. Perks of Being a Wallflower made me miss those nights of hanging out at Brian Rankel’s house having philosophical discussions about life and art while The Smiths, The Cure and Depeche Mode played in the background.
Then I saw The World’s End.
Simon Pegg’s Gary King character in The World’s End also missed those nights of hanging out with his childhood friends. He rounds them up and reluctantly they join him in trying to complete an epic pub crawl from their youth. When they try to go back they find that everything has changed.
His friends have all moved on with their lives and have families and responsibilities. The town itself isn’t the same either. The small pubs have largely lost their unique character. If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably noticed how there’s a certain sci-fi Invasion of the Body Snatchers aspect to the movie. It’s a great metaphor for the people becoming as homogenized as the pubs. Trying to go back ends up being an epic disaster.
The World’s End completes Edgar Wright’s Cornetto’s Trilogy. Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz before, at some point in the first act, the entire plot of the movie is spelled out in a clever and throw away fashion. The movie stands on its own, but there are a lot of little inside jokes for die-hard fans of the trilogy. Right now it’s the one that I think I like the most. Granted that may be because Wallflower got me feeling a big like Gary King.
I honestly wanted to write this without reference to my own stand up….but my latest album “nowadays” is largely about being present and not dwelling on the past…or worrying about the future. The first track PROLOGUE literally features time travel to 1988. The second track ALABAMA is about me holding on to a grudge with the entire state of Alabama. HOLD THE DOOR is about me missing a simpler, more polite time. DICK STRAWS is about the perversion of a mall store where I bought heavy metal collectibles as a kid. FOURTEEN is a spontaneous riff about my parents trying to do their best to not raise a foul-mouthed child, but those plans were squashed with the first outside influence. CREEPY COUSIN is about a fortunately avoided sticky situation from when I was a kid. The cover of “nowadays” itself is a visual play on looking back. I’m in a parking lot full of run down ice cream trucks looking away from them and towards the open sky ahead. The trucks show that the epitome of carefree youth isn’t really what you remember.
So while Perks of Being a Wallflower made me miss the “good old days” because it was set during that time…since the writer Stephen Chbosky is just a year and a half older than I am….Simon Pegg (also a year and a half older) and Edgar Wright (two years younger) reminded me that Devo was right.
Maybe you should give the past a slip.
Sometimes I get discouraged about losing weight. Since it happens gradually and I see myself in the mirror every single day, I don’t tend to notice the change. So for shits and giggles…well…and motivation…I look at old pictures of myself.
I’m down over a 100 pounds from my heaviest. When I lost weight the last time (I’ve bounced back and forth quite a lot over the last few years. I’ll probably die like Luther Vandross or James Coco if I do that again) I’d reward myself with buying smaller clothes. I’m now able to fit into the smallest things in my closet again. I’m pretty happy about that. A lot of times people will reward their weight loss achievements with some junk food. I never understood that.
I hated having to wear all my fat clothes again. For most of last year I was on stage in t-shirts because none of my button up shirts would fit. I refused to buy new bigger ones too. There is a larger comedian who I’ve been mistaken for before. He and I worked a gig together a long time ago. The booker specifically had it in the show itinerary that jeans were not permitted on stage. He ended up wearing sweat pants. Late last year I was watching another comic on stage and hanging out near his merch table after the show. Someone in the audience pointed to the sweat pants guy’s headshot and and asked if that was me. That was my bottom this time around.
This time around is different than the last. The last time, I joined Weight Watchers. I found them to be terribly flawed for a few reasons. Before I get into that though, I will tell you what I liked about Weight Watchers. I liked being held accountable for my nutrition every week when it came time for the weigh in. I liked being able to go online and track everything through their website. I liked the Point system because it got me in the habit of looking at labels. Here’s what I didn’t like about Weight Watchers. The center I went to had four or five different scales and they were not calibrated right. One would show that I gained during the week, while another always showed that I lost. The Point Plus program is a piece of shit. Losing weight is hard enough. Figuring out their system made it even harder.
Here’s what I found to be the biggest flaw with Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers wants you to eat a little less than your current body weight…so as you lose weight you continue to eat less and less. So you’re rewarding yourself by taking something away. Logically that doesn’t make sense to me. Prior to Weight Watchers, I was seeing a nutritionist through my doctor. She said to eat towards your target weight. She said on it’s most basic level, you figure out how much you want to weigh and add a zero to the end. So that’s how many calories you should eat. I liked that it was simple. So when I did Weight Watchers I gave myself the Points that I’d be allowed at my target weight.
This time around I didn’t do Weight Watchers because of how much I hate the Point Plus system. I also decided that since I’m in my 40s it was time to hold myself accountable for my own actions and not need to basically pay someone to weigh me every week. I found a free program online called Lose It that tracks my food intake and exercise. It also has an App on my phone so I can update stuff throughout the day and not worry about forgetting to log something. I bought a good scale and weight myself regularly. I’m not rewarding myself by buying new smaller clothes. I rewarded myself by going into the container that had the old smaller clothes and seeing what fit again.
I’ve also taken stock of why I’ve fallen off the wagon in the past. It always smarts small. I may be out on the road and see a Wendy’s and decide that one fast food meal won’t kill me. A week later and I’ve visited Wendy’s five more times. I may crave a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, so I reward myself with one. A week later and there are a half a dozen empty Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup packages in my car. I have an addictive personality. I just have to accept that. There are certain things that I love that I just can’t enjoy in moderation. I love fast food and I love peanut butter cups. I also really like drinking…but when I do, I make poor choices. So these are three things I just have to avoid. I’ve had forty years worth of fast food and junk food and twenty years worth of alcohol.
Losing weight is only part nutrition. It’s also a lot of exercise. I love Planet Fitness. It’s just the basics. It’s a place to go and do cardio and to left heavy things. There aren’t pools, saunas, classes, or a juice bar. It’s simple. That’s what I like simplicity. I’m running for the first time. I started my year off doing a 5K in about 48 minutes. It was really mostly walking. Now I can run 5k in about 28 minutes on average. I never thought I’d be able to run. Sometimes I’ll run outside with a friend and that’s a whole new thing in itself. I live near a park with a 17.5 mile long biking/running path. It’s fun going out there sometimes and seeing new things. I much prefer running on a treadmill though! It’s a lot easier. Yes, it gets boring sometimes, so I’ll kick up the speed or the incline. Then I’m not bored so much as I’m angry!
Every time I’d lose weight I’d plateau right around 210 pounds. I always had the hardest time breaking through that. A friend suggested the Jillian Michaels Shred videos. It has three different levels of intensity. I’ve done the second level three times now. It’s just 20 minutes, but it’s 20 minutes of ass kicking. I get very angry. I tend to yell pretty awful things at the television. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a monster. I never thought I’d be a guy who could do a high impact aerobic work out, but I am. And by drastically changing up what I was doing at the gym with cardio followed by weight lifting, I totally broke through that plateau.
So this is what is working for me. I hope it helps. I’m certainly not an expert on nutrition or fitness, but if anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. It’s hard. Unfortunately I treat losing weight like I do performing. When I’m on stage I’m way more aware of the tables who aren’t enjoying it than I am the people having a blast. With this stuff, when I look in the mirror, I just see how much more there is to lose. But that’s my issue. I’ll figure out how to deal with those eventually too I hope!
Thanks for reading.
Thank you again to everyone who came out to the Comedy Castle this past weekend for my CD release party….and thank you especially to those of you who supported this new album in advance through my Kickstarter!
Now is the chance for everyone else to get their hands on my third album “nowadays.“. I’m really proud of this one. While it’s the dirtiest thing I’ve ever put out there, it’s also the most personal. The CD opens with a little skit that kind of harkens back to the old comedy specials from the 80s and 90s. It’s silly.
I’m really proud of the design of the CD as well. Comedian Jeff Dwoskin nailed the meaning right away. I’m looking away from a run down ice cream truck lot, which signifies the past not being as great as we remember, to the blue skies and open opportunities ahead.
My friend Chris Capaul from the punk band Capaul was at the album recording. Afterwards he said something that really meant a lot to me. He noticed that each joke kind of had a message. Sometimes the message is buried deep, but it’s there. And yeah, that’s true. I’ve always been a firm believer in the fact that it’s a privilege to be able to speak to large groups of people and that privilege should be used for good. So once you get past the sex toys, shit and other body functions, there is a message there.
nowadays is available on all the digital distribution sites like iTunes, Amazon and cdbaby. If you would like a physical copy you can paypal me at firstname.lastname@example.org. $10 for the album for anyone in the U.S. $12 outside of the U.S. Every purchase of the album will also get a free BONUS GIFT while supplies last!
My previous album “Full Frontal Nerdity” is also available for the same price. Order both for $15 in the U.S. or $17 if you’re anti-American. Anti-American….that’s the correct term, right? No?
Thank you again everyone!
If you didn’t back the Kickstarter, now is your first chance to get a copy of the new album! My upcoming shows at the Comedy Castle in Royal Oak will also serve as my CD release party. It’s your chance to pick up the new album…along with bonus gifts (Kickstarter leftovers). Make your reservations today by either going to the Comedy Castle’s website or by calling 248-542-9900. This is also the last date I have scheduled in the greater Detroit area. In other words…it may be your last chance to see me live.
I have a couple non-comedy things coming up that I’m really looking forward to. My friend Jared Stroup has written a great screenplay that he’s gearing up to produce. There’s a really fun…and sizable role in it that he asked me to play. I’m super flattered and honored! I’m beginning to feel my limitations as an actor. I think sometimes people have a natural talent for things and sometimes they don’t.
My first love is music. I really wanted to be a musician. Growing up all of my friends were musicians. I was in a handful of bands to the dismay of my bandmates who had to carry my load. I think playing with good musicians helped me get better, but I just didn’t have what it takes to be good. I’m noodling around with a bass now and am probably as good as I was twenty years ago when I practiced a lot!
I’m hoping I’ll find some secret talent when it comes to acting. I just watched a clip of a thing I shot over the past year and was pretty disappointed. I think I did a passable job in Deadpan, but those were words that I helped write…and a character that was based pretty close to myself. Jared’s movie is going to be the thing that makes me decide if I want to keep trying this…or maybe check out an acting class. He and I have talked about my worries. I have a lot of confidence in him as a director though.
Okay…let’s not make this all about me. My buddies Dave Landau and Ken Kuykendall have an upcoming project too called The King. Dave sent me the script a few months ago and it’s really funny. It’s dark, has heart and is really good. Production starts really soon. They asked me to play a small role…which I don’t think I’ll fuck up!
Anyway…I caught up with Dave and Ken to ask them about their upcoming movie The King.
Ken, I met you a couple years ago when Dave and I were in LA at the same time. How did you guys meet?
Ken : We were pirates and Dave owned a fast boat that I was shoffering him around in. I was racing him to his destination, as he was late. He subsequently was the owner of Nascar and I was looking for a job outside of pirating and became a driver for his team…. and Scene. Dave and I met at Second City Level B in Detroit. We became fast friends after that. No pun intended.
Dave: I don’t know what Ken is talking about. I met him two weeks ago.
I’ve watched the shorts you guys have done together. What made you decide to tackle a full length movie?
Ken: I actually made a feature film before, when I was 19. It’s called Loaded Potato 2. It’s about a Mr. Potato Head toy that goes on a rampage killing people. Dave is in it. We also collaborated on a short called Bromine that I put a lot of effort into. I seem to do something very involved, with lots of people in it, about every 5 years or so. It seems like it’s that time again.
Dave: Once I experienced watching our short film Rub That Lamp with a theatre crowd. I became interested in making a feature as it will give me something else to persue besides stand up.
Ken: Showing a comedy film with an audience is on par with riding a roller coaster.
Ken: Thanks, Mike. I had a lot of fun putting that together. I think I learned that it’s better to film your movie all at once, rather than over a period of months as your actors can suffer from depression causing their weight to fluctuate. Thin in this scene, fat in the next.
Dave: Fuck you.
What were the differences you noticed between audiences watching your act versus watching Rub That Lamp, Dave?
Dave: If a stand up show is not going well. I can switch gears and try other material. If a film isn’t going well… I can’t go home and re-edit it and bring it back that night. The butterflies I got when showing the film for the first time, I haven’t gotten since doing stand up in the early days.
Ken: Right before it played. Dave looked at me and said. “If this doesn’t go well. We should probably just leave.”
How did the story come about?
Ken: Dave, Sebastion Oberst and I basically wanted to write scripts to sell in L.A. This is one of several things we wrote together during that time. We just sat down one day and began writing. Obviously, it’s based on Dave’s early Detroit days. From there it seemed to organically come out on paper. We had a really good time. I remember laughing at how crazy some of the stuff is we were writing. I just thought we’d maybe sell it and at that point, somebody else would have to deal with how crazy it is. Now here we are doing it.
Dave, in your stand up you talk about your wild days growing up. How much of The King is autobiographical?
Dave: It’s based on my early days of traveling from the suburbs to Detroit to buy booze illegally. All the characters are based off of real people i know or are people you might meet in Detroit in real life. This story is a heightened collection of everything that can go wrong in Detroit when cultures clash. I think this is a story that most people from around the Detroit area can relate too.
I dug the script a lot. Dave sent me an early version of it. It reminds me of a darker, but still very funny Superbad. How would you describe it?
Dave: That’s cool that it reminds you of Super Bad, because we want this film to remind people of the teenage years and that’s what Super Bad did.
Ken: I can see that. I also think it’s something like a smaller scale Dazed and Confused or American Graffiti but set in 1999. Where a couple of recent high school graduates go on that one last adventure together, except things get really messed up, like a Tarantino amount of messed up.
What was the writing process like? Did you guys sit in the same room and one person dictates? Were you on the phone? Do you bounce dialogue back and forth out loud with each other?
Ken: Dave had the beginnings of a script idea called New Car. We for the most part wrote it together in L.A. Coming up with ideas and trading typing when one got stuck or the other had something amazing to add. Like wrestling tag teams. Later, back in Detroit we re-wrote the ending and touched it up.
I’ve collaborated on scripts in the past and while the stuff I’ve written as a collaboration is the stuff I think turned out best, during the process it can be terribly difficult. How did you guys manage writing together?
Ken: We seem to write well together. Like we always used to do improv sketches well together. We’re just on the same page I guess. Like referring to your first question of how did we meet. That’s our first 5 minutes of meeting. We just kind of clicked.
Dave: Yeah, I guess when we write. We kind of follow the rules of improv of agreeing and heightening what we’re writing. We both enjoy heightening stories to the point where they can’t be heightened anymore. So much so that some Second City instructors felt our scenes went too far. We both feel that the best comedy is taking things as far as they can go. i.e. South Park, Shaun of The Dead or anything Rick Gervais does.
Ken: The car represents freedom. Because you can go to new places and do all kinds of things that you can’t do without a car.
Dave: My experience with my first car went from being my greatest experience to my worst experience in one night. The story is based on that feeling, Where new and exciting territories can become dangerous when not explored causioutly.
The script is written. You’ve raised some production money through Indiogogo (I donated as well)…what’s the next step?
Ken: We’d both also like to thank you, Mike, for your donation! We’ve currently finished pre-production. There are a few more things here and there to do. We have the car, the camera, the cast and we’re ready to go. We’ll be filming some stock shots and small scenes starting as early as next week.
Ken, marry, fuck, kill…Dave Landau, Martin Landau, Lando Calrissian?
Ken: Marry Lando Calrissian, because he would provide a nice home in Cloud City. Though we’d probably get divorced after he stabs me in the back. I wonder what frozen carbonate feels like. Fuck Martin Landau, because with out viagra it’s probably an impossible mission, which I chose to accept. Kill Dave Landau, so that I can just take all the millions that The King makes for myself.
Where can people go to find out more about this movie?
Dave: You can “like” our Facebook fan page for The King here.
Film incentives or not, these guys are doing it. That’s the great thing about artists. They create art. It doesn’t matter if there are big backers or anything like that. What matters is there’s a vision and a drive to make it real. I know I’m really looking forward to The King!
When I was 16 or 17 years old I bought an Almighty Lumberjacks of Death cassette probably from Rock of Ages or Flipside Records. I never saw ALD live, but I certainly knew who they were. ALD were Detroit punk rock gods! That album “Always Out of Control, but Never Out of Beer” struck a chord with me. The songs ranged from fun anthems like the eponymous Almighty Lumberjacks of Death to the socially thought provoking Motor City Trick or Treat. Jimmy Doom was my guy. He was a local icon, but he was also dealing with the same girl problems I was facing because why else would he write Devil Girl?
I loved that album.
Fast forward years later and I meet Jimmy Doom. My memory of this could be way off. I was working at one of the many many comedy clubs called Wise Guys. I think every third or fourth state may have a comedy club called Wise Guys. Doug Stanhope was coming to town and we wanted to do something different to book his opener. I had the idea of having a contest. To find Detroit’s most extreme comedian, we’d have Detroit’s most extreme entertainers judge it. I brought in locals who wrestled in the WWE, Detroit Derby Girls, and musicians including Jimmy Doom. Even though I was probably maybe a little bit of a creepy fanboy, we hit it off.
With a pivotal part of ALD moving to Chicago, Jimmy was now a one man tour-de-force spoken word artist. His album of poetry is raw, insightful and brutally hilarious. Jimmy doesn’t pull any punches…until he reinvents himself yet again.
These days you may know Jimmy Doom as an actor. He loves what he does and he should because he’s good at it. I ran into him in the evening after he filmed his fight scene in the movie Kill The Irishman. Jimmy reenacted the whole scene for me, with me in the Ray Stevenson spot. During the day, this would’ve been fine. This was late at night, and Jimmy had already unwound with a couple beers or so. But ever the pro, Jimmy can throw a punch at full force within an inch of your face…and most importantly…NOT MISS!
My ex-wife and I wrote a television show called Deadpan about a comedian who was mentored by the ghost of a Detroit punk legend. When we shot the first two episodes, of course we cast Jimmy in the role. Over the years he’s become a great friend.
Much like the characters we played in Deadpan, in real life Jimmy has inspired me to being more real with my comedy.
I’m really proud of this new album because for me it does things like Always Out of Control, But Never Out of Beer. There are some moments where points are being made, but over all it’s still a lot of fun. That’s why I asked Jimmy to write the liner notes. I’m going to share them now as a sneak preview because since he sent them to me, I’ve just been glowing. He nailed it! He really nailed it!
Maybe it’s because I’m a bit self-centered, but of all the things Jimmy has written over the years, this is my favorite. He sees me like I see myself. I think that not only says that I’m doing something right, but also it goes to show just how insightful Jimmy Doom is. Jimmy is a real life Buckaroo Banzai. He can do absolute anything he puts his mind to.
Happy birthday, buddy!
If you’re 35 or older and grew up around Detroit you probably remember the Detroit Zoo talking animal commercial from the early 80s. I don’t think a week goes by that something doesn’t jog my memory about this ad. Well…I made a parody of it. It may actually be the first thing I’ve posted on Youtube that doesn’t contain anything objectionable!
I’m going back and forth between thinking I’m the worst uncle in the world getting my niece and nephew to say bad words into a camera and realizing that they at least hear way worse at school every day. Nevertheless, I thought it would be funny.
During my CD recording, I spoke a little bit about how my parents tried to shelter me and my brother. That only worked until outside forces invaded.
This is the kind of kid I was. When I was around five, my parents moved us to Sylvania, Ohio for a year. On the first day the kid across the street came over and within minutes taught me the word “fart”. Until then, I would say, “my pants burped.” My mom’s sister’s family wouldn’t even say “burp”! They’d say, “my piggy came up.”
I wasn’t broken yet. Well, I was, just in a different way. Back in Michigan a couple years later I was on the playground at recess with my friend Corey. He fell off a slide and knocked out a tooth. When he noticed he said, “shit!” Being a good kid, I ran and got the lunch lady to….tell her Corey said a bad word. I neglected that entire tooth business. I kind of remember wondering if he was going to get in trouble over the bad word. I don’t remember worrying about the tooth or the bloody mouth at all.
I remember too watching National Lampoon’s Vacation and having my parents telling me and my brother to leave the room during the entire cousin scene. Of course that only made us want to watch the scene to find out what we were missing. So we watched from around the corner in the kitchen. We assumed it was the line, “Ever bop your baloney?” We went to the refrigerator and tried to figure out what was so bad about bologna and how exactly does one, “bop” it?
I grew up with the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born. I loved and still love that movie. In middle school in an English class we had to write our autobiography. Mine is called A Star Is Born. I watched that movie a lot as a kid…except for the scene where Kris Kristofferson and Babs take a bath together. There’s no nudity, no sex, no swearing in that scene. I guess it’s because Babs puts makeup on Kris and my mom didn’t want me watching that. Nevermind the fact that throughout the rest of the movie Kris Kristofferson snorts almost a Scarface amount of cocaine.
Somehow that must have worked a little. I don’t do drugs, but I do get squirmy when I have to wear makeup for TV things.
I’m not sure where I was finally broken. I know by high school my friend John and I would drive around in his Chevelle and “bowel growl”. That’s what we called yelling the most offensive things possible in our best death metal voices out his window. So if you lived in Troy, Michigan and were woken up by a couple of teenagers playing demon between 1988 and 1991, I’m sorry.
So here we are in 2013 and I’ve got a potty mouth. I don’t know how it happened. I worked in radio for awhile and kept it clean there. My first CD is pretty clean to the best of my memory. I was in a punk band in the mid-90s and sang fairly preachy songs about staying clean…oh wait…there was one about eating shit and another about a friend’s penis. Oops. Not sure where I was going with that.
So to the best of my mom’s ability she probably didn’t want to raise a foul mouthed brat. The good news is she didn’t. Everyone else did!
So last week I recorded my third comedy album. I had a sold out show at Go Comedy Improv Theater in Ferndale, MI. I couldn’t believe how many people from different chapters in my life showed up to support me. Five days later, I’m still glowing!
My buddy Erik Kitter opened for me. Erik used to work for me when I managed a Gamestop. He’s kind of like a little brother to me. Yeah, I already have a little brother, but if you know the two of us then you know he’s definitely the one who is way more mature! I bought Erik his first drink when he turned 21 and well…I don’t know…I tease him mercilessly, but that’s kind of what you do to a little brother…who isn’t a head taller than you and collects guns!
When I hit the stage the roar of applause almost knocked me off my feet. For a second I was worried I was going to cry. That would’ve made for the worst comedy album ever!
“Yeah, for the first ten minutes, the guy just sobs uncontrollably! It’s funny at first, but then it just gets sad.”
I pulled myself together.
My friend Eric Haenke is producing this thing with me. He and I had four devices recording the show. I’ve listened to one of the recordings. It’s 55 minutes long. There are a few little trims I’d like to make. When all is said and done it’s going to be a 50+ minute long album of all new material! I’m really proud of that.
My girlfriend Allyson Hood video recorded (I always want to say “taped” but nothing is technically “taped” anymore) some behind the scenes stuff from the show. I put it together in this video. I hope you like it!