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Rob P.

All 50 States Day 25: Missouri!

Rob at hotel pool

All 50 States Day 25:

Missouri!

Holy Cow! We’re at the halfway point of the list and we’re in the middle of the country!

And right in the middle of Missouri is Columbia, where I’ve performed at 3 different venues: the lovely Jesse Auditorium on the University of Missouri Campus, where I opened for George Carlin for two shows in November of 2007; the Deja Vu comedy club, where I performed with my friend John Bush in 2013; and Columbia College, my first gig in the city back in Nov. 2002.

The weekend at Deja Vu had a one-nighter connected to it down in Osage Beach on Lake of the Ozarks, where the Netflix series Ozark takes place, so yeah, that show’s pretty much about me, but they changed the comedy thing to money laundering. The whole weekend came up because I was doing a corporate gig in Lake of the Ozarks and I got to stay in a pretty sweet hotel in peak season.

College gigs have taken me around the state with shows at University of Missouri—Rolla, which I’ve played twice over the years. Back in 2003 I played Truman State up in Kirksville, where I have a lovely pic of me in the rental car at 5 am because I had to drive, fly, and drive to a gig the next night in West Virginia. I’ve also played Cottey College out west and Maryville University in St. Louis.

And yes, there’s even an old, embarrassing family photo from a trip to Meramec Caverns back when I was, like 2 1/2 or something. I look thrilled, but those plaid shorts are dope.

  • Kickin’ it at Lake of the Ozarks in summer 2013
  • Early morning start of a drive-fly-drive trek from Truman State U. in Kirksville, MO to Concord College in Athens, WV, 2003
  • Fire truck celebrating our pilot’s last flight at the St. Louis airport, 2013
  • With the Y107 morning crew in Columbia, MO, 2013
  • Another in the “Gaudy Hotel Room” photo series, Kirksville, MO, 2003
  • Family trip to Meramec Caverns, date redacted
Mo_Map

All 50 States Day 24: Mississippi!

Spinal Tap with Hello Cleveland text

All 50 States Day 24:

Mississippi!

Did you know there’s a Cleveland, Mississippi? It’s the only town in Mississippi I’ve been to, thanks to a show at Delta State University sometime in the late 90s. I don’t have any pictures from the show but I remember there were other acts on the bill, which makes it stand out from most of my college shows.

Usually at a college I’m the only performer and I perform an hour set. Every once in awhile a school will book two acts and have them each do a half hour or so to split a 60-75 minute show between them. On more than one occasion I’ve shown up at a school to find they’ve booked three acts, all headliners, and expected them to do 45 minutes to an hour each, which would result in a show that runs 2 1/2 to 3 hours, which is a terrible, terrible idea. It’s comedy, people, not a Wagner opera!

We performers always try to discourage these marathon shows, but as someone who’s signed a contract to perform for an hour it’s a tricky situation to demand to perform a shorter set. Usually we leave the final call to the student activities board with a strong suggestion to keep the show under 2 hours total.

Such was the case at the Delta State show, I think the other act was a magician or juggling duo, if memory serves. I also remember hitting a very small bar/hangout after the show because it was the only place in town that served food at that hour–fried fish sandwiches (which I think were just a couple of fish sticks on Wonder Bread).

For this post I even dug around for pictures of me near the Mississippi River, which I’ve seen in New Orleans, St. Louis, the Quad Cities, Dubuque, and as a tiny little stream near Brainerd, Minnesota, but couldn’t come up with anything, so enjoy a picture of Spinal Tap:

Spinal Tap with Hello Cleveland text
US map with Mississippi highlighted

All 50 States Day 23: Minnesota!

Polka Band on stage

All 50 States Day 23:

Minnesota!

I love Minnesota. it’s beautiful, friendly, midwestern, freakin’ huge, and it has the Twin Cities and some other really cool spots. My first college gig ever was in Minnesota, at the University of Minnesota–Duluth!

For that first show I drove the 8 hours overnight, got into town about 8 or 9 in the morning, and was lucky to be able to check into the hotel early and sleep. It was a welcome week show at the beginning of the school year, I wanna guess August 95. I remember being really nervous, getting through it, and not knowing how to gauge whether it went well or not because I was used to performing in comedy clubs to adults who were drinking, not nervous 18-year-olds in a student union. I felt better when the student activities board took me out to a Perkins diner after the show, which would be the first of over 400 college shows I’d end up doing in my career.

I spent the coldest week of my life in Minneapolis in January of 1996 doing a feature week at the ACME Comedy Company, a great club in a warehouse building near downtown. It was -30° F (-34.4° C) without wind chill. All week! Another Minneapolis visit had me hanging out with my friends in the Second City Touring Company when they were doing a week in Minneapolis and I was in the area for some college gigs. I believe that was my first experience with Nye’s Bar, a polka bar/rock club that is legendary.

When I was in Minneapolis in 2015 for MarsCon, a really fun, fan-run Sci Fi convention, I heard that Nye’s was soon to close permanently and I had to jump on a Metro Transit and then walk the mile to the bar just to get a burger and hear some polka. Apparently a new Nye’s opened a few years later, I have yet to check out the new spot.

I ran into another friend on the road in Minnesota back in 2007 when I was on my way to do shows at Bemidji State, U of M Crookston, and North Dakota. My buddy Mike Siegel was working on one of the dozens of TV shows he hosted and they were shooting at a house somewhere between the Minneapolis airport and Bemidji. I met up with him and crashed the craft services table.

I even stopped at the Spam Museum, in Austin, along I-90 in the middle of the southern edge of the state. I was on my way to a show at Southwestern Minnesota State and I kept seeing billboards for the Spam Museum. I love roadside attractions and tourist traps so I definitely had to stop in. Even watched their trivia game show (hosted by Al Franken) by myself in the little auditorium. I don’t remember my score but I’m confident it was the best in the room.

  • Selfie at Nye’s bar, 2015
  • Polka band inside Nye’s, 2015
  • Crashing Mike Siegel’s TV show set, somewhere in Minnesota, 2007
  • The Spam Exam, hosted by Al Franken, at the Spam Museum, 2002
  • Downtown Duluth, pictured in 2009
MNMap

All 50 States Day 22: Michigan!

Detroit I-94 sign

All 50 States Day 22:

Michigan!

I’m amazed at how few pictures I have of Michigan considering the amount of shows I’ve done in the state. A very rough count has me at 17 venues—15 colleges and two comedy clubs—and yet I have only the most random photos.

I played colleges all over the state, from Central Michigan in Mt. Pleasant, to Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech in the Upper Peninsula, from Hope College and Grand Valley State on Lake Michigan to Wayne State, Oakland University, and U of M Dearborn near Detroit.

Early in my comedy career I featured at a comedy club in Battle Creek (and bought a new computer at Sears that weekend! Yes this was last century, shut up!), and in 2011 I did a set at the Detroit Comedy Festival at Mark Riddley’s Comedy Castle (and made a clever castle joke on twitter). And way back in 2001 I dropped in to the Dementia 2001 fest in Detroit between shows in Michigan and Ohio. For that I do have at least one picture, because the con took place in March and for some reason there was a Christmas-themed sketch. I was… confused.

A lot of the college shows were in the 1995-97 range, and then again in 2001, because those were years I showcased at the NACA Great Lakes regional conference and landed scores of gigs in Ohio, Michigan, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It was a time when we didn’t have cameras on our phones and didn’t take 50 pictures each week so I guess I’ll have to accept that my time in the state isn’t visually documented so well.

US Map with Michigan highlighted

All 50 States Day 21: Massachusetts!

All 50 States Day 21:

Massachusetts!

My favorite show that I’ve ever done was in Massachusetts, in Boston opening for George Carlin at the hilariously named Wang Theater on March 15, 2008. The night before we played at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut to a crowd that was okay but not as lively as Carlin crowds usually were. The Boston crowd, on the other hand, was exceptional.

It was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day and the theater was sold out. My 30-minute set went over like gangbusters, and when I got back into my dressing room below the stage Carlin came in from his dressing room next door and said “a lot better than last night, huh?” I was still really amped from the set and stumbled out some humble drivel like “they’re in a good mood,” or something, but eventually calmed down.

Carlin’s manager, Jerry Hamza, came in and we all chatted for a few minutes and I asked Jerry if he’d take a picture of me and George, joking “to prove to my mom I’m actually opening for you.” I hadn’t taken any pictures with him yet, I wanted to focus on doing good work and getting asked back, but the rush of confidence from the packed Saturday night theater helped me build up the nerve.

Jerry took my little digital camera and Carlin threw his arm around my shoulders and said, “a couple of assholes,” right before the picture was snapped. It’s one of my favorite nights in my show business career.

There have been other stops in Massachusetts before and after the Carlin gig in Boston, with a big college season in 2001–2002 that included UMass, Brandeis, Fitchburg State, and the “Worcester Trifecta” (term I invented) of Holy Cross, Assumption, and Worcester State. I even played the fancy schmancy prep school of Phillips Andover! More recently, okay, 2011, I did my first show for one of the Seven Sisters at Smith College in Northampton.

Other Boston area shows include a stop at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge back in 2001 and the Wentworth Institute of Technology in 2003.

  • Marquee for Carlin show at Wang Theater, March 15, 2008
  • George Carlin and me, Wang Theater dressing room, 2008
  • Flyer at Fitchburg State student union, 2010
  • Selfie frame from FlipCam vid at Fitchburg, 2010
  • Keep Dudley Clean sign, Dudley, MA, after show at Nichols College, 2001
MAMap

All 50 States Day 20: Maryland!

All 50 States Day 20:

Maryland!

Another photo fail post! I’ve performed in Maryland and had an overnight non-show stop in the state, but sadly I could track down no pictures. So I’m going to cheat a little and include Washington D.C. pictures in this post, since DC sits on land ceded to the U.S. government by the state of Maryland (Virginia ceded some land too but they asked for it back in the 1840s).

But I have definitely been to, performed in, and spent the night in the state of Maryland, first hitting the state in 1999 for a show at Towson University. The only other college show I’ve done there was at Washington College in Chestertown, a very quaint colonial-era town on the DelMarVa peninsula .

In late October of 2000 I played the Mid-Atlantic NACA Conference in Ocean City, and was treated to the experience of being in a summer beach town in the creepy off season. A lot of restaurants were closed for the winter, the town was desolate, and my oceanfront hotel room was mad cheap—I wrote down $39 a night in my paper calendar that weekend (57.98 in Feb 2020 dollars).

My non-comedy trip to Maryland was to meet one of my best buds as he was visiting his homeland of Baltimore for his parents’ anniversary party. I stayed with his family near the harbor and we checked out a few bars, We watched part of a Ravens game at a local, and the Ravens lost in painful fashion at the last minute and the bar was like a morgue. We kept our conversation low and tried not to show any outward enthusiasm for life, lest it be misinterpreted as taunting and incur the wrath of the upset (and drunk) Baltimorians.

As for DC, I took a weekend school trip there in junior high, performed in the D.C. Comedy Fest in 2007, and took the bus down from New York for the Rally to Restore Sanity in 2010. Because we thought 2010 was insane. <sigh>

  • On a wooden ship in the Potomac, junior high school trip
  • The Awakening, sculpture, pictured here in the early 80s in DC. It’s now in Maryland so it counts!
  • Me in front of the White House, 2007, while in town for the DC Comedy Fest
  • The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, 2010
Maryland Map with inset

All 50 States Day 19: Maine!

All 50 States Day 19:

Maine!

The deceptively huge state of Maine is gorgeous and “out there,” in many senses of the phrase. My first trip to the state was a social call visiting my friend Tom whose family had a house on the island of Vinylhaven. He rented the house for a mid-September week back around 1997 or so and I went up for a few days, driving to Rockland, parking the car and taking a ferry out to the island. It was after Labor Day so most of the people on the island were year-long residents, with a lot of lobstermen among them.

The first college in Maine that I played, that I can confirm, anyway, was University of Maine–Machias in the town of Machias, which is, as declared by an audience member in Boston the next night, “wicked fah.” Machias is in the Down East section of Maine along the coast, and only 25 miles shy of the Canadian border.

I’ll always remember the name of the Bluebird Motel in Machias because I had to have a proof CD of my album FedExed to me there. When I called ahead to the Motel to get the address for the delivery they simply said “Bluebird Motel, Highway 1, Machias, Maine.” When I asked for a street address or a number, the woman said, “the Fed Ex guy knows where we are.” I relayed the vague address to the CD manufacturer with the caveat “they say it’ll get there,” and sure enough, when I checked in my FedEx envelope was waiting for me.

I played Machias again in ’03 and University of Maine in Orono in 2007, and I’m pretty sure I did a show at the University of Southern Maine but I can’t confirm, so it must have been back in my paper calendar days.

I played Bates College in Lewiston back in ’04, in a building on campus called “The Silo” that was in fact, a former barn silo. I remember it being a fun show with a nice turnout, and I also remember flying in to Portland, quickly checking in to my hotel, dropping my stuff, and heading straight to campus. After the show, when I was getting ready to go to bed I saw that the sheets were so thin as to be nearly transparent. It was embarrassing to go to the front desk to ask for another set of sheets—like I had had an accident or something—but I had to. The sheets in the second set were just as thin, so I used both plus a flat sheet to protect me from the hotel mattress.

And this explains why one of my only confirmed pictures in the state is of me holding a bedsheet in front of the light!

MaineMap

All 50 States Day 18: Louisiana!

All 50 States Day 18:

Louisiana!

I first set foot in Louisiana after a show at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, AR, but that trip didn’t include a show or an overnight stay in Louisiana so according to my rules it doesn’t count! Which means my official first visit to the state was done in style when I performed in the New Orleans Comedy Festival in 2000!

I did a couple of sets in that festival, one at a cafe called True Brew, which I don’t think is there anymore, and another set at the House of Blues. It was so cool to be on the stage at the House of Blues, and even more cool to be able to hang out backstage. Aside from the funky decor the wall in the green room is filed with tiles bearing the names of bands that have performed there, and slashes for how many times they had.

My friend Cayne, who’s from New Orleans and whom I met when we were both doing comedy in Chicago, was there for the fest as well and he showed me around a bit. He took me to a great spot for a gospel brunch buffet where I had my first authentic gumbo experience. I also tried raw oysters and a bunch of other great food on that trip.

I went back to New Orleans for a recreational trip the next year, meeting my sister, brother-in-law, mom and step dad, where I saw more of the city, had more great food, and heard a ton of great music.

My only other Louisiana experience was in Dec. 2001 when I played Louisiana Tech up in Ruston, LA, flying into Monroe for the gig. Flying in those months after 9/11 was pretty intense, but I remember the show being fun and well worth the trip.

  • Backstage rockin’ with with tiles from Foo Fighters and Cheap Trick. The Creed tile photobombed, 2000
  • Couching backstage at House of Blues with funky decor, 2000
  • On stage at House of Blues in the New Orleans Comedy Festival, 2000
  • Kickin’ it in the French Quarter, 2001
  • Hot Dog vendor, 2001
US Map showing Louisiana

All 50 States Day 16: Kansas!

All 50 States Day 16:

Kansas!

Did you know there’s a Pittsburg in Kansas? It’s in the southeast corner of the state and I had a gig there in 2002 which was sandwiched between a gig in West Virginia two days before and Shippensburg, Pennsylvania two days later. I always joked that my agent just assumed it was the other Pittsburgh.

In addition to beautiful Pittsburg—no ‘h’—I’ve done shows at The University of Kansas in Lawrence, Emporia State, Fort Hays State, and Baker University. I remember an issue with the accommodations for the Emporia State gig, the school booked me at a Bed & Breakfast that I had to pay for and when I arrived the house was in the middle of a renovation and didn’t look very welcoming on account of it looking totally haunted. I checked in to a hotel and when I called the B&B to cancel they wouldn’t let me, so I had to drive to the B&B, pay for the night, and go back to the hotel. 

I’m sure I did a show in Salina back in the 1995-2000 era, which is before I started using a digital calendar so I can’t go back into my records to confirm when and what school. There might have been other Kansas shows in those days as well.

I also had a random corporate gig in Topeka a few years ago for a garden supply trade show. There were even some stone cold Mennonites at that show, from a farm and garden store in Missouri. They actually listened to about half of my set before deeming me a heathen and fleeing to save their souls. Also, after the show there was a pair of women’s underwear on the floor, I have no idea what that was about. I sometimes joke that my material is a real panty-dropper but it’s more of a figure of speech.

If and when I dig out my old paper calendars from storage I’ll be able to add those earlier college gigs to the list There might be at least one family trip in there too, my great aunt Sally lived in Lenexa for a while and I know I stopped in to see here while touring the state.

Musical bonus: I wrote a song called “I’m as Broke as Kansas!” It’s a southern rock jam about dogmatic right wing fiscal policy bankrupting education!

Here are the few pics I dug up that I can confirm were taken in the state:

KansasMap

All 50 States Day 15: Iowa!

Amana Colonies building

All 50 States Day 15:

Iowa!

I went to Iowa early and often in my comedy touring career and the first NACA convention at which I ever showcased was in Iowa (Cedar Rapids, if memory serves). It was the Upper Midwest regional in ’95 where I performed a 20-minute set in front of the student activities boards of most of the colleges and universities in the region, which lead to a lot of block booked shows over the next few semesters.

In those first touring years, from 1995-2000, I went to every corner of the state, from Westmar University in LaMars, Waldorf College in north central Forest City, to Mt. Mercy and Coe College around Cedar Rapids. One of my earliest gigs was at Central College in Pella, Iowa, home of their namesake windows and a big-time annual tulip festival.

In this millennium I’ve been back to Iowa for shows at Drake University in Des Moines (after which I went to see the AAA Iowa Cubs), and I played the Englert Theater at the University of Iowa in the amazing Big 10 college town of Iowa City. I dropped in for a set once at the Des Moines Funny Bone, a top midwest comedy room, and stopped by the Field of Dreams when I was in the area for a show at University of Dubuque. Sadly I can’t find my pictures from the Field of Dreams, but I did track down a selfie I took in Eldon, Iowa, in front of the house made famous in Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Most importantly, I’ve made a couple of pilgrimages to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, the venue where Buddy Holly, et al. played their final concert.

To get to shows in Iowa I’ve driven through snow, ice, rain, and the strong fertilizer smell of late spring. I’ve also had to cross the state several times on my way to other gigs, and the interstate arteries of I-35 and I-80, crossing like the letter t in Des Moines, were well known to me for several years.

  • Selfie at American Gothic House in Eldon, 2008
  • Englert Theater at U. of Iowa, 2010
  • The Iowa Cubs, 2007
  • Amana Colonies, 2010
  • Surf Ballroom Polaroid, 2007?
  • Selfie at Surf Ballroom monument, 2007
IowaMap

All 50 States Day 14: Indiana!

All 50 States Day 14:

Indiana!

I’ve done a few laps around the Hoosier State mostly doing college shows, everywhere from the big names like Indiana University in Bloomington and Notre Dame in South Bend, to smaller schools like Wabash College in Crawfordsville and Hanover College in Hanover.

I’ve also hit the big city of Indianapolis for some drop-in sets at the Crackers Comedy Clubs while doing shows at Nap-town area colleges like University of Indianapolis. Fun story: alums of Indiana U. are very particular about it being “Indiana University” and not “University of Indiana” so when I tried to tell a friend I had just done a show at the University of Indianapolis I couldn’t even finish my sentence because he said “it’s Indiana University.”  “’Napolis!” I shouted. “Indianpolis is the name of the school! I know where I was!”

I like Indianapolis and I’ve met some wonderful people there. It’s also where you go to appear live on the popular syndicated morning radio show Bob & Tom, though they ask you to not do too many local references because they’re syndicated coast to coast and I guess don’t want to remind people in places like Spokane that they’re listening to two dudes in Indiana. I only appeared on Bob & Tom once, back in February of 2007 and it was right after they got back from going to the Super Bowl, in which their Indianapolis Colts defeated my beloved Chicago Bears. They were wiped out from the travel (or hungover perhaps), I was surly from the loss, but I still had fun on the show.

In the photos for this post I had to dig in to some old video files and grab some frames, and this post marks the first appearance of frames from my Life as a Comic video series, which I did on and off from 2006-2010. The series showed what life on the road was like for a working comic and there are a couple of frames from an episode chronicling a show I did at Vincennes University in April of 2006. I also grabbed some frames from FlipCam videos I took at a show at Ball State in Muncie in 2010 and some B-roll shots of me driving through snow (complete with cracked windshield!).

IndianaMap

All 50 States Day 13: Illinois!

All 50 States Day 13:

Illinois!

Illinois is the only state in the country I didn’t have to travel to because I was born there, though I don’t remember it because I was quite young. I was born and raised in a small industrial city called Waukegan, which is on Lake Michigan north of Chicago, just shy of the Wisconsin border and about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. You know those idyllic Chicago suburbs from the John Hughes movies in the 1980s? Waukegan isn’t one of them.

Waukegan is more of a working class city with an industrial past that brought in people from all over the world. My dad was born in an Armenian neighborhood that boasted several Armenian grocery stores, and a couple of Armenian churches, including a small one founded by my grandparents. The town is where I went to public school, started playing the cello, did some plays and musicals in high school, started playing in bands, and got decent enough grades to get a partial scholarship to a school somewhere else.

I came back to Illinois after college and lived there a few more years, temping while playing in a band, taking classes at Second City in Chicago, and performing at comedy clubs. That time in Chicago starting out on my comedy career is one of my favorite eras of my life (it’s not a wheel, it’s a carousel! <sniff>).

I get back to Illinois as often as possible to visit family and to do shows when I can. In addition to the comedy clubs in Chicago, like Zanies which is thankfully still there, I’ve played clubs downstate in Bloomington and Peoria (fist road gig ever!), and even did a one-nighter at a bowling alley in Carbondale. College-wise I’ve played too many to list, but a wide variety from IIT, DePaul, and Columbia College in Chicago, to Illinois Weslyan in Bloomington, Augustana in Rock Island, Bradley Universtiy in Peoria (oh, I can play Peoria!), Eureka College (where Ronald Reagan went for like a year!) and more.

I’m trying not to give my life story here but it’s my home state! All right, fine, here are the pictures:

  • Me, in the light blue blanket, kickin’ it with my homies
  • Chillin’ and grillin’ in Waukegan
  • There’s always room for cello! (Thank you, public school string program! Support the arts!)
  • The Steppingstones at Cabaret Metro, Chicago, 91 or 92ish?
  • Performing at the Improv in Chicago, 95ish
  • At Zanies, Chicago with Gilbert Gottfried
  • Performing at Hitchcocks with the guys from Ectomorph at the record release party for Don’t Crowd the Plow, 1995
  • I made the kiosk at Illinois Weslyan! 2010
  • Performing with a broken hand at Augustana College, 2011
  • Chicago skyline, one of the 1st pics ever taken with my Canon PowerShot, my first decent digital camera. 2001
Illinois-Map

All 50 States Day 12: Idaho!

All 50 States Day 12:

Idaho!

Though I didn’t have any shows in Idaho on my first big trek through the Northwest back in ’97 I did spend a consequential off night in Boise. It was the night I decided to cut off my distinctive super-long hair, after an unsolicited suggestion from an off-duty stripper.

During that first trip I had a film camera with me and took a couple of pictures in the state, including one of a dormant wooden roller coaster in the off season. Since there was no geo-tagging on the old school film cameras it takes some work to figure out where the pictures were taken, and luckily the name “Silverwood” can be seen on the roller coaster. Still in operation, Silverwood Amusement Park lies alongside U.S. Highway 95 north of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in the skinny northern reaches of the state. I must have passed the coaster as I headed south from Hwy 2 (The Great Northern) after my show in Havre, MT.

Another picture from that roll is from downtown Boise, of an art deco building that, thanks to more visible signs and google sleuthing, turns out to be called the Hoff Building, which was built in 1930 as the Hotel Boise. That’s not where I met the off-duty stripper.

On subsequent trips to the northwest I did in fact play some shows in Idaho, including Albertson College outside of Boise, and North Idaho College up in beautiful Coeur d’Alene. In back-to-back years (’02 & ’03) I played shows at Idaho State in Pocatello, and after one of the shows I was treated to my favorite karaoke rendition of “Girl From Ipanema,” sung by two Brazilian exchange students who eschewed the lyrics on the monitor and sang the song in Portuguese.

No pictures of karaoke night exist, and the only other image I found in my archives from Idaho was a random picture of my hotel room in Pocatello. At the time I was taking pictures of gaudily designed hotel and motel rooms, I have no idea why. I guess that’s how I entertained myself on the road before we were on the internet 24/7.

Oh yeah, the off-duty stripper story: I was staying in Boise on an off night and I stopped in at a rock music-friendly bar I probably found by going through the local indy arts paper (that’s how we found stuff before Yelp). It was a slow weeknight with just a couple of regulars when a young, attractive, very dolled up woman made a big entrance. She announced her presence with a big hello, bright red lipstick, a leather jacket, and a low-cut shirt offering ample WonderBra (it was the 90s) clevage.

She proclaimed she was back from Seattle, hadn’t visited Boise in forever, and was incredibly busy dancing in the big city. I kept to myself as she made the rounds catching up with the regulars and she eventually sat next to me for a minute to ask me what my deal was. I said I was a musician passing through (I prefer claiming musician as my vocation over comedian, it leads to fewer follow up questions). We chatted for a minute and then she offered, “you’d be a better looking guy if you cut your hair, it’s dated.”

The day I cut off the long hair, April, 1997

Now that’s not the only reason I cut my hair the day after I got back to Illinois after that trip, but it definitely was that little extra kick in the vanity I needed to take the plunge. As a performer it’s more than just fear of change, drastically altering your look leads to the eventual expense of getting new headshots and promo pics. In fact, when my college agent at the time asked for more headshots to send to schools and I said I needed time to get new ones because I had cut my hair, there was dead silence on the other line. During that silence I realized that he viewed my long hair as a selling point, a crucial feature of my marketability, more than my musical or comedic talent.

I have since gone from shaggy to short, and from short hair to the current buzz cut, because I love reinvention (and my hair keeps getting thinner). But reinvention is good. I’m like Madonna, but, you know, a guy. And a comedian. Oh, and I can’t dance. But other than that…

IdahoMap

All 50 States Day 11: Hawaii!

Iao Valley State Park

All 50 States Day 11:

Hawaii!

The U.S.’ 50th state was also my 50th state! I was stuck on 49 for several years and was wondering if I’d have to resort to going there on vacation and doing an open mic just to say I’d performed there. But in 2010 not only did I finally landed a gig in Hawaii, the show was on my birthday! The wonderful people at B.Y.U. Hawaii brought me in for a show on their campus on the north shore of Oahu and I flew in a week early to try to see a bit of the state.

My week in Hawaii started with a weekend in Honolulu where I stayed in Waikiki Beach and explored the city. I poked around the beach, hit a couple of parks, and had a Mai Tai at the Outrigger Reef hotel where one of my sisters had her first big singing gig about 20 years prior.

When planning my trip I had to decide if I wanted to island hop, and if so, which island to I hop to. I chose Maui because I wanted to do some snorkeling and Molokini, a small crescent shaped island formed from an ancient volcano cone, is just off the coast of Wailea. I stayed up the shore in a groovy older motel called the Aston Maui Lu*, in a great town called Kihei. I checked out Iao Valley State Park, sang karaoke at a restaurant bar, and sailed on a catamaran for a snorkeling trip. Sadly it was too windy for the catamaran to navigate the Molokini crater, but I got to snorkel in some great reefs, saw a sea turtle, and the crew threw up the sail in the strong winds and I got to experience a pretty thrilling ride.

I flew back to Oahu the day before my show at BYU Hawaii and a couple of very helpful and friendly students met me at the airport and drove with my up to Laie, where they treated me to the infamous local dish called the Loco Moco—a hamburger patty served over a plate of rice and covered with a friend egg and gravy.

The show on my birthday was so much fun and was a great way to wind up an amazing week. The audience included students and people from town, and after the show the student activities advisor told the crowd it was my birthday and they all sang “Happy Birthday” to me to end the night. After the show I hit the hotel bar—oh, I didn’t even mention, they put me up at Turtle Bay, the resort where they filmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall!

So yeah, I had a great week in Hawaii and it was a memorable way to check all 50 states off of my to-do list. I am looking forward to returning and seeing more islands.

Top Row, left to right: Waikiki selfie with Diamond Head in background; Color Polaroid of Maui sunset; Getting my Hunter S. Thompson on while sailing in Maui; Molokini crater.

Middle Row, left to right: Iao Valley State Park with quality lens flare, Snorkel selfie; swimming selfie in Kihei; Laie Hawaii Temple in Laie, North Shore of Oahu.

Bottom row: Rocks at Waimea Beach and yes, I jumped! Polaroid of a shrimp shack at a shrimp farm on the North Shore of Oahu.

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Maui Lu Motel
The late, great Aston Maui Lu Motel in Kihei, HI

*when going back to find the name of the groovy motel that I liked so much in Kihei I started poking around on google maps in the area to read the names of the hotels, sure I would remember it once I saw the name. I couldn’t find it. I switched to satellite photo mode. I saw a large, bulldozer area of land by the beach, a construction site.

The spot was labeled “Maui Bay Villas by Hilton Grand…” and I had a sinking feeling that the funky mid-century motel I dug so much had been bulldozed for a new corporate resort. I searched my old emails for a receipt to get the name and address of the motel: The Aston Maui Lu at 575 S. Kihei Rd.

I entered the address in google maps and it put the pin right smack dab in the middle of the construction site. Turns out it’s a friggin’ timeshare slated to open Spring of 2021.

google map construction site
Former site of the Aston Maui Lu Hotel

Fare thee well, Aston Maui Lu! You were a dope, classic motel with nice grounds and kick ass pool.

All 50 States Day 10: Georgia!

All 50 States Day 10:

Georgia!

My rule of not counting a state if your only visit is changing planes at the airport still stands; BUT, it turns out the only picture I can find that I’ve personally taken in the state of Georgia was taken in ATL during a layover. I was on my way from a show the previous night at Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, MA to a show that night at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, FL (we call that “bad routing”).

But I have been to Georgia for real, I swear! I performed in the New Year’s Eve show at the Punchline in Atlanta on Dec. 31, 2008. When I searched online for evidence of me being in the lineup I even found a video of the club manager promoting the show! Turns out he didn’t mention any of the acts performing in the upcoming show (great marketing!) but he did joke about regretting his decision to hire a little person to play Baby New Year the previous year (I’m not even making that up).

I also played one college in Georgia: Brenau University, on February 20, 2005, and it’s one of the few schools whose swag t-shirts have survived to this day. Since Brenau is a predominantly women’s college with a strong dance program my plan was to wear the t-shirt here in NYC with the hope that various dancer alumnae see it and strike up a conversation. My plan has yet to come to fruition.

The picture from the airport is of a jazz poster that I liked. As someone who’s constantly making flyers for music shows I like to take visual notes of things that appeal to me. The performer in the poster is Rashaan Roland Kirk, a musician who could play multiple saxophones at once and also played flute (including on Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova, a.k.a. that campy song from Austin Powers).

See? You learn things by traveling!

All 50 States Day 9: Florida!

hotels in Miami Beach

All 50 States Day 9:

Florida!

The second “road gig” I ever did was in Florida! In 8th grade I got called up to the high school orchestra for their trip to Orlando because they needed some cellos to round out the ensemble. We flew to Orlando over spring break, had a day at Disneyland, won a silver medal in the competition we were there for, and I bought the t-shirt you see in my High School freshman class picture.

So no, that picture wasn’t actually taken in Florida, but apparently I liked that shirt so much I needed to brandish it in my yearbook for all to see. And did I mention it’s actually a half t-shirt? It was the 80s, we wore things like that.

I have since been back to Florida for many shows. Early in my touring days I did a couple of weeks at the Comedy Corner in West Palm Beach, where I featured for a young Kevin James and a bitter Judy Tenuta (different weeks). I’ve also performed at a bunch of colleges, including Florida State, University of Central Florida (at an outdoor spring festival where I followed a metal band and preceded Less Than Jake), Embry Riddle University in Daytona (where I took a couple of extra days to visit the Kennedy Space Center), University of West Florida way over in Pensacola, and Rollins College in Winter Park.

Florida has also been the embarkation point for several cruise gigs I’ve done in the past few years, departing from Port Canaveral. I’ve even taken non-comedy trips to Florida for a friend’s wedding, a couple of weekend getaways, and since my sister moved to the Tampa area a couple of years ago, family visits!

I still haven’t been to the Florida Keys yet, but I’m sure my Buffet days are ahead of me.

  • High school freshman year school pic
  • Crowd at UCF for spring festival show, 2002
  • Cruise Ship with Kennedy Space Center in background, 2019
  • Selfie with a rocket, Kennedy Space Center 2010
  • B&W Polaroid of Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center, 2010
  • Me in Ybor City, Tampa, 2019
  • Me at a spring training game in Lakeland, 2020
  • Miami Beach hotels, 2007
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