Public Offender

You-find-it-offensive

As both a stand-up comedian and comedy club manager, I often get complaints from audience members who are “offended” by something I or one of our Punchliner headliners have said onstage. But if you ask me, getting offended by stand-up comedy is like getting burned by the sun: both are easily avoidable. All it takes is a little sunscreen and maturity. Before you go to the beach, lather up; before you go to an R-rated comedy show, grow up. (Or at least do a little research about the comedian you’re about to see.) Whether you walk into one of our adults-only comedy shows beet-red from the sun or leave it beet-red from indignation, my response will be the same: “Well, what did you think was going to happen, you freckled @#$% ?” (See? I purposely censored myself so as not to offend you.)

Although I don’t enjoy offending people, I have little empathy for people who claim to be offended by the words, ideas or opinions of others. In my opinion, being offended is not a real thing. It’s an irrational state of mind that people lacking in emotional intelligence create for themselves by interpreting the words and intentions of others through mental filters based on their personal issues, prejudices, fears and, more often than not in comedy clubs, copious shots of Jägermeister. I believe this because I find myself being offended by things people do and say all the time. Fortunately, most of the time I can catch myself immediately and calm myself down by talking myself through my upset until  realizing that I alone own my feelings. So instead of going off on the person whom I’ve allowed to push my buttons, I’ll quietly walk outside and key his car.

Part of being an adult is being able to react maturely and reasonably to ideas and opinions that differ from one’s own.  In my humble—and 100% correct—opinion, comedy club patrons who express their displeasure with a comedian’s routine by  making a big deal about how “offensive” it is are exhibiting a lack of both reason and maturity and should stop going to comedy clubs and join the presidential race instead.

To clarify, I’ve got no problem with guests who express their opinions politely. For these folks, I’ll go out of my away to be a good listener and say whatever I can to make them feel better. I’ll apologize profusely, suggest another show which may be up their alley, and reserve them front-row seats for that show. What I won’t do, however, is throw the comedian in question under the bus by agreeing with the guest’s assessment of his act should I feel otherwise. If I feel a guest’s criticisms are spot-on, I’ll incorporate those comments into the comedian’s end-of-cruise performance evaluation. If I feel the guest is off base, however, I’ll listen politely for as long as he can keep his critique civil. “I don’t find this comedian funny!” is an opinion I can accept and work with. But as soon as some touchy hothead starts drifting over into “This comedian sucks—he’s not funny at all!” territory, it takes all the willpower I can muster not to pull the pin on a snarky-comment grenade and shout,  “What’s that?! You’ll have to speak up! I can’t hear you on account of our being surrounded by five hundred other people laughing their asses of at that hilarious comedian onstage right now!”

So you see, I’ve got no problem with paying (ahem!) customers expressing their honest opinions about any sub-par comedians I have a hand in recruiting and reviewing. In fact, even when the rest of the room is rolling in the aisles, there may be one lone wolf in the crowd who isn’t buying the crap the comedian is selling and who may very well win my respect by identifying that comedian as a headliner wannabe or, as I call such acts, “The Emperor’s Closer.”

No, my beef is with folks who get on their high horse and demand to either have a comic fired or at the very least be forced to drop the “offensive” bit in question. The problem with these folks is not the feelings of anger, disgust, frustration or indignation they experience when hearing a joke or premise they disagree with; the problem is their thinking that those feelings are more valid or important than either the feelings of release and purposefulness experienced by the comedian expressing himself onstage or the feelings of joy and happiness experienced by the other three hundred or so people in the audience who are guffawing their heads off. In other words, when an irate audience member claims to be offended by a joke she is basically saying that, in her opinion, the joke, which is the comedian’s opinion, is invalid, as is the laughter response of the other audience members, which is their opinion, and so in her opinion, the only opinion that matters in this case is her opinion. Well, in my opinion, people who share that opinion should be playing in a sandbox with a bunch of three-year-olds and not taking up seats in a comedy club.

The most ridiculous aspect of such complaints is the offended customer almost always thinks the comedian offended him on purpose. Few comedians derive any joy out of offending people. Stand-ups are by nature very paranoid people and are worried constantly about not being liked and not getting booked. Besides, although a stand-up’s job is to reinterpret everyday experience from an angle the average person would never consider, his ultimate goal is to make people laugh and feel good. And so, because of that and the fact that most comedians are extremely self-centered, we almost always assume that everyone in the audience is going to agree with our point of view. So if we think something is funny, we assume everyone will find it funny. However, every journeyman comedian knows that the audience is the final arbiter of what’s funny and what’s not, so if we try a bit a few times and the majority of the audience rejects it, we’re not going to keep it in the act. Meaning, every time one or two members of an audience are offended by a bit or find it terribly unfunny, hundreds if not thousands of people all around the country—or around the globe, even—have already laughed at it as opposed to being offended by it. (Of course, hate speech is something else altogether. But that’s where the audience comes in. What these “I was so offended” people don’t understand is if a comedian is truly out of line and a joke really is in bad taste, the whole audience will, more often than not, turn on him and let him know immediately. If you don’t believe me, just ask Michael “12 Years an Outcast” Richards.)

In my opinion (the three most important words in this essay), too many cruise-ship passengers, when watching stand-up comedy shows they neither paid for nor were forced to attend, have the mistaken belief that their opinion is more important than that of the artist onstage or the other cruisers in the audience. And, in some cases, some of them may actually come to a comedy show looking for something to be offended by because the feelings of self-righteousness and outrage they experience get the endorphins pumping more than a bucketful of free ice-cream on Lido Deck. Fortunately, these folks are in the minority. Unfortunately, they can multiply like Gremlins whenever the cruise line coddles them like children instead of treating them like the adults they’re supposed to be.

In a perfect world, our ship’s Guests Services associates would be empowered to answer all complaints regarding the content of our clearly advertised “eighteen-and-over, uncensored, anything-goes, adults-only” late-night comedy shows that are “not for the easily offended” with: “Let’s see here: You know you’re someone who is easily offended yet you still opted to see an adults-only, uncensored comedy show which was advertised as not being for the easily offended, and now not only have  you been easily offended, but you also have third-degree burns all over your body from lying out by the pool all day with no sunscreen?

“Well, what did you think was going to happen, you freckled @#$% ?”

# # #

Love at First Fight

Arguing

I’m engaged to a beautiful and intelligent Croatian woman with whom I argue a lot. When people ask us how we met, we tell them it was love at first fight.

And, boy, how we fight. If we lived in Israel, Israelis and Palestinians alike would be knocking on our door, shouting, “Give it a rest already!”

Our latest fight was particularly bad. But, like most of our fights, I have no idea what it was about or how it got started. All I know is Chris Brown called me the next day and said, “N****, you better apologize.”

Some people believe that constant fighting means you’re in the wrong relationship. Not me. Željka and I don’t fight because we’re in a bad relationship; we fight because we’re in a relationship. A relationship without fighting is like a Vin Diesel movie without car chases: a lot less noisy but nowhere near as fun.

Our constant fighting doesn’t say we’re wrong for each other. It says we both have poor relationship skills. It says we’re both immature, ego driven and hot-tempered. It says we have anger issues, intimacy issues and trust issues. It says we’re bad listeners, blamers and excuse makers. We’re not wrong for each other so much as we’re perfect for “Dr. Phil.”

Most people are too quick to break up with somebody just because the relationship gets a little rocky:

“I can’t believe you just buried an ax in my head! I want a divorce!”

“Oh, stop being so dramatic—we’ve got health insurance! How about a little makeup sex?!”

“Not tonight—I’ve got a headache!”

Relationships aren’t meant to make you happy; they’re meant to give you somebody to be unhappy with:

“I hate you.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, I hate you.”

“Wanna watch a movie?”

“Sure, as long as it’s not some stupid rom-com with a happy ending.”

Happiness is your own responsibility. If you can’t be happy by yourself, stop thinking you can be happy with somebody else:

“I’m fat, I’m stupid and I’m unattractive. But if I were in a relationship, then I would be happy.

“Because then the only thing missing in my life would the nagging suspicion that my significant other is cheating on me with somebody thinner, smarter and more attractive.

“So if I could replace my insecurity and self-loathing with a constant fear of betrayal and abandonment —then, I would be happy.”

Companionship is its own reward. I don’t expect Željka to make me happy; I expect her to make me a sandwich. And Željka doesn’t expect me to make her happy; she expects me to make the bed. Her cooking for me shows she loves me and my doing little chores for her shows I love her. All that the constant fighting shows is that we better not break up, because nobody else would put up with us.

Why are Željka and I still together after four years even though we drive each other crazy? Because we both realize that trying to find a partner who doesn’t drive you crazy is like trying to find a dog that doesn’t bark. If you don’t like barking, don’t get a dog. If you don’t like bitching, don’t get a you-know-what.

Many men make the mistake of thinking that if his wife or girlfriend is constantly busting his nuggets, she’s the wrong woman for him. Guys, you shouldn’t worry about your woman busting your nuggets, because busting your nuggets is the number one sign that she really loves you. What you should be worried about is the woman who never busts your nuggets, who never gets angry, who never loses her temper. Show me a woman who doesn’t do everything she can to make you miserable when you’re awake and I’ll show you a woman who’ll murder you when you’re asleep.

The only way to be in a happier relationship is to become a happier person. And the only way to become a happier person is to become a better person. And the only way to become a better person is to develop better life skills, better communication skills, better listening skills and better relationship skills. Reading books helps. Going to counseling helps. Watching “Dr. Phil” helps. Eating an entire carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream with the lights out really helps.

But one thing that doesn’t help you become a better person is bailing on a relationship just because the other person is a gigantic pain in the butt. That’s why I’ve never understood divorce. Ask any married man if he would take a bullet for his wife and he’ll say Yes without hesitation. But as soon as his wife becomes a certified nugget busting machine, he’ll start chasing anything in a skirt. So let me get this straight: You’re willing to take a bullet for your woman but you’re not willing to take forty to fifty years of incessant bickering, quarreling, squabbling, yelling, screaming and standing half-naked on the front lawn at 4:00am, putting your personal belongings out with a fire extinguisher?

Wussy!

You’re the one who bought the engagement ring. You’re the one who proposed. You’re the one who said “I do”—until death do you part. So don’t abandon the ship now just because the seas are a little stormy. It’s not love unless the neighbors call 911 and you wind up on “Cops,” being pushed into the back of a squad car in your boxer shorts and wife-beater T-shirt while she stands on the porch of the double-wide, sobbing, “He’s a good man, officer—he didn’t mean me to bury that ax in my head. Don’t arrest him–we got health insurance….”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. Željka just finished reading this horse crap and I’ve got some fighting to do.

And the only thing I love more than fighting is… her.

# # #

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.

# # #

Deride the Lightning

Homer

Capital punishment is one of the most hotly debated and polarizing issues in America. For example, when Tennessee decided to bring back the electric chair earlier this year, liberal Tennesseans argued this might increase the number of innocent people on death row, whereas conservative Tennesseans argued this might increase their electric bills.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma wants to abolish lethal injection because it’s not covered by Obamacare.

Oklahoma botched an execution by lethal injection several months ago. They used the wrong chemicals so it took about an hour to kill the guy.  (In fact, while he waited, he had a new pair of glasses made at Lens Crafters.) But, although the media made a big deal out of it, I don’t think the guy they were executing really minded all that much:

“No, really, take all the time you need. I’ve got nothing planned for the rest of the day. If you want, we can break for lunch and try this again in a couple of decades….”

The kicker is that the guy never got his last meal. Apparently, he requested steak with A-1 Sauce, shrimp salad, a baked potato and dessert. But since that meal would have cost more than $15, his request was denied. Call me a bleeding heart, but if we, as a society, are going to end the life of a fellow member of society, the least we can do is send an intern over to Applebee’s for some takeout. How better to help a convicted murderer learn the error of his ways than by showing him how wonderful life can be for $8.99 on Tuesdays and Thursdays? One basket of all-you-can-eat riblets before dying and even the most cold-blooded psychopath will realize that killing is a no-no.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s totally useless to debate the death penalty with friends who support capital punishment. No matter what you say, they always have a knee-jerk response locked and loaded:

“You know, the death penalty, both in the U.S. and around the world, is discriminatory and is used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities. Since humans are fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.”

“It’s right there in the Bible: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out!”

“Furthermore, the astronomical costs associated with putting a person on death row – including criminal investigations, lengthy trials and appeals – are leading many states to re-evaluate and re-consider having this flawed and unjust system on the books.”

“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime!”

“Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 wrongfully convicted defendants were released from death row.”

“Yeah, well, I just saved a ton of money on my car insurance!”

When it comes to the death penalty, I consider myself both a conservative and a liberal: I’m for the electric chair but only if it’s solar powered.

I’m kidding. Truth be told, I’m no fan of the death penalty; because, the longer I live and work on a cruise ship, the more I want to kill somebody.

They say that the death penalty is a deterrent to murder. But if anything should be a deterrent to murder it’s plain ol’ prison. In prison, you’re forced to go “number two” in the middle of a tiny cell, on that metal prison toilet, with no privacy whatsoever. I don’t care how badly you want somebody dead; all it should take to stop you from pulling the trigger is to picture yourself dropping a deuce with a big, bald Aryan ape with a dragon tattooed to his head staring you down as you nervously try to wipe. Anytime you find yourself compelled to act-out some ultra-violent adolescent, woe-is-me revenge fantasy, just dial up that bowel-tightening scenario in your noggin and you’ll immediately switch to envisioning a better tomorrow, wherein you buy the whole world a Coke and teach it to sing in perfect harmony.

Okay, let’s say the death penalty can deter premeditated murder. But then what about crimes of passion? Who’s thinking of the death penalty in the heat of the moment?:

“Yo, play-a! You stole my cocaine, you burned down my drug lab, and you blew up my Escalade!” I should kill you, but I don’t want Al Sharpton to be disappointed in me when they fry me like a catfish at the church social!””

For those of you that think the preceding joke is racist because I made the criminal’s dialogue read like some clichéd African-American stereotype, allow me to rewrite the passage, this time making him sound like some clichéd white-trash stereotype:

“Hey, boy! You stole my moonshine, you burned down my still, and you blew up my El Camino! I should kill you, but I don’t want Nancy Grace to say mean stuff about me after they fry me like a funnel cake at the state fair!”

While we’re at it, let’s piss off some Hispanic-Americans:

“Yo, Holmes! You stole my Chiclets, you burned down my taco stand and you blew up my donkey! I should kill you, but I don’t want George Lopez to make bad jokes about me after they fry me like a churro at a flea market!”

And let’s not forget Gay-Americans:

”You bad boy! You stole my Lady Ga-Ga CD’s, you burned down my walk-in-closet shrine to Neil Patrick Harris, and you blew up my powder-blue Prius. I should kill you but I don’t want to end up on death row with a bunch of sweaty, horny men. On second thought, maybe I WILL kill you—BANG-BANG!”

The reason why I think capital punishment doesn’t deter murder is that murder doesn’t seem to deter crappy human behavior. The world is filled with hair-triggered psychopaths who could kill us in a blink of an eye, yet we continue to flip off others in traffic, steal parking spots at the mall, cut in line at the supermarket, talk and text in movie theaters, stiff waiters, cheat on lovers, and angrily tell panhandlers to “get a job!”

“Excuse me, brother, can you spare some change for something to eat?”

“Get a job, you lazy bum.”

“Careful—I could have a gun.”

“Yeah, well, if you can afford a gun, then you can afford a sandwich.”

Can you imagine how cool it would be if people stopped treating others like crap just because they were afraid to be murdered?

“Harold, I can’t believe you just tipped our waiter twenty percent for a change.”

“Beats getting stabbed in the neck with a fork, sweetheart.”

“Oh, come now, Harold. That nice young man would never do something like that. Who wants to spend the rest of his life pooping on a prison toilet?”

# # #

Gun Nuts and Love Guns

Gun Nuts and Love Guns

Although I’m a meat eater, I’m neither a gun owner nor a hunter. I’m not against killing defenseless animals; I’m against getting up at 5:00 am to do it:

 “Hey, Jeff—how about we get up at the crack of dawn, freeze our butts off and shoot at some deer?”

 “I’ve got a better idea: How about you leave me an assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine and I’ll sleep till noon, brew some coffee, scarf some Crunch Berries and then get all “Scarface” on the neighbor’s poodle that’ll be yapping its damn head off all morning?”

And although I love my country, I’m embarrassed by our incessant, ridiculous quarreling over gun laws and same-sex unions.  America is so behind the times. There isn’t one licensed dentist in all of Great Britain and yet their Parliament is progressive enough to make gun ownership difficult (Wanna kill somebody? Start a soccer riot!) and gay marriage legal. (God save the queens!)

Two of the most polarizing issues in American politics are gun rights and gay rights. Gun nuts won’t let you have their gun until you “pry it from their cold dead fingers,” and I’m pretty sure gay men feel the same way about something else.

I feel about gay rights the same way I feel about gun rights: Do what you want; just don’t point that thing at me. I have no desire to own a gun and I have no desire to have sex with a man. I would, however, buy a gun if that’s what it takes to keep me from having sex with a man.

I just wish that flag-waving fans of the Second Amendment would show a little more concern for the Constitutional rights of all Americans:

 “America is the land of freedom! Except for Muslims and butt pirates! Nobody’s gonna tell me how to live my life—hey, fella, don’t you dare marry that fella! Nobody’s going to tell me what god to pray to—hey, Akbar, don’t  you dare build that mosque next to my church! Nobody’s gonna tell my woman how she can dress—hey, babe, lose the burka so I can see some boobies!”

 “Congratulations, Skeeter, you just put the ‘dumb’ in ‘free-dumb’.”

 “But, Jeff, the Bible says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

 “Yeah, well, the Second Amendment says muskets, not Uzis.”

 “But the Second Amendment gives me the right to bear arms!”

 “Then wear a tank top, you homophobic hick! (Bare arms—get it? Hee-haw!)”

If you’re a gun-toting patriot who wants to fight for your rights, then stand up and fight. But then, when you’re done, sit down and shut up while glitter-throwing Americans fight for their rights. You can’t be both for gun rights and against gay rights. The Second Amendment or Proposition 8—pick one and stick the other up your butt. (Don’t worry, that won’t make you gay.)

 But, Jeff, the thought of two men having sex is disgusting.

 Then stop thinking about it! Just because you find gay sex disgusting doesn’t mean you have the right to stop same-sex couples from getting married. Hell, my fiancée finds straight sex with me disgusting and yet we’re still allowed to marry.

Just because I’m for gay marriage doesn’t mean I enjoy the company of gay people. In fact, I find most homosexuals rather annoying. Gay men annoy me because I sound gayer than they do, and gay women annoy me because I look gayer than they do.

And just because I don’t have the right to discriminate against or harass my fellow Americans based on their sexual preferences doesn’t mean I can’t exercise my First Amendment rights to joke about how much flamboyantly gay people irritate the hell out of me. I can say what I want just as long as I don’t use homophobic slurs, such as “homo,” “queer” or “Clay Aiken.”

For example, the other day, a gay colleague of mine, whom I both like and respect, comes sliding down the banister of a crew area staircase, lands at my feet, and then proceeds to swish around, snap his fingers, do little showgirl kicks and sing:

It’s raining men / It’s raining men / Hallelujah / It’s raining men 

I hate it when my gay friends act like that around me. Because, for the rest of the day, I found myself swishing around, snapping my fingers, doing little showgirl kicks, and singing:

It’s raining men / It’s raining men / Hallelujah / It’s raining men 

Hey—gay or straight, a catchy number is a catchy number.

America is a great country. But I think we could be even greater. The thing that’s supposed to be so great about America is we’re supposed to be able to criticize our country without the fear of being punished for our opinions. Yet, the more a patriotic a person claims to be, the angrier he becomes when you exercise your freedom of speech as an American. Of course, the less somebody respects your opinions, the more pointless it is to argue with him:

 “America’s the greatest country in the world! Yee haw!”

 “Actually, we lag behind in many areas, such as education, healthcare and treatment of our war veterans. In fact, Canada is ahead of us in all three.”

 “Well, if you don’t like it here, then why don’t you move to Canada?”

 “Because I’m a homophobic, gun-toting American – they don’t want me!”

 I hate to sound like a broken record but if gun nuts think that freedom is what makes America so great and so different, then why don’t they think it’s great when their fellow Americans exercise their freedom to be different? I would love to see that, wouldn’t you?

 “Hey, Timmy. Whaddya say we get liquored up and go on down to that Gay Pride parade with our shotguns?”

 “Hell yeah, Bobby. We can blast the hell out of anyone who threatens those glitter-throwing Nancy boys with physical harm while they’re marching up and down Main Street in defense of their civil liberties as tax-paying Americans.”

 “True dat, Timmy. This is America; we have to be tolerant of one another or else we’re no better than Russia. Vladimir Putin banned homosexuals from the Winter Olympics and he’s a socialist, right?”

Damn right, Bobby. And if everyone on the right in this country is so against socialism, and Vladimir Putin is a homophobic socialist, that means anyone who’s against civil rights for gay people is not only a homophobe but also a dog-gone socialist. So if socialism is wrong, then so is homophobia in the so-called ‘Land of the Free’.”

 “Know what, Timmy? I get turned on when you start talking all logical and stuff and, you know, showing love and respect for your fellow human beings just like it says in the Bible even if their values and lifestyle choices differ from your own. Hell, Timmy, maybe you and I should try being homosexuals sometime.”

 “Aw, shucks, Bobby, I ain’t no butt ranger. But if it’ll help win the war against socialism, hell, I guess I can polish a knob or two for America—yee-haw!”

Why do opponents of gay marriage always seem so obsessed with gay behavior? It’s a little homoerotic, if you ask me. For example, the other, day a straight man wearing a leather vest with both an American flag and an NRA patch on it told me that he was against same-sex marriage because it’s a sin against nature (much like the grey, over-60 pony tail he was sporting). He then started playing one of those hypothetical question games with me:

“Tell me, Fun Dude,” he said. “If a gay millionaire offered you a million dollars—in cash, tax free—to sleep with him, would you do it?”

“No way,” I replied. “I’m not falling for that again.”

Fun as Ship

Dream

Most cruise ships offer lots of fun-filled activities such as Bingo, shuffleboard and trivia. Granted, these are things you can do at your local senior center for free. But on a cruise you can win prizes. And nothing says “I’m a better person than the rest of you old farts” like going home with a suitcase full of plastic “ship-on-a-stick” trophies valued at twenty cents apiece.

But if you’re too busy establishing your intellectual superiority over your fellow passengers by taking first place in “TV Theme Song Trivia,” you might miss out on some more satisfying cruising experiences (such as “Movie Theme Song Trivia”). So here are some tips for getting the most out of your next cruise:

  1. Attend the shopping talk.

The Shopping Talk is a brief (six to eight hours) seminar given by your shipboard shopping specialist “Chet,” who will provide you with valuable pointers for shopping in your ports of call. Pointers such as:

  • Only shop in an “approved” store so you’ll get the best deal possible—and Chet will get a commission, a bonus, and a hot oil massage with a happy ending.
  • Never shop in an “unapproved” store because you’ll be kidnapped by Somali pirates and/or ISIS.
  1. Choose the buffet over the dining room.

You can’t go wrong eating in one of your ship’s fancy dining rooms, where you can feast on steak, lobster, fine wine and exotic deserts; however, the high-quality food and superior service may cause you to relax and enjoy yourself (even though you’ll be expected to wear shoes). And since finding things to complain about makes cruising much more enjoyable, you’ll be better off heading up to Lido Deck where you can fight your way through the gluttonous throng in your bare feet. Besides, later on, when you’re down at the front desk complaining about the long lines and limited selection in the buffet restaurant, not to mention the fact that you paid good money for this cruise yet nobody from the Miami offices ever called and advised you to pack footwear for formal night, the Guest Services associate on the business end of your vitriol will be more likely to offer you financial compensation if you have chili-dog breath.

  1. Camp out in the casino.

Screw Las Vegas; spend as much time and money in the ship’s casino as possible. Cruise-ship slot machines are looser than a biker chick with a meth habit. Especially on my cruise line. In fact, you’re going to need a duffle bag to haul all those shiny silver dollars back to your cabin. And I’m not just saying that because the more money my cruise line makes off of delusional chain-smoking gambling addicts like you, the better chance I have of getting a raise.

  1. Luxuriate in the all-ages hot tubs.

What better way to relax on a luxury cruise liner overrun by unsupervised eight-year-olds than with a nice hot urine bath?!

  1. Book an interior stateroom.

Sure, you can spend the extra money for a balcony or at least a porthole if you want, but cruising is so much more adventurous and exciting when you cram your entire family into a tiny windowless cabin the size of your kitchen pantry at home.  You’ll never know what time of day it is when you wake up, and the lack of fresh air with five people in the room will keep things interesting. And, better yet,  you’ll be that much more excited about reaching the Bahamas.

  1. Rent a mobility scooter.

Why should old folks with bad knees have all the fun?  Rent a scooter for your cruise and skip to the front of every line.  Crew members will take pity on you and wave you past the long parade of upright losers waiting to be seated for dinner or a production show, without so much as a second glance. Thankfully, it will never occur to them that the last person who needs to be advanced to the front of a line is someone who is—wait for it… SITTING ON A MOVING CHAIR!

What does it matter if Grandma has to wait a few extra minutes to sit down for dinner or a show if she’s already sitting down?! Allowing someone to cut in front of you because they have a scooter is like trading your seats behind home plate with somebody in the bleachers because he has binoculars hanging around his neck (or something like that only funnier).

So rent a scooter. You’ll get special treatment and you can zip around the ship drunk, running into stuff and knocking over people with actual mobility problems.

  1. Use your cell phone as much as possible.

If there’s someone in your family whom you couldn’t afford to bring along on your cruise, be sure to call them every day that you’re at sea. The amount you’ll rack up in roaming charges will make it seem like you paid their way.

  1. Book a cruise with one or more “tender ports.”

When a port lacks a pier big enough to accommodate cruise ships, it’s what we call a tender port. A tender is a boat that takes you from the ship to the island in the time it would take you to swim. Tendering is lots of fun because you get to wake up early, report to one of the ship’s lounges with hundreds of other tired and impatient guests, and wait for hours on end watching CNN on the big screen with the sound off (so you can hear all the screeching babies and screaming toddlers sprawled out around you) until you decide to jump overboard and swim ashore.

Once on the island, you’ll be free to slouch around in the scorching heat for ten minutes trying to find a discount T-shirt shop with functioning air conditioning until you finally realize that you’re in a third-world country that doesn’t really have all that much to see or do so you might as well get in line for a tender back to the ship, where you can be laughed at by all the experienced cruisers who stayed on board.

  1. Purchase a shore excursion from a local vendor not in any way associated or affiliated with your cruise line so that you can either miss your non-refundable tour due to the ship arriving late or miss the ship after your tour ends because the bus carrying you back to the pier is ambushed by guerrilla fighters.

Fun times!

         10. Complain. Complain. Complain.

If you really want to have fun on your cruise, don’t spend your days laying out by the pool or relaxing at the bar. Instead, make frequent trips down to Guest Services and complain about anything that comes to mind. If your complaints are inventive enough, the ship’s Guest Services associates will often offer you financial compensation just to shut you up. If you’re unlucky enough to cruise on an awesome ship like mine, however,  you’ll be hard-pressed to find many legitimate issues to complain about. In that case, here are a half dozen doozies to get you started:

  • “The sound of the ocean keeps me up at night. Can you turn it off?”
  • “My cabin doesn’t look the same as the photo on your website. That cabin had blue carpet; mine has red. Can you please make the switch while I’m upstairs in the ship’s gift shop complaining about merchandise I bought on land?”
  • “It’s too hot on the open decks. Can you ask the Captain to turn on the air conditioning outside?”
  • “It’s too long of a walk between decks. Can you shorten your stairs?”
  • “The midnight buffet is too late at night. Can you reschedule it for noon?”
  • “I hate discos and disco music. Yet every time I go into the disco all I hear is disco music. Can I have a free cruise?”

So there you go. Use my tips and your next cruise is guaranteed to be your best vacation ever.

If not, you can always walk the plank. Make a big enough splash and you just might win a prize.

Heckler Skelter

hecklers

Repeat after me: Heckling does not help a stand-up comedy show!

To get an idea of how unhelpful hecklers are, imagine if you were forced to read the above sentence while trying to read something else for pleasure. Let’s say, a Dan Brown novel:

“That’s it,” thought Langdon. “The answer was right in front of me the whole time. If one translates Beowulf from the old English into Portuguese using a code key hidden in the original handwritten lyrics of Francis Scott Keyes’ ‘Star Spangled Banner’, then the name ‘Grendel’ changes to ‘Dick Cheney’, which means the murderer has to be…” –Repeat after me: Heckling does not help a comedy show!

See how frustrating that was? Just before you could confirm your hunch that George W. Bush is the scion of Jesus of Nazareth, hell bent on destroying the Catholic Church so that he can paint over Michelangelo’s  work on the Sistine Chapel with a giant portrait of himself dodging a flying shoe thrown at him by a rogue Iraqi assassin as revenge for the time he tried stealing the original Declaration of Independence as an initiation prank for the Skull and Bones Society in an attempt to uncover the conspiracy to murder General Patton, who was actually a high-ranking secret member of the Free Masons, the Druids and the Illuminati—I had to go and ruin it by thinking that what I have to say is more important or entertaining than the carefully written and edited prose of the bestselling author you paid good money to read during your valuable free time.

Why? Because I’m disrespectful and self-centered. And a member of the Illuminati.

Although the average headliner can make crushing a drunken redneck under an avalanche of well-rehearsed stock lines look easy and fun, as well as therapeutic, comedians don’t need hecklers to help them get laughs.

That’s what jokes are for. Jokes: you know, those things comedians write and perform every day for a minimum of five years before becoming a paid professional?

Hecklers always think they’re helping the show. Sometimes, they even feel as if they are the show. Unfortunately, hecklers want to be part of the show without putting in any of the hard work required to prepare, produce or promote the show. Most hecklers are so egotistical they actually think that the interplay between themselves and the comedian is somehow superior to the material the comedian has spent the past decade or so honing.

I don’t spend hours at the computer perfecting a piece of material just so an audience member who shows up five minutes late to a show can interrupt me and force me to make fun of the lime-green tank top he’s wearing on Formal Night just so he can feel like a superstar for the rest of the cruise every time somebody yells, “Hey, look it’s ‘Lime-Green Tank Top Boy’!”

We comics don’t slam hecklers in order to get laughs; we slam hecklers in order to embarrass them into silence so we can get on with our acts. Problem is most hecklers have a simplistic sense of humor. So, when a comedian whips up a witty comeback right off the top of his head, what most comics would consider a run-of-the-mill heckler slam comes across as pure comedy gold to the heckler. Therefore, the heckler reasons that in order for a comedian to drop the boring crap and start with the real jokes you have to heckle—or help—him. This reasoning is illogical because it totally ignores the opinions and preferences of the other three hundred people who paid to see the show. Without having any affiliation with the comedy club other than clipping a free coupon out of the newspaper, the average heckler decides that he knows what’s best for both the comedian onstage and the rest of the audience. The product of a perfect blend of narcissism and Long Island Iced Tea.

If heckling is so integral to an act’s success, then why don’t comedy clubs audition hecklers and book them six months in advance just like comedians? When was the last time you walked into an Improv or a Funny Bone and saw a poster that advertised: “Tonight: Marc Maron! With special guest: ‘Some drunken redneck in a Nickelback T-shirt’ ”?

Once a heckler opens his mouth, the show’s focus transfers from the performer onstage to a member of the audience who may or may not have paid to be there. Most people who pay to see a comedy show do so because they’re either a fan of stand-up comedy in general or a fan of a specific comedian:

“Jim Gaffigan is coming to the Civic Theater next month. I love that guy—let’s go online and buy tickets… (so we can sit in the front row and shout, ‘Hot Pockets’ every five seconds until Jim throws the microphone at us before running offstage to put his head in a microwave oven).”

Nobody who buys a ticket to a comedy show is paying to see the audience:

“Gee, I hope that same drunken redneck in the Nickelback T-shirt who heckled Brian Regan at the Hard Rock Casino last month shows up at the Jim Gaffigan show tonight. His non-sequiturs about Bud Light and bass fishing were way funnier than anything two of the best joke writers in North America who make millions in ticket sales every year have to say. Better yet, I hope there’s a loudmouthed bachelorette party sitting front row center. I pray that, as soon as Jim launches into a hilarious bit about how much money he spends on groceries every month feeding a family of six, some barely coherent bachelorette does one too many shots of tequila and tells Jim straight up how unfunny he his. That way he can abandon the material he’s spent the past year perfecting in order to make some hysterical, off-the-cuff comparisons between plantains and the giant penis hat that demure flower  is wearing.

“Now that’s comedy, cousin!”

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