8.31.2005

I'M GOING TO MISS THE SKEE-BALL

There was another birthday party at work today. And, as usual, I ate tons of cake and pizza.

I have got to stop working at Chuck E. Cheese. It's really killing my diet.

They're just gonna have to find somebody else to make change.

8.30.2005

SAVING A JEWEL ON MY CROWN

I went to the dentist on Saturday. When I got to the office, my dentist was outside smoking a cigarette.

She made no effort to hide the cigarette from me. In fact, she waved at me with her “smoking hand.”

All she said when she saw me was, “Grab a seat in the chair. I’ll be right in.” So I went into the office, sat in my dentist’s chair and waited for a medical doctor to finish smoking a cigarette.

A few minutes later my dentist walked in the door and headed straight for the chair, with me in it. There was no bathroom pit stop to gargle, no courtesy spritz of Binaca, no perfume-y hand lotion to mask the scent of smoke. She just put on her Michael Jackson mask and went to work.

I smoked my first cigarette in 1987, and have smoked on and off ever since (more on than off). But I quit for good on August 7th, the day ABC News anchor Peter Jennings died of lung cancer. Peter Jennings is the only person I have ever been close with who has gotten lung cancer. He told me what was going on in the world every night for twenty years. So I kind of felt like we were friends. I always thought that, if I met him on the street, I could say, “Hey Peter! How’s the family?” And he would answer me.

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet Peter Jennings in person. But ABC’s Charles Gibson passed along a message from Peter, during a retrospective broadcast of “World News Tonight” shortly after his death. Charlie reported that, if Peter could say one last thing to his audience, it would be to quit smoking. That was good enough for me.

After smoking for eighteen years – and becoming somewhat immune to it - being “clean” has made me very sensitive to the smell of cigarette smoke. Sensitive, like it makes me nauseous.

So there I am, trapped in a chair with Dr. Nicotine heading for my mouth. And she reeks. But it’s not just the stale smoke smell that infects clothes and hair; it’s smoker’s breath. If you’re a non-smoker - and you’ve ever kissed someone who just smoked a cigarette - you know what I mean. It smells a bit like hot human waste.

As a point of clarification, Dr. Nicotine is not really my dentist. She’s my parents’ dentist. And she’s from India. Maybe the literature on smoking has not yet made it to the subcontinent. Or maybe smoking prior to dental work is some kind of Hindu tradition.

My regular dentist does not smoke. But I can’t afford to go to my regular dentist.

About six months ago I had to have three root canals in one week. That was not fun. But I did learn a few things. Like, good dental hygiene is very important. I also learned that the combination of pot, Pinot Grigio and Vicodin will make the pain of three root canals go away.

Unfortunately though, they won’t make the bill go away. I have no dental insurance; so three root canals cost me $4,200. This is approximately $4,199.98 more than I can afford. On top of that. my dentist wanted $2,000 per tooth for the posts and crowns, which would have made the total more than $10,000. That’s what I get for having a dentist on New York City’s fashionable Central Park West!

I mentioned this conundrum to my Dad, as I was helping him clean out our house in preparation for my parents’ move to Florida. I say “our house” because the one hundred year-old building in which I grew up has always been my best – and only - hope for inheritance. My parents don’t have a lot of what are commonly known as “assets.” Nor are they big on “saving.” But they did both smoke when I was growing up. So at least I picked up one good habit from them.

Unfortunately for me, it turned out that the liquidation of my inheritance would not be benefit me financially. Wishing to dispel any false notions of short-term profit, my Mom informed me that I would not be seeing any money from her or my Dad “until we die.” One thing you can say about my Mom, she cuts right to the chase.

After much cajoling, my Dad did offer to cover the expenses for my dental work, but not at Central Park West prices. My parents redirected me to the more reasonably priced Dr. Nicotine, who had an office in an economically depressed area of Long Island, a few blocks from the Queens border. The good thing is, I get to take a long train ride and get off just minutes from the notorious Redfern Housing Project in Far Rockaway. So not only are my parents saving money on dental work, I am getting a sociologically interesting adventure in an area that I would otherwise do my best to avoid.

You might say that I was “killing two birds with one stone.” But that analogy might be offensive to Hindus, like my dentist.

So there I am, lying in that chair, with Dr. Nicotine bearing down on me. She starts working, and I start holding my nose and breathing through my mouth. Which is hard to do when it’s filled with dental equipment.

After about five minutes of these unpleasantries, Dr. Nicotine removes her hands and says to me “Okay now. Rinse.”

“Only if you go first,” I replied.

She seemed confused. But, in her defense, there may have been a bit of a language barrier.

The next time I go to see Dr. Nicotine I’m going to bring her some special tobacco that I get from a guy in Humboldt County, California. It does a very good job of alleviating tooth pain, particularly when combined with Pinot Grigio and Vicodin.

Maybe we can smoke it together, from her hookah. I said I quit smoking cigarettes, not everything.

I’m sure Peter would understand.

8.26.2005

IS THAT SOUP IN YOUR PANTS, OR ARE YOU JUST GLAD TO SEE ME?

I was eating lunch at my desk today, and I spilled some soup on myself.

Let me clarify. By “some soup” I mean “all my soup” and by “on myself” I mean “on my lap.”

The thing about soup is, it’s very hot. And hot liquids should not be on any part of your body, most particularly your privates. We learned that from the lady who sued McDonald’s because she had the bright idea of storing a piping hot cup of coffee near her reproductive organs.

Can I sue the Cosi Sandwich Shop because I was trying eat my Chicken, Sausage and Wild Rice Soup while answering vitally important emails?

The thing about spilling boiling hot soup on yourself while you’re at work is, you can’t really scream. You can, but people will look at you funny. Not funny, good. Funny, bad.

So you just have to sit there and let the soup scald you, all the while suffering in silence. First you will feel it hit your jeans (if you are wearing jeans). Then you will feel it hit your skin. Then you will start to sweat, because you now have hot soup in your pants.

Then you will have to walk nonchalantly to the restroom, while covering your crotch with a notebook. On the way to the restroom you will leave a trail of chicken, sausage and wild rice on the floor of your office.

If you have a good sense of humor, you will sing a song along the way to distract you from the pain:

“This soup is made for walking,
And that’s just what I’ll do!
One of these days this soup is gonna spill all over you!

Are you ready soup? Start walking!
Doot doot doo-doo-doo-doot-doot.”

Hopefully, on your way to the restroom, you will not run into anyone who feels like a chat. Here is a conversation you would like to avoid while covered in soup:

CO-WORKER: “Hey Will! How’s your project going?”
ME: “Sorry Jim. I can’t really chat right now. I have soup in my pants. And it’s hurting my penis.”

Once you get to the restroom, you will need to wipe off the remaining chicken, sausage and wild rice into the toilet. Make sure you flush! Because it will look like you have been sick.

You will then sit at your desk with damp pants for the rest of the day. But damp pants are better than hot pants.

Then you will take the subway home. And the Hispanic man sitting next to you will say to his girlfriend, “Huelo la sopa!”

And you will laugh, because you took high school Spanish.

Then you will go home and eat some chicken. But this time you will use your mouth.

8.25.2005

LOOKING FOR MISTER SALTY


I was in the supermarket yesterday and I saw a box of Mister Salty pretzels. And it said on the box “Now with 30% less sodium!”

The man’s name is "Mister Salty." Not "Mister 30% Less Salty."

Maybe if you’re on a low-sodium diet you shouldn’t be buying a product called Mister SALTY.

I feel bad for Mister Salty. All his life he’s been good at one thing. Now the corporate suits have taken it away from him.

Can you imagine the meeting?

“Mister Salty, come in! Can we call you ‘Salty?' Salty, we love your work. We really do. But we need you to be – how can I put this – just a little bit less salty. But keep the sailor hat. The look really works for you. Hey, thanks so much for coming in. On your way out can you send in Mrs. Butterworth? It’s so sad. She was just diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. They’re going to have to amputate her flip-top spout.”

8.24.2005

LET'S HAVE A MEETING!

Let's have a meeting! Meetings are good.

Let’s all sit in the conference room on the 9th floor. Let’s confer about important things. Let’s have some coffee with soymilk. And maybe some muffins. Muffins are good.

Let’s print out lots of copies and stack them neatly in the middle of the conference table. Let’s all refer to “page 3” of the print out. Page 3 is missing? Let’s make somebody feel like a failure as a human being! Ridicule is good.

Let’s write on the white board. Let’s illustrate our thoughts. We don’t have any thoughts? We’ll make some up. Here’s a diagram of the workflow. Diagrams are good.

Can you reach out to the client?

I think it would behoove us to interface directly with the vendor.

Is everyone comfortable with the feedback?

If we make it sound important, then it is.

Good morning! Mornings are good.

And so are meetings.

8.23.2005

YOU CAN STEAL IT. WE CAN HELP.

The Home Depot is the world’s largest home improvement retailer. They have everything you need. Except cashiers.

I’m exaggerating, but not really. There are ten checkout counters at The Home Depot on West 23rd Street in New York City. But there are only five cashiers. The other five checkout counters are self-service.

The Home Depot is really taking the whole “Do It Yourself” thing to the next level. Pretty soon they’re going to have the customers build the actual stores, using products they purchased from other Home Depot locations.

Recently I stopped by The Home Depot near the Flatiron Building to do some shopping. I filled up a large basket with more than twenty items, headed over to the self-service checkout counter, scanned my items, bagged them and made my way toward the exit. There I was greeted by a man in an ill-fitting blazer. He glanced half-heartedly at my receipt and then held the door for me as I walked out of the store.

I had three big sacks of stuff. The guy didn’t even peek inside one the bags. The folks at The Home Depot are very trusting. How do they know that I didn’t “forget” to run a few things over the scanner? Maybe they think that New Yorkers are inherently honest people. We’re not.

I would steal anything if I thought I could get away with it. My disastrous financial situation has turned me into somewhat of a moral relativist. I would rather pay for things, but I just can’t always do that. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

In this case, I was buying these things for a project at work, so I was using the company credit card. But what if I wasn’t?

Part of me would like to put this whole “honor system” approach at The Home Depot to the test. I’m sure I could have gotten away without paying for the $1.99 box of nails that I bought today, but how about the $199.99 ceiling fan that I bought back in June?

I walked over to The Home Depot on my lunch break, wearing khakis, a button-down shirt, nice shoes. Is that all it takes for them to let you steal something? Dressing up? That’s Reverse Racial Profiling.

What if I was unshaven and wearing a t-shirt that said “I like to steal things!” They probably would have just assumed that my t-shirt was stylishly ironic, like the scrubby beard.

I didn’t mind acting as my own sales clerk. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it. I’ve always been jealous of the disinterested cashiers at Gristede’s who vandalize my can of Pringles until the scanner gets a good grip on the barcode. Plus I love that “boop” sound it makes. If I were a DJ I would sample that scanner sound in my next mix tape.

I’m not telling you how to live your life, but if you need hardware and you don’t have a lot of money, put on your best suit and head on over to The Home Depot on 23rd between 5th & 6th. Pick up a half dozen really cheap items (they have gardening gloves for about $1). Then get one expensive thing. Do the self-service checkout and “forget” to pay for the expensive thing. And see what happens.

8.21.2005

SEE A CONDOM, PICK IT UP...

I found a condom in the vestibule of my apartment building.

Maybe I should rephrase that. I “discovered” a condom in the vestibule of my apartment building.

“Found” has an inherently positive connotation. “Found” suggests that the experience resulted in something positive.

For example, “I found my car keys under my girlfriend’s couch. Then I was able to get back home before my wife even noticed I was gone!”

Or, “I found my birth mother. Then I was able to answer questions that have been haunting me for my entire life!”

Or, “I found a condom in the vestibule of my apartment building. Then I was able to be orally gratified by one of the transsexual prostitutes that hang out in front of my building late at night!”

On the other hand, “discovered” is inherently neutral. It suggests that the occurrence may not have been desirable, freeing the speaker (or writer) from any implicitly positive spin.

For example, “I discovered an oddly shaped mole on my back. Then I called my doctor and the news is not good!”

Or, “I discovered my wife cheating on me. Then I called my cousin Johnny and he told me he would have the guy taken care of.”

Or, “I discovered a condom in the vestibule of my apartment building. Then I called the cops, and they busted the transsexual prostitutes that hang out in front of my building late at night.”

I was seven years old the first time I heard the word “condom.”

I was lying on my back in an inner tube in the middle of the lake at Jeffersonville, about two hours north of New York City. My grandmother had taken my cousins and I to Lake Jeff for one last gasp of summer before a new school year that hung over us like a swinging guillotine.

That day, in the clear, silvery water of the Catskills, school seemed light years away.

I’m not much of a singer. Never have been. But floating along in that inner tube, it occurred to me that I should make up rhymes and sing them at the top of my lungs. Seven-year old kids can do that, and people don’t look at them funny.

Soon after my performance had begun, my cousin Johnny swam over to me. Johnny was only four years older than me, but he talked about things that made him seem like an adult. A very short adult, with bad skin. But an adult, nonetheless.

“Here’s a rhyme for you,” Johnny said. “See a condom. Pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck!”

Johnny repeated the rhyme over again. Each time he howled with a sort of knowing laughter that I did not understand, like he was the only one in on some kind of joke.

I had no idea what he was talking about. Until I repeated the rhyme to my Mom, later that night. She explained that it was not something that a nice little boy would say, and that I should forget all about it. Simple as that.

But I never forgot it.

Thirty years later, I found myself strolling through Washington DC with a woman I had been long-distance dating for a few weeks. As we walked through a park in Dupont Circle, my sort-of-girlfriend reached down to pick up something on the sidewalk.

“See a penny. Pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck,” she said with a smile, depositing the coin in her pocket.

“Penny?” I asked. “Are you sure?”

“Am I sure of what?” Julie replied.

“Are you sure you’re supposed to pick up pennies for luck? And not something else?” I answered, placing a subtle emphasis on the word “else.”

“’Something else,’ like what?” She seemed confused.

“Forget it,” I said, changing the subject.

On our way back to Julie’s apartment we stopped at the local drug store and picked up some condoms.

The next day I called my cousin Johnny, who had recently celebrated his 40th birthday. He confirmed that it was in fact pennies that gave you luck, not condoms. Apparently he had misled me, for comedic effect.

Johnny howled with laughter, again. He seemed very pleased by his three-decade-long deception.

But I begged to differ.

“If you want to waste your time picking up pennies, be my guest. But every time I pick up a condom, I get lucky.”

Some people feel nervous, or awkward when buying condoms. Not me. I love buying contraception of all shapes and sizes. When I buy condoms I feel like a man. I communicate something, without speaking a word:

“Somebody is going to have sexual relations with me in the very near future. And I would like to share that fact with everybody on line here at Duane Reed.”

Because perception is reality.

Sexual intimacy is an experience that usually occurs in private (unless you have roommates, or enjoy visiting swing clubs). Most people make ‘the beast with two backs’ in a darkened room; often in a hazy, alcohol- or drug-induced altered state of reality. The experience is fleeting. There is no proof that the act ever occurred, except the shared memory and/or regret of those involved.

Unless you use a condom.

The spent, balloon-knotted condom serves as empirical evidence of the act; a squishy memorial to the temporal moment of passion, love or awkwardness that occurred the night before.

I was twenty-eight years old the first time I used a condom.

I had just entered the tumultuous “ninth year” of a relationship that would limp to its death just shy of the decade mark. While I may have lacked the variety of partners that many young men enjoy, I more than made up for it with consistency.

And, thanks to a pill called Ortho Tri Cyclen, all of it was wonderfully latex-free.

But after a nine-year courtship, there was talk of marriage, and children. None of the talk originated from me, and that was a big part of the problem.

As I contemplated marrying the only woman I had ever dated – the only woman I had ever had sex with – I discovered a condom on her bedside table.

“I stopped taking the Pill. I want to have a baby. If you don’t, here!” my girlfriend said, tossing the light blue Trojan in my general direction.

We made love that night, but it didn’t feel like love. It felt like sex. Something had come between us, and it wasn’t just a piece of latex.

Of course it was crazy for me to consider marrying the only woman I had ever dated. Of course the co-dependency that formed the basis for our relationship would have festered into anger, hostility and a deep-rooted sense of missed opportunity. To some extent it already had.

But I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was, I hated those condoms.

Sex had always made me feel complete, safe and loved. Now it made me feel alone. When I discovered that condom, I lost the truest sense of intimacy that I had ever felt.

And slowly, the ten-year fever began to break.

I haven’t seen Mary since the day we said our final goodbye. She’s married now. And I’m not. We’re both exactly where we wanted to be.

The tearful, sloppy, emotionally wrenching end of our relationship allowed “us” to die. In time, we both rose again, as individuals. And we were better and stronger because of what we endured.

Since then I’ve learned that true intimacy can withstand a little latex. And that, sometimes, true intimacy is not really what I’m looking for.

I discovered a condom that day, on my girlfriend's bedside table. Maybe I should rephrase that.

I found a condom that day.

And my luck has been better ever since.

All I have to do now is convince my cousin.

8.19.2005

(deleted)

This week I’ve been working as a production manager on a top-secret project for (deleted), a New York City-based corporate communications company.

The client is (deleted), and the event is scheduled to take place on (deleted) at (deleted), which is a top-notch facility. It should be a very exciting show, because (deleted) and (deleted) will be there!

I would rather be sitting in the vegetarian coffee shop writing, but each day I do that I spend about $20, as opposed to making (deleted) per day on this job. Over the course of six weeks on this project I will make more than (deleted)! I’ll even have enough to buy a (deleted), which I’ve been wanting ever since I (deleted).

(deleted) is a really good place to work. Most of us who work here freelance have another life outside of (deleted). There are comics, actors, writers, musicians, a DJ, etc. So Corporate America ends up funding the New York City alternative arts community, which I think is cool, but they might not. But what you don’t know can’t hurt you!

The best thing about (deleted) is that they totally support us in our extra curricular creative pursuits. For example, when I told them about my blog, they couldn’t wait to see it. They even offered to take a look at this post and make some suggestions.

The funniest thing happened at work yesterday! I came in and saw this girl named (deleted). She is married, but (deleted). Anyway, turns out she’s (deleted)! So when I saw her I was like, (deleted). I wonder if her husband knows? If he doesn’t, he sure does now!

Anyway, thanks (deleted) for all your support! I look forward to posting more reports from the front lines of Corporate America.

8.18.2005

UNINTENTIONAL POETRY AT GRISTEDE'S

8.17.2005

NEW "HARRY POTTER" BOOK SELLING WELL AT UPTOWN GRISTEDE'S SUPERMARKET


In this slightly revised version of the current bestseller, Harry searches for his long-lost half brother LaShawn Potter.

8.16.2005

I'VE GOTTEN MYSELF INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE...

I’ve lived in New York City for a long time, and nothing bad has happened to me. But I really want someone to mug me, as soon as possible.

I don’t want to get hurt. I just want someone to steal my identity. And my cell phone, so they can take all the calls from my credit card companies.

With my luck I’ll have the first ever case of Revoked Identity Theft.

Then I’ll say, “No backs! I called it, when you mugged me!”

8.15.2005

SHAKESPEARE ORDERS A PIZZA

Good morrow, kind sir! To the chase, let us cut.
Pray, tell! Have I reached the Pizza Hut?

Methinks I desire an orb of leavened wheat,
baked to perfection in thy oven’s heat!

Prithee, canst thou dispatch it to me anon?
Ah! This demon hunger shall soon be gone!

Godspeed to thee in thy journey! Pierce the night!
But forget ye not my Diet Sprite!

(exeunt)

8.11.2005

WOULD YOU LIKE SOME SWEET PAPRIKA ON YOUR ROTI WRAP?

It's time once again to open up the "previously owned" mailbag!

This week’s question comes from Srinivas Nuruganti in Ahmadnagar, Maharashtra, India who writes:

“Hi Will! Please tell me when you will be performing standup comedy so that I may come and see you in person.”

Well, Srini I’m glad you asked!

This Friday night, August 11 at 8:30 P.M. I will be doing the Sweet Paprika show at the Village Lantern in New York City. Here are the details:

Sweet Paprika
Friday Night comedy with Ophira Eisenberg, Allison Castillo & Guests
Show starts at 8:30 PM, $7
Village Lantern, 167 Bleecker St. (betw. Thompson and Sullivan)

Friday 8/11/2005
Ophira Eisenberg and Allison Castillo (Comedy Central’s Premium Blend) host…
Will McKinley (Sirius Satellite Radio)
Tom McCaffrey (Comedy Central’s Premium Blend)
Cara Amore (Ladies of Laughter)
Amanda Melson (Eating It)

(Please note: I did not give myself top billing. That’s the way the listed it on the website. Obviously they think I’m the funniest comic on the show.)

I don’t really like to plug things, but you should definitely come out to this show. I don’t know Cara Amore, but I’m sure she’s funny. And Amanda Melson and Tom McCaffrey are two of my favorites. Ophira and Allison are great hosts, and very funny.

If you are able to make it to the show, please do me a favor. Don’t come over and say hi before I go on! I am not kidding about this!

Whenever I know that someone has come to a show specifically to see ME, it makes me feel uncomfortable. And when I feel uncomfortable I get nervous. And when I get nervous I tighten up and come off as stiff and amateurish on stage.

I do not deal well with being scrutinized. That’s why, in four years of doing standup comedy, I have never auditioned for anything. That is also why, in four years of doing standup comedy, I have never really gotten anywhere.

But I’m having fun, so who cares, right?

You are totally welcome to come up to me after the show. In fact, I would love that. I would really like to hear about what it’s like to live in India.

I have a friend named Nanda who is Indian. She neglected to invite me to her 30th birthday party last month, but I’m sure that was an oversight. Anyway, I’m not really in a position right now where I can take her off my “friend list” because the number of people on that list is getting dangerously low. That doesn’t really bother me, but if I ever start dating somebody it might be weird.

She’ll be like, “How come you haven’t introduced me to your friends?” And I’ll be like, “You’ve already met her.” And she’ll be like, “Your ex-girlfriend cannot be your only friend.” And I’ll be like, “Oh yeah. I forgot Nanda.”

But I’m not going to be dating anyone anytime soon. I just started working on a six-week freelance job, and I have this blog and I’m going to be starting my own comedy show sometime soon. Plus I hang out just about every night with my ex-girlfriend. And we hooked up twice last week. And that kind of thing seemed to make the last two girls I dated somewhat uncomfortable.

I feel like I’ve kind of gotten off the track here. Where was I? Oh yeah, Sweet Paprika.

Srini, you can take the A/C/E/F/V subway to West 4th Street and it’s only two blocks away. I’m not sure how to get to West 4th Street from India. I think maybe Amtrak?

If you come, after the show I will take you to this place on MacDougal Street that sells Roti wraps. Maybe Nanda will join us. Are you single? I think her parents are trying to arrange her marriage.

Anyway, see you on Friday!

Namaste!

8.10.2005

DON'T BE JEALOUS! (PART 2)

I work out at the Equinox Fitness Club. Are you impressed? Well, you should be, because it’s a very expen$ive gym. I pay $158 each month, just to sweat! I bet you don’t even spend $158 each month on food. I am laughing at you right now!

Where do you work out, Bally Total Fitness? I used to work out there, before I became a famous comedian. They should call that place Bally Total FATNESS! Have you seen those people? They are so out of shape. It’s disgusting. Who wants to work out around a bunch of fat people?

There are no fat people at Equinox. There’s a guy out front with a clipboard. If you are fat - or not famous - you are SOL! Stay on the other side of the velvet rope where you belong, you rabble!

But I’m not the only famous person who makes the scene at the Equinox Fitness Club on Greenwich Street in New York City’s fashionable West Village.

Today I worked out with Academy Award-winning actress Tatum O’Neal. (Just between us, she looks like she may have had some work done. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

When was the last time you got sweaty with somebody who has won an Academy Award? Well, I do it every day of the week.

One day it’s Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for her role in “Boys Don’t Cry.” (She and her husband Chad Lowe are old friends of mine from the neighborhood.)

The next day it’s Olympia Dukakis, who won a Best Supporting Actress award for her role in “Moonstruck.” (I’ll tell you what, for a 74 year-old lady, Olympia looks h-o-t in a body stocking!)

Julianne Moore, who has been nominated for FOUR Academy Awards, also makes frequent appearances. (I’ve known Juli ever since 1985, when we were both cast members on “As the World Turns.” She played the twins, Frannie and Sabrina Hughes. I played the guy who put a quarter in the jukebox. We’ve been buds ever since.)

Bebe Neuwirth is another talented lady who likes to “get physical” at Equinox. Bebe is a cast member on NBC’s “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.” She has also won two Emmy Awards for her role as Lilith on “Cheers,” as well as two Tony Awards! (Bebe and I dated for two glorious months back in 1977.)

Do you see a pattern here? These people are not just famous. Anybody can be famous. People who go on reality shows are famous. But you’re not going to find someone from “Last Comic Standing” at Equinox.

Me, Tatum, Olympia, Julianne, Bebe: we have all been recognized for excellence in the most important field in the world – the entertainment industry.

You may not have known this about me, but I recently won a very prestigious award. I have not written about it, because I don’t like to brag.

I received an award for “Most Appearances at the Open Mic” from The Village Lantern, a highly respected comedy venue here in New York City.

I like to bring the award when I go to Equinox. I carry it with me on the treadmill, so the other famous, award-winning people will know that I am one of them. And because the extra weight helps my workout.

Because I am NOT FAT! And I am FAMOUS! And I work out at EQUINOX FITNESS CLUB!

And I am still laughing at you.

8.09.2005

THINK BEFORE YOU INK


I know a girl who has a tattoo of Betty Boop on her left arm.

It makes perfect sense to me.

Because my friend is mixed race. She's Black & White. Just like Betty Boop.

I wrote that joke in 1937.

But I couldn't really say it on stage until the early '70s. People were very sensitive about "race humor" back in the day.

8.07.2005

THE PRICE OF FAME!

I always laugh when I hear celebrities complain about how hard it is to be famous.

The poor hotel heiress! Somebody hacked into her cell phone! The poor handsome actor! Somebody took his picture with an actress who is not his wife!

Celebrity Schadenfreude has replaced baseball as America’s national pastime.

And this should surprise no one, least of all the famous. If you choose to live your life in the public eye - and you reap the rewards that often come with that choice - then you must be prepared to deal with certain realities. One of those realities is a complete loss of the privacy that the rest of us take for granted.

Paris Hilton and Brad Pitt are mere mortals. They are comprised of the same genetic building blocks as your Aunt Leona and Uncle Mortie. The difference is, nobody wants to see a picture of Uncle Mortie on the beach at Boca. Even if Aunt Leona is wearing a tube top.

At some point, Paris Hilton and Brad Pitt surrendered their private identities and became PARIS HILTON and BRAD PITT, boldface names on Page 6. Everything they touch, or that touches them, is now the property of the media-consuming citizenry of the world. We have a right to know all. And, thanks to the media, we probably do.

And PARIS HILTON and BRAD PITT can cry all the way to the bank.

But what about the vast expanse between PARIS HILTON and BRAD PITT and your decidedly lower-case aunt and uncle?

On a recent Monday evening I found myself in a subterranean performance space where I often speak into a microphone. Sometimes people laugh when I speak. Often, they do not.

Sitting at the table with me were two other people who enjoy saying funny things in front of others. For the sake of this story, we shall call them Evelyn and Chester.

I like Evelyn and Chester. They are both intelligent people, with thoughtful things to say. In certain contexts I might even refer to them as “friends.”

Evelyn, Chester and I greeted each other, made small talk about the weekend and placed our respective beverage orders.

I ordered a Diet Coke, as I always do. Because alcohol tends to slur my speech, which adds an additional level of challenge to the act of public speaking. Also, I have found that alcohol encourages me to say things that best remain unsaid (or written in a blog).

As I sat, waiting for my turn at the mic, I pulled my iPod out of my backpack.

Is there anyone left on this planet who has not heard of Apple’s ubiquitous digital music player? My mother is 70, and my niece, Laura, is 3. Both of them have an iPod. Mom listens to the sermons of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Laura listens to “Elmo’s Greatest Hits.”

Everyone’s iPod is uniquely their own.

But iPods don’t just play sound files. With the addition of an inexpensive microphone, they can record them as well. When I say funny things I like to record them on my iPod. Then, when I feel lonely or unloved, I can play back the recording and feel a greater sense of self-worth.

I placed my iPod on the table next to my notebook, and excused myself to use the bathroom. When I returned, I noticed something odd. Evelyn was holding an iPod, and reviewing the contents therein. This confused me. I didn’t remember Evelyn owning an iPod. I looked down at the table where I had left my iPod. It wasn’t there.

“Chester and I have decided that you are either gay, or a fifteen-year-old girl,” Evelyn quipped, clearly amused by her own wit.

While I was “in dispose” it had apparently occurred to Evelyn that it might be entertaining to review the contents of my iPod.

“Two different mixes of ‘I Want it That Way!” Britney Spears! Kelly Clarkson! And who made that Workout Mix? Richard Simmons?! This is great,” Evelyn shrieked with glee.

My somewhat idiosyncratic taste in music was apparently far more entertaining to Evelyn and Chester than the musings of our fellow performers, whose witty routines about “masturbation” and “jerking off” fell upon the deaf ears of my table-mates.

Eventually, Evelyn and Chester grew tired of their Siskel and Ebert impersonation, and returned my iPod to the place where they found it. The place where Evelyn had picked it up, without asking.

But the more time passed, the less comfortable I became with what had happened. The music that one chooses to store on one’s iPod says as much about the owner as his diary or journal. If I had left my journal on the table would Evelyn have opened it up, read it and commented on its contents?

Then something occurred to me. I leave my journal on the table every day. Except I call my journal “a blog.” And the table is “the Worldwide Web.”

Because she reads this space on a regular basis, Evelyn knows all manner of personal details about my life. I have no problem with this. I choose to share those personal details with anyone who has an Internet connection, and it is my sincere wish that they will read what I write, and derive some pleasure from it.

But I like to control the who/what/where/when/how of these revelations. If I invited Evelyn to my apartment, would she rifle through my sock drawer? And, more importantly, would it be hypocritical of me to tell her to stop?

Yes, my musical tastes are more akin to those of a high school girl than a 36 year-old man. Yes, I am straight, but my Workout Mix sounds like a Pride Day after-party. I abhor mindless popular culture, yet I am a sucker for a catchy Top 40 hit. I hate dancing, but I love dance music.

I also love being an enigma.

I am an extremely private person, yet I write very personal things and post them on the Internet. I have no desire to be famous, yet I find myself on stage at least four nights a week. I do both of these things because I enjoy them, and want to be good at them. But I certainly won't be quitting my day job any time soon, because neither one of these endeavors is generating any cash.

And I am certainly no Brad Pitt. Of that fact there will be no argument. But I’m no Uncle Mortie, either.

What happens if Will McKinley someday becomes WILL McKINLEY?

Maybe, in some very small sense, that has already happened.

I thank Evelyn (and Chester, her somewhat unwitting accomplice) for violating my privacy. The experience has taught me something: the further one walks on the long, pothole-ridden path to fame, the less one is able to control what happens.

And that is good information to have. For now, I’m going to file it away for future reference.

But first, I’m going to figure out how to password-protect my iPod.

8.05.2005

PAINLESS DENTISTRY

I am a such a wimp when it comes to going to the dentist.

This one time, I had my wisdom teeth removed and I got a bacterial infection that ended up destroying two of my heart valves, and I had to have open-heart surgery to replace them.

And the whole time they were sawing open my sternum I was like, “Ow! I need more anesthesia!”

What a baby! Boo-hoo-hoo.

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG HACK

Last night I celebrated my four-year anniversary as a standup comedian.

In honor of the occasion, the following is one of the first jokes I ever wrote:

“Have you been in Times Square recently? Boy has that neighborhood changed! I walked past the place where I used to get my porno tapes. It’s now the Hello Kitty Store. I think it’s the same management, though. They used to call it Hello Pussy.”

An early taste of the genius that was to come!

For the first year I did standup, I only performed on “bringer shows.” These are “comedy shows” where aspiring “comedians” have to bring a certain number of paying customers in order to perform. New comics are forced to coerce their friends into paying a $10-$15 cover, plus a two-drink minimum, to see them perform five minutes of awful comedy.

But what if you don’t have a lot of friends? Or any? Then you bring your family!

My parents, and just about every member of my extended family, had to pay $30 each – show after show, week after week - to watch me talk about porn, pot, masturbation and my Zoloft-induced ejaculation problems.

Boy was Thanksgiving awkward that year!

But I was pursuing my dream. And everyone had nothing but good things to say to me.

I respect my family for being supportive, but I wasn’t some dopey 18-year-old kid. I was a 32-year-old man. I should have known better.

If it were my kid, I would have thrown him a good beating.

But all I heard from my Dad was, “Proud of you son!”

I owe you one Dad.

The next time I see you, give me a couple slugs in the gut. It will make me feel better.

8.04.2005

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO, SPARKY?

When I was in fifth grade, our down-the-block neighbor got a cat.

Mrs. Heathcoat called her new kitty "Mahogany" because of his rich, black coat and regal bearing. But after sneezing uncontrollably for the better part of a month, Mrs. Heathcoat determined that she was allergic to Mahogany.

So she called my parents.

My parents had created quite a reputation around town as “adopters.”

I came first, in 1969. Then my sister in 1973. My parents were local curiousities in the small Long Island town in which we lived. Not only had they taken in one stray baby, they went all the way to South Korea to get another one!

Take that, Roe v. Wade!

Soon after, folks from around the neighborhood started bringing over all manner of animals to our house. We had puppies, gerbils, rabbits, a turtle. We even had a homeless guy named Carl for two months back in 1975. He stayed out back in the shed.

But it was 1978. Five years since the last “official” adoption. Like a baseball player in a deep slump, my parents were “due.”

The decision was made. Mahogany would be coming to live with us.

Soon after, I decided that Mahogany would be needing a new name. I really didn’t like the name “Mahogany.” It sounded like the thing you used to sled down the mountain. Plus I hated that movie with Diana Ross.

And that’s the way it worked in our house. Christian Beaton got adopted, and he became Billy McKinley. Han Hyun-Sil got adopted and she became Missy McKinley.

So when Mahogany Heathcoat joined “the act” he became Sparky McKinley.

We were just like the Marx Bros., except our new names ended in “y” and not “o.” And one of us was a cat. I’m no Hollywood historian, but I’m reasonably sure that Groucho and his brothers were all human.

Mrs. Heathcoat didn’t like the idea of Mahogany becoming Sparky. But I loved it. And the cat didn’t seem to care either way.

I think he was just happy to get away from Mrs. Heathcoat. Because she was a chain-smoker. I’m not sure if Sparky was actually black. It may have just been exhaled soot.

Sparky was a very active cat. He liked to run and jump. Unfortunately he also liked to run and jump around the railing of our above-ground pool.

It turned out that Sparky was a better runner and jumper than he was a swimmer.

My sister and I cried for our drowned little Sparkplug. But my Mom comforted us, and dried our tears. “Sparky is doing the backstroke with Jesus,“ she said. “And I bet he’s giving our dear Lord a real run for his money!”

The crying abated, but our little Patchwork Family felt somehow incomplete.

But only for the weekend.

The following Monday, my Dad found two kittens at the bus depot where he worked. That night, he brought them home. Suddenly, the act was back together, with two new members.

They were brothers. One was black, with what looked like a moustache. The other was white, and very quiet. I named them Groucho and Harpo.

Mrs. Heathcoat called the black one Mahogany II.

And my Dad took down the pool.

8.03.2005

A CRY FOR HELP

Dear Reader:

We at "previously owned" know that our collective musings have become a vital part of your day.

Each morning, you arrive at your desk, power up your computer, and click on over.

Perhaps you enjoy a refreshing, hot or iced coffee beverage. Maybe you pick at a muffin or doughnut. And you read.

Sometimes you are touched, so you shed a tear of empathy. Other times you are tickled, so you shed a tear of laughter. Whichever it is, there is a consistent theme of the shedding of tears.

You notice that many of the postings occur very late at night. "This guy obviously doesn't have a job," you say to yourself. "I am better than him!"

You have a job. (check!) You have a 401(k), and maybe some savings. (check!) You have a stable relationship with a significant other. (check!) You have friends that you care about, and who care about you. (check!)

And don't forget Fluffy! That darn cat! He's so mischievous! (triple check!!!)

But has it ever occurred to you to say "thanks?"

The author of these ramblings is a very troubled young man. He often weeps uncontrollably, for no apparent reason. He is wracked with self-doubt. He feels like he is a failure.

He just wants you to love him. He promises he won't cry any more! Really. And he'll clean the bathroom. He'll make it pretty for you. Just the way you like it.

Why won't the voices stop? Why won't they stop?!

I love you. Forever.

Now I must take my medicine.

8.02.2005

NEVER LET 'EM SEE YOU SWEAT

I sweat a lot. I always have.

On my first day at nursery school in 1971, my mother received a frantic phone call from the principal. Miss Dulcie nervously reported that little Billy had become “red-faced and drenched with sweat” during playtime. There was concern that he might have had a seizure. Or eaten some bad Mexican food.

But I was fine. I’m an intense guy. Always have been. I don’t play. I play hard.

So, in a necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention sort of way, Miss Dulcie decided to crumple up paper towels and stuff them down my t-shirt. I looked like the Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz.” I really should have tried to get an endorsement deal from Bounty.

Three decades later, I’m still sweating. A lot.

I dread the summer months. I am constantly hot and wet. Good in a porn star, bad in a 36 year-old bald guy with inordinate amounts of body hair.

Imagine taking your clothes out of the drier too soon, and then walking around in them all day. That’s my summer vacation.

I have developed various strategies for dealing with this problem. I always carry bottles of cold water. I do my best to avoid the subway from June through August. (See you in September, Brooklyn!) And I periodically duck into Starbucks for a cool-down.

(It is positively arctic at Starbucks. I guess if you’re going to sell hot coffee in New York City in August, it makes sense to keep the place chilly. That explains why the coffee is so expensive. Half the price goes toward the Con Ed bill.)

But I think I’ve finally come up with a solution to my sweating problem.

I’ve started carrying a change of clothing in my backpack. I rarely go anywhere without a replacement pair of pants (and/or shorts), at least two extra t-shirts and back-up pair of socks. (I tried wearing Birkenstocks last summer, but my girlfriend at the time said they made me look “gay.” Actually she said “gayer.” So I swore off all open-toe footwear.)

I have found that walking into a room in one outfit, and walking out in another, can draw attention to one’s self. Unless you’re at the Gap, or a Cher concert.

So, in an attempt to hide my sweating problem from those who interact with me on a regular basis, I have taken to wearing only gray t-shirts and jeans (or shorts). I have twelve gray t-shirts at home. I also have five duplicate pairs of jeans, and three pairs of brown, carpenter shorts.

When I leave my apartment, I dress in my “traveling clothes.” This ensemble usually consists of shorts and the most loose-fitting of the gray t-shirts.

Say my destination on a given evening is a comedy show (which is usually is).

I arrive at the venue and, like the Man of Steel, I duck into the bathroom for a “costume change." I would rather use a telephone booth, but they don't exist anymore. Then I put on my jeans and a fresh t-shirt. (No cape, beacuse of the "gay" thing.)

Then I keep my fingers crossed that I will be performing early in the show, before I have ruined my new shirt

Because the only thing that makes me sweat more than the oppressive New York City heat is performing standup comedy.

What makes a person who has spent his whole life battling a sweating problem – and a debilitating anxiety disorder - chose to be on stage, by himself, in front of a roomful of people, with hot lights shining on him?

I hope to answer that question some day. But right now I’m “between shrinks”.

To make matters even more difficult, my sweating problem leaves me with a chronic case of dry-mouth.

That’s why I don’t think I’ll ever be on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend.” I’ve never seen a comic on that show bring a glass of water with them on stage. Of course, most people don’t need a drink when they’re talking for just five minutes. But I’m not most people. I can’t get through two jokes without getting pasty.

I’m sure there is some prescription medication I could take to help me with my sweating problem. But I’m already taking six pills a day for various other ailments, and there is no more room in my week-at-a-glance pillbox.

Being sweaty all the time is not just inconvenient, it's expensive. I just had to buy three new gray t-shirts at the Gap, and my laundry bill is upwards of $100 per month.

But I’m hoping that my insurance company will cover some of it. Or at least buy me some rolls of Bounty.

All I need is a note from my doctor. Or Miss Dulcie.

8.01.2005

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW IT'S GONNA BE KOSHER

My parents just sold their house on Long Island to an orthodox Jewish couple from Israel.

That was kind of a surprise to me. Because I would describe my father as being “charmingly anti-Semitic.”

It’s really not his fault. He’s a 75 year-old Irish Catholic. He’s anti-everyone.

My Dad is totally opposed to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. But he’s apparently not opposed to the Israeli occupation of his house. As long as the Israelis in question have $442,000.

All these years I thought he was a kind of a bigot. Turns out he’s actually a pragmatist. I think I owe somebody an apology!

I was a good son, though. I helped my parents pack everything up for the movers.

And, the last day we were there, a priest from their church came over and performed a Catholic mass in our dining room. That was weird. Because the priest was Indian. I thought Indians were Hindu.

The furniture was packed up, so we all had to sit on the floor, on packing blankets. It looked like we were in a mosque.

I know what my parents were doing. They were trying to mark their territory, like a couple of Catholic cats.

I feel bad for the new owners. Is there a Jewish version of exorcism? It’s like those poor Hasidic people are moving into The Jesusville Horror.

Instead of hearing creepy voices saying “Get Out!” they’re going to hear “Get out the bacon!”

My Dad told me that the new owners just had a baby. I really hope he’s the Messiah.

Because I still have my keys. I could kidnap the son of God and sell him on eBay.

Somebody paid $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich that looked like the Virgin Mary. The actual Messiah has to be worth at least twice that.

That house was supposed to be my inheritance. Now my parents are going piss all of my money away on wasteful things, like food. And my Mom’s Parkinson’s medication. That stuff is expensive!

I'm broke. I need a get-rich-quick scheme.

Anybody want to adopt the Son of God?

I can get Him for you wholesale. I know the previous owners.