Move Over, Dave Barry, Here Comes the Fun Dude!


Hi, there, Fun-atics! After one year and sixteen drafts, my first Kindle book is now available for purchase on for $3.99. (Cheaper than an issue of Mad Magazine!) Here’s the link:

The Fun Dude’s Guide to Cruising: A Humorous Handbook for Taking Your First Cruise and Living to Complain about It

If you’re not sure if cruising is for you, then this funny and irreverent romp through the cruise industry surely is. Written by a stand-up comedian and shipboard comedy club manager who has spent the past decade yucking it up on the high seas, The Fun Dude’s Guide to Cruising is the ultimate primer for taking your first cruise. You’ll learn how to book your cruise without the help of a reefer-toking travel agent; how to get stranded in Mexico with no passport and no Pepto-Bismol; how to overpack your suitcase with clothes you’ll be too drunk to iron; how to eat so much free ice cream you’ll slip into a sugar coma; how to imbibe so much alcohol you’ll become a CNN headline; how to get free cabin upgrades by behaving like a spoiled child even “Honey Boo-Boo” would scorn; how to ignore important safety information that could save your life while making your entire country look bad in the process; how to get free stuff by complaining about stupid stuff; how to become a karaoke superstar without hitting a single correct note; and, most important, how to annoy everyone else around you without getting pushed overboard.

Even if you’re a veteran cruiser or, better yet, a cruise line employee, The Fun Dude’s Guide to Cruising contains enough acerbic fun—and funny—for the misanthropic landlubber in everyone. And for less than half the price of a fruity umbrella drink on Lido Deck.

My Two Sense


My least favorite part of being our ship’s comedy club manager is turning over the showroom between shows. A hard partying crowd of 600 people can leave enough empty beer bottles and cocktail glasses in their wake to make the Punchliner look like Motley Crϋe’s tour bus. So in order to clean the room in ten minutes or less—and to ensure that guests waiting in line for the next show can get good seats without having to shove a fellow guest overboard—we ask the audience to exit after every performance. Not surprisingly, guests are less than thrilled by this policy, because it forces them to do two activities cruise ship passengers are notoriously reluctant to engage in: following instructions and leaving the sitting position. But I find that if I attach a free drink coupon to some fishing line I can usually coax them all out eventually.

I’ve been told I should look at it at from a guest’s point of view. And I have. Their point of view is that they have the right to ignore the rules because they “paid good money to be here.” They paid good money to fill up their gas tank—does that mean they can run a red light? They paid good money to finish their basement—does that mean they can use it as a meth lab? They paid good money for their cellphone—does that mean they can take a photo of their “junk,” email it to unsuspecting women, lose their spot in Congress and then run for mayor of a major metropolitan city? (OK, bad example.)

Not every guest gives me a hard time about our policy, but those who do make my job way harder than it needs to be. These people have been on the ship less than 24 hours and yet suddenly they’re experts in running a comedy club: “I have to leave now that the show is over and people are already lining up outside for the next one and your staff needs to clean up and reset the showroom in less than ten minutes? That makes no sense!”

“Of course that makes no sense to you,” I feel like screaming back, “You’ve never set foot in our club before! But maybe if you were an experienced crowd control expert who possessed firsthand knowledge of the type of traffic flow problems our carefully considered and thoroughly tested policies and procedures have been designed to prevent, instead of a vacationer seeing live stand-up for the first time, perhaps you wouldn’t be so befuddled. You may have paid to be here but I get paid to be here, so whaddya say you keep drinking yourself blind and I’ll keep doing my job?”

I’ve never understood “that makes no sense” as a guest’s go-to objection to our shipboard policies. Of course it makes no sense: you haven’t received the same training that we have nor are you privy to the same information we are. If you were to take a trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods, I’m sure that the machine that drills holes in the bowling balls would baffle the bejesus out of you. But to the guy who has been trained to drill the holes in bowling balls, the ball hole drilling machine makes perfect sense. And maybe if he were to drill a couple of holes into your skull, it would drain enough “stupid juice” out of your noggin so that from now on you’ll no longer demand that things make sense to you immediately and instead learn how to ask intelligent questions that might lead to you having a wider frame of reference, which will lead to better understanding of our polices, which will lead to you realizing that we have your and your fellow guests’ best interests at heart and have no intention of inconveniencing you or ruining your vacation, so please stop thinking that paying for a cruise makes you a senior vice president of the cruise line.

Similarly, when I board an airplane, none of the dials or levers in the cockpit makes sense to me. Difference is, the fact that those dials and levers make no sense to me makes perfect sense to me–because I’m not a pilot! But I’m pretty sure that if I took flying lessons for a number of years, spent thousands of hours in the air before finally obtaining my commercial pilot’s license, all that technology in the cockpit would one day make perfect sense to me. I’m also pretty sure I’d be even less tolerant of idiots that I am now:

“I can’t believe we have to wait an extra twenty minutes before takeoff just because one of the engines fell off the plane—that makes no sense!”

“Yeah, well, go Greyhound next time, jackass!”

# # #

Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

The second most frequent question cruise ship passengers ask the crew is, “What are your living quarters like?” (The most frequent question is, “Can you say that again—this time, in English—please?”)

Working on a cruise ship isn’t easy. You’re on the clock up to 14 hours a day, every day, for six months to a year, with few—if any—days off, all the while being whipped mercilessly by cat o’ nine tails. Fortunately, you can have all the banana nut bread you want, so the whippings are definitely worth it.

The secret to thriving in such a demanding environment is getting plenty of rest. And the secret to getting plenty of rest in a crew cabin is to die in your sleep. Because, dying in your sleep is the only way you’ll sleep for eight hours straight on a ship without being wakened by your door-slamming, belt-buckle-jangling, peeing-with-the bathroom-door-open, playing-video-games-at-all-hours-of-the-night roommate.

If you’re young and healthy like the majority of crew members, dying in your sleep might pose a bit of a challenge. No problem. Just snore your butt off and sooner or later your roommate will kill you in your sleep. Every crew bunk comes with two pillows: one for sleeping on and the other for smothering your snoring roommate.

Although sharing a tiny cabin with a complete stranger is the greatest suffering I’ve ever had to endure for my art, some crew members don’t mind at all. These are usually young people just starting their careers who aren’t bothered by noise or lack of privacy. These kids are the worst roommates you can get: because nothing bothers them, they assume nothing will bother you. These are the roommates who’ll crank the TV up to full volume at three in the morning or make long distance phone calls in staccato Spanish while standing right next to your head or decide to use their hair dryer to blow dry their laundry just as you’re falling asleep because they forgot to leave the crew bar in time to snag an open dryer in the crew laundry room.

You generally don’t get to choose your roommate. That’s the job of the crew staff administrator, who puts a lot of thought into cabin assignments by throwing darts at a dartboard.  The good news is, if you wind up bunking with someone you can’t stand, she’ll let you borrow one of her darts.

All double occupancy crew cabins feature bunk beds. Each bunk comes with a reading light, a little book shelf and a wraparound curtain that’ll provide you with complete privacy whenever your 20-year-old roommate—always the ship’s apprentice deejay—decides to throw an after-party with a half-dozen drunken friends at 4:00am after the disco closes.

The first rule of cabin etiquette is the new guy gets the top bunk. You’ll usually have to wait several months for your roommate to move out before you can take the bottom bunk, in which case you’ll want to mark your territory for your new roommate by conspicuously placing personal belongings on your bunk such as your laptop or barbed wire.

Another pain in the butt is we have to store our luggage in our cabins. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a cabin with a big spacious corner ( two feet by four feet), where there’s plenty of room for me to stack my suitcase on top of my roommate’s 10 suitcases. If I get a small cabin (six feet by eight feet), however, I’ll wind up spending 10 months with my suitcase sitting smack dab in the middle of the cabin, tripping over it in the middle of the night when I get out of bed to pee. Remember that old American Tourister TV commercial from the ’70s in which the gorilla threw a suitcase around his cage? He was just pissed he wasn’t allowed to put it in storage. (Even though that ape’s cage was larger than the typical crew cabin!)

Every month, there’s a cabin inspection to make sure you don’t have anything in your cabin you’re not supposed to, such as blenders, hot plates or privacy. They key to passing a cabin inspection is knowing when an inspection is. And the key to knowing when an inspection is writing yourself a reminder after they tell you exactly when  the inspection is. What happens is Security tells your department head when the inspection is (usually the last sea day of the month), so all you have to do is unplug your power strip, space heater, moonshine still, centrifuge for enriching weapons-grade Uranium, and hide everything ingeniously by—wait for it—putting it in one of your drawers.

Except for your pillow. That’s one deadly weapon you can leave right out in the open.

Leader of the Pack(ing)


It’s great to be back home in Cleveland. This is the first time I’ve seen snow in seven years. Unless you count the time I picked up the wrong suitcase in Mexico.

I’d have preferred to remain in the Caribbean for the winter, but I was arrested for throwing eggs at the ship next door and drag racing on a Rascal Scooter (the Lamborghini of mobility scooters). They were going to deport me to Canada, but they found out Cleveland was colder due to the “lake effect,” which is meteorological jargon for “freezing my nads off.”

Although six months is a relatively short contract for me, I couldn’t wait to pack my bags because the only thing more fun than living on a cruise ship for six months is figuring out how to get all my accumulated crap into one checked bag and one carry-on. It’d be easier to get Chris Christie into a Speedo.

After spending half my life traveling for a living, I have packing down to a science. Unfortunately, science was always my worst subject. But, according to Wikipedia, the first law of luggage-ology is: “Objects at rest will weigh precisely one pound over the airline’s fifty pound limit once you get to the airport.” It doesn’t matter if the only things you pack are a jock strap and a duck call, once you get to the airport your suitcase will weigh exactly fifty-one pounds, in which case you’ll be expected to pay a $100 overweight luggage fee. (Unless the airline associate feels sorry for you, in which case she’ll only charge you $125.)

Actually, it’s not that hard to pack a suitcase correctly after half a year at sea. All you have to do is follow five simple steps:

1.  Create a packing list: Make a list of everything you need to pack into the suitcase.  Leave nonessential items at the bottom of the list. That way, if you run out of space you can throw those items away, give them to your cabin mate or leave them in the charity box down in the Crew Internet Lounge. (Central American orphans can never get enough extension cords or Tom Clancy novels.) Thanks to OCD and my predilection to hoarding, my packing list was a breeze to make:

Nonessential Items:

  1. The ship.

Essential Items:

  1.  Everything else.

 2.  Separate large and small items: To pack a suitcase properly you must first make room for large items like suits, sweaters or your cabin steward (making your own bed at home sucks!). Once all large items are situated small items (like a shorter cabin steward) can be fitted into the empty corners or crevices between large items and around the edge of the suitcase.  Instead of folding the big items try rolling them up. Although this won’t save any space, it’ll leave you prepared should you decide to spend part of your vacation in either Colorado or Washington state.

3.  Make your suitcase bottom heavy: (Insert your own Kim Kardashian joke here!)

4.  Pack socks and underwear last: Don’t pack socks and underwear with the rest of your clothes because they’ll take up too much space. And don’t wash them either. Instead, once you’ve packed your suitcase, slip your smelly socks and crusty underwear into the flap of the suitcase so they’ll fall out easily and put an abrupt end to any Customs or TSA inspections.

5.  Ship home non-clothing items: It’s easy for crew members to accumulate lots of books, DVDs and souvenirs such as that wooden figure of Justin Bieber riding a donkey you bought in Cozumel after one too many Coronas—stuff you won’t need as soon as you get home but don’t want to leave on the ship because where else are you going to find a wooden figure of a donkey being ridden by a jackass? Shipping this stuff home is usually less expensive than paying for an extra or overweight suitcase. (If you ship your cabin steward make sure to leave a snack in the box.)

Well, that’s all the time I have for now. I’ve been home for a whole week now and I should probably get unpacked.

Acid Trip


When I lost my voice for three months last year, I was forced to host 20 comedy shows per cruise sounding like Kathleen Turner. This confused the hell out of our guests because I look like Ellen DeGeneres.

Some nights my voice was so hoarse I had to rely on hand gestures to communicate. Fortunately, the gestures required for dealing with drunken hecklers at a midnight comedy show are the same gestures required for merging into rush-hour traffic, so they were already second nature.

Although I knew something was wrong, it was my fiancée, Željka, who finally convinced me to seek medical attention after listening to me croak and rasp like an 80-year-old  nine-pack-a-day smoker. She was afraid of what would happen to our relationship if I lost the ability to talk completely: If I lost the ability to talk, she’d lose the ability to get mad at every single stupid thing I say, thus robbing her of life’s greatest joy.

So, in order to give Željka hope that I would soon be spewing my “idiotic bull crap” at full volume again, I went down to the infirmary to get checked out. After poking a flashlight the size of a pop bottle down my throat, the ship’s physician told me I had strained my vocal chords and suggested I refrain from all unnecessary talking.  Vocal rest, the good doctor assured me, would be the key to my recovery. Unfortunately, as anyone who knows me will testify, I’m incapable of telling the difference between necessary and unnecessary talking. My mouth has four gears: “Lecture,” “Rant,” “Jeremiad” and “Filibuster.” There is no “Rest.” Even with laryngitis, I make David Lee Roth look Like Marlee Matlin.

After a month of taking enough antibiotics to make my tongue look like a slice of moldy Wonder Bread, gargling enough warm salt water to grow gills, sipping enough hot tea and honey to stop raising eyebrows whenever I waddled into the staff mess wearing my “Winnie the Pooh” feety pajamas, and writing down everything I needed to say offstage into a notebook like Max von Sydow’s character in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, there was no improvement whatsoever with my voice. So, although the doctor wasn’t thrilled with the idea of my being able to babble on and on and on about nothing again, he offered me two choices:

1)    Talk out of my ass. (“Hey, you’ve made a career of it—why stop now?!”)

2)   See a specialist.

Since I didn’t want to compete with old pros such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, I selected Option Two.  The following Tuesday, the port agent escorted me to an Ear, Nose and Throat clinic in St. Thomas, where I took a battery of tests which culminated in the pleasant experience of having the specialist— his “specialty” being advanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo—snaking a fiber-optic camera up the size of  a Twizzler up through my nose, on through my nasal cavity and down into my throat to take a peek at my vocal chords.

Mistaking my gasps for air for curiosity, he kindly allowed me to watch the camera’s journey on a high-def video screen. Ordinarily, I would have been too squeamish to explore my own throat via Nostril Cam but I recently started watching reruns of “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo,” so I can handle anything.

Sure enough, my vocal chords were bright red. What was left of them, that is. Turns out, I had undetected Acid Reflux Disease and my stomach had spent the previous few months shooting acid up through my esophagus, splashing it all over my beleaguered vocal chords and, basically, incinerating them. (The official medical term for this condition is “twerking.”)

After my exam, the specialist wrote me a prescription for Prevacid and gave me a long list of food and beverages I have to stay away from: “OK, Jeffrey: no beer, no wine; no Coke, no Pepsi; no orange juice, no grapefruit; no chicken wings, no hot sauce; no chocolate, no mint…”

“Doc,” I said, “I might as well kill myself.”

“OK, it’s your life. But no arsenic, no chlorine, no strychnine….”

A year and four visits to the clinic later, I finally have my Acid Reflux Disease under control and my voice is as loud and clear and strident and grating and annoying as ever. After going in for a checkup this past Tuesday, turns out the only things I’ve been doing wrong are lying down after I eat, eating right before going to bed, and eating anything cooked on the ship since our Indian chefs can’t seem to serve so much as a bowl of sliced peaches in syrup without adding enough curry to power a nuclear sub.

Fortunately, I have enough Prevacid to last me while on vacation for the next two months. Of course, if I run out, I can always borrow some of my Dad’s Nexium like I did the last time I was home. We never went hunting or fishing when I was a kid; but, now that I’m in my late 40’s, we’re making up for lost time in the bonding department by sharing prescription medication.

That’s how much my parents love me. They’re willing to help me control my Acid Reflux Disease when it’s the only thing in the past 48 years that’s been able to shut me up.

‘Twas the SEAson

SEA-sons Greetings

It’s hard to believe the holidays are over already. Perhaps if I were to take the Christmas decorations down in my cabin, it would feel more like the twelfth day of 2014. But seeing how my New Year’s resolution was to be a lazy as possible, I don’t want to quit while I’m on a roll.

Besides, I’ve gotten used to having a life-sized snowman on my wall. Sometimes, when life at sea gets particularly stressful, “Frosty” will come to life and cheer me up. Why, just the other day, I said, “Frosty, last night, a guest walked straight to the front of the long line of guests waiting to get into the comedy club, stood just to the left of the line and informed me that she was ready to be seated. When I told her that she was going to have the join the back of the line, she said, ‘How was I supposed to know this long line winding all the way down Promenade Deck from the casino to the comedy club was the line for the comedy club? Nobody told me that that line was the line for the comedy club. If I had known that that line was the line for the comedy club and not just some random line that just so happened to start at the entrance of the comedy club, I would have joined it.  But since nobody told me that that was the line for the comedy club, I decided to start a line of my own right here—so you should make those other four hundred people standing in a single file line starting at the entrance of the comedy club for no apparent good reason get in line behind me!’”

“Frosty,” I said. “How does somebody that stupid make it to her 40’s without sticking her tongue in a light socket, let alone afford to go on a cruise?!”

Doing his best Johnny Cochran impersonation, Frosty smiled at me said, “Fun Dude, when you’re talking to a decoration, it’s time for a vacation!”

Since joining my cruise line in 2007, I’ve spent every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s at sea. Fortunately, our ship attracts so many difficult and demanding guests during the holidays that it feels as if I’m back home with my family.

It’s not hard to get into the Christmas spirit on our ship. Wherever you turn you’ll see beautiful decorations, hear your favorite carols and observe diminutive Indonesian housekeepers in over-sized Santa hats cleaning up after sloppy Americans like so many disgruntled elves, singing:

Why am I such a misfit?

These rednecks are all such nitwits!

Why can’t they clean up their own s**t?

I should have become a dentist!

Staff members are encouraged to participate in the cabin door decorating contest every Christmas. It’s hard to pick a winner since we all put so much time and effort into lovingly and enthusiastically decorating our doors as uniquely and distinctively as possible, using the exact same decorations as everyone else since we all take the same exact shuttle bus to the same exact Wal-Mart and browse the same exact Christmas department in the same exact door decorations aisle. The winner gets a $25 gift certificate to Target, which is a $30 cab ride from Wal-Mart.

My Croatian fiancée Željka loves Christmas so much that I decorate our entire cabin for her. This year I spent around $100 on “Frosty the Snowman” wall art, “Santa” and penguin mirror clings, fake snow spray, a wreath, a manger, a “Nutcracker” nutcracker, “Merry Christmas” bath towels and throw rugs, garland, ornaments, Christmas stockings, a poinsettia, loads of Christmas candy and a tiny stuffed “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” who, by peeking his cute little face over the rim of a giant red and white ceramic coffee mug bearing his name, caused Željka to emit squeals of Yuletide delight. The only thing I didn’t buy was mistletoe. Instead, I just hung my “chestnuts,” which—if you haven’t guessed—Željka removed from me years ago.

Our annual Christmas show in the main theater is so much fun I always volunteer as an usher. I love watching proud and loving parents tear up as they watch their small children, who rehearse all week up in our youth camp, sing their hearts out like cute little angels. Cute little tone-deaf angels accompanied by a backing track of the Vienna Boys Choir that masks their angelic, off-key ululations so convincingly that proud and loving parents don’t have to drop their expensive video cameras in order to stuff their proud and loving fingers into their ears so as to prevent their proud and loving brains from turning into figgie pudding. At the end of the show, team members representing over 50 countries where Christmas obviously isn’t celebrated walk down the aisles holding battery operated candles, singing “Silent Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” And, by singing, I mean standing there with confused looks on their faces, not knowing where to stand or which direction to face since the team members who volunteered for the show aren’t the same team members who volunteered for rehearsal.

Just because our cruise line makes a big deal out of Christmas doesn’t mean we forget our Jewish guests. We celebrate all eight days of Hanukkah with a ceremony at sundown usually hosted by Yours Truly due to the fact that I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood. Although I was raised Catholic, I was allowed to go to my friends’ houses for Hanukkah because each of my parents had a very open mind about religion and an even more open mind about getting the kids out of the house for a couple of hours.

Our Jewish guests really love our Hanukkah ceremonies because it allows them to do what they do best: gather around the menorah—in this case a fifteen-foot-high electric version with light bulbs that last about as long as snowflakes in a heated garage—and complain about the recipe our Indian chef used for the latkes. We even leave the Menorah lit through Christmas and New Year’s so our Jewish guests can take part in the holiday season by going down to Guests Services and complaining that the menorah is not supposed to stay lit past the last day of Hanukkah.

If there’s one thing to really look forward to during the holidays it’s the incredible holiday feasts waiting for us in the staff mess. We get turkey, stuffing, gravy, grilled shrimp, frozen shrimp and various cakes, pies and ice creams for dessert. To top it off, they serve us free beer, wine and soda pop. All we have to do is be one of the first twenty people in line because all the good stuff is gone in five minutes.

Our New Year’s cruise is always a blast. I can’t think of a better way of ringing in the new year than by reveling among more than 4,000 cheering guests and crew members under the stars on Lido Deck, listening to the show band break into “Auld Lang Syne” as Željka throws a full glass of champagne in my face because I had the audacity to let some “cross-eyed Russian whore” kiss me on the cheek at midnight.

Would I have I rather been home for the holidays? Brother, I was home. And I can hardly wait till next year.

Fan Friction


After reading about the popular new trend of online “fan fiction,” I can’t stop picturing how cool it would be to have some teenage girl reinvent me as a wisecracking vampire lurking in the shadows, thirsting to drain the lifeblood from inebriated cruise-ship guests who complain about the long lines to get into our comedy club. I have the perfect title, too: “The Fun Dude Sucks!”

Although they may not invent Internet stories about me, my fans are still the greatest. Instead of politely introducing themselves and sincerely expressing their appreciation, my “Fun-atics” go the extra mile by screaming at the top of their lungs like Gary Busey contacting the mother ship: “Hey, look—it’s ‘Jeff the Fun Dude’! Woooooo-hoooooo!!” Because I’m always so friendly and outgoing, they correctly assume that I love being startled and embarrassed while waiting in line for a cup of coffee.

At first, I took “Hey, look—it’s ‘Jeff the Fun Dude’!” as a rallying cry implying something akin to: “Gather around, all ye fans of ‘the Fun Dude’; let us chase the ‘Fun One’ around the ship like a Beatle, screaming, shouting and tearing at his clothing and unruly mop of ash blond hair so that, in exchange for all the joy and laughter he bestows upon us, we can help him forget—if just for a second—that he is but a marginally talented middle-aged man who sleeps in bunk beds!”

Gratefully, however, their strident alarms are for my benefit. They’ll freeze, point, locks eyes with me and shout, “Hey, look—it’s Jeff the Fun Dude!” in a well-meaning attempt to alert me to the presence of myself. I find this extremely helpful. I often turn to these vociferous acolytes in utter surprise and say, “Really? Is that who I am? I thought I looked familiar. I saw myself in the mirror earlier today and thought, ‘Hey is that who I think it is? Naw, it can’t be.’ But thanks to you and the half dozen Bud Lights you pounded before lunch, my suspicions have been confirmed: I am indeed ‘Jeff the Fun Dude.’ Quick, call ‘TMZ’ and let them know I’m on my way to the restroom to take a dump!”

Because my Fun-atics understand how I hard I work to keep them entertained, they feel compelled to entertain me in return. For example, instead of approaching me at work, where it’s my job to meet and greet guests, they’ll wait until they see me reading the paper in a sidewalk café—in port, on my afternoon off, with my head down, trying to enjoy an hour or two of “me time”—and blast me with an earsplitting “Fun Duuuuuude!” Why wait until they return to the comedy club, where they can have my complete attention, when they can just as easily poke their heads out of a speeding cab and scream, “Fun Duuuuuude!!” loudly enough to scare the living crap out of my Mexican waiter, causing him to spill a double vanilla latté all over my Kindle? A waiter frightened by drunken shouts in a country where the sound of gunshots is more common than farts? Very entertaining, indeed.

I make my fans happy and so they want to make me happy. This explains why my biggest Fun-atics always make sure I know how much funnier I am than the headliner I’m opening for. And why they always make sure that the headliner is standing right next to me when they tell me. Luckily, I’m at my happiest when feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

My fans also value my ability to help them discover fun and exciting things to do in port. Sure, they could read the brochures, go to the cruise director’s travel talk or chat with the experts at our Shore Excursions desk, but they would rather ask me while I’m off the ship, walking hand in hand with my fiancée. That way, they can tap me on the shoulder right in the middle of an impassioned kiss and bark, “Hey, You! You come here every week—what is there to do around here?!”

I would love to say, “Well, although there are a lot of interesting tours offered at that tour kiosk located five feet behind you, I would say the most popular activity in this port would be to leave me the @#$% alone when I’m off duty trying to enjoy a little tropical romance with my woman! This port is famous for that!”

I would love to say that. I’m just afraid my fans might take it wrong. They might take it as a joke.

When it comes to intrusions into our personal lives, I’m much more forgiving than my fiancée is. If someone shouts “Fun Dude!” while we’re lunching at a beachside café, she’ll start mocking them instantly by jumping out of her seat and pretending to shout at me. “Oh, Fun Dude, Fun Dude,” she’ll fake scream, “you were so hilarious during your five precious minutes onstage last night that I just had to display my total lack of manners by shouting at you and your fiancée like an idiot and totally ruining the atmosphere of your romantic lunch instead of approaching you politely and introducing myself like a normal human being! Oh, ‘Fun Dude’, ‘Fun Dude’—tee-hee-hee!!”

“Sweetie, those people are just trying to express how much they love hanging with me at the comedy club every night. They’re just having fun on their vacation. Why do you have to call them idiots?”

“Because you’re an idiot and they’re your fans! So that makes them idiots and you their king—the King of the Idiots! And don’t ‘Sweetie’ me, you idiot!”

“Sweetie, I can’t be an idiot: I asked you to marry me, remember? That makes me a genius. If anyone is an idiot it’s you for agreeing to marry me.”

“Good point, Idiot.”

Although I can definitely be an idiot at times, my fans are not idiots. They just don’t know how to act around me because normal folks aren’t used to having access to professional entertainers. When a play ends, the actors exit the stage and hide in their dressing rooms. When a movie ends, the movie stars leap off the screen and go back to rehab. But when a comedy show ends, the comic is right there at the exit shaking hands and bumming free drinks. Guests now feel they have a relationship with the comic. And because they can’t just call his cabin and invite him to dinner, our guests jump at the first chance they get to interact with the comic. It doesn’t occur to them that the comic they see out and about the next day may be trying to relax, read a book, write some jokes, call his wife or catch a plane—they just want to feel a connection and their only chance is now.

But my situation is a little different. I live on the ship; therefore, guests have plenty of opportunities to introduce themselves and say hi. So, because I’m not a loud person, I’m always quite mystified as to why folks who like me and are intrigued by me feel the need to yell and shout at me instead of just striking up a conversation with me. But then, of course, I smell the rum on their breath from 50 feet away and the mystery is solved.

Regardless, I feel it’s part of my job is to show respect and compassion to socially awkward guests and treat them with the same manners and social skills which they so sorely lack. So what if my fans invade my personal space every once in a while? The important thing is that, over the course of 20 comedy shows during a seven-day cruise, my Fun-atics and I are “bonded by fun,” so to speak.

Besides, anytime my fans are a little overzealous or a tad inconsiderate, I can easily seek some harmless revenge by writing a humorous essay such as this one and breezily venting my frustration.

The best thing is I don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings. My fans are way too busy hooting and hollering to read.

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.


Cruising for a Snoozing


Living and working on a cruise ship can be a lot of fun. You get to meet interesting, hardworking people from around the world and scream at them in your underwear when they’re line dancing to “Gangnam Style” in the hallway at three in the morning just because, to someone whose name is so long his name-tag reads like an eye chart, a great big sign in English which reads, “Quiet Hours: 11:00pm-7:00am,” looks an awful lot like “Happy Hour: All Night Long!”

If you’re lucky, some of them might even be culturally literate enough to realize that a groggy American standing outside his door in his underwear at 3:00am squinting little xenophobic daggers of hate in their direction is the international symbol for “Hey, fellas, I’m trying to sleep!” and not “Hey, somebody grab this naked party monster a Corona! …Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style!”

Don’t get me wrong. Working on a cruise ship is a dream job. Only you don’t get to do much dreaming. That would require falling into deep R.E.M. sleep and that’s hard to do when “Shashibhushan” is shouting manic Hindi into the house phone right outside your cabin with all the melody of a braking freight train, trying to get his third cousin “Maneesh” back in Mumbai to help him unlock his new i-Phone so he can squat in that echo chamber of a stairwell on the other side of your cracker-thin cabin wall streaming Bollywood musicals at full volume with no headphones while you lie awake in your bunk with your fingers in your ears picturing that new Starbucks that just opened up down the street from your parents’ house and wondering how hard can it really be to operate an espresso machine.

My fiancée and I return from vacation this Saturday and we can’t wait to see where our cabin will be located. Will it be at the front of the ship where we can hear the CLANG-CLANG-CLANG of the anchor? Or at the back of the ship where can hear the THUMP-THUMP-THUMP of the disco? Will we be residents of the “Dancers’ Corridor,” home to super-talented twenty-something break dancers who can do triple back flips and one-arm handstands but can’t seem to drink a raspberry wine cooler without channeling their inner Bieber at the top of their lungs?  Or perhaps the “Shoppies’ Hallway,” where normally courteous gift shop workers offer tribute to Heineken, the Dutch god of the eighteen-hour work day, by punctuating each sip of beer with a door slam so thunderous it could wake up the comedy club manager on the Titanic and send him scurrying to the dentist with his back molars in his hand?

Who your roommate is has a lot to do with how much sleep you get on a cruise ship. Not everyone can have a roommate who quietly closes the cabin door behind him by slowly twisting the handle while seating the latch, gets undressed with a pocket flashlight while silencing his metal belt buckle, closes the bathroom door gently before brushing his teeth and then lays his clothes out for the next morning so he can get dressed for tender duty at seven a.m. without disturbing your sleep because he knows how hard you worked the day before. (Note: this is where he may or may not kiss you on the forehead.)

Not everyone can have a roommate like this because there is only one of me! I’M THE ONLY ONE! Every other male roommate you will ever have on a cruise ship will stumble into the cabin drunk at 3:00am, slam the door, flip on the light, turn on the TV, slam his closet drawers open and shut, and then take a ten-minute whiz with the bathroom door open until you start dreaming about riding a water taxi over Niagara Falls. Yet the moment you jump out of bed and start choking him with his own jangling belt like David Carradine in a Bangkok bordello, all of a sudden you’re the bad guy!

If it weren’t for the fact that my fiancée and I work on the same ship together, I wouldn’t be able to live this lifestyle any longer. Željka is not only my best friend, she is the most thoughtful and considerate roommate I’ve ever had. No other roommate has learned how to get ready for work or ready for bed without waking me up the way Željka has. No other roommate has learned how to come and go at all hours without waking me up the way Željka has.

That’s because no other roommate has learned how to spike my Sleepytime Tea with Bacardi and Ambien the way Željka has.

She listens to me whine about the noise in the hallway. She listens to me moan about my seven a.m. wake up call. Then she offers me a long sip from my Sponge Bob juicy cup and watches me sail away into sweet, sweet silence.

Then she goes out into the hallway and joins the party.