I had the opportunity to do a handful of mics and feature in a show in DC this past week, which was the most fun I’ve had in the District since I moved away in 2011. I made the conscious decision not overbook myself, since the past few times I’ve gone through DC I’ve managed to spend time with about 2% of the people I wanted to. This time was different, though. I got in quality hang time with, an unprecedented 20% of the people I wanted to see. I miss it there; I even got somewhat teary eyed toward the end of my set on Wednesday for a variety of reasons.
The best moment of the week was seeing two of my best friends getting married. My buddy Evan (who some of you faithful readers may know from our erstwhile tour in 2014, his work on Collider, or just him being very tall and funny) tied the knot with my buddy Lauren (who has successfully avoided the pitfalls of a life in comedy, though her sense of humor is second to none). To be fair, even if I had a shit week of shows in DC after that, I could still have spent it riding the high of being in the same room with Evan, Jake Young, Chris Brooks, and Ahmed Vallejos again for the first time in four years. The last time we were all in the same place at once, it was Sunday, July 12, 2012 (I think) at the Black Cat, when Evan recorded his album “That’s What You Get for Being Different.” The last four years have flown by and we’ve all accomplished a surprising amount, and all at different things. Take that, haters. You really do meet the best people doing this comedy bullshit.
My stage time in DC got better over the course of the week, including a lame showing (on my part) opening at Wonderland Ballroom, a fun time late on Monday at Madam’s Organ with Haywood Turnipseed and a new crop of comics I was excited to meet, and a great time at Bier Baron on Tuesday night that included drop-ins from Lafayette Wright (!), Randolph Terrance (I’d put an exclamation point, but he still lives in DC), and Tony Woods. Not that Tony still has anything to prove, but believe the hype: the man is a wizard. Give him a microphone and he will turn your show into a spectacle.
SPEAKING OF THINGS INVOLVING MICROPHONES OH GOD HOW DO I KEEP THIS UP, my friend Katherine Jessup (you remember her from Saw Works last month, don’t you Knoxville? Also, QED and the Scruffy City Comedy Festival last year? Don’t tell me you fucked up and miss one of multiple chances to see her…) had me as a guest on her podcast Advice! with Dave and Kat. I’ll post it proper here when the episode is on iTunes next month!
Tuesday night after the Bier Baron show ended, comic, producer, and music critique-factory Valerie Paschall and I went up to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street (because I’m a slave to the intangible concept of “old-time’s-sake”), and our friend Jessica met up with us. We entered a conversation about how Andy Falkous (McLusky / Future of the Left) has perhaps the highest batting average of any songwriter at creating song titles that are also fantastic names for underground comedy shows. My pal Dustin in Columbus (who you’ll be reading plenty about in my upcoming entry on the Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival) is miles ahead of this curve by naming his monthly showcase “To Hell with Good Intentions.” But because you can’t copyright song titles and my friends are better than your friends (SING IT), here are some potential titles we came up with for Val’s next production:
- Fuck this [Show]
- Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues
- Undress for Success (seriously, someone with a burlesque/comedy show needs to get on this)
- No New Wave No Fun
- Alan is a Cowboy Killer
And it continued…
I feel like I’ve said this before, but if you don’t know the magic of Andy Falkous, then you’re part of the problem. Start the rabbit hole here and make your own way down with McLusky Do Dallas. I can wait.
The following night, my week culminated in a 30-minute feature set at Rag Time next to the Arlington Court House that was an absolute blast. The room was filled well past capacity with a phenomenal audience, and the show was on point in general (keep your eyes peeled for Umar Khan, Eddie Morrison, and Jess Feeney if you live in the DMV). Thanks to Rahmein Mostafavi for the great gig. Little did he know he would be booking me for one of the strangest nights of my comedy life.
One of the tables next to the stage was full of very playful baby-boomers right-wing activists (self-proclaimed “conservative nut-jobs”) who completely loved the show. One of them cornered me afterward, asked me if I think comedy is “inherently left-wing” (I said yes*, but mentioned Nick DiPaolo), told me that Trump was “a fucking idiot,” and then fed me a catalog of revisionist** history for twenty minutes. It only really got awkward when I didn’t take his bait. I won’t rewrite any of it here (just check out the Drudge Report in a few months), but here’s the conclusion I drew from what was (for the most part) a wonderful and fun conversation with someone far outside of my circle. Institutionalized racism has become so undeniable in this country to the extent that the conservative establishment is circling their wagons, figuring out ways to deflect blame for it onto the DNC rather than keep denying that it’s a thing. If we’re keeping score, I guess this is some type of progress. Anyway, not only did this gentleman resemble Charles Koch (minus 15 years or so), but also operated as an accessory to that particular CPAC. Go figure. Anyway, it was a night for the ages, and the our discussion made two things clear to me:
- My comedy really can be enjoyable for anybody. Whether that’s necessarily a good thing is up for debate, but I’m going to go with a smug sense of accomplishment here.
- I think the CPAC crowd thought I was somewhat famous, which was why they tried to indoctrinate me. JOKE’S ON YOU GUYS- NOBODY KNOWS WHO I AM.
I then tried to get Hard Times chili-mac, but they were closing down because they hate making money. I then tried to hit up Amsterdam Falafel’s new Clarendon franchise, but they had already shut down. A couple of other late night food places I remember from when I lived there had already closed (if they weren’t closed for good). Not only was I famished, but I was also upset because THIS WAS NOT THE ARLINGTON I REMEMBERED. But it’s been five years since I left, and that neighborhood didn’t exist for my gratification, so what are you gonna do? I rounded out my night drinking an expensive but delicious IPA at Galaxy Hut (good ol’ reliable Galaxy Hut, my favorite bar from back in the day) with a massive basket of tots as the rest of the kitchen other than the fryer had malfunctioned (less reliable Galaxy Hut). Also, it was 90 degrees in the bar, but I didn’t care. I had been sweating bullets for about 100% of the time I wasn’t in air conditioned spaces and about 30% of the time that I was. I still don’t know why I was so energized, but as Smart Went Crazy told us two decades ago, “DC will do that to you.”
This is all to say: for every thing I hate and don’t miss about DC, I have two things I love and miss about DC from the bottom of my fucking heart.
* This is an hours-long conversation that, much like every debatable argument, I’d prefer to have in person.
** Revisionist does not necessarily mean untrue. In this sense, it means heavily skewed and cartoonishly favoring an agenda. But we all have an agenda, don’t we? Or something. We just really need to put aside our differences and listen to McLusky.