Shut Up and Laugh!

No Talking

My main duty as a comedy club manager is to monitor table talk and heckling during a show. The reason “policing the room” is so important is because stand-up comedy is a delicate art form. In fact, the only thing more delicate than stand-up comedy is the ego of a tipsy redneck who thinks stand-up comedy is neither delicate nor an art form. That means I constantly have to be on the lookout for potential disturbances that can interfere with a comedian’s performance. A skilled comedian’s punchlines are so precisely timed that distracting him for even a second can cause the funniest joke in his act to become painfully unfunny and then, before you know it, Larry the Cable Guy’s doing it on TV.

They say that dying is hard but comedy is harder. Harder still is trying to get cruise ship passengers to shut the hell up for half an hour. The difference between a well-rehearsed joke killing or dying can be caused by the slightest change in the inflection or pronunciation of a single word in the setup or punchline. Believe it or not, a comic can’t concentrate on the nuances of delivery if his inner technician is being drowned out by a bachelorette party seated ten feet from the stage arguing over who has the classiest tramp stamp.

So it’s my job to go from table to table begging the self-centered and inebriated to act like grown-ups for thirty short minutes. But, on a cruise ship, where guests have paid a pretty penny for the privilege of being obnoxiously drunk in public, getting them to give their respect and attention to a professional entertainer is sometimes a mission even “The Expendables” would turn down.

That’s why the average audience member gets defensive when I shush them. Rarely does anyone ever apologize for getting caught up in the moment and not realizing how loud they’re being. Rarely does anybody say, “Oh, I’m sorry. This is my first time in a comedy club. So when I heard your offstage announcement asking me to keep my table talk to a minimum, I thought you were joking. And so when the comedian onstage told me to pipe down and the entire room erupted into thunderous applause, I thought he was joking. And so when the table of half-deaf blue-hairs in front of me turned around, screamed ‘Shut the @#$% up!’ and started pelting my abnormally sloped forehead with gin-drenched ice cubes, I thought they were a geriatric flash mob. It never occurred to me that I’m not actually supposed to chit-chat at full volume while others are trying to enjoy a professional comedy show. Thank you, sir, for inspiring me to become a better—and quieter—person. I beg you to reach deep within your heart and find the mercy to forgive me for breaking the unwritten social contract of “he talk, me listen” which has existed between a boat act and his audience since time immemorial. Now may I please have a glass of water to take my lithium with?”

Actually, nobody ever says that.

Instead, they say: “What do you mean I can’t talk in a comedy club? Oh, so only the comedian is allowed to talk, is that right? I’ve never heard of that before. What is your name, sir? I’m going to have you hung, drawn and quartered for ruining my cruise and scarring my soul with your unreasonable and unthinkable demand for silence during a live presentation in a theatrical setting! How about crying—is crying OK in a comedy club? Because that’s what I feel like doing now that you’ve embarrassed me in front of my equally drunk and inconsiderate friends by politely and gently reminding me of a policy you clearly mentioned a dozen times in your preshow announcements!”

Although I can understand somebody not knowing how to behave in a comedy club, what I can’t understand is how a grown adult can argue with somebody who works someplace about something only a person who works at that place can possibly know anything about. I was raised Catholic. Not once did I have to take off my shoes or put on a yarmulke upon entering my church. Therefore, it wouldn’t occur to me to take off my shoes before entering a Buddhist temple, just as it wouldn’t occur to me to put on a yarmulke before entering a Jewish synagogue.  But even though I’m not a religious person anymore, I wouldn’t think twice about losing my shoes or wearing a yarmulke upon entering another’s house of worship. I’m a guest on their turf and, therefore, good manners dictate that I respect their traditions and customs without question. You’ll never hear me say to a rabbi, “Sorry, dude, but I put a five-dollar bill in the collection box before entering, so that means I paid to be here, Chuck. And since the customer is always right, I’ll waltz into this dump wearing a Nazi helmet and a Speed-o if I want to. A man wearing a yarmulke in a synagogue? I’ve never heard of that before.”

Policing the room is normally much easier in a land-based comedy club. At my home club, Hilarities 4th Street Comedy Theater @ Pickwick & Frolic, in downtown Cleveland, there’s always a showroom manager and anywhere from two to six ushers in the showroom at any given time. The moment customers start heckling or chatting too loudly, Usher #1 goes over and says something. If the behavior continues, it’s Usher #2’s turn. If that doesn’t work, the showroom manager asks one more time—very politely—for the customers to settle down, sometimes handing them a business-card-sized note explaining the club’s No Talking / No Heckling policy. If that doesn’t work, the showroom manager radios for backup in the form of an off-duty uniformed policeman, who then escorts the guests out of the showroom. The guests then have their choice to continue their conversation out in the martini bar or upstairs in the restaurant. If, however, they give the cop a hard time, they can continue their conversation in the back of a squad car.

In the Punchliner, on the cruise ship I’ve called home for the past five years, it’s just me. What the showroom manager, doorman, ushers and off-duty police officers at Hilarities do in unison, I do all by myself.

The only thing I don’t do is put talkers into the back of a squad car.

Instead, I just throw them overboard.

Getting thrown overboard for talking during a comedy show? I bet you never heard of that before.

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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)

packing-a-suitcase

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

Nexium

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.

Team America

Team America

One of the first things guests ask me is, “What’s an American like you doing working as a crew member on a cruise ship?”

My stock answer is: “I’m not a crew member. I’m actually the president of the cruise line, taping an episode of ‘Undercover Boss’.”

Almost every American on our ship works in the Entertainment Department. Our cruise line learned the hard way that we Americans are much more entertaining than, say, Croatians:

“OK, everybody, it is time to play da trivias: ‘What country is so stupid dey turned ‘Here Comes Honey Boo’ into a ratings bonanza?’ Dat’s right: America. You win—have another Twinkie, Fatso!”

You won’t find many Americans working down at the Guest Services desk. Sarcasm doesn’t play well with weary travelers:

“Excuse me, but is there a charge for the items in my mini-bar?”

“Of course not, ma’am; we’re a cruise line. We would never nickel and dime our customers. Why would we a buy a bag of Skittles at Wal-Mart for fifty cents and then charge you six bucks for it when you return from the casino at 2:00am drunk and depressed?  And don’t forget to order a bucket of beer at the pool bar—that crap’s free, too, lady!”

Instead, you’ll find plenty of South Americans, South Africans and Eastern Europeans. They possess a knack for answering stupid questions with a straight face which Americans lack:

AMERICAN GUEST:

“Excuse me, but we’ve got these annoying whooshing and slapping sounds coming from the other side of our cabin wall.”

NON-AMERICAN GUEST SERVICES STAFF MEMBER:

“Yes, sir, that would be the ocean.”

AMERICAN GUEST:

“Can you make it stop?!”

NON-AMERICAN GUEST SERVICES STAFF MEMBER:

“Yes, sir, I will call the captain and ask him to pop a wheelie all the way to Cozumel.”

You’re not going to get that degree of cooperation from “Ramona,” recently fired from K-Mart for sucker punching a disgruntled shopper:

AMERICAN GUEST:

“Excuse me, but there’s this weird sewage smell in the hallway down on Riviera Deck. Could you send somebody to look into it, please?

“RAMONA”:

“How do I know it ain’t your stanky ass that’s stankin’ up the hallway? When was the last time yo greasy, country ass took a shower? And even if it is backed-up sewage you is smellin’—that’s what you get for bookin’ a last-minute super-saver fare on the Internet instead of findin’ a real job and payin’ for a real cabin. If yo cheap ass could afford a balcony maybe you’d be smellin’ salty sea air instead of yo own sweaty, funky-ass ass funk, fool! You don’t like how the hallway smells on the budget deck; spend your vacation at KOA next time, punk!”

No matter how ridiculous your complaint is, our non-American Guest Services personnel will find a way to pacify you. If you complain about the size of the pineapple slice garnishing the rim of your nine-dollar piña colada, fifteen minutes later a Filipino with a trolley will bring a fifty-pound pineapple wedge to your cabin:

“Dees pineapple for you, Madame.  Pineapple dees big keep your mouth busy so you can’t bitch no mo’!”

The best thing about cruising is you can leave your dirty dishes wherever you want and no one will say a thing.

At least not in English.

But listen closely and you’ll learn to say, “Lazy American” in fifty foreign languages.

In fact, that’s the real reason you don’t see more American crew members on a cruise ship: most cruise lines realize that, if a foreign crew member sees you leave a dirty dish on the staircase, he’ll pick it up for you. But if an American crew member sees you leave a dirty dish in the middle of the stairs, he’ll say, “Really, Bubba?! That’s where you’re going to leave it? Where someone can trip, fall and break their neck?! Shame on you, you lazy slob—pick that crap up and put it on that counter over there before I slap the hell out of you the way your mama should have thirty years ago when you were just a pint-sized lazy slob leaving your Ho-Ho wrappers and Yoo-Hoo cans all over the double wide so your daddy could home drunk, trip in the kitchen, hit his head and die in a pile of filth, leaving you without a proper male role model to teach you how to clean up after yourself like a damn human being!”

So the next time you find yourself on a cruise ship feeling more important than the other 4,000 passengers on board, be glad the crew doesn’t speak English well enough to argue with you.

Sorry If I Offended You, Jackass!

car-crash

There comes a point in every comedian’s career when he has to stop worrying about offending people. Worrying about offending people while performing stand-up comedy is like worrying about getting bugs on your windshield while driving a car. No matter how slowly or carefully you drive, you’re still going to get bugs on your windshield. You don’t want to kill the bugs, you may feel bad about killing the bugs—especially if your kid is watching A Bug’s Life in the backseat—but, unless you want to stay parked in the driveway and get bird poop on your windshield, you’re going to get bugs on your windshield. You can always ride your bike, but then you’re going to get bugs in your teeth. You can always Rollerblade backwards naked, but then you’re going to get a bug up your ass. In which case, you’ll wind up on my cruise ship complaining that I offended you with one of my jokes.

Whenever one of my jokes accidentally hurts somebody’s feelings, my first impulse is to apologize. My second impulse is to duck. Whenever one of my jokes accidentally offends somebody, however, my first impulse is to offend them again—on purpose. My second impulse is to run away like a little girl. (Sorry if I just offended any of you little girls out there.)

What’s the difference between hurting someone’s feelings and offending someone? Well, someone who’s easily hurt is less likely to laugh at the expense of others because she knows how bad it feels to be the butt of a joke. Someone who’s easily offended is more likely to laugh at everyone else but himself because he actually thinks he is more important than everyone else. So hurting somebody’s feelings with comedy is like crashing into the car in front of you because you’re not watching where you’re going, whereas offending somebody with comedy is like crashing into someone who doesn’t stop at intersections because they believe stop signs don’t apply to them.  Either way, the other driver thinks you’re at fault.

Let’s say you’re sitting in the front row of my comedy show and I start making fun of some guy’s shirt. If you’re the sort who’s easily hurt, you might think, “Why are you making fun of that man’s shirt in front of all these people? That’s not nice! I think that’s a lovely shirt he’s wearing—what’s wrong with purple polka dots?!” If, however, you’re the type who’s easily offended, you might think, “Yes, that is one goofy looking shirt—get him, Fun Dude—get him! Make sure he never sets foot in T.J. Maxx ever again! Ha! Ha! Ha!” But then as soon as I move on and start making fun of your tank top, you might think, “Hey, watch it, Buddy! This is America! The Second Amendment gives me the right to ‘bare’ arms! You better start making fun of that fat lady next to me before I kick your Ellen-DeGeneres-looking butt!”

Sometimes, when an audience member takes offense to a comedian’s material, he’ll try to ruin the comedian’s set by heckling. Guests on my ship have asked, “Well, if the First Amendment gives a comedian the right to say whatever he wants on stage, doesn’t it give me the right to heckle him while he’s on stage?”

The short answer is  “No.”

The long answer is “No, Jackass!”

The really long answer is “Your First Amendment rights during a live performance which other have people paid to attend and seem to be enjoying are limited to either laughing or not laughing; remaining in the showroom or getting the hell out. Although the First Amendment does indeed give you the right to your own opinion, decorum still dictates that you express your opinion in the proper forum, using the proper medium, at the proper time.

Such as, waiting until the comedian gets into his car and then crashing into him.