I want to start a new game of airport Ruby Tuesday’s roulette where you declare an over/under on what the next song is going to be. Contrary to almost everything I’ve ever experienced in an airport Ruby Tuesday, I have yet to hear Sugar Ray, but Nickelback’s “Photograph” just wrapped up and gave way to that Outfield song where they sing “I just want to use your love toniiiiiight.” So, the universe isn’t too off-center. They should just rename all Ruby Tuesdays at airports into “Sugar Ray Listening Center”s and cut the bullshit. This soundtrack, coupled with the pair of dudes who appear to work jobs benefited by the terrible status quo loudly talking to each other about Boondock Saints, being too drunk to fly on planes, or whatever in the booth next to me will provide a fine background as I recount the fun, fun, fun weekend I had at Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival in Columbus, Ohio!
First things first. Dustin Meadows, Nickey Winkelman, Pat Deering, Lisa Berry, and Tom Plute are deserving of all the hugs and high-fives on earth for all the work they put into this thing. Hell, you can take whatever humanitarian awards Sting has won away from him and just give them to those five (“Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is playing on the radio now), not to mention the volunteers and venue managers who let us create havoc all over that city.
Speaking of “that city,” Columbus still rules, but it’s fallen susceptible to many of the excesses other American cities with pockets of actual culture left have over the past few decades. It’s a real bummer, because Victorian Village and Short North are already noticeably different from how they looked and felt in 2012 when I first started spending excessive amounts of time in the city. Some changes are good, like the bike share stand that now sits on the spot where some fuckwad punched me in the head around 3AM on January 1, 2013. The fuckwads are still all over the place, but what city doesn’t have those, especially while they continue courting whatever developers and big business they can to maximize land values? That leads me to the bad parts of it.
“Hit me with your best shot!” – Pat Benetar, on the Ruby Tuesday’s radio now.
“You got it, Pat Benetar!” – Me.
One complaint I’ve had about Knoxville is that you can barely go downtown anymore without running into a different festival or gridlock-producing event every weekend. That same could be said for Columbus. Thanks to runny-runny-catchy, you can’t have any kind of underground arts festival in a town with a big university any weekend in the Fall without your venues being full of drunk homophobes who are just (to paraphrase my friend Trae Crowder) looking for an excuse to punch someone different. During the Spring, they have to contend with music festivals like Rock on the Range, which filled Columbus with a bunch of
OH SHIT THERE’S THE SUGAR RAY. “WHEN IT’S OVER.” THAT TRAIN IS NEVER LATE, RUBY TUESDAY.
Sorry, I was going off on a rant, but in all seriousness, cities need to pump the brakes a little and just let people experience them as they are. I know rising rents and such make it hard for a city to rely on just locals to meet their bottom line, and the first things that get cut when cities don’t meet their bottom line always screw over the lower-middle-class people who are barely holding onto their apartments in the city as-is. As I sit an contemplate what this all means to the sounds of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” on the Ruby Tuesday stereo, I can’t help but keep flashing back to the consistent line of construction cranes dotting Columbus’ skyline, stretching all the way up High Street well past the ghost of the building where Used Kids Records used to be. One of the festival’s daytime activities (a pre-Deadpool 2 pizza buffet at Donato’s) and an evening of shows (at Kafe Kerouac) both took place in the campus area, in the shadow of a massive crane. Kerouac sat across the street from a massive hole in the ground where Cazuela’s Grill used to sit. Now, it moved a block up the street into one of those weird converted houses that Taj Mahal used to sit in, and Taj Mahal moved a block north into a storefront. It was pricey but just as good as I remembered it. Also, Aaron Chasteen had never eaten Indian food before, so he and I took a walk up there on Saturday night at the beginning of the “Dungeon!” show to pop his Curry Cherry (Cherie Currie?)
Just as an update on the state of my sanity on whether or not Ruby Tuesday could play two songs about absolutely nothing back-to-back, they’re playing “By the Way” by Red Hot Chili Peppers after pumping “I Got a Feeling” (“I Gotta Feeling”?) by Black Eyed Peas.
This was my second time at Whiskey Bear. I had the best time I’ve ever had at a festival at the premiere installment in 2016, and this year wasn’t far behind. I had to miss out on the insanity last year, but fortunately I got to travel with Shane Rhyne and Aaron Chasteen, who are not only two of my best friends in comedy, but they both became overnight sensations there last year. Also, they could fill me in on the pivotal points in the Whiskey Bear story arc that made some of the zaniness that went down this year even funnier in retrospect.
I would be tempted to do a run-through of my timeline over the weekend, but nobody cares about that, so I’ll just list as many memories as possible that remind me why I love comedy so much. I reserve the right to forget a handful and then go back and add them in surreptitiously.
- Having a fantastic set/time on the Roast of Disney, playing Olaf and wearing the categorically worst costume of anyone on the dais (which Erik Tait, playing King Triton, pointed out). Finding and applying a carrot to my nose was a challenge I never thought I would have to encounter. It inspired me to revisit a number of Disney classics, too, which I didn’t anticipate. Also, Nickey Winkelman, reprising her role as Malificent, never broke character once (as far as I could tell) despite the rest of us losing our shit every few seconds.
- It’s amusing what performing comedy in a sweatbox will do to bring performers and audience together, even if everyone is sweltering. I’m grateful I incorporated a white Math the Band sweatband into my Olaf costume. If I’d actually painted my face white it would probably have melted off. Mikey’s, the anchoring venue of Whiskey Bear three years running, is located in an old downtown building and keeping an upstairs studio cool above at least three pizza ovens is well outside of anyone restaurant of their stature’s capabilities. At least their pizza is great (and that means a lot coming from me; I’m from New Haven, you wusses).
- Going to Tabletop Cafe in Worthington (North Columbus, for the uninitiated) and having a great time playing Exploding Kittens and Codenames while drinking tea and wondering out loud why we can’t have nice things like this in Knoxville (anything west of Campus doesn’t count). Such a great daytime activity in a string of great daytime activities. Here is a picture of a few of us (namely Joe Christianson, Eric Laux, Aaron Chasteen, Shane Rhyne, and Garret Snipes’ flatbrim and hands) playing Codenames, which I promptly bought my own copy of because it was great.
- I did a double-take when Pat Sievert quoted Karl Marx during his hilarious analysis of the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” at the Pop-Up Video show on Saturday night. It also reminded me that song came out 20 years ago and we’re all going to die someday. Also, Brian Bahe got what may have been the biggest pop of the festival (that I saw) with plenty of help from P.O.D. Feeling so alive, indeed.
- I’m not going to go into detail here (especially since I don’t know the full backstory) but damn did Dustin Meadows get Hunter Roberts‘ goat, good at the Hot Dog! show.
- The Whiskey Deep podcast recording. Every eardrum-splitting moment of it. I wish Jameson Rogers (the producer and engineer) recorded everyone on a unique track and could just make supercuts of everyone’s comments, especially Andy Rudick‘s, who I captured, refined, here:
- Speaking of the Whiskey Deep recording, I was impressed but not surprised at how well Shane held it together. I was the DD before we headed to the afterparty. On the way out, a couple of people stopped Shane to tell him he was their favorite person on the show, glancing at me before saying so as if I had just been on it and sucked (I was not on the show). But Shane kept it together incredibly well and got to impress everyone with the fact that he saw Elvis in concert. Here is a photo of him eating a slice of pizza at the afterparty.
- Also, speaking of Whiskey Deep and Andy Rudick, I took this picture. If they don’t use it for their poster and press material for the festival next year, there is no god and everything is meaningless:
- Lydia Manning (Portland) and I had a moment where we realized the Midnight Power Hour may have been our favorite show of the whole festival, then quickly realized there is nothing weird about that at all. The whole point of the show is to give everyone the chance to see everyone else pump out 60 seconds of insanity. I got to talk about Twenty-One Pilots to their hometown, Scott Eason (Huntsville) got a litany of comics to do the saltine challenge onstage, Kat Jessup (DC) power-knitted a sock during her set, and it went on.
Alright, so after that Ruby Tuesday debacle, I talked my way onto earlier flights and got to DC in order to watch the Caps beat the Bolts at The Pinch, which is 100% where I would drink away my nights if I still lived there. Dammit, DC, I miss you. This has nothing to do with Whiskey Bear, but it does explain why this entry has sat in draft purgatory since Wednesday. I’m just gonna go ahead and publish this because I can’t concentrate where I’m writing this right now.
The Hot Dog! show was a blast as always. It’s seriously one of the most ingenious ideas anyone I know has come up with, production-wise. I often brag about how well it went when we did it at Pilot Light last year, and it was a nice coda for me, Shane, and Aaron (who participated, and had to eat a hot dog whenever he said “you guys” or Peter Brieck decided he should eat one). Here are some photos I took during it.
Alright, I’ve worked hard enough on getting this all somewhat presentable in blog form. Whiskey Bear is great, the people behind it are great, the city is great, blah blah I’m going to hit “Publish” and go hang out with my niece.
For those of you in Knoxville, I’m back in town on Wednesday and putting up posters all over the city this weekend, for the Roast of Charlie Brown (6/10), An Evening with Laura Sanders & Kate Mason (“Your Uncle’s Girlfriend” Tour, 6/18) and my album recording (6/30, but you already know all about that).