Be My Guest

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My job is to help guests on my cruise ship experience the vacation of a lifetime.  But difficult guests don’t need my help. Their constant complaining can make seven days seem like a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong. Helping difficult guests can be very rewarding.  As rewarding as a five-dollar gift certificate for the Sharper Image store.

My first impulse is always to go the extra mile for difficult guests. Trouble is, that extra mile usually takes me straight through the center of Complaint Town. For example, if a guest complains about slow bar service in the comedy club three minutes after sitting down, I’ll bring her a free drink and watch her eyes light up. Then I’ll watch her chug the drink, become intoxicated and start heckling the comedian with her blouse open. After politely begging her to “button it up” both literally and figuratively, I’ll then watch her stagger off to Guest Services to complain about me, “Jeff the Fun Douche.” If I were smart, I’d avoid all this by saying, “Be patient, sister—you ain’t the only person here who can’t spend five minutes trapped on a boat with their family without hitting the hooch!”

I define “difficult guest” as any passenger whose anger, aggression, insecurity, vanity or ignorance prevents me or one of my colleagues from providing him with superior customer service. The nautical term for such a guest is “pain in the aft.”

Guest complaints give me a chance to save the day, to become a hero in some weary traveler’s eyes. Frustrated guests turn to me because they sense I care and can make things happen. Difficult guests seem to get more enjoyment out of being angry than out of enjoying themselves. A dirty spoon, a crowded gangway, an American crew member who calls them on their b.s.—these things are like Viagra for the ego to a difficult guest: If you experience an objection lasting more than four hours, please consult a physician.

So, Difficult Guest, I don’t mind if you complain. What I hate is when you thwart my attempt to solve your problem by continuing to complain instead of listening to my solution. Let’s say you start chewing me out because somebody “stole” your seat minutes before the start of a packed comedy show. As comedy club manager my priority is to find you another seat immediately before they’re all gone. I don’t have time to confront the hump who’s sitting in “your” seat and determine who’s right and who’s wrong. If you want justice, call Judge Judy. If you want a seat, hurry up and follow me to the last chair in the house before some drunken college kid wearing a wrestling mask and a sombrero pukes on it.

One time I politely asked a gentleman in the front row to remove his feet from the chair in front of him so I could offer it to a lady standing in the back of the room. He obliged and I dragged the chair all the way back to the lady only to have her snap, “I’m not sitting in this chair—that guy had his smelly feet on it for the past twenty minutes!”

I wanted so badly to say, “You’re absolutely right, madam. What was I thinking? How about I give this chair right back to “Captain Tinactin” over there and find you one that’s had somebody’s smelly rear  on it for the past three hours? Perhaps a first-time cruiser who’s still adjusting to motion sickness and Mexican tap water. Why sit on a foot stool when you can sit on a fart bucket—right, Your Highness? Silly me!”

Of course, I didn’t say that. I said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you, madam. I’ll gladly reserve you seats for the next show.”

Then I gave “Captain Tinactin” his foot stool back.

Another thing difficult guests do wrong is they never complain to the right person. The right person can solve their problem in minutes and they don’t want that. That would eat into their complaining time and it’s only a seven-day cruise. That’s why they’ll instinctually complain to someone from a different department than where their complaint originated. Slow service in the dining room? Don’t mention it to the Maître d’—grumble to the Filipino girl running the water slide; she’ll slide straight down into the galley and start slinging mashed potatoes with the grace and speed of a ninja. The karaoke host hasn’t played your song yet even though 300 other people managed to get there first and sign up ahead of you? Don’t request to see the cruise director—sermonize to the Spanish-speaking guy fixing the elevator; he’ll take the lift straight up to Heaven and personally ask the Virgin Mary to put you up next. Tired of waiting in long lines to go into port? Don’t call Guest Services—harangue the poor guy slicing your pizza at 3:00am; he’ll throw a couple dozen pies onto to the gangway to distract your fellow fat-asses  while you make a run for it. Tired of crapping in red plastic bags on Lido Deck while your ship is being towed to Mobile, Alabama? Don’t thank the staff members who labored tirelessly without sleep to keep your misery to a minimum—put on your “Who Farted?” cap and rant at the reporter from CNN; (no need for a CNN joke here because CNN always gets the story right.)

One time I was strolling past the main pool on Lido Deck.  Wearing my comedy club polo shirt. Sporting my “comedy club manager” name tag. An elderly guest near the edge of the pool barked, “Young man, this pool is much too small for swimming laps!”

Because my uniform identifies me as a purveyor of punchlines, I thought I’d try a little humor with the gentleman. So, doing my best to sound facetious and not sarcastic, I said, “Yes, sir, we know this pool is too small for swimming laps. That’s why we have another pool in the back of the ship. We want you to swim half a lap in this pool in the front of the ship, jump out, walk through the buffet restaurant in the middle of the ship until you come to the other pool in the back of the ship, jump in, and finish your lap!”

Instead of laughing he said, “Why, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Making me walk all the way through the damn restaurant just to finish my lap—whose bright idea was that?

Just then I saw the “I’m not sitting in this chair” lady from the comedy club standing at the other side of the pool. “That’s her, sir, right over there,” I said.  “It was her idea.” Another feeble attempt at humor.

Still not  getting me, the old dude mumbled, “Really? Well, I think I’ll march right over there and give her a piece of mind.”

“Go ahead, sir,” I said with a smile. “Be my guest.”

Shut Your Face(book)!

Bush Devil

The great thing about Facebook is it allows average folks to express themselves with words without first having to actually learn how to express themselves with words.

Why struggle through a Writer’s Digest book on argumentative essays just so you can submit a polished opinion piece to your local newspaper when you can simply open a Facebook account, open a can of Old Milwaukee, and then open your mouth?

Who has time for reason and logic when we have a “socialist traitor from Kenya” running amuck in the White House? Quick, somebody teach Honey Boo’s mama how to type—it’s about time those of us too technically challenged to block her from our news feeds hear what she has to say about Obamacare!

I have three main uses for Facebook. One, it allows me to promote my comedy career and keep in touch with fans; two, it allows me to write and post daily topical jokes too perishable to take to the stage; and three, it allows my mom to comment on every single status update I make. Nothing makes me prouder than posting what I consider to be a Conan-worthy monologue joke and then seeing Mom’s face underneath two minutes later saying, “Oh, OK, I get it. Ha-ha.”

I can hardly wait to move out of her basement so I can block her.

Fortunately, Mom isn’t the only person who comments on my daily attempts at humor.  I usually get lots of likes and kudos whenever I manage to turn a particularly clever phrase such as “Justin Bieber sucks!” (My fans love this type of insightful social commentary.)

The only time I get negative comments is when I make a political joke revealing my decidedly left-of-center worldview. A worldview that clashes sharply with those of my far-right Facebook friends who have their days free to watch FOX News because they’ve lost their jobs and health insurance and are paying their basic cable bills with unemployment checks they receive from the same government led by the aforementioned “socialist traitor from Kenya,” who is trying his damnedest to give them their jobs and health insurance back.

These people lie in wait for me like Rush Limbaugh stalking a feminazi with a purse full of OxyContin. Two jokes that most recently kicked the hornets’ nest are:

  1. “Paula Dean is opening a new fried chicken restaurant. It’s called KKKFC.”
  2. “Thankfully, President George W. Bush is recovering from successful heart surgery. God bless the exceptionally skillful surgeon who was able to find it.”

I received several negative comments, such as “Boo, hiss—cheap shot!” and the equally soul-crushing, “Not nice.”

Oh, the vitriol!

Regarding the Bush joke, one friend sent me a link to a Washington Post story about Bush’s recent charity work in Africa. His implied question was, “How can you call Bush a heartless person when he’s spending all his time trying to wipe out AIDS in Africa?”

How? The same way the reporter who wrote the story could fail to mention that Bush executed over 150 prisoners while governor of Texas and, as Commander-in-Chief, invaded a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9-11. The story was about neither Bush’s reluctance to seriously consider clemency requests from death-row inmates nor his haste to start a war that would eventually kill over 5,000 American soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians; it was about his noble philanthropy on the Dark Continent. The reporter didn’t want to rehash all the bad things Bush did while in office; he wanted to highlight all the nice things Bush has done since leaving office. Fortunately, this isn’t hard to do because Bush’s leaving office is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for anybody.

Of course President Bush has become benevolent and humanitarian—that’s what all presidents with tainted legacies do once they shed the shackles of partisan politics, find inner peace and hear the call to duty. Retirement offers bad presidents the chance to atone for their sins and become great Americans. President Carter builds homes for the homeless and negotiates peace treaties in the Middle East. President Clinton helps promote democracy around the globe by nailing waitresses at The International House of Pancakes. And, when not stopping the spread of AIDS in the sub-Sahara, President Bush is relentlessly pursuing those “evil-doers” who caused last spring’s tornadoes in Oklahoma.

See? I didn’t really mean to say “W” doesn’t have a heart; I meant to say he doesn’t have a brain!

See what I just did there?

It’s called comedy, “Captain Comment,” so relax!

I can understand if some of my Facebook friends don’t find me funny. Like I said, even Mom doesn’t think I’m funny. Her favorite joke to tell is, ”What’s the difference between a large pizza and a stand-up comedian? A large pizza can feed a family of four.”

Hey, when the woman who gave you life thinks you’re a babbling douche, it’s hard to worry about what Facebook addicts still wrestling with the baffling intricacies of the QWERTY keyboard think about your generic Paula Dean joke. So the only problem I have with friends responding negatively to a joke that awakens their Inner O’ Reilly is that their comments are almost never funny.

Ever since Dennis Miller went over to the Dark Side after getting the boot from “Monday Night Football,” I haven’t agreed with a single word he’s said. But he still makes me laugh. I can laugh at a Michael Moore joke just as easily as a Sarah Palin joke—just as long as a master comedian like Dennis Miller is making it. (Especially, if Dennis were to call Michael Moore a brain-dead, bible-thumping, geographically challenged media whore from Alaska.”)

Everyone on Facebook has the right to his or her own opinion. But not on my wall. Your opinions belong on your  wall. My Facebook wall is for showcasing cheesy and derivative topical jokes that Jay Leno wouldn’t pay 50 bucks for during a writers’ strike.

The dittohead who commented, “Boo, hiss—cheap shot!” didn’t play by the rules of the game. He didn’t counter my joke with a joke of his own. “Cheap shot” is not funny. What he should have written was, “Hey, Fun Dude, the next time you’re at Paula Dean’s restaurant why don’t you ask to borrow some butter so you can grease your ass up enough to pull your head out of it?!”

That would have been hilarious! Not to mention, the pilot episode for my new Food Network series.

I have one Facebook friend who alternates between upbeat status updates thanking God for the tiny miracles in his life and angry posts parroting Rush Limbaugh’s daily attacks on President Obama. In real life, my friend is a great guy—gentle, smart, caring and sensitive; online, he mutates into a Sean-Hannity-worshiping hypocrite who calls Obama a socialist but then tries to censor me as if he’s a colonel in the KGB. And yet even though I think that every one of his anti-Obama outbursts is utter nonsense, I haven’t removed him from my news feed nor have I posted any negative comments on his wall. That’s because I view his Facebook wall as his private sanctuary for speaking his mind against the din of a cruel and indifferent world, within which very few normal people ever get the chance to be heard.

That and I’m usually too busy picturing Michael Moore naked.

I was going to say I’m usually too busy picturing Sarah Palin naked, but I wouldn’t want to get any negative comments on Facebook, now would I?

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage

I’d like to wish all of you an exciting, fun-filled cruise. Of course, I realize this can’t happen for everyone. Some of you are going to drink too much and fall overboard; others will sustain serious brain injuries in water-ski accidents and become lifelong Justin Bieber fans.

Some of you will move so slowly in the buffet line that one of your very own blood relatives will stab you in the eye with a dessert spoon.

Some of you will eat so much you might get stuck in the water slide, sink the tender boat or simply explode into a million sugar-coated pieces.

Many more of you will be stricken with gastrointestinal disorders that will keep you glued to your toilet seat paying homage to the National Park System with your inverted impression of “Old Faithful.”

And let’s not forget the muggings and shootings in Mexico. There will be lots of those. Better yet, some of you may be kidnapped and held for ransom which your in-laws will never pony up because they’ve already paid for your cruise and won’t feel like dipping into their gambling money.

Some of you will lie out in the sun for seven hours your first day without sunscreen because the TSA took it away (those lotion Nazis!) and the threat of skin cancer isn’t motivation enough to pay $90 for a pinky-sized tube in the gift shop, so—surprise-surprise!—you’ll spend the rest of the cruise looking like an atomic lobster chasing handfuls of Advil with double piña coladas and shrieking in agony every time a cool tropical breeze brushes your skin.

Some of you might mix rum and tequila, get in a fist-fight with a donkey, wind-up in a Mexican jail cell—with the donkey, which, after some couples’ counseling, you’ll wind up marrying—and miss the ship. Good news is you’ll be offered your very own reality show on Telemundo called “The Burro Whisperer.”

Still others will fall out of a moving taxi while shouting, “Hey, look, it’s ‘Jeff the Fun Dude’ trying to enjoy a romantic walk with his fiancée—let’s scream at him and spoil the mood!”

Some of you will tell “Jeff the Fun Dude” he was funnier than the Punchliner headliner and get struck by lightning.

Some of you will drink so many one-dollar beers in Jamaica you’ll stumble in front of a speeding Red Stripe truck, causing a reggae band to stop playing long enough to drag your lifeless body out of the street to the boos of your fellow cruisers as your plastered brother-in-law hovers over you shouting, “Buzz kill!”

While swimming in the ocean, some of you will mistake a shark for a dolphin and lose an arm. (This will cut the amount of one-dollar beers you can drink in half.)

Some of you will be molested by a Stingray and appear on “The Jerry Springer Show.”

Some of you will win Bingo three times in a row, causing an adorable old lady in a red hat to beat you to death with her walker. On the bright side, you’ll get over 3,000,000 hits on YouTube.

Those of you who are lucky enough to avoid such misfortunes can look forward to noisy neighbors, crying babies, slow Wi-Fi, pushy cab drivers, sleeve-tugging four-year-olds selling Chiclets, six-dollar ATM surcharges, Vietnamese jugglers, engine room fires, tropical storms, hurricanes, tidal waves, gun-toting pirates, manatee attacks, pick-pocketing monkeys, flesh-eating viruses, piranhas in your Speedo, horny killer whales who mistake the bow of the ship for Lady Ga Ga, the Kraken, Sigmund the Sea Monster or the Loch Ness Monster (depending on your ship), and shape-shifting alien octopi which will attach themselves to your face, suck out your brains, steal your identity and charge $10,000 worth of rum cakes to your sail & sign account.

Therefore, many of you will not get to enjoy the exciting, fun-filled cruise I’m wishing for you. So just try to have as much fun as you can.

 

The Boat Act Blues

Boat Act Blues

Being a cruise-ship comedian is an easy gig. Perform two or three 30-minute sets a night, four nights a week, and you’re done. That leaves you 163 hours of free time every week to…

  • Get to the airport at 4:00am and spend one hour admiring the efficiency of the TSA, one hour at the bar knocking back beers with the captain waiting for your plane to have its wings welded back on, and 12 hours luxuriating in coach class at the very back of the plane in that “Marquis de Sade” seat that doesn’t recline, squeezed between a flatulent sumo wrestler and a Chatty Cathy with restless legs syndrome as you fly from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Atlanta to Detroit to Chicago to Houston to Miami to Maui to Nassau, saving your employer a whopping fifty bucks on your airfare.
  • Spend 30 minutes at the Nassau Airport waiting for the port agent to pick you up as you count the number of Bahamian cabbies who ask if you “want a taxi, mon?! Taxi! Taxi! Come on, my friend—taxi!” (678.)
  • Amuse yourself by swearing your head off with a Bahamian accent upon realizing your ship is in Freeport.
  • After bribing  a water taxi captain $100 and a picture of your stripper girlfriend to “James Bond” you to Nassau before your ship leaves, sit on the dock in the scorching heat for 20 minutes while some uniformed guy with a clipboard radios another guy, who radios another guy, who radios another guy, who then drives up in a golf cart, radios the first guy standing right next to him, and says that you’re not on the list.
  • Rack up international roaming charges trying to reach someone back at the office in Miami but every time you dial the emergency contact number listed on your itinerary you get the Papa John’s in Key Biscayne.
  • Try not to strangle the uniformed guy with the clipboard when he informs you that he was accidentally holding the list upside down so, OK, you can board now.
  • Spend the next 40 minutes tracking down someone from Housekeeping to clean your cabin after the outgoing comedian left it looking like David Lee Roth’s hotel room; because, for some reason, the regularly assigned cabin steward hasn’t picked up on the pattern of one comedian leaving and another one coming even though that’s exactly what has happened cruise after cruise, month after month, year after year, ever since he first started working for the cruise line 15 years ago after quitting his job as “The Most Unobservant Man in Malaysia.”
  • Comb the entire ship in search of your show times because the comedy club manager forgot to leave your schedule for you at the gangway and so now you can’t take a nap without knowing if you have to perform tonight because you’re afraid that your jet lag will cause you to oversleep and be replaced by a juggling Italian from the engine room.
  • Spend five minutes explaining to a Filipino security guard with a hearing impairment that the reason you’re wearing blue jeans in a guest area is because you’re a fly-on comedian who just came aboard and is simply trying to find out when your show times are and get your cabin cleaned so you can take a much-needed nap. Mercifully, he unholsters his cell phone and calls for someone to assist you. After a few seconds you hear him say, “Hello, I have a Canadian here who just gave an ironing board and wants to know what time he can show how clean his cabin is to someone who reads a map.”
  • Wait for what seems like an eternity for the arrival of the comedy club manager and housekeeping manager, whose first words out of their mouths are: “You’re not supposed to be wearing blue jeans in a guest area!”
  • Stomp back to your cabin in a huff, lie down on your still unmade bunk and close your eyes for the first time in 48 hours just in time to hear the cruise director’s smiley-happy boat drill announcements blast through the distorted speaker right above your head like a CIA drone strike to the soul.
  • Meet with the aforementioned cruise director, who informs you that a few of your jokes are in bad taste and have been getting complaints from past guests. After you offer to drop the jokes he asks if he can use them in his travel talk.
  • Skip dinner for a 6:00pm sound check which never happens because the ship’s groups coordinator extended the swinging seniors single group’s polka-square dance-bingo-scrap booking jamboree until 6:30 which means the sound tech will be unavailable because at 6:15 he has to help a busty Russian waitress from the steakhouse unlock her new iPhone in the hopes of seeing her naked.
  • Call the cruise director after your first family show and explain that you had to perform your entire set with no stage lights and no microphone because the sound tech never showed up. And, to make matters worse, you had to shout over a front row filled with crying babies and screeching toddlers because the comedy club “manager” was in the back of the room hitting on a one-eyed Serbian waitress instead of doing his job. (Which is to introduce you to the one-eyed Serbian waitress.)
  • Resist the urge to kick a stroller down a flight of stairs after the cruise director reminds you that you are a professional comedian and professionals are supposed to handle anything. (Be sure to hang up before mentioning that you were booked to perform in a professional comedy club.)
  • After two more shows and six Red Bulls, lie awake in your bunk until 4:00am listening to dance hits of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s because everyone knows that the perfect accommodation for someone who just traveled all day, performed three shows, and has to get up at 6:00am for immigration is a cabin right above the disco on “Gangsta Hip-Hop Night.”
  • Show up to Immigration the next morning five minutes early and discover that you’re actually 10 minutes late because the meeting time changed and nobody told you, then get yelled at for not bringing the form you were supposed to bring because nobody gave it to you but now it’s your fault; because, if nobody told you that the meeting time changed and nobody gave you the form you needed, then “you should have said something.”
  • Meet with the hotel director after breakfast to address complaints from a guest you asked to stop heckling you during your midnight show. It doesn’t matter that this guest was drunk, naked and loudly practicing his “Duck Dynasty” duck calls in the middle of your set; as an experienced professional, you should know that you can’t ask a guest who is talking, heckling, screaming or duck-calling to be quiet. This semi-illiterate, inbred, alcoholic sociopath is still a guest and all guests are important. (Except for the other 649 guests who were unable to enjoy the show because of him.)
  • Sulk dejectedly over to the coffee shop in search of an ice mocha latte to lift your spirits, and spend the next four hours listening to guests and crew members alike tell you what an easy life you have.

THE END (OF YOUR CAREER)