World’s Funniest Comic? My Dad

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When I was a kid I saw a lady pee her pants while running to the bathroom, screaming in uncontrollable spasms. I was still a young kid, but I understood clearly what had happened. My dad had just delivered a punchline.

This Wednesday I’ll be one of the finalists in Madison’s Funniest Comic competition, and when they dim the lights and the audience starts clapping I’ll be thinking about my old man. He taught me what humor was. And that day, March 9th, is his birthday. I don’t care about the result of the competition. My victory is being able to go up onstage that day. Behind a mic, miles and miles away from him, I’ll remember my life with my dad, which has been a 31-year-long burst of laughter.

I always remember my dad from ground level. I’m sitting in the living room of one of my parent’s friends, and the adults are sitting, looking up to him. My dad stands up, looking like a giant, and everyone is laughing. I’m six, and I don’t understand his grown-up jokes. My mom keeps warning him, “Marcelo, the kids are here!”, and he apologizes sincerely but forgets about it a second later when he starts the next one. And I don’t understand that one either but I’m laughing too, because laughter is contagious and collective. It does not respond to reason. But more than anything I’m happy because I’m sharing the spasms with everyone in that room.

My dad taught me that telling a joke builds community. Making people laugh is almost like social work. Laughter is fraternity. We are all one as we laugh, and making people laugh feels good because during those few seconds we are all victims of the same wild attack that comes inexplicably from the inside. Laughter is an absurd and irrational spasm, but it’s something we all share as a human experience.

 

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That’s something I share, among other things, with my dad. When I picture him I still do through my six-year-old-sitting-in-the-floor angle. I’m looking up. He’s moving around, acting and gesturing, and we’re all laughing. We are all dying of laughter. And my dad, that gentle giant, is doing all the killing. Beyond this competition, his memory keeps me grounded, because it reminds me that there’s no contention during those moments when we all laugh together. It reminds me of my humanity and that of my audience. It reminds me of the unbreakable bond I share with him.

My dad’s memory and the laughter in that room will already be an award. Thanks for teaching me to be human, Dad! Happy birthday.

 

 

The Foreigner’s Guide to the Super Bowl

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Oh, the Super Bowl! The one day in America where everyone waits for commercials to entertain them. If you’re an immigrant like me it’s probably super confusing, so here are some guidelines to help you along.

Have patience. Football can be fun, but the this game is almost always super boring. If you wanted to watch a fun sporting event you should´ve watched any other match. Make sure you keep your mouth busy with snacks with some kind of dip, a beverage, or obvious game comments (“Nice pass,” or “that’s gotta hurt!” always work). Hang in there!

It’s a huge event, but don’t ask why. People who usually don’t care about the sport are watching it. So it’s obviously a football game but it’s more than that. That’s why people who usually don’t give a rat’s ass about the sport watch it. Why? I don’t know. But to my defense, nobody really does. Most people watch it because most people are watching it. It’s important because is important. Don’t ask!

It’s a historical moment. I don’t know why. Try to remember what happened.  Everyone from the guys at the party to TV commentators will refer constantly to other past boring games, and will frame this one on how it will be remembered next year. You’ll hear the phrase “Super Bowl history” constantly.

At least you have ads. The Super Bowl is an advertising for commercials. Yes, it’s confusing, but not as confusing as the creative department of Dorito’s. Commercials will always have two or more of these things:

  • a puppy
  • a cgi speaking (or singing) animal
  • a kid
  • a famous person
  • a car

Bruno Mars will be there. Yeah, I have no idea why.

It’s a men’s sport, but women are very important. They are singing and dancing in the sidelines, singing and dancing in beer commercials, and at least one will be singing and dancing in the Half Time Show. 

 

Better Ways to Decide a Tied Result Than a Coin Toss

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If it’s true that every man is a child at heart then nothing says “We, The People” more than American politics. I mean, we’re talking about the most powerful nation on earth making decisions on their Congress floor by blabbing until you have to go to the bathroom. It’s a no-pissing contest. That’s how I retained tv remote control power over my siblings when I was 9. We would watch Hey Arnold all day long even if that meant no Nesquik for me. And to this silly country’s defense, it is a fair system if everyone plays by the rules.

That’s why I was not surprised to find out that a delegate election between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders came so close they used a coin toss to decide the winner. The problem is, six coins went up in the air, and six coins landed on Hillary’s side. It makes you wonder how fair this coin tossing thing really is. And even though I’m not a citizen, I still feel the obligation to suggest new, better ways to decide a winner while maintaining the values and norms established by your forefathers.

  1. The first representative to yell “Shotgun” wins. This would work better on a democratic precinct because the chances of someone getting shot by a confused gun carrier are somewhat smaller.
  2. Mt. Rushmore, The Constitution, and Social Class Division. It’s just an updated version of rock, paper, scissors that works on a symbolic level. Kind of.
  3. The first representative hawks a loogie and spits it into the ballots, and says “here, count them, you want them?” This is not a flawless technique because if Bernie Sanders representatives are anything like my brother they might jump in anyway.
  4. Ladies first. This rule is super outdated, condescending, and mysoginistic, so it goes perfectly well with everything else about this quirky and doofy political system we all love watching on tv. That is of course, until Hey, Arnold  re-runs start being a thing again. Well, anything is possible if Bernie wins.

 

 

 

Ready to Try Stand-Up? Here’s Your 1st Time Shopping List

Trying stand-up for the first time can be as intimidating as that awkward date in college where you invited Dani over for some parmesan tortellini because you saw some video recipe in Facebook and thought “I can definitely do this” but then had to watch in horror how she pushed away her plate blaming her lack of appetite on some afternoon french fries when you knew -yes, you both knew- that it was because you had some kind of grasp of the differences between basil and cilantro but were too assertive to go out and get some basic groceries, ruining the vibe of the Tori Amos album you had so carefully selected (is that what college students listen to? I have no idea).

Anyway, kind of intimidating like that.

Truth is you jumped the gun because you were too confident of your abilities, which in itself is a good thing, but you didn’t have the required list of ingredients. Yes, there’s not much to the recipe of stand up (a raw stage and a baked audience, mix well), but you still need to get out there and make sure you have all you need. If you do, the rest is just a piece of cake (get it?)

Stand-up shopping list

  • Microphone: Let’s start with the basics. Hopefully the venue will provide you with one, but get your own because you don’t know when you’ll want to drop it. Although technically any voice mic would work, a standard, black, penis shaped mic is strongly recommended. Use classic retro microphones for promotional posters or tattoos only.
  • Mic stand: As basic as the microphone, the vertical line of a mic stand represents the border between the United Stages of Hahaland, your heavily armed nation, and Audienztan. And you must kill. Move it to the side if you want direct hits, or keep it in front of you as a shield, if you’re more used to playing defense. Also, remember that the mic stand is the launching vessel into the land of impressions. Face it, turn your head away, and come back as another. Mic stands should be light enough to be picked up without problems, but heavy enough to hold the weight of your fully extended arm. Adjusting the height of the mic is the first thing the audience will notice. The pros will tell you that a carefully crafted technique takes years to accomplish, so practice (if your whole angle is depression, use the adjustment bar constantly). Under hyperbolic situations, the mic stand can also function as a giant phallus.
  • A plastic bottle of water: This just says “I’m a pro”–crystal clear. A swig of water alleviates the stress and tension your vocal cords will naturally experience halfway through a hardcore three minute set. Some comedians prefer a beer bottle, but they’re drunks so don’t listen to them. Water will keep your funny juices flowing. Besides, a twist cap becomes useful when you need to whip your bottle as a flailing penis (crack it open a little bit for some dripping if desired).
  • A notebook: Some comedians use them to write jokes or to organize their sets, but a notebook is really like a business card. And like a business man, you need to make sure your card represents you and your product correctly. Get a Moleskine or any other so called “writing journals” from Barnes & Noble if you are into the “I’m an artist and comedy is my color palette” market. Conversely, if you’re active in the “no-money-to-buy-weed” trade you just need to get a cheap spiral bound, college ruled, 8.5×11 inch notebook. Any other notebook in between is as useless as Blockbuster stocks because it will confuse everyone, so don’t even bother. Also remember that just like a sheriff’s star, your notebook will give you jurisdiction over the wild land of comedy clubs, so make sure others see you using it between people’s sets, at the bar area, or even right before your show. You don’t need to write anything important really, just jottings, scratches, scrawls, scribbles and doodles. Once in a while bring it with you on stage, so that the audience also knows you’re in the joke-telling business… And business is good.
  • A pen: Although you’ll use one, you don’t need to buy one! Just grab some from the staff at the club, from the bartenders, or from fellow comedians. Usually you’ll get to keep them, but leave them at your house the next day. That way you are guaranteed comedy-peer social interaction and everyone will love you.  Click click!
  • Weed: Can you imagine a comedian who doesn’t smoke weed? Well, let me tell you right now, they do exist, and you could be one of them if you want to. Now you don’t have to smoke it, but pretending to possess some is absolutely necessary. If you tell weed jokes without carrying the product, don’t worry, no one can smell the truth behind the smoke curtain. But more importantly, if you want to get involved with your local comedy assembly take into account that all main meetings are scheduled outside behind the dumpsters, where marijuana is served as the official hors d’oeuvre.
  • Basil: Well, if you’re out and about getting all of these things, why wouldn’t you get some basil to give that parmesan tortellini another try? If you’ve done your shopping right I’m sure your comedy will be as pre-heated as the oven. And all you need to do, just like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is wonder if the audience can smell what you’re cooking. Guess what: they can, and they just got the munchies.