Sunday, January 23, 2011

Going To Alaska, It’s The Long Johns Tour

© 2011 Leighann Lord

Thanks to stand-up comedy I’ve traveled to and performed in 46 of the 50 United States, plus Guam. I’m missing Alaska, Kentucky, Montana and Washington. Under less than ideal circumstances I’m finally going to Alaska. That less than ideal circumstance? Winter. I’ll be doing shows at military bases in and around Anchorage and Fairbanks. I’m excited about getting closer to my goal of performing in all 50 states, but it’s butting up against my desire to be comfortable and by comfortable, I mean warm. 
I get cold very easily. I carry a sweater in the Summer time because air conditioning is too chilly for me. I begin donning hats and leggings in September. And if I had my way, my house would be a balmy 80 degrees from October to April, but I live with a white guy who begins wilting at 70. 

I’ve been watching the Weather Channel which, by the way, doesn’t include Hawaii, Alaska or Guam in its national forecast. Apparently we’re to assume it’s respectively hot, cold and who cares. The more inclusive told me the local temperature in Anchorage is about 20 degrees. Okay, that’s manageable. Fairbanks: Minus 30. MINUS THIRTY?!? Is that a typo?

I seriously began worrying that I wouldn’t be warm enough. And by worry I mean panic. Everyone says it’s best to dress in layers, but how practical is that? I buy clothes to fit me, not some bigger, outsized version of me. That would, however, be a handy excuse: “I’m not fat, I’m layering.”

In preparation I’ve been stocking up on thermal underwear, wool socks and hand warmers. This is literally the time to cover your ass. So, no, I won’t be packing a thong. January in Alaska is great granny panty time. I need maximum skin coverage. At this point, I even regret shaving my arm pits. 

I’m worried now about my outerwear. Everybody, and by everybody I mean Google, says down coats are best. I thought I had one, but when I fished it out of the attic, the label said, “Lining: 100% polyester.” Fantastic! I’ll freeze to death but at least I’ll be wrinkle free.

So that’s how I found myself, three days before take off, trolling through The Burlington Coat Factory looking for something to fit over multiple layers but didn’t make me feel like the abominable snow man. To their credit, BCF had a lovely selection of coats but the down linings topped out at 60%. Surely a January jaunt to Alaska warrants 80 to 90. 

Shopaholic that I am, my attention soon wandered to a sexy, bright red, plastic rain coat that perfectly matched a red, patent leather handbag that I recently scored at Nine West for $10. Just as I began imagining how cute I’d look in the coat/bag combo, my Husband – who I brought along to keep me focused – whispered a gentle weather reminder: “Minus 40 degrees, but the wind chill makes it feel like, FUCK!” 

And we’re back.

I don’t know why I never realized it before, but trying on a coat inside the store is somewhat pointless. You can judge look and fit, but not warmth. Wouldn’t it make more sense for there to be an outdoor dressing room where you can try on coats in the cold?

I eventually found a coat that has native New Yorker written all over it: black, full-length, slightly tapered at the waist. It’s no red rain coat, but I dare say it’s stylish. While there’s no standardized Zagat’s-type rating for outer wear, a tag on the coat sleeve read:
“Garments made of ARCTIC WARMTH™ have been specially designed for comfort and heat retention to keep you warm during moderate physical activity such as walking during Canadian winters.” 

Translation, “Keep moving!” But that should be good enough for Alaska as well since it would have been part of Canada if Canada could have gotten her money together.  Oddly though, the makers of the coat still hedged their bets a bit:
“For best results with  ARCTIC WARMTH™ it is recommended to dress in layers in extreme cold weather in order to ensure better heat conservation.” 
So much for “high tech fillers.” 

Luckily a cold snap in New York has allowed me to field test the coat. So far so good, but 18 degrees in The Big Apple may not feel the same as 18 in The Big Chill. I hope I fair well in Fairbanks and by fair well I mean not end up a stylishly dressed ice sculpture. 

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Hater and A Coward

The Narcissist Gets Called Out!
© 2011 Leighann Lord

I didn’t think anyone was actually reading my blog until I got some hate mail. Well, I shouldn’t overstate it. It was only one email but I’m hopeful. They say, “all publicity is good publicity” but harsh criticism hurts, especially when it has a grain of truth to it. My friends on Facebook were very supportive. Without knowing the content of the email they took my side and even suggested that I report the sender to the police. (Love you, Facebook Family!) I don’t know what my enemies think of the missive. I haven’t checked Friendster.

Here’s the email:

"From: Jackie Kannon

You make me sick. You always go on and on about who snubbed you, who did not give you good service, who did not pay attention to you as a comic, and how you've been maligned, ignored or disrespected. I think you take your last name a tad too seriously. Yet, at a comedy school grad show, with several new comics struggling and trying their best to do well, you sat your back to them as they performed while you sat at the bar in the Vintage Room at Gotham playing with your laptop.

And, even your husband, the great professor or comedy, had left the room and did not have the decency to stay and watch "his students." The two of you are despicable people, completely and utterly self-centered, self-absorbed, narcissitic shits, who are unworthy of performing for an audience. Oh yes, and neither of you are funny.

And for a comedian who bills himself as having "written the bible of comedy writing," perhaps some day he will explain why he steals jokes. For example, the joke that goes "My wife is so neat, that when I come back from going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, my bed is made."....I can trace that back to the Tonight Show with JACK PAAR!...It was said by Phil Harris when talking about his wife, actress Alice Faye. Circa 1960...What a couple of pretentious phony never beens/never will be....”

[I guess that last line is supposed to hurt, but all it does is beg the question: “And you are?”]

My response:

Hi Jackie,
I guess I should start by saying, thanks for reading. You're absolutely right. I am self-centered, self-absorbed and narcissistic. And yes, it was pretty rude of me to be working on my laptop in the back of the room while a show was going on. My deadlines are no one-else’s problem but mine. I honestly thought no one was paying me any mind. We never know how others see us do we.

As far as joke stealing goes: neither of us ever has nor will. I can't speak to the sources you cite, I can only tell you that the event actually happened and as comics we talk about our personal experiences on stage. Given the common events of the human condition, there is bound to be some overlap. Should a comedian not talk about dating, marriage, buying a home, having kids, owning a dog, taking a trip, getting hate mail, just because others have done it before them? I know you may not be so generous as to say great minds think alike, but there is such a thing as parallel thought.

Honestly though, if this is what affects you to the point of illness, you must be in very poor health. Hopefully the new congress won't derail health care reform.

I'd say I'll try not to complain so much, but that's what I do, and apparently what you do too.

All the best to you (Really),

There are a few other things I could have addressed in “Jackie’s” note, but in retrospect I’m glad I’m didn’t since the response I sent to bounced back. I guess if she can’t spell “narcissistic,” then giving her correct email address might be beyond her ken as well. At the very least though, if you’re gonna take the time to craft and send angry correspondence, you should have the stones to leave a real email address. Not doing so makes you both a hater and a coward. Yahoo? Apparently, in more ways than one.

And just so we’re clear, “The Comedy Bible” was written by Judy Carter. I’d be happy to forward “Jackie’s” email to Judy, but in all fairness, she should probably get her own. Who knows what helpful insights “Jackie” could share when she’s not too sick to reach the keyboard.

I wish “Jackie” had been wrong about my narcissism, but unfortunately that was spot-on, guilty as charged. I guess that’s why I’m a comedian and not a member of The Peace Corps. I wish “Jackie” could get to know me better and realize that being “self absorbed” is just one of my many flaws. I’m also a vain, judgmental elitist.

I do wonder when “Jackie” found time to watch the show she speaks of since she was so aware of everything else that was going on in the room. I’m surprised she didn’t know that Jim was managing the show that night as well, which necessitated him leaving the room. He had to keep the club’s manager abreast of the show’s progress in order to make sure that checks weren’t given out to the audience while his students were on stage. Jim was keeping his eye on the bigger picture, making sure his students got the best possible performance environment.

I’ll restrain myself from further defending the honor of my Beloved since he is more than capable of fighting his own battles. I’m sure he’s eagerly awaiting a personal email from “Jackie,” which he will probably answer when he’s not busy stealing prehistoric jokes from ancient TV shows or dead comics.

If I may be so bold as to ask: What were YOU doing the night of the show, “Jackie,” besides being an inattentive audience member? Were the “new comics struggling and trying their best to do well” not holding your attention? Did you wish you were sitting in the back of the room working on your laptop, perhaps firing off irate emails? Considering that I haven’t been to a Gotham grad show in months, you must have been holding onto this for a while. Might I suggest blogging about what makes you mad? I find it a great way to vent. Holding it in and spewing it out long after something’s happened just makes you seem . . . unstable.

ll writers want readers but selfishly I want it to be a fan base of the willing. Did someone tie you down, pin your eyes open and force you to read my blog? As far as I know, I’m not yet required reading. For the love of my last name, woman, save yourself! The cloud is big. Feel free to get lost in it.

n the real though, “J,” I’m grateful for your email since I was stuck for a topic for this week’s blog. I guess the universe loves rude, unfunny, self absorbed, entitled whiners

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Proper Waffle Etiquette

Back Away From the Griddle, Bitch, and No One Will Get Hurt

© 2011 Leighann Lord

Traveling a lot makes you appreciate simple hotel amenities:
  • Hangers that aren’t permanently affixed to the closet beam
  • Working in-room appliances
  • Easily accessible electrical outlets that don’t require the skill of a contortionist and the thinness of a super model to reach
Me, personally, I’m a big fan of the complimentary breakfast buffet where you can make your own waffles and apparently, I’m not the only one.

I was waiting on what I thought was a short line to make my free waffle: only one more person, then me. It’s not a complicated process. You dispense the pre-made batter into a plastic cup, pour the batter into the waffle maker, close it, flip it and let the magic happen. You can’t overcook it; the machine beeps loudly to let you know when it’s done. It’s The Complete Idiots’ Guide to Waffle Making.

The whole process takes about three minutes, five tops. So 15 minutes later I should not have still been standing there, no closer to making my waffle then when I’d walked in. It turns out the woman at the head of line wasn’t making just one waffle. Oh, no, Mrs. Butterworth was on griddle duty making waffles for her entire group of 10. So it was like 12 people being on line in front of me instead of just two.

This felt incredibly rude. It was akin to standing in line and having the person in front of me let their friends cut in front of them. Not cool. Had I walked in and saw 12 people waiting on waffles ahead of me, I might have decided to leave and take myself to an actual Waffle House. Of course those waffles aren’t free, but for a modest price you get food and fun. There are all sorts of cool games to play at the Waffle House. My favorite: “Guess How Long the Cook’s Been Out of Jail.” Now, if the cook looks fresh-faced, clean cut and unfamiliar with the business end of the legal system, then you’re probably not in a Waffle House.

I couldn’t believe this lady had the gall to monopolize the hotel’s one working waffle maker. Normally there are two, but the other one was broken. At least with two the rest of us would have been able to get our grub on and go. Instead we had to wait while this wench made waffles for the world.

As the line behind me got longer, I wondered how the woman could be so completely oblivious to the collective hostility radiating in her direction. Didn’t she feel us all staring holes into the back of her head as she wantonly made waffle after waffle? Perhaps she was absorbed in the task of doing something nice for her friends. But how true could their friendship be if they were willing to let her do something so dangerous?

The group glaring and grumbling grew and I half expected to witness this woman catching an ass whipping over some waffles. Normally I don’t believe that violence solves anything, but maybe a good whap upside the head would’ve made her see the error of her mass waffle making ways. If a fight had broken out, I could’ve finally gotten in there and made myself a waffle.

It begs the question, what’s the proper waffle etiquette?
One man. One waffle?
Each one, make one?
Since the woman seemed to have a rhythm going, I thought about asking her to go on ahead and make a waffle for me, but that would’ve been rude and possibly the prelude to fisticuffs.

In a perfect world someone would’ve called the cops on this woman. A sympathetic, breakfast-loving judge would’ve slapped her with a fine and jail time. Not a long stretch, just the same length of time that she made all of us wait while she hogged the griddle. And when she got out, she could go right to work at a Waffle House. She’d be a natural.

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Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not All Comics are Shitty Tippers

Well, I Try Not To Be

© 2010 Leighann Lord

It was a good gig: dinner and a show. For comedians this means getting a meal and money to perform. There are some gigs that feed you in lieu of compensation but this was the double header. What was really nice was not being relegated to the bar menu. That’s the menu where anything that might be remotely healthy for you is fried into submission. Zucchini sticks anybody? And while fine fare for a frat party, hot wings and nachos isn’t exactly the dinner of champions. So, it was a nice night, except for the surly service.

The waitress who took our order was brusque but efficient, so I didn’t think too much of it. The restaurant was crowded. All the servers where hustling to take orders, bringing drinks and meals to their tables. A small red flag went up when the waitress dashed away without asking if we wanted any appetizers, but I really didn’t need a plate of fried calamari did I?

The food came quickly – prime Rib for him, shrimp scampi for me – and it was delicious. We ate leisurely, show time still an hour away. When we were done, a bus boy came by and unobtrusively cleared the table. I hadn’t seen our waitress since placing our order, but that was okay. We weren’t in a rush. It was nice to sit and let our food digest.

Over the next 30 minutes the restaurant emptied out. Our waitress made the rounds to the remaining tables, laughing and smiling with the other customers. At the table next to us she told them what was for dessert – cheese cake, chocolate cake, peanut butter pie. Yum! When the Diners seemed unsure, the waitress smiled – the first time I’d seen her teeth all evening – and said she’d bring them coffee while they decided.

When she turned from their table, I was ready with my dessert choice (I wanted to try the pie) assuming she’d stop at our table next since it was on her way, but she didn’t. She walked on by like I was Dionne Warwick. What the frak? We didn’t even get the perfunctory, “You folks doing okay?” Or, “I’ll be right with you.” It occurred to me that we also hadn’t been treated to my all time favorite: a waiter waiting until your mouth is full of food before asking you how everything is.

I’ll be honest. My first thought was racism. But something about that assessment didn’t feel right. I turned to my Husband and said, “I’m not imagining this am I?”

“No,” he said, stifling a chuckle. My anger, when not directed at my Husband, makes him laugh. Nothing tickles him more than when I’m all aglow with righteous indignation. Apparently, I’m cute when I’m mad. When the waitress passed by our table again without acknowledgment, or dessert, I was done. I had The Face: lips pursed, jaw tight and my left eyebrow arched to infinity. In my Husband’s eyes I must have been absolutely gorgeous. Fearing an aneurism was eminent, he clued me in.
“It’s because we’re the comedians,” he said.

“So! What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means comics are notoriously bad tippers.”

“We are?”
I said.

“Well, I’m not and you’re not, but most are. That’s why nobody wants to wait on comics. She drew the short straw.”
As the waitress made another consciously oblivious pass by our table my Husband said, “Excuse me, can you bring us the check when you get a chance?”
“Y’all are the comics, right?” We nodded. “You don’t get a check.”

“Oh thanks,”
my Husband said. “Can we please have some coffee?”

she said – sans smile – rolling her eyes as she walked away.

“See. I told you. She’s acting that way because we’re the comics.”

“That’s not an excuse for shabby service?”
I said, my eyebrow still arched dangerously high as if to keep pace with my blood pressure.

“No, but it explains it. Waitresses work for tips and comics don’t tip.”

“Well, I wouldn’t either for this kind of treatment.”

“All it takes is one comic to mess it up,”
he said, pleading her case like a defense attorney.
Part of me sympathized, but seeing her be so gracious with the table RIGHT NEXT TO OURS, and not to us really pissed me off. I didn’t know who I was madder with: the waitress or the comics who might have screwed it up for the rest of us.

And now I was in a quandary: to tip or not to tip? I didn’t want to reward bad service, which it certainly was, nor did I want to reinforce the stereotype that comedians are bad tippers by leaving something small or nothing at all, which is what I really wanted to do.

In the end I compromised by breaking the law. I put a $20 bill on the table and wrote on both sides in small block letters for the world to see: “Not all comics are shitty tippers.”

I over tipped to make a point. It reminds me of that episode of “A Different World” where Whitley Gilbert goes into an upscale store and the sales woman assumes she can’t afford to shop there because she’s Black. And Whitley — one of my all-time favorite Black American Princesses — buys out the store.

Yes, both Whit and I acted out of ego, but in my case it wasn’t just about the waitress. She may be the front line face of the restaurant, but the kitchen staff shares in the tips she earns too. Should the cooks and bus boys pay for her piss poor attitude? No more than I should have to pay for the bad tipping practices of previous comics.

And to my colleagues who may be guilty of terrible tipping I say, please knock it off and show some class. If someone is serving you, tip them, especially if the meal is free. I know, I know, you don’t have any money, right? And the person taking and serving your order does? Waiting tables is not the gateway to wealth. No one is playing the stock market on 15% of your chicken parmigiana. But if you can’t afford to tip, then you can’t afford to eat. Bring a sandwich, eat it outside, do the gig, and go home, cheap ass.

And remember the funny business is a funny business. You never know when the waitress you stiff today will be the booker who won’t take your calls tomorrow.

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Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian, who's style is best described as "Thinking Cap Comedy." If comedy were music, she'd be Jazz. Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.