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Rob P.

All 50 States Day 40: South Carolina!

In the few times I’ve been to South Carolina I’ve gotten to see a decent chunk of the state. My first show in Palmetto land was in Myrtle Beach in 2004 at Coastal Carolina University, though the show was in February so the Beach part didn’t really come into play.

The next year I had a show in the western part of the state at USC–Aiken. I remember going to a bar after the show and being intrigued when the bartender poured my bourbon from one of those mini bottles you usually see on airplanes. I thought it was this bar’s gimmick but it turned out that according to South Carolina law that’s how liquor had to be poured statewide.

In 2010 I played a really fun show at USC in Columbia. When I got to my car  after the show I found that the battery was dead and was mortified to have to call my student contact for a jump. That poor car had over 300K miles on it at the time and it was doing its best. And the car trouble couldn’t harsh the good vibes of the show, the student activities board even made up credentials with lanyards for it!

Most recently I played a corporate gig in Charleston in June 2017 and I got to see a bit of that lovely city. I got a view of the port, stayed at an older hotel right in downtown, and hit a rooftop restaurant for a reception before entertaining employees of a wire company.

  • Kickin’ it in Charleston, 2017
  • Old brick building in Charleston, 2017
  • Lanyard for show at U.S.C., 2010
  • State line, 2010
SCMap

All 50 States Day 39: Rhode Island!

Rhode Isand is neither a road nor an island, discuss!

Whelp, we’ve hit upon another state for which I can’t find any personal pictures and again it’s because most of my work there was before the smartphone era of having a camera on your person 24/7. But I have performed there! I’ve done shows at Johnson & Wales University in Providence at least twice. I also did a show at Salve Regina in Newport, a town so damn fancy I was afraid to touch anything for fear I’d accidentally break something and wind up in debtor’s prison.

I did find a photo taken on a day I was flying to Rhode Island, so that’s about as close as I can get. I was at O’Hare airport for this pic dated Feb 23, 2008 and I took it because the tail of this USAir jet had the PSA logo on it. I remembered Pacific Southwest Airlines from long ago trips in California and hadn’t heard about it in years. According to my calendar I had a show at Bryant University that night between midwestern shows the previous weekend and a show in Dickinson, North Dakota two days later. Which means I flew back to Chicago and then drove 13 hours over the next day and half. Classic road itinerary!

Tail of plane with PSA logo
The PSA logo an a USAir jet, 2008
OK, actual Rhode Island pic, of one of the ridiculous buildings on the Salve Regina campus

All 50 States Day 38: Pennsylvania!

Theater Marquee

All 50 States Day 38:

Pennsylvania!

As I’ve mentioned in my Ohio and Michigan posts, my first really busy season touring colleges was 1996–97 after showcasing at the Great Lakes NACA Conference, a region that included the western half of Pennsylvania. I must have played a dozen Pennsylvania schools in that initial run, and over the years I’ve probably played a dozen more. From small Penn State and Pitt extensions to private schools in every corner of the state. My favorite satellite campus? Pitt–Bradford, home of Zippo Windproof Lighters! Even went on the factory tour.

The first college gig I did after moving to NYC was at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh, and since I was living in a Manhattan sublet at the time and without my car, I took Amtrak from Penn Station to the gig. At one point west of Altoona a Park Ranger came aboard to lead a sightseeing tour, which included Horseshoe Curve and stories of the Johnstown flood as we passed.

Three of the shows I opened for George Carlin were in Pennsylvania. The first one that was officially scheduled—which turned out to be my second gig for him after a last-minute fill in at a show in New Hampshire—was at the Warner Theater in Erie. While I was doing my soundcheck the power went out. We thought it was the theater but it turned out to be all of downtown Erie. The crowd milled about outside, city and electric company workers came to figure out the problem, and eventually we got the show started. I had my DV video camera with me and used its Super Night Shot setting to get some grainy black-and-white video of a darkened downtown Erie, looking like I had entered a 1940s Noir film.

And like Ohio, I knew the 310-mile Pennsylvania stretch of I-80 incredibly well during my first years in New York. I made the drive from New York to Illinois more times than I could count, it was 840 miles door-to-door and I could do it in about 14 hours with breaks for food and gas.

  • Selfie in Pittsburgh and for some reason I’m displaying a modest wad of cash, 2008
  • Warner Theater marquee in Erie during blackout, 2007
  • Sepia toned Polaroid of friends at Rohman’s Inn in Shohola, 2012
  • Street view of York, the mini Baltimore! 2009
  • Crowd outside Warner Theater, Erie, 2007
  • Tow truck towing a tow truck at Arcadia University, 2009
PAMap

All 50 States Day 37: Oregon!

Mt. Hood

All 50 States Day 37:

Oregon!

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Oregon but I got there early in my touring career, after showcasing at the Pacific Northwest NACA conference in late 1996. That showcase landed me a lot of shows throughout the region and I went there for a couple of big tours in the spring of ’97 and thereafter.

On one of those first trips to the area I met up with a high school friend who was living in Portland, who asked me to meet him at Powell’s Books. Meeting someone for coffee in Portland at the “world’s largest independent bookstore” is Peak 90s Northwest!

Thanks to the college gigs I’ve had the chance to see some different parts of the state, playing Portland State and University of Portland in Portlandia, Willamette, Linfield, and Western Oregon in the northwestern corner of the state, and Eastern Oregon out in Le Grande in the high desert eastern part of the state.

I also vividly remember driving to a show in Bend because for about an hour (or what felt like it) I had no idea what highway I was on. There were some turns and forks on a reservation that weren’t clearly marked and I wasn’t sure I was on the right highway. I kept waiting for a sign that would indicated 197 North, or 26 South, or whatever, but I was out in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t any other traffic. It was desolate. This is the pre-smart phone era when we all had GPS in our pockets.

I finally saw a sign that said “Criterion Summit” so I pulled over at a little gravel pull off area on the side of the 2-lane undivided highway to take a look at my Rand McNally Road Atlas. I found Criterion Summit on the map, I was on the right highway. Then I looked at the little parking area and realized it had plaques in the ground with arrows pointing to the various peaks of Cascade mountains, which were all around. It showed the name of the peak and the elevation, and through some google map street view sleuthing I was able to figure out which peak was which in the photos I got there.

  • Criterion Summit with Mt. Adams in the background, 1997
  • Rainbow near Portland, 2004
  • Mt. Hood, 1997
  • Wider shot of Mt. Hood, 1997
  • View of Mt. Jefferson from Criterion Summit, 1997
US Map with Oregon highlighted

The Best Days to Buy My Music

To support musicians who can no longer tour and play live shows due to the Covid19 pandemic, the website bandcamp is waiving their revenue share for sales on the first Fridays of the next three months. That means the full price of what you pay for the music goes directly to the artist, in this case, me! All 6 of my studio albums and my full-length live concert album are available on bandcamp, including remastered versions of my first two albums from way back in the 90s!

Bandcamp is already one of the most equitable platforms for independent musicians thanks to their reasonable revenue splits and their site allowing fans to add a few bucks to the price if they want to throw some extra support to the artists. On the first Fridays of the next three months (Friday, May 1; Friday June 5, and Friday July 3) they’re basically running all of their artists merch tables for free!

So if you want to add some of my music to your collection, including some out of print and rare tracks that aren’t available on any of the streaming services, do it on one of these first Fridays and help out this silly idiot whose income used to come from performing to large groups (eep), playing at conventions (gasp), and working on cruise ships (smack my dang forehead)!

In addition to the full albums below, bandcamp has a live EP for $2, a 4-song EP from 2017 with songs not available anywhere else, and my latest single “Catching Rays (on the Fire Escape).

All 50 States Day 36: Oklahoma!

OK welcome center

All 50 States Day 36:

Oklahoma!

I had been through Oklahoma several times on cross country trips, since the route from my mom’s place near Fort Worth to my Grandma’s place in northwest Arkansas would take me through the eastern section of the Sooner State. I also performed there early in my comedy career, playing a show at Oklahoma State when I was still based in Chicago, which would mean it was in 1995 or ’96.

For one of my shows at Oklahoma State (I believe I performed there twice) I was told after the show that they had had Adam Sandler perform there the year prior and liked my show better. It was a point of pride at the time because Sandler was on SNL and getting all kinds of attention, and since I played guitar in my act I kept getting compared to him. They also said his show cost them $25K, and I think I made $800 for mine so maybe they just felt my show was more economical.

Other shows in the state have been at smaller schools like Cameron University in Lawton, and Phillips College in Enid, (which is no longer there) and I played one other big university—Tulsa—back in 2008.

On one of my early cross country trips I even got an alternator belt somewhere around Eufala when I was driving to my grandma’s house. The belt broke while driving and the battery was soon going to die, and I was lucky enough to find a service station with an available mechanic on a Sunday! Oklahoma, you really are OK!

  • OK state line, on my to a show at Cameron University, 2002
  • Rainbow near Tulsa, 1990
  • Hwy 69 sign, pic taken for purely juvenile reasons, 1990
US Map with Oklahoma highlighted

All 50 States Day 35: Ohio!

Highway Sign

All 50 States Day 35:

Ohio!

I went to Ohio early and often in my touring career, first hitting the state as a feature act at Connextions 2 in Toledo (you know the shows are funny because of the saucy spelling). I was based in Chicago and the booking agent in Grand Rapids, MI called to ask if I could pick up the headliner at Midway Airport to ride to Toledo with me. That headliner was ‘Wild’ Bill Bauer, an energetic and funny veteran comic who’d been a headliner since the comedy heyday of the 1980s. He was pleasant and supportive throughout the weekend and though I hadn’t seen him since the mid-90s during a week at ACME Comedy Company in Minneapolis, I was sad to hear of his passing in 2012.

My first big years performing at colleges were 1996–1997 and Ohio was a big part of that. I showcased at the Great Lakes NACA Conference, performing a 20-minute set for the student activities boards of colleges in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania. I booked so many shows after that conference there were some weeks where I’d have 9 shows in 5 days, doing a noontime show at a community college then another show that night at a school within a couple hours’ drive.

I had no idea how many colleges of one- to two thousand students there were in the state. I played everywhere from schools in cities like Capital University in Columbus, Xavier in Cincinnati, and Case Western in Cleveland, to schools in small towns like Muskingum University, Ashland University, Denison, Wilmington, Mt. Union. The list goes on.

There was a fun show at Kenyon College, a beautiful idyllic campus of old stone buildings atop a hill. I arrived early so I poked around the grounds and saw the game of Lacrosse in person for the first time. It seemed so New Englandy and preppie to me. I also remember staying in the lovely Kenyon Inn on campus, and that the show was well attended and opened by a campus improv group.

I also remember a show at Shawnee State in Portsmouth because I was fascinated that a small town had such a large area of mid-19th Century old buildings. The historic district struck me as something that should have been in a much larger city. Apparently Portsmouth, at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers, had been a big, bustling city back in the 1800s when commerce flowed along the rivers and not by rail.

See? You learn things by traveling!

  • Ohio Turnpike sign, 2010
  • On stage at Ohio University, 2006
  • Case Western University, 2010
  • Blimp in Cleveland, 2010
  • Country road near Lancaster, 2006
  • Arthur Treachers, Lancaster, 2006
  • Opining at a gas station in Ohio, 2006
  • Kenyon College, 1996?
OHMap

All 50 States Day 34: North Dakota!

Fargo Theater Polaroid

All 50 States Day 34:

North Dakota!

Holy cow! We’re two-thirds of the way through the country! To celebrate I found a picture of a giant cow! She’s called Salem Sue and the billboards promoting her claim she is the “world’s largest Holstein cow.” Turns out Salem Sue is the world’s largest statue of a Holstein cow, a distinction that would have and should have tempered my expectations.

I also grabbed a selfie—which, in the days of non-phone digital cameras was way more challenging—in front of what was at the time the world’s largest structure. It’s just a TV station’s broadcast antenna, but at 2,063 feet it was the tallest manmade thing in the world until the Burj Khalifa surpassed it. It now ranks 4th after the Tokyo Skytree and Shanghai Tower hit 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

And lest you think North Dakota is all World’s Largest Things, I’ve done some work in the state too, playing UND, ND State, Valley City State, Minot State, and Dickinson State. I’ve spent some days off in Fargo when I was between gigs in Minnesota and North Dakota and have driven to and through just about every corner of the state. The east is mostly flat prairie and in the west, around Teddy Roosevelt National Park, you get some very Badlands-like terrain. There’s lots of space out there, and driving through the state gives you lots of time to ponder the big questions. Maybe even the world’s biggest questions…

  • Salem Sue! 2008
  • On the edge of Minot, 2007
  • Kickin it in Fargo, 2007
  • Fargo Theater, 2007
  • World’s tallest structure at the time, a TV antenna, 2007
  • Backstage at Valley City State University show, 2007
  • Polaroid of Fargo Theater, 2007
NDMap

All 50 States Day 33: North Carolina!

Motel

All 50 States Day 33:

North Carolina!

My first comedy interaction with North Carolina was with a booker there that ran a comedy club and booked other clubs and dates in the South. I was starting to feature on the road, performing the 30-minute middle slot of the typical opener-feature-headliner format, and a comic in Chicago suggested I contact the North Carolina booker. “They’ll love you,” he insisted. Apparently this club was an early booster of Carrot Top, who in the mid-90s was one of the top grossing comedians in the country.

The club charged $25 to review a comedian’s tape, a suspicious and unsettling policy, but I sent in my tape and a check and waited to hear back. Months passed. Then more. I started going on the road and doing a few colleges, all the while writing new material and improving my act.

The club had cashed my check, I had a record of that, but as the one-year mark arrived  I hadn’t heard anything back from the club. So I sent them an anniversary card.

I wrote lovingly of my year of anticipation and waiting for a reply. I did my best to balance my tone between lighthearted ribbing and “OMG, F you so much!” Whatever I wrote, the gambit worked and I got a reply.

After a year of waiting they gave me a modestly positive review, what felt like a B- to me. They told me to start sending in my avails (schedule and bookings) and maybe they’d find me some feature work. I had developed a lot as a comic over that year and the 15-20 minutes on the tape they had reviewed was no longer representative of my act so I felt that when I got booked at one of their clubs I’d improve in their estimation.

That chance never came since that booker never booked me, but I have played several shows in North Carolina over the years, from big universities like Wake Forest, UNC–Asheville, UNC—Charlotte, to smaller colleges like Elon and Greensboro College. I had a very unique show in an outdoor amphitheater at the Raleigh Little Theater back in 1999, part of a Comedy Central live event, and I once did an open mic in Asheville when I was passing through in 2010.

On a different trip to Asheville I spent a few extra days there when my car broke down only 40 miles into my drive back to New York. My engine shut off as I was coming down a mountain—just cut out completely—and I coasted to the bottom of the hill, down an off-ramp and onto the grass. The car wouldn’t restart. It was Sunday and people were starting to return home from church and several people stopped to check on me. One guy called his cousin who was mechanically inclined to ask for advice. I think I met everyone who lived in that holler, a diverse bunch and they were all very friendly, and eventually they helped me call a tow truck (it was the distributer).

I had my car towed to a Firestone that would open in the morning, I checked into a motel within walking distance, and took it as a good omen when my motel TV was playing a Cubs game on WGN.

I have few pictures of North Carolina but apparently plenty of stories! There was that other time in Asheville…

  • Selife with the crew at Wake Forest, 2010
  • Polaroid of the Blue Ridge Motor Lodge, 2010
  • Polaroid of the Mount Vue Motel, 2010
  • State Line!
NCMap

All 50 States Day 32: New York!

view of lower manhattan skyline, 1997

All 50 States Day 32:

New York!

I guess it’s obvious that I’ve been to New York since it’s the state I’ve lived in for half of my life and most of my adulthood. There were a couple of family trips to New York when I was a kid where we’d visit my aunt and cousins just across the river in Weehawken, NJ, and come in to the city for sightseeing and Broadway shows. My dad and I also visited between my freshman and sophomore year of college.

But my New York life began in earnest in 1996 when I flew in to town and sublet an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen for the summer. I knew about 6 people in town, some friends from Chicago who had made the move before me like Joanne Morrison, Bill Chott, and John Bongiorno, and my sister’s college roommate Nancy, without whom I’d have had a harder time moving to the city because she found the summer sublet for me.

After being introduced to the concept of “bringer shows” I got turned off of the comedy clubs in town and found myself in the performance scene of the Lower East Side where the performers and shows were wildly creative, covering genres from poetry, music, comedy, performance art, burlesque, and everything in between. The support from the community and small theaters like Surf Reality and Collective Unconscious allowed me to try wildly different things, like solo shows, sketch comedy, and collaborative efforts like The Sacred Clowns. I even wrote the music for the St. Reverend Jen’s theme song, which is still near the very top of my list of 1990s Lower East Side bona fides.

I moved to Brooklyn in the fall of that first year and I was still on the road a lot for the next several. In 2000, when I hit a lull in my college touring schedule, I found my first day job in town in the production department of a catalog company. It turns out the years of designing and printing flyers for bands and shows taught me my best marketable skill. I’d go back and forth between day jobs and touring, a few years working in town, a few years on the road, and I’m grateful for my experiences with each. The day jobs not only helped me pay the rent but also introduced me to new friends, different neighborhoods in Manhattan, and the rhythms of New York daily life.

I’ve also seen a fair amount of the state outside of New York City. College gigs have taken me from the finger lakes to the northern reaches, the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, the Southern Tier, and the western edge (I think I got a muffler replaced in Jamestown once). Upstate New York is huge, and lovely, and is full of small towns mid-sized cities, and vast ruralness. It’s like if you took Wisconsin and fused it to a super-sized Chicago (and then took out the Midwestern niceishness and replaced it with East Coast brusqueness). 

OK, enough yakking, let’s get to some pretty pictures! (click on an image for the carousel and captions, too many to list!)

So many pics! Click on the carousel to enlarge and read captions. There are too many to list!

NYMap

Catching Rays (on the Fire Escape) Quarantine Music Video!

Closed beaches and social distancing will not keep me from getting some sun! And to celebrate I did a 60s beach pop style song about the only place I can responsibly sunbathe: the fire escape of my Brooklyn apartment. Enjoy!

 

Well, the beach is closed
and I need some sun
but when I go out
I can’t avoid everyoneI wanna get some sunbeams on my face
But I gotta give everybody their space
So that means I can only go to one place…

I’m catching rays (rays, rays, catching rays)
On the fire escape (scape, scape, fire escape)
It’s been too many days (days, days, too many days)
How much more can I take (take, take, what can I take?)
I’m going out of my mind
I need some sunshine
That’s why I’m catching rays on the fire escape

I got a beer and a shot (shot, shot, a beer and a shot)
And the wind in my hair (… “shut up!”)
I always get a spot (spot, spot, get a spot)
Cuz no one’s ever there (I’m so alone)
Oh, here are no ocean sounds
But it’s the best place that I’ve found
To avoid people cuz it’s 12 feet off the ground

I’m catching rays (rays, rays, catching rays)
On the fire escape (scape, scape, fire escape)
I hope it’s just a phase (phase, phase, just a phase)
It’s really not that great (it’s not that great)
It’s not sexy at all
And there’s a chance that I could fall
When I’m catching rays on the fire escape

I can’t play any frisbee, I can’t lie in the sand
I can do two whole things, I can sit or I can stand
I smile at people far away as they walk by my place
But I don’t know f they’re smiling back cuz they’re covering their face

I’m catching rays (rays, rays, catching rays)
On the fire escape (scape, scape, fire escape)
Can’t catch any waves (waves, waves, catch any waves)
I’ll never get in shape (I’m getting fat)
It’s not a perfect plan
But at least I’ll get a tan
When I’m catching rays on the fire escape
I’m catching rays on the fire escape
I’m tired of catching rays on the fire escape

All 50 States Day 31: New Mexico!

Cliff in NM

All 50 States Day 31:

New Mexico!

My first experiences with New Mexico were traversing I-10 along the southern edge of the state on road trips to and from California. I finally landed a gig and spent a night in the state in 2002 when I played Eastern New Mexico University in the town of Portales (por-TA-lace), which was so far away from the main cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque that I flew to Lubbock, Texas and drove. I also drove the extra 180 miles round trip from Portales to Roswell to check out the town and of course the UFO museum.

Three days after that show at ENMU I had a show at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which I flew to from Denver. That gave me about a day and a half to take a scenic route from eastern New Mexico to Denver. I drove up to Santa Rosa, along I-40 and old Route 66, stopped at a classic diner (I think I had a patty melt), and then continued up to Taos to poke around and take in the crunchy artsiness.

I know that I took Hwy 64 from Taos up to Colorado because I have a picture from Cimarron Canyon State Park, which Hwy 64 travels through. The name Cimarron had always stuck in my head and I remember stopping to see a scenic cliff along the drive. I knew somewhere I had a picture of it, and in 2002 I had my first decent digital camera, the Canon PowerShot 110, but I couldn’t find the picture I remembered. I finally tracked it down in a roll of prints from my travels that month, a roll that included New Mexico, Alaska, and a run of shows stretching over a 1500 mile loop in Montana and North Dakota.

It took some internet searching to find the spot where I took the picture, and it turns out to be the Palisade Sill in Cimarron Canyon State Park. So even though I was only in the state for all of two days I did get to see a nice representation of it.

  • Diner Selfie! Santa Rosa, 2002
  • Palisade Sill in Cimarron Canyon State Park, 2002
  • Getting some kicks, or at least a selfie, on Route 66, 2002
  • Rio Pecos Truck Terminal, Santa Rosa, 2002
  • Diner on Route 66, Santa Rosa, 2002
NMMap

All 50 States Day 29: New Hampshire!

playground truck

All 50 States Day 29:

New Hampshire!

The first show I opened for George Carlin was in New Hampshire at the Hampton Beach Casino in August of 1997, I was a last-minute fill in for his regular opening act Dennis Blair, who couldn’t fly out of Chicago due to weather. Carlin’s manager called me around noon, asked where I was (in my apartment in Brooklyn), and then asked “can you get up to New Hampshire to open for George tonight?”

It was about a five hour drive so I said I’d be there, I hopped into my hatchback and started driving.i had been scheduled to open for Carlin for a three show weekend that November, a date on my calendar that at that point still didn’t feel real. The fact that my first gig for him was unplanned and last minute probably helped me from overthinking it too much.

I arrived at the venue too burnt from the drive to joke with the parking lot attendant when he found out I was a comedian. My car had no AC and when he said “you don’t look funny,” I simply said “I’m not.” Luckily I had time to chill, even take a shower my green room, and do a sound check before George showed up.

When he arrived I heard his voice from down the hallway, after the manager said, “I want you to meet Rob, you’re opening act for tonight,” an he said, “is that that Armenian kid you found?” Carlin and Jerry, his manager, came into my dressing room and after the introductions Carlin mentioned that he had watched my Pachelbel Rant on the drive in (iPhones had just come out and I remember thinking it was cool that he had one and watched my video on it). “It’s pretty good,” he complimented, which is still one of my most cherished reviews.

The venue was a loud, open space, more suitable for a rock concert than comedy, and I had to rely on my experience from noontime shows in community college cafeterias to  get through the first ten or fifteen minutes while the crowd was still buzzing with conversation, getting their first round of drinks, and finding their seats. I figured if I could get them focused and paying attention by the end of my set I had done my job, and was able to make that happen.

I went on to open for Carlin for about a dozen more shows across the country, and I was scheduled to open for several more that didn’t happen due to his passing in 2008, but that first show on the boardwalk in New Hampshire will always be special.

I’ve also performed in New Hampshire at several colleges, including UNH, SNHU, Franklin Pierce University and Daniel Webster College, Rivier College, and Keene State College in Keene, NH. That last show was less than 2 weeks after 9/11 and I remember the quaint downtown had messages of peace written in chalk along with melted candles from a vigil the night before. I also have a random polaroid of a playground truck thing from UNH, I don’t know why.

  • Selfie at SNHU, 2010
  • Blending in at the yogurt shop in Durham, 2013
  • On campus at UNH, 2013
  • Creepy hotel hallway, Manchester, 2010
  • Playground thing at UNH, 2009
US Map with New Hampshire highlighted

All 50 States Day 28: Nevada!

Selfie on a balcony

All 50 States Day 28:

Nevada!

As an entertainer I viewed performing in Las Vegas as a right of passage, an experience without which my career wouldn’t have felt complete. I also have a family connection to Las Vegas as one of my sisters was a singer there for several years, mostly working at the Riviera, which at the time was the spot on the strip. So when I landed my first week of work in Vegas—at the Riviera—it felt ceremonial. Importantish.

It was also bloody hot. The week was in the middle of July and when the radio announcer said that we’d be nearing a record high that day I knew it was going to be unpleasant. But it was still cool. I worked with the late, great Kip Adotta, a veteran headliner whose work I had heard on the Dr. Demento Show growing up.

I went back to the Riviera the following year (also in July) but my most exciting Vegas experience by far was opening for Lily Tomlin at the MGM Grand for 10 days in November, 2009. After George Carlin passed away his manager worked with Lily Tomlin getting a headlining show together, and he brought me in to be the opener. The show was in the 750-seat David Copperfield Theater and I got to meet Lily Tomlin and watch a comedy legend work for a week and a half. She was amazing, gracious, and nice, and I got to take a picture with her in the big rocking chair!

I had been going back and forth to Vegas a lot already in 2009, including flying round trip from NYC in one day to do a promo at the Las Vegas Speedway. I was a semi-regular in a variety show called Amazed, at the V Theater at Planet Hollywood at the time. The show put up the performers in an apartment off the strip, near Summerlin on the way to Red Rocks, and it was lovely to be in Las Vegas away from the Strip. And since the show was in the afternoon the other performers and I had our nights free to check out other shows or parts of the city. I even hit a Las Vegas 51s game.

My only non-Vegas Nevada experience, aside from driving along I-15 to get there from L.A., is with Laughlin, Nevada, a small town on the Colorado river in the pointy southern tip of Nevada. My college friends and I went there for a very budget spring break, piling into 2 cars, cramming in to 2 rooms and splitting the ridiculously low weeknight rate between us. We entertained ourselves with $2 blackjack and cheap steak and lobster the size of crawdads.

  • Selfie on comedy condo balcony, near Summerlin, 2009
  • Riviera marquee, 2002
  • Lily Tomlin and me, MGM Grand, 2009
  • Selfie with legendary lounge singer Cookie Jar, 2002
  • Riviera marquee, 2003
  • Performing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 2009
  • Me and Wax Elvis, 2003
  • selfie at the top of the Stratosphere, 2009
US Map with Nevada highlighted

All 50 States Day 27: Nebraska!

B&W Photo of Carhenge

All 50 States Day 27:

Nebraska!

One of my favorite pictures from all of my travels comes from an unofficial stop in Nebraska. I was driving through the chunk of the state that’s wedged between Colorado and South Dakota, on my way to a gig in Sterling Colorado after a show in Spearfish, SD. On that trip, in September of 1995, I had my old Pentax K1000 camera with me and it was loaded with black and white film. So many of my favorite travel pics are from that roll and here marks the first appearance of a frame from that legendary spool. Behold: Carhenge!

B&W Photo of Carhenge

You’re darn right that’s a recreation of Stonehenge made out of junk cars! If you’ve been following this series you know I love me some roadside attractions. I’ve visited the Field of Dreams in Iowa, the Spam Museum in Minnesota, the Thing in Arizona, so when I saw that something called “Carhenge” was only a few miles off my route there was no way I was not going to stop in and check it out. It’s even noted on the Rand McNally Road Atlas so you know it’s important!

Yes, I’ve also been to Nebraska for shows, playing University of Nebraska and Nebraska Weslyan in Lincoln, Creighton in Omaha, Midland Lutheran College in Freemont, and a run of noontime shows at community colleges in Grand Island, Hastings, and Columbia. For those noon shows I took my video camera along and documented the glory of playing community college cafeterias in the middle of the day for my Life as a Comic series.

I also made time to stop by a decommissioned naval munitions plant, upon which the Hastings branch of Central Community College stood. Because historical markers are like roadside attractions coupled with the magic of history! <the more you know star gif>

  • Glorious, magnificent Carhenge, 1995
  • Selfie at naval munitions plant, 2007
  • frame grab from Life as a Comic, in Grand Island, NE, 2007
  • another LaaC frame grab, either Hastings or Columbia, NE, 2007
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All 50 States Day 26: Montana!

river with raft

All 50 States Day 26:

Montana!

In the spring of 1997, early in my college touring career, I had my first big trek through the Pacific Northwest, 12 or so shows stretched over a three week span. The tour started in Havre, MT, a small town along U.S. Highway 2 in the middle of the northern edge of the state. The tour ended in the Seattle area so I flew to Seattle, rented a car for three weeks and started the tour by driving to Havre.

There were several non-show nights on that trek, nights where I could choose where to stay, so I tried to pick interesting spots. One of the spots, either on the way to or back from Havre, was Whitefish, Montana, near the western entrance of Glacier National Park. It was the off season so I could only get to the visitor center near a small lake. And even though it was the ancient days of film cameras, I actually have a picture of it!

In 2002 I had a more Montana-centric tour, playing colleges in Billings, Havre, and Dillon, along with a show in Dickinson, North Dakota. For that tour I flew in to Billings where I rented a car for a week and the rental agency insisted I upgrade because he had a brand new Jeep he was determined to rent. “Even if you offer something crazy like $5 a day I’ll accept,” the rental agent said, so I offered $5 a day and rented a brand new Jeep Cherokee that had just been delivered and had about 6 miles on the odometer.

After my week of driving to Dickinson, Havre, Dillon, and back I returned the car with over 1500 miles on it. The rental agent looked at the odometer reading on my rental form and remarked, “you did some driving.” Yup. Thank heaven for their unlimited miles policy.

I even took a detour near Dillon into a national park to try to find a Sacagawea Historic Site, though I never found it. It was winter and my cell lost all bars in the park, and the road I was on was dirt and turning into snow and slush, so I decided I should get back to town and get ready for the show. I didn’t want the headline of the local paper to be “New York Comedian Eaten by Wolves in National Park, Is Idiot.” I also took a picture there so the paper would have something to run with the story.

In ’02 and ’03 I played summer orientation shows at MSU in Bozeman and it was great to see Montana in the summer. The shows were on Mondays and flying in the Saturday before not only afforded me a cheaper airfare, it allowed a few extra days to see the state. The student activities advisor was a great host both years, one year taking me to Yellowstone for the day and the next year putting together a rafting excursion on the Yellowstone River. Sadly, my Hurly baseball cap was lost in said river.

I’ve also played Carroll College in Helena a couple of times and spent a few more days off in Bozeman. In fact, it was a rock club in Bozeman where I saw a the band 40 Watt Hype from Fresno, and became a fan. Montana (has) rocks!

  • Rafting Selfie! Yellowstone River, 2003
  • Rafting on the Yellowstone River near Bozeman, 2003
  • Jeep lost in a national park near Dillon, 2003
  • Church near Whitefish, 1997
  • Lake in Glacier National Park, 1997
  • Sign for Lindsay, MT, in the gosh dang middle of nowhere, 2002
MTMap
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