Flint, Michigan and the Importance of Dick Jokes
The other day during a interview on air, my dad was asking some interesting questions about life on the road and how I do things. Stuff that’s obvious to me, and lots of comics but other people have no idea about.
It’s hard to do because in any given town there are comedians who live there who see the odd things every day. That puts them at an advantage. and a disadvantage. Seattle comics can write best about Seattle. But sometimes it takes a different perspective. One example is when Reese Waters came to town (from DC) he got on the monorail. I don’t know anyone from Seattle who rides the monorail, we all know it’s stupid and has 2 stops. but a tourist or someone bored and stuck in a hotel all day might explore and see what it’s all about. Then when he realizes the thing only has two stops he makes a joke like “did he forget his keys? Why are we going back?” and it’s hilarious. but because Seattle comics don’t visit that and it’s not out of the ordinary for us. Nobody gets to write that joke.
Also he was the headliner getting paid a few thousand dollars. I’m going to Flint, Michigan for $100. No hotel included. (but there’s tons of abandoned houses to stay in. So no worries there.) My travel budget doesn’t exactly include monorail money or taking tours. Sometimes random stops end up in the act for a while. My old Hooters of Montana jokes got me through plenty of shows. All because I happened to be doing shows at a hooters and made a joke to Susan that we should stop in every hooters on our trip and see if we can set up a hooters tour.
Sometimes just driving through a town gives you inspiration and you happen to think of weird things and write them down. Today I was getting a hotel outside of Detroit. Famous for cars, bad football and eminem. I started passing signs for 8 mile road which is the famous street eminem grew up on, and later the title of the movie inspired by his life. I started writing little corny jokes like:
“Eminem is coming out with a sequel to the movie 8 mile called: Private Driveway.”
and then I thought how cool it would be to go drive down 8 Mile Road and see if there was anything interesting. I wondered if they had tourist traps, eminem souvenir shops or anything. It’s probably still a ghetto. Then I thought how cool would it be to have a ghetto tour. A tour bus that took you through 8 mile. With bulletproof windows. Basically a “Ride the Ducks” Detroit version. In Seattle we have these things, the best way to describe them is boats on wheels. That drive and then go into the water and people from all over are like “wow the space needle. wow homeless people. wow an ocean.” What if they put some bulletproof glass around one of those things and old white people could take a tour of 8 mile. A tour guide on a loudspeaker “Wave to the drug dealers.” That would be kinda cool. Or maybe not old white people. You have the spoiled rich kids who like rap music and it could be a scared straight program. It’d be like a haunted house if the skeletons had automatic weapons.
As I often do with new bit ideas, I take a general summation and post it to facebook. This can generate different points of view from friends, sometimes a comic will throw an extra joke on there (called a “tag” in the biz) and sometimes a few non comics will try to say something funny. Most of the times, it’s not. 🙂
In this particular case, I was foiled by another comic who showed me another comic had the bit already. Almost exactly how I started writing it in my head. Just trade Detroit for LA.
Rats. I gotta admit, I don’t think I would have had the safari hats line right away. Maybe something similar down the road. Nice touch though.
Sometimes when you go to a town you think of funny jokes but stuff that’s only funny to a comedian, is usually not funny to anyone else. Sometimes if you hear no laughter and then sudden outbursts of laughter from the back of the room, that’s the other comedians laughing at you bombing on stage. Or laughing at a joke so crazy inappropriate, but so wonderfully artistic. For example, I have a joke that I’ve been throwing into my act recently: “I think the rapture is coming, it’s just going to be a little late because Jesus is black.” It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written. The typical reaction is silence and then a couple laughs and eventual laughs from a majority of the audience. They either limit themselves because they think it’s racist or they don’t get it right away (black people time! Hilarious!). I thought of something for flint because I joke about my car having high mileage, and flint makes (or used to make) cars. “Yeah I got a new car a year ago and I’ve got 50, 000 miles on it already. but don’t worry it’s one of those Japanese cars that actually lasts.”
Back to Flint. I didn’t exactly take a tour of the town. Things seemed fine. I do remember watching Michael Moore documentaries as a kid with my dad. I had kindof blissfully lived in ignorance that things may have gotten better. After the show a guy offered up the opposite view. Explaining that comedy is the only thing that gets a crowd to the bar. “We have bands here that only bring 18 people on a Saturday night but comedy once a month is packed. We have nothing here. There’s no jobs left. It’s awful. We just need to laugh.” That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of a guy who is telling dick jokes for $100.