Recording your comedy sets is very educational. It helps you realize what spots in jokes are weak, where new jokes are stronger, how your act-outs help to add heft to a punchline and how your body language may be distracting from certain jokes.
It also helps you realize how fucking fat you are.
New Podcast Episodes
Chucklepedia has released two new episodes in the past week. One was a regular episode of our usual jocularity, and the second was our first-ever interview episode. Enjoy!
Comedy takes you to interesting places. This week it takes me to Gilroy and San Jose! Be there or be somewhere else more convenient to your own location!
After months of rumors, the former Purple Onion is soon reopening as Doc’s Lab. They’re already stacking their calendar full of great music, performers and comedy and tickets are now up for sale!
I’m performing with a great lineup on 10/23, but this is exciting in general. Go check out the calendar and go see a show!
Last night I had a dream my family was being attacked by Thanos, the giant blue dude played by Josh Brolin in Guardians of the Galaxy. After he’d destroyed our house and all our stuff, I decided to walk up to him and reasonably ask the real purpose behind his attack, to which he was befuddled and had no real reason, so he opted to leave without killing all of us.
By the way, I didn’t advance in the comedy competition on Friday. So clearly I can’t talk my way out of EVERYTHING.
Tonight I’ll be in Dublin, CA competing in a comedy competition.
Also, I really need to get some new standup pictures.
If you’re around Dublin, CA, come on out! Bring a camera.
Yesterday after hearing the news about Robin Williams, my first instinct was to sit on the couch, watch a Robin Williams movie and just be sad.
Then I remembered that there was a fantastic comedy show happening that night right around the corner from me at The Royale. So instead of sitting and being alone, I got dressed and walked over just to hang out with some other comedy folks. The always-too-nice-to-me showrunner Cara Tramontano gave me a guest set, so I got to get onstage and get some laughs. I also got to watch some of my favorite area comics do sets, we laughed and talked and it was fun.
Then word came via social media that a small vigil was going to happen at 408 Clement Street, which is now a bar called Side Bar but was also the former home of the Holy City Zoo, the comedy club where Williams was known to sneak in and destroy audiences back in the 70’s. So a few of us went from Royale over to Clement St., and met up with some of his old comedy cohorts. We chatted, told our Robin Williams stories, tried to make each other laugh and talked about what a nice, sweet man he was.
I didn’t know him personally, and only got to meet him briefly at Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park. In our brief exchange it was immediately clear he was a kind, sweet and sensitive man. He was also omnipresent in the lives of people around my age in movies and TV, but the stories that have been coming out from Bay Area comedy people in the last 24 hours have all had a lot to say about what a generous and kind man he was, especially to younger comics. He will be very missed.
And I will still be spending some time watching some specials and movies. But it was nice to get out and be with other people after hearing the news.
"Helping Hands" by Drew Harmon
SCENE: INT, morning, a normal San Francisco apartment building’s laundry room in the basement. DREW is already in the laundry room, getting his clothes out of the clothing dryers. Because DREW can read, he has seen the numerous fliers posted around that the building management is going to shut off the building’s water in just a few minutes for repairs. In walks OLD LADY, with approximately 15 loads worth of laundry.
DREW (to OLD LADY)
Good morning. You may want to wait to put those in - they’re going to shut off the water soon.
OLD LADY (angrily, to DREW)
WHY are you shutting off the water?
I’M not shutting it off - the building management is to do some repairs.
OLD LADY (to the universe in general)
BUT I NEED TO DO LAUNDRY!!!! WHY ARE YOU SHUTTING OFF THE WATER?!?!?!
DREW (wanting to leave)
I’m not shutting it off. Building management is. They posted up fliers about it yesterday morning all over the building.
OLD LADY (ramping up craziness)
BUT I DIDN’T LEAVE MY APARTMENT YESTERDAY!!!! WHY DIDN’T YOU COME AND TELL ME YOU WERE TURNING IT OFF?!?!?
DREW (praying for comet to hit building immediately, jamming dried clothes into basket, deciding folded clothes aren’t that great)
I’m not shutting it off, the building management is.
OLD LADY (shouting to Heavens)
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!?!
DREW (grabbing all possessions, probably leaving a few behind but screw it, you can always buy more socks)
Anyway, have a nice day.
OLD LADY (to DREW as he leaves)
WHY WON’T YOU HELP ME?!?!?
SMASH CUT TO: DREW never saying anything to any stranger ever again.
I did my first “serious” drinking when I was about 15. It was fun. I had something like two or three Heinekens, got all silly, ate some bad food and went to sleep.
By the time I got to college I was going pro. I was introduced to the concept of starting your weekend on Thursday nights, which led to going to class hungover on Fridays, which I handled like Bukowski with a 19-year-old body. By Junior year of college I had adapted to a “what the hell, let’s drink” philosophy that saw me having the best semester, party-wise, and worst semester, grade-wise, possible. I went on academic probation, decided to slow down on the drinking and got my grades back up. I ended up graduating in 4.5 years, and I also managed to win a coveted “Best Drinker” award in the annual mock election awards ceremony for my college newspaper, which I worked for. I met my future wife. I also got a DUI and spent the night in jail.
After college I spent about five months hunting for a job in my chosen field (newspaper writing, ha ha ha ha) and making money by DJ’ing. I was also drinking. This was the era when I discovered that there was no mythical power stopping me from just sitting at home and drinking alone. At first it was just a beer while I was watching TV. Then it was a few beers while watching a movie. Then it was cocktails while watching a movie. Then movies. Then I’d order pizza, pass out and my neighbors would get pissed because the drunk next door wasn’t answering when the pizza guy showed up and was banging on his door and yelling.
After I’d gone through my meager savings and my parents were tired of helping out with my rent, it was decided that I would move back home and continue the job search there while I worked at my parent’s business. I also decided that it was a good opportunity to reconnect with old friends and show them how good I’d gotten at drinking. I went into work hungover frequently, was moody and had a lousy attitude. Conversations were had with family about how my drinking was affecting my life and behavior. Promises were made and not kept. I did, however, keep drinking.
I’d black out somewhat regularly, although everybody would tell me that they always drank more when they were with me than they ever did usually, so they also had fuzzy memories and most of the time it wasn’t a big deal. Then a close friend of mine started having really obvious drinking and drug problems and mine didn’t seem so bad. Then my other friends started slowing down, so I began hanging out with younger people who still liked drinking a lot.
This was the period I started gaining weight. I chalked it up to getting a bit older. I’d gotten fat in high school just from doing nothing and eating tons of ice cream, but got down to 180 pounds by eating a mostly vegetarian diet and exercising frequently. Now I would still exercise, but I was tired and feeling crappy from drinking so the workouts were shorter and less impactful, and I would cut them even shorter so I could go drinking again. I also began eating whatever I felt like at night, because I was drunk.
I would put a frozen pizza in the oven, pass out and be woken up to a fire alarm. This happened somewhat regularly, and every time I was confronted about it I would swear it won’t happen again. Then it would. The stink of burnt shitty frozen food became a regular odor in my homes, and when it was freshest was when I would consider that maybe I should drink less. Then the odor would fade and so would my resolve, and I’d get right back to it.
By then in the back of my head I knew I couldn’t drink like “normal” people. I was still DJ’ing for extra money, and many other DJ’s I knew would have a beer or two while working. I wouldn’t, because I knew I wouldn’t just have one or two beers. If it was an important event like a friend’s wedding or a family gathering, I wouldn’t drink to make sure I didn’t start turning into an asshole. Then afterwards, when I could be alone or with other people who liked drinking a lot, I would drink the way I liked: a lot.
By my mid-20’s I was living with my then-girlfriend, future-fiancee and wife. Moving in with somebody allows you to learn everything about them. I learned that my girlfriend really, really liked purses. She was able to confirm that I really, really liked drinking. At times she would drink with me, hoping to keep me under control. Other times she would walk away frustrated. But luckily for me, she still loved me enough to stay with me, get engaged to me and then marry me. I didn’t drink at our wedding, even though we had a ton of booze there and even had to send somebody out for an alcohol run because people were drinking so much. In my head, me not drinking at my wedding was evidence that I didn’t have a drinking problem. In reality, me knowing I shouldn’t drink at our wedding was evidence that I not only had a drinking problem, I was aware of it.
Then we moved to California. San Francisco is a fun town with lots of bars, and we had fun in many of them. At least, I’m pretty sure we were having fun, because I was still blacking out occasionally. Sometimes I would get too drunk, get angry and moody and be a pain in the ass. Sometimes I would just go out drinking by myself. Sometimes I would stay home, drink alone and burn a pizza, like old times. And just like old times I would swear it would never happen again. I stopped drinking before and at comedy shows, a mental way for me to tell myself I was taking things seriously. I’m glad that I did because it made comedy connected to sobriety for me. Sometimes after comedy shows I would go out drinking with other comedians, some of whom also had drinking problems. That way we didn’t have to worry if we were drinking too much, because we were all drinking too much.
A few years ago I went on a bad binge, was a sad, sloppy mess and had to be taken to the hospital. My wife pleaded for me to stop. I did. For six months. I felt great, was doing well and wasn’t facing so many issues with depression or moodiness. After six months, in my brain I decided I had beaten my alcohol problems, and while out somewhere when everybody else got alcoholic drinks, instead of my usual Diet Coke, I ordered a beer and a shot of whiskey. I stared at it for a while before drinking it, thinking about the six months I’d put in of sobriety, how good I felt and what it meant to drink again. Then I drank again. I promised myself it wouldn’t go down the same path. Over the next few months, I went right down the same path.
Seven weeks ago I was drinking too much and was slurring, impossible to understand and a mess in general. I was fresh from being let go from my job, which occurred for a variety of reasons but I’m sure me being moody and having a lousy attitude from being hungover frequently made it easier to let me go. My wife, exhausted and frustrated and at her wit’s end, began calling friends and family to help. They began emailing me and calling me and, with compassion and understanding, prodded me to make some better choices.
Today is seven weeks without a drink. I feel great. I’m grateful that I apparently didn’t get to the physical addiction stage, because I quit cold turkey with no repercussions. The first month was easy. As time has gone on, the addictive part of my brain has started to pop in occasionally and say, “well, you would PROBABLY be okay now,” while the rest of my brain thinks about the significant improvements in my life in just seven weeks and knows that, nope, I won’t be okay. I’m bad at drinking, in the way that I’m really, REALLY good at drinking.
At this point I look back on my life and believe that I squandered a lot of opportunities and time just because my mind wasn’t focused on doing the right thing, working at the right time when opportunities arose or being available because I would rather have been drinking. I am remarkably grateful for my family for being understanding and sticking by me at my worst, and I believe my wife deserves a Nobel Prize for having gone through all of it with me and sticking by me. On rare occasions, it was pretty fun. On more often occasions, it was a hellish nightmare. Through all of it she stuck by me, did her best to understand me and kept loving me, when she would have been perfectly in the right to tell my drunken ass to get out.
What is this for? I have no idea. Seven weeks isn’t a huge accomplishment and there is lots of work to be done to keep going. But I feel a lot better. I’m able to have some compassion and understanding and empathy and patience with others around me, instead of just being depressed and hungover all the time. I’m losing weight, just on the merits of not pouring 1,000 calories of booze in my body almost every night. We’re saving a ton of money, proving just how much money I was wasting on booze.
To that effect, the other day I stopped into our corner store to get a few things. That store was a frequent stop for me to get a snack or some cheese or some ingredient for dinner, which was also frequently an excuse to get booze. I hadn’t been in the store for nearly a week and just needed some milk. The guy at the counter has been working there for as long as we’ve lived in the neighborhood, and for a while I would step up to the counter with the milk or eggs or cheese or whatever my excuse was, and he would turn to the liquor shelves and just ask, “what else?”
On this occasion, he just rang up the milk and half-and-half I was getting. As he got my change, he gave me a knowing, “haven’t seen you much lately.”
"Nope," I said. "Been trying to save some money." I figured it wasn’t the time or the place to tell a guy whose primary interaction with me was selling me chips, dairy products and liquor that I was quitting drinking. Especially since there were people behind me anxious to buy their Lotto tickets.
"Looks good on you," the guy said back. "Congrats." He bagged up my stuff, we said our pleasantries (he always says "have a good one" and I always respond, "you too - take care!") and I walked out.
I was a drinker. Now I’m not a drinker. It’s a lot better this way.
I have a new joke about how white guys are terrible at giving nicknames, and how all white guys want a black friend so they can get a cool nickname. Because black guys give awesome nicknames.
I’ve done it twice so far, and both times after my set a black man who was in the audience has approached me, shaken my hand and told me that the joke is funny and accurate.
With any luck, soon I will have my new black friend and a cool nickname. I propose “Vanilla Latte,” but again - white guys are terrible at coming up with good nicknames.