Draw the Line

Long Line

If there’s one thing cruise ship guests hate it’s waiting in line to see a free comedy show. It fact, some guests get so mad they look like they want to hit me. Only reason they don’t is the line for beating me up is usually longer than the line for the show.

In all fairness, I can see why people on vacation wouldn’t want to wait ten minutes to see a forty-minute comedy show. These are the same people who’ll wait in a three-hour line at Six Flags for a two-minute roller coaster ride. The same people who’ll camp out on Canal Street in New Orleans at nine in the morning for a Mardi Gras parade that doesn’t start till noon and won’t reach them until four in the afternoon. The same people who’ll sleep outside an Apple Store all weekend just to buy the new iPhone even though they still haven’t figured out how to use their previous iPhone. The same people who’ll, on the first night of the cruise, spend forty-five minutes in a Free Liquor Tasting line that circles the lobby of the ship just so they can down a thimble-sized sample of Baily’s Irish Cream. So, yes, I can see why waiting ten minutes for a professional comedy show would be too much suffering for their fallen arches to endure.

There’s something about lines (or “queues,” if you’re British) that brings out the worst in people. On a nightly basis I observe grown adults cut the line, save spots for friends, nit-pick about who was standing where, push and shove, scream and shout, and then become verbally abusive (or “get all Parliamentary,” if you’re British) with me or my assistants when confronted about their behavior. Other guests will refuse to join the line altogether and try to start their own line at the exit of the comedy club, refusing to move as they’re trampled by a stampede of 600 departing guests in search of free pizza and ice cream. It’s nights like that that make me wish there were more icebergs in the Caribbean.

Some of my superiors believe that turning a blind eye to such childish behavior falls under the heading of Good Customer Service. I do not. I believe that when passengers pay for a cruise they are paying to travel on the ship, paying to sleep on the ship, paying to eat on the ship, and paying to enjoy the free live entertainment offered on the ship. They are not paying for the right to interfere with our operation, supplant our policies with their own, defy or disrespect our team members or infringe upon the fun of their fellow guests through rude, selfish or discourteous behavior. For that we charge extra.

In my opinion, passengers are called “guests” for a reason: the ship is our home and they are just visiting. In my cruise line’s opinion, however, passengers should be considered “part of the family.” Fine. But if you ask me, that’s even more of a reason for us to call guests on their crap. I’d love to see our more problematic passengers try to pull the same shenanigans in the home of a close relative and see what happens. Try telling their Aunt Clara and Uncle Eugene how to run their household, spill food on their furniture, leave dirty dishes on their stairs, make noise at all hours of the night outside their bedroom door and speak rudely or disrespectfully to them or their cousins and they’ll find themselves at a Motel 6 faster than they can say, “It may be your house but it’s my vacation.”

I love my job and I love my ship. I also love the vast majority of guests who cruise with us week after week. So, please come sail with us soon. I’ll do my part to make sure you have the best cruise ever. But, to echo something we’ve all heard our fathers say a million times while growing up: If you cruise under my roof, you cruise under my rules.

Got a problem with that? Get in line.

# # #

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!”

# # #

Ship for Brains


Although Cruise Critic reviews can tell you which ship offers the best bang for your buck, one thing they can’t tell you is what your fellow passengers will be like on any given cruise. Pick the wrong sailing date with the wrong guest demographic and your vacation can go from Cape Canaveral to “Cape Fear” faster than you can say, “Here comes Honey Boo-Boo!”

Even if you book the most poorly reviewed ship in the fleet, the biggest negative surprise of your cruise will be what troublemakers some of your fellow cruisers can be. Those tan lines above their feet? That’s where the house arrest ankle bracelets used to be.

Although TV commercials always make cruising look like a care-free adventure, take it from me:

  • No matter how luxurious your stateroom may be, you won’t get any rest if your quarrelsome neighbors sound like they’re auditioning for “The Jerry Springer Show” on their balcony every night.
  • No matter how incredible the food and service in the dining room may be, you’re not going to enjoy dinner if the family next to you lets their sugar-addled rug rats run around the table, screeching their heads off as if taping a telethon for Planned Parenthood.
  • No matter how efficient and understanding the pursers at Guest Services may be, you’ll never get to the front of the line if 20 members of the same Idiots Anonymous chapter “didn’t know I had to pay for them items in my mini-bar!”
  • No matter how funny the comedians in the ship’s comedy club may be, you can’t enjoy the show if the trailer-park CPAs behind you are fighting over the check, trying to figure out who the hell ordered a drink called “gratuity.”

Sure, everyone has to put up with troublesome neighbors at home or work alongside first-class boneheads in the office; you expect that. What you don’t expect is to pay thousands of dollars to embark upon the vacation of a lifetime only to have it ruined by a handful of inconsiderate knuckleheads whose foster parents never taught them how to behave in public. Expect loud drunks to swear repeatedly in front of your children. Expect giggling morons to drop ice on you from the upper decks. Expect thoughtless jerks to light up cigars in the hot tub. Expect complete idiots to leave their empty coffee mugs in the middle of the stairs so your mother-in-law can fall and break her hip. Expect selfish pigs to swipe the last four slices of banana cream pie from the buffet without asking if you or one of your kids would like one. (OK, you can expect me  to do that, too.)

Bottom line, if you think you’re getting away from the Real World by going on a cruise, you’re wrong. Thanks to an abundance of affordable fares on the Internet, the same blockheads who make your life miserable on land are going to follow you up the gangway, dragging their knuckles behind them. They will cut in line in front of you at the buffet, chat loudly during production shows, and hog a big block of deck chairs for relatives who are never showing up—all the while being totally oblivious to how uncomfortable they’re making you feel or how badly they’re intimidating your children.

These days, cruise lines are doing whatever they can to fill every ship to capacity. The more empty cabins, the more money they lose and the harder it will be for them to keep their prices down. Unfortunately, reduced fares and on-board credit incentives mean more people who’ve had their campers repossessed are trading camping for cruising, meaning more people to heatedly debate the verisimilitude of Pro Wrestling right behind you while you’re trying to enjoy a romantic sunset with your special someone.

Fortunately, the majority of people you’ll meet on your cruise will be friendly, helpful and entertaining. You might even make a few new friends for life. In fact, the number of nice people you’ll meet will allow you to suffer the fools more gladly and, more than likely, encourage you to book another cruise right away.

But as for the imbeciles, nitwits and pinheads? Remember, it’s not a crime to push somebody overboard as long as nobody sees you do it. Besides, that won’t be the first time somebody’s “gotten away with murder” while cruising.

Have Tank Top, Will Travel

Tank Top

When packing for a cruise, don’t forget something nice to wear on Elegant Night. If you don’t own a tuxedo or evening gown, a tank top or sweat pants will do just fine. Just make sure they’re clean.  It is Elegant Night, after all.

Elegant Night isn’t what it used to be. Dressing up is optional now because my cruise line doesn’t want to alienate the lucrative “Duck Dynasty” demo by forcing them to wear anything that needs to be ironed. From a business standpoint that makes perfect sense: disgruntled guests spend less money so why risk upsetting a high roller who won’t even splurge on a pair of ten-dollar dress slacks at T.J. Maxx?

Before making Elegant Night more convenient for the sartorially challenged we need to ask ourselves,  “What kind of nighttime atmosphere do we want to promote on our ships? An elegant atmosphere where guests can delight in looking their very best for a couple of hours?  Or a relaxed atmosphere where guests can enjoy a refined seven-course meal in swim suits and flip-flops? Do we want guests to feel like they’re on a luxurious ocean liner in the Caribbean or at a KOA in Jacksonville?”

I think you know the answer: Viva Trailer Park Chic!

Oddly, my cruise line seems to care more about the wants and needs of our less sophisticated first-time cruisers than those of our more urbane repeat guests. Unfortunately, the more we coddle the common herd, the more we disrespect our classier customers who are more appreciative, more cooperative, and tend to spend more money on board. But because classier guests tend to bitch less, we’ve started to tailor our policies to the complaints and grievances of a few flip-flop philistines who, for example, feel discriminated against because “them treadmills in the guest gym ain’t got no ashtrays.” If I tell some shirtless biker with a giant flaming skull tattoo on his chest that he can’t enter my comedy club before donning the “Who Farted?” tank top he has slung over his shoulder like a Captain Trailer Park cape, he wheels his pimped-out Rascal Scooter down to Guest Services and threatens to have his entire Hell’s Angels chapter boycott the cruise line. Consequently, my cruise director is forced to give in and tell the guest that, because we truly value the patronage of a part-time drug mule who bought this cruise at the last minute on CheapAssCruises.com thanks to the $200 settlement he got on “Judge Judy,” that giant flaming skull tattoo on his chest does indeed count as a shirt.

“But, Boss,” I’ll say, “What about all the wealthy Platinum and Diamond members sitting next to him in their tuxedos and evening gowns, wearing looks of disgust and astonishment on their faces?”

“Well, if they’re so wealthy, how come they can’t afford a nice tank top for Elegant Night?”

‘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.

Sorry If I Offended You, Jackass!


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.

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.

I Kid You Not

I Kid You Not

The coolest thing about being a cruise ship comedian is I get to perform stand-up for children way too young to visit comedy clubs on land. One night, this adorable little Chinese-American girl in the front row raised her hand halfway through my set.

“Do you have a question, Sweetheart?”

“Yes. When does the good part start?”

Needless to say, the audience went nuts.

Feigning outrage, I said, “Hey, Kid—I don’t come down to where you work and knock the iPhone parts out of your hand, do I?”

As the wave of laughter washed over me, I stuck out my tongue and did a victory dance. Apparently, this was the funniest thing her little brother had ever seen. And when he jumped out of his seat to hi-five me, their parents lost it as well.

I thought I had won that round until the unimpressed cutie opened her coloring book, started coloring and shouted—with perfect timing, “Boring!”

Point. Set. Match.

The difference between a ship’s youth counselor and a ship’s comedian is one entertains immature crybabies and the other entertains their children. That’s why I love having kids at my shows. They save me the trouble of dumbing my act down by explaining my jokes to their parents.

Why are little kids such a joy to perform for? Well, for one thing, little kids don’t drink. Or, if they do, it’s usually just a beer or two to take the edge off of all that free ice cream. Because they’re sober, little kids pay attention. And, for boat acts such as myself, getting the audience to pay attention is half the battle. When your typical adults-only, midnight-show crowd consists of inebriated NASCAR fans whose idea of whispering during a live performance is talking with their mouths full, a front row filled with enchanted third-graders staring up at you in wide-eyed fascination is like a breath of fresh, non-rum-and-tequila-scented air.

Because my family show contains inoffensive yet mature material aimed at adult fans of clean comedy, most of my punchlines sail right over the munchkins’ heads. But most kids don’t seem to care. They seem perfectly happy just to be there witnessing my show, if not participating in it. I can almost see the wheels in their tiny noggins spinning as they struggle to wrap their hungry brains around the novel concept of stand-up comedy: “Who is this real-life wizard up on the stage magically making grown-ups laugh with nothing other than the words coming out of his mouth? Can I become a comedian when I grow up or are my grades too good?”

Don’t get me wrong. Performing stand-up for children can be daunting, especially for newer acts. The way our cruise line bills our family-friendly shows can sometimes make the comic’s job more challenging than it needs to be. Parents hear the phrase “family-friendly” and mistakenly assume that our family-friendly shows are for kids. They’re not. They’re for adults. Adults who want to enjoy a professional comedy show without entrusting overworked and sleep-deprived youth counselors to keep Junior from following a bouncy ball over the bow of the ship. Unfortunately, some parents bring their too-young-to-understand toddlers to the comedy club expecting to find an on-board Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater. Although enthralled grade-schoolers can energize a front row, do you have any idea how hard it is to deliver perfectly timed punchlines with an exhausted rug rat screeching, crying and climbing on his seat—three feet from the stage? It’s enough to make a comic wish he were  at Chuck E. Cheese so he could play a nerve-soothing game of “Whack a Two Year Old.”

Even though entertaining adults and kids at the same time with the same jokes is the stand-up comedy equivalent to skiing a black-diamond run, the sense of accomplishment I feel at the bottom of the hill is exhilarating. Nothing makes my day like stepping off an elevator onto Lido Deck and watching a star-struck little boy point up to me and say, “Look, Mommy, it’s that funny lady from the comedy show!”

Nothing, that is, except watching his big sister grin from ear to ear and shout, “Boring!”

The Big “O”


Whenever a comedian’s flight gets canceled, I get paid extra to cover his shows as the fill-in headliner. It’s happened three times in the past two months. I’m not sure if it’s due to the current shortage of air traffic controllers or my voodoo doll shaped like a Delta jet.

The last time I covered for a headliner, I received a standing ovation. This means one of two things:

  1. The audience wanted me to know how much they loved my show.
  2. The audience wanted me to know how happy they were it was over.

Standing O’s aren’t easy to get. For a comedy club audience to rise to their feet, one of two things has to happen:

  1. The audience has to become so lost in the world the comic has created onstage that they experience an epiphany about the human experience that bonds them to the comic on a spiritual level.
  2. The comic has to close his show with an impression of Tom Petty getting a prostate exam.

I got my standing O the old-fashioned way: by not sucking as much as expected.  Guests never expect me to be as funny as our headliners so I play to these low expectations big time:

We’ve got a great show for you tonight, folks. It’s right after mine.

One of our comics missed the ship so I’m headlining tonight. I’d like to open with a message from the Captain: “No refunds!”

Don’t think of me as a replacement comedian, think of me as slightly less annoying alternative to karaoke.

Although it was a proud moment for me, my lone standing O seemed rather sad compared to the Nolan Ryan moment comedian Rob Little enjoyed earlier in the cruise. Rob received an unprecedented six consecutive standing O’s. All three adults-only shows for that cruise and all three adults-only shows for the previous cruise. If three standing O’s for one cruise is a no-hitter, then six standing O’s for two cruises is a perfect game. And one standing O for one cruise is Not Sucking as Much as Expected.

The following cruise, when the comic I replaced finally showed up, I made the mistake of bragging to him about Rob’s achievement. I might as well have been telling my fiancée I had done my own laundry.  She doesn’t believe in miracles either.

I should have known better. Most comics will choose jealousy over inspiration any day of the week. Dane Cook sells out Madison Square Garden, most comics are like, “Aw, he papered the room!”

I’m different: I see another comic succeed, I think, “If he can do it I can do it.” And I did. I got my own standing ovation right after watching Rob get six. I did not, however, get six standing O’s. On the other hand, my standing O was given to me by six people, so we’re even.

In the three weeks since Rob’s record-setting feat, no comedian I have regaled around the campfire with “The Legend of the Six” seemed the least bit impressed. The consensus was: “No way those standing O’s were legitimate!”

It didn’t occur to these comics that calling Rob’s six standing ovations illegitimate made them look all the lamer for not getting one. I would much rather admit that I’m not worthy enough to get six standing O’s than admit I couldn’t get any from guests who were apparently giving them away like tax breaks to oil companies.

I said to one of my comedy buddies, “If fooling or manipulating a crowd into giving you the ultimate seal of approval is so easy, why aren’t you getting a standing O after every set?”

He said, “Because I have integrity.”

I said, “Would this be the same integrity you displayed while disparaging the remarkable triumph of a fellow performer?”

Just then he jumped to his feet like he was ready to punch me.

Of course, I didn’t take it that way. In my mind, he was giving me a standing O.

Be My Guest, Too


Difficult cruise ship guests can be put into four categories. You can try putting them into five, but they’re not going to cooperate.

You’ll recognize the four types of difficult guests by their mantras:

1)     “I Paid a Lot to Be Here!”

2)    “Nobody Told Me!”

3)    “That Doesn’t Make Any Sense!”

4)    “I’m Never Cruising on This Ship Again!”

 “I Paid a Lot to Be Here!”

These cruisers believe that spending time and money to go someplace gives them the right to do whatever they want once they get there. Gee, I wonder where they got that from:


“Pale Face no can own our land—it belong to ‘Big Chief in Sky’!”


“I sailed across the Atlantic, paddled a canoe down the Allegheny, and swam across the Ohio. So get off my lawn, Tonto—I paid a lot to be here!”

How do you think “Whitey” would have liked that logic in reverse?


“Get to work, boy!”


“All the way from Africa in a rat-infested cargo ship? Pick your own cotton, Cracker—I paid a lot to be here!”

If paying taxes doesn’t give you the right to break the laws of the land then why should paying for a cruise give you the right to break the rules of the ship?


“Sorry, sir, but I’ll have to ask you to put a shirt on, please.”


“You telling me I can’t walk around shirtless on a cruise ship?”


“No, sir, you may—just not on formal night.”


“But I paid a lot to be here! Who the hell cares if I’m not wearing a stupid shirt?!”


“All these other guests, who not only paid as much as you did, but also paid extra for their tuxedos and evening gowns, sir.”


“If these stiffs are supposed to be so classy, why are they puking everywhere?”


“Because of the dead seagull caught in your back hair, sir.”

“Nobody Told Me!”

The problem with this group is that they continue to cry, “Nobody told me!” even after you’ve just told them:


“Sorry, ma’am, but this lounge is closed for a private function.”


“Yeah, well, nobody told me!”


“I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s a big sign right out front.”


“I know, I walked right past it.”


“Well, ma’am, if you saw the sign, then you should have known the lounge was closed.”


“I didn’t say I read the sign, I said I walked past it. I didn’t know I was supposed to read the sign. Nobody told me I was supposed to read the sign. If the lounge is closed, then you should have someone standing in front of the sign telling people to read the sign that’s telling people that the lounge is closed. Where else am I supposed to sit and read my book now?”


“How about the lounge next door, ma’am? Or the lounge across from it? Or the one below it? Or the one above it? This ship has six dozen lounges, ma’am, but this particular lounge will be closed for the next hour.”


“Yeah, well, how am I supposed to know that—nobody told me!”


“Ma’am. I am right here right now telling you that the lounge is closed.”


“Well, I’m not leaving!”


“Why not, ma’am?”


“You should have told me the lounge was closed before I came in. I’m already inside, so now it’s too late.”


“Ma’am, you’re three feet beyond the doorway. I stopped you two seconds after you entered the lounge.”


“Well, you shouldn’t do that to people. We’re here to relax. We pay to fly to the ship, we pay to board the ship, and now you’re saying we’re not allowed to read a book? A book we paid for? How can you treat people like this? If a lounge is closed then somebody should tell people these things.”


“Sorry, ma’am, but we have a sign right outside the lounge that says, ‘Lounge Closed for Private Function’, and I’m standing here right inside the doorway with the sole purpose of telling guests who missed the sign that the lounge is temporarily—for one single hour of this 168-hour cruise, after which it will remain open to the public ad infinitum—closed.”


“Well, you should have told me sooner. If I had known this lounge was closed, I never would have booked this damn cruise to begin with.”


“Ma’am, are you saying somebody should have told you that this particular lounge would be closed for one hour for a private function six months ago when you booked your cruise?”


“Yes, the travel agency should have told me.”


“But, ma’am, how is a travel agency supposed to know about a random one-hour function?”


“Well, somebody should have told them.”


“I’ll tell you what, ma’am. As soon as this function is over, I can reserve you a quiet table by the window so you can read your book while sipping on a complimentary glass of champagne.”

DIFFICULT GUEST: “Great—now you tell me!”

“That Doesn’t Make Any Sense!”

This is the battle cry of choice for the difficult guests who frequent our comedy club. There’s something about laughing, smiling and having a good time that brings out the worst in some people. Therefore, we have several rules and policies intended to keep disruptions and distractions to a minimum:

  • “No-Seat-Saving” Policy: To prevent guests from pissing off other guests by reserving huge blocks of seats for friends or family members who are too busy breaking even at the nickel slots to actually come to the comedy show.


“Sorry, sir, but I gave you an extra twenty minutes for your party to arrive despite our no-seat-saving policy. Now I’m afraid I’ll have to give these seats to guests who are here.”


“That doesn’t make any sense! If those people wanted seats they should have gotten here early.”


“You mean just like the seven people in you party who haven’t arrived yet?”


“If you want to take my seats away, you might as well take my drink, too!)


“That doesn’t make any sense—that drink cost you nine dollars!”

  • “Clearing the Showroom between Shows” Policy: So our staff can clean up quickly and guests waiting in line can pick their favorite seats.


“Sorry, ma’am, but I’ll have to ask you to kindly exit the showroom and join the line for the next show, please.”


“That doesn’t make any sense! I just walked in during the last 10 minutes of the previous show.”


“In that case, it makes perfect sense, ma’am: you made a conscious decision to come to the show late, thereby missing the announcement of our policy at the beginning of the show. Fortunately, I announced our policy again at the end of the show and, as you watched 650 other compliant guests file past you,  you heard me repeat our policy announcement 10 more times over five minutes. Since you’ve chosen to challenge our policy in full view of hundreds of other guests who were kind enough to cooperate, I have no choice but to confront you personally and ask you to leave. Any discomfort or embarrassment you are feeling right now is a result of your personal choice not to respect your fellow guests by heeding my announcements. Now, if you’d like, ma’am, I can reserve you this seat for the next show. Meaning, if you were to help me keep up appearances by exiting the lounge just like everyone else, I’d put down a “Reserved” sign for you. Then, instead of waiting in line, you can arrive a few minutes before show time and your seat will be waiting for you. But, for the time being, I’ll need you to kindly shut the @#$% up and get the @#$% out!”


“That doesn’t make any sense! What the @#$% does @#$% mean? @#$% ain’t even a @#$%-ing word, @#$%-er!”

  •  “No-Talking-During-the-Show” Policy: To make sure our comedians don’t get distracted and our guests don’t miss any punchlines.


“Sorry, ma’am, but would you be so kind to keep your table talk down to a whisper for me, please?”

DIFFICULT GUEST: “That doesn’t make any sense! This guy ain’t funny!”


“I’m sorry, ma’am, but could you repeat that? Your words were drowned out by the sound of 600 people laughing.”


“That doesn’t make any sense! If I’m talking too loudly, then how come you couldn’t hear me?”


“It’s called a joke, ma’am. I was just trying to be as unfunny as our headliner.”

  • “No One under the Age of 18 Admitted to the Adults-Only Shows” Policy: We think that every once in a while a cruise ship should be fun for the people who paid for the cruise…Grandma and Grandpa.


“I’m sorry, sir, but your son is too young to come in—this is an ’18-and -over’ show.”


“You mean to tell me that my 15-year-old smokes, drinks and has unprotected sex, but a few dirty jokes are going to upset his delicate teenage sensibilities?”


“First of all sir, congratulations on being a lousy parent. Secondly, we don’t care what your kid listens to, we’d just rather you send him to the casino for 40 minutes so we can take all his dope peddling money at the blackjack table.”

“I’m Never Cruising on This Ship Again!”

Difficult guests in this group love me. Anytime I ask them to respect one of our rules or policies, they let me have it: “I’m never cruising on this ship again!”

Folks, if you want to get revenge for my enforcing rules designed to make our comedy shows more enjoyable for all our guests, the last thing you want to tell me is that you aren’t coming back to my ship. You know what I‘ll think? “Thank you, Baby Jesus!”

If you want to get even with me for not letting you ruin the show for others, don’t threaten to not come back. Threaten to come back next month:


“Sorry, sir, but these people have been standing in line for the past 30 minutes. I apologize but I can’t allow you to cut the line, sir.”


“Oh, yeah—well, how about I just call my travel agent and book up all of October?”


“You know what, sir, screw those people—come right on in!”