Tag Archives: comedy

Deriving inspiration from everyday life

Juggling three balls

Me at age 18 practicing juggling. Note how the lamp is placed well out of harm’s way.

People often are amazed to learn I can juggle.

I’m not great at it. I can juggle three balls pretty well and even do a few tricks.

I’m competent with four, but I can’t do any tricks — only straight juggling. Every time I’ve attempted to toss a ball under my leg or behind my back, I’ve had to pay to replace a lamp.

Because I’m only a fair juggler, I don’t do it that often.

It’s not that I don’t like to perform. It’s more the logistical nightmare of hauling four tennis balls around. (“Is that a tennis ball in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”)

Also, I often end up dropping one of the balls and chasing it across the room. (Interestingly, people seem to be more entertained by me chasing the balls than actually juggling them.)

I taught myself to juggle at age 8. I started with two beanbags and threw them from one hand to the other, starting out slow, then getting faster and faster.

Later, I graduated to three beanbags and learned to juggle them in a circle. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I could juggle three balls in a typical cross pattern.

I can trace my love of juggling to one thing: an hourlong Jonathan Winters comedy special that aired on Showtime sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

The special was composed of four acts, in between which Winters performed standup. The performers were Pat Hazell, a magician and comedian; the Raspyni Brothers, a pair of comedian jugglers; Johnny Fox, a sword swallower; and the Pendragons, a husband-and-wife magician team.

My family taped the special on VHS, and I remember watching the tape over and over. I loved it all: the magic, the comedy, the stunts — and especially the juggling.

Hazell’s act included a neat setup where he juggled three hats, with a different hat landing on his head with each toss. He also performed comedy and sleight-of-hand.

The Raspyni Brothers tossed juggling pins back and forth while bouncing a ball to each other using only their heads. I loved their self-deprecating comedy. They were preforming this amazing feat of juggling and telling each other things like “make it look hard” and “there are literally hundreds of variations you can do [with five clubs and a ball]. But unfortunately, they all look like this.”

I knew right away that I wanted to learn juggling and magic. (I figured I already had the comedy part down, because I was the class clown at school. I imagined that if I also could juggle and do card tricks, the realms of my popularity would know no bounds.)

There’s that magical time when we’re young when anything seems possible. The world is at our fingertips, just waiting for us to reach for it.

As a child watching that special, the idea of growing up to become a comedian/juggler seemed perfectly reasonable — indeed, the ideal career path. While some people were determined to grow up to become firefighters or doctors, I wanted to tell jokes while juggling chainsaws. (Although my mom always appreciated my humor, I wasn’t sure how she’d feel about chainsaws.)

The notion somehow lost its luster as I grew older, as such dreams tend to do.

But then again, maybe it didn’t. Maybe it’s more that I gave up on that dream, because it seemed so unlikely and unachievable. (After all, how many jobs are there on Craigslist for chainsaw-juggling? At last count, not many.)

As we age, we get the notion that we need to buckle down and get to work. We learn to let go of the impossible and embrace the conventional.

An everyday job pays the bills, whereas chasing a dream may not.

The everyday road means safety, while the path to a dream may be treacherous and full of potholes.

And that’s fine. Not all of us are cut out to be jugglers or sword-swallowers. (Besides, unlike my current job, I doubt sword-swallowing offers a comprehensive benefits package.)

But we never should let go of our dreams completely. Even if we’re ensconced in our everyday lives, we should try to grasp for the impossible — to improve ourselves and grow creatively.

We shouldn’t do what I did in my twenties — which was my leave my tennis balls in the closet to languish and collect dust.

I looked for them not long ago, after watching a Chris Bliss juggling video on YouTube. Seeing the video rekindled my interest in a hobby I’d long forgotten.

I dusted them off and started tossing them in the air. I was definitely rusty — as evidenced by the first ball knocking over my alarm clock — but after a few minutes, I started to get the hang of it. Old reflexes kicked to life, and soon I was up to my old tricks (well, all two of them, anyway).

That instance of juggling brought a little magic to my evening. For a while, anything seemed possible — just like it used to all those years ago, when I was a little kid juggling two beanbags in an endless circle.

And that’s the true magic of living. It’s not illusions or sleight-of-hand or even juggling chainsaws with their blades on fire.

It’s the idea of pursuing the impossible; of deriving inspiration from unexpected sources and living the life you want to live.

It’s never settling into a rut and letting the world pass you by. It’s reaching for the unachievable; grasping for the impractical — letting your mind and spirit soar as you figure out who you want to be and the kind of life you want to live.

I’ll probably never juggle professionally. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t juggle at all.

Learning to juggle two balls, three balls, four balls — and someday, maybe even five — I’m reaching out to achieve a goal; to grasp for the impossible.

And that’s what that magic and comedy special taught me so many years ago. More so than any card trick or sleight-of-hand illusion, the true magic of life is the ability we discover within ourselves, and the skills we develop through hard work and perseverance.

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Those days when you just can’t deal

two men sitting in an office conference roomSo I woke up the other morning to my alarm clock. Its relentless, piercing squawking pulled me out of a deep, restful sleep.

Groaning, I reached out and fumbled around my nightstand, grasping for the snooze button.

Instead of hitting it, I ended up knocking my wristwatch to the floor.

“Uh,” I groaned. “I’m too tired to pick it up. I can’t deal.”

So I yanked the alarm clock’s plug from the wall and left the watch lying on the floor.

Only the clock kept squawking, because I’d put backup batteries in it in case the power went out.

So I reached out and swiped the alarm clock off the nightstand. It hit the floor, the back hatch falling open and the batteries tumbling out.

The clock lay there next to the watch, its relentless squawking silenced.

Hours later, my phone rang. I reached out to pick up the receiver. “Hello?”

It was my boss. “Are you coming in to work today?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I can’t deal.”

“What do you mean you can’t deal?” he asked.

“Just what I said. It’s one of those days where I can’t deal. I don’t even have the energy to pick up my wristwatch.”

“Where’s your wristwatch?”

“It’s on the floor next to my alarm clock.”

“Why is your alarm clock on the floor?”

“Because it wouldn’t stop squawking.”

“Are you sick?” my boss asked. “Do you have a cold, or something?”

“No. I’m healthy. I just can’t deal.”

“What exactly can’t you deal with?”

“Today. I just can’t deal.”

“But that’s no excuse. You can’t stay home because you can’t deal. You have to deal.”

“I don’t want to deal.”

“But that’s not part of the deal. The deal is that to keep your job, you have to show up.”

“I’ll show up tomorrow,” I said.

“No — you’ll show up today. If you’re not sick, then you need to come in.”

“But I’m sleeping in,” I said.

“Colane, do you have any idea what time it is?”

“I don’t,” I said. “My wristwatch is on the floor.”

“Then look at your clock.”

“My clock is on the floor, too.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” my boss said. “Get dressed and get down to the office immediately! Either you show up in an hour or you’re fired. Deal?”

I sighed. “This sucks. I don’t want to get up.”

“That’s life,” my boss said. “Deal with it.”

Giving directions using long-ago landmarks

giving directions vacant lot.

Me giving directions to a newcomer in town.

I used to work as the receptionist for a small real-estate office. A guy walked in one morning.

“I’m new in town, and I just rented a house from you guys,” he said. “Do you by chance know where the FedEx pickup box is?”

“Sure,” I said. “Just go to the shopping center where the post office was twenty years ago. The box is in front of what used to be the veterinary clinic.”

The man frowned. “What are you saying? The box is next door to the post office?”

“No,” I said. “I’m saying it’s next door to where the post office used to be. The pickup box is in front of the old veterinary clinic.”

“So the vet isn’t there, either.”

“No. They moved away ages ago.”

“So there’s nothing there now?”

“I’m not sure what’s there now. All I know is it used to be the veterinary clinic.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “I’m not sure I know where you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do,” I said. “There was a pizza place in the same shopping center. It’s not there now, though. It burned down in the late 1990s.”

“I’m not sure if I was clear earlier,” the man said. “Did I mention I’m new in town?”

I looked at him, blinking. “Oh.”

“So how would I get to this shopping center?” the man asked. “Do you know what stores are there now?”

I shrugged. “I have no idea what’s there now. I know the FedEx pickup box is there, but I don’t know about any stores.”

“Can you give me a landmark? Anything?” the man asked.

“Well,” I said, “it’s across the street from where the gas station used to be.”

The man sighed. “So the gas station’s not there now?”

“No. They tore it down fifteen years ago. I have no idea what’s there now.”

The man glared. “I can’t believe you get paid to work here. Do you really consider yourself useful?”

“Well,” I said, shrugging, “I used to. I’m not sure I do now.”

The incessant whining of House Hunters couples

House Hunters RenovationIf I were a masochist, I might reach out and flush the toilet while showering.

Or, I could stick my hand in a beehive and pluck off a chunk of honeycomb.

Or, easier yet, I could simply watch a marathon of House Hunters reruns over the weekend.

Talk about excruciating agony.

If you’ve read this post or this post — or this post or this post — you’re probably aware that I watch a lot of House Hunters. I’m not sure why. I didn’t think I was a masochist, but I have to admit, I get a certain thrill watching spoiled brats looking at gargantuan houses they can’t afford.

These homebuyers often are in their early twenties, but they’re always looking at 4,000-square-foot McMansions on 20 acres with cobblestone driveways and Olympic-sized swimming pools. (When I was in my early twenties, I was living in a firetrap hovel, eating Top Ramen, and pursuing a degree that wouldn’t help me at all in my professional career. Because I’m forward-thinking like that.)

What’s more, these people are incessantly whining about everything.

And I mean everything. For these people, every minor cosmetic feature is an endless source of insurmountable frustration.

“The countertops are granite, but they should be quartz,” they moan.

“The floors are laminate, but they should be hardwood,” they bellyache.

“The bathroom has a step-in shower, but not a jetted tub,” they sniff.

“Shut up!” I scream, throwing an empty bowl of Top Ramen at the TV. “You whiny entitled scumbags! You don’t deserve a house! Shut up!”

The show has a spin-off titled House Hunters Renovation, where the pampered jerks not only pick out a house to buy, but renovate it as well.

This version is almost harder to stomach, because instead of the people simply whining about inconsequential cosmetic features, we get to see them spend good money to replace those features – even if they’re perfectly adequate.

And they all use the same terms when describing their plans.

For example, a beautiful kitchen with oak cabinets and a tile backsplash must be “gutted” so that the finishes can be updated.

A random wall must be “blown out” to make a living space larger. (And guaranteed, that wall will be load-bearing and require the installation of a $3,000 beam. I’ve watched enough of these things to predict the storyline.)

A bedroom with a walk-in closet must be “reconfigured” to include a reading nook.

Money never seems to be an issue for these narcissistic scumbags. No expense is spared when renovating their precious high-dollar palaces.

A designer often joins the couple to plan the renovations. (Because who can’t afford to hire a designer when navigating the treacherous waters of the home-buying process?)

What’s amusing is that no matter what the designer’s taste or artistic sensibility (and there’s no guarantee they’ll even have an artistic sensibility, given how many of these people dress), they always design a kitchen with the same three features: shaker-style cabinets, subway tile, and a barn door.

Seriously. It’s all the time — on every episode. Shaker-style cabinets, subway tile, and a barn door.

The homeowners claim they’re updating the fixtures to make them more modern. Oak and granite are apparently out, and it would be inhumane for a homeowner to have to tolerate a popcorn ceiling or laminate floor. The outrage!

But my question is, what are these people going to do when shaker-style cabinets, subway tile, and barn doors go out of style?

Because you know it’s going to happen – and probably sooner rather than later. You know that someday these people are going to list their homes with goal of upgrading to an even more luxurious McMansion. What are they going to say when potential buyers scoff at their outdated design elements?

It’s a harrowing question to ponder.

What’s even more baffling is that many of these people complain about living in cookie-cutter homes and planned-unit developments, because they want their houses to be “unique” and to have “character.”

Yet when they renovate their kitchens, they insist in using the same modern-day design elements as everyone else.

It reminds me of Cheech and Chong discussing uniforms for their band: “If we’re going to wear uniforms, then everyone should wear something different.”

Except it’s the reverse: “I want to live in a unique house with character that looks like everyone else’s.”

As for me, buying a house is currently out of the question, given the sky-high prices. Besides, many of those homes have popcorn ceilings and oak cabinets, and my years of devouring Top Ramen and pursuing a worthless degree have entitled me to enjoy the finer things in life.

If I did buy a house, I’d clearly have to renovate it. The first project I’d tackle is adding shaker-style cabinets to the kitchen.

But then again, maybe I should consider remodeling the master bathroom. Given my rampant binge-watching of House Hunters, I might be better off flushing the toilet while showering.

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all 

Writer's block

This is a question I’ve been asking my entire life.

I was sitting slumped over the keyboard, cradling my head in my hands, when Vanessa walked into the room.

“What are you doing?” she asked, frowning.

“Blogging,” I said.

“It looks like you’re sitting there with your head in your hands.”

“This is what I look like when I’m blogging.”

Vanessa approached me and looked over my shoulder. “You haven’t even written anything yet.”

I sighed. “That’s because I don’t have anything to say.”

“So let me get this straight,” Vanessa said. “You told me you started blogging because you had so much you wanted to say.”

“That’s right.”

“And now you’re telling me you don’t have anything to say?”

“Exactly.”

“OK.” Vanessa frowned again. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“I have a lot I want to say,” I said. “The problem is, when I sit down to write, I’m not sure how to say what it is I want to say.”

“So you know what you want to say,” Vanessa said. “You just don’t know how to say what you want to say?”

“Exactly.”

Vanessa shrugged. “So why not just say what you want to say and get it over with?” Keep reading…

I tried to help out my aunt on Thanksgiving, but I ended up being the turkey

Turkey with dog face

Thanksgivings with Aunt Elvira are always interesting. Instead of listing the things I’m thankful for, I just write down all the insults she hurls at me. (But at least Thanksgiving happens only once each year, so I’m very thankful for that.)

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went to my elderly great aunt’s house to clean up the debris in her front yard. I pulled weeds, trimmed hedges and pruned branches, then mowed the front lawn and shoveled off the poop deposited by the neighboring dogs.

Only I guess I should have shoveled off the poop first, and then mowed the lawn, as I discovered to my dismay when I went to clean the lawnmower blade afterwards.

“At least he’s a well-fed dog,” I said to myself. “Clearly.”

As I raked the debris into a pile, an old man hobbled onto the front porch.

“Hey!” he screamed. “The hell you doing in my yard?”

I leaned on my rake, wiping some sweat from my brow. “Isn’t this Elvira Colane’s house?”

“No,” he said, holding his gut. “Her house is across the street.”

I turned to look at the house across the street. Its yard was choked with a dense collage of overgrown bushes, trees and a lawn that looked like a cornfield.

“Oh,” I said.

The man glared at me, frowning. “Why are there dog-poop footprints all over my front lawn?”

I grabbed my shovel, rake, and other implements of destruction, then dragged them across the street.

“Hey!” the man said, calling from his front porch. “You forgot to deadhead my tulips!”

As I unloaded all my tools across the street, my great aunt hobbled out of the house and bopped me on the head with a rolling pin. “The hell have you been?”

“Easy, Aunt Elvira!” I said. “I forgot what house you lived in.”

She put her hands on her hips. “If you visited me more often, Turkey Brain, you wouldn’t forget! Now get working, you lazy bum! If you want your turkey roll, you’re going to have to earn it. I’m not going to tolerate no freeloading comic-book writer ransacking my pantry unless he puts in an honest day’s work.”

“I’m a comedy writer, Aunt Elvira, not a comic-book writer,” I said.

“The hell you are. The only comedy around here is your pathetic work ethic, you useless sack of turkey giblets.” She bopped me on the head again with the rolling pin. “Now get moving!” Keep reading…

The soul-crushing subterfuge of a blue-collar comedian

redneck holding a beer

But interestingly enough, nut sacks for trucks are real. So who says there’s no magic in the world?

I was sitting in my cubicle, engaged in the miserable, degrading toil that is my job, when Carl the Annoying Coworker wheeled his chair into my personal space.

He looked around, checking for our boss, then turned to me and said, “You busy?”

I shrugged. “I was just lamenting my lost hopes and dreams and pondering the hopeless, despondent path that is my future.”

“All that?” Carl asked, frowning. “It’s not even 10 a.m.”

“What can I say? I have a tremendous work ethic.”

Carl thrust his smart phone in my face. “Check this out.” There was a video playing of a young comedian doing a monologue. Based on the comedian’s clothes and hair, it looked like it had been taped in the late ’80s or early ’90s.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Dan Whitney,” Carl said.

“OK.” I shrugged. “And who’s Dan Whitney?”

“C’mon, man! Don’t tell me you don’t recognize him!”

“Am I supposed to?”

“He wasn’t famous when this video was taken, but he’s really famous now.”

“Well, his curly-haired mullet looks familiar,” I said. “Sort of like Slater in Saved By the Bell.”

Carl shook his head. “I never watched that show.”

“It had a spinoff when they all went to college called Saved By the Bell: The College Years.”

“Apt title,” Carl said.

“And they had a resident assistant who had this tremendous mullet,” I said. “I think in real life he was a football player, or something.”

“Forget about Saved By the Bell for a moment,” Carl said. “I was trying to tell you about Dan Whitney.”

“Did he ever guest star on Saved By the Bell?” I asked.

“Are you serious? Not everything is about Saved By the Bell, you know.”

“Haley Mills was on Saved By the Bell,” I said. “The junior-high version. Except when it premiered on The Disney Channel, it was called Good Morning, Miss Bliss.”

Carl shook his head. “What does any of this have to do with Dan Whitney?”

“I don’t know. That’s what I’ve been waiting for you to tell me.”

Saved By the Bell has nothing to do with anything! Forget Saved By the Bell for a moment, will you?” Keep reading…

I didn’t think I was destroyed, but that’s what the search engines say 

cat looking at camera

My downstairs neighbor, Dave, often comes over to give me advice on my blog — as well as to drink any beer I might have in the fridge. “People like pictures of cats,” he says, “even if it’s a only meme with a stupid subtitle that has nothing to do with the cat itself. That’ll get you readers for sure.”

Dave the Downstairs Neighbor popped into my apartment on Saturday afternoon.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Nothing much. Just wanted to see what you were up to.”

“You’re out of beer, aren’t you?”

“Not necessarily,” Dave said. “I often come by just to say hi.”

“Then you won’t mind if I drink this beer in front of you without offering you one?”

Dave licked his lips. “Do you think you could maybe, like … spare one?”

“You came over here for a beer, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes!” Dave said, throwing his arms wide and yelling. “Yes! I came over for a beer.”

“No problem. Help yourself. There’s beer in the fridge.”

“Great — thanks,” Dave said, tromping into my kitchen and wrenching open the refrigerator. He pulled out a bottle and pried off the lid with an opener.

“You got lime?” he called.

“Bottom bin,” I said.

Dave cut himself a lime and slid it into his bottle.

“Now was that so hard?” he asked, walking back into the living room. “It’s like you want me to feel like a freeloader. Say, you got some chips?”

I handed him the bag of Tostitos that was sitting on the coffee table. “So get this.”

“What’s that?” Dave asked, sitting on the couch and resting his feet on the coffee table.

“I was working on my blog this morning, and it’s got a dashboard where you can see the number of visitors you get and stuff like that.”

“Do you get any visitors?”

“I … well, I’m more interested in the quality of reader as opposed to the quantity, you know.”

Dave crunched on some chips. “So you’re still not getting any visitors?”  Keep reading…

A philosophical conversation with my cat

sarcastic cat

Although my cat is a little too self-centered sometimes, he’s nice to have around when I need someone to talk to.

I was sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, when my cat sauntered into the room.

“Hey!” Cat said. “It’s after five! Where are my treats?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s twenty minutes past five, and you never gave me my treats! What’s the matter with you? I’m starving here!”

“Oh, wow,” I said, looking at my wristwatch. “I didn’t realize it was so late. This entire day has gotten away from me.”

“Yeah, well, your guts will be getting away from you when I disembowel you. How dare you neglect me like a godforsaken alley cat. I’d eat better if I lived on the streets!”

I got up and walked into the kitchen to get the cat’s treats. His wide eyes followed me all the way.

“Do you want chicken or fish treats?” I called.

“Both. And give me a handful of those hairball treats, too. I’ve been choking all day.”

“OK, but you can only have 10. That’s what the package says.”

“I don’t care what the package says. I’ll gouge your eyeballs out, you useless human.”

I returned to the living room and set the treats on the floor. The cat sniffed and them and started nibbling daintily.

As he ate, I returned to the couch and stared at the TV.

The cat looked at me, chewing thoughtfully. Once he swallowed, he asked, “So what’s up with you today?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What’s up with you? You’ve been acting morose all day, and then you almost forgot to feed me. Here I am starving and suffering while you’re just zoned out watching TV. For all the abuse I endure, I ought to go on a Sarah McLachlan commercial.”

“You think you might be exaggerating a tad?” I asked, grabbing the remote and flipping channels. “You’re not exactly abused, you know.”

“Keep it up, and I’ll make shredded cheese out of your face,” Cat said, holding up his glistening claws.  Keep reading…