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All 50 States Day 48: West Virginia!

West VA capitol

All 50 States Day 48:

West Virginia!

I landed my first gigs in West Virginia early in my touring career, some of the many shows I did in spring and fall of 1996 after showcasing at the Great Lakes Regional NACA Conference in October of 1995. One of my first shows in the state was at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, and the school and town had an outdoorsy, crunchy, hippie-ish vibe that I dug. The state is a haven for mountain biking, rafting, hiking, camping, and the like, and there were enclaves and colleges that attracted people looking for those things.

Then again, there are drive-thru convenience stores where you literally drive your car through them! They look like car washes, but instead of soapy brushes and water jets there are bags of chips and 12-packs of beer. It is a many-faceted state.

The capital, Charleston, is right on a river with hills all around and there’s a gorgeous capitol building on the banks. I’ve played University of Charleston twice over the years, and on an early trip to the city I caught a minor league baseball game, the Charleston Alley Cats, at the time an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Concord College, in the tiny town of Athens, has had me in for shows on three or four occasions and since the small town is without a hotel I stayed in an on-campus guest room. This particular guest room was in the main office building for the school, a building that included some classrooms, so when I would wake up the next morning, on the later side as is my wont as a musician, I would trudge blearily to my car through an active work and educational site, an embarrassing way to start a day.

One of my least favorite shows ever was at a community college outside of Wheeling, a noontime show that was the first time I refused the check afterward. The show was in a loud student cafeteria and there was no sound system, just one mic plugged into the overhead cafeteria speakers, the same speakers used to announce when lunch orders were ready. I played for about 15-20 minutes, went into my closer and ended the show.

The student activities contact, who before the show said there was no other sound equipment available and asked why mics needed to be plugged in anyway, said that I had to do more time. I declined and she said I had to talk to her boss. The faculty guy whose office I ended up in tried to manage me, looking over the contract, saying that I was contracted to do 50-60 minutes and was there any way I would go back out and do some more time because he sure would hate it if I didn’t get paid. Since he was looking at the contract I pointed to the section that mandated a sound system operated by qualified personnel. While he tried to reformulate a new argument I told him to keep the check and I was heading out.

It was a season when I would sometimes have 8 or 9 shows in a 5-6 day period with shows every night and some noon shows the same day, so I wouldn’t miss the money that much. After a few more bad noon experiences, including shows where schools had me performing in the hallway because “more people would see me that way,” I developed a thicker skin and would plow through my hour of material regardless of the audience indifference or hostility. It became a contest and I wasn’t going to let the rude crowd keep me from getting my check.

But that was only one bad show mixed in with a lot more good ones, including schools that have had me back multiple times and treated me well. So West Virginia, when this pandemic is over, call me! I’ll definitely come back and rock the mountains!

  • State Capitol, Charleston, 1997
  • Drive through convenience store that you LITERALLY DRIVE THROUGH!, 2001
  • Crossing the Ohio River on I-470

All 50 States Day 44: Utah!

All 50 States Day 44:


I’ve made a couple of trips to Utah so far, the first was in August 2007 for an orientation show at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. In the vast expanse between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, Cedar City is not only home to S.U.U. but also an annual Shakespeare festival, a fact I learned after the show when some theater people from the fest admitted they snuck into the show on campus.

For that first trip I went to Salt Lake City a few days early and did a comedy show at Moe’s Bar and Grill produced by SLC-based comedian Sina Amedson. I also had time to catch a Salt Lake City Bees minor league baseball game and even took the streetcar from downtown to the stadium.

Before heading back to SLC from Cedar City I drove to Zion National Park for a quick hike. I know I didn’t have time to see much of the park but what I did see was amazing.

I returned to Utah in May of 2008 to open a show for George Carlin at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. It was a run of three shows–Salt Lake City, El Paso, and Anaheim—and it would end up being the last weekend I worked with George before he died. Abravanel Hall is a beautiful concert space with amazing sound. It’s the kind of place where you’re on stage and you feel like you don’t even need a sound system to reach the back of the room.

At the time Utah law didn’t technically allow bars so any place that served alcohol had to be a private club. If you wanted to go to a bar you could buy an annual or short term membership for a few bucks so the law didn’t really discourage drinking, but it did make me feel a little extra special because instead of just a patron you were now a member. Maybe that’s what the legislators wanted all along?

  • Selfie in Zion National Park, 2007
  • Zion National Park, 2007
  • Hiking trail near SLC, 2007
  • Hiking near SLC, 2007
  • Creek on hiking trail near SLC, 2007
  • Mormon Temple selfie, 2008
  • Flowers in Zion National Park, 2007

All 50 States Day 36: Oklahoma!

OK welcome center

All 50 States Day 36:


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 33: North Carolina!


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!

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 26: Montana!

river with raft

All 50 States Day 26:


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

All 50 States Day 25: Missouri!

Rob at hotel pool

All 50 States Day 25:


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

All 50 States Day 19: Maine!

All 50 States Day 19:


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!


All 50 States Day 14: Indiana!

All 50 States Day 14:


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!).


All 50 States Day 13: Illinois!

All 50 States Day 13:


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

All 50 States Day 12: Idaho!

All 50 States Day 12:


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…


All 50 States Day 11: Hawaii!

Iao Valley State Park

All 50 States Day 11:


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.

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 9: Florida!

hotels in Miami Beach

All 50 States Day 9:


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

All 50 States Day 8: Delaware!

All 50 States Day 8:


Well, I knew that eventually there was going to be a state I didn’t have a personal picture of. I’ve been to Delaware, I swear! I can still write about it, but I won’t have much to put on instagram <frowny face>.

Keep in mind my rules for counting a state: I’ve had to have performed in the state or spent at least a night there. With Delaware, anyone who’s driven from New York City to mid-Atlantic region cities like Baltimore or DC has driven through the tiny northern tip of the state near Wilmington, but that doesn’t count!

I know of at least two college shows I’ve done in Delaware, the University of Delaware in March of 2001 and a small college called Goldy Beacom College in Wilmington in January of 2003. For the latter show I remember going out to a local bar & grill after the show and seeing an acoustic duo cover band and it was the fist time I think I heard the Jimmy Eat World song “The Middle” all the way through. During the second chorus I joked with the people at my table that if it strictly followed the rules of a pop song it would go to the bridge. It did. During the bridge I said the next rule of pop songwriting is breaking it down for the third verse, and sure enough the song breaks down for the third verse.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing! Standard song structures become standard because they work!

Also, I was reminded by my note in the google map of past gigs I put together (check it out here) that the show at Goldey Beacom didn’t have a sound system, I had to play completely acoustic in a multifunction room. the fun of putting this project together is all the little details!


All 50 States Day 7: Connecticut!

All 50 States Day 7:


Ah, Connecticut, you crazy Nutmeg State that I have to pronounce “Connect-i-cut” in my head to spell correctly! You’re so close to my home base in Brooklyn, NY, and yet so far!

With its little southwestern dog-leg reaching toward New York City, the Connecticut border is a mere 37 miles from downtown Brooklyn, which makes places like Norwalk and Fairfield accessible for day trips, easy weekend escapes, or even (shudder) the reverse commuting day job. I’ve spent some summer days in Fairfield with friends at a beach house belonging to one of their families, and I’ve also performed in Fairfield at both Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University.

Other colleges I’ve played in the state are Connecticut College in New London, Albertus Mangus in New Haven, and U Conn in Storrs, where I met a second cousin and her family after the show. Turns out I have relatives there!

Two of my appearances opening for George Carlin took place in Connecticut, one at the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport on March 13, 2008, and the next night at Foxwoods Casino. I have vivid memories of both shows, the beauty of the Klein auditorium compared to the ‘beauty’ of downtown Bridgeport, and having a conversation with Carlin backstage after my set at Foxwoods, when he told me about “Failing: A Very Difficult Piece for String Bass” and thought i’d like it. He said he’d send me a CD of it after the trip and sure enough I got a CD in the mail a week later with a post-it note on it that simply said “from George Carlin.” He was right, I liked it.

And there’s even something from Connecticut that remains in my everyday life: my gold sparkly Music Man Stingray bass that I record with regularly. If you’ve heard any of my self produced albums since 2004, you’ve heard the bass I bought on eBay and drove to Connecticut (either Danbury or Waterbury, I’m trying to verify) to pick up from a music store. The purchase was against the wishes of my girlfriend at the time and in hindsight her opposition should have been a huge red flag. I mean, look at that thing! It’s magnificent!

  1. Foxwoods Marquee, 2008
  2. Ritch Duncan and I, proud of our grilling skillz, 1999(?)
  3. With the Student Activities board at UConn, 2011
  4. Shot of me looking all LL Bean on Fairfield Beach, 2000(?)
  5. The lovely Merritt Parkway in autumn, on a drive back to NYC from gigs in Vermont, 2008
  6. The epic and amazing gold sparkle Music Man StingRay bass! Purchased in 2002, pictured here in 2020.

All 50 States Day 6: Colorado!

Selfie in Durango

All 50 States Day 5:


Transfers at Denver International Airport don’t count! I only count a state if I’ve actually spent a night there with feet on non-airport grounds. Them’s the rules!

I was able to check Colorado off of my to-do list early in my touring life with a gig at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, CO, a flat and dusty railroad stop in the Northeastern corner of the state.

I’ve also been to Denver for a few odd gigs, and when I say ‘odd’ I mean it. One was a corporate gig for Comedy Central at a regional cable provider convention that was set up on the concourse of Coors Field (not during a Rockies game). A magician and I took turns performing on a stage somewhere beneath the right field grandstands.

Another Denver gig was a promotional campaign for a liquor brand. The promotion involved wheeling a portable sound system to different bars so I could pop in and do a quick ambush set of music while aspiring models sold flavored shots. That gig (which also took me to Milwaukee and Cleveland–glamorous!) was mostly terrible but there was one stop at an outdoor plaza in downtown Denver that was fun because I was set up like a street musician and people actually listened. To this day I tense up every time I see a bottle of Pucker.

Other college gigs in Colorado include Colorado School of Mines and Technology in Golden, Adams State in Alamosa, and Ft. Lewis College in Durango, which is a lovely former mining town in the southwestern part of the state. That last gig was during the school’s Homecoming weekend, which included a large bonfire and me hosting karaoke after my set. I don’t remember if I sang the song “Light My Fire” but I should have.

© Paravonian